Authors' cinema

The mirror - Zerkalo (1975)
Andrei Tarkowski
Russia
107′
Alyosha, a 40-year-old filmmaker, falls seriously ill. He remembers his past and collects the memories that marked his life: the house of his childhood, his mother waiting for the improbable return of her husband, the poems of his father, his wife and his son that he has not seen for a long time, the tumult of the Second World War.
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with bonus
The Travelling Players - O Thiassos (1975)
Theo Angelopoulos
Greece
222′
Bonus: Interview with Theo Angelopoulos
The Travelling Players is a film of epic proportions. The action takes place during the years 1939-52 and is seen as a series of individual, often inexplicable events or tableaux, commentated by monologues, by slogans written on the walls, or by songs. It reveals the period's turbulent history while focusing on a travelling company of actors who spend those fourteen years wandering through provinces, cities and villages, performing, in increasingly threadbare circumstances, a 19th century pastoral melodrama, Persiadis' Golfo the Shepherdess. They never get to finish the play and the tranquil sheep painted on their back cloth gaze down upon generations of anguish and bloodshed. The passage of history reverberates in individual incidents or is summarized in symbols. These sad, shabby, often hungry folk, whose relationship is based on the family of the House of Atreus, are of varying political hues - from active collaborators with the Nazis (Aegisthus), to opportunists (Chrysothemis), to centrist Greek patriots (Agamemnon), to the apolitical (Clytemnestra), to left-wing idealists (Electra), to communist guerillas (Orestes). And they fill these roles as much as they do the mythic ones of wandering general, faithless wife, betrayer or vengeful son. As they travel amid the constant wartime convulsions, they begin, unconsciously, to enact parallels to Aeschylus' tragic cycle.
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Drifting Clouds (1996)
Aki Kaurismäki
Finland
95′
Ilona Koponen (Kati Outinen), a head waitress at Dubrovnik restaurant, is married to Lauri (Kari Väänänen), a tram driver. The couple live in a small, modestly furnished apartment in Helsinki. As they both come home from work late one night, Lauri surprises Ilona with a new television which he purchased on store credit. There is a short discussion between the two regarding their ability to meet their financial obligations but they agree that the TV payments are manageable. Next day, as Lauri gets to work, he learns that the company will be laying off several workers due to non-profitability of certain tram routes and he is randomly chosen as one of the workers to be laid off. The day after Lauri has finished working his last scheduled shift Ilona is informed by the owner of Dubrovnik that the restaurant is being sold to a chain restaurant company and all the employees will be let go since the new company will be bringing in its own employees. Both of them set out looking for work immediately but with discouraging results. Lauri gets offered a job as a bus driver but is unable to pass the medical exam and subsequently loses his professional driver's licence. Ilona gets a job at a rundown bar/restaurant which doesn't even have a name and is owned by a tax evading crook. After 6 weeks of working there, the restaurant gets shut down by the state and Ilona does not get paid by the dishonest owner. During their search for meaningful employment, both Lauri and Ilona enter bouts of heavy-drinking, all the while running into their former co-workers who are dealing with similar difficulties. At one point, the two even sell their car and take the money to a casino in hopes of doubling the money but they, however, end up losing it all. Most of their furniture as well as the new TV that Lauri bought is repossessed by the creditors. One day, Ilona accidentally runs into Mrs Sjöholm (Elina Salo), her former boss. Sjöholm suggests that Ilona should open up a restaurant. Since Ilona does not have the financial means needed for such a venture, Sjöholm agrees to provide the capital for the restaurant to start operating with the understanding that Ilona will pay back the loan to Mrs Sjöholm. Ilona, humbled by her recent experiences, is initially reluctant to accept the offer for fear of the restaurant failing and her not being able to repay Mrs Sjöholm. She eventually does agree. Ilona names the restaurant Work and hires some of the staff from Dubrovnik, including the troubled chef Lajunen (Markku Peltola), plus Lauri. Filled with anxiety during a slow lunch hour on opening day, Ilona's worries quickly disappear as she watches the restaurant fill to capacity later the same afternoon. After receiving a call from a Helsinki union asking for a reservation for 30 people, Lauri and Ilona exit the restaurant and stand on the front steps appearing emotionless and looking at the skies as more people enter the restaurant.
