neo-realism

Italian auteur Lina Wertmüller is in a category all her own. After working as an assistant director for Federico Fellini on 8½, Wertmüller began a directing career that established her as a confrontational, no-holds-barred artist. Her films often mixed sex and violence, as well as humor and dark themes, to disturbing, challenging, and mesmerizing effects. She didn’t do this in the name of exploitation, or to deliberately discomfit her audience, but to illustrate how comedy and tragedy in life are often inseparable, and the all-too-comfortable categories that distinguish them in film genres are far too convenient to reflect this reality. Wertmüller’s best-known works are the international hit Swept Away (1974, but unfortunately better known today for the failed Guy Ritchie/Madonna remake) and the astounding Seven Beauties (1975), a film about a fascist-sympathetic Don Juan who spends time in a German concentration camp and attempts to seduce the camp’s imposing female officer-in-charge in order to gain food and, perhaps, freedom. Seven Beauties gave Wertmüller the distinction of being the first-ever woman nominated for the Best Director Oscar. It also provided a nomination for its star, Giancarlo Giannini (perhaps best-known today for his supporting roles in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace), who starred in many of Wertmüller’s films as her bumbling, promiscuous muse. Now, three previously unavailable films by Wertmüller, The Seduction of Mimi (1972), Love & Anarchy (1973), and All Screwed Up (1974), have been made available in a DVD box set and separate Blu-Ray releases from Kino Classics. These […]

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Criterion Files

The emergence of Pedro Costa’s films into American cinematic consciousness remains something of a conundrum that discerning audiences continue to wrestle with. On the one hand, for those who desire for a radically unconventional cinema as far from Hollywood (geographically, aesthetically, ideologically) as one can get, for those who seek respite from the increasingly conventional American “independent” cinema, and for those tired of “global cinema” and its associated mandate of universal accessibility, Costa seems to be the pill to quell cinematic frustration.

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Walk up Broadway from 20th to 30th streets in Manhattan and you’ll find a bustling bazaar of low-rent storefront shops hawking an array of consumer goods, some legal, most not. With salesmen haranguing you to come with them and check out their latest deals, it’s not the best spot for a leisurely stroll. In the portrait the neighborhood offers of the American dream being aggressively pursued, it is, however, a fascinating milieu. Sean Baker, director of the new shoestring budget feature Prince of Broadway, now in limited release, seizes upon the small dramatic moments and intricate details that characterize the daily flow of life centered on this part of town.

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