Jun 30, 2018

Hunger Denies the Simulated Coda

“So, do we start again?”
“And when did the end happen?”
“I don’t know. Maybe we were just undulating.”
“Then riddle me with that abstraction you carry in your left eye.”

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Beyond the Grave / Porto dos Mortos (Davi de Oliveira Pinheiro, 2010)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼(☼) out of 10☼
Blending multiple, seemingly incongruous genres is a risky task, but the Brazilian director Davi de Oliveira Pinheiro boldly accepts the challenge and delivers a bizarre, weirdly poetic smorgasbord of (now it's time to take a deep breath) arthouse, western, mystery, horror, melodrama, black comedy and post-apocalyptic fantasy in his fiction feature debut that is actually a supernatural road movie!

Overly ambitious, yet quite refreshing and unique in spite of its many (more or less obvious) influences (from Sergio Leone to George Miller to Richard Stanley...), Beyond the Grave feels like a spiritual prequel to The Soul Detective - an intriguing short meta-film in which David Lynch himself makes an appearance. Both works share the same piece of prop - a cowboy hat which belongs to the embodiment of a mysterious evil force referred to as The Dark Rider who is chased by an unnamed loner, Officer, in a world gone awry.
When we first meet the burly, taciturn, hard-boiled (anti)hero (stoically portrayed by Rafael Tombini), he is sweeping away a trio of bandits in a Wild West style, until he is ambushed by an anime or Ryūhei Kitamura reference in the form of a samurai sword-wielding baddy. After taking care of that one as well, he hits the road in his vintage car, black as his suit (and soul?), the only thought in his mind to seek and destroy the aforementioned arch-nemesis.

The simple-turned-esoteric story which starts in medias res unfolds in a deliberate pace, with action bits operating as highlights, and involves a colorful bunch of rather archetypal characters whom Officer encounters on his quest for vengeance. There are a couple of teenage darlings, reserved Nina and gutsy Shooter, a gentle expectant mother, a jumpy soldier wannabe and a highly composed master of 'umbrella kendo', all trying to survive amongst the zombified 'Returners' who are so slow they pose no threat (until they corner you in a bathroom).
The Dark Rider who possesses a parasitic ability to nestle inside the closest body is accompanied by an eccentric duo - a guy named Angel who produces ear-bleeding music with his harmonica and a long-haired Indian armed with a bow and arrow (well, duh!). A twisted world they inhabit is 'transformed by magic and madness', as the official synopsis informs us, so it's no wonder that logic holds little to no power over it. To immerse yourself in it, you will need some patience and a hefty dose of suspension of disbelief or otherwise, you will constantly wonder how they (the living souls) manage to keep their clothes so clean.

Abiding by the rule of cool and simultaneously keeping in touch with his artistic sensibility, Pinheiro does not always hit the right note (the same could be said for the actors as well), but he does get extra points for his sheer resourcefulness and love of all cinema, regardless of the labels. The most commendable aspect of his extravaganza is Melissandro Bittencourt's beautiful cinematography which rarely betrays the low budget, providing us with a long series of exquisitely composed shots.

Jun 29, 2018

Metamorphosis Followed by Hunger

“Please, tell me something beautiful.”
“Cosmos collapses callously, gods growl gaudily.”
“That is a lie. A tremendous one. And you know it is.”
“But, aren’t lies beautiful?”
“Maybe... when spoken by someone going through the 19th reincarnation. As far as I know, you are still the Unborn.”
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Jun 28, 2018

A Dream Is a Life Lived and Lost (Eli Hayes, 2017)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼

Told (or rather, shown) from the perspective of a young man mourning after his suddenly deceased father (as noted in the official synopsis), the poetically titled A Dream Is a Life Lived and Lost is what this writer likes to label as 'beyond a documentary'. Shot across several states of America, it takes the viewer on a simultaneously melancholic and life-affirming journey through the ever-changing dreamscapes.

A phantasm(agor)ic, highly experimental requiem for the lost parent, it opens with a beautifully composed, high-contrast B&W vignette that instantly grabs your attention, with the camera caressing everything it 'touches' - bare treetops, withered plants, snow-covered ground - while going in and out of focus. In this and all the following sequences which range from hypnotic to sublime (if you can forgive jarring filters applied here and there), Eli Hayes (born in 1993) captures those 'little moments' and ostensibly marginal details in life and then turns them into often hazy and abstract cinematic reveries.

With his mind locked in 'stream of thoughts' mode, he structures the film like an omnibus of artistic music videos for some shoegaze-electro-dream pop / post-rock project (involving Sigur Rós), and manages to retain a personal tone (not to mention hypnagogic quality) throughout each of them. Utilizing multiple formats and manipulating his imagery in different ways, he demonstrates genuine playfulness in his approach to lights, colors, shadows and textures, which leads to the emergence of an impressionist über-reality.

