A look around the Criterion Collection blog-o-sphere from this past week:
So my problems with Lord of the Flies stem mostly from the obtuse heavy-handedness of its moralistic message, even though I can concede that it’s probably one worth grappling with in our youth as we begin coming to grips with the deeply ingrained hypocrisies that are embedded in all that we take for granted. The rote use of metaphors and symbols employed here are just too on the nose for me to get into: the obvious parallels to the roots of organized religion in primitive fears and superstitions (the “beastie” and its attendant rituals) just seem so passe, at this time in my life, anyway.
As Long as You’re Healthy is a perfect showcase for Étaix’s humor. He and co-writer Jean-Claude Carrière are at their best when exploiting the tunnel vision of the average man. There is nothing mean-spirited in how they cause their characters to bump into one another, and yet all the jokes arise out of individual foibles, from folks too caught up in their own pursuits to consider that they share the planet with others just like them.
Pierre Étaix’s second feature, Yoyo, finds the director and star confidently assuming the role of auteur. This 1965 vehicle is not only a great showcase for the performer’s talent, but also a tribute to his heroes and the comedic tradition that informed the Étaix persona. It’s a celebration of comedy, but also one clown’s celebration of self.
There’s very little new material in the supplements, but Criterion has managed to gather everything from previous editions together here, even throwing in the television version, all of which will keep fans busy for a few hours. The transfer is certainly the key selling point, though, and will be a treat to all of those who discovered it originally on cable or VHS. I never thought the film could ever look this good.
Shot mostly by daylight, often with the sun just setting behind the horizon, Days of Heaven often has the kind of otherworldly glow for which the term “magic hour” was created. But even scenes not shot during this brief time of day can dazzle, like the shot which follows a girl as she jumps down a pile of hay, briefly catching the glare of the sun as it goes, or – most certainly – the climactic fire which finally and violently fully severs the connection between Shepard’s magnate and his wife and her lover. The Thin Red Line argues that the true crime of war is against nature, but Days of Heaven surely believes that nature will endure, its gentle indifference saving it every time.
‘Gate of Hell’ is an arresting journey of obsession and its pitfalls. The characters are just as rich and varied as the colorful menagerie going on in the film. Criterion has done a great job with the video transfer. The audio is only piped through one channel, but it gets the job done. The complete lack of special features is pretty disappointing though. All in all, ‘Gate of Hell’ is recommended.