Cinematalk Podcast #23: FILMFARSI, with Ehsan Khoshbakht

Thursday, November 12th, 2020
Posted by Jim Healy

In conjunction with the Cinematheque's presentation of Filmfarsi and The Deer, this episode of Cinematalk features filmmaker and curator Ehsan Khoshbakht in conversation with our Mike King. Khoshbakht is the co-director of Il Cinema Ritrovato film festival in Italy and has authored and contributed to numerous books on cinema.  His website, Notes on Cinematograph, can be located here. Listen to Cinematalk below or subscribe through Apple Podcasts.

See FILMFARSI and THE DEER for Free!

Thursday, November 12th, 2020
Posted by Jim Healy

UPDATE: We have reached our free viewing limit on both The Deer and Filmfarsi. Filmfarsi is now available for a $12 rental here. Our Cinematalk podcast with Ehsan Khoshbakht is still available for free here.

While the Cinematheque’s regular cinema screening spaces remain closed, our series of free, view-at-home movies continues with two entrancing movies that focus on a fascinating era of Iranian cinema: Ehsan Khoshbakht's exciting new essay movie Filmfarsi and one of the most acclaimed of all films from Iran, Masoud Kimiai's The Deer.

FILMFARSI (Iran/UK, 2019, 84 min.) Discover a hidden world of Iranian film with this fascinating archival documentary, which resurrects the long-lost popular cinema that thrived in pre-revolution Tehran. Though today it is best known for world-class auteurs like Abbas Kiarostami and Jafar Panahi, Iranian cinema between the 1950s and 1970s was sensational and melodramatic, chock full of sex and violence. As director Ehsan Khoshbakht wryly notes, the actual quality of many of these films “starts at B and descends to the last letters of the alphabet,” but today they provide a valuable window into the country’s midcentury psyche. Created in a culture caught between religious tradition and modernity, these lowbrow genre films often encapsulated contradictory ideas—on the common motif of actresses wearing miniskirts along with their headscarves, Khoshbakht observes that “women’s freedom meant a feast of male visual pleasure.” Nearly all of the over 100 films excerpted in Filmfarsi were eventually banned in Iran, relegated to the VHS bootlegs that form the raw materials of this invaluable history. To complement our presentation of Filmfarsi, Khoshbakht has also provided an exceedingly rare opportunity to see The Deer, a high-water mark of pre-revolution Iranian cinema. (Mike King)

THE DEER (GAVAZNHA, Iran, 1974, 118 min., Farsi with English subtitles) For two consecutive decades and in various Iranian critics’ polls, The Deer has occupied the very top place as “the best Iranian film ever made.” Known for his revenge drama Gheysar (1969)—which changed the course of Iranian cinema—director Masoud Kimiai adds an explicitly political dimension to the story of his typically defiant characters. Here, in a nod to Hollywood’s “buddy film,” the familiar hero of Iranian popular cinema is prompted into social action, far beyond the usual romantic conquests. There is a sense of an imminent revolution in this story of a former champ turned junkie, who reunited with a leftist classmate and is redeemed by revolutionary anger. Picking up where the anti-hero of Gheysar left off, the leading character, Seyyed, (played by versatile method actor Behrouz Vossoughi) again takes the law into his own hands and challenges the established order. When it premiered at the Tehran International Film Festival in November 1974, the film severely suffered from censorship. Despite the censorship, every sequence of this moving, political manifesto resonated with millions of Iranians. Almost unseen outside Iran, this is a rare chance to see a poignant and essential moment in film history when cinema and politics clash.

For a limited time, the Cinematheque is providing limited opportunities to see both Filmfarsi and The Deer at home for free. To receive access to both movies, simply send an email to info@cinema.wisc.edu, and make sure to include the word FILMFARSI in the subject line.

On a new episode of our Cinematalk podcast, Mike King talks with filmmaker and curator Ehsan Khoshbakht. Listen here or subscribe to Cinematalk through Apple Podcasts.

Click here to donate to the Cinematheque.

Stay healthy and safe. We value your support for the Cinematheque and we look forward to being able to watch movies with you soon in the proper cinematic settings of 4070 Vilas Hall and the Chazen Museum of Art.

