For many filmmakers, the art of crafting a feature film is a very singular act: Get in, get out, change up cast and crew for the next feature, repeat. But with each great filmmaker comes a great collaborator. Spielberg with John Williams, Lars von Trier with Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Kubrick with novels are just a few examples of how filmmaking is truly a team sport. However, there may be very few more successful and worthwhile collaborations than director Ingmar Bergman and his long time director of photography, Gunnar Fischer.
Working on a handful of films together such as SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT and THE SEVENTH SEAL, the pair have created some of the most iconic and isolating dramas of their time, and are the epitome of what black and white films and photography can truly do. And SUMMER WITH MONIKA is a perfect example of just how potent that type of photography can be.
Some directors are visual specialists. Look at Spielberg and his use of the close-up, known as the "Spielberg Face." Some are philosophers. Kubrick may be the best of that bunch. Some are aggressively provocative antagonists. No director is more polarizing than Godard. However, one director built his career on blending stark visuals with deep intellectual musing and the occasional religious provocation, wrapping it all up into a single canon that may very well be the deepest collection of films to ever be made by one filmmaker.
Ingmar Bergman, throughout his career, made a point to craft distant, isolating and visually desolate bits of cinema, but it is the handful of themes that he routinely touched on that make him one of the most influential and important filmmakers to ever walk the face of the earth. And all of these themes, from isolation to faith, life to death, are all found within one distinct picture, SUMMER INTERLUDE.
Every month, I feel as though we routinely say that each respective month features the best slate of Criterion releases announced to date. Be it a new Chaplin addition, or something totally out of the blue, Criterion refuses to rest on its laurels. And August may be their best month yet.
Starting off the month is the introduction of the iconic art-house giants Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, whose beloved films ROSETTA and LA PROMESSE will hit on August 14. Both releases are relatively bare bones, but do include a conversation with the directors and critic Scott Foundas as well interviews with the respective leads of each film. While I’ve only see PROMESSE, I can say that they are some of the best directors currently working and, hopefully, this won’t be the last we hear of them in the collection.
Within the world of avant-garde, experimental filmmaking, there happens to be a pantheon of patron saints that young filmmakers become inspired by. Be it something as tame as early Jim Jarmusch (I’m thinking the bizarre and kinetic PERMANENT VACATION), something as breathtakingly simplistic and beautiful as the films of Jean Painleve, or the god of the experimental world Stan Brakhage, experimental cinema carries with it some of the most refreshing pieces one could imagine.
And then there are the films of Hollis Frampton. Now brought to the world thanks to The Criterion Collection, a collection of twenty-four of his iconic, and yet often unsung pieces have been released on DVD and Blu-ray, in what may be one of the greatest and most important releases from the company since their Brakhage and Painleve releases.
Of all the issues that plague the political world here in these United States of America, very few may be as polarizing or as much of a 'hot button' as immigration. Everyone has their own take on the subject, and frankly, it's arguably the most important issue that has yet to truly have much of a presence on the big screen.
Save for the occasional documentary like Louis Malle's brilliant AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS, very few films or filmmakers have been able to give a potent and affecting look at the American immigrant experience. Save for, perhaps, one of the more interesting attempts from a (then) young and first-time director, Robert M. Young.
Throughout the history of film, the medium has not only been used to discuss the times from which it is created, as well as transcending time, having the ability to be even more pertinent and important as the years pass. And then, somewhere in the middle, lies a film like THE ORGANIZER. A film that is as visually stunning as one would imagine, with a narrative the is both ripped from history made and history currently being made, yet far less intellectually profound than a film like this would be imagined to be.
Helmed by BIG DEAL ON MADONNA STREET director Mario Monicelli, THE ORGANIZER is an effective, if unbearably long story looking into the lives of textile laborers in Turin, Italy, at the turn of the 20th Century. When a traveling professor, played by the amazing and always charming Marcello Mastroianni, arrives in town, the group finally finds a being to rally around with, following an accident that has the group of workers reeling. Blending a rather cartoonish sense of humor from its engaging Oscar nominated script and a handful of top notch performances, the film doesn't say much about the experience of these workers, but what it does say is engaging and beautifully crafted.
Criterion, I’m taking you to task, right now. Consider this post a loving little prod, hoping that this love that you have given one Keisuke Kinoshita is something more than a little tease. First, the news.
Wednesday saw the addition of a handful of new films to Criterion’s Hulu Plus page. Among late additions like Federico Fellini’s JULIET OF THE SPIRITS and iconic, interesting and rarely discussed gems like , Vojitch Jasny’s ALL MY GOOD COUNTRYMEN comes another four films from Criterion;s love child Keisuke Kinoshita. This brings the total number of films from the director currently on Hulu Plus to an unprecedented thirty-one.
The possibility of an edition of Roman Polanski's classic thriller, ROSEMARY'S BABY, released by The Criterion Collection has been rumored for ages. The film seemed destined for Criterion (KNIFE IN THE WATER, CUL-DE-SAC, and, his best film in my eyes, REPULSION, have hit home video via the mighty C) and due to one of their ever-great "wacky drawings," looks to be made available soon.
Every so often, when dealing with a company as great as Criterion, you’ll get the occasional month where the pickings are relatively slim, or it appears as though they are going back to the proverbial well. However, their well is so damn fantastic, that such a month may be the best month you’ll see in a while. That’s July for you.
First up, Criterion will be Blu-grading the hell out of their collection, including the trio of Jim Jarmusch’s DOWN BY LAW, and a pair of Whit Stillman films, THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO and METROPOLITAN. Personally, I’m most excited about the two Stillman films, since he is one of my favorite filmmakers working today. These are two films unlike any you’ll see from directors of his ilk (be it the Wes Andersons or the Noah Baumbachs), and while I do truly like the Jarmusch film, it’s not my favorite of the director’s canon. All three are going to look absolutely superb in HD, and they are welcome upgrades coming at a perfect time during the year.
Hitchcock and Herrmann. Spielberg and John Williams. Scorsese and Schoonmaker. Kubrick and a novel. Film history's brilliant pairs abound and now one of its unsung dynamic duos are finally getting their day in the sun, thanks to the geniuses over at The Criterion Collection.