Alain Tanner – Le Milieu du monde AKA The Middle of the World (1974)

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Summary
Paul, a high-flying engineer, is proud to have been born in a Swiss town the locals refer to as the Centre of the World. He is running for a local election when he meets Adriana, a young Italian waitress in a café. Although he is married, Paul starts to have a passionate love affair with Adriana, and is soon prepared to give up everything for her. However, the young waitress realises that it is not she that Paul loves but a self-made fantasy… Continue reading

Alain Tanner – La vallée fantôme (1987)

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An ageing writer Paul is determined to make a film but he cannot decide on the subject or location. Instead, he chooses to concentrate his efforts on finding the actress who will star in the film, believing that she will define the lead character and content of the film. He recruits a young man, Jean, to try to find an Italian actress, Dara, whom he has lost sight of. Jean finds Dara in a small Italian town, serving in a modest restaurant, but she refuses to return to acting… Continue reading

Alain Tanner – Une flamme dans mon coeur AKA A Flame in My Heart (1987)

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The terrifyingly destructive power of a woman’s sexual obsession provides the compelling subject for this psychological study of a woman’s descent into madness from French filmmaker Alain Tanner. It is the tale of Parisian actress Mercedes who is first seen attempting to break up with the obsessive Arab Johnny, who stalks her until she meets handsome newspaper writer Pierre on the subway and goes with him for an afternoon fling. Before the sweat even dries, she finds herself hopelessly in love with him. Pierre is flattered and encourages her desperate devotion, but soon after their affair begins, he is called off on a business trip leaving the suddenly distraught Mercedes alone with her demons. Though preparing for a new play, she is unable to concentrate and barely able to function without Pierre. She quits the production, locks herself in Pierre’s apartment and quietly begins falling apart until he returns. Continue reading

Jean-Luc Godard – Le Mépris AKA Contempt (1963)

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On Capri, an Italian crew makes a German film of Homer’s Odyssey; Fritz Lang directs with American money. Prokosch, the producer, with his sneer and red Alfa, holds art films in contempt and hires writer Javal to help Lang commercialize the picture. Against this backdrop, we watch the breakup of Javal’s marriage to Camille, a young former typist. It opens with the couple talking in bed, she asking assurance that he finds her attractive. Later that day he introduces her to Prokosch, and, unawares, blunders unforgivably. The rest of the film portrays her, in their apartment and in public, expressing her hurt and change of heart and his slow grasp of the source of her contempt. Continue reading

Jean-Luc Godard – Alphaville, une etrange aventure de Lemmy Caution aka Alphaville, a Strange Adventure of Lemmy Caution (1965)

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Plot Summary :
Following in the footsteps of previous failures Dick Tracy and Flash Gordon, secret agent Lemmy Caution (Eddie Constantine) arrives in Alphaville. It’s a technocracy ruled by a gravel-voiced central computer called Alpha-60, that has regimented humans into strict classes and split the city into zones of night and day, cold and warmth. Alpha-60 also has ambitions to conquer the rest of the world — Nueva York, Tokyorama — and rule all under its cold eye of logic. Continue reading

Jean-Luc Godard – Meeting Woody Allen (1986)

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Woody Allen – Jean-Luc Godard? This might seem an odd combination to many American film lovers, at least to much of Woody’s loyal audience, trying hard to be highbrow and intellectual, but not perhaps all that much interested in the challenges of a mischief-maker like JLG. As it happens this is a highly entertaining and somewhat informative look at both filmmakers as they are passing through middle age (Allen 51, Godard 56), lamenting the loss of cinematic and artistic innocence through the corruption of TV and at the same time celebrating their own longevity and continued relevance in the small world of art-cinema. I was especially intrigued by Godard’s use of title cards and the couple of shots of him playing around with videocassettes and books, and a still photo near the end of the film that I think was of Allen around the “Take the Money and Run” days but may have in fact been Godard; both are small, owlish men and the similarities both physical and intellectual are certainly played up here. Continue reading

Jean-Luc Godard – British Sounds (1970)

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Jean-Luc Godard made the hour-long 1969 experimental documentary British Sounds also known as See You at Mao for London Weekend TV in 1969. In the opening scene, a ten minute long tracking shot along a Ford factory floor, a narrator reads from The Communist Manifesto. This is followed by a woman wandering around her house naked while a narrator reads a feminist-tinged text, a news commentator reading a pro-capitalist rant that is repeatedly and abruptly cut off to show workers that contradict his statements, and a group of young activists preparing protest banners while transposing communist propaganda to Beatles songs (“You say Nixon/I say Mao” to “Hello Goodbye”). It closes with a fist repeatedly punching through a British flag. It’s a bold and assaultive socialist screed made during the director’s most divisive political period and was banned from television. Of note are the director’s experiments juxtaposing image, text, and sound. ~ Michael Buening, All Movie Guide Continue reading