Cinematalk Podcast #22: IDENTIFYING FEATURES, with Fernanda Valadez & Astrid Rondero

Thursday, November 5th, 2020
Posted by Jim Healy

An informative supplement to the Cinematheque's on-line screening of Identifying Features, this episode features that film's director Fernanda Valadez and her co-screenwriter, co-producer, and co-editor Astrid Rondero. The two filmmakers have been collaborators on a number of short and feature film projects, including The Darkest Days of Us (2017), a movie that marked Rondero’s feature directorial debut. Together, they are the founders of the production companies Enaguas Cine and Corpulenta. During the filmmakers' discussion with the Cinematheque's Director of Programming, Jim Healy, they talk about the real life inspirations for Identifying Features and its complicated production history, as well as their cinematic influences and their hopes for the future. 

Listen to this episode of Cinematalk below, or through Soundcloud, or subscribe through Apple Podcasts.

See Acclaimed & Award-Winning New Movie IDENTIFYING FEATURES for Free!

Thursday, November 5th, 2020
Posted by Jim Healy

UPDATE (12/15/20): We have reached our limit for free viewings of Identifying Features. The movie will be released on the Kino Marquee platform on January 20. Our Cinematalk podcast talk with Fernanda Valadez and Astrid Rondero is still availalble free here.

The Cinematheque’s series of free movies to watch at home is continuing with Identifying Features (Sin Señas Particulares), another powerful new release that was originally scheduled to screen at our Wisconsin Film Festival earlier this year.

IDENTIFYING FEATURES (Mexico, 2020, 94 min., Spanish with English subtitles) tells the story of Magdalena, (Mercedes Hernández), who hasn’t heard from her son Jesús in the two months since he left their small village to cross the border into the U.S. Joined by the recently deported Miguel (David Illescas), Magdalena leads a desperate search for her son, whom the authorities believe to be dead, into some of the most violent and remote territories of present-day Mexico. Crossing rugged landscapes by foot and trying to elude countless armed bandits, Magdalena and Miguel’s odyssey offers an unflinching view of a current, harrowing crisis. Identifying Features is a chilling and artfully told thriller that marks the auspicious feature-length directorial debut of Fernanda Valadez, whose boldly pronounced style includes suspenseful and fluid long takes, a thought-provoking use of focus, and a precision eye for point-of-view and composition. Valadez' co-screenwriter, co-producer, and co-editor is Astrid Rondero, and the filmmakers' talents also include a humanistic touch that bestows characters with an inner life, allowing us to believe they exist beyond the frames of the movie.

“Impressive in many ways, from its strong naturalistic performances to the vivid sense of dislocation and vulnerability felt by the principal characters in dangerous or unfamiliar surroundings” (Variety).

"Signals an exciting arrival by a much-needed voice" (Hollywood Reporter).

Beginning November 5, the Cinematheque has a limited number of opportunities to watch IDENTIFYING FEATURES at home for free. To gain access, send an email addressed to info@cinema.wisc.edu and simply remember to put the title of the movie (IDENTIFYING FEATURES) in the subject line.

On a new episode of our Cinematalk Podcast, our special guests are Fernanda Valadez and Astrid Rondero, who together won the Special Jury Award for Best Screenplay at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Identifying Features premiered at Sundance where the movie also captured the Audience Award in the World Cinema Dramatic category. Listen here to the filmmakers' conversation with the Cinematheque's Jim Healy or subscribe to Cinematalk through Apple Podcasts.

Cinematalk Podcast #21: DEMONS & Heavy Metal Movies, with Mike McPadden

Wednesday, October 28th, 2020
Posted by Jim Healy

A perfect companion to the Cinematheque's presentation of Demons, this episode of Cinematalk, features Jim Healy in conversation with writer and cinephile Mike McPadden. McPadden is author of two positively essential film guides, the recently published Teen Movie Hell and, now in its third printing, Heavy Metal Movies, a compendium that describes Demons as "Italy’s hallucinogenic meta-commentary on its own berserk splatter movies of the ‘80s." McPadden has provided commentary tracks for several home video releases on blu-ray, and he’s also the co-host of two other podcasts we highly recommend, Crackpot Cinema, co-presented with TV writer Aaron Lee, and 70 Movies We Saw in the 70s, co-hosted with the Cinematheque’s Ben Reiser.  

Listen to Cinematalk below, or subscribe through Apple Podcasts.

A Halloween Treat: See DEMONS For Free!

Wednesday, October 28th, 2020
Posted by Jim Healy

While the Cinematheque’s regular cinema screening spaces remained indefinitely closed, our series of free, view-at-home movies continues over this Halloween weekend with Demons a 1980s cult horror movie that, among other things, plays with the notion of movie theaters as a source for viral infection…and demonic possession.

