31 Dec 2019

The Anticipated 20 for 2020

The last list of 2019 encompasses 20 feature films (in alphabetical order), both animated and live-action, that I will be looking forward to seeing next year, while crossing fingers a few of these pieces actually get finished by the end of the current decade. I know that at least half of the entries have already played in various corners of the world, but one can easily get lost in keeping track of all the festivals. (Not to mention that I find it virtually impossible to attend them.) As usual, my focus is not on the widely recognized names, though I believe that Lech Majewski, Rita Azevedo Gomes and Roy Andersson should ring some cinephilic bells. So, without a further ado, I present the selection draped in my best wishes for 2020! 💖








































29 Dec 2019

70+ Favorite Shorts of 2019

During 2019, I watched more than 700 shorts, many of which were submitted for the first Kinoskop and considered for its seven selections, or screened at Hazel Eye Film Festival and via the Festival Scope platform. I also had access to a number of works by artists whom I've come in contact with, and not to mention the bottomless pits of Vimeo and YouTube where I discovered a few channels worth subscribing to, such as Random Acts (art films), Alter (horror) and Dust (sci-fi). After going through my notes, I realized there are over 150 films rated 8 or higher, and still remaining vividly in my memory. (Hell, I even remember good few of 7s!) Considering that listing them all may turn away some readers, I'll narrow down my choices to the offerings not older than 3 years, i.e. released in the period 2017-2019, and organize them into several categories.

ANIMATED REVERIES


1. The Flying Fish (Murat Sayginer, 2019)
2. The Tesla World Light (Matthew Rankin, 2017)
3. Into the Flame (Sean McClintock, 2019)
4. Cali Ball (Shon Kim, 2018)
5. The Extinct Suite (Anna Malina Zemlianski, 2017)
6. Plateau in Ascension (Joe Hambleton, 2018)
7. A Sun Will Always Sing (Chad Thompson, 2019)
8. Freight (Sava Živković, 2019)
9. Belial’s Dream (Robert Morgan, 2017)
10. Mold (Sujin Kim, 2019)

+ Honorable mentions go to the animated series Undone (Hisko Hulsing) & Love, Death & Robots (Tim Miller, 2019).

DOCUMENTARIES & ENIGMAS


1. SD103: Snakes & Ladders (Daniel & Clara, 2019)
2. Bodies And Space And Place And Home (Sarah C. Prinz, 2018)
3. Fugue (Steven Adam Renkovish, 2017)
4. My Echo, My Shadow and Me (Roger Deutsch, 2019)
5. Soil (Alican Durbaş, 2017)
6. Merry-Go-Round (Ihor Podolchak, 2017)
7. And What Is the Summer Saying? (Payal Kapadia, 2018)
8. They Looked at Me and I Smiled (Benjamin Edelberg, 2019)
9. The Place from Where I Write (Nikolina Bogdanović, 2018)
10. Inventario Churubusco (Elena Pardo, 2018)

GENRE SUBVERSIONS


2. He Was Called Chaos Bērziņš (Signe Birkova, 2018)
3. Commission (Ieva Belode, 2019)
4. The Underworld (Jann Clavadetscher, 2019)
5. Floralis (Johnny Clyde, 2019)
7. Ready or Not (Eleanor Dolan, 2018)
7. The Stranger (Pip Chodorov, 2018)
8. At Dawn the Flowers Open the Gates of Paradise (Elzbieta Piekacz, 2018)
9. Spring II (Ed Carter, 2019)
10. The Gift (Dumas Haddad, 2019)

ECOLOGICAL & SOCIAL CONSCIOUSNESS


1. We Are Opposite Like That (Himali Singh Soin, 2019)
2. Furnace (Kent Tate, 2019)
3. 80613 (Kalainithan Kalaichelvan, 2019)
4. Tendency to Collapse (Marta Węglińska, 2018)
5. How to Find Silence in a Noisy World? (Adam Loften & Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee, 2018)
6. Olla (Ariane Labed, 2019)
7. Lui Lack, tú no tienes la culpa (Stefan M. Mladenović, 2019)
8. Rain (Martin Gerigk, 2017)
9. It Wasn't Meant to Be Sexy! (Claudia Siefen-Leitich, 2018)
10. Ecos (Mariana Dianela Torres, 2018)

