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WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

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JackFavell
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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby JackFavell » October 23rd, 2013, 6:52 pm

Cranes Are Flying is such a superb movie. So far, in my very limited experience, I am loving the movies that were made during the artistic 'thaw' that took place after Stalin's death.

I think maybe kingrat was talking about the strictures the soviets put on portraying the deaths from the war? In the more propagandistic films, those deaths were portrayed as more of a noble sacrifice than as personal loss. Is that right, kingrat?

kingrat
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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby kingrat » October 23rd, 2013, 6:54 pm

Hey, we're all posting on top of each other. Yes, you're right. These "thaw" movies are really interesting.

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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby JackFavell » October 23rd, 2013, 7:11 pm

I think I have to hunt down more of the eastern bloc 'thaw' films, not to mention the non-thaw films. I have yet to watch the Czechoslavkian Daisies, made a bit later, which I have waiting for me here on Masha's suggestion. It's got a knockout beginning! I'm excited to see it. And I think they talked about another Polish director in The Story of Film - maybe Aleksander Ford, or Jerzy Kawalerowicz?

I have had a fascination in the past with the Czech and Slovak history of the 50's and 60's, but I haven't watched their movies yet. I love that we are getting ideas for how to start from the Mark Cousins documentary. I would like to see some Cikan, Ban, Podskalsky and Sequens, plus more Milos Forman and Kadar. I'm opening up to foreign films again...they feel very fresh, especially these thaw films.

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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby JackFavell » October 24th, 2013, 6:25 am

Masha,

Thanks for those tips! Especially the youtube link. I've always wanted to see Ballad of a Soldier, I think it was on TCM Imports last year and I stupidly missed it and didn't get it recorded thanks to a machine that has no timer anymore.

Is Fate of a Man the same movie I've also seen called Destiny of a Man? This one looks tremendous.

Do you have some favorites of Russian cinema from this or any other time period? I know your experiences are different from most because of your uncle. If it's not too personal a question, do you recall him showing any of the films we talked about here, or was he doing these showings much later? Were the films he showed all of a certain time, I mean, was he trying to show new films, or just any film he could get his hands on, from all eras? It's just amazing that he had his own Cinematheque going under such conditions.

It occurs to me that I don't know when you were growing up. I very much want to learn about this aspect of cinema, which I know very little about. Do you remember seeing any Wajda at a younger age? I mean, were these films shown at regular theatres? Can I expect similar emotional experiences with his other works, not just Ashes and Diamonds? Anyone else have any recommendations or impressions of the eastern bloc or Russian films?

Sorry to pester you with questions... I feel as though I am on the brink of a new world here, and I got excited. I feel an affinity. :D

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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby MikeBSG » October 24th, 2013, 6:52 am

Here's another vote for "Fate of a Man"/"Destiny of a Man" with Sergei Bondarchuk. A very powerful film that is largely overlooked in American books on Soviet film.

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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby MikeBSG » October 24th, 2013, 7:00 am

I like a number of Soviet and Eastern European films.

As for World War II as a subject, "The Cranes Are Flying" is outstanding. I was lucky enough to see "Trial on the Road" in a theater in the Eighties. That is a Soviet film made in the 70s and banned until the Glasnost era. I found it a haunting and powerful film. "Come and See" is a very powerful, perhaps even grueling, film from the late 80s. I think it is a great movie, but some Americans and Britons find it too much to sit through.

There is a current Russian film "In the Fog" about WWII that is getting some kind of American release. It has gotten a rave review from David Thomson in "The New Republic." It is based on a story by Rolan Bykov, who wrote the material that became "The Ascent," a Soviet film of the late Seventies that was highly praised. (I've not seen it.)

"Our Own" is another good Russian film (in the last ten years or so) about WWII.

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JackFavell
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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby JackFavell » October 24th, 2013, 9:04 am

Mike, I've seen Cranes Are Flying, and too thought it outstanding and very, very moving. But I haven't seen any of the other films you've mentioned. Thank so much for chiming in with your picks! My movies to watch list is getting longer... :D

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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby kingrat » October 24th, 2013, 11:42 am

I'm trying to recall the name of a Russian film I saw in college. Set in the last days of WWII. There's one American character, a Texan, I think, played mostly for laughs. The climax of the film is the discovery of a signpost which shows that our hero has been headed the wrong way and is now further from his goal than ever. Does this ring any bells?

