THE CONVERSATION

  conversationPoster 1974 – Francis Ford Coppola                                                                                                

“We’ll be listening to you.”  

 synopsis:

Harry Caul,  a lonely and secretive surveillance expert who is haunted by his past, has a crisis of conscience when he suspects that a couple he is spying on will soon be murdered.

cam_03     The Conversation is a tour de force in its blending of a powerful character drama with a slow burning conspiracy thriller. As vibrant and pertinent today as when it was made – this luminous masterpiece is one the most significant American films of the 1970’s.

The Conversation captures the zeitgeist of a time when American society was grappling with the horrors of the Vietnam War and the American Dream-souring revelations of the Watergate scandal. Here is a deeply ambiguous world where ethics are build on shifting sands and behind every ideal might lie a infesting wound. The film draws heavily on this atmosphere of high anxiety to construct a mesmerising tale with an edgy yet masterfully simplistic execution.                                                                                   The Conversation focuses on the moral issues arising from the emergence of the surveillance state with its all pervasive voyeurism and annihilation of privacy, and its subsequent questions of perception versus reality. The film clearly suggests that moral disintegration, on both a personal and social level, begins with the abnegation of responsibility. So when Harry Caul, dismissively says at one point in the film, “I don’t know about human nature”, he seems to sum up the moral disorder of an entire society as well as his own.                                                                                                          Considered to be his most personal work, Coppola cites Michelangelo Antonioni‘s Blowup as a major influence and this seems reflected in the film’s deliberate pacing. A subtle ambiance develops, perhaps more European than American in style, in which there is ample space to reflect on this psychologically acute, visually striking modernist work.                                                                                                                         Francis Ford Coppola‘s writing and direction is stylish and incisive, and never lets the levels of tension subside or the complicated plot get muddled. Walter Murch‘s editing and inspired sound collage – including taped conversations, stifled voices, background and other mechanically-generated noises, are absolute outstanding features of the film. David Shire‘s reoccurring piano inhabits the film with a haunting atmosphere and the cinematography by Bill Butler is marvelously mechanical like a piece of surveillance equipment. The acting too is superbly crafted – Gene Hackman, at the height of his powers, is assisted by brilliant contributions from John Cazale and Allen Garfield and others.

Engrossing from the very first memorable frame to the last –The Conversation is multi-layered, intelligent and…haunting.                                             

                                                                                                    

trailer:

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links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Conversation_(film)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0071360/?ref_=nv_sr_1

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/conversation/

reviews:

http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-the-conversation-1974

http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/films/films.php?id=6954

http://www.kinnemaniac.com/2011/11/02/the-conversation-francis-ford-coppola-1974-blu-ray-review/

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THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL

  ex_angel_POSTER1962 (El Angel Exterminador– Luis Bunuel                                                                                              

“The help becomes more impertinent each day.”  

 synopsis:

The guests at an upper-class dinner party… inexplicably, find themselves unable to leave.

cam_03  Luis Buñuel‘s The Exterminating Angel is an absurdist satire on the slow and deteriorating breakdown of human civilization.

 Often associated with the surrealist movement of the 1920s, Bunuel collaborated with Salvador Dali on the sixteen minute short,  Un Chien Andalou. This film and L’Age d’Or have gone down in history as the foundation stones of surrealist cinema.                     Even when he formally broke with the Surrealist movement in favour of much more political content in his work, Bunuel was profoundly influenced by it’s exploration of a symbolic language of the unconscious mind and it’s insistence on freedom from literal interpretations of the nature of reality. Although he would venture in other genres such as documentary films, the themes of his later narrative films are often seen through this lens of the absurd and allegorical. Due to his Communist loyalties Bunuel was unable to return to Spain after the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939), and much of Bunuel’s major works, including The Exterminating Angel, were made in Mexico.                                                 As such, being both surreal and political,The Exterminating Angel is a potent union of both major influences in Bunuel’s life. It manages both a withering allegory of the mechanisms of social power and a philosophical challenge to our perceptions of “normal reality”.                                                                                                                            Buñuel delights in his scrutiny of the upper class, through the example of the diners at the home of an aristocrat, and finds them consumed by narcissism, hypocrisy, greed and foolishness. Unable to leave after the dinner, they lack the necessary moral force to break free and are entrapped in a bizarre hell of their own making. The veneer of their cultured personas begins to crumble and they are soon exposed as no better than the most depraved and base of animals.                                                                                                 Bunuel would no doubt delight in the myriad interpretations possible from The Exterminating Angel. Speculation is definitely encouraged, and although we may still finally arrive with as many questions as answers, we will always be mesmerized by Buñuel’s wild imagination and engrossing philosophical perspectives.

