Harold and Maude
I love this film! I was lucky enough to discover it when I was a little kid . . . It was one of the few VHS tapes my local library had, so I would just check it out over and over again. This used to be one of those titles you couldn’t wait to recommend to friends who’d never heard of them and then feel proud of yourself, but by now it seems like finally everyone’s heard of it. Criterion did a particularly beautiful job on this Blu-ray—even the main menu is lovely.
It’s difficult to watch The Great Dictator without thinking about how the world was about to be plunged into five years of war and horror, and it saturates everything with more wistful sadness than Chaplin probably could have imagined. It’s a comedy at the end of the world . . . this brief and desperate beam of optimism, laughing in the face of evil, just before everything went dark. These two Chaplin releases, as well as The Gold Rush and City Lights, are among the most amazing-looking Blu-rays I’ve seen. Could Criterion please do the same restoration work for Buster Keaton next?
David Maysles, Albert Maysles, and Charlotte Zwerin
The second half abandons you at the worst concert in the world, soaking with dread and drugs and wandering Hieronymus Bosch creatures. It’s still effective no matter how many times you’ve seen it. And I’m in love with the sunspot flares of early-’70s 16 mm.
I’ve not seen another film or work of art come as close to recreating that specific, intangible feeling of having a nightmare. “So I just cut them up like regular chickens?” Incidentally, the very short film David Lynch did with a Lumière camera, Premonitions Following an Evil Deed, is also on this disc, and it is a perfect thing . . . Somehow, this was the only one of his films I was ever compelled to ask him about.
Insane and amazing corporate nightmares. My dad took me to see this when I was only ten, which was maybe not the best parenting decision. I was already devouring all manner of movies by then, but I don’t think I’d seen anything that was so funny and so shocking at the same time. It’s a popular film, but it still strikes me as weirdly underrated and misunderstood. Oddly, the regular R-rated version is way more hard-hitting than this uncut one. It turns out the ultraviolent stuff they had to cut out of the movie was so over the top, it sort of made it goofy.
I just saw this for the first time while dizzy with some sort of flu, and I thought it was lovely. I suppose your personal results may vary. Smeary and dreamlike and bustling and human, in every frame it seems like there’s some sort of constant struggle to breathe, to be seen, to shake through. And the sudden weird handful of dialogue sequences are almost impossibly stiff, making the whole experience that much more surreal.
By Brakhage: An Anthology, Volume Two
A miniature experimental film school. Brakhage’s visuals have encouraged lots of my own in-camera-special-effect attempts and failures, which I imagine countless other filmmakers would probably also say. I admit I struggle sometimes with Brakhage’s contemporaries, because I wish experimental film did not always have to seem so completely allergic to having a sense of humor. And though I know these were originally shared in 16 mm film clubs, it’s hard for me to imagine inviting some friends over to hang out and watch a few hours of Brakhage. To me, these are fleeting glimpses of magic that seem best suited not for large crowds but for small spaces, late at night, alone, when you’re in the mood to encounter something quiet and strange and personal.
Stuart Cooper’s Top 10
“I have chosen ten titles from the Criterion Collection not because they are my favorites or necessarily the most important, but because they mean a lot to me personally and bear some relationship to my filmmaking career and the making of Overlord.…
Robin Wood’s Top 10
This month we asked critic Robin Wood—whose books include Hitchcock’s Films and Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan and who recently wrote essays for the Criterion releases The Furies and Le plaisir—to pick his ten favorite films in the collection…