Down the Rabbit Hole

“Curiouser and curiouser,” the famous phrase from the Lewis Carroll classic Alice in Wonderland spoken by the heroine, could easily apply to Sérail aka Surreal Estate (1976), the directorial debut of Argentinian screenwriter Eduardo de Gregorio, who is better known as the co-writer of such films as Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Spider’s Stratagem (1970), Jacques Rivette’s Celine and Julie Go Boating (1974) and several other movies by Rivette. The English title Surreal Estate gives you the impression that this movie (filmed in France) is not going to be a reality-based narrative but that depends on the viewer’s interpretation of what they are seeing. To be clear, Sérail functions on several levels. It might be a ghost story or an unsolved mystery or a writer’s fanciful account of an actual event that occurred during his house hunt for a second home in the French countryside.

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A City or a Labyrinth?

Whether by accident or design, French filmmaker Jacques Rivette is probably the least known member of the influential Nouvelle Vague movement of the late fifties though, like Jean-Luc Godard, Francois Truffaut, Eric Rohmer, and Claude Chabrol, he too was a former writer and film critic for Cashiers du Cinema. He even started production on his first feature length film, Paris Belongs to Us (French title: Paris Nous Appartient), in 1957, before Chabrol, Truffaut and Godard began work on what would become their universally acclaimed debuts of, respectively, Le Beau Serge (1958), The 400 Blows (1959) and Breathless (1960). Yet, despite the artistic and liberating impact the latter three films had on world cinema, Paris Belongs to Us might be the most ambitious, challenging and intellectually provocative film of the whole movement. It is also the darkest, waltzing toward an imagined or possibly real oblivion. The Homeland Security System would give it a code orange classification.       

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The Lost Films of Audio-Brandon

The Sleeping Car MurdersBack in the days before the VHS home video market exploded and Blockbuster became the obiquitous rental store, the 16mm film library was still a viable business in the non-theatrical college and educational markets. The decline would begin in the early eighties and by the end of the decade most 16mm distributors would be out of business. But during the peak years, this film format was affordable and easily accessible to all types of organizations (churches, schools, businesses and prisons) and also individuals who ran private film societies.   Continue reading