The 1001 Movies Podcast

From Joshua Klein, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die:

"The third color of the French flag stands for fraternity, and although the last film of Krzysztof Kieslowski's 'Three Colors' trilogy again remains only loosely connected to that theme, he somehow gets to the heart of brotherhood via the sometimes tenuous and often-impossible-to-comprehend ties that connect all of humanity.  If each of the 'Three Colors" films ends up much more than the sum of their ambiguous parts, then Red provides the grand and illuminating summation of all three entities.  Like the closing chapter of a great philosophical novel, Red parcels out its details patiently and elliptically, drawing power from the mysterious plot machinations that connect a good-natured model (the ineffable Irene Jacob) with a cynical, retired judge (Jean-Louis Trintignant).  Both lead empty lives yet express their loneliness in completely different ways, but the judge sees something intriguing in the model that draws him out of his shell of self-hatred.

"Like many of Kieslowski's works, Red runs deep with chance and coincidence, and although the metaphysical director rarely addresses spirituality in his work per se, his final film (Kieslowski retired after directing Red and died shortly later) often seems a meditation on not just earthly bonds but also our place in the universe.  In lesser hands such subject matter would no doubt have gotten bogged down in New Age musings, but Kieslowski is smarter than that.  His characters develop and interact organically, as if tapping into a script made entirely of emotional cues rather than mere words.  His camera captures places and moments that appear insignificant yet whose importance is inevitably born out.  In Red he even manages to almost magically make manifest the very fabric of our existence, as the metaphors and symbolic touches of all three films - Blue (1993), White (1994), and Red - blur together during the challenging and undeniably moving conclusion, which casts the entire trilogy in a new light.  Rarely has a film so brilliantly fused together so many ideas, images, and emotions into one masterful whole, a life primer and work of art posing as a mere movie."

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Direct download: Episode_97_Three_Colors_Red_1994.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:33pm CST

From Karen Krizanovich, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die:

"Mysticism, poetry, school days, and a futuristic bedroom are only some of the wonders found in Oldboy.  A thriller that hinges on oedipal taboos and blind destiny, hypnotism, and fate, this breakthrough film - part action, part drama, part psychological thriller - has introduced Korean cinema to more viewers than any other film.  The story is more direct and compelling that director Park Chan-wook's popular previous film, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002), and features an explosive beginning.  A man is imprisoned for fiteen years without an explanation.  Upon escape, he must find his kidnapper in only five days.

"This violent, elegiac masterpiece is based on a Japanese manga cartoon by Garon Tsuchiya.  Actor Min-sik Choi, who performed his own stunts, trained rigorously for his role as hapless kidnap victim Dae-su, a man who tries to escape his windowless prison by ingeniously digging through a skyscraper wall into thin air but is released before he can try his tunnel.  Once free, he vows revenge, Monte Cristo-style, against the kidnapper who has effectively robbed him of his daughter, his wife, and his life.  Now a ragged fighting machine who resembles a Korean Charles Bronson in a fright wig, Dae-su is befriended by a beautiful sushi chef (Hye-jeong Kang) whom he engages by eating a live squid and then passing out on the counter.  Such is the knockdown, drag-out lifestyle of Oldboy.  However complex the tale, it is underpinned by a logic that unfolds clearly, easily incorporating the film's various flashbacks.  Progressing at a pace that sometimes leaves one breathless but also leaves room for thought, Oldboy's choreographed fight scenes are both innovative and surprising - and of the violence serves the plot.  Despite its brutality, it is ultimately a black comedy that deftly rolls elements of mob thriller and vengeance mystery into one.  After winning the Grand Prix at Cannes in 2004, the director stunned the audience by thanking the cast and crew, then thanking the four squid who gave up their lives for the vivid sushi bar scene."

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Direct download: Episode_96_Oldboy_2003.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:22pm CST

From Garrett Chaffin-Quiray, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die:

"An allegory about infantilism, Volker Schlondorff's The Tin Drum is told through thr point of view of Oskar Metzerath (David Bennet), a German boy on the sideline of history.  Omniscient before birth, his life becomes the frame for judging adult behavior, especially with regard to troublesome, obsessive sexuality.  When he receives a tin drum for his third birthday, Oskar refuses to grow and bigger as he grows older.  Afterward observing the rise of Nazism, he bangs his drum and exhibits a scream to break glass whenever he feels libidinously challenged or disappointed.  Gradually, however, Oskar's size reduces him to little more than a freak show, simultaneously suggesting the absence of a moral conscience among people who supported the Third Reich.

