conformist_poster   1970 – Bernardo Bertolucci                                                                             

“Everyone wants to be difference… but you want to be the same as everyone else”  


 Italy 1938:
A weak-willed man, crippled by dark secrets from childhood, is seduced by Fascism. Volunteering as an assassin for Mussolini’s secret police, he’s dispatched to Paris to kill his old professor, now a political dissident.                                                                              .

cam_03   Part political thriller, character study and torn love story, The Conformist is a fascinatingly drama that studies the psychology that lies behind Fascism.

 In a tale full of treachery, cowardice and sexual decadence – The Conformist makes a provocative connection between repressed sexual desires and fascist politics. Jean-Louis Trintignant plays Marcello Clerici, a man scarred by a childhood experience, who is obsessed with the idea of regaining a “normal” life by trying to fit into the Italian Fascist State. Weak willed, opportunistic and devoid of any moral centre, Clerici serves as a symbol of the corruption of Italian society.

Director Bernardo Bertolucci, still only 29 at the time, named Max Ophüls, Josef von Sternberg and Orson Welles as his idols and the staging of The Conformist is comparable to theirs in it’s sense of operatic self-confidence. In fact, The Conformist seems on occasion to be more a visual poem than a movie and, in spite of some of the dark themes of the film, it still manages to remain uplifting for its sheer breathtaking style.                                                                                                                                         Besides all else, The Conformist is an absolute explosion of cool!                                     The Conformist is acclaimed like few other films for its sumptuous visuals and extravagant, artful cinematography, ravishing compositions, production design, camera gymnastics and atmospheric resonance . Exquisitely photographed by Vittorio Storaro, the sum total is a blend of the sensual haziness of ’70s European art-house fare and the high-contrast, anxious angles of film noir.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       



Birth of a renaissance … Dominique Sanda & Stefania Sandrelli in The Conformist














  onibaba_poster 1964 – Kaneto Shindo                                                                             

“I’m not a demon! I’m a human being!”  


Japan’s war-torn 14th century:                                                                                               In a marshland overgrown with endless swaying reeds, a woman and her daughter-in-law cling on the edge of survival. They mercilessly prey on wounded samurai warriors fleeing from a nearby battlefield, killing them and selling their armour for handfuls of rice.               When the younger woman falls for a handsome young deserter, the mother determines to stop the affair – with unexpected and shocking results!

cam_03 “People are both the devil and God… and are truly mysterious.” – Japanese writer/director Kaneto Shindo.

Onibaba is humanity stripped bare!                                                                                     Existence here is purely based on physiological demands – food, sex, shelter, and above all – self-preservation. There is no God to in the be found in this vast wasteland – just the ceaseless dry whisperings of the wind through the endless susuki grasses, the oppressive heat, and the utter desolation of its inhabitants. One of the most fiercely primal depictions of the human condition on celluloid, Onibaba is a haunting, mesmeric experience.                                                                                                                              A witness to the dehumanising horrors of WW II, Shindo, a committed communist, adapted a Buddhist parable to contain his virulent anti-war, anti-capitalist message.       For Shindo, this dog-eat-dog world, fueled by the raw instincts of death and sex, is a microcosm of the insatiable demands of capitalism. The result is a tale of erotic noir that is psychological horror at its most brilliantly subversive.                                                             The uniquely spare quality of Onibaba serves these themes well. The dynamic wide-screen framing, minimalist dialogue and exposition and the dark and earthy performances of Nobuko Otowa and Jitsuko Yoshimura are balanced to perfection. Kiyomi Kuroda’s lustrous black-and-white cinematography haunts as much as the proceedings themselves, particularly in the film’s eerie nighttime passages. And Hikaru Hayashi’s unnerving score consisting of saxophones (to echo the sound of wind through reeds), primitivist drums, raucous tubas and ritualistic voices, has a fever to it that is equal to the stark and hypnotic beauty that permeates every frame of this film.

Onibaba is more than just a witches’ brew of Gothic horror, it is an elemental and timeless classic!                                                                                                                                                 

















 5easy_poster  1970 – Bob Rafelson                                                                             

“He Rode The Fast Lane On The Road To Nowhere.”  


