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Sundays at Videotheque

Videotheque in South Pasadena, CA was my film school post-college. Even though I live far away now, I still make it out almost every Sunday to check out movies that I have no luck finding online, for money or otherwise. In this ongoing series, I will give my brief impressions about my rentals from the past week.

Lucia (1968) dir. Humberto Solas, starring Raquel Revuelta, Eslinda Nunez and Adela Legra

Along with Memories of Underdevelopment, which came out the same year as this movie, Lucia is a film that tries to cover a large swathe of Cuban history and how its identity is so rooted in upheaval and change. Solas does this by focusing on three different women named Lucia at different periods of Cuban history. The film is shot in a stylized, beautiful black and white and is a heady mix of Italian neorealism and French New Wave while the concerns of the film are deeply rooted in class struggle, as we can see with the many vivid images of the disenfranchised that populate this film. This film and Memories of Underdevelopment are enough that my curiosity about Cuban cinema has been sparked and I would like to explore more.

Kings and Queen (2004) dir. Arnaud Desplechin, starring Emmanuel Devos, Mathieu Amalric, Catherine Deneuve

A long melodrama that is a mixture of tones and stories that don’t necessarily provide one overarching narrative for either of the two main characters Nora (Devos) and Claude (Amalric). Nora is trying to deal with the pressures of raising a rowdy child and dealing with her family while Claude is in a mental hospital and trying to come to terms with how other people see him and his own uncontrollable behavior. I’ve always had a hard time with Desplechin’s films in the past mainly for their sprawling form even though I definitely appreciate individual vignettes and scenes in his movies. He has yet to really click for me though.

World, The (2004) dir. Jia Zhangke, starring Zhao Tao, Cheng Taishen

The theme park where most of this movie takes place is almost incidental to the intimate store of Tao (Jia’s wife and longtime muse) and how she has to deal with her unfaithful boyfriend (Cheng). Her story is at the center of this consumerist view of the world, which is something that the good Chinese films, at least the ones directed by Jia, struggle with since it clashes with the decades of Communism and the recent opening of the free marketplace for Chinese society. It all makes for a rich portrait of the anxieties of Chinese culture, and it is the first work of Jia’s that would predate his best film in my opinion, A Touch of Sin.

 

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