SUPPORT INDEPENDENT FILM CRITICISM

ColeSmithey.com

Welcome!

This ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Punk heart still beating.

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

ColeSmithey.com

 

Stalingrad-born Elem Klimov's "Come and See" is an undiluted expression of cinematic poetry in the service of an unspeakably turbulent, fact-based, anti-war narrative about the 628 Belarusian villages burnt to the ground along with their inhabitants by the Nazis during World War II. The film is a disorienting vision of a genocide hell on Earth that would pale Hieronymus Bosch's most gruesome compositions.

ColeSmithey.com

Elem Klimov derives the film's haunting title from the New Testament's Book of Revelations, The Gospel of St. John the Divine, "And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, come and see."

ColeSmithey.com

An electricity-buzzing stench of death and social decay hangs over the picture's constant volley between neo-realistic, formal, and documentary cinematic styles that Klimov uses to convert as wide a range of specific wartime experience as possible. The narrative explodes in all directions at once. The leftist filmmaker takes the viewer on a quicksilver descent into an existential madness of war through the eyes of his 14-year-old peasant protagonist Florya. 13-year-old (non-professional) actor Alexei Kravchenko's selfless performance as the film's subjective guide encompasses a lifetime of suffering over a period of a few brutal days of the Nazi invasion. His gut-wrenching portrayal is the traumatized soul of the movie.

ColeSmithey.com

Born into a communist family on July 9, 1933, Elem Klimov's parents constructed his first name as an acronym of Engels, Lenin, and Marx. In his 70 years, Elem Klimov made only five films: "Welcome, or No Trespassing" (1964), "The Adventures of a Dentist" (1965), "Agony" (1975) and "Farewell" (1981). The death of his much beloved filmmaker wife Larisa Shepitko in a car accident in 1979, eventually robbed Klimov of his artistic desire. Made in 1985, "Come and See" was Klimov's astounding final picture that would establish him as a filmic storyteller of untold narrative depth and intuitive sensitivity. The brave performances Klimov inspired in his actors in "Come and See" are in a class beyond any other.

ColeSmithey.com

For the film, Klimov fashioned a detailed visual vernacular of dialectic cinematic form. His unique, rigorous narrative format compresses the overwhelming heartbreak of Hitler's War as an earth-shattering visceral experience. We feel the war's many jolts, shocks, and horrors with a force that pries into our bones. By the film's end, we witness a young boy's spirit so terribly ravaged by the horrors of war that he resembles an old man nearing the end of his life.

ColeSmithey.com

When Klimov sat down to write the script with his collaborator Ales Adamovich, the ardently intellectual filmmaker crafted an acutely personal story about a peasant boy who goes to fight against Nazi troops occupying his native Belarus in 1943, after joining up with a ragtag army of partisan soldiers taking shelter in the middle of a wooded area.

ColeSmithey.com

Objectively, "Come and See" is Elem Klimov's brave attempt to cinematically compartmentalize and contextualize his own wartime experiences as a nine-year-old boy escaping the battle of Stalingrad in the company of his mother and baby brother by raft across the burning Volga river while the city collapsed to the ground behind them. 

Klimov said of the indelible event, in relation to "Come and See," "Had I included everything I knew, and shown the whole truth, even I could not have watched it."

ColeSmithey.com

Klimov establishes the narrative's peculiar social parameters with an old man holding a horsewhip while calling for two boys guilty of incessantly "digging."

"Playing a game? Digging? Well, go on digging you little bastards," the old man shouts at the boys. Dig they do.

From the distance we witness what seems to be a short, stout military officer carrying a stick and frothing at the mouth with recriminations for the little old man that he approaches with measured steps. We realize that the apparent military officer is, in fact, one of the little boys — speaking in a raspy fake adult voice, playing his imaginary role as a menacing armed forces commander.

ColeSmithey.com

Exasperated, the old man who fathered at least one of the "bastards," gets on his horse and cart, telling his defiant son that if he won't listen to his father then he'll "listen to the cane." Klimov uses the vision of a young boy appearing as an old man to bookend the story as a manifestation of the war's aging effect on its survivors. No one will go unscathed. The once fresh-faced Florya will switch places with his young friend, whose fate falls to Nazi soldiers. Florya's young comrade deliberately chooses to comport himself as a veteran soldier. 

