Monthly Archives: July 2010

July 28, 2010

18. The Naked Kiss (1964)

written and directed by Samuel Fuller


Criterion #18.

This is a very dated, very B movie from 1964. Criterion doesn’t quite say so outright, but it seems clear that this movie is being offered up to present-day audiences so that we might say, “Whoa! This is crazy and wild and surreal in some weird 60s way!” I think this movie has been kept in the public eye by people who think it’s an “it’s kind of amazing!” type of artifact, if you know what I mean.

I don’t deny that it’s a strange movie. It’s erratic in terms of tone and content and technique, and it freely wanders beyond the bounds of taste in many different directions. It is basically riddled from top to bottom with stylistic “errors” — so densely that it begins to feel mysterious and foreign, like maybe it’s actually a forceful and cohesive work by an alien. The lack of good judgment is so thoroughgoing that one’s mind goes seeking for some deeper, weirder guiding principle. And yeah, if you let yourself get lost like that, you can have an “it’s kind of amazing!” experience with this movie.

My problem with it is that I didn’t get very lost. Its weirdness wasn’t quite mysterious enough to revel in; I basically knew where it came from and what each of its pieces was, and why. Its misjudgments are specific to a certain time and place and culture; in their proper milieu they may still have been misjudgments but they probably weren’t particularly striking.

It’s sort of like a piece of folk art. I’ve never been all that affected by folk art, for this same reason. Generally, whatever peculiar aesthetic power it has is too obviously unintentional; I can’t help but be aware that the most interesting juxtapositions are inadvertent symptoms of the artist’s environment (and personal shortcomings). I suppose in a really exceptional piece of folk art, the force of the aesthetic effect would be so great that it is indistinguishable from an intentional effect. That’s a very rare thing. Maybe Henri Rousseau qualifies, but that’s exactly why he’s not thought of as a folk artist. Anyway, I didn’t think The Naked Kiss rose to that level.

I read a guy’s essay online where he was essentially saying that for him, The Naked Kiss does rise to that level, that its peculiarities form a mysterious and transcendent whole that enraptures him with inscrutable dream emotions. I absolutely sympathize with the phenomenon and I can see how this movie might offer it, for some people. But not for me. I just didn’t think it was quite idiot or quite savant enough to escape being merely a dated pulp confusion. I get who this filmmaker was and what was on his cluttered 1964 mind.

Apparently some French filmmakers of the era thought Samuel Fuller was a fascinating auteur because his movies felt so archetypically American. I think that’s probably because work that doesn’t make sense on its own terms is more purely the sum of its received terms; an artist who is only a muddle-headed product of the prevailing culture feels like the distilled essence of that culture. Bad jazz often sounds more like the concept of “jazz” than good jazz, because good jazz always sounds specific; mediocrity offers fewer distractions. I recognize that this movie, in its primitivism, does offer that kind of raw cultural transparency. But I feel like it’s important not to confuse a cipher with a visionary. Samuel Fuller may have made confused movies, but unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to have been the least bit nuts.

That’s all my justification for why I don’t think this is a work of lasting value. But as something to watch once, was it divertingly unpredictable? Absolutely. And in the moments when I was caught off guard by aesthetic whiplash, I did have glimpses of the “it’s kind of amazing!” experience. Then they would fade, as soon as I steadied my head and figured out what sort of garden-variety foolishness I was really dealing with.

I guess you wanna know what the movie is about. Ugh, fine. It’s about a hardened prostitute who, after looking in a mirror and touching her face, decides to go straight and become a nurse in a small town, at a hospital for handicapped children. She fights prejudice and the forces of immorality, and finally finds love with the richest, biggest-hearted, weirdest-looking man in town… but then (spoiler? alert?) walks in on him molesting a child, and, while in shock, kills him with a single whack of a telephone receiver. The police don’t believe her when she explains that he was a child molester, because she was a prostitute, but then the child in question is finally located and cheerfully says oh yes, yes he was. Thus exonerating her in the eyes of the town.

So you see it’s a combination of pulp morality, like an afterschool special, and pulp sordidness, like a paperback with a painting of a woman in a slip and the shadow of a gun on the cover. There are other elements in the mix too — including pulp “class,” in the form of gratuitous references to Beethoven and Goethe and a faraway-look talk about the wonders of Venice — but they all have in common that they would have been second nature to an enthusiastic, unselfconscious middlebrow hack circa 1964. The visual style follows directly.

As is typical of pulp, the title is mostly a lurid non-sequitur — but the film does eventually attempt a sort of explanation. Just after our heroine has fallen into her first kiss with the creepy man of her dreams, she briefly pushes him away with a troubled look in her eye, as though sorting something out for herself… before smiling again and letting passion take them where it will, pan to her curling toes. In watching the scene I assumed that she had to realign herself inwardly to actually enjoy a man’s touch for the first time in many many years — she had to think first and melt her inner ice. But no, that wasn’t what was going on, and I guess I should have known better, because that would have been too psychologically interesting for this movie. After the man turns out to be a child molester and she kills him, she explains to the police:

Once before a man’s kiss tasted like that. He was put away in a psycho ward. I got the same taste the first time Grant kissed me. It was a … what we call a naked kiss. It was the sign of a pervert.

If that kind of dialogue gets you going, this movie has what you’re looking for. But I think for most people, watching the trailer is probably a better choice than watching the movie. It’ll get you there and back in 2 minutes.

Incidentally, our next selection is Samuel Fuller’s previous movie, Shock Corridor (seen all too obviously on a marquee in The Naked Kiss), which I think might be about that very psycho ward she mentioned.

It’s hard to judge the acting as such, but Constance Towers certainly acquits herself well enough, and given the broad range of nonsense that is asked of her, that’s a real achievement. Look, she’s still going strong!

I didn’t know about Samuel Fuller before this. Having read up on him, it’s still hard for me to tell just how obscure he and his movies are. A problem with the internet is that if you look anything up, you’ll find out plenty about it, be it Shakespeare, Marlowe, or Dufelmeier. Sometimes all you really want to know is whether it’s worth knowing. The internet can’t help with that.

Music is by Paul Dunlap, who just died a few months ago. A prolific composer of scores for undistinguished movies. Here as your compilation track 18 is the rather dull main title. This is that soupy post-war branch of The Hollywood Style that I find very difficult to process with my analytical mind. How many times would you have to listen to this to be able to hum the melody? How many times would you have to listen to this to be able to recognize that it has a “melody”? Or a “rhythm”? For me, in this style, somehow all the basic concepts of music get lost in the mental wash. Without pressing down hard on my attention, I feel like I am failing the musical equivalent of a colorblindness test. All I can hear is what I was meant to hear: drama, drama, drama, drama, drama, drama, drama, drama!

