Claudia Cardinale’s gorgeous “Hayat” magazine covers

We all know Claudia Cardinale (1938- born in Tunisia), the star of many a classic films such as “Once Upon A Time In The West” (1968), 8 1/2 (1963), The Leopard (1963) etc.

But now, let’s meet “Hayat” magazine, which became one of Turkey’s most popular celebrity magazines in the early 1950s. I searched for some interesting covers with the actress on them but a lot of that era’s production, looked right out of a cheesy ready-to-wear catalog.

Very few covers were as interesting, or aesthetically satisfying, as what Hayat printed, at the height of Cardinale’s fame.
I am not the author of these images. All copyrights go to Hayat Magazine.

Hayat Magazine, July 1962

Hayat Magazine, November 1964

Hayat Magazine, July 1964

Hayat Magazine, May 1966

Brigitte Bardot, Kirk Douglas, Cannes (1953)

Slightly less violent than “A Serbian Film” (yesterday’s post) are these gorgeous photos of Brigitte Bardot & Kirk Douglas. Apparently, they met up in Cannes in 1953, where these photos were shot.

During that year, they both starred in a film called “Un acte d’Amour”/“Act of Love” (1953, directed by Anatole Litvak). Douglas had the starring role of Robert Teller, a soldier looking to change his life after the liberation of Paris. Bardot had the small role of Mimi.

These photos are a generous contribution of Mr. Jose Salvador Gallegos. Many thanks to him!
I am not the author of these images. All rights go to the artist. Photographer Unknown.

Check out Brigitte Bardot’s visit to Picasso’s atelier here:

Let’s watch : A Serbian Film or why did the “J” word magically get omitted ?

Film Reviews and political correctness have joined hands for  a 2010 “snuff” production by the name of “A Serbian Film”, directed by Srdjan Spasojevic.

It’s pretty interesting how just about every analysis of this movie follows the same pattern: Firstly, an elaboration of its violence (and it IS violent with its protagonist raping his own kid, a dead body and just about everyone he meets). Secondly, a well-developed mention of the scandalous NC-17 rating, as if no other film in the history of mankind ever received such censorship. And lastly comes the beloved topic of aesthetic inspiration of Spasojevic, which ranges from Brian de Palma to The Human Centipede. Impressive.

One may not want to admit it, but violence has indeed lost much of its subversive power. Long gone are the days were people, unexposed to gore, shook in awe before the film that even remotely depicted such taboos. Especially with websites like roaming free in cyberspace, which put forth over and over again everything from terrorist acts to execution and suicide, “snuff” is no longer mysterious or innovative. So if A Serbian Film is visually outdated, what is the problem?

In a very “by the way” fashion, did political implications get treated, interestingly enough, especially if you consider the title. The use of the word “Serbian” has mislead many viewers and critics (especially Serbians among them such as Dragan Bjelogrlić. Surprise, surprise) into thinking that the movie is either plain stupid or plain cathartic in its allusion, or lack of it thereof, to Serbian nationalism. After all, every country with a nationalist past, has to, at a given point in time, get it out of its system and this is, to many reviewers and viewers, what the film is trying to do, in its own special way. Only it ain’t so.

The protagonist at the center of these very intimate crimes of necrophilia and pedophilia, played by Srdjan Todorovic, is constantly being ordered, drugged, coerced, forced and threatened by a mad director behind the camera filming the snuff movie in the making. Through this reflexivity, the director implicitly refers to ethnic cleansing and the government’s implication in it. As you may have expected it, his own opinion about his work is not nearly this complex, he talks about how everyone in Europe has lost their feelings. So he made a snuff film to show that he still had some ?? No!

The issue which is getting repeatedly left out here is that Spasojevic is NOT representing a bygone era in the history of Serbia, the way let’s say “Downfall” (2004) represents WWII, but one which unfortunately is still part of the country’s ideological and non-cathartic discourse. This is where a nice reading of the evening news is in order.

The fact that in 2011, murderer Slavisa Buric, killed in 1993 was commemorated as a national hero, while he is responsible for mass rapes and the notorious Srebrenica massacre says a lot. Also, flags depicting Ratko Mladic (huge Serbian war criminal currently on trial in The Hague charged with the Bosnian Genocide ) during a commemoration ceremony for Bosnian Serb soldiers killed in the Bosnian War of 1992-1995 right when Bosnia morns its 700 000 citizens killed in the ethnic cleansing, on the hands of people like Mladic should make you wonder about “A Serbian Film”.

