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 19: The Spirit of the Beehive

The Spirit of the Beehive (1973)

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from working with kids off and on it’s that they are all liars. Then again, are you really a liar if you believe what you’re saying? The whole reason children lie in the first place is because everything in the world is so new to them. They take in so much more information with far less context. They’re bound to believe things that don’t make sense to adults. And it’s this naivety that is part of the reason The Spirit of the Beehive is such a great film about children. It takes on that blurred perspective of the world through the eyes of a child. Also, it has a Frankenstein. Big points for a Frankenstein.

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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 17: Two-Lane Blacktop

Two-Lane Blacktop (1971)

I like to think there are primarily two kinds of films in the Criterion Collection, “Classics” and “Curiosities”. We all have a general idea of what makes a classic film. Whether it’s a memorable performance or a scene, cinematography or music, or whatever kind of pop culture foot print it leaves behind. What makes a “Curiosity”? A curiosity is more self-contained. It’s a time capsule we reopen after years of obscurity or muted fanfare to learn about a part of the past we may have forgotten about. Two-Lane Blacktop feels like a curiosity.

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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 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 14: The Face of Another

The Face of Another (1966)

“We all have a social mask, right? We put it on, we go out, put our best foot forward, our best image. But behind that social mask is a personal truth, what we really, really believe about who we are and what we’re capable of.” That’s a quote from one of the greatest minds of our time, Dr. Phil. Though I have no respect whatsoever towards Dr. Phil as a medical professional, I figure that quote is as good as any way to start a review about a surrealist Japanese film from the 1960s.

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