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Věra Chytilová's Last Laugh

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Věra Chytilová shooting Time Is RelentlessIn Something Different (1963), housewife Vera has had it with her emotionally unavailable husband, exhausting chores, and child-rearing, so she starts an affair. A broken woman, she bursts into sporadic fits of giggling, scaring both men in her life. Prefiguring to some extent Alain Tanner's La salamandre, this laughter lifts the veil over the heroine's existential crisis, one so reluctant to be put into words and yet occasionally susceptible to movie images. Over the almost 50-year span of her career, we've heard Věra Chytilová's laugh so many times that it deserves to be catalogued. Daisies (1966) gave the censors plenty of reasons to ban it, but the derisive cackling of two girls at war with common sense would've sufficed. You can hear the sound as early as her student film Caterwauling (1960), made at the Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (Famu). There,
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Criterion Reflections – Episode 2 – Winter 1969 Part 2

Criterion Reflections is David Blakeslee’s ongoing project to watch all of the films included in the Criterion Collection in chronological order of their original release. Each episode features panel conversations and 1:1 interviews offering insights on movies that premiered in a particular season of a year in the past, which were destined to eventually bear the Criterion imprint. In this episode, David is joined by Martin Kessler, Jordan Essoe, Doug McCambridge, Jason Beamish and Trevor Berrett to discuss six titles from the Winter of 1969: Jaromil Jires’s The Joke, Juraj Herz’s The Cremator, Wim Winders’s Silver City Revisited, Fellini: A Director’s Notebook, Luis Bunuel’s The Milky Way and Pierre Etaix’s Le Grand Amour.

Episode Time Markers: Introduction: 0:00:00 – 0:09:47 The Joke: 0:09:48 – 0:36:30 Silver City Revisited: 0:36:31 – 0:54:30 The Cremator: 0:54:31 – 1:17:
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200 Greatest Horror Films (90-81)

Special mention: Häxan

Directed by Benjamin Christensen

Denmark / Sweden, 1922

Genre: Documentary

Häxan (a.k.a The Witches or Witchcraft Through The Ages) is a 1922 silent documentary about the history of witchcraft, told in a variety of styles, from illustrated slideshows to dramatized reenactments of alleged real-life events. Written and directed by Benjamin Christensen, and based partly on Christensen’s study of the Malleus Maleficarum, Häxan is a fine examination of how superstition and the misunderstanding of mental illness could lead to the hysteria of the witch-hunts. At the time, it was the most expensive Scandinavian film ever made, costing nearly 2 million Swedish krona. Although it won acclaim in Denmark and Sweden, the film was banned in the United States and heavily censored in other countries for what were considered, at that time, graphic depictions of torture, nudity, and sexual perversion. Depending on which version you’re watching, the commentary is
See full article at SoundOnSight »

The Eclipse Viewer – Episode 32 – Pearls of the Czech New Wave, Part 2

This podcast focuses on Criterion’s Eclipse Series of DVDs. Hosts David Blakeslee and Trevor Berrett give an overview of each box and offer their perspectives on the unique treasures they find inside. In this episode, David and Trevor conclude their two-part discussion of Eclipse Series 32: Pearls of the Czech New Wave.

About the films:

Of all the cinematic New Waves that broke over the world in the 1960s, the one in Czechoslovakia was among the most fruitful, fascinating, and radical. With a wicked sense of humor and a healthy streak of surrealism, a group of fearless directors—including eventual Oscar winners Miloš Forman and Ján Kadár—began to use film to speak out about the hypocrisy and absurdity of the Communist state. A defining work was the 1966 omnibus film Pearls of the Deep, which introduced five of the movement’s essential voices: Věra Chytilová, Jaromil Jireš, Jiří Menzel,
See full article at CriterionCast »

The Best of “Movie Poster of the Day,” Part 11

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Above: Alternative poster for Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller, Australia/USA, 2015). Artist: Signalstarr.Movie Poster of the Week was on vacation for the past few weeks and for the first time in three and a half years I took a break from posting a poster a day on Tumblr. Since getting back I have been posting the best new posters that I missed while I was away, one of which—the teaser for Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight which was unveiled at Comic-Con last week—has racked up more likes in a single day than almost anything else I’ve posted in the past three months.The standout favorite of the past quarter however—with over 1400 likes and re-blogs to date—was this stunning alternative poster for Mad Max: Fury Road by the British artist known as Signalstarr, a.k.a. Nick Stewart Hoyle. As a rule I
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Criterion Collection: Valerie and Her Week of Wonders | Blu-ray Review

Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970) is an obscure fantasia from the fading days of the Czech New Wave. One could argue that its obscurity was richly deserved and that it unfortunately may end now with the release of this new Criterion Blu-ray. The film is a bewildering, at times amateurish, amalgam of the very worst instincts of David Hamilton and Ken Russell mixed with a barrage of B movie horror cliches. And those are some of the best scenes. In between there’s much fret over some magic necklace or earrings or something, and Valerie’s grandparents and/or parents – it’s hard to tell them apart – and a cloaked figure who flits about looking like a hybrid of Nosferatu and Darth Vader. Sorry this synopsis is not more coherent, but this reviewer’s eyes had glazed over long before the film reached its conclusion.

On the other hand,
See full article at IONCINEMA.com »

New on Video: ‘Valerie and Her Week of Wonders’

Valerie and Her Week of Wonders

Written by Jaromil Jires and Ester Krumbachová

Directed by Jaromil Jireš

Czechoslovakia, 1970

Beginning with Jaroslava Schallerová’s glance directly into the camera, Valerie and Her Week of Wonders instantly and insistently unravels in playful nods of incongruous and intentionally self-conscious stylization. Directed by Jaromil Jireš, this 1970 feature, in classic art film tradition, takes a basic narrative with reasonably standard character types and turns the whole thing topsy-turvy via stunning imagery, a proliferation of ambiguous symbolism, and a structure that leads to places quite unexpected, if certain sequences lead anywhere at all. It certainly is a wondrous week for young Valerie, and the film itself is equally astounding.

After Eaglet (Petr Kopriva) steals Valerie’s (Schallerová) magical earrings, apparently at the behest of the Constable (Jirí Prýmek), otherwise referred to/existing as the malicious Polecat, a vampire-type monster who terrorizes a small Czech town, an
See full article at SoundOnSight »

The Forgotten: "Prague Nights" (1969)

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Though the Czech New Wave of the sixties was not as addicted to anthology films as the Italians (any major Italian director could have called a film Eight and a Half, since they all directed episodes at one time or another), they did make Pearls of the Night (1966), which showcased nearly all the major graduates of the national film school, Famu (a.k.a. the Kids from Famu): Vera Chytilová, Jaromil Jires, Jirí Menzel, Jan Nemec and Evald Schorm.Three years later, Schorm was back, collaborating with new chums Jirí Brdecka and Milos Makovec on a raunchy supernatural triptych, Prague Nights. An international traveller picks up a strange woman, determined to enjoy a night of illicit passion during his Czech stopover. Driven through a green-tinted sepia night in her vintage limo, he's told three tales of murder, lust and the supernatural, and, at the end, as in any Amicus
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31 Days of Horror: 100 Greatest Horror Films: Top 75

Every year, we here at Sound On Sight celebrate the month of October with 31 Days of Horror; and every year, I update the list of my favourite horror films ever made. Last year, I released a list that included 150 picks. This year, I’ll be upgrading the list, making minor alterations, changing the rankings, adding new entries, and possibly removing a few titles. I’ve also decided to publish each post backwards this time for one reason: the new additions appear lower on my list, whereas my top 50 haven’t changed much, except for maybe in ranking. I am including documentaries, short films and mini series, only as special mentions – along with a few features that can qualify as horror, but barely do.

****

Special Mention:

Häxan

Directed by Benjamin Christensen

Denmark / Sweden, 1922

Häxan (a.k.a The Witches or Witchcraft Through The Ages) is a 1922 silent documentary about the history of witchcraft,
See full article at SoundOnSight »

100 Greatest Horror Movies (pt.5): 50-26

Throughout the month of October, Editor-in-Chief and resident Horror expert Ricky D, will be posting a list of his favorite Horror films of all time. The list will be posted in six parts. Click here to see every entry.

