Dec 31, 2021

Top 95 Premiere Viewings of 2021 (2000-2021 Edition)

This year, I was pretty generous with ratings, finding myself surrounded by almost 100 highly appreciated films (including some not-so-fresh, but newly discovered titles), which is why I decided to sort them out into eight thematic categories. As you may already assume, Thrills & Chills, Mysteries & Monstrosities is dominated by horror genre, yet there are a few dark thrillers, atmospheric / perplexing and sci-fi flicks included for the diversity sake. Down the Rabbit Hole is high on fantasy or deep in magic realism, whereas Future Imperfect & Disturbances in Kafkaland blends features of dystopian and/or Kafkaesque qualities. A variety of formally or stylistically challenging experiments oft-unsparing of the viewer come together in No Compromise! complemented by another ten unconventional, but more accessible flicks of Beautiful Weirdos. Named after Björk’s 1993 single, Big Time Sensuality is a domain ruled by (panesexual) Eros, though it holds some surprises, and Still Waters Run Deep synthesizes lyrical, methodical and slow cinema into a gentle organism. Finally, self-explanatory Action! is the most entertaining among these ‘selections’, with B-movie spirit soaring into the sky.


1. Mad God (Phil Tippett, 2021)
2. Antlers (Scott Cooper, 2021)
3. Far From the Apple Tree (Grant McPhee, 2019)
4. Junk Head (Takahide Hori, 2017)
5. The Night House (David Bruckner, 2021)
6. Gwleđđ / The Feast (Lee Haven Jones, 2021)
7. Come True (Anthony Scott Burns, 2020)
8. Some Southern Waters (Julian Baner, 2020)
9. Dýrið / Lamb (Valdimar Jóhannsson, 2021)
10. Limbo (Soi Cheang, 2021)
11. Invisible Alien (Jintao Lu & Dawei Zhang, 2021)
12. Nagwonui bam / Night in Paradise (Hoon-jung Park, 2020)
13. Ventajas de viajar en tren / Advantages of Travelling by Train (Aritz Moreno, 2019)
14. De Uskyldige / The Innocents (Eskil Vogt, 2021)
15. Hunted (Vincent Paronnaud, 2020)
16. The Night (Kourosh Ahari, 2020)
17. The Awakening of Lilith (Steven Adam Renkovish, 2021)
18. Aragne no Mushikago / Aragne: Sign of Vermillion (Saku Sakamoto, 2018)
19. Oxygen (Alexandre Aja, 2021)
20. The Dark and the Wicked (Bryan Bertino, 2020)


1. Śniegu już nigdy nie będzie / Never Gonna Snow Again (Malgorzata Szumowska & Michal Englert, 2020)
2. Ryū to sobakasu no hime / Belle (Mamoru Hosoda, 2021)
3. The Rainbowmaker (Nana Dzhordzhadze, 2008)
4. Batokin Yasokyoku / Nocturne of the Horse-headed Fiddle (Takeo Kimura, 2007)
5. Eld & lågor / Swoon (Måns Mårlind & Björn Stein, 2019)
6. Miao Xian Sheng / Mr. Miao (Lingxiao Li, 2020)
7. The Burial of Kojo (Blitz Bazawule, 2018)
8. Jiang Ziya / Legend of Deification (Teng Cheng & Li Wei, 2020)
9. The Green Knight (David Lowery, 2021)
10. Das kalte Herz / Heart of Stone (Johannes Naber, 2016)
11. Віддана / Felix Austria (Christina Sivolap, 2020)
12. Xin shen bang: Ne Zha chong sheng / Nezha Reborn (Ji Zhao, 2021)
13. The Blazing World (Carlson Young, 2021)
14. Cryptozoo (Dash Shaw & Jane Samborski, 2021)
15. Bright: Samurai Soul (Kyohei Ishiguro, 2021)


1. Сентенция / Sententia (Dmitry Rudakov, 2020)
2. Den Næstsidste / The Penultimate (Jonas Kærup Hjort, 2020)
3. Služobníci / Servants (Ivan Ostrochovský, 2020)
4. The Wanting Mare (Nicholas Ashe Bateman, 2020)
5. Ja teraz kłamię / I Am Lying Now (Paweł Borowski, 2019)
6. Alephia 2053 (Jorj Abou Mhaya, 2021)
7. Baz ham sib dari? / Have You Another Apple? (Bayram Fazli, 2006)
8. Ukkili kamshat / The Owners (Adilkhan Yerzhanov, 2014)
9. Undergods (Chino Moya, 2020)
10. The Trouble with Being Born (Sandra Wollner, 2020)


1. Az itt élő lelkek nagy része / Most of the Souls That Live Here (Ivan & Igor Buharov, 2016)
2. Северный ветер / The North Wind (Renata Litvinova, 2021)
3. Aapothkalin Trikalika / The Kali Of Emergency (Ashish Avikunthak, 2016)
4. The House That Eats the Rabbit (Cosmotropia de Xam, 2021)
5. The Lost Record (Ian F Svenonius & Alexandra Cabral, 2020)
6. Homo Sapiens Project (201) (Rouzbeh Rashidi, 2021)
7. Night Has Come (Peter van Goethem, 2019)
8. How the Sky Will Melt (Matthew Wade, 2015)
9. Annette (Leos Carax, 2021)
10. Das Massaker von Anröchte / The Massacre of Anroechte (Hannah Dörr, 2021)


1. Titane (Julia Ducornau, 2021)
2. The Nowhere Inn (Bill Benz, 2020)
3. Hogtown (Daniel Nearing, 2014)
4. L’extraordinaire voyage de Marona / Marona’s Fantastic Tale (Anca Damian, 2019)
5. Безразличие / Indifference (Oleg Flyangolts, 2010)
6. The Goddess of 1967 (Clara Law, 2000)
7. Spoguli / In the Mirror (Laila Pakalniņa, 2020)
8. Prisoners of the Ghostland (Sion Sono, 2021)
9. Wolf (Natalie Biancheri, 2021)
10. Carro rei / King Car (Renata Pinheiro, 2021)


