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Wałęsa. Man of Hope
Poland, 2013—Dir. Andrzej Wajda

More consistently than any other Polish filmmaker Andrzej Wajda has dedicated himself to presenting the social, cultural and political life of his country on screen. Despite the odd eccentric excursion into meta-moviedom (check out 1968’s Everything for Sale and 2009’s Sweet Rush for that) and prestige literary adaptation (the well-meaning but fumbled Pan Tadeusz(1999)) there’s no denying that Wajda’s most enduring work has been his dramatizations of Polish history and/or current events, from his seminal War Trilogy of the 1950s (A Generation, Kanal and Ashes and Diamonds) through Man of Marble (1976) and Man of Iron (1981) to 2007’s phenomenally successful Katyn.

Gravity
USA / United Kingdom—Dir. Alfonso Cuarón

It’s not very often that you find yourself tearing up behind your 3D glasses at a movie - unless it’s in sheer despair at the lameness of the effects-laden gimmickry that’s unspooling before you. But in Gravity, his first film since 2006’s Children of Men, Alfonso Cuarón succeeds in crafting a sci-fi extravaganza that’s as richly emotional as it is visually dazzling. Setting Sandra Bullock and George Clooney’s astronauts adrift in space, and challenging them to make it back home under the most difficult circumstances possible, Cuarón’s movie is heart-pumping mainstream cinema infused with a healthy dose of existentialism.

A Story of Children and Film
United Kingdom, 2013—dir. Mark Cousins

“I’m still a child before a moving image,” wrote Pauline Kael. It’s a sentiment shared by Mark Cousins who states: “I feel, when I watch a movie, that I watch it like a child.” Cousins’s new documentary, the follow-up to his already-iconic The Story of Film, takes off from that observation. A humbler proposition than was its epic, exhilarating and sometimes exasperating predecessor, Cousins’s latest isn’t really a “story” at all but rather a series of observations, of riffs and refs, around its chosen topic, which, this time around, is the way in which children have been represented on the cinema screen over the years: the diverse ways that childhood experience has been constructed and deconstructed by filmmakers.

Stranger By the Lake
France, 2013 - dir. Alain Guiraudie

In its tactility, its attention to place and space, and its unabashed focus upon the male body, something of Denis’s influence can be felt in Alain Guiraudie’s Stranger by the Lake (L’Inconnu du lac), along with that of François Ozon, whose See the Sea (1997) contains a central sequence that seems to have inspired the premise of Stranger By the Lake. Guiraudie’s movie—a Cannes sensation that deservedly scooped this year’s Queer Palm and Best Director gongs—unfolds entirely at a gay cruising area on the French coast where men flop naked on the beach, appraise each other and head to the woods for more intimate encounters. Franck (Pierre Deladonchamps) has pitched up at the spot for the summer and passes his time chatting to the solitary bisexual Henri (Patrick Dassumçao), lusting after the mustachioed Michel (Christophe Paou) and being lusted after, in turn, by the harmless voyeur Eric (Mathieu Vervisch) whose attentions he continually rebuffs.

Bastards
France, 2013—dir. Claire Denis

Heaps of high heels. A naked girl wandering through a city street. A blood-stained corn on the cob. A pulsing, tensing Tindersticks soundtrack… Yes, you’ve guessed it: here’s the latest impeccably brooding enigma from the imagination of Claire Denis. Though less confounding than some of Denis’s work (2004’s The Intruder still takes that particular prize), the none-too-invitingly titled Bastards (Les Salauds) certainly takes its place as one of Denis’s darkest and most disturbing offerings to date.

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Country Fried Rock: Hollis Brown Interview

// Sound Affects

"New York City rock band Hollis Brown have a new album, 3 Shots, that hits the listener with collaborations including Bo Diddley and Nikki Lane.

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