Thursday, 5 January 2023

Si j'avais 4 dromadaires (Chris Marker, 1966)

Playing at Closeup Cinema in London on January 29, 2023. There'll be some surprise shorts screened before Marker's film. – EK

Marker's underseen masterpiece, Si j'avais 4 dromadaires [If I Had Four Camels], with its originality and sole reliance on still photographs stands next to his best known work, La Jetée (1962). The photographs incorporated into the film were taken between 1956 and 1966 in many different countries (Greece, Russia, Iran, Cuba, China, France, Japan) as Marker was working for the Petite Planète travel guides or taking snap shots of his favourite people.  Here, he offers his own travel guide to a changing word, a "Marker Planet" narrated by a mysterious, world-weary traveller who speaks like a poet and thinks like a philosopher. The narration evolves into three voices with contrasting opinions about the role of photography in constructing collective cultural memory. With an endless sense of irony and the quiet investigating of photographic image, this is one of the great works of the 60s. – Ehsan Khoshbakht

Friday, 23 December 2022

The Best Films of 2022


My "top 10" of the year as submitted to and published on Sight & Sound. For the full list of the 97 voters and their picks go here. – EK

EO (Jerzy Skolimowski)

Compartment No. 6 (Juho Kuosmanen)

See You Friday, Robinson (Mitra Farahani)

The Eclipse (Nataša Urban)

The King of Laughter (Mario Martone)

Marx Can Wait (Marco Bellocchio)

Jacques Tati, tombé de la lune (Jean-Baptiste Péretié)

Maixabel (Icíar Bollaín)

I Am Trying to Remember (Pegah Ahangarani)

My Imaginary Country (Patricio Guzmán)

Friday, 11 November 2022

How to Make a Retrospective

My Six Convicts by Hugo Fregonese. Still (c) Cineteca di Bologna

The talk How to Make a Retrospective will be given at the BFI Southbank, London as part of the Archive Screening Days 2022 (organised by Independent Cinema Office) on December 8, 2022.

What are the challenges and methods needed to bring cinema history to life? How can we frame a body of work so it can be shared more widely? In this wide-ranging presentation, filmmaker, film curator and writer Ehsan Khoshbakht demonstrates the process of mounting a major retrospective. In 2022, Il Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna – the world’s largest archive film festival – delivered a retrospective of director Hugo Fregonese. A neglected figure in Hollywood but with a history spanning his home country of Argentina as well as UK, Spain, West Germany and Italy, Fregonese’s life and career contained multitudes, and the retrospective introduced his work to a new generation. This session offers an insider’s view on the curatorial framework for building a retrospective as well as the practical challenges of sharing work outside regular circulation.

Thursday, 13 October 2022

Earthly Songs: Ebrahim Golestan at 100 – A Viennale retrospective

This retrospective takes place in Vienna, as part of the Viennale. The screenings, programmed into four sessions, are scheduled for October 21-23, 2022. I shall be introducing all four events. – EK

Session#1: Fires of Forough

Fire-Fight at Ahvaz (1958) / A Fire (1961) / Courtship (1961) / The House Is Black (1962)

Total running time: 88 mins

A look at Golestan's oil documentaries, as well as examining his collaboration with poet and filmmaker Forough Farrokhzad. In 1958, an oil well in southwest Iran caught fire. Abolghassem Rezaie, the son of one of the pioneers of Iranian cinema, made Fire-Fight at Ahwaz about the disaster. When Golestan saw the black-and-white footage, for which he wrote the narration, he saw that the story held even greater potential and decided to produce his own version of the events – this time in colour. Golestan's version, A Fire, proved to be his first major international success. It was edited by Farrokhzad, who combined her poetic sensibilities with Golestan's more symbolic approach. Farrokhzad also acted in Courtship, a short made for Canadian television, in which Golestan demonstrates a marvellous ability with mise-en-scène, especially in his assured use of the camera. In the same year, Farrokhzad made The House Is Black, set in a leper colony in northwest Iran. Celebrated as one of the greatest films ever made, it is a dialogue between the passions of the poet (Farrokhzad) and the voice of reason (Golestan).

