Very Secret Movie club ratings

movie rating
The Child 4/5
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie 4/5
The Son's Room 3.5/5
Stranger Than Paradise 3/5
Dancer in the Dark
ChungKing Express
Happy Together3.5/5
My Blueberry Nights
Wild at Heart4/5
Summer Hours2/5
Blue Velvet
Inland Empire

Friday, November 21, 2008

Wong Kar-Wai

You might have noticed that among the movies we rated for this month's movie night were three different titles by Wong. In the upcoming movie night we will be watching Chungking Express by this director, hence getting familiar with his work and style may help us in better understanding and communicating with the film. Wong is considered one of the postmodern auteurs of cinema. "In film criticism, the 1950s-era Auteur theory holds that a director's films reflect that director's personal creative vision, as if he or she were the primary "Auteur" (French word for "author")." -wikipedia

Here are the links to some articles on this directors work and vision.

Wong kar-wai
The Cinema of Wong kar-wai "a writing game"
Wong Kar-Wai: Time, Memory, Identity

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Night With Dariush Mehrjui at Berkeley this Saturday

Nima Television, Berkeley Lecture series and Iranian Student of Berkeley Presents:

A Night With Dariush Mehrjui
Saturday November 1st 2008
UC Berkeley Dwinell Hall Room 145 6:00 P.M.

Featuring the movie "The Pear Tree" (Derakht Golabi)
and a Movie with Khosrow Shakibayi "The Lost Cousin" (Dokhtar Dayi Gomshodeh)

following Q & A with Dariush Mehrjui
for info: 510-490-6462

Admission $15.00
With student ID $10.00

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Stranger than Paradise: Reviews

Stranger than Paradise’s style is not really the type I enjoy to watch, however I find the subject of the human identity it touches very interesting. Trying to learn more about this work, I searched the web for the reviews and here are a little information I found. It was Jim Jarmusch’s second movie which originally was shot for 30 minutes from the leftover stocks of his film school thesis. Later on he added more scenes and made it into a feature film with three acts , “the New World”, “One year Later”, and “Paradise. The movie won the Cannes Golden Palm award in 1984, and was recognized as one of the early pioneers in the American independent film movement.

…the effect is disorienting until you recognize what Mr. Jarmusch is up to - that is, discovering the ludicrously sublime in the supremely tacky….''Stranger Than Paradise'' is a ''Marty'' that Jean-Paul Sartre might have appreciated, about hanging out, not in hell but in a permanent purgatory. This world sometimes looks like an eerily underpopulated New York City, a rundown but genteel working- class section of Cleveland or that scrubby part of the east coast of Florida that has yet to be transformed into a vacation paradise, where the motels always have vacancies, even at the height of the season, and where the swimming pools are filled with weeds, not water.” – The New York Times

An article in Cutlure Cartel discusses how according to Mulvey there are 2 narratives in cinema: masculine and feminine. Masculine oriented films gradually build a climax and find a fast resolution, whereas feminine films will be more circular and open ended. Jarmusch; on the other hand has introduced a more gender neutral, less sexist, racists narrative in his works.

Stranger than Paradise merges American and Hungarian culture in a way that doesn't make overt statements about multiculturalism so much as it presents scenarios and lets them work out their own conclusion. sometimes not much more than letting Aunt Lotte serve goulash. Yet what makes Stranger than Paradise such a joyful postmodern romp is not its alternative narrative or its multicultural tendencies. Stranger than Paradise is groundbreakingly alternative in its skeletal formalism.


Jarmusch constructs an America of isolation. Whether it is a tracking shot of Eva walking through an eerily vacant city street while listening to Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put a Spell On You," Eddie and Willy on a long drive with nothing to think about, or eating TV dinners, smoking Chesterfields and watching football in a 15'x15' apartment, (and the even more blatant visuals of standing alone watching airplanes take off, and sightseeing at Lake Erie), Jarmusch's juxtaposition of solitude and community would be poignantly depressing if the film weren't so deadpan. “ –Culture Cartel

Here are also a few other interesting reviews:

Boredom and loneliness are ever-present in this Paradise, an absolute lack of goals or potential that makes Willie, Eddie, and Eva's experience of America so disturbingly bleak. Theirs is an America of featureless cities and plains, rundown apartments and hotel rooms, donut joints, and highways that lead to nowhere in particular. There is hope for better times ahead. But before luck has the chance to turn, human nature intervenes, and it's back to square one for these restless, listless misfits.” – Film Critic

Here, characters not talking reflect a broader failure of communication, characters sitting around doing nothing reflect a more general lack of direction, and characters replaying the same scenes in different milieux reflect an inability to escape the rigidity of their own personalities. This is a film about narrow-mindedness, folly and a lack of initiative (in the Land of Opportunity) – as well as the impossibility of ever entirely leaving one's roots behind. It is also, after its own bone-dry fashion, devilishly funny.

