Tag Archives | Cinema

Tiny Terror: Roman Polanski

Roman PolanskiOne of my favorite movie-going experiences of 2012 was spending four Saturday and Sunday afternoons watching Mark Cousins’ The Story of Film: A 15-hour history of cinema that A.O. Scott of The New York Times called  “a semester-long film studies survey course compressed into 15 brisk, sometimes contentious hours…stands as an invigorated compendium of conventional wisdom.”

Before taking on such an ambitious project, Cousins had established his reputation as a film critic as well as the host of the BBC show Scene by Scene. The program found Cousins in coversation with some of the world’s best film directors, discussing their most iconic images and sounds.

This episode of Scene by Scene features Cousins in a bristly interview with Roman Polanski. Besides Polanski’s personal horrors, the gifted director has made important contributions to the horror/thriller/supernatural genres including: Knife in the Water, The Fearless Vampire Killers, The Tenant, The 9th Gate and the classic, Rosemary’s Baby.… Read the rest

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The Explosive Pop Art Cinema Of Pramod Pati

Avant-garde filmmaker Pramod Pati created luscious, poetic, beautifully-scored short films on behalf of the Indian government (sometimes with social-educational purposes such as promoting family planning). Highlights include Abid, below, and 1968's symbolism-rich Explorer. The Seventh Art provides some background:
Pramod Pati, who died an untimely death at the age of 42, worked for the Films Division of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in India, which commissioned feature-length and short documentaries as well as short animation films for the purposes of cultural archiving and nationwide information dissemination. The documentaries generally consisted of profiles of artistes practicing traditional forms, educational films for adults, and simple moral tales and basic literacy courses for children. Although there was an obvious restriction on the type of subjects filmmakers can choose, the Films Division, like the Kanun in Iran, was free from commercial concerns and thus presented a higher scope for formal experimentation for directors.
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Spanish Cult Horror Director Jesus ‘Jess’ Franco Dies At 82

Beginning in 1959, filmmaker Jess Franco walked the line between art and exploitation, dreaming up underground classics that combined shock, sex, perversion, the surreal, and groovy soundtracks in groundbreaking fashion. 1970's Vampyros Lesbos, below, established the cinematic trope of lesbian vampires. Via FEARnet:
Euro-cult great Jess Franco has passed away after producing nearly 200 films. A unique filmmaker, Franco’s work fits in a category all its own, combining art, the erotic, and the macabre into titles like Lorna the Exorcist, The Awful Dr. Orloff, Succubus, Venus in Furs and of course, the eponymous Vampyros Lesbos. While Franco isn’t to everyone’s taste, he certainly stretched the definition of erotic horror cinema.
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Unclear Holocaust: The Ultimate 9/11 Movie

The art group Anti-Banality Union has created a feature-length movie which is impossible to stop watching. Fifty Hollywood blockbusters portraying the spectacular obliteration of New York City were cut up and interwoven (somehow fitting together seamlessly), revealing the meta-narrative running through them all -- the "death-drive on the part of capitalist culture":
Unclear Holocaust is a feature-length autopsy of Hollywood's New York-destruction fantasy, gleaned from over fifty major studio event-movies and detourned into one relentless orgy of representational genocide. It is the unrivaled assembly of the greatest amount of capital and private property heretofore captured in one frame, that, with unfathomable narrative efficacy, suicides itself in an annihilatory flux of fire, water, and aeronautics...We see the Cinema as it really is; an unequivocal annihilation, the auto-genocidal mass fantasy of a megalomaniacally depressed First World.  
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The Visual Music Of Jordan Belson

The Center for Visual Music on under-seen, under-known pioneer Jordan Belson, who sought to create films that could convey formerly unrepresentable ideas and be experienced like music, via psychedelic, kaleidoscopic light manipulation performances. Belson's work has been added to the Library of Congress, but there has been general difficulty in preserving it:
Between 1957 and 1959, Belson collaborated with composer Henry Jacobs on the historic Vortex Concerts, which combined electronic music with moving visual abstractions projected on the dome of Morrison Planetarium in San Francisco (and also the Brussels World Fair in 1958). These pioneer Light Shows used filmed imagery as well as multiple projections of geometric and polymorphous light phenomena. The Vortex experience inspired Belson to abandon traditional painting and animation in favor of creating visual phenomena in something like real time, by live manipulation of pure light. Many of the films share certain images which Belson regards as "hieroglyphic-ideographic" visual units that express complex ideation not easily stated in verbal terms.
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The First Feminist Film

In the mood for a lost landmark? The Smiling Madame Beudet, from 1922, may be the prototype of feminist cinema. Directed by Germaine Dulac, the lone female figure among the notable French avant-garde filmmakers of the 1920s, it's an impressionistic, surrealist, silent tale of a woman's psychological imprisonment. Her primary source of release is playing her piano, to which her husband holds the keys. Futher explanation available at The House of Mirth and Movies:
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Vintage Ads Warning Against Recorded Music

After Hollywood began producing films with soundtrack music, a publicity campaign foretold that recorded (“canned”) music, symbolized by hostile robots, would choke the art, color, and humanity out of society. Scoff if you will…but there’s something magical about a live band accompanying a film. Via Paleofuture:

After the release of The Jazz Singer in 1927, thanks to synchronized sound, the use of live musicians was unnecessary. In 1930 the American Federation of Musicians formed a new organization called the Music Defense League and launched a scathing ad campaign to fight the advance of this terrible menace known as recorded sound.

robots

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Nothing Happens Unless White Folks Say So

redhook summerJames Mcbride, co-writer of Spike Lee’s ‘Red Hook Summer,’ has penned a pull-no-punches open letter to Hollywood, detailing some serious issues on race and representation in cinema, and what it means to be a storyteller in an overtly commercial studio system. Via Colorlines.

The reviews for Spike Lee’s film “Red Hook Summer” that premiered at Sundance earlier this week have not been good. His comments made after the premiere about Hollywood studios knowing “nothing about black people” made more headlines than the actual film.

An open letter published yesterday by “Red Hook” co-writer, James McBride, is sure to make even more headlines because he takes the film community to task and says “nothing in this world happens unless white folks says it happens.”

Below is an excerpt from McBride’s open letter on the 40 Acres and a Mule website:

Three days ago, at the premiere of “Red Hook Summer” at The Sundance Film Festival, Spike, usually a cool and widely accepting soul whose professional life is as racially diverse as any American I know- lost his cool for 30 seconds.

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The First Science Fiction Film

Le_Voyage_dans_la_luneDreamy and surreal, it lives up to its name:
A Trip to the Moon (French: Le Voyage dans la lune) is a 1902 French black-and-white silent science fiction film. The film was written and directed by Georges Méliès, assisted by his brother Gaston. It is based loosely on two popular novels of the time: From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne and The First Men in the Moon by H. G. Wells. It is the first science fiction film and uses innovative animation and special effects, including the well-known image of the spaceship landing in the moon's eye.
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