Dedicated to classics and hits.

Friday, July 05, 2013

And God Created Woman (1956) d. Roger Vadim

Brigitte Bardot, bomb shell.

And God Created Woman
 d. Roger Vadim
Criterion Collection #77

  It's funny how films and novels are both treated with the same level of respect by critics because, let's face it, any moron can watch a movie- even a really hard to understand movie- whereas that same person is roughly one thousand times less likely to read a 400 page 19th century novel.  There's just no comparison. Really, you should watch a movie twice through to give it something close to the same weight as a novel.
Brigitte Bardot 

   And God Created Woman is the first Criterion Collection title where it's a performance that drives the release.  Here, it is Brigitte Bardot as the scandalous orphan Juliette.  This film was a smash international hit and introduced Bardot to a global audience (although it was her 33rd film.)  Truly, it is one of the most eye popping performances by an actress you are ever likely to see.  And to think that this film was released in 1956.  YOWZA.  She must have blown minds in the USA.
Brigitte Bardot

 One reason that And God Created Woman is NOT in the Criterion Collection is director Roger Vadim.  He is strictly a one hit wonder from the perspective of the Criterion Collection- he has zero other films in the Collection- Barabrella, anyone?  No?  Not sure what happened with him.  He sounds like a monster according to the accompanying Criterion Collection critical essay by Chuck Stephens.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Sisters (1973) d. Brian De Palma

This is an example of the split screen technique that Brian De Palma uses in Sisters (1973) to generate narrative tension

Movie Review
d. Brian De Palma
Criterion Collection #89

  Film director Brian De Palma, Auteur? Hollywood Hack? Both? Neither?  It's a question which has sorely vexed an entire generation of film critics, but certainly his work during the 1990s, which included Mission Impossible (1993), Snake Eyes (1996) and Mission to Mars (2000) pushed the argument towards the "Hollywood Hack" side of the argument.   As someone who essentially formed his taste during that decade, it was hard to square the De Palma of Scarface and Carlito's Ways with the De Palma of MI/Snake Eyes/Mission to Mars.  It's not so much that he made those movies, it's that he made those movies with so little passion or flair it was like watching a robot De Palma direct- or not direct, as in the case of Nicolas Cage's lead performance in Snake Eyes.
Brian De Palma used black and white film to shoot dream sequences in Sisters (1973) here we see Kidder attached to her Siamese twin, with her future husband Emil pictured in the background.

 Any auteur who signs up for a Nic Cage action picture set in a Vegas casino is clearly a man who gives exactly no fucks about his critical reputation, so I guess, ultimately, you can't blame him for being involved in a movie that literally embodies every crappy stereotype about Hollywood high concept film making in a single picture.
This is what Margot Kidder looked like in 1973 when she was shooting Sisters directed by Brian De Palma.

 I was pleased to watch Sisters (1973), and early pre-Scarface film that brought him to the attention of the mass audience in America.  Sisters saw a Quebec-ois accent sporting Margot Kidder as Model/Actress/Recovering Siamese Twin Danielle Breton.  When a one night stand she picks up is murdered in her apartment, Danielle, her creepy ex-husband Emil (played by Bill Finley) and local Staten Island investigative newspaper journalist Grace Collier are swept into a psychic horror show.  To describe much more would ruin the "twist"- and I do recommend this film to watch.

  It is easy to see the directorial techniques that brought De Palma to wider attention after this film.  Particularly, he uses the split screen to simultaneously show actions taking place in two different places at the same time.  This serves to compress the run time and heightens the tension relative to the standard technique of cutting between the two locations in alternating takes.
Margot Kidder as erstwhile Siamese twin Danielle Breton in Sisters (1973), directed by Brian De Palma.

 Also notable is the score by frequent Hitchcock collaborator Bernard Herrmann.  It's a nice touch that adds some depth to the flat Staten Island location shots.  Finally, Sisters goes totally off the rails in the last 1/3rd of the film and it is worth sticking around to that point just to see De Palma go bonkers.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Dirty Beaches Interview in Liberation


  France may still be the third or fourth biggest market in terms of actual sales for Dirty Beaches and Crocodiles, but it is the second largest market in terms of actual numerical fans to the United States for both groups.

The Nose by Nikolai Gogol

The Nose

Book Review
The Nose
by Nikolai Gogol
p. 1836
Read in Diary of a Madman and Other Stories, Penguin Classics Edition

  This is another one where I had to actually break down and buy the book.  The Nose is an early short story by Nikolai Gogol- mid 1830s, and it's probably the shortest entry on the entire 1001 Books To Read Before You Die list. I'm interested to see how the list handles the increased popularity of the short story in mid 20th century literature.  Personally I am NOT a fan of the format: It's like getting a 7" of a band- great as far as it goes but how much time can it possibly occupy?

A human nose.

 That being said it's clear why this short story, written in the 1830s, would be included because the surrealist tone is way ahead of comparable literature.  This is probably the first entry on the entire list, chronologically speaking,  that would pass as work of modernist fiction.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Vagabond (1985) d. Agnès Varda

Agnès Varda

Movie Review
Vagabond (1985)
d. Agnès Varda
Criterion Collection #74

  Vagabond is not a "fun" watch.  It starts out with the Vagabond in question dead, frozen to death in a ditch so you get to watch the entire movie wondering "is this THE ditch where she dies, or just another ditch that this poor young woman has to trek through in the faceless French landscape.

 Agnès Varda also directed Cleo From 5 to 7, which was released in 1962 and Vagabond is conclusive prove that Varda did not lose the plot Francis Ford Coppola in the 90s style.
 Agnès Varda

  Sometimes I watch these Criterion Collection titles and read the accompanying essay at the Criterion Collection site and I'm tempted to simply provide the link and leave it at that because the essay is so good.  I wish there was a comparable site for the 1001 Books To Read Before You Die, but of course that series doesn't make critical editions, or editions at all, it's just a list.

  Varda had a back ground in photojournalism and documentary film when she made Cleo From 5 to 7 and if you look at her IMDB Director credits the documentaries and shorts overwhelm the features.

  The more titles I watch out of the Criterion Collection, the more I appreciate the revolutionary ramifications of the collaboration between streaming film and the appreciation of the history of cinema.  In 2013, we take for granted that all music from all time should be available for free instantly, but when it comes to film that is simply not true.  It's certainly not available for free, if it's available at all.  The very existence of the Criterion Collection essentially demonstrates the flaws in the existing system for distributing film art, so it's natural that bringing the Criterion Collection to streaming video via Hulu Plus would represent the correction of those flaws.

 And it does.  One of the major reasons I don't like films as much as novels is because the good ones are hard to find and often expensive to watch.  Criterion Collection on Hulu Plus solves that, instantly, for eight bucks a month.  For me, just trying to sit still and watch reality television with someone is enough to drive me batty.  I have to mentally restrain myself from leaving the room.  If you're going to suffer through that experience, why not make it a classic movie instead? Bad Girls Club Atlanta and Vagabond: They both make me super uncomfortable, but I feel better at the end of Vagabond.

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