India / 1982 / Malayalam

Directed by Adoor Gopalakrishnan

With Sharada, Karamana Janardanan Nair, Jalaja

Still from 'Rat-Trap'Unni is a middle-aged man living in a sprawling family house, which he inhabits like a heap of decimated, old wealth. He is unmarried, but has his sister Rajamma to look after him in lieu of a wife. Past marriageable age, Rajamma is usually absorbed in the daily tasks of caring for Unni and their younger sister Sridevi. Meanwhile Unni seems content to wile away his days on his front porch, to go to his temple regularly, and  to repel any visitors to his house with withering remarks and a stony gaze. Laborers march through the property with heavy loads on their heads and he pays them no mind; the tapioca and coconut crops could be going to seed and he would not care. The palms could be burning and he would not glance away from his newspaper. Read the rest of this entry »


Still from 'Black Trip'

The Black Art of Aldo Tambellini

For all the attention directed, in the medium of film, at that which is unexposed (emphasized in the work of a cinematographer like Gordon Willis), few filmmakers seem to take it as seriously as Cambridge, Massachusetts artist Aldo Tambellini. So dedicated is he to building with and manipulating the black side of black-and-white, that he often forsakes the process of photography altogether, or at least gives it backseat status behind the tactile, solid, and confrontingly textural. To him, black is not blank, and it does not represent a world of shadows – it is, simply, a blotting-out of everything else, and in a series of maximalist, abstract films he did in the 1960s, he boils down images, materials, poetry, to their black cores, and then continues to boil them before our eyes. Far from dour, his reduction frees the media he brings in to implode visually, becoming loud and hyperkinetic collages that pop out with an unusual intensity and expansiveness. Read the rest of this entry »



South Korea / 1967 / Korean

Directed by Kim Soo-yong

With Shin Sung-il, Yoon Jung-hee, Lee Bin-hwa

Still from 'Mist'Still something of a jigsaw assemblage in the lengthy wake of  a ruinous civil war, South Korea is hard at work pulling itself up by its (roughly 60 million) bootstraps. And within the womb-like confines of its bulbous economic miracle sits a man named Yun Gi-jun, a Seoul office worker permanently beholden to a wife who is the daughter of a wealthy industrialist. While she pulls the strings of the affluence they have together, he dutifully fulfills his role as husband, mainly because there has to be a husband in the picture. Strangely it is she who suggests, one day, that he return to his natal town, the notoriously unremarkable Mu-Jin, a place that gets enveloped, with depressing regularity, by an opaque fog. Read the rest of this entry »

During the months of this year that the blog was on hiatus, I gallivanted. In South Asia especially, the mill of current films is impossible to escape, seen all around in advertisements, on bus video screens, or in songs blaring from the sound systems of souped-up rickshaws. These pictures are from the trail of impressions of local visual cultures in some of the places I went; these are the faces that stay on, memorably.

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