June 17, 2009
1959/ India/ directed by Satyajit Ray
Apur Sansar (Bengali: Opur Shôngshar, yr. The World of Apu), also known as The World of Apu, is the third and final part of The Apu Trilogy, about a boy named Apu in early twentieth century Bengal, directed by Satyajit Ray.
Released in 1959, The World of Apu focuses on Apu’s adult life, and also introduces the actors Soumitra Chatterjee and Sharmila Tagore, who would go on to appear in many subsequent Ray films. The film is based on the novel Aparajito by Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay. The film won the National Film Award for Best Film and several international awards, including the Sutherland Award for Best Original And Imaginative Film and National Board of Review Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
A large part of the story unfolds in Calcutta. Apu (Soumitra Chatterjee) is an unemployed graduate living in a rented room in Calcutta. Despite his teacher’s advice to go to University, he is unable to do so because he can’t afford it. He tries to find a job, while barely getting by providing private tuition. His main passion is however, writing a novel partially based on his own life and get it published some day. One day he meets his old friend Pulu, who coaxes him to join him on a trip to his village in Khulna to attend the marriage of a cousin named Aparna (Sharmila Tagore).
On the day of the marriage it turns out that the bridegroom has a serious mental disorder. The bride’s mother cancels the marriage, despite the father’s protests. He and the other villagers believe, according to prevalent Hindu tradition, that the young bride must be wedded off during the previously appointed auspicious hour. Otherwise, she will have to remain unmarried all her life. Apu, after initially refusing when requested by a few villagers, ultimately decides to take Pulu’s advice and come to the rescue of the bride by agreeing to marry her. He returns with Aparna to his apartment in Calcutta after the wedding. He takes up a clerical job, and a loving relationship begins to bloom between them. Yet the young couple’s blissful days are cut short when Aparna dies while giving birth to their son, Kajal. Apu is overcome with grief and holds the child responsible for his wife’s death.
He shuns his worldly responsibilities and becomes a recluse – travelling to different corners of India, while the child is left with his maternal grandparents. Meanwhile, Apu throws away his manuscript for the novel he had been writing over the years. A few years later, Pulu finds Kajal growing wild and uncared for. He then seeks out Apu working at a mining quarry and advises Apu one last time to take up his fatherly responsibility. At last, Apu decides to come back to reality and reunite with his son. When he reaches his in-laws’ place, Kajal, having seen him for the first time in his life, at first does not accept him as a father. Eventually he accepts Apu as a friend and they return to Calcutta together to start life afresh.
At Rotten Tomatoes, The World of Apu has a 100% fresh rating based on an aggregate of 16 reviews. In 1992, Sight & Sound (the British Film Institute’s film magazine) ranked The Apu Trilogy at #88 in its Critics’ Poll list of all-time greatest films. In 2002, a combined list of Sight & Sound critics’ and directors’ poll results ranked The World of Apu at #93 in the list. In 1998, the Asian film magazine Cinemaya’s critics’ poll of all-time greatest films ranked The Apu Trilogy at #7 on the list. In 1999, The Village Voice ranked The Apu Trilogy at #54 in its Top 250 “Best Films of the Century” list, based on a poll of critics.
In 1996, The World of Apu was included in Movieline Magazine’s “100 Greatest Foreign Films”. In 2001, film critic Roger Ebert included The Apu Trilogy in his list of “100 Great Movies” of all time. In 2002, The World of Apu featured in “The New York Times Guide to the Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made”. In 2005, The Apu Trilogy was included in Time magazine’s All-Time 100 best movies list.
President’s Medals (New Delhi)
Winner – 1959 – President’s Gold Medal
National Film Awards (India)
Winner – 1960 – Best Film
British Film Institute Awards (London Film Festival)
Winner – 1960 – Sutherland Award for Best Original And Imaginative Film
14th Edinburgh International Film Festival
Winner – 1960 – Diploma Of Merit
National Board of Review Awards (United States)
Winner – 1960 – Best Foreign Film
British Academy Film Awards (United Kingdom)
Nominated – 1962 – BAFTA Award for Best Film
“Director Satyajit Ray, with greater technical means, makes the truth of his relationships and the revelation of India the main trumps of the film. Wit, tenderness and intrinsic human revelations illuminate this unusual film.” -Variety
“An impressive capstone is put not only upon a touching human drama but also upon the development of a genuine artist’s skill.” -The New York Times
“A rich and insightful picture.” -TV Guide Movie Reviews
“What we sense all through The Apu Trilogy is a different kind of life than we are used to.” -Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times
“The ‘Apu Trilogy’ is a true masterpiece, and The World of Apu is its crown jewel.” -Reelviews
“The Apu Trilogy, 36 years after its completion, remains one of the screen’s great gifts.” -San Francisco Chronicle
2005/ Quebec, Canada/ directed by Jean-Marc Vallée
C.R.A.Z.Y. is a 2005 French-language Canadian film from Quebec. The film was directed and co-written (with François Boulay) by Jean-Marc Vallée. It tells the story of Zac, a young man dealing with his emerging homosexual feelings while growing up with four brothers and a conservative father in 1960s and 1970s Quebec. The title derives from the first letter in the names of the five brothers: Christian, Raymond, Antoine, Zachary and Yvan, and also refers to their father’s abiding love of Patsy Cline’s song “Crazy”.
