Dec 31, 2018

75 Features for the End of 2018!

Looking back at my favorite pieces of cinema seen in 2018, I realized that having more than 50 titles rated 8 or higher can pose a significant challenge, yet I can't help feeling 'love of all cinema' that the filmmakers Daniel Fawcett and Clara Pais have often touched upon in their interviews, changing the way I relate to the film. Of course, there are always exceptions that get lost somewhere on the serpentine way to my heart, but this article is not about them, so those Jacks and Zamas won't be mentioned (oops!). The following list is dominated by arthouse and avant-garde offerings which my taste leans towards, which doesn't mean there are no surprises. So, here's to an equally cinematic 2019!

1. Phantom Islands (Rouzbeh Rashidi, 2017)
2. Lucky (John Carroll Lynch, 2017)
3. Song of Granite (Pat Collins, 2017)
4. The Forgotten Colours of Dreams (Johnny Clyde, 2018)
5. November (Rainer Sarnet, 2017)
6. Manifesto (Julian Rosefeldt, 2015)
7. A Dragon Arrives! (Mani Haghighi, 2016)
8. The Wandering Soap Opera (Raúl Ruiz, 2017)
9. Grain (Semih Kaplanoğlu, 2017)
10. 24 Frames (Abbas Kiarostami, 2017)
11. A Solar Dream (Patrick Bokanowski, 2016)
12. Scorpion’s Stone (Maximilian Le Cain, 2018)
13. Animal Kingdom (Dean Kavanagh, 2017)
14. The Plague at the Karatas Village (Adilkhan Yerzhanov, 2016)
15. Wild Boys (Bertrand Mandico, 2017)
16. Inside (Vicky Langan & Maximilian Le Cain, 2017)
17. The Rub (Péter Lichter & Bori Máté, 2018)
18. Rey (Niles Atallah, 2017)
19. Mary and the Witch's Flower (Hiromasa Yonebayashi, 2017)
20. Real (Sa-Rang Lee, 2017)
21. Kino Hospital (Jann Clavadetscher, 2017)
22. First Reformed (Paul Schrader, 2017)
23. The Other Side of the Wind (Orson Welles, 2018)
24. Sleeping Beauty (Adolfo Arrieta, 2016)
25. Loving Vincent (Dorota Kobiela & Hugh Welchman, 2017)

26. Mandy (Panos Cosmatos, 2018)
27. Mr. Long (SABU, 2017)
28. Drifting Cities (Michael Higgins, 2017)
29. Double Lover (François Ozon, 2017)
30. Unrest (Philippe Grandrieux, 2017)
31. Iridescent (Eli Hayes, 2017)
32. EVERYONE AFRAID TO BE FORGOTTEN (Jonna Lee & John Strandh, 2018)
33. The Greatest Showman (Michael Gracey, 2017)
34. MFKZ (Shojiro Nishimi & Guillaume Renard, 2017)
35. The Lodgers (Brian O’Malley, 2017)
36. I Am Not Madame Bovary (Xiaogang Feng, 2016)
37. See You Up There (Albert Dupontel, 2017)
38. Dailies from Dumpland (Michael Woods, 2018)
39. Batman Ninja (Junpei Mizusaki, 2018)
40. Pin Cushion (Deborah Haywood, 2017)
41. The Scythian (Rustam Mosafir, 2018)
42. Ederlezi Rising (Lazar Bodroža, 2018)
43. Boarding School (Boaz  Yakin, 2018)
44. Valley of Shadows (Jonas Matzow Gulbrandsen, 2017)
45. Call Boy (Daisuke Miura, 2018)
46. The Mimic (Jung Huh, 2017)
47. Self-Criticism of a Bourgeois Dog (Julian Radlmaier, 2017)
48. Sunday's Illness (Ramón Salazar, 2018)
49. Krut: The Himmaphan Warriors (Chaiporn Panichrutiwong, 2018)
50. Waiting for the Barbarians (Eugène Green, 2017)

51. Cinderella the Cat (Ivan Cappiello, Marino Guarnieri, Alessandro Rak & Dario Sansone, 2017)
52. Night Awake (Sandy Ding, 2016)
53. The Whisper of the Jaguar (Simon(è) Jaikiriuma Paetau & Thais Guisasola, 2017)
54. Roma (Alfonso Cuarón, 2018)
55. Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts (Mouly Surya, 2017)
56. Under the Silver Lake (David Robert Mitchell, 2018)
57. God’s Own Country (Francis Lee, 2017)
58. Psychokinesis (Sang-ho Yeon, 2018)
59. 1985 (Yen Tan, 2018)
60. Revenge (Coralie Fargeat, 2017)
61. Jupiter's Moon (Kornél Mundruczó, 2017)
62. Terminal (Vaughn Stein, 2018)
63. Errementari (Paul Urkijo Alijo, 2018)
64. The Crescent (Seth A. Smith, 2017)
65. Paradise (Andrey Konchalovskiy, 2016)
66. Afterimage (Andrzej Wajda, 2016)
67. Accident Man (Jesse V. Johnson, 2018)
68. The Party (Sally Poter, 2017)
69. The Green Fog (Guy Maddin, 2017)
70. Annihilation (Alex Garland, 2018)
71. Pity (Babis Makridis, 2018)
72. Foreboding (Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2017)
73. Elliot (Craig Jacobson, 2017)
74. Into the Forest (Gilles Marchand, 2016)
75. Drown Among the Dead (Rubén Gutiérrez, 2018)