INNERMOST POETRY


1. Auricular Confession (Martin Del Carpio, 2019)
2. Aleph (Antonia Luxem, 2018)
3. It Will End in Tears (Susu Laroche, 2018)
4. Cornered Star (Melanie Manchot, 2018)
5. I’m Not a Doctor (Michael Higgins, 2019)
6. Inward Light (Gabriel Linhares Falcão, 2018)
7. Tactus Memoriae (Camelia Mirescu, 2017)
8. Anima (Jared Michael Sobotka, 2019)
9. Solstitium (Justin Brown, 2019)
10. I Don’t Own Anxiety (Marie Craven, 2019)

MAGIC, ALCHEMY & NEO-SURREALISM


1. Kinetics (Atoosa Pour Hosseini, 2018) 
2. Crowned and Conquering (Zareh Tjeknavorian, 2019)
3. Night Mother Scent (Takatoshi Arai, 2017)
4. Moonlight People (Dmitrii Frolov, 2019)
5. In the Arbor of the Bitter Orange (Sarahjane Swan & Roger Simian, 2017)
6. Where The Night Ends (Petr Makaj, 2018)
7. Je te tiens (Sergio Caballero, 2019)
8. Pwdre Ser: the rot of stars (Charlotte Pryce, 2018)
9. Obatala Film (Sebastian Wiedeman, 2019)
10. Horse Follows Darkness (Delia Gonzalez, 2017)

+ Honorable mention: Islands (Yann Gonzalez, 2017)

THE ART OF MUSIC VIDEOS


1. M83 - Temple of Sorrow / Lune De Fiel / Feelings (Bertrand Mandico, 2019)
2. Amenra - A Solitary Reign (Tine Guns, 2017)
3. Stimming x Lambert - Edelweiss (Dalibor Barić, 2019)
4. Rage Park (Stathis Athanasiou, 2019)
5. Kriill - Your Eyes, Will I Ever (Félicien Colmet Daâge, 2018)
6. Thom Yorke - Last I Heard (…He Was Circling The Drain) (Art Camp & Saad Moosajee, 2019)

THE POWER OF THE ABSURD


1. Ghoulish Galactic Grievances (Josh Owen, 2019)
2. Universal Ear: The Curse of the Phantom Tympanum (Graeme Cole, 2019)
3. Grand Bouquet (Nao Yoshigai, 2019)
4. Šafarikova 19 (Lana Pavkov, 2018)
5. The Brother (Kai Fiáin, 2018)

24 Dec 2019

50+ Cinematic Favorites of 2019

Another year is closing to an end, and once again I find myself challenged by more than fifty features that I rated high enough to consider for the annual list. When it comes to No. 1, I have absolutely no dilemma awarding uncompromising explorations of the Cinema itself and its alchemical, as well as experiential potentials, with three ex aequo winners emerging from the Luminous Void. They are followed by a masterful period piece which I compared to a 'slow-tempo gothic-doom metal album' in my review, the animated, Cubist-inspired ode to Art, the most exhilarating big screen experience and the oddest amalgam of psychological drama, absurd comedy and gothic horror that I've seen since Edgar Pêra's The Baron.

Inter alia, you'll also find an ancient myth turned historical epic, an unclassifiable flick about a 'murderous' flower, a magic-realist biography of the 80s Leningrad underground rock scene, some sharply satirical and stylistically impressive offerings, and even a cyberpunk puppet adventure! If that is not eclectic enough for you, maybe an emotionally sweeping anime, a genre subversion WTFery, or a Cinderella story gone surreal / pulp sci-fi in a world of pro-soccer will satisfy your needs? And let's not forget the clash of parallel dimensions in the 60s India, a post-war drama with the bold color palette, and a B-movie exploitation centered around a Lucha Libre fighter... Although the list is focused on the films released in the last three years, I allowed myself the liberty of including a few 2010s exceptions that I watched for the first time in 2019.


