24 Hours of Inertia in L.A.
Model Shop (1969), directed by Jacques Demy, is often overlooked as a mere curiosity of the late 60’s Californian culture with little cinematic effort, though in reality appears as a bold and original film to any film lover familiar with the director’s work. Eight years have passed since Demy’s feature debut Lola (1961) and now, in his first film made in the States, he returns to...
Blind Chance Dictated by Fate
“I am to provide the public with beneficial shocks. Civilization has become so protective that we’re no longer able to get our goose bumps instinctively. The only way to remove the numbness and revive our moral equilibrium is to use artificial means to bring about the shock. The best way to achieve that, it seems to me, is through a movie.” (Alfred Hitchcock, during a press...
Farewell: A Year Since Angelopoulos' Death
“And, if the soul is about to know itself, it must gaze into the soul.” (Plato) Often declared as the last modernist or the greatest poet of our time, the acclaimed Greek filmmaker Theodoros ‘Theo’ Angelopoulos passed away exactly one year ago on 24th January, 2012. Run over by an off-duty police officer while crossing a busy road, Angelopoulos...
Raw Poetry of Crime
What makes a good crime film? That is if one even wants to contemplate on such a commercial basis. Does it have to be suspenseful? Does it need surprising twists? Is a clear and logical structure essential? If the answer to all these, and especially to the third one, was yes, then Heaven and Hell (1963) by Akira Kurosawa is a good crime film. In fact, it is not just one of the best crime films...
The Tragedy of the Old Left
There are films that touch me. There are films that teach me. There are films that change who I am, films that haunt and stay with me. Then there are films that inspire me to a large extent. The latter is a group which Alain Resnais’ fourth feature La guerre est finie (1966, The War Is Over) has always belonged to. This of course doesn’t mean that the film couldn’t have touched...
A Grotesque Ballet of Violence: Faces after...
“Don’t rejoice in his defeat, you men. For though the world stood up and stopped the bastard, the bitch that bore him is in heat again.” (Bertolt Brecht) Sam Peckinpah’s third last film Cross of Iron (1977), portraying the difficult decisions of Nazi officers during their retreat after the Battle of Stalingrad, is a dirty picture shot in seedy...
A Look at Cruelty
A gleam of sunlight sparkling through treetops into dark woods as silence prevails in the atmosphere. A new day begins. An elderly man, handicapped and unable to move, lies on a run-down couch. His grown-up daughter, mother of two, goes to clean the roadsides of a highway. Her daughter takes a nap at the school bench whereas her brother skips the whole thing and spends his time building a secret...
Why Do We List the Best of Films?
A few months ago the British film magazine Sight & Sound published the results of the 2012 poll which tried to list the best 250 movies of all times. Hundreds of directors, critics and academics participated. This poll, which has been organized by the British Film Institute every decade since 1952, has gained a reputation as a respectable list that both gathers and declares the canon of the...
“Chahine’s strength, ever since Cairo Station, has been the ability to look at, with the same eye, equal curiosity and warmth, typical persons and marginal characters, small details, and the grand turmoil of history and politics, all this merged into dramaturgy and montage, both of which are much more polished than they externally seem to be. Above all, Chahine is one of the great...
Crude Beauty with Simple Strokes
A mentally deficient boy checks the condition of an invisible trolley and starts his daily journey across the town. Everything is in order even if the servicemen could take a better care of the facilities. Fortunately, the boy is a diligent, hard-working tram driver and can see to that the work of the day gets done. All this is, however, a product of childlike imagination. In reality, the boy is...
The Power of Light in Lola: It's Black and White
Film is art of light. By creating contrasts of visual impressions, counterpointing light with dark shadows, for instance, film entices its spectator to a luminous labyrinth of time. Film is drama where silence and shades exchange dialogue. A subtle dissolve or an elusive cross fade can tell more than a thousand words. An eerie shift from one light scale to another can create such an enduring...
The Dreamy Image of the Fashion Icon
I think I have to throw up before being able to discuss Stanley Donen’s beloved classic Funny Face (1957) which is a film of excessive romanticism, too cute creatures and musical numbers that will make the dearest friend of escapist entertainment shield his eyes from horror. It’s a pink box, decorated with frilled bows, which once opened reveals a world so fluffy that it can’t be...
A Heartfelt Tale of Loneliness and Intimacy
Luchino Visconti can be taken as one sort of an oddity, when it comes to film history, for he began his artistic career at the midway of his life, having spent several years as a horse breeder which is rumored to have helped him in his actor control. Before beginning film making, Visconti was already a true expert in the field of theater and opera which shines luminously in his works of the...
