Close Up

4 February - 31 December 2022: Essential Cinema

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Theorem
Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1968, 98 min
Italian with English subtitles

"A radically streamlined and elliptically simple film, Teorema remains one of Pasolini’s most mysterious works. The story of a sexually magnetic stranger, played by a mesmerizing Terence Stamp, who methodically disrupts the well-ordered household of a wealthy Milanese industrialist, Teorema’s hidden tensions are brought to the surface with a shocking suddenness that remains as inexplicable as it is inevitable. Meant as a merciless savaging of the bourgeoisie, Teorema features a pair of well-known Italian actors as the subjects of its critique – Massimo Girotti and Silvana Mangano as husband and wife – as foils to the alluring stranger, who may be angel or demon, or something else entirely." – Harvard Film Archive


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The Return
Andrey Zvyagintsev, 2003, 110 min
Russian with English subtitles

The father of two teenage boys suddenly reappears, without an explanation, after a 12-year absence. While shocked and puzzled, the boys are eager to make up for lost time, and the three embark on a road trip to rekindle their bond. Yet their secretive father seems to conceal obscure plans and baffles the teens with his bouts of temper and occasional charm. Something sinister hangs in the air in this enigmatic thriller, which combines mysteries with religious allusions. Zvyagintsev’s debut feature premiered at the Venice International Film Festival, where it won the Golden Lion and earned the director immediate comparisons to Andrei Tarkovsky, signalling the arrival of a bright new Russian auteur.


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Leviathan
Andrey Zvyagintsev, 2014, 140 min
Russian with English subtitles

Kafkaesque horror awaits an auto mechanic who wages war against the corrupt, bureaucratic system that threatens to tear apart his home and family. Set in the far-flung Kola Peninsula, on the northwestern tip of Russia, this complex political allegory captures the struggles of ordinary life, common attitudes toward authorities, and behind-the-scenes power plays in a critique of the common people’s debased existence in post-Soviet Russia. Despite the accolades it received around the world, including a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film, Leviathan’s grim portrayal of Russia drew stern criticism from the political establishment at home.


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Tokyo Story
Yasujir┼Ź Ozu, 1953, 136 min
Japanese with English subtitles

"Tokyo Story has regularly placed on the top ten lists of greatest films of all time, along with Rules of the Game, The Passion of Joan of Arc, and Citizen Kane. It should be seen at least once, if not once a year. An elderly couple journeys to Tokyo to visit their children and are confronted by indifference, ingratitude, and self-absorption. The traditional tatami-and-tea domesticity fairly crackles with vexation and discontent; only the placid daughter-in-law (Setsuko Hara, summoning up a life of disappointment) shows any kindness to the old people. When they are packed off to a resort by their impatient children, the film deepens into an unbearably moving meditation on mortality." – Harvard Film Archive


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Mysterious Object at Noon
Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2000, 85 min
Thai with English subtitles

Mysterious Object at Noon is Apichatpong Weerasethakul's debut feature, an extraordinary mix of experimental documentary and fiction that wends its way through the landscapes and mindscapes of rural Thailand. The film is structured as a surrealist game, the "exquisite corpse"; a small film-crew travel the Thai countryside asking people they encounter along the way to invent the next chapter of a story. The daisy-chain structure of interlocking vignettes – alternately fantastical, comic and workaday – bridge documentary realism and the avant-garde, resulting in a boldly original debut that looks and feels like nothing else.

"Mysterious Object at Noon engages, unhinges and forever deranges the way that stories and cultural histories could – and perhaps should – be told." – Chuck Stephens, Filmmaker Magazine


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Memoria
Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2021, 136 min

Winner of the Jury Prize at Cannes in 2021, the latest feature from director Apichatpong Weerasethakul stars Tilda Swinton as a woman left isolated and traumatised by unexplained sounds and noises that it appears only she can hear.  Jessica (Swinton) is an expatriate Briton living a quiet life in Colombia when she is suddenly beset by inexplicable noises – real or imagined, heard or hallucinated. As she tries to trace the sources of the sounds that are tormenting her, she’s brought into contact with lost memories and hidden histories – but are they hers? Mystical and metaphysical, Weerasethakul’s work is an extraordinary musing on the nature of memory and identity – with Swinton a predictably perfect foil.


