Back in the day there was an urge to watch all the Criterion movies – after all, they’ve got completist-friendly catalog numbers and are self-described as “important.” Now I have lists, and lists of lists, and I don’t need to rely on any one distributor as a gatekeeper of excellence, but there’s still that urge, and I still keep track of what they put out, and subscribe to their streaming service, and believe in the back of my mind that if I was stuck at home for a long time, like say if there was a global pandemic, it’d be fun to watch them all. Early this year I realized I’ve seen almost all of their first 50 releases, so I decided to catch up with the last couple David Lean/Dickens films and some odds and ends.

These were released 1998-1999 before I had a DVD player, but I’d pick one up whenever I saw a sale, ended up owning about ten (or their reissues). 30 have come out on blu, and I’m not gonna count how many on streaming.


Movies I’ve written up here, roughly/hastily ranked:

Beauty and the Beast
The Red Shoes
The Seventh Seal
The 400 Blows
Amarcord
Diabolique
Walkabout
Wages of Fear
The Lady Vanishes
Branded To Kill
Nights of Cabiria
Grand Illusion
High and Low
Picnic At Hanging Rock
Alphaville
Summertime
Andrei Rublev
Great Expectations
Oliver Twist
The Most Dangerous Game
And The Ship Sails On
The Long Good Friday
The Killer
Henry V
A Night To Remember
Samurai trilogy
Blood For Dracula


Watched in the pre-blog dark days, ranked by how urgently I need to revisit:

Black Orpheus
Tokyo Drifter
Shock Corridor
Seven Samurai
The Naked Kiss
Time Bandits
Flesh For Frankenstein
Dead Ringers
Taste of Cherry
Fishing With John
This Is Spinal Tap
Robocop
Nanook of the North
M
Hard Boiled
The Silence of the Lambs
Sid & Nancy
Lord of the Flies
Insomnia
Armageddon
Salo


Bonus Features:

The Lady Vanishes add-on feature Crook’s Tour was decent.

The Steamroller and the Violin is on the Rublev blu.

Peter Weir’s Homesdale was on the Picnic at Hanging Rock reissue.

Haven’t caught most of the M extras or all ten hours of the Seven Samurai features.

I played every single thing on the Seventh Seal reissue, including the Bergman Island doc, not to be confused with the new Mia Hansen-Love feature.

Can’t remember which of the Beauty/Beast commentaries I’ve played, but reading Cocteau’s making-of diaries was enough… I didn’t make it very far into the Philip Glass opera audio option.

Not too interested in the Night to Remember material.

I see the Amarcord disc is full of good stuff and Walkabout has an hour-long David Gulpilil doc.

Even if I go on a John Woo kick, not sure those commentaries would be easy to find anymore (and why is Roger Avary on one?).

Missed the two shorts on the Insomnia disc.

I can’t remember how many of the Fishing With John audio commentaries I’ve heard, but I know I’ve played that Lounge Lizards music video more than a few times.

The new Taste of Cherry blu has a Kiarostami-produced “sketch film” I’d like to see and an A.S. Hamrah essay I just read online, but on the last half-price sale I bought the Koker Trilogy instead.

I remember flipping through The Red Shoes extras one day long ago, didn’t recall there being so much Jeremy Irons participation.

I probably did listen to that Armageddon commentary with Affleck’s infamous Michael Bay impression, and the Time Bandits commentary, but who knows for sure.

The Dead Ringers disc was one of my prize possessions, and I’ve watched that movie a couple times too many.

Haven’t seen the Clouzot doc, and ran out of steam before finishing all the Rublev docs.

I should get the two Sam Fullers for the interviews and TV clips and the Typewriter doc… oh wait, they’re all on streaming, I just saved $40.

Nine left to watch in the 51-100 block, but maybe I’ll mix it up and watch all the 700’s next time, or watch them in reverse order, or never revisit this project again, I dunno.

Movie opens with “uncle” yelling at unseen hole diggers, then a boy with a (comically? horribly? we don’t know yet) hoarse voice comes out and curses into the camera. For maybe a decade I’ve been half-meaning to watch this movie because it’s supposed to be great, then avoiding it since it’s a horrors-of-war through eyes-of-a-child story. Turns out it’s not the depressing slog I imagined, but has big Emir Kusturica energy, hardly ever stops being amazing even when it starts being completely brutal. Let’s keep avoiding Son of Saul for the time being, though.

