Robert Lepage – Le Confessionnal (1995)

In 1995 a then well known Québec theatre director named Robert Lepage made his first feature film, Le Confessional which, to my mind, remains one of the most impressive debut Canadian films ever. An intellectual and polyglot, Lepage carried his theatrical self-assurance over to the sphere of cinema without compromising cinematic language, and in fact expresses his ideas through formal means in the manner of an assured auteur. Thematically the film is not much of a stretch for a Québec film, centering on one of the constant themes in Québec cinema: sibling-parent tension. In this case, as in many other important Québec films, the tension revolves around an estranged father-son relationship [to name just a few Québec films dealing with troubled mother/father and daughter/son relationships, Les Bons Débarras (Francis Mankiewicz, 1980), Un Zoo la Nuit (Jean-Claude Lauzon, 1987), Les Invasions Barbares (Denys Arcand, 2003), and La Vie avec mon Père (Sébastien Rose, 2005)]. What makes the film impressive is not the story but its formal treatment across two time frames, weaving the past and the present and the personal and the historical. Read More »

Ki-duk Kim – Hwal AKA The Bow (2005)

A sixty and something year old captain has been raising for ten years a girl since she was six in his old fishing vessel that is permanently anchored offshore with the intention of marrying her on her seventeenth birthday. He survives bringing fishermen to fish in the vessel and predicting the future using his bow and shooting arrows in a Buddhist painting on the hull of the vessel while the girl moves back and forth in a swing. He also uses the bow and arrows to protect the girl against sexual assault of the fishermen. They live happily until the day that a teenage student comes to the ship and the girl feels attracted for him. When the teenager discovers that the girl was abducted when she was six and does not know the world, he returns to the vessel to bring the girl back to her parents. Read More »

Nicolás Pereda – Fauna (2020)

In a run-down Mexican mining town, Luisa brings her boyfriend Paco home to meet her family. They’re both actors, and the visit grows increasingly (and hilariously) awkward as Luisa’s father becomes fascinated by Paco’s minor role in a television phenomenon. Fauna’s exploration of performance deepens as the film reinvents itself halfway through, reconfiguring its characters into a mystery plot set at a nearby hotel. Scenes and characters begin to repeat and revise each other’s earlier incarnations, creating a deadpan mindbender that grows more entrancing with each beguiling detour, and invites a parallel universe of interpretations. (MK) Read More »

Lav Diaz – Ang babaeng humayo AKA The Woman Who Left (2016)

After spending the last 30 years in prison, Horacia is immediately released when someone else confessed to the crime. Still overwhelmed by her new freedom, she comes to the painful realization that her aristocratic former lover had set her up. As kidnappings targeting the wealthy begin to proliferate, Horacia sees the opportunity to plot her revenge. Read More »

George Ovashvili – Khibula (2017)

After being deposed in coup, the president of a newly independent country flees to mountains with a group of supporters sure that he will regain the power to lead his people. Read More »

Charles Taze Russell – Photo-Drama of Creation (1914)

The Photo-Drama of Creation, or Creation-Drama, was a four-part Christian film (eight hours in total) produced by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania under the direction of Charles Taze Russell, the founder of the Bible Student movement. The film presented Russell’s beliefs about God’s plan from the creation of the earth through to the end of the 1,000 year reign of Christ.

Production began in 1912, and the presentation was introduced to audiences in 1914. It was the first major screenplay to incorporate synchronized sound, moving film, and color slides. Russell also published an accompanying book, Scenario of the Photo-Drama of Creation, in various languages. Read More »

Ingmar Bergman – Backanterna aka Bacchae (1993)

Backanterna is a recording of Bergman’s production of the staged opera Bacchae, a transposition of Euripides’ classical drama written for an amphitheater into a performance designed for the most intimate of stages, the TV screen, with music by Daniel Bortz. The original Euripedes text was re-worked for Bergman’s production, and the bacchae themselves became the focus of the action. Instead of an anonymous group, Bergman turned the women into individuals who each behave and perform in an individual way. In other words, the group was an individualized collective, portrayed by carefully selected soloists. Bergman also made an addition, creating a 14th baccha, Talatta, a non-speaking dance role that functioned as the dynamic doppelganger for Dionysus. Bergman used a minimalist stage which was made to look like a black box with a simple grey platform serving as acting space, placing focus on the vocal and stylized movement of the actors. Read More »