Zachary Beaulieu (Marc-André Grondin) grows up in the turbulent Québec of the 1960s and 1970s. The second-youngest son of a father with “more than normal-level male hormones” and raised among four other brothers, Zac struggles to define his own identity, and deal with the conflict between his emerging sexuality and his intense desire to please his strict, temperamental and conservative father. One of the film’s themes is the waning influence of the Catholic Church in Québec society during the Quiet Revolution.
Period music is an important element of the film, and a considerable portion of the film’s budget was spent acquiring rights for songs by Patsy Cline, Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones as well as David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” and many others.
The Charles Aznavour song “Emmenez-moi” is repeated over and over in the film, often sung by the father. He also sings another Aznavour song – “Hier Encore”, as part of Zac’s 20th birthday celebrations.
C.R.A.Z.Y. was a strong box office hit by the standards of the relatively small Quebec market, grossing C$6.2 million. It was very well-received by critics and currently holds a rare 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
At the 26th Genie Awards for Canadian film it won 11 of the 13 awards, and won several awards at the Prix Jutra for Quebec films. It won awards at several film festivals internationally. It was also selected as Canada’s submission for Best Foreign Language Film at the 78th Academy Awards, but was not one of the films nominated.
Maine International Film Festival, 2007: Winner, Audience Favorite Award.
Prix Jutra, 2006: Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Sound, Best Makeup, Best Hairstyle, Biggest Box Office Success, Most Illustrious Film outside of Quebec
Genie Awards, 2006: Best Motion Picture, Achievement in Art Direction/Production Design, Achievement in Costume Design, Achievement in Direction, Achievement in Editing, Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role, Achievement in Sound Editing, Original Screenplay
Toronto International Film Festival, 2005: Toronto – City Award for Best Canadian Feature Film
Gijon international film festival (Spain), 2005: Young jury’s award (best film), best director (Jean-Marc Vallée), best script (François Boulay), best artistic direction (Patrice Bricault-Vermette)
Atlantic Film Festival, 2005: Best Canadian Feature
AFI Fest (Los Angeles), 2005: Audience Award for Best Film
Marrakech film festival (Morocco), 2005: Jury’s prize
Venice Film Festival (Italy), 2005: accepted
“The French Canadian import is wildly entertaining in its views of Catholicism, music and especially family.” -The Detroit Free Press
“Fantastic performances, sharp wit and a raw honesty breathe new life into the rites-of-passage drama.” -Empire
“An exuberant, disarming entertainment.” -The Miami Herald
The Saddest Music in the World
2004/ Canada/ directed by Guy Maddin
The Saddest Music in the World is a 2003 Canadian film directed by Guy Maddin. It stars Mark McKinney, Isabella Rossellini, Maria de Medeiros, David Fox and Ross McMillan.
Set in Winnipeg, Manitoba during the Great Depression, it is a comic musical about a competition announced by a beer magnate to find the saddest piece of music in the world.
Musicians from across the world come to Winnipeg to try their luck in the competition, but the contest eventually boils down to a battle within one family: a patriotic Canadian father and his expatriate sons, one of whom represents the United States, the other Serbia.
Like most of Maddin’s films, Saddest Music is filmed in a style that imitates late 1920s and early 1930s cinema, with grainy black and white photography, slightly out-of-sync sound and expressionist art design.
A few scenes are filmed in colour, in a manner that imitates early two-strip Technicolor.
Guy Maddin and co-writer George Toles completely rewrote the original screenplay by Booker Prize winning author Kazuo Ishiguro. Ishiguro had set his story in a more recognizable 1980s London. Before Maddin’s involvement, Atom Egoyan was at one time signed to direct from Ishiguro’s original screenplay.
Directors Guild of Canada:
Win: Outstanding Achievement in Production Design, Feature Film – Matthew Davies
Nominated: Outstanding Achievement in Direction, Feature Film – Guy Maddin
Nominated: Outstanding Achievement in Picture Editing, Feature Film – David Wharnsby
Win: Best Achievement in Costume Design – Meg McMillan
Win: Best Achievement in Editing – David Wharnsby
Win: Best Achievement in Music, Original Score – Christopher Dedrick
Nominated: Best Achievement in Direction – Guy Maddin
U.S. Comedy Arts Festival
Win: Film Discovery Jury Award, Best Director – Guy Maddin
A deliciously weirded-out picture by Guy Maddin, a deliciously weirded-out Canadian filmmaker.
