Paired with Servando González’s directorial versatility that sees him crossing the genre boundaries with great ease, and seamlessly blending various influences, from (presumably) classic Hollywood to European arthouse to Japanese horror, the inspired lensing by Gabriel Figueroa turns even the most mundane portions of the narrative into micro-spectacles, with virtually every pan, zoom and canted angle impregnated with meaning. Also praiseworthy is the superb editing by Fernando Martínez allowing the action to flow smoothly and – by the standards of cinematic illusion – naturally.
Created under the regime which didn’t allow artists to think, let alone philosophy on the absurdity of life, Drahomíra Vihanová’s extraordinary feature debut was confiscated by despotic authorities, with the author herself banned from filmmaking until 1977, when she made the first out of several documentary shorts, only to return to fiction in 1994. Revolving around an apathetic army officer, Arnošt (Ivan Palúch, brilliant!), who can neither mend nor end things that bother him, Squandered Sunday balances on a tightrope between the protagonist’s realities and illusions / suicidal thoughts and drunken escapades, his twisted perspective reflected in both the heavily fragmented narrative and bold formal experimentation. From the very first scene set at the funeral of Arnošt’s mother (death portends death), it is absolutely clear that Vihanová knows the rules of the game very well, which allows her to break them in the most creative ways, pulling the viewer ever deeper into a feverish, delightfully irrational (meta)cinematic universe that evokes the likes of Godard, Chytilová and Jakubisko. Her apolitical stance is what makes the film so politically defiant, and the liberty she takes in the oft-freewheeling portraiture of metaphysical meaninglessness intensifies the confrontation. An absolute must-see for the Czech New Wave aficionados!
During the film’s brilliant opening scene in which the unnamed heroine wanders the streets lined by mostly dilapidated and abandoned buildings, there is something coldly Żuławski-esque enveloping the gloominess at display. Then comes the awakening, and the gray nightmare turns into a memory-laced reverie set in the northmost part of Norway – the woman’s birthplace somewhere in Finnmark where the author also comes from. Her past and her present intertwine to the point where one cannot distinguish dreams from reality, and personal reflections from the universal pain, in what could be best described as an almost wordless tone poem whose unfaltering lyricism evokes the spirit of Tarkovsky. Jensen’s oneiric, stream-of-consciousness narrative plunges the viewer into the protagonist’s inner world, as the highly evocative, beautifully captured imagery of home, childhood, friendship, love, sex, work, war, death and finally, (re)birth is caressed by gently weeping strings, haunting drones and sparkling chimes...
Gorgeously shot with an ARRI Arriflex SR3, on 500T Kodak stock by cinematographer Molly Manning-Walker, the visual version of 2021 album Blue Weekend by Londoners Wolf Alice feels like a tender, hazy yet palpable, Christopher Doyle-esque dream! Its oneiric, intoxicating, deeply immersive atmosphere – the equivalent of a night out in town turned smoky night club limbo – owes a lot to the raw warmth of grainy 16mm texture of saturated colors, distorted angles achieved through the use of wide lenses, as well as to the ethereal, caressing vocal of singer Ellie Roswell, and the band’s sultry, simultaneously mellow and edgy melodies. Whether you’re their fan or have just discovered them, you owe yourself these 45 minutes of aural and pictorial beauty. (Click on the title to watch it on YouTube.)
In the sophomore feature by Žika Mitrović famous for his ‘partisan westerns’, a classic Hollywood crime movie formula works amazingly well, even when Olivera Marković – superb in the supporting role of singer Olga – performs jazzy tunes in a tavern which usually has accordion folk on the menu. The noirish scenes shot at the rails during the night are the film’s main forte, with deep blacks of Dragoljub Karadžinović’s great cinematography tightly shrouding the smuggling operations by greedy railroad workers. And when the film’s polished genre surface is scratched, its political subtext shines through in its subtlety. A beautiful anomaly of Yugoslavian cinema.
Now, this is one fine B-movie! Set in a bizarre private asylum (a slightly adapted abandoned warehouse) for the ‘sexually challenged’ patients, The Shadowed Mind takes cues from giallo cinema, and assaults the viewer with a top-notch mixture of baroque lighting, stalkerish camera, sinister music, and generous amounts of nudity and knife stabbing (often combined). There’s some wonderful scenery chewing attached to leading performances, as well as wooden acting in supporting roles, but Sundstorm (who would direct two sequels in the American Ninja series!) seems to benefit from all the imperfections, and delivers both artistically satisfying and highly entertaining flick which is – according to some sources – based on a semi-improvised screenplay.
Based upon Les Chansons de Bilitis by Pierre Louys (1870-1925), Roses in the Night is an absolutely stunning piece of traditional animation, accompanied by a miraculous score from prolific and acclaimed Serbian composer Zoran Simjanović (1946-2021). Through the series of surreal transitions informed by the art of optical illusions, Bulgarian animator Pencho Kunchev plunges the viewer into a magical world straight out of a myth, depicting the sexual awakening of a young girl in Ancient Greece. Available as a part of HYBRID GENRE FRANCE: Paris VOD Film Awards at Vimeo.
Wow! German expressionism meets French avant-garde in a cinematically eloquent adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s short story of the same name. A masterfully crafted experimental short! What a damn shame that Watson & Webber co-directed only two films – this one and utterly spellbinding Lot in Sodom (1933).
A brilliant use of the medium of animation in an almost wordless exploration of artist’s heightened anxiety. Watched at Festival Scope.
MeTube is a series (at this point, trilogy) of extremely weird and highly memorable music videos created by Vienna-based director Daniel Moshel who boldly blends SFX, opera, techno, retro-futurism, absurd comedy, queer art and S&M aesthetics into one hell of an audio-visual smörgåsbord. It revolves around Nerd (Swiss tenor August Schram) and his elderly mother (Elfriede Wunsch, appearing in Ulrich Seidl’s Paradise: Faith) – one of the coolest grumpy characters ever, and follows their cosmic adventure in remixing famous arias – in the cozy atmosphere of their home, as street performers, and eventually, as guerilla artists who crash the production of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore at the theatre. Has to be seen to be believed!
Clemens Tolstrup gently and beautifully captures human faces (of whom I presume to be his friends) in his 16mm short debut produced by European Film College (Denmark), and accompanied by ethereal music that evokes the sense of mystery.