Tag: review

Back Catalog Review: Jean Vigo’s Documentary Shorts – À propos de Nice and Taris, roi de l’eau

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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.

I was going to do all of Vigo’s shorts, which would have added Zéro de conduit to this post, but I realized that the Vigo’s first two shorts, À propos de Nice (1930) and Taris, roi de l’eau (1931), were of a different genre than that film, which is a fictional story about life in a boarding school. These two films are documentary shorts, though as I’ll go into a little later, they stretch the boundaries of that genre a little bit. First, a bit of background. À propos de Nice is a city symphony, a subgenre of film that takes a look at the city it is documenting without utilizing a traditional narrative (usually), made famous by Man with a Movie Camera. In this case, Jean Vigo and his photographer, Boris Kaufman, filmed the sights of Nice, France, including beach scenes, sporting activities, a parade, and the working men and women who contrast with the rich leisure-seekers. Meanwhile, Taris, roi de l’eau is a shorter film, commissioned to celebrate the Olympic swimmer Jean Taris’s abilities and prowess. I noticed between these two films with a total runtime of 35 minutes six interesting techniques Vigo used to innovate the documentary form and put his anarchist worldview on film.

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Back Catalog Review: Kwaidan

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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.

When I was very young, my grandmother had a picture book of Japanese folklore. I remember reading it alongside Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and together they kindled a small fire of horror fandom that would eventually turn into the deep love I have for the genre today. I was engrossed by the strange Japanese demons and ghosts in the picture book, and I was intrigued by the different art style that was more in line with the flat compositions typical of classical Japanese artwork. The memory of reading this book came flooding back when I sat down to watch Masaki Kobayashi’s Kwaidan, a film comprised of four shorts depicting ghost stories set in Japan’s distant past.

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Back Catalog Review: The Exterminating Angel

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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.

Like a less-overt episode of The Twilight Zone, The Exterminating Angel puts people in a weird situation and then sees what happens before putting a final twist of the knife at the very end. It’s unlike most other movies in that it isn’t super concerned with characters or even a story as such. And for all of its surrealism and absurdity, the events of the film mostly follow logically from one to the next. Everything, that is, except for the first few minutes, which feature the servants in a baroque Spanish mansion trying to leave before the start of a dinner party that will prove to last quite a long time. We see two maids hide in a closet as the group of rich revelers enter the house and go upstairs to the banquet hall. Here the maids see their escape route open, only to have the same set of guests enter and perform the same actions a second time around. It’s your first hint that something is up here and it’s delightful and off-putting at the same time.

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Movie Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story

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Making a Star Wars movie in 2018 is fraught with dangers. Lurking within the dangerous fog that surrounds the only safe path are fans who have invested in personal visions of the universe based on recently de-canonized stories, critics eager to espouse opinions about franchise fatigue, and just when you think you’ve made it out with your precious cargo, here come journalists ready to pounce upon any reports of troubles on the set or changes in filmmakers. It’s almost impossible to avoid all of these traps and hungry monsters, and the worst thing is that there’s really no way of knowing when one will pop up. Did you hire directors whose trademark is their sense of spontaneity to make your movie that has to slot precisely into a rigid canon, then fire them when you realized that they weren’t going to button up and act right? Oops, there’s 6 months of bad news stories. Did you think it would be a good idea to focus a little on a prop that had accidentally become important after previous filmmakers cut the justifying scene from three movies ago? Well, now you’re scrambling to make up for a horrible movie that everybody hated (one that’s actually the best in the franchise), so now they’re going to hate your movie too. Is your film in part a prequel and in part a set-up for further untold stories? That’s not good storytelling, it’s just an excuse to be money-grubbing hacks. What’s a moviegoer to do?
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