20 posts categorized "Criterion Collection"

September 30, 2023

HOUR OF THE WOLF — SHOCKTOBER!

SHOCKTOBER!ColeSmithey.comWelcome!

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

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ColeSmithey.comIngmar Bergman's haunting 1968 psychological thriller is, at heart, a bold reflection on the lasting effects of childhood abuse.

Filmed on the island of Fårö, Bergman announces the minimalist movie with a flourish of self-referential artistic expression to set up the bizarre narrative that follows.

Sounds of its stage set being built, under the conversation of a film crew, give way to, "Camera."

"Action."

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Liv Ullmann speaks directly to the camera as Alma. She speaks of revelations she has discovered from reading her husband's diary.

Alma has given birth to a child on this lonely, desolate island. Her beloved artist husband Johan (Max von Sydow) has vanished.

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Suicide perhaps. A victim of murder? We may never know.

The couple have come to the island for Johan to paint. Their love is strong, but ghosts from Johan's past haunt him. Johan's place in the world as an artist reveal subtexts of Ingmar Bergman's own self identity.

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Johan is unable to find peaceful sleep in the couple's cold water cottage.

Dreams and nightmares blur with harsh reality.

Suspicion and regret hang in the air.

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A dinner invitation by a coven of insulting aristocrats inhabiting a 14th century castle, leads to an explosion of social anxiety for Johan. Are the blue-bloods real, or merely composite figures from Johan's troubled imagination?

A quote from "Rosemary's Baby" springs to mind.

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"Witches, all of them witches."

The subconscious and conscious minds of our lonely couple reveal cracks that all married couples experience.

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Only we, the audience, can decide where the truth lies — that will take time.

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Impeccably conceived and executed, "Hour of the Wolf" is an eloquent thing of cinematic perfection. Max von Sydow and Liv Ullmann provide stunning performances.

What is this nightmare called love?

Not Rated. 87 mins.

5 Stars ColeSmithey.com

Cozy Cole

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September 01, 2020

CHRIST STOPPED AT EBOLI — THE CRITERION COLLECTION

Welcome!

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does. ColeSmithey.com

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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”).

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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.

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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.  

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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.

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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

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January 30, 2020

MARRIAGE STORY — THE CRITERION COLLECTION

           Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

Welcome!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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