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7/10
Quiet ballad of an outcast, with accompaniment of prayer wheels
7 April 2013
I cannot help thinking that Tian Zhuangzhuang is not only the least appreciated of the great contemporary Chinese directors, but also the least talented - his films (that is, the three that I have seen) made a lesser impression on me than, let's say, the works of Jia Zhangke or the nineties' output of Zhang Yimou.

"Lan feng zheng" (The Blue Kite), a socio-critical portrait of life in Communist China, seems a bit too static in its quiet, sober realism, with the director's continuous effort to charge Maoism tending to veil everything else ; only in the last segment the movie became truly touching for me.

In "Xiao cheng zhi chun" (Springtime in a Small Town) a couple of characters are, zombie-like, dragging past ornamental decorations of dilapidating claustrophobic interiors, or alternately walking on ruins of an ancient city wall ; I found this hardly anything more than a rather boring, banal quasi-Chekhovian étude.

The last - in fact, the oldest - of the three, "Dao ma zei" (The Horse Thief), is quite different. Minimalistic in plot and dialogues, it might be described as a sort of ethnographic documentary with touches of folk ballad : lyrical cinema close to some works of the Armenian Parajanov, albeit, to my regret, lacking his emotional power. Tibetan nature is the vamp of the movie, local religion + magic its core. The former I do savour, the latter I struggle to grasp, owing to the fact that my knowledge of it is considerably limited.

The last reason why I don't praise "The Horse Thief" as Scorsese did, may lie in the quality of the Chinese region-free disc (gzbeauty). Nevertheless, the non-anamorphic image from an old print, dirty and scratched, is better than I expected. It can be zoomed to proper OAR 2,35:1 on my player, though there's no room for subtitles then. For second viewing, they are not necessary anyway.

For those who liked "The Horse Thief" but felt deprived of the epic/action element, I would recommend "Kekexili" (Mountain Patrol) by Tian's compatriot Lu Chuan.
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6/10
Coming from the past when endings had style
30 March 2013
God knows what made the Broadway actor/director Edwin Sherin shoot this modest revenge western which I enjoyed immensely as a boy, next to George Roy Hill's "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid", Martin Ritt's "Hombre" and Sydney Pollack's "Jeremiah Johnson". All four have more things in common than solely the title heroes' sky-blue eyes ; I would like to mention only what impressed me most (and still does), i.e., the final shot belonging in the gallery of the most memorable ones in the history of western.

"Valdez Is Coming" is schematic and not very believable, but it has its strengths, too : for instance some fine laconic dialogue in the vein of "The Magnificent Seven", or mostly fine actors with Lancaster in the lead. (It may be a personal prejudice, but I always found the old circus artiste more convincing in roles like this one than in those in Visconti's frescoes.) I enjoyed especially Barton Heyman as charismatic El Segundo, despite the reservations of colleague R.J.Maxwell (which sound justified to me).

Remarkable is the participation of the veteran Hungarian cinematographer Gábor Pogány ; his camera-work here is nothing like as spectacular as in, let's say, "Il Cristo proibito", yet there are moments when the viewer's eye rejoices, even given the mediocre non-anamorphic transfer of the MGM's PAL disc.
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9/10
Remembrance of things past in non-Hollywoodian America
24 March 2013
As opposed to the prevailing opinion I happen to like every new movie of Terrence Malick more than the previous one ; that applies also to "The Tree of Life", the director's least epic and apparently most subjective work so far.

