Carlos

Criterion Files

The Criterion Collection devotes itself to important classic and contemporary films. But cinema hardly exists in a vacuum. Moving image artists have often moved between media formats, and movies have had a history of influence from their many competitors. Would we have seen Nicholas Ray’s Bigger Than Life, for example, in widescreen Technicolor had 1950s cinema not competed with television? Therefore, even though The Criterion Collection is overwhelmingly devoted to the art of cinema, the Collection has recognized select important works of television. But the inevitable question arises: which works of great, influential television are justifiable to include in a cinema library? The Criterion Collection doesn’t include works of television that are great in television’s own terms, but instead recognizes works of television that are great for cinema.

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When fighting their various political fights, young people oftentimes lose sight of why exactly they are fighting in the first place, getting swept up in the intrigue of dodging the police or suddenly having a tangible purpose in life. Olivier Assayas’s Something in the Air follows a group of these idealistic young people, who think that revolution is in their grasp… until disillusionment sets in. The film chronicles the lives of high schooler Gilles (Clément Métayer) and his friends’ involvement in this all-consuming revolutionary fight against the establishment in early 1970s France, in the aftermath of the General Strike and student uprising of May 1968. Assayas’s film is interesting and adeptly captures the misguided, yet well-meaning political fervor of this specific youth culture, but it sometimes falls flat in terms of delving deeper into characters and getting to the root of their passion for their various causes.

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Criterion Files

The Criterion Collection’s motto makes explicit its devotion to “important classic and contemporary films,” but it’s also clear that the Collection has dedicated itself to the careers of a select group of important classic and contemporary directors. Several prestigious directors have a prominent portion of their careers represented by the collection. Between the Criterion spine numbers and Eclipse box sets, 21 Ingmar Bergman films are represented (and multiple versions of two of these films), ranging from his 1940s work to Fanny and Alexander (and 3 documentaries about him). 26 Akira Kurosawa films have been given the Criterion/Eclipse treatment, and Yashujiro Ozu has 17 films in the collection. Though many factors go into forming the collection, including the ever-shifting issue of rights and ownership over certain titles, it’s hard to argue against the criticism (or, perhaps more accurately, obvious observation) that the films in the Collection represent certain preferences of taste which makes its omissions suspect and its occasionally-puzzling choices fodder for investigation or too predictable to be interesting (two Kurosawa Eclipse sets?). And while the Collection has recently upped its game on the “contemporary” portion of its claim by highlighting modern-day masterpieces like Olivier Assayas’s Carlos and Andrew Haigh’s Weekend, for the most part attempts at forming a complete directorial filmography via within the Collection has typically been reserved for directors whose filmographies have completed. Except, of course, for the case of Wes Anderson.

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This was a hell of a year in The Criterion Collection. Between films about phantom carriages, angry jurors, beasts and beauties, stranded astronauts, international revolutionaries, and great dictators, Adam Charles and Landon Palmer found their wallets empty and their cinephilic obsessions sated. Here are their eleven favorite releases and upgrades of the year…

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This Week in DVD

Welcome to the day late edition of This Week In DVD! It’s late! I’d apologize, but I’m currently enjoying the wonders of Austin’s Fantastic Fest and have been deprived of sleep and nutritious foods for far too long. But still, better late than never. This week’s titles include Criterion’s release of Carlos, the African action pic Viva Riva, the laughably bad The Ledge, the hilarious Cartoon Network series Adventure Time, and more! As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky Ricky is a young man with incredible martial arts skills. He’s fast and agile, but more importantly he can rip your innards from your body with deadly precision. This decades old Hong Kong flick is over the top ridiculous in the violence and gore on display and not coincidentally is awesome. There’s more bloodletting and gore than you’ll find in the average horror film. Disemboweling, eyeball violence, cuts, head smashing, and more fill the screen with a crimson colored glee. Sure it rarely looks exactly real, but goddamn is it entertaining. The film’s been around for some time, but if you don’t own a copy this latest reissue is the perfect time to fix that.

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Culture Warrior

A very strange thing happened at this year’s Golden Globes ceremony. Somewhere between Ricky Gervais’ biting monologue/critique and Robert De Niro’s uncomfortable lifetime achievement acceptance speech, an epic international arthouse film won the award for Best Made for Television Movie or Miniseries, beating out the other nominations in the typically HBO-dominated category. Olivier Assayas’ Carlos is, from an American perspective, quite difficult to classify. We first heard about it when it was met with rave reviews at Cannes and other festivals, then it was distributed theatrically through IFC (in its original 5 ½ hour run time) while it had a three-episode “miniseries” run on the Sundance Channel just as it had done in France when originally commissioned for French television. Now, before an explicitly planned DVD release (though there is some certainty that the film will be the latest IFC release to get the Criterion treatment), it’s available streaming in its three-part miniseries form via Netflix (which is how I eventually saw it). All this is to say that it’s quite a task to say with any certainty precisely what Carlos is and in which medium it belongs. The film was financed by French television, yet it’s shot in a widescreen aspect ratio (2.35:1) typically reserved for theatrical cinema, and its 3-episode structure doesn’t follow the expectations of brief closure at the end of each segment typical of, say, an American television miniseries (it comes across more like a necessary break for exhibition and an arbitrary break in storytelling). Now […]

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Biopics tend to focus on the subject’s high and low points with little time for the real lives in between. It’s a problem of running time as films are compelled to force their stories into a two hour window, but two filmmakers in the past couple of years have foregone that route with their own biographical films running well beyond that artificial 120 minute limit. Both films feature criminals as their subject, and both come from French directors. Jean-Francois Richet’s 2008 film, Mesrine, is a two part, four hour look at notorious French gangster, Jacques Mesrine, and stars Vincent Cassel in the title role. Never one to shy away from a challenge, director Olivier Assayas released his own biopic this year. Carlos is a three part, five hour plus epic about the world’s most infamous terrorist. And yes, star Edgar Ramirez’ testosterone-fueled Carlos makes Bruce Willis’ turn in The Jackal look like a that of a pig-tailed little girl…

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published: 12.23.2014
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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
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