Films of 2021:Q1

Here’s what I saw over the past three months:

Newer Films:

Our Time (Mexico) 3.8 Carlos Reygadas is probably the least famous of the four directors in Mexico’s “new wave”, but in my view he’s the best. Each of his films seems to have at least one jaw dropping sequence, and this is no exception. The cinematography is excellent, and is best seen in either the theatre or on a really good TV. The second half of this three-hour film is often extremely dark—I had to eliminate all ambient light. You’ll never see a more beautiful airplane landing sequence than the 6 minutes that begin around the 1:54 mark. Some critics didn’t like the film, but I think they confused the views of the characters with the views of the director. It’s not an upbeat movie with easy answers to life’s struggles.

The White Tiger (India) 3.6 A poor man’s Parasite. Cinematic comfort food packed with lots of visual information (India’s messy congestion in 4k images) and lots of social science and psychology. A mile wide and an inch deep, but pretty entertaining. One of those films where you say to yourself, “pretty good, but probably the best film this director will ever make.”

Made You Look (US) 3.5 I’m a sucker for documentaries about art forgers.

The Booksellers (US) 3.2 Back when I lived in Boston I used to go to antiquarian book shows once a year. This brought back fond memories.

Nomadland (US) 3.2 Somewhat sentimental, but there are some nice bits here and there. I wish it had done a better job of portraying why people enjoy the nomadic lifestyle. Perhaps the film would be of more interest to people who have only lived in big cities, and for which this sort of life seems exotic.

The Trip to Greece (UK) 3.1 The 4th (and last?) in the series. I sort of enjoyed it, but I’d say it’s strictly for boomers. Younger viewers will be bored by the lame boomer humor.

The Widowed Witch (China) 2.9 I didn’t particularly enjoy this film, but it was clearly made by a director with promise.

Older Films:

L’Avventura (Italy, 1960) 4.0 Not necessarily the “best”, but perhaps the most representative of all European art film. It gets better with each viewing. What a way to kick off the 1960s.

2046 (Hong Kong, 2004) 3.9 Perhaps the coolest looking film ever made, although the version I saw on Amazon didn’t seem to be in hi-def. In my mind, I always link this with Three Times, a film that came out exactly one year later. Both involved nostalgia for the 1960s, both featured a song by Nat King Cole, and both represented the end of an era for each director. And both films were drop dead gorgeous.

The Bad Sleep Well (Japan, 1960, CC) 3.9 The first time I’d seen this Kurosawa film, and I’d say it’s his most underrated effort. Loosely based on Hamlet, but you’ll be disappointed if you expect another Throne of Blood. Rather than Shakespeare, expect a great film noir—one of the best ever. I didn’t even recognize that Toshiro Mifune was the star. Released in the same year as Psycho, L’Avventura, The Apartment, Peeping Tom, Breathless, La Dolce Vita, When a Woman Ascends the Stairs, Late Autumn, The Naked Island and lots more. That’s almost a masterpiece a month. And what did 2020 bring us? Tenet. LOL.

Psycho (US, 1960) 3.9 Seeing this again I noticed the connection to both Touch of Evil (1958) and Dr. Strangelove (1964), three black and white films made in the color era, by arguably the three greatest film directors of all time, at least in the English language. (One consensus rating by critics puts all three of these films in the top 50 of all time, and three other films by these three directors are in the top three spots overall.) They must have each recognized that they were working at another level from other American directors, and pushed each other to ever-greater heights.

Local Hero (UK, 1983, CC) 3.9 Bill Forsyth’s masterpiece. Most people wouldn’t rate this quite so high, but I love everything about the film. It has echoes of I Know Where I’m Going, and lots of the sort of random whimsical humor you get in other Forsyth films. Third time I’ve seen it, and it holds up very well.

Shanghai Express (US, 1932, CC) 3.9 “It took more than one man to change my name to Shanghai Lily.” My favorite Marlene Dietrich film, which means one of my favorite films period. Sternberg provides some gorgeous scenes, including one of the all-time great images of any Hollywood film. Third time I’d seen this one and it gets better with age.

Miller’s Crossing (US, 1990) 3.9 I had not seen this Coen brothers film since it came out, and 31 years later it seems even better than the first time around. A near perfect film. Fine acting, excellent screenplay, good music, and some spectacular set pieces.

