|Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on August 31, 2014 at 5:50 PM||comments (0)|
The best films of the 1940s. This was a decade in cinema defined by one massive, incontrovertible event: World War II. There was simply no denying it. The latter years of the war sent shockwaves through cinema all around the world, from Golden Age Hollywood to decimated Italy and Japan. The US responded by turning out some of its most astonishingly dark, socially trenchant films, finding notes of despair and yearning in genres as disparate as the musical and the war film, while establishing perhaps the decade’s defining epoch, adopted and adapted from the Germans: film noir. Europe, meanwhile, saw the beginnings of some of its all-time most influential movements, namely Italian neorealism, which has ever since impressed its indelible mark on world cinema. It was a tough decade, one scarred by unfathomable political, social, and economic upheaval. And as always, the movies were there to reflect it.
And the best of the best are:
01. Bicycle Thieves 1948
02. Citizen Kane 1941
03. Late Spring 1949
04. Oliver Twist 1948
05. To Be or Not to Be 1942
06. Double Indemnity 1944
07. Casablanca 1943
08. Shoeshine 1947
09. The Third Man 1949
10. It's a Wonderful Life 1946
These are just as good:
The Letter, 1940
The Philadelphia Story, 1940
The Lady Eve, 1941
Sullivan's Travels, 1941
Yankee Doodle Dandy, 1942
Day of Wrath, 1943
Meet Me in St. Louis, 1944
Cover Girl, 1944
The Children Are Watching Us, 1944
Scarlet Street, 1945
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, 1945
Record of a Tenement Gentleman, 1947
The Lady from Shanghai, 1948
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, 1948
Adam's Rib, 1949
White Heat, 1949
|Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on August 13, 2014 at 9:45 PM||comments (0)|
|Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on August 8, 2014 at 4:40 PM||comments (0)|
WHAT DID THE LADY FORGET? ***
IDEA: The young, liberated Setsuko comes to visit her affluent aunt and uncle in Tokyo. While there, she discovers a power imbalance in their relationship she brashly attempts to correct.
BLURB: There is an acridity to What Did the Lady Forget? that is rather atypical of Ozu, a confrontational, transgressive quality that comes as a series of slow shocks. It is a rebellious attitude that festers under the picture’s surface, gradually accumulating in an impertinent face-scrunch or a nudge in the stomach, making itself known by rowdy schoolboys and refined professors alike. Because Ozu’s focus here is on the bourgeoisie, he gets to indulge in a particular brand of class satire that marries his characteristic generosity with vinegary critique. Though the results are rather problematic by today’s standards (an instance of domestic abuse, though handled shrewdly in terms of how its characters react to it, is still uneasily deferred), the observations on intergenerational influence and social mores still resonate with Ozu’s astute touch. Many films have picked apart the repressed, hypocritical upper classes; none, perhaps, with such simultaneous gentility and roguishness.
|Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on July 31, 2014 at 4:15 PM||comments (0)|
IDEA: A twelve-years-in-the-making fiction narrative film, in which we chart the progress of a boy and his family from roughly 2002 to 2013.
BLURB: Contrary to what its title would have you believe, Boyhood is not so much about the details of growing up as it about reflecting on the fact that you’ve grown. For to watch Linklater’s film – to see a literal twelve years compressed into under three hours – is to look back upon your own life not as you experienced it then, but as you process it now. Boyhood does not see through the eyes of a boy: its perspective is omniscient and detached, watching it akin to viewing a home movie in which we gaze back at ourselves removed from that version of us. After the film is over, we think about it, much the same way we think about our own lives. Its time is suddenly even more compressed; scenes are reduced to mere flashes of images we can recall. It is perhaps not the fault of the film, in the end, that the particulars of its sprawling family portrait don’t seem nearly as interesting as the mechanics of its concept. Moment to moment, Boyhood is actually rather banal; this is a film, indeed, that seems to be more about how we process it after we’ve seen it rather than how we feel while watching it. A brilliant cognitive echo of life, or a cop-out? Either way, the accumulation of all those mundane pieces slowly begins to form something greater. The cumulative effect is our lives. We are reminded that it wasn’t necessarily the content of the time spent that has brought us here, so much as the fact the time was spent. And it’s all built up over the years, and it’s still building, imperceptibly, endlessly.
|Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on July 24, 2014 at 11:40 PM||comments (0)|
BROKEN FLOWERS ***1/2
IDEA: The aptly named Don Johnston, an aging and taciturn former ladies' man, receives an anonymous letter in the mail informing him he's the father of a 19-year-old son. Spurred on by his enthusiastic neighbor, he travels the country, visiting the four past girlfriends who may have sent that letter.
