10 on the 10th – September 2018

This latest list of the last ten films I’ve watched kicks off with a movie recommended to me by the TIFF Cinematheque Recommendation EngineSandra was recommended for me along with RashomonSeven SamuraiIn a Lonely Place, and To Live and Die in LA. I’d say that the TIFF Engine knew me pretty well but Visconti’s film is certainly the least of these five titles and probably would have not been remarkable but for Claudia Cardinale’s starring role. My hunt for a Visconti film to fall in love with continues!

  1. Sandra (Luchino Visconti, 1965)
  2. Design Canada (Greg Durrell, 2018)
  3. Stalker (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1979)
  4. Ready Player One (Steven Spielberg, 2018)
  5. Deep Red (Dario Argento, 1975)
  6. Shanty Tramp (Joseph G. Prieto, 1967)
  7. Get Out (Jordan Peele, 2017)
  8. Save the Tiger (John G. Avildsen, 1973)
  9. The Cat o’ Nine Tails (Dario Argento, 1971)
  10. David Lynch: The Art Life (Jon Nguyen, Rick Barnes, and Olivi Neergaard-Holm, 2016)

Those looking for sneaky fun titles should check out Design Canada and Shanty Tramp. The former is a conventionally congratulatory but thoroughly charming take on the golden age of Canadian design, while the latter is a byNWR hicksploitation title that crazily mashes up white trash hussies, hep cat biker gangs, legit racism, moonshiners, gangsters, and plenty of cheap deaths. I can’t really decide what that titular tramp is worse at: dancing or stabbing!

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The Bodyguard (Ali Khamraev, 1979)

When a Red Army detachment captures Sultan Nazar, the leader of a Basmachi contingent opposing Soviet forces, a decision is made to urgently escort the prisoner to the neighboring Bukhara province. The difficult mission is entrusted to Mirzo, an experienced mountain trapper and conscientious revolutionary whose expertise is essential to traversing the precarious paths and steep mountain ridges along the way. Mirzo, his brother Kova, the Sultan, his daughter Zaranghis, and his slave Saifulla set off on this journey, pursued doggedly along the way by Fattobek, the ruthless new head of the Basmachis, a cadre of loyal fighters, and his prophetic wife, Aibash. Recalling the Western psychodramas of Anthony Mann, The Bodyguard is yet another of Ali Khamraev’s harshly beautiful and action-packed Easterns.

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The Seventh Bullet (Ali Khamraev, 1972)

The Seventh Bullet is set after the Russian Civil War as Soviet power established itself in Central Asia and as opposing Basmachi rebels cross the border bringing death and destruction to peaceful villages. Local militia leader Maksumov struggles in his campaign against Basmachi warlord Khairulla who has captured most of his men and won them to his side. With little other option, Maksumov gives himself up in hopes of being reunited with his men and winning them back to the Revolution. Ali Khamraev’s take on the Red Western was an international hit, featuring rollicking action, reassuring heroism, and an unstoppable performance by its star, Suymenkul Chokmorov.

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White, White Storks (Ali Khamraev, 1966)

In an isolated and conservatively traditional Muslim village in Uzbekistan, a married woman, Malika, falls in love with a soft-spoken foreigner, Kayum, who has brought liberal Soviet attitudes and principles to the community, sometimes setting himself against the subordination of the town’s women by their male counterparts. Tensions rise as Kayum and Malika openly grow closer, raising the ire of Malika’s father and her husband as well as among those interested in maintaining the village’s old ways. A breakthrough film for Ali Khamraev, White, White Storks is a beautifully rendered docudrama that combines the textured honesty of Italian Neorealism, the family dynamics and tragedies of Yasujiro Ozu, and the poetry of Mikhail Kalatozov’s The Cranes Are Flying.

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The Rugged Odysseys of Ali Khamraev

Eclipse is a selection of lost, forgotten, or overshadowed classics in simple affordable editions. Each series is a brief cinematheque retrospective for the adventurous home viewer.

