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 8: Kind Hearts And Coronets

Kind Hearts And Coronets (1949)

Post-war Britain didn’t seem like a particularly great time to laugh, and yet this was the period that saw the rise of Ealing Studios, who gave birth to some of Britain’s best comedies. Perhaps it’s appropriate that during these somewhat bleak times, these films indulged some decidedly dark themes. I haven’t seen a ton of these Ealing comedies (other than The Lavender Hill Mob and The Ladykillers), but other than their deliciously biting nature, there’s also a sophisticated and unsentimental quality that makes these movies hold up much better than a lot of comedies from this era. Then on top of that, a lot of them feature Alec Guinness having about as much fun as he ever had as an actor (sorry George Lucas), and it’s hard to get more fun than playing nine different characters in the same movie. Continue reading

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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