One Big Fraud
“Art is a lie which makes us realize the truth” (Pablo Picasso) F for Fake (1973) was the terminus of Orson Welles’ oeuvre and, without trying to highlight its excellence by exaggeration, is undeniably one of his best works. It is a film, a fiction and a documentary; a poem, an essay and a presentation; an aesthetic meditation, a forgery and a metafilm. To be honest, it...
Poetic Reflections on the Mirror of Ivan
“On earth there is no death. All are immortal. All is immortal. No need to be afraid of death at seventeen nor seventy. Only reality and light exist. In this world there’s neither darkness nor death. We’re all already on the sea-shore, and I am one of those who draws the nets as a shoal of immortality comes in.” (Andrei Tarkovsky) Born in Soviet Union, Andrei Tarkovsky...
A Brief Moment of Truth
A Lesson in Love (1954), directed by Ingmar Bergman, is an ironic and erotic comedy whose protagonist is none other than the unpredictable life itself. The film begins by stating that it is a comedy for grown-ups and could, in fact, be a tragedy just as well. This is understandable since Bergman deals with the most horrifying issue in our civilization: marriage. In a sense, the film meant a...
A Prophetic Tragedy of Vanity
Rigid with terror, alone in the dark and tormented by a constant fear of complete destruction as the social conflicts of the world have descended on the shoulders of the individual. The Cold War was at its hottest, the Cuban Missile Crisis threatened the existence of mankind, nuclear weapon tests were held in Nevada and, as to top it all, the brightest star of Hollywood decided to kill herself. In...
Slaughtering the Patriarchal
Boy meets girl, they fall in love and decide to start a life together. One submits to the other and everything can go as planned. The secure future of co-existance has been stabilized by an unmerciful act of violence, abuse and manipulation. This is the traditional love story, which has been corroded into our brains, of western culture, and it also provides the set-up for Pedro Almodóvar’s...
A Journey Through the Memory of War
Le train or The Last Train (1973) is one of the many forgotten European WWII films which, through romantic endeavour, try to tell something essential about morality or the nature of war. Even though it is nothing compared to such WWII masterpieces as The Cranes Are Flying (1956), Come and See (1985) and The Great War (1959), it is still quite a refreshing treat as a traditional French film made in...
The Dim Shadow of the Bomb
Fail-Safe (1964) is a gripping Cold War thriller directed by a famous American filmmaker Sidney Lumet who brought such films as 12 Angry Men (1957) and Dog Day Afternoon (1975) to the screen. Fail-Safe isn’t his most well known piece of work but, to my mind, among his finest. It’s an evocative statement made in the spirit of the time; an apocalyptic vision of the bipolar world, while...
Woody Allen's Compromise
September (1987), directed by Woody Allen, is an American family melodrama which, through emotional breakdown, tries to form a cathartic experience. It’s a traditional chamber drama, stripped down to essentials, for it happens in only one milieu — a chateau owned by a lonely daughter of an affluent family. In a short period of time, the story draws a picture of the worries, issues and...
An Ode to a Flop or I Salute Thee, Billy Wilder
“Okay, here the downhill starts.” This is how people often discuss the film Kiss Me, Stupid (1964) which was Billy Wilder’s 19th feature and, perhaps, his most abominated work. It’s a screwball-type comedy with witty dialogue which is out of control in flushing conventional set of values down the toilet. The flaw in most criticism the film faces is that people don’t...
Ontological Confusion in the Lynch Universe
“Probably, perhaps and maybe. These are the words that are inevitably repeated in each attempt to describe the juicy puzzle of Mulholland Drive. There are three words more than Lynch himself is inclined to give as explanations of his film. One can get an idea of his reluctance by looking at the synopsis he made — Part one: she found herself the perfect mystery. Part two: the sad...
Poetics of Prey and Vultures in the Space of Fear
“(Jancsó’s films) consist of approximately ten-minute long shots which resemble collective ballet and usually record shifts of the relations between rulers and the oppressed, often in a violent form. The masterfully controlled technique is not, however technical playing but a natural consequence of the director’s historical vision; formed from its pressure.” (Peter von...
Fashion and Film: Language, Identity and Image
“Suddenly, in the middle of a Tokyo street, I realized that the image proper to this city could very well be electronic and not just relayed by my ‘sacred’ film. The videocamera recorded this city, in its own language, aptly. I was shocked. City wasn’t the exclusive right of film anymore. Didn’t I have to re-evaluate everything now? All the concepts of identity,...
