Johan Van der Keuken: The Complete Collection, Vol. 1 [3 Discs] [DVD]

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I Love $
The dense academic theorizing behind Johan van der Keuken's films, writings, and the writings of many of his critics belies the spacious accessibility of his features. I ? $, one of his most well-known documentaries, is an absorbing documentary about the psychological and economic class difference in modern cities ruled by cash and the '80s stock market boom. Van der Keuken travels from Amsterdam to New York, Hong Kong, and Geneva interviewing brokers, economists, small business owners, illegal immigrants, and gamblers. In lengthy single-take interviews with the money men, the camera angle is canted towards the window behind their desks, perpetually redirecting their intelligent but abstract rhetoric to the real word outside. Cut-away shots to street objects also redirect attention to the exterior world while also invoking the impassivity of natural law. Though most of the individuals come across as decent (as opposed to the Michael Moore style, which would have edited their comments for maximum sneer factor) what emerges is a sophisticated and damning analysis of the ways in which modern international financial systems have trapped the poor in a primitive winner-takes-all market economy of endless debt. ~ Craig Butler, Rovi

The Unanswered Question
This short from documentary and experimental filmmaker Johan van der Keuken explores the theories and effects in conveying information and emotion through film. It consists of three renderings of a woman writing a letter to her husband while on vacation. The first has the woman narrating as she writes. In one fluid take the camera glides from the wife at a desk to the husband reading the letter from another desk and then back to the wife, emphasizing the connection forged by the letter. The second, Carl Dreyer-like, is made up of close-ups of the woman writing, her feet, a radio, then the husband, highlighting their isolation from each other. The third contains no narration; the mood of what is happening is conveyed through music, sound effects, and symbolic representations of the couple's relationship. We see the actors and their shadows embracing and pulling apart, the husband opens and closes his palm, close ups of their faces, the screen is split in dark and light, there is a recurring sound of ocean swells, and an image of sun dappled water. Despite the lack of any literal explanation, the third portion seems to more powerfully convey the nature of the husband and wife's relationship. ~ Michael Buening, Rovi

The Mask
The Mask opens with footage of street performers in the Parisian subway system playing a song about freedom. The passengers and passers by ignore them. It is 1989 and the French are celebrating the Bicentennial of the French Revolution leading up to Bastille Day. Dutch director Johan van der Keuken comments on the action through voice-over narration. He follows Philippe, a young homeless man, as he aimlessly wanders the streets observing the festivities. Philippe, along with some older drunk men, enjoy the national sentiments and decry the Arabs and North Africans immigrating into France robbing them of jobs. Philippe is neatly dressed and has a job as a waiter, but appears unable to lead a settled life. He confesses to being "blocked," "paralyzed," and "unstable" hiding behind a mask of impassivity. Van der Keuken hints at the personal and societal roots of Philippe's difficulties, but seems more interested in juxtaposing Philippe against his milieu. He occasionally cuts to media propaganda for the Bicentennial -- a television movie and advertisements -- to humorously contrast the ideals of the Revolution and the France of today. ~ Craig Butler, Rovi

Face Value
Dutch audiences were entranced by this unusual and at times whimsical documentary, which won several regional film festival awards including the Golden Calf. In fact, the buzz from the festivals was so positive that the film premiered in three theaters to standing-room-only crowds -- hardly a common phenomenon for documentaries. Intensely visual, the film focuses on real-life encounters between individuals, capturing the sheer humanity of, for instance, a wedding between two very shy people, or a confidence between a terminally ill man and his wife about what she should do when he dies. Many of the moments are silent and also show people in very private and personally significant circumstances: one particular highlight is the rainbow of feelings washing across a young husband's face as his wife gives birth to their child. ~ Clarke Fountain, Rovi

Lucebert, Time and Farewell
Het Oog Boven de Put
This documentary of Kerala, India covers the landscapes of the land and gets into the minds of the people. Students learn from their teachers and emulate their educators, busy city streets are teeming with colorful activities of daily life, a vocal teacher leads three girls in song, and a family sits down to a traditional dinner. ~ Dan Pavlides, Rovi

A Moment's Silence
On Animal Locomotion
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