17 posts categorized "Criterion Collection"

September 01, 2020



Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

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Christ stopped at eboli

Francesco Rosi’s 1979 filmic adaptation of Turinese political activist Carlo Levi’s popular 1945 memoir, about his year spent in political exile suffering Draconian punishments under Mussolini’s fascist regime, is a fluid masterpiece of social realism.

The film’s evocative title is taken from that of Carlo Levi’s chronicle of exposure to Fascism's harsh effect on a specific group of people.

Screen Shot 2022-05-22 at 9.24.06 PM

Although you might suppose from the title that Christ visited the small southern Italian town of Eboli, however the context is something more; Christ never went beyond Eboli, which is to say he never witnessed the tragic condition of the remote village of Aliano — renamed as “Gagliano: in the book and film.


Levi wrote, “Christ stopped at Eboli where the road and the train abandon the coast and the sea, and venture into the wastelands of Lucania. Christ never came here. Nor did time, the individual soul, or hope, nor did cause and effect, reason or history.”


In 1929, Carlo Levi — not to be confused with his fellow Turinese anti-fascist peer Primo Levi — co-founded the anti-fascist movement Giustizia e Libertà with Carlo and Nello Rosselli. Although Levi graduated with a degree in medicine in 1924, he was inspired to become an artist. Painting allowed Levi private time to carry on private political discussions with activist friends who would sit as portrait models in his studio. The ruse only worked so well for so long. In 1935, Carlo Levi was arrested and exiled to Aliano, in Italy’s Lucania region. The deprived village relates to a similarly poor remote Spanish settlement in Luis Buñuel’s 1933 bold documentary “Las Hurdes: Tierra Sin Pan” (“Land Without Bread”).


Aliano presents a “land of disease, poverty, and distrust — from a people abandoned and forgotten by the state.” Clearly, Mussolini’s intent was that Carlo Levi might not survive a year spent in a remote place plagued by malaria and fellow political exiles whose attitudes didn’t necessarily coincide with those of Levi. Rather, Levi was compelled to assist the community up to a point in spite of his less than charitable countenance.


Francesco Rosi buries significant subtext in situational reality. For example, Levi adopts a stray dog at the beginning of the story only to silently abandon the canine soon thereafter. No mention of the dog ever comes up again. Rose elucidates through silence and absence. Less is more. Rosi’s eye for detail shines as when Levi meets his sister when she comes to visit; the siblings walk in perfectly matching steps together. Their DNA is the same. Rosi's deceptively simple detail speaks volumes about the honest and direct nature of the siblings's relationship, something that is revealed during their private discussions.  


Rosi’s uncanny ability to incorporate a specific Italian region’s locals (playing themselves) provides a foundation of authenticity that underpins the complex narrative with understatement and grace. Even the film's one flash of anger occurs as a substitute for seduction during a scene where Levi's maid bathes him. To watch "Christ Stopped At Eboli" is to go back in time. Politics be damned, life is where you are. Physical exile is real. Intellectualism suffers; culture suffers.


Francisco Rosi remains criminally neglected it the pantheon of great filmmakers. Rosi is right there with Roberto Rossellini and Luchino Visconti even if Rosi isn't as well known. The dynamic naturalism that Rosi captures and observes under his trained vision is astonishing if you take the time to savor it.  

Criterion treats this film with the respect it deserves. Lovely. If you dig collecting Criterion films, this one is a beauty.

Not Rated. 220 mins. Five Stars

Cozy Cole

Cole Smithey on Patreon

January 30, 2020



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 pal! Your generosity keeps the reviews coming!

Cole Smithey on Patreon

ColeSmithey.comI regret every second I spent watching Noah Baumbach’s latest attempt at being Woody Allen. I should know better by now than to think Noah Baumbach will ever create a film that isn’t tiresome at best.

The only thing worse than suffering through a real divorce is watching “Marriage Story.” This movie might portray itself as a romantic comedy, but there isn’t a single laugh to be had.

If you take it as a romantic drama, you’ll also be disappointed by virtue of the insufferable couple on display.


Adam Driver’s status as Hollywood’s current it-boy, loses more than a little credibility in a movie more appropriately entitled Divorce Story. Driver plays Baumbach’s alter ego Charlie, a Manhattan off-off Broadway director of avant-garde plays in a theatrical milieu that never existed in New York City. Ding. Baumbach’s ridiculous vision of theater people is pejorative at best. Bedwetters get more love.