My Man Godfrey (US, 1936) 3.8 A delightful screwball comedy.

Vengeance is Mine (Japan, 1979, CC) 3.8 An engrossing Imamura film about a serial killer. The murders look like real life, not movie murders.

The Day After (Korea, 2017) 3.8 This is the first Hong Sang-soo film that fully put me under its spell. The reviews were not that great, but I loved it. I don’t know of any director that treats his audience with more respect. Min-hee Kim is so appealing she almost doesn’t seem human.

Early Spring (Japan, 1956, CC) 3.8 There are few things in life that give me more pleasure than watching films directed by Ozu, even when (as in this case) I can’t figure out why. Like the novelist Murakami, he casts a spell over his audience. But it’s hard to see how he does it.

Late Autumn (Japan, 1960, CC) 3.8 A very characteristic Ozu film, this one in color.

Foreign Correspondent (US, 1940, CC) 3.8 An underrated Hitchcock film, containing one of cinema’s great visual puns (when Joel McCrea grabs onto a neon hotel sign.)

The Killing (US, 1956, CC) 3.8 An almost perfect noir. The only thing that keeps it from rating 4.0 is that it’s less ambitious than some of Kubrick’s later films.

Paths of Glory (US, 1957, CC) 3.7 Prior to 1964 Kubrick made some very fine films. But in each case they were films that one could imagine being made by a different director. As good as they were, his reputation entirely rests on his final 7 films.

Arsenic and Old Lace (US, 1944, CC) 3.7 A classic screwball comedy, directed by Capra. Mental illness, mass murder, and lots of other really funny stuff. With Peter Lorre at his obsequious best.

The Cranes Are Flying (Soviet Union, 1957, CC) 3.7 The first major film of the post-Stalin liberalization. Lots of beautiful cinematography, innovative for its time.

Street Without End (Japan, 1934, CC) 3.6 Naruse’s final silent film builds to a powerful climax.

Pierrot le Fou (France, 1965, CC) 3.6 Most people will wonder why I give this a good review, while film buffs will wonder why I didn’t give it 4.0. I am dazzled by Godard’s brilliant style, but his films don’t connect with me in the way that something like Chungking Express does (a film heavily influenced by Godard.) Anna Karina is reason enough to watch.

Pale Flower (Japan, 1964, CC) 3.6 A very cool yakuza noir. I’d describe this film as “mid-century modern”. It was made at a very distinctive moment in time—the mid-1960s—and it shows. Do we still have those moments? Maybe I’m too old to see them. For me, 2021 doesn’t seem much different from 1995.

A New Leaf (US, 1971, CC) 3.6 Seems a bit dated, but a quite charming film. Elaine May did a great job.

The Adjuster (Canada, 1991, CC) 3.6 This is one of Egoyan’s most entertaining films. Almost every scene is skillfully directed, and there’s lots of subtle humor.

Badlands (US, 1973, CC) 3.5 I didn’t like this film quite as much as when it first came out. As with Taxi Driver, it doesn’t seem quite as impressive now that some the stylistic innovations have been adopted by other directors. I’m surprised this is rated so highly by critics (#136 on the TSPDT list.) Maybe people romanticized criminals a bit more back in the nihilistic 1970s. My favorite part was seeing Martin Sheen drive his 1959 Cadillac off road, right across the western plains of South Dakota and Montana. Is there any better image of complete freedom?

Picnic at Hanging Rock (Australia, 1975, CC) 3.5 I re-watched this the day after I saw L’Avventura, and my initial reaction was disappointment. The films have similar plot elements, but the Antonioni film is far better. Nonetheless, as the film went along I grew to appreciate it in its own terms.

Saint Jack (1979) 3.5 Peter Bognanovich directed this Paul Theroux novel. Ben Gazzara is very good in the starring role, and Denholm Elliot gives a haunting performance—much better than the showy acting that typically wins awards. Singapore has changed a lot in 50 years (the movie takes place in 1971.)

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (US, 1976) 3.5 This John Cassavetes film also stars Ben Gazzara. It holds up very well after 45 years.

Imitation of Life (US, 1934, CC) 3.5 This film undoubtedly promoted better race relations during the 1930s, and yet today would be viewed as quite racist, at least by woke people. Fredi Washington played the light skinned black woman, and it was the only significant role in her career. Hollywood considered her too light for black roles, and in 1934 no white star would be allowed to kiss a black actress, even if she had relatively light skin. Thus she was only allowed to play a black passing as a white person. Oh, and it’s a tearjerker.