Thursday, 29 September 2022

Chess of the Wind: The Glorious Miniature of an Upheaval

Chess of the Wind

When Chess of the Wind premiered in November 1976, at the fifth Tehran International Film Festival, nobody knew what to make of it. A mix-up in the order of the reels at the first of three screenings—either a technical issue or a deliberate act of sabotage—made the plot almost unintelligible, while faulty projector lamps meant that the interior scenes, certain of which are artfully lit using candlelight, appeared so dark that viewers became angry. Moreover, despite the film’s historical setting—the drama unfolds in a feudal mansion, following the death of a matriarch—this tale of deceit and intrigue was a little too close to the bone for a society that had become increasingly polarized since the beginning of the seventies. Complete with breaks in the fourth wall, a delicately handled lesbian scene (the first of its kind in Iranian cinema), and an ending in which a working-class woman overthrows a male-dominated household and liberates herself, this enigmatic work was both perplexing and reflective of a changing Iran...

Read the full essay on Criterion website


Thursday, 22 September 2022

See You Friday, Robinson (Mitra Farahani, 2022)


See You Friday, Robinson (Mitra Farahani, 2022) plays at Closeup Cinema in London on October 19, 28 and 30, 2022.

A long-distance dialogue between Ebrahim Golestan, a giant of Iranian cinema and literature (now only a few months shy of his 100th birthday) and Swiss-French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard forms the basis of this latest film by Mitra Farahani. Among the most gifted documentarians from Iran, Farahani mediates between two seemingly irreconcilable worlds to create a unique epistolary work. Its elegant, hybrid style takes us from encounters with shadows – the first time we see each of these artists – to the inner lives of flesh and blood individuals; vulnerable, pained, caring, endlessly searching. 

Monday, 5 September 2022

Focus on Filmfarsi in Paris (September 2022)

Cry of Midnight AKA Midnight Terror (1962)

A listing of the Iranian films which will be screened at L'Étrange Festival in Paris, including my documentary Filmfarsi (2019). All screenings at Forum des images, September 2022.

Filmfarsi (2019)

Sep 9, 17:45 (introduction by Ehsan) | Sep 18, 18:30

“As a long standing admirer of the New Iranian Cinema, I often wondered about its popular predecessor. Ehsan Khoshbakht has finally opened up this story.  His essayistic, meditative and cinephile analysis celebrates an unashamedly exploitative genre, steeped in sex and violence; Filmfarsi very usefully locates this crazy cinema within the Iranian popular and political culture of its time, and also allows it to find a place in the wider context of World Cinema.” — Laura Mulvey

Szyfry (Wojciech Has, 1966)

Playing at London's Closeup Cinema on October 30, 2022. – EK

Championed for his intricate narratives and hypnotic imagery by people like Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia, Luis Buñuel and Martin Scorsese, Wojciech Has uses a historical frame only to bend the notions of time and space. The result, Szyfry (meaning the codes), is one of the most complex Polish films about the moral dilemmas of Second World War.

Made right after his international breakthrough, The Saragossa Manuscript, and using the same star (Zbigniew Cybulski, in one of his final roles, before dying in an accident a year later), Szyfry is about a Second World War veteran returning to Warsaw from his long London exile to meet the wife and son he has left behind. The son (played by Cybulski), a former member of the resistance, open his father's eyes to the fate of the fourth member of their family, his disappeared brother, and the inconvenient truth that he might have been a Nazi collaborator. Featuring some of Has's most staggering dream/nightmare sequences, this rarely seen gem is one of the essential films of Polish cinema of the 1960s.

Monday, 22 August 2022

One Way Street (Hugo Fregonese, 1950)

One Way Street, part of the Hugo Fregonese tribute, plays at MoMA on September 1, 18:30. It's a fine 35mm print, previously screened in Bologna in June 2022. – EK

After leaving Britain in bitter resentment, James Mason appeared in Hugo Fregonese’s Hollywood debut, somewhat appropriately, a film about life on the run. Mason plays Dr Frank Matson, a shady physician who takes off with a bag full of stolen money and the girlfriend of a gang leader, hiding out with her in Mexico. But fate knocks loudly on the door, echoing one of Fregonese’s major preoccupations: the encounter with death. “For no matter the tears that may be wept, the appointment will be kept,” the film’s opening title card bluntly announces.