Le plaisir


1952 – Directed by Max Ophüls

OK, I have to admit I did not watch the whole thing yet. If this is what is published Saturday morning, so be it.

I will say, I see where Wes Anderson likely got some inspiration for The Grand Budapest Hotel, with all the ersatz European decay.


Interesting fact: most every time I watch Wes Anderson’s movies, I feel literally sick to my stomach. This is not to say I dislike his work, and it may be that it all references back to my having originally seen The Royal Tennenbaums in early fits of morning sickness, but his movies are so rich and trifling and twee, that I always feel like I ate too many bonbons.

Le plaisir inspires a similar reaction. Sugary sweet, full of rather insipid tropes (hooker with the heart of gold, vain, impudent model, burly sailors in striped shirts getting into brawls, lovestruck artist breaking everything in sight… these were certainly tired old references in 1952), I found it hard to invest in it to any great extent.

As an omnibus (three short stories from Guy de Maupassant) it is an odd structure: a rather long story flanked by micro story up front and a longer short story at the end. The omnibus is one of the harder forms to pull off. This one I would rank as relatively successful, given the content.

Next up is a gritty political thriller. Let’s see how that goes.


The Battle of Algiers


1966 – Directed by Gillo Pontecorvo

In my previous post about El Norte I spoke about how my parents were big film buffs, and also how I enjoyed watching movies with my mother. My mother has always had a very thoughtful approach to watching film.

The Battle of Algiers was on television back when I was about seven, maybe eight years old. In retrospect, it must have been PBS. Of course, memory is full of gaps and modifications. I may have been older, perhaps younger. I definitely remember seeing the scene with the cafés being blown up. I also definitely remember asking my mother why they would that: why they would blow up a public space, with children eating ice cream, people enjoying a song on the jukebox or conversation with friends. I don’t really remember how she explained it to me. (Of course, the sequence of images in my mind’s eye is entirely different than the actual montage.) The sequence haunted me for years, and it took a long time to figure out what movie this was.

When I was a child I must’ve come into the movie independently of anything before or after that pivotal sequence. I hadn’t seen the part where the French authorities had blown up an entire housing complex in the Casbah, killing dozens of whole families. The comprehension of why these women would take these actions, while still nausea-producing, at least makes some kind of narrative logic. Before, it had seemed entirely random. (All of this was roughly based on real life events the Algerian uprising in the 1950s.)

For a useful article on the historical background of the real events versus the events as portrayed in the film, I recommend this:


I had no idea at the time that, 40-45 years later, this film would still hold a mirror to world events. (The U.S. Military, apparently, in recent years, still uses this as a kind of field guide to navigating current occupied zones.)

The gritty, “you are there” newsreel feel to the movie is effective, and helps blur the lines between news, documentary and fictional narrative.

One more thing: the soundtrack is fantastic, being a mix of traditional Algerian music and Ennio Morricine.

Criterion Schedule

Criterion Collection Schedule

First movie of the week, Wednesday by 6 AM.

Second movie of the week, Saturday by 6 AM.

Third movie of the week, Sunday by 6 PM.

Coming Soon (in order):

  • The Battle of Algiers
    1966 – Directed by Gillo Pontecorvo
  • Le plaisir
    1952 – Directed by Max Ophüls
  • Z
    1969 – Directed by Costa-Gavras
  • Alice in the Cities
    1974 – Directed by Wim Wenders
  • Modern Times
    1936 – Directed by Charles Chaplin
  • The Face of Another
    1966 – Directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara
  • Zéro de Conduite
    1933 – Directed by Jean Vigo
  • Grey Gardens
    1975 – Directed by David and Albert Maysles
  • Cronos
    1993 – Directed by Guillermo del Tor
  • Master of the House
    1925 – Directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer
  • I Was a Teenage Zombie
    1987 – Directed by John Elias Michalakis
  • Tokyo Drifter
    1966 – Directed by Seijun Suzuki
  • F for Fake
    1973 – Directed by Orson Welles
  • Eraserhead
    1977 – Directed by David Lynch
  • Sweet Movie
    1974 – Directed by Dušan Makavejev
  • Diabolique
    1952 – Directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot
  • To Be or Not to Be
    1942  – Directed by Ernst Lubitsch

