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  • Sisters of Nishijin

    Sisters of Nishijin

    ★★★★

    I kept comparing this film to Ozu: Kozaburo Yoshimura also films a lot of scenes with people sitting in circles on the floor. He, too, has a tendency to place the camera anywhere he wants on a circle that surrounds them, but he follows the 180-degree rule much more closely -- though erratically, constantly shifting the line, so that his idiosyncratic style is much less systematic. This lack of a systematic aesthetics infuses the emotions as well -- they're much…

  • The Emigrants

    The Emigrants

    ★★★★

    This movie (and its sequel THE NEW LAND -- both based on Vilhem Moberg's novels about the Swedish-American immigrant experience in the 1840s) strikes me as being woefully underrated -- partly because it's a novel adaptation, partly because Jan Troell works in a style that doesn't jibe well with our assumptions about vanguard European art cinema aesthetics circa 1970, and partly because Jan Troell isn't Ingmar Bergman. And yet Troell is definitely a stylist in his own vein. He doesn't…

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  • Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

    Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

    ★★★★

    I just finished teaching a class on the contemporary international art cinema and I was struck how closely my students' ratings of the films that we watched tracked the movies' IMDb ratings. And I was struck how stridently -- perhaps unthinkingly -- my own tastes seemed to have veered in the opposite direction. For instance, my students' favorite film (and the most highly rated on IMDb (8.4) of those I included) was Asghar Farhadi's A SEPARATION; my students' least favorite…

  • J'accuse!

    J'accuse!

    ★★★★

    It's funny that so much of the dominant discourse about silent cinema these days is about "modernity" -- every new academic book about silent film recently feels obligated to link movies from the 1920s to the railroad, the telegraph, advertising, the consumer economy, etc. -- as if the use of the root "modern" will somehow legitimate the films for an audience that might not appreciate them if it thought of them as merely melodramatic entertainments. But my experience with silent…