Ken Russell – il mefistofele (1989)

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Arrigo Boito’s Il Mefestefele was first performed in 1868 and his most known work. In Ken Russell’s modern interpretation presented by the Genoese Opera, it has Faust as an ageing hippy. He smokes marijuana and is tormented by his lost youth. Mephisto makes a bet with God that he can turn anyone to pagan life, even someone as innocent as Faust. From then on it is a battle of good against evil in a flamboyant, surreal display of primary colours, PVC costumes, nurses with swastikas, rocket trips, love and even characters dressed as Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse. Ken Russell said because the devil is always with us is his reason for the contemporary setting. Written by Archie Moore Continue reading

Carlos Saura – Tango [+Extras] (1998)

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When the idea of a film about the tango was proposed to director Carlos Saura by a producer, the director spent several months hammering out a scenario that used dance to propel the story about a dancer, Mario Suárez (Miguel Ángel Solá), injured in a recent car accident and freshly divorced, using a film about the tango to heal some deep personal wounds.

Woven into the dances-within-a-film-within-a-film are pieces evoking the tango as the social glue of Argentinian culture, as well as the music’s function during the dark years under Juan Peron, when tango music was played loud by the secret service to smother the cries of torture sessions.

Repression is more or less linked through Mario’s own need to repress his still-broiling feelings for ex-wife Laura Fuentes (Cecilia Narova) who’s a key dancer in his film, as well as emerging feelings for Elena Flores (Mía Maestro), the young dancer he casts at the behest of the production’s biggest financier, a major mafia figure. Continue reading

Ingmar Bergman – Markisinnan de Sade AKA Madame de Sade (1992)

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Bergman’s production Yukio Mishima’s play Madame de Sade was not the first work by the Japanese playwright to be performed in Sweden. In 1959, Dramaten had produced some of Mishima’s Noh plays and in 1970, the Swedish Theatre in Helsinki visited Dramaten with a version of Madame the Sade. Mishima had been nominated several times to the Novel Prize in literature but was passed over in favour of his mentor Kawabata (1968).

The setting of Madame de Sade begins in France in 1772 and ends twelve years later, nine months after the French Revolution. Six Women, one of them Madame de Sade, discuss their views and feelings of the notorious sadist and sodomist Marquis de Sade.

An enthusiastic critical corps focussed on Bergman’s ensemble of actresses and on the concentration and musicality of his staging. Continue reading

Michel Ricaud – Sexandroide (1987)

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PLOT SUMMARY
Plot? Are you kidding or what ?There is no plot! This is 57 minutes of naked French weirdness.
Directed by porn king Michel Ricaud and starring a French theatrical troupe in the tradition of Grand Guignol (pronounced Grahn Geen-yol), this shocker contains three gore-drenched, sex-filled tales.
In the first, a sadist with a voodoo doll tortures an attractive woman. The catalogue of humiliation includes vomiting, menstrual trauma, pins through nipples, and finally death.
Next, a possessed woman is tortured by a crazed zombie, who slices off her nipples and gouges out her eye before disembowelling himself. Finally, a woman is attacked by a vampire and returns to life as a lascivious temptress. Continue reading

Partho Sen-Gupta, John McLaughlin & Zakir Hussain – Shakti Timeless (2006)

“Shakti Timeless” tells the story of the Indo-Western music group Shakti. Formed in 1975, the group pioneered a groundbreaking and highly influential musical East-meets-West approach. In the 1970s, the group, whose name means creative intelligence, beauty and power, consisted of legendary British jazz guitarist John McLauglin, North Indian tabla master Zakir Hussain, violinist L. Shankar and percussionist T.H. Vinayakram, the latter two hailing from South India. Together, they created a fluid and organic sound that managed to successfully combine seemingly incompatible traditions. After a number of very successful live concerts and albums they disbanded. The group was reformed in 1997 under the name Remember Shakti with new talents from India, such as V. Selvaganesh, who replaced his father Vinayakram on percussion, and the young prodigy U. Shrinivas, who replaced L. Shankar. In 2000, the young Indian classical singer Shankar Mahadevan joined as the first vocal element in the group. The documentary is on the DVD “Remember Shakti – The Way of Beauty,” which also includes the 2000 concert film “Saturday Night in Bombay.” Continue reading

Leonard Bernstein – Little Drummer Boy: Essay on Mahler by Leonard Bernstein (1985)

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Wow!–I just finished watching “The Little Drummer Boy.”
Previously I had thought that I knew quite a bit about Gustav Mahler, but Leonard Bernstein showed me more.

What Bernstein does is show you–through biographical commentary and excerpts from Mahler’s music–just what it was that made this masterful composer and conductor so obsessed with Life and Death.

Yes, part of it was Mahler’s being born Jewish, and part was seeing so many of his brothers and sisters die so early in life. But Bernstein shows us how Mahler was, like most of us, striving to try to come to terms with life–to understand why death has to come and deprive us of the joys of life.

To give you an idea of how concrete, knowledgeable and specific this program is, Lenny takes a few minutes, using musical excerpts, to illustrate how there is a funeral march in each of Mahler’s nine symphonies. Continue reading