The film, relevant in content, mostly brilliant in form and deeply affecting in both, undoubtedly has its flaws (cardboard characterization and bombastic finale, for example). But these are not of such proportions as those who marred some of its similarly ambitious contemporaries, let's say "Melancholia" by Lars von Trier. Malick holds his standards even in the pseudo-biblical sequence of Creation, where he does not shrink back from playing games a la Stan Brakhage in frames reminiscent of Godfrey Reggio's opuses, and, right next to it, from introducing CGI dinosaurs, an already stale attraction of mainstream cinema. In this respect "The Tree of Life" represents an intellectual exercise in style - there are references not only to other movies but to works of world literature, and, if I'm not wrong, also to particular European painters, classical and modern. But of course that's not in what the movie's strength and charm lies. Unfolding in perfect accord of image, sound and feeling that underlies and carries the former two, "The Tree of Life" is straight and simple, one is tempted to say anti-intellectual. Through the director's eyes we see his (ingeniously cast) hero as both his and our alter ego in search of happiness, truth and meaning in life ; at every moment we are there, taken in account, allowed to feel what he feels ; none of the beautiful images, none of the accompanying music pieces seemed ciphered, forced, too manipulative, clichéd or cheesy to me .... Malick, painting his story of coming of age and ageing in the United States between a hyper-authoritarian father ("Nature",surprisingly) and a nearly-angelic mother ("Grace")is both less and more than American poor man's Proust - for his medium is modern cinema and he is one of its masters.

Times when abstract art was misunderstood and scorned are long gone. Many of us delight in lyrical poetry. Some got used to find pleasure in lyrical fiction, too. It seems we still have to learn to appreciate lyrical cinema. Malick is one - maybe the greatest - of the few American movie makers who are pushing the audience in this direction, and "The Tree of Life" is a true cinematic poem of life, light, love and loss ; for me, clearly a masterpiece.
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Moon (2009)
5/10
Cloning glimpses of sci-fi classics
24 March 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Compared to William Eubank's 2011 "Love", a sort of mega-clip "inspired" by Kubrick, Malick (and Aronofsky ?), Duncan Jones' 2009 "Moon" is clearly a better movie. It is also clearly more "about something" - not necessarily meaning this "something" is anything special or new. To quote James Berardinelli, " 'Moon' illustrates a truism forgotten by Hollywood : the best science fiction films are about SOMETHING. This film does not feature explosions(...), endless mind-numbing chase sequences. Instead, it (...) respects the intelligence and attention span of the adult. (...) It is intelligent, thought-provoking material." I quite agree with Mr. B., but his rating surprises me. To give a movie 3,5 stars out of 4 just for being "about something", respecting the intelligence of the adult and recycling "thought-provoking material" ? After all, I think there's more action in "Moon" than necessary, even including a couple of minor "explosions". It IS an action picture veiling itself in a "thought-provoking" toga - a patchwork in fact, not so far from Hollywood : here "2001" again, there "Solaris", next to it "Silent Running" (with a glimpse of "The Prestige", maybe ?). Ideas or images from these and others were cloned and skilfully put together (with addition of one talented actor in a sometimes - unintentionally, I suppose - caricaturing double-role) into a little sci-fi thriller, partly effective, but more manipulative than emotionally powerful, and in the predictable second half with cogs creaking in the screen writing department.

It has been two days before watching "Moon" that I finished reading "The Invisible Pyramid" by the great Loren Eiseley. There's no actual astronaut (anti)hero in this book, and yet it tells so much more about us conquering Moons.... It costs the reader more than 97 minutes to get from beginning to end - but it's worth the effort !
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5/10
It's the screenwriters, not God
16 March 2013
Two is more than one. Three is more than two ; etc., ad lib. Such is the mathematics of director Haines' dramaturgical use of clichés in "Children of a Lesser God", an agreeable but insignificant romantic dramedy that pretends to be more grave than it is. Marlee Matlin - looking beautiful and acting convincingly - presents one of the strongest elements here ; others are Canada in autumn and Bach's strings. Yet the director with her screenwriters and cast (especially John Hurt in the lead) seem to be concerned more about (American mainstream) audience than about the deaf. That's why they often confuse realism and sentimentality ; their urge to translate every single sign language "speech", too, results in a disputable compromise with reality. More discerning viewers would likely prefer some tougher, enduring bite, for example the documentary "Land des Schweigens und der Dunkelheit", in which the German director Werner Herzog makes (almost) no compromises at all.
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7/10
To see God through one's own blind eyes
15 March 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I found "Beed-e majnoon", the younger, but in form and content more adult and restrained sibling of the famous "Rang-e khoda", very good, despite some minor flaws. But by chance, I did not enjoy it as much as I might have, because its heart, so to say, was revealed to me years ago through a chapter in "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek", a small book of essays by Annie Dillard. I would like to embrace this opportunity and recommend it to any reader of this who is not yet familiar with it and would feel concerned. A couple of pages where the author depicts the inner world of the blind who have regained their sight touched me deeply and for good. Thus I can't but look upon Majidi's film rather as an illustration to Dillard's essay than as an independent work of art. This is of course a subjective attitude not fair to the movie, since it offers much more than what's inherent in "Pilgrim". Apart from its obvious religious value which is something I can hardly judge (who else than "The Film Sufi" should know better ?), "Beed-e majnoon" is rewarding and inspiring from both psychological a philosophical point of view, let alone its visual beauty. Although New Yorker Video did their best to conceal it in their inferior non-anamorphic transfer, it still shines - as early as in the quasi-mirroring calligraphy of the opening titles. The image of our hero staring at his mirror self emerging in the glass door ; another one letting him slowly fade in the rearview mirror of his wife's car ; the whole sequence at the airport - not one of the following scenes, for me, could match this one ....

