True Films

My Architect


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The illegitimate son of a famous architect seeks the father he never knew. The architect is Louis Kahn, who co-founded modernism — naked concrete, glass walls, etc. Kahn was a late bloomer, an unemployed artist who was 50 years old when, on his first trip to Rome, he had a revelation of how to create an entirely new monumental style of architecture: make it look like ruins from the future. Kahn was an elusive nomad, traveling constantly and fathering three separate families, with three “wives,” each of whom was weirdly (even delusionally) faithful to him. After a few decades of sleepless striving to make great buildings, Kahn died bankrupt, alone and unidentified in Penn Central Station, New York. His son Nathan, whom he rarely saw, was only 11. Now an adult, Nathan sets out to find out who his mysterious father really was by investigating the only thing his father left behind — his buildings. In a very emotional and satisfying climax that takes place in Dacca, Bangladesh of all places, Nathan finds what he is looking for. At this same climax scene viewers find out that his father Louis really was as great an artist as his contemporaries believed. Along the way in this odd family saga, you get a fabulous lesson in modern architecture.

– KK

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My Architect
2003, 116 min.
Directed by Nathaniel Kahn
$27, DVD

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Posted November 26, 2005 at 5:00 am | comments


Latcho Drom


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This one is very hard to explain. It’s hypnotic. There is not a spoken word in it. The film is a feature-length ethnic MTV video. A continuous 103 minute song. Sung in the language of gypsies. Starts out in India, where nomads sing and dance in the magnificent Rajasthan desert, and then pass their music — without losing a beat — onto their roaming singing cousins in the mid-east and Egypt, and then onto their Roma relatives in Turkey and eventually into the heart of old Europe as gypsies. They sing about their predicament, their hopes and sorrows, and about the joy of life and freedom (all lyrics subtitled). They tell their history entirely in music. The most marvellous thing about this unusual film is the authenticity of the local singers, their incredible musical gifts, and their stunning locations and landscapes. Even though the superb audio and lighting required more than the usual documentary opportunistic make-do, you can’t tell how staged the performances are, or if they are. One feels like a gypsy on foot who just happens to meet some cousins as they sing their hearts out. It works as ambient music video — stunning, mesmerizing scenes from some archetypical past. Except for the film Baraka, which this resembles because of its eerie lack of dialog, I can’t think of anything like this operatic trance.

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Latcho Drom
Directed by Tony Gatlif
1994, 103 min.
$16, DVD

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Posted November 25, 2005 at 5:00 am | comments


Guns, Germs, and Steel


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An all-out five star dramatization of Jared Diamond’s best selling non-fiction book of the same name. His main argument — that geographical differences are responsible for the unfair and uneven distribution of wealth among nations today — is compressed into three very intense hours, with as much quality as one could hope for. Much of the book’s subtlety and continuous barrage of evidence is lost, but for readers and newbies alike, this polished series is a great survey of one of the most important ideas in a long while. I read the book carefully and enjoyed the emotional delivery of the logical argument in this documentary.

– KK

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Guns, Germs, and Steel
Narrated by Peter Coyote
2005, 180 min.
$5, Amazon Instant Video

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Related Book: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000VDUWMC/ref=nosim/kkorg-20

Posted November 19, 2005 at 5:00 am | comments
| in category History


What the Bleep Do We Know?


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This is a wonderfully peculiar combination of a PBS science program meets new age self-help video. That’s right, a part how-to, part drama, part talking head special spiced with interviews with real philosophers, delivering practical advice on how to deal with this bombshell: that the reality of atoms is something we construct in our heads. This movie is shot straight and sincere but I can’t remember a film more trippy. It’s an odd kinda-documentary. In addition to very well-edited interviews with world class physicists and cosmologists, and classy NOVA-ish special effects, we get the meaning of things as channeled by the legendary psychic Rama — all the while weaving through a fictional story of a deaf photographer coming to terms with her handicap. Yep. Bizarre! Corny! Magical! Thought provoking! The bottom line of the film is the late-night thought that we’re making reality up! It needs all kinds of strangeness to keep this argument going in daylight, but it is worth the ride.