1. Luminous Void: Docudrama (Rouzbeh Rashidi, 2019)
    Autumnal Sleeps (Michael Higgins, 2019)
    Kino Clinic (Jann Clavadetscher, 2019)
2. The Riddle of Jaan Niemand (Kaur Kokk, 2018)
3. Ruben Brandt, Collector (Milorad Krstić, 2018)
4. Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood (Quentin Tarantino, 2019)
5. The Lighthouse (Robert Eggers, 2019)
6. Ghost of the Golden Groves (Harun-Al-Rashid, 2019)
7. Romulus & Remus: The First King (Matteo Rovere, 2019)
8. Jonaki (Aditya Vikram Sengupta, 2018)
9. Long Day's Journey Into Night (Gan Bi, 2018)


11. Notes From a Journey (Daniel & Clara, 2019)
12. Seduction of the Flesh (Júlio Bressane, 2018)
13. The Wind (Emma Tammi, 2018)
14. Unicorn (Eduardo Nunes, 2017)
15. Pig (Mani Haghighi, 2018)
16. Little Joe (Jessica Hausner, 2019)
17. Happy as Lazzaro (Alice Rohrwacher, 2018)
18. Moon Tiger Movie (Maximilian Le Cain, 2019) (pt. 1, pt. 2, pt. 3, pt. 4)
19. Who Will Sing to You? (Carlos Vermut, 2018)


21. Leto (Kirill Serebrennikov, 2018)
22. Joker (Todd Phillips, 2019)
23. Suspiria (Luca Guadagnino, 2018)
24. The Prince's Voyage (Jean-François Laguionie & Xavier Picard, 2019)
25. In Praise of Nothing (Boris Mitić, 2017)
26. White Snake (Amp Wong & Ji Zhao, 2019)
27. The Missing Sun (Brennan Vance, 2017)
28. With a Breath (Viveka Frost, 2019)
29. Beanpole (Kantemir Balagov, 2019)
30. Luz (Tilman Singer, 2018)


31. Listen Little Man (Marko Žunić, 2019)
32. I Lost My Body (Jérémy Clapin, 2019)
33. Aren't You Happy? (Susanne Heinrich, 2019)
34. Greener Grass (Jocelyn DeBoer & Dawn Luebbe, 2019)
35. Empty Horses (Péter Lichter, 2019)
36. Rage (Sérgio Tréfaut, 2018)
37. Paradise Hills (Alice Waddington, 2019)
38. Little from the Fish Shop (Jan Balej, 2015)
39. Wildlife (Paul Dano, 2018)
40. The Mountain (Rick Alverson, 2018)


41. Battledream Chronicle (Alain Bidard, 2016)
42. Anna and the Apocalypse (John McPhail, 2017)
43. Krasue: Inhuman Kiss (Sitisiri Mongkolsiri, 2019)
44. The Attackables (Kerstin Cmelka & Mario Mentrup, 2019)
45. Ralf's Colors (Lukas Marxt, 2019)
46. Diamantino (Gabriel Abrantes & Daniel Schmidt, 2018)
47. The Wolf House (Joaquín Cociña & Cristóbal León, 2018)
48. Green Book (Peter Farrelly, 2018)
49. Lowlife (Ryan Prows, 2017)
50. Yamasong: March of the Hollows (Sam Koji Hale, 2017)

For various reasons, ranging from 'I'm still not sure how to feel about this' to 'it reminds me of the 80s cartoons which I'm a sucker for' to 'way too exotic to be ignored', honorable mentions go to...

1. High Life (Claire Denis, 2018)
2. The Favourite (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2018)
3. The Night Comes for Us (Timo Tjahjanto, 2018)
4. Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Céline Sciamma, 2019)
5. Aquaman (James Wan, 2018)
6. Transit (Christian Petzold, 2018)
7. Another Day of Life (Raúl de la Fuente & Damian Nenow, 2018)
8. Hanagatami (Nobuhiko Ōbayashi, 2017)
9. Aniara (Pella Kågerman & Hugo Lilja, 2018)
10. Edge of the Knife (Gwaai Edenshaw & Helen Haig-Brown, 2018)

22 Dec 2019

Pig (Mani Haghighi, 2018)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼(☼) out of 10☼

Mani Haghighi makes the ultimate sacrifice by decapitating his own head and staging his own funeral in a metatextual twist of his latest offering praiseworthy for the opening credits alone which, as it later turns out, represent a hyper-stylized commercial for a bug spray directed by a blacklisted filmmaker protagonist, Hasan Kasmai. A seamless blend of arthouse cinema, screwball comedy and serial murder mystery, The Pig (Khook) works wonders on both personal and political level, self-ironizing an artist's ego, addressing the destructive power of social media, and sharply satirizing the Iranian society, particularly its censors. All the while, the joker-auteur's tongue is planted firmly in his cheek, with the entire cast obviously having a whale of a time – this goes double for Mina Jafarzadeh who plays Hasan's loving, riffle-wielding mother with gusto.