ColeSmithey.com

Florya's smaller companion walks along the beach to find Florya laughing manically at nothing in particular while crouched down in the bushes. We are introduced to Florya as a child not in control of his behavior. There is already some madness present in his manic laughter. Florya is subordinate to his peer, who orders Florya to get back to work "digging." We, the audience, know already that everything is not right with the boys and their surroundings.

ColeSmithey.com

Klimov employs a powerful metaphor of the boys attempting to gain escape from the outside world by digging deeper into the earth. The oddly naturalistic scene exerts a primal human motivation at odds with the noisy warplanes that pass overhead.

ColeSmithey.com

Buried in the sand up to his shoulders, Florya struggles with both arms to pull something from under the sand — it appears as if an unseen monster is swallowing up the innocent boy, attempting to drag him to the depths of hell. After much struggle, Florya excitedly extracts a prized rifle that he believes will give him entree into joining a partisan troop of soldiers so that he can help battle Hitler's rampaging armies.     

ColeSmithey.com

A German recon warplane flies overhead to the sound of German radio-broadcast propaganda. Klimov will reuse the same archive footage of the bomber plane many times over during the course of the film as a repeating motif of deadly menace from above. The authentic historical reference contributes to an unrelenting rhythm of sudden violence and brutal spatial dilemmas that come at asymmetrical angles throughout the film. We are submersed helplessly into Florya's dark journey with an all-consuming involuntary commitment.

ColeSmithey.com

The endemic breakdown of family and society is confirmed in the next scene where Florya's frantic mother pleas directly to Klimov's empathetic camera for her son to take the axe that she places in his hands. She begs her son to kill her and her twin daughters rather than abandon the family to certain death at the hands of the enemy. Better to die at the hands of a family member than to suffer torture and death from the Nazis. Florya's peasant mother is disconsolate as she beats him with a bundle of rope, refusing to allow him to leave. But Florya is immune to his mother's panic. He winks at his little sisters while he holds the axe, playing a secret game with them. He still has a fleeting sense of humor that he will soon lose forever. Klimov returns again and again to these formal fourth-wall breaking compositions that incite the viewer to question our own emotional and intellectual connection to the horrible struggle of empathetic characters we relate to more as family members than as mere victims of war.

ColeSmithey.com

Two protestant soldiers peer in through the family's window before entering the home to take Florya to join a nearby regiment of soldiers. It is the last time that we will feel any sense of home or normal life in the film. The soldiers' politeness turns abruptly to that of menacing authority figures taking Florya with them as a willing prisoner.

ColeSmithey.com

In the military camp, Florya meets a lovely but deranged teenaged girl named Glasha (disconcertingly played by Olga Mironova). It would be the only film role that Mironova would ever play. The wild-eyed stare of her steel-gray eyes makes Glasha as much of a potential monster as that of a would-be love interest for Florya to gravitate toward. Her sensuality and charisma is undeniable. That Glasha, dressed in a pretty green party dress, is carrying on an affair with the troop's boorish military chief only momentarily distracts from the extent of her mental instability. Inasmuch as we subjectively bestow sanity to the Partisan group's leader, Glasha is already a casualty of war. There is a contagious insanity in the air that infiltrates every character that Klimov introduces. Even nature seems to be in revolt.

ColeSmithey.com

The film's first act closes with a group photograph of the ragtag troop that provides a formal tableau of thick narrative subtext — witness a wounded soldier bandaged like a mummy and a black female cow with "Eat me before the Germans do," written in white on its side. Desperation is the coin of the day.

ColeSmithey.com

Upon their departure, the ragtag troop abandons the young boy that the military chief has quietly deemed unsuitable for the demands of battle. Florya's inconsolable anguish at being deserted by his surrogate family boils to a breaking point when he accidentally steps on a nest of eggs, killing the tiny birds in a glimpse of nature made horribly grotesque by his unavoidable human brutality.