Dec 29, 2018

Shōnen / Call Boy (Daisuke Miura, 2018)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼(☼) out of 10☼ 
Featuring some of the boldest, longest, sultriest and most intense erotic scenes in the history of the Japanese mainstream cinema (though their exploitative properties erect a big question mark), Call Boy takes sex and orgasm not for granted, and employs an apt amalgamation of classy, noirish visuals (a commendable feature debut for the cinematographer Jam Eh I) and equally alluring, top-tier jazzy score (composed by Yoshihiro Hanno) to tell a Freudian cumming-of-belated-age story that also works as a heated 'feminist by way of male gaze' meditation on intimacy and female desires (which could often be mistaken for bizarre fetishes), with an approach that's simultaneously serious and laced with bits of tongue in cheek (not to mention other places) humor.

Dec 28, 2018

Song of Granite (Pat Collins, 2017)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼(☼) out of 10☼ 

'Birds don't sing
Songs of glory
Ice wrapped wings
That's my story'
Masterly blurring the boundaries of time and earthly existence, as well as the lines between myth and reality, documentary and fiction, Pat Collins delivers one of the most astonishing, not to mention unconventional biopics of the latest years (if not ever). The reportedly turbulent life of the Irish 'sean nós' singer Joe Heaney is not exploited for yet another illustration of the artist's whims and struggle in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, nor is it viewed and explored through the prism of a socio-political context. Instead, it is subtly and highly poeticized into a solemn, powerful, pristinely beautiful and deeply moving ode to the raw, unadorned and endangered folk tradition(s).

A decidedly lyrical, 'meandering' and slowburn narrative has an immense soul of stories told by elders, with the listeners of all generations gathered around them, by the fireplace (the first scene after the title matches the exact same description). Heany's drama is conveyed indirectly, through meaningful silences, whispers of the changing landscapes and lingering glimpses into his childhood, middle-aged wanderings and old age reveries portending death. However, its most important aspect are the songs from which the pure, genuine and intense emotions continuously stem, firmly embracing the viewer with their large wings. Performed by both professionals (Lisa O'Neill as a pub singer) and non-professionals (a superb debut for Michael O'Chonfhlaola portraying Joe in his 40s), those melancholic, roughly hewn melodies feel like they have been imbued with ancient or universal truths and mysteries, regardless of the lyrics. They are both the film's connective tissue and portals into another world where nothing but sound and the singer's loneliness exist.

What also makes Song of Granite so remarkable is Richard Kendrick's awe-inspiring B&W cinematography complemented by grainy archive footage whose texture corresponds with the 'abrasive' colors of Heany's voice. Each shot is meticulously composed primarily to match the ascetic grandeur and enchanting simplicity of 'sean nós' (old style) singing, whereby the little, cherished moments are captured so splendidly, that they all transcend their worldliness. Especially praiseworthy are the bittersweet, somewhat dreamy depictions of the protagonist's boyhood in a remote village of Carna, with youngster Colm Seoighe emerging as an acting force to be reckoned with, despite his fragile appearance.

Dec 26, 2018

Krut: The Himmaphan Warriors (Chaiporn Panichrutiwong, 2018)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼(☼) out of 10☼

Based on the second fall of Ayutthaya Kingdom during the Burmese-Siamese War (1759–1760), Krut: The Himmaphan Warriors (originally, Krut Mahayut Himmaphan) transforms historical events into a spectacular mythological epic set in a fictional 'world of yore' inhabited by hybrid creatures and fire-spewing stone giants (whose inherently evil, hyper-titanic king eats nothing but molten gold).

Considering that it is created not by a huge studio, but at the digital art department of Rangsit University in Pathum Thani, Thailand, the film features pretty impressive CG animation (almost comparable to the Final Fantasy features), replete with wonderfully choreographed action sequences that are certainly not kid-friendly, i.e. not shying away from blood spilling, bodies being split in halves and swords being shoved down the throats.

Behind the curtain of violence, the themes of unity, bravery, treachery, solidarity, patriotism and self-sacrifice are woven into a simple and familiar, yet strangely engaging story conceived by Wisit Sasanatieng of the Tears of the Black Tiger fame. Although his screenplay feels a bit rushed at times, much relying on the rule of cool and archetypal characters, there's plenty to enjoy in this dark and high fantasy, especially if you haven't neglected your inner child hopelessly enamored with the campy Saturday-morning cartoons of the 80s.

Dec 23, 2018

'The Golden Irrational' Triptych

In the end, it all figures
- a particle of dust becomes eternity
and primary colors turn beige...

