TIME OF ROSES
Genres: Sci-Fi, Mystery
Duration: 1 hour 48 minutes
Set in a dystopian world of gleaming white towers, Sony video monitors and inflatable furniture, where the beautiful inhabitants all dress as Edie Sedgwick-like pixie sprites or medieval page boys out of LOGAN’S RUN, the film follows a historian of late 20 th century culture (played by Arto Tuominen) researching the mysterious death many years earlier of a free-spirited erotic model. In a VERTIGO-like twist, he hires the model’s exact double, an earthy, uninhibited engineer named Kisse (actress Ritva Vepsä plays both parts) to recreate the model’s death for a TV program. Director Jarva was one of Finland’s most acclaimed fiction filmmakers and documentarians before he was tragically killed in an auto accident returning from the premiere of his latest film in 1977.
The Assassin of the Tsar
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Duration: 1 hour 44 minutes
Subtitles: English SDH
From Karen Shakhnazarov, director of ZEROGRAD, ASSASSIN OF THE TSAR is a mysterious and labyrinthine psychological drama in which the tormented chambers of a patient’s mind come to warp everything around him, even the folds of history itself. In one of his finest latter-day performances, the great Malcolm McDowell (A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, TIME AFTER TIME) stars as Timofeyev, a severe schizophrenic in a dreary Soviet mental hospital who is convinced that, impossibly, he’s the killer of two Tsars: Alexander II in 1881 and Nicholas II in 1918. The thoughtful new head of the hospital, Dr. Smirnov (Oleg Yankovskiy) is determined to cure Timofeyev of his madness – but instead finds himself literally pulled back through time, inhabiting the ghosts of the past as they march towards their tragic destiny.
Genres: Crime, Action
Duration: 1 hour 28 minutes
The long-lost, independently financed Black urban crime/action film from director/actor/producer/writer Sal Watts. SOLOMON KING was shot in Oakland, CA in 1973 with a cast of mostly non-professional actors, a stunning soul-funk soundtrack, and incredible clothes from Watts’s own Mr. Sal’s Fashion stores. Restored with the cooperation of the filmmaker’s widow, Belinda Burton-Watts (who appears in the film), and utilizing one of the only surviving complete prints of the film from the UCLA Film & TV Archive alongside the original soundtrack elements (which had been stored in Burton-Watts’s closet for several decades),
Duration: 50 minutes
From Achal Mishra, director of THE VILLAGE HOUSE (GAMAK GHAR), DHUIN is a stunning, novella-length portrait of a 25-year old street theatre actor (Abhinav Jha, in a breakout performance) who is desperate to leave his rural hometown of Darbhanga for Mumbai, but finds himself trapped by family obligations, lack of experience and connections, and the all-enveloping fog of living.
Like the films of Abbas Kiarostami (who is referenced several times here) and Hou Hsiao-Hsien, DHUIN is a truly remarkable essay on the in-between moments of life that define us, the tiny embarrassments and silences and confusions, the gray membrane of existence that restrains and binds us together.
Along with THE VILLAGE HOUSE, DHUIN firmly establishes Mishra as one of the most perceptive and creative new voices in independent Indian cinema. Co-starring Bijay Kumar Sah, Prashant Rana, Ankush Prasad.
In Hindi and Maithili (with English subtitles)
The Village House (Gamak Ghar)
Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes
The astonishing debut feature from 23-year old writer/director Achal Mishra. THE VILLAGE HOUSE (Gamak Ghar) is a lovely, luminous and gentle portrait of a large extended Indian family over several decades as they gather at the matriarch’s rural home, following the inevitable rhythms of change, children moving away to the city, and the inexorable decay of traditional village life.
Like Bergman’s FANNY AND ALEXANDER, THE VILLAGE HOUSE is suffused with warmth and nostalgia, and a remarkable eye for detail: men cheating amiably at cards, vegetables frying in oil, kids and uncles mesmerized by a Salman Khan movie, the ephemeral poetry of the present as it slips away. “Gradually we came down to visiting only once a year,” one character observes sadly as the house falls slowly into disrepair – and as the building ages with the family, THE VILLAGE HOUSE becomes the most intimate of epics, tracing birth, death and rebirth like a flood leaving its high water mark on the bark of a tree.