Hm. I just listened again now and this time it seemed pretty straightforward. The mind can be a funny thing.

I was actually torn in choosing this as the music selection, because by far the most memorable and prominent musical cue is not this bland title theme but an icky, painfully sentimental 4-minute song sequence in the middle, sung by a group of kids on crutches who are all wearing pirate hats. I couldn’t bring myself to make it the selection because it’s just too long and unpleasant to listen to, but part of me feels like choosing anything else is a lie: that is the tune from The Naked Kiss if anything is.

So I am relieved now to have learned that the song in question is not original to this movie — it’s “Little Child” by Wayne Shanklin, 1953. So it obviously wouldn’t have been right to choose it over something from the original score. That’s another rationalization, anyway. The bottom line is, I didn’t want to hear those kids singing ever again.

July 24, 2010

17. Salò, o le 120 giornate di Sodoma (1975)

written and directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini
screenplay collaboration by Sergio Citti
based on the novel Les 120 journées de Sodome by Donatien Alphonse François, marquis de Sade (1785) [uncredited]


Criterion #17.

I did not watch it. I will not be watching it.

That doesn’t mean I can’t engage with it and respond to it. Herewith, some words on why I will not watch Salò.

First a quick explanation of what the deal is with this movie, offered as a public service so that you don’t have to go investigating.

It is an adaptation of the “most notorious” work of the Marquis de Sade. I am no expert on the subject but my personal impression is that the Marquis de Sade was a more or less insane person whose circumstances (being born an aristocrat and living in revolutionary times) happened to allow his obsessive writings to be published, and whose obsession (taboo behavior, mostly a conflation of sex and torture) happened to provide convenient fodder for later philosophers, who found that “taking Sade seriously” was an expediently provocative stance. He’s now a household name because his psychosis and literary bent made him a useful point of reference to sane people, but that doesn’t mean his output is anything other than raving insanity.

His 120 Days of Sodom is the epitome of the “insane work” — it is basically a long list, rigorously organized and out of all proportion to any possible reader’s interest or attention, of every torturous depravity Monsieur de Sade could think of, in ascending order, up to (and well beyond) murder. The “story” is: four incredibly powerful and wealthy evil men organize a huge orgy of perversion in a castle, and this is how it goes… Sade’s writing principle seems to have been “think of the worst possible thing you can think of. Now top it.” When I described it to Adam, he said, “so it’s like The Aristocrats,” and that’s exactly right, down to the specifics. Everything The Aristocrats do in passing, Sade catalogues in ten different combinations. For him, it is important to distinguish between the case where the mother is raped while pooping on the dead body of the daughter, and the other way around. Or whatever.

As with The Aristocrats, these “flights” of “fancy” are not actually meaningful as anything other than an indulgence of the inward experience of the broken taboo. Which obviously can have a strong grip on people. (I am reminded of Maria Bamford’s bit about “unwanted thoughts” wherein she “kills her family and chops them into bits and then has sex with the bits and then eats the bits.”) But these are not symbols of other things and they are not artistic creations. They are just one madman’s compulsive dips into his inner vault of “complete awfulness.”

Here is my anecdote about The 120 Days of Sodom, and god help me that I even have one. One summer during college I stayed at school to do theater, for which on-campus housing was provided, all of us in the same little building. The atmosphere there was, as you might imagine, even more goofy and carefree than the ordinary dorm environment, which is saying something. One day a bunch of us were sitting in the common area and being exuberant, and someone noticed that an old library volume of the “works of Sade” was sitting out on one of the tables — how collegiate is that? — and picked it up and started looking for dirty passages to read aloud. Even in those pre-Wikipedian days, I somehow had heard that 120 Days of Sodom was supposed to be the dirtiest, most outrageous one, so I flipped through to find it for him. The guy took it out of my hands and read us a couple of Aristocrats-worthy scenarios, involving people being farted on while being poked with hot irons or something, and we laughed at the ridiculousness of it. Then he flipped forward a few pages… and suddenly sort of went quiet, and then put it down and said, “I’m not reading this anymore. That stuff’s not funny.” And that was the end of that.

Of course later I had to pick it up and see what he had just read! And yes, it wasn’t funny. The point is this: if you really and truly want to think of the worst thing you can think of, you will think of things too awful even for The Aristocrats, too awful even for laughing at their own overcooked absurdity. Too awful for you, but not for an actual torturer, and not for the actual Marquis de Sade.

So that brings us to this movie. Pasolini took Sade’s text, set the action in 1945 in the waning days of the Italian Fascist state (headquartered in the town of Salò), reduced the 120 days to about three, and then, well, filmed it, and apparently filmed it pretty well. The transposition to the fascist context and to the relative realism of film is intended to give the proceedings political and philosophical resonance. I imagine that it probably does.

The resulting film, as has been widely reported, is extremely extremely extremely unpleasant. I have read quite a few reviews and responses to this film, and not one of them fails to warn the prospective viewer that the film is perhaps the most disturbing ever made, is likely to induce actual vomiting, should absolutely not be viewed if the viewer is at all squeamish. In short, that the film is not just about horrors but that to watch it is itself a horror, a genuinely traumatic experience that will never be forgotten, and one that you may well regret.

Noted! Many people apparently find it difficult to actually take such advice. Not I. I believe that this advice has been offered with the sincere intent to help others, and I choose to benefit by it. I’m a person who frequently can’t fall asleep at night because I’m unable to prevent my mind from obsessively replaying mildly frightening imagery, over and over, until I am completely consumed by senseless terror. So I really can’t afford to let in the most poisonous imagery of all time.

Furthermore, though, even if I could trust my stomach and my mind to handle it, I have an ideological objection, one that goes to the heart of what movies are worth. I believe that this film was made in good faith; which is to say, not in contempt of its audience. Nor as a cheap exploitation wrapped in ideological hoo-hah. I think Pasolini meant what he said about it, and that his tongue was not particularly in cheek when he included a highbrow philosophical “recommended reading” list in the opening credits. I believe while he no doubt enjoyed being provocative, the impetus to make the film really did stem from a genuine horror at man’s inhumanity to man/fascism/political power/consumer culture/whatever — i.e. real social-philosophical issues. But there is no getting around the fact that the film is an expression of cold rage, and in my experience, rage is an illegitimate subject for expression. It devours communication and renders itself worthless.