Willie may lecture Eva on the 'American' way to eat, speak and behave, but while he is a single, work-shy loser with no ambition and few prospects, she is a resourceful, driven winner, quick to acquire a job and a boyfriend (Danny Rosen). In other words, she embraces the American Dream far more than her cousin ever will, and while the film's twist ending may at first seem merely an ironic gag that has come out of nowhere, in fact it crystallises the difference between this odd couple: Eva is open enough to seize the opportunities serendipity offers and to make a new life in the new world, while aimless Willie is in fact always going backwards. Paradise, it turns out, is not a real place to which you can travel, but more a state of mind which seems to be ever slipping away from the arrested Willie.” – Eye for Film

Friday, October 17, 2008

Jim Jarmusch

AlThough we have not yet confirmed if we will be watching "Stranger than Paradise" by Jim Jarmusch in our next movie night, there will be a strong possibility that this movie will be selected. Here you can find a very informative review of his works, style and vision from the Senses of Cinema.

Senses of Cinema is one of the credible resources that is mostly targeted towards the professionals in the film industry.

"Senses of Cinema is an online journal devoted to the serious and eclectic discussion of cinema. We believe cinema is an art that can take many forms, from the industrially-produced blockbuster to the hand-crafted experimental work; we also aim to encourage awareness of the histories of such diverse forms. As an Australian-based journal, we have a special commitment to the regular, wide-ranging analysis and critique of Australian cinema, past and present.

Senses of Cinema is primarily concerned with ideas about particular films or bodies of work, but also with the regimes (ideological, economic and so forth) under which films are produced and viewed, and with the more abstract theoretical and philosophical issues raised by film study. As well, we believe that a cinephilic understanding of the moving image provides the necessary basis for a radical critique of other media and of the global “image culture”.

We are open to a range of critical approaches (auteurist, formalist, psychoanalytic, humanist...) and encourage contributors to experiment with different forms of writing (personal memoir, academic essay, journalistic report, poetic evocation...). We commission and accept articles from academics and journalists, internationally-known authorities and previously unpublished cinephiles alike; our only criteria are that they should shed new light on their subjects, and be informed by a broad knowledge and love of cinema. Likewise, our readership is a genuinely diverse group, bringing together people from a wide range of backgrounds, professions and interests but bound by a single common element: an informed, passionate and serious attitude toward cinema as an art.

We recognise that an art as ephemeral and ethereal as cinema continues to fascinate, provoke, inspire, turn on, and evolve. Above all, we seek to facilitate approaches to cinema that present new possibilities for exploring, experiencing and imagining the world we live in." -Senses of Cinema

Harriet Andersson recalls Ingmar Bergman

Friday, October 17, 2008

Harriet Andersson, 76, is one of the greats of world cinema, part of a small group of actresses who appeared regularly in the films of Ingmar Bergman. Dark-haired and of average height, she was not the prototypical tall, reserved Scandinavian actress, but someone impulsive and physical, full of life force and overt sexual energy. She became famous throughout Europe at 20 years old, as the star of "Summer With Monika" (1953), about a sexually free teenage girl. And her performances as the vibrant but mentally disturbed heroine of "Through a Glass Darkly" (1961) and as the dying sister in "Cries and Whispers" (1972) are classics.

Andersson, as earthy and laughing in person as you could ever hope her to be, was in town last week for a tribute at the Mill Valley Film Festival.

Q: Well, what an honor to meet you.

A: (laughs) You don't know yet.

Q: How did you come to make "Monika," and is it true that Ingmar Bergman discovered you when you were operating an elevator in Stockholm?

A: In an elevator! Ha, that's a new one for me. No. I did operate an elevator, but that was when I was 14 1/2! Ingmar did not discover me. I was discovered in 1949 in theater school. Before "Monika," I had many small parts. Most of them were a little like Monika. I looked that way. I looked like a bad girl. But I wasn't a bad girl, really. I was a very nice little girl, until I found out what life was.

