In which I attempt to watch every film in The Criterion Collection and end up watching a lot that aren't. Click here for the rating system.


Lord of the Flies

"Why, it's just like preparatory school!"

A 1963 B/W adaptation of William Golding's dark novel. It's as good as the book. In my opinion. Of course I never read the book. So actually I couldn't say. But I bet it is.

Favorite Moments: The choirboys marching, Simon finding the paratrooper, the sailors' arrival.

Coup de Torchon

"Uh... is the answer, "yes?" №¢

Well, well, well. Bertrand Tavernier's strange flick about a french sheriff of a small West African town beats the band. What you'll notice first when you pop this one in is the highly intense intro score which covers a scene which is anything but intense. I mean, it's almost ridiculous, just like the main character as he bumbles through his life. He stops looking ridiculous after he's killed a few people in cold blood. A bizarre and eerie tale. Psychologically disconnected. I still don't know what I think of it...

Favorite Moment: The pimp in the outhouse.

Stray Dog: Kerberos Panzer Cops

"How I watched the wrong movie."№¢

This is a really funny story: I went to get Kurosawa's Stray Dog to watch it and instead picked up another Japanese film by the same name. Oops. And it sucked. But I watched it anyway, so I'm gonna write about it.

Stray Dog begins with black and white pictures of cute little puppies with acoustic guitar music. Then we cut to color shots of Japanese Robocops in a dungeon hideout. They are running from the law. Then one of them leaves in a heli and a younger one sees him go and cries out and then the gates open and the law shows up to deport/kill everybody. And then I lost contact with the story. I watched most of it on fast-forward. It made no sense. The end. Thank you for your time.

Favorite Moment: Realizing this wasn't the film I wanted to watch.

Bombay Talkie

Or "Why The British Should Never Be Allowed Near Bollywood."

Ugh. I didn't know Merchant Ivory films could be that bad. It was made in the seventies. Perhaps that explains it.

I don't know what to say about this movie. Everything starting getting hazy for me the minute I saw Helen dancing on a gigantic red typewriter (which the directors thought was a beautiful allegory for life and I thought looked dumb as hell).

I got this movie in the hopes that I could learn something about Bollywood film in the sixties and seventies. I was so wrong.

Favorite Moments: Opening credits, guru playing ping-pong.


"The funniest Frenchman since Jerry Lewis." ▲ ♪

If there's one thing the French don't do well it's comedy. No, no. They're good at making baguettes, philosophizing and smoking, but slapstick is not exactly up their cul de sac. So it was a great delight to watch Jacques Tati's Playtime. You remember Peter Seller's movie The Party where he plays a little Indian guy misinvited to a Hollywood soirée where the head waiter gets increasingly drunk as the evening progresses? Well, this is like that, except (dare I say it) funnier. "What? The French funnier than Peter Sellers?" I hear you say. But yes, it's true. The timing, the impecable flow, the comedic layers all smooth as a crème brûlée. Jacques Tati's third Mr Hulot film reveals a sidestepping on Tati's part away from his main character. In fact, in this film there are numerous pseudo-Hulots, making the screen seem at times like a Where's Waldo page. The film has three parts: a satirical view of modernization in Paris, a night club at its hilarious grand opening, and a coda. If you are looking for linear plot, you should rent The Matrix. This doesn't have it. What this does have is a mind-blowingly expensive set (for that time anyways. the entire inner-city was a constructed set.) and some of the most refreshing comedy I've seen in a long time. Included in the Criterion's version is a short film entitled Evening Classes.

Favorite Moments: Hulot getting in an elevator by mistake, the gentle ribbing of American tourists (notice, I say "gentle," because this is another thing the French are not good at), the doorman opening and closing the doorknob after the glass door breaks, the head waiter's coat tails.


Big Deal on Madonna Street

"I thought I just watched this movie..." ▲ ♪

Ever seen Welcome To Collinwood? Then you've seen Big Deal On Madonna Street... for the most part. Welcome To Collinwood is an eerie facsimile of its predecessor from characters and costumes to sets and direction. Almost no detail goes uncopied by the Russo brothers (Oh, and Joe and I used to go to school together. I kid you not.). Anyways, we're not talking about the Russo brothers, we're talking about Mario Monicelli. (Only Italians can grow up with a name like that and not get hassled about it.) This may be one of three films in the Criterion Collection that is actually funny in the way that I think film should be funny. I mean, when The Criterion Collection calls Down By Law "laugh out loud" I have to raise my eyebrows a bit. Have you seen that film? It's not funny (except for Roberto Benigni, but he's always funny). Anyways, we're not talking about Jim Jarmusch, we're talking about Mario. Or rather about the broken sense of humor in the selection committee at The Criterion Collection.
This film is funny.