-Christian Science Monitor David Sterritt
The best Canadian beer movie since “Strange Brew,” and the best 1930s musical of the year, The Saddest Music in the World is the kind of exhaustingly delirious film that only Winnipeg director Guy Maddin could make.
-The Globe and Mail (Toronto) Liam Lacey
Guy Maddin has reached a new expressive plateau with The Saddest Music in the World.
-Chicago Reader Jonathan Rosenbaum
The concept is high, the humor lowbrow and the joy of experimentation evident in every frame of this wonderful picture.
-San Francisco Chronicle Carla Meyer
Hard to say who’s luckier — those who have seen the work of Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin before and know what to expect, or those who haven’t and for whom The Saddest Music in the World serves as an eye-popping introduction.
-Entertainment Weekly Lisa Schwarzbaum
The weirdest, freest-wheeling, most obsessively inventive motion picture you’ll see this year. Parts are confusing, parts are berserk, parts are exasperatingly slow. But in a world of cookie-cutter movies, Maddin’s movies are like nobody else’s — funny, Romantic, as deliriously overwrought as a drug lord’s wedding.
-90 LA Weekly John Powers
It’s all terribly tortured, often laugh-out-loud, absurdly funny and, as with all of Maddin’s movies, conveyed through images that are as lush and beautifully over the top as the story’s emotions.
-Los Angeles Times Manohla Dargis
Hilariously odd and prodigiously inventive.
-Newsweek David Ansen
Rebels of the Neon God
1992/ Taiwan/ directed by Tsai Ming-liang
Rebels of the Neon God (Taiwanese: Ch’ing shaonien ne cha, literally Teenaged Nezha) is a 1992 Taiwanese film by Tsai Ming-liang. It is his first full-length film. It tells two stories of Taipei youth. One details alienated buxiban student Hsiao Kang (Lee Kang-sheng) and his troubled interactions with his family. The other shows two petty hoods, Ah Tze and Ah Bing, along with Ah Kuei, Tze’s erstwhile girlfriend. An idle act of violence brings the two groups into collision, and an act of revenge at the end completes the circle. It is a story of troubled youth, dissatisfaction, and the alienating effect of urban life.
Much of Rebels of the Neon God is filmed in various arcades and malls in Taipei and on the streets of the city with hand-held cameras. It is filmed in a much more naturalistic manner than some of Tsai’s later work.
It won Golden Horse Awards for Best Original Score and the Prize of the City of Torino for Best Film at the Torino International Festival of Young Cinema.
20 Festival Selections, 3 Awards…1992 Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival: Best Original Score; 1993 Tokyo International Film Festival: Bronze Award; 1993 Torino International Festival of Young Cinema: Best Film
2004/ Thailand/ directed by Wisit Sasanatieng
Mah Nakorn (English title: Citizen Dog) is a 2004 Thai romance film, directed by Wisit Sasanatieng and based on a story by Wisit’s wife, Koynuch (Siriphan Techajindawong), which was illustrated by him. The second film by the director of Tears of the Black Tiger, it is a colorfully surrealistic story set in contemporary Bangkok, where a boy (Pod) without a goal in life falls in love with a girl (Jin) who lives for her dreams. The movie is frequently compared with the French movie Amélie. One of the main themes of the movie is that people will only find something from the moment when they stopped looking for it.
A migrant worker falls in love with a maid and becomes a celebrity as the only man in Bangkok without a tail. Pod, a shy country bumpkin, is warned by his grandma that he will grow a tail if he lands a job in Bangkok. Instead, Pod loses a finger in a sardine tin assembly line in a manically staged nod to Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times. He opts for a safer occupation as a security guard and meets Jin, an obsessivecompulsive maid. He is smitten, but Jin is equally taken with the plight of the hero of a pulp romance magazine. In his efforts to get closer to the object of his affection, Pod makes his way through Bangkok’s brightly coloured jungle, where even the most mundane event can be one of enchantment and excitement.
- Best visual effects, 2004 Thailand National Film Association Awards.
-Silver Prize for Most Groundbreaking Film and Bronze Prize for Best Asian Film at the 2006 Fantasia Festival.
-Sixth on the Top 10 Best Films of 2005 by Time Magazine.
-Shown in 2005 at the “58. International Filmfestival Locarno” (Switzerland).
-Open air on the “Piazza Grande”
-Critics prize, 2005 Deauville Asian Film Festival
-Also screened at the 2005 Toronto International Film Festival, Vancouver International Film Festival, Pusan International Film Festival, Munich Asia Filmfest, Vienna International Film Festival, Tokyo International Film Festival, Frankfurt Asia Filmfest, London Film Festival, Thessaloniki International Film Festival, International Film Festival Rotterdam and the Taipei Film Festival.