 trailer:

https://mubi.com/films/the-exterminating-angel (english subtitles)

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links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Exterminating_Angel_(film)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056732/?ref_=nv_sr_2

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/le-angel-exterminador-the-exterminating-angel/

reviews:

http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-the-exterminating-angel-1962

http://cinephilefix.wordpress.com/2010/02/15/european-art-film-an-analysis-of-luis-bunuels-the-exterminating-angel/

http://www.classicartfilms.com/exterminating-angel-the-1962

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VIDEODROME

 Videodrome_poster1 1983 – David Cronenberg                                                                                                

“Long live the new flesh!”  

 synopsis:

Max Renn, a sleazy cable-TV programmer, searching for an intense new program for his sex-oriented cable network, encounters a mysterious pirate signal. “Videodrome” seduces, controls and ultimately fuses with the minds of its viewers.

cam_03  Grotesque, trashy and at times almost incoherent – David Cronenberg‘s phantasmagorical leap into the synthesis of humanity, technology, entertainment, sex, and politics is nonetheless, one of the most genuinely original horror films of all time!                   Videodrome was made in 1983, yet it anticipated the impact of the rise of reality television and, even more critically, the erasure of the borders between the personal and public, and between man and machine. Although its technology may be primitive, the insight into the inevitable fusion of human consciousness and the media mindscape that surrounds us is not. In Videodrome our integration with technology on such an intimate level, gives rise new possibilities to extend our emotional experience – but it also allows for a descent to unknown depths of desensitization and dehumanization. It seems too, our addiction to this neurological over-stimulation has already profoundly altered our fundamental perspective on reality – “Television is reality, and reality is less than television.” states Professor Brian O’bilvian, the televised media prophet.                     Furthermore, Cronenberg warns that this merging of man and machine may not be a random event  – A perplexed Max Renn, asks the question, “Why is Videodrome so dangerous?” – “Because it has a philosophy” comes the chilling answer.                               Visually, Cronenberg fuses this chilling new philosophy of technology and addiction with his long standing obsessions with the body and mutation. Videodrome revels in the chaos and intensity of the hypnotic hallucinations generated by special televised transmissions becoming visions of visceral body horror.Our very thoughts now take the form of “the new flesh”.

Videodrome, described as a techno-surrealist mind-bender  and possibly almost indecipherable on first viewing, is a horror film of unusual substance and vision.                   Seeing is believing, right?!

trailer:

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links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Videodrome

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0086541/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/videodrome/

reviews:

http://www.metacritic.com/movie/videodrome

http://www.deepfocusreview.com/reviews/videodrome.asp

http://www.slantmagazine.com/dvd/review/videodrome

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THE SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS

sucess_poster 1957 – Alexander Mackendrick                                                                                                

“You’re a cookie full of arsenic.”  

 synopsis:

New York Broadway, late 1950s:                                                                                              An utterly ruthless newspaper columnist coerces a unscrupulous press agent to destroy his kid sister’s relationship with a musician.

