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Sergei M. Eisenstein – Bezhin lug AKA Bezhin Meadow (1937)

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This short film is only still-image restoration of an unfinished film.

What is one to make of Bezhin Meadow? What is one to make of Sergei Eisenstein? The questions are in many ways the same as this film maudit and its maker are in much the same boat these days – lost to history both artistic and political. Filmed between 1936 and 1937 Bezhin Meadow was to signal Eisenstein’s return to the Soviet fold after his sojourn in America and the debacle of Que Viva Mexico. What resulted was an even greater debacle in that no sooner had the film neared completion than it was attacked and banned from view – with Eisenstein contributing to the banning by penning an essay in which he ‘confessed’ to the ‘mistakes’ of Bezhin Meadow. Finally adding injury to insult, the sole surviving print of Bezhin Meadow was destroyed – supposedly in a bombing raid during World War II, but just as likely burned outright. Then around 1968 a ‘reconstruction’ of the film was engineered when splices from the editing table, saved by Eisenstein’s wife, Pera Attasheva, were discovered. Cobbled together with a track of Prokoviev music, intertitles fashioned from the original script and cutting continuity and a brief spoken introduction, it exists today as a 35-minute silent film-cum-slide show. Of obvious interest to film scholars, and doubtless pleasing to those who share Roland Barthes’ preference for still images over moving ones, Bezhin Meadow once again begs the question of Eisenstein’s actual value – once the myth of the Great-Individual-Artist-Suffering-at-the-Hands-of-Stalin is scraped away. For all the ups and downs of his career Eisenstein was always Stalin’s favorite filmmaker, never meeting the fate of his teacher Vsevolod Meyerhold. Internationally celebrated, a linchpin of Soviet propaganda, photographed more than any other director in the history of the cinema, Eisenstein was a Movie Star – first, last and always. Continue reading

Sinan Cetin – Cicek abbas AKA Abbas in Flower (1982)

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Quote:
It would be unfair to call Sinan Çetin just a filmmaker, despite the broadness of the term. He has remained a hovering presence over Turkey’s pop culture for two decades whether he makes movies or, as is generally the case, does not. Çetin is a persona who is much larger than the sum of his parts.

It’s a rule of thumb that nearly all popular figures generate their unique brand of devoted fans and followers, along with haters of a similar fervor. With Çetin, the number of fans and followers has diminished and are arrayed against an impressive number of detractors that include other filmmakers, movie critics and viewers.

The director, however, has chosen to show the finger to anyone who deigns to tarnish his work and his persona and has managed to maintain his position in Turkey’s culture scene and his currency among the artistic elite. Continue reading

Mikhail Kalatozov – Vernie Druz’ya AKA True Friends (1954)

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Like many Russian films of the mid-1950s, True Friends sings the praises of collectivism. V. Merkuryev stars as Nestratov, who while rising to success as an architect becomes an insufferable boor — and even worse, an individualist. Two of his old friends, one a surgeon and the other a horse trainer for the state, show Nestratov the folly of his ways. In the end, our hero is more than happy to embrace the edicts of working together for the common good. Saving True Friends from wallowing in its own propagandas are the engaging performances of its cast and the sprightly direction by Mikhail Kalatozov. Continue reading

Mikhail Kalatozov – Neotpravlennoye pismo aka The Letter Never Sent (1959)

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Description: A year after his The Cranes are Flying won the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival, Kalatozov re-teamed with cinematographer Sergei Urusevksy and leading lady Tatyana Samojlova to shoot this story about four geologists on an expedition to find diamond deposits in Eastern Siberia. As the team confronts the raging elements of nature—including a tremendous forest fire—that nearly wipe them out, the film questions the sacrifice of human lives to further scientific progress. An intriguing example of new Soviet cinema, The Letter’s striking visuals and bold camerawork recall Kalatozov’s poetic documentary Salt for Svanetia (1929), which brought him fame for its visual bravado and powerful Communist propaganda. Continue reading

Juanita Wilson – As If I Am Not There (2010)

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A harsh dose of cinematic realism about a harsh time-the Bosnian War of the 1990s-
Juanita Wilson’s drama is taken from true stories revealed during the International Criminal
Tribunal in The Hague. Samira is a modern schoolteacher in Sarajevo who takes a job in
a small country village just as the war is beginning to ramp up. When Serbian soldiers
overrun the village, shoot the men and keep the women as laborers (the older ones) and
sex objects (the younger ones), Samira is subjected to the basest form of treatment
imaginable. Continue reading

Carlos Reygadas – Stellet Licht aka Silent Light (2007)

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The Carlos Reygadas guide to cinema:

The film is everything: “I’m not pursuing ‘a career’, or trying to make a point like Godard, who had these ideas of cinema and wanted to prove them through his films. His films are just essays trying to prove a preconceived theory, and that’s why I don’t like them very much. I feel films have to be pure – projections of vision and feelings, rather than make references to things outside of them. For me, they have to be spheres: self-containing.”

Make cinema for adults: “I’ve never understood all those children’s films about animals that talk and little animated spoons. When they ask me what I think of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, I always say, ‘I don’t understand them, they’re for children.’ And when I was a child, I didn’t understand films for adults and now I don’t understand films for children. I don’t understand why so many people understand films for children.” … Continue reading