Films of the 2nd quarter

Here’s the latest dump from my increasingly tedious list of films. At least I’ve started going to the movie theatre again. (CC means Criterion channel.)

Newer Films:

La Flor  (Argentina)  3.8  Forget the rating, as this film is almost impossible to judge in any overall sense.  During its 14 ½ hour length there are many moments of brilliance and long stretches that are boring.  For me, it’s by far the most interesting new film I’ve seen in a while, made by a director who is clearly a major talent.  The cinematography is often breathtaking and the music is excellent.

The Sparks Brothers (US/UK)  3.7  Outstanding documentary about a two brothers with a long and influential career on the fringes of pop stardom. They remind me a bit of people like the Coen brothers or the Quay brothers—siblings with long and fruitful creative collaborations.  (Ironically, one of their songs is about how collaboration is impossible.)  Don’t leave before the end of the final credits.

Nomad: In the Footsteps of Bruce Chatwin  (UK)  3.5  He may not mean much to millennials, but to my generation Chatwin is a sort of legendary figure.  And Herzog is the perfect director for this documentary, as they share a fascination for the stranger and more obscure aspects of our planet.

Audrey  (US)  3.4  At times, this documentary tries too hard at being “creative”, but Audrey Hepburn is such an interesting figure that it would be almost impossible to make a bad film about her.  Interestingly, the AFI says that two of the three greatest actresses of all time were named “Hepburn”, which isn’t a very common surname.  (The third was Bette Davis.)

Promising Young Woman  (US)  3.4  An entertaining version of the dangerous woman genre, for the Me Too generation.  It may not do well as it doesn’t fit neatly into any single film category, thus it might confuse viewers.  Brett Kavanaugh should watch this film with the whole family. 

Cliff Walkers  (China)  3.2   Zhang Yimou’s recent films are easy to admire (for their craftsmanship) but hard to get enthused about.  I’m anxious to see “One Second”, to see if he still has a spark of creativity.

Minari  (US)  3.2  Nicely crafted story, and well acted.  But I often had the feeling I’d seen this film before.

The Mystery Mountain Project  (Canada)  3.2  This is not the documentary for people that like dazzling 4k images and cute animals.  Rather it documents a group of individuals who attempt to recreate the expedition of a husband and wife back in 1926, in search of a lost mountain in British Colombia.  There were two things I liked about the film.  One was how it drove home the point that the wilderness in Canada is so much more inaccessible than in America.  A spectacular area of soaring mountains, glaciers, waterfalls and fiords just a few hundred miles from Seattle is almost impossible to access.  The other is the interpersonal dynamics of a group of individuals that run into increasingly difficult conditions in their journey.

The Dig  (UK)  3.1  Nice acting and set designs, but it’s somewhat heavy handed and full of clichés.  On the other hand, for each such film of this type there are plenty of people seeing these clichés for the first time.  So your mileage may vary.

The Cordillera of Dreams  (Chile)  3.0   This completes the Patricio Guzman’s trilogy on Chile’s geography and political history.  But in the third film he’s reaching diminishing returns.

SuburbanBirds  (China)  3.0  Didn’t have enough to hold my interest.

Older films:

Yi Yi   (Taiwan, 2000, CC)   4.0   At one point a character says something to the effect that movies triple the size of our lives.  We experience far more than otherwise.  This film is certainly a good example.  Like almost all of the greatest films of the 21st century, it came out at the beginning of the millennium.  Not a good sign.

8 ½   (Italy, 1963, CC)  4.0    This film was restored in 2019 and the images look far better than what I saw in the movie theatre back in the 1980s. I also liked the film much better this time—I was too young when I first saw it.

High and Low  (Japan, 1963, CC)  3.9  Third time I’ve seen this film, and I still find the first 55 minutes to be brilliant.

Pygmalion  (UK, 1938, CC)  3.8  A near perfect film.  Better than My Fair Lady, mostly because Leslie Howard is far better that Rex Harrison. 

Rope  (US, 1948)  3.8  This Hitchcock film holds up quite well.  The second time around there’s less focus on the single take, and more focus on the insanely good technique (mise en scène for you film snobs).  I suspect that Hitchcock’s heart wasn’t in the (too conventional) final two minutes.

