- A Separation (Asghar Farhad)
- Rebecca (Alfred Hitchcock)
- Nostalghia (Andrei Tarkovsky)
- Varieté (Ewald André Dupont)
- The Living Skeleton (Hiroshi Matsuno)
- Walpurgis Night (Gustaf Edgren)
- Swing Shift (Jonathan Demme)
- Meantime (Mike Leigh)
- Flunky, Work Hard (Mikio Naruse)
- A Scandal in Paris (Douglas Sirk)
1- One of the great benefits of having the Criterion Channel is that it has opened up various national cinemas that I never really knew. The cinema of Iran is a case in point. I had only seen The Taste of Cherry by Abbas Kiarostami. I found it quite austere and was deterred from seeing other Iranian films for an unforgivably long time. I have watched many more Kiarostami films and I revere him. Panahi also is amazing. I had heard about A Separation when it won the Best Foreign Film Oscar. What a splendidly rich, nuances film that observes relationship dynamics, class distinctions and religious differences. Superbly moving, with an end that kind of took my breath away.
2- Hitchcock is regarded as the auteur par excellence. But not for Rebecca. Here I would have to say the auteurs are David O. Selznick as well as the MGM tradition of quality. Hitchcock was loaned out to MGM for his first American picture and it has Selznick all over it. The novel was an enormous success, just as Gone With The Wind was. Selznick gives this production the same lavish and slavish treatment he gave to GWTW. It doesn’t make for a bad movie, but it doesn’t make for a great Hitchcock movie. We would have to wait for Shadow of A Doubt for that.
In the discussion after watching the film, Martin Seay contrasted the difference between the acting styles of Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine. What you were seeing, he said, was a consummate stage actor (Olivier) and a consummate film actor (Fontaine). What Olivier was doing might have been superb on the stage, but here on film it was too big. Made me realize that all the Olivier performances seem to be very theatrical.
3- With The Criterion Collection, I have been able to watch or rewatch the films of Andrei Tarkovsky. While I loved Stalker and The Sacrifice, I must admit that I was totally baffled by Nostalghia. It was beautiful to look at. I duly appreciated the eight-minute long take at the end of the film, but it mostly went over my head. I would appreciate any insights you might have.
4- Watching Swing Shift again was a triste experience. I loved it so, when it came out in the 80s and had not seen it since. It is a mess. Heartbreaking for me, because I remember it with a warm, nostalgic glow.
5- Meantime is the most downbeat of the Mike Leigh films I have watched. Perhaps too downbeat. I have begun to realize that Mike Leigh films have much in common with the films of Yasujiro Ozu. Lower middle-class lives of quiet desperation, but always depicted in such a way as to leave you with an overwhelming sense of life. While watching Meantime I thought it would almost turn into a parody of itself, but at the end Mike Leigh delivered and there is a gorgeous epiphany of love and forgiveness and hope. Quite overwhelming even if you do have to go through a bit of hell to get to it.
6- You have my permission to skip the The Living Skeleton. Japanese horror can be cheesy. This was absolute Limburger .
7- Varieté is a good example of what we lost when silents became sound films. The camera work here is so thrilling and baffling. It has Emil Jannings and all the Weimar Republic depravity you could hope for. It wouldn’t be until M that we see such thrilling German film.
8- Just because it is by Douglas Sirk doesn’t guarantee that a film won’t be a turkey. Thanksgiving came early for me with A Scandal in Paris