Drenched in garish, over-saturated colors of Mahmoud Kalari's sharp cinematography which beautifully captures Amir Hossein Ghodsi's neat set designs and Negar Nemati's oft-eccentric costumes, this wildly eclectic affair effortlessly glides between its farcical reality and a few dream sequences, not to mention a hilarious, neon-lit hard-rock hallucination. Around its mid-point, it even takes the viewer to a posh mask party that appears like an homage to the greatest scene of George Franju's Judex as if conceived by the techno-loving ghost of Federico Fellini! However, its focus remains mainly on the somewhat infantile and vainglorious, yet utterly sympathetic hero brilliantly portrayed by bushy-haired Hasan Majuni who wouldn't look out of place in some darkly humorous Spanish production, whether in or out of the red tutu dress...

21 Dec 2019

Cinematic Disappointments of 2019

In his review published on January 1, 1982, one of the most respected film critics, Roger Ebert, said that John Carpenter's The Thing is 'basically just a geek show, a gross-out movie in which teenagers can dare one another to watch the screen'. The reason behind this quote (which I and many genre aficionados couldn't agree less!) is to show or rather, confirm that no criticism is immune to subjectivity and bias. So, I sincerely hope that no one will take the following list to their hearts, just because their 2019 favorites and a few touted masterpieces are included (and arranged in alphabetical order). Also, I must admit that some of these entries are my own failed attempts at being adventurous during the excursion out of my comfort zone (such as German comedy 100 Dinge), whereas the others are found guilty on various charges: for being despicably generic, clichéd and flatter than a pancake (Prey); for faking emotions and contemplative atmosphere, while aping Kubrick, Malick and Villeneuve (Ad Astra); for appearing like an overlong commercial that aims for transgression and pretends to be the next Beyond the Black Rainbow (Perfect); for poorly remaking / remixing acclaimed classics although nobody asked for it (Rabid / MetropolisRemix); for lacking any sense of humor, trolling the hell out of the viewer and thinking its eclectic hyper-style is hypnotizing (In Fabric); for unengaging story that seems to go on for 35 years instead of 3 and a half hours, and uninvolving characters played by de-aged actors who still move and grimace like old men that they are (The Irishman), etc.

1. 100 Dinge (Florian David Fitz, 2018)
2. Ad Astra (James Gray, 2019)
3. Anna (Luc Besson, 2019)
4. Artik (Tom Botchii Skowronski, 2019)
5. Bacurau (Juliano Dornelles & Kleber Mendonça Filho, 2019)
6. Capharnaüm (Nadine Labaki, 2018)
7. City Hunter: Shinjuku Private Eyes (Kenji Kodama, 2019)
8. Climax (Gaspar Noé, 2018)
9. Darlin’ (Pollyanna McIntosh, 2019)
10. El día que resistía (Alessia Chiesa, 2018)
11. Gangbyeon Hotel (Sang-soo Hong, 2018)
12. Ham on Rye (Tyler Taormina, 2019)
13. Hotel Artemis (Drew Pearce, 2018)
14. In Fabric (Peter Strickland, 2018)
15. In the Tall Grass (Vincenzo Natali, 2019)
16. Limbo (Mark Young, 2019)
17. MetropolisRemix (Garrett Guyunn & Andrew John Holt, 2019)
18. Midsommar (Ari Aster, 2019)
19. Nightmare Cinema (Alejandro Brugués, Joe Dante, Mick Garris, Ryûhei Kitamura & David Slade, 2018)
20. Occidental (Neïl Beloufa, 2017)
21. Perfect (Eddie Alcazar, 2018)
22. Piercing (Nicolas Pesce, 2018)
23. Prey (Franck Khalfoun, 2019)
24. Rabid (The Soska Sisters, 2019)
25. The Irishman (Martin Scorsese, 2019)
26. The Rookies (Alan Yuen, 2019)
27. Tinta Bruta (Filipe Matzembacher & Marcio Reolon, 2018)
28. Us (Jordan Peele, 2019)
29. Velvet Buzzsaw (Dan Gilroy, 2019)
30. We Have Always Lived in the Castle (Stacie Passon, 2018)

A dishonorable mention goes to Synonymes (Nadav Lapid, 2019) which I dropped approx. 35 minutes into it.

