The first thing to get used to in an Ozu film is the camera perspective. He never (or at least rarely) does the normal over-the-shoulder shot and counter shot for conversations. Ozu tends to shoot things from a constant upward angle. It has been analogized to a POV from someone sitting, in traditional Japanese style on a mat, legs folded underneath. The view is tilted slightly upward, never straight on or from above. The second element of Ozu's filmmaking that has to be taken into consideration is the secondary nature of the plot. There are stories in all of his
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Grandmaster filmmaker Ozu's minor, observant comedy about the growing differences between a middle-aged married couple.
Abbas Kiarostami’s mid-career trio of films announced him to the international film community
This series of Iranian films is a trilogy in only the loosest sense, as they don’t share overlapping casts or themes. Their only real common denominators are their writer/director, Abbas Kiarostami, and their filming location of Koker in a remote, rural area of northern Iran. The later films are influenced by the first film, especially since they explore the effects of a devastating earthquake that occurred after the first film, but there is no narrative throughline tying them together. Taken as a whole, they paint a picture of a region in transition, grappling with modernization and disaster recovery as old
With these three films, Rainer Werner Fassbinder tells the history of post-war Germany through the eyes of its women.
When World War II ended, Germany was due a reckoning. As a nation, they had to come to terms not only with the atrocities of the Holocaust and Nazism but also rebuilding a country wrecked from war. They had to reconstruct the country's infrastructure and economy but its own soul. This new Germany had to decide who it was and what it would become. Of course, they were not alone in asking this question as immediately following their surrender, Germany was split into four districts each ruled by a separate country (Russia, the United States, England, and France). Within a
A charming film that gets so many things right it's easy to overlook its flaws and just enjoy it.
Swing Time is the sixth of ten films that Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers appeared in together. It has great songs by composer Jerome Kern and lyricist Dorothy Fields, great dance performances by Astaire and Rogers, and a plot that will make you tell others the film has great songs and great dance performances. Swing Time opens with John "Lucky" Garnett (Astaire) about to get married and leave show business for a hometown sweetheart Margaret (Betty Furness), but manager Pop (Victor Moore) and the other fellas in his dance act are against it. They distract Lucky long enough so the
A beautifully curated addition to the Criterion Collection.
In 2001, writer, director, and star John Cameron-Mitchell and composer and lyricist Stephen Trask took their cutting-edge musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch and adapted it for the big screen. The musical which began its journey in the ballroom of the Jane Hotel in New York is now a part of the Criterion Collection. Hedwig and the Angry Inch is the story of Hedwig, who is born Hansel and raised as a boy in Berlin, Germany. After Hansel begins a romantic relationship with American, Sgt. Luther Robinson, Hansel starts to see a way to escape the confines of Eastern Germany.
There's no sunshine in Claire Denis's low-key and bleak anti-romantic comedy about the absurdity of what we do for love.
For most people, love is a constant slope towards madness and eventual pain. We crave it, but sometimes, when it's not the type that we desire, we throw it away. Basically, adult relationships are messy, complicated, and according to celebrated director Claire Denis' 2017 bleak comedy, Let The Sunshine In, brutally human. With an amazingly complex and subtle performance by the usually compelling Juliette Binoche, Denis paints a frustratingly truthful portait of love that most directors couldn't or wouldn't touch. Binoche brilliantly plays Isabelle, a divorced but successful painter in Paris, whose frequent demands for love belittle her ultimate desire:
Diamonds of the Night Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: The Story of Youth Under Fire with a Brilliantly Fractured Eye
A startling and very tense debut from the most unflinching director of the now-ancient Czechoslovak New Wave.
There are many similarities between Luis Bunuel and underrated auteur/director Jan Nemec. They both use surrealism to dictate the often limitless boundaries of human behavior. When it comes to their films, you don't really know which is reality, and which is fantasy. However, you want to watch their cinema repeatedly to uncover more details that missed the first time around. While Bunuel depicts human behavior with a satirical edge, Nemec directs his films with surrealist details, but which a more serious viewpoint, especially when it comes to war and how it affects people in a certain time and place. This
Harold Lloyd's slapstick masterpiece gets a fantastic upgrade from the folks at Criterion.