"Throughout its length one picture shocks and confuses.  A midget circus act transforms into the headline of Parisian nightlife.  Eels pill from a severed horse's head.  A Nazi rally transforms into 'The Blue Danube.'  Most disturbing, Oskar, the teenager trapped in a boy's body played by twelve-year-old Bennet, makes love to his housemaid-turned-stepmother, possibly conceiving his child/brother.  A sensation ever since being released in 1979, The Tin Drum is a fantasy turned on end with unexpected jolts."

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Direct download: Episode_95_The_Tin_Drum_1979.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:33pm CST

From Kim Newman, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die:

"The image of a black-robed, white-faced Death (Bengt Ekerot) playing chess on the beach with a weary, questioning crusader (Max von Sydow) is as ingrained in the memory of moviegoers as King atop the Empire State Building, Humphrey Bogart spurning Ingrid Bergman at the airport, Janet Leigh stabbed in the shower, or the Imperial Cruiser passing over the camera.  This one scene from Swedish arthouse gem The Seventh Seal epitomizes the momentousness, excitement, and impact new types of cinema had at a point when Hollywood certainties were in recession.  How else to explain the parodies or references in films as varied as Roger Corman's Masque of the Red Death (1964), Woody Allen's Love and Death, John McTiernan's Last Action Hero (1993), and Peter Hewitt's Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey (1991), in the last of which Death plays Twister?

"But it's a shame this scene has come to represent the whole of the film in popular imagination.  There's an unfair sense that writer-director Ingmar Bergman was being overly solemn, making something that could stand as an archetype of seriousness or artiness.  Actually, The Seventh Seal, although rooted in the big themes of Bergman's great period, is a very playful, frequently comic picture: a medieval fable influenced by his enthusiasm for the samurai movies of Akira Kurusawa and as concerned with celebrating simple pleasures as indicting complicated torments.

"Antonius Block (Sydow), returning after ten years on a bloody crusade that was started by a con man who now makes a living robbing corpses, feels that his faith in God is a disease that mankind should root out.  With his squire (Gunnar Bjornstrand), as much a debating partner as sidekick, Block encounters death in the form of a plague-ridden corpse before he meets the literal Grim Reaper.  The game of chess played throughout the film between Death and the knight is not merely for the crusader's life but for his feelings about God, religion, and humanity.  In the end, hope comes from an alternative Holy Family - a jolly juggler (Nils Poppe), his earthly sensual wife (Gunnel Lindblom), and their lively, innocent toddler - whom Block saves from the plague by willingly joining the dance of death that claims more venal, corrupted characters.

"The knight, constantly tormented by curiosities about God and the void (he even visits an accused witch about to burned to ask her what the Devil knows about God), represents one side of Bergman.  The simple showman gently upbraided by his practical wife ("You and your dreams and visions," she says in the film's closing line) represents another seeking redemption through honest entertainment and appalled when his innocent show is upstaged by the horrible, Church-approved spectacle of a crowd of penitents being lashed and tortured.  Bergman is angry and saddened by human evils, especially when sanctioned by supposed religion, but the film also celebrates physical and spiritual love, communal artistic expression, food and drink, and natural beauty."

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Direct download: Episode_94_The_Seventh_Seal_1957.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:55pm CST

From Adrian Martin, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die:

"In the clinical, highly formalized manner that has become his signature in such films as Benny's Video (1992), Michael Haneke strips away from The Piano Teacher the romantic lushness of the generic melodrama to expose a cold, alienated social structure founded on abuse.  Adapted from Elfriede Jelinek's 1983 novel, the film delves into the psychosexual neuroses underlying, even generating, the intensity of classical art and the rituals we build around it.

"Isabelle Huppert gives the performance of her life as Erika Kohut, a respected but professionally unfulfilled piano teacher.  Erika pursues illicit behavior that society considers masculine, from gazing at hardcore porn to insisting on her sexual preferences.  But at every turn she is shunned or reviled, leading to extreme alienation and perversion.

"From the point that Erika and her infatuated student Walter (Benoit Magimel) connect, the film embarks on a relentless demonstration of the ways in which a man and a woman manage not to coalesce.  We witness a grim parade of refusals, frustrations, misunderstandings, and violations.  Throughout, Haneke engineers an odd, compelling kind of sympathy for Erika.

"The triumph of The Piano Teacher is to carefully place this interpersonal tragedy within the social contexts of patriarchy and high culture."

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Direct download: Episode_93_The_Piano_Teacher_2001.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am CST

From Chris Fujiwara, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die:

"In this one-of-a-kind masterpiece by one of the greatest American directors, Victor Moore and Beulah Bondi play Bark and Lucy Cooper, an elderly couple faced with financial disaster and forced to throw themselves on the mercy of their middle-aged children.  The children's first step is to separate the two of them so that the inconvenience of hosting them can be divided.  Gradually, the old people's self-confidence and dignity are eroded, until they submit to an arrangement whereby one of them will stay in a nursing home in New York, and the other will go to California.

