Each month, the Indie Prof reviews a current film in the theater and a second film that is available on DVD or an instant-streaming service. Follow “Indie Prof” on Facebook for updates about film events and more reviews.
First this month, a release from the Denver Film Society about its upcoming horror film festival.
The Stanley Film Festival runs from April 30 through May 3 in Estes Park, Colorado. It showcases classic and contemporary independent horror cinema all set at the haunted and historic Stanley Hotel in beautiful Estes Park, Colorado. The Festival presents emerging and established filmmakers enabling the industry and general public to experience the power of storytelling through genre cinema. Find the full program at www.stanleyfilmfest.com.
It is a small, fun, and interesting festival where you can mingle with fellow horror fans and industry personnel. Hope to see you there. Now on to our reviews.
About Elly (2009)
The Iranian Cinema has a long history, dating back to the early days of cinema. Many films from the West played on the early Iranian screens. The cinema remained steady in pre-revolution Iran, but it came to a halt when the Khomeini regime took over in 1979. Western films were banned, and most filmmakers had left the country.
The industry made a comeback in the ’80s, and a two-track system developed: there are popular films that play inside Iran and an art cinema that plays mostly outside Iran, in film festivals and art theaters around the world. Iran is now known as one of the strongest, most talented cinemas in the world. It also remains quite enigmatic due to its structure and the level of government censorship/intervention.
Directed by one of Iran’s best, Asghar Farhadi (A Separation, The Past), About Elly follows a group of upper-middle class Iranians on a group vacation to the Caspian Sea. Soon after, a woman from the group goes missing, and the film then examines the reactions of the remaining group to this disappearance. What starts out as a playful comedy ends up as a suspenseful thriller, and in the vein of A Separation, it says a lot about Iranian society and the complexity of that society. Saying too much more about plot is not necessary and would ruin the experience.
The film is well plotted, beautifully shot, and expertly acted. It will invite comparisons to the classic Italian film L’avventura, directed by the great Michelangelo Antonioni, and those comparisons are well deserved. Both films share a similar plot, superb direction, and criticisms of their respective societies. While Farhadi’s criticisms are more veiled (lest he end up in an Iranian jail!), they are discernible nonetheless, such as a view of the upper-middle class who find sport in lying and only fall back on their cultural ideals and religious dogma when convenient for them.
Iranian films on American screens are few and far between, yet they offer us a peek into a society that we rarely get to see; this is certainly one valid reason for seeing the film. But this film is also masterfully made, with an excellent ensemble cast and stirring shots—so appreciating the artistry is an electric exacta. It was originally released in 2009 (and made before A Separation), but it was held up in distribution disagreements until now. We finally get to see another great film from Farhadi, so take advantage of it.
You will like this film if you enjoyed A Separation, L’avventura, and/or The Rules of the Game.
Starts at the Chez Artiste on May 8.
The Shining (1980)
The list of the greatest horror films of all time is always a great debate: classics such The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Nosferatu, and Psycho certainly titillate academics and film historians; genre-jumpers such as The Bride of Frankenstein (playing at the Stanley Film Festival mentioned above) and Alien excite many as well; but if you are of a certain age, one film remains unforgettable and disturbing: The Shining. In honor of the Stanley Film Festival, I encourage you to take another look at The Shining and remember why we spent so many sleepless nights while the chant of “REDRUM!” echoed through our ears.
Based on the book by Stephen King but changed quite a bit for the screen by directing giant Stanley Kubrick, The Shining is macabre, disturbing, spine chilling, and somewhat elusive. Even reviewing the film as an adult, it brought back the same fright I felt as a child. The acting, led by the ridiculously spooky Jack Nicholson at the height of his career, is stellar, but the real star here is Kubrick—watch how the settings, cinematography, editing, and sound work together to create the holistic menace of the film. Now you can appreciate the artistry as well as the scares.
So shut all the lights, open the windows just enough to let the wind howl, and make your partner “JUMP!” at just the right moment. Find it anywhere, really.
Vincent Piturro, Ph.D., teaches Cinema Studies at Metropolitan State University of Denver. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.