The Deer Hunter  (US, 1978)  3.8  Yes, the film is wildly unrealistic (would Pennsylvania deer hunters drive their car to the Cascade Mountains to go deer hunting?)  Parts of the film are kind of dumb, the music is hokey, and all the Asian characters are portrayed as sub-humans.  And yet by some miracle it still ended up being one of the most effective films ever made.  Back in 1979, people left the theatre in a state of shock.  In the 1970s, it seemed like you would rarely go for a few months without seeing a Hollywood film that was utterly unlike anything that had come before.

The Apartment  (US, 1960)  3.8  Somehow I’d never got around to seeing this seen this classic romantic comedy. Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine are both outstanding.

Night of the Hunter  (US, 1955)  3.8  American gothic doesn’t get any better than the second half of this film.  Why didn’t Charles Laughton direct any other films?

The 39 Steps  (UK, 1935, CC)  3.8  I’ve seen this 4 times now, as it’s still one of the most enjoyable of Hitchcock’s British films.  It’s about marriage, handcuffs, and lots more.  Was later remade as Saboteur, and then a third time as North By Northwest.  If you’ve recently seen North by Northwest, you’ll notice the similarities.

The Immortal Story  (France, 1967, CC)  3.8  I’d never heard of this 57 minute Welles film, but like his other minor films it’s well worth seeing.  Every time I see short stories (Isak Dinesen in this case) turned into a short film I wonder why they don’t do this more often.  Why do films have to be 1 ½ hours to 2 ½ hours.  Why not 45 minutes?

My Winnipeg  (Canada, 2007, CC)  3.8   How often do you find yourself wondering, “What was life like in Winnipeg, Canada, during the 1960s?”  If you are like me, then probably not very often.  And yet every place is interesting when presented through the eyes of a talented director.  I’m the same age as Guy Maddin, and I also grew up in a state capitol near the center of North America.  This film unearthed lots of deeply buried memories, things I hadn’t thought about for 55 years.  Trudging through snow on a bitter cold winter night, lying on the couch, living above your parent’s business, elm trees, sex segregated swimming pools, traditional downtown department stores, hanging out near the rail yards, how 8-year old boys viewed girls.  It’s amazing how the mind works—details can be buried in memory for 50 years and then some trigger brings them to the surface.  How does that happen?  How are memories “stored” in the brain for a half century?

Ann Savage plays his mother, and is perfect.

Stray Dog  (Japan, 1949, CC)  3.7  This early Kurosawa film already shows his brilliance as a director.

Late Chrysanthemums  (Japan, 1954, CC)  3.7  A characteristic Naruse film about several women who were once geishas, trying to survive in post-war Japan.  Life is for others.

Saboteur   (US, 1942)  3.7   The first half is especially good, but the second half was done much more effectively in North by Northwest.  A sort of remake of The 39 Steps, but instead of the lovers being handcuffed together, only the hero is handcuffed.  On the other hand, an amusing pair of Siamese twins produce the same general effect.

To Have and Have Not  (US, 1945, CC)  3.7  Could almost be entitled “Casablanca 2”.  Say what you will about modern “superheroes”, I’ll take Humphrey Bogart.  His interaction with Lauren Bacall is, of course, what makes the film so good.

The Secret in Their Eyes  (Argentina, 2010)  3.7  The sort of film that would appeal to fans of “The Lives of Others.” 

L’Argent  (France, 1983, CC)  3.7  As with many Bresson films, it is composed of a series of details.  Mesmerizing. 

The Clockmaker of St. Paul  (France, 1974, CC)  3.7  Understated crime story based on a novel by Georges Simenon. 

Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion  (Italy, 1970, CC)  3.7 An amusing black comedy carried by the superb Gian Maria Volonte.   Also features a good Morricone soundtrack.

Fitzcarraldo  (Germany/Peru, 1982)  3.7  Is there any director around today who would even attempt something this ambitious?  I hadn’t seen the movie since 1982, and remember it as a Herzog film.  But it’s actually a Klaus Kinski film—he’s the one that makes it work.  Amazon’s print seems a bit muddy; some films from this era were not well preserved.            

The Servant  (UK, 1963, CC)  3.7  Dirk Bogarde, James Fox and Sarah Miles all fit their roles quite well.  The second half has all the surprises, but is a bit of a letdown.