"Leo McCarey's direction in Make Way for Tomorrow is beyond praise.  All of the actors are expansive and natural, and the generosity McCarey shows toward his characters is unstinting.  He demonstrates an exquisite sense of when to cut from his central couple to reveal the attitudes of others, without suggesting either that their compassion is condescending or that their indifference is wicked, and without forcing our tears or rage (which would be a way of forfeiting them).  There is nothing contrived about McCarey's handling of the story, and thus no escaping its poignancy.

"Two example will suffice to indicate the film's extraordinary discretion.  During the painful sequence in which Lucy's presence inadvertently interferes with her daughter-in-law's attempt to host a bridge party, Lucy receives a phone call from Bark.  Because she talks loudly on the phone - one of several annoying traits that McCarey and screenwriter Vina Delmar don't hesitate to give the couple - the guests pause in their games to listen.  Their reactions (not emphasized, but merely shown) mix annoyance, discomfort, and sorrow.

"The last section of the film, dealing with the couple's brief reuniting and impromptu last idyll in Manhattan, is sublime.  McCarey keeps us aware of the sympathy of outsiders (a car salesman, a coat-check girl, a hotel manager, a bandleader), but never imposes their reactions on us through superfluous reverse shots.  Meanwhile, Lucy and Bark are constantly shown together in the same compositions.  In its passionate commitment to their private universe, Make Way for Tomorrow is truly, deeply moving."

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Direct download: Episode_92_Make_Way_for_Tomorrow_1937.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am CST

From Jonathan Rosenbaum, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die:

"Michelangelo Antonioni's first feature in color remains a high-water mark for using color.  To get the precise hues he wanted, Antonioni had entire fields painted.  Restored prints make it clear why audiences were so excited by his innovations, not only for his expressive use of color, but also his striking editing.  Red Desert comes at the tail end of Antonioni's most fertile period, immediately after his remarkable trilogy The Adventure (1960), The Night (1960), and The Eclipse (1962).  Although Red Desert may fall somewhat short of the first and last of these earlier classics. the film's ecological concerns look a lot more prescient today than they seemed at the time of its initial release.

"Monica Vitti plays a neurotic married woman (Giuliana) attracted to industrialist Richard Harris.  Antonioni does eerie, memorable work with the industrial shapes and colors that surround her, shown alternately as threatening and beautiful as she walks through a science-fiction landscape.  Like any self-respecting Antonioni heroine, she is looking for love and meaning - and finds sex.  In one sequence a postcoital melancholy is strikingly conveyed via an expressionist use of color, following Giuliana's shifting moods.

"The film's most spellbinding sequence depicts a pantheistic, utopian fantasy of innocence, which the heroine recounts to her ailing son, implicitly offering a beautiful girl and a beautiful sea as an alternative to the troubled woman and the industrial red desert of the title."

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Direct download: Episode_91_Red_Desert_1964.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am CST

From R. Barton Palmer, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die:

"In the early 1930s, Hollywood - beset with financial difficulties and production problems related to the conversion to sound cinema - turned to stage performers of proven popularity to lure customers back to the theaters.  Among the most notable of these was Mae West, whose play Diamond Lil (which she wrote as a kind of showcase of her several talents) was immensely successful on Broadway and elsewhere.  West proved a happy choice for Paramount, because her unique brand of sophisticated if bawdy humor easily translated on screen; her first film, Night After Night (1932), was a big hit with audiences.  West's antics, especially her famous double entendres and sleazy style, offended religious conservatives of the time and hastened the foundation of the Breen Office in 1934 to enforce the Production Code (promulgated, but widely ignored, in the early 1930s).  West's post-1934 films, although interesting, never recaptured the appeal of her earlier work, of which She Done Him Wrong - the screen adaptation of Diamond Lil - is the most notable example, even garnering an Academy Award nomination.

"West plays a 'saloon keeper' in New York's Bowery who is involved with various criminals in the neighborhood.  As Lady Lou, West is pursued by two local entrepreneurs and her fiance is just released from jail, but she is hardly in need of a man as she inhabits lavish quarters above her establishment, replete with servants and an impression collection of diamond jewelry.  Lou, however, is smitten by her new neighbor, the head of the Salvation Army mission (Cary Grant).  Her initial appraisal of the younger man's attractiveness is part of Hollywood legend.  To Grant she utters the famous line 'Why don't you come up sometime, see me.'  As a demonstration of her affection (and power), she uses some of her considerable hoard of diamonds to purchase his mission and make him a present of it.  In the end, Grant is revealed as a detective who promptly takes all the crooks into custody, but 'imprisons' Lou quite differently - with a wedding ring.  A classic Hollywood comedy, full of naughtiness and good humor."

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Direct download: Episode_90_She_Done_Him_Wrong_1933.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am CST