Oct 18, 2021

Kinoskop 2021 : Selection

After a tough selection process which included more than 200 eligible films, as one of Kinoskop curators I am happy to reveal and send my heartfelt congratulations to all participants of Kinoskop 3! 🎉

This year’s edition of the festival will take place at Yugoslav Film Archive in Belgrade, December 10-12. The program will be curated by veteran experimental film aficionados Nikola Gocić (film writer and critic and visual artist), Marko Milićević (film author and founder of the audiovisual initiative Kino Pleme), Ejla Kovačević (member of Zagreb filmlab Klubvizija and 25FPS festival collaborator),  Aleksandra Dalichow (founder of ExperimentaL CinemA and film reviewer), and Csaba Bollók (Hungarian filmmaker and teacher of analog film). Similarly to previous years, it will encompass audio-visual performance and live soundtrack, as well  as a slot for a filmmaker in focus (to be revealed in the upcoming days!) and Q&A’s with guests of the festival. 🎥

SELECTION (in alphabetical order):

1. 31 May (A wrong Haiku) - El Zoid
2. A Castle in Spain - Max Belmessieri
3. Alizava - Andrius Žemaitis
4. Cold Meridian - Peter Strickland
5. Compos Mentis - Linda Lindenberga
6. Constant Agitation - Christopher Gorski
7. Dawn - Nona Catusanu, Katherine Castro, Liza Gipsova (Red 8. Dawn Trio)
8. Death Valley - Grace Sloan
9. Disappearing Silence - Sarah Seené
10. Entre Les Images - Vito A. Rowlands
11. everything is ok │an ASMR to help you sleep at night - Autojektor
12. Everything We Know About You - Roland Denning
13. Hear Me Sometimes - Sofia Theodore-Pierce
14. How a Sprig of Fir Would Replace a Feather - Anna Kipervaser
15. images of the mystical symposion - Milan Milosavljević
16. Imagine none of this is real - Nicole Baker Peterson 
17. Into the Wild - Markus Maicher
18. It’s About Time - Roger Deutsch
19. Landays - Inna Dmitrieva
20. Las Sombras - Paulo Pécora
21. Le Rêve - Peter Conrad Beyer
22. Levitator And Other Sensations - Guy Trier
23. Liberty or Life - Mike Davies, James Hatton
24. Los Plateados - Mala Química
25. Lull - Mathilde Magnée
26. Mandatory Training - Patrick Tarrant
27. Mantra To Darkness - Jean Marc Loerbroks
28. Metamorphosed bodies of the star that generates us - Adina Ionescu-Muscel
29. noonwraith blues - Kamila Kuc
30. Northstarling - Trevor Mowchun, Daniel Gerson
31. Nosokomeion - Félix Caraballo
32. On Children - Justin Brown, Kamila Calabrese, Vera Hector
33. Other v.1.0.0. - Maja Milić
34. Papaya - Timmy Harn
35. Pilgrimage to Hålltjärn - Kim Ekberg, Johannes Hagman
36. Press Pound to Connect - Alexander Fingrutd
37. Self-portrait in Hell - Federica Foglia
38. Shield - Taravat Khalili
39. Shimmer - Betty Blitz
40. Shipwrecking - Natalia Lucía
41. Soleil Puissant Soleil - Andrea Saggiomo
42. That Elusive Balance - Salvatore Insana
43. That Was When I Thought I Could Hear You - Matt Whitman
44. The Big Headed Boy, Shamans & Samurais - Bibhusan Basnet, Pooja Gurung
45. The Lost Record - Ian F Svenonius, Alexandra Cabral
46. the tender place where the world breaks - Emily M Van Loan
47. The Tooth of Time - Hannu Nieminen
48. Tiger Dance - Pintér Orsolya

Detailed info coming soon... Stay tuned!

Oct 1, 2021

Best Premiere Viewings of September

For the September lists of favorite first-time viewings, I will focus on the feature-length offerings, attempting to rank all five films by nonconformist maestro Nikos Papatakis (1918-2010), as well as to spark slight controversy with a selection of 13 titles so varied, that they barely hold together... 😃

NIKOS PAPATAKIS

(short reviews of Thanos and Despina, Les abysses and Gloria mundi can be read HERE.)