In Maithili (with English subtitles)
Genres: Mystery, Sci-Fi
Duration: 101 minutes
Part Kafka, part Agatha Christie and part Monty Python, director Karen Shakhnazarov’s surreal 1988 satire of Communism ZEROGRAD (ZERO CITY) follows an Everyman engineer named Varakin (Leonid Filatov) who arrives in a remote city where nothing quite makes sense, but everyone acts as if it does. The more complex and absurdist the mystery becomes, the more poignant and plaintive Varakin’s predicament – “I have to get back to Moscow,” he pleads to no avail. Along the way we’re treated to a bizarre and wonderful sideshow of non sequiturs out of a Wes Anderson film, including an underground museum filled with a thousand years of real and imagined Russian history (“Here’s the pistol with which Urusov shot the False Dimitry II.”) Frozen in time, frozen far beneath the surface, the waxwork figures are strangely beautiful and forlorn, like Shakhnazarov’s marvelous and enigmatic satire of Soviet bureaucracy. With music by the great Eduard Artemyev (SOLARIS, STALKER). (In Russian with English subtitles.)
Duration: 90 minutes
Based on the Finnish national epic “Kalevala,” director Aleksandr Ptushko’s ravishing, mystical fantasy tells the story of a sinister witch Louhi (Anna Orochko) who covets the Sampo, a magical, rainbow-colored mill that can produce endless salt, grain, and gold. When the hero Lemminkäinen (Andris Oshin) attempts to stop her, Louhi steals the sun, plunging the world into eternal darkness. A Finnish/Soviet co-production and shot like its predecessor ILYA MUROMETS in gorgeous CinemaScope, SAMPO features some of Ptushko’s most surreal and fantastical imagery: a glowing red horse plowing a field of vipers; a boat of fire with a stag’s head; a weeping mother literally walking across the sea to find her lost son. With its witch’s incantations and repeated scenes of forging magical items – “Give me fire for the furnace from the nave of the sky!” – there is a Macbeth-like occult force to the film as well, underscored by the raging blue-gray seas and rock-strewn landscapes. Previously released in the U.S. in a dubbed, butchered version as THE DAY THE EARTH FROZE, SAMPO has been beautifully restored in 4K by KAVI – the Finnish National Audiovisual Institute for its first-ever American release in its original Finnish-language version by Deaf Crocodile. (In Finnish with English subtitles.)
Duration: 91 minutes
Legendary fantasy filmmaker Aleksandr Ptushko’s sweeping, visual F/X-filled epic is one of his most enchanting achievements: a stunning Cinemascope ballad of heroic medieval knights, ruthless Tugar invaders, wind demons and three-headed fire-breathing dragons.
Based on one of the most famous byliny (oral epics) in Kievan Rus’ culture, the film stars Boris Andreyev as the bogatyr (warrior) Ilya, waging a decades-long battle against the Tugars who threaten his homeland, kidnap his wife and raise his own son to fight against him. The first Cinemascope film produced in the Soviet Union, ILYA MUROMETS was released in a truncated, dubbed version in the U.S. at the height of the Cold War as THE SWORD & THE DRAGON, downplaying the epic poetry and lyricism of the original. The film has been restored in 4K for its first-ever official U.S. release in its original form by Deaf Crocodile, in association with Seagull Films. In Russian with English subtitles.
Delta Space Mission
Genres: Animation, Sci-Fi
Duration: 68 minutes
Imagine an early Eighties Eastern European space-prog album high on sugary breakfast cereal, “Heavy Metal” magazine, Hanna-Barbera cartoons and 8-bit arcade games like Galaxian and Asteroids, and you have some idea of the otherworldly weirdness of the Romanian animated sci-fi film DELTA SPACE MISSION. In the year 3084, a Modigliani-esque alien journalist with blue-green skin, Alma, boards a state-of-the-art spacecraft named Delta – whose highly advanced computer brain develops a mad teenage crush on her with disastrous results. An incredibly strange and strangely beautiful work of galactic eye candy, DELTA SPACE MISSION defies all rules of perspective and logic, like M.C. Escher and Moebius teaming up on a Romanian Saturday morning cartoon. Fueled by an addictive Perry-Kingsley like electronic synth score by Calin Ioachimescu, DELTA SPACE MISSION grooves along folding space and time, an early Eighties Euro disco perched on the edge of a Black Hole. With its egg-shaped spaceships, giant floating triangles and anthropomorphic computer, the film also brings to mind Kubrick’s 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, Rene Laloux’s FANTASTIC PLANET and the work of the Strugatsky Brothers (STALKER). Long unavailable, the film has recently been scanned in 4K from the camera negative by the Romanian Film Archive and Romanian Film Centre (CNC) for its first-ever U.S. release by Deaf Crocodile. (In Romanian with English subtitles).