– KK

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What the Bleep Do We Know?
2004, 90 min.
Directed by Betsy Chasse and Mark Vicente
$18, DVD

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Posted November 18, 2005 at 5:00 am | comments


The Story of the Weeping Camel


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A quasi-documentary about a family of camel shepherds in Mongolia. The family almost loses a rare white camel colt because its mother rejects it and won’t nurse the calf. Mom and child are re-united by means of a special ritual conducted by a local violin player who serenades the mother camel. Music cures what ails her. Mother camel weeps on film as she finally suckles her newborn colt. Yeah, it’s odd and unusually haunting. The story is held together by the family’s youngest boy. This unique film is as minimal as the desert, as melancholy as the sweetest nomad ballad, and as authentically detailed as hand-woven carpet. It is a really fine carpet.

– KK

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The story of the Weeping Camel
Directed by Luigi Falorni and Byambasuren Davaa
2004, 87 min.
$40, DVD

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Posted November 12, 2005 at 5:00 am | comments


For All Mankind


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What a marvelous treat! This exquisite documentary transforms the hugely institutional (if not imperial) Apollo journey to the moon into something very intimate and personal. Sort of a home movie version of “my trip to the moon and back.” The film score by Brian Eno assists the lift-off. This film really made me proud to be a human.

– KK

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For All Mankind
1989, 79 min.
Directed by Al Reinart
$3, Amazon Instant Video rental

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Posted November 11, 2005 at 5:00 am | comments


Scared Straight!


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In 1978 a bus-load of cocky juvenile delinquents are given a day off from school and sent to visit a federal maximum prison for an afternoon as a field trip. They are locked up for in a cell a half an hour. Then the designated “lifers” in jail proceed to scare the air out of the kids with a most graphic, explicit and X-rated picture of what awaits them inside and what their lives will be like if they stay on their current path. The kids, all hardened punks by 17, come out shaking. Like the documentary The Farm, it’s a picture of what to avoid. But unlike most films, it doesn’t stop there. The filmmakers return 20 years later. They track down each of the 15 kids and all of the convicts lifers and re-interview them to see what effect this encounter had. It is simply astounding that all but two of the kids turned their lives around 180 degrees after that one afternoon. It was the most important hours of their lives. Each person attributes the fact they are still alive to that brief meeting. It changes the lifers too. Even those who backslid have remarkable stories about what happened in those few minutes. The film is moving. It gives hope. And the movie itself is almost as good as a visit by lifers. Show it to a kid at risk that you know.

– KK

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Scared Straight!
Directed by Arnold Shapiro
1978, 90 min.
$11, DVD

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The Future is Wild


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A wonderful series of cinematic speculations on what animals could evolve into in the next, oh, 500 million years. The same skill and techniques that resurrected dinosaurs of old and made them seem real and natural (see Walking with Dinosaurs) are applied here to possible animals millions of years into the future. It’s a fabulous job of scientific imagination and a great lesson in following the logic of evolution.

– KK

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The Future is Wild
2003, 328 min.
$54, 3-Disc DVD

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Posted November 10, 2005 at 5:00 am | comments


Triumph of the Nerds


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A superb genesis story about that most essential invention, the personal computer. Before it was an industry, the personal computer was a strange hobby for nerds, who were definitely not cool back then. In three parts, tech gossip columnist Robert X. Cringely gives a very personal, breezy, witty, and remarkably lucid technical summary of the origins of Microsoft and Apple. Even better, he focuses on the forgotten founding companies and figures who did not make it. Cringely turns this story about hardware into one about humanity. By taking you step by step through the process of invention, counter-invention, claim of theft, bankruptcy, and bad timing, you see how accidental success was for the winners. And how vital their ability to listen to the technology. This classic documentary series should be required watching for anyone who uses a computer — that is, everyone. It’s that good.

– KK

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Triumph of the Nerds
Directed by Robert X. Cringely
1996, 165 min.
$25, DVD

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Posted November 9, 2005 at 5:00 am | comments


Arthur Ganson Presents a Few Machines


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Cool and useless. That’s my definition of art. A midnight engineer and MIT professor creates totally useless machines. They are exquisitely beautiful. They do absolutely nothing. At best they whir and click and shake. A genuine artist, he also has filmed his machines obliquely, only partially seen, behind a veil of mystery. You want to know how they work, what they do, how come? No answers. Only peeks at cool and useless machines in marvelous varieties and cleverness, turning, turning, turning. Utterly riveting, supremely inspiring, and very geeky. Show this at a party, and everyone stops transfixed.

– KK

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Arthur Ganson Presents a Few Machines: Created between 1978 and 2004
70 min.
$20, DVD
Available from Arthur Ganson

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Posted November 8, 2005 at 5:00 am | comments