Close Up

10 - 29 March 2018: Essential Cinema XI


Zéro de conduite
Jean Vigo
1933 | 44 min | B/W | 35mm
French with English subtitles

So effervescent and charming that one can easily forget its importance in film history, Jean Vigo’s enormously influential portrait of prankish boarding-school students is one of cinema’s great acts of rebellion. Based on the director’s own experiences as a youth, Zéro de conduite presents childhood as a time of unfettered imagination and brazen rule-flouting. It’s a sweet-natured vision of sabotage made vivid by dynamic visual experiments. read more

Jean Vigo
1934 | 89 min | B/W | 35mm
French with English subtitles

In Jean Vigo’s hands, an unassuming tale of conjugal love becomes an achingly romantic reverie of desire and hope. Jean (Jean Dasté), a barge captain, marries Juliette (Dita Parlo), an innocent country girl, and the two climb aboard Jean’s boat, the L’Atalante  otherwise populated by an earthy first mate (Michel Simon) and a multitude of mangy cats – and embark on their new life together. Both a surprisingly erotic idyll and a clear-eyed meditation on love, L’Atalante is a film like no other. read more

Throne of Blood
Akira Kurosawa
1957 | 104 min | B/W | 35mm
Japanese with English Subtitles

Although the script uses not a single line from its source, Kurosawa’s celebrated transplantation of Macbeth to the lawless realm of 16th-century Japan counts among the finest screen adaptations of Shakespeare ever realised, a faithful rendition of the story that works perfectly within its own historical context. read more

The Bad Sleep Well
Akira Kurosawa
1960 | 145 min | B/W | Digital
Japanese with English Subtitles

Koichi Nishi (Toshiro Mifune) is a grieving son seeking revenge for the "suicide" of his father. By assuming a new identity he rises through the ranks of the Public Corporation and cynically marries the President's daughter to better infiltrate the company and exposes the corrupt practice that was responsible for his father's death. This impressive tale of greed, corporate corruption and revenge is a powerful indictment of the dark side of business and politics with distinct overtones of Hamlet. read more

Akira Kurosawa
1985 | 115 min | Colour | Digital
Japanese with English Subtitles

Following his reappearance on the world stage, Kurosawa returned to the world of jidaigeki epic with this lavish French-Japanese co-production, which saw him returning to Shakespeare with an adaptation of King Lear. Possessing a similar synthesis of psychological tension and austere formal elegance to its more claustrophobic companion piece, Throne of Blood, it is even bigger and bolder in ambition. read more

Andrei Rublev
Andrei Tarkovsky
1966 | 183 min | B/W | Digital
Russian with English subtitles

Immediately suppressed by the Soviets in 1966, Andrei Tarkovsky's epic masterpiece is a sweeping medieval tale of Russia's greatest icon painter. Widely regarded as Tarkovsky's finest film, Andrei Rublev charts the life of the painter through a turbulent period of 15th Century Russian history, which was marked by endless fighting between rival Princes and Tatar invasions. read more

Marketa Lazarová
František Vláčil
1966 | 180 min | B/W | Digital
Czech & German  with English subtitles

Set in the remote forests of Bohemia in the 13th century, the complex plot is woven around the abduction and brutal rape of Marketa Lazarová, a clan leader’s angelic, convent-bound daughter, by a fierce pagan warrior. Haunting photography and searing religious imagery render the story an atavistic nightmare, a cinematic poem difficult to categorize in terms of genre or form. read more

Aguirre, the Wrath of God
Werner Herzog
1972 | 100 min | Colour | Digital
German with English subtitles

Filming in South America, Herzog recreated the exploits of sixteenth-century Spanish explorer Aguirre (Kinski) who, with his retinue, searched for El Dorado over mountains, through jungles, and down a great river. The film is at once documentary-like and deliriously lyrical: although it identifies with Aguirre’s obsessed and unbalanced state of mind, it keeps a critical and ironic distance on the whole adventure. read more

Hard to Be a God
Aleksei German
2013 | 170 min | B/W | Digital
Russian with English subtitles

A work of staggeringly visceral cinema, the epic, phantasmagoric final film of late Russian cinema god Aleksei German imagines a world in which the Renaissance never happened. Adapted from a cult science-fiction novel by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky the film is set on an alien planet mired in the savagery and squalor of a never-ending Middle Ages. The film’s immersive, in-the-muck canvas owes precious little to space opera and much to the art of Bruegel and Bosch. read more