I’m not too familiar with the work of Harold Lloyd, and The Kid Brother is actually the first film of his that I’ve seen in its entirety. Of course, now that I’ve finally experienced one of his films, it makes me want to go and seek out what else he has done. The Kid Brother is a hysterical comedy from the silent era, and also one that has a strong emotional core and a few exciting action scenes. It’s the perfect genre blend of a movie, one that is hard to come by in modern Hollywood. Lloyd plays Harold Hickory,
The Magnificent Ambersons Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: A Flawed Masterpiece, but Still a Worthwhile Film
The Criterion Collection has stacked this beautiful release of Welles's troubled second production with a plethora of extras.
Before getting into the history of the film: the mangling by the studio, the likely deliberately destroyed edited footage, and all of that intrigue, first we have to see the movie itself: The Magnificent Ambersons, Orson Welles's follow-up to his explosive debut Citizen Kane. Based on a novel by Booth Tarkington about the downfall of a noveau riche mid-Western family, The Magnificent Ambersons has elements of drama and comedy and some sense of tragedy, but most of all it is the portrait of a changing country, and world. George Amberson, the only son of Isabel and heir to the fortune,
As unflinchingly honest and unforgiving as a film can ever get.
War is Hell. They're have been many films that tackled the often difficult subject of war, and its effects on humanity. And arguably none come more terrifying and brutal than Ingmar Bergman 1968's stunner, Shame. Although less remembered than some of his other films, such as The Seventh Seal, Persona, and Cries and Whispers, it's no less harsh and bleak, as well as unflinchingly honest and unforgiving as a film can ever get. Bergman mainstays and film legends Liv Ullmann and Max Von Sydow star as Eva and Jon Rosenberg, former musicians who escape the city engulfed in a civil
So well crafted, it is equally one of the best comedies, one of the best adventures, and one of the best love stories.
Based on the novel by William Goldman, who also wrote the screenplay, Rob Reiner's The Princess Bride is a fantasy adventure filled with humor and romance that became an instant classic in the hearts of many who saw it. When a young boy (Fred Savage) is sick in bed, his grandfather (Peter Falk) comes over to continue a family tradition by reading him The Princess Bride. The young man is not overly thrilled about having to sit through a romance, but he gives his grandfather the benefit of the doubt. The film then cuts to the book's story introducing the
A very underappreciated masterpiece of toxic masculinity and bleak relationships.
When it comes to underappreciated figures of film, none are more legendary and important than Elaine May. After a successful series of improvisational comedy routines from the 1950s with the late, great Mike Nichols, she later developed a career as a very talented director and screenwriter with a deft and savage eye for complicated relationships. Even with brilliant films such as A New Leaf (1971), The Heartbreak Kid (1972), and her 1976 masterpiece, Mikey and Nicky, she continues to be often overlooked, because apparently, filmmaking only belongs to men. This should never be the case, because when talking about May,
An unflinching and sadly relevant drama of violence and ongoing oppression.
Racism is one those things that just doesn't seem to go away. Every day you turn on the news to find more unarmed black men being shot by white cops; white people calling the police on innocent black people, and the underestimation of Black Lives Matter. Unfortunately, it has gotten much worse, especially ever since an orange someone was elected President. The violent consequences of prejudice is mostly directed to the wrong groups, and director Euzhan Palcy's 1989 film, A Dry White Season, shows how that hate is definitely universal, meaning that it doesn't just happen in the movies. Based
Criterion continues their welcome attention to the works of director Kenji Mizoguchi with this superb new Blu-ray release.
When an adulterous nobleman learns that his wife is rumored to be carrying on an affair with a member of his staff, he seeks to punish both of them. Sure, it’s fine for the man to brazenly step out on his wife, but when the smallest hint of initially untrue impropriety is leveled against her, his righteous indignation speaks volumes about the vast gender morality imbalance. There’s also the matter of his continued noble status, as his failure to punish his perceived transgressors carries the risk of loss of his esteemed title. With that setup in place, director Kenji Mizoguchi
Warren Beatty and Goldie Hawn relive the swinging '60s in the mid-'70s.
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this film is Warren Beatty’s glorious hair. Playing a Beverly Hills hairdresser/lothario named George, Beatty wields long locks styled to such excess that they’re seemingly a special effect. Thankfully, the rest of the film is worthy of the majestic mane, delivering a sharply humorous exploration of sexual politics against a backdrop of real politics set during the timeframe of Nixon’s 1968 election. George is a talented hairdresser who dreams of opening his own shop, but lacks the means to make it happen. He has a girlfriend named Jill (Goldie Hawn), but also engages in
A masterpiece adaptation of Lorraine Hansberry's eternal play about the conflicts of Black life.