It's this violent and immediate style of detailed poetic storytelling that grips you and drags at your senses with an inescapable urgency of survival. Klimov's precise use of graphic symbolism will steadily increase to a fever pitch in the film's stunning postmodern climax where a backward moving collage collapses Hitler's Pandora's box of death and the war that determines Florya's survival.

ColeSmithey.com

The soldiers also abandon Glasha, whose sole purpose was sex. The two adolescent refugees cry into each other's eyes in a heartbreaking expression of raw emotion that Klimov captures with extended fourth-wall-breaking close-ups that intuitively editorialize on their fragile mental states. Florya recognizes Glasha's strange psychosis, but is unable to evade her spell. The pity that the soldiers take on the pair, by leaving them behind, backfires when a rash of falling German artillery shells permanently robs Florya of his hearing. The bombings are especially shocking for their violent realism that arrives suddenly with large swaths of forest ripped apart by earthquaking explosions accompanied by a high-pitched ringing that destroys Florya's hearing with tinnitus and wrecks his conscious mind.  

ColeSmithey.com

Klimov utilizes Florya's sensory deprivation with a twisted soundscape that indoctrinates us into Florya's pain and panic via a claustrophobic sonic space that increases our sense of being badly wounded. The next morning, Florya and Glasha frolic in the rain in a brief reverie where they momentarily forget the impending danger that awaits them. Under the muted sounds of sped up radio music, Glasha does an impromptu Charleston-styled flapper dance atop Florya's rain-soaked suitcase.

ColeSmithey.com

There's a dreamlike quality to the couple's short-lived musical respite before an out-of-place crane conveys an unnerving omen of unexplained incidents to follow. Wild animal life will play an important part of the image system filigree that Klimov uses to regularly connect the story to its ecological foundation in the rugged landscape of war-torn Belarus. 

ColeSmithey.com

Klimov is commanding in his willingness to create abstract visual motifs, as when Florya returns to his mother's house with Glasha as his partner. He peers at his reflection down in a well while looking for his family. We view Florya through the back end of an organic cinematic telescope through which he sees himself. His sense of personal recognition is all but lost. Florya doesn't see the mangled bloody bodies of his family and neighbors piled high against the backside of what was once his family's home. Glasha looks back and views the carnage as they walk away from the area but refrains from alerting Florya to the horror behind them for fear of his potential reaction.

ColeSmithey.com

Florya runs into a thick muddy swamp that he is compelled to cross, believing that his family is hiding on a small island that he must trudge through quicksand-like mud to get to. Glasha follows Florya into the mud. She holds onto the back of his coat as the young couple painfully make their way through the thick brown sludge. Klimov layers on subdued layers of musical textures and ambient sound to weave a theme of self-flagellation as assisted by Belarusia's uncontrolled topography that threatens to swallow up our protagonist and his mentally devastated female companion.

ColeSmithey.com

Glasha betrays Florya the first chance she gets when a Belarusian peasant helps her escape the mud. The traumatized Glasha loudly explains that Florya's family was killed, and that now he is deaf and out of his mind. Through his muted hearing, Florya hears Glasha's cruel words. He reacts with a pained cry that fully expresses a depth of agony that imprints the film with an indelible image of victimization. Moments later, Florya will be led by peasants to the badly burned body of his friend's father, who speaks his last words about how he begged the Germans that set him on fire to kill him. A crowd of desperate peasants chant under Klimov's soundscape of blowing wind. Florya sees a trench coat-dressed effigy of Hitler with a human skull head that the peasants put clay on to make more lifelike. A group cut off Florya's hair before burying it as part of a cleansing ritual that reinvents the traumatized Florya as a walking ghost. 

ColeSmithey.com

In the film's unpredictable third act Florya becomes a roaming independent soldier with a knack for barely escaping Nazi attacks. Florya's participation in expediting the extermination of a cornered group of Nazis by handing a gasoline filled can to a Nazi collaborator, is as suggestive an act as it is a literal one, for the Belarusian peasants will open fire on the Nazis before the fuel is ignited. Florya gains an historic perspective of Hitler that knows only annihilation. His hatred and fury seeks to eradicate the world of Adolph Hitler and his armies with severe prejudice. With his brain and body irreversibly changed, Florya has become the only thing that he will ever be capable of being for the rest of his life, a horribly disfigured soldier. 

