Back Catalog Review: Blow-Up

Blow Up 1

The Back Catalog is a series following my quest to watch all of the films I own. Check out the index, or follow the Back Catalog tag to see what I’ve watched and what I’ve thought of the films.

Movies are all, in one way or another, about looking. Even experimental stuff like Stan Brakhage’s Mothlight is about looking and seeing. But movies about photographers are perhaps the kind most likely to bring looking to the forefront of the movie-watching experience. The photographer protagonist will have an eye out for compelling compositions and the film camera will often emulate those compositions so that the film audience can experience some version of the act of photographing that the protagonist is partaking in. Movies about musicians have to go to great lengths to make you feel like you have an understanding of what it means to write or play music, but with a simple camera placement and a meaningful cut, audiences can be transported into the mind (or at least the eye) of the on-screen photographer. That ease of experiential transference makes movies about photographers particularly suited to the study of looking. Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up (1966) is one such film, a beautiful movie about what happens when you look too closely.

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Movie Review: A Quiet Place

A Quiet Place

I’ve been reading a really great book (Shocking Representation: Historical Trauma, National Cinema, and the Modern Horror Film by Adam Lowenstein) about allegorical horror and its ability to address historical situations in ways that other genres find more difficult. I’ve realized that this subgenre is one that really hits my buttons with movies like Onibaba and mother! scattered around my lists of favorite films, horror and otherwise. A Quiet Place is not one of those films, at least not as far as I can tell. There’s no national trauma that this seems to be calling to mind, nor is it engaging in a conversation with other films that do so. And yet, it’s my new favorite movie of the year so far because it’s so damn good at the very basics of the horror genre (it’s scary af) and it has a thematic concern that resonates beyond the thrills on offer.

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Back Catalog Review: Full Metal Jacket

Full Metal Jacket 1

The Back Catalog is a series following my quest to watch all of the films I own. Check out the index, or follow the Back Catalog tag to see what I’ve watched and what I’ve thought of the films.

About 2/3rds of the way through Full Metal Jacket I started to think about Paths of Glory. It’s not surprising, both are war films that are critical of war in some ways, and both are directed by Stanley Kubrick. Pretty obvious. I was struck, however, at how differently the two movies see war. This isn’t a case of a director making the same point in a different era. In fact, Kubrick conceptualizes the two wars (WWI for Paths, Vietnam for Full) almost completely differently. In Paths of Glory, his ire is aimed at the higher ups, the generals who rigidly stick to antiquated notions of what a war is and put the footsoldiers into harms way without a care for their humanity. In Full Metal Jacket, that inhumanity infects everybody. Sure, the generals are idiots for getting America into the mire and not doing anything to get us out or change anything, but now the grunts aren’t noble sacrifices to the gods of war, they see themselves as those gods personified. They willingly absolve themselves of their morals in order to fuck and kill their way through a foreign country and its people. Kubrick doesn’t have his characters call Vietnam and the warzones within it “the shit” for verisimilitude, he does it because he sees the US military as covered in the stuff, full of it, or even composed of it.

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Back Catalog Review: Le Silence de la Mer

Le Silence de la Mer 1

The Back Catalog is a series following my quest to watch all of the films I own. Check out the index, or follow the Back Catalog tag to see what I’ve watched and what I’ve thought of the films.

This was Jean-Pierre Melville’s first film and it’s a far cry from the other Melville movie I’ve seen, his penultimate Le Cercle Rouge. Where that was a film that oozed cool out of every frame, Le Silence de la Mer‘s primary feeling is seething rage. It’s funny, there’s not a moment of conflict here. Not a shot taken, not a single injury on screen. The only hint of violence we get is the German Lieutenant’s limp. Only a few words are spoken in anger, and they come at the end of the film. But still, it’s full of rage, of the anger of the occupied and the disillusioned. Melville constructs an enthralling tale of resistance out of silence, monologues, and narration. To these three aural modes of discourse Melville adds beautiful images to round out the package. It’s a wonderful little movie that demonstrates the power of resistance even when that resistance is as passive as can be.

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Back Catalog Review: Lawrence of Arabia

Lawrence of Arabia 1.jpg

The Back Catalog is a series following my quest to watch all of the films I own. Check out the index, or follow the Back Catalog tag to see what I’ve watched and what I’ve thought of the films.

Oh, so this is what Lawrence of Arabia is. I feel a perverse sense of accomplishment for having made it three decades into my life without seeing it. For the past 10 years or so I was just waiting for it to play on a big screen somewhere near me (it never did) and then for the past few years I was waiting until I had the time and the inclination to actually watch it. Luckily we had a snow day yesterday and I was home alone with about four hours to spare. So here we are. Of course I saw where some of my favorite movies got their inspiration (Indiana Jones particularly) and I was amazed at just how well constructed the whole thing is (only one shot stood out to me as weird, and I can’t even remember it a day later). But what I was most impressed with was what David Lean was doing with his time.

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