Another month with a couple of welcome blu-ray upgrades and some new to home video releases that have me licking my chops.
#178/My Life as a Dog-Lasse Hallström
My Life as a Dog (Mitt liv som hund) tells the story of Ingemar, a twelve-year-old from a working-class family sent to live with his uncle in a country village when his mother falls ill. There, the boy finds both refuge from his misfortunes and unexpected adventure with the help of the town’s warmhearted eccentrics. Featuring an incredibly mature and unaffected performance from the young Anton Glanzelius, this is a beloved and bittersweet evocation of the struggles and joys of childhood from Oscar-nominated director Lasse Hallström.
#230/3 Women-Robert Altman
In a dusty, underpopulated California resort town, naive southern waif Pinky Rose (Sissy Spacek) idolizes and befriends her fellow nurse, the would-be sophisticate “thoroughly modern” Millie Lammoreaux (Shelley Duvall). When Millie takes Pinky in as her roommate, Pinky’s hero worship evolves into something far stranger and more sinister than either could have anticipated. Featuring brilliant performances from Spacek and Duvall, this dreamlike masterpiece from Robert Altman careens from the humorous to the chilling to the surreal, resulting in one of the most unusual and compelling films of the 1970s.
#579/The Phantom Carriage-Victor Sjostrom
The last person to die on New Year’s Eve before the clock strikes twelve is doomed to take the reins of Death’s chariot and work tirelessly collecting fresh souls for the next year. So says the legend that drives The Phantom Carriage (Körkarlen), directed by the father of Swedish cinema, Victor Sjöström, about an alcoholic, abusive ne’er-do-well (Sjöström himself) who is shown the error of his ways and the pure-of-heart Salvation Army sister who believes in his redemption. Based on a novel by Nobel Prize winner Selma Lagerlöf, this extraordinarily rich and innovative silent classic (which inspired Ingmar Bergman to make movies) is a Dickensian ghost story and a deeply moving morality tale, as well as a showcase for groundbreaking special effects.
#580/Le beau Serge-Claude Chabrol
Of the hallowed group of Cahiers du cinéma critics turned filmmakers who would transform French film history, Claude Chabrol was the first to direct his own feature. His stark and absorbing landmark debut, Le beau Serge, follows a successful yet sickly young man (Jean‑Claude Brialy) who returns home to the small village where he grew up. There, he finds himself at odds with his former close friend (Gérard Blain)—now unhappily married and a wretched alcoholic—and the provincial life he represents. The remarkable and raw Le beau Serge heralded the arrival of a cinematic titan who would go on to craft provocative, entertaining films for five more decades.
#581/Les cousins-Claude Chabrol
In Les cousins, Claude Chabrol crafts a sly moral fable about a provincial boy who comes to live with his sophisticated bohemian cousin in Paris. Through these seeming opposites, Chabrol conjures a piercing, darkly comic character study that questions notions of good and evil, love and jealousy, and success in the modern world. A mirror image of Le beau Serge, Chabrol’s debut, Les cousins recasts that film’s stars, Jean-Claude Brialy and Gérard Blain, in startlingly reversed roles. This dagger-sharp drama won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival and was an important precursor to the French New Wave.
Carlos, directed by Olivier Assayas, is an epic, intensely detailed account of the life of the infamous international terrorist Ilich Ramírez Sanchez—also known as Carlos the Jackal. One of the twentieth century’s most-wanted fugitives, Carlos was committed to violent left-wing activism throughout the seventies and eighties, orchestrating bombings, kidnappings, and hijackings in Europe and the Middle East. Assayas portrays him not as a criminal mastermind but as a symbol of seismic political shifts around the world, and the magnetic Édgar Ramírez brilliantly embodies him as a swaggering global gangster. Criterion presents the complete, uncut, director-approved, five-and-a-half-hour version of Carlos.
"The most dementing of all modern sins: the inability to distinquish excellence from success."-David Hare