Andrew Kotting – Gallivant (1997)

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Synopsis: When British filmmaker Andrew Kotting decided to tour the perimeter of Great Britain with his grandmother Gladys and his daughter Eden, he brought a film crew along. The result is this often humorous and picturesque documentary. Much of it features the travelers interacting with the native villagers who gladly share a story, a bit of colorful philosophy or sing a traditional song. One of Kotting’s motives for the journey was to have a final lark with the 80-year-old Gladys and to spend precious moments with Eden, who suffers from Jouberts Syndrome and may die before reaching maturity.~ Sandra Brennan, All Movie Guide Read More »

Salvador Carrasco – La Otra Conquista aka The Other Conquest (1998)

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It is May 1520 in the vast Aztec Empire one year after the Spanish Conqueror Hernán Cortés’ arrival in Mexico. “The Other Conquest” opens with the infamous massacre of the Aztecs at the Great Temple of Tenochtitlan. The sacred grounds are covered with the countless bodies of priests and nobility slaughtered by the Spanish Armies under Cortés’ command. The lone Aztec survivor of the massacre is a young Indian scribe named Topiltzin Topiltzin, who is the illegitimate son of the Aztec Emperor Moctezuma, survives the onslaught by burying himself under a stack of bodies. As if awakening from a dream, the young man rises from among the dead to find his mother murdered, the Spanish in power and the dawn of a new era in his native land. A New World with new leaders, language, customs… and God. Read More »

Ferzan Ozpetek – Harem suaré (1999)

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Plot Synopsis by Gönül Dönmez-Colin

Following the success of Hamam, Turkey-born, Italy-based Ferzan Ozpetek delivers another exotic film that delves into the traditions of his origin. Once again, the exotic city of Istanbul is the place of intrigue. But, unlike Hamam, which was a contemporary story, Harem Suare takes place at the turn of the century in the last days of the Ottoman Empire. The locale of this ornate story of love, power, and fear is the magnificent Yildiz Palace, where Sultan Abdulhamit whiles away the time listening to the finale of La Traviata as rebellions rage all over the country. The Sultan cannot stand unhappy endings, so he has asked Safiye, his favorite concubine, who is Italian, to rewrite the libretto so that Violetta does not die. Nadir, one of the black eunuchs, has plans for Safiye, whom he thinks should become the official wife. Nadir’s plans take a different turn when he and Safiye fall in love. In the harem, which is isolated from the rest of the world, life goes on with its plots and subplots, loyalties and betrayals, happiness and tragedies as if time did not exist. The story is told from the point of view of Safiye, concentrating more on human relations than on palace politics. The director plays with mirror images to reflect the two faces of personalities and the complexities of intercultural relations. Mythology is blended with sexuality, emphasizing the delicate nuances of language. The exotic element is not abused and historical details are used sparingly and only when necessary. Acting by young French actress Marie Gillain, who plays Safiye, and Lucia Bose, who plays her in old age, as well as Alex Descas as the eunuch Nadir and famous Turkish actor Haluk Bilginer as Sultan Abdulhamid are all commendable. 52nd Cannes Film Festival, 1999. Read More »

Ferzan Ozpetek – Mine vaganti AKA Loose Cannons (2010)

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Plot:
Tommaso (Riccardo Scamarcio, Eden Is West) has a comfortable life in Rome as an aspiring writer and a steady relationship with his boyfriend Marco—a life he has kept secret from his family. So when he’s called back to his hometown of Lecce in Italy’s deep south to help run the family pasta business, he decides to finally reveal his homosexuality to his conservative family and hopefully get out of his business obligations in the process. But when his plans are thwarted by his brother, Tommaso gets stuck on the path that he was desperately trying to avoid. Read More »

Jean-Jacques Beineix – Diva (1981)

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Modern noir meets high opera in the French suspense flick Diva. Delivery boy Jules has an opera obsession. He spends his small disposable income on sophisticated sound equipment and manages to bootleg a live performance of his favorite diva, Cynthia Hawkins (played by real-life opera singer Wilhelmina Wiggins Fernandez). But Jules is spotted making the recording by shady investors who want the tape. As if that weren’t enough, a second cassette, filled with enough evidence to topple an international drug and prostitution ring, makes its way into Jules’s mailbag. Writer-director Jean-Jacques Beineix does a terrific job of adapting Delacorta’s pulpy novel for the screen, keeping all the excitement while adding a layer of depth. A movie to make even a dedicated opera hater appreciate a perfectly sung aria, Diva has enormous loft apartments, thugs galore, gorgeous visuals, and a corker of a chase scene. Watch it–and watch your back. —Ali Davis Read More »

Teppei Yamaguchi – Kurama Tengu [+Extras] (1928)

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Quote:
In the past, screenings of silent films in Japan were extremely lively events that featured various sounds. Katsudo benshi, or motion picture narrators delivered passionate and eloquent narrations. Live music accompanied their performance. The period drama films in particular featured a new performance format that combined music played on Western and Japanese instruments, a collaboration impossible in a normal concert. The music of trumpets and violins blended with the sounds of shamisen and Japanese drums. In the climax scene, when our hero, the righteous samurai Kurama Tengu, rushed in on his horse to fight the Shinsengumi, the audience erupted in applause. Between sets, children selling rice crackers and other delicacies crisscrossed the theater shouting “Senbei, caramels” at the top of their lungs. In the Kurama Tengu series, the plot revolved around the adventures of the brave samurai Kurama Tengu and his loyal friend, the boy Sugisaku, so crowds of enthusiastic children loudly applauded the feats of their heroes. Read More »

Gualtiero Jacopetti & Franco Prosperi & Paolo Cavara – Mondo Cane 1 (1962)

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Mondo Cane literally translates into English as ‘dogs world’ which is an apt title for this film, the own that spawned the so-called ‘mondo’ genre of shockumentary filmmaking.

What it claims to be, essentially, is a series of loosely knit incidents of a bizarre and unusual nature, masterfully edited into a structured documentary film with some narration thrown over top of it to attempt to place it into a social context or some sort.

What it is in reality is a sort of hybrid between a legitimate study of the strange world we live in, and the most crass of exploitation films. Littered with quite a bit of human brutality, very gratuitous animal violence, and what could be very easily construed as racist overtones, Mondo Cane is, even now over forty years after the fact, still a shocking film. Yes, time has aged portions of it better than others and some scenes, such as a group of senior citizen tourists learning the history of the Hawaiian Hula dance, are actually kind of mundane, there are still enough bizarre and grisly scenes contained herein to make it an interesting film and a historically important one at that. Read More »