Criterion Reviews: ‘The Fabulous Baron Munchausen’

Before man first landed on the moon, the lunar surface was ripe for colourful interpretation. It has been the source for endless fascination for storytellers since nursery rhymes sang of it being made of cheese. “The moon, my dear, is by nature a curious place,” says one of the curious travellers of Karel Zeman’s space oddity. The Fabulous Baron Munchausen doesn’t stay on the moon for long, but it brings that curiosity back down to earth.

tfbm3

Continue reading “Criterion Reviews: ‘The Fabulous Baron Munchausen’”

Advertisements

Criterion Reviews: ‘For All Mankind’

After the albeit-muted success of Damien Chazelle’s ‘First Man’, now seems to be an optimal time to revisit a documentary which strips the drama from humanity’s first steps on the moon. Filtering one of history’s most talked about events through a focused lens, For All Mankind leaves the conspiracy theories at the door to present 79 minutes of NASA footage and interviews – allowing its audience to partake in the simple joy of the achievement. 

Director Al Reinert bookends the film with the only outside commentary featured in the whole documentary; President John F. Kennedy’s Address on the Nation’s Space Effort. The construction is otherwise simple: voiceovers from the astronauts accompany home videos from within the Apollo spacecraft, footage from the mission control centre and film captured from the surface of the moon itself. 

forallmankind3

Continue reading “Criterion Reviews: ‘For All Mankind’”

Criterion Reviews: ‘Wanda’

The Criterion Channel’s latest movie is the 1970 film, Wanda, a film now appreciated as a masterpiece in American independent cinema. Directed, written, and starring the late Barbara Loden, Wanda follows the titular character through Pennsylvania as she faces difficulty at her every attempt to make a life for herself after divorcing her husband and losing custody of her children. She slowly walks around her Rust Belt town wearing her hair curlers for the first twenty minutes and offers a perfect introduction into the protagonist’s circumstances—her walk resembles not of someone aimless but of someone who has nowhere to go and no one to go to.

Continue reading “Criterion Reviews: ‘Wanda’”

Criterion Reviews: ‘Mikey and Nicky’

The inaugural Criterion Channel pick for the first week of February was writer/director Elaine May’s 1976 Mikey and Nicky, a character-driven “Guys Bein’ Dudes” gangster drama. Taking place over the span of a single night, the film opens in classic 70s style with a shifty-eyed Nicky (auteur dreamboat John Cassavetes) alone in a hotel room, clinging to a gun and lighting a cigarette. He’s a small-time bookie who’s just stolen money from the mob, and he’s waiting for his childhood friend, Mikey (Peter Falk), to save him from a panic-induced ulcer attack.

When Mikey arrives, he holds Nicky while he sobs, then lies him down flat on his back to force-feed him an antacid. “Nick, I know you for 30 years. You call me up on that phone, you say ‘Come right away,’ in that voice, I bring Gelusil,” he says calmly before chewing one himself in solidarity. It’s a brilliant hook that establishes the best friends’ characterizations perfectly: Mikey is steady and paternal while Nicky is neurotic and vulnerable. And you just know their story is gonna end with a gut-shot.

Continue reading “Criterion Reviews: ‘Mikey and Nicky’”

Criterion Reviews: ‘Stalker’

This week’s Criterion Review wanders into the realm of science fiction with Andrei Tarkovsky’s final film, Stalker. It is a gorgeous, sprawling film that meditates on nuclear war, finding one’s purpose in life, and even religion. Despite covering such a wide variety of themes, Stalker is a film that will take your breath away with each drop of water.

Continue reading “Criterion Reviews: ‘Stalker’”

Criterion Reviews: ‘Chungking Express’

I have to admit that my first encounter with Chungking Express years ago was a confusing one. I was just getting into films, my experience with cinema was limited to mainstream Hollywood films and I had never seen anything like Chungking Express. I restarted my computer twice because I was sure the frame rate was my computer’s fault and not part of the film. Coming back to it years later with an appreciation for Wong Kar-wai’s other films and fresh eyes feels wonderful.

Continue reading “Criterion Reviews: ‘Chungking Express’”