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ALICE IN CARTOONLAND
Alice in Cartoonland
series marked the true launch of the Walt Disney Studio. After showing promise with his
shorts, Walt moved from Kansas City to Hollywood and, with the
films, started on the path to animation history. Inspired by Max Fleischer's
Out of the Inkwell
series, Disney reversed Fleischer's premise and had a live-action girl interacting with a cartoon world. Although visually simple compared to modern animation, these shorts retain their ability to charm and amuse. Animation greats Ub Iwerks, Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising are among the artists who helped to create these historic films.
ANDRE TECHINE BOX SET
Don't let the clunky title fool you. This set of hard-to-find works from the midcareer of French director Andre Techine was long overdue. It contains
Hotel des Ameriques
, 1981, 95 mins.), his first of many collaborations with the beautiful Catherine Deneuve. She was nominated for a Cesar Award for her role as a nurse who enters into a thorny romance with Patrick Dewaere.
I Don't Kiss
, 1991, 115 mins.) stars Manuel Blanc in the tale of a naive aspiring actor who is reduced to selling his body on the streets of Paris, where he fruitlessly falls for a high-end call girl (Emmanuelle Beart). Reuniting with Deneuve,
My Favorite Season
Ma Saison Preferee
, 1993, 124 mins.) is Techine's fascinating, dark, and somber story of an estranged brother and sister (Deneuve and Daniel Auteuil) who must come to terms with what they've become professionally and personally when their aging mother falls ill. Lastly, in the 1962-set
(1995, 110 mins.), a group of teenagers confronts emotional, sexual, and political turmoil provoked by their own personal lives and the larger social framework of a provincial town.
Andre Techine---France---1981-1995---454 mins.
The "Lubitsch touch" is evident in this absorbing historical drama about the political and religious turmoil that followed Henry VIII's second marriage. The great Emil Jannings portrays the King, while Henny Porten brings the ill-fated Anne to life. Made for Germany's legendary UFA studio, this was also released as
Ernst Lubitsch---Germany---1920---118 mins.
The tenuous boundaries between art and life begin to blur irrevocably for Julia Lambert (Annette Benning), an aging actress of the 1930's British stage. Bored and frustrated with her career, Lambert allows a dashing, adoring fan (Shaun Evans) to chase her. This riles both his young lover (Lucy Punch) and her producer husband (Jeremy Irons), forcing Lambert to rediscover her career in a humorous and unexpected fashion. Istvan Szabo's (
) lush costume drama sparkles with life, and Benning proves a perfect fit for the witty and complex stage diva protagonist. "[Benning] digs into a pagoda-size heap of roles and roles-within-roles and pulls them all out, one by one, deftly" (Desson Thomson,
Istvan Szabo---USA---2004---103 mins.
Winner of 11 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Charlton Heston), and Best Music Score (Miklos Rozsa). This is an epic spectacle concerning a prince of Judea who incurs the wrath of the Roman Empire, filmed previously in a similarly massive 1925 feature. The famous chariot race required a year of film preparation and lasts nearly 20 minutes. "The most tasteful and visually exciting film spectacle yet produced by an American company" (Albert Johnson,
William Wyler---USA---1959---212 mins.
BLACKMAIL IS MY LIFE
Japanese auteur Kinji Fukasaku offers a glimpse into the life of yakuza youth in this exciting slice of pulp cinema. A group of small-time punks, led by a rags-to-riches upstart (Hiroki Matsukata), take on Japan's corrupt establishment using blackmail as their main weapon. "A pop-art-influenced exercise in manic storytelling" (
). In Japanese with English subtitles.
Kinji Fukasaku---Japan---1968---89 mins.
BOSS OF IT ALL
Comedy is not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the dogmatic Dane Lars von Trier, but that's the most economical way to describe
The Boss of It All
. Instead of harping on America, the director focuses his cynicism on his homeland. Ravn (Peter Gantzler), the owner of an IT firm in Copenhagen, wants to sell to an Icelandic company. They insist on meeting the company's nonexistent president first, so Ravn hires an unemployed actor (Jens Albinus) for the part and the farce begins. "The mere idea of an actor convincingly impersonating a C.E.O. is inherently and deliciously disrespectful of the sacred capitalistic system" (Andrew Sarris,
The New York Observer
). In Danish and Icelandic with English subtitles.
Lars von Trier---Denmark/Sweden/France/Italy---2006---100 mins.
This highly enjoyable silent swashbuckler went largely forgotten for decades, but now this lavish adventure film can be seen again. Transferred from a restored, 35mm tinted print, it is unlikely a better quality version will ever resurface. Pierre Blanchar stars as a chivalrous nobleman who comes to the aid of a damsel in distress being pursued by a dastardly duke, played by no less than Charles Boyer. The first of three versions of the novel by Theophile Gautier. Features new English titles.
