Moumen Smihi – Chroniques marocaines AKA Moroccan Chronicles (1999)

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In Moroccan Chronicles, set in the ancient city of Fez, a working class mother, abandoned by her husband who has emigrated to Europe, tells three tales to her just-circumcised ten-year-old son. In the first, Smihi re-stages the Marrakech market scene from Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much, in which a monkey trainer makes children dance for tourists. In the second, two lovers meet on the ramparts of Orson Welles’s Essaouira locations for Othello and speak of their own forbidden love. And in the third, set in Smihi’s home town of Tangier, an old sailor dreams of vanquishing a sea monster: the Gibraltar ferry that connects Europe to Africa. Continue reading

Howard Hughes – Stagecoach to Tombstone: The Filmgoer’s Guide to Great Westerns (2008)

British author Howard Hughes charts the development of the modern Western movie in this insightful, informative volume published in 2008 by Tauris & Company. By examining 27 movies he views as key, Hughes shows the evolving nature of the genre. Western fans are in for an interesting ride since the films range from classics like ‘Stagecoach’ to B-oaters such as ‘Ride Lonesome’ to misfires like ‘One-Eyed Jacks.’ Continue reading

Douglas Brode – Fantastic Planets, Forbidden Zones and Lost Continents (2015)

Whether you judge by box office receipts, industry awards, or critical accolades, science fiction films are the most popular movies now being produced and distributed around the world. Nor is this phenomenon new. Sci-fi filmmakers and audiences have been exploring fantastic planets, forbidden zones, and lost continents ever since George Méliès’ 1902 film A Trip to the Moon. In this highly entertaining and knowledgeable book, film historian and pop culture expert Douglas Brode picks the one hundred greatest sci-fi films of all time. Brode’s list ranges from today’s blockbusters to forgotten gems, with surprises for even the most informed fans and scholars. He presents the movies in chronological order, which effectively makes this book a concise history of the sci-fi film genre. A striking (and in many cases rare) photograph accompanies each entry, for which Brode provides a numerical rating, key credits and cast members, brief plot summary, background on the film’s creation, elements of the moviemaking process, analysis of the major theme(s), and trivia. He also includes fun outtakes, including his top ten lists of Fifties sci-fi movies, cult sci-fi, least necessary movie remakes, and “so bad they’re great” classics—as well as the ten worst sci-fi movies (“those highly ambitious films that promised much and delivered nil”). So climb aboard spaceship Brode and journey to strange new worlds from Metropolis (1927) to Guardians of the Galaxy (2014). Continue reading

Marijke de Valck – Cinephilia: Movies, Love and Memory (Film Culture in Transition) (2005)

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Publisher description for Cinephilia : movies, love and memory / edited by Marijke de Valck and Malte Hagener.

They obsess over the nuances of a Douglas Sirk or Ingmar Bergman film; they revel in books such as François Truffaut’s Hitchcock; they happily subscribe to the Sundance Channel—they are the rare breed known as cinephiles. Though much has been made of the classic era of cinephilia from the 1950s to the 1970s, Cinephilia documents the latest generation of cinephiles and their use of new technologies. With the advent of home theaters, digital recording devices, online film communities, cinephiles today pursue their dedication to film outside of institutional settings. A radical new history of film culture, Cinephilia breaks new ground for students and scholars alike. Continue reading

Vitali Kanevsky – Zamri, umri, voskresni! AKA Freeze Die Come to Life (1990)

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“Freeze-Die-Come to Life,” a first film by Vitaly Kanevski, offers a stark look at growing up in the frozen wastes of the Soviet Union at the end of World War II. A largely autobiographical work, it is the sweetly grim story of a couple of street-smart kids in the mining town of Suchan. A Russian variation on India’s “Salaam Bombay,” the film both celebrates and buries youthful innocence.

An engaging pair of nonprofessionals, Pavel Nazarov and Dinara Drukarova, are Valerka and Galiya, playmates who manage a semblance of childhood despite their sorry circumstances. And they don’t make circumstances any sorrier than in Suchan, with its towering ash heaps and streets oozing raw sewage. Ragged and hungry, Valerka and Galiya sell hot tea, a ruble a cup, to the downcast miners, the one-legged veterans and the nickel-a-night whores. Continue reading