I was a little afraid (to audition for "Monika") because we had heard so much about Ingmar, that he was an angry man and a demon, that he hated actors - all lies. So I went out, and we made the test. We started, and there on the floor was a basin with water in it, standing on the floor. And when I was running around and so on, I put my foot into it. And for a millionth part of a second, I thought, "Shall I stop?" But I didn't - I just kicked it away. And afterwards, Ingmar told me, "That's why you got the part."

Q: And then you lived with him. At one point did you realize you were living with a genius?

A: I don't know when I learned it. It was many years after. Of course, I knew it was nice to work with him, and he gave me nice parts and all that. First we lived together in a small, small apartment, one room and a kitchenette. He had left his wife. And then in '53, we moved down to Malmo, and there we had three rooms, and that was a little better. He didn't get a lot of money, and he had a lot of other wives to support. He was a poor man - but he did it to himself. ... I'm still very surprised sometimes, thinking, I was living and loving a genius, a world-famous genius. I don't look at him that way when I think of him. But he was never a genius director in Sweden, you know. He's not so famous in Sweden as he is in other parts of the world. I think he was a little sad for that.

Q: Can you talk a little about making "Through a Glass Darkly," particularly the breakdown scene at the climax?

A: It was fun to do those things. I loved it. I'd moved to the south of Sweden. I was married down there. I was sitting on a farm, and really I was very sad. And then Ingmar called me and said, "I'm going to send you a script." I read the script, and I called him back. I said, "Ingmar, it's a fantastic script, but I can't do it." "Why?" "Because I think it's too difficult for me." "Don't talk s-!" Once we started, I was almost flying by myself up to Stockholm. And coming back to the studio, seeing all my old friends, I never felt so good or happy or well in a film, before or after. (For the climactic breakdown scene) we did two, maybe three takes. I don't like to do more takes, because I'm best in the first. When the camera starts, I move. I don't want to be like, 'Oh, it's so easy for me,' but it's the way I work. I don't think too much. I'm not that kind of actor. I work on instinct.

Q: Your death scene in "Cries and Whispers" is one of the most harrowing on film. How did it come about?

A: That's the death of my father. He was very, very sick. He died in '56 or '57. He had stomach cancer. He was lying in the hospital, and it was a very hot summer. I was there for 1 1/2 days. And he's the only person I've ever seen die. And they were very strict with the morphine in those days. So you know I was sitting there, and he was sleeping, and then suddenly he would start with the (labored and gasping) breathing. Then very, very quietly, he was dead. After all that, he died like she does. Death is coming so quick sometimes. So I called the nurse. I said, "I think he's dead." You know what she did? They didn't have machines and monitors in those days. She came back with a mirror.

Q: How did you like playing opposite James Mason in "The Deadly Affair" (1966)?

A: He was such a sweet man. And oh, his lips. I played his wife, so he had the right to kiss me.

Q: You were his nymphomaniac wife.

A: That's why they made her Swedish.

E-mail Mick LaSalle at

This article appeared on page E - 9 of the San Francisco Chronicle

The Man Who Asked Hard Questions

Correction Appended

I GOT the news in Oviedo, a lovely little town in the north of Spain where I am shooting a movie, that Bergman had died. A phone message from a mutual friend was relayed to me on the set. Bergman once told me he didn’t want to die on a sunny day, and not having been there, I can only hope he got the flat weather all directors thrive on.

I’ve said it before to people who have a romanticized view of the artist and hold creation sacred: In the end, your art doesn’t save you. No matter what sublime works you fabricate (and Bergman gave us a menu of amazing movie masterpieces) they don’t shield you from the fateful knocking at the door that interrupted the knight and his friends at the end of “The Seventh Seal.” And so, on a summer’s day in July, Bergman, the great cinematic poet of mortality, couldn’t prolong his own inevitable checkmate, and the finest filmmaker of my lifetime was gone.

I have joked about art being the intellectual’s Catholicism, that is, a wishful belief in an afterlife. Better than to live on in the hearts and minds of the public is to live on in one’s apartment, is how I put it. And certainly Bergman’s movies will live on and will be viewed at museums and on TV and sold on DVDs, but knowing him, this was meager compensation, and I am sure he would have been only too glad to barter each one of his films for an additional year of life. This would have given him roughly 60 more birthdays to go on making movies; a remarkable creative output. And there’s no doubt in my mind that’s how he would have used the extra time, doing the one thing he loved above all else, turning out films.