Some Like It Hot
1959/ USA/ directed by Billy Wilder
Some Like It Hot is a 1959 American comedy film directed by Billy Wilder and starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon. The supporting cast includes George Raft, Joe E. Brown, Pat O’Brien and Nehemiah Persoff. The film was adapted by Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond from the story by Robert Thoeren and Michael Logan. Logan had already written the story – but without the gangsters – for a German film, Fanfaren der Liebe (directed by Kurt Hoffmann, 1951), so that Wilder’s film is seen by some as a remake.
Because we’ve grown used to seeing almost every possible subversion and set-up on screen, it’s almost impossible to think back to 1959 and realise that, in mixing an affectionate view of transvestism with a light-hearted look at the mob, Billy Wilder was being daring in the extreme. And it was because he laced his own script with continuous charm and big fun that he was able to express those ideas in the mainstream.
For those who haven’t seen it, “Some Like It Hot” is one of the greatest comedies ever. In a story of increasingly wild absurdity, it follows the antics of two idiot musicians (Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon) who, after witnessing the St Valentine’s Day Massacre, struggle to escape the gangsters (including a severely unsmiling George Raft) by dressing up in drag and joining an all-girl band. Comic complications aplenty ensue when Tony Curtis – now a pouting girlie – strives to express his lust for Marilyn, while Jack Lemmon – equally high-voiced and simpering – is being pursued by an amorous Joe E Brown, who has one of the funniest – and most radical – final punch-lines in screen comedy.
“Some Like It Hot” is one of those rare movies where all the elements gel all the time. Both Curtis and Lemmon display a real feeling for sexual ambiguity and full-blown silliness, while Marilyn provides a suitably contrasting innocence to the antics of the two rogues. Wilder presents all three with great comic scenes which soar on the back of originality and great timing and embrace both slapstick and super-sharp wit. The desert-island comedy bar none.
In 2000, the American Film Institute listed Some Like It Hot as the greatest American comedy film of all time.
The film won an Academy Award for Best Costume Design, Black-and-White (Orry-Kelly) and was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Jack Lemmon), Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White (Ted Haworth, Edward G. Boyle), Best Cinematography, Black-and-White, Best Director and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium.
It won the Golden Globe for Best Comedy. Marilyn Monroe won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in Musical or Comedy, and Jack Lemmon for Best Actor in Musical or Comedy.
The film has been acclaimed worldwide as one of the greatest film comedies ever made. In 1989, it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant,” going in on the first year of voting.
In 2000, readers of Total Film magazine voted it the eighth greatest comedy film of all time. In 2002, Channel 4 ranked Some Like It Hot as the fifth greatest film ever made in their 100 Greatest Films Poll.
American Film Institute recognition
1998 – AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Movies – #14
2000 – AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Laughs – #1
2005 – AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Movie Quotes:
“Well, nobody’s perfect.” – #48
2007 – AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) – #22
2007/ Canada/ directed by Guy Maddin
Have you ever wanted to relive your childhood and do things differently? Guy Maddin (THE SADDEST MUSIC IN THE WORLD) casts B-movie icon Ann Savage as his domineering mother in attempt to answer that question in MY WINNPEG, a hilariously wacky and profoundly touching goodbye letter to his childhood hometown. A documentary (or “docu-fantasia” as Maddin proclaims) that inventively blends local and personal history with surrealist images and metaphorical myths, the film covers everything from the fire at the local park which lead to a frozen lake of distressed horse heads to pivotal and factually heightened scenes from Maddin’s own childhood, all laced with a startling emotional honesty. MY WINNIPEG is Maddin’s most personal film and a truly unique cinematic experience, winning the best Canadian film at the Toronto International Film Festival and the opening night selection of the Berlin Film Festival’s Forum.
o Winner – Best Canadian Film
2007 Toronto Film Festival
o Official Selection
2008 Berlin International Film Festival
o Official Selection
2008 Tribeca Film Festival
o Boston Independent Film Festival 2008
WINNER – Audience Award
The film appeared on several critics’ top ten lists of the best films of 2008.
* 3rd – Richard Corliss, TIME magazine
* 4th – Marc Savlov, The Austin Chronicle
* 5th – Rick Groen , The Globe and Mail
* 6th – Marjorie Baumgarten, The Austin Chronicle
* 7th – Liam Lacey, The Globe and Mail
* 10th – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
“Great Film! It is outrageous, illogical, hilarious, and imaginative, in short, Maddin in top form.” Howard Feinstein, Filmmaker Magazine
“‘This one had the joy and the tang of true cinematic exploration.” Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune
“‘The finest, funniest, saddest film I’ve seen in Toronto or at any festival this year. ” Richard Corliss, Time Magazine
“‘PRICELESS! It’s poetically poignant as is bizarrely funny. ” Dennis Dermody, Paper Magazine
“‘Funny…touching…as real as any work of art can be. a brilliant and idiosyncratic artist” A.O.Scott, The New York Times
“‘UNEXPECTEDLY BEAUTIFUL. A haunting phantasmagoria of a film — comic, singular, surreal. a film to give yourself to, with pleasure.” Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times
“‘****! A movie that is as happily warped and enthusiastically disturbed as the rest of Maddin’s eccentric cinema.” John Anderson, Newsday
“‘Grade A! Marvelous. Unforgettable.” Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment
“‘BRILLIANT AND ENCHANTING. Nobody makes films quite like Guy Maddin. He’s never made a more delightful film. A funny, oddly touching “docu-fantasia” John Powers, Vogue
1956/ South Korea/ directed by Han Hyeong-mo
The most controversial film in Korean cinematic history, which made sensational waves throughout post-liberation society by portraying the transgressive sexuality of a college professor’s wife and her advancement into the public sphere.
