Lacombe, Luciean

We move from a Louis Malle film we did not at all understand last week into one that we seem to get on a deeper level than a lot of critics and, frankly, that concerns me. Lacombe, Lucien is the tale of a lost young man searching for meaning and belonging who finds himself falling in with Nazi collaborators. The critics not understanding certain character motivations is fine, but I think it says more about the critics than Malle — and maybe that same sentence could be aimed at this very podcast last week.

Anyway. Recognize yourself in Lacombe, because nearly all of us, at times, align with the powers of oppressive violence, and we need to see that in ourselves instead of writing it off as the moral failing of others. Be better. Do better.

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The Phantom of Liberty

With The Phantom of Liberty (1974) we have now watched Luis Bunuel's final three films, and there's a very good chance that is the not so distant future I'll find it hard to say which memorable scene belongs to which movie. Phantom is no Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie -- nothing could be -- but it still has some brilliance in it, though it's buried a bit more under some not so great ideas. We've seen other directs throw vignettes at the wall and hope they stick, and thankfully Phantom is more Slacker than Schizopolis, though I'd probably rather watch either of those over doing this again.

A Woman Under the Influence

There are ways in which A Woman Under the Influence is the most "Hollywood" of the John Cassavetes films we've seen so far. It's got structure! But in other very deep ways it is absolutely the furthest from anything Hollywood would ever put out --  "No one wants to see a crazy, middle-aged dame." It's quite possibly the most emotionally intense film we've ever seen.

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Ali: Fear Eats the Soul

Continuing our short trend of films with messages that coincidentally speak to some of the darkest positions of American society today, mostly because they critique aspects of human interaction that, sadly, bubble up every so often in any civilization (and almost always exist at at least a low simmer). Rainer Werner Fassbinder's Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974) -- our first from the renowned German -- is an homage to the melodrama of Douglas Sirk, in particular a retelling of All That Heaven Allows that takes that films class-divided love story and transfers it to a West Germany divided by class, race, religion, and immigration status.

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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Hearts and Minds

I don’t often talk about our recording schedule, but this week’s episode is already terribly dated for terrible reasons. Pat and I watched Hearts and Minds, Peter Davis’s 1974 documentary on the Vietnam War, way back in September. I actually watched it on the 11th, because I don’t want to be happy.

The world has changed a lot, even in the last eight weeks. On the one hand, we recorded this so long ago because Pat took paternity leave for the birth of his second child. On the other, the concerns of continued militarization of Japan Pat expresses in the episode have come to fruition, and it’s a bitter fruit. I rhetorically ask what it will take to forget the lessons we learned from the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, like we forgot the lessons of Vietnam -- naively suggesting that those wars are over and that we actually learned a lesson -- and it seems we may now have an answer.

I am so tired of waiting,
Aren't you,
For the world to become good
And beautiful and kind?
(Tired, Langston Hughes)

This might be our most controversial episode. Maybe it won’t. Saló actually seems to have a pretty big head start on that front. Maybe the people who listen to us are more into film than politics. Often the two are intrinsically linked.

Much like that time we talked about Do the Right Thing, this is a depressing episode that is even more depressing for how timely it is - how timely it will always be.

 

General Idi Amin Dada

General Idi Amin Dada (1974) finds the titular Ugandan dictator more or less taking over film making duties for French documentarian Barbet Schroeder. Schroeder still makes the movie his in the narration and editing, and manages to undermine everything Idi Amin tried to brag on. Not that the self-deluded dictator needed any help showing that his points of pride were reasons to be mocked. Murderous men dig their own graves.

The Night Porter

Oh goodness.

Liliana Cavani's 1974 film The Night Porter.

I would rather watch Salo again.

As this is the Spine 59, Pat and I spend some time ruminating on the fact that it took long enough for Criterion to get a female director into the collection. But then we don't accept her for who she is and what she wants to do. Is that wrong of us? I suppose so. Cavani is no feminist director. She doesn't need to be, though. She is who she wants to be. I'd have preferred that Criterion's first release from a female director actually pass the Bechdel test, for one, and wasn't a holocaustsplotation film, for two. Should we hold it against her that she didn't make the film we would have wished she'd made? Certainly not. That's incredibly unfair and patronizing.

But we will hold it against her that she made a film with no redeeming qualities at all.

Salo, at least, had a point I could grasp.

Blood for Dracula

The story is that while filming Flesh for Frankenstein Paul Morrissey and crew discovered they were quite ahead of schedule and under budget, so they decided to make a second movie. Released the following year, Blood for Dracula, which shares Frankenstein's critique of sexual promiscuity, was partially improvised and for some reason has a cameo from Roman Polanski. It's also a much more entertaining movie no matter what the Rotten Tomato ratings suggest, despite Joe Dallesandro's character being much more overbearing and hard to handle.