Bergman enjoyed the process. He cared little about the responses to his films. It pleased him when he was appreciated, but as he told me once, “If they don’t like a movie I made, it bothers me — for about 30 seconds.” He wasn’t interested in box office results, even though producers and distributors called him with the opening weekend figures, which went in one ear and out the other. He said, “By mid-week their wildly optimistic prognosticating would come down to nothing.” He enjoyed critical acclaim but didn’t for a second need it, and while he wanted the audience to enjoy his work, he didn’t always make his films easy on them.

Still, those that took some figuring out were well worth the effort. For example, when you grasp that both women in “The Silence” are really only two warring aspects of one woman, the otherwise enigmatic film opens up spellbindingly. Or if you are up on your Danish philosophy before you see “The Seventh Seal” or “The Magician,” it certainly helps, but so amazing were his gifts as a storyteller that he could hold an audience riveted and enthralled with difficult material. I’ve heard people walk out after certain films of his saying, “I didn’t get exactly what I just saw but I was gripped on the edge of my seat every frame.”

Bergman’s allegiance was to theatricality, and he was also a great stage director, but his movie work wasn’t just informed by theater; it drew on painting, music, literature and philosophy. His work probed the deepest concerns of humanity, often rendering these celluloid poems profound. Mortality, love, art, the silence of God, the difficulty of human relationships, the agony of religious doubt, failed marriage, the inability for people to communicate with one another.

And yet the man was a warm, amusing, joking character, insecure about his immense gifts, beguiled by the ladies. To meet him was not to suddenly enter the creative temple of a formidable, intimidating, dark and brooding genius who intoned complex insights with a Swedish accent about man’s dreadful fate in a bleak universe. It was more like this: “Woody, I have this silly dream where I show up on the set to make a film and I can’t figure out where to put the camera; the point is, I know I am pretty good at it and I have been doing it for years. You ever have those nervous dreams?” or “You think it will be interesting to make a movie where the camera never moves an inch and the actors just enter and exit frame? Or would people just laugh at me?”

What does one say on the phone to a genius? I didn’t think it was a good idea, but in his hands I guess it would have turned out to be something special. After all, the vocabulary he invented to probe the psychological depths of actors also would have sounded preposterous to those who learn filmmaking in the orthodox manner. In film school (I was thrown out of New York University quite rapidly when I was a film major there in the 1950s) the emphasis was always on movement. These are moving pictures, students were taught, and the camera should move. And the teachers were right. But Bergman would put the camera on Liv Ullmann’s face or Bibi Andersson’s face and leave it there and it wouldn’t budge and time passed and more time and an odd and wonderful thing unique to his brilliance would happen. One would get sucked into the character and one was not bored but thrilled.

Bergman, for all his quirks and philosophic and religious obsessions, was a born spinner of tales who couldn’t help being entertaining even when all on his mind was dramatizing the ideas of Nietzsche or Kierkegaard. I used to have long phone conversations with him. He would arrange them from the island he lived on. I never accepted his invitations to visit because the plane travel bothered me, and I didn’t relish flying on a small aircraft to some speck near Russia for what I envisioned as a lunch of yogurt. We always discussed movies, and of course I let him do most of the talking because I felt privileged hearing his thoughts and ideas. He screened movies for himself every day and never tired of watching them. All kinds, silents and talkies. To go to sleep he’d watch a tape of the kind of movie that didn’t make him think and would relax his anxiety, sometimes a James Bond film.

Like all great film stylists, such as Fellini, Antonioni and Buñuel, for example, Bergman has had his critics. But allowing for occasional lapses all these artists’ movies have resonated deeply with millions all over the world. Indeed, the people who know film best, the ones who make them — directors, writers, actors, cinematographers, editors — hold Bergman’s work in perhaps the greatest awe.

Because I sang his praises so enthusiastically over the decades, when he died many newspapers and magazines called me for comments or interviews. As if I had anything of real value to add to the grim news besides once again simply extolling his greatness. How had he influenced me, they asked? He couldn’t have influenced me, I said, he was a genius and I am not a genius and genius cannot be learned or its magic passed on.

When Bergman emerged in the New York art houses as a great filmmaker, I was a young comedy writer and nightclub comic. Can one’s work be influenced by Groucho Marx and Ingmar Bergman? But I did manage to absorb one thing from him, a thing not dependent on genius or even talent but something that can actually be learned and developed. I am talking about what is often very loosely called a work ethic but is really plain discipline.