His work is not be understood, but to be felt or experienced (on a subconscious level), especially during its last and most intense fifteen minutes of ethereally intoxicating superimpositions.

A Dream Is a Life Lived and Lost is available for free on the author's official Vimeo channel, HERE.

Synthesis Prior to Metamorphosis

“This is the last time I shall petrify the Sun for you.”
“Why? Don’t you find me elusive anymore?”
“I do... yet I can’t seem to recall your name.”
“It has been forgotten since the False Beginning...”
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Jun 26, 2018

Chocolate Milk Dream for Eros and Psyche

Staring into Zephyr's eyes, both of them realized their true nature.
Born from eternity, into ambiguity they would be plunged.

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Jun 24, 2018

A Quick Guide to Maintaining Invisibility

Sleep, my dear cotton candy dusk,
and dream big because I must
forget myself in this cloud
of recurring melodies.

Pt. I: (the Ice of) Life

 Pt. II: (a Reflection on) Sex

Pt. III: (the Illusion of) Death

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Jun 23, 2018

'The Lithium Cream' Hexaptych

Under the plastic sky No 6, he was floating again, pretending to be naked just like in that embarrassing holographic nightmare he had every now and then. The voice of his Feminine S.I.D.E (synthetically engineered deus ex) went on and off in regular intervals, and the radio that he embedded into his left wrist was broadcasting distorted electro-schlagers by Lord Laloux’s specter.

The last thing he heard before entering the D.R.E.A.M. (devastatingly rejuvenating energizer of ancient magic) mode was: “Your tissue will completely decompose for the 19th reincarnation in exactly half an eon. Please drink the corresponding elixir.”






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Jun 21, 2018

Ready Player One (Steven Spielberg, 2018)

☼☼☼☼(☼) out of 10☼

Plunging the viewer into a vast and messy virtual world of a futuristic dystopia, Steven Spielberg reaches new levels of shallowness (no pun intended) and delivers a noisy, kitschy, mildly entertaining hodgepodge spectacle which bastardizes The Shining, relies heavily on the glossy, 'video-gamey' CGI (though for a good reason), wastes the talents of Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cook and the rest of the cast by fitting them into all-too-familiar cookie-cutter roles, and throws at you more pop-culture references than you can quarter-circle forward + any punch at (for the uninitiated, that's how you perform Hadouken in Street Fighter series).

Jun 17, 2018

The Nth Degree of Devotion

An impossible love story between the Goddess of Perpetual Electricty
and the penultimate chevalier from the Unknown Galaxy.

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Jun 16, 2018

Gemini (Aaron Katz, 2017)

☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼

The remarkable production design, beautiful cinematography rich with cool colors and jazzy score heavy on melancholic atmosphere are the only redeeming factors in this draggy, mumbling, uninventive, sleep-inducing, quasi-neo-noir, Hitchcockian wannabe thriller rife with trite plotlines and uninvolving characters, bloated with self-importance and further bogged down by the lackluster direction, heavy-handed social commentary and anticlimactic conclusion.

Jun 15, 2018

A Divine Anomaly Meanders

As his toxic glance penetrates her innate memory,
another night starts off, adorned with a golden sin.

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Jun 14, 2018

Evanescent Virtue Expands

As her everlasting smile petrifies his initial thought,
another day passes by, dressed in a fluttering dream.

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Jun 13, 2018

Passions (Kira Muratova, 1994)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼

A spiritual prequel to a phantasmagorical drama, Rita's Last Fairy Tale (Poslednyaya skazka Rity), by Renata Litvinova (who brings her quirky, somewhat endearing mannerisms to the role of a daydreaming nurse, Lilya), Kira Muratova's Passions (Uvlecheniya) acts as a floaty, jovial, off-kilter, slightly surreal farce set against the backdrop of jockeys' life, bursting with vivid imagery, existing both below and above water just like its meandering heroine, and featuring a great number of naive, Fellini-esque, characters in almost non-stop motion whose seemingly endless jabber on love, death, beauty, circus and centaurs, inter alia, proves that horses really do make us philosophers.

Jun 11, 2018

If My Shadow Were a Ghost...

... it would roam the heavens like a translucent animal,
replacing I with Celestial and Me with Harmony.

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Jun 10, 2018

A Tall Tale for the Stillborn

Forget the secret never to be told
inside the crib of memories and gold.
The tears of sorrow, the jewels of pain,
and virginal desires of a dragon slain.

(click to enlarge)

Jun 9, 2018

November (Rainer Sarnet, 2017)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼(☼) out of 10☼

What is it that has triskelion-like legs attached to an animal skull, moves like a pinwheel or flies like a helicopter, and spontaneously combusts when its master orders it to perform an impossible task, such as making a ladder out of bread? There is no way to guess this riddle (alluding to the first five or so minutes of November), unless you are familiar with the Estonian mythology or, to be more precise, with a magical creature called 'kratt'. And 'kratid' (which is, according to wikipedia, the plural of the aforementioned noun) are often used to steal various goods, from jewelery to livestock, for their owners - the grimy peasants who made a Faustian deal for their bizarre DIY servants to live.