The Red Circle (France, 1970, CC) 3.5 Melville films with Alain Delon remind me a bit of early Clint Eastwood—not a lot of talking. The focus on details is a bit like Bresson films. He’s a very competent director that produces cool looking films that don’t quite rise to the level of being great art, but occasionally come close.

The Talk of the Town (US, 1942, CC) 3.5 A screwball comedy with Cary Grant, Jean Arthur and a bit more politics than usual.

Never Let Go (UK, 1960, CC) 3.5 Peter Sellers plays a mobster, which isn’t really his forte. But there’s a lot to enjoy in this British noir.

Eye on Istanbul (Turkey, 2016) 3.4 Documentary on Turkey’s greatest photographer.

Knight of Cups (US, 2014) 3.4 Watch this before you go to bed. You won’t enjoy the film, but you will have vivid dreams. And isn’t that the whole point of life?

Death Watch (France/Scotland, 1980, CC) 3.4 Interesting French film (with American actors) that I’d never heard of before. The real star here is Glasgow’s morbid architecture. More intelligent than the usual sci-fi film.

Xiao Wu (China, 1997, CC) 3.4 Jia Zhangke’s first film, made with a low budget and without any professional actors. It impressed Scorcese, which makes sense given that it has a bit of the feel of Taxi Driver.

The Steamroller and the Violin (Russia, 1961, CC) 3.4 People talk about how good Tarkovsky was right out of the gate with Ivan’s Childhood, but even this 45 minute student film was pretty impressive. It already features some Tarkovsky trademarks, like water dripping from a ceiling into a puddle.

Dishonored (US, 1931, CC) 3.4 Directed by Josef von Sternberg and starring Marlene Dietrich. Their pictures are always worth watching.

A Canterbury Tale (UK, 1944, CC) 3.4 The director (Michael Powell) surprises the viewer by failing to surprise the viewer, at least in the sort of way you’d expect in a mystery. A very laid back film, which is almost documentary-like in places. I suppose the lack of suspense was welcomed by audiences in 1944; their lives already had plenty of drama.

Only Two Can Play (UK, 1962, CC) 3.3 Peter Sellers is the reason to see this amusing British film.

Croupier (UK, 1995) 3.3 An entertaining way to learn a bit about the casino industry. Clive Owens looks the part.

Night and Day (Korea, 2008) 3.3 This Hong Sang-soo film is too long. It’s often amusing, but not as creative as some of his other films.

Apart From You (Japan, 1933, CC) 3.3 Another silent film by Naruse, this one only an hour long.

Barbarella (Italy/France, 1968, CC) 3.1 The world could only be 1968 once. Of course this is a bad film, but it would have been a wonderful film for teenage boys in 1968, and today for grown-ups it’s a fascinating look at 1968 style. That makes it a sort of camp classic. Perhaps Jane Fonda’s finest performance?

The Last Metro (France, 1980, CC) 3.1 This Truffaut film is well made but disappointingly bland. I don’t quite see what the director was trying to do.

A Genuine Forger (French, 2016) 3.1 For me, the most interesting part of the film was watching the forger (Guy Ribes) paint in the style of Picasso, Matisse, Leger, etc.

Mother Goose (US, 1964, CC) 3.1 Cary Grant’s final film.

Operation Petticoat. (US, 1959, CC) 3.0 Tony Curtis plays someone with a style that today might be seen as gay, but in a non-gay role. Of course gays didn’t exist in 1959 (at least not officially).

To The Wonder (US, 2012) 3.0 It’s hard to rate this Malick film, as it’s one of those movies that’s clearly made by a master, but doesn’t quite come alive. (Think of it as 4.0 on visuals and 2.0 on content.) It didn’t quite work for me, but I can see how others might fall under the spell. As usual, there is gorgeous cinematography.

Make Way For Tomorrow (US, 1937, CC) 3.0 When Leo McCarey won best director for The Awful Truth in 1937, he said they gave him the award for the wrong picture. Today, it’s obvious they got it right. In general, comedies from the 1930s hold up much better than dramatic films.

