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  1. Yesterday
  2. Thanks, Joel. I could have misplaced a message or two, but as of now, here is my blurb priorities. (Asterisk means there is a previous blurb that can stand if nobody cares to revise/update; bold means no current blurbs and not assigned, though a few might have had people express interest before being assigned other blurbs.): Diary of a Country Priest (1951)* The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964)* Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (2005)* Monsieur Vincent (1947)* To Sleep With Anger (1990) A Brighter Summer Day (1991) The Tree of Wooden Clogs (1978) The Man Who Planted Trees (1987)* Amazing Grace (2018) Dead Man Walking (1995)* Nazarin (1959) What Time is It There? (2001) The House is Black (1963)* Heartbeat Detector (2007)* A Moment of Innocence (1996)* Close-Up (1990)* Lourdes (2009) Cameraperson (2016) The Gleaners & I (2000)* The Apostle (1997)* Munyurangabo (2007)* Tokyo Story (1953)* The Burmese Harp (1956)* Chariots of Fire (1981)* A Serious Man (2009)* In Praise of Love (2001)* Ponette (1996)* Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)* Fiddler on the Roof (1971)* Silent Light (2007)* Schindler's List (1993)* The Ushpizin (2004)* The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (2005)* The Immigrant (2013)*
  3. I've now written blurbs for The Tree of Life, The Kid with a Bike, and Secrets & Lies. What else needs blurbing?
  4. Last week
  5. Ken, I'll do a write-up on Blade Runner, after I finish my piece on In a Lonely Place.
  6. We had a free trial of HBO, so I finally had a chance to catch up with this, and it's quite good. I don't know to what degree this is an indicia of a good piece of art based on real events, but it's made me want to read and learn more about the disaster, which I remember discussing with my 9th grade science teacher when it happened. (Aside: we were asking the teacher why the Soviets insisted on refusing to admit what had happened. He said they didn't want to lose face. I said, "Well, haven't they already lost enough faces?" The class laughed and I wish I could punch the fourteen year-old version of myself.) I found that NYer article Mike linked above and listened to the five-part podcast HBO put out to provide footnotes and a sort of writer's commentary on an episode-by-episode basis. It's always an interesting question to consider the degree to which an artist trying to tell a story about real people and real events has any obligation to model verisimilitude, but it's funny to hear the show's creator/writer Craig Mazin describe the extreme lengths to which they went to replicate the uniform a firefighter in Pripyat would have worn in 1985, and then fudged things related to how the events unfolded. I don't necessarily blame him, but I've come around to thinking that in at least one significant way his departures undercut his narrative and theme signficantly at the expense of wrapping up the events in a manner that fit into a conventional box. So--and I quoted some portions of the NYer article relevant to this discussion above--the two main departures are, first, the creation of Khomyuk, a composite character who does the ground-level investigating for Legasov to find out why the reactor exploded and then urges him to tell the whole story at Vienna and afterward. It's sensible to me to create a composite character when the actual investigation was done by a dozen or so scientists who are largely interchangeable. The second departure is in the players and content of the trial at Chernobyl, which Mazin sets up as the dramatic climax to the miniseries and where Legasov gets to lay out the whole story, like he's solving a whodunit. This is where the story turns fairly conventional, with Legasov deciding to fix his mistake from Vienna and tell the whole truth, no matter the consequences, and Shcherbina interrupts the judges who try to shut Legasov down, and at this point Chernobyl's narrative resolution isn't much different from FOOTLOOSE, with Shcherbina basically saying, "Let him dance," and so then Legasov tells the truth and willingly pays the consequences, which is the KGB officer telling him that his career is over and he'll have to stay quiet for the rest of his life, since his service to the Party included oppressing Jewish scientists, so after his heroic voiceover he sinks into obscurity in a dingy apartment and hangs himself two years after the reactor meltdown.Mazin says this isn't how it happened at all--the real Legasov was upfront from the start about describing Chernobyl as both the result of operator error and a design defect that plagued all of the USSR's reactors, and the Party choked him out and made him irrelevant by assigning him menial jobs for the rest of his life, and the rest of the scientific community went along with it because that's what people did. He wasn't at the trial, which was just a showpiece designed to pin blame on Dyatlov, and Legasov's eventual suicide was what spurred his recorded recollections to be taken seriously and to be used to potentially save lives in the form of fixing the defective reactors. Some of this is buried in the super-conventional lame-o endnotes and real photos/footage that people feel compelled to attach to all manners of films and shows about real people and events these days. What's odd to me is that Mazin didn't grasp that the real sequence of events without his inventions regarding Legasov and the trial was so much more affecting and straightforward than what he came up with. He opens with Legasov's suicide, so by the time the series is over we're led to think his decision was prompted by the fact that he was made irrelevant after he told the truth at the trial. And yet, in that version, the truth is out there, having been aired in court in front of the jury of scientists, so his motivation seems oddly self-centered , against the backdrop of the archetypal truth-teller hero model. The reality is that he'd been ignored by everyone, Party and scientist alike, and had to be the bearer of knowledge that nobody was listening to or changing their policy, safety be damned, and he couldn't live with that. The actual truth is way, way better than just ending an amazing miniseries like an episode of f'ing Law and Order.