I learned from his example to try to turn out the best work I’m capable of at that given moment, never giving in to the foolish world of hits and flops or succumbing to playing the glitzy role of the film director, but making a movie and moving on to the next one. Bergman made about 60 films in his lifetime, I have made 38. At least if I can’t rise to his quality maybe I can approach his quantity.

Correction: August 19, 2007

An article last Sunday about Ingmar Bergman and a picture caption with the article misspelled the name of an actress who appeared in Bergman’s films. She is Liv Ullmann, not Liv Ullman.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

SF 7th internationl DocFest 2008 ( Oct 17- Nov6)

More than 60 documentary films are being screened in SF Roxie and Berkeley Landmark Shattuck theaters.

Please feel free to check the schedule and let others know if you are interested in a specific film. We might be able to go to one of the screenings if enough people show interest.

Here is the AD taken from SFStation:
Oscar Wilde once said, “The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” With over 60 films from around the world, the seventh annual Documentary Film Festival (DocFest) is offering three weeks of rather complex, and engaging nonfiction films and videos. Presenting new films from around the world and plenty of premieres, there is something in the fest for everyone.

The festival opens with Abel Ferarra's CHELSEA ON THE ROCKS about the world famous Chelsea Hotel and the many artists who have lived there over the decades. Closing Night film is Nina Davenports OPERATION FILMMAKER starring Liev Shcreiber about the series of disasters that take place when he invites an Iraqi film student to join his film crew in the Czech Republic.

In between are 60 more films depicting stories small and large. Plus we're throwing a big opening night bash and a Roller Disco Costume Party at CellSpace on Oct 24.

Come check it out!"

Monday, September 29, 2008

Suggestion for October 19th Movie Night

This portrait of legendary singer, artist and poet Patti Smith is a plunge into the philosophy and artistry of the cult rocker. Known as the godmother of punk, she emerged in the 1970s, galvanizing the music scene with her unique style of poetic rage, music and trademark swagger. We follow the multitalented and private artist over 11 years of international travel, through her spoken words, performances, lyrics, interviews, paintings and photographs. Narrated by Patti Smith, director Steven Sebring's documentary reveals a complicated, charismatic personality who wrestles with life's many paradoxes, defining the human experience as an overwhelming contradiction. Featuring band members Lenny Kaye, Oliver Ray, Tony Shanahan and Jay Dee Daugherty, plus appearances from Jackson Smith, Jesse Smith, Tom Verlaine, Sam Shepard, Philip Glass, Benjamin Smoke and Flea. Winner of the Best Cinematography Award (Documentary) at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.

One week only!
Starts Friday, October 17 at Lumiere Theatre
Patti Smith In Person with Director Steven Sebring
on Sunday, October 19 at 4:15 & 7:00pm!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Iranian Film Festival San Francisco

Iranian Film Festival - San Francisco (IFF) is an annual event showcasing the independent feature and short films made by or about the Iranians from around the world.

First Annual Iranian Film Festival San Francisco
September 27-28, 2008

For the Films, Schedule, Ticket & Venue Info, please visit:
San Francisco Art Institute
800 Chestnut Street, San Francisco, CA 94133

Dates: September 27-28

All Day

Where: Check the website for the location

Saturday, September 27, 2008

8:15 PM Stand Up: Muslim American Comics Come of Age* & The Slap

Sunday, September 28, 2008


San Francisco Art Institute
800 Chestnut Street, San Francisco, CA 94133

Please note:

- Tickets are $10 each and sold at the venue on the day of the shows only.
- The films continue all day and will not be repeated, so please schedule them accordingly.
- A Short film will be shown before some feature films.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

IRAN (is not the problem)feature film - Friday Sep 26 in SF

Friday Sep 26, 8pm, $6
ATA, 992 Valencia@ 21st, San Francisco,

Scary Cow film co-op presents:
IRAN (is not the problem)
with Q &A with Antonia Juhasz, Larry Everest and Robert Gould.

IRAN (is not the problem) is a new feature length film responding to the
failure of the American mass media to provide the public with relevant
and accurate information about the standoff between the US and Iran, as
happened before with the lead up to the invasion of Iraq.

We have heard that Iran is a nuclear menace in defiance of the
international community, bent on 'wiping Israel off the map', supporting
terrorism, and unwilling to negotiate. This documentary disputes these
claims as they are presented to us and puts them in the context of
present and historical US /IRAN relation.

