RIP Abbas Kiarostami, defining voice of Iranian cinema

Over the weekend, Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami died at age 76. Kiarostami was perhaps the greatest and most renowned Iranian filmmaker; he is the only to win a Palme d’Or, had an outsized influence on world cinema, and brought international attention to the Iranian film industry. His admirers include Martin Scorsese and Jean-Luc Godard, who … Continue reading “RIP Abbas Kiarostami, defining voice of Iranian cinema”

Over the weekend, Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami died at age 76. Kiarostami was perhaps the greatest and most renowned Iranian filmmaker; he is the only to win a Palme d’Or, had an outsized influence on world cinema, and brought international attention to the Iranian film industry. His admirers include Martin Scorsese and Jean-Luc Godard, who once reportedly said “Film begins with D.W. Griffith and ends with Abbas Kiarostami.”

Kiarostami’s thematically powerful work often lands on lists of the greatest films ever made, not just for their historical significance but their artistic achievement. His 1997 Palme-winning Taste of Cherry is an milestone in minimalism, with long stretches of silence and inaction that divided audiences on its release.

Below, we’ve included a list of films by Kiarostami, including some shorts included in compilations. You might also consider watching Cinema Asia: Iran (streaming), a documentary about the history of Iranian cinema that mentions Kiarostami’s work.

Segment in Lumière & CompanyHU DVD 283
Crimson Gold (screenplay) – HU DVD 928
The Wind Will Carry Us – HU DVD 1334
Ten – HU DVD 1336
Close-Up – HU DVD 1344 and streaming
ABC Africa – DVD 1345
Where is My Romeo? – DVD 4320
Life and Nothing More – DVD 8247
Certified Copy – HU DVD 10031
Segment in Five: 5 Long Takes Dedicated to Yasujiro OzuHU DVD 10290
Taste of Cherry – HU DVD 10375
Where is the Friend’s Home – HU DVD 11633 
Like Someone in Love – HU DVD 11684
Through the Olive Trees – HU DVD 12018

RIP Douglas Slocombe, prolific Indiana Jones cinematographer

Douglas Slocombe, one of the most adaptable cinematographers of the mid-20th century, died yesterday at 103. Unlike many cinematographers with a distinctive or showy style, Slocombe filmed his projects so closely to the vision of the material that his work was often almost invisible. His far-flung credits are a testament to how smoothly he fit … Continue reading “RIP Douglas Slocombe, prolific Indiana Jones cinematographer”

Douglas Slocombe, one of the most adaptable cinematographers of the mid-20th century, died yesterday at 103.

Unlike many cinematographers with a distinctive or showy style, Slocombe filmed his projects so closely to the vision of the material that his work was often almost invisible. His far-flung credits are a testament to how smoothly he fit into whatever slot he needed to fill: he began as a photojournalist and director of photography for 1940s and 1950s British comedies; he ended his career filming the Indiana Jones trilogy.

Slocombe retired in 1989, leaving behind films ranging from Jesus Christ Superstar to James Bond movie Never Say Never Again. We never even knew he had a hand in much of his filmography, which, given his style, might have been the goal all along.

Slocombe accrued a whopping 80 cinematography credits in 50 years, so we of course have a few in our collection. You might not see a signature Douglas Slocombe stamp on these films, but you’ll certainly see a well-shot movie.

The Man in the White Suit – HU DVD 583
The Great Gatsby (1974) – HU DVD 722
Raiders of the Lost Ark – HU DVD 3251
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom – HU DVD 3252
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – HU DVD 3253
A Run For Your Money – HU DVD 3923
The Titfield Thunderbolt – HU DVD 3925
The Lion in Winter – HU DVD 5348
Jesus Chris Superstar – HU DVD 5769
The Fearless Vampire Killers – HU DVD 6513
The Italian Job (1969) – HU DVD 10373
The Maids – HU DVD 10823