Genres: Mystery, Drama
Duration: 134 minutes
Inspired by a real-life tragedy, the infamous Cinema Rex fire in 1978 that triggered the Iranian Revolution, CARELESS CRIME follows three “timelines” – of arsonists planning to burn down a movie theatre; of workers and students at the cinema; and of characters within the film screening at the cinema – which may or may not all be happening at the same time. One of the most dazzling and enigmatic films in recent memory, Mokri’s mind-bending mystery leapfrogs between past and present, fact and fiction to create an unforgettable picture of Time not as a straight line, but as an elastic, constantly spinning Moebius strip.
Comparisons abound, to the work of Chris Marker (LA JETEE), to Hitchcock’s VERTIGO, to Wojciech Has’s THE SARAGOSSA MANUSCRIPT, but Mokri’s film is a magnificent, multi-faceted puzzlebox all its own. Time and the way Cinema represents it are really the main characters in CARELESS CRIME, alternately reinforcing and frustrating each other – all fueled by a tragedy so ferocious that it’s literally burned a hole through the fabric of reality. (In Persian with English subtitles.) Winner of the Bisato d’Oro Award for Best Original Screenplay at the 77th Venice Film Festival, 2020.
Ashkan, The Charmed Ring, & Other Stories
Director Shahram Mokri’s first feature is a delightfully offbeat B&W comedy about the mysterious workings of Fate, played out in deadpan Jim Jarmusch-like vignettes. Two blind jewel thieves, a young man who can’t succeed at killing himself, a love-struck police officer and two female morgue attendants find their lives interconnected when an unusual fish is set free and a charmed ring is moved. Watch for sly references to film noir classics including LE SAMOURAI and KISS ME DEADLY in this wonderful and eccentric Iranian gem. With: Saieed Ebrahimifar, Sina Razani, Reza Behboudi, Siamak Safari, Ali Sarabi, Pegah Tabasinejad. (In Persian with English subtitles.)
Genres: Mystery, Drama
Duration: 92 minutes
Fish & Cat
Genres: Horror, Mystery
Duration: 90 minutes
A group of attractive young Iranian kite-flying enthusiasts gather at a dismal lake, near a restaurant where two sinister characters straight out of TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE are serving up grisly fare. Shahram Mokri’s breakout second feature is an unclassifiably brilliant, single-shot meditation on 1970s American slasher films like FRIDAY THE 13th but filtered through a purely art-house lens.
Eerie, circular and overwhelmingly mysterious, with strange and unexpected tangents, weird tales of phantom lights, and an insistent, repetitive dream logic, FISH & CAT is a “horror” film in the same way Tarkovsky’s STALKER is “science fiction.” With Babak Karimi, Saeed Ebrahimifar, Abed Abest, Ainaz Azarhoush. (In Persian with English subtitles.)
Genres: Sci-Fi, Horror
Duration: 102 minutes
Director Shahram Mokri’s third and most formally challenging film continues the time-bending, single-shot experimentation of FISH & CAT (and later, CARELESS CRIME) in a science-fiction/detective/vampire story, with nods to stylized 1980s New Wave-era films like LIQUID SKY.
Sometime in the future, teams of tattooed athletes play a vaguely defined sport in an ominous, labyrinthine stadium where a murder has taken place. When police try to reconstruct the crime, teammates of the murdered man force his vampiric twin sister to assume his identity, in hopes of killing her off too. But all too soon time, identity and the bonds of reality break down in another of Mokri’s fascinating, genre-defying creations. With Abed Abest, Babak Karimi, Elaheh Bakhshi, Behzad Dorani. (In Persian with English subtitles.)
