Konchalovsky Retrospective: 3 – A Nest of gentry ( Dvoryanskoe gnezdo, 1969)

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In 19th century Russia, an aristocrat, Lavretsky, returns to his estate after staying in Paris over a long period. Upon meeting Lisa, during a visit to his neighbors, he become infatuated by the young woman and would like to erase his past.

Freely adapted from Ivan Turgenev’s book, A Nest of gentry marks a departure for Andrei Konchalovsky’s from his first two features. The material of origin (a book) makes it more classic in its form and it is also his first color film, a costume drama praised for its visual beauty but attacked by soviet critics as mannered. However, the film displays, even in introducing a completely different social class than the one portrayed in his own Story of Asya Klyachina… (1966), the same love for the Continue reading

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Konchalovsky Retrospective: 2 – The Story of Asya Klyachina Who Loved, But Did Not Marry (1966)

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Asya, is pregnant from the man she loves, but he won’t marry her. Potential suitors are wandering around like vultures but she resists all attempts…
Andrei Konchalovsky’s second feature, The Story of Asya Klyachina Who Loved But Did Not Marry (1966) is an amazing cinematic piece, a confirmation of his talent… but it was banned for two decades by the Soviet authorities. When it was shown at Berlin Film Fest in 1988, the director had made a few more films, won a Cannes jury prize in 1979 for Siberiada, and made a successful landing in Hollywood.

More than the romantic drama its title suggests, the film is a passionate elegy about the love of Russians for the (mother) land. Back behind the camera is gifted cinematographer Georgy Rerberg (stalker, The mirror) and the choreographed movements are more elaborate than in The first Teacher (Pervyy Uchitel, 1965), the previous effort by the duet. There is a great attention to details. The camera travels from landscapes, props, objects hanging on the wall, telling a story in itself. Then it moves to people and Continue reading

Konchalovsky Retrospective: 1 – The First Teacher (1965)

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There is much to love about Andrei Konchalovsky’s 1965 film, The First Teacher (Pervyy Uchitel), his first feature after collaborating with Andrei Tarkovsky on the screenplays for The Steamroller and the violin, Ivan’s Childhood and Andrei Rublev.

During the 1920’s an ex-soldier released from the Red army is sent by the Communist Party to a remote village of Kyrgyztan in order to teach the masses. But his idealism soon leads to confrontation against centuries of local traditions. Things might not go totally as planned in the post revolution world, so far away from the Central party, and anything can turn counter revolutionary.

The First Teacher is filled with countless seductive qualities, all beautifully balanced. There is even a hint of some things to come (25 years later) in Konchalovsky’s younger brother Nikita Mikhalkov’s URGA (1991). The shock of ideas and culture are central to the characters conflicting souls and ultimate development. The gorgeous scenery is fully embraced (in glorious Black and white) by the camera of Continue reading

FNC 2017 : Saul Bass & S. Suzuki

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While its closing film (the Animated feature Loving Vincent) is today, 7PM at the Imperial Cinema, the FNC 2017 finishes this Sunday and there is still plenty to chose from. Perhaps two of the most interesting presentations that were not part of media highlights can be found in the Retrospective and special screenings.

There is showings of a 4k restoration of sci-fi cult item Phase IV, in which scientists discover that a collective intelligent army of Ants seem to have declared war on the human specie.

Released in 1974, Phase IV was the only feature directed by Prestigious and influential artist/ graphic designer Saul Bass who designed some of the most iconic logos of the 20th century and had a prolific Hollywood career in providing highly innovative title sequences for directors such as Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick and Martin Scorsese.

Bass precise and creative technical skills, Dick Bush photography and Brian Gascoigne’s eerie music, are among highlights of Phase IV, creating a chilling atmosphere. Key works include an Art department under supervision by John Barry (not the composer), Norman Reynolds and John Richardson, on special effects. All three would,  soon after,  contribute key work for the Star Wars franchise.

Showings:
Saturday October 14, 5:10 PM, Cinéma du Parc 2
Sunday October 15, 9:25 PM, Quartier Latin 16

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The other films to look for are part of the presentation of movies by master of the Yakuza film with a twist, Seijun Suzuki. The influence of this amazing film maker can be found in such works as Jim Jarmush’s Ghost Dog, Won Kar Wai’s In the Mood for Love and countless others.

Featured Films:

Detective Bureau 2-3 – Go to Hell Bastards (3:30 PM Saturday – Quartier Latin 17),

Branded to Kill (9:00 PM Saturday – Quartier Latin 16),

Tokyo Drifter (13:00 PM Sunday – Quartier Latin 16)

FNC 2017: Les Predatrices (France, 2016)

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What happens when Nosferatu and Dracula meet David Lynch (circa Blue Velvet, 1986) and Brian De Palma (circa Sisters, 1972)? One might guess, creepy but aesthetically pleasing decor and characters exhibiting bizarre fetishes. In former porn actress Ovidie’s Les Predatrices, sisters of a particular sort turn to murder in exchange for some life-prolonging elixirs. Creepy Dracula-dude is only a bit part, but he is an essential component to the sisters’ lifestyle and livelihood.

Meanwhile, the only thing the siblings seem to do in their shared existence is look for gullible men for at-home indulgences. They are modern-day vampires, temptresses, murderesses, but the viewer is never told why exactly. An air of mystery lingers about their past and about why murder is the price for their elixirs. Curiously, Ovidie has created a female-empowerment film where women are still at the beck and call of this Dracula-like figure. The codependence is a Continue reading