1. Les abysses / The Depths (1963)


2. Oi voskoi / Thanos and Despina (1967)


3. 
Les équilibristes / Walking a Tightrope (1991)

In his swan song which also marks his most accessible offering, Nikos Papatakis interweaves the themes of (tormented) love, (fluid) sexuality, (institutional) racism, class inequality, artistic emancipation, thorny path to glory, and anti-conformity as a lifestyle, eliciting superb performances from Michel Piccoli as a famed pederast writer with the criminal past, Marcel (alter ego of the director’s friend Jean Genet), and Lilah Dadi as a young circus worker, of German and Arabic origin, Franz Ali, who dreams of becoming the greatest tightrope walker in the world. Also praiseworthy are Polly Walker and Doris Kunstmann in supporting roles of, respectively, ex-ballerina who pimps handsome men for her best friend Marcel, and Franz Ali’s alcoholic ex-wrestler mother Christa. Visually arresting and technically taut, this sternly sensual and impressively controlled melodrama eschews anarchic energy of the author’s early work in favor of strong emotions simmering under the calm surface, and waiting to explode.


4. Gloria mundi / In Hell (1976)


5. I fotografia / The Photograph (1986)

An innocent lie gives birth to obsessive love leading to a small-scale chaos which Papatakis turns into a tragicomic, anxiety-inducing drama set in a village of junta-ruled Greece and the unwelcoming version of Paris. Eliciting magnificent performances from Aris Retsos and Hristos Tsagas, he directs the film with great skill and his usual disdain for authorities.

TOP 13


1. Vigil (Vincent Ward, 1984)

Not to be confused with the recently released (mediocre) horror The Vigil (2019), Vincent Ward’s feature-length debut is a one of the most grandiose coming-of-age tales to ever grace the big screen. Filmed on an isolated farm in Northern Taranaki, New Zealand, where time appears to flow differently than elsewhere, it turns the gloomily breathtaking location into a character in its own right that joins a perfectly cast quartet of young Fiona Kay, and her more experienced colleagues – Penelope Stewart, Bill Kerr and Frank Whitten. Told from a perspective of a budding girl, Lisa (nicknamed Toss), with an imagination as wild and wide as her surroundings, this engagingly strange drama vividly captures the verdant nature in the astonishing, state-of-the-art cinematography (many kudos to Alun Bollinger), and employs mud – oft-glued to its protagonists’ clothes, hands and faces – as a poetic leitmotif. On an aural level, it provides a mystifying mix of intense silences, broodingly bizarre score (Jack Body) and cacophony of diegetic sounds, pulling you deeper both into its forbidding physical world and Lisa’s wondering and wandering thoughts...


2. Free Guy (Shawn Levy, 2021)

A strong contender for the most pleasant surprise of the year, Free Guy effortlessly blasts away all of its blockbuster competitors of recent years, especially those who have toyed with the idea of burring/erasing the boundaries between a film and a video game. (Sorry, Mr. Spielberg, but this neat ‘little’ flick is everything that Ready Player One wanted to be and much MORE!) Behind the flashy, over-the-top special effects, the stardom of Ryan Reynolds who readily jumps into the comedic role of the (virtual) good guy, and the raising popularity of Taika Waititi who chews the scenery with gusto as the (real world) antagonist, there’s a big heart strongly beating, and a clever mind slyly subverting the entertainment industry. That is a pretty bold, if risky and antithetical move, but it works like a charm!

Now, I’ve never played simulation or open world games (I’m mostly into fighters and beat ‘em ups), yet I had a whale of a time watching Free Guy, frequently laughing WITH (and not AT) it, while Levy made me root for the unlikely hero that didn’t even exist within the (imaginative) universe of the film itself, because he was a non-playable character of a zany Sim City parody. On top of that, I felt invigorated and inspired, at once like a child discovering (multi-genre) cinema for the first time, and like an experienced cinephile who is occasionally in a desperate need of a cinematic chewing gum whose taste lasts much longer than expected. Besides, how can anyone resist such sweet, sweet, yet ironically/irreverently tongue-in-cheek use of Mariah Carey’s 1995 single Fantasy? It is highly possible that I am giving Free Guy more credits than it deserves, but my inner nerd still screams of happiness and excitement, so I just can’t help it.