The Unknown Man Of Shandigor
Genres: Sci-Fi, Thriller
Duration: 90 minutes
THE UNKNOWN MAN OF SHANDIGOR is a marvelous and surreal hall of mirrors, part-DR. STRANGELOVE, part-ALPHAVILLE, with sly nods to British TV shows like “THE AVENGERS” and “DOCTOR WHO.” The film stars a Who’s Who of great Sixties European character actors starting with the unforgettable Daniel Emilfork (THE CITY OF LOST CHILDREN, THE DEVIL’S NIGHTMARE) as crazed scientist Herbert Von Krantz, who’s invented a device to sterilize all nuclear weapons called “The Annulator.”
A mad herd of rival spies are desperate to get their hands on the device, including legendary French singer Serge Gainsbourg as the leader of a sect of bald, turtleneck-wearing assassins, and Jess Franco veteran Howard Vernon (THE AWFUL DR. ORLOF). Gainsbourg’s deranged jazz-lounge song, “Bye Bye Mr. Spy” – performed by him on funeral parlor organ, no less – is arguably the film’s high point. (In Swiss French with English subtitles.)
Gaadi - Children Of The Sun
Genres: Period Drama
Duration: 103 minutes
From Prasanna Vithanage, one of Sri Lanka’s most acclaimed directors, comes GAADI – CHILDREN OF THE SUN, a sweeping historical drama of imperial politics, religion, caste, gender and impossible love. Set in 1814 during the era of repressive British colonial rule in Ceylon (modern Sri Lanka) and the last days of the Kandyan kingdom, GAADI begins with a collaborationist English agent convincing the local Sinhala Buddhist nobility to attempt to overthrow the rival Tamil king. The subsequent military disaster forces a Sinhala noble woman, Tikiri (Dinara Punchihewa in her debut role) to choose between suicide and marriage to a low-caste outcast Vijaya (Sri Lankan star Sajitha Anuththara, in an irresistible performance).
“Come down from your palace, dear princess – come down to marry the outcast,” chant the mocking villagers as Tikiri is brutally (and literally) stripped of her jewelry and fine clothes. In the vein of Lina Wertmuller’s SWEPT AWAY, the two polar opposites are slowly forced to depend on each other for survival in the dense Sri Lankan forests while the political conflict between Tamil and Buddhist Sinhala armies tightens the noose around them. With stunning cinematography by Rajeev Ravi (GANGS OF WASSEYPUR). (In Sinhala language with English subtitles.)
From GOD ON A BALCONY director Biswajeet Bora, BOOMBA RIDE is a scathing comic satire of corruption in India’s rural education system – and one 8-year old boy (newcomer Indrajit Pegu, in a remarkable performance) who knows how to rig the game for himself. Inspired by a true story, the film was shot in the state of Assam on the banks of the Brahmaputra River with a mostly nonprofessional cast.
The story revolves around an impoverished school where there is only one (unwilling) student, Boomba. Desperate to keep their jobs and funding, the teachers wind up bribing the hilariously impassive and uncooperative boy to show up to class – while Boomba’s secret wish is to attend the better-funded school in town where a slightly older and very pretty girl just happens to be a student.
“BOOMBA RIDE is a film that is very close to my heart. I was born and brought up in rural Assam. I have witnessed similar kinds of stories out there where the government run schools have no proper facilities that a school should have,” comments director Biswajeet Bora. “I believe only by growing awareness and taking responsibility for educating our poor and underprivileged classes, can we make a change in a broader way.”
In Assamese (with English subtitles)
From Indian director/writer Megha Ramaswamy (BUNNY, WHAT ARE THE ODDS?), the surreal, genre-defying LALANNA’S SONG follows two young women (Rima Kallingal and Parvathy Thiruvothu, in sublime performances) on what seems to be a routine day dealing with prejudice and sexism. They go to the store, where they’re falsely accused of shoplifting; they attend a young girl’s birthday party at a tacky disco with their children.
Slowly, hypnotically, their world starts to break down into David Lynch-like shards, triggered by their inexplicable encounter with a strange and possibly supernatural young girl, Lalanna, whose song may bring death with it.
In Malayalam and Hindi (with English subtitles)