Criterion Month Day 31: Apur Sansar

Apur Sansar (1959)

It’s been a little more than two years since I watched Pather Panchali, the first film in Satyajit Ray’s Apu Trilogy, and I couldn’t possibly wait another year before wrapping things up. So here’s another bonus review, my 11th exhausting post this Criterion Month.

One thing that I always find amusing reading up on The Apu Trilogy is the exact proportions Wikipedia uses to explain how much of Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay’s two source novels inspired each film. Pather Panchali, the movie, apparently represents only “four fifths” of that book, with sequel Aparajito picking up the last fifth as well as the first third of the second novel, also called Aparajito. This means that Apur Sansar both has the least material to draw from and is the first film in the trilogy not to take its title from one of the books. That title aspect is actually important, as it is reflected in the scope of this picture. Apur Sansar translates to “The World of Apu” and while the first two movies in the trilogy were about a family, the third picture is all about Apu.

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Criterion Month Day 30: Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)

This is my last entry for this year’s Criterion Month. Can you believe it? I’m finally free. No more being confined to my arthouse movie prison (the prison bars are subtitles). I can finally go back to watching the bad kinds of movies I usually watch. I’ve had Hostel: Part II burning a hole in my queue all month. But real talk, I’m glad we do this month of celebrating more intellectually and emotionally challenging films. I’m glad we do this because if I’m being honest, I wasn’t chomping at the bit to watch this movie.

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Criterion Month Day 29: 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007)

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is another Criterion Month film that proves that sometimes it’s best to go into these types of movies knowing as little possible. While I was well aware that the film was critically acclaimed upon its release — most prominently by A.O. Scott and the Cannes Film Festival — I was less aware of why it was acclaimed. Considering it was a movie about abortion during the final days of communism’s grip over Eastern Europe, I was expecting it to be fairly grim and harrowing. Though I would say it is those things to an extent, I wasn’t expecting it to also be thrilling and genuinely suspenseful in a way that ended Criterion Month on an exciting note for me, rather than on a sad whimper. Continue reading

Criterion Month Day 28: Y tu mamá también

Y tu mamá también (2001)

On our Criterion Draft podcast it was mentioned that Y tu mamá también was “kind of a sexy” but I wasn’t prepared for this kind of sexy. Right off the bat this movie hits you with back-to-back explicit sex scenes. I had to stand guard by my remote all night to avoid the embarrassment of someone coming into the room and thinking I was watching porn. A lot of dicks too. The film was rated 18+ in Mexico also known as MX-C which would be the equivalent to the USA’s NC-17 Rating. Which is usually the kiss of death for a film’s success.

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Criterion Month Day 27: Funny Games

Funny Games (1997)

Spoilers Throughout! (you have been warned)
I was so ready to hate this movie. That’s because back in the before times (2007), I watched the English language remake of Funny Games also written and directed by Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke and hated it. the film was so brutal to its characters. The ending is a downer and Michael Pitt has a punchable face. So why thirteen yeas later would I subject myself to the original?

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Criterion Month Day 26: The Watermelon Woman

The Watermelon Woman (1996)

Since it’s a word my browser’s spell checker didn’t recognize, I guess I have to start talking about The Watermelon Woman by explaining what intersectionality is. Since this is a movie review, let’s use the film industry as an example. The Nineties were considered a golden era for indie American cinema. Advances in technology meant that the barrier to entry was the lowest it had ever been, and a deluge of creative filmmakers took that chance to change the game. That wave meant there was more space for women, people of color, and queer people to make movies. But each of those groups only got a sliver of that space, and the more of the groups you belonged to, the less opportunity you had. Of the people who broke through, most of the women were white and straight, most of the people of color were straight men, and most of the queer people were white men. That compounding discrimination is called intersectionality. And it’s such a problem that in 1996, Cheryl Dunye was the first African American lesbian to direct a feature film.

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Criterion Month Day 25: A Brighter Summer Day

A Brighter Summer Day (1991)

On our Criterion picks podcast, John challenged me to write our longest Criterion review yet of A Brighter Summer Day, since it appears to be the longest film we’ve reviewed for any Criterion Month so far. I’m not sure that I’ll be able to muster up that kind of insight after being a little exhausted spending nearly four hours finishing this film in time to review it. Still, there is a lot to unpack in this film that feels both very specific to its time and place and yet as universally human as you would want any coming-of-age film to be. But most importantly, it absolutely earns its nearly 4-hour running time, as I’m not sure that the emotional catharsis it provides at its conclusion would be quite as potent if it hadn’t spent that much time building up its world and characters. Continue reading