Göran Olsson – The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 (2011)

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The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975

“You’re either part of the solution or part of the problem,” Eldridge Cleaver is often quoted: as documentaries go, “The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975″ solves a few common production problems with its origins, drawing on a splendid cache of black-and-white and color 16mm interviews, shot in the United States by Swedish journalists with a seemingly radical bent, and unearthed in 2005. (To paraphrase another figure, this potential revolution was televised, even if only in Scandinavia.) Göran Hugo Olsson’s documentary of fierce, open exchanges with Black Power Movement figures captures the moment’s intensity (and intermittent naiveté) from its subjects, including Stokely Carmichael, Bobby Seale, Angela Davis, Cleaver and William Kunstler. (The crispness of the long-unseen footage is startling.) Earnest activism and protest meet setbacks, as the historical record already shows. Yet these curious Swedes, gaining the trust of their subjects, captured invaluable, contemporary reflections of a turbulent time, after the early days of the civil rights movement, when filling the streets was thought a way to prompt societal change. Continue reading

Alain Tanner – La Salamandre (1971)

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A journalist recruits a novelist friend to help him rustle up a quick TV script based on a news item in a local paper about a man who accused his niece of shooting and wounding him. She claimed the gun went off while he was cleaning it; eventually dropped for lack of evidence, the case was never resolved. The novelist (Denis) sets out to create the script from imagination, while the journalist (Bideau) goes after the facts. But dedicated to a celebration of instinctive revolt, the film is less concerned with what happened than with the girl herself; and Bulle Ogier conveys volumes in the part as the film counterpoints her view of society with its varying view of her. There is, for instance, a scene where she has a job as sales-girl in a shoe shop, and without warning begins to caress the legs the customers present to her: it’s a gesture that’s at once funny, profoundly erotic, incongruous, and deeply shocking, and one that places both Rosemonde and the world she finds herself living in. A rare treat, infused with a rich and unforced vein of quiet humour. Continue reading

Jean-Luc Godard – British Sounds (1970)

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Jean-Luc Godard made the hour-long 1969 experimental documentary British Sounds also known as See You at Mao for London Weekend TV in 1969. In the opening scene, a ten minute long tracking shot along a Ford factory floor, a narrator reads from The Communist Manifesto. This is followed by a woman wandering around her house naked while a narrator reads a feminist-tinged text, a news commentator reading a pro-capitalist rant that is repeatedly and abruptly cut off to show workers that contradict his statements, and a group of young activists preparing protest banners while transposing communist propaganda to Beatles songs (“You say Nixon/I say Mao” to “Hello Goodbye”). It closes with a fist repeatedly punching through a British flag. It’s a bold and assaultive socialist screed made during the director’s most divisive political period and was banned from television. Of note are the director’s experiments juxtaposing image, text, and sound. ~ Michael Buening, All Movie Guide Continue reading

Jean-Luc Godard – Un Film Comme Les Autres AKA A Film Like Any Other [English version] (1968)

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What can be verified about the film are two 16mm reels of equal duration composed of two parts: A colour component (which makes up the bulk of the film), illustrating a group of five “students from Vincennes and workers from the Renault plant at Flins”.[10] The group sit in a field outside a large tenement block on the outskirts of Paris and discuss politics, the objectives of the May revolt, and the potential steps involved in achieving revolution in France. The second component of the film is comprised of silent black and white ‘documentary’ footage from the events of May intercut with the colour ‘live’ action in the field. Each of the black and white sections illustrates the May events that the participants discuss, and acts as a complement to their conversation. Continue reading

Jean-Luc Godard – Ici et ailleurs AKA Here and Elsewhere (1976)

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Here and Elsewhere
Capsule by Jonathan Rosenbaum
From the Chicago Reader

Jean-Luc Godard’s short feature about the PLO was initially shot with Jean-Pierre Gorin in the Middle East in 1970, but when he edited the footage with Anne-Marie Mieville several years later, many of the soldiers that had been filmed were dead. Reflecting on this fact, as well as on the problems of recording history and of making political statements on film, Godard and Mieville produced a thoughtful and provocative essay on the subject. Coming after the mainly arid reaches of Godard’s “Dziga Vertov Group” period (roughly 1968-1973), when his efforts were largely directed toward severing his relation with commercial filmmaking and toward forging new ways to “make films politically,” this film assimilates many of the lessons he learned without the posturing and masochism that marred much of his earlier work. The results are a rare form of lucidity and purity. All proportions guarded, it is a little bit like hearing John Coltrane’s “Blues for Bessie” after the preceding explorations of “Crescent” and “Wise One” on his Crescent album. Continue reading