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Masaki Kobayashi – Kwaidan aka Ghost Stories [Uncut] (1964)


Kwaidan is a study in the masterful control of film technique. Kobayashi builds slowly, shooting the first story, “The Black Hair,” in shadows and exterior locations, grounding the film in what seems to be conventional realism. But when he hits the frightening climax, the camera swerves at dizzying angles, the sound desynchs, and the makeup and sets become highly expressionistic. With the second and third stories, Kobayashi shoots on enormous soundstages. “The Woman in the Snow” eschews realism entirely: Minokichi wanders a bleak snowscape with howling, distorted sound and menacing eyes filling the sky overhead. “Hoichi” features a haunting, mist-filled, graveside royal court and the indelible image of Hoichi’s body covered in sharply focuses writing. Finally, the last story draws us back at least partway to reality, returning to a more realistic setting, but always with the lingering sense that, as they say on Disney’s Haunted Mansion, “a ghost will follow you home.” Continue reading

Michael Winterbottom – With or Without You (1999)


Rosie and Vincent know each other for ten years, and are married for five. She doesn’t like
her job, he isn’t too pleased working with her dad. They’re trying to have a baby. One
morning Benoit, a Frenchman and former pen pal of Rosie, whom she never met, comes to
visit. Did Rosie love him? Does she love him now?
Continue reading

Peter Watkins – Gladiatorerna aka Peace Game (1969)


Plot Summary :
The year’s Peace Games convene in Sweden, with a specially chosen Allied team set against a Soviet bloc squad composed entirely of Chinese Red Guards. Officers from both sides observe from a viewing room that displays the television feed relayed to the rest of the planet; the commanders can issue orders to their troops and make morale-building statements.

The Allied team’s effort immediately breaks down in nationalist and racist squabbling. Its officer tries to get his men to cooperate, but they show a lack of initiative, losing points and getting snarled up in a ruined factory building. In contrast, the Chinese team fights as an obedient unit. In the control booth, cool-headed technicians bemoan the fact that the ICARUS gaming computer doesn’t seem to be working very well. Continue reading

Franco Zeffirelli – Tea with Mussolini (1999)


Starring Dame Maggie Smith, Dame Judi Dench, Dame Joan Plowright, Cher, Lily Tomlin, Paolo Seganti.

From IMDB:
Semi-autobiographical tale from the early life of director Franco Zeffirelli looks at the illegitimate son (Charlie Lucas as a child, Baird Wallace as the teen) of an Italian businessman. The boy’s mother has died, and he is raised by an Englishwoman (Joan Plowright) in pre-WWII Fascist Italy. Living to each other in Florence, and presided over by an ambassador’s widow (Maggie Smith), a group of Englishwomen live a sheltered existence which they believe is guaranteed personal protection in a tea reception given by Il Duce. However, as war breaks out, the women are interned. Occasionally in this English colony is a wealthy American (Cher), who visits among her travels and marriages to wealthy older men. She respects the “Scorpioni”, as they are known, and secretly arranges for their stay in a hotel. The ambassador’s widow finds her vulgar and tries to ignore her, but when the United States enters the war, the American too is taken into custody. Only then does she discover that her Italian lover (Paolo Seganti) has tricked her into signing over all her money and modern art collection to him, and is now arranging her execution. This obliges all to join forces. Lily Tomlin also appears as an American archaeologist working at a dig in the city. Continue reading

Mike Hodges – Croupier (1998)


Jack Manfred is the antithesis of a garret-starving artist. He hasn’t a romantic bone in his body. He’s an unpublished novelist, with a cynical view of the world, coming to terms with having an ex-policewoman girlfriend (Gina McKee), who loves the idea of being-with-a-writer, while suffering the depressive side-effects of self-absorption. Right now, he has a cash flow problem.

Directed by Mike (Get Carter) Hodges and written by Paul Mayersberg, this is a first person movie. Clive Owen is Jack. The voice-over commentary covers his thoughts, a technique that can be dangerously indulgent. Not here. Mayersberg’s script has the clarity of an open wound. Continue reading

Apichatpong Weerasethakul – Sud sanaeha aka blissfully yours (2002)


From Time Out Film Guide

Apichatpong’s ’emotional disaster movie’ opens wittily with the longest pre-credits scene ever: a leisurely introduction to the three main characters and the binds that tie them. Min (Oo) is a Burmese illegal immigrant, a strapping lad with a nagging skin problem, in need of a fake ID. His Thai girlfriend Roong (Kanokporn), a factory worker, has hired Orn and her husband to help get it. Orn wants to have another child before she’s too old, but her husband isn’t keen. The credits show up some 45 minutes in, as Min guides Roong to a secluded spot near the Thai-Burmese border where they’ll eat, laze, bathe and eventually make love. By chance Orn has chosen a spot nearby for illicit sex with her lover… Continue reading