A Place in the Sun (US, 1951) 3.0 Is it wrong for us to root for Montgomery Clift to drown Shelley Winters? If Liz Taylor had looked at YOU with those eyes, would you do it?

49th Parallel (UK, 1941, CC) 3.0 This is one of Michael Powell’s weakest efforts, but it’s kind of interesting as a sort of quasi-documentary on Canada in 1940. Lawrence Olivier is pretty bad in a supporting role; Leslie Howard is somewhat better.

Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (US, 1948, CC) 2.9 This Cary Grant/Myrna Low comedy is a bit too bland. Grant plays a NYC ad executive who sends his daughters to a private school where they are indoctrinated in woke theories that our capitalistic system exploits the downtrodden. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (US, 1947, CC) 2.8 Cary Grant (sort of) dates a high school girl. A more innocent time.

The Hill of No Return (Taiwan, 1991) 2.8 Almost 3 hours of non-stop suffering in 1920s Taiwan.

Ministry of Fear (UK, 1943, CC) 2.8 A subpar Fritz Lang film, with a complicated and sort of pointless plot involving Nazi spies in Britain during the war.

The Getaway (US, 1972) 2.8 The film has not aged well. Sam Peckinpah’s style has been copied, and thus doesn’t seem at all distinctive today. And there’s not much more to the film, which features some horrendous acting by Ali McGraw. I did enjoy being reminded what the world looked like when I was 17. You could drive right into Mexico, and when you checked into a hotel you gave them a $5 deposit, no credit cards. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a 1972 house with orange shag carpeting.

Save the Green Planet! (Korea, 2003, CC) 2.6 Nice opening and ending, but the film is too long and it’s a hard slog through the (violent) middle sections.

Barefoot in the Park (US, 1967, CC) 2.6 Perhaps of slight historical interest due to its portrayal of NYC bohemians circa 1967, which must have already seemed quite dated by 1969. Jane Fonda is fine, while Robert Redford is simply not a very good actor. And based on this film, Neil Simon just doesn’t seem all that funny.

The Touch of Mink (US, 1962, CC) 2.6 Cary Grant, Doris Day, and some jokes about gay marriage. It’s amusing to think about how each generation tries to create a certain type of world, and their efforts are always sabotaged by the next.

The Morning After (US, 1986, CC) 2.2 Jane Fonda is annoying and Jeff Bridges is wasted. A bad screenplay and an unconvincing story.

The Wicker Man (UK, 1973, CC) 2.0 In most cases when someone refers to something as a cult classic it just means it’s a bad film. There are a couple scenes of interest, but don’t waste your time.

In terms of reading, I was blown away by several books by Arthur Schopenauer, including his magnum opus Will and Representation (which suggests that happiness is impossible), and his self-help book on how to be happy. I’ve also been reading Turgenev and Chekhov.



41 Responses to “Films of 2021:Q1”

  1. Gravatar of Market Fiscalist Market Fiscalist
    4. April 2021 at 14:36

    A great list – thanks for posting.

    I see you make good use of your Criterion subscription!

  2. Gravatar of Hugh D’Andrade Hugh D’Andrade
    4. April 2021 at 18:16

    How do you find the time?

  3. Gravatar of sd0000 sd0000
    4. April 2021 at 20:22

    Scott – do you have anywhere where you’ve consolidated your reviews? I’ve watched a few of your recommendations in the past and have liked them a lot (Wild Goose Lake most recently).

  4. Gravatar of Gene Frenkle Gene Frenkle
    4. April 2021 at 20:42

    I’ve actually walked across both borders multiple times in the last several years. Up until February of 2020 getting into Mexico was very easy at secondary entry points—you could just park your car near the border crossing and walk across and you didn’t have to show anything. Getting back was easy as long as it didn’t coincide with the Easter holidays or some other big Mexican holiday. Crossing the Canadian border required passport checks on both sides and a little questioning on both sides…they asked me if I had any guns which I guess is how Americans are stereotyped. I never experienced any wait on either side.

    Mel Brooks told a story of how he met Cary Grant early on his career on Bill Maher…apparently Grant was very boring.

  5. Gravatar of foosion foosion
    5. April 2021 at 01:49

    What other documentaries about art forgers have you liked?

    Thanks for posting.

  6. Gravatar of David S David S
    5. April 2021 at 03:26

    Local Hero is fantastic—and it’s the only Forsyth movie I’ve seen. Should I try his others?