Speaking about blindness as a theme for filmmakers, there's one more work to be recommended : Werner Herzog's early documentary about deaf and blind people in Bavaria "Land des Schweigens und der Dunkelheit". In short : a harrowing and enlightening experience !
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9/10
A cathartic tearjerker ?
10 March 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I feel quite happy joining the teary-eyed crowd of viewers from New York to Bangladesh who were emotionally overwhelmed by "Rang-e khoda". To try and turn a theme which is in itself heartbreaking into a strong and worthy piece of art is of course a risky business. Although I find other Iranian directors (let's say Mehrjui, Kiarostami, Panahi, Ghobadi) more interesting, I believe that Majidi is a gifted artist who perfectly knows how to make the most out of balancing on the brink of mawkish sentiment/pathos. His movies - i.e. the four I have seen - evidently look up to Italian neo-realism (there are even concrete points of contact between "Rang-e khoda" and "Ladri di biciclette", among others), oscillating between a sociological/ethnographic study, sociocritical statement, tearjerking melodrama, religious/spiritual fable and pure fairy-tale. For some (re)viewers, such an amalgam may be too much to bear (not only the otherwise outstanding sequence when Mohammad rescues a baby bird raises doubts about its credibility), but thanks to the director's cinematic treatment it offers moments where it reaches almost Chaplinesque quality.

I don't feel an urge to comment on "Rang-e khoda"'s beautiful cinematography, flawless acting, rich soundscape, or sometimes spoonfeeding symbolism - others have done it before, and better. My last small remark concerns the annoying sound that structures the second half of the movie like an ominous refrain. One reviewer suggests it's wolves ; to me, it seems rather like a cry of some bird (a wild turkey, perhaps ??) regarded by the locals as a sign of ill luck.

As to the quality of the Sony's disc, it's way better than the British and German ones (both with AR cut to 4:3 !).
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Centurion (2010)
3/10
Guts 'n balls, no brain, fake heart
7 March 2013
Warning: Spoilers
The trajectory of Neil Marshall's output follows - not surprisingly - a smoothly descending curve. It starts relatively high with "Dog Soldiers", a rather likable small eclectic werewolf horror, both witty and gritty, including a delicious postscript joke. With his next picture, aptly named "The Descent", Marshall moves to the quasi United States and, leaving his sense of humour at home, descends into the more profitable realm of mainstream shockers. He remains faithful to the well-tried plot : this time it's a bunch of bored, adrenalin-hungry female aliens who invade the underground territory of mutant "natives", thus making themselves to titbits for creatures who prefer human flesh to adrenalin. The director's heart seems to contradict his critical standpoint - it's rather with the neocolonialist chicks (= the viewer's Ego ?), portraying the other side (= repressed Id ?) as repulsive lower beings deserving no mercy when confronted eye to eye.

