August 2016: Stuff I Watched

Three Kings (David O. Russell, 1999)

Three Kings is many good and necessary things at once. It’s a film that really understands action, not only making an oddly satisfying mixture of art-house anti-war movie with a blockbuster adventure flick but also excelling at depicting said action with precision and grace – the way it cuts and uses slow motion is probably one of the finest examples of modern action film-making that compensates for much of the stylish action of recent years that doesn’t really add up to anything; it’s modern action done right. It’s a thought-provoking film, and a very accessible one, that kind of brings an entirely new solution to the age-old difficulty that directors have with bringing a message to the right people with the right vehicle. And it’s a really good movie, and the kind of good movie that pushes you to revisit the filmography of a director you didn’t regard all that highly.

Signs of Life (Werner Herzog, 1968)

How did Herzog go from this to Even Dwarfs Started Small to Aguirre: The Wrath of God? Deeply atmospheric and with very naturalistic dialog, Signs of Life is the strange, deeply poetic story of a man who goes crazy after he meets the Valley of the 10000 Windmills. Drawn as one of Herzog’s many takes on destructive boredom, it’s the closest he ever got to an European art film.

My Night at Maud’s (Eric Rohmer, 1969)

One of the definitive conversation movies, My Night at Maud’s understands the rules of attraction like few other movies. Shot with almost Bressonian precision, it’s the kind of film that makes you want to be there, talking with those people.

Claire’s Knee (Eric Rohmer, 1970)

It could’ve been easily titled Male Gaze: The Movie for my money. Like Marnie, another deeply sexist movie that I happen to like a lot despite its significant problems (there are feminist defenses of the film, however), it has a lot of interesting things to say about itself and its characters (in that case, smart, calculating, manipulative men towards the women they’re interested in). Gorgeous (but not too flashy) cinematography by Nestor Almendros (Days of Heaven).

Cobra Verde (Werner Herzog, 1987)

Not sure what to make of this one. Maybe next time. But it’s a Kinski/Herzog movie, and probably a really good one. Some moments in this film are among the most beautiful and unexpected I’ve seen in a long time.

Black Girl (Ousmane Sembene, 1966)

While this feature debut isn’t the most seamless or most gripping of films, it certainly deserves to be seen: not only it challenges conventions that survive to this day, it does so like a stone in your shoe, and a beautiful one at that.

The Birds (Alfred Hitchcock, 1963)

Every time I watch this film, I am more and more certain it is one of the best movies ever made. The apocalyptic film we all deserve and should all look up to. It’s also better than Psycho, so sue me.

Alphaville (Jean-Luc Godard, 1965)

What if film noir were less about bullets and broads and more about the philosophy of language, love and all emotions? A detective story for the intellectuals, with the George Orwell Seal of Approval.

Love and Friendship (Whit Stillman, 2016)

Seamless, fast-paced (perhaps a bit too much) and expertly written and crafted, Love and Friendship is the kind of summer movie for people who absolutely don’t like summer movies, with Kate Beckinsale in a marvelous performance as Lady Susan. It does make my feel like Stillman is probably more at home in the present day.

The Raid: Redemption (Gareth Evans, 2011)

The thing about action movies, genre movies and genre directors in general is that you don’t have to be a master of the arts to make a good, entertaining genre movie: all you need is to understand the conventions and explore them, subvert them or twist them in some way, getting to the point the best way you can. This is exactly why The Raid: Redemption works: the premise is simple, the generic backstories are underdeveloped enough that they don’t get in the way of the action and the fight scenes (basically the entire movie) are the sole center of the movie, neatly choreographed and dynamic to a hault.

Cat People (Jacques Torneur, 1942)

A masterpiece of understatement, Cat People is the kind of B-movie, like Carnival of Souls, that invests in looking and feeling like an A-movie.

La Haine (Matthieu Kassovitz, 1995)

It lacks polish and is a bit too bro-ish to take a definite look at its main characters, but La Haine, which by now is probably a cult classic, is even more relevant in its themes of police brutality, diverse communities and the suffocating shadow of the appeal of a life of crime.

The Shallows (Jaume Collet-Serra, 2016)

The kind of shark movie that we deserve: effective, well-acted and well-paced. The ending is still a bit of a disappointment, though, and is a stark contrast to the less-is-more approach that permeates the entire film.

 

July 2016 in a nutshell: stuff I watched

Chi-Raq (Spike Lee, 2015)

A very necessary 2015 movie that was criminally overlooked, despite being politically relevant, stylish, beautifully acted and very topical. Guess that happens when Amazon takes hold of your movie.

Finding Dory (Andrew Stanton, 2016)

More action packed than its predecessor, and probably miles funnier, it doesn’t add much in terms of a satisfying unique movie, relying in a lot of adventure movie clichés with a very predictable narrative, as dynamic as it is. Still, this simply means it’s minor Pixar, which means major anything else, with resonant themes to boast.

Strangers on a Train (Alfred Hitchcock, 1951)

To be honest, Strangers on a Train feels like there’s something missing, probably because it stars the terrible Farley Granger (equally terrible in Rope) and doesn’t have the surrealism or the popcorn friendliness of Hitchcock’s other masterpieces of the 50s and 60s, or the uniqueness of one of his other masterpieces, The Wrong Man. Still, it’s a great Hitchcock movie, full of thematic layers to be unwrapped in multiple viewings and filled with the tension we’ve come to expect.

Even the Dwarfs Started Small (Werner Herzog, 1970)

Surely one of the weirdest films ever made, from a director who has made a career out of bold and unconventional narratives and did some of the craziest feats in film history to get what he wanted done on the screen. It’s a film with an all-dwarf cast who speak in really high tones, and an allegorical one at that which makes it all ever weirder since it’s both serious and not that much. Some strong social commentary despite Herzog’s usual avoidance of assuming a definite ideology.

Heat (Michael Mann, 1995)

Cool as ice, beautifully shot, stylized, it’s one of the all-time best heist movies, an essential one-last-job movie that reflects on what it means to be a cop and a thief. The Nerdwriter made a very good video essay on the way the film combines realism and style.

Alien and Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1979/1982)

Two masterpieces of production design, and of production values overall, with one as a B-movie with the coolest looks ever and the other as one of the definitive thinking man’s mainstream favorites.