It looks at the struggle for democracy inside Iran, the consequences of
the current escalation and the potential US and/or Israeli attack, and
suggests some alternatives to consider. This 79 minute documentary
features Antonia Juhasz (The Bu$h Agenda), Larry Everest (Oil, Power,
and Empire), and other activists and Iranian-Americans. There are
differences of opinion between many of the voices in this film, but all
agree that a war would be unjustified.
See the trailer at _www.iranisnottheproblem.org_

Plus Q & A with:
*Antonia Juhasz* - expert on oil, war, U.S. economic/corporate interests
in Iraq and Iran, etc., activism and social change, author of 'The Bush
Agenda: Invading the World One Economy at a Time' and 'The Tyranny of
Oil' (_http://www.TyrannyofOil.org_ ), and
Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and Oil Change International.
*Larry Everest* - author of 'Oil, Power & Empire: Iraq and the U.S.
Global Agenda'. He has covered the Middle East and Central Asia for
over 25 years for Revolution newspaper and other publications, reporting
from Iraq, Palestine, India, and Iran in 1979 and 1980, shortly after
the revolution that toppled the Shah, interviewed Islamic militants then
holding the U.S. Embassy, and reported from Iranian Kurdistan.
*Robert Gould* - expert on US-Iranian history/relations, nuclear weapons
and related health issues, anti-war activism. Former national president
and current Bay Area chapter president of Physicians for Social
Responsibility, Co-author of 'Rollback! Rightwing Power in U.S. Foreign
Policy', contributing author in 'The New World Order and the Third
World', 'War and Public Health', and many articles on health,
environment, nuclear and bioterrorism, and the persistent legacy of
global militarism and violence.
Filmmaker Info:
Produced by Aaron Newman, an independent film-maker and part of the
Scary Cow film co-op in San Francisco. He is an
anti-imperialism/pro-democracy activist, founder of the SF Chomsky Book
Club, and a member of Hands Off Iran.

'After years of working on Iran and Middle East politics, this is
perhaps the most engrossing and easily digestible film Ive ever come
across. A phenomenal educational tool that explains often misunderstood
and complex issues in US-Iranian relations.' - Sanaz Meshkinpour,
Middle East Program Coordinator, Global Exchange

'I have watched it twice, and am deeply impressed with how much crucial
historical context it provides in an engaging and accessible manner,
combining archival footage with incisive analysis from interviews by
US-based activists and scholars...I consider "IRAN (is not the problem)"
to be an invaluable tool for raising our collective consciousness around
the deeper reasons driving military aggression, for combating our lethal
national amnesia in relation to Iran, for inspiring discussion,
reflection and action, and for empowering citizens to better understand
the present in light of the past.'-Zara Zimbardo, Fellowship of
Reconciliation, National

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Son's Room

September 21 movie pick is "the Son's room".

"A successful psychoanalyst (Nanni Moretti, who also directed) enjoys a placid, loving family life with a beautiful wife (Laura Morante) and two intelligent, attractive teenagers. But when one son drowns in a diving accident, the family's tight emotional bond is put to the test -- especially for Moretti, who tortures himself with second-guesses regarding what he might have done to prevent his son's death." -Netflix

Length: 1 hour 40 mins
Year: 2001
Language: Italian

For a list of reviews visit:

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Russian Film Opens in SF 9/12

This is from San Francisco Film Society. This might be a good choice for our in theater experience. Please add comments if you would like to watch this. This movie will only be on the screen from Sep 12- 18.


Opens Friday, September 12, 2008
SFFS Screen at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas

Showtimes and advanced tickets are available at

Featuring remarkable cinematography, earthy humor and a haunting score, Khuat Akhmetov's allegorical debut recalls key films from Eastern European cinema. In a small village in remote Kazakhstan, a thunderstorm heralds the arrival of a strange being, withered by age and unable to speak, who falls from the sky. Hiding a pair of wings battered by the storm, the man (who might be an angel) finds shelter in a barn belonging to a man whose son has fallen ill after a mysterious encounter with a veiled stranger. The new visitor cures the boy, but word spreads about his strangeness, and many fearful residents, buoyed by religious superstition, propose a variety of solutions to his presence. Wily businessmen think they can make a quick buck from the novelty. Others just want to be rid of him, by any means necessary. Only the young boy, who recognizes the creature's true nature, has its best interests at heart. This cross-generational mutual protectiveness of child and elderly "angel," along with various eccentric portraits of local villagers, form the core of the film. With his beguiling bewinged protagonist and a delightful blend of whimsy and poignancy, Akhmetov has crafted a pointed parable about the dangers of community groupthink.
Khuat Akhmetov (Chelovek-veter, Russia 2007)

For more information, visit

This is from San Francisco Film Society. This might be a good choice for our in theater experience. Please add comments if you would like to watch this. This movie will only be on the screen from Sep 12- 18.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


Surrealism[1] is a cultural movement that began in the early-1920s, and is best known for the visual artworks and writings of the group members.