In Rainer Sarnet's latest offering that's based on Andrus Kivirähk's novel Old Barney aka November, and blends a romantic fairy tale with a weird farce laced with dark and twisted humor, kratid are (ab)used as much as religion, superstition and witchcraft to get through the snowy (and not to mention muddy) days in a 19th century village transformed into a medieval shithole by a creepy German feudal baron (Dieter Laser who brings some unforgettable grimaces to his part). Amidst the tooth-and-nail struggle for survival which is made even more difficult by the plague (embodied by a young shapeshifting woman), the dead rise from their graves to wine and dine with the living members of their families, and to cleanse themselves in a sauna. When love or rather love triangle is born in such a milieu, dirty games do not end - on the contrary, what is supposed to be the purest feeling is stained by sneaky lies and life-threatening charms.

A sweet girl promised to a loathsome neighbor, Liina (inexperienced, yet talented actress Rea Lest), falls for a local don Juan (Jörgen Liik, excellent) whose heart gets stolen by a baron's beautiful somnambulist daughter (first-timer Jette Loona Hermanis) who doesn't seem like she'll be opening her eyes for the beau any time soon, so it's pretty clear they are doomed from the get-go. Although their unfulfilled romance is the centerpiece of the authentic and highly idiosyncratic magic realist narrative, Sarnet indulges in averting the viewer's attention via all sorts of oddities, metaphors and freaky subplots replete with unscrupulous, toothless characters mostly played by non-professionals. Add to that a talking snowman and one of the looniest big screen incarnations of the Devil (kudos to Jaan Tooming), and you got yourself an off-kilter and exotic rural gothic.

The helmer's skillful 'trickery' informed by folk tradition works wonders for anyone who's always in for a bold, unique and somewhat challenging cinematic experience which in this case is further heightened by Mart Taniel's gorgeous cinematography and Jacaszek's ethereal, atmospheric score. The inspired black and white visuals betray a myriad of possible influences, from the classic likes of The Virgin Spring, Andrei Rublev and Marketa Lazarová to the contemporary works of Veiko Õunpuu (The Temptation of St. Tony, also shot by Taniel), Pablo Berger (Snow White), Aleksey German (Hard to be a God) and Paweł Pawlikowski (Ida), impelling you to occasionally pause and admire the astonishing beauty of a frozen frame. Perfectly in line with the wintry, sublimely gloomy eye-candy are evocative instrumentals, haunting vocalizations and subtly ominous snarls of electric guitar which, in a way, displace November from its archaic setting and give it a sense of timelessness.

Jun 7, 2018

... to Devour Narcissus

To suppress the memories of fiery red,
wait till the Moon shines upon the bed.

Break the rule of reliving faux divinity
or stagger amongst the ruins of infinity.

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The Autonomous SelfPortrait

Who would even see this three times three
in the licentious pot of hot headlessness?

Who would even care to breathe to be
a vague shape of illuminated calm?

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Jun 6, 2018

The Kingdom of Shadows at Vimeo on Demand

Daniel Fawcett and Clara Pais's brilliant arthouse fantasy The Kingdom of Shadows which was the no. 1 entry on my Best of 2017 - ]Cinema Obscura[ Edition list is available for $5 rent at Vimeo on Demand. You can read my review HERE

I also had more words of appraisal (the excerpt below) for the 5th issue of the directorial duo's magazine Film Panic which you can order from THIS PAGE.

"... Ruled by the phantoms of Raúl Ruiz and Pina Bausch as King and Queen, with the spirits of Derek Jarman and Sergei Parajanov as Grand Dukes, this transcendental realm rests in the hands of its deities, Daniel and Clara..."

Jun 5, 2018

A Lustful Angel Falling into Grace

“I never asked for your divine nightmare, yet you shoved it down my throat. At first, it was pretty sour, but later it got sweeter... almost like a cocooned reverie. And I was enjoying it, until it suddenly lost its taste. My mouth went dry and my eyes burst into tears for no apparent reason. Or maybe it was because of the light? Then, I heard the voice who kept calling me ‘sir’...”

“Sir? Sir? Sir... Sir! Wake up, please! This is not your birth certificate, this is your atheist attest.”