And later…

  • Woman in the Dunes – Hiroshi Teshigahara
  • Amarcord – Federico Fellini
  • Burden of Dreams – Les Blank
  • Persona – Imgmar Bergman
  • Premiers Désirs – David Hamilton
  • Devi
  • The Tin Drum
  • ¡Alambrista!
  • Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One
  • Picnic at Hanging Rock – Peter Weir
  • Pickpocket – Robert Bresson
  • The X From Outer Space
  • The Spirit of the Beehive
  • Fox and His Friends – Rainer Werner Fassbinder
  • A Hard Day’s Night
  • The Plough and the Stars
  • The Brood
  • Mahler
  • Seance on a Wet Afternoon
  • The Home and the World
  • Close-Up
  • The Wages of Fear
  • The Cars That Ate Paris
  • Children of Paradise
  • Knife in the Water – Roman Polanski
  • Jubilee
  • Vilgot Sjöman
  • The Phantom Carriage
  • Cruel Story of Youth
  • Ratcatcher
  • Simon of the Desert – Luis Buñuel
  • L’Avventura – Antonioni
  • In the Realm of the Senses – Nagisa Oshima
  • Man Bites Dog
  • God’s Country – Louis Malle
  • The Blob (1958)
  • The Organizer – Marcello Mastroianni
  • Mikey and Nicky
  • Touki Bouki
  • Woman Under the Influence – John Cassavetes
  • Jaromil Jires
  • Valerie and Her Week of Wonders
  • Three Colors: Red – Krzysztof Kieślowski
  • Three Colors: White – Krzysztof Kieślowski
  • Three Color: Blue – Krzysztof Kieślowski
  • M
  • The League of Gentlemen
  • The 400 Blows – François Truffaut
  • Leningrad Cowboys Go America
  • Pale Flower
  • Europa – Lars von Trier
  • Overlord – Stuart Cooper
  • Hearts and Minds – Peter Davis
  • For All Mankind
  • The Most Dangerous Game
  • Richard III – Laurence Olivier
  • The Honeymoon Killers
  • General Idi Amin Dada – Barbet Schroeder
  • The Housemaid
  • La Nuit de Varennes – Ettore Scola
  • Routine Pleasures – Jean-Pierre Gorin
  • Closely Watched Trains
  • Sans Soleil – Chris Market
  • Quadrophenia
  • Eating Raoul
  • Fear – Roberto Rossellini
  • Things To Come
  • The Atomic Submarine
  • House (1977) – Nobuhiko Obayashi
  • The Vanishing
  • Mon Oncle Antoine
  • Belle de Jour
  • Scanners
  • Daisies – Vera Chytilová
  • The Match Factory Girl – Aki Kaurismäki
  • A Day in the Country – Jean Renoir
  • World on a Wire
  • The Testament of Dr. Mabuse
  • Wise Blood – John Huston
  • Cure
  • La Haine – Mathieu Kassovitz
  • Breaker Morant

No Date Yet:

  • The Seventh Seal
    1957 – Directed by Ingmar Bergman
  • À nos amours
    1983 – Directed by Maurice Pialat
  • Gimme Shelter
    1970 – Directed by Albert Maysles
  • Gray’s Anatomy
    1996 – Directed by Steven Soderbergh
  • Ronin Gai
    1990 – Directed by Kazuo Kuroki
  • I Am Curious – Yellow
    1987 – Directed by Vilgot Sjöman
  • Louie Bluie
    1985 – Directed by Terry Zwigoff
  • The Stranger (1991)
    1991 – Directed by Satyajit Ray
  • The Devil and Daniel Webster
    1941 – Directed by William Dieterle
  • Come On Children
    1973 – Directed by Allan King
  • The Exterminating Angel
    1967 – Directed by Luis Buñuel
  • Eyes Without a Face
    1959 – Directed by Georges Franju
  • The Marriage of Maria Braun
    1979 – Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder
  • Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters
    1985 – Directed by Paul Schrader
  • Permanent Vacation
    1980 – Directed by Jim Jarmusch
  • The Phantom Horse
    1955 – Directed by Koji Shima
  • Stagecoach
    1939 – Directed by John Ford
  • Equinox
    1970 – Directed by Dennis Muren
  • The American Soldier
    1970 – Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder
  • The Naked City
    1963 – Directed by Jules Dassin
  • WR: Mysteries of the Organism
    1971 – Directed by Dušan Makavejev
  • Seven Samurai
    1954 – Directed by Akira Kurisawa
  • Wings of Desire
    1987 – Directed by Wim Wenders
  • Red Desert
    1964 – Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni
  • The Ruling Class
    1972 – Directed by Peter Medak
  • Emporte-Moi
    1999 – Directed by Lea Pool
  • The River (1951)
    1951 – Directed by Jean Renoir
  • Mr. Freedom
    1969 – Directed by William Klein
  • Nine Days of One Year
    1962 – Directed by Mikhail Romm
  • The Plumber
    1979 – Directed by Peter Weir
  • Hotel Monterey
    1972 – Directed by Chantal Akerman
  • Silence
    1971 – Directed by Masahiro Shinoda
  • Judex
    1962 – Directed by Georges Franju
  • Rome Open City
    1945 – Directed by Roberto Rossellini
  • Salesman
    1968 – Directed by Albert and David Maysles
  • Vengeance Is Mine
    1979 – Directed by Shohei Imamura
  • Breaking the Waves
    1996 – Directed by Lars von Trier
  • Breathless
    1960 – Directed by Jean-Luc Godard
  • Claire’s Knee
    1971 – Directed by Eric Rohmer
  • Shock Corridor
    1963 – Directed by Samuel Fuller
  • Crazed Fruit
    1956 – Directed by Kô Nakahira
  • The Long Voyage Home
    1940 – Directed by John Ford
  • Stromboli
    1950 – Directed by Roberto Rossellini
  • And God Created Woman
    1956 – Directed by Roger Vadim
  • The Great Beauty
    2013 – Directed by Paulo Sorrentino
  • The Challenge (1938)
    1938 – Directed by Milton Rosmer and Luis Trenker
  • City Lights
    1931 – Directed by Charles Chaplin
  • Murmur of the Heart
    1971 – Directed by Louis Malle
  • Fat Girl
    2001 – Directed by Catherine Breillat
  • Boudu Saved from Drowning
    1932 – Directed by Jean Renoir
  • Scenes from a Marriage
    1973 – Directed by Ingmar Bergman
  • Watership Down
    1978 – Directed by Martin Rosen
  • Paris, Texas
    1984 – Directed by Wim Wenders
  • The Thief of Bagdad
    1940 – Directed by Alexander Korda
  • Stranger Than Paradise
    1984 – Directed by Jim Jarmusch
  • The Hidden Fortress
    1958 – Directed by Akira Kurosawa
  • The Four Feathers
    1939 – Directed by Zoltan Korda
  • The White Angel
    1955 – Directed by Raffaello Matarazzo
  • Carnival of Souls
    1962 – Directed by Herk Harvey
  • Fiend Without a Face
    1958 – Directed by Arthur Crabtree
  • Shadows
    1959 – Directed by John Cassavetes
  • Garlic Is As Good As Ten Mothers
    1981 – Directed by Les Blank
  • My Crasy Life
    1992 – Directed by Jean-Pierre Gorin
  • Before the Rain
    1994 – Directed by Milcho Manchevski
  • Hobson’s Choice
    1954 – Directed by David Lean
  • La notte
    1961 – Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni
  • Gate of Flesh
    1964 – Directed by Seijun Suzuki
  • Häxan