BLURB: The only certainty in Broken Flowers, Jim Jarmusch’s marvelously droll study of late-life arrest, is that nothing is certain. Bill Murray’s Don Johnston figures this out in the director’s characteristically laconic fashion: amongst coolly curated spaces and inscrutable past flames, he partakes in a domestic odyssey that only curves, elliptically, to reveal question marks proceeded by telling silences. The answers are always out of reach, the guarantees stymied by the possibility, however farfetched, of yet more possibilities. Everything adds up to nothing, which is also, maybe, something. The film’s brand of nihilism is enlivened by humor and pathos, Jarmusch’s observations on ponderous notions – of impossible communication, of cosmic indifference, of chaos theory and karma – filtered through a pithy awareness of how simultaneously terrifying and archly funny those concepts can be. Where he looks, we look, and where he teases the suggestion of something important, we are inclined to go along with it, forming connections in our head that may or may not actually be there. Who can’t relate? Broken Flowers is about the perpetual questioning of probabilities, of seeing things and wondering if, how, or when they may pertain to you. That we might never know for sure is certain.
|Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on July 14, 2014 at 5:45 PM||comments (0)|
THE LONG DAY CLOSES ****
IDEA: Bud, a lonely young boy growing up in Liverpool, seeks solace in family, daydreams, and, most importantly, the movies.
BLURB: The Long Day Closes is a movie of memories, which is also to say it is a memory of movies, of life and time wedded inextricably to the hypnotic movement of film. Forgoing narrative for a mélange of exquisite, almost unspeakably beatific impressions, Davies crafts a vision of his childhood in mid-1950s Liverpool that breathes with the cinema’s uniquely oneiric language. Images billow and float and seep into one another; mellifluous tracking shots and painterly tableaux are synced in rhapsody with music and dialogue; everything appears to be recounted as much by a human mind as by the ethereal flickering of a movie projector. Most filmmakers might have mounted this film-drunk picture as pastiche, but Davies has something infinitely more profound in mind: less a quoting of classic cinema and song than a full-bodied absorption of them, an integration so seamless their entire histories seem to have been ingrained in the film’s fiber. The result is a movie of near celestial stature, one that manages to align and conflate the processes of cinema, memory, and dream to such a degree they feel not only inseparable, but divinely enmeshed. Davies is hauntingly aware of the transience of those processes, and by the time the last frames fade away from the screen, it feels as if a sacred experience has been inevitably curtailed. Somehow, that’s what makes it all the more miraculous.
|Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on July 13, 2014 at 10:40 PM||comments (0)|
DOWN BY LAW ***
IDEA: Three men are caught and convicted on variously dubious charges. Thrown into a small prison cell together, the mix of their unique personalities proves both aggravating and ennobling.
BLURB: There’s a sense of the mythic coursing through Down by Law, a feeling of deeper, grander, more cosmic implications lurking beneath its bruised Louisiana tableaux. Certainly Jarmusch’s singular and captivatingly irregular aesthetic plays its part in this: his long, meticulous shots hang so reverently on starkly grotty spaces and lethargic bodies that everything seems to exist in a stupor removed from time and Earth, while his intent listening to the nuances of dead air gives silence an imposing presence. His characters, meanwhile, the few of them that there even are, occupy desolate streets and even emptier bayous like insouciant folkloric nomads, fated to lives they might contest if they weren’t so entirely resigned to them in the first place. Jarmusch keeps it storybook simple, sketching a strange and rather vague trinity of misfits whose interactions are alternately trivial and possibly allegorical, and whose paths may or may not say something about the fickleness of America’s – or fate’s – allegiances. The film is at its most entrancing in its first two thirds or so, when these nebulous ideas are given ample room to accumulate. After that it grows somewhat desultory and diffuse, showing, perhaps, that Jarmusch was more interested in the broader primal strokes of his story than he was invested in a more probing study of character or milieu. For all the genuine mystery rumbling beneath Down by Law’s heavy carapace, only just enough is mined to make us feel there’s more yet to discover.
|Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on June 20, 2014 at 2:10 PM||comments (0)|
EDGE OF TOMORROW ***1/2
IDEA: In the future, a massive alien invasion threatens humanity. When officer William Cage is unwittingly thrown into battle, he is killed - only to wake up the day before, soon realizing every time he dies the day resets.