  7. Sorry, you're only allowed to watch Satantango projected in 35mm in a single day with one 30-minute intermission. Like I did.
  8. And if this is what I can look forward to from Andsnes' full recording, I'm in!
  9. Thank you for this recommendation; I'm putting it on my wishlist. COVID + civil unrest = crappy sleep, so I didn't feel up to tackling an entirely new piece of music today. So instead I gave a listen to JS' Violin Concerto, which I probably haven't heard for a decade or more. (This was an apt moment to listen to it anyway, since he composed it between his 2nd and 3rd symphonies.) I'm glad you recommended a listen, Michael, because I'd forgotten how enjoyable it is. The first and second movements sound very Brahmsian to my ears (with a touch of Dvorak thrown in), which I suppose shouldn't be a surprise, since Brahms had only died 8 years before the final version of Sibelius' piece was first performed (conducted by Richard Strauss, no less). It has that warmth that I associate with Brahms, at any rate. In the first two movements, only the section when the full strings enter in the second movement, with the brass quickly coming behind, sounds distinctly Sibelian to me. But dang, that 3rd movement has such an exuberant uniqueness! Definitely a toe-tapping melody, with such interesting orchestration, pared down to 2 violins and violas, single double bass, and single kettledrum for most of it. One English conductor described it as a polonaise for a polar bear, and it has a lumbering yet joyous quality to it. Joshua Bell is a lot of fun to watch in the performance below, doused in sweat by the end of the first movement. He really puts his whole body into his performance (such that the camera has to pull away from closeup at around the 16 minute mark!). And it's endearing how he can't resist a little dance at the start of the third movement.
  10. I do not, but I appreciate the tip! Part of my hesitancy has been whether, if I rent the movie with a day left in its availability at Filmlinc.org (it's been extended a couple of times, but as of the last time I checked, there was no mention on the site of the movie continuing beyond this Thursday), I'll be granted the full three-day window of rental availability. I admit that it seems unlikely I wouldn't be granted the full window, but streaming through local theaters (or, in this case, not so local theaters) is still new to me. A movie of such length is a multi-day investment. I don't want to pay full price only to be told, halfway through my viewing, that the movie is no longer available on the platform from which I rented it. Has anyone gone through this? If so, please set my mind at ease. Thanks! (Oh, and sorry for yet another digression from the main thread/discussion, although the length of Mysteries of Lisbon means there may be application for that title as well as for Satantango.)
  11. Cool - well, please mark me down for Won't You Be My Neighbor.
  12. At least in Canada, Sátántangó is streaming free on Kanopy if you have access through your public or university library.
  13. I take it most folks here already know, but just in case: Mysteries of Lisbon is currently streaming as a 6-part miniseries - the first time it's been available in the U.S. in that format. I wasn't as taken with the film as others here were, but the relative dearth of new releases via streaming has me considering Lisbon again. Still, for $14.99, I'm much more interested in seeing Satantango. I just have to find 7.5 hours over a three-day rental window. That's proved challenging.