However deep the Appalachian caves in "The Descent" might be, Marshall proves that a director of his calibre can get even lower - returning to the Highlands of Scotland for a change, where his fourth and last cinematic massacre, "The Centurion", takes place. It's not hard to predict what expects us here. A unit of Roman legionaries, veritable vessels of testosterone indeed, who have taken part in the Great Conquest of Cavemanland, are bound to be slaughtered by native Picts led by a female avenger gone berserk.

The movie, in the wake of its countless Hollywood big brothers, typically sits on the fence : the makers themselves seem to be drunk to near-unconsciousness by the machismo violence which they flaunt while exposing our voyeuristic, narcissistic and xenophobic selves. Moreover, they offer not a single pleasant surprise, just all imaginable clichés in full display ; tasteless casting, lacklustre script/dialogues, obligatorily muted colours, CGI blood spurts - signature of illiterates for a long time now - etc., etc. In the final third "Centurion" betrays even itself, changing horses from the naturalistic brute raven stallion to the white horse of a ludicrous sentimental romance.

Despite all flaws, there's at least one redeeming quality to Marshall's flick : it does not pretend to be what it isn't - as for example Refn's "Valhalla Rising" did.
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Mary (I) (2005)
7/10
Mary, or Soul Fishing in Ferrara's America
3 March 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Today I saw Ferrara's "Mary" for the third time and still was not able to get under its chameleon skin. There are some characteristics which I'm almost sure of. It's provocative. It boasts raising relevant questions which need not be considered solely religious. It indulges in emotional hyperboles bordering on kitsch. (Whitaker's endless monologue reminded me of Keitel's repeated howling in "Bad Lieutenant", similarly torturous and ridiculous at the same time.) It's structurally sophisticated, visually appealing, and probably honest .... But I can't get the message. Or to be more precise : I am not quite sure that this critical treatise on modern life + values is more than a cheap sermon in the end.

Mary is the key figure within my dilemma. I wonder if the director would admit the possibility that she, too, is an erring child of her time - neurotic, confused, prone to self-delusion while searching for truth/meaning of life .... The shots of the fishing boat in the final segment (including that suite of Semitic beauties at dawn !) seem very questionable to me.

One of my favourite reviewers, Mr. Ekkehard Knoerer, doubts whether the director and his screenwriters actually know what they want and do. I don't know either ; but then again, sometimes it's better not to know.
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Two Lovers (2008)
6/10
Some like it gray
3 March 2013
Having read the opinions of my favourite reviewers I was surprised that only one of them, Mr. Hoberman of Village Voice, didn't like the film. His precise remarks in "James Gray Gets Goofy in TWO LOVERS" (".... this tragic asshole who, devastated by a broken engagement and forever poised on the brink of hurling himself into Sheepsheard Bay, is persecuted by a clinically paranoid mother /Isabella Rossellini, playing "Jewish" with all the shrillness she can muster/. .... Sandra is also clueless, albeit in a nice way. .... Before you can say, "Doe, a deer," he manages to engage this goody-goody in sex made all the more incestuous by the presence of their parents kibitzing around the dinner table a few yards away....") may be too caustic, but I must admit they made me laugh aloud . After all, isn't ridicule a legitimate answer to a movie unconvincingly serious and "European" ? To my mind, in creating his Frankenstein, Gray - consciously or not - utilizes the vascular system of standard romantic comedies made in Hollywood, spraying it with his trademark existential Grayness. Although I found it better than "We Own the Night", "Two Lovers" did not impress me much.
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7/10
"Inappropriate" - as life itself
24 February 2013
The film may seem uneven and confusing to the first-time viewer, "moving from inappropriate comedy to tragedy to whatever is in between", as Mr.Chabot puts it, but contrary to that reviewer's opinion I think that having adapted Richard Hughes' novel (which itself is a superb achievement, something special in the world literature canon) Mackendrick succeeded in preserving at least some of its key qualities and creating a highly satisfactory piece of cinematic life. The story is funny when funny things happen in it, and it's tragic when it comes to tragedy. What's in between is both psychologically compelling/interesting and cinematographically attractive. As for me, with every new viewing I like the film a bit more : a light, colourful adventure pic with strongly subversive undertones echoing Freud, Piaget, Frazer etc., climaxing in an unforgettable ending where even the otherwise tasteless song has its appropriate place.