The Second Mother (Anna Muylaert, 2015)

You know things are bad when every single character is a straight-up social archetype down to every action and yet the film is still somewhat extremely plausible about a very critical component of family life in Brazil. It’s an important reflection of often neglected people on film that deserves some attention, an essential slice of Brazilian life that should be relatable to any family that has ever hired a cleaning lady or a nanny.

The Nice Guys (Shane Black, 2016)

A hilariously dark yet still uplifting movie, and an excellent throwback to American history in its weirdest moments. The kind of humor that has multiple payoffs and with jokes that are worked out throughout the entire movie. Plus Russell Crowe is actually good in it! Who knew he could still act?

Carnival of Souls (Herk Harvey, 1962)

This movie freaked me out. Not only it’s the rare kind of B-movie that invests in mood and atmosphere, but it also has an incredible use of sound, crisp cinematography, and some effectively haunting low-budget effects.

 

Last Year at Marienbad (Alain Resnais, 1961)

Probably one of the best first watches of this year (check the list of films I’ve seen this year list if you want to see what it is up against), I can’t say much about it other than it’ll make your head spin and your mind explode; if you’re the kind of person that likes when a movie provides more questions that answers, and especially if you like a puzzle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, this is a must-see. It further advances Resnais’ studies on memory and is further proof of his mind-bending editing (check out Hiroshima mon amour if you want a slightly easier version of this film)

That’s pretty much it! In July I also saw:

Repo Man (Alex Cox, 1984): Criterion said it best when it defined Repo Man as three things: sci-fi classic, cult classic and punk classic. A crazy-awesome film.

Total Recall (Paul Verhoeven, 1990): not as good as Robocop or Starship Troopers, and with much less biting commentary, but still a lot of fun.

Top Gun (Tony Scott, 1986): a grand piece of good cheese, a ludcrious propaganda piece, and a film that gave me more respect for Tom Cruise (this is not a blockbuster performance) and some interest in Tony Scott (this is my first of his films).

Aguirre, the Wrath of God (Werner Herzog, 1972): more on that this week in full review!

To the Wonder (Terrence Malick, 2012): probably my least favorite Terrence Malick, and yet a beautiful enigma of a film. It sort of works as a prequel to Knight of Cups in terms of style.

The Sixth Sense (M. Night Shyamalan, 1999): it’s still good! A well-made suspense movie that shows that M. Night should work harder on what he does (the final script for the Sixth Sense was the 10th draft or something).

Viva Zapata! (Elia Kazan, 1952): Marlon Brando plays early Marlon Brando, who plays Zapata like a sometimes calm, sometimes energetic hero of the people. Kazan’s directing is on point in its energetic compositions and camerawork.

Mary and Max (Adam Elliot, 2009): a poignant absurdist film that will hopefully change how we look at people whose lifestyles are different from our own.

The Hunt (Thomas Vinterberg, 2012): hardly crossing the line between “problem picture” and auteur cinema, it’s a good performance vehicle for Mads Mikkelsen, who here plays a much more down to earth everyman than you would expect from a Mikkelsen movie.

Children of Heaven (Majid Majidi, 1997): it overuses medium shots and close-ups to my taste, and the competition-that-will-change-my-life-forever trope has become an ugly cliché, but the film’s heart and spirit make this a satisfying watch.

June 2016 in a nutshell: stuff I watched

Hello! It’s been a while, again. At this point I question myself whether I’ll make anything other than these monthly summaries in the near future, since I was sure I was going to move forward with my Great Directors series, finishing Eisenstein and going all the way to Godard (I even have practically finished reviews of October and Alexander Nesvky!) But for quite a few reasons, I have decided to push the series to January so that I can spend some time working on Werner Herzog’s new Masterclass (yes), among other things. I intend to actually publish some reviews over the next few months but without the seriousness of the series I had in mind. POSSIBLY it will be something about a bunch of Zack Snyder films, or just Batman v Superman, or Man of Steel and Batman v Superman v Marvel. Who knows? But I know myself enough not to promise anything (EDIT: it’s not. Too much Zack Snyder is the thingest of things).

June was a lot of the same, since I felt like sweeping some cool film stuff outdoors and my increasing DVD collection (I have about 70 movies of my own at this point, not including 20 extra movies from the rest of the family and some tapes, including some beautiful Criterion boxes) at the same time.

Woody Allen x5: Stardust Memories (1980), A Midnight Summer’s Sex Comedy (1982), Zelig (1983), Broadway Danny Rose (1984), Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)

For a multitude of reasons, it seems that outside of the critical spectrum Woody Allen remains the director of Annie Hall, Manhattan, some recent flops, that one movie that got Cate Blanchett an Oscar and those two movies from the 80s people have heard are pretty good, or at least it was for me. To actually go through his filmography and visit his post-Manhattan titles one by one was certainly a surprise, a pleasure, and most of all a revelation: not only were Stardust Memories and Hannah and Her Sisters (tell funnier jokes!) really good and very much two of the finest examples of American cinema of the 80s (a decade that can needs them more than any other), all of these titles show a degree of consistency that is incredibly rare, especially for a filmmaker as prolific as Allen is. Even the minor Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy, which harks back to his small anarchic fun films of the 70s, delivers quite a lot of laughs and is also very smart (considering the times we live in, mainstream films of such kind cleanse the soul). Sure, there are issues I believe run all throughout his filmography that are very evident in these movies (more on that some other time), and a lot of decent movies don’t double as a masterpiece, but few directors have made movies as funny, warm and inviting as Allen.

So as I watched all these films out of the 20 from the Woody Allen box I got last June, I have to include here a sidenote that I find necessary as the conflicted moviegoer I am: the more I watch his works, the more I fear that whatever did happen between Allen and the Farrow family, there was something very wrong. Matt Zoller Seitz wrote a passionate article about this, and several others have too, obviously . And his movies do have a frustrating number of jokes about child molestation (apparently Irrational Man has some pretty ugly autobiographical touches protagonizing the film), and he did have a romantic interest in Manhattan‘s Mariel Hemingway, and the Farrow family did go on with the accusations despite the years past, and knowing this, whether it’s true that it happened or it isn’t, his fillms leave a bitter taste in the same way watching The Cosby Show or The Pianist or Chinatown should (might*? have to*?) does. And where does it end then? Is there a line to cross? Where does Mad Max stand because of Mel Gibson, and Leni Riefenstahl, and all propaganda, and Sean Penn, and so many others? What about the hundreds of people who have worked with these people before and after the accusations and the scandals?