As with all lists, this is personal and nobody will agree with every choice – and if you do, that would be incredibly disturbing. It was almost impossible for me to rank them in order, but I tried and eventually gave up.

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50: Thundercrack!

Directed by Curt McDowell

Written by George Kuchar

1975, USA

Thunderstruck! is by far the most obscure film you will find on this list. It is without a doubt one of the true landmarks of Underground cinema. With a screenplay by veteran underground film maker George Kuchar (story and characters by Mark Ellinger) and directed Curt McDowell (than student of Kuchar),

Thundercrack! is a work of a crazed genius.
See full article at SoundOnSight »

Greatest Horror Movies Ever Made Part 7: The 62 Greatest (# 31-1)

31 – Rosemary’s Baby

Directed by Roman Polanski

USA, 1968

Roman Polanski’s brilliant horror-thriller was nominated for two Oscars, winning Best Supporting Actress for Ruth Gordon. The director’s first American film, adapted from Ira Levin’s horror bestseller, is a spellbinding and twisted tale of Satanism and pregnancy. Supremely mounted, the film benefits from it’s strong atmosphere, apartment setting, eerie childlike score and polished production values by cinematographer William Fraker. The cast is brilliant, with Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes as the young couple playing opposite Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer, the elderly neighbors. There is ominous tension in the film from first frame to last – the climax makes for one of the greatest endings of all time. Rarely has a film displayed such an uncompromising portrait of betrayal as this one. Career or marriage – which would you choose?

30 – Eraserhead

Directed by David Lynch

USA, 1977

Filmed intermittently over the course of a five-year period,
See full article at SoundOnSight »

Greatest Horror Movies Ever Made Part 7: 50 Greatest Horror Films (# 15-1)

25 – Halloween

Directed by John Carpenter

1978 – Us

A historical milestone that single-handedly shaped and altered the future of the entire genre. This seminal horror flick actually gets better with age; it’s downright transcendent and holds up with determination as an effective thriller that will always stand head and shoulders above the hundreds of imitators to come. Halloween had one hell of an influence on the entire film industry. You have to admire how Carpenter avoids explicit onscreen violence, and achieves a considerable power almost entirely through visual means, using its widescreen frame, expert hand-held camerawork, and terrifying foreground and background imagery.

24 – Black Christmas

Directed by Bob Clark

1974 – Canada

We never did find out who Billy was. Maybe it’s for the best, since they never made any sequels to Bob Clark’s seminal slasher film, a film which predates Carpenter’s Halloween by four years. Whereas Texas Chainsaw Massacre, released the same year,
See full article at SoundOnSight »

Greatest Horror Movies Ever Made: Part 2: Blood Thirsty Vampires

Note: This is the second article in this series of posts. Click here to see the first entry.

Every year I spend the majority of the month of October watching as many horror movies as I possibly can. So I decided to take it upon myself to list off the greatest horror movies ever made. I felt the need to break up the list into several categories. You see, usually when people ask me for recommendations of what horror films they should see, they still have some idea of what sub genre they are interested in watching. So as appose to having one big jumbled list, I’ve broken it down to help with those looking for recommendations in a specific area. Please Note: by the end of the month, the last entry in this series will include a list of what I think are without a doubt, the 31 greatest horror movies ever made.
See full article at SoundOnSight »

Valerie and Her Week of Wonders Works Weird Vampire-Themed Magic

With vampires all the rage and a cinema smitten with mind-bending narratives built around the generic staple of the “unreliable narrator,” what better time is there to have a look at Czech director Jaromil Jires’ provocative 1970 cult film Valerie and Her Week of Wonders?

First coming to the world’s attention with his 1963 debut feature The Cry (exhibited at Cannes), a film of documentary realism and social criticism that displeased his native government, Jires found his talents put on hold as Czechoslovakia’s state-supported film industry turned down script after script he subsequently submitted for production. It wasn’t until 1968 that Jires reappeared on the scene with The Joke, adapted from the novel by Milan Kundera as an ambitious drama attacking totalitarianism.

I’ve yet to see either of those films, but based on what I discovered with Valerie, I’d be eager to explore more of his works. While
See full article at Famous Monsters of Filmland »

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