USA / 2015 / English

Directed by Thom Andersen

Still From 'The Thoughts That Once We Had'In The Thoughts That Once We Had, filmmaker and professor Thom Andersen takes us on a bumpy, circuitous ride over the trails of memory, his cinema life flashing before our eyes, each frame illuminated anew by the writing of French philosopher Gilles Deleuze. Andersen seems highly critical of conventional film history and theory. He doesn’t buy into received wisdom, at least that which can’t be substantiated in his personal experience of cinema. Unlike earlier film-essays for which he is known, this one isn’t moored at all to geography or theme. It’s ethereal; short quotations from Deleuze’s analyses of cinema, sometimes no more than clipped, open-ended phrases, are the guide through a succession of film excerpts, which range from well-chosen to puzzling to transcendent.

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Still From 'The Tower of Seven Hunchbacks'

Seeing Madrid From Below

In Edgar Neville’s The Tower of Seven Hunchbacks (1944), an adaptation of a 1920 novel by Emilio Carrere, the hero comes across an underground city originally established by Spanish Jews escaping the inquisition, which now serves as hideout for a cabal of nefarious hunchbacks. The story, which blends comic phantasmagoria with a visual fealty to certain neighborhoods of Madrid, is set in the 19th Century, before construction of the city’s metro system began tunneling through the earth.

However anyone who descends the escalators into one of system’s more than 300 stations finds themselves in a place somehow analogous to that gothic lair below the streets, an alternate universe of different customs, in which time, to some degree, has stood still. Perhaps those who spend a good percentage of their existence underneath the city are not so much commuters, but denizens of this subterranean world. They know its paces and rhythms, its sounds and routines, intimately. Read the rest of this entry »



Australia / 2008 / English

Directed by Amiel Courtin-Wilson

Still From 'Bastardy'We first encounter Jack Charles while he’s sleeping in an alleyway, a flattened cardboard box serving as his bedding. In the daylight he pads through the city like a very small ghost, a frizzled starburst of gray hair and beard exaggerating his appearance. Through clips and photos, though, we learn about who this man once was: a pioneering aboriginal actor, who has appeared in movies and on television, and who, decades ago, started Australia’s first black theater group. He now lives on the streets of Melbourne, sleeping where it’s amenable and buying drugs with whatever money he can forage. But beneath the layers of dereliction, a firecracker of a human being still resides, magnetic and irrepressible, and the subject of Bastardy. Read the rest of this entry »

Still From 'Talking With a Shadow'

Three Blind Owls

Quirky, deranged, and relentlessly cyclical, Sadegh Hedayat’s 1937 novella The Blind Owl has an unusual voice for any work, in any age or place. While it can, at times, feel like a delusional screed, this mysterious piece of prose is amazingly structured, relying on its own set of complex symbols that recur and transpose in an endless continuum. The allure of the book, and the language with which it crumples reality as under layers of plumage, have led to a number of films, whose connections to it range from clear adaptation to the wildly tangential. Read the rest of this entry »

Spain / 2013 / Galician

Directed by Alberto Gracia

With Alberto Gracia, Oliver Laxe, Pedro Soler

Still from 'The Fifth Gospel of Kaspar Hauser'A horse stomps in place and twitches in its cramped quarters. The mottling of its speckled hair, even the texture of the darkness that fringes it, are rendered in pointillist clouds of gray grain. It flicks its tail by the small window, a confined beast, while up in the moldy rafters, bats dance. Certain animals are free while others are enslaved. But even the horse is allowed to run once in a while. From that stable to a hole to the external world, to finally being on the outside, we feel that we are looking from behind Kaspar Hauser’s eyes, which dart all around, bewildered by the outdoors, unaccustomed to the sunlight. Read the rest of this entry »

Dreams of the City


Syria / 1984 / Arabic

Directed by Mohamed Malas

With Rafiq Sbei’i, Hicham Khchefati, Yasmine Khlat

Still from 'Dreams of the City'It’s a quiet, residential street in Damascus. It’s 1953. Portraits of general Al-Shishakly, copied to infinity, flutter like bunting flags, strung across the street. Bit by bit the city awakens and businesses open, as loudspeakers blare announcements that everyone should be doing their utmost to observe the nation’s Independence Day. A gang of policemen traipse through the neighborhood bullying anyone who has been slow to put up the Syrian flag in their shop window. “Hang this, or your boss will be hanged instead,” they sneer. In this forced-festive air, a truck arrives carrying a newly-arrived family hitching to the city. They’ve come from a village in the far South of the country. Read the rest of this entry »



UK / 1993 / English & Latin

Directed by Chris Newby

With Natalie Morse, Christopher Eccleston, Brenda Bertin

Still from 'Anchoress'Even before it has reached its resting place at the local church, Christine spies the statue of the virgin standing upright in a wheat field. The pilgrims transporting it have lain down for a nap. The seventeen-year-old approaches the statue, tenderly removes a covering blanket and kisses its smooth, bulbous forehead. To her it’s a vision – one that changes the light on the dour and impoverished countryside where she lives. In its far-away, somewhat disdainful expression and cold features, spaced to a geometric ideal that deliberately falls short of nature’s clever subtlety, she feels a certain recognition that seems to transcend the statue’s purpose. Read the rest of this entry »

Wooden Knife


Paraguay / 2010 / Spanish

Directed by Renate Costa Perdomo

Cuchillo1She begins by revisiting the details of how he was found that day: naked, on the floor of his apartment, with a goodbye note. But the moment from her memory, even in a few evocative descriptions, is left vague, perhaps because that’s how it remained for filmmaker Renate Costa Perdomo in the years until she began investigating her uncle Rodolfo’s life. She adds that the police wouldn’t let the family in right away, and that his dresser was curiously empty, but for a couple of shirts. The why and even the how of his death all prove elusive, and even the more complex question of who – who was he? – leads to an investigation whose implications run deep into the marrow of politics and life in Paraguay. Read the rest of this entry »

The Fear


Greece / 1966 / Greek

Directed by Kostas Manoussakis

With Elena Nathanail, Anestis Vlahos, Elli Fotiou

TheFear5Serene and tamed, this is a typical bit of countryside, crisscrossed by canals and tree-lined roads. Workers pick away at the fields, turning over the dry ground, and wind rustles the stalks of wheat. A university student named Anna disembarks a bus in her home town, right in front of her family’s farmhouse. She is greeted by the deaf maid Chrysa, whom they adopted and who is practically a sister to her. Within the span of its opening credits The Fear shows us each of its central characters, dropping us headlong into their world. And it’s a dusty, loveless place. The topsoil of compassion or feeling has long since been blown away by the constant winds. Everyone here is infected with fear, the one quality that’s inseparable from humanity. Read the rest of this entry »

A Girl in Summer


Portugal / 1986 / Portuguese

Directed by Vítor Gonçalves

With Isabel Galhardo, Diogo Dória, Joaquim Leitão

Still from 'A Girl in Summer'Isabel sits in the yellowed grass near some corn stalks, soaking in the final rays of warm, southern light before walking toward her father’s house. She is at an unfamiliar impasse in life, one which could be either a bottleneck of possibilities or an empty vessel waiting for inspiration to fill it. Vítor Gonçalves’ A Girl in Summer is like that moment, each frame gives the feeling that there could be a lot going on behind it, but the contents are ambiguous, and may hardly be there at all. The result is a sublimely removed experience, the potential for events leaving a ghostly trail through the scenes, but being notably absent. Things perpetually seem to be on the verge of happening, but do not – can not. Read the rest of this entry »