Brief Encounter

Year in Review: Best Criterion

It seems like every year we have to begin this particular article with the disclaimer that we aren’t necessarily talking about the best releases Criterion put upon us this calendar year. If one made a list of top 10 home releases in a given year one could conceivably litter that list with nothing but Criterion releases, and still find themselves in the same predicament. Here, our approach to this article has, more often than not, been based on a wow factor in one of many different areas. Either a wow for the presentation of the release, a wow for the personal discovery of something previously unknown, a wow for the collective power of a set, or, occasionally the most fun, a wow for the “I can’t believe Criterion released that….I’m really happy Criterion decided to release that…but seriously can you believe they released that?” This year was no different in any of those respects for Criterion as they continue to put out some of the most impressive releases month in and month out with films that have been in dire need of the Criterion treatment for a long time (Purple Noon), notoriously maligned and controversial artworks that deserve a second chance (Heaven’s Gate), their continuous support for the unique voices of the next generation of filmmakers (Tiny Furniture) while trying to also include the early works of some of modern cinema’s most exciting visionaries (The Game, Being John Malkovich, Shallow Grave); which, on that note, brings us to our first […]

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Culture Warrior

Imagine what some of our most beloved romantic films would look like if they were made in the 21st century. Laura and Alec of David Lean’s Brief Encounter could have managed their secret meetups over text. Harry and Sally could have checked each others’ okcupid accounts before explaining every aspect of what they seek in a partner over a cross-country road trip. And Ilsa would never have had to get on that plane because, y’know, the war’s over. This is a fruitless endeavor, I know, but it brings one thing into light which poses both problems and opportunities for the contemporary romance film, specifically the romantic comedy: politics, economic conditions, shifting gender roles, and technological evolution means different kinds of relationships and, thus, different kinds of romantic movies. How can the 21st century romance film expect the wedding-bell-chiming happy ending to work in a society full of emerging adults who feel less and less of a need to get married? How can new romantic comedies account for the fact that today’s working professional must move constantly – putting all their human relationships at risk – in order to find a job that suits them without only making films about the uber-privileged? Will there ever be a mainstream romantic comedy featuring a non-monogomous or non-heteronormative protagonist? Several recent screen romances have attempted to tackle the changing nature of relationships – or, at least, the type of relationship typically depicted in the Hollywood romance.

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Criterion Files

The problem with cinephilia is that eventually one feels that they begin to run out of ‘essential’ films to see. The act of watching movies is continually a process of discovery, but as one continues to watch films not as a hobby but as a part of their life-blood, it becomes harder to find individual titles that are revelatory and profound, movies that shape an alter not only your conception of cinema, but art and life as well. The more you see, the fewer new experiences you have – not only because you may have traversed the corners of whatever canon you’ve chosen to cover, but because individual titles become objects of interest accentuating a larger understanding of the medium rather than individual exploits of incredible worth. To see a truly outstanding film, then, becomes an even more rare and valuable occurrence. David Lean’s Brief Encounter (1946) is simply one of those films that I’m surprised I hadn’t seen before, not because I have any pretensions toward having anything approaching a “comprehensive” knowledge of film, but because it’s a work of such profound perfection that it seems only natural that this movie would have been made in this precise way. It’s an audacious, incongruous film, exceptional and unmatched. It’s a devastating and beautiful film that I’m not surprised has survived time’s test, for its themes are as insightful and resonant as its storytelling is engrossing and affecting.

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published: 11.21.2014
D
published: 11.21.2014
B+
published: 11.19.2014
C+
published: 11.19.2014
B-, C


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