The Third Sex

02/13/2017

West Germany / 1957 / German

Directed by Veit Harlan

With Christian Wolff, Paula Wessely, Friedrich Joloff

Still From 'The Third Sex'Camp and homophobia aren’t often considered entwined, but they also aren’t mutually exclusive; both are epithets retroactively applied to post-war cinema with liberal gusto. Take Veit Harlan’s The Third Sex, middle-brow and of middling quality (even by the director’s low standards), as an example of one such confused chimera of political sensibilities. While it looks pallid and stifling it’s a deceptively good core sample of the almost unjustly prosperous 1950s. Read the rest of this entry »

Mexico / 1972 / Spanish

Directed by Arturo Ripstein

With Claudio Brook, Rita Macedo, Arturo Beristáin

Still from 'The Castle of Purity'There’s this theory that cult leaders are very lonely people – even lonelier than the vulnerable types they attract – and that their power-tripping is just an extreme expression of the strategies we use every day to create and maintain relationships. If that’s the case, Gabriel Lima, the paranoid and autocratic paterfamilias of The Castle of Purity, and in whose cobwebbed house nearly the whole film is set, staves off his staggering loneliness by regulating everything that his family can say, do, and think. Read the rest of this entry »

After the Curfew

01/16/2017

Indonesia / 1954 / Indonesian

Directed by Usmar Ismail

With A.N. Alcaff, Netty Herawaty, Dahlia

Still from 'After the Curfew'Iskandar traverses the empty city at night. Perhaps his mind is still far away as he walks towards the lighted window, as he doesn’t hear the soldiers yelling at him until they’ve already begun to give chase. He runs into the twists of the city and loses them. Yesterday he was a soldier himself, today a civilian. Read the rest of this entry »

The Mountain

10/12/2016

Taiwan / 2015 / Chinese, Japanese & Truku

Directed by Su Hong-en

Still from 'The Mountain'

His body wound tight from a lifetime of labor/hunting/farming – like a spool of wire with a tough membrane of skin seemingly melted on – the old man walks on his haunches plucking weeds in a vegetable patch. Behind him sits a vast jungle, a dense screen of leaves whose invisible paths he knows intimately. One can almost visualize the similarly deep and formidable immensity of time rising behind him, even as he looks down at the plants in the sodden earth. While it is the land he has always known, it has gone through several changes of identity over the years, which could explain the frequently distressed look we see on his face, not one of puzzlement or the confusion of senility, but a sort of harrowing sadness, like someone powerlessly watching his house burn to the ground in slow motion. Read the rest of this entry »

A Thousand Suns

09/27/2016

Senegal & France / 2013 / Wolof & French

Directed by Mati Diop

Still from 'A Thousand Suns'We see his cattle before we see him. They move in a line through the city, causing cars on the highway to stop and wait. The animals walk unhurriedly, dipping their snouts into piles of sand at dig sites to cool off. The thin man walking behind them holding a stick, and with a mop of white hair, could never be described as “old” but, always, “aging.” Read the rest of this entry »

Mountain Patrol

08/24/2015

China / 2004 / Tibetan & Chinese

Directed by Lu Chuan

With Zhang Lei, Tobgyal, Qi Liang

Still from 'Mountain Patrol'In the funerary rites of Tibetan Buddhism, a dead body is dismembered and left on a flat rock, out in the open, to be picked clean by vultures. After that, the bones are ground up with tsampa (barley flour), mixed with yak butter tea, and fed to the lesser birds that follow. These “sky burials” were practiced for generations as an alternative to cremation, since firewood is so scarce in much of Tibet. Although sky burials have been declining in recent years (partly due to a decrease in the population of birds of prey in many areas), they’re still widely done, and are an example of the Tibetans’ intimate and age-old connection to nature and the animal kingdom. Read the rest of this entry »

Doomed Love

08/17/2015

Portugal / 1978 / Portuguese

Directed by Manoel de Oliveira

With António Sequeira Lopes, Cristina Hauser, Elsa Wallencamp

Still from 'Doomed Love'While the story of Manoel de Oliveira’s Doomed Love, a nearly five-hour adaptation of Camilo Castelo Branco’s 1862 novel, could have been pulled off in a feature film (and has, many a time), it finds an extended depiction drawn out over the course of a television mini-series. Explaining its few theatrical engagements, it is a difficult proposal for a single sitting, a bit like reading the book in one go. Nonetheless it’s apparently a faithful rendering, scene for scene, of the book, and goes directly to the text. The characters’ lengthy soliloquies come from its pages, at times they address the audience as a narrator would a reader, and their beautifully-penned letters appear on the screen and are read off in full. Read the rest of this entry »

Hard to Be a God

07/27/2015

Russia / 2013 / Russian

Directed by Aleksey German

With Leonid Yarmolnik, Yuriy Tsurilo, Aleksandr Chutko

Still from 'Hard to Be a God'Don Rumata awakens in his room, squeezes the greasy nest of hair on his head, and remembers his grandmother back on planet Earth. He seems to live in a reliquary or a medieval prop closet, surrounded by anthropomorphic suits of armor and Chaucerian paintings. Encircled by cangue-wearing slaves who are tethered by chains and don’t have any conceivable function, he greets the day by blowing a mournful jazz line on his saxophone. Water drips from the ceiling, draughts and fog seep in through the cracks. On this planet, when it’s not torrentially raining – or snowing – a sticky, gray mist coats everything. We have been lowered into the depths of his world. It isn’t pretty, but he relishes it. Read the rest of this entry »

Lust for Gold

07/20/2015

Romania / 1974 / Romanian

Directed by Mircea Veroiu & Dan Piţa

With Eliza Petrachescu, Liviu Rozorea, Dora Ivanciuc

Still from 'Lust for Gold'Death shall forget you, Gold.

Life shall ruin you, Gold.

At the pub a drunken man stands up to twirl slowly a solo rondo. A couple of long tracking shots glide across the bustling street, revealing horsedrawn wagons and even a penny farthing, but this is still a time before any cars have trundled its uneven bricks. In this medieval-looking town in the Apuseni mountains, life declares itself in forlorn creaks and rattles, dull, repetitious, cyclical sounds. But underlying the somnolent routines there is a clarity of mission turning the gears, as indivisible as that element all hold dear: Au. No one flashes it ostentatiously. For most it’s a constant companion, guarding all actions and words, a proprietor of the mind. Read the rest of this entry »

Losing Ground

07/13/2015

USA / 1982 / English

Directed by Kathleen Collins

With Seret Scott, Bill Gunn, Duane Jones

Still from 'Losing Ground'Is it a necessity for all black filmmakers to feel they have to represent, or at least tap into, “the” black experience with their films? And is that burden twofold for a black woman? Kathleen Collins must have been aware that there was no precedent for what she was doing when directing Losing Ground, the first feature film by an African-American woman. At the same time, she doesn’t seem to have wanted any of those responsibilities, and her film goes beyond questions of what must be said about black peoples’ lives in America, and further than the experiences of women. Read the rest of this entry »