Criterion Month Day 31: Come and See

Come and See (1987)

Flyora (Aleksey Kravchenko), a 14-year-old who recently joined the Soviet partisans, and Roubej (Vladas Bagdonas) have just caught a break. Roubej had led their supply run directly into a minefield which claimed the lives of their two comrades, but these two made it through and found a collaborator who has a cow. They threaten the man and make him roll around in manure, then steal the animal. This cow will save the lives of partisans and villagers if they can get it back. But before they are even out of sight, a German machinegun blasts them. Roubej is instantly killed, but the poor bovine lives long enough to try to understand what just happened as it suffers through its last labored breaths. It’s just the latest in a never-ending deluge of devastating blows thrown at Flyora, made all the more depressing because the filmmakers really did shoot a cow and film its death. Come and See is just that kind of grueling.

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Criterion Month Day 15: Grey Gardens

Grey Gardens (1975)

I’ve wanted to see Grey Gardens ever since watching The Queen of Versailles, a conceptually similar 2012 documentary about an hilariously stereotypical, obscenely wealthy family trying to build the biggest home in the country just as the Great Recession is about to hit. But I worried they were too similar, so I dragged my feet getting to the 1975 original. Thankfully, we have Criterion Month. Now that I’ve finally seen Grey Gardens, I can say that, while the “riches to rags” theme is shared between the two films, there’s one major difference: The Queen of Versailles is about that collapse, while in Grey Gardens the decline was decades and decades ago.

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Criterion Month Day 4: Rome, Open City

Rome, Open City (1945)

Happy 4th of July everybody! Since this holiday seems to get dumber and dumber every year, I’m happy to be talking about a film that doesn’t have much to do with America.

It’s weird that I reviewed 1966’s The Battle of Algiers last Criterion Month while stating that it felt unlike any other war film of its era. Because Rome, Open City, a film I’m sure it was influenced by, sure feels a lot like The Battle of Algiers. Both of them depict the foreign occupation of a major city, while a secretive group of rebellious renegades seek to fight back. Both also have a kind of docudrama feel, though The Battle of Algiers follows through with a grittier aesthetic, and thus makes the two films feel like bookends of the Italian neorealist movement. Continue reading

Roma-rama

Roma

I suppose I can take a break from these year-end music reviews to talk about a movie for once, since I just saw one of my absolute favorites from this year. Which means that yes, I’m one of those snobs who opted to see Roma on the big screen instead of waiting to watch it on Netflix in less than a week. And do I stand by that decision? Well, considering it’s one of the most absorbing and beautiful filmgoing experiences I’ve had in a while, I do. Though I do at the same time realize convenience is always a decisive factor in life, and really, seeing Roma on any-sized screen will be doing yourself a favor. Continue reading

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 8: Late Spring

Late Spring (1949)

My choosing of Late Spring as one of my picks derived mostly from laziness. Last year’s Criterion Month I watched Tokyo Story, the film often described as director Yasujirō Ozu’s masterpiece, and was thoroughly blown away by its ruminations on the human condition. But I never quite had the will to watch any of his other films, when there are always so many other newer, far less slow and contemplative movies out there to watch. Which makes me really glad I decided to take this opportunity to view one of his other films from the same period, but also a bit befuddled over what to write about it, since it’s fantastic in almost all of the same ways that Tokyo Story is fantastic. Continue reading

Criterion Month Day 7: Bicycle Thieves

Bicycle Thieves (1948)

Aside from the highs and lows of tragedies and comedies, I think one of the most effective emotions for a story to tap into is frustration. At least for me, it’s consistently easy to empathize with characters who are put into helpless situations. It’s why villains like Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix‘s Dolores Umbridge and The Mist‘s Mrs. Carmody are so easy to hate. Couple that with some crushing disappointment and you’ve got a recipe for a deeply moving night. Just like the one I had in the wee hours of last night watching Bicycle Thieves!

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