Still shot from In Fabric (Peter Strickland, 2018)

17 Dec 2019

Minotaur's Secret


At the Labyrinth’s entrance, there is a dead silence. A small tree which grows out of a lost camera is known as The Sound Devourer, but not a soul can tell the origin of its seed. Some say that it is only a figment of the Poet’s imagination, but others swear its leaves will heal sadness, if they don’t turn to dust right after you pick them. 


Inside the Labyrinth, a dangerous creature may live. Many heroes have fallen trying to put an end to its existence, though their ghosts look like those of the suicide victims, blue-eyed and silver-skinned. The beast is immortal, and it feeds on the fairy tales presented to it by the northern winds... or so the story goes. And it doesn’t like to be referred to as ‘it’, because its persona has two horns and a long tail reflected in the mirror.


Through the hallways of the endless maze, no word is ever uttered, yet their walls bleed with hieroglyphs that only HE understands. Sometimes, when his thoughts swirl around as if in a vortex, even he finds it hard to read the pictograms. His vision becomes blurry and a strong headache causes the appearance of another interdimensional portal. Despite numerous visitors from various worlds, he still hasn’t encountered anyone capable of breaking the curse for good...

14 Dec 2019

I Lost My Body (Jérémy Clapin, 2019)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼


Jérémy Clapin's eccentric feature debut marks another great addition to the rich catalogue of French animated films intended for mature audience. Mostly told in flashbacks, from the perspective of a severed (and sentient) hand which could be a distant cousin to Thing from The Addams Family franchise, it brings the story of both physical and emotional loss which comes full circle from macabre to melancholic, somewhat subverting the viewer's expectations as it approaches the deliberately open ending.

I Lost My Body (originally, J'ai perdu mon corps) is based on the novel Happy Hand by Guillaume Laurant (of Amelie and The City of the Lost Children fame) who also co-wrote the adapted screenplay - a simultaneously bizarre and poignant meditation on fate, grief, love, and coming in terms with oneself, while taking matters into your hands... or at least one hand. At the beginning, we are introduced to what appears to be a murder or accident, with only a fly as a witness. A black and white sequence takes us several years into the past which shows a kid trying to catch another fly (turned into a visual leitmotif and plot device), following his intellectual father's instructions. Cut back to the present, a dismembered hand escapes the laboratory refrigerator and embarks on a long journey through the Parisian gutters, subways and ducts, keeping a low profile and fending off pigeons, rats and dogs on its way to reconnect with its owner, Naoufel.

Through the recent and remote memories of this 'beast with five fingers', we learn of Naoufel's predicament as a lowly pizza delivery boy, and his stalkerish romance with a Gen-Z librarian, Gabrielle. The time is the mid-1990's and our protagonist's audio cassette recorder - a childhood present from his parents - plays an important role in the economically constructed narrative. Not a single moment is wasted during less than 80 minutes of the film's running time, and not a single emotion is faked or overstated, thanks to the finely tuned performances from the entire cast, especially the newcomer Hakim Faris, and Victoire Du Bois who has collaborated with Guy Maddin (The Forbidden Room) and Luca Guadagnino (Call Me by Your Name). A slice-of-life drama which sees Naoufel evolving from a crestfallen introvert to a daring risk-taker is tightly interwoven with the hand's surreal adventure (a dream?) packed with a handful (no pun intended) of wonderfully orchestrated action set pieces. Clapin employs a stylish, if not consistently seamless combination of traditional and computer animation, with its palette of desaturated colors and Dan Levy's moody, eclectic score co-establishing the autumnal atmosphere of longing for the brighter future...

10 Dec 2019

Holy Sand (Miroslav Antić, 1968)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼(☼) out of 10☼


It is only recently I learned that the prominent Serbian poet Miroslav 'Mika' Antić (1932 – 1986) directed two features which had the misfortune of being brushed under the communist carpet just like many of the Yugoslav Black Wave offerings. His debut Holy Sand (originally, Sveti pesak) - for me, the most precious blast from the past of 2019 - was not officially banned, but it never received regular theatrical distribution.

Told in a lyrical tone, the story revolves around a former political brigade commissar, Aleksandar Vinski (Čedomir Mihajlović, as worn-out as his character requires of him), who returns from the Goli Otok labor camp, only to realize he has been ostracized not only by the society, but by his comrades as well. Neither alive nor dead, he roams the sullen demimonde in the state of pseudo-existence, pushed further into despair by meaningless encounters with other lost souls.

