classic world cinema
Genre: Fantasy Thriller
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Eduardo Noriega, Marisa Paredes, Federico Luppi, Fernando Tielve, Iñigo GarcésIn Brief: Guillermo del Toro's frequently brilliant ghost story The Devil's Backbone (2001) — set at an orphanage during the Spanish Civil War — is one of the filmmaker's best works. It blends supernatural and human horror in such a way that the dividing line is not entirely clear. Even though del Toro has gone the film one better with his masterful Pan's Labyrinth (2006), this is still a movie well worth having.
Genre: Animated Fanciful Biopic
Director: Vincent Paronnaud, Marjane Satrapi
Starring: (Voices) Chiara Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve, Danielle Darrieux, Simon Abkarian, Gabrielle Lopes BenitesIn Brief: Pretty amazing film version of Marjane Satrapi's autobiographical comic Persepolis, about an Iranian girl growing up in the shadow of two oppressive regimes. Though playful in tone, it's a narrative that goes much deeper than one might expect.
Director: Volker Schlöndorff (The Tin Drum)
Starring: Mathieu Carrière, Marian Seidowsky, Bern Tischer, Fred Dietz, Barbara SteeleIn Brief: Volker Schlöndorff's first film, Young Törless (1966), wears the director's training with French New Wave filmmakers on its sleeve, though not in a bad way, and with a decidedly German slant. It also marks the significant change in tone in German cinema wherein filmmakers shifted from ignoring the country's past to addressing it. In this case, it does so through a thinly veiled pre-WWI drama about a young man at a boarding school coming to the realization that — thanks to the systematic bullying and torturing of a fellow student — depending on circumstances, even the most unthinkable act can become "normal." Compelling, chilling and to the point.
Genre: Comic/Fantasy Opera
Director: Ingmar Bergman
Starring: Josef Köstlinger, Irma Urrila, Håkan Hagegård, Elisabeth EriksonIn Brief: Ingmar Bergman's 1975 film of Mozart's The Magic Flute is a marvelously theatrical — but not stagey — incarnation of the opera. Your fondness for it will depend in large part on how well you like Mozart and this opera in particular.
Director: Ryan W. Martin
Starring: Ryan W. Martin, Nathanial Perz, Danna Kennelly, Marty DanekindIn Brief: There's really no glossing it over — Ryan W. Martin's Bad Ideas is aptly named. It comes under the vague heading of experimental cinema, which in this case is a mind-numbing two hours of navel gazing. According to the movie description, "A Stranger has awoken in an unknown world, the Astral Field; the ultimate reality where past, present and future, real and unreal, exist at the same time." If that intrigues you, you may be more taken with this than I. It does occasionally have moments of discomforting Lynchian power, but these are fleeting and invariably swamped in tacky video effects.
Genre: Crime Drama
Director: Götz Spielman
Starring: Johannes Krisch, Irina Potapenko, Andreas Lust, Ursula Strauss, Johannes ThanheiserIn Brief: Oscar-nominated crime drama — and character study — from Austria, Revanche (2008) is one of those films that never made it onto local screens. It's the sort of compelling film that just isn't an easy sell — a fairly grim examination of a botched bank robbery that was meant to provide a new start for a Russian prostitute and her boyfriend. It's less the crime that's under examination than the complex fallout it produces. Certainly worth a look, but on the grim side.
Director: Ingmar Bergman
Starring: Ake Gronberg, Harriet Andersson, Hasse Ekman, Anders Ek, Gudrun BrostIn Brief: This early Ingmar Bergman film is, as the title suggests, a circus story, but it's every inch a Bergman circus story, which is to say it's hardly a jolly time under the big top. Instead, Sawdust and Tinsel is a drama about sex, betrayal and humiliation. Although Bergman had been directing since 1946, this was the first of his films that pleased him — something that didn't keep it from being critically disparaged and a box-office failure in 1953.
Director: Andrea Arnold
Starring: Katie Jarvis, Michael Fassbender, Kierston Wareing, Rebbecca Griffiths, Harry TreadwayIn Brief: Massively overrated film that's nothing more than an extension of the British "kitchen-sink realism" from 60 years ago with a tinge of Ken Loach — meaning, among other things, that often shouted dialogue is apt to be unintelligible to a lot of viewers. Having said that, this meandering story about a 15-year-old girl living in a council flat (the projects) with her mother and little sister is moderately compelling and leads to a strangely hopeful ending. But a great film? No.
Director: Pier Paolo Pasolini
Starring: Anna Magnani, Ettore Garofolo, Franco Citti, Silvana CorsiniIn Brief: Largely dismissed — even vilified — upon its Italian release in 1962, this Pier Paolo Pasolini film about the semi-incestuous relationship between a middle-aged prostitute (Anna Magnani) and her son (Ettore Garofolo) didn't even get a proper U.S. release until Martin Scorsese brought it here in 1995. While it's hardly top-tier Pasolini, Mamma Rosa is not without its interest — especially in Anna Magnani's performance.
Genre: Alienation Drama
Director: Michelangelo Antonioni
Starring: Alain Delon, Monica Vitti, Francisco Rabal, Lilla BrignoneIn Brief: The final film in Michelangelo Antonioni's "alienation trilogy," L'eclisse (1962) is one of those art-house warhorses that everyone is supposed to know and revere. It's also not a lot of fun and its opacity can come perilously close to feeling like an art-film parody. There's little story — merely two people meeting and vaguely drifting into a relationship in a world where nothing seems to matter very much. Beautifully photographed but emotionally distant, it's not for everyone.
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