José Luis Guerín – Tren de sombras AKA Train of Shadows (1997)

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Ostensibly framed as a restoration of a degraded found film recovered some 70 years after the sudden and unexplained death of its creator, a Parisian attorney and amateur filmmaker named Gérard Fleury at a lake in the village of Le Thuit in Normandy, Tren de sombras (Train of Shadows) is a dense, sensual, and richly textured exposition of José Luis Guerín’s recurring preoccupations: the nature and subjectivity of the image-gaze, the permeable borders between truth and fiction, the role of architecture (and landscape) as palimpsest of hidden histories. By placing the discovery of Fleury’s last shot footage of his home and family within the context of the ambiguity surrounding the circumstances of his death after a seemingly innocuous scouting trip early one morning to find suitable lighting conditions to incorporate into his home movie, the found film becomes both a curious artifact of the early days of cinema in its informally staged performances that suggest the whimsical, created illusions of Georges Méliès (in a performance of dancing ties and magic tricks), and also a non-fiction, historical record that can be deconstructed, reconstituted, and re-analyzed to glean further information into the real-life mystery. Continue reading

José Luis Borau – Furtivos aka Poachers (1975)

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Synopsis:
Furtivos (Poachers) is a 1975 Spanish film directed by José Luis Borau. It stars Lola Gaos, Ovidi Montllor and Alicia Sánchez. The script was written by Manuel Gutiérrez Aragón and José Luis Borau. The film is a stark drama that portraits an oedipal relationship and its dire consequences. A great critical and commercial success, it won best picture at the San Sebastián International Film Festival in 1975. Furtivos is considered a classic of Spanish cinema.
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Narciso Ibáñez Serrador – La residencia AKA The House That Screamed (1969)

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PLOT
Welcome to La Residencia, a borderline reform school packed with over-blossoming maidens and presided over by a whacked-out head-mistress played to the hilt by Lili Palmer. It’s true that the murder “mystery” is instantly guessable, but this is a beautifully made gothic chiller with superb performances all around. Also features great cinematography and music. The award-winning script is steeped in classical references and reveals a swirling morass of sexual and political repression. A moody, spooky masterpiece. Continue reading

Pedro Almodóvar – Carne trémula AKA Live Flesh (1997)

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Curious, seeing this after the smash hits of “Todo Sobre Mi Madre” and “Hable con Ella”, because this movie sort of prepared the viewers to what was coming. Grabbing a solid and original story, Pedro Almodovar creates a movie that revolves around a strange set of characters, and on the process gives an excellent essay on the effect time has on people’s lives. All the actors are top notch, specially the commanding Javier Bardem, who would later become an Oscar nominee with “Before Night Falls”. Great music, cinematography and direction give this movie an even more satisfying look, and make this a well-achieved movie that ends up being the first part of an unofficial trilogy of Almodovar’s best works. Continue reading

Pedro Almodóvar – La mala educación AKA Bad Education (2004)

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The wag who first suggested running the trailer for Bad Education before screenings of The Passion of the Christ in southern France deserves a rosette for provocation beyond the call of duty. But while the region’s priests have responded with predictable outrage, they should have taken a closer look at the film itself. To the character of the paedophile Father Manolo, Pedro Almodóvar extends the same compassion and pity with which he regarded the various sex offenders in Matador (1986), Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1989) and Talk to Her (2002). Almodóvar has the most democratic sensibility in cinema since Andy Warhol. Whatever passes before his camera is met with curiosity or understanding. Continue reading

Pedro Almodóvar – Hable con ella AKA Talk to Her (2002)

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The closing act of the New York Film Festival, and one of the season’s most rewarding films, Talk to Her strikes a variety of chords: It’s uproarious, whimsical, sad, preposterous–sometimes sequentially, sometimes all at once. The one-time provocateur and lover of garish pop culture shows a growing maturity in this film, mining darker, more emotionally resonant territory that gets deep under the skin even as its loopy unpredictability makes it wildly entertaining. At issue here are loneliness, loss, communication, male friendship, and the different forms love takes, all embodied with the wacky imagination for which Pedro Almodžvar is noted. Continue reading

Pedro Almodóvar – La flor de mi secreto AKA The Flower of My Secret (1995)

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Marisa Paredes is Leocadia (“Leo”) Macias, a woman writing “pink” romance novels under the alias of Amanda Gris that are very popular all across Spain. Unlike her romantic novels, her own love life is troubled. Leo has a less than happy relationship with her husband Paco, a military officer stationed in Brussels then later in Bosnia, who is distant both physically and emotionally.

Leo begins to change the direction of her writing, wanting to focus more on darker themes such as pain and loss, and can no longer write her Amanda Gris novels, whose publishers demand sentimental happy-endings, at least until her contract is up. Continue reading