Youth of the Beast  (Japan, 1963, CC)  3.6  Fans of Tarantino will love this stylish film by Seijun Suzuki.  Criterion Channel has a great looking print.

Zero Focus  (Japan, 1961, CC)  3.6  For the first hour you’ll think I overrated this Japanese noir, as it’s very plot driven and matter-of-fact.  Then it the last 40 minutes it shifts up to another level.

Force of Evil  (US, 1948, CC)  3.6  A must see film for fans of The Godfather and Mean Streets, two films that it clearly influenced.  The biggest drawback is that I never bought into John Garfield’s character, he just doesn’t seem like a very good actor.  Still, there is much to be impressed by.

Out of the Past  (US, 1947)  3.6   Excellent film noir.  Unfortunately, the femme fatale is subpar.

The Damned  (Italy, 1969, CC)  3.6  The film links Nazism and sexual perversion in a way that some people now might find offensive (not because of the way Nazis are portrayed, rather because “perversion” seems to be defined a bit too broadly by today’s standards.)  I’m not easily offended; I look at films from the perspective of the period in which they were made. 

Red River  (US, 1947)  3.6  Classic Howard Hawks western.

The Green Fog  (US, 2018, CC)  3.6  This experimental film directed by Guy Maddin is an homage to Vertigo, and will delight serious film buffs.  Ever wonder what happens in a Hollywood film when the actors are not speaking?  You’ll find out here.

Bay of Angels  (France, 1963, CC)  3.5  There are two primary reasons to see this Jacques Demy directed French new wave film, the beautifully restored B&W print and Jeanne Moreau.

Mikey and Nicky (US, 1976) 3.5  Fans of Taxi Driver might enjoy this film, which is a bit ahead of its time.  Today, it’s Peter Falk’s performance that holds up especially well.  I might be rating this a bit too low, as it’s a very impressive film.  But it’s just so darn ugly . . . 

Ariel (Finland, 1988, CC)  3.5  An early Kaurismaki film with his characteristic droll humor.

Family Plot  (US, 1975)  3.5  Even mediocre Hitchcock is pretty entertaining.  His final film.

Loves of a Blonde  (Czech, 1965, CC)  3.5  Amusing and perceptive look at what it’s like to be young and in love.

Death in Venice   (Italy, 1971, CC)  3.5 Fans of the novel might be disappointed, but one cannot actually film a novel.  At best, one can film the story within a novel.  While the film could use a bit more nuance, it is enjoyable to watch.  And the glorious 1970s color print was recently restored.  Films like Death in Venice and Barry Lyndon make modern CGI films look sterile by comparison.

The Comfort of Strangers  (UK, 1990, CC)  3.4  More of Venice in glorious color.  This sort of film is hard to pull off and the director falls a bit short.  But there is plenty to enjoy along the way.

Intimate Stranger  (US, 1991, CC)  3.4  A documentary about the filmmaker’s grandfather, who turns out to be a quite interesting person.  But aren’t we all?

Gun Crazy  (US, 1949, CC)  3.4  Really corny dialogue, but otherwise a pretty good noir from the golden age of that genre.

Dark City  (US, 1950, CC)  3.4  This noir is underrated.  It was Charlton Heston’s first role, and he is already a star.  People of my generation will recognize the two actors that went on to star in the TV series Dragnet.  Starts on the East Coast, then moves to LA, then Las Vegas.

Moonrise  (US, 1948, CC)  3.4  A feverish and indeed almost hysterical melodrama with cliché-ridden dialogue, and yet its intensity does grab your attention.

Gambit   (US, 1966)  3.4  Surprisingly entertaining 60s caper film.  Shirley MacLaine is charming and the film also stars Michael Caine.  But don’t almost all films star Michael Caine?  Herbert Lom in brownface plays an Arab named Shahbandar, and MacLaine plays a woman named Chang and is made up to look half Chinese.   Political correctness had not yet reached Hollywood—that was still about 2 years away.

