New DVDs: Criterion Goes Blu-ray

bottle-rocket-web

It’s the moment persnickety cinephiles have been waiting for: the first batch of Criterion Blu-ray releases come out today, and the quality of the transfers doesn’t disappoint. More details, with an emphasis on Wes Anderson’s “Bottle Rocket,” making its Criterion debut in both standard and high definition versions, can be found here.

UPDATE: Gary Tooze, the webmaster of the indispensable dvdbeaver.com, has created a toolbar that allows for fast, direct searching of several cinephile sites, including (for reasons known only to Gary) this one. It’s very tiny and very useful, and you can download it here.

199 comments to New DVDs: Criterion Goes Blu-ray

  • Brian Dauth

    In Maugham’s play (adapted from his own short story), Hammond has a Chinese mistress, not a wife. In the play, Leslie Crosbie’s calm veneer is shattered at last when her lawyer’s questioning gets around to the subject of Hammond’s mistress (which is what leads me to say that racism is part of Leslie’s motivation). Also, Maugham lays hints that the lawyer is in love with Leslie’s husband and that is why he is willing to buy the letter. In productions I have seen (all being of off- and off-off- Broadway caliber), the mistress has been presented as completely different than Leslie’s description of her.

    Mike: I have not read tons of LeGuin, but I have read a fair amount. Also, Samuel Delany whom I love as well as some other sci-fi authors.

  • Alex Hicks

    I can see a case for the stylistic siperiority of “Detour,” though I’m too much a sucker for Seitz’s 9definitively noirish) chiarascura to see a bit difference (and don’t care much if the stylistic virtues of “Detour” are more structly directorial). Thematically, I don’t see why “Detour” should be considered richer than “Indemnity.” Each film features a femme fatalle, an anxious male protagonist, a pessimistic narrative and a faalistic universe, although the faltalism of Detour” is more rooted in an abstraly metaphyisical world view, less in personality and psychology as fate. I can see how my “personality and psychology” might be rephrased as “character,” lending force to your “moralistic” charge, Dave, but I’d say that the most of what you view as Wilder’s moralism is the psychology of Neff’s thrall to the father figure and of Keyes, as objectified superego at once more concrete and deeper than Ulmer’s axiomatic fatalism. Moreover, a like of incidentals besides Seitz’s imagery grace the film, not the least Chandler’s witty touch ups to Cain’s already well scripted scenes, and incidentals of performance — the bystander in the club car — as well as a greater wealth of performace. I would say that “Detour”‘s virtues are more closely tied to a single directorial creator and more expressive of “qualities that make movies an art unto themselves,” qualities that may signal more definitive criteria to a purer auteurist and cinephile than this Schatzian fifth columnist and print lover. distinct

  • Michael Worrall

    Brian wrote: “I would suspect that no amount of writing on my part or that of other queer theorists would help.”

    Why does the theorist writing on Mankiewicz need to be queer, and why do you feel the need to make such a distinction? Is this to imply that being queer implicitly entails a greater understanding or appreciation of Mankiewicz? If so, I must be failing to live up to my queerdom.

  • Michael Worrall

    my last post was redundant in its word use. sorry

    Brian wrote: “I would suspect that no amount of writing on my part or that of other queer theorists would help.”

    Why does the theorist writing on Mankiewicz need to be queer, and why do you feel the need to make such a distinction? Is this to imply that being queer entails a greater understanding or appreciation of Mankiewicz? If so, I must be failing to live up to my queerdom.

  • dm494

    Dave, are you saying about those two Wyler films that they should be rejected in the final analysis because they don’t equal their source material? That, incidentally, is an argument which I’ve frequently heard invoked against THE DEAD–that the film is a nice try, but not really good because it’s not as good as the Joyce story. Since I get the impression that a lot of my comments bug you, I hope it won’t drive you up the wall if I point out that this argument (assuming it is what you have in mind) can be used to dismiss something like CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT, a much greater film, to be sure, but still not the equal of the Shakespeare plays to which it pays tribute.

    Pauline Kael admitted to being a huge fan of his work, but did Huston get all that much praise from her for his late films? Kael loved THE DEAD, PRIZZI’S HONOR and THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING, but she was negative about FAT CITY and UNDER THE VOLCANO, and I’ve never come across any remarks from her about WISE BLOOD.

