India / 1973 / Bengali

Directed by Mrinal Sen

With Dhritiman Chatterjee, Simi Garewal, Provas Sarkar

Still from 'The Guerilla Fighter'It is Kolkata in the early 1970’s, a place burdened with chaos and history, all of it lurching hastily into an uncertain future, and seen in scattered fragments and rarefied moments of calm. Refugees from Bangladesh’s war of independence have arrived by the tens of thousands, many of them starving in the streets. Frequent “load-shedding” or power outages, prevalent throughout the country during that period, severely weaken the city, and the municipal infrastructure seems too unstable to handle these problems. Sumit, a radical activist, is on the run from the police, and his superiors, deciding against the anonymity of Kolkata’s slums and trash heap hideaways, set him up in the relatively ostentatious but safer refuge of an upmarket apartment. Read the rest of this entry »

U.S.A. / 2006 / English

Directed by Mary Jordan

Still from 'Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis'Filmmaker Jack Smith’s art and attitudes ran contrary to much of the dominant avant garde of his time, exulting in artifice, exoticism and dopey, nervous fun, all of it suffused with a kind of idiot splendor. He was fixated on the grand artificiality of 1940’s Hollwyood, reconstructing it himself from the detritus of department stores and costume shops. His world of transvestite vampires, camp arabesques, and trashiness bordering on the grotesque was realized with the total and visionary seriousness of a consummate aesthete. So deep was his affection for the “baroque art,” of which he considered himself to be the main surviving proprietor, that his living space itself was a constant film set decorated with curtains and plush cushions, a veritable museum of his dreams. And in it he did not create fictions so much as he did document his own feverish mind as its imagery was played out across every aspect of his life. Read the rest of this entry »

Vera Drake

07/11/2010

U.K. / 2004 / English

Directed by Mike Leigh

With Imelda Staunton, Phil Davis, Eddie Marsan

Still from 'Vera Drake'Jaunty, sturdy, and humming with energy, Vera Drake is a middle-aged woman who works as a maid in rich people’s homes and, in her spare time, pays daily visits to invalid neighbors and her senile mother, and manages to care for her entire family back at home as well. She lives with her husband, Stan, and their two grown children, in a council estate that is like looking at the one in which director Leigh set his previous film All or Nothing (2002), but fifty years in the past. People don’t need to lock up their bicycles, and every exterior shot is fringed in the flat, gray smog of postwar London. Drake also keeps a makeshift kit hidden in her bedroom for performing abortions, and she renders that service to women looking for a way out of their pregnancies. Read the rest of this entry »

Violence at Noon

07/04/2010

Japan / 1966 / Japanese

Directed by Nagisa Ôshima

With Saeda Kawaguchi, Narumi Kayashima, Kei Satô

Still from 'Violence at Noon'A young woman named Shino, who works as a maid in the house of Mr. and Mrs. Inagaki, is busily washing clothes in a bucket of soapy water. A man watches her through the open door as she sings to herself obliviously, absorbed in her work. He approaches her and the shock of familiarity and fear registers in her face. They exchange pleasantries, and then he reveals that he is carrying a large kitchen knife. As he forcefully leads her upstairs, she recalls the death of her lover, Genji, over a year ago, and her own near suicide that was thwarted by the very man who is now assaulting her. Read the rest of this entry »