Neobychainye priklyucheniya mistera Vesta v strane bolshevikov [The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West in the Land of the Bolsheviks] (1924) + PHACE

Neobychainye priklyucheniya mistera Vesta v strane bolshevikov
Director: Lev Kuleshov
Writer: Nikolai Aseyev, Vsevolod Pudovkin
Cast: Porfiri Podobed, Boris Barnet, Aleksandra Khokhlova, Vsevolod Pudovkin, Sergey Komarov, Leonid Obolensky, Vera Lopatina, G. Kharlampiev
Part of: Film and Music Cycle in the Konzerthaus
With music by PHACE
Seen on: 29.3.2016

USAmerican Mister West (Porfiri Podobed) is tasked with traveling to Russia to see the land of the Bolsheviks for himself. Trouble is, all West knows about Russia is a magazine article making them out to be the worst kind of savages and Mr West is pretty much scared out of his wits. So he takes his faithful companion Jeddy the Cowboy (Boris Barnet) and starts praying. Once he reaches Russia, West is actually robbed. The thieves find the magazine and decide to create the savage land portrayed there for West, sure that they can squeeze some money out of him that way.

The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West in the Land of the Bolsheviks is a funny, albeit silly film. The music by PHACE wasn’t that much my cup of tea, but it works as accompaniment to the film.

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Thank You for Bombing (2015)

Thank You for Bombing
Director: Barbara Eder
Writer: Barbara Eder, Thomas Pridnig
Cast: Erwin Steinhauer, Manon Kahle, Raphael von Bargen, Susi Stach, Nadeem Srouji
Seen on: 25.3.2016

Thank You for Bombing shows war reporting from the journalists’ points of view. Ewald (Erwin Steinhauer) is a seasoned war reporter but hasn’t been working in the field for a while due to anxiety. But then his editor decides to send him to Afghanistan, against his protests. On his way there on the airport in Vienna, Ewald is convinced to have discovered a war criminal from the war in Bosnia. Meanwhile in Afghanistan, Lana (Manon Kahle) is fighting to get a good story to report and to not be relegated to the sidelines constantly. She, too, takes up her own investigation. Cal (Raphael von Bargen), on the other hand, is bored by the organized reporting he gets to do in Afghanistan and drowns his boredom in alcohol.

Thank You for Bombing starts off strong and then gets increasingly weaker. In the end it just kinda fizzles out where it tries to go out with a bang.

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Dreams Rewired (2015)

Dreams Rewired [aka Die Mobilisierung der Träume]
Director: Manu Luksch, Martin Reinhart, Thomas Tode
Writer: Manu Luksch, Mukul Patel, Martin Reinhart, Thomas Tode
Cast: Tilda Swinton
Seen on: 24.3.2016

Edited together from clips from over 200 films, most of which are around a hundred years old or older [here’s the full list], and narrated by Tilda Swinton, Dreams Rewired examines our relationship with technology and technological change.

Dreams Rewired doesn’t cover new ground. Sometimes it feels like half of the essays out there, cinematic and otherwise, is about our relationship with media and technology. More often than not there’s a distinctly anxious undertone of modern estrangement, losing touch with the world and not being able to connect with the humanity around us anymore (bleargh). Now, Dreams Rewired isn’t absolutely technophobic, but that anxiety is certainly there and they never do anything with or about it which quickly becomes pretty annoying.

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Room (2015)

Director: Lenny Abrahamson
Writer: Emma Donoghue
Based on: her novel
Cast: Jacob Tremblay, Brie Larson, Sean Bridgers, Joan Allen, William H. Macy, Matt Gordon, Wendy Crewson
Seen on: 23.3.2016

Jack (Jacob Tremblay) and Ma (Brie Larson) have spent the entirety of Jack’s life in Room. Jack has a good life with Ma. They play and read and exercise. It’s only when Old Nick (Sean Bridgers) comes to Room that Jack has to hide in Wardrobe. After Jack’s fifth birthday, Ma tells him that there is an entire world outside of Room and that they should escape Room to see it. But to escape Room and Old Nick, Ma needs Jack’s help.

Room does everything right it could possibly do right, creating a film that is very much deserving of the touching story and its strong characters.

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Aus dem Nichts [Out of the Void] (2016)

Aus dem Nichts
Director: Angela Summereder
Writer: Angela Summereder
Seen on: 21.3.2016

Almost a hundred years ago Carl Schappeller was working on a theory: according to him there is a special kind of force everywhere and if we can only manage to tap into it, we will be able to create free energy: energy from nothing. His ideas gained a following for a while but were mostly discredited and nothing much of his work remains but the memories of a handful of elderly people who knew him or the family and a couple of scientists who have not yet given up on his work.

Summereders film is somewhere on the edge between fiction and documentary, a fitting format for a theory that is somewhere between fantasy and science (if we’re being very generous). As much as I liked that in theory, in practice the film just didn’t manage to convince me.