    1922 – Directed by Benjamin Christensen
  • Princess from the Moon
    1987 – Directed by Kon Ichikawa
  • Il sorpasso
    1962 – Directed by Dino Risi
  • Wild Strawberries
    1957 – Directed by Ingmar Bergman
  • Kwaidan
    1965 – Directed by Masaki Kobayashi
  • Viridiana
    1962 – Directed by Luis Buñuel
  • The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant
    1972 – Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder
  • The 47 Ronin
    1941 – Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi
  • 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her
    1967 – Directed by Jean-Luc Godard
  • The Short Films of David Lynch
  • The Samurai Trilogy – Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto
    1954 – Directed by Hiroshi Inagaki
  • The Samurai Trilogy – Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple
    1955 – Directed by Hiroshi Inagaki
  • The Samurai Trilogy – Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island
    1956 – Directed by Hiroshi Inagaki
  • The Music Room
    1958 – Directed by Satyajit Ray
  • Sada
    1998 – Directed by Nobuhiko Obayashi
  • The Love Goddesses
    1965 – Directed by Saul J. Turell
  • Black Moon
    1975 – Directed by Louis Malle
  • Kapò
    1959 – Directed by Gillo Pontecorvo
  • Pleasures of the Flesh
    1965 – Directed by Nagisa Oshima
  • Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?
    1966 – Directed by William Klein
  • Phoenix (1947)
    1947 – Directed by Keisuke Kinoshita
  • La Cérémonie
    1995 – Directed by Claude Chabrol
  • The Killing of a Chinese Bookie
    1976 – Directed by John Cassavetes
  • Ironfinger
    1965 – Directed by Jun Fukuda
  • Taste of Cherry
    1998 – Directed by Abbas Kiarostami
  • Mala Noche
    1988 – Directed by Gus Van Sant
  • Onibaba
    1964 – Directed by Kaneto Shindo
  • 21 Days
    1940 – Directed by Basil Dean
  • The Naked Island
    1960 – Directed by Kaneto Shindo
  • Lola Montès
    1955 – Directed by Max Ophüls
  • As Long as You’ve Got Your Health
    1966 – Directed by Pierre Etaix
  • Eijanaika
    1981 – Directed by Shohei Imamura
  • Secret Honor
    1984 – Directed by Robert Altman
  • Throne of Blood
    1957 – Directed by Akira Kurosawa
  • Danton
    1983 – Directed by Andrzej Wajda
  • The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum
    1975 – Directed by Volker Schlöndorff
  • Branded to Kill
    1967 – Directed by Seijun Suzuki
  • Depress, Deprisa
    1981 – Directed by Carlos Saura
  • Gate of Hell
    1954 – Directed by Teinosuke Kinugasa
  • Hollis Frampton’s Films from Magellan
  • Chinese Roulette
    1976 – Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder
  • Harakiri
    1962 – Directed by Masaki Kobayashi
  • Fishing with John (TV Series)
  • Good Morning
    1959 – Directed by Yasujirō Ozu
  • Senso
    1954 – Directed by Luchino Visconti
  • Yojimbo
    1961 – Directed by Akira Kurosawa
  • Ali: Fear Eats the Soul
    1974 – Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder
  • Empire of Passion
    1978 – Directed by Nagisa Ôshima
  • The Beales of Grey Gardens
    2006 – Directed by Albert and David Maysles
  • Intentions of Murder
    1964 – Directed by Shôhei Imamura
  • I Married a Witch
    1942 – Directed by René Clair
  • Tokaido Yotsuya Kaidan
    1959 – Directed by Nobuo Nakagawa
  • Cría cuervos . . .
    1976 – Directed by Carlos Saura
  • The Tattered Wings
    1955 – Directed by Keisuke Kinoshita
  • Marketa Lazarová
    1967 – Directed by František Vlácil
  • Kuroneko
    1971 – Directed by Kaneto Shindo
  • Andrei Rublev
    1966 – Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky
  • Always for Pleasure
    1978 – Directed by Les Blank
  • The Flowers of St. Francis
    1950 – Directed by Roberto Rossellini
  • Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman
    1967 – Directed by Takeshi Kitano
  • Babette’s Feast
    1987 – Directed by Gabriel Axel
  • The Gold Rush
    1925 – Directed by Charles Chaplin
  • Tragedy of Japan
    1953 – Directed by Keisuke Kinoshita


