Critic at Large, Fresh Air with Terry Gross
|An Angel at My Table
|A Brighter Summer Day
|Flowers of Shanghai
|His Girl Friday
|The Quince Tree Sun
An Angel at My Table
In the maligned -- and usually dire -- genre of the biopic, Campion's film stands supreme. Avoiding all the obvious crap, it shows us artistic self-creation from the inside.
Yeah, yeah, Vertigo is probably greater, and naturally film critics -- a collection of Scotties who chase images for a living -- love it. But in a way, it's been talked and written out. Not so The Birds. So yeah, yeah (pt. 2), Tippi Hedren can't act, but 60 years on, this movie remains mysterious, its depths unplumbed.
A Brighter Summer Day
That most chameleonic of directors, Yang channels Hou Hsiao-hsien to produce his masterpiece that earns every one of its nearly 240 minutes.
When I showed this to a class of filmmakers right before the pandemic, they couldn't believe it hadn't been made in the last ten years. Shot through with alienation, dislocation, and Skolimowki's sense of cosmic comedy, this isn't merely one of the greatest (THE greatest?) of all teen sex films, but masterful in its witty use of color and decades ahead of its time in its way of playing with gender roles.
Flowers of Shanghai
As exquisite as Vermeer, as refined as Henry James, as quietly cruel as life itself.
His Girl Friday
Brash, hilarious, gleefully amoral, and starring peak Cary Grant, this is filmmaking at its most enticingly American. And I still haven't mentioned Rosalind Russell and her hat, Howard Hawks's effortlessly immaculate directing, the clever play with gender roles, and its love of newspapering in all its breezy cynicism.
I'm always startled when TOKYO MONOGATARI gets named the "greatest Asian film" when Ozu himself made one that strikes me as better -- briefer, richer, and more profoundly moving.
I realized that I should choose at least one movie from the last 50 years that the public actually enjoyed.
A film that shows us, in more ways than one, what's on the other side of the window.
The Quince Tree Sun
I once met Monty Python's Terry Jones. Hearing I was a film critic, he said he'd just seen something that he'd assumed was a lethal parody of art cinema yet turned out to be an actual trailer. When I told him that I'd seen this film and thought it was a classic, he gave the indulgent smile Brits give particularly gullible Americans. Neither he nor the last 30 years have changed my mind. At once modest and exquisite, Erice's film about a man painting (or more accurately failing to paint) a quince tree is a meditation on light, passing time, and art's attempt to capture nature in its mesh.