    Have you seen High and Low by Kurosawa? Maybe it was on a prior list (I hope)

  7. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    5. April 2021 at 05:43

    Hugh, I watch one film a day, in the evening.

    sd0000, No. I have a long review of films of the 2000s, posted in early 2010. Then one a year for a decade, then one every quarter more recently.

    Foosion, F is for Fake is the best, considered as a film. Last year I reviewed a film about a Canadian art forger.

    David, I think they are all worth watching. Comfort and Joy might be the second best.

  8. Gravatar of Dean Moriarty Dean Moriarty
    5. April 2021 at 05:55

    Really enjoy your film reviews. I’m sure you have previously addressed this, but where do you source most of them? Direct DVD purchases, library, Criterion Channel, other streaming channels, or combination of all the above? Even when I was living in the US it was harder and harder to find many of these titles without outright purchase.

  9. Gravatar of Ted Craig Ted Craig
    5. April 2021 at 08:51

    I agree on “Barefoot,” but I don’t know that I would dismiss Simon entirely based on this one.

    “comfort and Joy” is kind of hard to find. “Housekeeping “ is more easily available.

    “8 Million Ways to Die” is the better alcoholic thriller starring Jeff Bridges.

  10. Gravatar of Dzhaughn Dzhaughn
    5. April 2021 at 08:59

    Always a pleasure.

    I’m surprised, since you are someone who enjoys film noir, you haven’t mentioned any films by Petzold. Phoenix is my favorite. Barbara I like very much for different reasons. Haven’t seen Undine.

  11. Gravatar of Ilya Ilya
    5. April 2021 at 09:27

    When you watch such films, are you experiencing the film and analyzing it at the same time, or do you focus entirely on the former and analyze it afterward? I find that if I am “thinking about the film” while watching it, then it ruins the experience.

  12. Gravatar of Alan Goldhammer Alan Goldhammer
    5. April 2021 at 09:51

    For me L’Avventura is the best of all Antonioni’s films. I recently watched Red Desert (saw it way back in 1965) and it’s still not very good. I disagree with you about Kubrick. His later films were really not good and to me he peaked with Dr. Stangelove. I do like Paths of Glory very much. Best Jane Fonda movie is Klute followed by 9 to 5; she was brainwashed by Vadim in Barbarella.

  13. Gravatar of ricardo ricardo
    5. April 2021 at 09:53

    Re Reygadas: I saw Japon ages ago and have been saving the others up for watching in a cinema (probably futile). Are they as good as Japon?

    Glad you liked Miller’s Crossing. My favourite Coen bros film.

    I am a fan of the Wicker Man though. Maybe you have to be 13 years old and watching on late-night BBC for it to have the full effect.

    I’d also defend Badlands. You’re right about its effect being diluted by imitation. Reygadas is in fact mentioned briefly in this (video at end):

  14. Gravatar of Tom O’Brien0 Tom O'Brien0
    5. April 2021 at 10:46

    Agree about “The Morning After” and Jane Fonda’s acting. 3 things though: is it just me or does Bridges seem to be practicing to play The Dude?

    Fonda looks fabulous.

    Raul Julia, one of the best actors of his generation is wasted, as usual.

  15. Gravatar of dirk dirk
    5. April 2021 at 11:36

    Hans Zimmer’s vibraphone music score in True Romance sounds almost exactly like Carl Orff’s in Badlands.


    Both seem to capture the mood of peak freedom and bliss for the young outlaw couples. I can’t watch one movie without thinking about the other.

  16. Gravatar of Gary Gary
    5. April 2021 at 11:41

    I bought a boxed set of the first four Coen brother films. Millers Crossing is only one I have watched many times. The Albert Finney machine gun scene is great, the whole movie is one of their best.

  17. Gravatar of Jeff Rensch Jeff Rensch
    5. April 2021 at 12:25

    Marvelous chronicle but Pierrot is misspelled. Do you really think JF is better in Barbarella than Klute?

  18. Gravatar of Mark Z Mark Z
    5. April 2021 at 13:20

    Are you going to read Nietzsche next after Schopenhauer, since the former believed himself the logical next step from the latter?