Well-known British writer Martin Amis in the role of little John.

Compared to British edition (Eureka) the German one(Carol Media - a Fox port?)with both English and German subtitles has a brighter image, more into red (Eureka is rather greenish), slightly cut on both sides (and minutely horizontally stretched ?).
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The Bow (2005)
4/10
Yin and yang inside a Rubik's cube
17 February 2013
Whenever I watch a movie by Kim Ki-duk (with the exception of "Bom yeoreum gaeul...", which I enjoy much more than the rest), I have an unpleasant impression that this man's mental world is sort of puerile ; instead of a mature work of art I see an étude made by an intriguing youngster. In "Hwal" the director, not unlike a child with a Rubik's cube in hand, plays with rituals, symbols and colours slick just as the Euro-Korean score of this minimalist fable about an old man and a little girl, selfishness and ruthlessness of both old age and youth in the cyclic stream of life, and about how to conjure a feeble ending out of it all. Whether some deeper truths about yin and yang and other stuff reside inside the cube, Kim knows. Perhaps.
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5/10
One too many Jokers in this world
9 February 2013
Nolan is a filmmaker who actually never cared for mimetic, emotional and ethical honesty, and it seems that for the last couple of years with every new movie he's been sinking deeper into pure escapism - a tendency culminating in "Inception", an epitome of what might be called postmodern pseudo-art-for-pseudo-art's-sake.

Nolan's works are known to be structurally sophisticated. The question is : Who needs another structurally sophisticated action strip masquerading as a cinematic essay on human nature, ethics, philosophy ... ? Many of us seem to do, judging by this site's reviews. In the end, we get what we deserve, thanks to Mr. Nolan, who is the real Joker here, playing a cat-and-mouse game with audience all over the world. Although there's at least one crucial difference between him and his character : he wouldn't burn the stack of money that "The Dark Knight" earned him.
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Mirrormask (2005)
4/10
"MirrorMask" mirrors the triumphant conquest of substance by form
8 February 2013
Having read a review or two I finally decided to give "MirrorMask" a chance - but in my eyes the movie failed principally. Visuals are unquestionably great in their existential-postmodern derivative glamour. If you're ready to rise above the fact that the imagery of this kind often comes close to the aesthetics of TV commercials, you can feast your eyes on a very stylish universe where Henson meets the Quay brothers, among countless others : eerie landscapes and interiors, and above all bizarre creatures including mini-sphinxes with human masks, hybrids of gorillas and seagulls (and snowmen ?), and a librarian (with mouth and voice of Stephen Fry) who is pure Arcimboldo revised by a cubist sculptor ... (My personal favourite may be a charming something called Small Hairy and played by the director himself.)

Yet the makers of "MirrorMask" were obviously so deep in love with their gimmicks that they ditched virtually everything else : narrative dynamics, interesting characters, emotive score, worthwhile ending + message .... Here clearly form triumphs over substance, making me wish once again : If only modern movie makers quarried anywhere but in the realms of CGI, animation, optical mutation, and comics !
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Religulous (2008)
2/10
Being chutzpah for a million or two - a great American tradition
8 February 2013
My spontaneous reaction to "Religulous" was the decision to write a long polemical essay but firstly my English isn't suited to such adventurous enterprises and secondly, this movie simply doesn't deserve it.

