Communist propaganda disguised as art, Sergei Eisenstein’s 1925 Battleship Potemkin – a truly iconic film in the entire history of cinema – must be seen and understood as a piece of film-making in itself, and not only as the product of a specific era, aimed to awe and persuade.
Looking back to the past with the benefit of hindsight is a wonderful thing… Being far removed from the actions and the emotions of a certain period in time – especially if it is a controversial one – allows great insight into what once might have been taken for granted. With communism long gone, and the cold war consigned to the history books, the narrative within Battleship Potemkin [Bronenosets Potyomkin] can be finally understood allegorically – seen past through its propaganda veneer. Continue reading
A film-antidote to the idealized idea of the conquistador, Werner Herzog’s 1972 Aguirre, Wrath of God, as brutal and visceral as it is, the movie nonetheless presents us with an insightful vision of both positive and negative sides of paradise and European madness over it.
Intellectuals from the Northern Hemisphere have always been fascinated by how the other half bear their existences. Classic fictional works like Joseph Conrad’s 1899 Heart of Darkness, Werner Herzog’s 1972 Aguirre, Wrath of God [Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes] and Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 Apocalypse Now share key conceptual points that shed some light on how the rich see the rest of the world. The search for paradise lost – by itself a worrying and naïve quest! – usually follows mad men on boats facing up to mighty rivers… Continue reading
The winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, Hsiao-hsien Hou’s 1989 A City of Sadness – a movie with such a far-reaching scope – deals with the violent history of post-World War II Taiwan and its Martial Law through the sufferings and idealist activities of a family.
For a film that deals with political brutality, A City of Sadness [Bēiqíng Chéngshì] presents very few episodes of actual violence. As such events are universally understood, and political repression utterly commonplace throughout the 20th Century – from fascism in Europe and McCarthyism in America through the military juntas in South America to the dictatorships of the Middle East and South East Asia – the tension can be felt and estimated by most members of the audience. It is this poignant stifling of liberty and desire that makes the movie a superb document on the human condition. Continue reading