I have begun to think now that Woody Allen is very probably a child abuser, despite the case that was dropped out, the years that have passed since, his artistic status and the Oscars and achievement awards he keeps winning. What to do with this information is especially complicated to me as a film student, and possibly a future filmmaker, but my position won’t be one of total indifference.

Iñarritu x4: Amores Perros (2000), 21 Grams (2003), Babel (2006), Biutiful (2010)

More on that soon at The Hand Grenade!

Eyes Wide Shut (Stanley Kubrick, 1999)

Stanley Kubrick’s last film has, ever since its release, been something of an underdog when it comes to critical assessments of the director’s career. It doesn’t feel as enigmatic and stylized as his other films (Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman add a particular mainstream touch to it), it centers around a theme that has is thought to be outdated by common sense (marriage, the forever after and the fear of infidelity) and it has been met with polarizing reviews from critics ever since its release, with some arguing that the director lost its touch and others claiming this project was probably not the best choice. But underneath the mixed reception of Eyes Wide Shut is a film that is perhaps one of his most seamless, daring and intelligent films in a career defined by these characteristics. Devoid of easy answers, flawlessly acted under Kubrick’s idiosyncratic direction and, as usual, full of impressive sights and sounds (Jocelyn Pook’s soundtrack is one of finest Kubrick has ever used), this is a film that rewards a second look.

Ghost World (Terry Zwigoff, 2001)

Crumb is Terry Zwigoff’s most critically acclaimed film, and Bad Santa his most mainstream, but Ghost World is simply the most charming and appealing, and arguably his best. It’s one of those weird, hipster-like Americana movies, like Napoleon Dynamite and Juno, that perfectly combines the strange, nostalgic and essentially bittersweet characteristic of modern urban life with the warmth and affection that comes from deep down in our hearts. Not only a note-perfect coming-of-age drama about unfinished dreams, conflicted ideals of happiness and success, and the wish to change life against one’s own circumstances, it’s also a universe of itself, much like our own but still uncanny to our eyes. Featuring some of the best performances in Steve Buscemi, Thora Birch and Scarlett Johannson’s careers, Ghost World is the kind of movie you want to hug tight and never let go. And it also features this crazy awesome track I’ve been listening to forever (those dance moves!)

Kiarostami x3: Close-Up (1990); The Wind Will Carry Us (1999); Like Someone in Love (2012)

It was some weird sort of coincidence that the Sala Redenção (kind of like Porto Alegre’s Cinémathèque Française) and other art-house exhibitors decided to pay homage to Abbas Kiarostami with a comprehensive exhibition of his films just before he passed away on July 4th. What ended as a restrospective like any other became a very necessary tribute to one of the most important directors of the modern era, a visionary artist that treated cinema as its own artform and pushed the envelop like few other directors. I got to see three of his films (for free!), and each of them was a stunning revelation of how it’s totally true that you’ve never seen everything that cinema can do unless you’ve seen all of it, and even then, you probably haven’t anyway.

The first one was Close-Up, widely considered his masterpiece. It’s the documentary (?) of a man who loves cinema so much he impersonates the Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf to a family and is later arrested for doing so; it’s also the story of Kiarostami himself going after this man to find out his motives for the impersonation and recreating the events that lead to his trial (which Kiarsotami was allowed to shoot). Needless to say, the film is an essential take on cinephilia, the relationship between an artist and the society he lives in, the extents to which one does things for the sake of art, and cinema as a life-changing, almost religious experience. The ending, which I won’t spoil here, didn’t leave a dry tear in the house, and will certainly get deep in the heart of any film buff who watches this.

The second one was The Wind Will Carry Us, yet another masterpiece. The self-reflexive themes of the role of the artist and their ties to society are also here, but this time it’s a narrative film about the leader of a filmmaking crew who’s staying in a distant village in order to film the allegedly strange rituals that will happen  when an old man from the village dies. When she doesn’t, the filmmaker is forced to revisit his actions and intentions. Full of gorgeous shots of the labyrinthine village and the fascinating geometry of its houses, endless desert formations and trees, it’s one of the most beautiful films ever made, and very poetic one at that (the title comes from a Forough Farrokhzad poem).

The third one, which I had the honor to see in 35mm, was Like Someone in Love, Kiarostami’s final film. Set in Japan, it’s the story of an old professor who hires an escort girl and finds himself tangled with her complicated relationship with her abusive boyfriend. Seamless and straightforward as though it seems, it’s a puzzling film, where the intentions of the main trio are never quite clear and their roles in relation to one another even less. It ends with a literal window-breaking stone, a fitting end to an extraordinary career that consisted of refusing to take established conventions for granted.

The Fall (Tarsem Singh, 2006)

Definitely imperfect but an absolute necessity of a film, Tarsem Singh’s The Fall the kind of film that exists simply because it had to. Despite being a curious meta-fictional story about a man who fictionalizes his own history as a story to a little girl who visits him at the hospital, it is quite deficient in the storytelling department, since the man’s story is quite a generic one and thus so is the film, which kind of contradicts the idea of playing with this double layer in the first place. That is not the reason, however, this film is very much worth seeing: shot by Colin Watkinson in more than 20 countries, The Fall feature some of the most beautiful images ever put to film, fragments of nature, wildlife and human architecture of all colors, shapes and hues, like a Steve McCurry album come to life. It’s a near-pornographic display of art direction and cinematography that needs to be seen to be believed.

Independence Day (Roland Emmerich, 1996)

I have not seen the sequel, and with that in mind, it’s probably interesting to say that the original 1996 sci-fi blockbuster holds up better than I expected. Sure, it has that extraordinary destruction of the world sequence that does much better than most movies at showing how apocalypses aren’t exactly plot devices and can actually do a lot of harm (!!!!) that is completely ruined by the fact that no major characters really die and it’s all fun and games when they kill the aliens, but it has above-average performances from Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum and Will Smith, some amazing lines and some fresh comedy moments. Also, That Speech.

Robocop (Paul Verhoeven, 1987)

After being blown away by how deceptively smart Starship Troopers was, I decided to give Paul Verhoeven a second chance and come to terms with Robocop, his equally powerful satire of Hollywood tropes and American culture. And just as expected, it is just as essential: where the latter is the quintessential Hollywood satire of the 90s for tricking you into thinking you’re watching a brainless action film (it literally replicates shots from the nazi documentary Triumph of the Will and stars the whitest actor on Earth as Juan Rico), Robocop is the ultimate 80s movie and then not quite, from the built-in commercials to the endless blood squibs to the big hair overload and Reagan-era vocabulary. But underneath the surface there are important observations on corporate manipulation, police brutality, shoot first ask later philosophies, media and violence and the masculinity of the action hero: Robocop might have turned into a cyborg, but to think of our heroes as bandit-killing machines and not as flawed human beings in a human system is inherently wrong. Nobody does dumb action like Verhoeven.

