[…] Children’s naivety, by turns freeing and dangerous, always fascinated Malle. It found its most complete articulation in this film [Au revoir les enfants], based on an episode from his childhood. Somewhat shielded from the war in a Catholic boarding school, Malle witnessed one of his friends, a young Jewish boy in hiding, being taken away by the Nazis. The director’s characteristic blend of moment-to-moment joie de vivre and implacable fatality is at its most poignant in this film, which perfectly evokes both the scattered vitality of childhood and the bracing hyper-awareness felt in moments we’ll remember forever.
We all have experienced that unsettling feeling of walking into a room and immediately forgetting what brought us there. We are briefly filled with a profound terror as the very fabric of our lives seems to unravel. The sequence of events and choices that have led us, not only to this room but to be who we are, suddenly vanish and are all but forgotten.
Hungarian director Lili Horvát takes this frightening sensation and expands it into a lasting state of being in her second feature, Preparations to Be Together for an Unknown Period of Time. Natasa Stork plays Márta, an accomplished neurosurgeon who, now in her forties, decides to leave her prestigious American career behind and follow the Hungarian doctor she met at a conference back to Budapest. They are in love, and she has already given too much of her time to her career. Fresh off the plane and with a spring in her step, she goes to their agreed meeting place. When he doesn’t show up, Márta visits him at the hospital where he works. Seeing him walking out of the building, she goes to greet him, but he claims not to recognise her, tells her they’ve never met, and walks away.
[…] Bremner’s dynamic performance grounds the character even as the world spins madly around him. His effortlessly realistic turn underlines something that the script already explores well and which is one of the most compelling aspects of McGee’s story: he was an average man whose only extraordinary qualities were a good ear for music and a steely desire to make the songs of the great acts he heard available to the public. The film does not argue that he was a genius at promoting bands or even that he made money from it – much is made of just how economically ruinous the whole enterprise was – but simply that his determination allowed him to face all kinds of humiliations and setbacks with incredible resourcefulness. This energy was partly fuelled by drugs, an integral part of the music scene that McGee helped to birth, but also by his own seemingly endless enthusiasm.
[…] Wheatley’s brand of black comedy and sarcasm highlights the ridiculous quality of escalating events without denying their horrific nature, erupting in moments of extreme body horror. This oscillation between flippancy and in-your-face gore is crucial to the film’s disorientating power, where we come to doubt whether Zach is purely mad or if more ancient forces could be at work.
[…] When the pandemic hit, Waddell was about to launch a big season of war films to mark the 75th anniversary of World War Two through her foundation Kino Klassika. After moving events online, she was taken aback by the enthusiastic response from viewers, and launched a weekly film club showing either a classic from Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia, or a contemporary film that may not have been screened before in the UK. The platform was then born out of those successful events.
“I think that one of the outstanding characteristics of the films from this part of the world is that it’s a very different tradition of filmmaking from American and European filmmaking,” Waddel adds. “People really respond to the novelty, the unfamiliarity, the adventure of the films that we’re showing.”
[…] The queerness of Ozon’s films most often shines through his morbid interest in stories of straight people pushed to extremes by ideals of heteronormativity that they fail to live up to – ideals that are thus implicitly criticised and mocked, but which the director clearly revels in as the great tragedy fodder that they are. In no way subtle, his films are often outrageously tongue-in-cheek in the way they have their cake and eat it too, squeezing all the pathos out of their subject all the while basking in the ruins.
This time Ozon focuses on a gay love affair and his bracingly in-your-face style seems to be on the side of the passionate lover rather than against him. Alex (Félix Lefebvre, whose magnetic presence should make him a star in no time) begins the story of a daydreaming yet relatively down-to-earth 16-year-old obsessed with death the way many kids his age often are.
[…] The film’s entire aesthetic, its melodramatic story of lust and rejection, and the intensity of Alexis’ voice-over as he recounts the whole tragic affair make Summer of 85 both a thrillingly sincere and poignant tale of naive adolescent love and self-discovery, and a refreshingly knowing, camp play with artifice and intertextuality.
But this isn’t the first time the French director has put his own reflexive spin on dusty film genres, playfully bringing out their queer potential while revisiting their respective eras and revelling in the cinematic pleasures they offer. One of his most popular films, 2002’s 8 Women, was originally imagined as a remake of George Cuckor’s 1939 film The Women, a comedy-drama featuring an all-female cast and which unveils the wheelings and dealings through which members of “the weaker sex” manage to get what they want in a world dominated by men.
I Spit on Your Grave did not exactly take the world of cinema by storm when it was released, first opening in a handful of drive-ins in America and then in grindhouse cinemas in 1980, two years after it was completed. There is good reason to believe that the film would have never reached a wider audience were it not for the critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, who waged a war against what they perceived to be a totally despicable film and, according to Ebert, the worst he had ever seen.
“Ebert sure didn’t like it, I heard him talk about it and it really hurt my feelings,” says Camille Keaton, the star of the film. “But [writer/director] Meir [Zarchi] told me not to worry about it: ‘Camille, this is the best publicity that we could ever get!’ And he was right. That made everybody want to go see it.”
[…] The short films you made with Kourtrajmé were posted online. Was this a choice, or out of necessity?
A kind of cinema had to emerge somewhere, because we’re not on producers’ radars or financed by any organisations. There comes a point where we have to do it all ourselves. Kourtrajmé was born because we couldn’t recognise ourselves in French cinema. So we decided to make our own films, with our own stories, our own actors.
It just so happened that, when we started making films, it was the very beginning of the digital age. Digital cameras had just appeared and for the first time, people had access to the internet at home. We realised that the internet was a great space to broadcast our films. Dailymotion and YouTube didn’t exist yet. We had a Kourtrajmé website where we would post our videos, and they would be very successful.
I’ve always held on to this concept where I would make my films independently. Even my documentaries, they were always censored by TV channels, they didn’t want them as they were, so I put them online for free. I never made money with my films, and I always worked that way.