The J-word the title refers to is clearly “JUSTIFICATION” and the scenario is the obvious “the government made me do it” just as the protagonist was forced by the director to commit the depicted crimes. There is no catharsis to consider, precisely because catharsis is not possible when the country is still knee-deep in ideology and demonstrating it during memorials.
So, A Serbian Film does NOT refer to Serbian nationalism, there is NO reference here or anything of the sort, only justification of what this nationalism apparently made people do. And there’s nothing more disgusting than one of the biggest blemishes in the history of crimes against humanity, which is the ethnic cleansing, than those who try to redeem themselves from its responsibility.

To put it in even clearer terms: A guy tries to justify the mass murder of 700 000 people and what the public is upset about is that his movie looks very snuff-ish ? Really ??

Written by Hanine H aka Kinofrau 

Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Japanese film posters

Following an online discussion regarding what I deemed less than impressive covers of some new editions of Pier Paolo Pasolini films, I decided to show you something a bit different. This time, the works presented are not Polish (My Kieslowski post among others) but Japanese movie posters from when these these movies were released in Japan. 

For some unfathomable reason, Pier Paolo Pasolini’s film posters are not exactly the most gorgeous, somehow unimpressive and lacking in real graphic work. Same goes for the dvd covers, except for The Criterion Collection’s “Salo” release which I thought summarized the film beautifully. However, the latter is an exception, the images we see rarely do his films just.
Sure, this absolutely does not refer to the content of his work but a film is also the very medium which enables the public to see it, the actual material aspect of the dvd/blu-ray which should have the role of paying homage to the work it contains & of reference to its aesthetic tendency. 

Here are the 3 film posters of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s famous works “Medea” (1969), “Teorema” (1968) & “Oedipus Rex” (1967). I like the emphasis on Maria Callas’ eyes in the first one, the importance given to the bodily silhouettes in the second and the blatant way in which punishment is represented in the third.

Either way, it really had been a while since someone attempted a rediscovery of graphic design in Japan, which is why I think these posters are worth the look-over.


Courtesy of Illustraction Gallery, New York. No artist mentioned. All rights belong to Illustraction Gallery.

NB- Check out my Pier Paolo Pasolini & Maria Callas photo here:

Let’s watch: “Nokas” (2010) by Erik Skjoldbjærg, or just how unlikely it is to commit a crime in Norway.

Norwegian director Erik Skjoldbjærg, with his debut film “Insomnia” (1997), starring Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgård, delivered a work of extreme aesthetic ambiguity, literally. Just as the character of Skarsgård is himself somewhat suspicious and ambiguous, just as the nature of the crime he’s investigating is unclear, just as the region in the north pole that he’s visiting is also confusing, the visuals of the movie are the same. Through overexposure instead of dissolution to mark time ruptures, Skjoldbjærg was able to deliver an extremely nuanced neo-noir. And if you have seen and appreciated “Insomnia” for the masterpiece that it really is, the masterpiece of depicting the darkest of tales in the brightest possible conditions (the midnight sun), you are likely to walk out with a lot of ideas after watching  his “Nokas” (2010).

I think the English title “Hold-Up” is not a very appropriate one, because the film does not represent the actual crime in its totality. At the beginning, emphasis is somewhat placed on cleaning rituals of the criminals. At this moment, I feared that it would get too moralizing for my taste. After all, good cops who die (or not) just to reinforce the power of the social order has been the Hollywood discourse during the 30s with films repeating over and over again the whole “public” enemy notion, very James Cagney. And, nowadays, with postmodernism, the gratuitous aspect of violence is also sufficiently emphasized, so “Nokas” could have swayed either way, and failed. But it didn’t.

The interesting thing about “Nokas” is that it overtakes (but does not subvert) these cinematic models primarily thanks to its depiction of the robbery by means of testimony.
“Nokas” is entirely constituted based on what eye-witnesses remember of the incident and most importantly, HOW they remember it. The use of slow-motion when depicting the very first attempt the robbers did to break the bank window, remembered by the desk clerk, the going back and forth in time through the “5 minutes earlier” inserts highlights this .

Sure, in a scene when police dogs are needed for a mission but are unavailable because they’re on vacation, it makes you wonder how serious their work is, and yes, when the cops get sent out across town just to survey an overloaded truck, you are inclined to suppose that there has got to me more serious crimes out there. But in fact, the answer is no and this is the actual overtaking that I am talking about. The very first reaction the cops, as well as the crowds had when the hold-up at the Cathedral Square (where the actual crime took place) started is “Is this a training exercise?” & “is this a drill?”, furthermore enhancing just how unimaginable it is (apparently) in Norway to actually go for a passage-a’-l’act and fully commit a crime. The film depicts this with extreme subtlety and success.