3. The Rainbowmaker (Nana Dzhordzhadze, 2008)

In Nana Dzhordzhadze’s surreal, absorbing and bitterly sweet dramedy, Death (Nino Kirtadze in a scene-stealing performance) is a flirtatious lady who wears white dress, sports golden afro curls, adores late-night snacks, and has a soft spot for old Georgi (Ramaz Chkhikvadze, brilliantly funny) who takes care of his mischievous grandchildren, a girl and a boy (adorable first-timers Elene Bezarashvili and Iva Gogitidze). Georgi’s tall tales of their father and his son Datho (superb Merab Ninidze) make the kids’ imagination run wild, while the unfortunate (falsely accused) man actually serves his time in prison. Once Datho returns home, the little ones refuse to accept him, and he finds his enchanting wife Elene (magnetic Anja Antonowicz) in the embrace of a brutish fire-eater, Zorab (Tom Urb, ominously seductive). But everything changes after he gets struck with a ball of lightning, and a mysterious pilot, Lia (always reliable Chulpan Khamatova), brings some love from the sky...

Brimming with strange, yet infectious energy and re-kindling your admiration for cinema in virtually every frame, The Rainbowmaker is a dreamlike, briskly paced fable with a big heart of gold, and directed with a keen sense of magic realism. Its childlike innocence is warmly complemented by burning passion and whimsical attitude that together elevate a simple story to poetic heights. The charming seaside setting adds an extra layer to its modest, yet captivating beauty.


4. Prisoners of the Ghostland (Sion Sono, 2021)

... and the award for the most bonkers meta-neon-chambara-pseudo-apocalyptic-camp-western-comedy-mystery with the elements of dream-logic fantasy and a pinch of body horror goes to Sion Sono for PRISONERS OF THE GHOSTLAND! In other words, it’s a WTF-did-I-just-watch masterpiece!


5. The House That Eats the Rabbit (Cosmotropia de Xam, 2021)

If Lewis Carroll and Jean Rollin had been raised from the dead to collaborate on a trippy phantasmagoria commissioned by Experimental Film Society, the result of this necromantic act would’ve most probably turned into something akin to Cosmotropia de Xam’s latest feature offering. Heavily influenced by the 70’s esoteric cinema, as well as by novels Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, The House That Eats the Rabbit is a bewitching experiment of resplendent, faux vintage imagery, haunting, hypnotically spacey soundtrack, and distorted, time-bending narrative deeply rooted in dream logic. In its psycho-philosophical meanderings and fetishistic approach to the ritualization of film, it reaches for the viewer’s subconscious where it imprints itself, and attempts to melt it the same way analog photographs dissolve in the epilogue...


6. Junk Head (Takahide Hori, 2017)

Piotr Kamler meets Jan Švankmajer in a labyrinthine underground of a perilous post-apocalyptic world inhabited by creatures that look as if they wandered in from the combined imagination of H.R. Giger and Clive Barker, with hints of Pixar-esque cuteness, and Shin’ya Tsukamoto’s brand of cyberpunk madness and dizzying editing thrown in for good measure. And yet, Takahide Hori’s feature debut – a fascinating passion project seven years in the making – firmly stands on its own feet with all of its quirks and idiosyncrasies, wry humor and meanderings through the bizarre and adventurous story that explores the dynamics between the creator and the creation. An impressive upgrade of 2013 short Junk Head 1, this genre-bending stop-motion extravaganza is pretty much the showcase of Hori’s multiple talents as a writer, director, voice actor, cinematographer, editor, animator, puppet sculptor, production designer, composer and sound FX specialist (how cool is that?!). So, it’s a shame that it had to end so abruptly... 


7. Jìyuántái qihào / No. 7 Cherry Lane (Yonfan, 2019)

“... in that past era, all was elegant, all was leisurely.”

