Archive for October 17th, 2010

by Joel Bocko

Fists in the Pocket, Italy, 1965, dir. Marco Bellochio
Starring Lou Castel, Paola Pitagora

Story: A restless, intermittently fitful young man seeks an escape – violent, if necessary – from his provincial villa and oppressive family.

Fists in the Pocket begins with a threatening note, but this j’accuse is just a bad joke. (Disturbing letters will recur throughout the movie, but the written word is an afterthought here; these characters, barbarians after a fashion, write their lives with their bodies and motions, not with mind or pen.) Composed in childlike fashion, words cut out from magazines in an attempt to seem ominous and anonymous, the missive threatens Augusto’s girlfriend by revealing the existence of a pregnant mistress. As Augusto patiently reveals to his distraught lover, there is no pregnant girlfriend, no “other woman.” There’s only little sister Giulia trying to keep the family’s sole breadwinner from having a life. Subtext to Augusto’s revelation: you wouldn’t believe my family. It’s telling then that Augusto, the “normal” sibling, is least central to the story, and in some ways the least sympathetic. Within moments we are introduced to Giulia herself, and what an introduction!

Three shots, jump cuts between, and we zoom past her on a motorbike. She glances at the camera furtively and then laughs when two flirtatious bikers skid into the dirt and fly off their vehicle; played by Paola Pitagora, whose gorgeous, slightly gawky sensuality draws us like a magnet, Giulia is compulsively watchable. So is Lou Castel as Giulia’s brother Alessandra or Ale, our (anti)hero who descends into the frame in a flash, landing on his feet from a tree perch, restlessly prowling the yard like a caged animal, snapping at his harmless nuisance of a brother. That’s seemingly semi-retarded Leone (Pierluigi Troglio), who will later sigh, “What torture, living in this house.” Ale is more ambiguous in his own lament – tediously reading the newspaper to his blind mother, he begins to concoct his own headlines. Eventually he moodily declares, “The king of England has died, leaving in darkest despair and desolation…” His mother cuts him off – “But there’s still the queen.” “Precisely,” Ale says, and in his morbid mind the wheels begin to turn.


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(Stanley Kubrick, 1980)

(essay by Robert)

A good way to describe the Shining is: Intoxicating and Addictive.  Perhaps the most common reaction is to first walk away feeling very unclear.  Watch it again and you are impressed but still scratching your head.  The next viewing is even more intriguing but the ambivalence lingers.  After a while and multiple sittings it becomes easy to come back to and so very satisfying.  No question about it, this is what makes Kubrick’s film so absolutely fascinating and a masterpiece of horror.  Its open-endedness and ambiguity succeed in intriguing again and again. A seemingly simple storyline- A man with higher ambitions moves his young family into an isolated resort (with a history) to become the caretaker during the offseason.  What unfolds onscreen over the next 2+ hours (about a month in the story) however is anything but simple.

Kubrick begins to build and build almost immediately by slipping important pieces of information in his conversations and visual.  The hotel manager (Barry Nelson) explains to Jack that the previous caretaker developed cabin fever and killed his family. Jack nods this off by stating that the isolation is exactly what he is looking for.  We then learn that Jack and Wendy’s son is not exactly normal and that the family itself is hardly picture perfect.  On the tour of the hotel we learn that “All the best people stay here” and get a further insight that it was built on a Native American burial ground and that attacks had to be fended off while the hotel was being built.  Kubrick uses wonderful lighting and décor to build on the “life” of the hotel and Danny (Danny Lloyd) asks: “Is there something bad here?”…of course there is.  All of these pieces, all of this information, is important and add on to Kubrick’s opus.


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by Allan Fish

(China 2003 556m) DVD2 (Netherlands only)

Aka. Tiexi District – West of the Tracks

Just muddling along

p  Zhu Zhu, Wang Bing  d/w  Wang Bing  ph  Wang Bing  ed  Wang Bing, Adam Kerdy

Wang Bing’s epic three part documentary is one of the greatest films of the new century and certainly one of the most spectacular debuts; filmed over the space of two years from 1999-2001 and documenting the vanishing of an entire workforce and community.  The Tie Xi district of the title is in Shenyang in north-east China and comprises of dozens of factories and smelting plants built in the 1930s to make munitions for the Japanese Imperial Army, after the war it was bolstered by Soviet technology commandeered from the Nazis and made into a state concern.  As late as the 1980s, the factories turned over a tidy profit, but from the mid nineties, global modernisation has seen them fall behind the times and drift slowly into bankruptcy. (more…)

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