When I was growing up, my father would sometimes become infuriated by something on the TV news — who knows what — and would say something along the lines of “people like that should be shot!” to which my mother would then object for the kids’ sake, i.e., “That’s a terrible thing to say. Nobody should be shot,” and my father would then generally agree, for the kids’ sake, “you’re right, I shouldn’t say that. Of course nobody should be shot” — unless he was really too angry to acknowledge it, in which case we’d have to take the retraction as implied. (Don’t worry, dad — and mom — we did.) The important thing is that my mother was right: since he obviously didn’t think anybody should really be shot, my father’s outbursts were utterly worthless as communication. They were symptoms of his anger that thus revealed his emotion to us, but they expressed nothing in themselves. They would have been better unsaid.

But I know the impulse. When I get really, really furious at someone, I have the reflexive desire to confront him, and if possible shock him, with the severity of my emotion — to force him to see what he has engendered through his unkindness. And then, after I have realized with acute frustration that in most cases, a truly unsympathetic person will be able to shrug off the fact of my pain, I want him to be aware of an equivalent pain that cannot be shrugged off. When some asshole would be cruel to me for no reason in middle school, my mind would go wildly searching for a way to get through to him how wrong that was, and upon reaching the impasse that it was impossible to get it through to him, I would become agitated with the sense that I was confronting a paradox, a thing that should not be.

Pain thinks it must be transferable, translatable — because otherwise how will I ever be rid of it? This is why aggrieved people want murderers to go to the electric chair, right? “You apparently can’t experience how awful the thing you did was for me, but I’ll bet no matter how callous you are, you think being zapped to death with electric current is just as awful for you, so that’s how we’re going to make ourselves known.”

So Sean Hannity, for whatever twisted reason, only smiles smarmily when he finds out how angry and upset he made me. Positively inhuman, right? But being shot – ha-HA, Mr. Hannity, I’ve got your number now!

The problem is, what do we do in our fantasy when it turns out that, say, “the abuse of power” doesn’t even experience pain upon being shot? What??? But I hate it so!!! Or that, say, “human cruelty” will keep on chattering away cheerily even after being forced to eat shit and then raped? ARE YOU KIDDING ME???? Goddammit, there must be a reciprocal to my rage.

But just as you cannot divide by zero, there is no amount of atrocity you can put in a movie that will really sock it to the concept of atrocity. No matter how merciless a death my father dared imagined for the hateful people on TV, the only people hearing him were his own children. No matter how much shit-eating Pasolini puts in his movie, the only people seeing it are his audience, and once again, the real villain sneaks away smirking like Hannity. GODDAMMIT! Meanwhile we and the Criterion Collection end up sitting here having a really thoughtful conversation about art, which is ultimately beside the point.

I am skeptical of any work of art where the motivating sentiment seems to be the same as Charlton Heston shouting at the Statue of Liberty: “You maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!” Can you imagine how much eye-gouging and scalping and so forth he would have to put in his Salò to express that level of outrage? Too bad it’ll still only be apes seeing it.

It would be another thing if Salò were meant as a realist kick-in-the-imagination to pampered audiences. “Take a good look, pansies, because this is what goes on behind locked doors in torture chambers around the world.” Yes, that would be the “contempt of audience” form of bad faith I mentioned earlier, but it would at least serve a quasi-documentary sort of purpose — a call to action. But, though surely just about every horrible thing imaginable and more has actually happened to some poor soul somewhere (well, except for the kind of stuff that happens in the Saw movies), the reenacted atrocities in Salò are totally literary, a dreamlike pageant of ritual awfulness of no documentary value. For all the essays I’ve read about it, I haven’t seen a one that described it as a call to action. What action?

I don’t need a kick-in-the-imagination — please, please trust me on this one, art world! — but what I really don’t need is a manifestation of evil made vile so as to spite evil itself. What?

Pasolini apparently said his intent was to make an “indigestible” film. But such a film, like unwearable clothes or a pitcher with holes in it, is not a film per se but rather a piece of conceptual art, best displayed under glass at a museum, in a canister. By viewing it we err.

And if Pasolini would agree with me… well then, I pass the test! Hooray, I nailed it!

Funny Games is even more misbegotten and I promise never to watch that either. I resent having been made to even see the trailer while out in the world, innocently going to see a real movie. At least Salò is well tucked away in its lovely packaging, where only the willing will see it or even need to think about it.

The Criterion edition seems to be extremely well curated, with tons of bonus material that people say is fascinating. I seriously considered getting the second disc and just watching that, but then I thought better of it. All I ended up doing was watching the first 10 minutes or so on youtube, the pre-atrocity part where the victims are rounded up, about which one paragraph:

An obscure movie, a movie that you’ve only heard of around the fringes of things — something like this — part of the horror is always that when you see it, it’s not just some vague thing that you read about in some footnote somewhere, but is fully existent, and every moment recorded on it represents a moment that really occurred somewhere in space and time. Digging into the bottom of the basket of movies is like digging into the bottom of the basket of moments, and I get a sort of vertigo about the infinite nooks and crannies of time — this movie didn’t originate in obscurity, it originated in reality. This is the essence of the horror of the “snuff film” type — somewhere, at some point in time, this was, as much as I am now. Even just having watched the first few innocent minutes of this movie… it’s shocking how utterly existent it is. The sky in it is blue, the flesh is real, the images hiss with prosaic actuality. All that stuff I read about is going to happen in this space? Okay, I don’t need to see any more.

I don’t think I need to write any more either. I feel that I have honorably discharged my duty toward this Criterion Collection title without actually touching the disc.

So, without further ado: the track for your album. Main titles.

This deserves a little comment. I gather that nearly all of the music in Salò is borrowed and unattributed, but the esteemed Ennio Morricone is credited as music supervisor. This track seems to be his own very slight variant (to evade copyright?) on the standard These Foolish Things. Though some writers have investigated the thematic relation between the lyrics and the film, I think mostly this is just a straight romantic song and the point is that it’s a straight romantic song. Get it? Just like “We’ll Meet Again” at the end of Dr. Strangelove, this sardonically pleasant bourgeois smoothness has been put here out of pure, giddy fury.

It’s pretty darn catchy!

