Apr 30, 2018

At One Fell Swoop I Dreamed Myself into Drifting Cities

My latest article for EFS Publications focuses on a couple of Michael Higgins's 'ghost features' - ethereal, ambiguous, contemplative, visually immersive works that, inter alia, explore the elusive nature of cinema and haunt the viewer long after being watched or rather, experienced. 
"... At One Fell Swoop takes the viewer on a mesmerizing, mind-altering journey through time and space, across the misty subconscious periphery of an unnamed hero..."
"... Equally fascinating and phantasmal, not to mention as hard to describe as its spiritual predecessor is a meta-fantasy (for lack of a better term) Drifting Cities..."
To read the article in its entirety, click the link below:

Still shots from
At One Fell Swoop (2015)
Drifting Cities (2017)

Apr 27, 2018

Have a Nice Day (Jian Liu, 2017)

 ☼☼☼☼☼☼☼(☼) out of 10☼

Darkly witty, bitterly cynical, socially conscious and relentlessly bleak (think steely gray skies looming over some grimy, decrepit town), Jian Liu's sophomore offering Have a Nice Day (Hao ji le) appears as a slightly improved reworking of his 2010 feature debut Piercing I, and that is a crudely and sparsely, yet stylishly visualized piece of satirical pop-art neo-noir dressed in drab and 'dirty' colors, voiced in deadpan manner, occasionally lifted by cool soundtrack and rife with unsympathetic low-lives who fall victims of their greed, simple-mindedness, as well as of socialist capitalism embodied by a bag loaded with 'Maos'.

(The film is available for rent or purchase at Vimeo on Demand.)

Apr 25, 2018

Batman Ninja (Junpei Mizusaki, 2018)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼(☼) out of 10☼

Gathering all-star Gotham baddies from Poison Ivy to (sumo) Bane to Gorilla Grodd, following a campy no-brainer time-travelling screenplay based on 'rule of cool' and replete with cheesy one-liners, borrowing from just about every anime trope you could possibly imagine when thinking about the clash of feudal Japan with modern technology, and boasting sharp voice-acting, sweeping musical score and absolutely jaw dropping animation especially during the mid-section which perfectly mimics aquarelle art, Batman Ninja is the complete opposite of Junpei Mizusaki's earliest directorial effort (The Poem of Collected Sunlight, a meditative segment of 2005 omnibus Zoo) - it is a loud, invigorating, self-parodic, no-holds-barred and highly entertaining romp that bursts with colors and takes itself as seriously as the Joker.

Apr 24, 2018

Dreamplosion Inside the Cloud of Skin

With my fourth article for EFS Publications, I open my mind wider and take a deep dive into the turbid sea of Maximilian Le Cain's and Vicky Langan's psychological inwardness, in an attempt to find representative artefacts and bring them to the surface. In other words, a few thoughts on Le Cain's solo feature debut, Cloud of Skin (2015), and his latest and most accomplished collaborative effort with Langan, Inside (2017). Read the full article here:

Still shot from Cloud of Skin (Maximilian Le Cain, 2015)

Apr 19, 2018

Mary and the Witch's Flower (Hiromasa Yonebayashi, 2017)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼(☼) out of 10☼

Part delightful coming-of-age story, part sly meditation on the fallible nature of science (or rather, scientists), and part self-reflexive parable about transition, studio Ponoc's debut feature more than compensates for the silence of its 'parent studio' Ghibli, boasting superb traditional animation, charming voice cast and sweeping musical score, proving Yonebayashi (The Secret World of Arrietty, When Marnie Was There) as a capable director and weaving familiar elements into an endearing and electrifying fantasy which seeps with magic from its every pore and features one of the craziest lines in the history of anime:

"If we call virtual reality worlds from the Interbaila language "turtle" and the approximate value of magic in the ancient Eltel language "crane", which of the two do you think is the more effective approach in the terms of Alphalabozome nucleic acid anti-Entatium reaction? The turtle or crane?"

Apr 18, 2018

You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay, 2017)

☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼
Even though it delivers the astonishing visuals coupled with razor sharp editing and features a powerhouse performance by Joaquin Phoenix whose wide shoulders in rests upon, You Were Never Really Here is never really engaging during its short, but seemingly excruciatingly long running time, and not to mention that - in its relentless atmosphere of hopelessness and over-psychologization of the world-weary (anti)hero - it often feels a bit ridiculous, like some Steven Seagal-starring thriller attempting to be deep and poetic.

Apr 17, 2018

Atoosa Pour Hosseini: The Art of Memory Weaving

"Iranian-born, Dublin-based visual and performing artist Atoosa Pour Hosseini could be called ‘a memory weaver’ of the Experimental Film Society. The ‘memories’ which she gently weaves into dreamlike, crystalline existence are as fragile and volatile as one might assume, yet they possess the undeniable quality of timelessness, whether they are ‘captured’ on 8mm tape or by a digital camera. Diving into the indefinite space formed out of their inner or rather, intrinsic luminosity gives the viewer a liberating sense of omnipotent illusion, and of being one with the vast otherness..."
 Still Shot from Antler (2018) 
Moving Image by Atoosa Pour Hosseini, Sound by Karen Power.
Produced by Experimental Film Society
& Funded by the Arts Council of Ireland.

Apr 14, 2018

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond Is Unbreakable - Chapter 1 (Takashi Miike, 2017)

☼☼☼☼☼☼(☼) out of 10☼

The viewers unfamiliar with Hirohiko Araki's long-running manga JoJo's Bizarre Adventure or its many anime and video game incarnations are most likely to get lost in its first live-action adaptation, but the fans of Takashi Miike's prolific oeuvre will find at least a little something for themselves in his latest offering - an off-kilter, visually attractive blend of cool (and often violent) action, twisted humor, puzzling fantasy and contrived melodrama replete with the (decently portrayed) characters sporting the weirdest of hairdos and possessing the oddest of powers called 'Stands', from a carnivorous water 'parasite' (Aqua Necklace) to miniature toy soldiers in full gear (Bad Company).