1. Aviva (Boaz Yakin, 2020)
2. Jìyuántái qihào / No. 7 Cherry Lane (Yonfan, 2019)
3. Show Me What You Got (Svetlana Cvetko, 2019)
4. Blanche comme neige / Pure as Snow (Anne Fontaine, 2019)
5. Split (Deborah Kampmeier, 2016)
6. Playdurizm (Gem Deger, 2020)
7. Senso ’45 / Black Angel (Tinto Brass, 2002)
8. Demonios (Marcelo D’Avilla e Marcelo Denny, 2019)


1. Muukalainen / The Visitor (Jukka-Pekka Valkeapää, 2008)
2. Armugan (Jo Sol, 2020)
3. Lúa vermella / Red Moon Tide (Lois Patiño, 2020)
4. Das Mädchen und die Spinne / The Girl and the Spider (Ramon & Silvan Zürcher, 2021)
5. The Card Counter (Paul Schrader, 2021)
6. Ste. Anne (Rhayne Vermette, 2021)
7. The Man Who Knew 75 Languages (Anne Magnussen & Paweł Dębski, 2016)
8. Atarrabi & Mikelats (Eugène Green, 2020)
9. Ofrenda / Offering (Juan Mónaco Cagni, 2020)
10. Daughters (Hajime Tsuda, 2020)
11. Mariphasa (Sandro Aguilar, 2017)
12. Nadzieja / Hope (Stanislaw Mucha, 2007)


1. The Spine of Night (Philip Gelatt & Morgan Galen King, 2021)
2. Free Guy (Shawn Levy, 2021)
3. The Suicide Squad (James Gunn, 2021)
4. Майор Гром: Чумной Доктор / Major Grom: Plague Doctor (Oleg Trofim, 2021)
5. Zach Snyder’s Justice League (Zach Snyder, 2021)
6. The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf (Kwang Il Han, 2021)
7. Mortal Kombat (Simon McQuoid, 2021)
8. Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms (Ethan Spaulding, 2021)
9. America: The Motion Picture (Matt Thompson, 2021)
10. Boss Level (Joe Carnahan, 2020)

And I would also like to honorably mention five series which I enjoyed the most, even though I’m not a big fan of the format:

1. Hausen (Thomas Stuber, 2020)
2. Crisis Jung (Baptiste Gaubert & Jérémie Hoarau, 2018)
3. Masters of the Universe: Revelation (Kevin Smith, 2021)
4. Crna svadba / Black Wedding (Nemanja Ćipranić, 2021)
5. Invincible (Robert Kirkman, 2021)

Dec 30, 2021

Top 100 Premiere Viewings of 2021 (Pre-2000 Edition)

Judging by the number of entries on the following list – arranged chrono-alphabetically, one film per author – my time machine got seriously overheated during 2021, with the 60’s emerging as the most visited period. I caught up with some critically acclaimed classics, discovered a plethora of underappreciated arthouse and B-movies, enjoyed delightfully oddball trash flicks, and eventually got lost in the enchanted labyrinth of imaginative high fantasies, sophisticated film-noirs, moody gothic horrors, peculiar sci-fi offerings, as well as formally challenging, quirky and queer cinema. If you search through the blog or my Facebook profile, you’ll find a few words written on most of the included titles... 

The Dance of the Paroxysms | The Thief of Bagdad | The Uninvited

1. The Hands of Orlac (Robert Wiene, 1924)
2. The Thief of Bagdad (Raoul Walsh, 1924)
3. The Dance of the Paroxysms (Jorge Brum de Canto, 1929)
4. About Nice (Boris Kaufman & Jean Vigo, 1930)
5. Ecstasy (Gustav Machatý, 1933)
6. Mad Love (Karl Freund, 1935)
7. Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942)
8. The Climax (George Waggner, 1944)
9. The Uninvited (Lewis Allen, 1944)
10. The Beast with Five Fingers (Robert Florey, 1946)

Body and Soul | Corridor of Mirrors | Fabiola

11. Under the Bridges (Helmut Käutner, 1946)
12. Body and Soul (Robert Rossen, 1947)
13. Adventures of Don Juan (Vincent Sherman, 1948)
14. Corridor of Mirrors (Terence Young, 1948)
15. He Walked by Night (Alfred L. Werker & Anthony Mann, 1948)
16. Alias Nick Beal (John Farrow, 1949)
17. Fabiola (Alessandro Blasetti, 1949)
18. Follow Me Quietly (Richard Fleischer, 1949)
19. Roman Holiday (William Wyler, 1953)
20. The Wild One (László Benedek, 1953)

The Cranes Are Flying | East of Eden | Amphibian Man

21. Dementia (John Parker & Bruno VeSota, 1955)
22. East of Eden (Elia Kazan, 1955)
23. Marianne of My Youth (Julien Duvivier, 1955)
24. The Cranes Are Flying (Mikhail Kalatozov, 1957)
25. The Lady in Black (Arne Mattsson, 1958)
26. The Long, Hot Summer (Martin Ritt, 1958)
27. Hercules in the Haunted World (Mario Bava, 1961)
28. Night Tide (Curtis Harrington, 1961)
29. Amphibian Man (Vladimir Chebotaryov & Gennadiy Kazanskiy, 1962)
30. Fire and Ice (Alain Cavalier, 1962)

The Depths | The Demon | The Servant

31. Lawrence of Arabia (David Lean, 1962)
31. A Dream Play (Ingmar Bergman, 1963)
33. Flaming Creatures (Jack Smith, 1963)
34. The Demon (Brunello Rondi, 1963)
35. The Depths (Nikos Papatakis, 1963)
36. Night of the Eagle (Sydney Hayers, 1963)
37. Sweet Skin (Jacques Poitrenaud, 1963)
38. The Servant (Joseph Losey, 1963)
39. Vertigo (Karel Kachyňa, 1963)
40. The Golden Fern (Jirí Weiss, 1963)