July 21, 2010

16. 宮本武蔵 完結篇 決闘巌流島 (1956)

directed by Hiroshi Inagaki
screenplay by Tokuhei Wakao and Hiroshi Inagaki
based on Hideji Hojo’s adaptation of the novel by Eiji Yoshikawa (1935–9)


Criterion #16. This title’s so huge it takes up two cards — think of that!

I know, I know, we all love this translation busywork. It must be done — trust me — but I’m going to keep it as brief as I can.

宮本武蔵完結編 決闘巌流島, pasted from Wikipedia, is identical to the title seen onscreen in the film, except for the seventh character (last character on the first screenshot above). I can find some Japanese sites that corroborate the character 篇 in place of 編, but no clear explanation of the distinction; as with last time, the dictionaries and translation sites buy the Wikipedia version and are uncertain about the film version, so maybe it’s archaic, or regional.

宮本武蔵 = “Musashi Miyamoto”
完結編 (完結篇?) = “kanketsuhen,” concluding episode or part
決闘 = “kettō,” duel (now being spelled the standard way)
巌流島 = “Ganryūjima” a real island

So: Musashi Miyamoto kanketsuhen: kettō Ganryūjima, or “Musashi Miyamoto concluded: Duel at Ganryujima.” Criterion has Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island. Fine!

Final analysis roundup: the first one stands up the best on its own, but if one is going to watch the whole series, this third one is the most compelling and interesting. The second one falls victim to the standard “middle chapter” problem — since it contains neither setup nor payoff of the main storyline, it has to depend on a secondary subplot for its sense of form, and so it feels accordingly inconsequential.

Of course, even that’s not a great excuse, because the “main storyline” of this series isn’t some kind of elegant, rigorously constructed arc — it’s more of a meandering episodic thing, where the characters crop up and down and meet and separate over many years. Hence the “Japan’s Gone with the Wind” thing that Criterion pushed in their marketing. Yeah — Gone with the Wind has always felt a little arbitrary to me, too.

It may just be that I don’t have a very well developed taste for epic structure. I think it’s probably part of my audience-member DNA that I am personally very dependent on form, balance through time, symmetry, expectations, etc. I don’t really know what to make emotionally of experiences that spool out at indefinite length. My mild sense of lostness in movies like these is I think analogous to my sense of lostness listening to, say, Japanese traditional music. The form is too relaxed and open for me to care about where we’re going, so my only recourse is to care entirely about the present moment… but then the present moments in these movies are no more nuanced or rich than in any other movies. Likewise the present moments in traditional Asian musics. Where is my heart supposed to go? It just sort of lolls around inside of me, waiting for someone to speak up and point and say “look, a future approaches — let’s go try to meet it!” Either that or “look right here, look how true this is!” But neither of those happens.

I know they’re not going to happen, of course, because the real point of a movie like this is something else — it’s about feeling some kind of transport of epic-ness. I’m not unsusceptible to transports of epic-ness, even very old-fashioned ones — like I said, I was generically moved when he walked into the sunset at the end of the first one, and I was similarly moved by moments in this one — but I don’t seek them out, nor am I inclined to seize every slight opportunity to experience them. Fantastical, unreasonable emotions have to actually come and find me; if they just hover nearby as possibilities, I am skeptical of them. This is, I think, why opera has always been hard for me.

This third movie is particularly opera-like in that one can tell by the rhythm, by the music, by the swells of unearthly intensity, whenever the story is breathing its epic breaths — and if one chooses, one can be emotionally affected by the incredible poignancy that is being telegraphed, even as one doesn’t necessarily know why the circumstances entail such poignancy. I gather that such moments are actually the most treasured and most profound to opera-lovers — the unjustifiable emotions that billow eerily outward from flimsy, clichéd events. I guess I get the appeal, but only in proportion and only within a clear framework. Man does not live by Fancy Feast alone.

Wow, that’s pretty confused, but I’m leaving it.

This movie is also opera-like in its grand-scale contrivances and absurd crises. When one of the two desperate woman tosses the other an axe, seizes her own, and declares that they are going to fight to the death for Musashi’s love, that’s, uh, really something.

Anyway, I appreciated that this episode sort of addressed my thematic problems with the last one, even if some of its answers aren’t retroactive. Yes, it was wrong for Musashi to kill all those guys! and yes, above and beyond being the best of the best, there is real life to be lived. Musashi spends a good hour of this one being a farmer, working the land and whittling holy statues out of wood. He has attained enough samurai wisdom to realize that rather than kicking ass, maybe he should be tending his garden. In light of where we had come from, I appreciated that. Of course, it is all in the interest of building up to the superhero duel of a lifetime. But even at the climax, the moral turns out to be that to kill a great man in the name of being awesome is actually tragic, and Musashi (spoiler alert: he wins) ends the trilogy with tears in his eyes. Substantive, right? Well, not really, but an honorable gesture toward substance.

Once again, it was something to look at it. The fighting continued to seem very fake, but when huge, dangerous-looking, obviously real fires blaze right nearby, it more than compensates. And the final sunset-on-the-beach duel was lovely.

These movies are not superficial or kinetic enough to be watched as action, not perceptive or well-written enough to be watched as real human drama, not thoughtful enough to be watched as philosophic or symbolic, nor even clearly-drawn enough to be really savored as melodramatic soap. But what they are is a genial mishmash of bits of all those things, in an excellently nostalgia-colored package. They didn’t mean much to me but they cannot be borne any ill will. They were as sturdy and reassuring and unworthy of criticism as a speckled linoleum floor. I feel certain that they would have bored me plenty as a kid. To an adult, such a warm boredom can be its own reward.

Let me mention the occasional narrative subtitles that don’t correspond to anything, which have been present in all three. I read that in the original US release of the first episode, William Holden’s voice was added to help connect the dots for foolish westerners, but there is no such voice to be heard here, in any language. Are these subtitles replacements for unseen Japanese subtitles, or are they just bold editorial additions by the translators? I want to believe they’re the former; they feel like they fall in places where the movie has intentionally left space for them. In any case, they were helpful.

Trivia: this is the movie from whence the “he’s so amazing that he can catch flies with chopsticks” thing comes. The Karate Kid just up and lifted it.

Farewell, Ikuma Dan. I suspect we won’t be hearing from you again. I understand you were a very successful opera composer. And why not. My listeners at home will be relieved to learn that for the third go-round, he reworked the theme to reflect Musashi’s newfound maturity, and so this, your Criterion Collection track 16, is actually different music from the preceding two. Hooray! Main title.