After liberation from Japanese rule, Korean society underwent rapid changes caused by modernization and the influx of capitalism and Western culture. Amid such changes, Madame Freedom caused huge waves through its depiction of women’s sexuality and advancement into the public sphere. It was adapted from Jeong Bi-seok’s popular serial novel Madame Freedom (Ja-yu bu-in), which took as its subject such topical issues of the time as the dancing fad, private money pools (known as “gye”in Korean), and indulgence in luxury.
Due to the impoverished conditions of the period, women began to make actual inroads into the public realm aspart of the work force. No longer confined to the home, women became, on the one hand, objects of desire for men other than their own husbands and, on the other, agents of consumption and desire in their own right. As Shin Chun-ho’s camera captures the moment when Oh Seon-yeong crosses the threshold of her home to go and find employment at the clothing store, the scene reveals what it means for a woman to venture into the public sphere. The film shows us how the patriarchal society of the time reacted to this change.
Western commodities, described as “the very best,”and the mass culture introduced to Korea through American soldiers are both represented as something excessive that are attractive yet must be resisted. Westernization, modernization, and women’s sexuality become mutually aligned as elements that threaten existing patriarchal values and cause social insecurity. Once Seon-yeong begins working at the clothing store and dressing in Western attire, she begins to actively express her desires. In other words, women’s advancement into the public arena is directly associated with extravagance, uncritical Westernization, and sexual debauchery, and thus represented as that which must be punished.
Choi Yun-ju, who most obviously flaunts her financial independence and sexual desire, is utterly destroyed by the film’s end.
By contrast, as indicated by the movie’s promotional copy at the time (“If you were Professor Jang Tae-yun, what decision would you make regarding your wife?”), the man retains his moral superiority by packaging his own adulterous position as a productive and spiritual relationship. This leads to the film’s narrative conclusion, which is geared toward “re-taming” womeni.e. re-incorporating into the existing patriarchal structure those women who have infiltrated the public sphere and become agents of labor and consumption. Accordingly, Seon-yeong ultimately “repents her sins” and returns to the home, where her maternity is re-affirmed.
Nevertheless, Madam Freedom reveals at its depths an ambivalent sense of fascination and apprehension vis-a-vis modernity and female sexuality. It is this consideration that is prompting contemporary critics to re-evaluate Madame Freedom as a rare exception among films made in the social milieu of the 1950s for its active portrayal of women’s sexual desire.
Besides such thematic aspects, Madame Freedom figures importantly in the technological development of Korean cinema. Madame Freedom was the first Korean movie to be shot using proper cranes and dollys. What made this possible was the fact that one of the partners at Samseong Film was a man who made machinery in Cheonggyecheon. Director Han Hyung-mo, who frequently went to Cheonggyecheon get his cameras repaired, persuaded a machine builder with an interest in producing movies to participate in the project. According to accounts, the new partner built the dolly and the crane himself in just one week, based on the sketches made by Han Hyung-mo. The dolly’s wheels were reportedly converted from four helicopter wheels obtained through a U.S. military unit in Korea.
- The original novel, Jeong Bi-seok’s Madame Freedom (Ja-yu bu-in), was serialized over 215 installments in Seoul Daily News from January 1 to August 6, 1954, and enjoyed unprecedented popularity during its run.
- The film opened at Sudo Theatre and topped the box office in 1956 by drawing an audience of 108,000 in Seoul alone.
- It caused great controversy in 1950s Korean society because of the explicitness of its kiss scenes and love scenes, and because of its story line involving a college professor’s wife and her dancing fling with a young man.
- Madame Freedom spawned numerous sequels and remakes from its release through the 1990s.
All About My Mother
1999/ Spain/ directed by Pedro Almodovar
Todo sobre mi madre (English: All About My Mother) is a 1999 Spanish drama film written and directed by Pedro Almodóvar. The screenplay deals with complex issues such as AIDS, transvestitism, faith, and existentialism.
The plot originates in Almodóvar’s earlier film The Flower of My Secret which shows student doctors being trained in how to persuade grieving relatives to allow organs to be used for transplant, focusing on the mother of a teenager killed in a road accident.
