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While Breaking Bad broke new ground in the US, France, which has created little in the way of cultural innovation since it was taken over by an army of pen-pushing, zombie civil servants 30 years ago, produced one of the world’s most interesting and original TV shows of the last few years.
It’s a brilliant, intelligent and quiet twist on the zombie formula, and as The Guardian put it, selecting the Returned as the best TV program of 2013 and pushing Breaking Bad into the number 2 spot:
At its heart was the existential question that is as profound as it is infrequently asked. What if the worst you could imagine wasn’t having a child die in a car crash or having your fiance kill himself on your wedding day, but them coming back to life? Almost as they were before, but not quite.
It was broadcast on Channel 4 in the UK, with subtitles. One of the few foreign language items to break the language barrier in the Anglosphere that stems from the laziness of speaking the world’s dominant second language. It remains almost unknown in the US, but with the magic of legal streaming you don’t need to wait for the inevitable remake for the US market to watch it via the post-modern TV channel that is Smashing Telly:
It is available for streaming via Amazon instant video, here.
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As Jason Kottke says, this is masterfully edited. It shows movies are the art form where the talent works, not something obsolete like painting, and that a moving picture list will eat a Buzzfeed one alive. A vintage year.
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There is a murder scene in Lore which simultaneously inhabits the world of war where this is acceptable and the post war one where it is not. The movie itself spills out of these two worlds and so breaks the ‘second and third walls’ without insulting your intelligence.
Lore is available on Amazon instant video
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Smashing Telly as a personal curated video project is now closed. However, I will be launching a collaborative version soon.
In the interim, check out Oobject which is a kind of online Wunderkammer comprising visual lists of man-made objects. A mainstream version of Bernd and Hilla Becher’s Typologies, if you like. Oobject may look like yet another, crappy, weird things site, but delve in, I’ve put an unhealthy amount of effort into it.
In the spirit of the global takeover of content by the headline and listicle I also plan to do one last post on Smashing Telly with a big list of my favorite factual TV programs and clips (since Smashing Telly focused on these).
Kottke writes: “If Smashing Telly were still going, this would be perfect for it: every feature-length Andrei Tarkovsky film is available for viewing online for free.”
Indeed. See them all here.
For the record, Mirror is my favorite.
The BBC iPlayer link is here.
[Note this is not the creationist nonsense of the same name]
What Darwin didn’t know was exactly how right about natural selection he was.
This is a great documentary, not so much in terms of production, but solid content. It looks at the evolution of the concept of natural selection, from Darwin to evolutionary developmental biology, where the correspondence between the fossil and DNA records are exactly what prove the theory beyond all doubt.
The history of natural selection is the opposite of its popular perception, it is a story of slow acceptance in the scientific community culminating in total validation and proof rather than an antique concept which has raised recent doubts. Vapid but noisy objections emanating from the current rise of religious extremism are an irrelevance in terms of the time-line of evolution by natural selection as an idea and reasonable debate about it.
Who knew that without knowledge of genetics, Darwin’s humility in absence of absolute proof of his ideas, would allow him to insert in his last edition of the Origin of Species a nod to the possibility of Lamarckian evolution; that de Vries’ (false) idea of the origin of species as coming out of nowhere through single mutations almost replaced Darwin’s gradual selection after he died; or that for the 50th anniversary of his death, the Natural History Museum in London put on a show of Darwinian evolution that ignored the very idea of natural selection that makes it Darwinian in the first place?
Exotically named and unplaceable accented Dutch-Kiwi-Canadian-South-African biologist, Armand Marie Leroi, leads us through this history with the eventual triumph of natural selection. This culminates in the Neo Darwinian synthesis of evolution and genetics and the ‘evo-devo’ combination of evolutionary and developmental biology, which create an accurate view of the tree of life and realize the full grandeur of the mechanism that describes its growth – natural selection.
I have low tolerance for self indulgent artsyness and Tarkovsky films look superficially like they might be in this category, which is a shame because, as Tony the Tiger might say, they’re great. Nothing comes as close to a moving painting as a Tarkovsky film.
Here is a documentary where the director recounts his life and work.
This is a documentary about vogueing, and the extremely refined and detailed aesthetic sensibilities it reflects, shot in New York City around Chelsea, the Meatpacking District, and Harlem in the mid- to late-80s. The city has changed in dramatic ways since then, to say the least.
The characters of the film are complete outsiders with, at the same time, a deep understanding of the world they are outside of. As Terrence Rafferty wrote in The New Yorker, “the material is almost too rich, too suggestive. Everything about the ball culture signifies so blatantly and so promiscuously that the movie induces a kind of semiotic daze.”
It is certainly hard to view human behavior the same way after watching this film. I hope this low-quality version will be interesting enough to inspire you to rent the real thing.
(The video player embed here should allow you to watch all 11 segments of the film.)