A salute to Jacques Rivette, craftsman of the French New Wave

Last week, we quietly lost Jacques Rivette, one of the original filmmakers of the original French New Wave movement. As a filmmaker and a critic, Rivette advocated for a more natural, improvised cinema that the New Wave aspired to. Godard and Truffaut captured the spotlight, but Rivette’s films are often considered some of the most … Continue reading “A salute to Jacques Rivette, craftsman of the French New Wave”

Last week, we quietly lost Jacques Rivette, one of the original filmmakers of the original French New Wave movement. As a filmmaker and a critic, Rivette advocated for a more natural, improvised cinema that the New Wave aspired to. Godard and Truffaut captured the spotlight, but Rivette’s films are often considered some of the most involved and accomplished. His films are often only critical assessed long and complicated, but they offer more than that.

We’ll leave the eulogizing to Glenn Kenny at Flavorwire, who wrote an excellent tribute to a man who never labeled himself a director and preferred a credit for mise en scène. Give it a read.

Rivette’s films are often unusually difficult to find in the United States, but luckily, we have a few available to watch in the library.

Short film on Lumière et compagnieHU DVD 283
Who Knows? – DVD 314
Gang of Four – HU DVD 318
Secret Defense – HU DVD 530
The Beautiful Troublemaker – HU DVD 10599
The Nun – DVD 11306

Remembering Bowie on film

Like everyone, we’re shocked and saddened by the death of David Bowie, rock god extraordinaire and cultural icon. Bowie was a true renaissance man who dabbled in music, performance, games, and yes, film. Attempting to quantify all his contributions to the arts is a fool’s errand, but we want to at least acknowledge some of … Continue reading “Remembering Bowie on film”

Like everyone, we’re shocked and saddened by the death of David Bowie, rock god extraordinaire and cultural icon. Bowie was a true renaissance man who dabbled in music, performance, games, and yes, film. Attempting to quantify all his contributions to the arts is a fool’s errand, but we want to at least acknowledge some of the excellent work on film by a man described by Vice as “fascinated with the moving image.”

Everyone probably knows David Bowie best on the screen in the iconic role of Jareth the Goblin King in Jim Henson’s Labyrinth. If that’s any indication, his film choices were eclectic. He also played the starring role in the Japanese World War II movie Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (HU DVD 10689) and was the centerpiece of the ethereal, influential The Man Who Fell to Earth (HU DVD 2658). And you might not recognized his brief appearance as inventor Nikola Tesla in Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige (HU DVD 3831).

Don’t forget the countless times other actors and filmmakers have paid tribute to Bowie’s work, most notably the David Bowie-themed episode of the HBO series Flight of the Conchords (HU DVD 4831). There’s also Velvet Goldmine (HU DVD 687), a film based so closely on David Bowie that the rock star nearly sued the production.

And of course, see Bowie’s self-effacing cameo in Ricky Gervais’s Extras (embedded above, also HU DVD 2992).

We’re glad Bowie brought his enormous talents to film. It’s a shame that he never got behind the camera apart from his music videos.

RIP William Becker, the unsung hero of world cinema

A week and a half ago, film distributor William Becker died. His name is not a recognizable one, and his quiet work at Janus Films and the Criterion Collection left a massive imprint on how we consume visual media. As the co-owner of Janus Films starting in 1965, Becker oversaw the importation of many influential … Continue reading “RIP William Becker, the unsung hero of world cinema”

A week and a half ago, film distributor William Becker died. His name is not a recognizable one, and his quiet work at Janus Films and the Criterion Collection left a massive imprint on how we consume visual media.

As the co-owner of Janus Films starting in 1965, Becker oversaw the importation of many influential works of world cinema to American shores. He deserves partial credit for the success and influence of directors including Bergman, Kurosawa, and Fellini, filmmakers who might not have come to the United States for some time otherwise. He also co-founded the Criterion Collection, which worked closely with Janus Films to release of hundreds of classic works of cinema and popularized the letterbox film display standard. If you’ve watched The 400 Blows on a television, you can thank William Becker for that.