In accordance to this line, Yonfan delivers a classy film of pacing so deliberate, that the characters blink, talk and walk as if they have not only all the time in the world, but whole eternity as well (and in a certain way, they do). A simple love triangle story set in a turbulent period of Hong Kong history is presented as a sumptuous slow-motion dream that plays out like a hopelessly romantic, decidedly melodramatic ode to cinema, or rather, a surreal mélange of heightened sensuality and intellectual lyricism that is not afraid to visit some unexpectedly weird places (code: cats & nipples). Unapologetically erotic in its portrayal of the late 60’s, and subtly laced with bits of bizarre humor, No. 7 Cherry Lane brims with a ‘cult favorite’ potential, as well as with frames of breathtaking beauty. Although traditional artwork and computer-generated animation don’t always blend seamlessly, one can not help but admire the artists’ attention to detail that makes the visuals constantly fascinating.


8. The Lost Record (Ian F Svenonius & Alexandra Cabral, 2020)

Being one of the Kinoskop curators, I had the honor of seeing this bizarre dystopian fantasy that explores the notion of an art piece as a trigger of revolutionary changes. Boasting a drowsy atmosphere and deadpan performances, it operates both as an authentic homage to the early 70’s art/cult cinema, and as a statement against conformism and consumerism.


9. The Green Knight (David Lowery, 2021)

Boldly taking a plethora of creative liberties, and eliciting magnetic performances from his ensemble cast, David Lowery delivers a visually captivating and aurally haunting epic of measured pacing and ambiguous meanings; a dreamlike adventure that is concerned with inner workings of a flawed, not-so-chivalric human rather than his exploits and escapades. Simultaneously introspective and, in a certain way, transcendental, The Green Knight may appear hermetic in its stubborn refusal to provide clearly defined answers, but it is certainly a film not to be missed, especially if you favor esoteric to mainstream cinema.


10. Zygfryd (Andrzej Domalik, 1986)

Andrzej Domalik’s big screen debut which, inter alia, thematizes beauty and man’s quest to immortalize oneself feels like a spiritual predecessor to Nikos Papatakis’s 1991 drama Walking a Tightrope, considering that its story revolves around an aged, misanthropic erudite becoming a patron to a young, uneducated circus acrobat whose heart-stopping act portends a tragedy. Although not quite as refined as the aforementioned film, Zygfryd possesses many strengths – from quotable lines to broodingly autumnal cinematography (Grzegorz Kedzierski) to elegant, atmosphere-defining score (Jerzy Satanowski) to Gustaw Holoubek’s superbly controlled performance – which make it a highly recommended watch.


11. Invisible Alien (Jintao Lu & Dawei Zhang, 2021)

Being a sucker for cinematic oddities, I found myself hopelessly infatuated with a heady, off-the-wall mix of a metaphysical tone poem, socialist allegory and love letter to post-Alien B-movies (and anime) of the 80’s that Lu and Zhang deliver in their collaborative feature debut. Only an hour long, Invisible Alien wastes no time for character introductions – after all, they’re all only ‘the products of the universe’ – dropping the viewer in medias res, then gradually providing you with certain answers, while simultaneously deepening the mystery that surrounds the intelligent life form from the title. Mandatory tropes, dreamlike irrationality and twisty chronology of the story (told from the perspective of an unreliable narrator) take you to a familiar, yet uncanny territory, as you are seduced by beautiful space-themed imagery conjured in spades.


12. Limbo (Soi Cheang, 2021)

Exposing the dark, violent, misogynistic and not to mention incredibly dirty underbelly of Hong Kong, Soi Cheang delivers a disconcerting thriller of visceral intensity and over-the-top grittiness in which the line between art and exploitation / pulp stereotypes and stylistic choices ceases to exist. The cumulative despair of the three main characters – a hardened cop (Ka Tung Lam), his inexperienced colleague (Mason ‘son of Ang’ Lee) and a forgiveness-seeking ex-convict (Yase Liu) – threatens to spill out of the screen, in a river of rainwater mixed with piled-up garbage, while it’s incessantly underlined by decidedly excessive production design and sumptuous B&W cinematography. What you’re getting here could be described as Hard to Be a God filtered through the Fincher’s prism and transformed into a relentlessly grungy neo-noir... 


13. Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms (Ethan Spaulding, 2021)

A direct sequel to Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge – the first animated film that did the popular video game series justice, Battle of the Realms appears a bit rushed, especially if you’re not familiar with the source material, but it delivers plenty of pulpy fun, with trademark ‘fatalities’ often painting the screen red with blood. To describe it as over-the-top would be a severe understatement.