Janet Maslin of the New York Times called it Almodóvar’s “best film by far,” noting he “presents this womanly melodrama with an empathy to recall George Cukor’s and an eye-dampening intensity to out-Sirk Douglas Sirk.” She added, “It’s the crossover moment in the career of a born four-hankie storyteller of ever-increasing stature. Look out, Hollywood, here he comes.” 
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times observed, “You don’t know where to position yourself while you’re watching a film like All About My Mother, and that’s part of the appeal: Do you take it seriously, like the characters do, or do you notice the bright colors and flashy art decoration, the cheerful homages to Tennessee Williams and All About Eve, and see it as a parody? . . . Almodovar’s earlier films sometimes seemed to be manipulating the characters as an exercise. Here the plot does handstands in its eagerness to use coincidence, surprise and melodrama. But the characters have a weight and reality, as if Almodovar has finally taken pity on them – has seen that although their plights may seem ludicrous, they’re real enough to hurt.” 
Bob Graham of the San Francisco Chronicle said, “No one else makes movies like this Spanish director” and added, “In other hands, these characters might be candidates for confessions – and brawls – on The Jerry Springer Show, but here they are handled with utmost sympathy. None of these goings-on is presented as sordid or seedy. The presentation is as bright, glossy and seductive as a fashion magazine . . . The tone of All About My Mother has the heart-on-the-sleeve emotions of soap opera, but it is completely sincere and by no means camp.”
Wesley Morris of the San Francisco Examiner called the film “a romantically labyrinthine tribute that piles layers of inter-textual shout-outs to All About Eve, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, Federico García Lorca and Alfred Hitchcock, and beautifully assesses the nature of facades . . . Almodovar imbues his Harlequin-novel-meets-Marvel-comic-book melodramas with something more than a wink and a smile, and it’s beguiling. His expressionism and his screenwriting have always had fun together, but now there is a kind of faith and spirituality that sexcapades like Law of Desire and Kika only laughed at . . . [I]t contains a host of superlative firsts: a handful of the only truly moving scenes he’s filmed, the most gorgeous dialogue he’s composed, his most dimensional performances of his most dimensional characters and perhaps his most dynamic photography and elaborate production design.” 
Jonathan Holland of Variety called the film “emotionally satisfying and brilliantly played” and commented, “The emotional tone is predominantly dark and confrontational . . . But thanks to a sweetly paced and genuinely witty script, pic doesn’t become depressing as it focuses on the characters’ stoic resilience and good humor.”
Tears of the Black Tiger
2000/ Thailand/ directed by Wisit Sasanatieng
TEARS OF THE BLACK TIGER takes a journey back to a lost past – the heroic years of Thai genre cinema, when influences from Hollywood and everywhere else were subsumed into rollicking Thai melodramas for an audience of avid fans. Sasanatieng’s film is a brilliant pastiche of vanished themes, styles and characters, almost all of them easily recognizable as variants on the prototypes from other popular cinemas. But the film’s project is not simply nostalgic. Sasanatieng uses the tricks and tropes of film style from the 1960’s- iris shots, wipes, obvious back-projection – but combines them with a startling, modernist approach to color and storytelling. The result is not only unique in Thai cinema but also an entirely new way of looking at genre entertainment.
TEARS OF THE BLACK TIGER offers nostalgia as future shock.
When Dum, a young peasant boy, falls in love with Rumpoey, the daughter of a wealthy family, they vow that, whatever happens, they will one day be together. When they meet again ten years later, their rekindled passion is thwarted by the murder of Dum’s father by outlaws and by Rumpoey’s betrothal to a smooth-talking police captain. Dum soon transforms himself into the gunslinging bandit, “Black Tiger,” in order to infiltrate the gang who murdered his father. Fate will reunite the lovers one more time, but will they be able to continue their romance? Or will tragedy strike again?
“A DELIRIUM-INDUCING JAW-DROPPER! Is it possible to evoke this movie without invoking two dozen exclamation points?” – David Edelstein, New York Magazine
“A SUPER-DUPER META-MOVIE! A delightfully unabashed affair that’s electrifying from frame one.” – Nathan Lee, Village Voice
“A CINEMATIC SUGAR RUSH. A joyful, exuberantly stylized hybrid of family saga, crime thriller, soap opera and Western adventure.” – Richard Brody, New Yorker
“AN AUDACIOUS, EYE-POPPING DEBUT.” – David Fear, Time Out New York
“SO RETRO IT’S CUTTING EDGE. It’s all trippy, kicky, cheesy, delirious fun.” – Jay Carr, AM New York
“IT’S A VISUAL RIOT. A joyfully, ingeniously convoluted thrill ride.” Simon Dumenco, Very Short List
1994/ USA/ directed by Terry Zwigoff
Crumb is a 1994 documentary film about the noted underground comic artist Robert Crumb (R. Crumb) and his family. Directed by Terry Zwigoff and produced by Lynn O’Donnell, it won widespread acclaim, including the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. The late critic Gene Siskel hailed Crumb as the best film of the year, as did critic Jeffrey M. Anderson, who writes for the San Francisco Examiner. It was released in the USA on April 28, 1995.