Okay, now that we’re at the end I’ll offer you this: it turns out that you can watch all three of these movies online, at a site that seems to agree with me that they epitomize the “movie that happens to be on TV.” One, two, three. Knock yourself out.

July 17, 2010

15. 續 宮本武蔵 一乗寺の決斗 (1955)

directed by Hiroshi Inagaki
screenplay by Tokuhei Wakao and Hiroshi Inagaki
based on Hideji Hojo’s adaptation of the novel by Eiji Yoshikawa (1935–9)


Criterion #15.

I can’t tell you how many emails I’ve received since my post about Musashi Miyamoto begging me please to review the sequel. Conveniently enough, said sequel is the very next release in The Criterion Collection, and I have just watched it, so I am well equipped to meet that request. Nonetheless, those eager correspondents, if any, are going to be disappointed, because I firmly maintain that I do not write “reviews” on this here site. Sorry kids, but like the song says, I can’t be your Owen Gleiberman. My self-assignment is simply to write “responses,” or more precisely, to give an entry the same title as whatever movie I have just seen, and then put something in the body. The rest, dear reader, is up to you.

Or is it?

In any case, luckily for y’all I have fairly conservative tastes as a blogeur and the chances are slim that I will go all avant-garde and not mention the movie once. Though I am gearing up to do an apologia about how I refuse to watch one of the movies. Aficionados of the list will know what I’m talking about.


Let me and google break “続宮本武蔵 一乗寺の決闘” down for you.
続 = “Zoku,” a prefix meaning “continuation” or “sequel.”
宮本武蔵 = “Miyamoto Musashi,” ah-DUH. See how it’s big and bold on the title card?
一乗寺 = “Ichijōji” (or Ichijō-ji”), the name of a real Buddhist temple
の = “no,” a basic particle that here is apparently a sort of possessive, like “of”
決闘 = “kettō,” meaning “duel” (made of characters meaning “decision” and “fight”)

(Oh, except wait, even though that’s how it’s spelled in absolutely every reference source online (though some of them omit the の), that’s not how it’s spelled on the title card. The last character is different, see? 斗, not 闘. This is a bit of a stumper for my online resources. Google translate is still willing to tell me that 決斗 means “duel,” but the transliteration site says that 決斗 is not “kettō” but “ketsu to,” and none of the dictionaries are having it. Also, I see that the preview for this movie actually has the character 閗 in that place, which if you look closely seems to be a sort of compromise.)

(Oh hey, and look at that, the first character is different too. 續 instead of 続. The sources tell me it’s just a lesser-used variant of the same. Apparently, in Japanese, the exact characters aren’t considered a essential part of titles. Or maybe something else is going on. I give up. In case you didn’t know, I DON’T SPEAK JAPANESE.)

So anyway, we (probably) have Zoku Miyamoto Musashi Ichijōji no kettō, which is something lke Musashi Miyamoto continued: Ichijōji Duel.” Criterion calls it Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple, which is fine, all things considered, though I still think they could have manned up and admitted that this trilogy is called Musashi Miyamoto and not Samurai. As mentioned last time. I’m gonna let that go, I swear.

So far, so good, my lucky readers!

If you are a lover of samurai films, you will know this film well as “the one where at the beginning he fights a guy with a chain and at the end he goes up against like 80 guys by himself.” The path between those two points is wobbly. Where the first film felt pleasantly simplistic, this one trips over its feet a little. Perhaps the problem is that the source material is overlong and overcomplicated and the task of adaptation has been occasionally fumbled.

Here is what it was like to watch this movie:

“Since when does that other woman also love Musashi desperately, and why? What is the significance of this fighting school, and why is he so dead-set on dueling the master? Is he really actually killing all these guys just to hone his skills? Is he still an outlaw? What is driving him personally? Are we supposed to see him as sensitive or insensitive? Are we supposed to feel sorry for the pathetic, cowardly former friend, or is he comic relief? Or is he actually supposed to be despicable? Does the priest want the woman to become a nun? Who was the Yoda-like guy at the beginning and why didn’t he ever reappear? Is that kid really Musashi’s apprentice or not? Why on earth does the woman rebuff Musashi when he finally tries to kiss her? What’s the deal with the mysterioso nemesis guy? Other than establishing himself for the audience so that he can duel Musashi in the next movie, what the hell is he doing? And don’t any of these samurai, like, own land or something? Didn’t being a samurai entail something beyond an endless Street Fighter II competition for fighting supremacy and soulful awesomeness?”

The answer to the last question is, “uh, I don’t think so, at least not in this movie.” Just now did some Wikipedia reading to understand what the deal is with samurai, and I see that, okay, for a time they really were sort of rogue would-be warlords who roamed around obsessing over honor and challenging each other to monster duels. Something just feels strangely untethered about that as a milieu. In westerns, there’s always something at stake — a town or a ranch or a woman or something — around which the duels crop up. The plot of Seven Samurai was about a town; that made sense to me. In detective noir there’s some client’s money that makes the thing go — the moral code, the betrayals etc. are the dust that gets stirred up by the plot. Musashi, by contrast, lives in a MacGuffinless universe. He is in it to win it and there is no ‘it’. He must fight and scowl and concentrate because that is his destiny, period.

Presumably there is some final epic duel — don’t quote me on this, but I think it just might be a Duel at Ganryu Island — beyond which lies the state of true mastery, which having been attained will allow Musashi to do something or other. But my guess is the movie will end at that point. If there is any doing in this universe, it is not our concern. These are movies about what a man will be, played out in as little context as possible. Historically accurate or not, that’s some pretty stylized subject matter, and I think your mileage will depend on how much that corresponds with your personal worldview. It’s not very close to mine. The moral question of how to be seems fairly obvious, to me, so I prefer movies that are about people figuring out what to do.

Based on youtube and amazon comments, the people who love these movies seem to be people who are moved by the idea of pursuing a moral code, and also people who are moved by heroes, heroes, heroes. Something about the appeal of the “hero” paradigm escapes me. I like a protagonist as much as the next guy, but who is a hero, really? He’s a protagonist praised for exactly what you don’t have in common with him. (Don’t Harry Potter fans realize that they’re all filthy muggles?) Musashi has an incredible talent for swordfighting. Okay, well, I totally can’t relate to that, so how about you tell me if he’s a sympathetic person. Oh, really, we’re done here?