  • Kent Jones

    Mike, why does mentioning Wyler, WIlder et. al. equal a “passion” for them, and why does it have to be seen as a displacement of Ulmer and Lang? I don’t understand it. I love many films by Ulmer, almost every film by Lang, quite a few films by Wyler, several by Huston, etc. I don’t really get what we’re all talking about here. It feels like everyone is being called upon to show their true auteurist colors or something.

    I’ve read more modern sci-fi and detective fiction than older. I have read a script by Michael Powell based on A WIZARD OF EARTHSEA, which is very good.

  • Kent Jones

    dm, I love THE DEAD…until Anjelica Huston’s final monologue. She does it very well, but I was disappointed that she did it so emotionally. I’ve read that story many times, and each time imagined the Michael Furey story delivered flatly, so that the words themselves could carry the emotion. That seems like a silly reason to be disappointed, now that I think of it, but it struck me as a wrong note then and still does now.

    I don’t remember Pauline Kael on FAT CITY, but I’m not surprised she disliked it: too downbeat, too serious. Interesting to remember that the project was developed by Monte Hellman, not just a great admirer of a Huston but a director she basically deemed worthless early on.

  • People have some good points:
    Kent Jones is right and I am wrong, about social commentary existing in realistic dramas and novels. He’s just plain right and I made a howler.

    Alex, you are right about greater psychological complexity in DOUBLE INDEMNITY. That is just not Ulmer’s bag, here. And Stanwyck and Robinson are better actors than Tom Neal. Still, as you say, none of this really affects the stature of Ulmer’s vision.

    Some disagreements. The woman in DETOUR is not a femme fatale. She blackmails the hero, threatening him with the police. DETOUR is not a story of a man seduced by a woman into crime, unlike Wilder.
    Also, it is unclear if DETOUR is fatalistic or pessimistic. Tag Gallagher suggests the hero’s comments about fate are misleading, and that the film in fact condemns him for his choices, rather than “fate”. This is a complex issue.

    Much of the visual style of DETOUR has to do with the treatment of architecture, geometry, camera movement, and the visual creation of an artificial world in a studio. It is extremely rich in all such departments. I just don’t see this in Wilder. But then again, maybe I just understand Ulmer better than Wilder.

    Brian, thank you. I especially like Delany’s EMPIRE STAR and THE BALLAD OF BETA-2.

  • jean-pierre coursodon

    I am somewhat puzzled and upset by the “argument” discussed by dm at 3:59. How can a film be “rejected” (or dismissed, or found lacking, inferior, unsatisfactory…) because it is not as good as the “source material”? How can one “compare” a film with a novel, short story or stage play? Such comparaisons are meaningless — they just very subjectively mean: “the film doesn’t move/satisfy me the way the novel/story/play does” — which is unavoidable since they belong to different art forms and are experienced in totally different ways. As dm points out, such comparisons could lead one to reject a masterpiece like CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT because it’s “not as good” as the play –whereas both are good (great) in a thoroughly different manner. Ruiz’s riff on Proust is a masterpiece but has very little to do with the experience of reading LA RECHERCHE. Which is clearly not a valid reason to dismiss it.

  • Kent,
    My choice of words like “passion” is unfortunate. IE, just plain wrong. My apologies.

    What I’m trying to get at:
    When people say they “like” a film by Wyler or Huston, that is not clear enough, IMHO. It obscures key issues of quality. If they “like” THE ASPHALT JUNGLE, are they claiming it is as good as MINISTRY OF FEAR? MURDER IS MY BEAT? THE BIG COMBO? One of the better B-Westerns of Lesley Selander? Better than a monologue by Jack Black?

    I have a lot of problems with this. Lang, Lewis and Ulmer are all major visual stylists. As best as I can tell, Huston is not. He can be skilled with dramatic material, as shown by the best Huston films seen here, KEY LARGO and THE DEAD. But he still seems fairly minor overall.

    When people say they “like” Huston, are they claiming he is the equal of Lang? Are they saying he’s pleasant enough to watch, when the video store is all out of genuinely good filmmakers like Lang and Minnelli?