El Norte

image 1983 – Directed by Gregory Nava

I grew up in what I will affectionately call the People’s Republic of Berkeley, a.k.a. – the PRB. Please know that I say this with absolute love and not derision.

One of the things this meant was there was always strong contingent of people who didn’t go to see *movies* (sneer) but did go to see “film”. Film had purpose. Film eschewed commercial values. Film was about The Struggle.

(Not my family, as it happened. My parents, whom I got my intense love for cinema from, managed to embrace Hollywood and independent work equally: they didn’t have a conflict between Singin’ in the Rain and Salt of the Earth.)

El Norte remains the perfect movie for those sensitive early 80s sensibilities

Quite fittingly, it was my mother (I recall) seeing this film with. I actually don’t remember if it was in the theater or on television. I actually retained little of this outside of the infamous and highly disturbing sewer pipe sequence. While I initially was restricting my viewings to films not seen, I realized this was a silly rule, especially if I could not reconstruct key points on something seen thirty years earlier.

El Norte  is gorgeous, depressing, harrowing, and sometimes even funny. While the brother and sister characters of Enrique and Rosa are compelling and earnest, some of the best moments come from the lovely side characters: especially the wryly effervescent Nacha, and the gregariously scheming residential manager/labor facilitator, Monty Bravo. The way the film touches on subtle points of contention between Mexicans and Guatemalans, between “mestizo” and indigenous peoples in both Guatemala and Mexico and between Mexican immigrants and Mexican Americans in Los Angeles, along with the way it explores the strange, interdependent web of illegal labor and bottom-line management, is fascinating.

I found a compelling fragment of an article on Google Books:


Apparently, the middle section of this scanned issue has been lost. From here, we find director Nava’s intentions were to use a less overtly political approach, and employ a poetic sensibility instead, such as with the butterflies filling the home after Enrique and Rosa’s mother is “disappeared”.

(I’d love to find this whole article: anyone?)

One issue: I initially found the last ten minutes of the film a bit maudlin and borderline manipulative. Upon reflection, I realized this melodramatic tone was probably strategic and not accidental.

Next Up:

The Battle of Algiers, 1966, Directed by Gillo Pontecorvo

Hoop Dreams


1994 – Directed by Steve James

I did not see Hoop Dreams when it came out, and am left wondering how it must have felt to see it in the mid 90s. I’m kind of kicking myself, due to the fact that now, it is basically an historical document of a different era.

Obviously, a generation has passed, and our way of viewing the film is entirely different. William Gates’ son, William Gates, Jr., is now off to college at Furman University. Both families from the story have dealt with unbelievable loss. Neither Gates nor Arthur Agee made it into the NBA. Perhaps their lives are better than if they had not gone through the journey of this massive documentary: we can’t know, and never will.

There’s potentially so much to cover about this movie: I became really interested in both the back story around the documentary and the continuing stories.

This is well worth reading:


Essentially, it is amazing the movie ever got made.

Documentary film is probably my most loved genre, yet it is impossible to make a documentary that is not problematic, in terms of both the observer’s paradox, and in terms the constant battle documentarians face not patronize their subjects, no matter what tactics and strategies they use. James takes on these challenges with full awareness, if not full resolution, of these problems.

The movie looks amazingly good, with the new digital restoration (made possible by the Sundance Institute, UCLA Film & Television Archive, the Academy Film Archive and Kartemquin Films), considering that it is almost entirely made from late 80s/early 90s camcorder footage.

Next up:
El Norte, 1983, Directed by Gregory Nava

Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!