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Tokyo Story (1953)
Yasujiro OZU
Japan
137′
The Hirayamas travel from their hometown of Onomichi to Tokyo to visit their adult children. But the younger generation make them feel more in the way than welcome. It also emerges that their son’s career as a doctor and their daughter’s as a hairdresser are nowhere near as successful as the couple were led to believe from afar. The only one who really makes an effort to spend time with them is their daughter-in-law, Noriko, the widow of the Hirayama’s son who went missing in the war. On the journey home, mother Hirayama is taken seriously ill and the couple have to make an unscheduled stop in Osaka, where another of their adult children lives. In a succinct, objective and non-judgemental manner, Yasujirō Ozu uses images which are as simple as they are magnificent to tell the story of family estrangement and the isolation inherent in modern society. Ozu himself considered Tōky ō Monogatari his "masterpiece" and the 1963 Retrospective of the Berlin International Film Festival, the "film-historical screenings", was dedicated to him. This is the international premiere of the digitally restored version made by Japanese production company Shochiku.
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Closely Watched Trains (1966)
Jiri Menzel
Czech Republic
89′
The young Miloš Hrma, who speaks with misplaced pride of his family of misfits and malingerers, is engaged as a newly trained station guard in a small railway station during the Second World War and the German occupation of Czechoslovakia. He admires himself in his new uniform, and looks forward, like his prematurely-retired railwayman father, to avoiding real work. The sometimes pompous stationmaster is an enthusiastic pigeon-breeder with a kind wife, but is envious of the train dispatcher Hubička's success with women. Miloš holds an as-yet platonic love for the pretty, young conductor Máša. The experienced Hubička presses for details of their relationship and realizes that Miloš is still a virgin. The idyll of the railway station is periodically disturbed by the arrival of the councillor, Zednicek, a Nazi collaborator, who spouts propaganda at the staff without success. At her initiative, Máša spends the night with Miloš, but in his youthful excitability he ejaculates prematurely before achieving penetration and then is unable to perform sexually; and the next day, despairing, he attempts suicide. He is saved, and a young doctor explains to him that ejaculatio praecox is normal at Miloš's age. The doctor recommends Miloš to "think of something else" (at which point Miloš volunteers an interest in football), and to seek the assistance of an experienced woman. During the nightshift, Hubička flirts with the young telegraphist, Zdenička, and imprints her thighs and buttocks with the office's rubber stamps. Her mother sees the stamps and complains to Hubička's superiors, and the ensuing scandal helps to frustrate the stationmaster's ambition of being promoted to inspector. The Germans and their collaborators are on edge, since their trains are being attacked by the partisans. A glamorous Resistance agent (a circus artist in peacetime), code-named Viktoria Freie, delivers a time bomb to Hubička for use in blowing up a large ammunition train. At Hubička's request, the "experienced" Viktoria also helps Miloš to resolve his sexual problem. The next day, at the crucial moment when the ammunition train is approaching, Hubička is caught up in a farcical disciplinary hearing, overseen by Zednicek, over his rubber stamping of Zdenička's backside. In Hubička's place, Miloš, liberated by his experience with Viktoria from his former passivity, takes the time bomb and drops it from a semaphore gantry, that extends transversely above the tracks, onto the train. A machine-gunner on the train, spotting Miloš, sprays him with bullets, and his body falls onto the train. With the Nazi collaborator Zednicek, winding up the disciplinary hearing, dismissing the Czech people as "nothing but laughing hyenas" (a phrase actually employed by the senior Nazi official Reinhard Heydrich, the implicit retort to his jibe comes in the form of a huge series of explosions that destroys the train. Now Hubička and the other railwaymen are indeed laughing - to express their joy at the blow to the Nazi occupiers - and it is left to a wistful Máša to pick up Miloš's uniform cap, hurled across the station by the power of the blast. (wp)
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Terra em transe - Land Entranced (1967)
Glauber Rocha
Brazil
108′
El Dorado, a fictional country. Paulo, a poetry-writing intellectual, oscillates between the political extremes. First he devotes himself to the right-wing conservative Diaz, until he sees through the latter’s pseudo-religious fascism. Then he takes the side of Vieira, the populist reformer who wants to free the country of its misery. But Paulo’s true love is for Sara, the communist who works for Vieira. Paulo is forced to realize that both are interested only in power, not in change, and that they are willing to use any means to achieve their end. Disappointed and despairing, he sets off on his own path as a revolutionary, a path on which Sara is no longer able to follow him. He is shot and dies a lonely death, with a gun in his hand, sending a signal for others to take up arms. The lasting relevance of this masterpiece lies in the scene of long agony before Paulo dies. Sara calls out the question to him, “What does your death prove?” And he answers, “The victory of beauty and justice!” Glauber Rocha trusts in culture’s power of survival and connects it with the necessary struggle for social justice.
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Au Hasard Balthazar (1966)
Robert Bresson
France
95′
The story of a donkey Balthazar as he is passed from owner to owner, some kind and some cruel but all with motivations beyond his understanding. Balthazar, whose life parallels that of his first keeper, Marie, is truly a beast of burden, suffering the sins of humankind. But despite his powerlessness, he accepts his fate nobly.
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