Men and Women | The Masque of Red Death | Eye of the Devil

41. Castle of Blood (Antonio Margheriti & Sergio Corbucci, 1964)
42. Crypt of the Vampire (Camillo Mastrocinque, 1964)
43. Men and Women (Walter Hugo Khouri, 1964)
44. The Masque of Red Death (Roger Corman, 1964)
45. The Mysterious Magician (Alfred Vohrer, 1964)
46. Empty Dream (Hyun-mok Yoo, 1965)
47. The 10th Victim (Elio Petri, 1965)
48. The White Moor (Ion Popescu-Gopo, 1965)
49. Before Tonight Is Over (Peter Solan, 1966)
50. Eye of the Devil (J. Lee Thompson, 1966)

The Girl | Invasion | Paul

51. Face to Face (Roviros Manthoulis, 1966)
52. Murderers’ Row (Henry Levin, 1966)
53. Detour (Grisha Ostrovski & Todor Stoyanov, 1967)
54. Fire! (Gian Vittorio Baldi, 1968)
55. I, the Executioner (Tai Katō, 1968)
56. Signs of Life (Werner Herzog, 1968)
57. Summer (Marcel Hanoun, 1968)
58. The Girl (Márta Mészáros, 1968)
59. Invasion (Hugo Santiago, 1969)
60. Paul (Diourka Medveczky, 1969)

The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds | The Garden of Stones | The Swimming Pool

61. Princess (Herman Wuyts, 1969)
62. The Swimming Pool (Jacques Deray, 1969)
63. King of the Reindeer (Pavel Arsenov, 1970)
64. Queens of Evil (Tonino Cervi, 1970)
65. Zacharaiah (George Englund, 1971)
66. The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds (Paul Newman, 1972)
67. Sensuela (Teuvo Tulio, 1973)
68. The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (Gordon Hessler, 1973)
69. Pavle Pavlović (Mladomir ‘Puriša’ Đorđević, 1975)
70. The Garden of Stones (Parviz Kimiavi, 1976)

Chess of the Wind | God’s Gift | Beasts

71. Chess of the Wind (Mohammad Reza Aslani, 1976)
72. Beasts (Živko Nikolić, 1977)
73. Lost Soul (Dino Risi, 1977)
74. Hallucinations of a Deranged Mind (José Mojica Marins, 1978)
75. Midnight Cowboy (John Schlesinger, 1978)
76. The Bermuda Depths (Tom Kotani, 1978)
77. God’s Gift (Gaston Kaboré, 1982)
78. The Harlem Valentine Day (Shigeru Izumiya, 1982)
79. Breathless (Jim McBride, 1983)
80. Háry János (Zsolt Richly, 1983)

Vigil | The Tribulations of Balthazar Kober | Luminous Woman

81. The Beast and the Magic Sword (Paul Naschy, 1983)
82. Variety (Bette Gordon, 1983)
83. Dorian Gray in the Mirror of the Yellow Press (Ulrike Ottinger, 1984)
84. Vigil (Vincent Ward, 1984)
85. Zygfryd (Andrzej Domalik, 1986)
86. Luminous Woman (Shinji Sōmai, 1987)
87. The Forest Woman (Nicolae Margineanu, 1987)
88. The Tribulations of Balthazar Kober (Wojciech Has, 1988)
89. War Requiem (Derek Jarman, 1989)
90. Pink Ulysses (Eric de Kuyper, 1990)

Cavafy | The Garden | Luminous Motion

91. The Blue Note (Andrzej Żuławski, 1991)
92. American Cyborg: Steel Warrior (Boaz Davidson, 1993)
93. Mazeppa (Bartabas, 1993)
94. Hammer and Sickle (Sergey Livnev, 1994)
95. Mechanical Violator Hakaider (Keita Amemiya, 1995)
96. The Garden (Martin Šulík, 1995)
97. Cavafy (Yannis Smaragdis, 1996)
98. No Sympathy for the Devil (Dimitris Athanitis, 1997)
99. Luminous Motion (Bette Gordon, 1998)
100. Shattered Image (Raúl Ruiz, 1998)

Best Premiere Viewings of December

1. The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds (Paul Newman, 1972)

Joanne Woodward gives a force-of-nature performance in a bitterly funny, emotionally intense and tautly directed drama whose depressing visuals are elevated by colorful characters. The strong impression it left me with can be summarized in a line that brought tears to my eyes: “My heart is full!” A masterpiece.

2. Shatranj-e baad / Chess of the Wind (Mohammad Reza Aslani, 1976)

Banned in 1979 by Iran’s new regime, and more than three decades later rediscovered and restored, Chess of the Wind is a film of incredible cinematic power, one that has been compared to masters such as Ophüls, Visconti and Parajanov. Its multi-layered, decidedly anti-patriarchal tale of greed and oppression, as well as of gender and class struggle opens as a moody melodrama, transforms into a Shakespearean tragedy, then gradually approaches the psychological thriller domain where it remains during the climactic twenty minutes. All the while, it is handled with extraordinary formal discipline and intelligence that find support in a most elegant art direction, picturesque cinematography and hauntingly tense score synthesizing experimental jazz and traditional Persian music. A gorgeously furnished mansion which serves as the (claustrophobic) setting becomes a character in its own right, pulling the viewer into a dense microcosm of intrigue. On top of that, Chess of the Wind introduces a couple of strong female leads – brilliantly portrayed by Fakhri Khorvash and Shohreh Aghdashloo – whose relationship is subtly infused with lesbian subtext. 