Scarlett Johansson

Husband Charlie good, wife Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) bad. During their separation mediation Nicole refuses to read from her list of things she appreciates about Charlie, while he is only too willing to heap praise on his soon-to-be-ex. Nicole storms out of the session so that the therapist and Charlie can, “suck each other’s dicks.” Classy. You wonder why Johansson would sign on for such a thankless role as that of Nicole.


Oh, but for their poor entitled young son Henry (Azhy Robertson). What is to become of the child of frivolous artsy New York parents. Baumbach goes full Woody Allen when he grinds the story into an East Coast vs. West Coast legal tirade about blood-sucking attorneys who milk as much money as possible from the train wreck opportunity before them. Message, Californians are phony, New Yorkers are authentic. Laura Dern, Ray Liotta, and Alan Alda elevate the movie as the film’s vulture lawyer characters, but to no satisfying design.


The subtext, that Noah Baumbach is a thoughtful auteur whose divorce from Jennifer Jason Leigh in 2010 was all her fault, is a tedious bit of dental floss that breaks in this film’s first 10 minutes. If watching people say stuff they will regret for the rest of their lives as they ugly-cry, you might get a kick later on in the movie.

Adam Driver

Slack editing delivers us to Adam Driver singing a Broadway-styled melancholy ballad for his New York theatre pals in a cozy restaurant that doesn’t exist anywhere in Manhattan. Oh what inspired feeling, oh what cheesy heart-on-sleeve emotion. Baumbach could have at least cut the movie after the song, and spared his audience 13 minutes of post-divorce child wrangling but that wouldn’t have giving him the opportunity to twist the knife a little more in Scarlett Johansson’s character. Jennifer Jason Leigh will never watch this movie, and neither should she.

Rated R. 137 mins. 

Zero Stars

Cozy Cole

Cole Smithey on Patreon

January 29, 2020



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 pal! Your generosity keeps the reviews coming!

Cole Smithey on Patreon

ColeSmithey.comIt will likely take a few years before audiences begin to appreciate “The Irishman” for what it is, a tremendous filmic social and character study of mafia influence that kept the wheels of industry turning in America for decades. Funny, gripping, and exquisitely crafted, “The Irishman” may well end up being considered Martin Scorsese’s greatest achievement. Cheers to that! This picture is a masterpiece, but you probably won’t think so when you watch it. Come back in five years and watch it again, you'll think differently.


Clocking in at nearly three and a half hours, “The Irishman” is to Martin Scorsese what “Sandinista” was to The Clash, a generous gift of art meant to entertain, inspire, and inform. More is more. Watching Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, and Joe Pesci ply their acting craft mastery under Scorsese’s insightful eye is an incomparable cinematic pleasure. What sublime joy. If Joe Pesci’s performance slips in more fun than you can have with your clothes on, that’s just garlic in the marinara sauce. This movie cooks with gas, on four burners.


This is Cinema, characters talking and taking action with available people and tools that seal their fate. Drama muthafuka. When Scorsese foreshadows gangsters’ deaths with chyrons, it adds a documentary element that hooks you in like wearing your Sunday suit to church when you were 15.

We meet Harvey Keitel’s Angelo Bruno at a restaurant meeting. “Angelo Bruno — shot in the head sitting in his car outside his house, 1980.” At least he wore nice suits. Doom waits around every corner for characters whose perception of reality isn't all that it's cracked up to be.


Scorsese’s “Gangs of New York” screenwriter Steve Zalian based his frequently hilarious script on Charles Brandt’s book of the same title. “The Irishman” is a neat bookend to “Gangs,” a film ruined by Harvey Weinstein’s influence, and by Cameron Diaz — but that’s another story.

Jimmy Hoffa may not remain the household name that it once was, but “The Irishman” puts a fine point on answering decades old burning questions about how Hoffa was killed, and how his body was disposed of. The film fulfills an essential public service. I'm not kidding.


The unbalanced friendship that develops between Pacino’s Jimmy Hoffa and De Niro’s Frank Sheeran is the stuff of legend, real and imagined. You couldn’t call it a bromance, but the camaraderie on display is downright familial. To say that De Niro’s casting as an Irishman is a stretch might be an understatement, but the proof in his craft is flawless.


Wafts of Elaine May’s brilliant 1976 “Mickey and Nicky” breeze over “The Irishman” if only for the fraught connection between both films’ main characters. Linking Peter Falk to Robert De Niro, and John Cassavetes to Al Pacino is a joy you can discover if you’re enough of a movie lover to follow through. Indeed, “The Irishman” is long; thank you Martin Scorsese, cast, and crew for going over an beyond to create such a magnificent movie experience. Cheers!

Rated R. 202 mins. Five Stars

Cozy Cole

Cole Smithey on Patreon

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