After pretty much everyone involved with the first project was dead except Jerry and during a weird renaissance of attention to the Beales and Grey Gardens, Albert Maysles recut unused footage from the 1975 original Grey Gardens into a new film that feels even more explicitly exploitative. Great job.
William Greaves’ 1968 Symbiopsychotaxiplasm puts the experiment in experimental film. The documentary inside a documentary inside a third documentary, shot in public, essentially boils down to the director seeing how far he can push his cast and crew before they revolt — not violent push, but still an antagonistic one. It’s fascinating and absurd and wonderful. And I suppose it could be all fake.
Krzysztof Kieślowski’s exploration of self The Double Life of Veronique is a subtly surreal and beautiful film, yet much of our conversation is centered around coming to terms with the essays included in the Criterion release, particularly the one written by Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek.
We haven’t seen a lot of silent films in the Collection so far, and we have never seen a movie with a bigger left field ending than this particular film. GW Pabst’s Pandora’s Box has a lot of problems, and a just frankly amazing last 10 minutes. It’s absurd, and I love it.
Graham Greene called his thrillers “entertainments”, which sounds dismissive of his own work but really it was an accurate contrast to the more heavy Catholic novels he apparently preferred to write. Greene himself adapted two of his entertainments to film for director Carol Reed, one being The Third Man and the other (and first) being this week’s episode The Fallen Idol (1948) adapted from a short story called The Basement Room, a significantly worse name.
Like our recent excursion with Clean, Shaven, Jane Campion’s Sweetie takes a fairly realistic look at mental illness in the real world. Though unlike Kerrigan’s film where the world ignores the main character until things get much worse, Sweetie’s protagonist is coddled by her loved ones…until things get much worse. Both are intense in their own ways, but Sweetie, true to its name, is a little easier to swallow. At least until the end.
The story of a corrupt businessman seeking office to better enrich himself while actively endangering the lives of others, the political party that supports him because they’ll get rich, too, and the political system so intent on absolving itself that it lets him get away with it.
Happy Fourth of July, America.
Lodge Kerrigan’s Clean, Shaven is intense. It’s not entirely clear what exactly is happening within the film narrative and what is just the main characters auditory (and possibly visual) hallucinations. But one thing that is clear is that the public and the authorities do not know how to compassionately react to our main character. So quick point, however you feel about police as a group, it’s not their job to help people having psychological breakdowns, and don’t call the gun people when you need someone with different tools. In that regard see Scott Christopherson and Brad Barber’s documentary Peace Officer. It’s estimated that between a third and a half of people killed by police every year have a disability and that the majority of those are mental illness, autism, or developmental disabilities. You can save a life by finding an alternative to calling the police.
Alfonso Cuarón has made some really great movies, a few masterpieces, and at least one sex romp that may be a satire of an HIV awareness campaign for encouraging monogamy. Guess which one the Criterion Collection makes us watch this week? It’s the sex romp one. Ultimately the target seems more than a little misguided, but the movie’s still pretty good.
The Japanese horror films from the 60s that the Collection has served us have been nothing if not interesting. Stylistically, though, Nobuo Nakagawa’s Jigoku (1960) blows everything else out of the water. Certainly Kwaidan is a great film, but Jigoku blows it out of the water with an acid trip through Buddhist hell. Unfortunately, the rest of the film serves to just get us to hell as quickly as possible, so what we end up with is a sort of negative Universalism, where no one is good enough to escape the Bad Place, so theologically and philosophically the film leaves a lot to be desired. But it’s still a trip.
This week we spend too much time talking about Franco to lay a floor for discussing The Spirit of the Beehive as a political film. Of course, even without that context it’s a masterpiece of a movie, visually stunning and stylistically perfect. Also it has Frankenstein.
Over a year ago we watched Divorce Italian Style and decided that there was ample evidence that film was an attack on Fellini, instead of the attack on Sicilian culture Germi maybe thought it was. This week it’s harder to ignore that Germi is decidedly punching down as he heaps a national issue onto a certain region. Still it’s a funny movie, so there’s that.
We last heard from Noah Baumbach as the cowriter of Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. One of our many guests on that 300th episode, Ben Jones-White, insisted that when we got around to doing Baumbach’s own feature debut he should join us, and nearly a year later we make good on that offer. Kicking and Screaming shares a lot of DNA with movies we love in and out of the Collection. It’s also the story of people a lot like I was in college. I hate them.
Our guest Ben also works with WikiTongues, an organization dedicated to documenting and saving languages all over the world. If you have the resources please support their work.
Near the top of this week’s episode Adam once again goes on a short rant about the Criterion Collection’s naming conventions as if there is a logic to any of it. There isn’t.
With slight distance I think the boys would be more apt to agree that all of the moral tales of are critiques of various aspects of what we would now call toxic masculinity. In it, though, even with this last episode, we get bogged down wondering if that reading is more our wish than Rohmer’s design. But finally finishing the series at least provides us with a floor to talk about them better individually.
This outing I think Eric Rohmer may have been trying to make a parody of Lolita by introducing a woman with a predilection for underaged men who convinces her male friend to try to seduce a couple underaged young women, but like as a goof. He gets a little too involved.
I like to believe we’ve reached the point in Six Moral Tales where it becomes clear that the Rohmer himself is condemning the behavior of the men in his movies, considering the men in this week’s film are nearly completely irredeemable. But in an interview accompanying the film Rohmer says that he understands the audience not liking the men, but then just laughs and moves on. Does he also hate this behavior? Or does he think this is normal manhood? Are those two mutually exclusive anyway?
In the third Moral Tale we finally meet a fully rounded female character, so round in fact that she gets a name in the title! We also get to finally deal with moral philosophy that while we don’t agree with at least gives us something to talk about in the form of Counter-Reformation Catholicism’s mirror of Calvinism and a discussion of game theory-based Christian belief. Also both of these coming up suggests that mid-century France was significantly more obsessed with certain 17th century theologians and mathematicians than Pat and I find believable, but they may reflect Eric Rohmer a bit more, and that itself makes this movie more interesting. In any case, this one is nothing like “watching paint dry”.
In our second Moral Tale we find another jerk being mean to another woman, but this one has a bit more substance perhaps. It still doesn’t really work for us, but hey whatever. The Criterion releases for each Moral Tale just full of material and Suzanne’s Career also brings us an opportunity to watch and discuss Nadja in Paris (1964), a short clearly meant to encourage American high schoolers to study abroad. Star Nadja Tesich is a delight, and the film is the first collaboration between Rohmer and cinematographer Néstor Almendros who will bring a certain watchability to the rest of the Moral Tales.
We kick off a boxset of Eric Rohmer’s Six Moral Tales with one starring Barbet Schroeder (who produces the entire series) as a jerk who mistreats a woman while his heart belongs to another. This is largely the basic plot of each of the Moral Tales, and if you find that statement reductive or dismissive then boydog are you not going to like any episode in this series. Still some of them connected better with Pat and I than others. But Bakery Girls wasn’t one of them.
Powell and Pressburger make some of the best English-language films we’ve seen. But their wartime propaganda films are among the most, lets say, controversial we’ve discussed. Was Colonel Blimp a good movie? Maybe. Did it have among the worst morals we’ve seen in any film in the Collection? Almost certainly. But A Canterbury Tale combines the terribleness of The Archers’ wartime morality with a movie that is just not that good plot-wise. To the point where Adam argues that maybe the simplicity and idiocy of the plot is hint that the moral of the film is simplistic and idiotic and Powell and Pressburger know it. Here’s hoping.