One person alone is of course not responsible for reshaping the arthouse and international film market in America, but Becker’s transformation of Janus Films significantly helped. Criterion and Janus their exceptional work in distributing high-quality transfers of world cinema, and William Becker silently carved out a spot on the film world for that to happen.

RIP Wes Craven, master of horror

We wanted to start this semester off with a list of all the exciting titles we added recently, but we first need to acknowledge the very sad death of Wes Craven, horror director and producer extraordinaire whose slasher films defined and later deconstructed the genre. Wes Craven is best known, of course, for his creation … Continue reading “RIP Wes Craven, master of horror”

We wanted to start this semester off with a list of all the exciting titles we added recently, but we first need to acknowledge the very sad death of Wes Craven, horror director and producer extraordinaire whose slasher films defined and later deconstructed the genre.

Wes Craven is best known, of course, for his creation of A Nightmare on Elm Street and indelible horror movie icon Freddy Krueger. That alone would cement him as one of the most beloved figures in a genre full of cult personalities, but he also directed The Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes and served as producer on their remakes. And in a terrific act of self-reflection, Craven also created Scream a series dedicated to dismantling the tropes and structure of the genre he helped popularize.

(He also directed a segment in Paris, je t’aime… which is weird.)

To honor Craven, we want to recommend not just his biggest movies but the love he put into his craft. So in addition to watching Elm Street and Scream, we suggest you watch three documentaries in which he offers a behind-the-scenes peek as his work and offers advice to upcoming filmmakers. Craven treated violent horror with artfulness and skill, and we’ll miss his presence in the genre.

Scream – HU DVD 6
Scream 2 – HU DVD 7
A Nightmare on Elm Street – HU DVD 864
Paris, je t’aime – HU DVD 3378

The American Nightmare – HU DVD 998
Getting Started in Tinseltown – Streaming video
Successful Teamwork in Filmmaking – Streaming video

In honor of Rowdy Roddy Piper, a look back on They Live from Slavoj Zizek

Rowdy Roddy Piper’s death last Friday leaves a very unusual hole in the film world. Though he made occasional guest appearances in TV shows and movies – usually either playing himself or a similarly hard-knuckled character – Piper is best known even beyond his wrestling career as the star of They Live (HU DVD 9020), … Continue reading “In honor of Rowdy Roddy Piper, a look back on They Live from Slavoj Zizek”

Rowdy Roddy Piper’s death last Friday leaves a very unusual hole in the film world. Though he made occasional guest appearances in TV shows and movies – usually either playing himself or a similarly hard-knuckled character – Piper is best known even beyond his wrestling career as the star of They Live (HU DVD 9020), John Carpenter’s cult 1988 sci-fi thriller. Piper plays a construction worker who finds mysterious glasses that allow him to see the hidden mind-controlling messages throughout society. It’s a bizarre but deeply loved film, and Piper’s death has prompted plenty of media retrospectives about it.

Our favorite comes from Slavoj Zizek’s documentary A Pervert’s Guide to Ideology (available in the collection, HU DVD 11194). Zizek uses the film as a critique of the concept of moving outside ideology. It’s complicated, and we’ll let him explain it; the video is embedded above. He even discusses the over-extended fist-fight midway into the movie, calling it “the extreme violence of liberation.”

They Live‘s second life in the cult film canon isn’t surprising given its total weirdness, and we like that critics are revisiting its ideas with a little more acceptance. And even though Zizek’s analysis is a few years old, it speaks to what a special movie Piper contributed to.

RIP James Horner

We’re shocked and saddened by news of the untimely death of James Horner, Academy Award-winning composer of classic soundtracks for films including Apollo 13, Titanic, Braveheart, The New World, and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Horner was a world-class composer whose works are among the best in film; he was still an active … Continue reading “RIP James Horner”

We’re shocked and saddened by news of the untimely death of James Horner, Academy Award-winning composer of classic soundtracks for films including Apollo 13, Titanic, Braveheart, The New World, and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Horner was a world-class composer whose works are among the best in film; he was still an active composer and enhanced every movie he scored. His death is a significant loss to the medium.

