Daily Archives: October 1, 1998

The Apple

The 1998 first feature of Samira Makhmalbaf (the eldest daughter of Iranian writer-director Mohsen Makhmalbaf, who furnished the script and edited) is a wondera comic, lyrical, and politically incorrect poetic docudrama so acutely focused in its characters and ethics that it can afford to be relaxed about them, all the more remarkable coming from a director still in her teens. The film reenacts the true story of illiterate 11-year-old twin sisters, kept in their house from birth until a social worker discovered them and enabled them to step outside. Their encounters with the world outside their home and the neighborhood… Read more »

Films By Daniele Wilmouth

Daniele Wilmouth’s striking 13-minute Curtain of Eyes (1997), an experimental film working with elements of Japanese butoh. On the same program, Wilmouth’s work in progress Pinman and a short video by Ximena Musch entitled Compose. (JR)… Read more »

Dance Of The Dust

This 1992 feature about impoverished bricklayers was originally banned in Iran, then mutilated through the addition of an offscreen narration by its boy hero, which director Abolfazl Jalili had nothing to do with; this year it surfaced at the Locarno film festival in its original form and won several prizes. It… Read more »

Keita: The Heritage Of The Griot

Though one might critique its sexual politics, this is a lovely, memorable feature from Burkina Faso (1994), directed by Dani Kouyate, about a young boy who’s torn between the influence of a modern schoolteacher and the influence of a griot. Well worth checking out. 94 min. (JR)… Read more »

Columbia Revolt

A rough-and-ready and, if memory serves, heroic piece of radical agitprop produced by Newsreel in 1969 about a student strike at Columbia over the University’s policy toward the surrounding community of Harlem. On the same program, two 25-minute Newsreel documentaries of the same year, San Francisco State: On Strike and People’s Park. For a genuine whiff of this era, you probably couldn’t do much better. (JR)… Read more »

Un Air De Famille

I prefer this hard-edged comedy-drama to director Cedric Klapisch’s more sweet-tempered When the Cat’s Away, not because I’m a grouch but because the material is much denser, with half a dozen characters who surprise us at every turn. A family gathers for an acrimonious dinner in its own cafe; practically everyone treats everyone else badly, and despite a couple of faux-lyrical flashbacks we never really discover why. The mother shows more love toward the paralyzed family dog than toward any of her kids; her favorite son abuses his wife (Catherine Frot); her other son (Jean-Pierre Bacri), the family scapegoat, has recently alienated his wife; and her daughter (Agnes Jaoui) sneers at everyone, including the thoughtful waiter with whom she’s having an affair (Jean-Pierre Darroussin). This ‘Scope film won Cesars (the French equivalent of Oscars) in 1997 for best screenplay, supporting actress (Frot), and supporting actor (Darroussin), and all three were fully deserved. The screenplay is adapted from a play by Jaoui and Bacri, a couple who’ve scripted the last three Alain Resnais features, and while it isn’t bad, Klapisch and the authors haven’t fully turned it into a moviein some ways Bacri and Jaoui are more impressive as quirky actors. Klapisch hasn’t the foggiest notion of when or how to use music, but he does a fine job with the actors, and like the play itself he has a warm feeling for outcasts and a nice way of rewarding the audience for sharing those feelings.… Read more »

Birth Of A Butterfly

Mojtaba Raei’s episodic, three-part 1997 feature is a good example of the vital Iranian cinema our cultural gatekeepers rarely allow us to see, without the packaging and automatic charm of Gabbeh or The White Balloon but with plenty of artistic credentials of its own, a film so deeply involved in its own brand of Islamic thought that the absence of easy access to outsiders is part of its special fascination. (This is also true of Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s very bad early feature Fleeing From Evil to God, though in contrast Raei is clearly in command of the material.) Filmed in remote mountain areas of northern Iran and Azerbaijan, Birth of a Butterfly can be recommended for its landscapes, compositions, and employment of color. From the first episode, which begins with a montage of abstract rock formations leading to dwellings carved into a hillside, Raei’s choice of settings and sense of how to film them is often astonishingthough I didn’t always understand what was going on thematically or emotionally, I was held throughout by the enchantment of the natural surroundings. Ironically, the last and most comprehensible episode culminates in kitschy calendar art and a heavenly choir evoking 50s Hollywood religiosity, but prior to that I was reminded more of Alexander Dovzhenko or Sergei Paradjanov.… Read more »