Pt. I: Prenatal Hopelessness

Pt. II: Posthumous Desires

Pt. III: Patinated Inwardness

(click to enlarge)

Dec 19, 2018

Espectros da Terra (Daniel Fawcett & Clara Pais, 2018)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼
Co-produced between The Underground Film Studio and Experimental Film Society, Espectros da Terra appears as an artifact from the past, a red and fragile one, like a crystal icosahedron. Right from the opening frame, it takes the viewer to a mysterious world of nature inhabited by strange spirits and creatures magically captured on Super 8 film. By virtue of the grainy imagery of primordial beauty, it gently shrouds you in the cloud of ancient secrets whispered by a creek, the Moon and an oak tree. Reaching for the higher truths, this mini-masterpiece - a cosmically harmonious labor of love - suggests its creators are old souls who have been present on, in and outside of the Earth much longer than they can remember...
(The review is based on the private screener provided by the authorial duo.)

Dec 18, 2018

Phantom Islands (Rouzbeh Rashidi, 2018)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼

Providing you with a different or rather, differently strange, even wondrous experience on repeated viewings, Rouzbeh Rashidi's latest feature - a sensory meditation on the 'horrors' of human relationships - boasts powerful, physically intense performances by the filmmaker duo Daniel Fawcett and Clara Pais, deepens the mystery of Film through the multitude of subtle cinematic references, transfigures the familiar Irish landscapes into a grandiose, alien(ating) utopia of supernatural proportions, and sends you into a state of dreamlike euphoria while simultaneously dreaming of you, all by virtue of the strong, alchemical, aesthetically impressive synthesis between the visual and sonic narratives.

Dec 11, 2018

Elliot (Craig Jacobson, 2017)

 ☼☼☼☼☼☼☼(☼) out of 10☼

Most certainly inspired by Shin'ya Tsukamoto's cult classic Tetsuo (the official poster alone is a reason enough to make this comparison), but adorned with a lurid color palette of psychedelic proportions, Craig Jacobson's hyper-stylized debut feature provides a bizarre mixture of social commentary, parable on identity, cyberpunk horror and experimental phantasy, boasting delightfully gritty practical effects (many kudos to Cassandra Sechler), a darkly ethereal, highly expressive synth-score and a VHS (read: decidedly anti-HD) cinematography which simultaneously awakens 80s nostalgia in all of its glitchy glory, and captures the grotesque mysteries of the titular protagonist's biomechanical, reality-shattering world frequently blurred into mind-boggling abstractions.

Available for rent or purchase at Vimeo on Demand.

Dec 7, 2018

The Homo Sapiens Project (Rouzbeh Rashidi, 2011-2015)

Comprised of 199 installments (+ a few bonus features) which range from 1 to 120 minutes in duration, the Homo Sapiens Project by the Irish-Iranian filmmaker Rouzbeh Rashidi sets pretty high standards for the experimental films to come. A culmination of its auteur's practice, as suggested by the official synopsis, it marks a singular milestone in the history of cinema (and no, this is not an exaggeration), which makes the honor of seeing it in its impressive, often ambiguous, not to mention poetic entirety all the greater.

Inspiring in many unexplainable ways and to the point of putting you in the state of hyperproductivity, HSP evokes various associations, reaches to your subconsciousness, compels you to perceive things as if you were an alien entity, and above all, radically explores the endless possibilities of 'motion picture', simultaneously looking into the past and the future. Both beautiful and deformed in its elusiveness, this Janus-headed 'mutant' transforms on countless occasions, decomposes then rises from the ashes, and brings about a collision between multiple filmic dimensions, and between our and its own realities, pushing you down the bottomless rabbit hole.

My two-part essay on EFS Publications is an attempt to grasp its 'madness'. Follow the links provided below:

Still shots from HSP
(100) | (135)
(154) | (157)
(160) | (172)
(181) | (189)

Dec 6, 2018

Panta Rei (Dem & Seth Morley, 2016)

 ☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼

Exotic, immersive and mystical, Panta Rei focuses on the ritualistic aspects of cinema, invoking strange ghosts of the past, and ‘unsettling’ the depressing present with the beautifully ascetic pagan imagery of red (blood / body), black (shadow) and white (soul). Dubbed ‘film installation’ by its creators, it puts you in a state of wonder by virtue of arcane symbolism, dialogue-free ‘narrative’ and the mouth harp score that resonates of primordial times. As it progresses, the boundaries between then and now, life and death, reality and fantasy, fiction and documentary become increasingly blurred.

Dec 4, 2018

11 Recent Artworks

Growing simultanously with my collage obsession is the amount of artworks which reached the number of three hundred a few days ago. The selection presented here includes eleven of my recent pieces some of which show clear signs of the constructivist art influence, as well as the tendency towards colored 'accents'.

Self-Portrait With an Invisible Triangle and Eszett Squared

Leaving the Scrapyard Paradise

Angelic Paranoia: Endless Possibilities of a Room

A Classic Love Triangle With a Geometric Progression

... and Then the Moon Said Let There Be Nothing Else

Maestro's Mystery Is Blue

Likewise, the Eternity Prevails

A Choreography for a Pure Reverie

Forgotten Between a Memory and the Mythical Sun

A Cantilever Ends With a Canned Forever

Cruising Across the Universe Code-Named Kazimir

(click to enlarge)