Bobby Dupea, a drop-out from the upper-class, struggles to find meaning in a rootless, blue collar existence in America’s West. When he is drawn back home to his family’s estate to attempt a reconciliation with his dying father, his inner conflict deepens.                                                                              .

cam_03 The identity crisis that wracked American society in the late 60s and early 70s was reflected in a dramatic shift in American film. There was now a strong reaction against some of the earlier traditions of American storytelling in film, often typified by the John Wayne western, where existential questions could be resolved through the direct action of a morally self-assured protagonist.                                                                           Many contemporary film makers now shifted their focus inwards towards an greater expression of the inner world of their characters in an attempt to reconcile many of the uncertain and often contradictory elements they encountered in this new moral landscape of American society. And when this increased emphasis on the psychological components of the individual and how that might serve as a reflection of society at large, were blended with a new freedom of expression through the increasing influence of the French “New Wave” –  a new high point in American film was the result. Of the many of masterpieces produced during this rebirth, few stand out like Bob Rafelson‘s Five Easy Pieces.                                                                                                                                                              Although it is true to the spirit of the times, and there are no easy answers to moral questions in Five Easy Pieces, that doesn’t mean that it is an overly sombre affair. Here is a work of art that delights in many dramatic shades – from the many instances of anarchic black humour through to the most beautifully poised, heart felt moments of drama.                                                                                                                                Jack Nicholson, who had garnered deserved attention the year before in Easy Rider, was confirmed as a genuine powerhouse star in Five Easy Pieces, and his performance of the charismatic but restless, alienated and self-obsessed Bobby Dupea, still ranks as one of his best of his stellar career. And Karen Black, as Bobby’s uneducated and downtrodden girlfriend Rayette, gives a nuanced portrayal of such naked vulnerability that the likes of which have rarely been seen before or since. Above all else, Rafelson and co-writer Adrien Joyce refuse to degenerate into gross sentimentality or sermonising, but lightly yet effectively touch on themes of morality and mortality, family and masculinity, identity and existence.                                                                                                       Five Easy Pieces is a film of stark, superbly judged and beautifully sustained contrasts. It contains some of the most memorable scenes in all cinema, and an ending that is such a master touch that it will echo long afterwards in your thoughts.                                                














 Rembrandt_poster  1936 – Alexander Korda                                                                             

“Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.”  


In 1642, Rembrandt is at the height of his fame when his adored wife suddenly dies and his work takes a dark turn that offends his patrons. Devoting himself entirely to his painting, he faces both bankruptcy and the scorn of society when he takes up with a pretty maid.                                                                                .

cam_03 Biographical films can often be problematic – they may well capture the chronology and details of a subject, but rarely do they capture that essential quality that makes that subject a source of our fascination. Rarely too, can a film concerned with art become a work of art in itself. Alexander Korda‘s Rembrandt is the exception.

Focusing on the last 27 years of the master painter’s life, Rembrandt gives us not only a perspective into the life and times of the artist, but also a marvelous insight into the poetic mind of the man himself. Charles Laughton‘s portrayal of Rembrandt van Rijn avoids any need to glorify or mythologise, but rather deeply concentrates on the humanity of his character and the unyielding integrity of his art. Bearing an uncanny resemblance to the artist himself, Laughton lights up the screen with his soulful ruminations about the nature of life, women, social status, success, and his struggles between vision and reality. So complete is this immersion in character, by the time this beautiful and tender film ends, it is difficult to tell of any separation between the two great artists – Laughton and Rembrandt.

Under the masterful eye of Alexander Korda, Rembrandt’s world is brilliantly staged – Georges Périnal’s cinematography paints the artist’s struggles on the screen in such vivid black and white that it almost captures the luminosity of a canvas by Rembrandt himself. The costumes, locations and set design, though all executed through the limitations the studio system of the day, still contribute to a film of the rarest quality. The supporting cast too, including Elsa Lanchester as Hendrickje, Rembrandt’s maid who also became his lover and Roger Livesey as the beggar who was the model for Rembrandt’s painting of King Saul, are just perfection.                                                                                                   Rembrandt is so much more than a film about a famous artist, it brilliantly achieves an atmosphere of clarity and of soul that is worthy of the authentic nature of the man himself.










 devilsposterA  1971 – Ken Russell                                                                                                

“Hell holds no surprises for them.”  


In 17th-century France, Father Urbain Grandier seeks to protect the city of Loudun from the corrupt establishment of Cardinal Richelieu. Hysteria occurs within the city when he is accused of witchcraft by a sexually repressed nun.

cam_03  The film critic Pauline Kael once described British film-maker Ken Russell as “an appalling talent” – and there can be is no doubt that he has been responsible for some of the most tasteless, excessive and flatly ridiculous works in the history of cinema. Where most directors are ascetic, Russell is the consummate glutton – often gorging himself on every manner of cinematic overindulgence and cliche, occasionally to the point of producing a sense of abject nausea in the viewer.                                                                   And yet… looking beyond his trademark “baroque vulgarity”, Russell’s work is also notable for its intensity, ferocity, and imaginative boldness. A certain type of creative energy and verve that only comes from a deep and authentic personal expression that, if all the stars were aligned, just might produce something special. That masterpiece could be The Devils.

