A brutal naturalist melodrama, Metin Erksan's masterful Dry Summer [Susuz yaz], which won the Golden Bear at the 1964 Berlin Film Festival, returns to the spotlight in a new restoration after decades of suppression by Turkish authorities: an arid fate for one of the most exciting films of the 1960s. Viscerally tactile, unsparing, and even on occasion outright lurid, Dry Summer has been described by filmmaker Fatih Akin as "one of the most important legacies of Turkish cinema."
During a particularly dry rural Turkish summer, a group of local workers enter into a dispute with a landowner when he decides the construction of new irrigation infrastructure must first and foremost service his own property. Wholly rapacious, the landowner foments a private war with his own kin after the brother takes a bewitching young wife. The battle between the factions plays out in stunning set-pieces: a pursuit with pistols amidst grass-stalks and dam-water before the setting sun evokes elements of Renoir (Toni), Ford (The World Moves On), Bergman (The Virgin Spring), and Shindô (Onibaba), while a scene set in a brush thicket wherein the landowner and his aggressors fight it out hatchet-and-club provides drama at least as exciting and gasp-inducing as the climax of Seven Samurai.
Dry Summer's sweat-dappled tone and baked images of promenade and labour recall Mexican-period Buñuel as much as aspects of mid-'50s Italian commercial melodrama and, via the film's backdrop of agrarian agitation and its low angles - which effect a figural relief against blazing, albeit greyish mid-contrast summer skies - post-montage Soviet agitprop. The Masters of Cinema Series is proud to present the World Cinema Foundation's restoration of Metin Erksan's classic on Blu-ray for the first time in the UK.
The inaugural film of the World Cinema Foundation's efforts, Trances [Transes] is a picture unlike any other: a poetic, roving documentary-portrait performance-film based around the Moroccan band Nass El Ghiwane.
In this rare, transformational work, Nass El Ghiwane perform their music at concerts at once fervidly rally-like and suffused with the spontaneity of a mass happening; recount their time working alongside the great chaâbi musician Boudjemaâ El Ankis in the 1970s; and generally philosophise and reflect upon life. As Martin Scorsese expressed at the time of the film's re-presentation in 2007: "I became passionate about this music that I heard and I saw also the way the film was made, the concert that was photographed and the effect of the music on the audience at the concert. I tracked down the music and eventually it became my inspiration for many of the designs and construction of my film The Last Temptation of Christ. [...] And I think the group was singing damnation: their people, their beliefs, their sufferings, and their prayers all came through their singing. And I think the film is beautifully made by Ahmed El Maanouni; it's been an obsession of mine since 1981."
True to its title, Trances is an hypnotic, exhilarating masterwork. The Masters of Cinema Series is proud to present Ahmed El Maanouni's film, restored from the original 16mm camera and sound negatives, on Blu-ray for the first time in the UK.
Set largely in Korea and China, and spanning the 1910s to 1940s, Ermek Shinarbaev's epic masterpiece unites the resonant pictoriality of certain Far Eastern cinema with a mysticism rooted in the Russian tradition: a fitting and harmonic convergence for this collaboration (one of three) between the Kazakh director and Korean-Russian writer Anatoli Kim.
A rural schoolteacher, Jan, murders a pupil, the young daughter of a family under whom he had previously been a tenant. The father, Caj [pronounced "Tsaiya"], tracks him to China to exact revenge - but at at the moment of vengeance, Caj cannot act. He returns home only to take a concubine, who in turn bears him a son: Sungu, a prodigious composer of verse. At Caj's deathbed, the boy is informed he has been brought into the world purely for the sake of vengeance; he takes an oath to annihilate Jan.
Tonally, Revenge exhibits an extraordinary use of natural light that lends the figures an almost ethereal incandescence in the picture's first half; the second half of the film shifts into a no-less-impressive palate that is ally to late-Tarkovskyan naturalism. A narrative broken into seven chapters, and constructed in a full-circle that creates a visual and spoken summary of Sungu's poetic universe, Revenge is, to quote the critic Kent Jones, "a true odyssey, geographically and psychologically. One of the greatest films to emerge from the Kazakh New Wave, and also one of the toughest." The Masters of Cinema Series is proud to present Revenge, restored from the original camera negative with the involvement of Ermek Shinarbaev, on Blu-ray for the first time in the UK.
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