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 »

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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 »

Liar’s Dice

12/12/2017

India / 2013 / Hindi & Kinnauri

Directed by Geetu Mohandas

With Geetanjali Thapa, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Manya Gupta

Still from 'Liar's Dice'In the border region, white peaks rise all around whose scale can scarcely be described. They seem untouched by people, until you see prayer flags fluttering in the constant, powdery gusts. Occasionally, along the muddy road, there will be a small village of wooden houses, some with slate roofs and some with tin. Kamala lives in one of these villages, more a small collection of families than a community with infrastructure of its own, and surrounded by a glacial amphitheater. The air is pure, the mountains clean. But to her these things have always been there, merely backdrop to shoveling snow, washing clothes in the icy water, caring for her small daughter, Manya. And waiting. She is one of the untold number of anonymous women who wait, quietly and uncertainly, for husbands who left and may never return. Read the rest of this entry »

Netherlands / 1999 / Chechen, Russian & English

Directed by Jos de Putter

Still from 'The Making of a New Empire'A man stands on an enormous pile of bricks, backgrounded by mountains blanketed by clouds so thick that it’s unclear if they originate from the sky or the ground. Is this some ancient citadel, left to deteriorate in the North Caucasus wilderness, or a more recent shell of a building destroyed by the war with Russia? The man patrols the crumbled walls as though waiting for a distant enemy to return, and the shining white dome of a new-looking mosque peeks out in the left of the frame. This image seems to sum up Chechnya, yesterday and today, the eagerness to cover over what has been destroyed, while at the same time being unable to recover what has been lost. Read the rest of this entry »

Still from 'Vadi Samvadi'

Approximately Seven Films by Claudio Caldini

Whirling dervishes, Buddhist circumambulation, rosary beads – the act of describing a circle is connected, in many cultures, to religious ecstasy. There’s something in inner reflection and closeness to the infinity that always seems to arrive at the same point, revealing more with each revolution. The revelatory super-8 work of Argentinian filmmaker Claudio Caldini shares in that faith in circular movement, performing its own gyromancy in ways that are variously obvious and inventive, and always astonishing. He handles the camera as satellite and pivot, kite and ballast, a grounding object that nonetheless feels out the remote possibilities of perception.

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The Mongols

11/20/2017

Iran / 1973 / Farsi

Directed by Parviz Kimiavi

With Parviz Kimiavi, Fahimeh Rastegar, Aqa Seyyed

Mongols2“The Mongols again. Always the Mongols.”

Their faces all gaze ahead in unison, and then an off-screen voice instructs them: look up, look down, look left, look right. They move accordingly, showing different angles to the camera. “You’re Mongols, not Turks,” they’re told, in a pretzeling ancient histories. This crowd of Turcoman migrants, probably laborers in the city, are being cast for a television documentary about Genghis Khan’s invasion of Persia. One man is singled out for the roundness of his face, which looks particularly Mongolian to the casting director. In Parviz Kimiavi’s extraordinary collision of otherness, modernization and mass communication, The Mongols, these men become the stand-ins for the feared plunderers of eight centuries ago, providing a dial with which he can channel-flip through his thoughts on hegemony and dominance, civilizational clash and social upheaval. Read the rest of this entry »

Karamay

11/14/2017

China / 2009 / Mandarin

Directed by Xu Xin

Still from 'Karamay'It happens in the same way each time: the camera approaches a grave stone and lingers in front of it, long enough to read the inscription. This is repeated again and again, a ritualized pattern, setting the tone and form of the film that follows. The austere finality of stone, reflected in the flinty grayscale, gives way to the personal stories carved into it. Each marker is for a child who died when a fire broke out at an assembly on December 8th, 1994 – although the ones we see are only a fraction of those that sit in the midst of this flat void, commemorating a lost generation. Read the rest of this entry »