The Kubrick Appreciation Project: Fear and Desire (1953)

Released in 1953 and clocking in at just about one hour of running time, Fear And Desire is widely considered Stanley Kubrick’s directorial feature debut. This idea of trying to define whether it should still be considered a short film instead is a controversy one could devote an entire article to delineating, because there’s but a dozen of definitions out there devised with the intent to segregate films into shorts, featurettes and features. Since cinema isn’t really an exact science, a lot of it is rooted in opinion; and as we all know, opinions are like buttholes – everybody has one. So, in the interest of steering clear of any rectal explorations trying to make up my own mind on the subject, I will just agree with what looks like a consensus and instead focus my energy on discussing the film itself. 

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Understanding Michael Haneke: Code Unknown (2000)

Preamble

I have decided to include the following review in this Michael Haneke retrospective despite having watched it a little over a year ago for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the film is difficult to track down in my neck of the woods and giving it a genuine rewatch would be rather difficult. Secondly, I would like this review to stand close to my writings on his other works because, regardless of my opinion, the film is a key part of his journey as one of the foremost auteurs of our time. And finally, I don’t particularly think my view on this would shift radically anyway. However, it must be acknowledged – and it is partly why I am writing this short paragraph – that I watched Code Unknown before I was able to see 71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance, to which it is undoubtedly related structurally and thematically. In hindsight, I would have maybe adjusted my opinion on this film to a small degree had I known these two films were so closely related; however, I still stand by my thoughts and an overarching opinion that Michael Haneke was occasionally forgetting to dismount his moral high horse and delivering his timely and poignant sermons in a most unapproachable manner.

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The Kubrick Appreciation Project: Flying Padre (1951) and The Seafarers (1953)

Flying Padre

Stanley Kubrick’s sophomore short documentary was an eight-minute-long human-interest piece titled Flying Padre about a priest living in the middle of nowhere in New Mexico and taking care of a parish so large that it required him to use an aeroplane to discharge his duties, such as performing funeral services, mediating between parishioners or even serving as an air ambulance. In spite of its brevity and perceived insignificance as a work of cinema, it is nonetheless an important milestone in Kubrick’s career, perhaps even the most crucial of all. 

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The Wes Craven Retrospective: Deadly Blessing (1981)

As the 1970s were coming to an end, the cultural flavour of genre filmmaking was also undergoing some changes. The rogue and unrestrained atmosphere of exploitation films was shifting towards something more aesthetically refined and anchored more decisively in what was happening in mainstream cinema of the time, a post-nouvelle vague, iconoclastic, self-aware recalibration. Having completed The Last House On The Left and The Hills Have Eyes, both revered as exploitation classics, Wes Craven’s filmmaking was also signalling he was ready to evolve his style into something else entirely.  

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The Wes Craven Retrospective: The Hills Have Eyes (1977)

Following his unexpectedly successful debut The Last House On The Left, Wes Craven ended up convinced to stay within the genre and cook up a worthy follow-up that would cement his stature as one of the up-and-coming voices in horror. Interestingly enough, he was initially quite hesitant because he feared he would paint himself into a corner. Little did he know that the corner he was painting himself into would be looked at with adulation by generations of filmmakers. That’s because similarly to George A. Romero, John Carpenter and Tobe Hooper – his contemporaries – he had a knack for distilling social anxieties into his stories and elevating what could otherwise be disposable exploitation films to become cultural icons.  

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Understanding Michael Haneke: 71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance (1994)

Released in 1994, 71 Fragments Of A Chronology Of Chance was meant to cap the so-called Glaciation Trilogy, which also includes Haneke’s two preceding efforts, The Seventh Continent and Benny’s Video. In some ways, this film seems symmetrical to both of them. It is inspired by a true story of a student who – out of nowhere – walked into a Viennese bank and opened fire killing a bunch of by-standers before blowing his own brains out, which tethers the film thematically to The Seventh Continent in particular. In addition, the entirety of its fragmented narrative is also interspersed with various bits of archival news footage mostly covering the Balkan War in graphic detail, which is consistent with the crucial role TV screens played in his other movies. However, this film did not resonate with me the way these other films did. 

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Understanding Michael Haneke: The Seventh Continent (1989)

This article is a part of a comprehensive journey through the cinema of Michael Haneke, an often-overlooked auteur whose cutting critical analysis continues to be relevant to this day.

Michael Haneke’s transition from the highly regimented and thematically constrained universe of television was allegedly catalyzed by a short news article about a regular Austrian family whose members decided to end their lives, seemingly without any valid reason. The Seventh Continent is Haneke’s attempt to wrestle with this moral puzzle.  

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