Without any 'warning', his sparse, fragmented narrative jumps back and forth in time, establishing a disorienting atmosphere which is deepened by deliberate discordance between the image and the sound. A perfect example thereof is a brilliant cross-cutting of Aleksandar and a mysterious, mentally challenged girl frolicking around some (WWII?) ruins, and his fellow prisoner having a sexual intercourse with a flirty woman whom the protagonist previously picked up at a bar. Occasionally, the dialogue is completely muted or replaced by the incongruent noises, adding another layer of confusion and simultaneously, putting the viewer in Aleksandar's shoes or rather, head.

What's most impressive about Holy Sand is its black and white cinematography by Petar Latinović. Initially almost expressionist / noirish in its use of shadows, it takes a sharp turn into naturalistic domain, with a few scenes near the end appearing as if they were influenced by the surrealist cinema. The film's formal 'trickery' is (oddly) complemented by unaffected performances from its mostly non-professional cast, and even by a few technical downsides...

The film is available on Delta Video's official YouTube channel, but if you're not fluent in Serbian, I'm afraid that you will have to embark on a bootleg hunt...

8 Dec 2019

Forbidden Without Exception (Dejan Klincov, 1990-1999)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼

Balancing on a tightrope stretched between political video art and personal experimental cinema (closer to the former point), Dejan Klincov employs dizzying / anarchical stop-frame montage of old photos and postcards, newspaper and magazine cut-outs, documents and found footage, sketches, drawings and paintings to challenge the notion of national identity, blur the lines which separate ostensibly opposed ideologies and reflect on the turbulent Yugoslavian past. The impressive number of images ranging from the depictions of WWII atrocities to Tito-iconoclasm to Makavejev references to fading memories to bridges that separate and residential complexes that alienate converge into a deliberately messy and slightly overlong, yet uncompromising piece of ‘handicapped’ animation which celebrates artistic liberties in the face of an increasingly dehumanizing society.

4 Dec 2019

Zan (Shin'ya Tsukamoto, 2018)

☼☼☼☼☼☼(☼) out of 10☼

Not bad, but neither great, the latest offering from the father of the cult-favorite Tetsuo: The Iron Man is part period drama filled with tropey and sketchy characters, part formal exercise in raw, shaky camera aesthetics and animesque violence, and all an uncompromising, if somewhat clunky deconstruction of the samurai genre that almost appears like Seven Samurai in reverse, interwoven with bizarre interludes. Although the frenzied editing, contrived emotions, fill-in-the-blanks narrative and the mystery surrounding rōnin protagonists do have some charm attached to them, the film's flat lighting often takes away from the beauty of rural locations and thick forests where the increasingly violent action is set. Its greatest selling point is most definitely a gloomy, pulsating score which is the late Chu Ishikawa's swan song. If Zan had been a firsttimer's experiment, its flaws probably wouldn't have felt so jarring... Nevertheless, one viewing won't hurt.

3 Dec 2019

Kinoskop Afterword

The inaugural (read: shoestring-budget) edition of Kinoskop - the 1st festival of analog experimental cinema and audio-visual performance on the Balkans - concluded on Sunday evening, and went pretty well (for a baptism of fire), notwithstanding some unexpected technical hiccups for which the curators, Marko Milićević and yours truly, sincerely apologize. Our profound respect goes to the audience members who were standing during the first day of screenings, because 60+ chairs didn't suffice, and our heartfelt gratitude is sent to all friendly and enthusiastic people involved in making this ambitious dream come true, from the members of the jury, Nina Lazarević, Nevena Popović and Marko Žunić, to the personnel of art space Kvaka 22 who hosted the event, to the great team of musicians and photographers who participated in the 5th anniversary celebration of Live Soundtrack, and the exhibition of analog photos and collages EndFrame(s). The visitors had the opportunity of seeing some pieces of my artwork like never before - as giant projections on the gallery wall, and I have to admit than even I was caught by surprise!

