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 love Seijun Suzuki here at Lost in Criterion, and sadly we only have two more of his films to watch before we're all out of them. Well, unless the Criterion adds more before we're done. There's certainly an incredibly good chance of that.
We finish with two of the earliest of his that we've seen (though Youth of the Beast was earlier than either). This week it's Gates of Flesh a story of post-war desperation.
Ok, so Pat doesn't like scary movies, but the Japanese horror films we've seen so far have been something else entirely. Kwaidan, for instance, was a more a collection of folk tales that happened to have ghosts involved.
Similarly, Kaneto Shindo's 1964 film Onibaba isn't much of a horror film, though it's not exactly a folk tale, either. More of the story of the "true" inspiration that became the folk tale of the "Demon hag", though Pat takes some umbrage with translating "baba" as "hag" because, really, who uses the word hag anymore?
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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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.
We're back with Jean-Luc Cinema Godard this week with 1964's Band of Outsiders. The Village Voice's Amy Taubin calls this film "a Godard film for people who don't much care for Godard" and Pat takes issue with that, though after our conversation about Contempt perhaps Pat's distaste for this film is actually because he does care for Godard. But then again, Alphaville. In any case, it's certainly an influential film.
Carl Th Dreyer's final film -- though I so wish he'd ever managed to finish his one about the life of Jesus -- abandons the religious themes of his previous work for a conversation of whether love or career are more important in life. A series of conversations. A series of long conversations. Gertrud (1964) represents the end of the downward curve toward static long takes Dreyer took over his career. The film only has about 90 shots, the average length of which is 82 seconds and the longest is nearly 10 minutes. Comparatively, The Passion of Joan of Arc is positively bombastic with it's 3 second average shot length. It's a meticulously staged film, and all the more fascinating for it.
Luis Bunuel's 1964 Diary of a Chambermaid, his first collaboration with Jean-Claude Carriere (the two would later work together on The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie), is actually the second adaptation of Octave Mirbeau's novel. The other was made by Jean Renoir in Hollywood in 1946, and while I've not seen it I'm betting it's quite a different film.
Pat delves deep this week, seeking out Lafcadio Hearn's translations of Japanese folk ghost stories that Masaki Kobayashi's 1964 film Kwaidan are based on in order to better understand them and compare the film to its source. Pretty darn close, Pat would say if Pat were writing this.
Kwaidan isn't so much a "horror" film in any common understanding, but a retelling of traditional tales with ghostly bends. It's interesting and eerie, and downright gorgeous.
Ever pressing on, we recover from Salo and move on to Sam Fuller's 1964 neo-noir The Naked Kiss, kicking off a duo of back to back Fuller. It's lively and pulpy and fun, due mostly to Constance Towers being a far better actress and Fuller a far better director than this script probably deserves, though Fuller did write it himself. So hopefully our joy in The Naked Kiss isn't just a direct result of having watched Salo directly before.