    I’m not trying to be a killjoy. There are times when we all want to see a good play, well-acted and no with no visual style.

  • Alex Hicks

    Mike,

    Which one or two of Ulmers films (preferably DVD-available)would you recommend someone who’s only seen “Detour” (four or five times with pleasure), “Black Cat” (several time with interest but a sense that it is portentious, musically overscored and generally overwraught) and “Tommorow we Live” (liked it, wouldnlt give it a second look)?

  • Kent Jones

    Just to knit everything together, the Godard short LE NOUVEAU MONDE is sort of “inspired,” shall we say, by STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND. It’s too bad Jonathan Rosenbaum isn’t taking part in this discussion, because he’s a great sci-fi reader, or was. He was a great admirer of Olaf Stapledon, for instance.

    Actually, to return to THE DEAD for a moment, I always thought that Ingrid Bergman’s memory of the “sensitive poet” in VOYAGE TO ITALY, inspired by the Joyce story, suggested a perfect way of doing the actual monologue.

  • Brian Dauth

    Michael: I just find queer theory to be a powerful interpretive tool when it comes to Mankiewicz’s work, especially with regard to issues of performativity. You do not have to be queer to use it. In fact, several eminent queer theorists are anything but queer when it comes to their own sexuality (JLM was both heterosexual in his private life and a great queer filmmaker in his artistic one). I also think that Deleuze offers some fine tools to approach JLM with.

    I think it comes down to a matter of what tools of aesthetic interpretation work best for each spectator. In another thread you asked about author’s intent, and a basic question is: can an author’s intent be known? From a Kantian standpoint, the question of authorial intent is the key question, and whatever aesthetic tools are developed should be done so in order to divine that very intent. Revisions of Kantian aesthetics by Hegel and then Adorno, while keeping a focus on the object, also ease up on the quest for authorial intent, questioning whether or not it can be ascertained with any degree of certainty. Or you can go for all the way with certain reader-response approaches that put the responsibility for meaning to a large degree on the spectator.

    I know you raise a concern about everyone’s interpretation being correct, but once you move outside a strict Kantian framework, there is no longer one correct interpretation, i.e., determining the author’s intent. However, I do not believe moving beyond Kant means that all interpretations are equal. I believe that the strongest, most valuable interpretations are the ones most thoroughly grounded in the art object. I may find the elements of JLM’s mise en scene to be expressive while someone else finds them dull, but so long as we both anchor our experiences in formal elements, then we both have strong interpretations. For example, when Eve is telling her story in Margo’s dressing room at the beginning of ALL ABOUT EVE, there is a shot of Margo, Karen, Lloyd, and Birdie staring at Eve as they wait for her to continue with her tale. It is shot that is stiff and formal in its composition and strikes me as expressive of how Eve is feeling at that moment: these four people are not only her audience, but her jurors whom she must convince if she is to achieve her goals. That is my interpretation. Another person may look at the same shot and see visual ungainliness. My interpretation may not be any more correct than the other person’s (though I think it is), but hopefully I can buttress it with further examples from both EVE and other Mankiewicz films.

    But if a person does not have a sense or experience of life as performative, my argument will not convince. In addition to the subjectivity of the spectator position a viewer adopts, there is the subjective nature of how they view the world as well as their own brain wiring (as I have posted before, I am fascinated by a study that indicates that music listened to as a teenager imprints specific “patterns” that makes people more amenable to new music they hear later on in life that echoes/mirrors/recalls these earlier imprints. Maybe something similar happens with movies in some way). If it turns out that we cannot determine one absolute, correct interpretation to be valued above all others, I think it is possible to distinguish between more valuable and less valuable interpretations.

  • Michael Worrall

    Brian wrote: “If it turns out that we cannot determine one absolute, correct interpretation to be valued above all others, I think it is possible to distinguish between more valuable and less valuable interpretations.”

    So why then do you insist on the recognition of various interpretations and “experience”? (Such as comparing the Dave Kehr experience to your husbands. Which is more valuable?) You seem to be contradicting what you wrote earlier: “We need interpretations to proliferate since each new interpretation represents the arrival of another understanding of how a film works, thereby increasing the robustness of its totality.”