Luckily for Musashi he’s played by Toshiro Mifune, who obviously has a solid, appealing screen presence (though it’s still an effort for me not to constantly be weighing him skeptically against the ridiculously immoderate praise heaped on him by that Seven Samurai commentary guy). Liking a character because he has a solid, appealing screen presence is much easier for me than liking him because he is a great fighter. He and the other actors fill out their tenuous characters with big, clean, obvious performances.

The photography is smart and often very attractive, with frequent and effective use of old-fashioned, well-choreographed camera movement — several lovely moments of lateral tracking through multilayered scenery. And the color, as mentioned last time, is a splendid period piece in itself. But this film seemed to me to be in significantly worse shape than the previous one — the colors are less intense and the image is generally muddier, with occasional ghosty edges. That means a lot when you’re watching for the colors above all else! Also, look how much less pretty the title screen was! Netflix told me I wouldn’t like this one quite as much as the previous, and as usual, it was right.

Still, a pleasant sort of movie to watch without interest. It seems to bring along with it the cozy fact that it is late at night, you are flipping channels, and this broad, earnest thing is just what happened to be on.

Here’s your Criterion Collection track 15: the main title. Same composer, same theme, same arrangement. Apart from the exciting trills at the beginning and end, this is almost exactly the opening cue from the previous movie, now unencumbered by sound effects so you can hear the whole thing. I know this will seem pretty redundant coming on the heels of the last track… but so does the movie so it’s only appropriate. And hey, it’s a better recording. In any case it’s our only real option.

P.S. My favorite subtitle:

July 13, 2010

14. 宮本武蔵 (1954)

directed by Hiroshi Inagaki
screenplay by Tokuhei Wakao and Hiroshi Inagaki
based on Hideji Hojo’s adaptation of the novel by Eiji Yoshikawa (1935–9)


Criterion #14.

1. Title:
“宮本武蔵” = “Miyamoto Musashi,” the name of the hero (in standard last name, first name order). Musashi Miyamoto was a real person and is apparently fairly well-mythologized in Japanese culture (in part because of the book upon which these movies are based), so in Japan this title is probably as self-explanatory as, say, Robin Hood. Not so in the west, of course, so when the movie was released in the US (where it won the 1955 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film) it was called Samurai, which is a sensible retitling, at least for the time. The Musashi Miyamoto trilogy of which this is the first part was accordingly known in the US as the “Samurai” trilogy.

All well and good, but then Criterion goes and decides to release this movie under the needlessly roman-numerated and encolonated title Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto, which to my ear is all off-putting geeky pompousness. This overcomplicated form of the title is not only on the packaging (and the website), but actually appears as the subtitling for the lovely four-character title screen seen above, where it feels blatantly wrong and ungainly.

I am going to call this movie Musashi Miyamoto, the first film in a trilogy of the same name. Like Back to the Future, or Star Wars (at least before they retroactively loused that one up).

2. Digression:
Aren’t we all really glad that the Back to the Future sequels didn’t have subtitles? Don’t Back to the Future II: Biff’s Revenge and Back to the Future III: Doc Brown’s Return sound like really stupid, pointless movies? The answer is yes, which leads to another question — since colons and subtitles are such an obvious mistake, why do so many movies today have them?

2.1. Where does all the time go?:
Actual Wikipedia browsing transcript, departing immediately.
Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend->Mokele-mbembe->Carl Hagenbeck->Human zoo->Ota Benga->Human teeth sharpening->Dee Snider->Jesse Blaze Snider->”What am I doing?”

3. Expectations:
Were very low. Especially knowing that the genre’s most beloved masterpiece had made so weak an impression on me, I didn’t think this would be my cup of tea ceremony (that’s a ‘before and after’). And the prospect of three of these damn things meant I was anticipating true tedium.

4. So:
When it turned out to be perfectly watchable, that felt like a lovely gift. Expectations are everything in this game! If all I had known about Seven Samurai had been that it was an old Japanese period movie, I probably would have been absolutely delighted by how much fun it was. But having been told that it was the all-time greatest movie of all time, I was underwhelmed. Here, not having been told anything other than that I was going to see some technicolor samurai, I had room to find my own fun in it.

5. Me:
Ain’t that always the way, with me — when I’m alone with something, I easily find that I like it. When other people and their opinions are in play, I don’t usually get there. I guess I find people and their opinions exceedingly distracting. It’s the instinct against roaming too far from common consent — in the interest of being sociable, essentially — that tends to ruin things for me. So when there’s no common consent, I am extremely likely to have a satisfying time. Most experiences manage to be interesting when I’m free to simply have them. The world is, after all, pretty interesting.

5.1 Others like me:
I know I’m not the only one like this — this is the same principle that drives lots of people to be obnoxiously passionate about the things they’ve found off the beaten track. In fact I imagine it’s the reason that we even have an expression for the concept of “off the beaten track.” What reason could there ever be for devaluing a thing just because it’s popular? People tend to imply that it’s an attitude born of prideful ego — “I’m better than most people so I should make clear that I like different things from most people” — but I suspect that more often it’s a feeling that arises because the social obligations implicit in the beaten track are numbing. Out in the wilderness you’re free to be yourself.

5.2 Let’s not forget though:
The movie that sparked this thought is after all in the extremely well-known Criterion Collection. I’m not very far afield here. Which just goes to show how little you have to wander off on your own before things feel entirely different.

5.3 And let’s be clear:
The point here is not that it’s all that great. The point is that I had a good time because I was alone. None of you have seen this, have you? None of you that I know, anyway.

6. Correction:
This movie is not in Technicolor — it is in Eastmancolor, which you know as the cheaper, fade-ier, 50s-ier palette that followed Technicolor. I don’t know what kind of color adjustment may have been done for this transfer — the night scenes seem awfully dark — but the tints on this old film don’t feel the least bit faded. The color is extremely vivid; green forests, blue skies, and red kimonos all flame like a retouched photograph on a postcard. It all seems to lean a little yellowish. Entering that color space is a good 80% of the experience, and I was able to relish that experience. That 50s color world evokes a satisfying balance of stodginess and innocence that I find endearing and grandfatherly. It feels muscular but only in the most impotent, comical, faraway way.