I liked the film a lot. It's not Ballad of a Soldier.

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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby JackFavell » October 25th, 2013, 6:49 am

Thanks so much Masha, I am so intrigued by your life and your uncle's ability to make something out of nothing. It's not often we have someone here who knows first hand about what was going on back then in Russia. I now have a kajillion movies to watch, as opposed to the list I had before, which only had a few million films on it. :D

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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby kingrat » October 25th, 2013, 5:34 pm

Mikhail Kalatozov’s I AM CUBA (1964) has some amazing camera shots and gives us a look at the First World metropolis Havana was before and just after the revolution. The pro-Castro and anti-American propaganda will appeal to that audience, but most people who see it today will watch for the cinematography of Sergey Uruvetsky and the directorial wizardry of Kalatozov. As with THE CRANES ARE FLYING, I had the thought that Kalatazov is like Ken Russell with talent—or enough talent. I AM CUBA is very uneven in quality, not least because Kalatozov is, consciously or not, urban and bourgeois at heart, and the peasant scenes fall flat by comparison.

The film splits into four episodes, and the first and the third are the parts I’d like to see again. The first has the amazing camera shot which descends a hotel wall, follows a bathing beauty into the pool, pops out of the pool, and back in. This is the part where we’re invited to enjoy the casino and the bar with great-looking women and hot jazz, all the while clucking with disapproval at the Americans who have the wherewithal to afford the great-looking women, etc. The scene with the masked dancers is like a shaky cam version of von Sternberg. Some of these shots are so elaborate I started watching and even re-winding just to see where the cuts occurred. The actors who dubbed the English lines of the “Americans” are really atrocious. At the center of this episode is Maria, a poor and devout young woman who becomes a prostitute at the casino to make money. Had an American audience in 1964 seen this, some of them would not have liked the part where the dark-skinned jazz singer flirts with a lovely blonde in a Jean Seberg hairdo.

The second part—a tenant farmer who grows sugar cane learns that his land will be sold to United Fruit and he will get nothing--marks a significant drop in quality. The first half of this episode, until the farmer sends his children to town, is full of visual clichés. For instance, there’s the John Ford doorway shot, the Gabriel Figueroa shot of the noble peasants silhouetted against the sky—now I understand why Kazan did not want Figueroa to photograph VIVA ZAPATA. There’s also a scene from the ground’s point of view where the camera whirls around exactly like Ken Russell. The shrewdest bit of social criticism in the entire film comes when the daughter goes to the tiny village nearby and drinks Coca Cola and plays a song on a jukebox.

The third episode, the heart of the film, has a storyline similar to John Huston’s WE WERE STRANGERS, also a film about revolution in Cuba, but made before Castro’s revolt. Enrique, a student, wants to kill the chief of police who murdered his friend, but another friend, evidently the leader of the student rebels, warns him of the need to change the system, not to get rid of one man. Spoilers: The twists of the plot are quite satisfying. Enrique can’t kill the policeman because he sees him with his wife and child; the policeman will kill the student who urged Enrique not to kill him; Enrique will try and fail to kill the policeman again, during the riot, and the policeman will kill him, but this only gives the rebellion the martyr it needs.

The filming of the third episode often took my breath away. It begins with a newsreel of Batista, then pulls back for us to see that we’re at a drive-in, then some young men attack the screen. There’s a beautiful scene of Enrique walking the night streets of Havana, with the shop windows ethereally lit. Any film noir director would be proud to claim the scene where Enrique runs up the stairs (at first we don’t know why, but learn it’s to kill the police chief). Enrique’s funeral inspires the incredible shot which goes up several stories, crosses the street, goes into a cigar factory and out a window and then floats above the street below. This section makes a satisfying film all on its own.

The fourth and final episode, in which a peasant gives part of his family’s meal to an exhausted Jesus Fidel and finally decides to join the revolution, can’t begin to sustain the same level of quality. After so much dazzling camerawork, nothing would work more powerfully than simple framing and cutting—appropriate, perhaps, also for the campesino’s simpler way of life—but the camera swoops and tilts and jitters like a junkie waiting for a fix. The only part of this episode which made a strong impression was the moment when the peasant and his wife are reunited near a waterfall. Near the beginning of part four, three captured rebels, when asked “Where is Fidel?” respond “I am Fidel!” Hey, the dudes had seen SPARTACUS. The ending, with the grinning campesino now part of Castro’s army, comes perilously close to camp. As much as Kalatazov is the perfect director for the urban scenes, he is not well suited to depicting peasant life.