Sep 27, 2021

Everything but the Moon

A bitter remedy from my Moon-scented memory
Seethes in the Sun of their psycho-reality,
Killing the meekness of my dawn
Tearing apart the fawns named after you. So,
Hear their putrid cries and glazed lies
Ever so decadently electrified from the inside,
Meticulously purified from guilt
And tell me how the tower will crumble –
Divinely, suddenly or not at all?
Once they fall / if they fall,
No one will want to know, because
Everyone will gloat in their own mud, alone.

Sep 23, 2021

A Selection of Recent Artworks (IX)

Seven 'chapters' from my voluminous Bianco/Nero series of collages (August / Septembar).

Il Ritorno di Anubi / Повратак Анубиса / The Return of Anubis

Il Rinascimento / Ренесанса / Renaissance

Domenica Mattina / Недељно јутро / Sunday Morning

Mito nella Macchina / Мит у машини / Myth in the Machine

La Nascita del Diavolo / Рађање Ђавола / The Birth of Devil

La Storia della Farfalla / Прича о лептиру / The Butterfly Story

Priapo e l'Albero della Vita (Versione 9.21) / Пријап и Дрво Живота (верзија 9.21) / Priapus and the Tree of Life (Version 9.21)

Sep 13, 2021

3 x Nikos Papatakis

Impressions after first three encounters with the (magnificent!) work of Nikos Papatakis.

Oi voskoi / Thanos and Despina (1967)

A Shakespearean ‘tragedy’ goes completely nuts in Nikos Papatakis’s increasingly wild and weird rural ‘romance’ that has everyone from the Greek state to Orthodox church to both haughty rich and superstitious poor squirming under his sharp satirical blade. Given that this is my first (and most certainly not the last!) encounter with the director’s work, I can only (try to) describe it as an impish bastard child born from the orgies of Italian neo-realism, Felliniesque bizareness, Panic Movement-like chaos, and dark humor of YU Black Wave. Constantly moving into unexpected directions, with gorgeous B&W visuals and dissonantly haunting score serving as anchors, Thanos and Despina aka The Shepherds of Calamity is not only a highly sophisticated piece of cinema, it is also maddeningly entertaining!



Les abysses / The Depths (1963)

“Who is really guilty here?”

Anarchic energy, Buñuelian provocation, Nouvelle Vague audacity, and Beckettian sense of the absurd cross paths, intertwine and collide in this discomforting, nightmarishly surrealistic anti-authoritarian masterpiece shot with an artist’s eye for composition, directed with a confrontational verve, and propelled by powerful performances, particularly from real-life sisters Francine and Colette Bergé whose rebellious, rightfully defiant characters embody loud shrieks of the exploited and oppressed.

Gloria mundi / In Hell (1976)

“No one has the right to stop the game of life and death of those who have only that.”

Almost a decade after her big screen debut in Thanos and Despina, Olga Carlatos joins Papatakis once again, in an overwhelmingly unhinged and uninhibited performance that foreshadows Isabelle Adjani’s take on the demanding role in Żuławski’s cult horror Possession. Her Palestinian actress and revolutionary character, Galai, whose humiliating treatment may be easily misinterpreted as a misogynist transgression carries a great portion of the harrowing drama that bursts with anti-colonialist anger, reprimands (or rather, gleefully pisses on, pardon my French) petty-bourgeois hypocrisy, and throws a bunch of satirical darts at arrogant movie producers.

Inflammatory and unapologetic, Gloria mundi is not an enjoyable watch – it is a gritty, grating, visceral, no-holds-barred experience that mercilessly pushes you out of your comfort zone, and as its English title suggests, plunges you into the heroine’s hell where the boundary between reality and fantasy is increasingly blurred. Intensifying discomfort is the grim setting of deliberately deglamorized Paris whose earthy palette is only occasionally punctuated with vivid colors, not to provide relief, but rather to elevate provocation to a whole new level. Grainy cinematography and dissonant soundscapes towered by tormented screams further stir up the chaos of the film’s twisted world that is both radical and shocking even today.