The Prince and the Showgirl   (UK, 1957)  3.3  While this is not a particularly good film, Marilyn Monroe is wonderful, the only thing that makes the film worth watching.  It’s funny how reputations change over time.  In 1957, Lawrence Olivier was viewed as one of the very greatest actors and Monroe was seen as a lightweight.  It seems to me that her reputation has soared, while Olivier’s has slipped a bit. In any case, Monroe is far better than Olivier in this film.  Olivier is essentially a stage actor and Monroe is a movie actress—two radically different professions. On the other hand, give Olivier credit for knowing how to direct her.  (And yet Wikipedia says Oliver was frustrated because she stubbornly refused to follow his direction—Thank God!)

The Joke  (Czech, 1968, CC)  3.3  A critique of left wing Czech cancel culture circa 1950, made during the Prague Spring.  From this film we can infer that life on American universities in 2021 is freer than in communist Czechoslovakia during 1950, but less free that in communist Czechoslovakia during 1968.  Based on one of Kundera’s best novels.  (BTW, remember how excited we got when there was a new Kundera novel?  Which author is that true of today?)

Obsession  (UK, 1949, CC)  3.2  This sort of plot has been done a number of times, in various countries.

Clean Slate  (French, 1981, CC)  3.1  Very well crafted, but at more than 2 hours the nihilism wears thin.  This black comedy needs more humor.

Hands Across the Table  (US, 1935, CC)  3.0  Pleasant screwball comedy with Carole Lombard and a really young Fred MacMurray.

Love in the Afternoon  (US, 1957)  3.0  There were lots of Hollywood films set in Paris during the 1950s and early 1960s.  Why did they stop?  Perhaps because American audiences stopped being willing to accept Frenchmen speaking English, and our filmgoers don’t like subtitles?  Audrey Hepburn is always wonderful, but Gary Cooper’s kind of a bore.

Various documentaries on architects (Hadid, Piano, Gropius, etc.)  3.0  I won’t review these films separately, as most people wouldn’t be interested.

How to Steal a Million  (US, 1966)  2.9  This got pretty good reviews, but it’s a fairly bland and generic 60s caper film.  It does have Audrey Hepburn and Peter O’Toole, but that’s not quite enough.

Any Number Can Play  (US, 1949, CC)  2.9  Clark Gable plays a casino owner with a heart of gold.

Caught  (US, 1949, CC)  2.9  Given that is was directed by Max Ophuls and starred Robert Ryan and James Mason, I expected something a bit better.

Christmas in July  (US, 1940, CC)  2.8  This got very good reviews but I found it to be much weaker than the masterpieces that Preston Sturges produced a year later (The Lady Eve, Sullivan’s Travels).

Darling  (UK, 1965, CC)  2.7  The film is disappointingly bland, despite starring Julie Christie and Dirk Bogarde.  Avant garde subject matter often doesn’t age well.

Champaign  (UK, 1928)  2.6  One of Hitchcock’s weakest films, mostly of interest due to some technical innovations.



27 Responses to “Films of the 2nd quarter”

  1. Gravatar of Brian Brian
    3. July 2021 at 11:23

    I am amused that 9% of Winnipeg is Filipino and probably a large part first generation Canadian. Which country has the most unbearable temperatures?

  2. Gravatar of Tim Worstall Tim Worstall
    4. July 2021 at 00:43

    “Outstanding documentary about a two brothers with a long and influential career on the fringes of pop stardom.”

    Sorta. They were very big in mid-70s Britain. I still recall watching them on Top of the Pops (something like American Bandstand maybe?)

  3. Gravatar of Rajat Rajat
    4. July 2021 at 04:30

    I don’t suppose you’ve seen A Ghost Story (USA 2017)? You don’t seem to have rated it before.

  4. Gravatar of Spencer Hall Spencer Hall
    4. July 2021 at 07:45

    Try “The Summer of Soul”. 5 popcorn bags

  5. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    4. July 2021 at 09:54

    Rajat, Thanks, I’ll look for it.

  6. Gravatar of Andy Andy
    4. July 2021 at 10:25

    > Ironically, one of their songs is about how collaboration is impossible.

    That song is intentionally ironic though.

  7. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    4. July 2021 at 10:56

    “[The Mael Brothers] remind me a bit of people like the Coen brothers or the Quay brothers—siblings with long and fruitful creative collaborations.”

    Comparing the Mael brothers to the Coen borthers is a bit like saying The Deer Hunter and The Night of the Hunter are equally good films.

    Oh wait….

