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The Forgotten: René Clément's "The Castle of Glass" (1950)

5 March 2015 5:57 AM, PST

If René Clément's short collaboration with Jacques Tati in 1936 has its later development in the surprising (and political) slapstick of Che gioia vivere (1962), his technical assistance to Jean Cocteau on Beauty and the Beast pays off more rapidly with Le château de verre (The Glass Castle, 1950), starring Cocteau's beautiful beast, Jean Marais, and ice queen monstré sacré Michelle Morgan. This one came highly recommended by Shadowplayer David Wingrove, who saw in its opening sequence a foreshadowing of Last Year at Marienbad's glacial surrealism—frozen figures, somnambulent dancers, palatial surroundings. In fact, the Clément film comes with le jazz hot, and the frozen figures aren't frozen, but there is certainly an air of decadent mystery, with Jean Servais as the chess-playing husband a passable progenitor of the Resnais movie's sepulchral M.

But there's more! We begin with a disembodied voice (another Marienbad trope) and open in a fabulous grotto, »

- David Cairns

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Static Crisis, Static Sky: Aleksei German Jr.'s "Under Electric Clouds"

4 March 2015 7:29 AM, PST

Static winter

When the low and heavy sky weighs like a lid

On the moaning spirit, victim to lingering ennui,

And from the all-encompassing horizon

Spreads over us a black day sadder than the nights;

—Baudelaire, Spleen

The year is 2017, a full century from the Bolshevik revolution, and in a nameless Russian city the skeleton of an unfinished helix-shaped edifice rises heavenward above a frozen and desolate winter landscape. In this near- and maybe alternate-future the sky is the hazy hue of television, and the low-hanging clouds have been transformed into surfaces for the projection of advertisements. Only one hundred years since the Russian Revolution, and the event which defined Russia’s 20th century has been swallowed whole by a gargantuan and ever-hungry capitalism, leaving little behind other than the fragmentary memories of men and abandoned shards of statues.

In Aleksei German Jr.’s Under Electric Clouds Russia is a country cracking at its seams, »

- Yaron Dahan

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The Noteworthy: 4 March 2015

4 March 2015 4:56 AM, PST

The 19th Human Rights Watch Film Festival is returning to the Ritzy Cinema in Brixton from the 18th to the 27th of March. You can find the whole program here, along with a statement from the Festival Director John Biaggi. For Film Comment, Jordan Osterer interviews Buzzard director Joel Potrykus:

"Film Comment: There’s a divide in the film between idle, detached moments and pretty graphic content. How do you negotiate the gap between these very quiet moments and the more extreme situations?

Potrykus: My whole theory of making films is that I want to lull audiences to sleep—I almost want to bore them—and then right before they fall asleep, kick them in the balls."

David Robert Mitchell's It Follows is Sight & Sound's film of the week; Kim Newman reviews. Not one, not two, but three successful Kickstarter campaigns to take note of: 

1. Living Los Sures »

- Notebook

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Scenes From a Friendship: A Conversation with Alex Ross Perry

3 March 2015 12:48 PM, PST

Very clearly of the independent American cinema of the moment, and the New York scene in particular, Alex Ross Perry has nevertheless distinguished himself from his contemporaries with three singularly biting comedies—and now has set himself further apart with his latest: Queen of Earth, an intense dramatic departure. Viewers of Impolex, The Color Wheel, and most recently Listen Up Philip will recognize certain trademarks, among them a cast of entitled characters who treat each other horribly, as well as Sean Price Williams's stunning Super 16 cinematography, which here captures the damaged mental state of the film's protagonist with a blend of grainy pastel blues and greys contrasted with the earthly colors that make up the terrain surrounding its lake house setting. Taking cues from Polanski, Bergman, Fassbinder, and Kubrick, Perry imbues the film with an unsettlingly violent tone, made all the more discomforting in its restraint (this bubbling violence never manifests physically, »

- Adam Cook

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Ryland Walker Knight's "Inside Voices"

3 March 2015 8:59 AM, PST

We're proud to reveal to you a new short film by Notebook contributor Ryland Walker Knight, Inside Voices:

Two San Francisco girls sneak into an uncle's house, drink his vodka, and talk about losing their virginity.

Poster by Mia Nolting for Inside Voices. Click for bigger view.

In an article about his move from writing to filmmaking, Knight says:

"...making movies is way more fun than sitting alone writing about movies. Directing isn’t just designing shots, as many critics are dumb enough to focus on, but talking to people, thinking out loud, using as few words as possible to convey complex ideas or simpler parts of bigger ideas one part at a time, like in a string."


- Notebook

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The Details: An Incomplete Sum

2 March 2015 6:39 AM, PST

The first thing to appear on screen in Une femme mariée (1964) is nothing, followed by hands.  His and hers.  One with a ring, one without.  Then the back of a woman's neck.  Bare legs.  The side of a face.  The whole face.  A torso.  Different poses.  In Pierrot le fou, one year and two films away, Jean-Luc Godard would turn the opening credits into a semiotic game, where each letter appeared one at a time in alphabetical order, so the audience watches as isolated and thus meaningless symbols slowly cohere into a unified whole. Une femme mariée, the most generous and underrated of Godard's 60s films, takes a similar approach, but with a very different end, for greeting not language but a person.

Charlotte (Macha Méril) is first seen (if that's the correct word) following a tryst with a man who isn't her husband.  She exists in a kind of cinematic cubism, »

- Duncan Gray

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