    And how is one to discern which interpretation is more valuable without a system of evaluation? In your paragraph on Kant,Hegel, and Adorno you list several ways to approach the “object” but make no commitment to one. I think you are dancing around my questions and evading them with a plethora of descriptive words.

  • jean-pierre coursodon

    Mike, why do you want people to reject a film (or a director) just because it isn’t as good as another film by another director whom you consider better? What sin would I commit by “liking” THE ASPHALT JUNGLE while acknowledging that it may not be as good stylistically as MINISTRY OF FEAR? And as far as Lesley Selander is concerned, I don’t now any western of his that’s as good as ASPHALT JUNGLE, but of course I’m woefully incompetent to evaluate his filmography.

    Everybody is or should be free to like whatever they wish without running the risk of being labelled a hopeless ignoramus because they disregarded some basic tenets of the auteurist ideology.

  • Dave K

    In regards to “Carrie” vs. “Chimes at Midnight,” I would say that Wyler is offering a reductive gloss on the source material while Welles is offering a personal interpretation, and then some, just as Ruiz does with his Proust film. Instead of Dreiser’s ferocious naturalism, “Carrie” offers a handsome Hollywood period film with a light dusting of social themes. When you make a film from a well known book or play, you are actively inviting comparison with said well known book or play; otherwise, why are you making it in the first place? Reading Shakespeare enhances your appreciation of the Welles film; I would even say that seeing the Welles film has enhanced my appreciation of Shakespeare. The same is not true of Dreiser and Wyler. Sternberg pretty much betrays Dreiser in his version of “An American Tragedy” and the result is a great movie; Stevens struggles to be faithful to Dreiser in “A Place in the Sun” and ends up with something derivative and rather inert.

    We’re all talking past each other at this point, so I suggest moving on.

  • Alex,
    Please try looking for CARNEGIE HALL on DVD, TCM screenings of AMERICAN MATCHMAKER, MONSOON and JIVE JUNCTION, and sooner or later, MURDER IS MY BEAT has to emerge again – just a few years ago it kept showing up on TV.

    JPC – I’m happy for you (or anybody) to like ASPHALT JUNGLE more than MINISTRY OF FEAR, as much as MINISTRY OF FEAR, or much less than MOF. I get uncomfortable with assertions that we should put Huston in the canon – and then don’t spell out where or at what level or what criteria we should use for ranking filmmakers.

    And I will move on!

  • Alex Hicks

    Mike,

    I also like ASPHALT JUNGLE more than MINISTRY OF FEAR –but not more than MAN HUNT!

    Thanks for the tips.

    Alex

  • jean-pierre coursodon

    So by all means let’s do, Dave. Seen any good movie lately?

  • jean-pierre coursodon

    Mike: before moving on: why worry so much about “the canon” and why is it so important to “rank” filmmakers?

  • Jean-Pierre,
    Currently we are drowning in recommendations for independent and foreign art films and TV shows, that don’t seem to have good storytelling, characterization, visual style, political insight, or any other traditional virtue. These tend to be serious dramas about dysfunctional families, failed romances, young slackers, religious fanatics, child molesters, drug dealers and other hot topics on the realist art film circuit. Then there are all the minimalist dramas in which nothing happens at all.

    Manohla Dargis was just denounced for the “sin” of (gasp!) not automatically writing a positive review of every independent serious drama made.

    It all gets to be a bit much.
    I keep reading reviews of “masterpieces”. Are these films as good as Mizoguchi? Usually they are not as well made as Burt Topper!

  • Michael Dempsey

    What “Detour” demonstrates is not the omnipresence of a blind fate that reduces all human beings to puppets, either lucky or unlucky, but the interplay of human responsibility, limited yet genuine and inescapable, with everything in existence that even the most powerful and well-connected individuals, let alone a bottom feeder like Al Roberts (Tom Neal) cannot control.

    Fate is indeed blind as well as indifferent to humanity, just as the film portrays it, and Al can’t escape what it arbitrarily decides (if decision-making is even involved) to throw at him. But neither can he evade his own responsibility for how he deals with it.

    The success of “Detour” lies in how Edgar G. Ulmer and writer Martin Goldsmith are able to keep both of these elements in tension all the way to the end. What the film shows is that, as harshly as fate does deal with him, Al also consistently and almost voluptuously wallows in the notion that fate is the sole author of his doom.