    Sorry, just kidding. Anyway, my real point in writing this comment is to pass along a review of this film I received from a film-blogging friend of mine. I think it may be of interest.

    “The movie is pretty amazing. The standard running time for most documentary subjects these days is right around 90 minutes. Even a recent film about Orson Welles clocked in at a mere 94–94 minutes for the great man’s entire life! (by contrast, Citizen Kane runs 119). Get this: Wright devotes 140 minutes to his subjects.

    “Well, he’s a fan, and he wanted to mention every album (there’s 25). I was entertained, but not so much by the music. Reflecting on Sparks, I realized I’ve never purchased any of their albums or singles. The truth is their songs are pretty bland. Where then lies their appeal? Maybe it’s in the fact that they are less like a music duo and more like performance artists, or, if you prefer, a cabaret act. You can’t divorce the songs from the personas that perform those songs (no one does Sparks covers). Amazingly, the Maels came up with their performance identities 50 years ago and have been trotting them out to schedule ever since.

    Wright thinks (he’s said this in interviews) that his documentary will help the brothers achieve the kind of commercial success they’ve been denied all these years. I contend, though, that they’ve achieved more success than their music deserves, and that that success comes down to persistence and hard work. Other novelty acts have come and gone (The Tubes, Sig Sig Sputnik, you could even include Devo here), but the Maels keep plugging away. Wright should have called the film something more like Sparks: a Career, because that’s what the movie is really a tribute to. How many “entertainers” (and most of their songs are merely pastiches of other music) have managed such a run without ever gaining a mainstream following?”

    Note: it’s of course possible that he’s too hard on Sparks. We had some mutual friends in HS who were into Sparks, and also into (better?) bands in a somewhat similar vein such as Roxy Music, Eno, Ferry, Bowie, The New York Dolls, Jonathan Richman, Soft Cell. I haven’t really listened to Sparks since those days….

  8. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    4. July 2021 at 11:09

    “(would Pennsylvania deer hunters drive their car to the Cascade Mountains to go deer hunting?)”

    Back in 1978, I watched the credits carefully until seeing the thank-you for Mt. Baker National Forest. (As I recall, anyway). Aha!

    A film like the John Wayne True Grit, where the Rockies show up in eastern Oklahoma, is one thing (the Winding Stair Mountains being at least “mountains”), but a Cascade volcano in Pennsylvania is something else.

  9. Gravatar of Spencer Hall Spencer Hall
    4. July 2021 at 11:43

    Jerome Powell is a “traitor” for his actions, that has put “Americans at risk”.

    He has erased / rewritten history. Link:
    M1 Money Stock (DISCONTINUED) (M1)

    That isn’t the time series that previously existed. It is M1 lumped with M2 which makes the metric useless as an economic statistic.

    This is disinformation, a deliberate coverup. It is not as in “On the Fed’s “Discontinuation” of the M2 Money Stock Data Series” by Allison Reichel

  10. Gravatar of Jeff Rensch Jeff Rensch
    4. July 2021 at 11:53

    Jane Greer supbar? oh oh oh. Even if true, in deeper sense, not true at all! A sweet young lady with a gun.

  11. Gravatar of Alan Goldhammer Alan Goldhammer
    4. July 2021 at 12:16

    Good list and observations. The Deer Hunter was not the only movie with scenes that were jarring. The entirety of Michael Mann’s The Last of the Mohicans was filmed in North Carolina with trees that do not exist in the geography of the Cooper novel. It was quite jarring when I saw it in the cinema with all the long tracking shots and no deciduous trees present.

    Laughton’s The Night of the Hunter was a commercial and critical failure when it was released. The studios wouldn’t give him a second chance. In retrospect, it is maybe one of the top 20 American moves of all time.

    I agree with Jeff Rensch about Jane Greer in Out of the Past. Great performance and you might want to take a look at Taylor Hackford’s Against All Odds which is a loose adaptation of the earlier movie. Jane Greer is the surprise casting as the mother of the “Jane Greer” character of the original story. Well worth watching for the story and acting.

    Spot on about Darling. Interesting when it came out but quite boring today.

