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  • In Praise of Love 2001

    ★★★★★ Watched 17 Aug, 2014 2

    An exquisite work, filled with Godard's irascible antagonism but filtered through a lens of somber, even melancholic reflection. I don't envy the film's showing on 9/12/01, where its justifiable protests against American cultural imperialism ran afoul of that instant-reactionary zeal that swept Americans regardless of erstwhile political allegiance. And granted, some of its attacks, such as America's total lack of history, or the mischaracterized notion that Spielberg never paid Schindler's widow, but I'm reminded of JLG's equally pissy, incorrect estimation…

  • In Vanda's Room 2000

    ★★★★★ Watched 18 Aug, 2014

    This is the moment Costa was building up to his entire career, a breakthrough in his filmography of constant critical self-examination and a direct engagement with the morality of being a director. IN VANDA'S ROOM isn't (just) striking for its immersion into docufiction but for the total erosion of the barriers Costa previously found in his attempts to film neglected communities. This isn't reality—Costa used his now-stripped crew and unintrusive DV setups to allow for multiple takes to get his…

  • The Gang's All Here 1943

    ★★★★★ Watched 10 Aug, 2014

    It's a loaded sentiment to say a musical's songs are a bit dull and still find it one of the most overwhelming musicals ever made, but when Busby Berkeley is directing and choreographing the songs could be Nickelback tunes for all I care. The camera seems forever in motion, with judiciously synchronized and contrapuntal movements and cuts that add visceral punch to everything while also lending appreciative time to every arrangement of dancers and the performers' individual talents. Its use of color also verges on the Archers-esque. I might need to finally break down and get a region-free player for MoC's upcoming Blu-Ray.

  • The Magnificent Ambersons 1942

    ★★★★★ Rewatched 05 Aug, 2014 2

    Honestly, if only the original ending could have survived I think this would be untouchable even in its mangled, rushed-second-half form. The confluence of Welles' interests in radio, theatre and cinema makes this arguably more revealing of its maker's mindset than the touted (auto)biography of KANE.

  • The Young Girls of Rochefort 1967

    ★★★★★ Watched 27 Jul, 2014

    Pure enchantment. Takes the fundamentally microcosmic focus of musicals and expands ever outwards until you get an entire community of people interlocking and splitting off in their own dances and songs, with the main characters forever placed in asymptotic approaches that always miss just so, with swooping camerawork that only makes the oh-if-you'd-just-waited-two-seconds exasperation of thwarted love that much more wrenching. The sort of movie you could just run forever on a loop.

  • Female Trouble 1974

    ★★★★★ Watched 16 Jul, 2014 1

    The prevailing image I have of John Waters' filmography is smeared lipstick, a nod to his characters' simultaneous acquiescence to standards of beauty and their inability (usually willful) to meet them. It looks childish, like a kid who broke into mommy's makeup to carry out a rudimentary imitation, but also defiant, a deliberate smudge on the "proper" image that does as much to suggest a parallel dimension as the puke-pastel and polyester aesthetic that makes his films look like German…

  • The Fly 1986

    ★★★★★ Watched 19 Jul, 2014

    David Cronenberg is not a minimalist—I think any claim to that term evaporates right around the moment a man turns into an undulating mass of tumors in real time—but his economic formalism, I think, displays the same strengths as the best in that field. That is to say, he has an incredible knack of specifically guiding and manipulating the viewer to certain topics but giving enough leeway to invite all manner of interpretations. Released into the context of the exploding…

  • Pickpocket 1959

    ★★★★★ Rewatched 15 Jul, 2014

    A film of uncommon depth made possible by its austerity. At once leaves everything open to you the viewer and clearly shows a guiding hand working to make what seems so minimal and unadorned purely focused on getting an intended response. The tragic prequel to L'ARGENT's horror.

  • Waking Life 2001

    ★★★★★ Rewatched 10 Jul, 2014

    Socrates said "The unexamined life is not worth living," but WAKING LIFE suggests that it is impossible to live without self-examination, that dreams are a way to take a break from consciousness to ruminate on it. I saw WAKING LIFE when I was 18 or 19, freshly into film and suffering from an acute case of being a college freshman. I called it pretentious, pointless, self-absorbed, and all the other adjectives young people use without a hint of self-awareness when…

  • Under the Skin 2013

    ★★★★★ Rewatched 08 Jul, 2014

    The Kubrick allusions are understandable (BIRTH was, wrongly, seen as Kubrick moving forward in a new vessel), and the beginning of UTS seems to reference 2001—a round cyber eye, light peeling over a motorcycle helmet in a makeshift Stargate sequence. But this is very much Glazer's film, abstract where Kubrick is largely upfront about his themes, and more mournful than the black comic streak that runs under the other director's work. Besides, for all the gorgeous framing and beautifully unguarded…

  • Gone to Earth 1950

    ★★★★★ Watched 01 Jul, 2014

    Oh, what I wouldn't give for a restoration of this like the ones that other Archers films have received for Criterion. From that opening shot of a tree(?) gnarled to resemble a giant wolf encasing the white outline of a human being, GONE TO EARTH establishes itself as melodramatic fairy tale, one bound by a romance not dissimilar from the one in THE RED SHOES but filtered through a superstitious, earthen lens that gives the film a shockingly pagan bent.…

  • L'âge d'or 1930

    ★★★★★ Watched 28 Jun, 2014

    Overpoweringly erotic, with eroticism as blatant protest against Catholic dogma's dominance over the cultures that practice the religion and sometimes self-immolating for its repressed passions. People like to joke that critics are prudes when it comes to lewd content, always proclaiming how explicit nudity isn't sexy when they see it in art films. But honestly, nudity and sex in "art" nowadays seems so wrapped up in guilt and miserablism that it's hard to get off when you feel bad for…