From Sight and Sound (Autumn 1976). — J.R.
Behind the credits, a face peering out through a window; a downward pan revealing a vertiginous drop to the courtyard below; a pan back to the window and round the court to another face, a girl’s, which quickly turns into Roman Polanski’s; a continuing movement past a chimney, across more windows-down one side of the building, over a railing and up another side — eventually coming round to the door leading to the street, which Polanski enters . . . If the remainder of The Tenant were as impressive as the first shot, we conceivably might have had a masterpiece on our hands. Nearly as concise as the extended crane shot opening Touch of Evil, it differs from the latter by arranging its arsenal of elements into a non-narrative pattern — a set of materials which, except for the girl turning into Polanski, are related spatially but nor chronologically, until Polanski’s entrance through the street door launches the story proper.
A naturalised Pole named Trelkovsky is interested in seeing a flat, and the unfriendly concierge (Shelley Winters) gives him a hard time about it, agreeing to take him upstairs only after he slips her some money.… Read more »
From the Chicago Reader (December 8, 1995). — J.R.
I Am Cuba
*** (A must-see)
Directed by Mikhail Kalatozov
Written by Yevgeny Yevtushenko and Enrique Pineda Barnet
With Luz Maria Collazo, Jose Gallardo, Sergio Corrieri, Maria Gonzalez Broche, Raul Garcia, and Jean Bouise.
Undeniably monstrous and breathtakingly beautiful, ridiculous and awe inspiring, I Am Cuba confounds so many usual yardsticks of judgment that any kind of star rating becomes inadequate. A delirious, lyrical, epic piece of communist propaganda from 1964 — at least three years in the making and 141 minutes long–it is simply too campy and too grotesque to qualify as a “masterpiece,” but I’d probably care less about it if it were one. A “must-see” may come closer to the mark, but it certainly isn’t a must-see for everybody. This movie has been rattling around in my head since I first encountered it 16 months ago, yet I can’t say it won’t enrage some people and bore others. Worth seeing? Has redeeming facet? Worthless? It fits all and none of these categories. To put it simply, the world doesn’t make allowances for a freak of this kind.
A Russian-Cuban production, it reportedly was hated in Russia and Cuba alike in the mid-60s, at least among government officials; in Cuba it was commonly known as I Am Not Cuba.… Read more »
From the Chicago Reader (January 12, 1990). I was disappointed to hear from one of the audio commentators on the Criterion DVD of Solaris that he regarded the lengthy highway sequence as one of the film’s “weaker” sections; for me it’s one of the highlights, both as a provocation and as a “musical” interlude that becomes an occasion for hypnotic drift. — J.R.
SOLARIS **** (Masterpiece)
Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky
Written by Friedrich Gorenstein and Tarkovsky
With Donatas Banionis, Natalya Bondarchuk, Yuri Jarvet, Vladislav Dvorzhetsky, Anatoly Solonitsin, and Sos Sarkissian.
“We take off into the cosmos, ready for anything: for solitude, for hardship, for exhaustion, death. Modesty forbids us to say so, but there are times when we think pretty well of ourselves. And yet, if we examine it more closely, our enthusiasm turns out to be all sham. We don’t want to conquer the cosmos, we simply want to extend the boundaries of Earth to the frontiers of the cosmos. For us, such and such a planet is as arid as the Sahara, another as frozen as the North Pole, yet another as lush as the Amazon basin.… Read more »