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Funeral Parade of Roses
Toshio Matsumoto, 1969, 105 min
Japanese with English subtitles

"A carnivalesque melding of documentary verité and avant-garde psychedelia, Funeral Parade of Roses offers a shocking and ecstatic journey through the nocturnal underworld of Tokyo's Shinjuku neighborhood, following the strange misadventures of a rebellious drag queen fending off his/her rivals. Often cited as a major inspiration for Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange, Matsumoto's breakthrough film is a visually audacious and lyrically abstract testament to the vertiginous daring of the post-war Japanese avant-garde art and film scenes. Matsumoto orchestrates a series of quite astonishing visual set pieces, including actual performances by the influential Fluxus-inspired street theater groups, the Zero Jigen and Genpei Akasegawa." – Harvard Film Archive


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The Turin Horse
Béla Tarr, 2011, 146 min
Hungarian with English subtitles

“Boldly proclaimed by Tarr to be his last film, The Turin Horse offers a masterful and melancholy summary of his unique visionary cinema. Embracing an extraordinary minimalism of story, setting and cast, The Turin Horse is structured around one week in the back-breaking lives of an aging farmer and his daughter, alone on a barren, windswept farm with a recalcitrant horse that suddenly refuses to work. Tarr’s sweeping black and white cinematography takes on new poignancy in the twilight of the photochemical age, rendering the tired horse a weary and obsolete ancestor of the Muybridgean stallion who inspired the cinema itself. A remarkably hypnotic and immersive film, The Turin Horse pushes Tarr’s interest in texture, sound and motion to an expressive extreme, giving way to a sensorial richness rare in cinema today.” – Harvard Film Archive


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Bait
Mark Jenkin, 2019, 89 min

Modern-day Cornish fisherman Martin (Edward Rowe) is struggling to buy a boat while coping with family rivalry and the influx of London money, Airbnb and stag parties to his harbour village. The summer season brings simmering tensions between the locals and newcomers to boiling point, with tragic consequences. Stunningly shot on a vintage 16mm camera using monochrome Kodak stock, Mark Jenkin’s Bait is a timely and funny, yet poignant new film that gets to the heart of a community facing up to unwelcome change.


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In the Mood for Love
Wong Kar-wai, 2000, 98 min
Cantonese with English subtitles

“A swooningly cinematic unfolding of romantic desire, Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love paints the industrious world of 1960s Hong Kong in luxuriant color, texture, and sound. This paean to love follows two lonely professionals from the same apartment building who circle each other romantically after they begin to suspect their spouses are having an affair. At once restrained and sensual, the film layers detail upon detail to create a ravishing, hypnotic portrait of urban desire.” – Harvard Film Archive


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Ida
Pawel Pawlikowski, 2013, 80 min
Polish with English subtitles

"Orphaned during WWII, Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska) was brought up in a rural convent and in early 60s Poland is a young novice preparing to take her vows. When the Mother Superior insists she make contact with her last remaining relative, she meets her aunt Wanda (Agata Kulesza), a free-living intellectual working as a judge and secretly annihilating painful memories with a heady mix of sex and booze. Their encounter lifts the shroud off the dark secret of their family’s past and both women must confront the devastating truth. Pawlikowski’s cinematic style here recalls the great Robert Bresson who wrote of actors: 'the thing that matters is not what they show me but what they hide from me and, above all, what they do not suspect is in them'". – Clare Stewart


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Federico Fellini, 1963, 138 min
Italian with English subtitles

"A traffic-jam nightmare, a literal flight of fancy, nuns and whores and more: 8 1/2 follows the dreams and visions of a jaded director (Marcello Mastroianni) as he bemusedly attempts his next great film, which may or may not take precedence over his own sexual desires. Fellini’s masterpiece “brought an entirely new dimension to the cinema: no fiction film had ever used dream and fantasy images for a serious examination of the psyche in so smooth, seamless, and uncontrived a way. The events in 8 1/2 are galvanized and made profound by startling representations [whose] sudden and unmarked entrance into the film becomes essential to a depiction of the crucial moments in the life of [an] artist who, despite his confusion and uncertainty, is making a supremely honest effort to understand himself and the springs of his creativity,” Seymour Chatman wrote. In the end, Fellini’s protagonist and alter ego recognizes himself as “an artist who can do nothing better – indeed, nothing other – than what he wants and needs to do, namely, to put through the hoops of his own aesthetic sensibility the lovable beings who have shaped his life.”" – BAMPFA