  12. Gravatar of Rajat Rajat
    4. July 2021 at 13:19

    Scott, I don’t recall you every mentioning Playtime (1967). I saw it for the first time a couple of years ago and have watched it again since. Despite having a nap during my first viewing(!), I could imagine it being one of my ‘desert island’ films – a film I could view again and again. There’s a lightness about it that makes it easy to watch.

  13. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    4. July 2021 at 15:05

    Andy, Yes ironic, as are many of their films.

    anon/portly, I don’t know enough about music to evaluate the quality of their songs.

    Dare I ask which “hunter” film is mistakenly rated? (I’m guessing it’s the 1978 one.)

    Rajat, Only saw Playtime once, but loved it. One of my favorite comedies. For visual humor, only Keaton compares.

  14. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    4. July 2021 at 17:23

    Alan and Jeff, If you both say so, then I’m probably wrong about Greer.

  15. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    4. July 2021 at 17:27

    Bruce Chatwin… o dear. He was such an icon a few decades back, certainly for me, and now it seems strange to me to even see him mentioned. Trivia: age 11 I lived in a country where he’d done ground research for one of his books. The story of “some hapless tourist” ‘s arrest and near execution was still circulating in the expat community. Took me 15 years of so before realizing who that story had been about.

    I personally enjoyed “Clean Slate” more than you did, apparently, it had me in stitches at the time when I saw it before it turned dark in the end. The novel BTW was based in the American South.

  16. Gravatar of yenwoda yenwoda
    4. July 2021 at 19:36

    High and Low is one of my all-time favorites. A really tight production, totally engrossing and cinematic, and the rock-n-roll nightclub scene is just great.

  17. Gravatar of Ray Lopez Ray Lopez
    4. July 2021 at 19:39

    Unbelievable. I don’t see Charles Bronson’s Death Wish nor The Mechanic in this list. What kind of taste does Sumner have?

  18. Gravatar of Carl Carl
    4. July 2021 at 20:26

    I can’t go as high on my Sparks Brothers rating. They’re certainly likable guys and I had a few good laughs, but:
    – The movie is about an hour too long
    – For a band that is alleged to have spent fifty years constantly reinventing themselves, their songs don’t sound all that diverse.
    – There wasn’t a single melody that hooked me as well as the melodies of the bands they were supposed to have influenced( Depeche Mode, Beck, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pet Shop Boys…)

  19. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    4. July 2021 at 21:11

    mbka, Could be that I missed some of the humor.

    yenwoda, Yes, it’s a great one.

    Carl, I probably overrate a bunch of documentaries. I knew nothing about the band, but found them to be pretty interesting characters. I can’t comment on the music.

  20. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    5. July 2021 at 07:04

    In one of Scott’s comments, I noticed he did not want to comment on Sparks, for example, because he “does not know enough about music to comment on their quality”. I think that is a valid statement in general. But in the end, music must be enjoyed or what is its purpose? Some music is hard to enjoy ——-I am not sure if music can be enjoyed ——as opposed to understanding its form, nature, and origins——-by “understanding” alone. Understanding can enhance enjoyment——but I don’t think it can create enjoyment. I could be wrong of course.

    But one either enjoys Sparks or does not—-whether one understands music or not. My one little caveat—-it is often the case that the longer it takes to enjoy a certain composition—-the more enjoyable it is. But “understanding” has very little to do with it. At least that has been my experience.

  21. Gravatar of Tom MANNELL Tom MANNELL
    5. July 2021 at 15:46

    Scott, I always enjoy your takes on film. We share similar interests and tastes. My desire to engage in a dialogue with you and your readers on film leads me to my first-ever online comment. What follows, and ten cents, will get you a cup of coffee.

    La Flor sounds interesting, and I will seek it out. Some wonderful, very long films that come to mind include the Chinese film An Elephant Standing Still (one of my favorite films of the last decade) at four hours, the Japanese drama Happy Hour at five hours, DAU Degeneration, a Russian film, at six hours, and I’m currently watching Wang Bing’s documentary, Dead Souls, coming in at eight hours.

