Category Archives: Film

”— Taxi Driver, Street Photographer Matt Weber

more than the rainbow


Taxi Driver, Street Photographer Matt Weber

Amos Lassen

Matt Weber has been photographing New York City for thirty years and he has seen it all. This new film, “More Than a Rainbow” is a chronicle of his life but it is also a conversation about photography, artistic expression and New York City. Weber has attempted to capture many, many stories since he first stated taking photos from the window of the cab he used to drive. He is devoted to candidly showing New Yorkers and their lives (especially those on the fringes of society) and he presents us with a document of his town that most will never have the chance to experience.


The film brings verite, still photography and interviews together against a background of wonderful music by Thelonious Monk. The interviews are with other photographers including Ralph Gibson, Zoe Strauss, and Eric Kroll, as well as designer Todd Oldham.

Weber retired from driving a cab so he could devote himself to taking pictures of the streets of New York and the video here is much like those streets in the way that it rambles and scatters. There are times that the film just goes along seeming to have no idea of where it is heading but that does not affect the idea that here is a man who is fulfilling his dreams.


The other photographers that we meet here are competitive yet supportive of one another but they are also critical. They talk about things like the merits of film versus digital and the importance of finding one’s voice. The filmmaker interviews most people one-on-one, but segments are edited deftly together to make the film feel like a good conversation, moving seamlessly from one topic to the next. 


We see many of Weber’s photos, learn a bit about his past, and watch him go to work. The film camera tends to mirror Weber’s still one, gliding close to the ground behind him as he hunts for a shot, as if to get the same view as the camera hanging around his neck, or shooting just what he’s shooting, ending with a freeze frame that then turns black and white and becomes  one of his photos. And when Weber starts to experiment with shooting in color and talks about how some things look better that way, the filmmakers prove his point by showing us a shot he took at Yankee Stadium, first in subdued black and white and then in lively color, which does a much better job of conveying the ballpark’s energy. This is quite an effective way to use moving pictures to demonstrate something fundamental about still photography, and it’s typical of how this thoughtful movie uses one man’s story to explore the medium in which he works.


The work here is also of the director Dan Weschler who describes the quest of all photographers for that perfect alchemy of subject and form, composition and timing, that makes one image stand apart from thousands of mere snapshots. Weber discusses the elusive pursuit of this at length.

Weber’s photos speak for themselves— they are uncanny glimpses of the city in its “decrepitude, brittle poetry, tireless bustle and rugged beauty”. Weber prefers black-and-white 35mm film that he develops himself in his home studio.

“MODERN LIFE”— Facing the Contemporary World

modern life


Facing the Contemporary World

Amos Lassen

Raymond Depardon is a filmmaker and photographer noted for his documentation of the French countryside. In this new documentary, “Modern Life”, he focuses on a small group of farmers that face the problems and challenges of modern contemporary life. They are suspicious of it and what they want to do is to keep the old traditions and methods.

The film is set in the Cévennes region in southern France, a region of hilly passes, lonely farms and lonelier farmers. There we meet the elder bachelor brothers Marcel and Raymond Privat, whose old-fashioned shepherding methods and primitive farming techniques lead them into contention with their younger nephew and his ‘outsider’ wife from Calais. There are also the dairy farmers Germaine and Marcel Challaye, who struggle to maintain their diminishing flock with no help from their numerous children, and chain-smoking solitary farmer Paul Argaud who is the epitome of disillusion and governmental disinheritance. Last is the Jeanroy family who offer a bleak picture of those that stay against the odds and whose son Daniel, who would much rather be doing anything else. Through these people, the film is a witness to lives, stories and values.

The film opens silently with the credits and we are soon reminded that rural life is slow and does not take to bells and whistles—it moves at its own pace.
 The narration begins thus, 
”At the start, there is always a country road, and at the end of the road, a farm”. We watch that road unfold and it goes its way through hills far away from city sounds. It’s 9:30 P.M. on a summer evening and 88-year-old shepherd Marcel Privat is bringing his sheep home from pasture.  Depardon approaches respectfully and elegantly, he does not want to frighten the animals but he does want to capture what he sees.