Elephant (Gus Van Sant, 2003)

Haunting is an overused word to describe anything that is minimally spooky, scary, or atmospheric, but if there’s any film that earns the title, it’s Gus Van Sant’s Palme d’Or-winner Elephant. Based on the Columbine shooting of 1999, it’s a strangely atmospheric, heavily de-dramatized, astonishingly non-linear depiction of the before, during and after of a school shooting, waving an intricate web of students and teachers in their lives soon to be changed forever before all hell breaks loose – but it would be wrong to call this an action film, since the actual shooting couldn’t be further removed from the standard Hollywood depictions of victim killings. Shoot with a claustrophobic yet very poetic 4:3 cinematography that borrows from the films of Béla Tarr, Jeanne Dielman and even videogames, it’s groundbreaking, deeply unique, and very necessary.

The Hateful Eight (Quentin Tarantino, 2015)

After a leaked script, tons of hype and tons of expectation, The Hateful Eight came to theaters this December, and critics and audiences went like, “okay.” It did gross three times as much as its budget and garnered some fans, but one of the most anticipated movies of the year made a much smaller splash than expected. To me, it was probably the worst movie Tarantino has made.

It has great cinematography by Robert Richardson (the opening shot was probably the best all year), an incredible Oscar-winning score by Ennio Morricone (partly butchered by the inclusion of some random best hits by Tarantino) and some fine performances, but these pieces do little next to the other ones in order to make a great Tarantino movie, let alone a satisfying one, and 3 hours long at that. Unnecesarily violent and poorly acted, it boasts the cheesiest and most unconvincing dialogue the director has written so far, with characters reduced to cheap archetypes, tons of exposition, a gruesome and failing attempt at descriptive sexism and racism as criticism (which is strange considering he’s done much better in literally every other movie he’s made) and an ineffective attempt to build up suspense by having the characters stay in the same room throughout the film. Like Kill Bill, it’s the kind of movie you can appreciate for its vision and its intentions, but unfortunately spirals out of control as Tarantino tries really hard to make something different without making it actually fun and well-made.

That was it! But I also saw:

O Abismo Prateado (Karim Aïnouz, 2011), a little film with a big heart based on a Chico Buarque song; The Grandmaster (Wong Kar-wai, 2013), an effective and compelling martial arts movie with typically breathtaking cinematography; Memento and Insomnia (Christopher Nolan, 2000/2002), two neo-noir thrillers I cared less than I expected to, despite being pretty original and challenging; Bridge of Spies (Steven Spielberg, 2015), a competent, by-the-numbers Cold War drama that isn’t really Oscar bait but also not top Spielberg; Anomalisa (Charlie Kaufman, 2015), probably the most human film of the year; Crash (David Cronenberg, 1996), a weird, weird film that I didn’t really feel satisfied based on what I understood, but is probably a masterpiece; X-Men Apocalypse (Bryan Singer, 2016), half of one of the best and half of one of the worst superhero movies of the decade.

Also also: The Mermaid (Stephen Chow, 2016) the highest grossing film in Chinese history and my least favorite film from Chow (Shaolin Soccer, Kung Fu Hustle); Straight Outta Compton (F. Gary Gray, 2015), a solid, refreshing biopic; Happy Together (Wong Kar-wai, 1997), a great LGBT film that doesn’t feel all that gay (whatever that means) but is quite interesting with its Argentinian setting and Kerouac-ish vibes; Money Monster (Jodie Foster, 2016), a generic financial thriller that would probably garner better reviews had The Big Short not made it feel so bland and unoriginal in comparison; Ivan the Terrible, Parts 1 and 2 (Sergei Eisenstein 1944/1958), two films I’ll talk about at length in the future; Blood Simple (Joel and Ethan Coen, 1984), a hilarious, surprisingly effective feature debut that proves the Coens have always been this good; and MASH (Robert Altman, 1970), another hilarious dark comedy that has aged weirdly in some of its criticisms of misogyny and racism but is, as awkward as it might feel, a descriptive satire, and one practically effortless in its camerawork and dialog.

May 2016 in a nutshell: stuffed I watched last month

Though being in Brazil over the summer has a drawback for me as a moviegoer (good luck waiting for the release of your most anticipated art-house works), I am also on vacation now, which means I can watch three movies in a row without fearing for the final exam I have the next morning. May wasn’t exactly an open bar of movies, but I surely had fun.

Game of Thrones, Seasons 1-6 (Various Directors, 2011-)

I’ll save my smartest comments and critical opinions for a piece on the series, which I intend to upload not long after Season 6 is finished (it’ll probably suck since this is the first TV show I’m seriously following, but I gotta do it). Long story short, I have to admit that the concern with developing the narrative, getting all points across and turning an extremely large epic into good TV material damages some of the film’s aesthetic and cinematic merits in general, but in all honesty everyone in the world should be obsessed with this show right now. Game of Thrones is the perfect example of pure entertainment.

Enter the Void (Gaspar Noé, 2010)

Gaspar Noé isn’t exactly the most brilliant or the most intellectually challenging of modern director, or the one with the most flawless films, but there are reasons he has managed to stay relevant despite the edgy content he’s been providing in every single film he releases and the polarizing reception of his work in artistic terms: he’s actively dedicated to pushing the boundaries of filmmaking as we know them. The acting in his films is sub-par, and their philosophy isn’t very well-grounded, but the way he thinks with his camera allows for less than a few comparisons.

It seems at times that the most creative works come out of very common ideas: in Enter the Void, Oscar (Nathaniel Brown) is shot after an unsuccessful drug deal; the rest of the film is Gaspar Noé’s conceptualization of Oscar’s out-of-body experience after he dies, revisiting his entire life, witnessing the events that follow his death and hovering over the city of Tokyo in search of a body to reincarnate in – Noé dismisses this interpretation due to his objection to any religious beliefs, but the film goes more or less like this anyway. In essence, it’s little more than that idea of life flashing through your thoughts as you die, but Noé’s visual interpretation of this experience, inspired by the effects of psychedelic drugs and the Tibetan Book of the Dead, turns this premise into a wildly adventurous, deeply immersive and thoughtfully experimental experiment, even preceding Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life. In fact, it’s safe to say that, with the crazy special effects, the well-choreographed long takes and the overlong ending, Enter the Void is pretty much The Tree of Life, drug-fueled street version.

