Jigoku

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.

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The Virgin Spring

Apparently, the Swedish public complained about historical inaccuracies in The Seventh Seal. While that’s patently silly, it got under Ingmar Bergman’s skin, so for his next historical film — an adaptation of a medieval ballad and Rashomon — he asked screenwriter and novelist Ulla Isaksson to help out. The two of them certainly had different views of what the film should be, but that didn’t stop them from making a fascinating piece of art.

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The Bad Sleep Well

We round out Akira Kurosawa’s Shakespearean adaptations with the loosest of the bunch, so loose in fact that we posit that the “adaptation” is a construction of Western critics grasping at straws instead of a purposeful, or even unpurposeful, decision by Kurosawa. In any case, as Kaori Ashizu argued in the journal of the Shakespeare Society of Japan, going into The Bad Sleep Well understanding it to be a Shakespeare adaptation actually undermines a lot of the excellent storytelling Kurosawa is doing.

Donovan Hill joins us, and along the way we also talk about public office corruption in Japan and Ohio. Good times!

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Shoot the Piano Player

If The 400 Blows was “very French”, and it is considered to be, Francois Truffaut’s follow up was meant to be “very American” and really it’s the most American of things: the mashup. It’s a New Wave crime comedy based on a Noir novel and the tonal shifts! Oh boy, the tonal shifts! That is to say it is not “American” in the same way that The 400 Blows is “French”. It’s a bunch of American stereotypical elements rolled into one silly film — a “grab bag” as Truffaut himself describes it.

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Eyes Without a Face

It's October so let's watch a classic horror film! (As if this was planned and not just a quirk in the randomness of the way the Criterion Collection presents films to us.)

Georges Franju was asked by producer Jules Borkon to make a British/American style horror film for a French audience, but one that didn't torture animals, have too much blood, or a mad scientist. So he made a film about a mad scientist who experiments on dogs and does a whole face transplant on screen.

Franju did so well emulating foreign horror that Eyes Without a Face was wholly disowned by the French film establishment. It's just that amazing.

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Tunes of Glory

I knew nothing about Tunes of Glory before watching it except that Ronald Neame directed it and Alec Guinness stars as a Scotsman.

Since all the Neame films we've seen so far have been delightfully fun and Alec Guinness heavily made up is good for a laugh or a cringe, I'll be honest I was expecting this 1960 film to be a bit of a lark. It is not. It is so not. And it is wonderful.

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Le Trou

Not since Rififi has watching criminals work been so engulfing. Jacques Becker's 1960 Le Trou, the story of five men breaking out of France's Le Sante Prison, is a meticulous and suspenseful look at desperate men learning to trust an outsider, for better or worse. It's beautiful, even if based on the semi-autobiographical novel of possibly one of the worst people in history.

L'Avventura

Sometimes Pat and I fail to really grasp a film until about halfway through recording the episode. We slowly morph from hating a movie through accepting it, then having an epiphany and finding that spark that everyone else sees.

Michelangelo Antonioni's 1960 film L'Avventura is not one of those times. If you would like to share that spark with us please comment. As it stands...we're just not on board.

Peeping Tom

If Martin Scorsese weren't such a huge fan of The Red Shoes we may never have heard of Peeping Tom, a 1960 thriller directed by Michael Powell, co-director, co-producer, and co-writer of the greatest ballet film ever made. Not that Peeping Tom isn't great in its own right, but audiences and critics in 1960 Britain weren't keen on it, yet Scorsese demanded the world see it. Like the film in last week's episode, Peeping Tom gives Hitchcock a run for his money. Unlike Charade, however, Peeping Tom is a rather dark film. In that regard, this film shares similarities to Psycho which came out barely six months after Peeping Tom, mainly by focusing on a disturbed young man as a villain protagonist.