Les Blank & Skip Gerson – A Well Spent Life (1972)

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Many people consider Texas bluesman Mance Lipscomb to be the greatest blues guitarist and songster of all time. This glowing portrait of the legendary musician (also life-long husband and sharecropper) is among Blank’s special masterworks. Instead of growing bitter, tough times made Lipscomb sweet.

The favorite film of Kurt Vonnegutt, Jr. Continue reading

Todd Solondz – Babysitter (1984)

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A student film with no synced sound, Babysitter is a humorous nine-minute short made as Todd Solondz’ graduate film for NYU film school in 1984. Eric Schwartzman narrates and plays the lead role of a young boy who tells his history with babysitters, and how his life was particularly touched by his last one, a teenager (Patti Seitz). Continue reading

Thom Andersen – A Train Arrives At The Station (2016)

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This film was a gift to me. I make no claims for it, nor do I offer any apologies. It comes from work on The Thoughts That Once We Had. There was one shot we had to cut whose loss I particularly regretted. It was a shot of a train pulling into Tokyo Station from Ozu’s The Only Son (1936). So I decided to make a film around this shot, an anthology of train arrivals. It comprises 26 scenes or shots from movies, 1904-2015. It has a simple serial structure: each black & white sequence in the first half rhymes with a color sequence in the second half. Thus the first shot and the final shot show trains arriving at stations in Japan from a low camera height. In the first shot (The Only Son), the train moves toward the right; in the last shot, it moves toward the left. A bullet train has replaced a steam locomotive. So after all these years, I’ve made another structural film, although that was not my original intention.
– Thom Andersen
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Luis Buñuel – Un chien andalou (1929)

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In a dream-like sequence, a woman’s eye is slit open–juxtaposed with a similarly shaped cloud obsucuring the moon moving in the same direction as the knife through the eye–to grab the audience’s attention. The French phrase “ants in the palms,” (which means that someone is “itching” to kill) is shown literally. A man pulls a piano along with the tablets of the Ten Commandments and a dead donkey towards the woman he’s itching to kill. A shot of differently striped objects is repeatedly used to connect scenes. Written by Ryan T. Casey Continue reading

Ingmar Bergman – Ingmar Bergman Bris Soap Commercials (1951)

In 1951 there was a conflict in the Swedish film industry. The production companies had declared a ban on filming in protest against the high rate of tax on entertainment. Recently remarried, Ingmar Bergman, found himself with three families to support, and his contract with the Gothenburg City Theatre had expired. In order to earn any income whatsoever that year, he agreed to direct nine commercial for Bris soap on behalf of Swedish Unilever. It seems more than a coincidence that Sweden’s most famous film director should be the one to take the country’s advertising to a higher plane: the Bris films were the most lavishly funded that the country had ever seen. Continue reading