Sep 1, 2021

Best Premiere Viewings of August

People usually go on vacation during August, but for me it has been the busiest and simultaneously most exciting month of 2021 so far. The open call for the third edition of Kinoskop - analog experimental film festival that I am co-organizing - has provided quite a number of (predominantly short) films to watch (unfortunately, I can’t reveal my favorites at this point), and I started another collaboration with composer and filmmaker Martin Gerigk, this time on the adaptation of a Walt Whitman’s poem. Being a film and collage junkie, I also managed to see more than 30 features and create a bit more than a dozen of new pieces of artwork. So, without a further ado, I present my August list.

FEATURES

1. Paul (Diourka Medveczky, 1969)


The first and only feature by Hungarian-born sculptor Diourka Medveczky (1930-2018) is a brilliant anti-materialistic allegory told (or rather shown, considering the sparseness of dialogues) from a perspective of a young man, Paul (portrayed with stoic reticence by renowned French actor Jean-Pierre Léaud), who embarks on a spiritual journey, searching for his place in the (unforgiving) society. Formally impeccable and brimful of stunning frames that appear sculpted rather than captured with the camera, Paul has a gentle, darkly melancholic heart beating under the surface of grimy grays and poetic silences. It also feels like a big step forward compared to many other New Wave pieces of the period... 

2. Batokin Yasokyoku / Nocturne of the Horse-headed Fiddle (Takeo Kimura, 2007)


(read my short review HERE)

3. War Requiem (Derek Jarman, 1989)


A riveting mélange of painterly tableaux vivants, distressing found footage and Benjamin Britten’s mournful opera, War Requiem pushes the boundaries of a traditional film, and infuses the viewer with its strong anti-war sentiment and phantasmagorical beauty. And that five-minute-long take of Tilda Swinton braiding her hair and gently emoting is pure genius. 

4. Pădureanca / The Forest Woman (Nicolae Margineanu, 1987)


Rural setting. Taut direction. Dedicated performances. Oneiric cinematography. A self-destructive (anti)hero. Heavy atmosphere portended by a nightmarish opening. And script simmering with emotions so strong you can almost smell or taste them, in wine, tears, sweat, blood, grass, smoky bar and freshly harvested wheat... 

5. The Goddess of 1967 (Clara Law, 2000)


Whimsically charming is just the right way to describe this borderline-surrealist road-movie by Macau-born, Australia-based filmmaker Clara Law, and the same goes for the leading duo of Rose Byrne portraying a blind redhead girl with a harrowing family history, Deirdre, and then first-timer Rikiya Kurokawa in the role of a Japanese IT expert and hacker, as well as a herpetophile, Yoshiyashu, who travels all the way from the Land of the Rising Sun to the Outback to buy the titular Goddess, i.e. a Citroën DS (Déesse) car.

However, the things don’t go as planned for Yoshiyashu, because he finds the car owner’s and his wife’s brains spilled all over the living room, their little daughter left with a mysterious cousin who will take him on an unusual road trip, after leaving the kid at a service station, instructing her not to trust anyone. Through a series of flashbacks, we will learn about their emotionally turbulent pasts, and feel almost as if we’re at the backseat (of the third main character), as silent companions on their journey of reconciliation.

At turns bitter and sweet, funny and disconcerting, quirky and familiar, uplifting and sad, The Goddess of 1967 touches upon some sensitive topics, yet by virtue of Law’s and her co-writer husband Eddie Fong’s clever and gentle approach, the darkness and human evil get either draped in a cloak of stars, or swept away by a pack of dingoes. Directed with a sense of ethereal lightness and shot with a keen eye for composition, capturing the breathtaking beauty of untouched nature, and the noirish intimacy of shadow-filled interiors, the film beats with an honest heart, and brims with delicately off-kilter style.

6. The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf (Kwang Il Han, 2021)


Storywise, Kwang Il Han’s feature debut may not be a prime example of inventiveness, but it is one of the most visually arresting dark fantasies of recent years, displaying the exquisite world-building, and boasting superbly animated scenes of demon-slaying and magic-conjuring action accompanied by lavish musical score, and supported by solid voice-acting. Highly recommended!

7. Cryptozoo (Dash Shaw & Jane Samborski, 2021)

“Without dreams, there can’t be no future.”

