Imagine watching this film opening night in a New York theater. Stanley Kubrick, who was respected for his groundbreaking satire Dr. Strangelove, had been secretly working on a science fiction film and word of it's futuristic sets and special effects had gotten around. Opening night came and the theater was packed with critics from all walks of life. By the time the film was over less than half the audience remained. Among them was Roger Ebert who said, "the genius is not in how much Kubrick does, but in how little. This is the work of an artist so sublimely confident that he doesn't include a single shot simply to keep our attention." He's right. In 2021, there are plenty of boring films that exist in Odyssey's shadow but few have come close to the complexity and commitment of Kubrick's vision. As pretentious as this sounds, 2001 is a film that evades meaning. The less we know the better. Considering this movie released amidst the height of LSD's popularity, it was in many ways a movie made for psychedelic users, hippies, freaks. Kubrick even criticized the film reviewers who didn't understand his film by calling them, "materialistic and earthbound." Clearly, smoking a joint before the film was recommended (especially for the film critics of the 60's). Even today 2001 is a safe choice for a trip; there's no triggering events, the film is way more suspenseful but still slow enough to process, there's very pleasant and thought-provoking imagery, the music will be heaven to your ears. Though I believe normal humans are capable of enjoying this film as well. I found it to be bewildering as a teenager and I still do today. The 4k remaster is a completely new experience and if you have the ability to watch this version - it's a must. It looks like it was made in 2021. The timelessness of this film is beyond it's forever wandering plot. Kubrick made a film that's visually timeless as well. It's imagery hasn't aged a bit. This vision of the future is truly beyond it's time and a testament to the often misunderstood genius of Stanley Kubrick.
"I do not avoid women, but I do deny them my essence."
I had to take time when deciding my quote for this review because there's just too many perfect lines. The one I went with is said by General Jack D. Ripper, who's name by no mistake sounds like the infamous Jack the Ripper. He is solely responsible for the events that transpire in this comedic masterpiece as he plots to start WWIII in order to save our precious bodily fluids. Dr. Strangelove is one of my favorite comedies. It's the perfect political satire, where the US politicians and war generals are forced to deal with a dire situation that will no doubt lead to nuclear annihilation. The catch; our characters are motivated more by what's in their pants. Now this isn't to say Kubrick's black and white classic is a sex comedy. Its far from using any blatant sexual humor. If you know Kubrick, you know that his filmography has explored violence and sexuality side by side. Dr. Strangelove is perhaps his most important exploration into these topics but with a healthy dash of politics thrown in as well. Even if political humor isn't your thing watch this for Peter Sellers, who plays 3 different characters wonderfully. This is an hour an thirty minutes of genius. I promise you'll find something to laugh about.
The first thing I noticed about Stalker was that sound told a separate story. While in modern films sound is mostly used to present realism, cutting-edge technology placing it's audience into visceral environments. Tarkovsky uses it to convey an emotion. Signaling out one specific sound that the audience will remember, or not using any sound at all, to build tension. There's something uniquely terrifying about the way Stalker conjures its mystery through sound, forcing it's audience to be on guard, or they might miss it. Stalker's atmosphere is devious, captivating, and especially gorgeous. Built on long takes that are an average of 88 secs each. Expertly framed and emotionally significant. It's also an incredibly well written script. Characters have long thought-provoking monologues about divinity and truth. Often in response to each others criticisms, or as an observation of the environment - the vividly hypnotic zone, which entraps people inside to keep them from reaching transcendence. In my book, Stalker would be right next to 2001: A Space Odyssey on the list of the most mind-bending works of cinematic history. Kubrick and Tarkovsky are two different sides of the same coin. Both of their films are visually arresting. Though Kubrick's films aren't governed by higher forces. His films all deal with human desire and often frustration with humans. Tarkovsky on the other hand makes movies about spirituality, God, and existentialism. The exact opposite of Kubrick's often cold vision. Stalker excels by being a about an exploration into a place governed by another realm.
When I was 12 I saw for the first time a naked woman on screen. I was instantly full of excitement and also shame. The excitement I understand was natural but the shame was a result of my strictly religious parents. Luis Bunuel's drama about eroticism understands both these sides of sexual emotions and explores them through the mind of our protagonist. Belle de Jour isn't her real name but it's what she wants to be called. She loves sex. She feels empowered by it. We learn that sex and love are not the same thing for her. She loves her husband but when she has sex she wants it to be about sex - not love. It's the reason why she won't let him touch her. We also learn that she secretly desires him to force himself on her. Bunuel explores both the conscious and subconscious impulses that drive Belle De Jour's needs. We experience her sexual daydreams, which she has often enough to begin confusing the audience. It's not an overstatement to say that Catherine Deneuve's performance is why this film is outstanding. Her often blank unassuming expression has inspired many female protagonists. But it's the moments where she's happiest that really make you fall in love with her. Watching her explore her sexual fantasies, while hiding from her husband, brought me the same excitement and shame as when I was 12. Not because of nudity, but because this perspective of sexuality is to me both beautiful and wicked. Right and wrong.
