Farrebique, the first feature-length effort of French documentary filmmaker Georges Rouqier, is widely regarded as his finest film. Rouqier concentrates on a single French farm family, following them through the four seasons. As in the works of Robert Flaherty, the human characters and the land surrounding them are “one”, and Rouqier never misses an opportunity to parallel their lives with the eons-old phases of nature. The final symbolic images of Spring, achieved through time-lapse photography, are almost unbearably beautiful. The winner of several festival awards, Farrebique nonetheless did not immediately result in an outpouring of financing for Rouqier’s follow-up films (this was a common problem in the financially strapped French film industry of the 1940s). Perhaps as a result, Rouqier did not make his sequel, Biquefarre (filmed in the same region, with some of the same “actors”), until 1983.
This film shows the Scared Straight program that has hardened convicts from maximum security prisons tell their stories about the truth about prison life in order to convince kids that no crime is worth the risk of being incarcerated.
Abbas Kiarostami: A Report (2013) Bahman Maghsoudlou, Kurosh Afsharpanah, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Godfrey Cheshire, Documentary, History
An analysis of the style and vision of Abbas Kiarostami, the world’s most iconic Iranian filmmaker, through the lens of his earliest work, including his first short film (Bread & Alley, 1970) and, particularly, his first feature, The Report. This early example of Kiarostami’s work gives insight into his poetic, humanistic tendencies, combining allegorical storytelling with a documentary, neo-realist sensibility, and often exploring the very nature of film as fiction, that have pervaded his work ever since, including such recent international sensations as A Taste of Cherry and Certified Copy. Exclusive interviews with film critics, historians and scholars (including the late great Andrew Sarris) and those directly involved in the making of The Report provide a look at how the career of this master independent auteur began and was shaped.
The Curse of the Swastika, a classic British Pathé documentary from 1940, illustrates the insidious rise of the Nazi Party from its post World War One origins through Adolf Hitler’s conniving to become both the leader of the party and eventual dictator of his self-styled Third Reich.
Die Gebrüder Skladanowsky / A Trick of the Light (1995) Wim Wenders, Stefan Barber, Wiebke Bayer, Nadine Büttner, Biography, Drama, Documentary
A rare gem of cinematic storytelling that weaves docudrama, fictional reenactment, and experimental photography into a powerful, reflective work on the early days of German cinema. The film tells the story of the Skladanowsky Brothers, the German-born duo responsible for inventing the “bioskop”, an early version of the film projector.
Taking a breather from the Paris, Texas shooting, Wim Wenders hopped a plane, camera in hand, to look for the Tokyo enshrined by the late Yasujiro Ozu (whose work Wenders dubs “the sacred treasure of the cinema”). What he found instead, documented in this filmic journal, was an urbanized dislocation not far from the forlorn emptiness he coached out of German and American vistas. Whether abstracting businessmen teeing off atop skyscrapers or the rigorous, artisanal craft of building a wax sandwich display, Wenders scrambles for humanity seeping through neon and steel – a humanity linked, inevitably, to the old Japan of Ozu’s films (rebellious tykes, cherry blossoms, tranquil countrysides). A far less queasy piece of hero-worship than Lightning Over Water, the picture meditates not so much on Ozu the filmmaker than on Ozu the vanishing feeling, motifs and images reconsidered in a modernized Japan circa 1983 (the trains that fill the Japanese master’s pictures with notions of inexorable movement have now become bullet expresses, gliding with smooth, ominous impersonality). Elsewhere, Wenders bumps into Werner Herzog (who bitches about having to space-travel to find pure images nowadays), Chris Marker (whose Sans Soleil would make a superb double-bill with Tokyo-Ga) and two aged Ozu stalwarts, gracious, dignified leading man Chishu Ryu and anecdotal camera operator Yuuharu Atsuta. Wenders’ eulogy for a culture alienating its own roots is built, characteristically, upon cinema’s capacity for regenerative beauty, though his links to Ozu are, if anything, more tenuous than his affinity with Nicholas Ray – Ozu’s images distill life, Wenders’ etherealize it. Cinematography by Edward Lachman.
Le voyage de Damien / Damien’s journey (2003) Gérard Janichon, Jérôme Poncet, Documentary, Adventure
May 25, 1969, La Rochelle, Just 20 years old, Gerard and Jerome Poncet Janichon begin a world tour that will last 5 years. To accompany them throughout the 55,000 miles of sailing, “Damien”, a boat of 10 meters and dreams of new horizons. Fully recovered and with sound, the film directed by two friends takes us back to this very special atmosphere of the 70s where a whole population aspired to follow the footsteps of men like Bernard Moitessier who knew intimately linking sailing adventure writing and a vision of the world that remains current today and surprisingly contemporary. “The journey of Damien” is exemplary in this respect.
Documentary about Santiago, a peculiar man who used to work for the director and his parents as a butler. The material was filmed in 1992 but, for some strange reason, the director felt he couldn’t edit it and put it aside. In 2005 he remembers the unfinished film and starts its edition.