The movie is made up of quiet interviews with farmers whose lifestyle is on the verge of extinction. Each interview begins in the same way—with a country road during which we are aware of the beauty of the countryside and the fragility of the area. The interviews are awkward; the camera is a modern invention and it is invading the countryside and therefore it is a threat. Depardon uses long takes and the truth that is revealed seems to be accidental.

The objective of the film is to begin a dialogue via film but a dialogue in which each is able to form his own opinions. The film is important not only because it is about a world that is disappearing. It also brings ambiguous feelings forward; feelings about family and about tradition in  ways that are both thought provoking and edifying. 

The landscape of the Cevennes region is stunning in its beauty, whether in spring, summer, autumn and especially winter, but the exodus of the young folk will, before too long, see the disappearance almost completely of all the small to medium sized farms as well as the people who live and work there.

In one small village there are only two families now and people from urban areas use the rest of the houses as holiday homes.

Filming over a period of twenty years, Depardon used a simple structural approach. He began each new section in a similar way, by filming his approach to each farm from his car. This leads to the viewer feeling an empathy with the natural surroundings and the climate at that time.

Depardon interviews and film fives families – all under imminent threat of losing their livelihoods. The saddest, in the true sense of the word, of the individuals shown was sheep farmer Marcel Privat. Eighty-eight years of age, he knew he was nearing the end of his life, having worked on the mountains since he was a boy. He gazed into the distance perhaps reflecting on what life he had lived there. He said he was not afraid to die but he looked a very unhappy and lonely man.

 Depardon grew up in a rural farming community, so he knows about farmers and their connection with the land, the seasons, and animals – and it shows. His empathy and sincerity is real and understandable. The film is essentially a series of portraits shot in locked-off single takes (with the occasional editorial cut), each separated by traveling shots filmed front-on from the roof of a car. These shots are stunningly hypnotic, and act as a formally compelling counterpoint to the static interior interviews. Shot in widescreen, Depardon’s long-take compositions are impressive, but they also serve an important formal function. Apart from giving the participants all the room (and dignity) necessary to speak in their own time and in their own way, it gives the viewer what Depardon calls “reading time”, the liberty to explore the frame and discover things for themselves, and rightly so. “Modern Life” requires  that we be fully engaged and perceptive.

We meet proud people (in the best sense) in the film and we sense the filmmaker’s affection and admiration and it is contagious. They have no use for pity, and there is no place for it. We are invited  to see beyond the hardship and struggle in the hope that we will see ourselves in these people. This film is a love-letter, not only to those in the film, but also to those watching. The film gives a small isolated group of people the opportunity of expressing themselves, and (crucially) to be heard. The film is about how we live today as we look toward the future.

“DREAM DECEIVERS”— The Story Behind James Vance vs. Judas Priest

dream deceivers


The Story Behind James Vance vs. Judas Priest

Amos Lassen

Two young men shoot themselves in a churchyard and one dies—Ray Belknap. The other, James Vance lives but is disfigured severely. The young men’s parents take the heavy metal band Judas Priest to court and sue them. They claim that the band has ”mesmerized” their sons. The trial that follows is totally unique and one of the results is this documentary film that was nominated for an Emmy.

David Van Taylor’s film which was released in 1992 is quite a revealing look at Judas Priest. He shot the 1990 subliminal message trial during which the band defended itself against claims and allegations that they sent secret commands out in their songs and these led to two teens in Reno, Nevada to try to commit suicide with a 12-gauge shotgun. Belknap succeeded in taking his own life but James Vance was unsuccessful.

We see Vance’s face and hear his lisping and these interviews with him alternate with footage from the court. Rob Halford from Judas Priest is seen in a suit and mysteriously, in one scene, does a few bars of “Better by You, Better Than Me” from the witness stand. Later, Halford pegs the extreme fandom thing as largely being about a desire for approval. “I think of the judge like I guess the fans think of us,” says Halford, keyed up after his testimony. “To be close to him like that was a real experience.”

