In ‘The Challenge,’ Italian filmmaker Yuri Ancarani shows how Western notions of power inspire Qatari falconers. Falconry, the hunting of wild game with trained birds of prey, is a fascinating subculture. Though its origins are ancient and the practice controversial (because of captive breeding and the import and export of birds), Qatari sheikhs have turned what was once a means of survival into a modern and, as one might imagine, opulently surreal spectacle. A new documentary, The Challenge, directed by Italian filmmaker Yuri Ancarani, takes viewers into this rarified world of sheiks and falcons in a strangely beautiful and sumptuous way, showing the effects of Western capitalism’s cultural ideals on the Gulf region’s people and Qatar’s mesmerizing desert landscape.
Did you hear the one about two men, a set of stairs and a trampoline? Appearing on a white stage on a hilltop at the Bastille in Paris, these components can be seen in a performance directed by actor, dancer and acrobat Yoann Bourgeois. ‘Cavale’ presents a refined, minimal circus act that reveals itself as a play with repetitive, dizzying movements and vertigo. The video clip portrays two men repeatedly walking up stairs, pausing to observe the landscape in front of them from the top, before falling back onto a trampoline and again returning the stairs. The cycle recurs, and at no point can the viewer truly see the scenic surroundings, instead focusing on the rise and fall of the performers in their black suits, reminiscent of figures in a Magritte painting.
The title of Scorch Motion’s short, “Life Without Stuff”, suggests a solid anti-consumerist philosophy—something everyone, not just hoarders, could probably stand to embrace. Unless, of course, that “stuff” happens to be very much in use and necessary when it suddenly disappears.
The 70s was a great period in American movie poster design. The illustrative style of classic Hollywood was out and instead a new reliance on photographs and, especially, type. The one thing that strikes about the posters below is how heavily they rely on explanatory text and taglines (“Watch the landlord get his”…“Their story is written on his arm”…“If you steal $100,000 from the mob, it’s not robbery. It’s suicide”…“The tush scene alone is worth the price of admission”). The only two posters here that feature illustration at all are Saul Bass’s ideogram for Such Good Friends, and the Bob Peak-esque drawing of Sean Connery for The Anderson Tapes, both of which come at the beginning of the 70s and both of which incorporate photography too. (Note how the design for The Anderson Tapes is more or less repeated 9 years later for Gloria.)
Another feature of 70s American poster design is white space, and lots of it. Simplicity was the key to the best of these designs. It is also striking, as with the Polish posters but with less reason, that very few of the designs dwell on their New York location: the street signage in They Might Be Giants, The Hot Rock and the title treatment of Across 110th Street, being the few signifiers of urban grit, with the major exception of course being the Time Life-esque photo for The Panic in Needle Park and its shot-in-the-arm tagline. As for how “lesser known” these films are, that of course is a matter of personal opinion, but compared to the likes of Taxi Driver, Shaft, Manhattan, The French Connection, Klute, Dog Day Afternoon and so on, many of these may qualify as hidden gems.