Oh, the Jolly Julie Andrews
“The Sound of Music, one of the most viewed films of all times, is made in a big fashion. Those viewers who were fascinated by the Cinderella story, which included nuns, children, Nazis and Julie Andrews, were literally stunned (there were all of the four sufficiently), and they had to watch the film two or three times until they could settle down and go back to the safety of their normal...
Cruel Comedy à la Eric Rohmer
L’ami de mon amie (1987) or My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend, directed by Eric Rohmer, is among the finest romantic comedies made after the 1960’s. It was not only Rohmer’s last film in his series Comedies & Proverbs but also his attempt to cleanse the genre. It is, without a doubt, among his best works and also an intriguing look at the modern society while the bipolar world...
Tokyo Story and Ozu's Treatment of Space and Time
Tôkyô monogatari or Tokyo Story (1953) is the most famous film Yasujirô Ozu ever made and the magnum opus of his later period. It is the film from which we can observe the trade marks of Ozu’s style but also the magnitude of the greatest era in Japanese cinema. During this particular era, in the early 1950’s, Japanese films came to Europe for the first time. A contemporary French...
The Sky Is Clear
Grigoriy Chukhray was one of the most prominent Soviet filmmakers of the new wave and Clear Skies (Chistoe nebo, 1961) is among his greatest achievements. It is a part of the movement when Soviet war films began to highlight the humane consequences of war over material. All of these films were made after the death of Joseph Stalin which freed Soviet cinema from the chains of fierce control that...
The Physical Power of L'enfant
“God is dead, we know it. We’re alone, we know it.” (Luc Dardenne) L’enfant (2005) won the Palm D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and is the most successful film by Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne. Although it meant a slight downhill after the masterful Le fils (2002), the film is an incredibly intense piece of work. It tells the story of two alienated youngsters...
An Essay on Christianity by an Atheist
“I have always followed the guide I have received from surrealism: ‘The necessity to eat doesn’t justify the prostitution of art’.” (Luis Buñuel) Having seen Jean-Luc Godard’s La chinoise (1967), Luis Buñuel was filled with emotions of both irritation and modest admiration. He had just finished Belle de jour (1967) which seemed rather old-fashioned in...
Divine Decadence or Grotesque Morale?
Musical. The genre of wishful thinking, optimism and cheerful attitude towards life. It is a ritualistic genre where man is allowed to move into another world. However, in many occasions, this false reality portrayed by musicals seems to turn into a horror-utopia. As it nearly does in On the Town (1949) by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen where three layers of reality are gorgeously reflected on the...
In the Spiral of Vertigo
Vertigo (1958), directed by Alfred Hitchcock, is one of the greatest films ever made in the history of cinema. But yet, it was almost entirely neglected when it was first released in the 1950’s. It was something completely different from what Hitchcock had been making earlier and, therefore, caused a great deal of controversies. However, today it is considered by many — one can count...
Freaks of Morality and the Pre-Code Era of...
After the first 30 years of the cinema, Hollywood had reached the top. In the 1920’s, many genres formed, silent film found its purest form of expression; and money was coming in. However, all this was thanks to Hollywood’s ruthless politics with regards to the foreign film markets and they did indeed succeed to break down Europe, also as a cultural institution, after WWI. No matter...
The Absolute Purity of Bicycle Thieves
“From De Sica’s Neapolitan generosity, through the virtues of the cinema, the widest message of love, that has been the joy to listen to in our time since Chaplin, is formed. I have talked about love. As well I could have talked about poetry. Poetry is nothing but the active, creative form of love: its reflection on the universe.” (André Bazin) Bicycle Thieves (1948),...
Alexander Kluge, A Wild Beat That the Public...
“We don’t perceive a contradiction between writing books, making films or producing a television program. These days you can’t choose how you want to express yourself anymore.” (Alexander Kluge) Alexander Kluge, born on the 14th of July 1932, is one of the central directors of The New German Cinema, and, what is more, could be seen as a pathfinder of abstract film; as...
A Lyric Tale of Growth
The 1950’s was a magnificent era for Soviet cinema, during which a great number of debuts and breakthroughs were made. New, younger directors formed the Soviet New Wave which might just be the most amorphous movement of all the European waves that took place at the turn of the decade. The most famous films made by younger auteurs must be Grigori Chukhrai’s A Ballad of a Soldier (1959)...
