Author: Raj-Kabir Birk

Review: Schultze Gets the Blues

As contemplative, bittersweet comedies go Schultze Gets the Blues can do no wrong. The film follows the journey of its titular character from mine worker to traveller – a journey infused with a sense of internal and external exploration. Schultze (Horst Krause), when forced to retire from his mining job, finds himself in the uncertain certainty of post-work life. He visits his mother, spends time with his friends, and plays the accordion, destined to do so until his last day. But when he hears something unfamiliar and yet all too familiar on the radio, he bursts into action. The...

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Planet in Focus 2016 Review: Behemoth

In Zhao Liang’s affecting documentary Behemoth, the coal-mining industry in China is brought into startling view as gaping landscapes become filled with sky-high structures. With impeccable compositions and sensitive portrayals of the workers involved, Liang’s camera reflects the human and global cost of a country’s desire to build its urban centres. Through surreal depictions of the rumbling dirt paths and endless underground abysses, Behemoth imbues each frame with silent and meditative qualities, contemplating the hardship that goes hand in hand with making a concrete and iron ‘paradise’ of high-rises. This is a paradise without the peace or humanity, leaving in its...

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Review: Transpecos

Drug wars on the US-Mexico border is an oft-explored theme in recent films, rife with the possibility of action and moral exploration, and Transpecos, the feature debut of director Greg Kwedar, is a notable entry in the sub-genre. The film follows the tumultuous 24 hour journey of three Border Patrol agents who, after discovering one of them has insidious motivations, are led on a journey of betrayal and redemption. Finely paced and well-rounded, this taut thriller succeeds where similar films sometimes fail: remaining focused throughout, the narrative never veers from the simple but effective logic of cause and effect. As...

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TIFF 2016 Review: Short Cuts Programme 1

Short Cuts Programme 1 balances the surreal with the straightforward, the poetic with the obtuse, and the thought-provoking with the heart-warming. A little bit for everyone, it is a compelling compilation of international shorts. Highlights include Samedi Cinema, Night Dancing, Nutag – Homeland, Romantik, The Pine Tree Villa, and Tshiuetin. Samedi Cinema – 11 minutes When cinema evades you, its images become otherworldly. This is at the crux of Samedi Cinema, which follows two adolescent boys as they try to raise money to go to the movies. Leveraging his ability to write, the younger boy goes from client to...

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Self-censorship: the rise and fall of the Hays Code

Every year, without fail, film ratings cause furor amongst filmmakers, critics and audiences alike. Whether the prevailing position was that a particular rating was too hard, too lenient, or completely trivial, exhibitors are confronted with the reality of a limiting or broadening audience for the films they screen. The extent and breadth of these controversies are different film to film and country to country, and even province to province. The debates are ceaseless, but the specific debates that have emerged recently are not in question here. What is in question is how a system of censorship was initially implemented,...

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Review: Multiple Maniacs

As someone new to the work of John Waters, I didn’t know what to expect from Multiple Maniacs. Recently restored by The Criterion Collection, it was a rare opportunity to experience an infamous filmmakers work for the first time. His frequent use of the performer Divine, and knack for crafting cult hits, preceded him – Pink Flamingos and Hairspray being amongst his most beloved films – and his aesthetic and subversive narratives are now iconic. When actually watching one of his films, all of these elements are immediately foregrounded: this is John Waters, and this is what he does....

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Revolting youth: Michael Haneke’s images of adolescent violence

The relationship between the fetishistic possibilities of imagistic violence and its cyclicality through iterations of “real” and seen violence is at the core of many of director Michael Haneke’s films. Whether it is the sadist, baseless violence of Funny Games, the measured but distant violence of Caché, or indeed the impartial, impassioned violence of Benny’s Video, each of these films deal with the relationship between images of violence and the malleable youth that at once consumes and is consumed by these images, most pertinently when the repercussions of committing violence are never experienced. Benny’s Video opens with hand-held scene of...

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