I quite liked Larry Charles' satires featuring Sasha Baron Cohen ("Bruno" being my favourite of caustic portraits of what's wrong in the Western world) and there are funny/convincing moments in "Religulous", but as a whole it is way far from satisfactory. We watch a TV comedian on a crusade against the root of all evil - the world's religions. Bill Maher sees himself as a seeker-of-truth figure ; in fact hardly anything we see does support this image. The protagonist is evidently more in love with himself and with success than with truth, and moreover, seeking truth for him seems to equal mocking everything that he regards as wrong or impossible/that he isn't able to understand/that doesn't fit into his concept. As for BM's "reasoning", it's often hard to tell whether he is simply a narcissistic ignoramus or a clever populist manipulator. There are roughly 3 categories of his opponents (as well as 3 thirds of his own persona) : bigoted freaks, people who more or less live by religion, and respectable debate partners. BM uses them all equally ; unorthodox believers, such as two Vatican "maverick" priests, are allowed to take part in his show not to map the terrain of the specific religion but solely to demonstrate its failure. This is what some use to call chutzpah (in the original sense of word).

One brief moment towards the end of the movie epitomizes BM's world view and "creative" method : in Amsterdam, an interviewed person mentions the death of Theo van Gogh. Immediately afterwards, BM is standing in the street referring to "Theeow Vaangow". It's as if he were saying, "I'll stick to my truth, whatever the Dutch morons may think of it." It's this kind of both cultural and personal arrogance, deeply rooted in the American history, which connects BM more with George Bush + Co. than with colleague Michael Moore, and which makes "Religulous" almost unbearable for me to watch.
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6/10
Childish treatise on child's soul
28 January 2013
Many a reviewer is raving about this Gothic-spiced lyrical melodrama masked as a horror by its nonsensical title. A unique portrait of child's soul, some say. In my opinion, the movie (as well as other Lewton's "horrors") surely has its strengths (above all Musuraca's b+w photography), but cannot be lauded as a masterpiece. One should bear in mind that - not mentioning fiction,i.e. stories by Henry James, Géza Csáth and others - within the same decade genuine cinematic jewels emerged in Europe, such as "The Fallen Idol" (1948) or "Les jeux interdits" (1952). THESE were adult films dealing with child psycho(patho)logy, not Lewton's fairy tale overloaded with ambitions but also simplistic and clichéd, reflecting the theme in the mirror of Hollywood's emblematic immaturity. I can hardly believe that "The Curse of the Cat People" became "a gold mine" for Reed and Clément, nor, as "CINEPASSION" puts it, later for Erice and Saura. Yet you never know.

As for the image, the R2 German edition (lacking extras) is even better than the R1 Warner disc.
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Ulysses' Gaze (1995)
5/10
Director A.'s Odyssey was this viewer's Golgotha
27 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Not unlike Ulysses on his way to Ithaca or director A. witnessing decay and death in the native Balkans, the viewer of this film, too, must face many a pitfall. It's mostly mannerisms of a director to whom unpretentious realism seems to reek of vulgarity. Landscapes in the mist. Bleak city streets. Derelict interiors. Exiles. A lot of Weltschmerz. An aging intellectual, played by an international star, sporting a lot of Weltschmerz. A fiery young beauty. Bombastic dialogues/monologues from an existentialist stage play. Zombie-like extras assembling into strange patterns. A lot of symbols. Fake Ithaca. A huge lot of Weltschmerz.

I liked the music of Eleni Karaindrou, the Bucharest flashback and images of stone Lenin. In my opinion, the movie itself resembles this monumental statue, self-important idol once "alive" but now - being sold to an Euro snob - cut to pieces and heading towards oblivion.

Famous Polish actor Wojciech Pszoniak got an uncredited role, and famous Czech photographer Josef Koudelka simultaneously took b+w photos of the film's locations which I hereby strongly recommend. Believe me, they are light years ahead.
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8/10
Men and goats, and a dog named Wolf
23 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
A work of art like this deserves high praise because of its humanistic, philosophical, ecological, esthetical and,last but not least, entertainment value. With touches of tragedy and comedy alike, it links + blends nature and culture, emotion and reason, life and death, microcosm and universe in a way which is down-to-earth and metaphysical at the same time.

