Winner of the Critics Prize in Venice in 1970, Barbara Loden’s Wanda (1970) was, as the New York Times meekly puts it, “a critical hit but failed to create excitement at the box-office” (New York Times, September 6, 1980, 261).
Shot in cinema-verité style on grainy 16mm film stock, Wanda tells the story of the unlikely partnership between a coal-mining wife from Pennsylvania (played with sensitivity and brio by the filmmaker herself), dumped by her husband and the men she met while drifting, and a petty crook on the rebound (Michael Higgins), who convinces her to pull a major “bank job” with him. The film was released in one theatre in New York, Cinema II, and never shown in the rest of the country (Interview, Proferes). Ten years later, Wanda was “already forgotten in the United States,” but “much admired in Europe” (Kazan, 1988, 807). It was screened in the “Women and Film” event at the 1979 Edinburgh Film Festival and in Deauville in 1980. Loden died of cancer on September 5, 1980, “the day [she was] booked to fly to Paris-Deauville. Her death was announced from the stage of the Festival” (Kazan, 1988, 809). Continue reading Barbara Loden – Wanda (1970)
Vivre sa vie was a turning point for Jean-Luc Godard and remains one of his most dynamic films, combining brilliant visual design with a tragic character study. The lovely Anna Karina, Godard’s greatest muse, plays Nana, a young Parisian who aspires to be an actress but instead ends up a prostitute, her downward spiral depicted in a series of discrete tableaux of daydreams and dances. Featuring some of Karina and Godard’s most iconic moments—from her movie theater vigil with The Passion of Joan of Arc to her seductive pool-hall strut—Vivre sa vie is a landmark of the French New Wave that still surprises at every turn. Continue reading Jean-Luc Godard – Vivre sa vie: Film en douze tableaux AKA My Life to Live (1962)
A sequel to Laleli’de Bir Azize, and with the collaboration of practically the same team, Gemide is the story of four sailors who sit around the ship and spend their time smoking pot. Their routine life turns upside down when one of them gets mugged and badly beaten. Continue reading Serdar Akar – Gemide AKA On Board (1998)
The young, successful employee Alex knows finally, what he wants from life – actually, what he doesn’t want: Its life. It bores him to death. Each day the same, which is subjected to the capitalism of the local industry. In a violent fight against his own reason Alex floats now in a sump of the Nihilismus and the uncommon everyday life of a new life, which keeps something new ready behind each corner. In a world, in which one is squeezed into cages, only the egoist can survive… Continue reading Peter Jaitz – Rimini (2009)
It hardly needs saying that the adjective in the title is about as accurate as the one in Haneke’s Funny Games. Happy End is a satirical nightmare of haute-bourgeois European prosperity: as stark, brilliant and unforgiving as a halogen light. It is not a new direction for this film-maker, admittedly, but an existing direction pursued with the same inspiration as ever. It is also as gripping as a satanically inspired soap opera, a dynasty of lost souls. The movie rehearses almost all of Haneke’s classic themes and visual ideas: family dysfunction, inter-generational revenge, the poisonous suppression of guilt and the return of the repressed. There is the horror of death combined with a Thanatos-like longing for its deliverance – one line in particular shows how Happy End has been inspired by the climactic moment of his previous film, Amour. There is the distinctive preoccupation with surveillance and video recording as technologically unsparing moral reproaches to what we choose not to see in our own behaviour. And Haneke combines this with a new interest in the affectless visual texture of social-media livestreaming, instant messaging, and YouTube supercuts. Continue reading Michael Haneke – Happy End (2017)
Stone Wedding (Nunta de piatra) is made of two distinct segments directed by two different directors. The first part (M. Veroiu) depicts the miserable life of a widow in Romania at the beginning of the century. The second part (D. Pita) is about a bride on the day of her wedding. The best part of both movies is the soundtrack by Dorin Liviu Zaharia, Dan Andrei Aldea and Sfinx. Continue reading Dan Pita & Mircea Veroiu – Nunta de piatra AKA The Stone Wedding (1973)
Béla Tarr has taken no time to rest in mentoring two of the most promising filmmakers in Eastern Europe. Having previously mentored László Nemes in his Oscar-winning directorial debut, “Son of Saul,” the acclaimed Hungarian director is set to repeat his mentorship with his newest protégé, Emma Rozanski. Funded by Indiegogo, Rozanski has taken bold steps in her first feature film, “Papagajka,” setting her psychological thriller in the tumultuous background of Sarajevo. Having just begun healing old wounds, the Bosnian town becomes the perfect setting to explore how a young man’s life is turned upside down due to the arrival of a intrusive stranger. Continue reading Emma Rozanski – Papagajka (2016)