Claire Denis – L’intrus AKA The Intruder [+Extras] (2004)

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L’Intrus opens to a shot of the Franco-Swiss border as a border guard performs a customs check and inspection of a random vehicle with the aid of a contraband-sniffing dog. The seemingly mundane image of frontier, wilderness, and deception provides a curiously appropriate introduction into the Claire Denis’ impenetrably fractured, enigmatically allusive, otherworldy, and indelible metaphysical exposition into the mind of an emotionally severe, morally bankrupt, and profoundly isolated heart transplant patient named Louis (Michel Subor). Idiosyncratically unfolding in elliptical, often reverse chronology (with respect to the heart surgery) through the lugubriously fluid intertwining of Louis’ alienated existence and deeply tormented subconscious, the film is a fragmented and maddeningly opaque daydream (or perhaps more appropriately, a haunted nightmare) of the price exacted by his disreputable past, estranged relationships, hedonism, and instinctual quest for survival: his inability to reconcile with his only son and his family; his sexually motivated, yet emotionally distant relationship with a materialistic pharmacist; his dubious, transcontinental past (a suppressed history that may have included murder). Perpetually followed by a beautiful, enigmatic sentinel (Katia Golubeva) – or conscience – who seems to have been instrumental in obtaining his new heart, what emerges is an indelible, elegiac, and poetically abstract dreamscape through the wondrous, alien terrain of unreconciled (and irreconcilable) personal history, unrequited longing, and haunted memory. Continue reading

François Caillat – Foucault Against Himself [Subbing Copy] (2014)

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“Don’t ask me who I am, and don’t tell me to remain the same.” —Michel Foucault

From the history of madness, to sexuality and pleasure in classical antiquity, to the law and penal institutions, the breadth of Michel Foucault’s thought was astonishing.

One of the leading intellectuals of the 20th century, Foucault bridged the roles of intellectual and activist, attaining the highest honours of the French academy while using his position to attack the very institutional power that gave him a platform.

Divided into four chapters, FOUCAULT AGAINST HIMSELF focuses on Foucault’s critique of psychiatry, his work on the history of sexuality, the growth of his radicalism arising from his research into the French penal system, the nature of knowledge and underlying structures of human behavior, and his immersion in American counter-cultural movements—in particular the resistance to current social structures that he found among sexual minority communities in San Francisco. Continue reading

Gert de Graaff – De zee die denkt AKA The Sea That Thinks [+Extra] (2000)

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The Sea That Thinks is a 2000 Dutch experimental film directed by Gert de Graaff. The film makes heavily use of optical illusions to tell a “story within a story” revolving around a screenwriter writing a script called The Sea That Thinks. The script details what is happening around him and eventually begins to affect what happens around him. Continue reading

Aleksandr Sokurov – Spasi i Sokhrani aka Save and Protect (1989)

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A retelling of Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary as a surreal story of universal suffering, the film emphasizes the heroine’s internal transformation as she slowly loses her grip on reality. Her erotic fascination with rich clothing and her almost childish desire to seduce and to be lost in passion is brilliantly contrasted with the small-town life that leaves Emma tragically isolated in her passionate attempt to bridge the gap between spirituality and sensuality. Continue reading

Jean-Marie Straub – La madre (2012)

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The texts in Cesare Pavese’s “Dialoghi con leucò” have a stake in the old and the new alike. It is the lively tension, the bridge between myth and modernity of these texts that deeply touches us and which as a new experience so wonderfully permeates this film by Jean-Marie Straub. Perhaps the most beautiful aspect of LA MADRE is the complete transparency and darkness that is revealed at the same time. Continue reading

Francoise Wolff – Jacques Lacan Speaks (1971)

Jacques Lacan (1901-1981) is widely regarded as one of the most influential psychoanalysts of the 20th century, one whose work has refashioned psychiatry both as a theory of the unconscious mind and as a clinical practice. His seminars and writings have also had a widespread influence throughout the humanities and social sciences, especially in education, legal studies, literary and film studies and women’s studies. Continue reading