The Tin Drum

Yesterday was Hitler's birthday, so here's a film with a complicated relationship to Nazis?

On the one hand Volker Schlondorff's The Tin Drum (1979) does show some of the horrors of living under Nazi occupation in Gdańsk-- I've just now learned that Danzig is the German name for the city, and it seems inappropriate to use it here, Gdansk is the Polish name  -- and it briefly embodies the aftermath of the Holocaust in one scarred character (who was only recently re-added to the film for this Criterion release). On the other it is based on a book by a man that hid that he was a Nazi soldier for decades and is about someone who uses Nazism when its useful to him and abandons it when its not.

Of course it's also about a little boy who quite literally refuses to grow up.

As I said, it's complicated.

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The BRD Trilogy: The Marriage of Maria Braun

Our last encounter with Rainer Werner Fassbinder left us breathless, and now we move into a trilogy of some of the famed directors best (and final) work. All three stories feature female protagonists making their way in post-war West Germany, and all three are varying degrees of indictment against West German society as Fassbinder saw it. The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979) suggests that Fassbinder believes the BRD is about to blow itself up, but then he destroys all semblance of subtext in the final moments of the film. Even without that final hammer it's a fascinating tale.

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Love on the Run

The final film in Francois Truffaut's Antoine Doinel series (and, not coincidentally, Criterion's The Adventures of Antoine Doinel boxset), 1979's Love on the Run is a capstone and a bit of a clip show, editing in flashbacks not just to the previous four films, but recontextualizing other Jean-Pierre Leaud films in order to add more backstory. Pat isn't necessarily impressed, but that doesn't stop us from fantasizing about what this film would have been like if it was made, say, last year, with the rest of Leaud's career to pull from.

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Monty Python's Life of Brian

Every few years a piece of art or film comes around that deals with Christianity, or even just appears to, and Christians around the world have a guttural reaction trying to shut it down before they even understand it. Andres Serrano's 1987 photograph Piss Christ may be the pinnacle. Still attacked (even physically) today, the piece was really a devout Catholic's commentary on the commercialization of his beloved Jesus. In a couple of months we'll talk about Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ, an exploration of a very human Jesus who overcame everything the world had to offer in every way -- that is, a very Biblical Jesus --  which garnered a more violent protest the year after Serrano's piece.

While perhaps not as vehemently, comedies such as Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979, Terry Jones) garner the same visceral reaction for daring to mock the sacred. Except Life of Brian doesn't mock Jesus, it mocks organized religion and politics, particularly those who would hold so strongly to their particular interpretation of "truth" that they're willing to kill for it -- people not unlike the Protestants and Catholics who Jonathan Swift skewered two and a half centuries earlier when the Lilliputians and Blefuscudians go to war over which end of an egg to eat first. That the real Jesus advocated dying before killing is moot here (both to the Pythons and the zealots), because the zealots are the target, not the religion. Something the zealots usually miss during the protests, or maybe they just can't tell the difference. To that extent perhaps Life of Brian does mock what is "sacred" to the people who ended up protesting it. These are, after all, the sort of people who send death threats when they think that comedians are ideologically attacking a 2000 year-old pacifist. Blessed are the cheese-makers, indeed.

The Long Good Friday

John Mackenzie's 1980 British gangster film was the break out role for Bob Hoskins who will still forever be Mario whenever I think of him. Or possible Smee. Helen Mirren's in it, too, and they're both great actors. An incredibly young Pierce Bronson has no lines. BFI puts it at number 21 of the top 100 British films of the 20th century, because it is obviously very British. And explodey.

As the last episode in June this marks six full months of Lost in Criterion. Thanks for listening! We've got a long road ahead of us.