Touchez pas au grisbi

We get one last film from Becker and it's a French gangster film starring the star of French gangsterdom: Jean Gabin.

With Touchez pas au grisbi (1954) Becker does his Becker thing of focusing on the minor character elements instead of the plot points and manages to make one of the few French gangster films outside of Rififi that doesn't bore me.

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French Cancan

We continue the Stage and Spectacle boxset with 1954's French Cancan wherein Jean Renoir explores the founding of the Moulin Rouge with about as much fidelity to history as Baz Luhrmann. But more interesting than the pseudo-history is the visual panache, with frequent frame references to the works of Renoir's father and his fellow impressionists. Visually stunning to say the least. And perhaps the most.

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La Strada

It's clear that by the time he made 8 1/2 Federico Fellini was self aware enough to not only claim that all his films were autobiographical (as he always had) but to recognize more meaning in that and start to use them as a way of poorly apologizing to his wife Giulietta Masina. Part of this week's conversation focuses on whether or not he'd reached that point when he made La Strada in 1954.

Of course, there's also the fact that when I started to take Fellini at his word that his films are autobiographical is when I really started to have a problem with him.

At least Masina is great.

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By Brahkage: An Anthology, Volume 1

This week's episode is a long one solely for the plethora and variety of material we're tasked with talking about. Stan Brahkage was an experimental filmmaker and a long-time film professor at the University of Colorado, who principally focused on non-narrative film. By Brakhage covers work from six decades of his career. With over four hours of material in 26 pieces ranging from 9 seconds to 74 minutes long, there's a lot to digest: a lot to love and some, well, not to.

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The Killers

A great story, perhaps especially a great short story, leaves the reader to answer some of the questions. A bad one does, too, mind you, but a good one does it well? I digress. Ernest Hemingway's The Killers is a great short story that leaves a lot of questions for its readers, and for some reason people making film adaptations seek to answer them all. We're watching two such adaptations this week, and a third that leaves well enough alone. Andrei Tarkovsky's short student film version from 1956 is the most straightforward adaptation of the bunch, for better or worse. Likewise, Robert Siodmak's 1946 version starts with a straightforward retelling then veers into wildly unlikely directions with it's solid Noir adaptation. Meanwhile Don Siegal's 1964 version veers so wildly it would be nearly unrecognizable as an adaptation if it weren't for the title. But then, Siegal's is the only version with Lee Marvin as an anti-hero and Ronald Reagan in his only villainous roll. Watching any of them is a great way to spend your time, watching all three is a, well, something we did.

Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto

This week marks a string of episodes where we have a special guest to help us discuss Hiroshi Inagaki's Samurai Trilogy, a historic biopic of Japanese legend Musashi Miyamoto. Please welcome to the show Donovan Hill, an old friend whose father first tossed him into the river of Samurai culture at an inappropriately young age, but we'll let Donovan tell you all about that in this weeks episode. We're always happy to have guests, and if you'd like to join us, please feel free to ask in the comments section.

The Trilogy stars Toshiro Mifune, who was also in Seventh Samurai (a film Donovan probably would have loved to discuss with us as well), whose birthday was just this past Monday. How coincidental.

Seven Samurai

In this episode we continue to get our footing on this whole "podcast" thing as we discuss Akira Kurosawa's 1954 epic Seven Samurai which clocks in at over three hours long, but somehow avoids feeling like it. The same may not be said for our 54 minute episode, but, hey, we're not Kurosawa.

Now seems as good a time as any to point out that our theme music is by the great Jonathan Hape. Check out his other work on bandcamp.