Carl Boese & Paul Wegener – Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam aka The Golem: How He Came Into the World [+Extras] (1920)

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Classic Horror Review :

Emanating from Jewish folklore, the legend of the “golem” has transfixed audiences for centuries. Although when used pejoratively the word “golem” describes a moronic person easily manipulated, the word often refers to any mythical creature animated from inanimate materials such as clay, sand, or stone.

One of the most popular “golems” appears in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Spelled “Gollum,” Tolkien’s character shares similarities with creatures that haunted Jewish legends, particularly the golem featured in director Paul Wegener’s 1920 silent classic, The Golem. Both suffer from split personalities and possess hybrid traits: Gollum is part human, part frog, fish, etc.; many Jewish golems, including Wegener’s, are monsters made of inanimate objects that carry human traits. Both have been damned or punished, and in both instances, the creatures start well intentioned but transform into evil beings, usually due to gluttony, greed, wrath, envy, or pride. Thus, they are morally “gray,” and like Wegener’s monster, Tolkien’s has often been depicted as gray in color to symbolize this amorality, most notably in Peter Jackson’s recent films. Continue reading

Hans Alfredson – Den enfaldige mördaren AKA The Simple-Minded Murder (1982)

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Set in 1930s Sweden. On the death of his mother, a young man with learning difficulties (and a harelip) is sent to work for a local rich landowner. He is ill-treated by the man who is a petty tyrant to all his employees. He makes friends with the disabled daughter of a poor family. Unable to take more debasement from the landowner he runs away and is harboured by the girl’s family. But the tyrant fights to get him back with bloody consequences. Continue reading

Atom Egoyan – Where the Truth Lies (2005)

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From AMG:

A reporter unexpectedly gets a personal perspective on a legendary show-business story in this adaptation of Rupert Holmes’ novel, scripted and directed by noted Canadian independent filmmaker Atom Egoyan. In the mid-’50s, Lanny Morris (Kevin Bacon) and Vince Collins (Colin Firth) were a wildly popular comedy team who suddenly and unexpectedly broke up at the peak of their popularity. Fifteen years after Morris and Collins called it quits, journalist Karen O’Connor (Alison Lohman), who has earned a reputation for her celebrity exposés, wants to write about the true story of what happened with Morris and Collins — and to her surprise, her publisher tells her Collins has agreed to co-author the book for a cool million dollars. The only catch is that Collins has to tell the full truth about a very large skeleton in the team’s closet — a beautiful naked woman was found drowned in the bathtub of Morris and Collins’ hotel suite shortly before they broke up the act, and while the comics were cleared of any wrongdoing, rumors about the incident followed them for years. As O’Connor and Collins complete their book, they learn to their surprise that Morris has opted to write a book of his own about the team’s career; eager to learn what Morris has to say, O’Connor meets him posing as a schoolteacher, and soon falls into an unexpected romantic relationship with him. O’Connor soon finds herself playing two sides against one another as she tried to learn the truth about two men with dark and scandalous pasts. Where the Truth Lies became the subject of unexpected controversy when the MPAA gave the film an NC-17 rating due to a brief scene involving a ménage à trois; the film earned significantly more lenient rating in other countries. Continue reading

Garin Nugroho – Opera Jawa aka Requiem from Java [+Extras] (2006)

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Inspired by ‘The Abduction of Sita’ from the ancient Indian and South East-Asian literary classic The Ramayana, OPERA JAWA is a unique musical tale of love, lust and tragedy. Setio and his wife Siti, own a pottery business in a small village ran by Ludiro, a powerful and ruthless businessman. Ludiro, who is in love with Siti, seizes his chance when the couple’s business collapses. He abducts and tries to seduce Siti. The two men fight and inevitably jealousy spills over into violence and tragedy. Continue reading

Naomi Kawase – Sharasojyu aka Shara (2003)

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A film about mourning and its eventual passing. Like in Antonioni’s L’avventura and in Fahrhadi’s About Elly, the unexplained, unresolved disappearance of a central character puts into motion the complex interplay between the public and personal dimension of mourning. Kawase herself plays the mother who, seven years after the disappearance of one of her twins, is heavily pregnant again. This coincides with upsetting news from the authorities. The family and neighbours and friends are plunged once more into the work of mourning. But by means of an extraordinary street festival, a family ceremony of acceptance in which the curse of the disappeared is at last transformed into a benign omen for the coming birth, and the birth of a new family member the trance-like state of collective dissociation is broken. Ultimately, it is not just the disappeared twin who can pass on to the next life in peace, but the entire family. The three core scenes, the festival, the ceremony, and the birth are overwhelmingly effective, in part due to Kawase’s (and her team’s) subtle control, in part due to the impossible admixture of calm and joyous exuberance. If the ending does suggest notions of rebirth, release from the curse of eternal return and memory, it is accomplished, like the entire film, in the absence of dogma. There is no lesson here other than that life ought to be gentle. Continue reading

Takashi Ishii – Hana to hebi aka Flower and Snake (2004)

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Synopsis
In this erotically charged drama, Shizuko (Aya Sugimoto) is a beautiful and talented dancer who feels like her husband no longer cares for her, and has begun to indulge in sexual fantasies of sadomasochistic edge play. When her husband falls deep in debt to a powerful gangster, Shizuko is kidnapped by members of the yakuza and held for ransom until he makes good on what he owes. To prove they mean business, the gangsters force Shizuko to take part in a series of perverse S & M performances, but Shizuko finds that her “punishment” is beginning to reflect the rough treatment of which she’s been dreaming. Hana to Hebi (aka Flower and Snake) was written and directed by Japanese underground auteur Takashi Ishii, adapted from a novel by Oniroku Dan. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide Continue reading

Ephraim Kishon – Ha-Shoter Azulai AKA The Policeman [+extra] (1971)

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Born in Budapest, Hungary, as Ferenc Hoffmann, Ephraim Kishon studied sculpture and painting, and then began publishing humourous essays and writing for the stage. After 1945 he changed his surname from Hoffmann to Kishont. He emigrated to Israel in 1949, where an immigration officer gave him the name Ephraim Kishon.

Acquiring a mastery of Hebrew with remarkable speed, he started a regular satirical column in the easy-Hebrew daily, Omer, after only two years in the country. From 1952, he wrote the column “Had Gadya” in the daily Ma’ariv. Devoted largely to political and social satire but including essays of pure humour, it became one of the most popular columns in the country. His extraordinary inventiveness, both in the use of language and the creation of character, was applied also to the writing of innumerable sketches for theatrical revues.

Azulai is a soft-hearted and incompetent policeman in Jaffa. His superiors want to send him to early retirement, but he would like to stay on the force. The criminals of Jaffa who also don’t want to see him leave try to find a way to help him keep his job.
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