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Entries in religiosity (56)

Monday
Jun272016

The Furniture: The Venomous and Fanatical 'Embrace of the Serpent'

"The Furniture" is our weekly series on Production Design. Here's Daniel Walber... 

Embrace of the Serpent, Colombia’s first-ever nominee for Best Foreign Language Film, contains multitudes. Ciro Guerra filters the Amazon Basin into a tremendous cinematic document, a rich cornucopia of unexpected tableaux. The choice to confine this colorful landscape to black and white would be uncanny enough on its own, but the narrative is also unmoored by transitions between the two timelines. Long before the final hallucination, our perceptions are overwhelmed by the range of complex images.

And, of course, the work of production designer Angelica Perea, art director Ramses Benjumea and set decorator Alejandro Franco is an essential component. The best example of their work comes right at the film’s midpoint, with a pair of profoundly unsettling episodes that interrogate the role of Catholic missionaries in Colombia’s colonial history. [More...]

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Monday
May302016

The Furniture: Design Heralds Doom in The Witch 

"The Furniture" is our weekly series on Production Design. Here's Daniel Walber...

The Witch has a lot in common with Black Narcissus. I probably wouldn’t have noticed it if the 1947 Powell & Pressburger classic weren’t still on my mind from last week’s column, but it’s very true. Thomasin’s family of fanatical Puritans and Sister Clodagh’s nuns both find themselves on the edge of their known world, motivated by faith to make a new life. Yet both groups are doomed from the start. They’re overwhelmed by their environments and fall in the face of doubt, sexual temptation and the power of nature.

Of course, Thomasin isn’t bedeviled by gorgeous matte paintings of the Himalayas. The Witch was shot in the very real wilderness of Ontario, in the former town of Kiosk. That’s “former” because the population starting leaving after the fire at the lumber factory in 1973. Now there’s just some abandoned railroad tracks and a towering forest. If that’s not the perfect place to shoot a horror film, I don’t know what is. 

The landscape dwarfs the solitary 17th century farm where the bulk of the film takes place. Cinematographer Jarin Blaschke takes advantage of this as frequently as possible. There are countless shots in which the cast seem like helpless children at the mercy of the trees...

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Monday
May232016

The Furniture: Black Narcissus's Maddening Matte Paintings

"The Furniture" is our weekly series on Production Design. Here's Daniel Walber...

In movies, if perhaps not in life, people can be driven mad by mountains. In films by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, they can be driven mad by paintings of mountains.

Black Narcissus is the story of a group of Anglican nuns who trek up to an abandoned cliffside palace in the Himalayas to establish a new convent. Deborah Kerr, cinema’s most consistent nun, is Sister Clodagh, the young mother superior. Her mission is doomed from the beginning, of course, though not necessarily because the locals reject their presence. Rather, it is the landscape that overwhelms their emotions and breaks their faith and their vows.

Powell and Pressburger did not shoot on location in India, however. The set was built at Pinewood Studios. [More...

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Monday
Apr252016

The Furniture: The Lady with the Van Paints a Crime Scene Into a Home

"The Furniture" is our new design series. Here's Daniel Walber...

The Lady in the Van begins with a bloody hit-and-run accident. The title van-driving lady, played by Maggie Smith, collides with a young man and leaves him for dead. On the lam, bound by necessity to a vehicle that may also be a murder weapon, she finds her way to a quiet neighborhood full of artists and bourgeois intellectuals.

Then it turns into a delightful comedy about the social anxieties of Alan Bennett.

It’s a bit abrupt, to be honest. And it may take a fair while to warm up to the neurotic, Adaptation.-style doppelgangers that represent the split personalities of the playwright protagonist. The vans themselves, though, quite effectively capture a much more gradual transition, one that charts Mary/Margaret’s arc with care. What begins as an all-in-one murder weapon and crime scene becomes a home. [More...]

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Saturday
Apr022016

TV @ The Movies: "Damien" Flashes Back

Though I know not why it's so, considering I prefer original material in nearly all mediums to rehashes, I sample nearly every TV series that's based on a movie. Not that the interest tends to last. So it was that I binge watched the first four episodes of A&E's new series Damen.  The Omen (1976) was the first horror film I ever watched that didn't involve vampires (I was really into vampires for some reason as a little boy, even though I was never a horror film aficianado). I snuck watched The Omen one night during one of its television airings in the early 80s.

Though the new series never mentions Damien's birthday, the wee Antichrist's birthdate was June 6th in the original movie (6/6 natch) which is also my birthday. Little me actually ran to the bathroom to make sure there was no mark of the beast on his scalp after the movie. (He had so many nightmares that week, poor little guy.)

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Saturday
Mar262016

A Star is Risen!

For Easter weekend, here's Kyle Stevens author of Mike Nichols: Sex, Language and the Reinvention of Psychological Realism". You can read more about our team members here.


Stars are our larger-than-life figures. We worship them. We tell stories about them and fancy ourselves made in their images. In fact, bona fide movie star celebrity dates all the way back to 1909, when Carl Laemmle (who would later co-found Universal Studios) placed false notices of the tragic death of “the Biograph girl” in a street car accident. When it was revealed that she was alive and well, the nation rejoiced and everyone cesuddenly knew the name of Florence Lawrence. In this way, Hollywood stardom has always had not just a religious flavor but a Christian Messianic one at that.

Over the next century, countless stars have profited from the love of the resurrection narrative. Remember the elation when Barbra Streisand announced to the world that Lauren Bacall wasn’t in the tomb but gorgeous and talented and right there on-screen? And it was just two years ago that Matthew’s McConaissance brought him Oscar glory.  

What are your favorite movie star resurrection stories?

Sunday
Feb142016

Berlin: "Midnight Special" with Michael Shannon & Kirsten Dunst

Amir Soltani is covering the Berlin International Film Festival for The Film Experience this year, our first time at Berlinale!. Tonight Jeff Nichol's follow up to Mud.


With Shotgun StoriesTake Shelter and Mud, Jeff Nichols has become one of the most intriguing, and divisive, American directors working today. His latest film, the unclassifiable Midnight Special, will no doubt continue the same trajectory. Starring his favourite actor Michael Shannon, along with Joel Edgerton and Kirsten Dunst, this religious fable in the mold of science fiction is a crowd-pleaser that, despite a crucial directorial misstep, delivers a thoroughly riveting experience.

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