While some movies about the African-American experience are embarassing and downright stereotypical, there are others that realistically transcend the bad taste, to tell truthful stories of the issues and obstacles that face people of color. Director Daniel Petrie's brilliant 1961 adaptation of celebrated author/playwright Lorraine Hansberry's eternal play, A Raisin in the Sun, is definitely one of the seminal films of all-time. It takes place mostly in a cramped Chicago apartment that houses the Younger family: Lena (Claudia McNeil), the strong and proud matriach; her son Walter Lee (Sidney Poitier), an ambitious but often reckless man; his wife Ruth (Ruby
Screwball comedy masks an insightful examination of the class divide in the wake of the Great Depression
At a glance, My Man Godfrey appears to be a typical formulaic production from Hollywood’s golden age. Headlined by two huge stars and fellow Oscar nominees for this film, William Powell and Carole Lombard, the film focuses on an upper-crust family in New York City, with all their trappings of success and opulent parties on full display. However, this is far from a standard wealthy family, and that’s where the film proves its originality. Based on his novel and featuring a screenplay co-written by Eric Hatch, the film is a comedic social critique examining the class divide between the homeless
A grainy, authentic look at New York youth during the dying days of Punk.
Films about women by women are pretty rare these days. These are stories about women taking control of their lives and reinventing themselves. Most filmgoers miss out of the opportunity to see and relate to characters who turn out to be just like them; characters who are just as self-absorbed, rebellious, and determined just like everyone else. Thankfully, there is director Susan Seidelman's landmark 1982 grassroots classic, Smithereens, which shows us what we're missing in film: the feminist touch. It also paints a low-key, but documentary-like portrait of the grim, desparate side of underground New York in the early '80s.
Fans of the genre will do themselves a favor if they plan a stop at Dragon Inn.
King Hu's second entry into the Criterion Collection is Dragon Inn (1967), his first film after leaving the Shaw Brothers Studios in Hong King and moving to seek greater artistic liberties as a director in Taiwan. Set against a backdrop of political intrigue, writer/director Hu does very well with both job duties, creating visually interesting action sequences that blend into an entertaining story. Set in 1457 A.D. during China's Ming Dynasty, eunuchs led by Cao Shao-qin (Bai Ying), who is “unsurpassed in the martial arts,” seize power. This gives them control over two espionage agencies, the Eastern Depot and the
Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Portrait of the Artist As a Fascinating Man
Director Paul Schrader crafts a daring, spellbinding biography of Japanese writer Yukio Mishima.
Yukio Mishima carved out a career as an esteemed playwright and author before ending his life by taking over a military facility and performing seppuku, a ritualistic form of suicide. Paul Schrader's daring film traces his life by having actors perform vignettes from some of Mishima's most famous works, painting a brilliant picture of this intriguing man. The film is notable not just for its subject but for its structure. After a brief color intro, it moves to black and white for the story of Mishima's childhood, then shifts to color for multiple vignettes that represent later stages of his
Ken Russell's controversial adaptation of D.H. Lawrence's controversial novel gets a maginficent release from Criterion.
It's difficult not to compare the time in which Ken Russell adapted Women in Love (1969) to the time in which D.H. Lawrence wrote the novel and the film are set (1920). Both periods were times in which Britain’s social norms were changing. The film’s setting, just after World War I, finds the Victorian-era moral codes along with the staunch upper classes crumbling. The film was made at the height of the sexual revolution when young people were once again throwing off the chains of their parents' moralizing for newfound freedom. It is impossible then to view the film’s story
Fassbinder's mythic performance fuels this vicious depiction of West German's social malaise.
When the legendary Rainer Werner Fassbinder died in 1982 at the age of 37, he really did leave behind an amazing body of work. He lived a hard life of drinking and drugs, but that didn't stop him from making films about human fragility and emotion. Also, he didn't just direct films. He also acted in many of them. His boorish, devil-may-care persona began with his 1969 feature debut, Love is Colder than Death, but it didn't reach its apotheosis until one year later in director Volker Schlondorff's controversial 1970 adaptation of Bertolt Brecht's 1918 debut play, BAAL. Fassbinder brilliantly
French director Louis Malle launched his award-winning career with this spellbinding crime thriller.
Louis Malle’s directorial debut is notable for numerous reasons. He was only 24 years old at the time, fresh off a three-year stint working at sea with famed oceanographer Jacques Cousteau where he only had to “direct fish”, as he was frequently fond of recounting. He had no real pull in the film industry, and yet was able to land the already established actress Jeanne Moreau to star, as well as jazz titan Miles Davis to contribute a totally improvised score. His best accomplishment: the resulting film is a resounding success, largely thanks to his sure-handed direction of its mesmerizing
Kon Ichikawa's remake of a '30s movie dresses a stagey plot in innovative cinematic stylings.