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Jun 4, 2018

Dailies from Dumpland (Michael Woods, 2018)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼
A cinematic equivalent of a jazzy trip-hop song featuring some bold improvisations, Dailies from Dumpland paints, in wide, nervy strokes, a different (upside-down / unglamorized / paranoia-fuelled) portrait of America; it blurs (if not completely erasing) the boundaries between fiction and documentary / subjectivity and objectivity / suppressed dreams and defective realities; it amalgamates edgy anti-Trump satire with its creator’s raw poetics and anti-commercial sensibilities, and it wonderfully transposes information overload of the modern era into the associative, aggressively kaleidoscopic, stream of (troubled) conscious imagery of often lurid colors and dense textures emerging from bizarre superimpositions that deeply burn themselves into the viewer’s mind.

(The review is based on the rough cut of the film made available by the author himself for a limited time.)

A Solar Dream (Patrick Bokanowski, 2016)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼

At his most abstract and unrestrained, the acclaimed French filmmaker Patrick Bokanowski assumes the role of a mad alchemist and presents us with an almost ineffable oneiric trip which appears as an experimental alien broadcast on human life, cosmic phenomena and performance art, inter alia. Decidedly incoherent and delightfully chaotic, his rampant, sumptuous phantasmagoria forcefully breaks all the windows of your mind and opens it to new, vastly unexplored possibilities.

Featuring at its core an epic, no-holds-barred battle between light and darkness, intense colors and metamorphic shapes, A Solar Dream (Un rêve solaire) attacks you with a barrage of incessantly moving images or rather, superimpositions of hypnotic quality, and alters your reality in real-time. Replete with multifarious textures, it fills your screen with dancing shadows, hallucinatory supernovas, sparkling masses of water, sun rays breaking through the branches and smoke turning into liquid before the actors in a theatre play dissolve into an amorphous matter. Oh, and let's not forget the spectacular fireworks, animated sequences and handmade interventions on the film stock.

As you're consumed by the rapturous visuals which form the first of the two highly unconventional narrative threads, the ambient musical score by the author's wife and frequent collaborator Michèle Bokanowski tells the other, both counterpart and counterpoint 'story'. Approximately at the 30minute mark, she seamlessly blends in some tribal drum beats, evoking primordial spirits and simultaneously emphasizing the otherness of her husband's inspired, effervescent, impressionistic and occasionally self-reflexive visions.

In spite of being obscure content-wise, A Solar Dream is a clear and strong proof that cinema is indeed a young medium and open to 'more exploration and more risk', as Daniel Fawcett and Clara Pais put it in their Quest for the Cine-Rebis manifesto.

Jun 3, 2018

The Third Daughter of the High Priestess

I am the white crow with the red beak,
and a black sheep that is always asleep.

Listen to the dream I eat and you may meet
my most precious malady, ‘cause in this heat
nothing is what it seems,
and nobody bleeds.

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Salomé (Téo Hernandez, 1976)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼(☼) out of 10☼

If the films could touch their audience, the long, slender fingers of Téo Hernandez's Salomé would probably feel like tulle, satin or silk covered with strass, or maybe like tepid sea water mixed with fine sand...

For the viewer enamored with arthouse, experimental, experiential and extremely lyrical cinema, it takes less than five minutes to get wholly immersed in this ethereal, boldly unconventional phantasmagoria which eschews historical/biblical narrative in favor of the sensual visuals and chic baroque atmosphere. Although it does feature the Dance of the Seven Veils, it refuses to tell the (familiar) story and instead opts for satiating our appetite for aesthetic pleasure. 'Ars gratia artis' it may be, yet it hardly ever fails to impress, holding you in its gentle embrace.

Its pure, unadulterated magic relies on soft light, warm colors, strong chiaroscuro, deliberate pacing and slow-motion 'action' which turns the archetypal characters into partakers of a strange ritual of unfathomable purpose. As Eros and Thanatos dance like they are making love, the ripe darkness that surrounds them engulfs their hypnotized worshippers and drives them into sublime ecstasy. However, it is not only them who are under hypnosis, but us as well, with our gazes transfixed to the screen and ourselves lost in contemplative reveries.

Told or rather shown via abstractly evocative and thematically related vignettes (which blur the boundary between high camp and high art), Salomé seduces us with its dreamy, lavish, mystifying beauty reflected in the ostensibly incongruous symbiosis of intoxicating, 'Kenneth Anger by way of Werner Schroeter' visuals and glamorous soundtrack fuelled by assorted vintage ballads and entwined voices of nature, with enticing solos by crushing waves...

Jun 1, 2018

St. Nicholas the Four-Eyed Killing the Minotaur

I’ve seen the blackest of their noises and dreamed of dancing the tango of death with their obfuscated emanations. I’ve stretched my weak arms as far as I could, only to touch the Emptiness and feel her soft, throbbing skin under my scrawny fingers. I’ve opened my tired eyes before the Dark Light and begged him to take me away and chain me to Eternity, with Time voraciously devouring my withered memories. Now, I float alone in this vast Unknown, surrounded by the pieces of broken mirrors, but failing to recognize myself...

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