Jim Sledden’s 1998 documentary Brakhage is an interesting, well-constructed portrait of avant-garde filmmaker Stan Brakhage, who made almost 400 film in the 50 years up to his death in 2003. Along with fellow artists Jonas Mekas and Maya Deren, he’s regarded as one of the most important of American experimental filmmakers, and his influence can be seen in everything from music videos to title sequences from such films as Se7en. Starting with the psychodramas so typical of young filmmakers, he eventually moved into more abstract films, even physically manipulating the celluloid itself by gluing things to it or scratching it with a variety of implements.
Waga ai no uta – Taki Rentaro monogatari / Bloom in the Moonlight: The Story of Rentaro Taki (1993) Shin’ichirô Sawai, Tôru Kazama, Isako Washio, Ryo Amamiya, Biography, Drama, Music
In April 1895, the talented young Rentaro Taki comes to Tokyo from his home in Kyushu to enrol in the prestigious National Academy of Music. Hoping to become a pianist, he meets another student there, Yuki Nakano, who shares the same aspirations. With his elder classmate Suzuki’s encouragement, Rentaro practices furiously to perfect his technique, but loses his health in the process. Over the years, his health, as well as his devotion to and achievement level in music, fluctuates, as two friends adjust to the varying roles they can each potentially play in his life. Yuki receives the Japanese government’s first music scholarship to study in Berlin. At the same time, Rentaro composes wonderful music and songs like Bloom in the Moonlight which are still very popular in today’s Japan, while Suzuki quits the music school and becomes a hard labourer due to family crisis.
Martin Luther (1953) Irving Pichel, Niall MacGinnis, John Ruddock, Pierre Lefevre, Biography, Drama, History
This biographical account of Martin Luther’s actions that eventually created the Protestant and Lutheran religions was filmed in conjunction with the Lutheran Church. Niall MacGinnis portrays the monk who’s nailing of his list of 95 theses to the church door in Worms created a stir so large that it shook the very foundations of the Catholic Church. This film shows the struggle between Luther and the organized church and how the Catholic Church was not fully explaining things he questioned, which led him to be labeled a heretic.
Novembertage / November Days (1991) Marcel Ophüls, Anne Blaurock, Bärbel Bohley, Barbara Brecht-Schall, Documentary, Biography
Morbid biographical story of Sid Vicious, bassist with British punk group the Sex Pistols, and his girlfriend Nancy Spungen. When the Sex Pistols break up after their fateful US tour, Vicious attempts a solo career while in the grip of heroin addiction. One morning, Nancy is found stabbed to death and Sid is arrested for her murder.
Helena Trestikova is the author of 10 episodes from the series Women on the Brink of the New Millennium, intimate portraits of both successful women and women on the social periphery. The tragic story of a girl named Katka who believes that joy and happiness can be applied through a hypodermic needle. All she is left with is despair. We first meet Katka at a rehab clinic in Nemcice, still full of optimism and faith in a drug-free future. The film tries to draw attention to the drug problem from a somewhat different point of view.
Henry is an ex-pat in Paris, cadging drinks and meals and places to sleep, giving advice about women to clueless men, flirting with the wives of acquaintances, burning bridges, and making philosophical observations. In vignettes we see his wife Mona come to Paris and leave immediately when she tastes Henry’s vagabond life; he tries teaching English at a school in Dijon, takes the son of a wealthy Indian to a bordello, gets a job as a proofreader at the Herald Tribune, and helps out a pal who’s in and out of an asylum and deeply in love with a whore. Can Henry make his own discovery of ecstasy?
In this story, Harlow starts in the movies as set dressing, the pretty girl who is used for the glamour shots. Refusing to descend to the casting couch for work, she finds that she is soon blacklisted from the industry. But an agent named Arthur sees something in Jean and begins representing her. For a long time, the jobs are scarce and consist mostly of receiving the pie in the face in low budget comedies. But Arthur’s belief in Jean never wavers and when she finally graduates to featured roles, the critics say that she cannot act, but she is unforgettable. Polishing the image as the girl next door, but with some fire, she begins her climb to the top and becomes the girl every woman wants to look like and every man wants to have. But her own life is a disaster – unlike her screen life.
The Diary of Anne Frank (1959) George Stevens, Millie Perkins, Shelley Winters, Joseph Schildkraut, Biography, Drama, Family
Based on Anne Frank’s diary, and the stage play that was adapted from it: In Nazi-occupied Holland, Otto Frank and his family have decided to go into hiding, because of the increasing persecutions against Jews. The businessman Kraler and his assistant Miep prepare a hiding place in the rooms above their place of business, and arrange for the Franks and another family, the Van Daans, to stay there. Later on, they are joined by the dentist Dussel. Together, they try to avoid detection while hoping for Holland to be liberated by the Allies, but even meeting basic needs can become a challenge, and even minor incidents could present a grave risk.