A look around the Criterion Collection blog-o-sphere from this past week:
There’s probably more depth and nuance to be explored in Youth of the Beast‘s story, if I were to take the time to ponder it at length and subject the film to multiple viewings, but I’d then run the risk of over-thinking what is better appreciated as a feisty adrenaline rush of bright colors, brash impulsive action and weird sado-masochistic brutality all rendered with a glossy sheen that seeks to grab viewers by the throat and leave them gasping for air. Even a second or third watch is better spent sorting out the convoluted plot twists and reversals, or simply reveling in the stylistic splendor of Suzuki’s frames and violent choreography, rather than searching for philosophical profundity and an application to one’s own life circumstances.
I hesitate to call The Importance of Being Earnest a trifle, as the literal meaning of the word, particularly when applied to an artistic endeavor, is to suggest that it’s of little actual merit. This, of course, is not the case with Oscar Wilde’s play, a comedic triumph that is a most distinct pleasure to watch (or read) in whatever form you find it, including this 1952 film version directed by Anthony Asquith. And yet, I like the idea of calling it a trifle because The Importance of Being Earnest is easy to consume, delightful for its duration, and altogether delectable. Not unlike the layered dessert which bears the same name. In fact, given the discussion of drink and cakes and other tasty treats during The Importance of Being Earnest, it would not be outlandish to make a comparison between Wilde’s comedy and the booze-soaked confection where all manner of pleasing ingredients are stacked together to create a whole far more fulfilling than the sum of its parts.
For all of its violence and grime, “Repo Man” is a profoundly hopeful film. It scoffs at notions of upward mobility (locating such opportunities firmly in the dead-end corporate world, where Otto’s friend is convinced that in two years he could be “manager. King. God.”), but even though it feels like the end of the world, there’s always the looming promise of a better tomorrow. “Repo Man” is inextricable from the era in which it was made – the arid pre-Sundance aesthetic doesn’t locate the film in a particular epoch so much as the soundtrack does, opening with an iconic Iggy Pop rager that ultimately proved to be the film’s financial salvation – but at the same time the movie’s reliance on “Kiss Me Deadly” evinces an understanding that every generation feels as though they’re living in the end times.
Frampton’s work is notably different from Brakhage’s deeply personal and tactile films – though there is certainly an auto-biographical component to Frampton’s films, most notably in one of the best included pieces, (nostalgia), in which Frampton has an actor read descriptions of photographs from his life as they are shown burning away on a hot plate. The twist of the film is that the description corresponds to the photograph shown after it, making the viewer work to reconcile what has been said with what is being shown, while retaining enough information to do the same with the subsequent photo. It’s a frustrating juggling act as a viewer – though not nearly as frustrating as another film in the same series, Critical Mass. The film combines three of the least appealing things in existence: improvisational acting, lovers’ spats, and dischordant editing for an interminable half hour of nails on a chalkboard. I barely made it through this cinematic equivalent of Metal Machine Music even after tuning out halfway through.
The edition, though slightly disappointing on extras, does manage to help one better understand or even appreciate the film, though there’s no significant improvement over the DVD in this department. But the audio and video both offer noticeable improvements. For those fond of the film and/or looking to upgrade this release comes with a very high recommendation
So, even realizing how wrong Newsweek’s article was, it’s important, I think, to realize how condescending, disingenuous, and wrong that piece is. Criterion isn’t snobbish about film; it seems more to be a residual effect on its fans or something. So, even if Criterion includes a couple of Michael Bay flicks, Criterion does what the best cinephiles do and what all of the rest should aspire to: love cinema, all of its facets, and power as an art form.
Do you write a Criterion blog that I should follow? Send me a link!