Based partially on the 1952 novel, in turn based on historical events, The Devils of Loudun by Aldous Huxley, Russell plunges headlong into a twisted world bursting at the seams with pernicious political intrigue, religious psychopathy, unbridled savagery, wanton psycho-sexual abandon, witchcraft and mass hysteria. The results of which is a heady brew of phantasmagoria, the likes of which had never been committed to film before. Immediately upon release it caused a storm of controversy, being banned in many countries and existing in many heavily censored versions, and everywhere attracting many scathing reviews. One critic called it a “grand fiesta for sadists and perverts”.

If only for this infamy, The Devils would probably still be remembered, but what really qualifies this film as a potential work of genius is Russell’s unique interpretation of the material. It starts with his anarchistic blending of elements of modernity into a historical drama – the astonishing set designs were designed by Derek Jarman, before he began directing his own movies. The huge set for the walled city and the stark white-tiled convent, cheekily modeled on public lavatories of the time, rank right up with 2001 A Space Odyssey as some of the most audacious production design ever. Complemented by Shirley Russell’s costumes, avant-garde composer Peter Maxwell Davies‘ powerful score and the brilliant cinematography of David Watkin – it all results in a electrifying fusion of the past, present… and the timeless.                                                                                       The bravura performances the two central characters are also stand outs! In the best role of his career, Oliver Reed as Father Grandier is the spirit made flesh! – aloof, ironic and brusque but also rampantly masculine, sensual and magnetic. And he even manages to under score his rock star charisma with an authentic sense of piety. Vanessa Redgrave too is transfixing as the crazed hunchback nun, Sister Jeanne – pitiful and hateful in equal parts, she gives a totally enthralling portrait of the human spirit torn apart by frustration and loneliness.

The Devils is almost guaranteed to polarise any audience – it can be most confronting, extreme and not a little unhinged. But love it or hate it, for film fans interested in a unique cinema experience, it simply can’t be dismissed.                                                                     















  cremator_poster  1969 (Spalovač Mrtvol) – Juraj Herz                                                                                                

“No one will suffer. I’ll save them all. “  


Czechoslovakia, late 1930s:                                                                                               Karl Kopfrkingl likes his work at a crematorium in Prague. Obsessed with his duties, he reads the Tibetan book of the dead and believes he is not just cremating the dead, but liberating the souls of the departed. A Nazi invasion immanent, Karl descends into a mania that allows him to act out his disturbed beliefs.

cam_03 The dark pearl of the Czechoslovak New Wave – The Cremator is often presented as being a stand out black comedy. However, although it is filled with a certain dark humour, it’s quickly clear that laughter is not it’s main forte. Rather, it’s the strange witches brew of horror, drama, comedy and experimental film genres that not only makes this film so uncomfortably weird, but a profoundly original film.                                             Although a leading modernist director Juraj Herz also draws deeply upon the cinematic roots of German Expressionist film to create his fantastically distorted world. Through Stanislov Milota’s dazzling camerawork, we experience Karl’s journey into madness through a range of hallucinogenic visuals – including expressionistic lighting, superb deep focus, extreme close ups, fish eye lens, startlingly off-balanced compositions and jarring transitions. And when combined with the hypnotic sound design, haunting, opera-inspired score and a trance like, deep baritone narration – The Cremator becomes a breathtaking marriage of sound and visuals that truely worms its way inside your head.                           Rudolf Hrušínský as Karl the funeral director, literally and figuratively fills the frame with a masterfully grotesque performance. His delightfully chubby cherubic face hints at mirth and menace in equal parts as he draws us on from a portrait of a extremely quirky but well-mannered gentleman, through to the depths of a fully-realised monster.

Perhaps The Cremator may be not an easy watch for most viewers, but it does reward those who allow the film the time to express its own unique style. Lovers of Roman Polanski’s early works, particularly Repulsion* might find a similar, if grossly exaggerated, atmosphere here.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         















 let_the_right_one_in_poster  2008 (Låt den rätte komma in) – Tomas Alfredson                                                                                                

“I’m twelve. But I’ve been twelve for a long time.”  


Oskar, a withdrawn and bullied boy finds love and revenge through Eli, a beautiful but peculiar girl.

cam_03     Let The Right One In presents a chilling vision of what happens to the young people that society fails to nurture. Among these fragile, overlooked and alienated, two outsiders finally discover each other and change each others lives. Theirs is a love that’s both tender and delicate, but also laced with unbridled savagery.                                          It’s rare enough for a horror film to be good; even rarer are those that function as genuine works of art. Let The Right One In is one of those films. Cocooned within the eerie softness of the Swedish snowfall is an austerely beautiful creation that reveals itself slowly, like the best works of art do.                                                                                   The minimalist story allows Swedish director Tomas Alfredson to focus on these two pre-teen characters with a penetrating insight that not only makes it a original horror film but a poignant coming-of-age film as well. Alfredson dares to mix this pleasure and pain in a way that is both shocking and incredibly poised. At its core though, the film is, simply, a human story, a pensive meditation on the transcendent possibilities of human connection.