14 posts categorized "Agitprop"

January 26, 2022

FANTASTIC PLANET — THE CRITERION COLLECTION

ColeSmithey.comBeautiful French animated surreal dystopian sci-fi flick will mess you up.

René Laloux's 1973 classic is full of surprises. 

Simplistic animation soars to Salvador Dalí levels of bizarre imagination over a funky jazz score by Alan Goraguer.

Big alien people oppress small human people as if they were on par with gerbils.

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Agitprop storytelling spells out dangers of "conformity and violence" with a biting satiric wit, writ large.

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Trippy baby. Trippy.

Do your own thing.

Not Rated. 72 mins. 

5 Stars

COLE SMITHEY

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon. Thanks a lot pal!

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April 08, 2017

WAKE IN FRIGHT — CLASSIC FILM PICK

WAKE IN FRIGHTTed Kotcheff’s “Wake In Fright” is an unsettling, if perverse, psychological thriller unlike any other film ever made. It captures the complete mental breakdown of a character in surreal yet viscerally physical terms, while encompassing economic conditions, prejudices, and the ruthless mindset of men in Australia's lawless Outback environment.

You might detect a tinge of anti-alcohol propaganda at the core of the narrative’s existential crisis in this unpredictable adaptation of Kenneth Cook’s 1961 novel. Nicholas Roeg’s Cinema is the closest thing you compare to Kotcheff’s fraught social study of Australia in the late ‘50s. Desolation of the human soul comes complete with senseless killing of kangaroos.

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Gary Bond’s John Grant character is a grade school teacher chomping at the bit to escape his Government-delegated job in the remote town of Tiboonda. School is out for Christmas. A reunion with his girlfriend in Sydney promises a return to civilization.

Wake-in-fright

The problem is that our unreliable protagonist gets sidetracked during a night of drinking and gambling in a mining town populated with reprobates. Grant imagines winning enough money gambling to pay off the education bond that has him teaching in the middle of nowhere. No such luck. Grant’s poor choice leads him on a bitter path toward many more decisions he soon comes to regret.

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John Grant becomes a refugee in his own country, surrounded by alcohol-fueled maniacs who usher him down a spiral of destruction. “Wake In Fright” is a masterpiece of energized social satire. The team of kangaroo hunters who take Grant along for the ride represent the same patriarchy that carry on constant wars and shove guns in civilians’ faces just to see how they handle fear. “Wake In Fright” can be taken as a command or a condition. Either way, this classic picture will make you squirm in fear.

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Ted Kotcheff led a varied career that spanned four decades and many genres and styles. "Fun With Dick and Jane" (1977), "Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe" (1978), "North Dallas Forty" (1979), and "Weekend at Bernies" (1989) were each box office hits. Although "Wake In Fright" died at the box office, it is a truly staggering film that represents an artistic pinnacle for Ted Kotcheff. You can see why it's his favorite of all of his films; this one is special. 

Rated R. 108 mins.

5 Stars

COLE SMITHEY

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon. Thanks a lot pal! Your generosity helps keep the reviews coming!

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August 23, 2016

THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS — THE CRITERION COLLECTION

COLE SMITHEY

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon. Thanks a lot pal! Your generosity keeps the reviews coming!

Cole Smithey on Patreon

ColeSmithey.comAgitprop cinema hits a fierce apex in co-writer/director Gillo Pontecorvo’s unique wartime thriller. The audacious filmmaker blends various cinematic approaches, including Italian neo-realism, formal Hollywood, documentary, and theatrical elements. It's equal parts exploitation, propaganda, and activist cinema all wrapped up together.

The film comprises the French Army occupation of Algeria, from November 1954 to July 2, 1962 when the French gave back the Algerian Nation’s independence.

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Filmed in gritty black-and-white, the picture was was shot on location in Algeria’s Casbah district, a walled-in landscape of never ending stairways that evinces the Casbah’s English translation, a fortress (citadel).

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This film’s boiling wartime narrative gives equal screentime to both sides of the Algerian resistance effort to overthrow their French Colonial Government military occupiers, circa 1957. Still, you could hardly call the film politically neutral. It is based, however loosely, on Saadi Yacif’s “Souvenirs de la Bataille d’Alger,” Yacef’s memoir of his time spent as a tortured prisoner of the French. Anacdotal experience breathes through every scene.

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Ali la Pointe (Brahim Haggiag) leads the Arab terrorist efforts of a small group of FLN (National Liberation Front) revolutionaries as they battle against the French military. Jean Martin, a real-life former French Resistance fighter plays Lieutenant Colonel Mathieu, a composite character that leads his brigade of paratroopers to “cut off the head of the snake” (referring to Ali la Pointe specifically).

Jean Martin had been unceremoniously fired years earlier from France’s Theatre National Populaire for signing the “Manifesto of the 121,” an open letter signed by 121 intellectuals and published in 1960, calling on the French government to “recognize the Algerian War as a legitimate struggle for independence."

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French soldiers ruthlessly torture their Arab prisoners, while Muslim freedom fighters plant bombs in public places that kill and maim many innocent civilians. Both sides are brutal murderers. But they cannot exist without one another. In showing the human traits of soldiers on both sides of the battle, Pontecorvo achieves something bigger than the complex material at hand.

Culture shock is here.

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Pontecorvo cast non-professional actors. He used the real leader of the Algerian revolutionaries (Yacef Saadi) to play himself in the film. When a French officer tortures a shirtless Muslim man by aiming a blow torch at the flesh on the prisoner’s stomach, the tone of the film spikes with the unspeakable cruelty on display.

Cinematographer Marcello Gatti combines techniques involving everything from Dutch angles to nimble camera movement to give the audience an urgent sense of tension at the time of the wartime human crisis.

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The filmmaker’s startling use of soundscape shifts between atmospheric silences to conventional musical cues (enunciated with strong rhythmic motifs) gives the viewer an expanded sense of the film’s social and political reality.

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Gillo Pontecorvo’s newsreel styled imagery led the film to be released with a disclaimer that “not one foot” of newsreel was used, as if newsreel footage were necessarily more reliable than any other source of edited filmic imagery.

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“The Battle Of Algiers,” which was banned in France for five years, shows the French winning the battle but losing the war in Algeria. The film is a reminder that the imperialist actions of politicians and military commanders obsessed with greed and power will always result in violent backlashes that claim the lives of civilians.

Not Rated. 121 mins.

5 Stars

Cozy Cole

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