La Noire de…

Sembène’s treatment of voice in La Noire de… is established at the film’s outset by coordinating Diouna’s question, “Will someone be waiting for me?”, with the back and forth movements of her searching head. This traditional rhythm of back and forth, question and answer, is expressed again in the film’s overall narrative structure: Diouna’s immediate experiences and troubled interior dialogue find answer in her memories. In this sense, La Noire de… is a film that—although markedly imbued with a rare primacy of the present—holds truth in its own prefigured past. Read more of this post

23rd Psalm Branch by Brakhage

There something paradoxical about the relationship between film criticism and the medium it criticizes. It all starts with the opposing nature of language and images; in short, language is the tool with which we try to capture the essence of things we see and feel. Yet even if language refers to these things, it’s another matter entirely to say that it “captures” those feelings, those things, or the feelings behind those things. If you wanted to get academic, you might call it the difference between ontology and semiotics or, perhaps less obscurely, the difference between extension and intension. Read more of this post

Black Girl

The opening shot of Black Girl, Ousmane Sembene’s first feature length film that won the 1966 Prix Jean Vigo award and lead to Sembene becoming known as “the father of African film”, features a long shot of a cruise ship pulling into a French harbor. Men anchor the boat to port, as Sembene immediately cuts to a mid-panning-shot of a black girl walking through a room with her suitcase. The next shot is a long, low-angle that looks up at the walkway connecting the ship to the port, the next is a close-up of the girl’s face scanning the area, asking “Will someone be waiting for me?” The next several shots are of the girl walking through a crowd of people, metaphorically being swallowed up in the new world in which she’s nervously walking into. As she gets into the car sent to pick her up, the trendy French music that will become a theme in the film accompanies images of that new world from her perspective in the car.

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Two Films from Joe Sarno: The Love Merchant and The Layout

Sexploitation isn’t exactly known for its sophistication and artistry, but when one watches the best of the “genre” (you have to use the word loosely here) it becomes clear that they knew how to make films with more under the surface than big breasts and orgasms. Joseph W. Sarno is certainly one of the masters of the genre, and perhaps one of the more overlooked directors of the generation. It’s telling that even Andrew Sarris singled him out for being an auteur of note. Prior to this double release by Something Weird Video I had only seen Sarno’s All the Sins of Sodom, which, despite its budgetary handicap, cheesy writing and acting, was an usually well done sexploitation film replete with interesting characters and some wonderful black and white cinematography. Neither of the films on this disc live up that reputation, but both certainly have their moments.

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