The group aimed to revolutionize human experience, including its personal, cultural, social, and political aspects, by freeing people from what they saw as false rationality, and restrictive customs and structures. Surrealist works feature the element of surprise, unexpected juxtapositions and non sequitur; however many Surrealist artists and writers regard their work as an expression of the philosophical movement first and foremost, with the works being an artifact.

Freud's work with free association, dream analysis and the hidden unconscious was of the utmost importance to the Surrealists in developing methods to liberate imagination. However, they embraced idiosyncrasy, while rejecting the idea of an underlying madness or darkness of the mind.

The first Surrealist manifesto was written by the French writer André Breton in 1924 and released to the public 1925. The document defines Surrealism as:

Psychic automatism in its pure state, by which one proposes to express -- verbally, by means of the written word, or in any other manner -- the actual functioning of thought. Dictated by the thought, in the absence of any control exercised by reason, exempt from any aesthetic or moral concern.

Throughout the 1930s, Surrealism continued to become more visible to the public at large. Dalí and Magritte created the most widely recognized images of the movement. Dalí joined the group in 1929, and participated in the rapid establishment of the visual style between 1930 and 1935.

Some well known surreal paintings are:

The persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali

Soft Construction with Boiled Beans by Salvador Dali

Time Transfixed by Rene Magritte

The Human Condition by Rene Magritte

Maternity by Joan Miro

Sunday, September 7, 2008

"l'enfant": Review

It is interesting how our latest movie choices had been so different. "The Discreet Charm of Bourgeoisie" was a film in Surrealist style that emerges from imagination and "The child" a movie in Neo-Realism which is based on true life. It was only after looking at a brief description of Neo-Realism that the questions and concerns we had about the long shots and real time events, lack of soundtrack, and documentary style of the film made sense to me. I have found a review by "Eye for Film" on "l'enfant" very interesting. Here is a piece taken from the review:

"The Child may begin with the sound of a baby crying, but it is Bruno's tears with which it concludes, and it is his childishness, more than anything else, to which the film's title alludes, even if by the end he has undergone a certain coming of age...

A plain style is the hardest to sustain for the duration of a feature film, but the Dardennes have managed to concoct an engaging and often suspenseful drama without ever calling upon fancy camerawork, sensational performances, or even so much as a musical score. Such artfully low-key naturalism, combined with the protagonist's willful criminality, a thematic obsession with monetary exchange and a grimly redemptive ending, points to Robert Bresson's Pickpocket (1959) and L'Argent (1983); but unlike so many other pretenders to Bresson's throne, the Dardennes prove to be a match for the great French auteur, conjuring an underworld that is both real and allegorical, where the passage from childhood to adulthood is traced in the choices that characters make and the responsibilities that they come to accept." - Eye For Film

Here is a definition of neo-realism from wikipedia:

"In cinema and in literature, neorealism is a cultural movement that brings elements of true life in the stories it describes, rather than a world mainly existing in imagination only.The movement was developed in Europe, primarily after the end of World War II.

Neorealism is characterized by a general atmosphere of authenticity. Andre Bazin, a French film theorist and critic, argued that neorealism portrays: truth, naturalness, authenticity, and is a cinema of duration. The necessary characteristics of neo-realism in film include:
  • a definite social context;
  • a sense of historical actuality and immediacy;
  • political commitment to progressive, even violent, social change;
  • authentic on-location shooting as opposed to the artificial studio;
  • a rejection of classical Hollywood acting styles; extensive use of non-professional actors as much as possible;
  • a documentary style of cinematography. "

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

l'enfant ( the Child)

Our pick for September 7th movie night is L'enfant ( The Child) by the Belgian brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne.