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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby JackFavell » October 25th, 2013, 5:58 pm

I Am Cuba is the movie I most wanted to see after watching The Story of Film part 8. That shot up and over the roof and then across the street blew my mind! I honestly had no idea it was directed by the same person who directed The Cranes Are Flying, or I would have wanted to see it even more! I have a copy recorded, but I won't be able to watch it until next week.

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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby JackFavell » October 26th, 2013, 5:43 pm

I watched Vera Chytilova's DAISIES today.

These are my impressions, I don't really know if they have anything to do with how someone else would see this movie. DAISIES was so free, so anarchic, it was nothing like any other movie I've seen. It makes fun of everything. I thought the Marx Brothers did that, but the themes here are a little different because of the woman's viewpoint which I don't think has been as fully realized anywhere else. If I were to compare, I can see it being sort of like HELP in style, but that is so limiting, in a way I don't really wish to be. It does a disservice to the film. It goes into waaaay deeper territory and is far more subversive and is far more creative. Someone compared it to Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and I can agree with that, except that it gives those characters knives and scissors and an attitude that men are not really important. Spiritually the filmmaker closest to Chytilova might be Cocteau, at least that feels right to me.

It's hard to imagine someone making a movie so free while under repression, though maybe it's because of the repression that Vera Chytilova HAD to make this film. Her mind was free, and that's kind of the whole point here. Her mind was so free it hurts and dazzles and is ugly and is beautiful. It hurts even more when you know that she was banned from making any more movies after 1968, though that doesn't seem to have stopped her. I felt like she was giving the finger to the powers that be, while outwardly criticizing a materialistic society that makes of women a product. The film's scope is immense - it's like a bomb going off in a museum that holds the most beautiful creations and the most repressive stereotypes. The pieces of art scattering and falling around you all meant something deep at one time. It's just that putting them together as they fall in different ways has the effect of alienating you from their natural meaning. Juxtaposing them with the stereotypes and the ugly make them seem meaningful in a totally different way. The conventional roles of women are blown up and scattered among the art only backwards and upside down, and the pieces intermingle and fall together and become something else. And then the women eat them. But that's only scratching the surface... :D

To me, it was about seeing women, and them seeing someone seeing them, and then finally the women taking on the personas inflicted on them in a heightened way, and by doing so, rejecting them, blowing them to kingdom come. Using the personas to feed themselves in the most hedonistic way. Dining is all there is in a world that is empty. There are consumers, and consumees. It's a place where women aren't even allowed to eat at will, or feed themselves in any way except as a standardized model, one dress fits all, at the pleasure of men or the government. But the two girls here mock and use that, breaking the rules. And then there's also their own relationship and power plays with each other. And I'm not even getting to the real 'meat' of the movie. Ha ha ha ha ha ha

The creativity of DAISIES is STAGGERING. Just the collage sections alone must have taken forever to film, and each of these only takes about 10 seconds of film time. There are fast edited spinning, moving, falling collages of butterflies, screws of paper, train wheels, what have you. The girls even cut off their own heads and stick them randomly into a different background. Collage plays an important part in the film, the girl's apartment is even a collage - first the walls have giant green leaves and framed flowers, then phone numbers and addresses of men they have taken for a ride written all the way up to the ceiling.

Chytilova uses colored filters randomly, camera techniques of all kinds, different types of film. Her use of sound is just as inventive and collaged. No wonder they felt they had to stop her. The film incites one to be spirited, liberated from rules and regulations. To tear things apart and put them back together. There are certain parts that are zany funny. The cake fight was wonderful, ending with the girls swinging from a grandiose chandelier in a banquet room. At the end, realizing they might be caught, they try to put together the pieces of the giant banquet which they have gobbled up and demolished, making small collages of of the broken plates and mashed food. They declare that they'll be good from now on.... and end up mummified, rolled up in tablecloths and what looks like barbed wire for wrapping. Did Chytilova know what was going to happen to her? That her flowering would be stifled just as it was blooming?

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Re: WHAT FOREIGN FILMS HAVE YOU WATCHED LATELY?

Postby MikeBSG » October 31st, 2013, 8:42 pm

Today I watched "The Monk" (2011), directed by Dominik Moll.

I left my comments under Sci-Fi and Horror, but I enjoyed it very much.


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