Michael Dibb – The Country and the City: A Film With Raymond Williams [+ Extras] (1979)

An extremely dense translation to film of Raymond Williams’ 1973 book of the same title which traces images of ‘nature’ and ‘town’ through 200 years of English literature. The connections Williams establishes as he traces the history of Tatton Park near Manchester – ‘an almost perfect example of how the English country house has influenced if not dominated our images of the country’ – are often startling and the film’s style continually illuminates the overall argument. All of the details taken from writers, painters, landscape artists and from 19th and 20th history of major urban centres are placed within a framework of class-based economic history – ‘the country and the city are parts of an interacting system dominated by a single class’- and the result is a unique TV essay. Michael Dibb, the director, has worked well with Williams to ensure that every image, every snatch of sound-track plays its part in the structure.
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John Gianvito – Vapor Trail (Clark) (2010)

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Keith Ulich wrote:
John Gianvito’s new documentary, the first of two films focusing on decommissioned, and hazardous, U.S. military bases-one named Clark, the other Subic-in Pampanga province, Philippines, takes its title (minus parenthetical) from the contrails left behind by airplanes at high altitude. A pre-credits sequence shows several such images, in addition to a rolling stream at sunrise; the driver’s-eye interior view of a car, signal clicking, as it prepares to turn (which way unspecified); and faded photographs that depict, we will come to learn, incidents and asides from the Philippine-American War (1899-1913). What connects these disparate objects/mo(ve)ments is a shared sense of impermanence-the feeling that everything we’re viewing is fleeting and, likely, soon forgotten.
The three Gianvito films I’ve seen-this, 2007’s Profit motive and the whispering wind, and, my personal choice for best of the ’00s, 2001’s The Mad Songs of Fernanda Hussein-share a fascination with, and in some way seek to redress the human propensity toward cultural-historical amnesia. Continue reading

Grigori Kozintsev & Leonid Trauberg – Novyy Vavilon AKA The New Babylon (1929)

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The Paris Commune was an epic phenomenon in the early history of the socialist movement. The Commune was located in the workers quarters within the centre of Paris. An important location was the emporium LA NOUVELLE BABYLONE, still existing at Metro Babylone. The main character in the film is Louise, a salesgirl in the shop. She is a communard. Her counterpart is a soldier that helps to wipe out the Commune. Thus, the enormous social and dialectic complications and contrasts between the workers on one side, and bourgeoisie and army on the other side, are projected on two characters. And of course they fall in love. Louise is a fierce heroine. Jean a naïve soldier, a farmer who is ordered and abused. In the end they meet not in bed but on the barricades. Jean is a conscript in the army that defeats the Commune fighters in the bloody week in June 1871. Thousands of the Communards were killed in action or shot at Père Lachaise cemetery. Continue reading

Miklós Jancsó – La pacifista – Smetti di piovere AKA The Pacifist (1970)

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This highly symbolic and enigmatic political drama by Hungarian director Miklos Jancso was produced by a consortium from Italy, France and West Germany. This film is considered to be an homage to Antonioni as it uses his favorite leading actress (Monica Vitti) and his cameraman Carlo di Palma. This film was made during a time when Jancso was not allowed to make films in his native Hungary. In the middle of the crowd, while covering an Italian political protest by leftists, The Journalist (Monica Vitti), a pacifist, finds herself surrounded by a quite different group of people who jostle her, remove her recording equipment from her and set her car on fire. She complains to the police about this. However, when the police bring one of the young men before her for her to identify him, she says he is not one of her attackers. This leads to her having a romantic relationship with the young man. The group, and the young man, are young Italian neo-fascists, and the young man has been given the job of assassinating a leftist. He is too gentle to do this, and his group kills him right before The Journalist’s eyes. She goes to the police again, but they begin to believe that she is insane, even when she is forced to kill her boyfriend’s assailants right there in the police station. Continue reading

Ken Jacobs – Star Spangled to Death (2004)

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Quote:
STAR SPANGLED TO DEATH is an epic film shot for hundreds of dollars! combining found-films with my own more-or-less staged filming, it pictures a stolen and dangerously sold-out America, allowing examples of popular culture to self-indict. Racial and religious insanity, monopolization of wealth and the purposeful dumbing down of citizens and addiction to war oppose a Beat playfulness.

A handful of artists costumed and performing unconvincingly appeal to audience imagination and understanding to complete the picture. Jack Smith’s pre-FLAMING CREATURES performance as The Spirit Not Of Life But Of Living (the movie has raggedly cosmic pretensions), celebrating Suffering (rattled impoverished artist Jerry Sims) at the crux of sentient existence, is a visitation of the divine. Continue reading

Ted Bourne & Mary Robertson & Banks Tarver – Trumped: Inside the Greatest Political Upset of All Time (2017)

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In a behind-the-scenes look at the biggest political upset in recent history, Mark Halperin, John Heilemann and Mark McKinnon offer unprecedented access and never-before-seen footage of candidate Trump, from the primaries through the debates to the dawning realization that the controversial businessman will become the 45th President of the United States. Continue reading