Stalker

Looking for any excuse, Landon Palmer and Scott Beggs are using the 2012 Sight & Sound poll results as a reason to take different angles on the best movies of all time. Every week, they’ll discuss another entry in the list, dissecting old favorites from odd angles, discovering movies they haven’t seen before and asking you to join in on the conversation. Of course it helps if you’ve seen the movie because there will be plenty of spoilers. This week, they dive into yet another Andrei Tarkovsky movie! The man is popular, and with Stalker, he made a slow drink of water that’s perfect for a quiet summer afternoon (especially down the block from the explosion-booming megaplex). In the #29 (tied) movie on the list, three men seek an area beyond an industrial waste zone that will grant them their true desires, but the journey is perilous, and one of them isn’t being honest about what he intends to do once he gets there. But why is it one of the best movies of all time?

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Criterion Files

Andrei Tarkovsky was openly dissatisfied with his Solaris (1972), even though it has endured as perhaps the master’s best-known work, because he felt he didn’t successfully “transcend” the science-fiction genre as he later claimed he would seven years later with Stalker, a film that truly has few directly identifiable ties with the genre it purportedly emerged from. But knowing Tarkovsky, “transcending the genre” here doesn’t mean new interpretations of a familiar formula, but rather implies that Tarkovsky didn’t felt he accomplished what he sought to do in each of his works: make cinema a high art form comparable with the other arts. I respectfully disagree with Tarkovsky’s assessment of his own work. In fact, it is the clearly identifiable ties that Solaris has with its genre that helps the film achieve a specifically Tarkovskyan transcendence. While the filmmaker has a gesamtkunstwerk-approach to elevating cinema as an art form by integrating other great works of art into this work of art (an aspect especially apparent here in the film’s library scene), in Solaris Tarkovsky palpably struggles with the legacy of the genre he’s working in, and in doing so, copes with cinema’s own artistic language while putting forth a unique aesthetic that can singularly be experienced in cinema: the controlled experience of time.

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Despite having only made seven feature films, Andrei Tarkovsky is largely considered one of the most important Russian filmmakers of the twentieth century, perhaps second only to Sergei Eisenstein (who was, aesthetically-speaking, his polar opposite). However, after enduring enormous troubles with Soviet censors, Tarkovsky expatriated to Italy, where he made his sixth film Nostalghia (1983) and later to Sweden where he made The Sacrifice (1986), which became his final film as he succumbed to lung cancer shortly after its production. Earlier this summer, one of Tarkovsky’s most beloved titles, Solaris (1972), was updated to Blu-ray by Criterion, and now Kino has updated their DVD of The Sacrifice to Blu as well, making this summer something of an embarrassment of riches for American Tarkovsky fans who have longed to see the filmmaker’s intricately beautiful work in high-definition.

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Whether you’re trying to avoid the releases this week or augment them with even more movies, Your Alternate Box Office offers some options for movies that would play perfectly alongside of (or instead of) the stuff studios are shoving into the megaplex this weekend. With apologies to everyone scratching at the walls of their play pen to see Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer, this week features one major release. Trains, nostalgia bombs, and a coming of age story the likes of which haven’t been seen since Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer, J.J. Abrams is back with a tribute to everything he loved when he was just Jefferey. If you plan on catching Super 8, here are 3 films you should watch with it.

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Our Culture Warrior Landon Palmer digs into next month’s Cannes line up so you won’t have to. Learn what to look out for when they hit the states and feign sounding cultured at parties!

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slowburn-header

Culture Warrior Landon Palmer, Foreign Objects specialist Rob Hunter and Dr. Cole Abaius take on the concept of slow films, and how they don’t always have to be boring.

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cultwarrior-slow

Some movies are meant to be slow. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. Slow can be beautiful.

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