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  • Walk the Line

    Walk the Line


    Third viewing, first on Blu-ray. One of the more satisfying music biopics, looking even better now in light of the absolute incompetence of Bohemian Rhapsody, though there is some evidence of the roots of that film's perfunctory methodology in stilted moments like Sam Phillips' monologue and the rift at Columbia over the Folsom Prison LP (what does "the Beatles have gone electric" mean exactly!?); James Mangold is only an OK director but he has the right idea here of gracefully…

  • The Flowers of St. Francis

    The Flowers of St. Francis


    Last year I saw Ordet and Andrei Rublev for the first time and both throttled me and made me, a person who has never been anything but secular, more empathetic toward religious belief than I've ever felt in my life. This Roberto Rossellini illustration of vignettes from the life of Francis of Assisi, alas, did not have anything like that effect. It all seems as silly, flippant and unnecessary as Catholicism and most other systems of belief have always broadly…

  • Invocation: Maya Deren

    Invocation: Maya Deren


    Overly rushed and slightly credulous (the Voudou stuff, and the many rumors of her decline and demise being related to it, is laid on rather thickly) but often remarkable overview of the life and career of one of the greatest American filmmakers to work completely outside of standard narrative cinema, with such surprising inclusions as photos of her wedding to Teiji Ito, quite a lot of audio of her talking (and singing!), including a Mike Wallace interview, and even a…

  • The Lobster

    The Lobster


    Holds up perfectly for me, after several years of reading people complaining about it being edgelordy and such. I actually find its yearning for connection rather warm, and more understanding of loneliness than most movies that examine it. And just as a deliriously original story and screenplay, it’s so clever and funny that I rarely stop smiling for its duration (and the sudden change of setting at the halfway (?) point works better if you’re expecting it). Perhaps I am…

  • Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti

    Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti


    The only feature film credited to the pioneering avant garde director Maya Deren, most famous for Meshes of the Afternoon although she made several other films that were nearly as brilliant, was shot in the late 1940s and assembled posthumously by her former husband Teiji Ito, also the composer of the music for several of her major works. Unlike most of her shorter films, it's a documentary in which Deren takes an experimental approach to filming a series of dances,…

  • Midsommar



    Frustratingly silly, overlong and sloppily written horror film has Florence Pugh, her useless boyfriend and his bros -- including a convenient anthropology student -- following a friend to Sweden where he exposes them to the sinister behaviors and practices of the cult in which he grew up. Production designer Henrik Svensson does much of the work here to make this distinctive, visually interesting, and sometimes great fun to watch; the story and script are truly dreadful, with boring characterizations and…

  • The Graduate

    The Graduate


    Picked up the gorgeous Blu-ray of this all-time favorite in the Criterion B&N sale and, seeing it for the first time since 2012 (approximately my tenth viewing overall), had more thoughts than can tastefully fit into a Letterboxd window. A new and welcome wrinkle in the film's legacy, for me, was learning about how Charles Webb's life panned out after writing the novel, which is addressed at the link.

    One thing I couldn't find a good place for: I wish…

  • In Jackson Heights

    In Jackson Heights


    The long and discursive verité documentaries of Frederick Wiseman make the forbidden but difficult to dispute point that the capturing of reality, at the level of lives actually in the process of being lived rather than in the elevated or reprocessed manner in which we normally experience it in media, is an inherently leftist statement. In this mosaic of processes and exchanges from a year or so in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens, everything we see is a furthering…

  • Fanny



    Charles Boyer and Maurice Chevalier get the band back together like some Hollywood Francophile precursor to The Irishman in this picturesque (shot beautifully by Jack Cardiff, who almost single-handedly makes it worth seeing) romance adapted from a successful Broadway musical with all songs removed, which in turn had been inspired by Marcel Pagnol's trilogy of plays and films about a love triangle of sorts in '20s Marseille. "Of sorts" because the primary competitor Fanny (Leslie Caron) must contend with for…

  • Invasion of the Body Snatchers

    Invasion of the Body Snatchers


    Brilliantly executed and creepily effective horror/sci-fi about a small-town doctor stumbling upon a phenomenon that, initially, can't even be quantified enough to seem improbable but is unmistakble to those who witness it. Like Cat People, this is genre fiction that uses the wildest of fantastic ideas to explore vividly human, deeply uncomfortable emotional issues that resonate almost eerily well now in the midst of COVID, particularly at the moments when Kevin McCarthy's Miles is forced not only to try desperately…

  • Hunt for the Wilderpeople

    Hunt for the Wilderpeople


    Taika Waititi thinks very highly of himself; his smugness radiates from every frame of this film, which is essentially a very diluted version of Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom that apes Anderson's aesthetics with not an iota of his real emotional depth, though plenty of the odd cluelessness in his idol's treatment of female characters. Beat for beat, Waititi mimics story points from other movies (the revelation that one character is illiterate is sub-Disney Channel shit) like a deranged robot that…

  • The Great Beauty

    The Great Beauty


    Loud, screaming, flashy and unflaggingly obnoxious modern homage to La Dolce Vita has a journalist and onetime novelist played by Toni Servillo wrestling with the moral quandary of being surrounded by decadence among the Roman jet set, the weight of the city's history and the meaninglessness of this and that within his personal life as well as on a higher level. All the worst tendencies of lifestyle-porn arthouse, geared toward the sort of people who go to the movies to…