An artist of rock-solid humanism and amazing expressive power, Ali Khamraev is a giant who sits astride the history of Uzbek cinema. A graduate of Moscow’s Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography in 1961, he went on to make more than thirty documentaries and twenty feature films – criss-crossing between romantic comedies, Western adventures, political dramas, TV mini-series, and art cinema. Through them all, Khamraev engages in the unveiling of traditional Muslim Uzbekistan and expresses a faith in the modernizing influence of Soviet values and technology. A wizard with landscapes and an instinctual expert of social dynamics, Ali Khamraev is truly an underappreciated master of world cinema.

White, White Storks (Belye, belye aisty)

Influenced by Mikhail Kalatozov’s black-and-white classic The Cranes Are Flying, the Italian Neorealist movement, and the interpersonal dramas of Yasujiro Ozu, Ali Khamraev traces the impossible romance of a married woman and an unconventional outsider in a small, traditional Uzbek village called “White Storks.”

The Seventh Bullet (Sedmaya pulya)

Set during the Central Asian revolts of the 1920s, a Red Army commander allows himself to be captured by a Basmachi warlord to reunite with his imprisoned battalion and lead them to victory in this Western-inspired adventure in the Soviet frontier.

The Bodyguard (Telokhranitel)

A grizzled mountain trapper and a conscientious revolutionary are tasked by a Red Army unit with the difficult task of transporting a captured sultan, along with his daughter and his loyal servant, through a harsh mountain landscape to a neighbouring province while pursued by a ruthless Bashmachi warrior.

Triptych (Triptikh)

This modernist political melodrama set in a small northern town in 1946 follows three women struggling with the social constraints of post-World War II Uzbekistan: an illiterate girl who wants to build a house on her own, a school teacher aiming to bring progressive ideas to the villagers, and an old woman kidnapped in her youth by a poor peasant and forced into marriage.

I Remember You (Ya tebya pomnyu)

In this semi-autobiographical meditation on the past, an adult son’s journey from Samarkand across Russia to find the grave of his father becomes a poetic voyage into his subconscious memory and an exploration of intersecting Uzbek and Russian traditions.

With notes by Kent Jones

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10 on the 10th – August 2018

There’s a lot of good stuff amongst the last 10 movies I’ve watched but I’m going to take a moment to stump for the byNWR site. So far, I’ve watched two of the three films included in the site’s first volume and they are weirdly fascinating in the trashiest of senses. Both films declare themselves by very odd ellipses. The Nest of the Cuckoo Birds commences with a barely depicted infiltration of bootlegging operation and then quickly sidesteps into dreamy psychodrama of Southern hospitality gone terribly wrong; while Hot Thrills and Warm Chills centres around an unseen heist but prefers sleazy sex scenes and topless belly dancers on the one hand and period Mardi Gras footage on the other. It could all seem rather icky except byNWR takes it very seriously, providing a bounty of other content that unpacks the secret histories of these rare films and explores their odd themes through complimentary works. byNWR is for Criterion admirers waiting for more John Waters, Arrow Video fans of Spider Baby and Pit Stop, and devotees of Something Weird Video. And did I mention that it’s all free?

  1. Michelle Wolf: Nice Lady (Neal Brennan, 2017)
  2. Hot Thrills and Warm Chills (Dale Berry, 1967)
  3. Demons (Lamberto Bava, 1985)
  4. LA 92 (T.J. Martin and Daniel Lindsay, 2017)
  5. Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson, 2018)
  6. Doom Asylum (Richard Friedman, 1987)
  7. The Nest of the Cuckoo Birds (Bert Williams, 1965)
  8. White, White Storks (Ali Khamraev, 1966)
  9. Wanda (Barbara Loden, 1970)
  10. Beyond the Black Rainbow (Panos Cosmatos, 2010)

To be honest, I’m feeling pretty guilty about the lack of activity here at MMC! but things are swamped right now here (moving and merging homes takes a lot of effort!) and I am working on a series of posts that marks the return of imagined Eclipse sets to the blog – MME! baby! Look for those posts coming up in the next week or so (hopefully).

With a lot of discs in storage, we’re left watching things on demand or working through some TV series we’ve been neglecting. Shout out to Gravity Falls (Alex Hirsch, 2012-2016), which has proven to be just the smart, fun, quirky show we’ve needed right now. If you’re like us and you’ve missed this series but love Adventure Time, Rick and Morty, Steven Universe, Over the Garden Wall, and The Amazing World of Gumball, then Gravity Falls should be your next screening.