Two moody black-and-white dramas about intolerance and strict codes of Christianity play in our latest Tuesday’s Short + Feature, up now on the Criterion Channel on FilmStruck. Caroline Monnet and Daniel Watchorn’s hallucinatory short The Black Case takes place in the infirmary of a school for Native American children in Canada, where a young girl watches in terror as a menacing doctor and nurse attend to her and her infant cousin. From a very different time and place but also about dark, oppressive forces, Carl Theodor Dreyer’s Day of Wrath was made under the Nazi occupation but takes place in a seventeenth-century village consumed by fear of witchcraft, where a young woman falls in love with her stepson, setting off a chain of disastrous consequences. For a closer look at The Black Case, check out this conversation between Channel programmer Penelope Bartlett and the filmmakers.
Also up this week:
A breathtaking fusion of poetry, ethnography, and cinema, Sergei Parajanov’s masterwork overflows with unforgettable images and sounds. In a series of tableaux that blend the tactile with the abstract, The Color of Pomegranates revives the splendors of Armenian culture through the story of the eighteenth-century troubadour Sayat-Nova, charting his intellectual, artistic, and spiritual growth through iconographic compositions rather than traditional narrative. The film’s tapestry of folklore and metaphor departed from the realism that dominated the Soviet cinema of its era, leading authorities to block its distribution, with rare underground screenings presenting it in a restructured form. This edition features the cut closest to Parajanov’s original vision, in a restoration that brings new life to one of cinema’s most enigmatic meditations on art and beauty. Supplemental Features: an audio commentary featuring critic, filmmaker, and festival programmer Tony Rayns; a rarely seen 1969 documentary by Mikhail Vartanov featuring footage of director Sergei Parajanov at work; a video essay on the film’s symbols and references, featuring scholar James Steffen; and more.
The iconoclastic playwright Bertolt Brecht finds cinematic expression in these two auteurist works. Danish enfant terrible Lars von Trier shot the Nicole Kidman–starring Dogville (2003), a tale of hypocrisy in small-town USA inspired by Brecht and Kurt Weill’s The Threepenny Opera, on a soundstage with a bare minimum of props and sets, achieving through his stripped-down staging the kind of “alienation effect” Brecht originated onstage. With Baal (1970), an unruly adaptation of Brecht’s first full-length work, Volker Schlöndorff cast fellow New German Cinema icon Rainer Werner Fassbinder in the role of a womanizing, schnapps-soaked poet who rebels against the society that has cast him out.