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by Valeriy Kolyadych

6 May 2016


In Under the Shadow (2016), Shideh (Narges Rashidi) plops a VHS tape in and exercises in front of the television, and jerks from side to side to the sounds of Jane Fonda’s affirmations against dancy ‘80s music. Not too long after, a familiar piercing groan is heard. Air-raid sirens. Shideh snatches up her daughter, Dorsa (Avin Manshadi), and the two retreat to the basement of their Tehran apartment building, where a small group of neighbors huddle together in the dark. When it’s over, they move back upstairs, acting as if nothing happened. This is the status quo.

Screened at the Independent Film Festival Boston 2016, the world of Babak Anvari’s debut feature is Iran in the ‘80s, after the Islamic Revolution and during the lengthy Iran-Iraq war. The shadow in the title could mean many things: the looming specter of war and death, the long shadow of post-revolution Islamic conservatism. The latter, in fact, is most important to our heroine, Shideh, a liberal housewife whose participation in leftist groups during university led to her expulsion and torpedoed her chance to return and pursue medical studies. When we meet her, she is told by a school official that “he wanted her to hear this: she will never be admitted back.”

by Michael Barrett

26 Apr 2016


William Cameron Menzies (1896-1957), was one of the great influential production designers in cinema; indeed, the term “production design” was coined for his work on Gone with the Wind (1939). Yet, he was less prepossessing as a director because of failings common to art directors turned directors: he tended to use actors as design elements rather than encourage performances from them, and he tended to pay more attention to “the look” than the story and pace. Even so, he directed two remarkable if imperfect examples of ‘50s Cold War paranoia: Invaders from Mars (1953) and the earlier The Whip Hand (1951), which is now on demand from Warner Archive.

A blandly pretty, young Elliott Reid plays Matt Corbin, a reporter who goes fishing near a small town and smacks his head against a boulder. Late in the movie, he’ll smack the other side of his head against a branch and start bleeding all over again from a fresh wound. What a clumsy fellow! When he goes for help, he finds himself a prisoner of taciturn, falsely friendly, or just openly hostile locals who have taken over the town since all the lake fish died from a mysterious virus. What’s going on? It has something to do with the lodge across the lake, and Matt smilingly blusters his way into trouble while romancing a nervous local sweetheart (Carla Balenda).

by Boen Wang

25 Apr 2016


There are ghosts in The Winter, but it’s not a ghost story. There’s a love interest, but it’s not a love story. There are unexplained figures, nightmarish visions, and descents into madness, but it’s not a horror story either. In fact, I’m not sure The Winter is much of a story at all.

The film centers on a Greek young man named Niko (Theo Albanis) who attempts to make a living in London as a writer. Niko has accumulated thousands of Euros in debt, and in a clever touch, the film’s opening credits are written on the piles of bills that are strewn across his apartment floor. He decides to return to his hometown of Siatista in rural Greece and hide out in his father’s abandoned house.

by Michael Barrett

13 Apr 2016


You know you’re in for something odd when the opening credits of Samuel Fuller’s detective story, produced for German TV in 1974, depict the actors and most of the crew posing in gaudy carnival costumes and mugging for the camera—and there’s the white-haired Fuller himself, dressed as a clown while iconically smoking a cigar.

For years, Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street has only been available, and rarely, in the 102-minute version given a brief theatrical run in the US. Now on Blu-ray is the UCLA Film & TV Archive’s digital restoration of a complete 123-minute director’s cut, with added whimsical self-consciousness and digressions to emphasize Fuller’s idea that the film is a genre parody and a game.

by Victor Stiff

31 Mar 2016


Daredevil

The Origin Story

Once considered cinematic junk food, comic book movies are no longer just bite-sized, easily digestible bits of entertainment. Not long ago, comic book movie franchises’ primary objectives were profitable box office runs, generating as many sequels as possible (Batman, Batman Returns, Batman Forever, Batman & Robin), and selling ungodly amounts of licensed merchandise. In today’s blockbuster movie landscape, a film can meet box office expectations, spawn a sequel, and still qualify as a failure.

In 2016, studio mandates require that comic book movies hit multiple benchmarks in order to qualify as successful, and wrapping up a satisfying story in roughly 120-minutes is only one of them. Comic book movies must also act as advertisements for upcoming films, and establish deep mythologies that branch off into other movie franchises, video games, comic books, and TV series. Nowadays, producing comic book related entertainment is a complicated process, akin to juggling several knives while walking backward on a tightrope.

//Mixed media
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Moving Pixels Podcast: Our Own Points of View on 'Hardcore Henry'

// Moving Pixels

"Hardcore Henry gives us a chance to consider not how well a video game translates to film, but how well a video game point of view translates to film.

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