Mariano Llinás – Historias extraordinarias AKA Extraordinary Stories (2008)

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Historias extraordinarias tells the adventures of three men known only as H (Agustin Mendilaharzu, doubling as cinematographer), X (director Mariano Llinás) and Z (Walter Jakob). These adventures come across as self-conscious constructions and journeys happening in the here and now. But though the strongest literary influences on Llinás’ fascinating screenplay are fiction writer Jorge Luis Borges and disciple Adolfo Bioy-Casares, it would be wrong to label Historias extraordinarias as literary per se: Instead, a viewer would have to stretch back to the grand serial silents of Louis Feuillade for something as ambitious as Llinás’ detailed telling of the three separate, intertwined tales, all involving men on quests in situations that force them to question who they really are. Llinás jumps between the storylines over 18 episodes, usually devoting no more than about 15 minutes at a time to any single one. The governing concept uniting the tales is how each man begins with a specific task, and then veers away from the straight-and-narrow, bringing the job’s purpose into question. Continue reading

François Truffaut – Tirez sur le pianiste AKA Shoot the Pianist (1960)

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A hapless pianist at a jazz club gets caught up with the mob, when his older brother who owes money to them comes to him for help. Eventually, the piano player and his girlfriend become pawns in middle of a dangerous game.

Truffaut first read David Goodis’s novel in the mid-1950s while shooting Les Mistons when his wife Madeleine Morgenstern read it and recommended it to him. He immediately loved the book’s dialogue and poetic tone and showed it to producer Pierre Braunberger, who bought the rights. Truffaut later met Goodis in New York City, where the novelist gave Truffaut a vintage viewfinder from his brief experience as a 2nd Unit Director on a U.S. film. Continue reading

Billy Wilder – The Apartment (1960)

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Immediately following the success of Some Like It Hot, Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond wished to make another film with Jack Lemmon. Wilder had originally planned to cast Paul Douglas as Jeff Sheldrake; however, after he died unexpectedly, Fred MacMurray was cast.

The initial concept for the film came from Brief Encounter by Noël Coward, in which Celia Johnson has an affair with Trevor Howard in his friend’s apartment. However, due to the Hays Production Code, Wilder was unable to make a film about adultery in the 1940s. Wilder and Diamond also based the film partially on a Hollywood scandal in which high-powered agent Jennings Lang was shot by producer Walter Wanger for having an affair with Wanger’s wife, actress Joan Bennett. During the affair, Lang used a low-level employee’s apartment. Another element of the plot was based on the experience of one of Diamond’s friends, who returned home after breaking up with his girlfriend to find that she had committed suicide in his bed. Continue reading

Aleksandr Gintsburg – Giperboloid inzhenera Garina AKA Engineer Garin’s Hyperboloid [+Extra] (1965)

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The year is 1925. Professor Mantsev invents a weapon of a formidable destructive force never seen before – a hyperboloid that strikes dead with a beam… Engineer Garin steals this prototype of the modern laser gun, with the aim to use it for the realization of his insane idea of become the ruler of the world, with no inkling of the consequences that would be dangerous for him, too. A hunt for Garin and Mantsev’s dangerous invention begins… Continue reading

Cheyenne Carron – Ne nous soumets pas à la tentation AKA Lead Us Not Into Temptation (2011)

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The best movie that I’ve seen so far at Cinequest is the French thriller Lead Us Not Into Temptation. A middle-aged married man does a good deed for a beautiful young woman and finds himself the pawn in a dangerous game. Inventively constructed, we see the story from the perspective of the guy, then from the young woman’s point of view and finally through the prism of another character. Unlike in Rashomon, we don’t see different realities, but, as secrets are revealed, we finally understand the whole picture. It’s a brilliant screenplay by writer-director-producer Cheyenne Carron. In the young woman, Carron has created a character who is both predatory and damaged but who can act charming, vulnerable and sexy. The story hinges on actress Agnes Delachair’s ability to play that complex role – and she delivers a captivating performance. Continue reading

Syllas Tzoumerkas – I Ekrixi AKA A Blast (2014)

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Synopsis
In a striking and courageous lead performance, Angeliki Papoulia plays Maria – a woman who started her adult life with the best of intentions but, ten years later, feels her world falling out from under her.
Unwilling to reconcile with a reality of unreturned care, lost dignity and a broken-down desire to live, Maria attacks. She attacks herself, her past, the people she loves, her country and the perception of her sex in a relentless battle to find truth.
Only a day before, she was a caring mother, a loving wife and a responsible daughter. Today, she has gone rogue… Continue reading

Hans-Christof Stenzel – Obszön – Der Fall Peter Herzl (1981)

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Synopsis:
Peter Herzl, social worker and Left sympathizer from Wuppertal is, assaulted and robbed on the way back from Yugoslavia to Germany. Due to some misunderstandings the police examined him as a suspected terrorist. In Vienna, he finds shelter with the prostitute Kathi. Kathi has an incestuous relationship with her adolescent daughter. Fascinated she watched her mother and Peter during lovemaking. Soon they would also participate in the game. Meanwhile the search for Peter is at full speed. And Kathi`s pimp sees an opportunity to get easy money by betrayal… Continue reading