Listen to his contributions to any of his films below for a reminder of the enormous talent we’ve lost.

Apollo 13 – HU DVD 529
Aliens – HU DVD 886
Glory – HU DVD 1171
Testament – HU DVD 1665
The New World – HU DVD 1963
The Name of the Rose – HU DVD 2106
Titanic – HU DVD 2290 
Apocalypto – HU DVD 4052
Braveheart – HU DVD 4787
Troy – HU DVD 6200 
Avatar – HU DVD 7045
An American Tail – HU DVD 7796
Hocus Pocus – HU DVD 7852
The Pelican Brief – HU DVD 7936

All the King’s Men – HU DVD 3662
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan – HU DVD 9732
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock – HU DVD 9733
The Mask of Zorro – HU DVD 10750 

Who was Marion Barry? This HBO documentary is a good primer

Today marked the passing of Marion Barry, DC political legend and one of the country’s most controversial mayors. To describe his decades of public involvement as tumultuous would be an understatement; Barry weathered multiple scandals and a high-profile arrest yet remained enormously popular among his constituents, serving four non-consecutive terms and continuing to serve as … Continue reading “Who was Marion Barry? This HBO documentary is a good primer”

Today marked the passing of Marion Barry, DC political legend and one of the country’s most controversial mayors. To describe his decades of public involvement as tumultuous would be an understatement; Barry weathered multiple scandals and a high-profile arrest yet remained enormously popular among his constituents, serving four non-consecutive terms and continuing to serve as a councilman afterwards. His supporters said he fought hard for marginalized people in DC; detractors accused him of corruption and incompetence.

Suffice to say, Barry has a very interesting and complicated career, one that probably doesn’t make much sense to anyone new to the DC area. If you’re looking for a primer on Barry’s history and legacy, we recommend watching The Nine Lives of Marion Barry (DVD 9730), an HBO-distributed documentary about the former mayor’s highly elastic career. Barry was, for better or for worse, an irreplaceable politician, and we’re glad that there’s a comprehensive and even-handed documentary about his life.

The many works of Mike Nichols, EGOTer and prolific director

Mike Nichols, EGOT-winning director of The Graduate, died yesterday at age 83. For an acclaimed and decorated filmmaker, Nichols kept a comparatively low profile in the entertainment world, but he leaves behind an impressive lineup of truly great films and television productions, including Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Primary Colors, Working Girl, Angels in America, … Continue reading “The many works of Mike Nichols, EGOTer and prolific director”

Mike Nichols, EGOT-winning director of The Graduate, died yesterday at age 83. For an acclaimed and decorated filmmaker, Nichols kept a comparatively low profile in the entertainment world, but he leaves behind an impressive lineup of truly great films and television productions, including Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Primary Colors, Working Girl, Angels in America, The Birdcage, and Charlie Wilson’s War. The director got his start in entertainment as an improv comedian, but in future years, he will be remembered best for his consistent and varied filmography. It’s quite an accomplishment that in his 40 years directing films, every single one was a winner.

Chances are that you’ve watched and enjoyed something by Mike Nichols, so in recognition of his career, we took the opportunity to look up the rest his directorial work. If you’ve ever been curious about his work or simply wanted a new director to get into, now is the right time to watch his films.

The Graduate – HU DVD 29
Wit – HU DVD 353
Postcards from the Edge – HU DVD 613
The Birdcage – HU DVD 667
Angels in America – HU DVD 760
Silkwood – HU DVD 1647
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? – HU DVD 3017
Primary Colors – HU DVD 3606
Closer – HU DVD 4080
Working Girl – HU DVD 4159
Charlie Wilson’s War – HU DVD 4309
Carnal Knowledge – HU DVD 5728
Catch-22 – HU DVD 5844