Consider this month’s DVD release If… (Criterion) as exhibit A in an approach towards film (and all art for that matter) that argues against interpretation. For years, critics puzzled over the aesthetic and thematic implications of Lindsay Anderson’s decision to shoot the last reel of his film about student rebellion in black and white, while the rest of the movie is in color. The critical establishment, presented with what it believed to be a tangible example of metaphorical significance, set about to decipher the conundrum with all the supercilious zeal of a second-tier University TA. Was it a comment on the bleak outlook of today’s youth? A contrast between vibrant empty consumerism and stark socialist sacrifice? The real reason? Anderson merely ran out of money.
Dušan Makavejev — the crazy Croat — was one seriously twisted individual. This 1974 film creates its own genre of anarcho-Marxist comedic farce with a side order of erotic existentialism for good measure. At times unwatchable, it’s hard to forget once you’ve seen it.
WR: Mysteries of the Organism (Criterion)
Makavejev again. A Serbo-Croatian take on Wilhelm Reich, the pyscho-sexual psychologist (and all around nutter) that devolves into a free-form meditation on the liberation of a young Yugoslav girl from shackles both sexual and political. (?!)
Simon Schama’s Power of Art(BBC)
Episodes include Van Gogh: Painting from Inside the Head and Caravaggio: Painting Gets Physical. Think of it as Ken Burns’ Baseball for art freaks.
Max and Mona(First Run)
Max is a farmer…Mona is a goat in this worldbeat charmer from South Africa.
PICK Nightmare(Home Vision)
Highly regarded documentary from 2004 that spotlights one strand of fuckedupedness that is a feature of the new global economy. In this case a dark trade of Nile perch for Kalashnikovs courtesy venal Russians and amoral South Africans.
Auto Focus (Sony)
Paul Schrader’s biopic about Hogan Heroes star Bob Crane who led a double life as a videotape amateur porno maker, is an exercise in subtle exploitation that never fails to entertain but rarely enlightens.
July 3 PICK The Big Lebowski (Universal)
I once told a colleague about my theory that any film with a catch phrase is inevitably overrated. (cf. Scarface, Pulp Fiction,…) prone as it is towards slavish cultish devotion by blog-dwelling types. This film, he pointed out correctly, is an exception.
Part of a box set of Camp Classics being released, this gem stars Joan Crawford in a career-negating performance playing an anthropologist who discovers the missing link. (!)
PICK Climates (Zeitgeist)
Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s contemplative relationship anti-drama has an effect, which is deeply penetrating despite its process of meandering torpor.