Broken Blossoms (D.W. Griffith, 1919)

Now I don’t know much about D.W. Griffith, the director who incalculably influence film history with towering achievements such as The Birth of a Nation and Intolerance, but Broken Blossoms leaves me puzzled: is this a white guilt-stricken, heartfelt apology, or a half-hearted attempt to cover up prejudice and reach a broader audience? A stunningly progressive film for its time or a misguided attempt at it by the guy who championed the KKK in his most important film? Maybe it’s all of these things, but for what it offers, it’s quite an achievement of silent cinema. Beautiful, heartwarming and tactfully melodramatic, it’s the thing of Victorian sensibilities that was lost when cinema started to speak.

Pet Sematary (Mary Lambert, 1989)

Oh dear, this movie. Pet Sematary might be one of the most misguided horror movies I have ever seen, and yet it is so effective in its desire to traumatize and horrify (Funny Games and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre come to mind as similar shockers) I have to ask: where has this gone so wrong?

Directed by Mary Lambert and co-written by Stephen King himself, the film is a powerful allegory of stages of grief and how people sometimes fail to control their reactions to traumatic experiences: in this case, a series of deaths (including a maid, a cat and a 2 year-old son) create an overwhelming sense of desolation and loss that is remarkably powerful in ways I had never seen before. The way these losses come, reasonably expected but nevertheless sudden and forceful, makes this movie full of feelings that are seldom well explored in the movies. And yet it is so poorly acted, so unevenly paced, so atrociously written.

That would’ve been fine, as most horror movies replace overall seamlessness and flawlessness by haunting moments and brave set pieces, but the film’s direction is one of the most violent and most repugnant acts of self-destruction in the history of cinema. Mary Lambert directs Stephen King’s story like this horrifying story of grief deserved the Evil Dead treatment for some reason, and the result is a schlocky, by-the-numbers B-movie crapfest. There’s rumors of a remake, and this film deserves it, but for all my money, it’s going to be just as bad. At least the original has a Ramones hit going for it.

Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)

What else can I say about the greatest film ever made? I have said a few things in this review, but honestly, no analysis will ever do it justice. This is Hitchcock at his most daring, imaginative, dark and ambitious, and it is as obsessive as obsession-inducing. A dream-like experience like no other in cinema.

The Phantom Carriage (Victor Sjöström, 1921)

The last person to die before the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve is doomed to ride The Phantom Carriage and collect the souls of the dead, David Holm is told in one of the eeriest and most beautiful films of the silent era. Played by the director Victor Sjöström himself, Holm is a powerful character, a family man who loses everything to alcoholism and has to find redemption after he realizes how many opportunities missed while he was alive. Featuring gorgeous silent era effects (the ghosts are represented with a technique as simple as a double exposure tinted in blue) and memorable scenes (the axe scene from The Shining comes from this movie right here), it is a great humanist force, well acted and very cinematic for its time. Ingmar Bergman liked this movie so much it was probably one of the things that inspired him to pursue filmmaking; he later cast Sjöström as the unforgettable protagonist of a similarly themed masterpiece, Wild Strawberries.

THX 1138 (George Lucas, 1971)

It is often said that abstract painters of the likes of Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Jasper Johns can’t draw or paint for shit, when from their years of experience and early works tell us that they actually can, and probably could better than anyone; it just so happens that they’re not going for what most people want. THX 1138 is kind of an early drawing by blockbuster titan George Lucas that proves that he could very well have taken the path of the art-house movie, but instead decided to embrace broader audiences with his involvement in the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises (the world would have been so different).

Lucas’s feature debut, which is an expansion of his National Film Registry-recognized student short film (which you can watch online), is far from flawless, with a very muddled plot with a quite confusing narrative that doesn’t exactly reach the themes he’s searching for, namely the importance of human emotions and the fragile stability of dictatorial systems. But the miracle of this small film comes through the design of this crazy universe, where human emotions are suppressed and life is controlled in a 1984 kind of system: this is a movie universe that seems to breathe, smell, look and sound like something of its own, every single sound effect and every single piece of low budget prop or costume build with a lot of expression. In the hands of the guy who gave us Darth Vader and Jar Jar Binks, there is a puzzling, mysterious world that seems suspended in time and feels as incoherent and overwhelming as its characters must feel when trapped inside of it. A fine finding for my money.

Häxan (Benjamin Christensen, 1922)

Always trust a movie where the director himself plays Satan: Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages is not only a surprisingly fresh movie, dealing with misconceptions and superstitions surrounding things like witchcraft, Satanism, black magic and medieval treatments of women, but a refreshing one in style, telling its story in docudrama fashion.

The Assassin (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 2015)

Review of one of the best films of 2015 here! That’s all I have to say.

Baahubali: The Beginning (S.S. Rajamouli, 2015)

Who would’ve thought that one of the highest-grossing movies in the history of India would be screened in a small Brazilian festival of fantasy and horror movies? Yet it was, and Baahubali: The Beginning is more fun than any MCU movie you can think of (with except of Deadpool perhaps, and Civil War which I haven’t seen yet), which the bonus benefits that its action is as gloriously unreal (more like surreal) as Indian action can get, and there’s plenty of cultural and emotional significance to make you a fan of its long musical numbers, outrageously handsome men and women (it’s like they mass-produce impeccable torsos) and overblown epic aspirations. More than that, it’s no Ben-Hur or Lawrence of Arabia, but does Hollywood even try to make films as ambitious and grandiose as these? Can’t wait for the sequel.

Babe (Chris Noonan, 1995)

Yes, it’s still just as good as it felt like in your childhood. Yes, it’s still about a pig who wants to be a pig shepherd and is trained by his all-singing, all-dancing owner. Yes, you’ll need tissues and reconsider your love for bacon. Yes, it was nominated for 7 Oscars and written by the guy who directed Mad Max. You owe it to yourself to watch this movie. *sheds single waterfall of tears*

Daisies (Vera Chytilová, 1966)

Doll-like, twin-like three-dimensional women named Maria I and Maria II wreak havoc across Czechoslovakia in Vera Chytilová’s essential feminist masterpiece Daisies: the world is a spoiled, anarchic place and so they’ll be just as devilish. But the film also seems to be possessed by this frenzy: from black-and-white to tinted to full color film, from fast to slow motion and back to real time, from one cut to the next to yet another entirely out of place, this film pours down special effects and New Wave dissonances on the screen. While it would be easy to criticize this film as immoral for the way the Marias go about their things and show little to no sign of care for anything or anyone, it is smarter to see them not as the right answer to war and oppression, but as one inevitable answer to them. Bonus points for perhaps some of the best dick jokes in film history.

