My Name is Ivan

“My discovery of Tarkovsky’s first film was like a miracle. Suddenly, I found myself standing at the door of a room the keys of which had, until then, never been given to me. It was a room I had always wanted to enter and where he was moving freely and fully at ease. I felt encouraged and stimulated: someone was expressing what I had always wanted to say without knowing how. Tarkovsky is for me the greatest, the one who invented a new language, true to the nature of film, as it captures life as a reflection, life as a dream.” – Ingmar Bergman

Nikolai Burlyaev gives a stunning performance as a war refugee turned Russian spy in Ivan’s Childhood (1962), the feature film debut of director Andrei Tarkovsky.

A harrowing yet poetic account of war seen through the eyes of a twelve year old boy, Ivan’s Childhood aka My Name is Ivan (1962) was Andrei Tarkovsky’s first feature film and one that had a major impact on Russian cinema and the international film world (It won the Golden Lion at the 1962 Venice International Film Festival). Continue reading

To Look or Not to Look

Have you ever had to look away from the screen while watching a movie because you couldn’t bear to see what happened next? Do you have a threshold tolerance level of what you will watch before you become outraged or repulsed and walk out of a film? There have certainly been controversial movies over the years – both art and exploitation features – that have tested the limits of what viewers will watch. Lars von Trier’s Antichrist (2009), Gaspar Noe’s Irreversible (2002), Meir Zarchi’s I Spit on Your Grave (1978), Nagisa Oshima’s In the Realm of the Senses (19776), Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975), and Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left (1972) are just a few of the more famous offenders that have provoked heated debates over censorship and creative expression. We now have a new test case – The Painted Bird (2019), Czech filmmaker Vaclav Marhoul’s big-screen adaptation of Jerzy Kosinski’s dark masterpiece from 1965.   Continue reading

On The Road to Extinction

The End of August at the Hotel OzoneEver since I first saw a description for The End of August at the Hotel Ozone in the 16mm rental catalog from New Line Films I’ve wanted to see it. But this 1967 post-apocalyptic drama from Czechoslovakia, directed by Jan Schmidt, has remained an elusive feature for many years. New Line, which was started by Robert Shaye as a film distribution company in 1967, catered to art houses and colleges and universities with its eclectic mix of independent work (Eagle Pennell, Mark Rappaport, Jack Hazan), international fare (Werner Herzog, Lina Wertmuller, Claude Chabrol) and midnight movies (The Hills Have Eyes, Pink Flamingos). Eventually the company moved into producing films as well (such as the popular Nightmare on Elm Street franchise) but in 1994 New Line was acquired by the Turner Broadcasting System, which was then acquired by Time Warner in 1996 and later merged into Warner Bros. in 2008. Continue reading