Lino Brocka – Orapronobis AKA Fight for Us (1989)

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Lino Brocka’s “Tatlo, Dalawa, Isa” (Three, Two, One, 1974) shows the filmmaker’s versatility in the short form, working with various writers.

The first segment, Tony Perez’s “Mga Hugis ng Pag-asa” (Faces of Hope) has Jay Ilagan play Noni, a drug addict struggling in a drug rehabilitation center. And while the segment is generally considered to be the weakest of the three, it does feature cinematographer Romy Vitug’s fine monochromatic camerawork, and the startling image of Ilagan being shaved of all his hair (a shockingly traumatic sight when I first saw it at the tender age of nine).
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Shinji Sômai – Shonben Rider AKA P.P. Rider (1983)

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P. P. Rider is a Japanese film dealing with three teenagers who set out to recover a kidnapped schoolmate. This capsule description, while accurate enough, makes the film sound rather like something Disney used to make to fill a couple spare weeks on his TV show. P. P. Rider isn’t that at all. It certainly wasn’t made for children.
Written by Leonard Schrader and his wife Chieko Schrader. Continue reading

Anocha Suwichakornpong – Dao khanong AKA By the Time It Gets Dark (2016)

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By the Time it Gets Dark encompasses multiple stories of Thailand whose connections are as spiritual as they are incidental. We meet a pair of actors whose paths take them in very different directions. We meet a young waitress serving breakfast at an idyllic country café, only to later find her employed in the busy dining room of a river cruise ship. And we meet a filmmaker interviewing an older woman whose life was transformed by the political activism of her student years and the Thammasat University massacre of 1976. Continue reading

Konstantin Lopushansky – Pisma myortvogo cheloveka AKA Letters from a Dead Man (1986)

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Letters from a Dead Man is another film that deals with the theme of the nuclear nightmare. It falls into a mini-genre of nuclear holocaust film along with others such as On the Beach (1959), Dr Strangelove or, How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), Fail-Safe (1964), The War Game (1965) et al. But what makes Letters from a Dead Man unique in this case is that the treatment is one that comes from the opposite side of the Iron Curtain. Every single other treatment of the nuclear holocaust theme was made in the West and comes based on the speculation (or at least implication) of what would happen if the bombs falling were coming from the Soviet side; this is one which shows everything from the other perspective. In both cases though, the films are almost identical in their treatment of the subject matter and are certainly agreed upon what an horrific experience the nuclear holocaust would be. Letters perhaps comes without the sentimentalized approach of other contemporary views of the holocaust, as shown in The Day After (1983) and Testament (1983), which related the horrors to the effect on Middle America and the destruction of the family unit. Rather Letters comes closer to the celebrated pseudo-documentary The War Game in its almost unimaginably bleak depiction of the grim reality of a nuclear blast. Even more so it is most surprising to see a pre– i>glasnost film that comes from the heavily state-censored Soviet Union and yet manages to be so outspoken against the arms race and moreover rule by military. Continue reading

Ben Rivers & Ben Russell – A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness (2013)

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A Spell follows an unnamed character through three seemingly disparate moments in his life. With little explanation, we join him in the midst of a 15-person collective on a small Estonian island; in isolation in the majestic wilderness of Northern Finland; and during a concert as the singer and guitarist of a black met al band in Norway.

Marked by loneliness, ecstatic beauty and an optimism of the darkest sort, A Spell is a radical proposition for the existence of utopia in the present.

Starring musician Robert AA Lowe (best known for his intense live performances under the name Lichens) in the lead role, A Spell lies somewhere between fiction and non-fiction – it is at once a document of experience and an experience itself, an inquiry into transcendence that sees the cinema as a site for transformation.
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Hiroshi Shimizu – Kaze no naka no kodomo AKA Children in the Wind (1937)

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The best way to describe this film would be “bright”. The story is simple, two young boys are usurped from being the head of their gang of children by the son of the man who indicts their father on charges of embezzlement (him being fired and arrested for this.) They’re sent to live with their uncle (Takeshi Sakamoto, fast becoming my favorite Japanese actor of this decade) and spend their time thinking of ways to escape back home. Father is found innocent, and they live happily ever after. This film is beautiful, the music and the sound of the children playing are both unforgettable. It was no. 4 in the Kinema Jumpo that year, and it was adapted from a Tsubota novel (his 1939 film Four Seasons of Childhood, which contains the same characters, is also based on a Tsubota book.) The cinematography is “gliding” (a term which consistently seems to be used to describe the look and feel of his films) and more reminiscent of Arigato-San than any other film I’ve seen by him. There are also some strong similarities in plot and character to Ozu’s I Was Born But… and according to Keiko McDonald he, “tells of finding himself in tears as he read in the short story (Naoya Shiga’s “Manazuru”) about the little children shuffling along a road at night”. I watched Children in the Wind without subtitles, but more than any other unsubtitled film I’ve seen, It was extremely easy to follow along with. One of my favorites from this director, and I can’t wait to see more of his children’s films. Continue reading