Movies reviewed this week: Johnny Guitar, Shaft, Matador, After Yang, and Polytechnique.
3/1/2022: Johnny Guitar (1954): ****
What a total fever dream of a movie. I am not big on Westerns, so I maybe didn’t like this as much as I would have otherwise, but this sucker really committed to whatever it was. At the risk of being blasphemous, I thought Joan Crawford was on a different wavelength than everyone else; still, ultimately, that just played up her outsider status. Maybe intentional, who knows?
Also the scene where Sterling Hayden and Joan Crawford are making their way through a bunch of men in black and white suits? But they’re wearing bright primary colors? Certainly my jam.
Also also, psychotically grinning Ernest Borgnine is the best Ernest Borgnine.
3/3/2022: Shaft (1971): ****
Lost some steam towards the end but still ridiculously cool. Very solid noir as well as an amazing slice of life, and aggressively live and let live.
3/4/2022: Matador (1986): ***
Fascinating movie but I think it was structurally flawed. By the final few scenes, it’s self-evident where the center of the movie is. That means we wasted a ton of time with Antonio Banderas early on; he’s effectively just a psychic plot point. Thus, his one early scene of sexual violence felt purely gratuitous. I wish Almodóvar had gotten to his quite effective finale by a different path.
3/5/2022: After Yang (2021): *****
Muted and gentle. Clear-eyed, never shying away from the bitterness woven throughout the solarpunk world. Ultimately about grief, which hits hard right now.
3/6/2022: Polytechnique (2009): *****
It matters because it happened. It matters because it’s too easy to forget. Or to never have known.
Knowing what I know now, and what I think few realized then, I find this even more chilling. In his manifesto, the killer said he was “rather backward-looking by nature.” That’s the palingenetic yearning for a mythic past which permeates the fascist currents of our age, fueling incels and nationalists alike. No coincidence that the killer attacked a university which was educating students in ways he hated.
But that’s the event. What about the movie?
Early on, Valérie interviews for an internship. The professor notes that women don’t usually go in for mechanical engineering, because it’s hard for mechanical engineers to find time to have children.
Midway through the movie, Jean-François returns to the classroom where the killer shot the first of his victims. He sees nine women dead on the floor, because he didn’t help them. He flees in guilt.
Further on, we flash back to that scene in the classroom. This time it’s Valérie’s perspective. She’s wounded, but alive. She’s too afraid — rightly — to see if the person who just returned to the room is the killer.
Men seeing women through the lens of their own preconceptions.
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