3. Śniegu już nigdy nie będzie / Never Gonna Snow Again (Malgorzata Szumowska & Michal Englert, 2020)

Szumowska & Englert invoke the spirit of Tarkovsky through direct references to the master’s work in nostalgia-imbued dreams and visions of their hero – a young, enigmatic immigrant from the East, Zhenia (Alec Utgoff in a career-defining role) who speaks several languages and works as a masseur-turned-hypnotist guru of a wealthy gated community somewhere in Poland. However, even the peculiarly cinematic and often darkly humorous ‘reality’ of the duo’s surrealist drama shimmers with numerous moments of stark visual poetry, providing you with a hauntingly enchanting experience. Gently wrapped in moss-colored velvet, their satirical blade cuts deeply into the wounds of modern society, as if reaching for some long-buried truth, with Zhenia embodying that very truth – the secrets we may never know. There’s an almost saintly aura surrounding him and – complemented by his broad shoulders – making him the object of both spiritual and carnal lust for the poor wretches he regularly visits, armed with a portable massage table, and healing powers. So, if you’re looking for a delicately mysterious, charmingly doomy and/or ecologically conscious film, Never Gonna Snow Again is the one you shouldn’t miss. 

4. Miao Xian Sheng / Mr. Miao (Lingxiao Li, 2020)

A promising debut for Lingxiao Li, Mr. Miao is a lush, somewhat esoteric fantasy adventure which betrays the influences of wuxia films, Hayao Miyazaki, and to a certain degree, anime series Mushishi. It follows a couple of mysterious ‘tracers’, elder Liang Yan and his disciple Ding Guo, on their quest to eradicate so-called Equinox Flowers which possess corruptive powers, albeit being hosted exclusively by kindhearted souls. Faced with the dilemma of killing a few good men and women to save the world from debauchery, they travel the land struck by poverty and ravaged by crime, with the orders of titular (and unseen) entity as their only guide...

Episodic in its narrative structure, Mr. Miao is reminiscent of a road movie set in the mythologized version of ancient China where fire cicada sloughs have higher value than money... and thy neighbor. The fever dream-like journey towards the answers hidden in Thousand Buddha Cave feels simultaneously perplexing and fairly intoxicating, all by virtue of lovely hand-drawn designs, painterly backgrounds, and mellifluously melancholic score, all wonderfully complementing each other. The surreal, or rather mystical beauty of the world infused with magic and slight humor (code: ducks) reaches its full bloom in the cathartic finale which depicts the decisive battle in a transcendental whirlwind of light and colors.

5. Strip-tease / Sweet Skin (Jacques Poitrenaud, 1963)

Oh là là! Strip-tease gets transformed into fine art with a hint of camp in Jacques Poitrenaud’s entertaining drama starring Nico as a starving ballerina, Ariane, who breaks through the world of exotic dancing, and catches the eye of a rich and handsome playboy, Jean Loup (Jean Sobieski). The sadness in her big, round eyes, gorgeous B&W cinematography and energetic soundtrack by Serge Gainsbourg and Alain Goraguer (who would work on the cult animated film Fantastic Planet 10 years later, then compose scores for adult films in the late 70’s) make for an absolutely charming combination.

6. Віддана / Felix Austria (Christina Sivolap, 2020)

“People see only what they want to see. People yearn for illusions.”

Directed with a great sense of style that brings to mind Jeunet and Gondry, Christina Sivolap’s feature debut is a charming period piece heavily inspired by magic realism in its approach to storytelling, as well as by Art Nouveau in its enchanting visual flourishes (many kudos to costume designer Lesia Patoka and art director Aleksandr Batenev). Set in a small Austro-Hungarian town at the turn of the 19th century, this fantasy drama chronicles the tale of a maid with the heart of gold, Stefania, who spices up the life of her half-sister mistress, Adela, and her husband, Petro, with delicacies that are so meticulously shot that you can almost smell their aroma! And what adds extra flavor to the viewing pleasure is the sparkling chemistry between the leading actresses Marianna Januszewicz and Alesya Romanova, whose characters appear to be founded on Grimm-like opposites.

7. Ste. Anne (Rhayne Vermette, 2021)

Existing in a liminal space between fiction and documentary / deeply personal film and archetypal pseudo-myth / family drama and haunting mystery, and resisting every attempt to be clearly defined, ‘Ste. Anne’ feels like a cinematic equivalent of a half-forgotten childhood memory turned into snow that covers the abstract landscape of the filmmaker’s very soul. Warmly shot on 16mm, it eschews both narrative and structural conventions in favor of a poetic, evocative, mysterious and contemplative atmosphere which shrouds you in a hand-woven tapestry of non-sentimental familiarity... 

8. De Uskyldige / The Innocents (Eskil Vogt, 2021)

Told and shot from the children’s perspective, The Innocents – not to be confused with Jack Clayton’s 1961 masterpiece – is a deliberately paced, densely atmospheric and emotionally harrowing drama with supernatural / horror elements thanks to which it fills you and leaves you with the feeling of uneasiness bordering pedophobia. Vogt elicits brilliant, eerily natural performances from young debuting actors, whereby Sturla Brandth Grøvlen’s delicate cinematography coupled with a brooding score by Pessi Levanto makes their world in equal measures alluring and unwelcoming...

9. Wolf (Natalie Biancheri, 2021)

(read my short review HERE)

10. Xin shen bang: Ne Zha chong sheng / Nezha Reborn (Ji Zhao, 2021)

The Chinese mythology surrounding prince Nezha gets a steampunk upgrade in the sophomore feature from Ji Zhao who debuted alongside Amp Wong in a gorgeous 2019 wuxia fantasy White Snake. A simple, yet undying story of good vs. evil seems to be there only for the animators to demonstrate their enviable talents, because it is the colorful, aesthetically stunning visuals that carry you through the film. The beautifully lit industrial setting which takes cues from 1920’s Shanghai and 1940’s Hollywood crime movies poses for a retro-futuristic dystopia in which the water shortage is caused by ancient deities reincarnated as arrogant magnates. What they (and some protagonists) lack in the character development department is compensated by fascinating designs, not to mention breathtaking action sequences that involve everything from exciting moto-races to spectacular taming of raging dragons. Judging by one of the post-credit scenes, the amazing universe of Nezha Reborn will be expanded next year...