Alberto Cavalcanti---France---1929---92 mins.
Across three documentaries, Czech filmmaker Jana Sevcikova chronicles the descendants of immigrants and exiles living throughout the outlands of Eastern Europe.
COURTESANS OF BOMBAY
An insightful portrait of the compound in Bombay called Pavanpul where young women entertain men who come searching for the escape of eroticism. "By night the caged birds sing in the pleasure palace" (Jan Hoffman).
James Ivory---Great Britain/India---1985---74 mins.
DAZED AND CONFUSED
Richard Linklater (
) takes a hilarious and subtly profound look at the last day of school--and one wild night--in the lives of a group of high school students in 1976. The film offers far more than a mere return to bongs and bell bottoms, polyester and pukka shells, macrame and mood rings. Linklater paints highly empathic portraits of youths learning to enjoy the ride and accept the road ahead. "The most slyly funny and dead-on portrait of American teenage life ever made" (
Richard Linklater---USA---1993---103 mins.
DEAD OR ALIVE 2
The second installment in Takashi Miike's
Dead or Alive
series adds lyrically comtemplative touches to the spree of violence begun in the original, and offers a new story with the same lead actors, Sho Aikawa and Riki Takeuchi. When two rival yakuza hitmen realize that they are long-lost childhood friends, they team up to pay off their spiritual debts by becoming killers-for-hire and donating their money to children's charities. In Japanese with English subtitles.
Takashi Miike---Japan---2000---97 mins.
DOUBLE LIFE OF VERONIQUE, THE
Two remarkably similar women, in Warsaw and Paris, are acutely aware of each other's existence in this film about the linkage of souls. Veronika is a Polish music student with a beautiful voice and a heart condition. Veronique is a French school teacher paralyzed by doubt. Both roles are played by the beautiful Irene Jacob. Slawomir Idziak's cinematography and Zbigniew Preisner's score are alternately haunting and unforgettable. In Polish and French with English subtitles.
Krzysztof Kieslowski---Poland/France---1991---94 mins.
EL IMPERIO DE LA FORTUNA
Acclaimed filmmaker Arturo Ripstein (
No One Writes to the Colonel, Deep Crimson
) presents a powerful drama about a poor peasant who finds fortune in cockfighting, which leads to new wealth, corruption, and tragedy as he enters the higher-stakes gambling world. Based on a story by famed Mexican writer Juan Rulfo. With Ernesto Gomez Cruz (
) and Blanca Guerra (
). Winner of eight Ariel Awards, including Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, and Actor (Cruz). In Spanish with English subtitles.
Arturo Ripstein---Mexico---1986---130 mins.
A precursor to the work of Chantal Ackerman and Claire Denis, this elliptical, minimalist film from French novelist Marguerite Duras is a landmark of women's cinema.
END OF SUMMER
Based on a Chekhov short story, this forgotten masterpiece is a bittersweet portrait of a doomed love affair between a bank official and a well-to-do young woman. Nominated for the Golden Palm at Cannes.
Oscar-winner Michael Moore (
Bowling for Columbine
) creates one of filmdom's most controversial documentaries with this charged polemic on the presidency of George W. Bush and the war in Iraq. Moore investigates the ties between the Bush White House, the Saudi government, and the family of terrorist Osama bin Laden, the White House's lack of pre-9/11 preparedness and concern in regards to terrorism, and the administration's co-opting of America's post-9/11 fear and insecurity in order to wage an unjustified war on the Iraqi people. The whirlwind of facts and accusations come to an emotional head when the results of such political tomfoolery are revealed through first-hand accounts from disillusioned troops on the frontlines in Iraq, unsettling battle footage and the heartbreaking story of a mother who lost her son in battle. A powerful, must-see film. Winner of the Palme d'Or at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival.
Michael Moore---USA---2004---126 mins.
Sheryl Lee and Stephen Dorff star in this energetic and exciting drama about the early years of The Beatles. A heady mix of music, youth, love, and conflict.
FALL OF THE LOUSE OF USHER
Ken Russell (
Lair of the White Worm
) brings his trademark eccentricity to this loose adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's infamous story. Filmed on a shoestring budget with a digital camera, Russell's version is a demented tale of a rock star, Roderick Usher, who is sent to an asylum after murdering his wife. After a series of shock treatments by Dr. Calahari (played by Russell), wild musical numbers and other bits of mayhem, the truth behind the murder is finally revealed.
Ken Russell---Great Britain---2002---84 mins.
FANNY AND ALEXANDER
Bergman's emotional epic about a year in the lives of two young children, their dreams and impressions, and the eccentric characters who dwell in their glorious mansion. With unparalleled ensemble acting, featuring Erland Josephson, Ewa Froling, Pernila Alwin, and cinematography by Sven Nykvist. In Swedish with English subtitles.
Ingmar Bergman---Sweden---1983---190 mins.
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