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 Quarantine Calamity in the Making

The Covid-19 epidemic of 2020 will always be remembered as the medical crisis that abruptly changed daily life for everyone in the 21st century. It also sparked a renewed interest in movies dealing with deadly pandemics. Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion (2011) starring Matt Damon and Outbreak (1995) with Dustin Hoffman were both box office successes during their initial releases but they suddenly began trending as highly popular titles again on streaming services everywhere. Terry Gilliam’s Oscar-nominated 12 Monkeys (1995) and The Andromeda Strain (1971), based on Michael Crichton’s novel, were also attracting first time and repeat viewers while other, equally worthy movies in the same genre have been forgotten or overlooked. One of these is 80,000 Suspects (1963), a compelling thriller from Val Guest, an often underrated British director.  

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