Dec 29, 2021

Kinoskop Spin-Off Vol. 6: Towards 2022

A cold December day feels much cozier with tactile textures of films shot on celluloid soothing your eyes. For that reason, Kinoskop presents another selection of recently released, publicly available shorts, to give you a boost of inspiration for the upcoming year.

The 6th spin-off opens with Howard Davidson’s Reflections – a loving homage to American photographer Francesca Woodman (1958-1981) – which introduces a mesmerizing interplay of light and shadows, model Anna Berg (in her birthday suit) embodying the spirit of the tragically short-lived artist. This delicately and melancholically erotic meditation finds a complementary continuation in performative piece Being in the Touch by Margarita Raeva who aspires to re-establish and strengthen the primordial connection of human body and nature through CG manipulations of a 16mm footage. Also not shying away from nudity is Vira-Lata’s visually liberating music video Medo for Brazilian indie rockers Terno Rei; a vivid, borderline sci-fi exploration of inner thoughts of three young people trapped in a confined space, and yearning to run wild and free.

Another great example of coping with isolation through externalizing one’s own imagination is oneiric dance-monodrama Nightscape by choreographer and director Jenna Borisevich whose heroine portrayed by Billie Rose Owen turns her living room into an intimate fairy tale, as cinematographer Robert Mentov captures her elegant moves in warm earthy tones and energizing hues of violet. Digging deeper into solitude caused by pandemics is Theo Le Sourd’s Sometimes I Wonder – a sensual, wistfully diaristic dive into the memories of a young New Yorker, Jospehine, whose wanderings around the city and small, yet precious moments spent at home are accompanied by calming voice-over. Yearning for love and contact is strongly felt in the following entry, See You Again, as well – director Hector Prats and German singer and songwriter Roosevelt (born Marius Lauber) deliver a colorful, retro-futuristic / synth-pop take on a virtual world, a limbo where bonding through bytes may prove truer than life.

Choreographed dance returns in Cara Stricker’s ritualistic, techno-surrealist fantasy Every Step Is a Prayer that takes cues from biomimicry, Afro-futurism, somatic healing and symbology of Seminole & Miccosukee tribes indigenous to Miami area, pulling you into a utopian universe based on a harmonious coexistence between our body and the land, nature and technology, individual and collective. Romy Martini’s Les trois citrons keeps us still in the domain of fairy tales, deconstructing Goldilocks and the Three Bears into an abstract garden-adventure, with titular beasts replaced by lemons, and lost heroine’s identity remaining a puzzle. An extra dose of quirkiness paired with a punkish attitude comes with Daffodil by Daniel Rodriguez who depicts a deadly romance of a couple ‘with secret professions’ (code: contract killers). And last but certainly not least is a super-grainy mystery If You Had Known surrounding a suitcase with a creepy rabbit mask not unlike the one worn by the character of Frank in Donnie Darko. This uncanny, Lynchian short is the final entry in the Bunny trilogy by German filmmaker Lars Kemnitz.

Program duration: 54:53
(Click on the titles to watch the films.)

Reflections | Howard Davidson | 2021| USA | 6:42 | Super 8

Being in the Touch | Margarita Raeva | 2021 | Russia | 8:13 | 16mm

Terno Rei – Medo | Vira-Lata | 2021 | Brazil | 4:28 | 16mm

Nightscape | Jenna Borisevich | 2021 | Canada | 4:30 | 16mm

Sometimes I Wonder | Theo Le Sourd | 2021 | USA | 5:42 | 16mm & 35mm

Roosevelt – See You Again | Hector Prats | 2021 | Spain | 4:44 | 16mm

Every Step is a Prayer | Cara Stricker | 2021 | USA | 8:34 | 35mm

Les trois citrons | Romy Martini | 2021 | Australia | 3:07 | Super 8

Daffodil | Daniel Rodriguez | 2021 | USA | 3:20 | Super 8

If You Had Known | Lars Kemnitz | 2021 | Germany | 5:33 | Super 8

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Dec 23, 2021

Wolf (Natalie Biancheri, 2021)

 “One day... we’ll run wild together.”

When we’re first introduced to a protagonist, Jacob (George MacKay), he wears nothing but his birthday suit, surrounded by lush greenery of the forest. As he frolics in the dirt, believing to be a wolf, we can feel his joy and freedom washing all over us. However, his rapture turns out to be a short-lived reverie, because he is about to be institutionalized for the treatment of species dysphoria. Once he is caged under the wakeful eye of Dr. Mann aka The Zookeeper (Paddy Considine), he meets a lovely, enigmatic girl, Cecile (Lily-Rose Depp), who prowls the hallways at night, a wild cat hissing in her soul...

An allegory of identity / gender crisis triggered by a past trauma, or simply a middle finger in the ugly face of societal hypocrisy; an anti-conformist fable that dares to be different as in ‘self-consciously crazy and stubbornly defiant to so-called normality’? Regardless of what the answer may be, Wolf brings a breezy breath of fresh air to the world of arthouse dramas, flirting with mystery and even coming close to generate uneasiness characteristic of more atmospheric offerings in the horror genre. Although it rarely bites, this snarling beast often shows its sharp teeth, but also allows itself to be cuddly, if you’re willing to accept its imperfections. Embracing weirdness with its imagined paws, it earns comparisons to certain Greek films of recent times, particularly in its clean, starkly composed frames, yet it stands on its own (four legs). Topping the beautiful cinematography, clever production design, as well as excellent use of music is MacKay’s utter devotion to the demanding role which sees him howling, growling, micro-expressing, and mastering the wolf movements in what’s one of the best physical performances of the year. In his externalization of inner animal, Depp proves to be a perfect partner, at times invoking the melancholic spirit of Bartas’s muse Yekaterina Golubeva (1966-2011).