DEMONS (Italy, 1985, 88 min.) Demons is Italy’s hallucinogenic meta-commentary on its own berserk splatter movies of the ‘80s. The film takes place in a theater showing a berserk splatter movie from Italy. The movie-within-a-movie features a silver monster mask that transforms its wearer into a demon. The same mask is on display in the lobby. In fact, on her way inside, a hooker cut herself on the mask. Before long, the prostitute’s wound spews goo, and she grotesquely mutates into a demon a lot like the one up on screen. From there, Demons is an electrically kinetic orgy of body-breaking and gore-spraying, as one patron after another gets bitten and infected, flailing wildly in some truly awesome monster makeup” (Mike McPadden, Heavy Metal Movies).

Filmed in Berlin on brilliantly designed sets, Demons is produced and co-written by Italian horror maestro Dario Argento, in collaboration with director Lamberto Bava, son of the Godfather of Italian horror, Mario Bava. The soundtrack for this fun, stylish, and deliriously over-the-top scarefest features a pulsating score from Goblin’s Claudio Simonetti and a plethora of pop, rock, and metal songs from artists like Saxon, Rick Springfield, Go West, Billy Idol, and Pretty Maids.

From October 29 through November 1 only, the Cinematheque is offering unlimited home viewing of the original, uncut version of Demons. To receive access, simply send an email to info@cinema.wisc.edu, and make sure to include the word DEMONS in the subject line.

Another Halloween treat, Xia Magnus' Sanzaru, is also still available for free viewing-at-home through November 5. Learn how here on our blog.

On a new episode of our Cinematalk podcast, the Cinematheque's Jim Healy talks Demons with writer and cinephile Mike McPadden. McPadden is the author of two positively essential film guides, the recently published Teen Movie Hell and, now in its third printing, Heavy Metal Movies, a compendium that describes itself as “Guitar Barbarians, Mutant Bimbos & Cult Zombies Amok in the 666 Most Ear and Eye ripping big scream films ever!” McPadden has provided commentary tracks for several home video releases on blu-ray, and he’s also the co-host of two other podcasts we highly recommend, Crackpot Cinema, co-presented with TV writer Aaron Lee, and 70 Movies We Saw in the 70s, co-hosted with the Cinematheque’s Ben Reiser.

Listen to Cinematalk below or subscribe through Apple Podcasts.

Cinematalk Podcast #20: SANZARU, with Xia Magnus

Thursday, October 22nd, 2020
Posted by Jim Healy

In conjunction with the Cinematheque's free view-at-home screening of Wisconsin native Xia Magnus' Sanzaru, this episode of Cinematalk features our own Ben Resier in discussion with Xia Magnus.

A young director who spent much of his youth here in Madison, Xia has been wowing audiences at Wisconsin Film Festival and beyond since 2016 with his short films Hunter and Round River (Golden Badger Award, 2016 WFF). Xia Magnus talks about his approach to storytelling, his horror film inspirations, filming in Texas, and working with his Mom. Listen below or subscribe to Cinematalk through Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.

See Wisconsin Film Festival Selection SANZARU for Free!

Thursday, October 22nd, 2020
Posted by Jim Healy

The Cinematheque's free series of view-at-home movies continues with another selection of the 2020 Wisconsin Film Festival, the chilling and evocative Sanzaru, directed by Wisconsin native Xia Magnus. Sanzaru made its world premiere earlier in 2020 at the Slamdance Film Festival.

SANZARU (USA, 2020, 88 min.) Strange things start happening on a run-down Texas ranch where a young Filipina nurse (Aina Dumlao) works as a live-in caregiver for an elderly matriarch (Jayne Taini) slipping into dementia. This deeply unsettling modern day gothic marks the feature directorial debut of Xia Magnus whose prize-winning short films have been featured in other recent Wisconsin Film Festivals. Magnus establishes a mood of quiet dread right from the start, and as the screws tighten in this well constructed slow-burner, the atmosphere becomes almost unbearably tense. Gorgeously photographed by Mark Khalifé and featuring a note-perfect lead performance by Dumlao, Sanzaru expertly balances traditional genre thrills and chills with a deeper, more contemporary examination of the complications that result from buried secrets and repressed childhood trauma. (Ben Reiser)

Beginning October 22 for a limited time, the Cinematheque is providing an opportunity to watch Sanzaru for free at home. To receive access, simply send an email to info@cinema.wisc.edu, and make sure to include the word SANZARU in the subject line. 