Apr 13, 2018

Reaching for the Stars

Reaching for the Stars,
mending the primordial scars,
deep inside he finds
just another dream
- the stream of lust.

 (click to enlarge)

Apr 9, 2018

Re-Dreaming Phantom Islands

"The more you try to express and explain the film the more shallow and decrepit the film becomes. Films (at least the ones I want to make) must be completely impenetrable, inaccessible and beyond any faculty of comprehension. The only thing remaining will be the option of experiencing the film as a mysterious organism together with your team in a drone/void-like space and for the audience to delve into this and bring it to their own 'next level'; to be the film rather than understand it." (Rouzbeh Rashidi)

The man behind this citation is one of the kindest, friendliest, most polite, modest, composed, dedicated, intelligent and down-to-earth persons that I have ever met, and I am extremely honored to know him personally. He dresses like an old-fashioned dandy which suits him to a T, he possesses an immense (read: enviable) knowledge of the history of cinema and on top of that, he is a brilliant, uncompromising Artist with great understanding of film. Oh, and he's pretty real, even though our hanging out together for about a day and a half feels like a dream now. When I think about it, it is almost as if he is able to blur the boundaries between fiction and documentary both in cinematic and our reality. Maybe there is some sort of magic in the way he speaks or strokes his trademark mustache?

My words may sound subjective and über-panegyrical, but they are a sincere expression of gratitude for the abovementioned dream which was the deepest and most tangible on the 5th of April. That day, the screening of Rouzbeh Rashidi's latest opus - a prog-masterpiece called Phantom Islands - took place in Sarajevo, at the wonderful venue of Kino Meeting Point, so many kudos and regards to Zulfikar Filandra who organized and hosted the event. The consuming experience of seeing the film - in all of its 4K + special lenses glory - for the second time and on the big screen made me want to write a bit more about it.

On the superficial level, this genre-defying piece operates as a neat collection of homages and references, not only to the trio of directors it's dedicated to (Epstein, Duras & Żuławski), but to other auteurs as well, such as Ruiz, Bergman and Tarkovsky. Opening with the quote from Sheridan Le Fanu's novel The Tenants of Malory (... and saw the island rising in the distant sheen, white and filmy; a phantom island...) followed by the goosebump-inducing scene of thundering skies (that are gorgeously color-graded by Michael Higgins, a filmmaker in his own right), it tricks you into thinking that what you are about to see is a horror movie. However, it is not - much like the ouroboros, it consumes itself by documenting the fiction and simultaneously fictionalizing what has been documented, and enigmatizing its own self-reflexivity.

Surprisingly, Rashidi invites the audience to join him on his pursuit for answers to the questions regarding their relation to film and non-film, time and space, reality and fantasy, others and ourselves, conscious and subconscious, etc. And although a large portion of his invitation is written in inscrutable signs that even the protagonists find difficult to read (if the occasional confusion on their faces is any indication), there is something very humane about those 'alien' symbols. Besides, they stir up a gamut of thoughts colliding, intertwining and overlapping long after the final frame (of the infinite horizon bathed in dying light).

Mostly shot in soft focus à la Sokurov or rather, the 19th century photography, the titular islands float in a dialogue-free limbo where the proceedings are almost never laid out in chronological order. Muted as in the best tradition of silent cinema, the two leading characters - portrayed by Clara Pais and Daniel Fawcett who channel the spirits of Marguerite Gance and Jean Debucourt, respectively - are co-starred by animals and 'local ghosts' or could be ghosts themselves. The conflict between their beautifully choreographed performance and the sublime naturalness of the surroundings puts an emphasis on the film's Rebis-like constitution. They seem to be the embodiments of dichotomous ideas mirrored in the incongruous, yet unforgettable pairing of aural and pictorial narratives.

(Phantom Islands Q & A, Sarajevo, April 5, 2018)

Apr 1, 2018

Telekinetic Pleasures (Daniel Fawcett & Clara Pais, 2018)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼
Described as 'artefacts of psychic transmissions captured on videotape', the latest short venture by the British-Portuguese directorial duo of Daniel Fawcett and Clara Pais is a strange little beast. Set in 1984, it depicts the aftermath of a bizarre scientific experiment that involves chickens, reptilian and human subjects, two of whom have survived and are portrayed by the authors themselves.

And not only set, but looking and sounding or, simply put, feeling as if it was created in the 80s and just recently unearthed from someone's basement or garage, this fine piece of lo-fi sci-fi channels the spirit of Jane Arden (in her Anti-Clock element) and is as radical as Cronenberg's early features (Stereo and Crimes of the Future) when compared to genre offerings we get these days. However, it is more than a sum of its cinematic influences, given that it packs quite a bit of idiosyncrasies in its brief 8 minutes.

Rather than telling the story, Fawcett and Pais opt for a wild (and not to mention weird!) sensory experience which they achieve through the sublime blend of grainy VHS visuals and pulsating retro electronica. The film opens with a voice-over narration followed by a hypnotic, hyper-stylized title that emerges from the net of hexagons, leading us to a series of dialogue-free, stream-of-altered-consciousness vignettes.

Initially adorned with broken cassette glitches, the evocative imagery gradually becomes bolder and trippier, whereby the music transforms from pounding to atmospheric, keeping you in the state of inspiring bewilderment. A wonderful treat for all the daydreamers.