    And speaking of cult films, what’s your opinion of The Warriors (1979)? I liked it at one point because I like the scenery (gritty 70s NYC) or ‘ambience,’ but realized not long ago in retrospect that the acting is terrible. That may be what makes for ‘cult film.’

  19. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    5. April 2021 at 13:27

    David, I’ve seen High and Low several times. I actually was planning to watch it again this week.

    Dean, The ones designated “CC” are from Criterion Channel. Most of the rest are Amazon, but a few are Netflix.

    Ted, Thanks for the tip.

    Dzhaughn, I’ve only seen Transit, which was quite good. I need to see some more of his films.

    Ilya, Mostly I’m watching, but occasionally I’m thinking about what I see. More so in plotless “art films”.

    Alan, His later films are not very good? Those are fighting words. He did the best black comedy ever, the best sci-fi ever, the best costume drama ever, the best horror film ever. What more do you want?

    Ricardo, I think they are also very good, although perhaps he never again reached the peak of the ending of Japon. I still haven’t seen all of his films.

    Badlands is certainly good, but it doesn’t strike me as being as interesting as some of his other films, such as The New World. I liked it more the first time. But it’s probably a blind spot on my part, as the critics love it.

    Yes, I would have enjoyed Wicker Man as a teenage boy.

    Tom, Well, it’s much less inspired than his performance as the Dude. The director didn’t give him much to work with.

    Dirk, Interesting, I also like True Romance.

    Jeff, Thanks, I’ll fix the spelling. I haven’t seen Klute, but I imagine you are right. Nonetheless, Fonda does have a bit of that sort of Marilyn Monroe-type skill at romantic comedy.

  20. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    5. April 2021 at 13:34

    Mark, That would be logical. I had never read Schopenauer, but sort of knew that I’d like his work (based on reputation.) I’ve read a bit of Nietzsche, and would only read him further for the purpose of entertainment. So the answer is probably yes, if I live long enough. I’m shamefully poorly educated in philosophy, as you’ll probably infer from the fact that I never mention Aristotle, Pascal, Spinoza, etc., etc. Hume is high on my list as well.

  21. Gravatar of copans copans
    5. April 2021 at 13:40

    What a great entry, as usual. I always feel you like formalist movies more than I do, but then you end up loving Local Hero. I just watched it for the fourth time and only on this viewing did I realize how great the photography was. Somehow, I had never realized that Forsyth got Chris Menges for the project.

    The first time I saw Canterbury Tale, I fell asleep. Now it is my favorite Archers film (Red Shoes is probably 8th or 9th favorite.) Try it again in 5 years.

    I have 8 films now I must see. Thanks.

  22. Gravatar of Alan Goldhammer Alan Goldhammer
    5. April 2021 at 14:34

    Scott – regarding Kubrick; his later movies were entirely false and not at all true to the source material. That is the prerogative of the director. It’s as if he had a lot of ideas running through his mind and couldn’t figure out how to resolve them. In this way he is much like Orson Welles. I walked out of Eyes Wide Shut as there just seemed not to be any point to it. Steven King’s book was far better than The Shining. Barry Lyndon fails in interpreting Thackery. Full Metal Jacket was poor in comparison to Oliver Stone and Coppola who handled Vietnam far more deftly.

    The only movies that I will rewatch are Dr. Strangelove and Paths of Glory.

  23. Gravatar of Val Val
    5. April 2021 at 15:51

    Scott, I’m glad you’ve found Schopenhauer! He is the ur-psychologist of the modern era. He anticipates Dostoevsky, Nietzschie, and Freud. I have several of his writings on the reading list for psychiatry residents in our program.

  24. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    6. April 2021 at 08:43

    Alan, I would never in a million years want to see a film that was faithful to the book. They are completely different art forms. Films are not supposed to be illustrated books.

    And Oliver Stone? Seriously?

    Of course Dr. Strangelove is great; you are right about that. It’s one of his final 7 films.

    Val, Yes, he was way ahead of his time. I’m not sure we’ve ever caught up to him. At least not most of us (including me.)

  25. Gravatar of John T John T
    6. April 2021 at 10:05

    I preferred Genuine Forger to Made You Look. The perspective of the forger interested me more than that of the gallery/dupes. The forger was also a more interesting character (knowing he’s lying often) than the woman running the gallery in NY. Forger also had some actual (if minimal) cinematography while made you look could have been a cnn special. It’s probably down to which set of artwork you prefer.