An Existentialist Holiday
La piscine or The Swimming Pool is a French crime film, directed by Jacques Deray, who is known as a master of crime, and written by Jean-Claude Carrière — a long time companion of Luis Buñuel. La piscine isn’t necessarily the most accessible French crime film, but I would say it is one of the best, at least from the 1960’s. It is an erotic, Antonionian film characterized by...
The Quixotesque Myth of The Great War
La grande guerra (The Great War, 1959), directed by Mario Monicelli, is one of the most underrated and overlooked European war films in the history of cinema. What makes it even worse, is that we aren’t just talking about a good war film or an interesting piece of Italian cinema, but of an authentic masterpiece of the genre. When it was first released, in the year 1959, the film faced a lot...
Face to Face and the Revolutionary Italo-Western
Sergio Sollima’s third feature Face to Face (1967) represents the finest set of Italo-Westerns, even if Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) still remains as the greatest masterpiece of the genre. The genre portrayed a world where one couldn’t trust anyone and where solidarity appeared in an individual only when he needed something from the other. Morality is subjective and, therefore,...
Peasants: Cinematic Beauty or Soviet Propaganda?
Peasants (1935) or Krestyane, directed by Friedrich Ermler, is one of the most underrated Soviet films of all time and, one thing that proves it is that there is not that much information about it on the Internet and, furthermore, not even ten people have given it a rating on IMDb. Therefore, I find it my duty, and great desire, to praise this film I just came across with. Several people want to...
The (Unending) Circle and Jafar Panahi
The imprisonment, and 25-year-ban from filmmaking, of the Iranian director Jafar Panahi has aroused a great number of protests, jury calls for festivals and petitions demanding Panahi’s liberalization around the globe. There’s no doubt, whether this fuss has affected his fame and appreciation in a positive manner, but one can be sure that it isn’t the only reason. He has always...
A Deterministic Melodrama
Over the years, A Place in the Sun (1951) has remained as George Stevens’ finest work. It is his magnum opus among all the great classics he made. Iconic imagery and bittersweet romances have made the film famous and also attached it to such classics as Waterloo Bridge (1940) and Brief Encounter (1945). However, in comparison to these two films A Place in the Sun shines with its bright...
Milos Forman and the New Hollywood
After the crisis caused by The Firemen’s Ball (1967), Milos Forman travelled away from Czechoslovakia to the States with the help of other European directors. Taking Off (1971) was his first Hollywood feature but it was really his second film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) which lifted him among the greatest auteurs of the New Hollywood or American New Wave. It was the...
Still Life in Modern China
Still Life (2006), directed by Jia Zhangke, is one of the most critically acclaimed Asian films of the 2000’s — alongside with In the Mood for Love (2000) and A One and a Two (2000). It won The Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and is considered, by many, as the director’s finest achievement. It was Zhangke’s 5th feature and, even though he still seems to be searching...
Remember, Night and Fog
“Tonight we must forget that we are film critics or part of the audience. This film is meant for us as human beings in order to open our eyes and set questions of conscience to ourselves. For a few hours Night and Fog erases all the other films from our memory. This film must be seen, definitely.” (François Truffaut) The most important event of the 20th century, the biggest crime...
The Turin Horse and the Stylistics of Béla Tarr
“In Turin on 3rd January, 1889, Friedrich Nietzsche steps out of the doorway of number six, Via Carlo Albert. Not far from him, the driver of a hansom cab is having trouble with a stubborn horse. Despite all his urging, the horse refuses to move, whereupon the driver loses his patience and takes his whip to it. Nietzsche comes up to the throng and puts an end to the brutal scene, throwing...
Alphaville or Poetic Science Fiction
The films by Jean-Luc Godard aren’t stories. Made in U.S.A (1966) for example is a mess which is only held together by the logic of poetry. Unlike many great American filmmakers, Godard doesn’t just choose a genre and make an intelligent interpretation out of it. It is as if he has absorbed different genres to himself and creates something entirely original: musical (A Woman Is a...
In the Dardennian Spiral of Intensity
After making several documentaries and two unsuccessful features, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne became very appreciated among the European art-house with their unique, minimalist style. Beneath their documentary-like cinematography strong social statements exhale and their breakthrough film The Promise (1996) was the flagship of this aesthetic orientation; and therefore is widely known as the first...
Lost in the Labyrinth of Thought
Last Year at Marienbad, directed by Alain Resnais, was made fifty years ago in 1961 and is still one of the most influential films ever made. It was Resnais’ second feature and, for many, meant his highest achievement. Its influence on modern cinema is tremendously luminous but what is more interesting is its uniqueness with regards to the use of cinematic language. It is clear that we are...