cam_03   Broadway is a jungle.                                                                                       There is only the conquerors and the conquered – the powerful strut amongst the glamour and the neon, and the weak are mercilessly exploited and occasionally devoured… to a tantalizing Jazz soundtrack. That Sweet Smell Of Success is as a searing tale of power and human corruption as was ever put to film, is perhaps all the more surprising when considered where it is set.                                                                                                  Burt Lancaster is excellent as the towering embodiment of self-serving malevolence, J.J. Hunsecker, the all powerful newspaper columnist trying to keep control his sister’s life. Ruthlessly Intelligent and armed with a lacerating tongue, he dispenses his justice in a brutal fashion – careers, even lives, hang on his every whim.Tony Curtis contributes a wonderfully oily performance as the venal, double-talking sycophantic press agent who is willing to go to any extremes to climb up the greasy pole of success. The sheer effrontery of some of  the human behaviour on display makes Sweet Smell Of Success such a feast to enjoy.                                                                                                               Some of the best black and white cinematography of an urban space ever by James Wong Howe , the great jazzy score by Elmer Bernstein, and expressive direction by Alexander Mackendrick are only topped off by the bravura whiplash dialogue of Ernest Lehman and Clifford Odets.

“You’re dead, son. Get yourself buried.”

trailer:

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links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweet_Smell_of_Success

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0051036/?ref_=nv_sr_1

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/sweet_smell_of_success/

reviews:

http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-the-sweet-smell-of-success-1957

http://www.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9B0CE7DA1338E73ABC4051DFB066838C649EDE

http://www.metacritic.com/movie/sweet-smell-of-success

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AMERICAN BEAUTY

americanbeauty_poster2 1999  – Sam Mendes                                                                                               

“… look closer” 

synopsis:

Lester Burnham is a depressed and alienated suburban father in a mid-life crisis. An infatuation for his daughter’s attractive friend becomes the catalyst for a search for meaning in his life.

cam_03  Sam Mendes‘ brilliant debut feature presents itself initially as a bitter sweet portrait of the  ‘American Dream’. It manages to effortlessly traverse both comedy and tragedy to shine a graceful light on the disillusionment, anxiety and alienation of modern life. Its true genius though, lies in subtly moving beyond the surface to illuminate core elements of the human condition itself.                                                                                   On one level American Beauty is a pitch perfect satire of modern American life – the crushing conformity of suburbia with its worship of possessions, the triumph of image over substance, the power of convention to control our ideals, the terrifying spectre of bigotry parading as morality, and above all, the willful, frantic urge of individuals to construct an insubstantial facade for themselves to substitute for an authentic expression of life… all in all, the self-incarceration of the human spirit.                                                                           Its true, American Beauty tells a caustic tale, but never without genuine humour and charm, and it never forgets it’s obligation to entertain.The performances of the entire cast, especially Kevin Spacey, are delivered with integrity and poise, the beautiful cinematography by Conrad L. Hall, the poetic rhythms of Thomas Newman‘s score and, perhaps above all, the masterful script by Alan Ball –  all seamlessly combine to make an entirely enchanting cinematic experience.                                                                           And yet, even for all that there is still something in American Beauty that draws us deeper…  a profound and abiding sympathy for the human spirit. At its core there is a gentle reminder that perhaps the ultimate “beauty” resides in the evanescence of all things – especially ourselves. 

“Sometimes there’s so much beauty in the world, I feel like I can’t take it, and my heart is just going to cave in.”

trailer:

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links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Beauty_(film)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0169547/?ref_=nv_sr_4

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/american_beauty/

reviews:

http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/american-beauty-1999

http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/reviews/american-beauty-19990915

http://www.metacritic.com/movie/american-beauty

http://www.pajiba.com/film_reviews/american-beauty-review.php

http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/films/films.php?id=1833
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GET CARTER

Get_Carter_poster 1971  –  Mike Hodges                                                                                                

“Jack’s Return Home” 

synopsis:

A London gangster returns to his home town for the funeral of his brother. Determined to learn the true circumstances of his death, he ruthlessly pursues his vengeance amongst the local underworld.

cam_03 This landmark British thriller has a hallowed reputation as one of the best crime films of all time.                                                                                                                         Hard-boiled, ice cold and gritty in such a certain way that only the British seem to understand – if Samuel Beckett wrote a gangster film, it might come out something like Get Carter. Here the “swinging 60s” is transposed over the slow-burning existential terror  of working class Newcastle, and exposed as a absolute dead end.                                    At the centre of this abject bleakness is the iconic performance by Michael Caine – Jack Carter is played with such chilly authority that he is the complete epitome of ironic cool. Capable of wry and darkly humourous observations, and ocassional moments of reflection that give us subtle hints of something deeper, Caine’s Carter is nonetheless as comforting as a shard of plate glass on a frosty night.                                                           Director Mike Hodges‘s stylish but naturalistic approach, aided by Roy Budd’s minimalist soundtrack, slowly builds a sure feel for the underbelly of society.                                   Get Carter is impossible to imitate or to under rate.  

trailer:

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links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Get_Carter

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0067128/?ref_=fn_al_tt_2

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1076721-get_carter/

reviews:

http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/get-carter-1971

http://www.flickeringmyth.com/2009/07/british-cinema-get-carter-1971.html

http://www.theguardian.com/film/2010/oct/17/get-carter-crime

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SECONDS

seconds-poster  1966  – John Frankenheimer                                                                                                

“What Are Seconds?”

 

synopsis:

Arthur Hamilton (John Randolph) is a middle-aged man whose life has lost purpose. Approached by a secret organization, known simply as the “Company”, he agrees to a procedure that will give him a second chance in life.                                       But Arthur finds “rebirth” comes with it’s own price.

cam_03 Seconds is a compellingly paranoid interpretation on the legend of Faust.             This dystopian sci-fi/psychedelic noir is easily one of the darkest, loneliest films ever funded by a Hollywood studio.                                                                                                 It is the third entry in John Frankenheimer’s unofficial “paranoia trilogy” (the other two titles being The Manchurian Candidate and Seven Days in May), and although initially booed at the Cannes Film Festival years ago, this distorted gem has gone on to take it’s rightful place as a classic piece of cinema.                                                             Seconds lies squarely at the intersection of post-McCarthyist paranoia, revisited themes of ‘60s European art cinema and The Twilight Zone. At the same time it largely predicted the crises of masculinity and nightmarish interpretations of the counterculture yet to come in Hollywood cinema.                                                                                                   Seconds, like few other films, questions our fundamental values – it points a chilling finger in the direction of own superficiality, and dissolves our notions of the sanctity of identity with a disquieting ease.                                                                                                              Frankenheimer’s direction of this film, both in style and intent, puts him squarely in the same company as Stanley Kubrick and Orson Welles. Seconds also features a brilliantly innovative opening sequence by Saul Bass, dazzling cinematography of the legendary James Wong Howe, disorientating ambient orchestrations by Jerry Goldsmith and a performance by Rock Hudson which is often regarded as his greatest.

Seconds will crawl under your skin and stay with you long after the film’s end.

trailer:

A still from Joel Frankenheimer's 1966 film "Seconds."

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links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seconds_(film)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0060955/?ref_=nv_sr_6

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/seconds/#in-theaters

reviews:

http://www.girlsgunsandghouls.com/seconds.html

http://www.filmschoolrejects.com/features/seconds-john-frankenheimers-forgotten-60s-masterpiece.php

http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/movies/2013/08/criterion_collection_edition_of_seconds_directed_by_john_frankenheimer_and.html

http://www.ioncinema.com/news/disc-reviews/criterion-collection-seconds-blu-ray-review

http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/movies/2013/08/criterion_collection_edition_of_seconds_directed_by_john_frankenheimer_and.html

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