Neo-Realism

Blue Velvet

Released in,1986, Blue Velvet is an American neo-noir mystery, written and directed by David Lynch.  Blending psychological horror with retro small town embellishments, the film stars Kyle MacLachlan, Isabella Rossellini, Dennis Hopper and Laura Dern.  The title is taken from the 1963 song made popular by Bobby Vinton.

The screenplay for Blue Velvet had been passed around multiple times in the late 70s and early 80s, with many studios taking a pass because of its strong sexual and violent content.  Upon its release, the film received a divided critical response, with many stating that its objectionable content served little artistic purpose.  Still, it earned Lynch his second Academy Award nomination for Best Director and came to achieve something of a cult status.  It was credited for re-launching Dennis Hopper’s career and for providing Rossellini with a dramatic outlet beyond her previous work as a fashion model.
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Cult Comic

The Fan Man

The Fan Man, a cult comic novel published in 1974 by the American writer William Kotzwinkle is told in a stream of consciousness style monologue by the narrator, one Horse Badorties, a down-at-the-heels hippie living a life of drug-fueled befuddlement in New York City.  Written in colorful, vernacular “hippie-speak”, it tells the story of the main character’s hapless attempts to put together a benefit concert featuring his own hand-picked choir of 15-year-old girls.
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Compassion

Maria Candelaria

A powerful film from 1944, Maria Candelaria established Emilio Fernandez as one of Mexico’s premier directors.  Starring Dolores Del Rio, it was the first Mexican film to be screened at the Cannes International Film Festival, where it won the Grand Prix (now known as the Palm d’Or), becoming the first Latin American film to do so.  The film came to be regarded as one of Fernandez’s best works, in which he portrays the indigenous people of Mexico with innocence and dignity.

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Then & Now

Ballad of Narayama

Keisuke Kinoshita was already an established and respected film director when he decided to make this heartwarming and, at times, bittersweet tale about love, loss and traditions.  It is impossible to overstate the importance of traditions in Japanese culture. They act as a sort of signpost, providing guidance and moral direction in a world seemingly devoid of those qualities.  Kinoshita was highly prolific, turning out some 42 films in the first 23 years of his extraordinary career.  Although lesser known than some of his contemporaries, such as Akira Kurosawa, Kenji Mizoguchi and Yasujiro Ozu, he was nonetheless a household figure in his home country, beloved by both critics and audiences from the 1940s through the 1960s.  His unique style and willingness to look at different sides of any given issue captured the fundamental essence of Japanese culture.  His most successful and best-known film was “Nijushi No Hitomi” (Twenty-Four Eyes), which won the Kinema Jumpo Award, one of Japan’s top film prizes, as the best movie of 1954.  What sets the story apart from conventional melodrama is the way in which it follows the relationship between a female teacher and her 12 pupils over the course of three decades, including the heartbreak and devastation of World War II.
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