Picked amongst 220 offerings which met our Call for Entries requirements, more than 50 films were shown in seven selections of the main program and four acts of Live Soundtrack. One particular ciné-thingamajig was bestowed with loud ovations, which is why we decided to have another award in addition to the Grand Prix, Best Original Soundtrack and Audience Favorites (to be announced very soon!). Judging by the post-festival commentary, best-received were the alchemical experiments and sci-fi deconstructions, although the subtleties of micro-poetics, non-human explorations and acts of found-footage sabotage, as well as the diversity of documentaries also garnered positive reactions. The highlight of the festival was the aforementioned Live Soundtrack which opened with metaphysical musings of a hyper-cosmic expanded cinema trance Elementary Particles / Where Do We Come From? from the minds of Aleksandar Lazar and Marko Milićević. This hypnotizing, brilliantly conceived multi-channel experience was followed by the powerful post-industrial performance from Tearpalm - Marko Dabetić's one-man project - whose crescendos must've reached the stars along with Emmanuel Piton's Exposed and Müge Yıldız's A Trip to the Moon. Telemach Wiesinger's Wings to Hear was given the dark, moody and, in a way, post-apocalyptic sonic treatment by Dobrivoje Milijanović and Vladimir Riznić of their fresh collaboration Falling Elevator Music, and the last, but most definitely not the least was the masterful improvisation on analog synthesizer by our guest from Brazil Marcelo Armani (under the moniker of Elefante Branco). Giving each film from the medley of political and personal cinema a new aural identity, ranging from edgy (Window Shopping by Michael Woods) to ethereal (Camelia Mirescu's Telluric Beats of Veil), he succeeded in creating a rhythmically compact oneness - a minimalist, contemplative soundscape...

29 Nov 2019

Cinematic Favorites of November

The monthly listicle for November comes earlier than it should, because the beginning of December will certainly be marked by more talks about Kinoskop inaugural edition which is happening this weekend! Considering the activities regarding the festival organization and my ever-growing obsession with collage art, the number of watched films dropped significantly, yet I did manage to compile a diverse selection of nine features and one (animated) short which left me with a strong impression (in one way or another).


The most alchemical piece of cinema / absolute fascination:

A different kind of Russian magic / stylish & jovial rock biopic-musical: 
Leto (Kirill Serebrennikov, 2018)

The finest oldie / a younger, jazz-obsessed brother of The Medusa Raft (1980):
Rdeči boogie ali Kaj ti je deklica (Karpo Aćimović Godina, 1982)

The best short / Surrealism meets film noir in a metaphorical puzzle:

Austere art served unapologetically cold / a glum take on mental illness and suppressed sexuality:
The Mountain (Rick Alverson, 2018)

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned / a solid, but not flawless revenge double bill:
Ready or Not (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett, 2019)
The Nightingale (Jennifer Kent, 2019)

Fantasy pack / a bunch of winged creatures & animated, bloodthirsty demons:
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (Joachim Rønning, 2019)
Constantine: City of Demons – The Movie (Doug Murphy, 2018)

Cheesy, derivative and somewhat diverting / psychotic imaginary friends or the evil within:

28 Nov 2019

Autumnal Sleeps (Michael Higgins, 2019)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼

How do you begin to describe a beautiful (celluloid) dream, one you can't remember in its entirety, yet you're absolutely positive about the firm hold it had over you? Maybe with another turn of an old vinyl whose soft crackling transfigures your memory?

A hushed voice which may be an emanation from another world tells us: "I've been here a long time. How long, I have no idea. I don't remember." And right from the get-go, it sets the ethereal atmosphere of wonder. We don't know where exactly is here, and neither who or what lies beneath the pile of dry foliage on a sofa, yet we feel the warmth of hazy imagery of earthy tones in the subsequent montage which suggests hypnagogical illusion.

Very soon, we are introduced to the strange characters existing at the dawn of cinema, yet simultaneously belonging to one of its many dusks. A wealthy eccentric right out of a steampunk fantasy, Dr. Epstein (Alain Servant), conducts a series of uncanny experiments, subjecting his own adopted sons wittily named Pete and Re-Pete (Henrik Garo and John Linnane), as well as his "darling flapper" Baby Dee (Natasha Everitt) to various tasks. Together with a lady credited as The Somnambulist (Ambra Gatto Bergamasco) whose mental state appears to be deteriorating, they inhabit a remote rural estate. The arrival of The Whisperer (Conn Rogers) and a mysterious couple (Enda Moran and Trish Murphy) who wouldn't be out of place in some diabolic carnival leads to the awakening of an creepy figure, The Widow (Cillian Roche), whose haunting presence brings forth the nightmare...