Keep in mind that in Norway, the maximum penalty is a mere 21 years and criminals are not even handcuffed or in uniform in court laws. I suppose crime is pretty law but can offer no real statistics to back this up but it all the more enhances the unlikelihood of a robbery taking place. People passing by the besieged square, ask the criminals politely if they can cross the road and if the hooded men are not too busy to let them do it.  At one point, a confused bus driver gets a call telling him that the square is under attack and him, not knowing what to do, asks the caller which direction to take. The caller ultimately tells him to get to the square and ask the police instead of the usual “run for your life!”.

There is no excess aggression on both sides, the film is surprisingly violence-free. Naturally, cops can seem somewhat comical as they struggle to put bullets in their outdated pistol which looks right out of a John Wayne film, but there is no gore, no blood and almost no real cold-blooded murder. The situation is just absurd. The film focuses on these little absurdities and the exchanges between cops, criminals and people passing by instead of telling us that the crime has actually been committed. We barely see the robbers take the money and it’s only at the end that the director writes it to us.

So bottom line is, if you’re interested in Scandinavian cinema, check out Insomnia first and then make the natural shift to this one, Nokas. NB- If you’re interested in Norway, check out this documentary about Norwegian black metal, nationalism and violence:

Written by Hanine H aka Kinofrau

Let’s watch: “Bo” (2010) or Let Her Be Adored

A very interesting work that sprang out of Belgium two years ago is a little film called “Bo” (2010) directed by Hans Herbots. My introduction to this work was through a Danish rock band named “The Raveonettes” and their remake of The Stone Roses’ hit “I wanna be adored” which features parts of the film.
Telling the tale of a 15 year-old girl (beautifully played by Ella-June Henrard in her cinematic debut), very economically deprived, who finds her way into the world of escorts which quickly becomes prostitution. Through a school acquaintance, she tries to get rid of her financial problems and lives to suffer the consequences.

Sure the film follows a somewhat classical approach to the subject of the ‘ poor girl who prostitutes herself’, think Brook Shields in “Pretty Baby” (1978, dir. Louis Malle), but it delivers a very nuanced aesthetic work. Through blue-lit close-ups on Henrard’s gorgeously seductive face, Herbots attempts a certain intimacy (but not identification) with the main character, named Deborah/Bo but at the same time distanciation.

Her relationship to her “pimp”, Vincent (played by Thomas Ryckewaert, who looks a little like a young version of Klaus Kinski) goes from sentimental to detrimental, same as her rapport to her family which ultimately gets sacrificed.
Time is represented through shots of Antwerp’s left bank scenery along with the name of the month which offer a very interesting panorama of the Flemish town.

I tend to not be fond, to say the least, of moralizing films or ones that end up reinforcing the social order by means of crime and punishment but “Bo”, in a way, overtakes this notion by adopting a much more poetic tone. It focuses on the character’s loss of innocence and yet, her ever-present beauty throughout the story.

It would be erroneous to compare “Bo” with “Christiane F” (1981, dir Uli Edel), since the latter puts forth a whole mechanism of testimony in an almost documentary fashion which Hans Herbots does not play out, nor do these films share same aesthetics or political references.

“Bo” is an interesting film to watch, especially for a closer look at Henrard’s beautifully rendered face. She does indeed shine in her debut role and has more than enough potential to deliver serious work. As well as this, it would be unfair to limit Belgian cinema to big names like Chantale Akerman, as impressive as she may be, because after all, opting for a panorama of a country’s production is, to me, substantially more interesting than going through masterpieces alone…

NB- For another interesting Flemish film, check out my little post about “Loft”

Written by Hanine H aka Kinofrau

Nastassja Kinski, Richard Avedon, Vogue and python.

Just like Helmut Newton, Richard Avedon does indeed seem to be everywhere.
He took these lovely portraits of Nastassja Kinski (Klaus Kinski’s daughter) in 1980 for the May issue of US Vogue and the famous shot of her with a serpent (not published in Vogue).
She is known for her role as “Tess” in Roman Polanski’s adaptation of the Thomas Hardy novel  (1979), with whom she was romantically involved prior to her liaison with Quincy Jones.
Kinski also starred as The Lady in David Lynch’s Inland Empire (2006) but indeed has been away from the spotlight for a while now….
Check her out here in Vogue and scroll down below for the famous portrait of her with the serpent.

I am not the author of these images. All rights go to Richard Avedon.

And the famous portrait of Kinski with the python…

Check out other images by Richard Avedon:

– Of Judy Garland:

– Of Charlie Chaplin:

– Of Steve McQueen:

– Of Truman Capote: