Konstantin Lopushansky – Pisma myortvogo cheloveka AKA Letters from a Dead Man (1986)

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Letters from a Dead Man is another film that deals with the theme of the nuclear nightmare. It falls into a mini-genre of nuclear holocaust film along with others such as On the Beach (1959), Dr Strangelove or, How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), Fail-Safe (1964), The War Game (1965) et al. But what makes Letters from a Dead Man unique in this case is that the treatment is one that comes from the opposite side of the Iron Curtain. Every single other treatment of the nuclear holocaust theme was made in the West and comes based on the speculation (or at least implication) of what would happen if the bombs falling were coming from the Soviet side; this is one which shows everything from the other perspective. In both cases though, the films are almost identical in their treatment of the subject matter and are certainly agreed upon what an horrific experience the nuclear holocaust would be. Letters perhaps comes without the sentimentalized approach of other contemporary views of the holocaust, as shown in The Day After (1983) and Testament (1983), which related the horrors to the effect on Middle America and the destruction of the family unit. Rather Letters comes closer to the celebrated pseudo-documentary The War Game in its almost unimaginably bleak depiction of the grim reality of a nuclear blast. Even more so it is most surprising to see a pre– i>glasnost film that comes from the heavily state-censored Soviet Union and yet manages to be so outspoken against the arms race and moreover rule by military. Continue reading

Ana Lily Amirpour – The Bad Batch (2016)

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“The Bad Batch” turns a completely ridiculous premise — dystopian warfare in a sun-bleached desert filled with cannibals, a raving cult leader, desperate thieves and LSD — into a warm, at times even elegant salute to the transformative power of companionship. This should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with writer-director Ana Lily Amirpour’s sleek debut “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night,” another creepy premise given fresh life. With “The Bad Batch,” Amirpour pairs elements of “Mad Max” and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” with western flavor for another beguiling ride. The scale has expanded and there are a few more recognizable faces this time around, but nothing about the movie’s inspired wackiness bears the whiff of compromise. Continue reading

Brent Bonacorso – The Narrow World (2017)

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A giant alien creature comes to Earth. The reasons for its arrival, however, remain unknown as mankind fails to make contact with the visitor.

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The Narrow World follows a group of scientists as they try to unravel the enigma of the alien’s purpose. That setup may have the sound of a schlocky ‘alien invasion’ film – the sort where evil E.T.s are out to destroy Earth and an all out battle for the future of humanity must ensue – but surfaces can be deceiving. Bonacorso subverts the film’s familiar setup by positing his invader as a passive observer. His alien doesn’t attack Earth. Nor does it communicate in any way, shape or form. In fact, it doesn’t do much of anything but walk and watch. Continue reading

Andrei Tarkovsky – Stalker [The Criterion Collection] (1979)

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Andrei Tarkovsky’s final Soviet feature is a metaphys­ical journey through an enigmatic postapocalyptic landscape, and a rarefied cinematic experience like no other. A hired guide—the Stalker—leads a writer and a professor into the heart of the Zone, the restricted site of a long-ago disaster, where the three men eventually zero in on the Room, a place rumored to fulfill one’s most deeply held desires. Adapting a science-fiction novel by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, Tarkovsky created an immersive world with a wealth of material detail and a sense of organic atmosphere. A religious allegory, a reflection of contemporaneous political anxieties, a meditation on film itself—Stalker envelops the viewer by opening up a multitude of possible meanings. Continue reading