1990 – Directed by Pedro Almodóvar

I’m generally a huge Almodóvar fan, but I’ve long avoided this one because of hearing it was one of weaker efforts. However, after seeing a bunch of really dark and complex movies, I wanted to see something at least really dark and a little bit silly.

I was actually having a hard time figuring out if it was meant to be dramatic or funny or satirical or outrageous or sensual: it didn’t really hit any of these with great satisfaction, though there is one scene that managed to pull off some fairly decent soft core action. As an historical note, this apparently was the movie that inspired the ushering in of the NC-17 rating, though not the first to receive one. That distinction goes to the tedious Henry and June.

Overall it’s a bit too brisk and playful for anyone to believe that the Victoria Abril character has really succumbed to Stockholm syndrome, and as fine an actor as Antonio Banderas is (pre fame, very young though playing even younger), he come across as an injured puppy, which is still creepy but somehow diffuses any intensity there might be.

It ultimately comes across as a breezy bit of distraction: bondage for housewives. Not too different, I suppose, from buying 50 Shades of Grey accessories at Target. (Yes, that is a thing).

This would have been the Wednesday movie. Postings will be more regular from here on out.

Next up:
Hoop Dreams, 1994, Directed by Steve James



1972 – Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky

I have learned from having Eastern European roommates that weekends at the country house is a central part of Eastern European family lives. This held true through the Soviet era, and I imagine it may still hold true even today.

Thus is how this surprising-for-the-Soviet era film begins.

There is much to cover in this movie, about projection, reflection, tangibility versus the abstract, the mutability of memory, the incomprehensibility of love in the light of “reason” and our impulse to pathologize it, the simultaneous desire to return and to escape, and our inability to reach outside of ourselves and actually make a human connection, regardless of the technologies available to us.

To cover it all is too much for my usual 3-5 paragraphs. Instead, I’ll touch a little on the production design.

Solaris is a science-fiction movie that is not at all enamored with science. After about 45 minutes on earth, one that contrasts this remote country living with a strange driver-less journey into a Datsun-filled city -actually Japan (a scene much maligned by critics, but which I found exhilarating) we are taken to a space station on remote planet, but one that is decrepit and beat-up, like a trashed appliance. The heart of the ship, rather than looking high-tech or futuristic looks like an old hunting lodge, and interestingly it is where most of the characters explore their deeper thoughts. We encounter what appears to be the dead wife of the psychoanalyst who is sent to investigate the status of things on this station, who spends the entirety of the movie in earth-toned suedes and crochets.

Color scheme of the movie especially intrigued me. Upon doing a little more research, I found a blog which I found truly fascinating:

The recurring theme of Peter Bruegel the Elder was also fascinating to me. This is one of my favorite painters (again earthtones, the implication of nature, the implication of tangibility on contrast with the notion of zero gravity and the unreliability of direct experience). I don’t have an easy answer yet for the larger meaning, and I think it would be a mistake to find a quick and easy summary.

Another note about color design was the switch between sepia tone black-and-white in full color. And I need to mull over more to try to discern the reasoning behind each shot. One of the most striking effects was in the scene driving into Japan, or rather, the city of the future, we see the color gradually leeching its way back in until it is a full color scene, as night falls.

Unlike some of the other movies I’ve been watching, this is definitely something that I will be re-watching, possibly a few times.

I need something funny next, however. Or at least soon, if not next.

Next up: Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, 1990 – Directed by Pedro Almodóvar

Foreign Correspondent


1940 – Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

I grew up on movies from the 30s and 40s. Main reason for that was that my parents were both huge movie buffs, and, this was the period of time that they were children. In those days, obviously, movies were not as strictly made either for children or adults, though certainly some movies had more mature themes. At any rate, my take is that children often went to see movies that did have these more mature themes, when nothing else was playing. My parents made a fair effort to give me a sense of the cultural context in watching these older movies.