The Red and The White (Miklós Jancsó, 1967)

Everybody knows the long take is cinema’s greatest achievement. Maybe not exactly, but few things are as riveting as a well-executed long take that blends in with the film and blow us away, whether in the in-your-face gymnastics of Birdman, I am Cuba or Children of Men, the self-conscious film experiments of Weekend and Funny Games or the meditative poetry of Russian Ark, Stalker and Sátántangó. Miklós Jancsó’s The Red and The White, the anti-war tour de force about the conflict between Red Army soldies and czarist cossacks, might be of yet a fourth kind, highly choreographed but also seamless and precise, and the film is full of them. It’s a cold and unforgiving masterpiece, in which these long takes not only are fascinating for themselves, they’re also harder to notice and imbued with meaning: every different scene is a new strategy, a reversal of fortune, a reveal of character or environment that builds up the restrained suspense it offers. The result is like  a kinetic version of Bresson, stripped of its Catholic touches. A must-see.

Also:

Farhan Akhtar’s Don (a Shah Rukh Khan movie is good even when it’s bad); Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal (it’s a great classic, but after six times in three years I’m getting a bit tired of it); Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook (a great feature debut that is more depressing than outright scary); Robert Eggers’s The Witch (meh); Steven Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can (underrated fun, flawlessly executed); Martin Scorsese’s Casino (discount Goodfellas, though with amazing cinematography, production and costume design); and Paul Thomas Anderson’s Junun (Vaishak’s review at the Moviegoer is a bit too euphoric but spot on)

The Assassin

Time and again I read or hear about a movie I am interested in with words of advice like “it’s thin on plot, but the cinematography is beautiful,” or “it’s all style but no substance,” or “the images are pretty and that’s about it.” It turns out I’m all for this kind of movies, for jaw-dropping images I could hang on my wall, fluttering long takes and color palettes that make you want to marry a silver screen, even when this is at the expense of a more substantive or well-structured plot. First, because often great cinematography without meaning is always worth a watch for the sake of the oddity alone. Second, because in half of those cases said criticisms are missing something hidden within that choice of style, and the substance that comes out when one wants to make sense of it.

This has been the case with The Assassin, which despite having a so-so 79% on Rotten Tomatoes was at the top of the Sight and Sound year-end critics list and in many many others. The Assassin is perhaps the most beautiful film of the decade, if not the century, and for starters it’s enough proof of the fact that good cinematography doesn’t need to be unnoticed, as Roger Deakins would tell you. It can be a goddamn masterpiece in every single frame it’s showing.

Shot by Mark Lee Ping Bing, Hou Hsiao-hsien’s go-to cinematographer since the 80s (who also shot Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love), it is a carnival of colors, meticulously crafted to follow the film’s highly elliptical and piece-wise structure. The film’s narrative is edited more like a collection of poems than a prosaic story in itself, often skipping parts and leaving a lingering emotion before moving on to the next, and the visuals flow accordingly: the prologue, which introduces us to the title character and sets the stage, is in black-and-white, and the story itself changes from palettes with red and yellow bursting through blues and greens, to shades of beige and brown, back to red and yellow, then naturalistic blacks, greens, browns and otherwise. Every scene, filled with the intricate texture of lavish costumes, props and set dressings of 8th-century China (one entire scene is shot behind silk curtains and partially lit by candlelight), is imprinted into the screen, and accordingly leaves a mark. The film is notoriously shot in the 4:3 aspect ratio, which has currently returned to art-house theaters with a thematic significance: here, it shows how, even amid vast landscapes and sumptuous palaces, one can easily feel emotional and physical entrapment.

This is why the film, despite its gorgeous pictures and soothing atmosphere, is also an eerie experience, as if we’re witnessing the calm before a very long storm, long moments of peace before they’re broken apart by the violence of war. Hou Hsiao-hsien, whose filmography I’m unfortunately not familiar with, turns The Assassin into a meditative experience: the sound of chirping birds and blowing wind are as vivid as expressions in characters’ faces; the action is slowed down to a dream-like effect, making every small gesture seem grandiose. This creates a filmic environment of heightened attention, in which contrast plays a significant role: the violence of the fight scenes comes almost in direct opposition to other scenes, like that of a father and a son playing with a butterfly (it is also surprisingly de-dramatized; I don’t remember seeing a single drop of blood on the screen).

This is not, as it’s been often said about this film, “all style and no substance,” but a brave replacement of narrative and dialogue by visual ideas that provide the viewers true cinematic statements: the flashy black-and-white prologue is nothing but the visual equivalent of a literary one down to the color palette, for instance, and the visual exuberance of the film is, as aforementioned, part of the feelings of entrapment and heightened attention the film is trying to convey.

If the motivations between the visual choices seems to be clear mostly on a surface level, the narrative is harder to decipher, and I’ll make no bold analyses in trying to understand the years of Chinese history and culture behind it. Partly based on Nie Yinniang, one of the first pieces of Chinese literature to feature a female lead, it is the story of a female assassin who finds herself hesitant in her most important job, which would play a key role in the final years of the Tang Dinasty. Played by Shu Qi, she’s a mysterious figure, much because the film doesn’t spend quite the time trying to figure her out. It is clear in the prologue that she can wipe out a number of men and women without breaking a sweat, and she proves that further through the film. But what exactly keeps her from killing this particular target? It is easier to marvel at her skills and the sumptuousness of her surroundings than to actually understanding what exactly is going on.

The overall lot is just as puzzling: it seems that they’re in times of political turmoil, and there’s a complex web of emotions surrounding the entire set of characters, but much of what happens only becomes clearer after it’s already happened, and only in part, as orders and decisions come to be in actions. Much is implied, another much is left out: I can only hope it’ll make more sense a third time. Essentially she is divided between the code of honor imposed to her throughout years of lessons and a more humane understanding of the situation her targets (and their surroundings) are facing. But is that all? I might be missing some of the substance here. But for better or for worse, this is a film that will certainly reward these future viewings.