Yukinojo, the kabuki female impersonator who gets the titular vengeance in Kon Ichikawa's An Actor's Revenge (1963), is a tough sell for a cinematic character. Heavily made up both onstage and off, never once dropping his female gestures and high-pitched voice, Kazuo Hasegawa's performance is definitely deeply committed. This, which according to the title card early in the film was his 300th film performance, is also a remake of a popular film from the '30s, also starring Kazuo Hasegawa. A Kazuo Hasegawa in his early 20s playing a female impersonator so mesmerizing that the most beautiful woman in Edo (Tokyo
A movie star reflects on his life and the compromises he made to get there.
Arindam Mukherjee (Uttam Kumar), an enormously famous movie star, boards an overnight train from Calcutta to Delhi to receive a national award. There, he meets an interesting cast of characters including Aditi Sengupta (Sharmila Tagore), a young journalist who edits a modern women’s magazine. She is contemptuous towards egotistical movie stars like him, but decides to secretly interview him as an expose to draw in readers. She wanders over to him in the dining car pretending to want an autograph for her niece and because she’s pretty and the journey is long, he begins talking to her freely. Over the
While the video upgrade and single extra aren't worth a double-dip, this three-disc set is a must-own for fans of classic rock and the '60s.
Previously released from Criterion in 2009, The Complete Monterey Pop Festival collects three D.A. Pennebaker film's: Monterey Pop, Jimi Plays Monterey, and Shake! Otis at Monterey. That version was previously reviewed at this site. On the weekend of June 16-18, the Monterey International Pop Music Festival helped usher in the "Summer of Love". Filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker and his team captured the event, which was edited down to 79 minutes. The participants included The Mamas and the Papas (John Phillips was one of the co-founders), Canned Heat, Simon & Garfunkel, Hugh Masekela, Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Eric
It's an amusing adventure filled with Terry Gilliam's humor and sensibilities that showcases his directorial aesthetic.
After co-directing Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Terry Gilliam returned to the Dark Ages for his first solo outing, Jabberwocky, a fantasy tale inspired by Lewis Carroll's poem of the same name. It's an amusing adventure filled with Gilliam's humor and sensibilities that showcases his directorial aesthetic. Those expecting a sequel to the Python's madcap comedy classic will be disappointed, like many of the characters who live in the world of Jabberwocky. A deadly monster roams the forest as the audience and a fox hunter (Terry Jones) find out in the opening scene. Dennis (Michael Palin), not Holy Grail's
Pabst's 1931 mine disaster film is swiftly paced, beautifully shot, and a heartfelt plea for comradeship between nations.
It's difficult to separate Kameradschaft from its historical context. Released in 1931, this story of cooperation between French and Germans in a mining disaster on the border came out just two years before the Nazis gained electoral power in Germany. It was a time of street fighting and political instability, and apparently not a time when German audiences wanted to see a heartfelt plea for international community (according to the Luc Sante essay that accompanies this Criterion Collection release, it played to empty houses on release). Director G.W. Pabst's film was a cry in the dark, unheard and unheeded. So,
A harrowing, if slightly polished, depiction of the sheer horrors of war.
When depicting war, no other medium can do it as mercilessly as film. War movies can be as dire and depressing as real-life war, especially when showing the emotional and physical toll that can inflict on soldiers. There are those as savage as Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket, Oliver Stone's Platoon, and Elem Klimov's very disturbing Come and See. Then there are those as highly emotional as Terrence Malick's The Thin Red Line and Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan. However, director G.W. Pabst's 1930 early sound film, Westfront 1918, is a mixture of both. The film centers on four infantrymen: Karl (Gustav
Criterion's new edition of the classic '80s film is packed with hours of fascinating bonus features.
While The Breakfast Club is justifiably revered as a classic teen film, primarily due to the involvement of masterful writer/director John Hughes, its insightful approach to teen angst makes it just as timely today as it was the ‘80s. Hughes understood more than any of his contemporaries that teens aren’t just stereotypical comic fodder, they’re universally relatable when treated as complex characters. In Criterion’s expansive new Blu-ray release, hours of bonus features delve into the production details and legacy of this important work. The setup of the film is so simple that it seems more like a play. Five high