All the while, Michael Higgins - "the Vagabond of Experimental Film Society" (according to Donal Foreman) - demonstrates the magic of creating hypnotizing moving images on an expired 35mm film loaded into a 50-yo Soviet camera! Although the silent era is where the bulk of his inspiration comes from, one can't help but recognize a myriad of other possible and seamlessly assimilated influences, ranging from Italian horror to Wojciech Has or even Seijun Suzuki. ('Tis all just an assumption, but for some reason, The Hourglass Sanatorium and Taishō Trilogy popped into my mind more than once.) The strong fragrance of nostalgia that both the antiquated technology and cinematic role models emanate with never wears off - instead, it is gradually infused with sharp hints of (post)modernity, which as a result has Autumnal Sleeps transforming into a timeless work of esoteric avant-garde. In other words, while relying on the ghosts of the past, Higgins invokes the phantasms of the future.

Bleeding colors, grainy textures and striking compositions make virtually every shot worthy of framing and mounting on the wall of an art gallery, whereby the overwhelming power of the lavish visuals is further enhanced by the somber gothic-industrial score laced with effervescent vintage tones. In the alchemical fusion thereof, the evocative, sublimely lurid phantasmagoria is born.


(This review is based on the private screener provided by the author.)

26 Nov 2019

Listen Little Man (Marko Žunić, 2019)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼


One of the most experimental Serbian films not only of our but of all time, Listen Little Man (originally, Čuj mali čoveče) marks a significant milestone - inscribed with 'feature debut' - for up-and-coming independent filmmaker Marko Žunić. A follow-up to his short and wordless dystopian romance, Bright Future My Love, which boasts superb aesthetics, this film breaks the shackles of an orthodox narrative in favor of interconnected series of surreal, angst-fueled vignettes. We follow a young man credited only as Nenormalni (lit. abnormal / aberrant; a bold, uninhibited, largely physical performance by Filip Galen) whose world is turned upside-down and inside-out, as he refuses to kneel before the God of Conformism.


A universal story of a struggle against the currents of widespread babbitry is seasoned with local flavors, especially during the sequences of a high middle class dinner (not unlike the Slava) which unapologetically mocks the small-talk banalities, gradually transforming into a perturbing homage to the orgiastic Vienna actionists séance of Dušan Makavejev's inimitable Sweet Movie. (A comparison with the funeral feast of Ilya Khrzhanovsky's 4 wouldn't be out of place either, but Žunić haven't seen it yet.) The naïveté of the non-professional cast provides these scenes with a sort of a low-key humor and brings the films of Želimir Žilnik to one's mind, whereas the subsequent dubbing adds the layer of Felliniesque strangeness to the dizzying proceedings.


Developing in (justified) discordance with the irreverent, if a bit overt parody of our reality are phantasmagorical reflections of the sapped and anguished protagonist's inner workings occasionally dipped in metafilmic interventions (shot at the cinema venue of Student's City Cultural Center in Belgrade). At one point, they are externalized in a volcanic burst of exasperation which joins guerilla performance and mockumentary in an unholy matrimony. Often dialogue-free, draped in deep shadows and imbued with Lynchian madness, these bizarre, nightmarish flourishes operate as 'enhancers' of the film's YU Black Wave-like nature, adding a spicy 'je ne sais qoi' ingredient to the wild and weird mix.


A white catsuit which Galen wears in his character's twisted world makes him almost naked in appearance - he is a tabula rasa on which the audience can project their own thoughts. The costume also makes him look fragile, soon to be crushed under the pressure of the oppressive surroundings, or rather, under the influence of archetypal characters such as Businessman (Strahinja Bičanin), Priest (Vukašin Kerkez) and Girlfriend (Jovana Kerkez). He desperately tries to escape the ugliness and hypocrisy of so-called normality which are captured in gloomily beautiful, hectically edited monochromatic imagery, with a few shots in color emphasizing the author's contempt for certain new age phenomena. Abrasive soundscapes of brooding drones and ear-piercing noise complement the visuals and establish a delirious atmosphere.


Taking all of the creative control in his hands, as writer, director, producer, cinematographer, editor, sound artist and even actor, Marko Žunić demonstrates an enviable level of artistry (and energy!), and despite the budgetary constraints, delivers a highly recommendable piece of work bound to provoke polarizing opinions.