Criterion Month Day 17: My Night At Maud’s

My Night At Maud’s (1969)

Look, I think every time we do one of these themed months, we should each be allowed to do one half-assed review. Sean already cashed his (quite amusingly), so since reviewing this movie isn’t exactly the most pressing thing on my mind on this particular night, I hope you’ll forgive the half-assery. Also, this seems like the most acceptable review to phone in, since I don’t think anyone else at Mildly Pleased had heard of this movie when I picked it during our Criterion draft. Hell, I didn’t know much about it, other than that Éric Rohmer was a name I’d heard, but didn’t know much about. And despite my rush to finish this movie, I wouldn’t mind familiarizing myself with more of Rohmer’s work. Continue reading

Criterion Month Day 16: Persona

Persona (1966)

I knew this movie was special from the moment I heard the Persona Blu-Ray’s menu music. I popped in the disc, went over to make a sandwich and was hit with a cacophony of dissonant strings and percussive clicks ‘n clacks. It was the scariest sandwich I ever made. Though Persona isn’t a horror movie. You could call it a psychological thriller. Or an avant-garde drama. Or all of the above. Or none of the above. This is experimental art house cinema in its purest form and must not be taken lightly. Put down that sandwich.

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Criterion Month Day 15: The Battle of Algiers

The Battle of Algiers (1966)

One has to wonder… would anyone remember The Algerian War if it wasn’t for this movie? It’s hard for me to say, considering I am an uninformed American who was without any prior knowledge of this conflict that involved France and its colonial grip on the region now known as Algeria. I’m sure the war itself is more well known in Algeria (like, a lot more) and maybe France than this movie is. But whatever the case is, it takes this somewhat obscure international struggle, and turns it into one of the more gripping war films I’ve seen, and one that’s unlike any other I can recall from its era. Continue reading

Criterion Month Day 14: Harakiri

Harakiri (1962)

I was never sure why sometimes people use the word “harakiri” and sometimes it’s “seppuku,” so I looked it up. Both words are written using the same kanji characters, “to cut” and “stomach.” The difference, I found out, is formality. “Harakiri” is an informal word, and would perhaps be used to describe a defeated warrior taking their own life on the battlefield. “Seppuku” is more formal, maybe more befitting describing the act of suicide that would also involve a second slicing the person dying’s head off. This is worth knowing, since Masaki Kobayashi’s film Harakiri is actually known as “Seppuku” in Japan.

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Criterion Month Day 13: The 400 Blows

The 400 Blows (1959)

Compared to your typical film protagonist, it’s hard to deny adolescence was easy for me. Just look at these general advantages I had: I grew up in the suburbs. I built up a loyal group of friends very on and have maintained those relationships to this day (as this blog proves). I was smart enough that it wasn’t especially hard to succeed in school. My parents were and are married and gainfully employed. Of course, that’s not really my life’s story, but it’s a hell of a lot better than Antoine Doinel’s plight in The 400 Blows.

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Criterion Month Day 12: Anatomy of a Murder

Anatomy of a Murder (1959)

I recently realized something about myself after watching Legally Blonde and being disappointed with how quickly its final case is wrapped up: I really like courtroom dramas. Nearly every movie I’ve seen that centered around a trial was one I enjoyed, and I don’t think I’m alone in this sensibility given how damn near everybody loved The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story last year. There’s something about seeing America and Americans put to the test, sorting out right from wrong, pleading for justice, that’s consistently engaging. And one of the best representations of that in all of cinematic history is Anatomy of a Murder.

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Criterion Month Day 11: Throne of Blood

Throne of Blood (1957)

People in Kurosawa movies are pissed. I’m talking eyes bugging, neck veins pulsing, men in suits of armor screaming their lungs out. When so many other films of the era were restrained or classy affairs, it’s cathartic to see a filmmaker unafraid to give his characters a real backbone. Just look at a picture of Kurosawa’s favoring leading man, Toshiro Mifune. He was a good looking dude. Yet only in a Kurosawa movie could he disappear into the role of a shlubby wannabe samurai, a grizzled wandering ronin, or in this case a crazed general teetering on the edge insanity. Yep, this is a Kurosawa movie.

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