Dec 22, 2021

A Selection of Recent Artworks (X)

Verità, per Sempre / Истина, заувек / Truth, Forever

Falso Paradiso / Лажни рај / Fake Paradise

L'Entità / Ентитет / The Entity

L'Ipotesi della Lacrima Divina / Хипотеза о божанској сузи / The Hypothesis of Divine Tear

Una Favola della Buonanotte / Прича за лаку ноћ / The Bedtime Story

Il Serpente della Notte / Змија ноћи / The Snake of Night

La Lampada Meravigliosa / Чудесна лампа / The Wonderful Lamp

Dec 3, 2021

Crisis Jung (Baptiste Gaubert & Jérémie Hoarau, 2018)

Embodying Jungian concepts of Animus and Anima in a tragic, archetypal (super)hero named after the famed psychiatrist and forced to embark on a post-apocalyptic road of individuation (well, sort of), this short series marks the most fascinating anomaly amongst the weirdest milestones in the history of (French) animation. Madder than Mad Max, heavier than Heavy Metal, wilder than Dead Leaves (apparently, that’s also possible), and gorier than the most notorious of ultra-violent old-school anime, such as Fist of the North Star, it revels in gratuitous transgression of the John Waters kind, decidedly vulgar iconoclasm that places a glowing halo over Ken Russell’s opus, and unapologetically hyper-sexualized / gender-non-conforming imagery that reaches its climax in a coitus of divine proportions.

Armed with a sharp satirical blade, it comes across as an absurdist, steroid-fattened, pseudo-philosophical parody of every (cartoon) show based on ‘magical transformation + monster of the week’ formula, but it simultaneously pays a loving homage to all those pulp action fantasies that it unabashedly draws (read: sucks in the most perverse sense possible) inspiration from. It employs repetition to a ‘running gag’ effect, as Jung – turned by his own despair into a broken-hearted legend of the wastelands (and accompanied by trans-femme version of Mary Magdalene) – faces the demons of Tenderness, Tolerance, Confidence, Charity, Compassion, Maturity and Fortitude, before the final duel against Little Jesus (alien creature that is, ironically, colossally obese) whose pink excrement produces eggs from which the villains are hatched. Did I mention the chainsaw-dicked henchmen, spiritualization of cannibalism and poetry recited in the rain of blood? And let’s not forget the esoteric influence of The End of Evangelion and the fabulously rampant flamboyancy that brings to mind Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. If all of this sounds like too much, let me assure you it is, but it does operate like a well-oiled machine whose over-the-top / in-your-face appearance makes it one of the most boldly and subversively imaginative inventions. 

Dec 1, 2021

Best Premiere Viewings of November


1. Corridor of Mirrors (Terence Young, 1948)

If I were asked to describe Corridor of Mirrors in only two words, I would say something along the lines of ‘incredibly posh’ or ‘extraordinarily elegant’. A film of lush beauty, visual and aural alike, and mesmerizing atmosphere, it recounts the story of dangerous obsession and delusions in the form of a heightened Gothic melodrama which, by the end, flirts with psychological horror, filling you with a strange sense of discomfort. Gently shrouded in the veil of mystery which isn’t completely lifted even after the big reveal, this ‘noir fairy tale’ tackles the idea of a ‘previous life’ through its eccentric (anti)hero (an imposing performance from Eric Portman) whose unflinching commitment to the past is turned into a sort of a romantic fetish continuously reflected in gorgeous costume and production design. What makes the feature all the more impressive is the fact that it marked a debut for both its director Terence Young and art director Terence Verity who left an impression of more experienced artists.

2. Eye of the Devil (J. Lee Thompson, 1966)

It is for films like this that I often wish multiplex theaters in my home town were showing at least one classic a week. A highly atmospheric blend of gothic, occult and folk horror, Eye of the Devil is as stunning as Sharon Tate’s beauty, and eerily ominous as the aura surrounding her enigmatic character Odile whose archer brother is portrayed by David Hemmings at his most broodingly malevolent. Deborah Kerr’s hysteric histrionics give rise to the sense of paranoia pervading the story, with Donald Pleasence’s calm, velvety voice operating as a counterbalance that puts you in a state akin to a hypnotic trance. 

3. The Beast with Five Fingers (Robert Florey, 1946)

Despite the bits of humor and a somewhat goofy premise that most probably inspired Thing from The Adams Family franchise, The Beast with Five Finger is a prime example of Gothic elegance, primarily thanks to the combined genius of composer Max Steiner, DoP Wesley Anderson and art director Stanley Fleischer. The shadowy interiors of a sumptuous Italian villa in which the psychologically tricky story is largely set are nothing short of breathtakingly eerie, though a good deal of creepiness comes from a character played by the inimitable Peter Lorre.

4. Follow Me Quietly (Richard Fleischer, 1949)

On the surface, this early offering from Richard Fleischer whose late career involves a couple of cult sword & sorcery flicks – Conan the Destroyer and Red Sonja –  appears like a generic police procedural noir, with a hard-boiled hero in a trench coat, a nosy ‘hussy’ of a journalist, a perpetrator who operates under the moniker of ‘The Judge’, and everyone’s favorite hangout place called ‘The Tavern’ that exists in some unnamed American City. But, what elevates Follow Me Quietly above similar films are the perseverance of mystery (an important ingredient of many great pieces of art), even after the serial strangler (who kills only during the rain) is given a face, as well as intriguing details such as a creepy profiler dummy that comes to life at one point. Its economic running time of just about an hour, and the climactic ‘gas refinery’ set piece alone are reasons enough to check it out. 

Also recommended is elaborate MUBI essay Deadpan in Nulltown by B. Kite and Bill Krohn.