7. It’s like:
It’s like watching Davy Crockett.

8. The disc:
Has nothing on it. I mean, it has subtitles, and it has the original trailer. That’s it.

9. Music:
There’s a full-Hollywood-treatment score by Ikuma Dan. It it simple and obvious and old-fashioned, just like the movie. I said about the Seven Samurai score that it was a sort of Japan-ified imitation of American standard practice; this one was hardly distinguishable from American standard practice, to my ears. In great part neither was the movie. This movie pretty much might as well be the cowboy movie that it might as well have been. This music seems never to have been released as a soundtrack; not recently anyway.

My idea with these ripped tracks is that in every movie, there’s always at least one chunk of music that’s meant to function on its own terms and have an equal share of the audience’s attention as the picture, if not more. Most often it occurs during the titles at the beginning or end (whichever is longer), though sometimes it’s elsewhere. This movie is no exception, but what’s unfortunate here is that there are no whole pieces that stand on their own — the opening title cue, our obvious choice, runs seamlessly into the first scene, which is full of noise. So in lieu of subjecting you to an awkward fade out, I have done a quick cut to the music from the very very end of the movie, which is tacked on here to provide a suitable conclusion. Luckily the movie ends with the same theme played in the same key — classical training at work, at its most reflexive!

Main Titles + Finale

The cellos are obligated to remind us about the whole Japan thing, but the theme is pure cowboy gold. Not a bad theme, as cowboy gold goes. You can rest assured that yes, he is indeed walking epically into an Eastmancolor sunset during that last bit. And I’m only slightly embarrassed to admit that I found those last moments stirring, in an entirely meaningless way.

This sounds to me like the music of a movie being watched on TV in the background of another movie. The whole movie is like a movie being watched on TV in another movie. It is, in every frame, the epitome of “some old samurai movie.”

10. Final thoughts:
Well, I have things to say about characterization and the genre and stuff, but I have two more shots at this so I feel certain that this is plenty for now.

11. P.S.
(He’s a wild young man who wants glory, he goes to battle, he becomes an outlaw, a priest sees his potential and gets him to start learning discipline, he heads off into the sunset to become a true samurai; along the way he fights some bad guys and meets some ladies.)

July 2, 2010

13. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

directed by Jonathan Demme
screenplay by Ted Tally
based on the novel by Thomas Harris (1988)


Criterion Collection #13.

This is a much-overrated movie. It has touches of class that I think may have confused some people who don’t understand that one swallow does not a summer make, certainly not when an evil psychiatrist cannibal is helping to track a corpse-skinning pervert. What we have here is none other than an unreformed 80s-style thriller, the kind that ought to leave you feeling a little dirty. It is irredeemably grounded in the puerile pet fantasies of the genre, fixated on the baroque pathologies of outlandish serial killers just as shamelessly as superhero comics are fixated on skintight muscle suits. This is a movie where it turns out that coincidentally, Hannibal Lecter was once Buffalo Bill’s psychiatrist, and nobody thinks even to comment on the coincidence — because it’s a serial killer’s world; they probably run into each other all the time at serial killer bars. Just like nobody needs to comment on how wildly unlikely it is that Gotham City happens be home to a superhero and to any number of supervillains. A fantasy world populates itself according to its own fixations and hangups. Having seen this movie, a cruel, brilliant psychoanalyst like Hannibal Lecter could probably say a choice word or two about Thomas Harris. Not to mention the reading public.

And the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

In the interest of brotherly love, I should grant that there may be nothing wrong with the hangups to which this movie caters — they’re just not mine. That would be the high road, anyway… but my heart, Clarice, but my heart! My heart tells me this is extremely suspect stuff. I think for the character of Hannibal Lecter to resonate, you have to be the type of person who thinks the whole notion of “psychology” is intrinsically gothic and finds violent cannibalism perversely fascinating. I’m proud to say that’s just not me. I got no love for zombies, neither. However, inadvertent “gotcha” cannibalism of the albatross soup and Sweeney Todd variety is another story; that I can get behind. I think maybe it’s because the emphasis there is on inflicting self-disgust on another person, rather than the physical act of eating flesh. The latter just isn’t a very rich subject for me. I understand that there are people for whom it is, and I reserve the right to be a little suspicious of them.

Ditto cutting off people’s skin — emphatic ditto! There has to be a secret savor in a horror for it to be satisfying, beyond just being pushed toward something to which you are averse. You need to feel some kind of pull, as well. For me, too much of the stuff in this movie had no secret savor. Sometimes an “ick” is just an “ick.” Again, to each his own. Also again, if that’s your own, I am uncomfortable with you.

I have another, related gripe: the movie can’t decide whether or not it’s supposed to be fun. Hitchcockian naughtiness (“I’m having an old friend for dinner”) and Eszterhasian grandstanding “hardcore” crudeness (“I can smell your cunt!”) are incompatible paradigms. If you’re going to relish mincing words, you can’t also relish not mincing words. The whole idea of “not mincing words” is rejecting mince! This movie tries to have its mince and disdain it too.

Case in point: When Clarice is about to meet Lecter for the first time, the head of the institute warns her to keep her distance by saying that he went to the infirmary once and “when the nurse leaned over him, he did this to her” — and then pulls out a photo that we don’t see but Clarice does, and suddenly they are bathed in red light. So far so good, and Hitch would approve. But then he keeps talking. “The doctors managed to reset her jaw more or less. Saved one of her eyes. His pulse never got above 85 — even when he ate her tongue.” Well, now that’s pretty on-the-nose disgusting, isn’t it? Why don’t you just show us the damn picture, while you’re at it.

Speaking of which: consider the autopsy scene. After the body bag is opened, we only see their uneasy reactions. The corpse is just an unfocused foreground blur at the very bottom of the shot as we look up at Clarice examining it — but of course our imaginations are drawn directly to the gore that we can’t see. So far it’s reminiscent of the parallel autopsy scene in Jaws, where we are meant to be uncomfortably aware of what the characters are looking at, just out of our field of view. After much teasing, that scene climaxes when a gnawed forearm is lifted into frame for just a second — which after that buildup, feels like a considerable thing to bear. That one second is the whole payoff, and it’s the correct payoff, because Jaws is a mince relish movie, unequivocally and sure-footedly so.

Now back to the Silence of the Lambs autopsy. At first, as I said, we’re spared the gore and teased with a low angle. But as the scene goes on, we start to see parts of the body more clearly and directly; and then quite casually, without any fanfare, we’re shown it at full length on the table, bloated and rotting and repulsive. Oops! Guess this wasn’t “teasing and fun” like Jaws after all! I guess it’s more “unflinching and clinical” (= “lurid and sleazy” done up in its Sunday best). But if so, why does the scene start with the teaser low angle? It just feels like borrowed business, misunderstood.