Our boy Fliora finds a gun, so is allowed to leave his family and join the Belorussian soldiers in WWII – then he’s ordered to swap his good boots for an older soldier’s, and gets left behind. No fighting yet, already a good amount of crying. He soon teams up with older Glasha and they dodge bombings and forge minefields and swamps, as Fliora and Glasha become ever-more traumatized by their experiences. We get the post-bombing tinnitus sound – I didn’t think they were doing that in the 1980’s. The explosions in this movie look unlike normal war-movie explosions – they look dangerous! It’s an angry movie, also bringing to mind Hard To Be a God, and gets extremely brutal as it goes on.

Bird Content: Fliora stomps on a nest full of eggs (boo), but later a beautiful stork looks in on our heroes (yay).

Mark Le Fanu for Criterion:

The film’s working title, before it turned into the biblical exhortation Come and See, was Kill Hitler. Klimov was always careful to explain in interviews that this was not to be taken in its literal meaning but rather as referring to a sort of universal moral imperative: “Kill the Hitler that lurks potentially in all of us!”

Klimov was married to Larisa Shepitko, whose films I’d very much like to see. Cinematographer Aleksey Rodionov would later work with Sally Potter. Lead kid Aleksey Kravchenko kept acting, was recently in The Painted Bird. Filmed in Belarus, which was in the news for arresting dissidents the morning after I watched this.

A panel of feminists is convened to rebut a Harper’s article written by shitstarter Norman Mailer. We didn’t do our homework and read the Mailer article first, but followed the arguments just fine. Anyway, amazon says it’s available as a 240-page hardcover, which they categorize under “Spies & Political Thrillers,” so what is going on.

1. Jacqueline Caballos runs a women’s advancement organization, gives a nice political speech.
2. Writer Germaine Greer is smart, funny and quick. She has a completely different approach to Caballos, who never speaks again.
3. Jill Johnston’s speech is like an SNL sketch full of jokes and references. She gets in an argument over exceeding her time, and after some makeout anarchy, leaves the movie forever.
4. Lit critic Diana Trilling knows Norman well, and seems to be the most balanced person onstage, not that that’s a high bar.

Norman’s an egoist who says he’ll fade into the background and let the women speak during the Q&A, but doesn’t – it doesn’t help that most questions and comments (including Susan Sontag’s) are addressed directly to him. Nice to spend some time checking in with the pop intellectualism of the 1970’s, unable to imagine this event taking place today.

“Linda, this is just like Easy Rider, except now it’s our turn.” Right after buying a new house and mercedes in anticipation of a big promotion, Albert Brooks gets tranferred to New York instead, so he tells his boss to shove it and with wife Julie Hagerty (the Airplane! movies) trades in everything for an RV. On their first night they get the bridal suite at a Vegas hotel, and she stays up all night gambling away their savings at roulette. Kind of a dismal comedy, Brooks mostly insufferable but has some good lines, like how once he’s in a position of responsibility he can finally afford to be irresponsible. Alice Stoehr on letterboxd: “By the end, all these two idiots have discovered … is that they’re incapable of self-discovery.”

Lost in Atlanta:

Opens with a series of insanely awesome process shots as Oliver’s doomed mother trudges through a rainstorm. Oliver grows up in the orphanarium, asks if he can please sir have some more, plays a “mute” following funeral processions, while behind the scenes there’s a scandal-drama involving an amulet that proves he’s from a wealthy family. I took notes on character names and plot details, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to find an Oliver Twist synopsis whenever I need. Besides the nice cinematography, it’s just a parade of good performances, actors well-suited to their roles – until Alec Guinness appears as the giant-honkered Jew-monster Fagin. Villain Bill Sykes steals the kid, and after a rooftop chase scene, justice is served.