    Yes, Yi Yi. Anything by Edward Yang is wonderful, and the same for Hou Hsiao-hsien. I will re-watch his Good Men, Good Women again soon. Hou’s films are beautiful, and complex. Like you, I am passionate about classic Japanese cinema. I’m enchanted by anything by Naruse Mikio, Ozu Yasujiro, Mizoguchi Kenji, Kobayashi Masaki (his Hara-kiri is a perfect film), and Ichikawa Kan. No better time than now to watch Ichikawa’s three-hour chronicle of the 1964 Tokyo olympics, Tokyo Olympiad. Another standout, from the 80’s, is Imamura Shohei’s Vengeance Is Mine. I could go on for hours about Japanese cinema but will leave it at that.

    Random thoughts: Carl Dreyer’s Ordet also appears on my very very short Perfect Film list. Todd Hayne’s Safe has haunted me for years, also time to watch again. Clare Denis and Lucretia Markel’s films are always great or at least interesting, same for Mexico’s Carlos Reygadas. (His beautiful Silent Night is obviously an homage of sorts to Ordet.) This year’s Quo Vadis, Ida? is stunning. I enjoyed the 2019 Ukrainian film, Atlantis, and the 2019 Romanian documentary Collective. Tyler Cowen has reminded me to re-watch Jafar Pahahi’s Crimson Gold.

    Night of the Hunter is indeed a fine film, beautifully shot. Another one-off directed by a famous actor is the rather odd 1964 western, One-Eyed Jacks, directed by Marlon Brando. Karl Malden steals scenes from Brando, who is rather restrained in his acting. Another odd western starring an unleashed Brando and a less-interesting Jack Nicholson is Arthur Penn’s The Missouri Breaks.

    So many good films and so little time.

  22. Gravatar of Tom Mannell Tom Mannell
    5. July 2021 at 16:59

    Correcting myself, the Reygadas film is Silent Light. The opening shot is just gorgeous.

  23. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    5. July 2021 at 21:05

    Tom, You said:

    “Some wonderful, very long films that come to mind include the Chinese film An Elephant Standing Still (one of my favorite films of the last decade) at four hours, the Japanese drama Happy Hour at five hours,”

    I love both of these films. I saw Happy Hour at Harvard University. After the lights came up, I discovered that one of the actresses in the film was sitting in the same row.

    I’ve seen Vengeance is Mine several times, most recently a few months ago. In general, I love Japanese and Taiwanese films. Reygadas is excellent.

    Ordet is great, I saw it last year.

  24. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    5. July 2021 at 23:01

    “I don’t know enough about music to evaluate the quality of their songs.”

    Well, the Wikipedia article on Sparks does suggest that they were somewhat influential, at least in their early years.

    Scaruffi (who I think is generally pretty sharp) actually rates them reasonably well:

    My friend (and I) may be dismissing them too hastily. When Scott suggests “a long and fruitful collaboration” maybe this means he was familiar with them and a longtime fan. I had assumed that there was no way this would be true….

  25. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    5. July 2021 at 23:27

    “Dare I ask which “hunter” film is mistakenly rated?”

    I said it was a joke – it was!

    Certainly if I was using the Scott Sumner rating system – where a significant number of films get a 4.0 – The Night of the Hunter would get a 4.0 from me, not a 3.8.

    I haven’t seen The Deer Hunter since its initial run and don’t have a strong opinion on it. I vaguely remember not thinking highly of it – in particular thinking the RR thing was kind of silly. But I often miss a lot on first (or even second) viewing, and often reverse my opinion after watching a film more than once.

    I also didn’t realize that TDH is pretty highly rated by critics. In the “top 1000” referenced at Econlog once by Scott, TDH comes in at #160. TNOTH at #43. Part of the reason I made the joke is that I would have guessed those two numbers to be much further apart – maybe giving them an equal rating isn’t quite the “hot” take I took it to be….

    And Scaruffi gives TDH a 7.6 and TNOTH a 7.0. Yes, no doubt my clever jibe was just the bleating of an ignorant oaf, as usual.

  26. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    6. July 2021 at 09:01

    Anon, No, you didn’t miss anything with the Deer Hunter; I liked it more when I was young and dumb. But if you put your brain on hold and fall under its spell then it’s a very powerful film. If you spend your time noticing all the implausibility then it might seem silly. Kind of like Titanic.

    Rating TNOTH is difficult. It’s like how do you rate American Gothic as a painting?

    I had never heard of Sparks.

  27. Gravatar of blastoise blastoise
    19. July 2021 at 02:14

    Have you seen A Sun (2019)? What did you think?

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