Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts
Nov 2012 30

This season of Cinematheque is coming to a close, but let’s not forget about all the great films we have screened this semester ! Don’t forget to check back soon to see what we have in store for next season!

Check out our Cinematheque page to see Cinematheque films from Spring-Fall 2012 at http://arts.vcu.edu/cinema/cinematheque/!

Visit http://www.facebook.com/vcuartscinema and let us know your favorite film from this season!

Götz Spiellmann’s “Revanche”

At once a gripping thriller and a tragic drama of nearly Greek proportions, Revanche is the stunning, Oscar–nominated, international breakthrough film from Austrian filmmaker Götz Spielmann. In a ragged section of Vienna, hardened ex-con Alex (the mesmerizing Johannes Krisch) works as an assistant in a brothel, where he falls for Ukrainian hooker Tamara (Irina Potapenko). Their desperate plans for escape unexpectedly intersect with the lives of a rural cop (Andreas Lust) and his seemingly content wife (Ursula Strauss). With meticulous, elegant direction, Spielmann creates a tense, existential, and surprising portrait of vengeance and redemption, and a journey into the darkest forest of human nature, in which violence and beauty exist side by side.  “Darkly compelling … Its carefully plotted, convincing scenario will leave you with a lot on your mind.” – Kenneth Turan, The Los Angeles Times  “Deserves comparison with grade-A Hitchcock.” – John Hartl, The Seattle Times  “Directed with terrific control and economy of means … Revanche gets its hooks into you early and leaves them there.” – Scott Foundas, The Village Voice  “Recalls a sort of filmmaking out of vogue since Bresson and Kieslowski – a cinema of moral consequence.” – Brian Miller, The Seattle Weekly

Joachim Trier’s “Oslo August 31″

Review by A.O. SCOTT, “The New York Times”

“Joachim Trier’s “Oslo, August 31,” is a perfectly linear story that bristles with suspense and ambiguity. The title and the structure make literal the recovery movement mantra “one day at a time,” and also show just how long and how full of danger a single 24-hour span can be. Stories of addiction frequently pass through a metaphorical crossroads — redemption down one path, catastrophe down the other — but Anders, Mr. Trier’s protagonist, faces such a choice at every waking moment. You are never sure what he will do next, and it is clear that he is not, either. Nor does he necessarily know why he makes the choices he does, or what they mean.

“Anders Danielsen Lie in “Oslo, August 31st,” loosely based on “Le Feu Follet,” a 1931 novel by the French writer Pierre Drieu La Rochelle (adapted for film by Louis Malle in 1963), is neither sensationalistic nor punishingly bleak. There is sometimes a generic quality to movies about addiction, perhaps because of the leveling power of the disease, which can afflict anyone, regardless of background. Anders is smart — a once-promising intellectual who has published articles in highbrow journals — and was raised, it seems, by kind and loving parents. He has no good explanation for the pain he has inflicted on himself and others, which may make it harder.

“But Mr. Trier and Mr. Lie — a quiet, recessive but nonetheless magnetically self-assured screen presence — emphasize Anders’s individuality above all. “Oslo, August 31st” has the satisfying gravity of specific experience, and also, true to its title, a prickly sense of place. Oslo is Anders’s home, the scene of his happiest and most dreadful experiences, and the film, chilly as it is, is warmed by a love for the city that the filmmaker and the character clearly share.”

Rob Tregenza’s “The Arc”

Review by DAVE KEHR, “The Chicago Tribune”

Published: October, 1991

“The highlight of Monday`s program at the Chicago International Film Festival is ‘The Arc,’ screening at 9:30 p.m. at the Music Box Theater, 3733 N. Southport Ave. Directed by Rob Tregenza, who is perhaps the most formally innovative of the current generation of American independent filmmakers, the film uses gradually increasing shot lengths, from a few frames to takes of several minutes, to relate the mythic tale of an arc welder (Jason Adams) on a spiritual quest.”

ARC had its world premiere at the Berlin International film Festival, and then screened at the Toronto, Vancouver, and Chicago International Film Festivals.

Review By PIERS HANDLING, Director of the Toronto International Film Festival

“Rob Tregenza’s first feature,Talking To Strangers (shown at the 1988 Festival) was a bold aesthetic and stylistic departure consisting of only nine shots, each lasting approximately ten minutes. His new film (making its North American premiere at the festival) takes up where his first left off, although The Arc has been conceived in a somewhat different fashion.

The structuring arc of the film sees Tregenza move from sequences of montage to those of increasing length as the film progresses, which mirrors the internal state of his protagonist as well as the landscape in which he finds himself. The Arc above all is a road movie, and a journey, a modern day odyssey, not dissimilar in mood and tone to Antonioni’s existential trips through the disembodied sensibilities of his characters.

