Harakiri

We'll be exploring a string of samurai deconstruction films in just a few months as we tackle the Rebel Samurai boxset. Though virtually every Jidaigeki samurai film we've seen so far is a deconstruction of the genre, the deconstructionists hit hard in the 60s as young men disillusioned by the war became the nation's primary voices in film.

This week we have Harakiri, Masaki Kobayashi's hard-hitting 1962 entry in the genre (and we'll see more from him in the coming boxset). While the title is more properly Seppuku in Japanese, the "vulgar" term harakiri better sums up the films attitude toward the traditional practice. Donovan Hill joins us, as he often does for these sorts of films, and we're better off for it, though as is often the case he leads us on a longer than normal conversation.

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Jules and Jim

We return to Francois Truffaut this week, who we haven't seen since we finished the Adventures of Antoine Doinel. In fact this is our first Truffaut film in which Doinel is not a character. Jules and Jim, instead, is a period piece about a trio of friend and lovers whose situation becomes untenable. How Truffaut, and author Henri-Pierre Roche, choose to resolve the untenability is the sticking point of the film for us, particularly because Roche's original novel is "semi-autobiographical" and the ending is one aspect that earns that"semi".

L'Eclisse

A little over three years ago Lost in Criterion watched the first film in a trilogy of sorts by Michelangelo Antonioni. We were not impressed with L'Avventura, but could it be that by the the last film of the trilogy we'd could get into a Antonioni film? Marginally!

1962's L'Eclisse isn't quite as tedious as I remember L'Avventura being, though I think I'm understanding Antonioni's perspective a bit better now. If there's one thing long time listeners may have noticed, it's that the longer we spend in the Criterion Collection the less Lost we feel -- but that doesn't mean we can't still feel totally Lost at times. Anyway, there's still the fact that I watched L'Eclisse twice and when I sat down to edit this week's episode I couldn't remember a thing about it. Though to be fair to myself I've also watched Groundhog Day 12 times in the intervening 3 weeks, so my brain is a bit fried.

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La Commare Secca

An Italian neorealist film where the prostitute doesn't represent the state of the nation! Probably. I mean, you could probably interpret it that way if you wanted.

Bernardo Bertolucci's debut, La Commare Secca is, in a lot of ways, clearly directed by a 20 year old first timer. But it's also got some really good stuff going on, even if it's a Rashomon-plot done by a guy who absolutely swears he's never seen Rashomon. We don't believe him, but it doesn't matter either way. La Commare Secca tells its story of on the ground life below the zooming highways, out of sight down by the river, and it's tells it well.

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Mamma Roma

It was only a matter of time before we had to watch another Pier Paolo Pasolini film. After the first one, so many years ago, we were not looking forward to it. But no movie could be another Salo, though I'm sure some have tried.

Mamma Roma is, in a way, a proto-Salo, though. It is a critique of Italian identity and power structures that while comparatively mild I can imagine that between its release in 1962 and Salo's in 1975 Pasolini boiled over from wanting to be heard properly. "We are bad people. We do bad things to ourselves." is the refrain (echoed by Visconti in last week's The Leopard as well), the message here is a slow simmer compared to what it would become, but no less unsubtle.

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Salvatore Giuliano

With Salvatore Giuliano (1962) Francesco Rosi strove not just to make a biopic of the famed Sicilian outlaw, but to make a neo-realist docu-drama. Pat calls it a proto-History Channel special, and there's strong comparisons, but Rosi's film goes beyond that low bar. One because the film is simply so expertly shot, but also because unlike, say, Ancient Aliens, Rosi sought to only include the facts as he could verify them, ultimately, then, interrogating the official story and making a highly politically-charged thriller.

If only it were a memorable one. In a comment on the official Criterion page for the film friend of the show Keith Enright of The Criterion Completion says: "Watched and unremembered. Time to rectify?" and as Pat and I get into in this week's episode, we can't be sure of when Keith made that post, but either of us could have said the same thing after watching the film twice in less than a week. There are bits that stick, but the whole just doesn't hold together for us.

 

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Winter Light

The Communicants -- the actual translation of the Swedish title for Winter Light -- are what we call people who are taking the Communion, and perhaps the solid statement, calling everyone in this film Communicants, is as much a lesson as anything in the film. Of course the other definition -- someone imparting information -- brings its own interpretations. Winter Light -- the always dim but never dying sun -- well, that's a third meaning to keep on our plate. Bergman's 1962 followup and ideological sequel to Through a Glass Darkly acts as a rebuttal to the finally of that film. But at the same time even as rites and actions are confessed to be metaphysically useless, they're still psychologically important, maybe? As people who have sailed those seas and landed on seperate shores Pat and I have a lot to say this week. It starts with 10 minutes about Communion itself, though, because BERGMAN.

Stolen Kisses (and Antoine and Colette)

This week we start The Adventures of Antoine Doinel boxset, a collection of films by Francois Truffaut. We've already talked about the first film in the set, The 400 Blows, quite awhile ago. When Truffaut came back to the character -- and cemented the troupe that would star in all 4 (and a half) films lead by original star Jean-Pierre Leaud -- he took a markedly different course, leaving behind the gritty coming of age tale that defined the French New Wave and creating something a bit more lighthearted, if still brilliant.

We kick things off with Stolen Kisses (1968), in which Antoine meets and courts his future ex-wife Christine. For the sake of completeness and continuity we also roll in a short film -- 1962's Antoine and Colette -- which is on The 400 Blows disc and makes me think too much about how I used to interact with women. Hopefully I've changed! Antoine (barely) does!

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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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Cleo from 5 to 7

At Spine 73 Agnes Varda's Cleo from 5 to 7 clocks in at only the second female director featured in the Criterion Collection (after Liliana Cavani's The Night Porter), and while we do ruminate and lament that for a bit, hypocritically there's only been one episode of Lost in Criterion so far to feature female voices (Amanda M. and Casey H. in Rushmore just six weeks ago). So there's that. Sorry. We'd like to change, but we need people who can work with our schedule. Would you enjoy discussing films with Pat and I early on Saturday mornings? Please let us know in the comments or on Facebook! We certainly need more diversity.

Anyway, in this film Pat gets annoyed by the main character's angst, and I spend as much energy as I can trying to get him to care. We have more Varda coming up in the Collection, including next week's Vagabond, and well deserved, too, considering she pretty much started the French New Wave. Hopefully Pat can get into the others.

Carnival of Souls

Herk Harvey made educational and industrial films. 400 of them he says. His sole feature was 1962's Carnival of Souls, a weird indie horror film that clearly had some influence on things coming after it.

To write Harvey off for the first fact out of hand would be the same as writing off Robert Altman, who started on a similar career path. But Harvey is no Altman. That's not to say I didn't like Carnival of Souls, though Pat firmly did not. I spend most of this week explaining to Pat why he should like it -- and there are a lot of reasons to, which I hope I accurately articulate -- but there's a lot of good reasons not to like it, including an end reveal that taints everything that came before it. And that's still coming from the one of us who might actually watch this again.

Sanjuro

Yojimbo proved so popular that Akira Kurosawa reworked his next project, another period piece starring the great Toshiro Mifune, into a sequel/prequel/parallelequel starring possibly the same character or maybe not but Mifune plays him similarly and they have similar names.

Anyway, however they're ultimately related, a year after Yojimbo came out Kurosawa released Sanjuro (1962), a film that has decidedly more to say about how samurai weren't all that great. It's no wonder this one wasn't remade as often.

Donovan joins again and we thank him for his time. It's always so exciting and long-winded when he's around.