ColeSmithey.com

"Come and See" won the Moscow Film Festival's Grand Prize in 1985. Afterward, Elem Klimov was elected as first secretary of the Soviet Filmmakers' Union. During his two years on the post, Klimov oversaw the release of more than a hundred previously banned Soviet films. Elem Klimov went on to struggle with the idea of creating a film version of Bulgakov's "The Master and Margarita," and with making a film adaptation of Dostoevsky's "The Devils." However, in 2000, he gave up filmmaking because he felt that he had done "everything that was possible." The visionary Soviet filmmaker died on October 26, 2003 of cerebral hypoxia.

ColeSmithey.com

Elem Klimov left behind a war film that accomplishes everything possible in cinema, and in so doing reinvents it. It eclipses every other war film by such a wide margin that there is no reason or impetus to watch any other. Come and see.

I first saw "Come and See" at the 1998 San Francisco Film Festival on advice from a pal who informed me that it was Sean Penn's favorite film. I can certainly see why Sean Penn feels the way he does about this brilliant movie.

ColeSmithey.com

Criterion's stunning 2K digital restoration on Blu-ray gives "Come and See" the beauty that this remarkable 142 minute film deserves. The disc includes interviews and documentary films that shed further light on "Come and See." It is truly a must-own Blu-ray for cinephiles and movie lovers alike.

Not Rated. 162 mins.

5 Stars

Cozy Cole

COLE SMITHEY

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon.

Thanks a lot acorns!

Your kind generosity keeps the reviews coming!

Cole Smithey on Patreon



December 08, 2023

MAY DECEMBER — CANNES 2023

Welcome!

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.ColeSmithey.comThis ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel. Punk heart still beating.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon.

Thanks a lot acorns!

Your kind generosity keeps the reviews coming!

ColeSmithey.com

ColeSmithey.com

ColeSmithey.comTodd Haynes has crafted the best movie of 2023.

Working from a flawless script by wife/husband screenwriting team of Samy Burch and Alex Machanik, Haynes deftly allows narrative resonance to expand in the mind of the viewer.

"May December" firmly establishes Todd Haynes as one of America's finest filmmakers. If there was ever any doubt that Todd Haynes is the heir apparent to the likes of Martin Scorsese, here is the proof.

Mind-blowing.

ColeSmithey.com

Using the story of convicted pedophile Mary Kay Letourneau as their inspiration, the screenwriters create a complex nesting doll story that addresses American society at its core. The experience is unforgettable, and profound.

ColeSmithey.com

Natalie Portman portrays Elizabeth Berry, a B-list (Method) actress tasked with visiting ex-convict Gracie Atherton-Yoo (Julianne Moore) at her home in Savannah, Georgia to prepare for her portrayal of Gracie in an upcoming movie.

ColeSmithey.com

Since her release from prison, Gracie has married Joe (Charles Melton), the boy she seduced when she was 36, and he was 13 years-old at the pet store where they both worked. A high school graduation party for the couple's twin girls coincides with Elizabeth's unethical mission of sense memory discovery. Gracie and Elizabeth are both emotional vampires, playing for keeps.

Each leaves behind a traumatic trail of misery in their wake.

ColeSmithey.com

What follows is a nuanced study in coldhearted narcissism, where victims continue to be victimized, and opportunists get their hands sticky by association.

ColeSmithey.com

Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore equally deliver tour de force performances that match relative newcomer Charles Melton's empathetic portrayal of Joe, this movie's troubled protagonist.

ColeSmithey.com

If ever there was, or is, a filmic antidote to the corporate gaslighting garbage that a movie such as "Barbie" represents, "May December" is it.

ColeSmithey.com

Prepare to be transformed.

Rated R. 117 mins.

