Posted by: ckckred | January 26, 2020

Guns of the Trees (1961)

This was seen on a new 35mm restored by the Anthology Film Archives and the Film Foundation through funding from the George Lucas Family Foundation, commemorating the one-year anniversary of Jonas Mekas’ death (on January 23rd, 2019).

“You may ask yourself, what is GUNS OF THE TREES all about, what’s the story.  There is no story.  Telling stories is for peaceful and content people.  And at this juncture of my life I am neither content nor peaceful.  I am deeply and totally discontent… My film is only a letter of solidarity to the friends of an existential discontent, no matter what continent, what country—a letter from the mad heart of the insane world…”

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Posted by: ckckred | January 17, 2020

Spite Marriage (1929)

This largely forgettable Buster Keaton vehicle was the second feature he produced for MGM and his final silent film (although produced with a synchronized soundtrack).  Centering on a hapless dry cleaner (Keaton) who weds the girl of his dreams, not realizing their marriage was a sham conducted to vex his spouse’s ex-boyfriend, Spite Marriage is one of Buster’s weakest and limpest efforts.  For the most part, the gags are simply recycled jokes from Keaton’s earlier work: the climax borrows heavily from The Navigator and The Love Nest while the mean-spirited plot unfortunately recalls the vulgar short My Wife’s Relations.  Keaton, who lost most of his creative control during his tenure at MGM, seems more visibly tired and less energetic than he had beforehand.  While a few of the jokes are worthwhile of Buster’s reputation (an extended sequence at a playhouse merits some genuine laughter), Spite Marriage mostly settles for being slightly amusing.

Posted by: ckckred | January 14, 2020

Wagon Master (1950)

Perhaps the most optimistic film made by John Ford, Wagon Master is a celebration of the American dream through the backdrop of the western frontier.  Centering on a Mormon wagon train heading out west to escape persecution, Wagon Master operates as an extended metaphor for the need for societal and religious tolerance; Ford portrays his ensemble of Mormon pioneers, horse traders, and brothel keepers as a hopeful crew seeking to build a new community based on diversity, altruism, and pacifism (it’s also the rare Ford film that depicts Native Americans in a benevolent and peaceful light).  If the western often symbolized the need for institutions and bureaucracy in America, Wagon Master is amongst the genre’s most positive and upbeat pieces; it’s as beautiful film to simply look at as it is to follow the narrative.

Posted by: ckckred | January 9, 2020

The White Sheik (1952)

This review is of the new 4K Restoration and translation by Rialto Pictures as part of the Fellini Centennial.

This splendid 1952 farce by Federico Fellini (his first solo outing as a director) is a lively satire on contemporary Italian society and pop culture. Centering on a newlywed couple whose true love falls outside the boundaries of matrimony (for the wife, it’s her idolization of the eponymous photo-comic star; for the husband, it’s his aristocratic family and class), The White Sheik playfully lampoons institutional worship and fandom, be they in the entertainment industry, class, or religion.  Though The White Sheik was commercially unsuccessful in its initial Italy and dwarfed in popularity by Fellini’s later outings, the director’s giddy enthusiasm for the material (originally conceived by Michelangelo Antonioni) and Nino Rota’s carnivalesque score make it an absolute delight.

Posted by: ckckred | December 31, 2019

The Best Movies of the 2010s

1. Holy Motors (Leos Carax, 2012)

Holy Motors is not only the best film of the 2010s but the film of the decade, directly defying the mutual symbiosis between cinema and its spectators.  Leos Carax’s surreal satire can be perceived in many ways, as a critique of the fallaciousness and duplicity of the Internet and social media, as a demonstration of society being incapable of self-reflection, or perhaps (more irreverently) as an exercise of cultural excess.  Whatever the case, Holy Motors is utterly refreshing, a bleakly and brutally funny antidote to the creative stagnancy of commercial filmmaking.

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