April 2016 in a nutshell: stuff I watched last month (if I had posted this in May)

April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire and overwhelming you with papers, exams and late-night sufferfests of “I don’t get this” and “next semester I’m studying earlier.” That doesn’t mean, of course, that I didn’t get to watch some kick-ass movies. Some of these movies literally kicked ass, like the Shaw Brothers’s fighting-as-dancing cult classic The Avenging Eagle (photo above), and the one below. Others just leaned back and relaxed. And a particular one was so terrible it is the end of the world as we know it – that is also the plot of the film.

Lady Snowblood, Parts I and II (Fujita Toshiya, 1973/1974)

I might be in the minority of people who didn’t enjoy Kill Bill as much as I wish I did, and it might come out as a snobbish challenge to fans of the state-of-the-art low-brow creations of Quentin Tarantino, but whatever you feel towards his post-modern collage of revenge stories and genres that doubles as a revealing Uma Thurman vehicle (where has she been in the last few years?), you have to watch its original source, Toshiya Fujita’s Lady Snowblood. Recently re-released by the Criterion Collection, Lady Snowblood is exploitation as true art: the plot is loose and meanders, the violence is often gratuitous and Part II, despite a beautiful opening, doesn’t quite deliver the same kind of thrills, but this period revenge drama (filled with political text and subtext of late 19th-century Japan) has some of the most gracefully moments of violence to boast, and its story of female family revenge is as poignant as Tarantino’s.

Masaan (Neeraj Ghaywan, 2015)

2015 saw some of its most beautiful exercises in restraint, with economic camera movement and editing, meditative pacing and powerful emotional range told with little gestures. One could expect that from the likes of critically acclaimed directors like Andrew Haigh (45 Years), Todd Haynes (Carol) and Hou Hsiao-hsien (The Assassin); to see this kind of restraint and control in the directorial debut of Neeraj Ghaywan, who worked as an assistant director for the (definitely not restrained) gangster epic Gangs of Wasseypur, is something of a revelation.

Though some of the in-your-face symbolism typical of Bollywood remains in the surface, the film offers a very different take on your usual Indian tragedy: it covers issues of caste, life and death, overlapping narratives, educational and economic struggles, police corruption and more, but these themes are often serving the director’s main interest in telling the story of a man and a woman who might meet at some point of not.

Armageddon (Michael Bay, 1998)

Honestly, I set myself to watch this movie because (1) it was 3am and I couldn’t fall asleep, and (2) I was sure I could use it for a great April Fools post for The MoviegoerAn hour into the movie I gave up: this clusterfuck here was a film so overstuffed, so randomly nonsensical, so weirdly conceived it might as well be true that Michael Bay is in fact a B-movie director who somehow received 150 million dollars to do a movie that includes space dementia as totally a thing (is Hollywood dementia a thing? There’s enough evidence here.) And it’s in the Criterion Collection too, which proves that while film critics deserves as much respect as they can get, there is always the bat-shit crazy one who will defend something that is not being defended yet, no matter how stupid you think it is.

Armageddon tells, for the first time in history, the story of how America saves the world thanks to some random dudes it has recruited for the ultimate mission: in this case, they have to drill an asteroid in order to avoid its collision with planet Earth and the audience’s collision with planet Laws of Physics. Their heroes are oil drillers, who are summoned for the task because it’s easier for them to learn how to be astronauts than for astronauts to learn how to drill. They’re an all-star cast that includes Bruce Willis, who provides the film’s sole moment of poignancy; Ben Affleck, who has the mission of saving the Earth and of convincing Willis to bless his relationship with Liv Tyler (priorities); Steve Buscemi, Our Lord and Savior, who turns a lazy, no-shits-given performance into art; Michael Clarke Duncan, the film’s Terry Crews; Peter Stormare, as the obligatory crazy Russian; and Billy Bob Thornton as the man with the weird Southern accent making sure the operation goes smoothly on Earth.

Before Michael Bay unleashed an actual Armageddon with the Transformers franchise, Pearl Harbor and whatever, he made this movie, and for all its fun, it’s still an assault on all senses, including the sense of decency and common sense.Written like it was pieced together after an explosion at the screenplay factory (heard this one somewhere to be honest) and probably edited by that kid who presses all the buttons at the same time on Guitar Hero, it is a large, sometimes funny, sometimes beautiful but mostly incoherent mess, the perfect brainless blockbuster (in that it couldn’t care less about how good it actually is and makes a ton of money anyway).

Midnight Special (Jeff Nichols, 2016)

From a big, brainless apocalyptic science-fiction extravaganza to a small, thoughtful apocalyptic science-fiction family drama: April finally saw the much expected latest release from Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter, Mud), and I can’t quite recommend it as your first Nichols (it was my first, at least) but definitely recommend it on its own merits: this is perhaps the first time I have seen a science-fiction film as an anti-movie along the lines of what Antonioni used to do in the 1960s.

For a film about promises of the end of the world and a young boy gifted with developing superpowers, it is often uneventful, anti-climactic and, most importantly, human. Midnight Special seems at first to be about people’s responses to the uncommon and the unexplained, but what’s actually at its center is the kid’s relationship with his inner circle, especially his father (Nichols favorite Michael Shannon) and mother (Kirsten Dunst). It says a few interesting things about grief, and about how children eventually grow up. I still can’t tell if the film’s remarkable special effects get in the way of the human story or if it’s the other way around, and I’m still making sense of the story, but if you’re into genre-defying pictures, look no further.

November Days (Marcel Ophuls, 1991)

The highlight of my moviegoing experiences so far this year was a small college screening of a straightforward BBC documentary about the fall of the Berlin Wall. There were probably no more than 40 people in the room, and the film, though not the most ambitious movie one could make on the topic, did its job very well and captured a very important moment in time with tact and thoughtfulness. The director of the film, a charming joker of a man in his late 80s, was present for the Q&A.

The twist is, the director of November Days is none other than Marcel Ophuls (The Sorrow and the Pity, Hotel Terminus), one of the greatest documentary filmmakers of all time and son of one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, Max Ophuls. The eyes and hands of this old man were part of some of the greatest years in film history, and talking to him was a very revealing experience. At one point, he stopped the Q&A session to ask what was a certain person’s favorite Lubitsch film (to his disappointment, I suppose, few people even knew about Lubitsch, but he was delight with those who shared his passion.) He talked about his passion for many movies, for his father’s work and of Guy de Maupassant adaptations (apparently John Ford’s Stagecoach is one of them); he talked about how he wanted to make Hollywood pictures and stay away from documentaries, but he also talked about how they made him more altruistic and humane over the years; most importantly, not once he refrained from making spot on jokes about life and cinema, and a few things in between.