5. Marianne de ma jeunesse / Marianne of My Youth (Julien Duvivier, 1955)

There is unabashed über-romanticism at play in Julien Duvivier’s strangely alluring fantasy drama which exists in two simultaneously shot versions – French (which I’ve seen / starring Pierre Vaneck) and German (which I’m compelled to see / with Horst Buchholz in his first big-screen role). Set in and around a Bavarian boarding school for boys, it tells a simple, yet somewhat unconventional story of a young man, Vincent, falling for a mysterious girl, Marianne (incredibly charming Marianne Hold), held captive in a supposedly haunted manor. He appears to be a magnet for both his friends (it’s hard to deny a strong homoerotic subtext in the way they all orbit around him) and entire population of deer and does who inhabit a lush surrounding forest, whereas she may only be a figment of his fertile imagination; a symbol of unattainable love/beauty. The film has a Cocteau-esque vibe attached to it, bringing to one’s mind his ‘Beauty and the Beast’ through the exquisite production design, but it also feels like there’s a Gothic horror buried deep, deep underneath the surface of a tonally elusive fairy tale. But, regardless of how you look at it, Marianne of My Youth is a cinematically inspired piece dreamily captured by the keen eye of Léonce-Henri Burel (Diary of a Country Priest).

6. Wênd Kûuni / God’s Gift (Gaston Kaboré, 1982)

A film of lyrical beauty and hushed atmosphere, this diamond in the rough from Burkina Faso plays out like a blend of pastoral drama and ethnographic documentary shrouded in a transparent veil of mystery. Directed with a gentle hand and shot with a poet’s eye, it tells a mute boy’s story in which time seems to be at a standstill. The strong feeling of authenticity which pervades it arises from the performances by the largely non-professional cast.

7. La note bleue / The Blue Note (Andrzej Żuławski, 1991)

Maddeningly fascinating in its decadent beauty, irreverent fancy and ferocious hyper-theatricality, The Blue Note reflects on the destructive power of creativity, unapologetically glorifying ‘l’art pour l’art’. Insolently whimsical and Dionysian, it swirls you around like a whirlwind of colors, textures and oscillating emotions.

8. Damen i svart / The Lady in Black (Arne Mattsson, 1958)

Sven Nykvist’s name in the credits is the reason enough to spend 100 minutes with a Sherlock Holmes-like whodunit that occasionally feels like a German krimi mixed with a proto-episode of the Scooby Doo series, thanks to the titular lady in black – a ghost who forebodes death and tragedy. The aforementioned virtuoso cinematographer provides the viewer with highly expressive visuals, often trapping the characters in door and window frames, between balusters and in deep shadows, as we’re trying to solve the mystery along with a married couple of detectives failing to enjoy their summer vacation.


1. Ryū to sobakasu no hime / Belle (Mamoru Hosoda, 2021)

The Beauty and the Beast fairy tale is relocated to online kingdom in the latest feature by Mamoru Hosoda (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Summer Wars, Wolf Children), only to be subverted in the most unexpectedly poignant fashion. Exploring the duality of our identities in a digital era, the healing power of music, distances that bring us together, and transformation of pain into strength, inter alia, Belle reminds us of the forgotten art of empathy, as it sees physical and virtual realities bleed into each other like never before. Combined in perfect balance, the timelessness of a heartfelt coming-of-age dramedy and the epic sumptuousness of maximalist sci-fi/musical/fantasy provide the viewer with two hours of pure anime magic – a masterwork of hi-tech surrealism that will highly likely find its place amongst the best animated features of the current decade.

The wildly varied designs seen in the metaverse of ‘U’ where the phantasmagorical action takes place evoke comparisons to everything (but the kitchen sink) from Disney to Studio 4°C experiments, from Tatsunoko heroes such as Casshern to the 80’s shows Voltron and Jam and the Holograms, from the unforgettable parade scene in Satoshi Kon’s Paprika to Gothic aesthetics of Tim Burton’s stop-motion films, and yet, they strike us as idiosyncratic as it gets. And back in the real world, we are treated to the hyper-stylized version of a painterly Japanese countryside, with the bluest of skies and the puffiest of clouds crowning simple buildings surrounded by thick vegetation. In such a gorgeously illustrated setting supported by thematic richness and elevated by the soaring score, everything familiar feels completely new, and even a Hosoda sceptic such as myself can’t help but admire imagination and creativity at display. 

2. The Nowhere Inn (Bill Benz, 2020)

Bill Benz’s (promising) feature debut is what happens when you remove ‘vanity’ from the ‘vanity project’ equations and after filtering it through the prism of self-irony bordering self-satire, put it back in. It is a whimsical piece of fiction that strives to be a musical documentary, only to turn into a witty mockumentary gradually taking the form of a delightfully weird and oh-so-meta psychological drama/thriller dealing with identity crisis, as well as with the authenticity of our creations and reality.

The star of the film is Annie Clark better recognized by her stage persona of St. Vincent, and she is simply wonderful in her role, singing and acting alike, even though you’re never sure if she’s Annie or St. Vincent or an actress playing Annie and St. Vincent, as her film within the film grows increasingly bizarre. (And this praise comes not from a fan, but from someone who has previously played a YouTube video or two by the said musician – active for more than a decade.)

Benz directs The Nowhere Inn unpretentiously, with a keen sense of humor and cinema artifice, employing a disorienting blend of digital, 16mm and VHS footage to emphasize the highly subjective viewpoint(s). He elicits excellent ‘art-imitates-life-imitates-art’ performances from the entire cast, whether those people play themselves, their alter egos or someone else... And in times like these, one can completely identify with the ‘madness’ at display.