I am just not sure how to take this film—it is well done but the subject matter is quite strange. Everything from the band, to the parents, to the kids, and to the judicial system are on trial before the camera. It’s actually quite sad.  We see here a showdown between the generations and get a look at the lack of spirituality in modern America. I love what Interview Magazine had to say about this film, “ A nightmare glimpse into America’s spiritual drought and the way people fill that void with diametrically opposed faiths.” 
There are surprises here and a look at an America that we rarely see.


wet behind the ears

“Wet Behind the Ears”

The Real World

Amos Lassen

Samantha Phelps (Margaret Keane Williams) graduates from college and discovers, like so many other college grads, that the world is not awaiting her. She and her best friend, Vicky (Jessica Piervicenti), are ready to meet the world but the world does not seem to care. Vicky has better luck than Samantha and lands a job at a corporate public relations firm while Samantha ends up in the very slow unemployment line. She can no longer afford the rent so she breaks a lease and moves back home with mom and dad. She is forced to take a job that pays minimum wage and working from an enemy from her high school days. Vicky needs a roommate and is stuck with interviewing a bunch of strange people.


The girls begin to get desperate and go to Dean, a friend from high school who offers then a quick way to change things—- video piracy. This is a new kind of coming-of-age story. Samantha’s job search yields no job and so, she thinks, here she is, a college graduate, selling ice cream. Vicky feels alone and abandoned; she has lost her roommate and her boss is an egomaniac who makes unreasonable demands on her. Samantha convinces Vicky to use her position in corporate relations to engage in a shady business and this puts quite a strain on their friendship. Now Samantha has two goals with getting her friend back as important as getting the right job.

 Sloan Copland directed the film and co-wrote the screenplay with Amanda Williams. They wanted to explore what happens after college graduation. Samantha struggles with what she wants to do with her life and she fights just to be able to make a salary. Vicky, on the other hand, has to learn to survive in the corporate world. While this is a comedy, it looks at a very serious problem in America today. Finding employment is a challenging and sometimes frightening experience and now that 50% of American college graduates are unemployed, we are well aware of the problem but we only really feel it when it touches us directly. This film shows us that experience. We see here that sometimes we have to look in places that we might not have ever considered; today a college degree is not an automatic meal ticket.

The film has been on the festival circuit and has been racking up awards which include several best picture wins as well awards for the actresses.

Winner – Best Feature – Golden Door International Film Festival

Winner – Best Feature – Philadelphia Independent Film Festival

Winner – Best Feature – Toronto Independent Film Festival

Winner – Best Comedic Feature – Studio City Film Festival

Winner – Audience Award – Real To Reel Film Festival

Winner – Audience Award – SoHo International Film Festival

Winner – Screeners Choice Award – Indie Spirit Film Festival

Winner – Directors Choice Award – Northeast Film Festival

Winner – Best Actress – New York City International Film Festival

Winner – Best Actress in Comedic Feature – Studio City Film Festival

Winner – Best Supporting Actress – Golden Door International Film Festival

Winner – Best Supporting Actor – Long Island International Film Expo

Winner – Gold Award – Long Island International Film Expo

Winner – Best Editing – Golden Door International Film Festival

Winner – Golden Ace Award – Las Vegas Film Festival

cinema libre


rocks poster

“Rocks in My Pockets”

Five Women

Amos Lassen

Signe Baumane tells us a tale that is based  on true events in her own family—five women and the director herself battled with depression and madness. This is a story that brings mystery and redemption together and it raises questions about how genetics determine who we are and “if it is possible to outsmart our own DNA”. This is an animated film that is filled with metaphors, surrealism and a somewhat twisted sense of humor.


Baumane is a Latvian born artist and filmmaker who brings us five courageous women and we see their battles with mental issues. The stories all deal with the major issues that we all face in life— romance, marriage, nature and business. We also see something about the upheaval in Eastern Europe. However the most important thing we see here is the fight for sanity.

Baumane got the idea for film just by listening to her own thoughts. She says that even with all that she thinks about her mind seemed to always return to how she could just end it all and the way to do so. She finds the fragility of the human mind to be fascinating and that is the reason she is still alive today. All of us face the unpredictability of life but if we only try we can find humor in being alive. I remember my mother saying to be several times that if we cannot laugh at life then we have no reason to live.

Baumane learned that she was not the only member in her family to have depressing thoughts but not all of them were able to deal with their demons. Therefore she dedicates this film to those who did not survive as well as to those that did.