The film begins in Baltimore where John Butz is a welder, but when he refuses to take part in a strike, his marriage falls apart. He hits the road, finds work in scap-yard and then drifts on through Georgia, Oklahoma, Texas and Montana. Along the way John runs into some unusual people, including a runaway girl, and a sculptor, each of whom is struggling to find a path in life. Every encounter teaches John something new, forcing him to confront himself in a different way. As the city is replaced by the empty desert spaces, as time slows down, and as a spiritual dimension enters his life, John finds himself becoming increasingly detached from the world but closer to the magic of the landscape that Tregenza’s camera captures with powerful eloquence. The Arc confirms the promise of Tregenza’s audacious first film and marks him as a singular talent determined to follow his own very challenging path.”

Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s “Tropical Malady”

By MANOHLA DARGIS, “The New York Times”
Published: October 2, 2004

“Love is the drug, a game for two and, in the otherworldly Thai film “Tropical Malady,” unabashedly strange. A fractured love story about the mystery and impossibility of desire, the film was directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, whose earlier features include “Blissfully Yours.” Perched between two worlds, two consciousnesses and two radically different storytelling traditions, this new feature shows a young filmmaker pushing at the limits of cinematic narrative with grace and a certain amount of puckish willfulness.

“When “Tropical Malady” had its premiere at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival, the critical consensus was that the movie was difficult to the point of inscrutability. But the story is, notwithstanding a surprising rupture midway through, nothing if not simple. Most of the first half of the film involves the tentative blossoming of Tong and Keng’s romance.

“Mr. Weerasethakul, who lives in Thailand and studied film and painting at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, has an appreciation of the more humorous dislocations of globalization, like an aerobics class in the middle of a dusty town. “Tropical Malady” is filled with such minor disruptions (including a woman who talks about ghosts in one breath and “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” in the next), but the biggest disruption takes place when the storytelling shifts from realism to allegory.”

Peter Watkins “Punishment Park”

This pseudo-documentary was directed by Peter Watkins (The War Game, Culloden). After a poor critical response and with its tough, political subject matter ensuring distribution near impossible, Punishment Park received a limited release in 1971 before all but disappearing.

Set in a near future dystopian US in the wake of Kent State and with the backdrop of Nixon and the escalating war in Vietnam; hippies, left-wing radicals, draft dodgers and all those considered to be an “internal threat” are arrested and put in front of an impossible tribunal. The film follows and intercuts between two groups of detainees who are being filmed by a BBC camera crew (narrated by Watkins himself). The first group, 637, are shown at the start of their 3 days in Punishment Park, whilst group 638 begin their civilian court hearings. As tensions rise in the tribunals and the reality of their fate dawns on both the detainees and the documentary crew filming them, Punishment Park quickly escalates to its shockingly inevitable and violent conclusion.

Aleksei Fedorchenko’s “Silent Souls”

Review by JEANNETTE CATSOULIS, “New York Times”

Published: September 15th, 2011

“Sex and death are inextricably entwined in “Silent Souls,” a melancholy poem to love, loss and the tug of tradition.

“Narrated by Aist (Igor Sergeyev), a middle-aged mill worker descended from an ancient Russian tribe known as the Merja, this third feature from Aleksei Fedorchenko takes you on a dreamy journey to a half-remembered land. Asked to accompany his best friend, Miron (Yuri Tsurilo), in the transport and watery burial of Miron’s recently deceased wife, Aist embarks on a road trip rich in significance and sentiment. While the bereaved husband, in accordance with Merja custom, recounts intimate details of his married life, Aist recalls his long-gone parents and the sadness of a stillborn sibling. Ghosts — of people, places and rituals — accumulate and eventually dominate his narration, the fleshy bodies of women past and present filling him with tenderness and longing. Colors swell from muted to strident and back again as Mikhail Krichman’s moodily erotic, perfectly lighted images — a bride’s pubic hair decorated with colored thread; Miron bathing his wife in vodka.

“Populated by memories and dappled with desire, “Silent Souls” is part folk tale, part lesson in letting go. In its quiet acceptance of the passing of time, this unusual film reminds us that to die is not always the same as to disappear.”

Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s “Once Upon A Time in Anatolia”

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia is a 2011 Turkish drama film, co-written and directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan. The film, which went on nationwide general release across Turkey on September 23, 2011, premiered at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival where it was a co-winner of the Grand Prix.

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia is about a murder investigation in “Anatolia,” the historical name of a region, and now a generic term for Turkey’s countryside. The Turkish word for “motherland,” it occupies in the popular imagination the legendary status that the West holds for Americans.  The moment we see their faces, we feel we know their stories. But these men also spring from Anatolian soil, from a civilization far older than that of America’s fabled West. While their preoccupations provide an engaging glimpse of Turkish culture, for Ceylan they also represent the absence of mind that prevents these men from living fulfilling.

Although Ceylan is not inspired by religion, as Robert Bresson was, a filmmaker to whom the Turkish director can easily be compared, he is similarly engaged in a quest for meaning. His films depict the ways in which men compete for hegemony, as the men do in Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, all the time feeling adrift, set apart from the natural patterns of life, until women rescue them.

Ceylan, like Bresson, communicates as much through sound as he does through image. In Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, for instance, the sound of barking is a reminder of the victim whose dog we see in the opening scene.

Andrey Zvyagintsev’s “Elena”

Winner of Cannes’ Un Certain Regard Special Jury Prize, Elena is a gripping, modern twist on the classic noir thriller. Sixty-ish spouses Vladimir and Elena uneasily share his palatial Moscow apartment-he’s a still-virile, wealthy businessman; she’s his dowdy former nurse who has clearly “married up.” Estranged from his own wild-child daughter, Vladimir openly despises his wife’s freeloading son and family. But when a sudden illness and an unexpected reunion threaten the dutiful housewife’s potential inheritance, she must hatch a desperate plan…. Masterfully crafted by award-winning Russian filmmaker Andrey Zvyagintsev (Golden Globe nominee The Return) and featuring evocative, Hitchcockian music by Philip Glass, Elena is a subtly stylish exploration of crime, punishment and human nature. — (C) Zeitgeist

Pere Portabella’s “The Silence Before Bach”

Review by MANOHLA DARGIS, “The New York Times”
Published: January 30, 2008

“The jingling piano, the humming traffic and the prancing horse tap out separate if connecting songs in the beguiling nonnarrative film “The Silence Before Bach,” from the septuagenarian Spanish auteur Pere Portabella. You could say that these three make beautiful music together, though this observation doesn’t capture the contrapuntal complexity of the film, which unfolds note against note, scene against scene. According to the critic Jonathan Rosenbaum, Mr. Portabella has not allowed any of his work to be transferred to VHS or DVD, which is too bad, because, to judge from “The Silence Before Bach,” he merits a wider audience.

“And there is an audience for this work, despite the hurdles presented by foreign-language film distribution. “The Silence Before Bach” may be nonnarrative, but its pleasures are obvious, even when its meaning proves rather less so. Through a series of seemingly disconnected set pieces — some transpiring in present-day Europe, some in the past — Mr. Portabella creates a film that doesn’t address Bach in the usual biopic terms but instead as a jumping-off point for different visual and aural ideas and associations, including the cross-cultural reality of European identity. Following Bach’s influence, Mr. Portabella and his film bounce all over the map, crisscrossing the continent from Spain to Germany by way of various travelers, their harmonies and rhythms.

“The Silence Before Bach” opens with a camera prowling through a series of empty white rooms that look very much like a gallery space primed (and left waiting) for an exhibition. Mr. Portabella does not disappoint and starts the show soon enough with the appearance of a magically self-propelled player piano. This ambulatory instrument— its keys and gears furiously churning out the “Goldberg” Variations — starts to move closer and closer toward the camera, which abruptly reverses its course and begins moving backward like a retreating enemy. It’s a strangely comical and mysterious image (attack of the player piano!) that suggests that this music (or perhaps its lovers) does not appreciate being shut away in a sterile, depopulated environment, like that of a would-be gallery.

The Dardenne Brothers “The Kid With A Bike”

Review By MANOHLA DARGIS, “The New York Times”
Published: March 15, 2012

“The fast-moving boy in “The Kid With a Bike,” a quietly rapturous film about love and redemption from Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, races along with frightening intensity, his little legs pedaling hard, his eyes fixed on a heart-heavy destination. What the 11-year-old Cyril (the newcomer Thomas Doret, touchingly serious) wants — what every muscle in his small, tensed body strains toward — is the father who left him at a children’s home, abandoning his only son to the kindness of strangers with as seemingly little regard and feeling as someone else might toss a pair of old shoes.

“The use of the Beethoven, the music soaring, as well as what appears to be a kind of resurrection, makes it easy to read “The Kid With a Bike” as a religious allegory, though that would be reductive. One thing that makes the Dardennes’ work so vibrant, at once new and seemingly timeless, is that they ask the most urgent questions we can ask of ourselves — including, what is it to be human — and in nondoctrinaire, nonproscriptive terms. This isn’t to deny the religious influence, which runs as deep in their films as it does in the outside world, but to argue that they have recast that influence in philosophical and aesthetic terms. “Rosetta,” “The Son,” “The Child” and “The Kid With a Bike” are, in the most expansive sense, good works.”