Crumb is considered a moving film about the experiences and characters of the Crumb family, particularly Robert Crumb’s brothers, Maxon and Charles, his wife and children (his sisters declined to be interviewed).
Robert Crumb initially did not want to make the film, but eventually agreed. There was a rumour, accidentally created by Roger Ebert, that Terry Zwigoff made Crumb cooperate by threatening to shoot himself. Ebert has clarified this in the commentary of the film’s recent re-release.
In 2008, Entertainment Weekly named Crumb the 14th best film of the last 25 years.
Dasepo Naughty Girls
2006/ South Korea/ directed by Lee Jae-yong
In early 2005, a dark, controversial internet comic called Dasepo Girls appeared and won over a large following among young Koreans. Set in a high school named Musseulmo (literally, “Useless High School”), the comic portrayed a place where the students were sex addicts, where the teachers were perverts, and where virtually nothing was forbidden. With a diverse cast of characters filling the large number of episodes (76 to date), Dasepo Girls followed multiple storylines and created a rich, twisted, narrative world.
Film companies were quick to notice the comic’s success, and by the end of 2005 director E J-yong, well-known for Untold Scandal (2003) and An Affair (1998), announced that he would adapt it into a movie. The initial reaction from fans was one of anticipation but also disbelief: how could such scandalous material be re-worked for a mainstream audience? Even aside from the comic’s strong sexual content, Dasepo Girls was a wide-ranging collection of disjointed stories that would be hard to unify into a coherent whole.
Nonetheless, E J-yong seemed the perfect choice for such a project, given his demonstrated flair for scandalous topics and his new-generation attitude towards moral issues. A young cast was quickly assembled, headed by actress Kim Ok-bin (from the 2005 horror film Voice). Meanwhile, production company Ahnsworld also commissioned a series of 40 short films based on the comic (which, though uneven, are worth tracking down in their own right).
Commercially the film, titled Dasepo Naughty Girls in English, tripped out of the gate. Viewers familiar with the comic were clearly expecting something far more racy — to be honest, the film is a bit of a tease (it ended up being given only a mild 15+ rating). It also opened just as monster movie The Host was on its way to becoming the best-selling Korean film in history. Dasepo ultimately grossed $3.8 million, which for Korean films of average budget is considered a disappointing performance.
Dasepo Naughty Girls may not have been what teenage fans were expecting, but Director E has nonetheless given us a highly original and satisfying film, assuming you go in with the right expectations. Basically, he has taken the original comic’s spirit of transgression and transformed it into a film that defies the mainstream in other, quieter ways. If Korean society often portrays itself as being homogenous, Dasepo Naughty Girls explodes that notion in favor of diversity. Hierarchical social structures, too familiar in real-life Korea, crumble within the world of the film. Social outcasts may still exist at Musseulmo High, but interestingly enough it’s the “normal” students who are more often made to feel uncomfortable and unsure of themselves.
The film also treats narrative in the same relaxed way it engages moral issues. Largely episodic in nature, it will linger on one character’s concerns and actions for a certain period of time before dropping it and moving on to another character. Although most screen time is spent on Kim Ok-bin’s “girl who carries poverty on her back”, attention is also paid to other characters who have little or no relation to her. Even in the latter part of the film, there are few signs of the plot coalescing into a decisive conclusion; instead, the film takes its time exploring the corners of its world and the characters that inhabit it. The director even throws in a few catchy song-and-dance numbers.
Ultimately Dasepo becomes an odd and fascinating sort of utopian vision of modern Korea, though not the utopia that most Koreans would imagine for themselves. The film’s candy-colored palette and playful horsing around may suggest that the director is simply having fun, but a closer look reveals that he has a clear social agenda — one that may well be worth examining seriously.
1969/ USA/ directed by the Maysles Brothers
Salesman follows four door-to-door Bible salesmen as
they walk the line between hype and despair. Paul
“The Badger” Brennan, Charles “The Gipper” McDevitt,
James “The Rabbit” Baker, and Raymond “The Bull” Martos,
are so nicknamed for their particular selling styles — on their
rounds. First making calls in and around Boston, where the
company is based, then in Chicago at a sales conference,
and finally in the promising new “territory” of Miami and
vicinity. Their mission is simple: to convince people to buy
what one of them calls “still the best seller in the world.”