Not necessarily everything he said was exactly original, but to hear from the infinite wisdom of a director like Ophuls is to witness in the flesh the kind of passion that drives a human being to make movies, that builds inside him/her over the years and gives him/her life. The day I watched November Days was also the day I looked at cinema in its eyes and remembered why I’m doing this in the first place.

The Wrong Man (Alfred Hitchcock, 1956)

I originally intended to watch Hitchcock’s The Wrong Man because (1) it’s one of Martin Scorsese’s favorite movies, which means it’s probably a masterpiece to say the least, (2) it is the subject of one of Godard’s longest pieces of film criticism, so it’s probably worth a look, and (3) I was set to write a paper on Hitchcock and Freud, so The Wrong Man was one of Hitchcock’s classics I hadn’t seen and should see as soon as possible.

While I don’t find it a masterpiece, it is certainly one of the most interesting movies off the main line of Hitchcock’s detective/suspense stories. First of all, it is his only film strictly based on a true story. Second of all, it stays true to its real-life origins, striving for a kind of realism and lack of sophistication that is unconventional not only for Hitchcock, but for major productions of its kind. Henry Fonda plays an everyman who’s mistaken for another criminal and is wrongfully arrested, and his life crumbles down as he fails to prove his innocence. The lighting and sound are naturalistic in the style of John Cassavetes and the neorealists, the plot is highly unceremonious and the conclusion is anti-climactic to say the least. But within this simple structure and style lies a story with a heart, a case study that practically doubles as a social statement that is unlike anything Hitchcock ever did.

Life of Pi (Ang Lee, 2012)

It is only near the end of the film, when the story of Pi Patel (Irrfan Khan) wraps up and he raises the essential questions that drive the film that it finally reaches a state of true passion and spirituality. It is a masterful, if a bit too sentimental, twist of the knife that provides a powerful conclusion, filled with the typical ambiguity of magical realism: we are the ones to decide the interpretation of the story we prefer, a sudden breath of inspiration that is certainly responsible for much of the praise it has gotten over the years. But even then I couldn’t help but finish the film unsatisfied, since the film is far from doing justice to this conclusion: Ang Lee’s epic is a deeply, sadly flawed adventure tale that promises much but delivers little more in Life of Pi than gorgeous visuals and special effects. If Yann Martel’s novel was considered unfilmable, we now know it not to be true, but its adaptation leaves much to be desired.

Over the course of three decades now Ang Lee has become a staple of quality prestige filmmaking. Though not as personal in his works as other directors with whom he often competes for Oscars and Golden Globes, he has consistently made innovative and powerful films in the last three decades, most notably the modern classics Sense and Sensibility, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Brokeback Mountain, masterful examples of classical filmmaking done right. In Life of Pi, as in his 2003 misfire Hulk, Lee goes out of his way to make something different, to push cinematic boundaries within the mainstream world – notably, this film was almost directed by big names such as M. Night Shyamalan, Alfonso Cuarón and Jean-Pierre Jeunet.

The problem is there is not much of a story to be found here: Ang Lee fails to transcend Martel’s readable but often childish and mawkish survivalist story and excises much of what made the book a classic, namely its long introduction to Pi that sets up the character we’ll follow for days on a boat and the existential questioning that pervades his solitary years as a castaway. It turns into a pseudo-adventure, a Titanic by way of Slumdog Millionaire (with just as glorious special effects) that does little justice to what it could’ve been in the hands of the guy that made Brokeback Mountain.

Marnie (Alfred Hitchcock, 1964)

Can one truly appreciate a movie where there’s little to nothing to agree on and much to deride? In the hands of Alfred Hitchcock, the answer is surprisingly yes: an underrated gem if there ever was one, Marnie marks the beginning of Hitchcock’s long series of flaws and misfires, and while Marnie is full of ugly things to point and criticize (the awkward wrap-up of its mystery in true psychoanalytical style, the casual aimlessness of the narrative, the ugly sexual politics), it is also a fascinating work of art that has its director at his best, experimenting with film form in unprecedented ways and creating something entirely new, even for those accustomed with his classics. The acting is smoother and more nuanced than in anything he had done before, the expressionist touches are a feast for the eyes, and the pervasive mystery behind the actions of both Marnie (The Birds‘ Tippi Hedren) and her suitor/captor (Sean Connery), a complex layering of the psychoanalytical theories of Freud and Jung, are never quite resolved. Don’t believe anyone who says this is minor Hitchcock.

Clerks (Kevin Smith, 1994)

You should write about what you know, says Godard, and so along came Kevin Smith and a near no-budget cult classic about a guys who sells DVDs who hang out with a guy who works at a small grocery store was born. The characters have little to no ambition; the discussions work around what they think of classic movies, what they’re doing over the weekend and past and current dates; there’s a hockey game that ends when they run out of pucks, and a second couple of guys who are just chilling. It’s a very unremarkable story told with authenticity, and that goes a long way.

Birdemic (James Nguyen, 2010)

No. Just no. Just watch The Room or Troll 2 again. Good God.

Four Eisensteins: Battleship Potemkin

“To some, Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin is a technical breakthrough that nevertheless has aged into a tame textbook film that lost its sparkle; to others, it is still an unquestioned masterpiece that boils with its energetic portrayal of a revolution and its restless, almost mythological structure. Whether it warms you up or cools you down, Battleship Potemkin transcends criticism: in nearly every single list of the best films ever made, it is there, near the top, begging cinephiles to visit and revisit it time and again; it is in the top ten lists of directors like Robert Bresson, Luis Buñuel, Samuel Fuller, Orson Welles and Billy Wilder, who liked to call it the greatest film ever made; it is the stepping stone for any editor and film student, and deservedly so. What is there to say about this film that hasn’t been said yet?”

My first take in a series of four reviews of Sergei Eisenstein’s pioneering work is up at The Moviegoer. Click here for the full review!

Battleship Potemkin

Year: 1925

Director: Sergei Eisenstein

Cast: Aleksandr Antonov, Vladimir Barsky, Grigori Aleksandrov, Mother Russia

Sight and Sound’s Top 250: #11