3. Gwleđđ / The Feast (Lee Haven Jones, 2021)

If Pasolini’s Teorema had been re-imagined as an anti-capitalist, ecologically conscious art/folk horror in the vein of Greek Weird Wave, but shot in Welsh... well, you can already assume how this sentence ends. The Feast may not be the subtlest of allegories – in fact, it is decidedly ‘on the nose’, but it is a visually stunning piece of cinema created with unmistakable formal discipline, great attention to detail, and strong sense of foreboding atmosphere. Its meticulous framing, cleverly used music and tautly controlled direction are only matched by the unnerving central performance from Annes Elwy whose empty/confused stares, eerie micro-expressions and odd body language betray the non-human nature of her character, Cadi. Although we never get to know the true form of a mysterious force of nature possessing Cadi’s body, our reward comes as the grisly final act seasoned with some good ol’ psychedelia. A rock-solid feature debut for Lee Haven Jones.

4. Das Mädchen und die Spinne / The Girl and the Spider (Ramon & Silvan Zürcher, 2021)

Dubbed ‘a poetic ballad about change and transience’, German-spoken Swiss drama The Girl and the Spider also operates as a fascinating character study in which glances, body gestures and micro-expressions – perfected by the entire cast – speak much louder than words... unless the protagonists are intent on keeping their secrets. They walk around the confined spaces of a few apartments in almost choreographed fashion, captured in minutely composed mid-shots and close-ups which channel their emotional states through the great use of predominantly primary colors. Moving out has never been portrayed with such lyrical simplicity that, once you scratch its surface, reveals complex psychologies and whimsical peculiarities, particularly in the quirky character of Mara who’s brought to life through a magnetic performance by Henriette Confurius. The Zürcher brothers direct the with an architectural precision, imbuing the mundane with deeply human significance.

5. Ukkili kamshat / The Owners (Adilkhan Yerzhanov, 2014)

A spiritual prequel to The Plague at the Karatas Village (originally, Chuma v aule Karatas), The Owners is a Kafkaesque black/deadpan comedy, brutally wacky, cynically surreal and cheerfully tragic (!) in its lucid exploration of poverty, corruption, nepotism, legalized crime and systematic bullying. Interrupted by some unexpected bursts of feverish dancing, it bewitches you with its unhinged weirdness and strong sense of visual composition.

6. Das kalte Herz / Heart of Stone (Johannes Naber, 2016)

Enchanted by Henriette Confurius’s performance in the Zürcher brothers’ quirky drama The Girl and the Spider, I tracked 2016 adaptation of Wilhelm Hauff’s fairy tale Heart of Stone in which she portrays the hero’s sweetheart, Lisbeth, and lights up the screen every time she’s in the frame. The story revolves around a coal miner’s son, Peter (Frederick Lau of Victoria fame), who sells his heart to a Mephistophelian figure, Dutch Michel (ever-reliable Moritz Bleibtreu), for money and power, which Johannes Naber employs to create a spiritual sequel to his tart, cynical satire of capitalism Age of Cannibals (Zeit der Kannibalen). Although he executes a 180 degrees turn in terms of aesthetics, production values and his approach to anti-corporate messaging, he delivers a tautly directed film with a heart that is definitely not of stone; a beautiful dark fantasy that doesn’t shy away from its grim aspects. Speaking of which, Naber takes liberty to spice up the whole organ-transplantation business with graphic depictions that feel closer to the Grimm brothers’ writings, and introduces Lisbeth much earlier than Hauff, allowing her character more space to breathe. The accent is on Peter, of course, and Lau does a commendable job in portraying his transformation from a kind and reticent coal boy (looking like a member of Rammstein in the music video for their single Sonne) to an unscrupulous rich man deeply steeped in greed. On top of that, Pascal Schmit as cinematographer and Julian R. Wagner as production designer provide the viewer with plenty of eye-candy, completely immersing you in the world of yore, inhabited by both humans and forest spirits, and ruled by woodcutters and glassblowers.

7. The Trouble with Being Born (Sandra Wollner, 2020)

“We were outside all day and up all night. Mum would never have allowed it. I swam until my skin turned wrinkly and my lips turned blue. But I wouldn't get out of the water.”

Thought-provoking with the emphasis on ‘provoking’ is one of the safest ways to describe the controversial, sophomore feature from Austrian filmmaker Sandra Wollner. An unsettling visit to the uncanny valley, it raises a number of ethical questions and makes some “deep cuts into ontology, memory, identity and our increasingly boundary-obliterating relationship to tech” as Jessica Kiang notes in her Variety review. It puts you in the uncomfy shoes of an android modeled after an underage girl (a stunningly cool performance from a 10-yo first-timer playing under the mask and pseudonym of Lena Watson) who we initially see living with her ‘papa’. The above-quoted words which she is pre-programmed with, along with the memories of we-better-not-know-exactly-who, get covered in a dirty patina as soon as we realize (only through implications, thankfully) that the father-daughter dynamics fall under the category of ‘techno-incest’. And what intensifies the viscerally unpleasant feeling is the fact that the ghost in the machine is not aware of the concept of consent, nor does it recognize the exploitative nature of its situation. Even after it wanders off and ends up gender-bended into an object of consolation for an old lady who lost her younger brother long ago, the viewer can not shake off the heavy gloom, as Wollner strikes us with her icy formalism. Dialogues are often eschewed in favor of lingering silences and ‘understated’, yet unforgettable imagery that establish an oppressively brooding atmosphere. The Trouble with Being Born is yin to Marjorie Prime yang.

8. Mariphasa (Sandro Aguilar, 2017)

How does one portray the aftermath of a personal apocalypse triggered by the loss of a child? Is it even possible to find the right ‘colors’ to paint such a horrid tragedy? In his sophomore feature, Sandro Aguilar strives to answer these questions, and delivers a deeply depressing mood piece in which moving on feels like a paralyzing and suffocating stasis. A day rarely dawns, and harrowing nights drain the last drops of energy. Shadows devour the uninviting world of dimly lit spaces and miserable phantasms who inhabit it. Watching their inert ‘struggle’ can be best described as walking on the very brink of the abyss, with steely clouds of grief and pain threatening to crush you. It is only the film’s impressive (and coldly oppressive!) formal rigor that one is allowed to hold on to...