  26. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    7. April 2021 at 11:15


    Great list like always.

    I’m glad you discovered Schopenhauer. Well, you’ve mentioned him a few times over the years already, so I guess you know him since quite some time.

    Personally, I don’t yet know what to make of him and his opinions regarding Hegel and by extension Heidegger. My opinion changes every year, but he’s probably right in parts.

    His strong interest in Asian philosophies is also very interesting. He was indeed far ahead of his time in this respect.

    One could even put him in line with Heidegger, maybe he was one of the first existentialists, even before Kierkegaard. I wonder why he is never seen as an existentialist.

    About your interest in art forgers: In Germany a few years ago a man named Wolfgang Beltracchi became quite famous.

    He was proven to have forged 14 paintings, but many assume that he forged so many more, some so well that they might never be discovered. Not to mention that the dealers and current owners have not much interest in such discoveries.

    His lawyer’s son is a director and I think he made a Netflix documentary in 2014, it’s called “Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery.”
    I haven’t seen it though, it’s not really my genre.

  27. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    7. April 2021 at 13:47

    “Barry Lyndon fails in interpreting Thackery.”

    Boooo! Boooo! Even for someone like me, not totally in the tank for Kubrick, this is a great film. And that’s “Thackeray,” pal.

    “Interesting French film (with American actors) that I’d never heard of before.”

    “French” film? For someone so auteur-oriented, I am surprised. David Thomson claims both “A Sunday in the Country” and “Life and Nothing But” are masterpieces. (I’ve only seen Death Watch and Capitaine Conan, both when they first came out, and remember liking them, but that’s about it).

    “Alan, I would never in a million years want to see a film that was faithful to the book. They are completely different art forms. Films are not supposed to be illustrated books.”

    Well, c’mon, this is an oversimplification, no? What about, say, The Maltese Falcon or True Grit? Those are good films, and they essentially *are* the novels; i.e. to the extent the films are good, it’s almost 100% a reflection of how good the source material was. (Neither film – I refer here to the 1941 MF and the 1969 TG – is as good as the novel, to be sure).

    Obviously it’s difficult to do a really good novel well as a film – perhaps some of the BBC or European TV efforts are better for this than any film?

  28. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    7. April 2021 at 14:27

    John, Actually, I’m not much a fan of abstract expressionism.

    Christian, Maybe I’ll do a few posts on Schopenauer.

    Anon/portly, I’d say The Maltese Falcon is good because of the actors. Most films only contain part of the novel, as otherwise they’d be too long. The 4 hour version of Lord of the Rings (just part one) left out an entire chapter.

    And Death Watch is not a French film?

  29. Gravatar of SamW SamW
    7. April 2021 at 14:30

    Would recommend Drug War (2012) Johnnie To. Gun violent. Editing brilliance. Intense. Absolutely convincing.

    Never have seen ‘The Shining’ bathroom scene with Jack and Grady look right. In the theater that red was overwhelming – same with the Private Pyle scene in bathroom in ‘Full Metal Jacket’ and the final scene with the dying sniper.
    ‘Paths of Glory’ is so good that the final scene is deeply moving rather than maudlin.
    Lancaster and Douglas!

  30. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    7. April 2021 at 15:11

    Sam, I did see Drug War last year, but for some reason forgot to put it on my list. Yes, it’s very good.

    Yes, Kubrick is better in the theatre. At home get a big OLED TV, a dark room, a 4k print, and sit up close.

  31. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    7. April 2021 at 18:33

    “I’d say The Maltese Falcon is good because of the actors.”

    Yeah, true, but have you read the novel?

    The acting is a big part of it, e.g. Greenstreet’s first film and the beginning of his team-up with Lorre. But Greenstreet is helped enormously by Hammett having written some really great dialogue for him more than a decade earlier. Ditto Bogart.

    And the novel really is better than the film – instead of the cheesy ending, the novel’s ending is brilliant. (In my view, of course, for what that’s worth).

    Note that in addition to TMF leading to the Greenstreet/Lorre team, so too The Thin Man contributed to the same thing with Powell and Loy. Apparently this didn’t happen with The Glass Key, so Hammett only went 2 for 3 on this score.

    “Most films only contain part of the novel, as otherwise they’d be too long.”