  14. Thanks for doing that. It looks like there are only a handful of films without a previous blurb or assignment, so at this point, I would suggest anyone who wants one (or to rewrite one with an asterisk*) need only announce they are doing so here so that we don't double up accidentally. The one exception is Blade Runner which I had been holding off on assigning and now seems to have slipped through the cracks, so if anyone wants to commit to doing that, let me know.
  15. Just finished my Ikiru blurb. Of the films lacking an asterisk, I don't have a particular expertise around any of them, but I'm certainly game to write about Won't You Be My Neighbor? (And I'm pretty sure some of the lower films on the list without asterisks do have pre-existing blurbs, like Ushpizin and Silent Light. I could be wrong, though.)
  16. Joel, I read one of Paul's early drafts of the script and was able to so clearly imagine that scene. It gets me every time I watch it too. Paul guided me through the process of writing a script treatment and first draft of a feature screenplay, and I think about one of his observations all the time now when I'm watching movies. "Beginnings and endings are usually pretty easy. It's figuring out all of the stuff in the middle that takes so much work." They trimmed the heck out of Light from Light in post-production. One big scene was cut completely, another brief scene was added, and I get the sense it was all about finding the pace that would maximize the effect of those final moments. He's really good at it.
  17. So, I watched this a second time this evening, and I loved it even more. The final scene left me weeping the first time, and I couldn't quite understand why. I went into this rewatch anticipating where the film was headed...and it left me weeping even harder than I had done previously. I mean, when *that scene* happens, I was totally overwhelmed. I'm not entirely sure I can explain how or why this affects me so strongly (which is perhaps true to the film's very themes); I can only to say that Harrill has done something magical here, and I am very much still on his wavelength.
  18. The Horror list is now populated as is the 2014 (inaugural) Ecumenical Jury list.
  19. Anders

    Young Ahmed

    I share it, while qualifying it with the usefulness of comparison as a rhetorical device Ken noted above. One of my least favourite things is people complaining about what a film was not, rather than what it is. I think it's fair to say, this was not the film that I wanted or needed at this time, but that certainly doesn't automatically make it a bad film. Does that make sense? Back to the film and this discussion. My short answer is, definitely not the first. I lean toward the second to some degree, though I think that it's hard to simply label those values exclusively as "Christian" in any real sense that I would have at one time in my life. I think that it's a really big question of what does the philosophical and religious project that has grown out of Christianity and Judaism look like, what is its trajectory, and what is the relationship between the values being expressed in the films of the Dardennes (among others) and Christianity specifically. I think Joel is doing valuable work teasing that out.
  20. This is a fair point, and perhaps "the" film is too strong, but here's Luc in a 1994 entry from Au dos de nos Images: "Saw Germany, Year Zero again. Still the same intensity, the same sharpness. This is our model." The phrase "this is our model" as they were exploring how to create their signature Dardennean filmmaking style strikes me as foundational for all of their films from La Promesse onwards. Edit: I forgot that in a 2005 "favorite films" list from Telerama, the brothers list Germany Year Zero as their #1 favorite film, with Sunrise as #2.
  21. I'd be careful with the singular ("the" movie). "[Sunrise] must have a strong grip on our subconscious because we talk about it every time we set out to make a new film" (Au dos de nos Images 147).
