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?
We kick off the Rebel Samurai boxset this week with Masaki Kobayashi's aptly named Samurai Rebellion. Toshiro Mifune stars in a film that plays as a companion piece to Kobayashi's great Harakiri that we talked about back in July. Donovan Hill joins us this episode and for the rest of the boxset, and it's always a joy to have him.
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.
Vilgot Sjöman made one of the most controversial films ever with I am Curious (Yellow) and a not very controversial at all film with I am Curious (Blue). Originally meant to be released as one film in 1967, the two are really companion pieces, telling versions of the same story Rashomon style. Or maybe not? It's all a bit confusing, not helped by the meta-narrative in which the film is being made (Sjöman plays himself, or perhaps "himself", but then that's true of star Lena Nyman as well.)
We originally planned to do an episode for each movie, but it became apparent very quickly that it would be a disservice to both to talk about them in a vacuum -- they're too intertwined, too related, parallel films more than sequels or prequels. But that does make this for a longer-than-normal episode.
At the height of the Summer of Love powerhouses in pop music came together to hold the first Monterey Pop Music Festival, possibly the first pop music festival ever. D.A. Pennebaker was on hand to record the proceedings to be released as a film, though his footage was eventually released as three. We're talking all of them on this week's Lost in Criterion, including supplemental materials, as we explore the Complete Monterey Pop Festival box set containing Monterey Pop (1967), Jimi Plays Monterey (1986), and Shake! Otis at Monterey (1986).
Milos Forman's first color film and the last movie he made before fleeing Czechoslovakia for the United States, The Fireman's Ball (1967) is arguably a satire of the political climate he was running from - though to be fair it may just as easily be a satire of the political climate he was running to. Small town corruption by incompetent fools can be extrapolated so many different ways. Forman himself said he meant nothing - and he doesn't seem to have anything to gain by lying about it - but the third act lays it on pretty think. But then, maybe I just want to believe.
Every Jacques Tati film we watch is my new favorite Jacques Tati film.
This week it's his third M. Hulot film PlayTime (1967). Playing on the same anti-modernism themes of his earlier work, PlayTime is, well, even more playful. Massive, repetitive, dehumanizing sets, delightfully subtle comedic moments. This film is great.
Seijun Suzuki's Branded to Kill (as well as next week's film, Tokyo Drifter) is a B movie Yakuza film from a guy who could make a B movie Yakuza film in his sleep who wanted to do something different. Released in 1967 Branded to Kill led directly to Suzuki being fired for turning in a completely "incomprehensible" film. Considering that Suzuki is a director who doesn't believe there's even such a thing as "film grammar", on it's surface the studio's criticism may have a point. After viewing Branded to Kill it's obvious that they do. It's also obvious why this film is cited as influential by John Woo, Quentin Tarantino, Park Jan-wook, and Jim Jarmusch.
It's a mess.
But it's a fun mess.