5 Stars

Cozy Cole

ColeSmithey.com

December 05, 2023

GASLIGHT — CLASSIC FILM PICK

Welcome!

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.ColeSmithey.comThis ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon.

Thanks a lot acorns!

Your kind generosity keeps the reviews coming!

ColeSmithey.com

 

ColeSmithey.com

George Cukor's masterful adaptation of Patrick Hamilton's 1938 stage play is a cinematic feast of noir suspense. Gleefully dark, seamlessly directed, and packed with surprising plot twists, "Gaslight" is truly a masterpiece of Cinema.

Glory!

Ingrid Bergman won a much deserved Best Actress Oscar in 1944 for her nuanced portrayal of famed opera singer Paula Alquist.

Stunning!

ColeSmithey.com

Retired Paula returns to London (circa 1880) to live with her new husband Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer) in the house where her late aunt lived before she was murdered ten years earlier. 

Gregory is a skilled technician in the practice of gaslighting. Convincing Paula that she is losing control of her mental faculties is just a smokescreen to cover up Gregory's criminal activities. 

ColeSmithey.com

Joseph Cotton's Scotland Yard detective Brian Cameron becomes suspicious of Gregory, whose refusal to let his wife go out in public raises a red flag.

Ingrid Bergman's flawless performance is endlessly watchable.

ColeSmithey.com

The late, great Angela Lansbury steals every scene she's in as Nancy, the flirtatious maid that Gregory hires to keep an eye on Paula while he's busy with his skullduggery.

This is much more than a solid period drama from one of Hollywood's most revered directors.

ColeSmithey.com

If you haven't yet seen "Gaslight," you are in for a rare treat. You'll certainly be keenly aware of other's attempts at leading you down a path of self-doubt after watching this amazing film.

Repeated viewings are in order.

ColeSmithey.com

If you discover that someone is attempting to gaslight you, you'll know what to do; exit the relationship on the spot.

ColeSmithey.com

"Gaslight" remains remarkably topical for its relevance in the modern world. This Cinema classic is essential viewing if only for its clear definition of the now-popular term.

Not Rated. 114 mins.

5 StarsCozy Cole

ColeSmithey.com

November 25, 2023

BARBIE

Welcome!

ColeSmithey.com

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does. This ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel. Punk heart still beating.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon.

Thanks a lot acorns!

Your kind generosity keeps the reviews coming!

ColeSmithey.com

 


A wrench and a cat walk into a bar.

Ouch!

ColeSmithey.comPreachy, insipid, wrongheaded, mean-spirited, and fossil fuel-driven, "Barbie" is by far the worst movie (or more accurately, commercial) I have ever witnessed.

"Barbie" is to feminism as a wrench is to a cat.

This plastic character has no charm, no grace, no sense of romance or inner beauty of mind.

To be clear, "Barbie" is not a movie; it is a rip off.

ColeSmithey.comEvidently, it would have taken John Waters or Trey Parker and Matt Stone to properly trash the capitalist monolith of Mattel with a transgressive movie based on a sex doll turned pop toy icon.

And yes, Mattel (the toy company) produced this overlong commercial.

Could anything be more obvious?

And, yes that's right, the creator of Barbie based this popular landfill ingredient on a sex doll.

They probably should have left the sex doll parts intact, at least then it could have been used for sex education.

Too late now.

ColeSmithey.com

Corporate cult pap. Unrelenting dystopia.

Vomiting all of the time.

You've heard of "cult of personality," well this is cult of image, used to dumb down society in the service of profit. Forget about life imitating art, here life follows toys.

Gross. Really, really gross, and sour.

Toxic.

ColeSmithey.com

"Brave New World" indeed.

Aldous Huxley was right all along.

ColeSmithey.com

Here is narcissism, infinity squared.

ColeSmithey.com

Let's put it this way, "Barbie" is the exact opposite of "The Wizard of Oz" in every square centimeter of quality, metaphor, and nuance.

"Barbie Land" is a gated community inhabited by lesbian Barbies and gay Kens.

ColeSmithey.com

How do we know this?

When Ken asks Barbie if he can stay over one night for reasons he can't explain, Barbie says, "no."

