2 posts categorized "FilmStruck"

March 27, 2017

ON THE FRINGE: FILMSTRUCK STREAMING WITH COLE SMITHEY

The four films presented here form a dominant harmony of ‘70s era independent movies from filmmakers operating on the fringe of Global Cinema. Les Blank, Werner Rainer Fassbinder, Costa-Gavras, and John Waters are all maverick filmmakers whose non-traditional approaches bounce off one another in this specially curated collection with personal, political, and social resonance against the technology-driven global realities of 2017. You won't find any cell phones here, just some heavy doses of nitty-gritty humanity. 

Multiplemaniacs

Multiple Maniacs” was made in 1970. Viet Nam’s influence is written all over the film. Bourgeois citizens gather to witness crude performers committing vile acts, only to be shaken down for their cash in a violent climax to the confrontational entertainment that came before. Meanwhile, network television shows the horrors of the Viet Nam war every night's news reports. Baltimore’s real-life counter-culture (check out David Lochary as Mr. David) take their cut of John Waters’ fearless (prototypical Punk) fantasy that comes complete with a necessarily Shakespearian tableau. Waters pushes the film's defiant tone toward a public episode of violence, in an ending that Clifford Odets could appreciate.   

Here is the ultimate filmic and political palate cleanser of a movie. Divine can’t help but moan at being seduced into anal play within religious walls, but that doesn’t mean she owes her new lover (Mink Stole) any more respect than she gives the other people she treats like disposable fetish objects. Divine is the ultimate whore/slut/reprobate cross-dresser. You'd have to call up Iggy Pop to find a pop star act of such Dionysian design.

John Waters cuts to a deeper social quick than any other American filmmaker because he understands the innate beauty of all people, regardless of how they look, much less how wild their imaginations and libidos run. “Multiple Maniacs” wallows in perversion for perversion’s sake because that’s what it’s there for; that's how it's done. It's supposed to be messy to reflect the ugliness of the Viet Nam War. Social class lines are clearly drawn. In the words of Elvis Costello, "If I'm going to go down, you're going to come with me."

You can fight the ideas, but you can’t fight the orgiastic feelings that John Waters transmits like a circus ring leader because his respect for filth runs so deep. Dirt is good for you even when it tastes like spinach pulled from manure. “Multiple Maniacs” is dirtier than that. Get filthy.

State-of-siege

Costa-Gavras is an exquisite leftist filmmaker because he is too much of a pragmatist to fall into idealistic traps of the left or the right. Costa-Gavras' unique upbringing, as the son of a Pro-Soviet (Communist) Greek Resistance fighter in the Greek Civil War, meant that attending university in Greece or in the United States was out of the question. France offered the perpetual outlier an education in law in 1951, that paved the way for a switch to film school and apprenticeships with directors Jean Giono and Rene Clair.

Like "The Battle of Algiers," "State of Siege" includes a gut-wrenching scene of torture, this time performed on a theater stage for a private audience of military officials and other well-dressed reprobates. What was once a shocking scene of inhumane punishment comes across as normalized for audiences watching it in 2017.

Celebrated in critical circles for his groundbreaking film “Z” (1969), Costa-Gavras made fresh tracks across the backs of America’s power-grabbing military pawns of capitalist exploitation (think The United Fruit Company) with “State of Siege” (1972), a political thriller released at the height of the Watergate scandal. The efforts of the radical left are just as dimwitted as the vastly more effective methods of rightwing corporate raiders; the difference is that one has all the money and guns. Living by the sword always means dying by the same blade regardless of who is doing the transporting and who is doing the cutting.

Motherkusters

FilmStruck is committing an enormous public service by showcasing Rainer Werner Fassbinder, New German Cinema’s hottest and most prolific star. Fassbinder is the German version of Lou Reed if Lou had been a German filmmaker.

Although the version of “Mrs. Kusters Goes to Heaven” that is currently being shown on FilmStruck does a fake-you-out move by spelling out, and including, two different endings, this movie presents a compelling case for autonomy of the individual. In an age when the NSA utilizes the same data that social media crunches to decide the plot of the next Hollywood movie you sit through like a hungry cat sniffing fresh tuna in the air, “Mrs. Kusters” puts the media, politics, and familial trust in same trash bin. Brigitte Mira’s elderly matriarch is a postfeminist every bit as complex as the outsider character she played in Fassbinder’s “Ali: Fear Eats the Soul.” Heaven is what you make it.