And that is exactly why Lauren Gray – a vet and the keeper of cryptids – embarks on a rescue mission to save the dream-and-nightmare-eating being Baku from the US military that wants to weaponize its (or rather her) power. Following the adventurous story that feels Hollywood-familiar, yet sets to undermine capitalist ‘values’ and practices, Cryptozoo boasts highly trippy visuals that correspond with its late 60’s setting in an alternate universe where mythological creatures walk, slither and fly amongst us. Featuring the voice talents of ensemble cast including Grace Zabriskie, Peter Stormare, Michael Cera and Yorgos Lanthimos’s frequent collaborator Angeliki Papoulia as Medusa, this adult fantasy is a non-stop sensorial barrage of vivid patterns and kaleidoscopic hallucinations. Its off-kilter artwork and jerky, cutout-like animation take some time to get used to, but once you do, your imagination will run wild, keeping you in a state of wide-eyed wonder.

8. Splendor (Gregg Araki, 1999)


You know how the story goes – two boys meet a girl, and then the third boy comes along, but threesome’s too cool to turn into foursome, and the third boy is just too perfect for the girl to marry, so she decides to live happily ever after with a double dose of imperfection (and let’s not forget her lesbian, voice-of-reason friend). In their hip, colorful, sugar-coated, Jules-and-Jim-for-the-MTV-of-the-90’s-generation world, youth appears to be eternal, and everybody is incredibly sexy, particularly Kathleen Robertson with her cute snub nose and lips of a Roy Lichtenstein’s lady. What I’m trying to say is that sometimes, you just need a glazed, jelly-filled doughnut instead of something highly nutritious, so I found Splendor immensely enjoyable.

9. Zacharaiah (George Englund, 1971)


I am not a big fan of westerns, but when you mix one with a rock musical that sort of breaks the fourth wall as the bands perform on sets, and with a soul-searching, Siddharttha-inspired road-movie introducing an old hermit as a spiritual guru (a captivating portrayal by William Challee whose smiling eyes also mark the most poignant moment in the movie), then you have my attention. It is a daring, bizarre and some might even say a goofy combination, but there’s also a sensitive, surprisingly coherent story about the power of (bromantic) friendship lying beneath its surreal, tongue-in-cheek, decidedly anachronistic surface. There are plenty of imperfections to be found here, yet director George Englund succeeds in turning them to his own advantage, and so do at the time young and obviously inexperienced actors John Rubinstein as Zachariah and Don Johnson as the hero’s best buddy Matthew. And besides, where else would you see the fastest gunslinger in the Wild West playing a killer drum-solo (the courtesy of jazz drummer Elvin Jones) after winning a duel?

10. Annette (Leos Carax, 2021)


Between the anti-illusionary prologue and post-credit scene that also breaks the fourth wall, lays a satirical musical fairy tale fondly embracing filmic artifice and puppetry, while boasting excellent performances by the entire cast (although Simon Helberg seems like an awkward choice, and I’m not a big fan of Adam Driver who pretty much carries the story). During the first half, it feels unique in its loving correspondence with the history of cinema, but the irony-fueled novelty gradually wears off, with pacing issues and watch-checking ensuing until Annette becomes a real girl (the adorable big-screen debut for Devyn McDowell) and saves the otherwise anti-climactic ending.

11. Sensuela (Teuvo Tulio, 1973)


If you ever wondered what may be common to Tchaikovsky, reindeer-neutering and surreal passage of time, you will find the answer in the provocative swan song by Finnish filmmaker Teuvo Tulio. Loosely based on Pushkin’s story The Stationmaster, as noted in the opening credits, Sensuela is a high camp combo of a cautionary tale, (s)exploitation and feminist statement that appears like a spiritual predecessor to films of Anna Biller. Dipped in saturated colors, it eroticizes Swan Lake, Op. 20, Act 2: Scene (Moderato) and jumps from the WWII Lapland setting to sexually liberated Helsinki of the 70’s, with characters ageing not a single day, let alone a quarter-century. Over-acted and directed with a twisted sense of cinematic artifice, this florid (anti)romantic melodrama may not be a masterpiece, but its lurid visuals get easily imprinted into your brain.

