The Underworld Story (1950)

The latest issue of Cineaste features an extended excerpt on 1950’s powerful The Sound of Fury (I wrote about the recent restoration here), part of a forthcoming biography on director Cy Endfield, whom author Brian Neve claims is the “least well known of the American filmmakers who came to Europe in the early Fifties to circumvent the Hollywood blacklist.” It’s mostly a historical overview of the production, but hopefully it will help convince some enterprising DVD/Blu-ray distributor to take notice.

Tomorrow, Angelenos can see Endfield’s other film from 1950, The Underworld Story, as part of the annual Noir

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Chris Marker’s LEVEL FIVE (1997)

Chris Marker’s brilliant and passionate but rarely seen (and never before US-distributed) multimedia docudrama reflects on the epic and decisive WWII Battle of Okinawa and its often suppressed historical relevance.  Catherine Belkholdja plays a French computer programmer researching the battle – including its 82-day siege and the loss of a third (roughly 100,000 people) of its island population – and documentary footage is mixed with her monologues as she simultaneously sorts through her feelings regarding a deceased lover.  Less a plot point than a metaphor, Belkholdia’s interactions with the computer (suggested by creative graphics courtesy of Marker’s beloved Macintosh) offer …

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Antonioni’s Red Desert at 50

Michelangelo Antonioni’s Il deserto rosso (Red Desert, 1964) corresponds closely in its themes and its form with the three major works that preceded it: L’Avventura (1960), La notte (1961), and L’Eclisse (1962). In these films, Antonioni addressed the alienating experience of modern, industrial, post-war European life. For his narratives, he privileged carefully constructed images over more conventional methods, such as explanatory dialogue. His muse, the great Italian actress Monica Vitti, starred in three of the films and had a crucial supporting role in another. All four have been, since the 1960s, central to the canon of post-war, experimental …

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Spray’s and Velez’s Ride to Nirvana

Possibly more than the previous feature and short work produced by Harvard’s Sensory Ethnography Lab, which includes the groundbreaking Sweetgrass and Leviathan, Manakamana (distributed by Cinema Guild, opening today at Laemmle’s Music Hall) marks a crucial intersection of the three of the most interesting developments in contemporary cinema.

Stephanie Spray’s and Pacho Velez’ 16mm film (blown up to 35mm) embraces the essence of “slow cinema,” in which tempo and rhythm are intentionally geared to andante and beyond. Just as “slow food” allows the senses and palate to take time to absorb and appreciate flavors and textures, the slow cinema …

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Ceylan’s Winter Sleep

The festival is over, and the best films from Cannes embody what truly matters: the ability to move backward and forward, projecting a sense of the moment, live bulletins of a country’s pulse and state of mind. With his scalding and magisterial new work, Winter Sleep, the great Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan walked off with the Palme d’Or.

In his acceptance speech, Ceylan dedicated the film to the young people of Turkey who have lost their lives in the last year protesting the country’s unnerving political repression and withholding of essential freedom. Because of its three-hour and 16-minute …

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Cannes Dispatch #1

The 67th edition of this year’s film festival is roughly one-third over, and the early signs are pretty ecstatic. The competition has been tightly slotted, with just 18 features, three or four fewer than most years. It means the films get to breathe and live on their own.

In the first three days of the festival, three superb movies—one I think that will be seen in time as one of the greatest of its era—have already jolted the festival, defusing already the criticism of the festival selection committee playing it safe and familiar. (By the way my feeling has always …

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