Thursday, March 14, 2013

Blu-ray Review: Luis Buñuel's Tristana [Cohen Media Group]

Director Luis Buñuel's first four films were made in three different countries. By the time he reached the peak of his international renown in the mid 1960s, he could rightly be considered the most cosmopolitan of art-house filmmakers. In fact, few directors embody the slightly indeterminate "world cinema" tag more than Buñuel. It's ironic, then, that this iconoclast of Spanish cinema produced only three films in his native country. All three of these disparate projects, however, would prove important. The first, Land Without Bread, evidenced Buñuel's initial move away from surrealism toward a more realist-based approach; the second, the landmark Viridiana, brought the director once and for all to the forefront of the international cinema circuit, a position he would only relinquish upon his death in 1983. But Buñuel made one last momentous return to Spain in 1970 with Tristana, a multi-national production starring a French ingénue and a veteran of Spanish theater and television.

Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom

I wrote this brief description of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom for the Cinefamily repertory theater, who are hosting a 35mm midnight screening of the film on April 24rd, 2013.

Arguably the original arthouse video nasty, Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom—the Italian iconoclast’s final film, and infamous transposition of the Marquis de Sade’s “School of Libertinism” texts—brought a career of sexual, religious, and political provocation full circle. Structured as a visceral four-part rite of passage through Dante’s Circles of Hell, the film depicts in unflinching detail the systematic sexual torture and mental abuse perpetrated on a group of teenagers kidnapped by libertine fascists in the wake of the Mussolini regime. Igniting the ire of government officials and Italian Social Republic extortionists before the film had even wrapped, Pasolini’s impassioned portrayal of rape, sadism, sodomy, and murder would, along with his ties to Communism, eventually lead to his murder in the months leading up to the film’s premiere. Whether seen as an allegory of Nazi Germany, a ritual of spiritual agnosticism or a blatant authorial affront, Salò remains a nightmarish vision of inhumanity, and a midnight movie of grave allure and enduring implication. [Cinefamily]

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Fandor Feature: Scenes - The Strange Case of Angelica

The cinema of Manoel de Oliveira is one of perspective. Not from the vantage of the 104-year-old centenarian himself—though that’s an inevitable thematic by-product for a filmmaker whose career dates back to the silent era—but that of his camera and, by extension, his characters who gaze at, through, or in discrepancy with Oliveira’s frame. His late work in particular has taken his typically strategic approach to directional composition to uniquely playful ends, suggesting at once a much younger artist and one who has accumulated decades of narrative and stylistic skill. At any given point in these films the viewer may be placed inside the protagonist’s head—via either voiceover, flashback, or point-of-view set-ups—spatially removed from the action to observe objectively from a static position, or put in direct eye contact with a given character, which often leads to further inquiries regarding omniscience or simply the role we play in completing said portrayal.