    Accepting no responsibility for what happens to him, Al is a narrator who tells a measure of the truth, perhaps as much of it as he can perceive, but is no closer to complete reliability than anyone else.

    The dire images that accompany his words often confirm what he says, but they just as often qualify or undercut it. In the end, this quality is what makes the film’s pulpy darkness resonant, which would not be the case if it simplistically blamed everything on a dire destiny that makes human beings mere pawns.

  • jean-pierre coursodon

    Well Mike, personally I am happy to say that I am not drowning in any recommendations of any kind.

    I have a feeling that you live in the past and are very reluctant to accept anything new. This is quite normal when one gets older (which I assume you are), I live in the past too, although perhaps not to the extent that you do. I sympathize with your missing the qualities you associate with good filmmaking but I think you should be a little more open to what is going on now — not everything is trash as you seem to believe.

    I have known older people who only liked silent films, then others, perhaps a little less old, who only liked thirties movies, then others a bit younger still who thought cinema ended with the New Wave etc… Let’s not follow the same path.

  • dm494

    Kent, I was mistaken about Kael’s take on FAT CITY, which is more split than outright negative: “…this John Huston movie about boxing is almost a really memorable movie, but it suffers from a central piece of miscasting [i.e., Stacy Keach]. The film is beautifully acted and directed around the edges, but it also suffers from a tragic tone that has a blurring, antiquing effect…[The characters’] losing appears to be a plot necessity for the sake of a faded idea of classical structure…”

    I love Anjelica Huston in THE DEAD, though I think her best performances are later, in THE GRIFTERS and MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY; and I can understand your perspective on her highly emotional rendering of that scene. Actually, that’s something I love about literary adaptations–being able to assess the actors’ interpretations for their fidelity to the characters of the text.

    Mike, on this issue of “visual” cinema, it’s important to keep in mind that some directors have a very different approach to film. I love these Bazin quotes about Wyler:

    “…for Welles, depth of field is in itself an aesthetic end; for Wyler, depth of field is subject to the dramatic demands of the mise en scene, and in particular to the clarity of the narrative.”

    and:

    “[Wyler’s] only concern is to make the viewer understand the action as precisely as possible.”

  • Kent Jones

    I am in complete agreement with Jean-Pierre.

    Mike, I just do not recognize the landscape of current cinema from around the world as you describe it. Maybe you get a paltry selection of new foreign movies where you live, and it is true that film distribution is in a state of crisis. But the past always looks better than the present. Beyond that, I really don’t understand why I should have to decide whether liking John Huston means that I like him as much as or more or less than Fritz Lang. Isn’t it a good thing that we don’t always have to choose?

    Dave’s right – time to move on.

    I’ve seen one good movie (VICKI CRISTINA BARCELONA), one lousy one (THE READER) and one extremely wrong-headed adaptation of a powerful novel (REVOLUTIONARY ROAD). Note that someone commits suicide at the end of both movies. Just in time for the holidays. For me, the best movie on the immediate horizon is BENJAMIN BUTTON, but my friend Gavin Smith tells me that VALKYRIE is very exciting.

    Alex, you might give RUTHLESS a look. If you can get your hands on it.

  • Alex Hicks

    Saw “Ruthless,” I now recal, at Wiscomsin in the 70s. Though it was okay.

    “Grand Torino” is high on my advent calendar.

  • James L. Neibaur

    As someone who is also looking forward to seeing Gran Torino (and who was also at Wisconsin in the late 70s), I am going to be the one to generally agree with Mike Grost. Pardon the awkward comparison, but I think of contemporary film the same way I think of current rock and roll. Sure, there is great stuff out there, but one has to look a lot harder for it, and we can’t expect to find another Beatles.

  • Whoa!

    There are a lot of terrific new films out there.
    My claim: they are harder to find, at least in my own country, because of the relentless focus on serious drama. Many people want to turn film culture into one big Sam Mendes film festival.

    Definitely – time to move on.