On a new episode of our Cinematalk podcast, the Cinematheque's Ben Reiser talks to Xia Magnus about his approach to storytelling, his horror film inspirations, filming in Texas, and working with his Mom. Listen below or subscribe to Cinematalk here through Apple Podcasts.

Cinematalk Podcast #19: THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN

Wednesday, October 14th, 2020
Posted by Jim Healy

In support of the Wisconsin Science Festival and the Cinematheque’s virtual engagement of a classic science fiction double feature, this episode features Cinematheque Programmers Jim Healy and Ben Reiser in a spoiler filled-conversation about The Incredible Shrinking Man. For an equally fun and digressive discussion on Silent Running, we invite you to listen to a new episode of another podcast, 70 Movies We Saw in the 70s, co-hosted by Mike McPadden and Cinematheque Programmer Ben Reiser. Listen to both podcasts below or subscibe to Cinematalk and 70 Movies through Apple Podcasts.

See a Classic Sci-Fi Double Feature for Free Oct 15-18!

Wednesday, October 14th, 2020
Posted by Jim Healy

The Cinematheque's free series of view-at-home movies brings you, for a very limited time, a double feature of Hollywood science-fiction classics that were originally selected to play in the 2020 Wisconsin Film Festival. These two clever and thought-provoking gems are presented with the support of the Wisconsin Science Festival, October 15-18.

THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN (1956, USA, 81 min.) “The mist...That mist!” After being exposed to an ominous cloud while relaxing at sea, everyman Scott Carey (Grant Williams) discovers that he is suddenly shrinking in stature. At first, Scott’s condition causes tension in his marriage, then he must contend with the media when he becomes a national curiosity. Soon down to a tiny fraction of his former size, the title character finds himself in a strange new world fraught with danger that comes from previously harmless things around his house, like his pet cat, a leaky water heater, and a basement spider. Working with a clever, literate screenplay by science fiction and fantasy giant Richard Matheson (I Am Legend, The Twilight Zone), the talented Universal Pictures contract director Jack Arnold (Creature from the Black Lagoon, It Came from Outer Space) manages to deliver action-packed, ingeniously devised special effects sequences while keeping a firm grip on Matheson’s powerful, existential subtext and awe-inspiring conclusion. 

SILENT RUNNING (1972, USA, 89 min.) This science fiction cult classic is set in a future when all organic plant life has disappeared from earth. A wild-eyed Bruce Dern plays Freeman Lowell, one of four human voyagers eight years into their mission aboard the space vessel Valley Forge. Assigned to watch over the geodesic domes that protect and nourish the last remnants of trees and vegetation, Lowell is the only one of his comrades who is devastated when orders are given to destroy the forests. Lowell’s impulsive reaction sends him and his plants hurtling toward Saturn, accompanied only by three drones he re-names Huey, Dewey, and Louie. Silent Running marked the directorial debut of genius special effects creator Douglas Trumbull, celebrated for his work on 2001: A Space Odyssey. Working from a script written by Michael Cimino and Deric Washburn, future collaborators on The Deer Hunter, with an assist from soon-to-be-TV-colossus Steven Bochco, Trumbull crafted an unforgettable tale of survival and a potent ecological warning. The wonderful costumes, production design, and miniature effects later influenced a number of other sci-fi milestones from Star Wars to Alien to Interstellar. 

Beginning at 12 a.m. on Thursday, October 15, the Cinematheque will present a virtual cinema engagement of The Incredible Shrinking Man and Silent Running that you will be able to watch at home for free. The engagement ends Sunday, October 18 at 12 midnight. To receive access, simply send an email to info@cinema.wisc.edu, and make sure to include the word SCIFI in the subject line. 

On a new episode of our Cinematalk podcast, join Cinematheque Programmers Jim Healy and Ben Reiser in a spoiler filled-conversation about The Incredible Shrinking Man. Listen below or subscribe to Cinematalk through Apple Podcasts.

For a fun and digressive discussion on Silent Running, we invite you to listen to a new episode of another podcast, 70 Movies We Saw in the 70s, co-hosted by Mike McPadden and Cinematheque Programmer Ben Reiser. Listen below or subscribe to 70 Movies through Apple Podcasts.

Stay healthy and safe. We value your support for the Cinematheque and we look forward to being able to watch movies with you soon in the proper cinematic settings of 4070 Vilas Hall and the Chazen Museum of Art.

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