There certainly is something curious about the pacing and interactions of characters of movies from this era. Whether it was typical behaviors or Hollywood censorship or stylistic preferences of individual directors, one can’t help but be struck by the degree of trust characters have with each other. The era immediately before World War II seems to have been a kind of pre-paranoia era, at least as movies generally portray it. This movie is probably in early venture into the age of paranoia: who can you trust? Who is a profiteer? Who was trying to push us into war? Why would some reporter climb into a tower with a thug who admittedly just tried to push him in front of a lorry?

Hitchcock, as usual, brilliantly fuses the political state of the world with Freudian analysis: of course, daddy’s to blame.

The action sequences are, also as usual, bracing, and, typically, the main characters react to incidents like a violent plane crash rather like they ran out of sandwiches at the picnic.

The movie was made in the tiny window of time after Europe entered into the war, but before the United States entered into it. Probably is worth a little more analysis to recognize an Englishman’s take on the war at that point, and what position the United States should take regarding it, especially considering that the so called “peace” group turn out to be the enemies. Certainly, in the case of World War II, peace at all costs turned out to not be the position to take, yet we may not have fully known it then.

Weird observation: I SWEAR I see Adolf Hitler in that overhead shot of the interior of the windmill. Must just be projection. Or is it?

Next up:
Solaris, 1972 – Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky

Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles


1975 – Directed by Chantal Akerman

This is hypnotically tedious, which is not to say boring….

Okay this was very painful. I found myself in the course of watching this movie becoming self-aware of every little action if my own: Making breakfast. Stirring a cup of coffee. The exact gestures that I make when I’m pulling out dishes and laying them down.

I don’t know if it’s therapeutically smart for middle-age single mom to even watch this movie.

Much too real.

I know that Chantal Akerman dislikes labels being applied to this movie, and I would agree. I think that it’s better to not view it is “feminist” or as making any particular kind of commentary on the “role of Woman” or anything like that.

I do find brilliance in the way the housewife’s world begins to slowly unravel. Potatoes overcook. She can’t find the buttons she needs. Someone is sitting in her booth at the coffee shop. She can’t even decide how she wants to drink her coffee.

The ending is obviously distressing. However, it is not my main take away from the movie.

With that said, I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to make meatloaf again without feeling a little crazy.

Stray thought: Jeanne could learn a little about use of sofa beds on the disposal of a stabbed body from the characters in the last movie…

Next up: Foreign Correspondent, 1940 – Directed by Alfred Hitchcock



1973 – Directed by Brian De Palma

One thing I miss from 70s film is the everyday activism present in so many mainstream works. After the regressive 80s, most characters acting in a strong, anti-authoritarian manner would be ridiculed or martyred. You get what is coming to you if you don’t trust the cops. Here, Jennifer Salt’s grumpy, fiercely single and decidedly left-wing reporter, Grace Collier, has no excuses, and no excuses are made for her. These character traits are a given, presented as “here I am, deal with it.” By the same token, the game show that opens the film, Peeping Tom (referencing the cult horror film by the same name) acts as sly commentary on the creepy lasciviousness of the entertainment industry’s response to the sexual revolution: to package it up as a crude joke on the war between the sexes. (The show, honestly, while outrageous for the time, looks like a concept that could legitimately fly as a contemporary reality show). The show introduces what we think will be the central characters of the film, Danielle (Margot Kidder) and Phillip (Lisle Wilson), then takes a turn.

De Palma manages this in a way that seems both naturalistic and stylized, as well as both disturbing and hilarious. (He developed this dichotomy further with 1976’s Carrie.)

The idea of splitting or dichotomies is achieved on multiple levels (thematically, plot wise, visually and psychologically) in this imperfect yet effective work. Obviously borrowing from Hitchcock, De Palma puts his own (typically) nihilist spin on it.

Oh, and William Finley (as Emil, Danielle’s stalker-ish ex-husband) was an entirely underrated actor. It is weird that the only director who ever really utilized him was De Palma. RIP.

Next up:
Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, 1975 – Directed by Chantal Akerman