Ahmed El Maanouni – Trances (1981)

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It was in 1981 while I was editing a film, The King of Comedy. We worked at night so no one would call us on the telephone and I would have television on, and one channel in New York at the time, around 2 or 3 in the morning, was showing a film called Transes. It repeated all night and it repeated many nights. And it had commercials in it, but it didn’t matter. So I became passionate about this music that I heard and I saw also the way the film was made, the concert that was photographed and the effect of the music on the audience at the concert. I tracked down the music and eventually it became my inspiration for many of the designs and construction of my film The Last Temptation of Christ. […] And I think the group was singing damnation: their people, their beliefs, their sufferings and their prayers all came through their singing. And I think the film is beautifully made by Ahmed El Maanouni; it’s been an obsession of mine since 1981 and that is why we are inaugurating the Foundation with Trances. (Martin Scorsese, May 2007) Continue reading

Mohsen Makhmalbaf – Sokout AKA The Silence (1998)

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The Silence (Sokhout), a startlingly fresh and elegant work, is about a ten-year-old boy, Khorshid, who is blind. Khorshid’s father, in Russia, has abandoned him and his mother, who in order to sustain their existence fishes in the river on which the rural dwelling that includes their threadbare apartment is situated. This woman has no other choice but to rely on Khorshid’s meager income for rent. It is not enough, however, and in a few days’ time they will be evicted by the landlord, a greedy, powerful presence whom we never see except for, once, as a hand knocking at the door. A strange, elliptical film of haunting, limpid visual beauty, The Silence ends with two events: the eviction, as the mother, who is calling for her son, and her one great possession, a wall mirror, symbolic for art and inspiration, that is, humanity’s spirit, are rowed across the river, the mirror’s reflection in the water symbolically linking human spirituality and Nature; and the boy, as usual off on his own, passing forever into a life of the imagination in which he is able to orchestrate sounds in his environment—to which his blindness has made him acutely sensitive and receptive—into a finished piece, one in fact familiar to us as the opening movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Only a fool could miss the social and political implications of such a film, and the government, not at all fooled in this regard, responded brusquely. The Silence was banned in Iran. Continue reading

Roberto Rossellini – Giovanna d’Arco al rogo AKA Joan at the Stake (1954)

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It was once said of Ingrid Bergman that she’d played Joan of Arc so often that she wouldn’t be satisfied until she was burned at the stake. Actually, nobody ever said that, but someone should have. Directed by Bergman’s then-husband Roberto Rossellini, Joan at the Stake is a nonmusical adaptation of the oratorio by Paul Claudel and Arthur Honegger. Essentially a glorified monologue, the film makes no bones about its theatricality. Bergman is impressive as always, far more so than the presentation. While not nearly as bad as its reputation suggests, Joan at the Stake was a box-office flop, principally because the torrid Bergman-Rossellini romance was old news by 1954. Continue reading

Bob Dylan – Renaldo & Clara (1978)

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Chock full of wondrous musical segments (not all of them on the concert stage) and some choice bits of post-Beat tomfoolery, rendered by a cast of musicians, actors and veteran exhibitionists rapidly approaching their ‘Sell by’ date, Renaldo & Clara is a four-hour expedition into the deepest recesses of Bob Dylan’s vanity; a film projectile of wildly uncertain velocity and direction . . . concert doco, avant-garde aspirant, Theater of Ennui also-ran, and a big ol’ Narcissus pool everyone can splash around in; it is all of these things . . . that, despite the best efforts of its director, was written off as a catastrophe by American critics upon its highly limited release in 1978. Continue reading

Norman Jewison – Jesus Christ Superstar (1973)

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The second Biblical epic to be turned into a musical by composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice, this box-office disappointment recounts the last week in the life of Jesus Christ in rock-opera format and from the surprising point of view of Christ’s betrayer, Judas Iscariot. Carl Anderson stars as Judas, who has begun to believe that Jesus (Ted Neeley) has sold out and started buying into the mythology that’s quickly springing up around him. Particularly disturbing to Judas is the relationship between Jesus and his friend Mary Magdalene (Yvonne Elliman), a prostitute. When Jesus throws a temper tantrum at the moneylenders in a temple, Judas determines to work with the Pharisees who want to put Jesus on trial as a false prophet. Following his success with the adaptation of Fiddler on the Roof (1971), director Norman Jewison experimented with a hippie-influenced sensibility on Jesus Christ Superstar (1973). Among such touches are depictions of the cast arriving via bus to mount the show, modern high-tech weaponry in the hands of the ancient Romans, and on-location filming in Israel.
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Antonio Carlos da Fontoura – Somos Tão Jovens AKA We are So Young (2013)

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We are So Young (Portuguese: Somos tão Jovens) is a 2013 Brazilian biographical drama film about Brazilian singer Renato Russo. The film does not follow the life of Renato Russo. The focus is his adolescence, his physical problems and the discover of his love for music. It is directed by Antônio Carlos da Fontoura, written by Marcos Bernstein and starring Thiago Mendonça and Laila Zaid. Was released in Brazilian theaters by distributors Imagem Filmes and Fox Film on May 3, 2013.[3] Continue reading