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Movie Reviews: 1/17/2022 to 1/23/2022

Movies reviewed this week: Cape Fear, Beau Travail, The Velvet Underground, A Field in England, Baby Doll, and Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror.

1/17/2022: Cape Fear (1962): ****

Very good thriller elevated by Mitchum’s performance. From the modern perspective, there’re maybe 15 minutes of ambiguity at the start of the movie when the cops are blithely discussing ways to legally harass an ex-con, but sadists gonna sadist so that fades fairly quickly.

1/17/2022: Beau Travail (1999): *****

Criterion Challenge 2022
Progress: 5/52
Prompt: Watch a film directed by Claire Denis

French colonialism in Africa theme? Yep, that’s my January.

This is my first film by Claire Denis. I believe her when she says “Capturing bodies on film is the only thing that interests me,” because that is half of how this movie tells a story. (The other half is the landscapes, both the natural backdrops of Djibouti and the artificial textures of the city.)

Her star here is the most gifted physical actor of our time, Denis Lavant. Such a pairing. You can tell by the angles of his shoulders how alien he feels in a civilian world.

1/20/2022: The Velvet Underground (2021): ***1/2

I didn’t know Doug Yule moved to Seattle.

I thought it was going to be interesting but uninvolving until about halfway through when Jonathan Richman showed up and provided a jolt of characteristic unembarassed enthusiasm. At his worst, Haynes can be too cerebral. Nice save there.

1/22/2022: A Field in England (2013): ****1/2

Surprisingly madcap. I wish I’d seen this in a theater, but even at home the volcanic eruption of the third act had remarkable impact.

1/23/2022: Baby Doll (1956): **1/2

Great Southern Gothic setting and performances but Carroll Baker is wasted as just an object of desire. Kazan’s a great director but man what a controlling putz.

1/23/2022: Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror (2021): ***1/2

Really good overview of the genre (or, if you agree with some of the interviewees, the mode). About half a dozen times I wanted a spin-off episode going deeper into a given subject.

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