By far the scariest part of this low-budget, sweaty, backwoods horror film is how sick it makes you feel. The slow shots of dirty bones, long talks about slaughtering animals, and those same discussions of cruelty acted out upon the unfortunate travelers by leatherface and his family. All of it detailed enough to turn a stomach. Its bewildering that a group of people would commit so thoroughly to bringing this horrific tale to life. A film with no purpose beyond bringing evil to life in its different forms. The cast must have gone through hell in that hot and humid, old house and those dark fields. Yet, every aspect of this filmmaking is incredible and is still being imitated today just in lesser quality. You can't create this level of simple, honest horror anymore. We’ll forever have this sickening gem but that is all this franchise amounts to in quality. The future entries abandoned atmosphere for more pointless gore.
What surprised me most about this movie was how much life seeped from its existential seams. I expected a dark film about life and death in a terrible time, but what I experienced was something every person ever can relate to. While it's imagery may have aged, our knight Antonius' dread of death and search for God will always be benchmarked into our brains. I know I'll never forget it. In fact I want to watch it again already. Antonius challenges death to a game of chess after returning home from the crusades. His general indifference towards his fellow man has sparked in him an existential crisis and he's desperately searching for the existence of God, while playing this game with death. This is a bravely spiritual film even if it may conclude with there being no God, which really depends on your perspective. It's spirituality shines mostly through it's sense of joy and love. Finding comfort in the presence of love or being in love during such a dark time. The many characters that accompany Antonius on his journey home all represent the different perspectives on living life and so I believe the people are key to answering his questions, which he realizes at least some before the game is over.
This legendary film's influence can be seen still today. Influencing greats like Lord of the Rings and The Avengers. It is said this is the first film where a team is assembled to carry out a mission. Of course, it was also remade into the American classic 'The Magnificent Seven.' Indirectly spawning the spaghetti western genre. Samurai became cowboy in the west. For all these magnificent feats how does it stand alone as a film experience? It's absolutely wonderful, timeless even. Leaving the 200 minute film I immediately began writing about the film. I wrote 3 pages on the lessons this film taught me. The construction of this simple premise turned 3 hour epic is genius. Next to Lord of the Rings, I don't think another film takes as much advantage of time as does Seven Samurai. Every piece of it's story is well developed and deserving of it's time. Kurosawa and his team of talented filmmakers and performers are simply legendary.
"Life is brief." The ode our protagonist sings throughout the film. "Fall in love, maidens." Falling in love occured for Kanji long ago. All he knows now is bureaucracy. That is until he finds out he has stomach cancer, which then results in him visiting the pub for the first time in literally forever. A drink to his stomach is poison. But he does it anyway. Kanji is severely depressed until a kind man, a writer, meets him at the pub. They drink and drink, go out gambling, to the red light district, and then to a piano bar where Kanji requests his song, Life is Brief, and sings it to the unsuspecting audience. He cries. A lot more happens in Ikiru, its 160 mins long. Some of it sad, some scary, and a lot of it hilarious. The last 40 minutes particularly are very funny as Kanji's coworkers get drunk at his funeral. They discuss his final days and what he did in them. We experience through a recounting of drunk stories Kanji's mission of getting a park built. Taking action as a bureaucrat is progressive and unheard of. Though Kanji fights until the park is built and dies inside of it. Singing his song but now with a happy vigor and big smile. We must learn from Kanji and from Kurosawa's masterpiece Ikiru, to be better humans. To strive for change and for passion. Though as the final moments show and as Kurosawa predicts, change won't occur. Mr. Watanabe is a special person. We don't all have that power.
The space opera that started it all. A testament to originality and innovation that won't be matched again. Movie-making at it's finest creating fanboys that will eventually be the world's worst criticizing everything that dare breath the same air as this classic. Space battles, talking robots, lightsaber duels, all introduced and packed tightly into this entertaining sci fi epic. I had the pleasure of watching it with someone for their first time (a rare treat). It was wonderful to witness someone typically avoidant of old films enjoy this movie. A beautiful display of it's magical cinematic powers.
Martin Scorsese's 1976 masterpiece - 'Taxi Driver' is more important in 2019 than ever. Travis Bickle is a cab driver in NYC. He's also an insomniac and a loner, who watches porn off broadway when he can't sleep. He is not someone you'd want to know. Robert De Niro's inspired work vibes heavily with Paul Schrader's script capturing the very soul of this character. He's fascinating to watch, often anxious, daydreaming, confident. Scorsese captures New York city like it's both a dream and a nightmare. Dipping in and out of Bickle's ever slipping conscious. Creating a visceral experience that's hard to look away from. It's importance in 2019 can be summed up by 'Joker,' which in many ways reincarnates Travis Bickle.