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by Michael Barrett

19 May 2016

A Black Veil for Lisa (1968) opens by looking up from within a grave, using the distorting wide-angle lens that will be featured throughout. Lisa (Luciana Paluzzi) wears her black veil, so the film opens by foreshadowing its end, as though the film in between is a flashback experienced by tearful Lisa. It’s not, because she’s not in most of it, even though the film’s truest subject is how fabulous Paluzzi looks in various get-ups. As for why the film begins with its ending, read on.

The first hour of the story plods through a dull police procedural in which Inspector Bulon (John Mills) tries to bust a German drug ring, which might have seemed a hot topic at the time. Some of its members are being executed by hitman Max (Robert Hoffmann) around the fringes of the plot, and the film will eventually treat these two men as doppelgangers for each other, with them on opposite sides of the law.

by Michael Barrett

12 May 2016

From the opening credits of Arabian Nights, the 2015 trilogy of films from Portugal’s Miguel Gomes, it’s made clear that this work isn’t directly based on the classic Persian stories of the same name, but inspired by events that happened in Portugal during its economic crisis of the last few years. Actually, it’s a gonzo mixture of the two, for the beautiful Scheherazade (played by Crista Alfaiate, who also plays several other roles) is still preserving her life by stringing along the Caliph with cliffhanging stories every night. It’s just that those stories are somehow aware of what’s happening in Portugal centuries later, and the stories mix documentary realism with whimsical fantasy elements like wizards and genies.

At the beginning of the first film, Arabian Nights: Volume 1—The Restless One, Gomes appears as himself, a filmmaker who runs away at the thought of somehow combining his impulse to document real people and their stories, such as unemployed dockworkers, apartment dwellers, people caught up in bizarre court cases (one involving a noisy rooster), and people who raise finches, with the fantastical elements of escapism and magic.

by Valeriy Kolyadych

11 May 2016

There’s a moment in High-Rise when all semblance of order and propriety finally breaks down—and it’s set to a Portishead cover of ABBA’s “SOS”. It’s a wonderful sequence, editing together scenes from multiple areas of the titular high rise, shedding light on how this disintegration of social order is playing out.

It’s also a great encapsulation of the burgeoning careers of British cult director Ben Wheatley and his wife and screenwriting partner, Amy Jump. Like previous Wheatley films, Kill List and A Field In England, stylistic flourishes are frequently utilized to portray waning sanity in visceral, stunning ways.

by Valeriy Kolyadych

10 May 2016

North Korea is known for many things: a repressive government, widespread starvation, cults of personality, and general insanity. What it’s not known for is its film scene—a celluloid history that would rival anything by the Russian or French masters. At least, such was Kim Jong-Il’s hope when he abducted famed South Korean director Shin Sang-ok and his wife, actress Choi Eun-hee, with the intent of forcing the two to make North Korean films to rival those that he had seen from outside the regime.

by Valeriy Kolyadych

9 May 2016

A female-only boarding school is the setting of The Blackcoat’s Daughter. Covered, positively blanketed in snow, it’s isolated, the nights an unrelenting pitch black. Inside are two girls, Kat (Kiernan Shipka) and Rose (Lucy Boynton), both left behind during a February break, waiting for their parents. They wander through empty hallways, but the subtle noises—screeching creaks and low groans—betray the assumption that they’re alone here.

//Mixed media

Culture Belongs to the Alien in 'Spirits of Xanadu'

// Moving Pixels

"The symbols that the artifact in Spirits of Xanadu uses are esoteric -- at least for the average Western gamer. It is Chinese culture reflected back at us through the lens of alien understanding.

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