  22. I disagree. I mean with them not with your analysis of them. I think for a generation or two, maybe a century, families, cultures, nations, can retain the values embedded into infrastructures without espousing or believing the underlying ideologies of those infrastructures, but ultimately the dissonance between the the structures and the prevalent, current belief systems will be too great. Comparison is a useful rhetorical mode, but it has varying functions. One can compare to evaluate, and it sounds like this is what you object to. (After comparing the two films, I voted for...) One can also compare to describe. Reviews are weird rhetorical situation because, you will be talking to some people who know more about the subject than you do and others who know much less (i.e. haven't seen the film). I just had someone ask me, not five minutes ago, whether she should pay to see The King of Staten Island. I had no way of answering that question without reference to comparison. (How did she feel about the other Apatow films? What did she normally like, etc.) To discuss or even evaluate a film on its own terms must mean something more than in complete isolation, because the latter isn't possible. (I'm now rehearsing the generational debate between Reader-response critics and New Critics.) The musical artists who covers a classic pop hit, records a beloved classical melody, or samples an R&B track, cannot be understood without reference to comparison. Ironically, I asked in my review of First Reformed whether any work that was so self-consciously derivative could be considered great in its own right. My answer is yes, it could. As far as the Dardennes, by setting all their films in the same place, by repeating certain themes or plot devices, aren't they inviting (perhaps requiring) us to look at the films not as isolated artifacts but as, in some necessary way, in dialogue with each other? I thought much more about Rosetta during Young Ahmed than I did about The Son, because... Well before I finish that thought, a tangent. As a teacher and critic, one of the things that drives me a little nuts is are Reader-response critics who just give their own response and stop, as though that it is it. Who record their reactions. I liked it. I didn't. It was a masterpiece. It sucked. No interrogation of their own response, no attempts to understand it. Just a position to be defended dogmatically. On the undergraduate level that just gets reduced to and manifested as, "Well it's all just opinion and this is mine...." The helpful critic is the one who reflects, and I'm more capable of enjoying subsequent films -- and picking films that wil satisfy me -- if I am able to think through what caused my response. Especially if my response was surprising to me or counter to prevailing wisdom. What makes me find Lady Bird shrill or Tree of Life trite and new agey when so many people I know love them? Why do I find First Reformed less pessimistic than Bergman's faith trilogy when the consensus seems just the opposite? Either these responses are grounded in some formal feature of the films that are being read and misread differently, or they are grounded in different responses to ambiguous features caused by our reading situations and interpretive communities. ...like Rosetta, Young Ahmed focuses on the youthful, unlikable offender. It seems to me like The Son and The Kid with a Bike focus more on the effects of the intervening adults whereas in Rosetta and YA, those figures are present but marginalized in comparison to a peer who is more effective. Also, as I mentioned, there were some shots (like the opening shot of protagonist running and shots in the woods, crossing the highway) that specifically reminded me of Rosetta. I've been reading and discussing The Left Hand of Darkness with my book club and we've had come chatter about "thought experiments." I opined that a true "experiment" has only one variable, which is nearly impossible in fiction. So while I see some similarities between YA and Rosetta, I also see some differences: gender, religion, climax in suicidal intentions vs. murderous intentions. My purpose in making these comparisons is to help me (or others) think through how they affect my response to the films, not just to bolster an argument that one is better than the other.
  23. Christian, I had a similar (unvoiced) response in the phone call to comparisons made not only to The Son, but to films like Timbuktu and its own exploration of religious fundamentalism within Islam (IIRC, I think Jeff made the Timbuktu connection in relation to teaching the film in class). I understand the comparison, and in some ways, such comparisons are a strength, as Ken noted when he described the role film festivals play in our experience of a film, but I think what Timbuktu and Young Ahmed are attempting to do, both in terms of form and content, are strikingly different. So, it seems to be that making a comparison can be helpful in distinguishing how filmmakers might go about addressing the same or similar themes and topics in different ways (i.e. Islam or religious violence), but becomes unhelpful when these comparisons become strict qualitative categories defined by some external common theme placed upon the films. In other words, to say that Timbuktu addressed fundamentalism better than Young Ahmed, and therefore is a qualitatively better film raises questions in my mind about whether or not (a) that each film has the same goal regarding questions of fundamentalism, and (b) why this one apparent thematic commonality has become the defining category for appraisal rather than the plethora of other qualities each film contains. Still, if we are going to make comparisons, I think Young Ahmed can (and should) be considered alongside Germany Year Zero. That's the film I think the Dardennes have in mind whenever they make a movie, and it's the one I think has the strongest parallels (particularly in the final scene).
