Wednesday 30 August 2023

Still Life (Sohrab Shahid Saless, 1974) reviewed by John Gillet for Sight & Sound

Perhaps Berlin’s main achievement was to reveal the progress of the young Iranian director Sohrab Shahid Sales, with A Simple Event (reviewed from last year’s Tehran Festival) in the Forum and Still Life in competition. The new film continues his preoccupation with the lives of inarticulate people—in this case, an elderly railway signalman who receives news of his retirement with utter incomprehension— developed through lengthy scenes in which the characters are simply observed going about their daily chores. Without Sales’ extraordinary control, the result could be  intolerable, but for me the film’s exact placing and timing of shots, rather like a slow symphony scored pianissimo throughout, was entirely hypnotic. 

Monday 28 August 2023

Sven Klangs kvintett (Stellan Olsson, 1976)

Playing at Close-Up Cinema in London on September 24, 2023. – EK

Voted by Swedish film critics as one of the "25 greatest Swedish films ever", Stellan Olsson's tender drama is based on a play by Henric Holmberg and Ninne Olsson, about the failed transformation of a dance band, formed by a group of young friends, into a proper jazz band in southern Sweden of the late 1950s. Excited by the discovery of a new musical language, they discuss Charlie Parker, and one of them, the saxophonist Lars Nilsson, goes as far as imitating his idol not only in his saxophone sound but also in his wild lifestyle. Shot in stunning black-and-white, many traces of the tableau-like compositions that Swedish cinema through figures like Roy Andersson became known for are already established here. So is the cracking humour. This gem of Swedish films is ripe for rediscovery.