Colin Wessman

Criterion Month Day 20: Ali: Fear Eats The Soul

Ali: Fear Eats The Soul (1974)

Does true love really conquer all? This seems to be the cynical question at the heart of Ali: Fear Eats The Soul, the first film I’ve seen by filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder, a director supposedly known for his undying pessimism. Fassbinder is also known for being one of the more remarkably prolific film directors ever, as he put out an average of three films a year starting from 1970 up until his death in 1982 at the age of 36. And because of that, I don’t know that Ali was necessarily the best introduction to the guy’s work, since Fassbinder seemed to be pretty consistent in addition to his prolificness. But it’s hard to beat a timeless love story, and Ali still feels like that, unfortunately. Continue reading

Criterion Month Day 16: Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls

Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls (1970)

Russ Meyer’s Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls is the kind of film that makes you question what the point is of giving out star ratings. Because here, concepts like “good” or “bad” are kind of beside the point. This movie attacks all common decency and is all the better for it. Again, I have a very hard time rating it in comparison to any of the other films we’ve reviewed this month, but Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls is so overstuffed with characters and music and colors and of course tits, that it’s kind of hard not to enjoy on some level. Basically, there’s just a lot of movie packed into this movie. Continue reading

Criterion Month Day 12: The Naked Kiss

The Naked Kiss (1964)

Can anyone ever truly escape their own sordid past? This is the question that serves as the main crux of The Naked Kiss, a film that on the surface appears to be B-movie trash, and yet somehow manages to be surprisingly thematically rich, while delving into taboo subject matter (for its time) in a way that’s surprisingly deft. I know, I used “surprisingly” twice in that last sentence. But that’s because I went into this movie not really knowing what to expect, and by the end of it felt like I’d watched a particular type of film that I wouldn’t have ever even thought existed. Continue reading

Criterion Month Day 9: One-Eyed Jacks

One-Eyed Jacks (1961)

As we make our way through this month-long journey through the Criterion catalog, it seems we’re running into some common threads scattered throughout our picks. Which appears to be the case today, as One-Eyed Jacks, much like L’Avventura is a film that seems to be about something, but then gets lost along the way (which I realize is kind of a vague commonality, but whatevs). Anyways, the difference with L’Avventura, is that its disregard for its plot seems intentional. In One-Eyed Jacks, however, this seems like a byproduct of a film that just went through too many rewrites in preproduction combined with an inexperienced director at the helm known for his indulgences. Continue reading

Criterion Month Day 8: L’Avventura

L’Avventura (1960)

Considering I spent much of my late teens and early 20s watching a lot of classic Italian cinema, I’ve known of L’Avventura (and its director Michelangelo Antonioni) for a while. But for whatever reason, I never felt compelled to seek it out, or for that matter any of Antonioni’s films that aren’t named Blow-Up. Perhaps this is because all I really knew about L’Avventura was that it’s about a girl that goes missing but is never found, that it’s kinda slow and unsatisfying, and that it was booed when it premiered at Cannes in 1960. Continue reading

Criterion Month Day 4: Tokyo Story

Tokyo Story (1953)

Happy 4th of July everyone! Now in the spirit of my feelings toward America these days, I will proceed to not talk about America, but instead talk about a film that is incredibly Japanese.

It’s an odd coincidence that I saw the upcoming A Ghost Story at the Seattle International Film Festival the same week I watched Tokyo Story for the first time. Not so much because the films are super similar to each other (though the looming specter of death does play a big part in both of them), but more because they both furthered my appreciation of the 4:3 aspect ratio. Now, I feel like for cinephiles like myself that came of age during the wonky transitional period from VHS to DVD (and also the ubiquity of widescreen across all mediums), 4:3 has a bit of a stigma attached to it. Continue reading

Criterion Month Day 2: The Passion Of Joan Of Arc

The Passion Of Joan Of Arc (1928)

Film is a visual medium. This is an idea that I’ve heard repeated time and time again (certainly when I was in film school), and it’s also one I’ve taken with a grain of salt, since you could make the case that film as a medium evokes all the senses. Well, except touch, and taste, and smell… and… ok now I’m realizing film is mainly an audio-visual experience. But I suppose I’m just contemplating this idea, because my viewing of Carl Theodore Dreyer’s The Passion Of Joan Of Arc relied on visuals and visuals alone, to evoke the feeling of immense dread and guilt that the film embodies. Continue reading