SHORTS

1. Saint Flournoy Lobos-Logos and the Eastern Europe Fetus Taxing Japan Brides in West Coast Places Sucking Alabama Air (Will Hindle, 1970)


With a title like this, do you really need anything else said?

2. Wade (Upamanyu Bhattacharyya & Kalp Sanghvi, 2020)


An impressive calling card for first-time helmers Upamanyu Bhattacharyya and Kalp Sanghvi, Wade is a gritty, breathtakingly beautiful short which plunges the viewer into a post-apocalyptic version of Kolkata where tigers roam the flooded streets and prey on climate change refugees. Eschewing dialogue for grim, yet stunningly animated imagery, and foreboding, tension-rising silences, it pulls no punches in its portrayal of the highly probable future, with a few pinches of mythology intensifying the already strong flavor. In terms of both style and content, there’s an enormous potential lying in ten minutes of Wade, so let’s hope its authorial duo returns with a much longer offering next time.

3. Beauty (de Schoonheid) (Johan van der Keuken, 1970)


This short got me utterly baffled (which is the very reason why I loved it!), and it often felt like a proto-version of a piece created in the laboratories of Experimental Film Society.

4. Cocolors (Toshihisa Yokoshima, 2017)


An impressive directorial debut for Toshihisa Yokoshima, Cocolors sucks the viewer into a bleak world of the post-apocalyptic future when toxic, flesh-melting ash falls from the sky, and people – wearing protective suits with huge, reflective helmets – are forced to live in an underground city. In such an unwelcoming, almost colorless environment beautifully designed in the vein of cyber/steampunk aesthetics, some of the greatest treasures are the intact innocence of childhood, unbreakable friendship, and rediscovering of art. Mute Fuyu and his best pal, meek Aki, are perfectly aware of these facts, and it is from their viewpoints that we follow an emotional, increasingly heart-wrenching dystopian drama. Although we never see their faces, until the very end which introduces us to sickly Fuyu who communicates solely through three tones of his flute, they are neatly fleshed out, and we find ourselves caring for their well-being. On top of that, the animators of the Kamikaze Douga production provide us with the immersive, hyper-stylized visuals created through the technique of cel-shading, and accompanied by a delicate, unobtrusive score that make this medium-length gem of an anime a pleasurable watch.

5. Doble astral (André Ruiz, 2021)


6. Les Dieux Changeants (Lucio Arese, 2021)


7. Leopard Man Study (Duo Strangloscope, 2017)


8. Site visit (Maïa Cybelle Carpenter, 1998-1999)

Aug 30, 2021

Batokin Yasokyoku / Nocturne of the Horse-headed Fiddle (Takeo Kimura, 2007)

Takeo Kimura (1918-2010) was a Japanese art director who started his career in the 1940’s and worked on more than 200 films, most famously along Seijun Suzuki (1923-2017), before making a directorial debut, Nocturne of the Horse-headed Fiddle, at the age of 89. After coming across the trailer, I’ve been trying to track it down for years, so imagine my happiness when I finally found it at Vimeo on Demand! Even though it is available with no subtitles and I could only understand a few words of Japanese, such as ‘jigoku (hell)’, ‘kami (God)’ and ‘tenshi (angel)’, I immensely enjoyed its operatic score and experimental visuals merged into an avant-garde musical phantasmagoria.

A prime example of low budget gorgeousness, this 55-minute-long feature reflects on the atomic bombing of Nagasaki in which Ōura Cathedral (The Basilica of the Twenty-Six Holy Martyrs of Japan) – designated as a National Treasure in 1933 – was damaged, and borrows the motif of Lourdes water that flows from a spring in the Grotto of Massabielle in the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes, France. Boldly subverting the traditional grammar of cinema, it reaches your subconsciousness by virtue of obviously foil-and-cardboard sets bathed in dynamic, colorful lighting and enhanced through aquarelle-inspired rear projections and CGI interventions that, paradoxically, evoke the fantasies of the silent era. Adding to its esoteric beauty are the lavish costumes worn (and designed?) by model and actress Sayako Yamaguchi (1949-2007) who appears as mysterious, shamisen-playing Zarome, with Seijun Suzuki, Mitsuru Chiaki and Hikaru Harada co-starring. Nocturne transcends both space and time, as it spirits you away to the world of heightened imagination.