Posted inFilm

Radical Harmonies

Dee Mosbacher’s 2002 documentary video traces the 30-year political, sexual, and cultural evolution of “women’s music,” framing it with the feminist and civil rights movements. Although visually and formally plain, the work is enlivened by expressive performances from Holly Near, Ronnie Gilbert, and Sweet Honey in the Rock that showcase the liberating power of the […]

Posted inFilm

Sex, Politics & Cocktails

Julien Hernandez’s funky but shallow 55-minute video feature grafts anxious romantic comedy a la Annie Hall to the hip narcissism of Sex and the City. Hernandez plays a Cuban-American filmmaker who immerses himself in West Hollywood gay culture in preparation for making a documentary about gay relationships. The result is TV flavored, less a narrative […]

Posted inFilm

On the Down Low

Tadeo Garcia’s impressive low-budget 2002 debut begins somewhat unpromisingly as a standard riff on gang violence, then gains unexpectedly in poignancy, depth, and complexity. Two south-side Chicago gang members, Isaac and Angel (Tony Sancho and Michael Cortez, both excellent), are carrying on a furtive sexual relationship, which is further complicated when Angel’s earlier affiliation with […]

Posted inFilm

When the Sun Was God

Jerzy Hoffman’s historical epic With Fire and Sword opened the 1999Polish Film Festival in America and has been revived in subsequent years; his new feature is a splotchy, indifferently made, but perversely entertaining adaptation of Jozef Ignacy Kraszewski’s novel Stara Basn. Set during the ninth century, it involves a delusional prince (Bogdan Stupka) whose nefarious […]

Posted inFilm

Dreams of Alfeoni

Vladimir Nepevny’s penetrating documentary profiles pioneering animator and avant-garde artist Aleksander Alekseyev, best known in America for the brilliant title sequence of Orson Welles’s The Trial. A Russian who spent much of his career in France, Alekseyev invented the pin-screen technique, which uses illuminated pinheads to create pointillistic pictures, and constructed dense, frightening images from […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Bus 174

Jose Padilha’s searing Brazilian film plays like a synthesis of Pixote and Dog Day Afternoon, documenting a June 2000 incident in which a thwarted bus robbery in Rio de Janeiro turned into a nationally televised hostage crisis. Swirling around this terrifying ordeal are despairing reflections on race, class, police corruption, media sensationalism, and social inequality. […]

Posted inFilm

Music Hall of Mirrors

From Austria, Virgil Wildrich’s astounding animation Fast Film offers a dense, encyclopedic survey of American cinema, acknowledging both the primacy of the director and the outsize personalities of the studio-era stars; its dazzling optical effects, suggesting both collapse and regeneration, remind us that Europeans have always responded to the speed, dexterity, and visceral power of […]

Posted inFilm

Neither Living, nor Dead

Set in 1980, at the time of the Argentinean military junta, this gripping 2001 feature by Victor Jorge Ruiz is a story of moral complicity, isolation, voyeurism, and loss of individuality. A Buenos Aires mathematician whose wife has been missing for two years is taken from his children by state security operatives, who install him […]

Posted inFilm

A Thief and His Wife

A career criminal (Ramon Llao), sent to prison for stealing a suitcase, implores his patient and forgiving wife (Amparo Noguera) to visit him in this buoyant and graceful 2001 Chilean feature. Director Rodrigo Sepulveda has an assured, low-key style that privileges his gifted actors, and the plot reversals, with their themes of freedom and chance, […]