Baumane’s animation is unique—it combines papier-mâché stop-motion and classic hand-drawn animation and she uses it to tell the story of mystery, mental health, redemption and survival. The animation is the way that she says she can fully express her mind. Here animation is the medium of very sophisticated storytelling. “It is able to depict what no one can see — the utmost inner feelings and thoughts. It can deal with abstractions of problems in a way that a camera cannot. It can juxtapose inner worlds with the outside Universe and tie them all into comprehensive narratives. Animation can bring humor and visual metaphor to storytelling. Walt Disney himself proclaimed that, “animation can explain whatever the mind of man can conceive”.


The film had its World Premiere at the 2014 Karlovy Vary Film Festival and it was the first animated feature ever to take part in the Karlovy Vary International Competition. The film will open at the IFC Center in New York on September 5, and at Laemmle Theaters in Los Angeles on September 12. A national release will follow.

“THE EMPTY HOURS”—- Opening Soon Near You

- Jeannette Catsoulis, The New York TimesCritics' Pick CRITICS’ PICK
- Zachary Wigon, The Village Voice


Starring Kristyan Ferrer and Adriana Paz

Official Selection:
San Sebastián Film Festival

Opens Friday, July 11 in New York at the Village East Cinema
Opens Friday, July 18 in Los Angeles at Laemmle’s NoHo 7 & Playhouse 7

View Trailer
On the desolated coast of Veracruz, 17 year-old Sebastián takes over running his uncle’s small and cozy rent-by-the hour motel. There he meets Miranda, a regular customer who comes to the motel to meet a lover who always keeps her waiting. As Sebastián and Miranda get to know each other, an ambiguous game of seduction begins between them.
100 Minutes | Drama | In Spanish with English Subtitles | Not Rated
181 – 189 2nd Ave
New York, NY 10012
(212) 529-6799
For Tickets & ShowtimesOPENS FRIDAY, JULY 18, 2014 IN LOS ANGELES

5240 Lankershim Blvd.
North Hollywood, CA 91601
For Tickets & Showtimes

673 East Colorado Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91101
For Tickets & Showtimes


“ORPHEUS DESCENDING”— New Hope in Mississippi

orpheus descending“Orpheus Descending”

New Hope in Mississippi

Amos Lassen

Peter Hall, the acclaimed director, gave his hands to a brave and bizarre adaptation of one of Tennessee Williams’ most complicated plays, “Orpheus Descending” which later became better known as “The Fugitive Kind”. Brook stayed as close as possible to the playwright’s vision— of the decadence and unruliness of the American south with its violence and sexuality. The South eschewed realism as saw itself as a universe that was impossible to accept as literal but so powerful in its emotions that we cannot deny it.

Vanessa Redgrave stars as Lady Torrance, the middle-aged proprietor of her husband’s mercantile store in the Deep South. Jabe, her husband, played by Brad Sullivan, is laid in a bed upstairs from the store, every hour further consumed by a cancer almost as malignant as Jabe’s own temperament. Lady doesn’t quite know if she grieves more because her husband is going to die or because he is taking so damn long to do it; for months she has endured his raging invective, everything from criticisms of her management of the store to accusations that she is trying to kill him. Neighborhood women, some related to Jabe but others merely gossips and snoopers, busybody around her store whispering about his condition and judging her own behavior as the wife of a dying man.

 Lady has gone so long without luck or love that initially she doesn’t even recognize a good thing when it comes her way and it comes in the personage of Valentine Xavier (Kevin Anderson), a guitar-toting drifter whose car breaks down outside town and who comes asking for a job in her store. Val immediately attracts the attention of all the women in the community but he is reticent and cool to their attentions and no one can make sense of him.

 The woman who tries the hardest is Carol Cutrere (Anne Twomey), the local “fallen woman,” who lets on she knows something about his past before initiating her attempted seduction. The problem with small town living like we have here is that even when Val refuses Carol’s advances, the mere fact of their interaction is enough to make him suspicious. It isn’t long before the men of the community watch Val’s every move.

