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 »

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Dreams of the City

02/12/2018

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 »

Anchoress

02/06/2018

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

01/29/2018

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

01/24/2018

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

01/17/2018

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 »

USA, South Korea & Portugal / 2014 / English & Korean

Directed by Soon-mi Yoo

Songs2It is a scene shot from so far above as to be generic, and could show any number of places: small figures slowly cross a wide open area of an anonymous city in winter, surrounded by buildings with only a few lights on. It is dusk, the sky a neon gray, and everything is seen through the drab fogging of an upper-story window. What we’re seeing evokes either familiarity or a sense of distance, and the idea that the two can exist within one experience informs filmmaker Soon-mi Yoo’s highly personal, mixed-media travelogue through North Korea. Recollections, observations, assumptions and self-image coalesce in Songs From the North, just like they do in human memory, to reflect a chimera rather than a place, one that gets continuously transformed by her experiences. Read the rest of this entry »

In the Fog

01/02/2018

Belarus & Russia / 2012 / Russian

Directed by Sergei Loznitsa

With Vladimir Svirskiy, Vladislav Abashin, Sergei Kolesov

IntheFog1Two soldiers trudge through the dense forest, on foot just as frequently as on horseback, journeying over mud and icy streams. They are partisans in Nazi-occupied Belarus, working for the rebellion against the Germans. They arrive at the treeline and stare, expressionless, as though they’ve emerged from the deep wood to a shining city and don’t know what to make of it. But what sits in front of them is rather more modest: a sturdy peasant hut with a line of smoke floating from its chimney. They’re taking a moment because this is the house of the man they’ve been ordered to execute. Read the rest of this entry »

USA / 1987 / English

Directed by Gordon Parks

Gordon Parks, untitled, Harlem (1948)Through Moments Without Proper Names, Gordon Parks surveys his career in an attempt, as he puts it, “to look back through an autumn mind” – where things are crisp and clear. But this isn’t just ‘a life in pictures’; here Parks’ photos, music and poetry blend together, none of those elements remaining entirely distinct. They play off of and reflect one another in various lights, telling his story in aggregate. Read the rest of this entry »

Chile / 1976 / Spanish

Directed by Silvio Caiozzi

With Felipe Rabat, Juan Cristóbal Meza, Shlomit Baytelman

Still from 'Julio Begins in July'Young Julio, ‘Julito,’ a boy a few days shy of his fifteenth birthday, sleeps a tortured sleep. He lives in a big mansion that is like a Catholic house of horrors, on a sprawling ranch to which he is heir. A seemingly infinite corridor of portraits of forebears extends away from him. In another room, his grandmother lies on her deathbed, surrounded by murmured prayers. She gets carried, still in her chair, downstairs, followed by a crowd of nuns who always think the moment of death is upon her, and take her to the chapel for last rites. Every time, though, she continues to live. Read the rest of this entry »