  • Alex Hicks

    Mike,

    Just saw Lang’s “Cloak and Dagger” for first time with great pleasure– perhaps up there with “Hangmen also Die,” and even “Ministry of Fear” if not “Man Hunt.” Great set pieces — Cooper’s mortal struggle in an a doorway just beyond bustling street life and street music; final reversal on Casablanca’s finale, in which Lili Palmer stays behind for the good fight; Cooper smooching with Palme in most immediate love scenes I recall from Lang.

    (By the way I don’t think there’s any lack of enthusiasm at this site for Lang, though there MIGHT be such for Ulmer — Lang’s greatness goes, I think, without saying, and is irrelevant to the defenses of the Huston-Mankiewicz-Wilder-Wyler literati Cabal.)

    Oooops! Time to move on!

  • Miguel Marías

    Of course, I agree we should change a bit and talk about some new or fairly recet movies. There are not many that are very good, but there are some, and they should not be missed, whether they are “standard” or not (I think that nowadays, if the’re really good, they cannot be too “average”). I’ve liked a lot (surprisingly) “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” (let’s realize Allen is an old man and a veteran filmmaker) and “Changeling”. And more yet Garrel’s “La Frontière de l’aube” and Eastwood’s “Gran Torino”.
    Miguel Marías

  • Kent Jones

    LA FRONTIERE DE L’AUBE is a startling film, really beautiful. It had a terrible press screening in Cannes.

  • jbryant

    I, too, liked Gran Torino, and Changeling before it. And I rather loved Cadillac Records – Darnell Martin really knows how to convey the sensuality of that music on screen, and the cast is great. Beyonce hasn’t shown much acting ability before this, so Martin probably deserves a lot of credit for her surprisingly effective performance.

  • Kent Jones

    Miguel, I’m curious to know your thoughts on the Woody Allen movie. Many of my British friends were appalled by MATCH POINT, which I liked when I saw it, although I don’t think I need to see it ever again. They also hated ESTHER KAHN, a movie I liked then and like even more now.

  • James L. Neibaur

    Re/Cadillac Records — Beyonce did a very good job of capturing the passion of Etta James. Jeffrey Wright also did a fair job with Muddy Waters. But Mos Def didn’t seem to capture Chuck Berry well at all, which surprised me because Def is a successful singer and actor. Berry is probably difficult to imitate. The movie was an interesing, albeit inaccurate, look at Leonard Chess and the early blues and R&B he championed.

  • Miguel Marías

    Kent, you mean as a Spaniard? I couldn’t care less. After all, his postcard Barceloa (with Andalusian guitar over it) is merely a conventional backdrop much as the Paris of a thousand American films from the silents onward; in fact, you get to see more of the real Oviedo available to tourists than of Barcelona. And I find his movie, more than a tribute to “Jules et Jim” as some people think, a tribute to Lubitsch’s “Design for Living”. I found quite uninteresting and unoriginal (“Room at the Top”-ish) “Match Point”, fun but no more “Scoop” and very good (in a strangely Losey-like way) “Cassandra’s Dream”, but for me “VCB” is his best film in recent years, filmed with a wise old master “easiness”, precision, sureness (if that may be said) and fluidity that belongs with Allen’s age and filmmaking experience. I’m again eager for his next movie. And I find the acting very good (and Rebecca Hall quite a revelation). “Esther Kahn” I loved and continue to love after many viewings. But then, maybe I do not have patriotic feelings at all, personally I don’t much mind national misrepresentation (available as well to Spaniards as to foreigners, who, on the other hand, have sometimes portrayed us better than most natives, like Malraux in “Sierra de Teruel/Espoir”, to name only one), I don’t feel offended even if some people have a surrealistic view of us, a mixture of cruel bull-murderers and never-sleeping festive crowd.
    Miguel Marías

  • Margaret B-F

    I hope you’ll excuse the silly question, but does the Woody Allen statue make an appearance in VCB? I let that film pass by, but your reviews make me want to see it.

  • dm494

    The only recent film I’ve seen is RACHEL GETTING MARRIED, which was very disappointing. Demme gave an interesting interview about his and Declan Quinn’s shooting practices on that film, but the movie really just looked like “actor’s cinema” with intensified continuity: heavily emoting performers being shot in close-up, and lots and lots of fast cutting around. Andrew Sarris’s review strikes me as accurate, although I’m not as enthusiastic about Debra Winger as he is.