But although their customers are mostly middle, working-
class Catholics recommended by the local church, the Bible
is a hard sell. In action, the salesmen rely on trusty catch
phrases: “Could you say if this would help the family? Could
you see where this would be of value in the home? A gain to
you?” Talking, pushing, cajoling, telling jokes and stories,
throwing out compliments, the salesmen make their “pitches”
to a wide range of customers — lonely widows, married couples,
Cuban immigrants, bored housewives — from those who clearly
cannot afford the $50 book to those who, in the end, are
convinced by the salesman’s somewhat too-cheerful patter.
From Webster, Massachusetts to Opa-Locka, Florida, the
operating costs of the American Dream. Today Salesman
is considered ‘the direct cinema classic’.
“I was spellbound. I’ve seen Salesman three times and each
time I’ve been more impressed. Fascinating, very funny,
- Vincent Camby, NEW YORK TIMES, April 18, 1969
“One of the most important films ever made. It must be seen.”
- Hollis Alpert, SATURDAY REVIEW, 1969
“Ten times more fascinating than the big budget hokum turned
out by Hollywood.”
- Rex Reed, 1969
“Far and away the most important film of the year! A brutally
- Donald Mayerson, VILLAGER, 1969
“Probably the most important film you will see this year.”
- Joseph Gelmis, NEWSDAY, 1969
“Eloquent and genuinely funny. No other land could have imaginably
produced this picture.”
- Penelope Gilliatt, NEW YORKER MAGAZINE, 1969
“Greater insight into America than all the Broadway shows I’ve
seen this season.”
- Harold Clurman, THE NATION, 1969
“Funny, touching, compassionate, an extraordinary portrait of a
- John O’Connor, WALL STREET JOURNAL, April 18,1969
“A marvelous movie, Salesman is a non-documentary, non-fiction,
opinionated film· Salesman is a funny film about sadness, a cruel
film about sensibilities, a patter-filled film about dumbness.”
- VOGUE, March 15, 1969
World Premiere: 68th St. Playhouse, New York City (April 17, 1969)
Broadcast on PBS series “P.O.V.” (1990)
Official Selection for Library of Congress National Film Registry (1993)
Official U.S. entry at Venice International Film Festival (1969)
Official Selection, Berlin Film Festival
Official Selection, Moscow Film Festival
Official Selection, Edinburgh Film Festival
Official Selection, Mannheim Film Festival
Official Selection, Chicago Film Festival
Memories of Murder
2003/ South Korea/ directed by Bong Joon-Ho
Based on the true story of South Korea’s first serial killer… when women start turning up dead in a small town in South Korea in 1986, two reluctantly-partnered cops resolve to bring him to justice. But it was a very different world then, and without DNA testing or modern forensics the investigators are forced to rely mainly on intuition and brute force. At times both touching and hilarious, MEMORIES OF MURDER is a riveting tale of a mysterious killer and the ceaseless pressure on those charged with stopping his rampage.
Between 1986 and 1991, 10 Korean women were murdered and raped within a 2km radius in a small town outside of Seoul. With over 3000 suspects interrogated, the police were never able to indict anyone for the crimes. Based on this true story of Korea’s first serial killer, Palm Pictures’ MEMORIES OF MURDER is the culmination of a year’s worth of research, visits to the crime scenes and interviews with key detectives and reporters. Winner of three awards at both the San Sebastian International Film Festival and South Korea’s Grand Bell, this film stars an award-winning cast including Song Kang-Ho (Deauville Film Festival Best Actor Award for his starring role in the Palm Pictures DVD release, J.S.A.) and Kim Sang-Kyung (Turning Gate) (MBC Acting Awards Best New Actor Award winner, 1999.)
Filmed on locations throughout the Korean countryside, MEMORIES OF MURDER takes place in 1986 in the Gyunggi Province, where the body of a young woman is found brutally raped and murdered. Two months later, a series of rapes and murders commence under similar circumstances and the local police set up a task force in the area in response to catch the killer.
This is a story about two detectives, local detective Park Doo-Man (played by Song Kang-Ho) and the visiting city detective, Seo Tae-Yoon (played by Kim Sang-Kyung),who employ their separate strategies to find the killer. Park uses his instincts and fists to challenge every small-time crook in the area, while Seo, because of his peculiar personality ticks, pours over the evidence, although not even a single hair is ever found on the scene. At this time, there was no profiling mechanisms, or any idea of preserving the crime scene for forensic investigation. The two detectives only had a “search and interrogation” method based on their own sense of duty and persistence. The two detectives must mesh the ways of new and old to try to solve a mystery in a time when people were unable to comprehend the unbelievable acts before them.
Director Bong Joon-Ho began this film with a single image — a brutally murdered woman found naked in a remote village on a beautiful, sunny afternoon. His motivation for the film is to enrage the audience at not just the murder, but the circumstances that enabled such horrible murders to take place. Joon-Ho is best known for his first film, Barking Dogs Never Bite (2000), which was honored at film festivals worldwide, including the Hong Kong International Film Festival and the Munich International Film Festival, among others.