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Archive for the ‘Anabhav Bist’s reviews’ Category

by Anubhav Bist

A woman, her identity obscured by a black veil, steps out of her taxi and disappears into the dead of night. Having collected his fare from this mysterious passenger, Haseem readies to depart until he hears cries coming from the backseat of his cab. There he finds an abandoned infant, who’s survival is now his responsibility.

The set up is akin to a Kafkaesque nightmare and, as Hashem’s search leads him to a deserted construction site, the streets of Tehran assume a dreamlike quality; the minimalist mise-en-sense of deep shadows and abandoned urban environments isolating Hashem from the modern world. However, defining an aesthetic layout can be difficult as Ebrahim Golestan’s first feature shares many of the hallmarks one associates with an ambitious directorial debut. The Brick and the Mirror/Khesht Va Ayeneh unfolds episodically, sometimes feeling like a collection of short stories. As Hashem seeks guidance for the bizarre situation he’s found himself in, hopelessly conversing with friends at a cafe or visiting various state institutions for answers, Golestan uses each episode as an opportunity to experiment with both the narrative and formal conventions of cinema: from the disrupting the story’s rhythm with jump cuts or documentary style montage, to shifting from the film’s faux cinéma vérité style of realism to more abstract or philosophical forms of storytelling (one particular set piece involving Hashem visiting a police station plays out like an absurdist one-act). However, the heart of the story that ties these episodes together is a powerful relationship drama between Hashem and his girlfriend Taji, both of whom assume the role of the mystery child’s caretakers; with Hashem looking to rid himself of the child while Taji views it as an opportunity to save their rocky relationship – even motivation for all three to start a life together.

Though relatively unknown in the west, outside his connection with lover and frequent collaborator Forough Farrokhzad (having produced the great poet’s sole directorial credit, the 1963 masterpiece The House Is Black/Kẖạneh sy̰ạh ạst), Ebrahim Golestan remains a bit of a controversial figure in the history of Iranian cinema. His brash and almost volatile personality, along with a perceived disregard toward Iranian movie goers (highlighted by his antics during the 1969 Shiraz Festival, where he antagonized audience members), leaves an unflattering impression with many critics and intellectuals who have followed his career. Nonetheless, few would ever question Golestan‘s reputation as a pioneer or this 1963 existential portrait of a pre-revolutionary Iran, a reflection of the director’s own disillusionment with his homeland following the coup of Mohammad Mosaddegh, as anything short of a masterpiece. Holding the distinction of being first filmmaker in Iran to establish his own film studio (Golestan Film Unit), Golestan built a prolific body of work as a documentary filmmaker and helped many prominent Iranian filmmakers get their starts. Sadly, censorship under the Shaw and unreceptive audiences in Iran continued to frustrate Golestan, prompting him to self-exile in 1978. (more…)

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onthesilverglobe-6

by Anuk Bavkist

The very first words heard in On the Silver Globe come from none other than the film’s director, narrating over his own opening footage to help guild his viewers through the ruins of a film that was never meant to see light of day:

“You will see a film made ten years ago; a shred of a film; a two-and-a-half-hour story, one-fifth of which is missing. That one-fifth dating back to 1977 when the film was annihilated, will never be recreated. In place of the missing scenes you will hear a voice which will briefly explain what was to be. We are bringing On the Silver Globe to an end in the year 1987.”

Partially adapted from The Lunar Trilogy /Trylogia Księżycowa (1901-11) written by his great uncle Jerzy Żuławski, Andrzej Żuławski’s science fiction epic is a handful. Divided in two acts, the first of which chronicles last surviving astronauts (2 men and 1 woman) whose spaceship crash on an “Earth-like” planet. Their story, captured by one of the survivors and presented as a video diary and filmed like highly stylized found footage, recalls a kind of perverse retelling of Adam and Eve as two of the astronauts continuously mate and give birth to the planet’s first society. Due to constant inbreeding and the fact that the “Earth-like” planet’s maturation rate is double that of normal human rate, the society grows, evolving into a primitive culture that worship fire and mythologize stories of Earth. Years pass and the last living of the three astronaut sends out his video diary to earth, prompting the arrival of a new astronaut, Marek, to the planet years later. The second act follows that same society, who are now under attack by telekinetic bird-like mutants known as Shern, as they lean on Marek to fulfill a religious prophecy. (more…)

