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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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 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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