• Contempt

    Contempt

    ★★★

    The trouble with Contempt is that it professes a mythic scope, but its characters are all very much life-sized; that is, with the exception of Jack Palance's wonderfully rendered and zealous but artistically capricious Hollywood producer, emissary of America's id, they are all total bores. Like Fellini's vastly superior 8 1/2, produced the same year, Contempt is about what happens when an aging male artist loses favor with his muses. Where Fellini's film was ever willing to follow this struggle…

  • The Passion of Joan of Arc

    The Passion of Joan of Arc

    This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

    Ironic that a film so unwittingly indebted to the Kuleshov effect should be praised by the likes of Tarkovsky, though one would suppose he would say God was present more within these shots than between them. In this fashion, the film betrays most of the sublimity promised by the first 20 minutes, which are among the greatest in film history, for a finale which can only be painfully described as a set piece. Yours truly can never take very seriously…

  • Vivre Sa Vie

    Vivre Sa Vie

    The most striking and ever-present subtext of any pornography, artistic or otherwise, is misfortune. It is far more essential an ingredient than nudity. As the 20th and 21st are the most pornographic centuries, over their course we have seen the problems of downtrodden women partially sublimated from the hands of mostly men to the screens of mostly men. Under this definition, Vivre Sa Vie is pornography by any other name. It is the ultimate pretty girl film as it stars…

  • Nights of Cabiria

    Nights of Cabiria

    This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

    Unsurprisingly, Nights of Cabiria is most powerful the more Fellini flirts with his poetic realist and latent surrealist tendencies, which he'd been grooming in La Strada and would fully embrace in his subsequent two features. The opening segment wherein Cabiria is ungratefully rescued from drowning, one later where she is passively seduced by a famous director, and one further where she is hypnotized into a childish reverie by a dark magician and briefly elopes with a romantic, all vividly showcase…

  • The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

    The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

    One can imagine explaining to prospective grandchildren how in bygone days, people would “go out.” Netflix has jointly made the particular kind of going out that was “going to the video store” obsolete. Reactionary cineastes should not expel from their minds something very dear might have been lost in this process, a process which the average consumer was so eager to expedite in the interest of time or staving climate change. For instance, when one would go out, phoneless, into…

  • Le Petit Soldat

    Le Petit Soldat

    All directors should know what the best already do, that films which boast politically topical content and little else age about as quickly as pure technical demonstrations and milk. If one only watched the best Godard films, the fact that he liked anything other than casting cute girls in radically silly movies designed to trick critics and intelligentsia would never be apparent. Even if one only viewed those in addition to his second-tier output, they'd probably never see the man's…

  • Killer's Kiss

    Killer's Kiss

    This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

    The climax, in which the hero and villain fight in a mannequin factory, sparing few of the inanimate feminine forms by their weapons, serves as a kinda humorous analogy for machismo evolutionary bloodsport; a fixation Kubrick thankfully never grew out of. Indeed, the film's title alone betrays his preoccupation with the aesthetic big fish, sex and death, or at least the oft censored sex and violence. This fixation characterizes every single film he directed; even the one prior to this,…

  • Branded to Kill

    Branded to Kill

    An antimovie of the first order, Branded to Kill hilariously defies all conventions and explanations at every turn. Contrasted with garden variety disasterpieces, Seijun Suzuki’s 1967 New Wave curiosity is not “so bad it’s good,” so much as it does nothing but fail upwards, and steeply at that. Unlike contemporaries such as Michelangelo Antonioni and later curmudgeons like Michael Haneke and their attempts at anticinema, Suzuki’s film is never confrontational or deliberately boring. This is not “slow cinema” in any…

  • The Bird with the Crystal Plumage
  • Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms

    Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms

    So emotionally manipulative it feels like a 2 hour abusive relationship.

  • Sea Prince and the Fire Child

    Sea Prince and the Fire Child

    Really one of the unsung masterpieces of 20th century surrealism, Masami Hata's second film with Sanrio retells Romeo & Juliet using only paint and symbols, and could have forgone dialogue altogether as its beautiful orchestral score delivers all auditory storytelling needed. Had it only lost 15 or so minutes to the cutting room floor, Sirius no Densetsu would doubtlessly rival Tonari no Totoro and Tenshi no Tamago on a list of gorgeously animated dreams.

  • The Night of the Hunter

    The Night of the Hunter

    A very hard 9/10 up until the last act, when it should have veered further into German expressionism and fairy tale instead of resting in the banal bosom of true religion.