Christopher Bell’s THE WINDS THAT SCATTER Available for FREE via Vimeo

One of my favorite films from this year - Christopher Bell's The Winds That Scatter - is currently available for free, streaming on Bell's Vimeo page, for the next 24 hours. Bell's film (which he produced, wrote, directed and edited) is, unfortunately, even more timely than it was back at the tail-end of September when I covered it on the site for our For Future Reference feature

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Amid breeze-blown curtains wafting in open windows; amid the stovetop flames responsible for boiling and brewing, there is something transpiring in the constricted confines of an apartment kitchen, a narrow off-shoot barely retaining its sole possession - a dining table. Filmmaker Gina Telaroli, along with a group of friends and acquaintances, has transformed this small, familiar space into something different, its identity has been altered as the overall appearance remains recognizable with the usual occupational parameters of the room left intact as normal activity is replaced with staged imitations.

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The narrative, co-written with Kate Johnston, found at the center of Empire Builder happens to deal with one uncomplicated action, an elementary development seen as inevitable based on the build and structure of the storyline. Throughout the entirety of the beginning portions of the film, there doesn’t appear to be much of an effort placed on shrouding what could happen in mystery and/or ambiguity. Swanberg and Johnston’s interests lie in the field of the emotional, taking the time to display the emotional states of each character in an unembellished fashion relying on nothing but the body languages amid solitude and socialization, oscillating between fleeting moments of reflection and intimate interactions of playfulness and consideration.

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CODE UNKNOWN Blu-ray Review

It might have taken some time, but the Criterion Collection has now come to include to Michael Haneke into its pantheon of thoughtfully-restored films committed to blu-ray for perpetuity. It’s seems fitting that the film chosen for initiation into the Criterion treatment would also be his first French film, Code Unknown (2000); which, also marks the first time the German director would work with a bona-fide, world-renowned star such as Juliette Binoche, positioning the Criterion Collection into a kill two birds with one stone situation by generating excitement for Haneke fans while, simultaneously, inching one film closer to making the collection a Binoche completist.

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Paintings from the likes of Monet, Manet and Renoir (to name a few) populate the backgrounds of each still frame, each frame signifying one act of the film’s storyline with 18 acts in total. The actors, themselves, exist primarily in the foreground, in time period aligned garments, over-emoting in the vein of silent films, gravitas pinned to the performances by way of over-exaggeration. Their existences will occasionally blend into the paintings, two art forms bleeding into one as the oil-painted veneer of thickets and overgrowth cloud the stances and footfalls of the actors navigating the artificiality of the surrounding terrain.

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The wonders of The Wonders do not reveal themselves until the tail-end of its slice-of-life narrative of coming-of-age in the Tuscan countryside. Not until the family at the center of the film treks out to an island, clad in togas and laurel wreaths, to participate in a television show competition to crown the next "countryside wonder", a distinction that would solve all of their financial problems. It is during this stretch of the story that magical realism creeps into the proceedings, transforming the entire affair into something marvelous.

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The occupying quirk found in Alison Bagnall’s Funny Bunny is easily recognizable on the surface as more of the same. At first glance, Bagnall’s feature has the familiar appearance of all the other indie comedies strewn about the distribution landscape over the past several years except that Bagnall’s implementation emerges as a more thoughtful interpretation.

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Right from the jump, writer/director Christopher Good unloads the viewer into the whirlwind that is Mudjackin’, a brother/sister buddy comedy murder mystery, starting with an I.C.E. raid before even considering introducing context or characters really. From there, the relentlessness continues with the tempo locked-in at high-octane with rapid-fire cuts coming from every possible direction while the brother/sister duo run through an exhaustive overview of their backstories with a swiftness - years flush with dreaming big and big, shattered dreams.

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Eugene Kotlyarenko appears to be a bit of a showman; a prankster, if you will, decidedly implementing a ruse in order to pique interest and advertise his latest film, A Wonderful Cloud, to the populace, enticing viewers to witness abject depravity unsuitable for “God-fearing New Yorkers”.

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90s vibes/aesthetics burrow their roots deep within the fabric of Whitney Horn and Lev Kalman’s L for Leisure, a loosely-connected collage of vacations over the stretch of 1992-93 school year presented in the hazy confines of the sun-saturated 16mm film frames. More a series of memento-style footage of downtime and recreation than an actual, standard narrative experience. Horn and Kalman’s debut feature-length possesses a certain casualness thanks to its breezy framework, where mellow is the goal and boogie-boarding is crucial.

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Clocking in at 14 minutes, imbued with a literary air through well-executed voiceover (something I normally loathe), Six Cents in the Pocket is an incomparable work of culled elements from various art forms - theatre, painting, cinema and the aforementioned arena of literature - distilled into a homogenized, singular entity. With ephemeral sequences of vague context, the film’s structure is reminiscent of a classical work of literature, half-remembered, verging on anonymity, cobbled together from the residuals of memory.

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A new film from Miike means a new section of my life devoted to complete and utter bewilderment, although in the best sense possible. As always, the beginning stages of a Miike are met with both hands firmly grasped around the logistics and the intentions of the film at hand until the bizarre aspects of the narrative begin to wander in and out the narrative. This is when my grasp begins to falter, shakingly holding on for this time will be the time I continue to have a firm grasp of the proceedings.

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The third installment of UNSUNG INDIES delves into Ian Clark's experimental MMXIII, an exploration into image capturing and creation. Employing a myriad of technologies to present ideas and philosophies, Clark effortlessly weaves his way through the beauty and power of an image and the time-consuming undertaking of searching for the perfect image. Misleading in its simplicity, MMXIII inexplicably accommodates a wealth of ideas, every still and every progression has the ability to spark thought and discussion.

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Miniature assassins of varying age are taught day-in day-out in the ways of death, yet the reasonings are fully disclosed. The script, written by Sarah Cyngler with Kleiman, focuses on the faction’s original partisan - Alexander (played by Jeremy Chabriel) - the eldest of the group, slowly approaching that all-important age when one starts to question the viewpoints of others (particularly, adults) and begins thinking independently.

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For the second installment of Unsung Indies, I take a look at THE INTERNATIONAL SIGN FOR CHOKING. Written, directed and starring Zach Weintraub, alongside Sophia Takal, about a young man travelling to Buenos Aires looking to regroup while searching for possible documentary subjects, navigating a burgeoning romance, and searching for a woman from his past. All of these activities taking place within the meticulously-composed frames of cinematographer Nandan Rao.