Discovering good movies, one bad movie at a time

Every week this summer, we’ll be taking an historical tour of the Hollywood blockbuster by examining an older film that is in some way a spiritual precursor to one of the weekend’s wide releases. This week: the Walt Disney Company has acted for years like A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh is theirs and theirs alone, as is […]

Any historical film movement is usually going to get discussed in terms of the biggest name-brand directors responsible for the biggest name-brand films, and so it was with the Soviet Montage movement. Any cinephile worthy of the name will know Sergei Eisenstein and Dziga Vertov at least by name, and anyone who likes their work […]

I am no expert in the history of silent Soviet cinema, merely an enthusiastic hobbyist, but I think I’m still comfortable saying that the two most important, well-regarded filmmakers in the USSR in 1927 were Sergei Eisenstein and Vsevolod Pudovkin. So it makes sense that those two men were tapped by the Central Committee to […]

A review requested by Andrew Yankes, with thanks for contributing to the Second Quinquennial Antagony & Ecstasy ACS Fundraiser. There is no film quite like the 1979 animated short Tale of Tales. I mean that in the most literal way. Just about every film is like some other film, but not this one – it […]

A review requested by David N, with thanks for contributing to the Second Quinquennial Antagony & Ecstasy ACS Fundraiser. In the general fashion of such things, when Aleksandr Sokurov’s Russian Ark erupted into the world at the 2002 Cannes International Film Festival, it was greeted by the majority of English-language critics as though it was […]

“Who’s that then?” “I dunno, must be a king.” “Why?” “He hasn’t got shit all over him.” –Monty Python and the Holy Grail There is much shit in Hard to Be a God. That’s by no means the film’s most salient aspect, but it’s probably the thing that’s hardest to stop noticing, once you start. […]

A review requested by André Robichaud, with thanks for contributing to the Second Quinquennial Antagony & Ecstasy ACS Fundraiser. The apparent subject of Soviet director Andrei Tarkovsky’s second feature, Andrei Rublev, is indicated right in the title: it’s a story of the life of the most renowned painter of icons in medieval Russia, Andrei Rublev […]

I don’t know where the line is drawn between a story that has metaphorical aspects to it, and metaphor that is happens to take the form of a narrative, but I know that Leviathan is way the hell on the far side of it. To say that it is about corruption and cronyism in the […]

Andrey Zyagintsev’s 2003 The Return is one of the great lost films of the 2000s, a masterpiece that nobody ever talks about, and it was reason all by itself to be excited for the director’s newest film, Elena (he made one feature in between the two, The Banishment, which I don’t believe received U.S. distribution). […]

The standard history of Tolkien adaptations ushers us right from the terrible 1980 Rankin/Bass TV animation The Return of the King to Peter Jackson’s monolithic big-budget blockbuster trilogy starting with The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring over two decades later; but that is only because the standard history is written by […]

Screens at CIFF: 10/17 & 10/18World premiere: 14 February, 2011, Berlin Film Festival In what I hope desperately is a piece of deliberate misquotation and not just crappy subtitling (at a festival it never does to assume), one of the characters in the Russian metaphysical sci-fi love story Target early on recalls the opening moral […]

Sometimes, you have to wonder if the censors in the Soviet Union just plain hated art. It seems, doesn’t it, that just about every great filmmaker to come out of that country had at least one of their films stomped on by the House That Stalin Built, whether that film could be properly called “counter-revolutionary” […]