Criterion Corner: Hiroshima mon amour

Hiroshima_Mon_Amour_1959

Happy Friday, everyone. Brian Matthew Kim here for the third installment of Criterion Corner. Last week I ranted about Carol Reed’s The Fallen Idol, so this week I’m going to cover a movie I really love: Alain Resnais’ directorial debut, Hiroshima mon amour (1959).

What I like about it: Marguerite Duras’ amazing screenplay. Emmanuelle Riva and Eiji Okada’s performances. The use of stock footage to highlight the atrocities of the atomic bomb. An interracial relationship featuring the rare dynamic of a white woman with an Asian man. How Rasnais captures loneliness, isolation, and displacement.

Favorite scene: The opening. You see two bodies, limbs tangled up in an embrace, but no faces. Light comes in at an angle, reflecting off their skin. They look to be covered in ash (which later switches to a gold-like, glittery substance) and then there’s a dissolve and the bodies are clean, glistening with sweat but otherwise pure. There’s no explicit nudity in the whole sequence, but it’s one of the most intimate series of images I’ve ever seen on film.

Fun fact: Eiji Okada didn’t know how to speak French. He learned his lines phonetically, syllable by syllable.

In Defense of Jingle All The Way

By now, you’ve heard the result of our Jingle All The Way trial.  (That’s a hyperlink, in case you didn’t.)  And I’m sure you’re thinking, wow, he chose that movie–he must be so disappointed!  I’m here to tell you that, I tried the impossible.  Movies on Trial is all about rhetoric.  We enter these films not as ourselves but as the kind of moviegoer who would enjoy this particular film.  We speak not just for these films, for for the people who might enjoy them.  All kinds of people go to the movie theatre.

I chose this film, not just because I thought it had unfairly been branded as irredeemable, but because I wanted to test my powers of rhetoric in arguing for a very hard film to sell.  And, in doing so, I have failed.  Like Icarus, I have flown to close too the sun.  Or, like Kid Icarus for NES, I almost beat level one.

But, I have made Jason Fischedick watch Jingle All The Way, and that has made all the difference.

– John Rice

Save

Criterion Corner: The Fallen Idol

fallen idol

Hey, everyone. Brian Matthew Kim here for another installment of Criterion Corner. Last week I highlighted my favorite Criterion thus far (Paris, Texas), so this week I want to focus on a movie that I did not enjoy: Carol Reed’s 1948 thriller (?), The Fallen Idol.

What I don’t like about it: SO. MANY. WHITE. PEOPLE. As in, the entire cast is white. Now, I know this was 1948, but those “it was a product of its time” arguments are bullshit. And I guess people of color are technically included, however only through the stories of the white man (Mr. Baines, the idol). Baines concocts some seriously fucked-up stories for the young boy, Philippe, who admires him so much. Stories such as: single-handedly quelling an African uprising, shooting (and killing) a native African, and shooting lions. I’m surprised Mr. Baines isn’t wearing a safari hat and a monocle –- he’s practically the face of imperialism. And it would be cool if maybe this were some metaphor about imperialism and how white men have overstepped their boundaries, but spoiler alert: the white guy goes free at the end. Also, I thought the actor who played Philippe (Bobby Henrey) was super annoying and frustrating.

Least favorite scene: Near the middle of the movie, Mr. Baines and his wife get into an argument. Philippe spies on the two of them, running from one vantage point to another. Before he can reach his new spot, Mrs. Baines has fallen to her death. Did Mr. Baines kill her in cold blood? Was it in an accident? This scenario could create a lot of suspense, but Reed instead shows you how Mrs. Baines dies. For a movie that so closely follows Philippe, it’s weird that we get an omniscient, 3rd-person perspective at this moment. I feel like it undermines a lot of tension and suspense that could otherwise develop in the latter half of the movie.

Fun fact: Assistant Director Guy Hamilton once said Bobby Henrey “couldn’t act his way out of a paper bag” and had “the attention span of a demented flea.”

Criterion Corner: Paris, Texas

paris texas

Hey there, everyone. Brian Matthew Kim here. As the resident Criterion Collection expert, I’d like to share with you a few highlights I’ve discovered over my four years of regular Criterion viewing. But rather than focus on the films I enjoy, I’m going to alternate between movies I really like and movies I really dislike. For today’s inaugural entry, I’d like to discuss my favorite Criterion thus far, Wim Wenders’ 1984 road movie (?) Paris, Texas.

What I like about it: Gorgeous cinematography. Ry Cooder’s slide-guitar score. Harry Dean Stanton and Nastassja Kinski’s performances. Sam Shepard’s dialogue. A slow movie that never feels boring. A pre-Quantum Leap Dean Stockwell. The contrast between setting (oftentimes stark, empty, or soulless landscapes) and the characters’ rich humanity.

Favorite scene: If you haven’t seen this movie and you don’t want me to spoil the end, then stop reading now. I mean it. This is your last chance. Okay, so: The conversation (i.e. two monologues) between Stanton and Kinski. Not only are they amazing monologues, but they also flip my feelings about these characters. For most of the movie I empathize with Stanton –- he’s portrayed as the protagonist. But the conversation at the ends shows that he’s actually the bad guy –- he’s the one to blame for their relationship falling apart. It’s jarring that this quiet, gentle man I’ve grown to like is capable of such darkness. And the way the scene is staged –- with one-way glass –- is just even more heartbreaking. There’s always going to be something between them that makes normal conversation impossible.

Fun fact: According to its Wikipedia page, Paris, Texas was both Kurt Cobain’s and Elliott Smith’s favorite movie of all time. I don’t know what that says about me.