Sean Lemme

Sean is mildly pleased with most things in life, so I guess it's good he made this website.

Criterion Month Day 27: Three Colors: Blue

Three Colours: Blue (1993)

I had assumed that the Three Colours trilogy, being based on the ideals represented in the French flag (liberty, equality, fraternity), would be inspiring, moving stories about each of those themes. I just took that for granted, even when I read brief synopses of each film and couldn’t mentally map them with the themes very well. It wasn’t until I actually read about director Krzysztof Kieślowski that I realized what his point of view was. He grew up in Soviet Poland, and many of his films were censored and subject to forced re-shoots. By the time he was making the Three Colours films, Kieślowski had to rely on foreign investors just to keep making movies. He described himself as having “one good characteristic, I am a pessimist. I always imagine the worst. To me the future is a black hole.” And that is why I had trouble with this series.
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Criterion Month Day 25: Tampopo

Tampopo (1985)

There are a lot of people, I’ve found out through my experiences in life and the Internet, who have this fantasy about Japan being basically another world. What that other world is changes depending on the person: some people imagine a place out of the future, with robot servants and ridiculous conveniences. Others fantasize about a place where honor and tradition are still widespread, where you can truly find inner peace and coexist with your fellow man. A lot of people just want a place where it’s the longstanding tradition that adults like video games and cartoons. Of course, Japan is just another country, and the people there are just like people anywhere. But you can’t blame people for dreaming, especially when Japan itself produces movies like Tampopo, which presents a version of Tokyo where every single person is a foodie.
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Criterion Month Day 23: My Dinner with André

My Dinner with André (1981)

Going into My Dinner with André, I didn’t know what to expect. I knew the movie was a vaguely real-time conversation taking place over the course of a dinner, but I didn’t really know what the conversation would be about. Would it be a profound discussion about the meaning of life? An insightful take on show business? A dated, vestigial story about life in the early Eighties? The truth is that My Dinner with André is many of those things, but what it is is a movie about imagination.
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Criterion Month Day 21: All That Jazz

All That Jazz (1979)

There aren’t a lot of movies like All That Jazz. This is a story about a director frantically trying to balance his frustrations with his latest production with his personal problems with women. A story set in a somewhat cynical world of show business, where the producers seem nice until you realize all that matters to them is money. A story that seamlessly blends reality with fantasy to help you better understand the main character. Yeah, it’s almost a totally unique story, except for the fact that it sounds exactly like , Birdman, and even Singing in the Rain.
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Criterion Month Day 18: Solaris

Solaris (1972)

I know it’s super cliche, but 2001 is one of my favorite movies. Like top 10, maybe even top five. That fandom helped put Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris on my radar, because one thing I had heard was that when it comes to cerebral sci fi, the west has 2001 and Russia has Solaris. And let me tell you, sure there are some obvious surface level similarities, but these movies should not be compared to each other.
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Criterion Month Day 15: Le Samouraï

Le Samouraï (1967)

Who, when, and how is it decided whether or not to translate the title of a film? Akira Kurosawa’s 1952 film Ikiru means “To Live,” and I think knowing that helps a viewer understand its message, even if it’s not particularly hard to figure out. But then there are movies like Le Samouraï, where leaving the title untranslated gives you an additional insight into the movie ahead of time, namely that this is a French film. Maybe it’s simply a copyright thing, as there are probably a dozen movies called “The Samurai,” but there’s only one of this. And it deserves to be memorable and easy to talk about.
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Criterion Month Day 11: 8½

(1963)

Frederico Fellini’s is, and this is explicitly stated, a selfish film. I use that word instead of the more common “personal” because I think personal movies tend to be more generous. This is a filmmaker hashing out his own problems publicly and honestly, leaving behind plenty of scraps from which the audience is free to pick up anything that resonates with them. But that is secondary to the director’s reckoning with his own frustrations.
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