 Because of this it is probably a blessing that Val has set himself in the employ of Lady Torrance, who is accustomed to dubious glances and thinks nothing of harboring someone like Val once he has proven on her own terms that she can trust him. At least, that seems to be Lady’s perspective; it is only after about an hour that we begin to understand how far-reaching Lady’s dreams are, how thoroughly thwarted her passions have been, and how cleverly she can plan for an escape route out of the hell she inhabits.

 The title implies, the myth of Orpheus as one of its chief inspirations and this overtly stages its developing conflicts as a sort of a parable. We are made aware of the story of the burning alive of Lady’s immigrant father to the smell of cigarettes that proves a give-away as to Val’s presence at moments he would probably prefer people not to know.

 Kevin Anderson, does a fine job navigating the tricky course Williams designs for this character, namely of achieving an incendiary effect on almost every character who passes through the Torrance Mercantile Store but without actually seeming to do anything to merit this. He says over and over that he wants to grow out of his past– he wants to “play it cool,” and Anderson lends sincerity to that project of lying low without erasing the sensual buzz around a man to whom Lady shouts, “Everything you do is suggestive!”

The rest of the cast is excellent as each creates a real character that draws on real emotions. It is impossible not to say something about Vanessa Redgrave’s performance. Redgrave exaggerates all of her physical movements and slathers on a an “Italian” accent that, while occasionally too weird to understand, achieves the dimension of theatricality and artifice that Williams so clearly intends for this character. She delivers a moving performance. Her Lady Torrance comes across as a devilish kind of a woman with energy but she also lingers for a long time whenever she can. Every wringing of her hand or tripping of her tongue in this performance is a grasp for the life that Jabe’s illness, her brutal childhood, and the town circle of vultures are forever threatening to take from her. Lady Torrance is the sort of role that calls for histrionics and these are supplied readily by Redgrave.  I saw the Broadway production from which this was filmed and I must say that I sat with my mouth open during Redgrave’s presence on the stage (95% of the play). She was absolutely amazing and deserved every second of the 15 minute standing ovation at the end (and this was a Sunday matinee).

“Orpheus Descending” is a play which, after all, describes the sad fate of men and women who look too long on visions of what they’d like to be, never noticing what sad sacks they have in fact have become and we certainly see that here.

“THE STRANGE COLOR OF YOUR BODY’S TEARS”— “A fantasia of death, sex, panic, confusion, nipples and razors.”

the strange color“The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears” (“L’étrange couleur des larmes de ton corps”).

 ”A fantasia of death, sex, panic, confusion, nipples and razors.”

Amos Lassen

  “The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears” is a fantasia of death, sex, panic, confusion, primary colors, aggressive music, 60s modern interior design, nipples, blood and straight razors. There seems to be no narrative and much comes across in a disjointed manner.


Belgian directors Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani (“Amer”) open their new picture in classic giallo fashion. To electronic rock music We see a man running around his “old world” elegant apartment building looking for his missing wife as electric rock music plays. He buzzes doorbells and finally meets “the old woman upstairs” (represented by a voice and some legs in stockings.) As he explains that his wife has gone, she starts to tell him what she feels is a relevant story. Now we watch a fifteen-minute short film (or it at least feels like that) and interesting symbols float across the screen. Just as we find ourselves engross in the story, the man (who we have forgotten about) is upset that time is being wasted. Similar scenes ensue with other people and with the detective who comes over to discuss the case. It starts to feel like a musical, with each narrative break as a big showcase number.  Must say I had no idea of what was happening here but it all looks so interesting.


There are split-screens, there are negative exposures, there are extreme close-ups, there’s over-saturated color and there’s black and white. There’s a whole sequence made up entirely of still shots against elaborate sound design. There’s also a scene edited to a “sound-alike” of Iron Butterfly’s “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” (perhaps a wink at how frequently the original is used?)

The man is led on a wild goose chase by cryptic messages from his mysterious neighbors. He becomes entangled in a hellish nightmare as he unlocks their strange fantasies of sensuality and bloodshed. This is a visually dazzling experience takes us on a journey into mystery and blood soaked terror that, I doubt, we will never forget.


This is not just a movie—it is a sensorial experience, pulling us into an audiovisual trip inhabited by things nightmares are made of. It is complex and shows a serious attempt at multi-layered storytelling. This is abstract film making with a high level of artistry, so with regards to the actual (fragmented) storyline, you might very well still be scratching your head at the end of the film.