"Winner of the Cannes Palme d'Or Award, this tale centers on 20-year-old Bruno (Jeremie Renier) and his 18-year-old girlfriend, Sonia (Deborah Francois). Bruno spends his days stealing and drug dealing, and when Sonia gives birth to their son, Bruno shows no interest in cleaning up his act and becoming a good father. The only thing dysfunctional Bruno sees in his baby is a new way to make money, and he makes a decision that he soon regrets." -netflix

Language: French
Year: 2005
Length: 1 hour 40 minutes.

You can find more information and reviews at

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Reviews of "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie"

reviews found by Shadi (our new pledge!):

Roger Ebert review
Quotes from critics

"We are all so accustomed to following the narrative threads in a movie that we want to make a movie make "sense," even if it doesn't. But the greatest directors can carry us along breathlessly on the wings of their own imaginations, so that we don't ask questions; we simply have an experience."

Surrealist Landscapes; Short Movies; Film as a Subversive Art

An Anthology

Artist Stan Brakhage's fan base has been developed through his groundbreaking films, which are screened at smaller independent theaters rather than large mainstream ones. Seldom exercising any sort of tangible story line, Brakhage concentrates more on similes, wide ranging and often fairly simplistic. This compilation features 26 of Brakhage's short films, including his most celebrated release, "Dog Star Man."

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Next Movie : "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie"

We have chosen our next movie to be "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie" and we will watch it on Monday August 18th night in Santa Clara. More details on this event will be sent to the participants separately. "Under the Same Moon" also gained the same number of "Yes" votes, but there were more enthusiasts to see Bunuel's 1972 surrealist film. From now till Monday we have some time to educate ourselves and our friends , for the upcoming film.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Reviews of "Dancer in the Dark"

There are many reviews you can find in favor or against "Dancer in the Dark". Here are excerpts of some for you if interested. You can read the whole article by clicking on the link these are taken from.

"Dancer in the Dark" is not like any other movie at the multiplex this week, or this year. It is not a "well made film," is not in "good taste," is not "plausible" or, for many people, "entertaining." But it smashes down the walls of habit that surround so many movies. It returns to the wellsprings. It is a bold, reckless gesture. And since Bjork has announced that she will never make another movie, it is a good thing she sings." -Roger Ebert

"Dancer in the Dark, for many reasons, including its style, is more like an opera than the musical it mocks. But, in fact, it does not comfortably belong to any genre—which is what one has come to expect of a von Trier film." -Boston Review

"He seems rather to be conducting a diabolical experiment, to determine if the virtuosic brutality of his style can manipulate the audience into feeling what it cannot believe. And the experiment is remarkably successful, especially in the film's devastating final scenes." - New York Times

"“Dancer in the Dark” is filled with marvelous symbolism, most notably the railroad tracks that run next to Selma’s trailer. Selma is on a journey, and the tracks represent that. It all becomes extremely clear when Selma finds herself railroaded by a legal system that refuses to see the truth. The train wreck comes when Selma finds herself helpless to do anything about her situation." -LightViews

Friday, August 8, 2008

Dancer In the Dark ( 2000)

"Cursed with a disease that threatens to take her sight, Selma Yeskova (Björk) struggles to raise money for an operation that could save her son from the same fate. To ease her anxiety, Selma relies on a dream life that takes the form of elaborate musical numbers. After she's accused of stealing, Selma's musical reverie helps her persevere against mounting odds." - Netflix

Director: Lars Von Trier

Cast: Bjork, Catherine Deneuve, David Morse, Peter Stormare, Joel Grey, Cara Seymour, Jean-Marc Barr, Udo Kier


2001 Academy Award®: Best Music Song nominee

2001 Independent Spirit Awards®: Best Foreign Film

2001 Golden Globe Awards: Best Actress in a Motion Picture (Drama) nominee

What are we doing here?

On a night of friendly conversations over dinner for celebrating the growth of our once small group, came the idea of a secret movie club. We were so excited about this idea that we set the date, decided on the location and were almost settling on watching Hamoun for our first gathering . Then someone suggested to organize our choices so we all vote for them; and we did that and picked " Dancer in The Dark"as the first movie to watch.

On August 4th we got together at a friend's house, had a fabulous dinner and time and watched the movie. It was an intense and special movie and we were so fortunate to have some knowledgeable friends among us to explain things and help us make our minds ready to understand the movie better.

Now we are getting ready to pick the next movie. This blog is to organize the thoughts and the events. We will be sharing our take on what we watch, the reviews, and the information on the upcoming gatherings. " HAR CHE MIKHAHAD DELE TANGAT BEGOY!!"