Something like the eighth filmed adaptation of Oliver Twist, and the last until the 60’s musical version. The kid grew up to direct/produce Flying Circus and Fawlty Towers episodes. Robert Newton, who played Sykes, went on to create the most influential pirate characters in the movies. Oliver’s kindly rich grandpa Henry Stephenson was the kindly neighbor in Cukor’s Little Women. I’m glad to see that even at the time Guinness’s portrayal was considered unacceptable by some – it sure didn’t hurt his career. Kay Walsh maybe overdoes her part, but that didn’t stop her from getting a Hitchcock picture next. Dodger Anthony Newley became a singer/songwriter who’d influence Bowie.

Whoa, big movie… I was hoping for something Tarkovsy-esque, but if anything it was closest to Andrei Rublev. Too plotty, full of unhappy Christians doing desperate things. Choir music, the voices dubbed with a mesmerizing echo effect. Some proto-Hard To Be a God ancient miserablism. The movie is full of birds – generally a good thing, but with a notable bird death.

Catching up on the storyline via wikipedia, and most of this is news to me. I did not realize that Kozlik (the bald guy with a crack in his head) and Lazar (Marketa’s dad) were rival clan leaders, both under assault by the King’s captain. I got the relationship and revenge-killing stuff, with thanks to the descriptive title cards before each chapter, but not that one-armed Adam’s other arm was removed as punishment for sleeping with his sister. The arrows being shot into everyone in the last hour look unnervingly real.

Maybe they really don’t make ’em like this anymore. Watched on a whim, dunno Michael Ritchie (two Fletch movies and Prime Cut) and this isn’t about anything of interest (Robert Redford is a hotshot replacement skier on the US olympic team coached by Gene Hackman), but visually it’s really well put together. Maybe not the undercranked-looking wide shots of ski races, but everywhere else the editing and movement is very alive. Redford likes a girl, of course: Swedish Camilla Sparv (of The Trouble with Angels), who is working for a ski manufacturer, and of course he has rivalries with his teammates, including good dude Jim McMullan (of a couple Joel Schumacher movies), who gets laid up and misses the olympics. Not running out and recommending this as an example of Pure Cinema, but more watchable than a late 60’s New Hollywood sports movie has any business being.

What skiing leads to:

Movie about a poor hotelier who’s being distracted from his job by flashbacks and allegations from when he was a mass murderer. Max (Losey regular Dirk Bogarde, a couple years before Providence) had passed himself off as a doctor during the war, “none of his patients survived.” Max has a cabal of nazis working on his legal case… including Greyburns (Gabriele Ferzetti, interrogator of The Confession, also of Fulci’s The Psychic) and Monocle Guy (Philippe Leroy of Le Trou). But the appearance of his surviving victim Charlotte Rampling (never seen her so young, she costarred with Connery in Zardoz the same year) throws everything off. Dirk and Charlotte have some kinda forbidden love thing going on, get gunned down at the end. The dubbing is slightly off, as are the characters… everyone here is psychotic, with no normal people to bounce off. Mike D’Angelo on letterboxd: “Mostly it’s tastefully dull.”

Can’t seem to remember if I ever saw this before – 90% sure that I did not, and that I saw the Kiefer Sutherland remake back in the day. I do remember the girlfriend disappearing at a gas station, the boyfriend searching for years, finally meeting the kidnapper and being given the option of finding out exactly what happened to the girl by experiencing it himself, or never knowing… he chooses the former, and is drugged then buried alive.

But it’s a 100+ minute movie and there’s more to it… like a scene at the beginning where the couple runs out of gas in the middle of a tunnel, and he abandons her in the darkness, some nifty foreshadowing. The man having a new woman in the years-later section of the movie is vaguely familiar – she’s tolerant of his continuing search for his ex, to a point. The main thing I’d lost is that the kidnapper has a major role in the movie. We see him deciding to kidnap people, then figuring out who/when/how. He takes notes and keeps time when knocking himself out with ether, ripped off by Piercing. So the moment when he gets a woman at the gas station to come to his car almost feels like a triumph of luck and planning.

Sluizer’s best-known worked ended up being the two Vanishings. He made other features with respectable actors, dunno why they are obscure. Then he was in the middle of filming with River Phoenix when River died, and Sluizer resorted to making Stephen Baldwin movies. Lead actress Johanna ter Steege turned up in Immortal Beloved and a Philippe Garrel movie.