    Well, that’s why I was suggesting the TV things. Three I like a lot are Berlin Alexanderplatz, Brideshead Revisited and The Pallisers (actually covering 6 novels). I, Claudius maybe another….

    “And Death Watch is not a French film?”

    My (typically) obscure and ill-expressed point was that it was described as a French film and not a Tavernier film. I found that unexpected.

  32. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    8. April 2021 at 06:30

    “[Kubrick] did the best black comedy ever, the best sci-fi ever, the best costume drama ever, the best horror film ever.”

    What I want to know is, what’s the *second-best* film in each of these four categories?

  33. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    8. April 2021 at 07:03

    Have to admit, it is impressive you have seen all these flicks——while also reading the Schopenhauer Opus. Plus the two Russians—-impressive for real. Plus it becomes part of my list to see. This is the great part of your otherwise crappy blog.

    Miller’s Crossing was great. Like all Hitchcock—-but do not love any Hitchcock. Can’t quite put my finger on it. Somethow there is something “choppy” about him. That is not quite right. But I have seen all his films and liked them all. But it is easy to recognize his “copiers”—-DePalma (not all his films are Hitchcockian) is the best of them.

    I sometimes look for old films that have an actor I want to see in their early stages. I happened onto Stage Door—1937. Never heard of it and other than Ball, did not know who was in it. Well, Katherine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, Eve Arden, Ann Miller, were all in it. It got a few nominations.

    But, my favorite fact was that is the movie (her fifth at age,30) where he character’s line in a play is the famous “the calla lilies are blooming” line came from!

  34. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    8. April 2021 at 07:05

    Hepburn’s,famous line!

  35. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    8. April 2021 at 08:22

    anon/portly, I agree with your points, but I just consider it weird to compare a novel and a film. Perhaps it makes sense to compare a screenplay and a film, in which case the novel will generally come out ahead.

    You asked:

    “What I want to know is, what’s the *second-best* film in each of these four categories?”

    Black comedy: The Kingdom?

    Sci-fi: Stalker?

    Costume: One of those great Japanese films from the 1950s? Not sure if they count as costume drama.

    Horror: Psycho?

    Michael, Actually, Hepburn had done more than 5 films by 1937, but many were unsuccessful. For some reason she was a hit with critics, but not movie audiences.

  36. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    9. April 2021 at 07:31

    Of course you are correct. KH did 12 movies before Stage Door. Amazing. Yet that was the one of just a few that had commercial success up until then. Did not know she won best actress in 1933! I always found her very interesting—-perhaps that is obvious.

  37. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    9. April 2021 at 14:28

    “Costume: One of those great Japanese films from the 1950s? Not sure if they count as costume drama.”

    Raise the Red Lantern? Effi Briest? Something by Von Stroheim?

    I’m not too sure what a “black comedy” is, really – I don’t remember The Kingdom being anything like Dr. Strangelove.

  38. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    9. April 2021 at 14:41

    I asked a friend (who really likes French cinema) for his current take on Tavernier and thought his reply might be of interest:

    “I’m enjoying Tavernier’s 8-part TV series, Journey’s Through French Cinema. This is not to be confused with his earlier, 4-hr film, My Journey Through French Cinema. Amazingly, there is almost no overlap between the two. He makes a point of covering lesser-known directors, and I have to admit, he’s introduced me to several things I’ve never seen before–never even heard of before, in fact. He’s also reminded me of things that I’d seen but forgot about. He’s particularly good on explaining why certain things are interesting, and he’s a wonderful guide to French movie music.

    “As for his own films, his towering achievements are Coup de Torchon (which I think you’ve seen) and Capitaine Conan, the best film ever with a WWI setting. Among his more recent works I also enjoyed The Princess of Montpensier, ‘a sweeping romantic and historical epic.'”

    I’d forgotten Coup de Torchon was Tavernier….

  39. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    9. April 2021 at 15:02

    anon/portly, Actually, Death Watch is the only one of his films I’ve seen–thanks for the tips.

    I suppose The Kingdom was a hodgepodge, I just remember certain parts being hilarious.

  40. Gravatar of David Schuler David Schuler
    14. April 2021 at 04:24

    Isn’t Run Don’t Walk (a remake of a WWII-era film) Cary Grant’s last movie and Father Goose his last as a leading man?

  41. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    14. April 2021 at 09:48

    David, You may be right.

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