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Maikäfer flieg [Fly Away Home] (2016)

Maikäfer flieg
Director: Mirjam Unger
Writer: Sandra Bohle, Mirjam Unger
Based on: Christine Nöstlinger’s autobiographical novel
Cast: Zita Gaier, Ursula Strauss, Gerald Votava, Konstantin Khabenskiy, Krista Stadler, Heinz Marecek, Paula Brunner
Seen on: 21.3.2016

World War II. 8-year-old Christl (Zita Gaier) spends a lot of time with her grandparents (Krista Stadler, Heinz Marecek) as her mother (Ursula Strauss) is hunting for food and necessities in Vienna. Her father (Gerald Votava) is fighting. Or rather, he is in the hospital with a shot up leg. As the bombings in the city get worse and the grandparents’ apartment is damaged, Christl’s mother hatches a plan to head to a house at the city’s edge where she used to clean. The owner of said house has fled and needs somebody to take care of it anyway. So, Christl, her sister (Paula Brunner) and her mother make their way there, leaving behind her grandparents who are unwilling to move.

Maikäfer flieg is a well-made film and an excellent adaptation of Nöstlinger’s novel. I enjoyed it a lot.

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Re-Read: The Year of Our War (Steph Swainston)

The Year of Our War is the first novel by Steph Swainston and the first book in the Fourlands Series.
Finished on 18.3.2016
[Here’s my first review.]

The Fourlands are at war with the (man-sized) Insects that threaten to overrun the entire kingdom. King Dunlin leads the attacks, supported and advised by the Emperor and his group of 50 Immortals, all the best in their respective fields. One of said Immortals is Jant, the messenger – a position he has because his father was Awian and his mother Rhydanne, which gives him wings and a light enough frame to actually fly, the only person to be able to. But by now, it is the only reason he still has the position as he is also incredibly self-centered and addicted to the drug cat and the Shift to another world that comes with it. As things become worse, Jant will have to make some choices.

Since it took me a little longer to get to the sequel to The Year of Our War (and to acquire the third and fourth Fourlands books as well, since they’re sadly out of print), I decided I’ll just see it as the perfect opportunity to re-read the first one again. And I still loved it.


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Trumbo (2015)

Director: Jay Roach
Writer: John McNamara
Based on: Bruce Alexander Cook‘s biography of Dalton Trumbo
Cast: Bryan CranstonMichael StuhlbargDiane LaneHelen MirrenAlan TudykLouis C.K.Sean BridgersAdewale Akinnuoye-AgbajeElle FanningJohn GoodmanDean O’GormanChristian Berkel
Seen on: 17.3.2016

Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) is an immensely successful screen writer and at the height of his career – when his affiliation with the Communist Party means that he gets caught up in a political witch hunt and is finally imprisoned and put on a blacklist. And he’s not the only one affected – his family suffers, too, as do quite a few colleagues who also get branded as communists. Unable to work officially, he devises a plan how he and his colleagues may ensure their livelihoods.

Trumbo is pretty much how you’d expect it. It’s expertly crafted and tells an interesting story very well. But it plays everything so safe, it’s hard to get excited about it.

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The Tempest (2010)

The Tempest
Director: Julie Taymor
Writer: Julie Taymor
Based on: William Shakespeare‘s play
Cast: Helen MirrenFelicity JonesDavid StrathairnAlan CummingChris CooperBen WhishawDjimon HounsouRussell BrandAlfred MolinaReeve CarneyTom Conti
Seen on: 16.3.2016

Many years ago Prospera (Helen Mirren) was betrayed by her brother Antonio (Chris Cooper). He sent her and her daughter Miranda (Felicity Jones) off on a ship so that they may die, but they managed to survive and have been stranded on an island ever since. They are almost the only inhabitants of the island, apart from Caliban (Djimon Hounsou), the spiteful son of the former island ruler, and the sprite Ariel (Ben Whishaw) who both have been enslaved by Prospera’s magic. Their existence is severely disrupted though when a ship sinks just off the island – a ship carrying not only Alonso the King of Naples (David Strathairn), his brother Sebastian (Alan Cumming) and his son Ferdinand (Reeve Carney), but also Antonio. Prospera knows that her time has come at last.

The Tempest is a visually impressive film with a great cast, but it never quite takes off – there are simply too many things that don’t work.

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The Graduate (1967)

The Graduate
Director: Mike Nichols
Writer: Calder WillinghamBuck Henry
Based on: Charles Webb‘s novel
Cast: Dustin HoffmanAnne BancroftKatharine RossWilliam DanielsMurray HamiltonElizabeth Wilson
Seen on: 15.3.2016

Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman) just finished college where he did very well. Now he’s returned home and has to make decisions about what to do next. But he’s overwhelmed and doesn’t know what to do with himself. When his parents’ friend Mrs Robinson (Anne Bancroft) makes a pass at him, he starts an affair with her. But then he is set up on a date with Elaine (Katharine Ross), the Robinsons’ daughter. Without meaning to, he finds himself drawn to her as well.

I know that The Graduate is an important film in cinematic history and it is by no means a bad film. I just didn’t like it very much.

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