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letters-from-a-dead-man

by Anuk Bavkist

Survivors take refuge in a museum cellar-turned-underground bunker. Lit by flickering light bulbs, they resemble the waking dead. Their daily routine finds them manually pedaling to generate electricity, digging their own graves and philosophizing the end of times. The surface above them is nothing more than an industrial wasteland littered with decomposing bodies and architectural ruins.  Other survivors, equipped with heavy hazmat suits to shield themselves from an endless nuclear winter, still navigate the remains of their former city while an authoritative presence keeps watch in the form of patrolling helicopters and military raids. What caused the nuclear holocaust that left their existence in such disarray is never made clear, but is theorized to be the result of a computer error that launched a war missile (possibly an alternate future where Stanislav Petrov had actually responded to Oko’s false alarm in 1983). Our guide through this post apocalyptic nightmare is a grizzled old man referred only as “The Professor.” He spends much of his days caring for his sickly wife while going through the daily minutiae with the rest of the survivors under the museum. A Nobel Prize laureate and man of science who’s only real defense mechanism to the harsh reality in front him is mentally writing letters to his dead son, Erik. (more…)

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landscape

by Anukbavkist

Arguably the last of the great 20th century modernist filmmakers, or as David Bordwell once wrote, “the last believer in a cinema of heroic statement,” Theo Angelopoulos was nothing if not an artist with something to say. His cinema was one that had literary aspirations, drawing from as much Greek history, culture and mythology to try to comprehend the modern world. With each perfectly crafted tableau, often filmed in perfectly orchestrated long take(s) and/or employing heavy allegorical or symbolic meaning and imagery, films took on the weight of epic poetry: A disembodied statue of a hand airlifted from the ocean; The mourning of a fallen horse amid a wedding celebration; Time complete frozen at the first snowflake of winter. However when Angelopoulos’s intellectual side got the better of him, his art often felt incomplete; Striving to be  masterpieces but instead existing on the line that separated genius and pretension. It was only when the humanist in Angelopoulos came out, did his work live up to his reputation as one of the great filmmakers of his generation. Humanity takes form in 11-year-old Voula and her 5-year-old brother Alexander, two siblings who leave home in search of a father who may or may not exist. They travel by foot, hitchhike, and train-hop, eventually running into/befriending a young itinerant actor, Orestes. Traveling with his acting troupe family, previously chronicled by Angelopoulos in his 1975 masterpiece, The Traveling Players, Orestes becomes a lone guiding light on the children’s unforgiving odyssey. Transforming contemporary Greece (or 1988) into a sort of cultural wasteland haunted by the ghosts of 20th century Greek history and myth—deserted beaches, overcast skies, freight trains, longs stretches of empty road and colossal industrial machinery, out in the distance like ruins of the modern age—Theo Angelopoulos’s Landscape in the Mist exists somewhere between allegorical fairy tale and existential nightmare. Angelopoulos was able to weave an episodic narrative that traverses an innocent child’s worldview with that of a harsh reality (best exemplified in what may be the film’s most infamous sequence, a one and a half minute long take of the back of a concealed truck while sexual assault takes place inside). And finally Angelopoulos, and cinematographer Giorgos Arvanitis, save their finest stanza for the end: An eternal embrace that could easily stand on its own as a cinematic mini-masterpiece.

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by Anubhav Bist

The little moments.
If you were to ask me what makes Howard Hawk’s 1959 western so special, thats what I would say. The little moments. For me, this could be something as quick as James T. Chance’s quirky reaction after Feathers says, “You forgot your pants,” (how he actual stops and thinks about it before realizing the joke); or the way Chance hands Dude his rolled up cigarette after Dude screw ups trying to roll his own, all while they talk about that fact that Feathers didn’t get on the stagecoach (a poignant gesture that’s subtle enough to just exist in that moment, without ever breaking the flow of their conversation). It seems so simple, until you realize that it’s anything but. In a way, that sums up Rio Bravo pretty well. A profound cinematic experience that masquerades as simple Hollywood entertainment.
Sheriff James T. Chance (John Wayne giving easily his greatest “John Wayne” performance) must find a way to keep a murder, who also happens to be the brother of a wealthy rancher with criminal connections, imprisoned until the US Marshal arrives. His only allies: his drunk partner Dude (Dean Martin giving arguably the film’s most memorable performance), his elderly cripple deputy Stumpy (Hawks regular and Western veteran Walter Brennan), a young hotshot gunslinger Colorado (pop star Ricky Nelson) and the mysterious female gambler Feathers (Angie Dickinson in one of her first big roles). (more…)

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