    Kent, MATCH POINT, which impressed me when I saw it in theaters, completely disintegrates on a second viewing because the movie is all in the plotting; once you know the story, the suspense mechanics can’t do their job on you, and there’s nothing else to respond to.

    Is this Rebecca Hall whom Miguel mentions Peter Hall’s daughter?

  • Kent Jones

    Thanks Miguel. Yes, I meant “as a Spaniard.” I know what you mean about DESIGN FOR LIVING, but the film reminded me of Rohmer, particularly the Comedies and Proverbs.

    dm, I think he was going after a certain dry lightness in MATCH POINT. He’s always been an admirer of SENTIMENTAL EDUCATION, and I think he wanted to find that distance. My problem with the film is the same problem I have with CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS: the lure of wealth vs. the lure of sexual gratification, whose object becomes a nuisance and is done away with, the idea of literally getting away with murder. Like a lot in his work, it seems cultivated rather than felt.

    Not to be unkind, and it may just be me, but I thought RACHEL GETTING MARRIED was unfathomably awful. What an idea, to make a Dogme 95 movie in 2008! I liked Anne Hathaway and Debra Winger, but Bill Irwin gives what must be the worst performance of the year. The effort to jam everything together into muticultural harmony was painful to me – I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen such a willfully carnivalesque and “celebratory” film. And I’m equally unsure of what I disliked more – the impromptu dishwasher-loading contest, the endless heartfelt toasts at the rehearsal dinner, or the recitation of the Neil Young lyrics at the Indian-themed wedding. The kind of movie that gives political correctness a bad name.

  • Dave K

    Kent, you mean like the “dry lightness” of Jonathan Rhys Meyers blowing Scarlett Johansson’s face off with a shotgun? Most of Allen’s late work has a pathological feel to it: a desire for young women coupled with a mysterious need to humiliate if not actually destroy them. But I haven’t seen “Vicky” yet.

  • Kent Jones

    I mean the distance he tries to get from the action. Not “light” as in “light-hearted,” but as in attempting to gaze down serenely at all the horrible stuff going on among the human species. He’s an odd guy.

  • Brian Dauth

    I saw GRAN TORINO and it felt like Eastwood’s THE TEMPEST (I always thought that A PERFECT WORLD was his KING LEAR). CHANGELING I liked as well.

    I also liked VICKY CHRISTINA BARCELONA. Dave is right about the pathological feel with regard to MATCH POINT. Allen seems intent on acting as a counterweight to all those heterosexual-male-as-lovable-doofus movies that are being churned out, and showing the pathological side of the heterosexual male social identity. Having been attacked professionally, verbally, and physically over the years, I find it refreshing that a non-gay director is willing to blow the whistle on his own kind.

    That said, Allen’s work is somewhat hobbled (for me) by his own sense of fatalism; he does not see any way out of the social system he delineates. Eastwood provides hope — sometimes not much — but there is a sense in his movies that human autonomy still has a role to play in life.

  • Miguel Marías

    Yes, I found the ending of “Match Point” terrible in conception, execution and meaning, apart from quite improbable. It is true his “European” (mainly British so far) films are incredibly pessimistic, even more lightheartedly in “Scoope”: every character is stupid, evil or (often) both; so maybe “VCB” indicates a more “reconciliated” or tolerant view of people and the world. And they are regarded with more understanding than condescension or contempt. Yes, I could also find a slighly “Rohmerian” tone in “VCB” (perhaps because it deals with different geometrical figures inside of a quintet of characters).
    Migel Marías

  • jbryant

    James: I thought Mos Def did capture the essence of the young Chuck Berry, except in the musical performances, which I realize is a pretty big “except.” His singing voice wasn’t a particularly good match, and I don’t we ever got a full shot of the duckwalk, which makes me wonder if perhaps Mos simply couldn’t execute the move very well.

  • dm494

    Kent, I know what you mean. Demme’s become a heavy-handedly sincere filmmaker, and it’s irritatingly false how people of different races, cultures, and sexual persuasions get along so perfectly in his visions of multicultural harmony. I keep hoping the old Demme, the Demme who celebrated diversity without such cloying earnestness, will make a reappearance in a fiction movie (he turns up now and then in his music films); but realistically I don’t think that filmmaker is coming back.