Les-blank-always-for-pleasure

Les Blank’s intuitive sense of documentary filmmaking is purely organic. His films allow for a natural symbiotic exchange to occur between the viewer and the work at hand. You can feel it happening when “Always For Pleasure” (1978) gets into the Second line musicians and partiers at a funeral procession. Irreverent joy overflows into Blank’s wanton absorption of a melting pot made up of Black, White, European, French, Native American, Caribbean, Spanish, Mexican, Appalachian, and West Indian influences. Outside of society, and yet minted within primal human instincts for shared communal experience, the Second line musicians and their followers give back all that has been taken away from most of America’s citizens. You can guess the rest, with a smile on your face.


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January 10, 2017

FEMINIST THEORIES ARE STREAMING ON FILMSTRUCK

Although condemned by some cultural gatekeepers and critics as indecent (even after And God Created Woman was edited, and dubbed, for its U.S. release), Brigitte Bardot's stunning portrayal of a freethinking woman became the celebrated subject of Simone de Beauvoir's 1959 essay The Lolita Syndrome. In it, de Beauvoir described Brigitte Bardot as a "locomotive of women's history" for good reason. The petite but curvy French actress captured the collective global imaginations of women and men alike. Still, the picture adds up to more than merely Bardot's obvious physical allure and headstrong attitude. It is a timeless social document of the ways that a young woman's allure can fuel, destroy, and build the dreams of men who fall under her spell. If Helen of Troy was "the face that launched a thousand ships," Brigitte Bardot was the girl who incited a sea change of sexual liberation in Western culture.

Fat Girl

Originally entitled A Ma Soeur! (To My Sister), this film's inapt English title Fat Girl (2001) does the picture an injustice. This obvious public relations ploy, to stir controversy with a derogatory term, cheapens writer-director Catherine Breillat'sbold thematic statements regarding budding female sexuality in the modern world, and feminist ideals at large.

Anaïs Reboux plays Anaïs Pingot, the Rubenesque 12-year-old sister to the lithe Elena (Roxane Mesquida) who, at the age of 15, is anxious to lose her virginity. Anaïs's observant, if pokerfaced, vantage points on morality and social conditions enable her to survive a traumatic event through the brutal life lessons she vicariously learns from the world around her. Fat Girl is an understated picture that doesn't shy away from any of the ambitious feminist heights that Breillat fearlessly mounts with surgical precision. Breillat's ear for naturalistic dialogue is especially exact during an extended seduction scene that is a centerpiece of the film. Like Catherine Breillat's watershed debut feature (A Real Young Girl) Fat Girl is a masterpiece awaiting inspection from audiences prepared to grapple with its unveiled meanings and insightful commentary on womanhood.

Story of Women

Claude Chabrol's Story Of Women delves into the difficult conditions of a Nazi-occupied French town that transforms a mother of two into a hardened opportunist. Isabelle Huppertwalks a fine line as an anti-heroine whose broken relationship with her PTSD-suffering husband (François Cluzet) culminates in a betrayal of epic proportions. Marie's motivations shift as she lifts her family out of poverty by providing soap-induced abortions to local prostitutes with whom she carries on friendships. Because abortions were criminalized in France — from 1920 to 1975 — due to a grievous loss of French men during World War I and II, Marie-Louise Giraud became an ideal scapegoat for a French court looking to send a message to the French populace at large.

Zero Motivation

Writer-director Talya Lavie takes inspiration from Jean Vigo's once banned 1933 film Zero For Conduct, about a bourgeoning rebellion in an all boys boarding school, to transpose a narrative drawn from her experiences serving in the Israel Defense Forces. Although Zero Motivation might play as a light comedy to Israeli audiences, the film echoes systemic abuses suffered by female soldiers in the America military where rape is a common occurrence. When our defiant heroine soldier Zohar (Dana Ivgy) attempts to lose her virginity to a fellow soldier, she requests that he "be more gentle." His callous response, "I'm combat, baby" speaks volumes about the sexist effects of his military training. From a feminist perspective Zero Motivation is possibly the most challenging film of the four titles included in this brief survey of feminist themed films currently streaming on FilmStruck.

Turner's subscription movie service FilmStruck is an online streaming service, managed by Turner Classic Movies,  that offers an exhaustive collection of current and classic arthouse films, and is the exclusive streaming site for the Criterion Collection. FilmStruck is currently available on Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, on the web, as well as on iOS and Android devices. FilmStuck will soon be available for access on Roku and Google Chromecast.

And God Created Woman_10


COLE SMITHEYA small request: Help keep Cole Smithey writing reviews, creating video essays, and making podcasts. Click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon, and receive special rewards!

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