In a highly recommendable bonus interview the director himself speaks of a moment in the film when "the old shepherd (...) is lying in the grass (...) when an ant starts crawling over his face (...) and the man's face, in close-up, becomes a landscape". It could be added that from the point of the ant, the body of the man (who is actually squatting here, not lying) is perfectly interchangeable with a tree, or a boulder .... (By the way, when was the last time you, pooing outdoors, experienced an ant having climbed all the way up to your face ?) Some other shots may remind you of "sculptures" of Andy Goldsworthy ; elsewhere again the viewer is being forced to explore unthought-of inner proceedings or motives within an evidently insignificant long static shot (Kiarostami-like ?); the sequence of charcoal-making has a strongly documentary character as well as (a tiny little bit of) pathos of the bell-casting climax of Tarkovskiy's "Andrey Rublyov"....

As "Le quattro volte" is not a pure documentary, some scenes were obviously staged, such as the sequence depicting the consequences of the shepherd's loss of his medicine, or the glorious Easter shot starring the dog named Vuk ( which means "Wolf" in some South Slavic languages !).

Great blu-ray from Artificial Eye.
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Angel's Fall (2004)
8/10
Ariadne's thread, or Sisyphus' boulder ?
18 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
In "Melegin dususu" Semih Kaplanoglu hasn't yet moved from metropolis to province of his masterful "Yusuf Trilogy" - yet there is much to be appreciated in this small portrait of a girl wandering around in men's world. A simple, moving story was crumbled by the director, then carefully chosen snippets were picked up, carefully lit + shot, and reassembled partly in a non-chronological way. The final form resembles a palimpsest being read at random, with endless and endlessly seductive static shots glowing on a dark surface, just as in some of the images, Rembrandt-like, the (pieces of) bodies are cut out by light - or eclipsed. Great visuals, indeed. (There were moments when the mediocre transfer appeared to make them even more magical.) Could this be called magical-realistic minimalism ? Does the folkloristic detail in the prologue (for more, see "The Red Right Hand" external review !) have the symbolic meaning of Ariadne's thread ? Or rather of Sisyphus' boulder? Isn't this prologue actually an epilogue? The only thing that I'm sure of is that I consider Kaplanoglu the greatest of a couple of Turkish directors whose work I've come across.

As mentioned above, the transfer on the Vanguard disc - having no menu whatsoever - is far from beautiful ; moreover, the frame was brutally cut on the right, damaging even the subtitles here and there. Nevertheless, my copy is R2-friendly.
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6/10
Adults in a larval stage
11 January 2013
Sensitive rendering of a teenage romance with absurdist touches, nice camera-work and nice score featuring nice period songs. One thing that bothered me throughout was the forced contrast between the youngsters' idyll and the ostentatiously existential world of adults. I don't know anything about life in Sweden in the sixties, but such degree of mediocrity, frustration and (male) aggressiveness seemed to me beyond belief - rather a funhouse of abstractions of modern angst than a sample of real people.

But maybe the teenagers were not meant by Andersson to be as innocent as they seem. Driven by the same needs and desires as the adults, i.e. to play with others, to touch them/lean on them, to defend one's position in the pecking order ... - might they be models of the same egocentrism, albeit in a larval stage ?

Very good transfer from Artificial Eye.
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Full Body Massage (1995 TV Movie)
6/10
Haiku between Mimi Rogers' breasts
6 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Having read some IMDb reviews before I got my hands on the film itself, I was agreeably surprised watching it. In the canon of the director whose early works I admire, it definitely resides somewhere close to the bottom - but Roeg is always interesting, even at his lowest. Though the Australian DVD has no subtitles (which is always bad news for me because - as the reader of this already knows - my knowledge of English is quite limited), I was not bored for the most of the movie, and I believe that it has important things to say about life not only of rich Americans. A haiku ("Suddenly you light // and as suddenly go dark // fellow firefly") inserted (almost literally) between Mimi Rogers' breasts shouldn't be underestimated. Rogers is a gorgeous piece of a woman but the film really is not about her, or her breasts, or philosophical/mystical reflections - it's about human relations and mutual using/misusing in pursuit of happiness, self-fulfillment,etc., seen by Roeg under slightly satirical angle. (From this point of view, which I'm not sure of, the otherwise likable ending was a bit disappointing, tending to follow a rather sentimental line.)

