This film apparently came out a couple of days ago. This clip is amazing. It appears to be a scene where Holly Herndon & Mat Dryhurst’s SPAWN AI goes full nihilist speculative-realism. Of additional interest — and it does explain some of these scene’s lines – it appears to be based on “a science fiction poem written by Swedish Nobel laureate Harry Martinson in 1956.” I would like to watch this film, I think.
I’ve been buying a bunch of DVDs and Blu-Rays lately, of films I couldn’t find on any streaming service. And then Nika just fucking tweets about this service. Eastern European Movies has loads of amazing stuff. Nika, thank you. As soon as I can see past the next few weeks of work, I’m going to immerse myself in this site. The pricing goes from $3 for a day of streaming to $100 for unlimited use of the site forever.
Here’s the deal. In the future, scientists from Earth are inserted into a humanlike society on another planet to observe it. So far, so Star Trek, right? It’s based on a Strugatsky Brothers novel from 1964. The Strugatskys were brilliant — you’ve heard of STALKER, based on their ROADSIDE PICNIC. Anyway, this guy is inserted into the place as Don Rumata, a regional ruler. And he and his fellow observers are their to study a society in a permanent medieval dark age, where an Enlightenment/Renaissance never seems to happen. It’s a stuck culture.
Because it kills anyone who learns how to read and write.
There are no framing shots of Earth. We’re immediately immersed in the medieval village, in all its muck and slime. I have to note that it is beautifully shot in monochrome, with a deep, rich range of greys. I should also note that if it were in colour it would be even more astonishingly gross. The past was pretty disgusting, and HARD TO BE A GOD really wants you to know exactly how disgusting.
The camera is an extra in the crowd. It pushes its way into scenes. Characters look into the lens. Into our face. Because, as Don Rumata is a secret observer from Earth, so are we.
With a big, eccentric and charismatic turn from Leonid Yarmolnik in the lead, we lurch and stagger through this terrible, time-locked world that kills its brightest, leaving it to the depredations of the venal clubs of mediocrity.
Director Alexsei German’s films were mostly about the Stalinist era, and it’s not hard to see HARD TO BE A GOD as a Stalinist allegory. I was, here in 2019, also put in mind of recent comments about “the end of the expert” and “the death of expertise.”
The film is an immense experience, sometimes exhausting, often awesome, always surprising. And caked in muck. There’s nothing quite like it. You would appreciate it, I think. It needs to be seen.
Good meditative film, very much in the zone of Things I’ve Been Thinking about: 24 FRAMES, the last film by Abbas Kiarostami. He was thinking about the relationship between his two passions, photography and filmmaking. But he starts with a painting by Bruegel the Elder. It’s, obviously, a still image, filling the screen. And then the smoke coming from the chimneys begins to move, and the birds hop along the snowy branches and the painting breathes. It’s limited, clever and tasteful animation.
(I work in comics, and I work in animation, and I work in film and television generally, so, yes, it would seem obvious that I would be interested. But I’ve also been in a k-hole of thoughts around slow cinema and the black-and-white image for a year or two now. God knows what that will output as.)
It is, in fact, 24 frames. Frames that are still, and then move. Until you can no longer tell the difference between a still and a long take. 24 frames per second, of course, is the speed of analogue film. It is mesmerising. There’s a whole lot to unpack about the frame itself, about the screen as window – and the windows on/in the screen and the image – (-and, maybe, the panel?-) – and it is generally a lot bigger, conceptually and textually, that “a film about 24 frames” would suggest.
Well, this thing is bloody huge. Didn’t look that big in the photos. It’s A4 and two and a half inches thick.
I am essentially stuck at my desk for much of this year, so I am improving my mind by buying the DVDs and Blu-Rays of the films I want to watch and study that cannot easily be found on streaming. I had therefore decided it was way past time I did a deep dive on Ingmar Bergman’s career, as I’d been having a lot of thoughts lately that seemed to me to intersect with his work.
I was not aware that I was ordering a paving slab.
If you too want to go nuts and you have space in your office for a paving slab, take a look. (UK) (US)
Honestly, I could have filled this post with nothing but screenshots from this amazing, beautiful, tender and staggeringly bleak film.
Shot in 1972 by Dusan Hanak and banned by the Czech government for its unrelenting documenting of grim rural poverty, this luminous restoration by Second Run DVD is a revelation. Often heartbreaking, sometimes charming – the toothless old man obsessed with the 1969 moon landing, who stuffs his jacket with related clippings, carefully taking them out and reading them with a magnifying glass, telling the camera all the Apollo trivia he knows like a lonely child eager to finally find an audience.
Parts of this film could have been shot in the late Middle Ages. This is what back-to-the-land waiting-for-death uncivilisation looks like. Pain, damage, unmitigated age, a man who’s literally lived on his knees for twenty-five years like an extra from HARD TO BE A GOD, and, over and over again, I repeat, waiting for death.