Times Square

10/30/2011

U.S.A. / 1980 / English

Directed by Allan Moyle

With Trini Alvarado, Robin Johnson, Tim Curry

Still from 'Times Square'1980: Crime in New York City is ballooning, America is about to tumble into the dismal hypocrisy of Reaganism, and in Times Square, a wrecking ball sits poised, like a sword of Damocles over the peep shows, porn shops, dens of iniquity. Of course no one there is aware of it but outside, in boardrooms, campaign offices, and political assemblies, its doom is being, if not planned meticulously, at least proposed by a great many loud and obtuse, self-proclaimed liberal politicians – many of whom express their indignation from cushy lives in park-view apartments. Read the rest of this entry »

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Still from 'Études sur Paris'

A Cinematographer’s Guide to Paris

All too often in a location documentary, the intent of its creator to characterize the place, to draw its boundaries to form a definition, has the adverse effect of forestalling the image. If one proceeds on the assumption that a place is solely constituted by the sensory, then perhaps it would not be impossible for one to recapture its essence, its effect, entirely from a visual record.  In three early odes to the ‘City of Light,’ it is indeed light itself, from the brittle pre-dawn glow that bathes the docks to twilit chiaroscuro on stone-cobbled passages, that is the main player, even as themes, notions, idyll, weigh on its sensitive observational power. Each successive film gets less theme-oriented, less constricted by presumption, moving more toward the ingrained ability of pictures to become the place, varied, cultivated, sad, and awash with invisible driving energies. Read the rest of this entry »

Zigeunerweisen

10/16/2011

Japan / 1980 / Japanese

Directed by Seijun Suzuki

With Yoshio Harada, Naoko Otani, Toshiya Fujita

Still from 'Zigeunerweisen'A well-dressed but slovenly professor of German named Aochi arrives by train, whiskey flask tucked into his jacket, to a nondescript seaside town. He happens upon a crowd of fisherfolk on the beach surrounding the body of a young woman that has been recovered from the water. All fingers point to the a brash and unkempt drifter who haunts the shoreline, who turns out to be none other than Nakasago, a former colleague of Aochi’s who left civilization to wander. The professor intervenes on the brute’s behalf before he can be arrested. Later in a teahouse, Nakasago brazenly admits to having been responsible for the death of the woman, a lover of his who had run away from her husband. The two men spend the night drinking with Koine, a mysterious geisha to whom they both become attracted, first speciously, then painfully, then irrevocably. Read the rest of this entry »

Mysteries of Lisbon

10/09/2011

Portugal, Brazil & France / 2010 / Portuguese, French & English

Directed by Raúl Ruiz

With Adriano Luz, Maria João Bastos, Ricardo Pereira

Still from 'Mysteries of Lisbon'

The diversity of Raúl Ruiz’s prolific, nearly fifty-year career in cinema resists generalization, reduction, and easy paralleling. One wonders if perhaps he most identified with, more than any of the characters in Mysteries of Lisbon (an enormous and elegant cherry to top his artistic achievements), Father Dinis, who adopts masks and inhabits different characters in order to gain access to the enigmas that tantalize him. If a hidden wunderkammer belonging to Ruiz were discovered, one similar to the inquisitive priest’s secret room, what evidence of his past guises would it contain? Fabricated diaries of Sadegh Hedayat, Proust, and Hawthorne? The fateful pistol brought out at a Mexican telenovela‘s cliff-end? The banner of a revolutionary Allende supporter forced to flee Pinochet’s fascist takeover? As with any time and place, the mysteries are there only in they eyes of someone open-minded enough to perceive and pursue them. But in the Lisbon of Castelo Branco’s writing, it seems one only need wait patiently for the twists of fortune to illuminate them. Read the rest of this entry »

Slow Action

10/02/2011

U.K. / 2010 / English

Directed by Ben Rivers

Still from 'Slow Action'Like journal entries about Earth written and left behind by visiting lifeforms, British filmmaker Ben Rivers’ film Slow Action summons the shapes and atmospheres of foreign worlds, but from existing places that we never hear about. Out of these pictures he builds unique, obtuse, and revisionist views of both nature and social change, concocting strange fictions that seem applicable to no place, and still could play like parables of any place, at any point in time, so strikingly indistinct are they. He brings in vintage imaginings of utopias, from Erewhon to Lost Horizon, while examining the presumed objectivity of visual anthropology and political documentary storytelling (neither of which he firmly belongs to, but both of which he incorporates in his work), and comparing them to the debunked ‘wisdom’ of their predecessors from past centuries. Read the rest of this entry »