BLURB: Muscular and exciting with a cerebral kick, Edge of Tomorrow is a model of brawny action filmmaking backed by shrewd, brainy storytelling. Like its protagonist’s increasing efficiency in navigating the vagaries of his infinitely repeating day, the film barrels forward with canny momentum, escalating viscerally as well as intellectually, gathering the requisite energy while finding new and clever ways to briskly reveal only the most essential information. It is a sterling piece of writing charged by the wit and dexterity of director Doug Liman, as well as incalculably aided by Tom Cruise in one of his best roles in years. Edited by James Herbert and Laura Jennings in a masterful build of repetitions and elisions, the film has a proficiency and a narrative intelligence rare in most blockbuster spectacles: instead of expecting the audience to unquestioningly delight in big action brawls, Edge of Tomorrow delivers on its robust thrills because they’re in the service of a terrifically constructed framework. Here is a case, happily, in which the success of alien warfare actually depends on savvy storytelling craft.
|Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on May 27, 2014 at 6:10 PM||comments (0)|
THE AMERICAN SOLDIER ***1/2
Rainer Werner Fassbinder
IDEA: A Vietnam war vet returns to his German hometown, where he is enlisted by three crooked cops to put hits on some unwanted civilians.
BLURB: Fassbinder’s wonderfully strange gangster/noir pastiche imagines a world so morally bankrupt it’s doubled back on itself and become parody. Here, crooked cops and macho killers are exaggeratedly disaffected phonies, their mock-professional attitudes and chauvinistic posturing only transparently covering their spiritual vacancy. In the place of real emotions are banal displays of physical violence; in place of affection is macho aggressiveness and put-upon misogyny; and normative behavior has been all but snuffed out, substituted by perversity, followed and consolidated by deadening complacency. The love Fassbinder has for the genre tropes he exploits is palpable: what is so thrilling is how he manages to both revel in them and expose them as the ludicrous illusions they are. His understanding of the ways in which visual culture shapes ideology and identity is manifest here in his parade of seedy degenerates, all of whom seem to be acting out images they’ve been fed, and who become part and parcel of the narcotizing culture they so indifferently inhabit. The film’s ending, in which sex (or, the impression of it) is only allowed after death and is conferred by brother rather than lover, is an ingeniously executed scene that sums up the movie’s thesis, both morbid and absurd, of a social compass thrown deliriously out of whack.
|Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on March 29, 2014 at 4:40 PM||comments (0)|
UNDER THE SKIN ***
IDEA: A woman drives around the streets of Glasgow picking up men. Luring them to her pitch-black lair, she seduces them, quite literally, to their deaths.
BLURB: Mesmeric then ponderous, fascinatingly oblique then frustratingly vague, Under the Skin is an entrancing curiosity, a dark sci-fi fable designed to induce shivers first and tease the mind forever after. The results can be mixed: for every magnificently oneiric visual – naked bodies literally being swallowed in gulfs of blackness, superimpositions that create nearly prismatic planes – there are stretches that seem to lack the same kind of purpose or vigor, stalling in places that should instead be serving to develop, or deepen, the film’s richly existential themes. At times, the ideas don’t feel fully borne out, or are otherwise unable to efficiently surface through Glazer’s abstractions. At others, the chilled moods and textures evoked by DP Daniel Landin spark them to life, slips of potent commentary on social and gender programming emerging miraculously from the void. When the film threatens to drift away in a gossamer wisp or become just another dreamy mood piece, it is grounded, finally, by a beguiling Scarlett Johansson, whose humanizing force ensures that the tricky ontological questions manage to register at all. How we can interpret her character’s strange, hurried self-awakening – the way she begins to understand her skin, her body, and what may or may not be going on beneath that exterior – is all thanks to Johansson’s subtly modulated behavioral cues. In the end, we, like her, will become all too aware of how insufficiently our appearances represent us, but also, somewhat tragically, how inseparable we are from them. Glazer doesn’t always get there, but the seeds he plants only grow the more one ponders.