Barbie is a Breadcrumber.

ColeSmithey.com

"Every night is girls' night" at the Barbie house of endless fun. This is not to say that sexytime doesn't happen between consenting plastic girl/women with no vajayjays. Feet are the operative sex organ here.

In response, Ken usurps that long revered animal of teenage girl fetish obsession, the horse, as his personal connection to all things manly.

Choke.

ColeSmithey.comBarbie's red or blue pill moment. She chooses the one she has to buy on Amazon.

Oh the ugliness of its sickly sweet set designs. This commercial looks like Mattel spent $1000 to make it. And yet, they still spent way too much.

At least Mattel got their money's worth out of their herd of actors. Here is a perfect example of why Alfred Hitchcock called actors, "cattle." Ryan Gosling, Margot Robbie, and the rest, are nothing more than mindless props.

ColeSmithey.com

Meanwhile, Barbie (Margot Robbie) has thoughts of...wait for it...death.

The death of capitalism, or the death of Mattel's profitable practice of polluting the globe with plastic?

Not so much.

ColeSmithey.com

No, we would have needed John Waters, or maybe even Todd Haynes, for such grounded satire.

ColeSmithey.com

Nevermind that David Lynch already gave us the movie that addresses female stardom lust, namely "Mulholland Drive."

ColeSmithey.com

This is more, battle-of-the-sexes Barbie. Equality, as a benchmark human value, is never mentioned. Take that, Simone de Beauvoir.

Valley Girl baby. Like, "literally."

"It's like barf me out. Gag me with a spoon," as Frank and Moon Zappa put it.

Anytime you hear someone utter the word "literally," I suggest you exit the room immediately.

ColeSmithey.com

"Barbie" is nothing more than a (nearly) two-hour commercial, designed to send hordes of potential customers to Amazon to purchase an endless array of plastic toys. And you thought only Marvel could play in that crap-infested sandbox.

Extermination of rational thought is this commercial's goal. For nearly two-hours, it achieves its mission.

Co-screenwriters Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig stumble over themselves with face-plants of dialogue and monologues that wallow in stupifaction.

ColeSmithey.com

"I'm just so tired of watching myself and every single other woman tie herself into knots so that people will like us. And if all of that is also true for a doll just representing a woman, then I don't even know."

What is this "us" bullshit?

ColeSmithey.com

The crux of all nature's beauty springs from the female form. This commercial doesn't know what beauty — female or otherwise — looks or sounds like.

Immaturity and idiocy go hand in hand. In Barbie Land there is no such thing as individuality.

ColeSmithey.com

A trip to the OBGYN substitutes for a sexual encounter.

Where is John Waters when you need him?

ColeSmithey.com

"Barbie" is a chunky diarrhea stain on humanity.

ColeSmithey.com

Notice how you feel sick to your stomach just from looking at images from this worthless commercial.

ColeSmithey.com

Peter Bogdanovich was a skilled and informed master filmmaker and screenwriter. Check out "The Last Picture Show," and compare it to this filmic (sic) turd called "Barbie."

What a fecking embarrassment and insult "Barbie" is to society, and to Cinema.

Greta Gerwig is a hack screenwriter, and a remedial filmmaker at best.

ColeSmithey.com

You wanna see post-modern feminism in cinematic action, check out "I Am Curious, Yellow and Blue," and tell me how that beautiful piece of cinéma vérité art compares with Gerwig's commercial garbage.

I could go on but why should I. — Note the absence of a question mark.

ColeSmithey.com

I will say that anyone calling themself a "film critic" has no business giving "Barbie" a passing grade; if they do, they should turn in their credentials and quit because they haven't the first clue about Cinema, film, or movies — to pretend otherwise is just wrong.

Rated PG-13. 114 mins.

Zero StarsLESS THAN ZERO STARS

Cozy Cole

ColeSmithey.com

Featured Video

SMART NEW MEDIA® Custom Videos

COLE SMITHEY’S MOVIE WEEK

COLE SMITHEY’S CLASSIC CINEMA

Throwback Thursday


Podcast Series