    That said, I do hope CITIZEN’S BAND gets a DVD release soon. It’s a film I’ve been waiting to revisit.

  • Kent Jones

    dm, this may be an unpopular sentiment but I think Demme took a wrong turn with SOMETHING WILD. I know that’s supposed to be a great movie, and there’s a lot that’s likeable in it, but I never believed it. That’s when he appointed himself the poet laureate of the downtown art world-avant garde theater-music world, and where the multiculturalism started to take over. THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS is pretty good if overheated, and there’s a lot that’s good in PHILADELPHIA, but I think his best work since then has been in music – his Neil Young movie was a knockout. His early movies are wonderful, and his cut of SWING SHIFT is every bit as great as Pauline Kael said it was.

    Merry Christmas to everyone who celebrates it.

  • dm494

    Wow, Kent, that’s a pretty harsh assessment of Demme (and a fairly unorthodox one as well), and I can’t say that I agree. Claims for the greatness of SOMETHING WILD left me puzzled until I revisited the movie two summers ago, when it floored me: it’s a terrific film, and one that’s uncannily accurate about the experience of getting in over your head with dangerous people. As for the notion that it marks Demme’s self-appointment as the “poet laureate of the downtown art world-avant garde theater-music world,” the claim is very debatable and I’d be more inclined to locate that beginning in STOP MAKING SENSE, which looks like the initial entry in a stylistic trilogy that also includes SOMETHING WILD and MARRIED TO THE MOB. Besides, I think you overlook the continuity of those films with Demme’s earlier work; the celebratory interest in America as a cultural (if not racial) melting pot and preserve of eccentricity is clear in CITIZEN’S BAND and MELVIN AND HOWARD, and the love of driving, American tackiness, and plucky, spirited women in CRAZY MAMA points to that film as a dry run for SOMETHING WILD. And on the subject of Demme’s multiculturalism, don’t you think that his work after THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS expresses that perspective in a way that’s vastly different from the attitudes of his 80s films? PHILADELPHIA seems like the offering of someone who wants to save the world through movies; SOMETHING WILD has other things on its mind.

  • Kent Jones

    dm, all I can say is that I respectfully disagree. Happy Holidays.

  • Alex Hicks

    STOP MAKING SENSE and SOMETHING WILD are only two Demme films that strile me as masterpieces, theough MELVIN AND HOWARD is very good. SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, on the other hand, has always struck me a ruinously homophobic as well otherwise a bit too cynically misanthropic. (And I’m a bit of a CRUISUNG fan, but when a monsrous villain is pitched as a gay stereotype (even a mere pop image of one like the killer in DIRTY HARRY) that turns me off. Off cour,se SILENSE has great elements (e.g., action sequences, performances that, perhaps triggers a negative aethetic judgment for me. Also, for great elements, I prefer HANNIBAL –great while in Florence. * abd crippled by deletion of the book’s amazingly clever, but nastily sexist, ending in which in a final shot at the operra in Buenos Aires, Clarice is discovered to be Hannibal’s adoring wife).Demme’s recent RACHEL film strikesw ma as a pretty good comeback after the very thin Cxharms of the “Charade” and the utter vapidity and anti-Bush overkill of THE MANCHUREAN CANDIDATE.

  • Miguel Marías

    Alex, a belated suggestion to your question about Ulmer some ten days ago which look like a long time: of the 40 or so Ulmer films I’ve managed to see, I’d first of all reccommend watching “The Naked Dawn”. And, apart from the already mentioned/seen “Detour”, “Murder Is My Beat” and “The Blackk Cat”, I’d counsel “Strange Illusion”, “Bluebeard”, “I pirati di Capri” (there is a great DVD of this in the US), and “The Strange Woman”. There are others not so good, but pretty interesting, and also a lot of uneven, extremely poor or boresome films: there’s usually a good scene, at leat a good idea, but many are truly impossible and very disappointing. And I don’t think the magnificent “Mennschen im Sontag” (co-directed by Robert Siodmak) can be considered as typically “Ulmerian”.
    Miguel Marías