Daily Archives: March 21, 2020

Silents Are Golden (Silent Ozu)

From the Chicago Reader (January 14, 2005). — J.R.

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Yasujiro Ozu Retrospective

at the Gene Siskel Film Center

It’s no longer controversial to assert that Yasujiro Ozu (1903-’63) is one of the greatest filmmakers ever — certainly one of the top dozen and possibly the greatest of those who’ve focused on family life. But getting a fix on his work remains far from easy. Only 34 of his 50-odd films appear to have survived, and two features exist only in fragments. The Gene Siskel Film Center’s retrospective, which started last week and runs through March 3, includes 25 features, and some of his other works, including a seldom-shown documentary short, might be screened later if the features draw big enough crowds.

One of the films showing this week, Tokyo Story (1953) — the first Ozu film to have been seen widely in the West, and still the best known and most highly regarded — is a good starting point for viewers unfamiliar with his work. (So are Equinox Flower and Good Morning, two gorgeous color films from the late 50s, showing later this month.) But it has led many critics to make unfair broad generalizations about Ozu’s style and content, to claim that his films are slow and conservative, his technique minimalist.… Read more »

Symbol Life [SWAN LAKE -- THE ZONE]

From the Chicago Reader (June 14, 1991). — J.R.

SWAN LAKE — THE ZONE

*** (A must-see)

Directed by Yuri Illienko

Written by Sergei Paradjanov and Illienko

With Victor Solovyov, Liudmyla Yefymenko, Maya Bulhakova, Pylyp Illienko, and Victor Demertash.

One of the most fascinating things about Russian cinema is that we still know next to nothing about it. There are the socialist realist holdovers (Little Vera, for example, and Freeze — Die — Come to Life) and wannabe American releases (Taxi Blues), but the rest of the recent Soviet pictures that have made it to Chicago are interesting mostly because of what remains obscure and intractable about them — their refreshingly and, at times, bewilderingly different views of life and art.

The films that constitute the most obvious reference points in Soviet film history — a few key classics by Eisenstein, Pudovkin, Dovzhenko, Kuleshov, Vertov, and closer to the present, the films of Paradjanov and Tarkovsky — have practically nothing to do with what ordinary Soviet moviegoers see most of the time. Even worse, we can’t take it for granted that these avant-garde works necessarily represent the best that innovative Soviet cinema has to offer, or that what we see of the Soviet mainstream is necessarily the best either.… Read more »

L’age d’or

From the Chicago Reader (March 1, 1990). — J.R.

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Lagedior

Luis Buñuel’s first and most radical feature (1930) was banned for decades, and it continues to pack a jolt. Forsaking consecutive plot, the film is more like an anarchist bomb, starting off as a documentary before assaulting church, state, and society —particularly high society — in the name of eros. Funny, blasphemous, sexy, strange, subtle, and evocative in its use of sound, it’s also thoroughly Buñuelian, though without the bittersweet sense of resigned acceptance that characterizes some of his later works. Except for his 1932 documentary Las Hurdes, this ferocious act of revolt kept Buñuel virtually unemployed as a director for 17 years; when he finally returned as a narrative filmmaker, he delivered something quite different from the wild poetry of his first three films. In French with subtitles. 60 min.

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