Essay Film

Racines, 2003

Similar to Boris Lehman’s essay film, Searching for My Birthplace, Richard Copans’s Racines (Roots) examines the nature of identity, migration, transplantation, and reconstructed history. A routine trip to the dentist provides the point of departure for the filmmaker, as they discuss implants as a way of recreating permanent teeth through artificial roots. For Copans, the… read more »

Pain Is…, 1997

Before Les Films du Renard released its first installment of an anticipated three boxset Stephen Dwoskin anthology earlier this year, there seemed little room to reconcile Dwoskin’s cinema between the transgressive, borderline pornographic gaze of Dyn Amo and the intimately melancholic Dad (an elegy to his late father Henry Dwoskin) – the only two films… read more »

State of Weightlessness, 1994

Filmed after the dismantling of the Soviet Union at a time when the U.S. space station project (then called Freedom) that had been championed by Ronald Reagan was similarly facing its own crisis of survival after a series of deep budget cuts (partly in response to shifting political considerations and administrations), Maciej Drygas’s The State… read more »

Hear My Cry, 1991

Filmed during the breakup of the Soviet Union, Hear My Cry captures the essence of Maciej Drygas’s articulate and insightful film essays on the rupture between official record and human history, the impossibility of absolute truth, and the malleable nature of collective memory. The theme of revisionist history is prefigured in the film’s opening shot,… read more »

Les Années déclic, 1984

Composed of a series of personal archives, commissioned photographs, and film excerpts projected onto a blank screen by photojournalist and filmmaker Raymond Depardon as he provides a humble and self-effacing stream of consciousness biographical commentary on a self-assembled pictorial curriculum vitae to commemorate 20 years of professional photography, Les Années déclic favorably recalls the meditative… read more »

Too Much Norway, 2005

The first film on tap for A Luminous Century: Celebrating Norwegian Cinema was Rune Denstag and Sivge Endresen’s Too Much Norway, a film that, as a Norwegian American audience member appropriately pointed out, was a film “made for Norwegians, not for export.” Indeed, there are no indications of a National Geographic travelogue at work in… read more »

On the Passage of a Few Persons Through a Rather Brief Unity of Time, 1959

The panning shot of an anonymous city street establishes the tensile, yet integral relationship between citizen and environment in Guy Debord’s dense and minimalist essay On the Passage of a Few Persons Through a Rather Brief Unity of Time, describing the rows of generic apartment buildings as places of refuge from the constant social immersion… read more »

Le Cochon, 1970

Something of a germinal template for Raymond Depardon’s Profils Paysans films on a dying way of life in rural (and largely forgotten) France, Jean Eustache and Jean-Michel Barjol’s reverent, vital, and painstakingly observed ethnographic documentary Le Cochon chronicles a day in the life of peasant farmers in the mountainous region of the Massif Central. In… read more »

Sink or Swim, 1990

Composed of twenty-six distinctive chapters, each thematic, one word title representing a letter of the alphabet in reverse order, Sink or Swim is, in some ways, an autobiographical corollary to Su Friedrich’s The Ties That Bind, a series of allusive, poetic, and insightful third person anecdotes that deconstruct the complicated relationship between a girl –… read more »

The Ties that Bind, 1985

In an interview with Scott MacDonald for A Critical Cinema 2, Su Friedrich comments that the inspiration for her first feature film arose from the idea of her mother’s seeming uprootedness despite having settled in the United States since after the war. This sentiment of an elusive home suffuses her mother, Lore Bucher Friedrich’s candid,… read more »

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