If I would be asked to recommend any of my colleagues' reviews, it would be dnjir' s.
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10/10
Miracle in world cinema
6 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Superlatives are in order when referring to "Miracolo a Milano" : it's not "a little gem" but a sort of crown jewel of world humanistic cinema. I personally value this comedy more than De Sica's/Zavattini's more serious/famous works such as "Sciuscia", "Ladri di biciclette" or "Umberto D.". So much fondness, warmth, understanding, positiveness - and cinematic bravura, intelligence, taste, wit .... Timeless ! Whenever I watch it, I find the movie's ending brilliantly ambiguous : on the one hand liberating and hopeful, on the other hand ultimately sad, because that joyful migration cannot lead anywhere but "anywhere out the world" ....

Arrow's blu-ray offers the best print I ever saw of this cathartic masterpiece on home video format.
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Prometheus (I) (2012)
3/10
Gods save us from Prometheuses like this one !
2 January 2013
Almost 700 external reviews of such a failure ! Lately, renowned professionals are seriously discussing lame-brained movies with visuals which we used to label "breathtaking", while mainstream movie theatres long ago became a place for brainwashing audience with a flood of meaningless, often wantonly disgusting CGIs. No wonder "Avatar" got almost 6OO reviews. Call it the triumph of form over substance, or symptom of deep cultural crisis ... - art it ain't.

Ridley Scott is the man who in the seventies/eighties gave us one small but truly old-master-like canvas ("The Duellists") and two groundbreaking sci-fi spectacles ("Alien" and "Blade Runner") ; after that his creative power quickly waned never to be recovered. Recently he, stealing from himself, Kubrick etc., comes up with another feast for the image-devourers, "Prometheus".

Surely the strategy of passive resistance is what could save us from such unwanted gifts. What's the point in judging M.Fassbender's performance in a silly role in an even sillier film ? Or in wondering what goes on in heads of some loathsome couple of adolescently Faustian researchers ? So better let me stop writing ; there are greater pleasures, e.g., to pretend I never saw "Prometheus", and to read what someone like Mr. Chaw has to say about it- he seldom disappoints me.
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6/10
Taming the eyes in the stained-glass window
2 January 2013
This piece of world cultural heritage is also a rude androcratic farce, an exemplary manifesto of machismo and Renaissance cunning ; I always felt sympathy and rooted for Katharine, may she or may she not have the eyes of E.T., made even more attractive by shutters or stained-glass window. Using a top couple of then cinema business and a top crew, Zeffirelli knew how to turn Shakespeare's stage play into a cinematic candy, glossy and yummy in its opulent, dynamic widescreen presentation. Although some reviewers on this site disapproved with the director's treatment (e.g. Mr.Koller in his likable analysis), my guess is that the Bard of Avon would not.
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9/10
Once again there's trafficking in penicillin in Vienna ...
1 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Three-part, six-hour TV movie "Wohin und zurueck" by one of my favourite Austrian directors Axel Corti is a truly unique achievement. I found it both an unsentimental, uncompromising history lesson and a fascinating epos of human bondage, most laudable work of humanist art, rewarding emotionally as well as intellectually.

1. "An uns glaubt Gott nicht mehr" : gripping fresco of European wartime Babel with people crawling in gaps between millstones of politics, ideologies, authorities ... 2. "Santa Fé" : Jewish immigrants sealing their fate in New York. Great dramaturgy ! 3. "Welcome in Vienna" : Once again there's trafficking in penicillin in Vienna ... But compared to Carol Reed's masterpiece, Corti's movie is thematically more grave and complex ; we are witnessing the fate of ideals and hopes shattered in the process of Establishment reshuffle in post-war Austria.

The only complete edition seems to be the French 3-disc box set with mediocre transfers and French subs. The last part of the trilogy was released in Austria, with a shade better picture and no subs.
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