Favorite Moments: The fake arm gag (that never gets old), Mario throwing the knife into the door, the wall of bottles Tiberio falls on, Cosimo getting run over, Peppe ransacking the kitchen they just broke into.

Dil to Pagal Hai

"Where the hell is that breeze coming from?"№¢

If you don't know Bollywood you should be ashamed of yourself. Just because The Criterion Collection is too proud to house any of their films doesn't mean you can't watch one. This one is... well, long. But they're all long damnit. According to one website, Dil To Pagal Hai is "a grand musical about passionate people with dreams." See? Isn't that great? Well, look, if you don't like schmaltzy happy people you won't like it, but I do, in fact, like happy people with dreams. And if you don't, you may just need to reassess your life and rearrange your priorities so that long, happy musicals with love triangles, dances in the rain, and ubiquitous wind-effects can finally reach the top of your list. Where it belongs!

Stars (from left to right) Madhuri Dixit, Shahrukh Khan, and Karisma Kapoor.

Favorite Moments: Rain dance with children, the damn wind that's absolutely everywhere!

The Vanishing

"It's how creepy is done!"

Ok, every woman's nightmare in 106 minutes. George Sluizer's trilingual creep-fest was enjoyed by yours truly on fast-forward... for the most part. I don't do horror. So when I watch it, I watch it sound down or fast-forward. There's just some things I don't need, like remembering that truly creepy beard on Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu. *shudder* Anyways, it was subtle, but not slow. Agonizing, but not overwhelming. Full-bodied with a little cherry at the end... whatever.

Favorite Moments: The French countryside.

Mona Lisa

"Why I love Bob Hoskins"

One of the most unabashedly sentimental films I have ever seen, this film is scored almost entirely with Nat King Cole classics and Opera and set in the London prostitution world. It is NOT sentimental about prostitution, however. In fact its unflinching look at child exploitation is to its credit. Rather, the character Bob Hoskins plays, George, drips with sentimentality and romantic ideal. He warms to the call girl he is assigned to drive around town and comes to view her as a saint disguised as a whore. What's truly fascinating to me is that the director Neil Jordan originally envisioned Sean Connery in the role of George. I cannot imagine that. Smirking and lisping and raising his eyebrows as he smacks his greasy lips. The horror. But, let's face it, I am a Bob Hoskins admirer and Sean Connery can go to hell.

Favorite Moments: George really looking at Simone for the first time. Clothes shopping. George beating the shit out of the pimps.


"Like It, Or Else!"

I was advised to... nay; ordered to like this film by the insert notes. Told in no uncertain terms that only a fool would dislike this movie, I began to dislike it immediately. Then I watched it. It left me cold. One man's treasure is another fool's trash apparently. I didn't care much one way or another. It hadn't taken me to new heights or shown me something I didn't realize or revealed a fragmented glimpse of the true world around me, it just was. To be honest, the only Th. Dreyer film I actually like liked was The Passion of Joan of Arc (also in the Criterion Collection). So, enough. There it is. Ordet means "Word" by the way and the film is riddled and punctuated with religious sentiment.

Favorite Moment: Little girl believing her uncle was Jesus.


Red Beard

"He's a doctor, not a pirate."

Mifune's last picture for Kurosawa (Kurosawa's 23rd film) is genius. I can only throw my praise onto the pile of universal acclaim for Kurosawa by saying that I have never fast-forwarded any film of his. Which at this point, is pretty amazing. Black and white, 185 minutes and about as philosophical as Kurosawa ever got. The commentary consisted of one man repeating in an awed voice, "... here we see how Kurosawa's signature telephoto lens flattens out the scene and stacks the characters one on top of the other." The commentary also talks at great length about Kurosawa's admiration for two men; his older brother Heigo and Dostoevsky. There's only one fight in this film (unless you count the struggle betwwen the young doctor and the Mantis) between Red Beard and the brothel guards, but it's fairly graphic.

Favorite Moments: Red beard tugging his beard to one side. Otoyo begging on the bridge. Chobo's fairwell speach. The cooks calling into the well.


OK, this should be fairly sloppy at first so buckle down. In the last eight months I have watched 200 some films. This is partly because I have no life and partly because I'm just so damn curious about everything. My true goal is to watch the entire Criterion Collection which I would have done by now if the bastards weren't adding films every other day. Just when I think I'm getting somewhere they've dug up yet another Ingmar Bergman film from the Swedish psyche and popped it on their website with enticing tidbits. Despite this, I am halfway to my goal (right now) and I thought I should take some time to condense my greedily assembled knowledge on the web for the benefit of fellow film troglodytes or just the odd browser-by. (You know who you are.)

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