Criterion Month Day 30: Yi Yi

Yi Yi (2000)

So here we are, at the end of this long journey that was Criterion month, and staring down the barrel of 21st-century filmmaking. Over the course of these 30 days, we ventured through a wide variety of different genres, but I suppose it’s apt that we end with a film entrenched in the kind of stripped down realism often equated with the kinds of art house cinema Criterion has made their name on distributing. The genre I would ascribe Yi Yi to is the “real fucking life” genre, which isn’t really a genre per se. Basically because these kinds of films are inherently anti-genre in their desire to paint an honest picture of how people live their small, modest lives with dignity and grace, which this film is full of. Continue reading

Criterion Month Day 28: Three Colors: Red

Three Colors: Red

Though this didn’t quite seem to be the case for Sean, for me, The Three Colors trilogy was just another one of the cinematic revelations that make this whole Criterion month worthwhile. Because I honestly don’t how long it would’ve taken me to actually sit down and watch a film made by Polish master Krzysztof Kieślowski (let alone learn to spell his name correctly without googling it). But after watching Blue, White, and Red, which are all pretty great in their own ways, I more than feel compelled to seek out other films in the director’s cannon. Though it almost feels like he was just getting started when he retired from filmmaking after completing Red, which unfortunately happened just two years before his death at the age of 56.

It’s debatable what of the three films in this trilogy are the best. I think I liked Blue a bit more than Sean did, possibly because I found its detachment to be kind of intoxicating. White I liked quite a bit too, even if it’s probably the weakest for me, just because its satirical slant didn’t quite resonate emotionally as much as the other two. That said, I realize none of these three films are intending to be tearjerkers or anything, or at least not on the surface. But whatever your preference, Red seemed to garner the most praise at the time of its release (it was nominated for best screenplay and best director at the 1994 Academy Awards), while much like its namesake, Red is definitely the warmest color of the three. Continue reading

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 26: Close-Up

Close-Up (1990)

Last May, Sean, Colin, and myself “drafted” our choices for a month of Criterion reviews. When I selected Close-Up I did so because the concept sounded intriguing yet I couldn’t quite grasp it. Is it a documentary? A mockumentary? Even after watching the film I’m not sure, but that’s what makes it great. Close-Up blurs the line between fact and fiction in a way rarely seen in cinema. It’s rarely seen because the opportunity for a film like this rarely comes up. It was good timing on part of the film’s director Abbas Kiarostami and his commitment towards convincing the “cast” to do this that made this film happen.

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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 24: Paris, Texas

Paris, Texas (1984)

Paris, Texas was not what I was expecting. What would you expect if you heard an artsy German director made a movie with eclectic character actors in the American Southwest? Something weird I imagine. A movie that’s cold, experimental, possibly even David Lynch-ian. No, not here. Paris, Texas to my surprise is an incredibly heartfelt film. It’s a film about how we build relationships even after falling out for one reason or another. It’s a film as beautiful as its panoramic desert vistas. But there’s another element at work and it answers to three names: Harry. Dean. Stanton. Continue reading