- Three Colors : Blue (Krysztof Kieślowski)
- Three Colors : White (Krysztof Kieślowski)
- Three Colors : Red (Krysztof Kieślowski)
- Marnie (Alfred Hitchcock)
- La Haine (Mathieu Kassowitz)
- 3 Faces (Jafar Panahi)
- Beau Travail (Claire Denis)
- Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (George C. Wolfe)
- King of the Hill (Steven Soderbergh)
- It’s a Wonderful Life (Frank Capra)
1- What a joy to watch the entire Three Colors trilogy again! I even revised my original assessment to be even more enthusiastic, especially about White. See my original review with additional comments here.
2- Marnie. Yikes. See my thoughts here.
3- La Haine had been on my radar for a while. 25 years to be precise. I finally caught up with it, and I wonder if time hasn’t dealt unkindly with it. It has a very restless 90s camera style that indicates grittiness but now looks a bit dated. The story is quite aimless, but I am sure that was intentional to underline the aimlessness of these unemployed young men living in a banlieue just outside of Paris. The choice of having a Jew, a Muslim and a Christian as the friends/protagonists seems very 2020, but must have been unusual in 1995. The gang members are as intimidating as The Sharks and The Jets. Who would have thought that the cutie-pie who starred in Amelie would have turned out such a gritty film for his directorial debut?
4- One of the joys of the Criterion Channel is that I have been able to get to know the works of the great Iranian directors Jafar Panahi and Abbas Kiarostami. For someone like me who loves to analyze structure and who appreciates a good metafictional turn, these films have been fantastic. 3 Faces is one of the many films Panahi has made since he was officially silenced by the Iranian government and given a ban of 20 years before he could start filming again. Not sure how he does it, but this ‘illegal’ film was shown at Cannes. Maybe it is just a feint on the part of the Iranian government, or maybe Panahi has just too great a stature on the international film circuit, that it would be counterproductive for the government to do anything more to enforce the ban. Thank god they don’t because this film as well as This Is Not A Film, both made under the ban, are two of the most satisfying films I have seen all year.
5- Beau Travail. Well, it is a riff on Billy Budd with the homoerotic element brought to the fore, or maybe not. I had seen it when it came out and didn’t care for it very much, despite the male pulchritude on display. It is more of an Abercrombie & Fitch ad in the desert than anything else. It seems to be brave about the male on male gaze, but to what point? I don’t know. I found it hard to sit through a second time.
6- I saw Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom when it premiered on Broadway in the 80s and it had no effect on me. Since then, August Wilson has become a sacred cow, so I need to tread carefully when I say that I think that the play is pretty poorly constructed. The linking, random, jokey conversations that the musicians have to pass the time are really enjoyable but when the big arias about “RACE” come up, they jarringly intrude on the proceedings. Everyone is saying that this film version is just a filmed play to which I say a) “It isn’t and b) “Why is that a negative?” This is Chadwick Boseman’s last performance and I found it over the top. I fear that he will be lionized the way James Dean was lionized, both dying beautiful and young.
7- Steven Soderbergh is one of those directors who I feel is making movies just for me. They hit me exactly in the right way. I ‘get’ them perfectly. I loved Contagion and Side Effects and I really loved King of the Hill. I had seen it when it came out and loved it. It holds up beautifully. Jesse Bradford gives one of the best child actor performances I know of. The period evocation is wonderful. It feels as if you have a window into that time and not that you are watching a studio reconstruction of 1933 St. Louis. Please watch this. It is a beautiful, beautiful movie. The closest thing I can compare it to is To Kill A Mockingbird, although King of the Hill is less epic.
8- In deference to the great Fern, I voluntarily watched It’s A Wonderful Life again this Christmas Eve. It was on network TV complete with a million commercial interruptions. This was the way I first saw it in 1979 and the only alternative was to watch it on Amazon Prime in a colorized version. Anathema.
When I first saw this movie it was before it was elevated to its current unshakeable status as ‘The Greatest Christmas Movie of All Times.” It was just another movie from the 40s and I was enchanted by it. On second and third viewing I became aware that the film profoundly depressed me. There is a weird dichotomy at the end of the movie. In a rush of overwhelming love and friendship, the good citizens of Bedford Falls perform a Christmas miracle of sorts and collect the $8,000 dollars which will prevent our hero from going bust and to jail, and worse, being in thrall to the ludicrously evil Mr. Potter.
I know that this is supposed to be the quintessential ‘happy end’ but at that point in the movie, I still have an awful taste in my mouth from the fantasy scene that preceded it. In essence, the town of Bedford Falls would have become a modern day Sodom and Gomorrah if George Bailey had never lived. And yet…. and yet… when he lives it only is saved from that fate by having every single one of George’s dreams crushed and everyone else he knows, go on to wonderful things.
I think that people love it because of what they think it is saying, but if you actually look at what it says, YIKES.