Julian Benedikt & Andreas Morell – Blue Note – A Story of Modern Jazz (1997)

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The artists list on this DVD reads like a Who’s Who of the best international jazz musicians of all times. It features Art Blakey, John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, Thelonious Monk and Sonny Rollins — musicians whose names have become synonymous with the great Jazz Age in the 1950s and 60s. With Carlos Santana, Cassandra Wilson and André Previn and jazz experts like Joachim Ernst Berendt and Bertrand Tavernier, the list of interviewees and artists on this DVD becomes encyclopaedic. But how many people have heard of Alfred Lion and Frank Wolff, to whom we owe the recorded memory of our Jazz legends? These two Jewish Germans emigrated from Nazi Germany to New York in 1939 and promoted Jazz Music, which at the time had received little serious attention from mainstream America. Without money or connections and speaking little English, the two men began to record practically unknown musicians, following their own taste and judgement, and thus establishing the legendary Blue Note label. Continue reading

Werner Schroeter – Goldflocken (1976)

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Werner Schroeter’s rhapsody of excess leaps from 1949 Cuba to contemporary France to points in between, while its feverishly shifting visual style evokes and parodies everything from kitschy Mexican telenovelas to silent French art films.

Film en quatre épisodes : Cuba, Drame du rail, Coeur brisé et La Trahison. Dans Flocons d’or, qui traite de la mort, l’héroine Montezuma est l’épouse française d’un gros propriétaire terrien qui se droque. L’action se déroule à Cuba vers la fin des années 40. Des quatre épisodes du film, un seul comporte une ironique lueur d’espoir. Continue reading

Étienne Faure – Bizarre (2015)

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If there was one feature that lived up to its title in Berlin this year, it’s Bizarre, French director Etienne Faure’s squiggle of a film about a directionless and taciturn French teenager — with the prerequisite pout, hard abs and studiedly nonchalant way of always being semi-disrobed — who finds refuge in a Bushwick burlesque bar run by two girlfriends who are into (rather explicit) sex with other guys. Often indeed too bizarre for words, this collection of sounds and images in desperate need of a plot, or even just some recognizable human behavior, will appeal to that shady part of the queer market where young cuties plus the promise of nudity are enough for at least some VOD and DVD sales. Continue reading

Ritwik Ghatak – Meghe Dhaka Tara AKA The Cloud-Caped Star (1960)

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In an impoverished refugee village in Calcutta, an attractive and industrious young woman, Nita (Supriya Choudhury), breaks a sandal while passing through the market square, and without complaining, continues barefoot on the graveled street, unable to buy a replacement pair of sandals for the walk home. Patently aware that Nita has received her monthly salary, her talented, but indolent older brother Shankar (Anil Chatterjee) pays an unexpected visit, and encountering Nita absorbed in reading a personal letter from a suitor named Sanat (Niranjan Ray), playfully snatches the note and reads aloud its affectionate contents, before asking her for spending money. Meanwhile her younger sister, Gita (Gita Ghatak) and brother Mantu (Dwiju Bhawal) brazenly plead with their desperate and resourceless mother (Gita De) for new articles of clothing, before re-directing their vain and selfish entreaties to Nita. Having spent her entire salary on her burdensome, coddled siblings, her embittered and insecure mother then vociferously complains to her father (Bijon Bhattacharya), an underemployed school teacher, that Nita has squandered the monthly household budget. Bound by a selfless sense of familial duty, Nita has decided to postpone her marriage to Sanat until Shankar realizes his ambition to become a classical singer. However, as Nita perseveres in her sacrifice for her ungrateful and demanding family, her own prospects for happiness proves ever increasingly bleak. Continue reading

Youssef Chahine – Awdat al ibn al dal AKA The Return of the Prodigal Son (1976)

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In this Andre Gide adaptation, an activist (Ali Mahrez) is released after many years in prison and returns home, shaking up established relationships among his family members at the farm governed by his strict father. Demonstrating Chahine’s eclecticism, this is an elegant melodrama, exuberant musical, layered allegory, and profound portrait of personal and political disillusionment. This is one of Chahine’s best movies and one of the greatest Arabic films. Great performances by Mahmoud El-Meliguy and Hoda Soltan. Continue reading

Shûji Terayama – Isoppu Monogatari AKA Aesop’s Fables (1973)

Oh man, this is a gem. Highly recommended if you dig Tenjosajiki/Terayama’s musical numbers. For starters, take a peek at this lineup:

Lyrics composed by Terayama Shuji
Music composed by J.A. Seazer, Panta, Fukamachi Jun…
Performed by Zunou Keisatsu (Brain Police, far left political rock band, Les Rallizes Denudes’ Hiroshi Nar was a member at one time), Tanaka Seiji

Terayama Shuji’s slightly…dark? interpretations of the fables, mixed with the absolutely wonderful composition and experimental, theatrical vocals/instrumentation…it’s a surreal journey. Continue reading