The progression from averted to direct gaze does make a certain kind of abstract sense from a character-development perspective: as Clarice gains her nerve and begins to master her professional role, what began as too horrible to contemplate becomes matter-of-fact. But if that’s the concept, it’s a dumb concept, because that’s exactly the opposite of the effect it achieves for the audience. Clarice gradually comes to terms with the corpse because she does see it immediately. But we don’t see it, so that’s a journey we can’t go on with her. We spend that time having our own experience of ascending discomfort, as we slowly lose faith that the film has any actual interest in playful teasing, any actual intention of sparing us the grossness.

The scariest movies, for me, are the ones that I don’t trust. In a well-mannered movie — like, say, the Bourne movie we just watched on TV the other day — if a razor blade gets pulled out in the middle of a fistfight, I might worry for the character but I don’t really have to worry that the movie’s gonna go all chien Andalou on me, because good manners dictate that one imply such things obliquely (except for occasionally at climaxes). But a movie that has proven that it has no breeding, and may even have a few screws loose, is a genuinely dangerous movie, because anything could happen. In the final analysis, apart from a few minor faux-pas, The Silence of the Lambs turns out to be reasonably well-behaved, but its manners are just too erratic for comfort. I wouldn’t want it to be my date to anyplace nice. Like for example the Oscars!

The 80s were a particularly ill-bred time.

Jodie Foster’s commentary on the DVD is almost entirely Joseph Campbell-type stuff about her character’s mythic journey. Her conviction is that the movie does a great cultural service by presenting a true female hero. It’s easy to smirk at this sort of talk — especially since, while hearing it, you’re watching The Silence of the Lambs — but I think the point is basically sympathetic. If you’re in the movie business and you want to nudge the cultural norms, inserting some unremarkable but non-trivial feminism into the DNA of a pop-cinema genre is probably one of the best ways to do it. Maybe only effective if that movie becomes completely iconic, but luckily enough, this one did.

So like I said, I think the movie throws up a sort of quality smokescreen by having a few unexpected touches of taste and intelligence. What are those touches? For one, a graceful camera style that is more curious than salacious, a willingness to glance around and take things in. Like the occasional color cutaway to, say, a lawn whirligig shaped like a canoeing Indian, which is part of a light sprinkling of “American history” imagery that could easily provide a freshman with material for a serviceable two-page paper. Another interesting touch is the distinctive use of tight close-ups on characters speaking directly into the camera. I guess I’m complimenting the cinematographer Tak Fujimoto, here.

And, of course, the strongest point, and the real reason this movie took off, is the odd simplicity of all the “Yes, Clarissssse!” scenes. Anthony Hopkins says on the commentary that his very first scene was what appealed to him about the part, and that he built the whole performance outward from the character’s show of power in the speech where he calls her out as white trash and cuts her down. With this in mind, it’s striking how very theatrical in conception — and performance — those scenes are. The two characters are stationary and engaged in an impossibly heightened exchange; that’s like every play I’ve ever seen. I think a big reason that the scene has lodged itself so firmly in the cultural memory and has provoked so much loving parody is that it is so durably the stuff of the stage. It feels iconic because it feels ancestral — a holdover from the great mother art out of which the cinema was born. I think deep in our guts we all feel that the things people say to each other while standing still are the most human and lasting part of film. The camera moving around, lights flashing, color and sound and so forth — that’s all more artificial and thus more suspect — and thus, we feel, less substantive — than sheer old-fashioned thespianism. This inner bias doesn’t rise to the surface all that often, but it definitely affects the sweepstakes of icon-formation. The “greatest moments” in movie history, according to common consensus, are generally moments when two people are standing near each other and one of them says something to the other one, like, “Frankly, kid, I coulda been an offer that Kansas is made of.” (“And don’t call me Frankly!”). Generally, it seems like most of the stuff that gets the Oscar ceremonies all misty about the magic of cinema is the stuff that could have been done on stage.

Look, here they are in a photo shoot just last year, in which all extraneous elements have been removed. Doesn’t this look like it might be a good play — maybe even a better play than it was a movie? Certainly Clarice’s goofy lamb monologue would be easier to accept. I think it would work well in a black box theater where the audience sat real close. They’d cut most of the non-Lecter scenes and just have them described, or suggested abstractly with artsy projections. The play would be called Ovis and take itself super-seriously. Starring Tony-award-winners Denis O’Hare and Scarlett Johansson.

Dear world, if this all comes to pass I would like a “special thanks to” credit in the program.

The Criterion edition is out of print, so no Netflix, but it’s not rare enough that anyone has felt the need to put it online. So… I had to buy it. For 8 bucks I have no regrets. It’s clearly the product of the early years of DVD, having no subtitles, and with several of the bonus features consisting of onscreen text — FBI perspectives on various serial killer cases; much of it needlessly horrific stuff, frankly, though I did find it interesting to read about how profiling works in the real world.

The only really interesting “deleted scene” is a neat solo video performance by Jim Roche as a televangelist, a clip of which is briefly seen but not heard on a TV set in the film. The commentary track (unavailable on any other edition) was pleasant enough listening though not particularly deep. Jonathan Demme seems pretty down-to-earth and unpretentious. I was struck by the fact that absolutely nothing fond is said at any point about Ted Levine. Demme doesn’t mention him at the end when he lists all the great people he had the pleasure of working with. But his tiny little performance is what stuck with me most after my first viewing years ago, and I know I’m not alone in that. I still think the best scene in the movie is when she finally shows up at Bill’s house and they have a few creepy moments together in his kitchen before she pulls her gun out.

Composer Howard Shore is pretty good about dramaturgy, but as usual he seems to be composing with a jumbo quick-dry magic marker. I’ll never forgive him for those Lord of the Rings scores with their relentless lack of nuance. Here the lack of nuance is more forgivable, though part of me still feels like the ratio of notes to instruments playing could stand to be a good bit higher. Yes, a soundtrack was released.

The main title is full of sound effects, so your Criterion compilation track 13 is the End Titles. Awfully bare stuff, no? But it does what it needs to do, as long as you’re not paying much attention.

This took much longer to write than it did to watch. I’d rather it not be that way, if I can help it.

By the way, I happened to see Demme’s utterly different Rachel Getting Married right before watching this. It was much better.