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Why Did It Take Me So Long?

by Beamish

Created 06/30/17

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No matter how committed you are, you just can't see them all. Some films seem to get stuck on the "should see" list, but never seem to be the film you want to see at just that moment. For me, these are usually films of great reputation, but for one reason or another, never seem to excite me to the point where I buy the disk or watch the film. (Current #1 on that list of "haven't seens" is Red Beard. I love Kurosawa. Why is it taking me so long to see it?)

The films on this list took me awhile to get to them, but when I finally did, I regretted my long delay.

  • Everything I had ever read about this film focused on the food. And the food is beautiful and its preparation by Babette is compelling. However, the power of this film is in its evocation of a specific time and place. I have no way of knowing, for sure, what the world was like before I was born, but this film just feels real. The entire cast is wonderful, as well. I avoided this film for almost 30 years. Now, it is a favorite.

  • The problem with this movie is that I kept mixing it up with Heaven Can Wait, the Ernst Lubitsch film, not the Warren Beatty re-make of Here Comes Mr. Jordan. So, for years I thought I had seen it. When I finally did watch it, I was delighted. Claude Rains does his slightly scary at first but heart of gold thing to perfection in this film. That voice does give him some kind of heavenly authority. Edward Everett Horton is high on the list of the great character actors of Hollywood's Golden Age. And Robert Montgomery. After I realized I hadn't seen the film, I hesitated longer because I just couldn't get excited about Robert Montgomery. But he's terrific. Yeah, he's a little hard to believe as a boxer, but the sincere decency in Joe Pendleton is believable, and that's what makes the film work. Wonderful!

  • By this time, I've seen all of the Ozu available on Criterion, and it seems funny to me that there was a time when I avoided him. The first Ozu I ever saw was Good Morning, a film which I like now but found a little underwhelming on first viewing. Probably not the best way to first experience Ozu. It's not a difficult film but it works best when you've seen other films in which the great director explores the tension between the desires of youth and the responsibilities that come with maturity. (A frequent theme.) What sets Late Spring above Good Morning is Setsuko Hara playing the unmarried daughter of Chishu Ryu (another great asset to the film.) Like Joe Pendleton in Here Comes Mr. Jordan, she's a good person. Despite all pressures, she is unfailingly decent. Unlike Pendleton, her fate will break your heart. Late Spring introduced me to this powerful theme in Ozu's films - meeting society's expectations comes at a high cost to the individual. I don't know of another artist of any medium that has so powerfully made the case. So, this is the film that broke the Ozu logjam.

  • Truth be told, I had actually seen Joan of Arc, Sisters and Children of Paradise many years ago - Joan of Arc in an actual movie theater! (the Brattle), Sisters on late-night TV and Children of Paradise in a film class. I had a singular experience with Joan of Arc at the Brattle. I fell asleep. I've seen thousands of films in theaters and that is the only time I ever remember falling asleep. So, it took me awhile to see this one again, even though it's been available on Criterion for years. Second viewing made all the difference. Yup. It's beautiful and Renee Falconetti, as Joan, is marvelously expressive.

  • I saw this on light night TV in college which means, probably two things, I was distracted and I was not cognitively operating at full capacity. After that, the next three De Palma films I saw were The Untouchables, Carlito's Way and Snake Eyes. Those three disappointments put me off De Palma for a long time. It took a Criterion edition of Blow Out to bring me back to reconsider the work of DePalma. (Blow Out is terrific. See it.) I followed up by seeing Sisters again. It's bizarre and creepy in all the right ways. Points to the twistedness at the heart of a lot of De Palma films which either makes them work or self-destruct. So, I took another look at De Palma. I saw Dressed to Kill again. I hadn't seen it since high school. Bizarre, creepy, works. Saw The Untouchables, Carlito's Way and, for the very first time, Scarface. Carlito and Scarface have some strong scenes but The Untouchables is awful. Really. And I like bad movies.

