Chantal Akerman – La chambre (1972)

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. . . It is always the act of isolation from another space that brings into sharp focus Akerman’s themes and aesthetics. Jacques Polet has pointed out that the 360-degree pan in La Chambre maps out a literal movement of encirclement completed once the pan reverses, as if the camera had demarcated the minimally essential space for the performance . . .

— from essay on Akerman by Ivone Margulies found here. Continue reading

Robert Downey Sr. – Pound (1970)

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There’s something liberating about director Robert Downey’s films, even when by rights they should be put on a leash by their small budgets and settings. Never was the case truer than in POUND, the kind of project that major studios would run a mile from. Long out of circulation, Downey’s film populates a dog pound with different human characters who pace about their cage, uncertain about their future. Some wait in hope for their owners to redeem them, others plot to escape, but most wait to see if they will make it to the end of the day without getting ‘The Needle’. It seems like a cute gimmick to have human characters playing dogs, but Downey has never been one to play by the rules, even if they would provide an interior logic to his story. The dog-human switcheroo isn’t as straightforward as it should be: the first camera angle inside the pound shows us the characters as dogs, the second shows them again as people. But are we still to treat them as ‘dogs’? They have a TV set in their cage; can understand human speech; and are revealed in flashbacks as having human lives outside of the pound. Continue reading

Richard Brooks – The Brothers Karamazov (1958)

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Ryevsk, Russia, 1870. Tensions abound in the Karamazov family. Fyodor is a wealthy libertine who holds his purse strings tightly. His four grown sons include Dmitri, the eldest, an elegant officer, always broke and at odds with his father, betrothed to Katya, herself lovely and rich. The other brothers include a sterile aesthete, a factotum who is a bastard, and a monk. Family tensions erupt when Dmitri falls in love with one of his father’s mistresses, the coquette Grushenka. Two brothers see Dmitri’s jealousy of their father as an opportunity to inherit sooner. Acts of violence lead to the story’s conclusion: trials of honor, conscience, forgiveness, and redemption. Continue reading

Jean-Luc Godard – King Lear (1987)

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Description: Everything returns to normal after Chernobyl. That is, everything but art. Most of the great works are lost, and it is up to people like William Shakespear Junior the Fifth to restore the lost artwork of the human race. He finds strange goings-on at a resort enough to remind him of all the lines of the play, dealing with mob boss Don Learo and his daughter Cordelia, a strange professor named Jean Luc-Godard (sic), who repeatedly xeroxes his hand for no particular reason. He is followed by four humanoid goblins that keep tormenting Cordelia. There is also the gentleman whose girlfriend, Valerie, isn’t always visible. Then the film is sent off to New York for Mr. Alien to edit. Continue reading