  24. Christian

    Young Ahmed

    I have a couple of things I want to address, or expand upon, in this thread, but I also don't want to detract from Joel's question in the post above this one. (Please read it if you've pulled up the most recent post in this thread and found this one instead of his.) For now I just wanted to thank Jeffrey for the reminder about The Sacrifice. After saying I'd never seen anything like the body-on-body sequence in First Reformed, I appreciate being checked. I'd completely forgotten about The Sacrifice! That's kind of embarrassing - I own a copy of the film - but frankly, it's my least favorite Tarkovsky film. I've always struggled with it. The film was restored and reissued not too long ago, but I didn't make the retrospective screening at AFI Silver. I was hoping seeing The Sacrifice on the big screen, in a restored print, would be transformative. Back to Young Ahmed. I want to explore something else that came up during our Zoom call - something that frustrates me, although I don't want this to come across as personal. (In this case, I think it was Jeffrey who brought it up, but again, this is a much broader point) What's bugging me is this: I'm really weary of comparison-as-criticism. What I'm thinking of is the statement that, in so many words (sorry, I don't have an exact quote), boils down to: "The Dardennes made The Son, which is a masterpiece. This movie isn't as good as The Son. Therefore, I was disappointed." Come to think of it, regardless of who brought this up, the comparison was expressed by more than one person during the call. Here's the thing: We all draw comparisons in our reviews, but that's where this discussion started for some of us. Is that a fair starting point? Should all movies be compared to the greatest movie in their genre, or from the same filmmaker? Is that the standard against which films are to be judged? Maybe it is. But I know that - and this goes back years for me - reviews that draw comparisons to this film or that film quickly exhaust me and leave me wondering if the critic is more about making pop-culture references and connections rather than judging a film on its own terms. So, what does "its own terms" mean? That's the rub. Maybe those terms are hard to discern, or maybe the terms can be sussed out only through comparisons to the best of that film's genre or filmmaker's output. I'm not sure. That's why I'm bringing this up. But I also don't think my skepticism is groundless. Does anyone else share it? If this latter part of my post would be better as part of a new thread - "Comparison as Criticism," or something like that - please feel free to move it, moderators. I don't mean to distract from the Young Ahmed discussion. Thanks for indulging this possible digression.
  25. Not to keep bringing things back to my PhD dissertation, but this question hits on one of the major points I aim to make: that the Dardennes are operating in a post-secular paradigm which is in-between and beyond both traditional religion and post-Enlightenment secularism. I think they're exploring this very question not only in Young Ahmed, but in every single one of their films: is it possible to retain the moral codes and values of human life, particularly the divine command "thou shalt not kill", without necessarily having to affirm traditional orthodox beliefs? And I think the Dardennes are leaning towards "yes" in answering the question, that it is possible, but are also unwilling to take a didactic approach where their films say "and this is how we do this." I think this is one of the strongest distinguishing factors between them and, say, Ken Loach: both are operating in a social realist vein and with underlying political agendas or views, but where Loach goes for the bleakly heavy-handed critical approach (while not often offering much hope or a solution to any of it), the Dardennes have a hopeful open-ended view, a sense that more is possible. Back to Ahmed: I'm working on a paper to present at the American Academy of Religion this upcoming November where I draw some comparisons between Young Ahmed and A Hidden Life, and one aspect I want to tease out is the nature of religious commitment or fundamentalism. I imagine many Western audiences will consider Ahmed's religious extremism to be unhealthy and detrimental, whereas Franz is lauded as a martyr for his unwavering religious strength in the face of fascism. Both character are loners in their convictions, where most everyone around them tries to convince them to ease up on their religious/moral convictions, to compromise somehow. In this sense, both are fanatics or radicals—they are both (apparently) willing to sacrifice a human life for their commitment to God. So, while the primary difference may be that Ahmed tries to kill someone else, whereas Franz allows himself to be killed due to his unwillingness to kill, I still have to wonder: are there "good" and "evil" forms or practices of religious fanaticism? When is it virtuous to stick to your convictions and beliefs no matter what, and when is it virtuous to compromise or repent of those beliefs? An obvious answer might be "when those beliefs are right, stick with them; when they're wrong, repent," but I think both films might be challenging such simplicity by showing how the issue is more complex and nuanced.
  26. Overstreet

    Young Ahmed

    Since this is the Dardenne conversation currently in vogue, I thought I'd drop this link here. It's a good price on an increasingly rare DVD of The Son, which is, as far as I know, the only way to see the movie anymore. https://www.pricepulse.app/the-son_us_4885967
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