Veiko Õunpuu – Püha Tõnu kiusamine AKA The Temptation of St. Tony (2009)

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There’s no better cinematic praise than to be evocative of Béla Tarr’s tour de force Werckmeister Harmonies. And The Temptation of St. Tony is just that. Veiko Õunpuu has weaved an existential rumination on Eastern European temporality, where work is waiting and waiting is work, and a visually stunning critique of the exacerbation of difference that post-communist times have to offer. A nouveau riche class fascinated by its newly imported sense of sophistication and superiority is so in love with itself that getting a glimpse of the lower classes is as unbearable as staring at Medusa right in the eye. Continue reading

René Clément – La baby-sitter aka Jeune fille libre le soir (1975)

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Whatever one says about the plot of this film is going to be a spoiler. Let’s just say that a girl takes a baby-sitting job for one night and in the morning finds that things are not what they seemed and she is in a big load of trouble.

The film has been trashed by just about everybody who ever bothered to write about it, and that’s unfair. At least among Clément’s thrillers – Les felins, Le passager de la pluie, La course du lièvre à travers les champs, etc – it can stand its ground, sharing their dreamlike ambiguity and opaque plot structure. It may not be a masterpiece, but it’s certainly a worthwhile couple of hours. Continue reading

Carol Reed – The Third Man (1949)

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Of all the iconic images in Carol Reed’s The Third Man, none is as recognizable as the sight of Harry Lime (Orson Welles) standing in a Vienna doorway, bathed in shadow. Accompanied by Anton Karas’s unforgettable zither score, it’s one of the most iconic entrances in film history, which is befitting one of film’s most iconic characters. Although he’s only on screen for a fraction of the film’s running time, Lime stands out as one of the screen’s most chilling embodiments of the banality of evil, and a perfect stand-in for Third Man‘s vision of moral breakdown in post-WWII Europe. Continue reading

Michael Haneke – Das Schloß AKA The Castle (1997)

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It was just a matter of time before Michael Haneke and Franz Kafka crossed paths. The Castle, the Austrian filmmaker’s made-for-TV version of the Czech writer’s famous unfinished novel, promises an intriguing meeting between these two dedicated misanthropes, yet despite the overlapping bleakness of their worldviews, the film is notable mostly as an example of how somebody can follow a work to the letter and still miss its essence. K. (Ulrich Mühe) comes in from the cold, summoned by the mysterious officials at “the Castle” to an isolated village for a position as land surveyor; instead he finds himself reluctantly engaged to forlorn barmaid Frieda (Susanne Lothar), saddled with a couple of dolts (Felix Eitner and Frank Giering) for assistants, and trudging in circles in the snow, helplessly trying to unscramble the tortuous snafu that’s made him “superfluous and in everybody’s way.” Haneke’s last Austrian picture before his departure to France and richer, less offensive films (The Time of the Wolf, Caché), The Castle is something of a companion piece to the director’s deplorable, hectoring Funny Games, even bringing back the earlier film’s tormented couple for another round of inexplicable distress. Continue reading

Babak Anvari – Under the Shadow (2016)

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As a mother and daughter struggle to cope with the terrors of the post-revolution, war-torn Tehran of the 1980s, a mysterious evil begins to haunt their home.
Shideh (Narges Rashidi) and her family live amid the chaos of the Iran-Iraq war, a period known as The War of the Cities. Accused of subversion by the post-Revolution government and blacklisted from medical college, she falls into a state of malaise. With Tehran under the constant threat of aerial bombardment, her husband (Bobby Naderi) is drafted and sent to the frontlines by the army, leaving Shideh all alone to protect their young daughter, Dorsa (Avin Manshadi). Soon after he leaves, a missile hits their apartment building and while failing to explode, a neighbor dies under mysterious circumstances and Dorsa’s behavior becomes increasingly erratic. Shideh finds herself slowly drawn into the ensuing turmoil, struggling to cling onto what is real and what is not. Searching for answers, she learns from a superstitious neighbor that the cursed missile might have brought with it Djinn – malevolent Middle-Eastern spirits that travel on the wind.
Convinced that a supernatural force within the building is attempting to possess Dorsa, Shideh has no choice but to confront these forces if she is to save her. Continue reading

Brian De Palma – Body Double (1984)

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Brian De Palma’s trickiest and most ambitious movies often earn the harshest reactions from audiences and critics. Many of the filmmaker’s most sophisticated acts of cinematic gamesmanship are seen by much of the populace, assuming they’re seen at all, as operating on an aesthetic plane that’s roughly equivalent to a fitfully amusing midnight Skinamax entry. Body Double, Femme Fatale’s cynical older cousin, weathered many of the usual accusations of the director’s unoriginality and misogyny. Continue reading

Henri-Georges Clouzot – L’assassin habite… au 21 aka The Murderer Lives at 21 [+extra] (1942)

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Eureka, Masters of Cinema wrote:
One of the most revered names in world cinema, Henri – Georges Clouzot, made a remarkably self – assured debut in 1942 with the deliciously droll thriller The Murderer Lives at 21 [L ‘ Assassin habite au 21].

A thief and killer stalks the streets of Paris, leaving a calling card from “Monsieur Durand” at the scene of each crime. But after a cache of these macabre identifications is discovered by a burglar in the boarding house at 21 Avenue Junot, Inspector Wenceslas Vorobechik (Pierre Fresnay) takes lodging at the infamous address in an undercover bid to solve the crime, with help from his struggling – actress girlfriend Mila (Suzy Delair).

Featuring audacious directorial touches, brilliant performances, and a daring tone that runs the gamut from light comedy to sinister noir, as well as a subtle portrait of tensions under Nazi occupation, this overlooked gem from the golden age of French cinema is presented in a beautiful new high – definition restoration. Continue reading