  • It took me a long while to warm up to pre-New Wave French cinema. My early experiences were not positive and that includes my college film class viewing of Children of Paradise. It took Jean Gabin to get me to take a second look at French film before Godard, Truffaut and Rivette. When I finally did come back around to Carne's masterpiece, I regretted that it took me 30 years to see the film again. It does require a lot of patience (something I have more of now than when I was 20) as it is 190 minutes long, but the sad tale of Baptiste just takes that long to tell. The fact that Carne made the film originally as two films to meet the occupying Nazis' restrictions makes the length a strength, a message that art always finds a way to defeat oppressors.

  • Baretta? Really? That just put me off for a long time. It was actually watching Scott Wilson in The Walking Dead that finally nudged me into seeing In Cold Blood. Wilson and Blake are both excellent in this film. And the Criterion edition of the film looks fabulous. I had seen Capote and Infamous, two other films dealing with the Holcomb, Kansas murders. Richard Brooks film brought to life the two cold-blooded killers.

  • Inexplicable. Why had I not seen this movie? I love Australian films of the 70s and 80s and have many in my collection. I think The Piano just put me off Jane Campion for awhile. (Not a big fan, but maybe it's worth a revisit.) Sweetie, however is excellent. Australian films of that era often have this odd tone that is unsettling and, almost, otherworldly. Despite the fact that the people in this film are speaking English and that the universal problems of family ties is a central theme, this place, so well-depicted by Campion, does feel alien.

  • Rich people in Connecticut. Oh, please. But, like Sweetie, the world of this film is such an alien place. Ang Lee creates this fragile place as a diseased world within a snow globe filled with plastic figurines of frozen, painted-on faces. But as the viewer gets sucked into this place, those plastic faces become very real. Although the whole cast is very good, it is the women of the film that make it work, Joan Allen (always good), Sigourney Weaver, Christina Ricci, Allison Janney and even Katie Holmes are terrific. Their characters' struggles to find their place as the sexual revolution seeped into the suburbs is heartbreaking. And the key party may be one of the most horrifying scenes I've ever watched.

  • Romances are just not my thing. In my entire collection of 4000+ films, there are probably not more than a dozen that one would describe as a romance. Sure, you'll find Casablanca and Gone with the Wind on my shelves, but those films are not, to my mind, pure romance films. So it took me a long time to see Brief Encounter. I'm glad I finally took the leap. First, it looks great. The scenes in the Jesson homestead suffocate the viewer as much as the home seems to suffocate Celia Johnson's character. Claustrophobic. The scenes at the railway station have the sad look of places passed through but not inhabited. When Laura Jesson goes out to the tracks at the end of the film, the photography is stunning. And, the film is a tidy 90 minutes long. Like a great short story, the constraints of telling a story in a limited frame keep this bittersweet tale on track like a train racing through a station.

  • Woman has an affair. Sounds deadly boring. But this is just a beautifully told story. This is when I got Ophuls.

  • I'm just not a big Marlene Dietrich fan. Or, I should say, I wasn't until I saw The Scarlet Empress. Crazy energy throughout the film. I think Dietrich needs a BIG part to let her loose. In Blue Angel or Witness for the Prosecution, she's restrained within a tragic role. As Catherine the Great, she's free to own the world and every moment in it.

  • I loved Yi Yi, but still hesitated to see this other Edward Yang film on Criterion. Reason? LONG! It's just hard to find time to watch movies that go on for 3 or 4 hours. Even when I do eventually buy these films, they often sit in my queue for months. (Jeanne Dielman languished in that queue for seven months.) But, of course, like a good roux or One Hundred Years of Solitude, the investment of time is well spent. A Brighter Summer Day attempts to explain an inexplicable event. Without the slow build to the incident, it would not seem believable. Immersion in this long film led me to feel like the incident was inevitable.

  • Another long film with a reputation for being slow. However, the slow unraveling of detail seems ... purposeful. We have watched Jeanne's life so carefully that when she leaves the lid off of her tureen / bank, we immediately begin to feel uncomfortable. Something is amiss. This list begins with Babette's preparation of a meal. The list ends with Jeanne's preparation of three. The films could not feel more different and they are both terrific. And this does not feel like a 200-minute movie. Do not delay. It is as good a film as its reputation suggests.

    What's up with that kitchen chair?

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