Alain Tanner – Charles mort ou vif AKA Charles, Dead or Alive (1969)

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Charles, Dead or Alive, Alain Tanner’s first feature film, which won the Grand Prix at the Locarno Festival in 1969, is the kind of manifesto that, with other films, put Switzerland on the world cinema map at the end of the 1960s.

That the critics baptized the wave which emerged at this time as the “new Swiss cinema” simply reflects the fact that the “old” Swiss cinema was unknown to the cinema-going public. Today, the appeal and energy of this first film remain undiminished, magnified by the exceptional stature and presence of François Simon and the sublimely uncluttered camera work of Renato Berta. Tanner drew his subject matter from what he saw of the events of May ’68 in Paris, which he covered for Swiss television. Unimpressed by the ideological pronouncements of the young demonstrators (Tanner was nearly 40 and mistrustful of the siren songs of militancy), he was more struck by the elderly people marching alongside them. Read More »

Alain Tanner – Une flamme dans mon coeur AKA A Flame in My Heart (1987)

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The terrifyingly destructive power of a woman’s sexual obsession provides the compelling subject for this psychological study of a woman’s descent into madness from French filmmaker Alain Tanner. It is the tale of Parisian actress Mercedes who is first seen attempting to break up with the obsessive Arab Johnny, who stalks her until she meets handsome newspaper writer Pierre on the subway and goes with him for an afternoon fling. Before the sweat even dries, she finds herself hopelessly in love with him. Pierre is flattered and encourages her desperate devotion, but soon after their affair begins, he is called off on a business trip leaving the suddenly distraught Mercedes alone with her demons. Though preparing for a new play, she is unable to concentrate and barely able to function without Pierre. She quits the production, locks herself in Pierre’s apartment and quietly begins falling apart until he returns. Read More »

Alain Tanner – Une ville à Chandigarh aka A City at Chandigarh (1966)


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When, in 1947, a portion of Punjab province was assigned to the newly created
Pakistani State, Albert Mayer began planning a new capital for the portion which
remained in the possession of India. Le Corbusier had been responsible since the
1950s for general planning and, more particularly, for large-scale buildings typical
of the governmental sector. A year after the death of Le Corbusier, Alain Tanner
began shooting his film in a city still partially under construction, or even, in certain
places, at the planning stage. The inhabitants of the metropolis, however, already
numbered some 120,000. Read More »

Alain Tanner – L’Homme qui a perdu son ombre AKA The Man Who Lost His Shadow (1991)

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PLOT DESCRIPTION
Paul (Dominic Guard) is a journalist who is up to date on the latest horrors of the modern world and is heartsick about them. He has a wife (Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi) and a steady job but leaves both of them suddenly for parts unknown. His wife is worried about him, and she is angry that he left without a word. She is sufficiently concerned to seek out one of Paul’s former flames (Angela Molina) for information about where he might have gone. Soon, this girl has joined her in a quest to find Paul. They finally discover him in a Spanish resort town on the coast, moodily riding his motorcycle over the countryside and sharing philosophical musings with Antonio (Francisco Rabal), a magnetic older man who fought against Franco in the Spanish Civil War. Romantic and sexual complexities brought on by the rivalry between these two attractive women add to Paul’s malaise. ~ Clarke Fountain, All Movie Guide Read More »

Jean-Luc Godard – Le Mépris AKA Contempt (1963)

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On Capri, an Italian crew makes a German film of Homer’s Odyssey; Fritz Lang directs with American money. Prokosch, the producer, with his sneer and red Alfa, holds art films in contempt and hires writer Javal to help Lang commercialize the picture. Against this backdrop, we watch the breakup of Javal’s marriage to Camille, a young former typist. It opens with the couple talking in bed, she asking assurance that he finds her attractive. Later that day he introduces her to Prokosch, and, unawares, blunders unforgivably. The rest of the film portrays her, in their apartment and in public, expressing her hurt and change of heart and his slow grasp of the source of her contempt. Read More »

Jean-Luc Godard – Meeting Woody Allen (1986)

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Woody Allen – Jean-Luc Godard? This might seem an odd combination to many American film lovers, at least to much of Woody’s loyal audience, trying hard to be highbrow and intellectual, but not perhaps all that much interested in the challenges of a mischief-maker like JLG. As it happens this is a highly entertaining and somewhat informative look at both filmmakers as they are passing through middle age (Allen 51, Godard 56), lamenting the loss of cinematic and artistic innocence through the corruption of TV and at the same time celebrating their own longevity and continued relevance in the small world of art-cinema. I was especially intrigued by Godard’s use of title cards and the couple of shots of him playing around with videocassettes and books, and a still photo near the end of the film that I think was of Allen around the “Take the Money and Run” days but may have in fact been Godard; both are small, owlish men and the similarities both physical and intellectual are certainly played up here. Read More »

Jean-Luc Godard – British Sounds (1970)

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Jean-Luc Godard made the hour-long 1969 experimental documentary British Sounds also known as See You at Mao for London Weekend TV in 1969. In the opening scene, a ten minute long tracking shot along a Ford factory floor, a narrator reads from The Communist Manifesto. This is followed by a woman wandering around her house naked while a narrator reads a feminist-tinged text, a news commentator reading a pro-capitalist rant that is repeatedly and abruptly cut off to show workers that contradict his statements, and a group of young activists preparing protest banners while transposing communist propaganda to Beatles songs (“You say Nixon/I say Mao” to “Hello Goodbye”). It closes with a fist repeatedly punching through a British flag. It’s a bold and assaultive socialist screed made during the director’s most divisive political period and was banned from television. Of note are the director’s experiments juxtaposing image, text, and sound. ~ Michael Buening, All Movie Guide Read More »