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Movie Reviews: 5/23/2022 to 5/29/2022

Movies reviewed this week: The King of Marvin Gardens, Three Colors: Red, and Funny Games.

5/27/2022: The King of Marvin Gardens (1972): ***

Criterion Challenge 2022
Progress: 23/52
Prompt: Watch a film from the “America Lost and Found: The BBS Story” collection

Less than the sum of its parts. I decided to watch this one next because I just rewatched The Last Picture Show and Ellen Burstyn was so good in it. She’s great in this too, in a role that echoes her Lois Farrow. Nicholson’s great, Bruce Dern is great, and the weird surrealist angle on Atlantic City is great.

But, I dunno, it just didn’t cohere for me. I see where it was going at the end, with the pathos, but it didn’t totally earn what it wanted me to feel. Possibly I didn’t buy Dern and Nicholson as brothers, completely? Maybe Nicholson was just a little too detached for the sake of playing against his normal type?

Enjoyed it fine, even if I didn’t love it.

5/28/2022: Three Colors: Red (1994): *****

That concludes my first viewing of the trilogy, and from start to end it’s a masterpiece.

Red wears itself on its sleeve. Towards the end, the man closing up the theater is looking for the cleaning lady; he tells Irène Jacob and Jean-Louis Trintignant that “I’m always chasing after her.” It’s an unabashedly blatant reference to every intertwined strand in the movie: the young judge Auguste is chasing his lover, Jacob’s Valentine is chasing hers, and Trintignant’s older judge Kern is chasing his memories. Valentine chases Kern’s dog! I would have laughed out loud if this was a lesser movie. How does Kieślowski make this work?

There’s a great supplement on the Criterion edition, in which Kieślowski explains that he lingers on the shot of Rita the dog entering the church because he wants to remind us that we’ve seen Valentine in the same place much earlier. I didn’t remember that at the time. No matter:

“Of course it’s not important. It’s another layer to the film. But we tried to build up these signs, particularly in Red, so the audience would realize that what they see here they’ve already seen and have stored somewhere in their subconscious. Many of these signs won’t get through, of course, but we pile up so many of them so that at least some do, so that they understand the principle.”

Kind of him to go ahead and answer my question.

The cinematography is masterful. The acting is perfect. My heart is full.

5/28/2022: Funny Games (1997): ****1/2

Criterion Challenge 2022
Progress: 24/52
Prompt: Watch a movie from the 1990s

It’s impressive how well Haneke skirts the edges of exploitation. That’s obviously the risk for the task he’s set himself. He wanted to make a movie about the viewer’s culpability in torture horror, but how do you do that without becoming culpable as a director? His answer is to minimize (but not eliminate) the on-screen violence, and… all those other tricks he plays with Paul’s point of view.

As a result you can watch this movie without being terribly self-critical, for better or worse. I’m not surprised he felt he hadn’t reached his audience.

It was interesting watching a 1997 movie position young men as violent misogynists. The École Polytechnique massacre happened eight years before this movie was made, and the Luby shooting was in 1991, but it’s still a long time before the word incel was coined let alone associated with terrorism. I might be stretching a bit here — certainly the intruders were hostile to Georg as well — but the opening with their deliberate entrance into Anna’s personal space seems too on point to be accidental.

Technically very accomplished, but too arid to involve me emotionally.

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