 Underneath the surface, the seasoned viewer will spot many more references to the Giallo genre.  The giallo seems to be growing in popularity year by year. A whole new generation of horror fans sees these films.  This is as metaphysical as they come. At times you might think that Klaus has killed his wife, or that she has simply run off, or that he never had a wife at all, or that, perhaps, the entire building is a metaphor for male fear and desire of women. There are no easy answers here. 


“’Night and Fog’: A Film in History” by Sylvie Lindeperg— “The Greatest Film Ever Made”

night and fog

Lindeperg, Sylvie. “’Night and Fog’: A Film in History”, (translated by Tom Mes)  University of Minnesota Press, 2014.

“The Greatest Film Ever Made”

Amos Lassen

 Francois Truffaut has said that Alain Renais’s film “Night and Fog” is “the greatest film ever made.” However, due to its subject matter, it is not an easy film to watch. When Renais finished this documentary, with its depiction of Nazi atrocities, the resistance of the French censors was fierce. It has only been ten years since the war ended, and the French public was unprepared to confront the horrors shown in the film—let alone hear about the possibility of French complicity. In fact it would be through this film that many learned “that the worst had only just taken place.

“Night and Fog” is an engrossing account of the genesis, production, and legacy of Renais’s incomparable film. This book shows us that the film that began as part of an educational process became a significant step in the building of a collective consciousness of the tragedy of World War II. Sylvie Lindeperg frames her investigation with the story of historian Olga Wormser-Migot, who played an integral role in the research and writing of the film and whose slight error on one point gave purchase to the film’s detractors and revisionists and Holocaust deniers. Lindeperg follows the travails of Resnais, Wormser-Migot, and their collaborators in a pan-European search for footage, photographs, and other documentation. She discovers creative use of liberation footage to stand in for daily life of the camps featured to such shocking effect in the film. This has raised hotly debated questions about reenactment and witnessing even as it enhances our understanding of the film’s provenance and impact. This is a unique look at the inside workings of biography, history, politics, and film in one epoch-making cultural moment.

Here is the Table of Contents”

— Foreword 
Jean-Michel Frodon

— Acknowledgments

— Introduction 
Prologue: Olga Wormser-Migot, the Missing Link

— Part I. Inception: A Breakdown of Gazes 
1. The “Invisible Authority”: The Stakes of a Commission 
2. The “ Merchants of Shadows”: A French–Polish Coproduction 
3. A Journey to the East: Research and Documentation 
4. Writing Four Hands 
5. The Adventurous Gaze 
6. The Darkness of the Editing Room 
7. Suffocated Words: A Lazarian Poetry 
8. Eisler’s Neverending Chant

— Part II. Passage and Migration 
9. Tug of War with the Censors 
10. The Cannes Confusion: Dissecting a Scandal 
11. Germany Gets Its First Look 
12. Exile from Language: Paul Celan, Translator 
13. Translation Battles in the GDR 
14. A Portable Memorial 
15. Shifting Perspectives: An Educational Institution 
16. Constructing the Cinephilic Gaze

— Epilogue: Olga’s Tomb 

“EXODUS”— First Pictures Of Sigourney Weaver & Joel Edgerton


First Pictures Of Sigourney Weaver & Joel Edgerton

exodus-pic5Now that most of the biggest movies of the summer are in cinemas the studios can turn their attention to their major winter offerings, and few are bigger or more of a gamble than Fox’s $200 million dollar take on the talk of Moses, Exodus: Gods and Kings.

The story follows Moses (Christian Bale) who goes up against the Pharaoh Ramses so that he can lead the Israelites out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. As Moses grew up in the royal Egyptian court, he had a close relationship to Egyptian ruler Ramses, which goes sour when he takes up the cause of his people.

In response to the inevitable comparisons to Charlton Heston in The 10 Commandments, Christian Bale says, “Charlton Heston does Charlton Heston better than anyone. But the biblical account of Moses is extraordinary, and there was lots of room for us to go to places that [Charlton Heston's movie] The Ten Commandments never dreamed of going. [There are] No fake beards. There’s nothing mild about the Exodus or Moses.”

It’s due out in December.