In the meantime, here's some more of the reactions I wrote in January to the movies I was watching...
Story of Women (1988) directed by Claude Chabrol
Well done. Not exactly my kind of film (if I know what such a thing is) and I haven't been all that fond of Chabrol's work in the past, but he has a fine, subtle hand here that makes every moment interesting. Really excellent cutting and camera movement.
Huppert is terrific -- great that she and Chabrol really don't care in the slightest about making her abortionist character noble or sympathetic. What she does may be right (and does not deserve the end she gets for it), but her own motives aren't very moral. A penultimate conversation and final title come dangerously close to moralizing on the entire (based on fact) story, but don't go over the edge. Sad, sad, film. Three Stars
Ariel (1988) directed by Aki Kaurismäki
Oh, so sweet. Sad, gripping, beautiful, unpredictable while somehow inevitable, and not the downer it seems destined to be from the opening images (a feeling that kept me away from Kaurismäki for so many years). Effortless. Earns the surprising, weighty final music cue. Three and a half Stars
Dhoom 2 (2006) directed by Sanjay Gadhvi
I seem to be giving this the same rating as the first Dhoom, though I think I liked it a bit more maybe, though in a slightly different way, while being a hair bugged by different things.
As a film, and as an action film, it works better than the first one -- more cohesive, more interesting, not trying to do as much and focusing on doing what it does better. It requires knowledge of the characters from the first one to work properly, but apart from that holds together well on its own.
At the same time, I was a little put off by how much it seemed influenced by Western and Hong Kong cinema rather than what I've seen of Bollywood's own fine styles and traditions. Structurally, and in use of the characters, it felt like a late-80s Jackie Chan film (Amour of God 2, in particular), but without the humor (or the standard Bollywood humor, which was missed). The musical sequences weren't exactly well-integrated, either. It felt a lot like a large scale and more colorful and musical Ringo Lam or Kirk Wong film, which wouldn't be bad except that it seemed to limit the emotional range and depth I've come to expect from Indian films (the cameo appearance of Rimi Sen as Abhishek Bachchan's wife, returning from the first film, turns her from a believably jealous girlfriend into a cliched hectoring wife right out of the worst parts of HK cinema).
I enjoyed it, yes. I just felt it losing some of the qualities I've been enjoying in Bollywood film as being special and unique to that cinema. I hope as I keep moving forward with these films through the past decade, I don't see those qualities slipping away. Three Stars
Jhoom Barabar Jhoom (2007) directed by Shaad Ali
Having less to say about the more recent Bollywood films I'm watching. Romance pictures aren't exactly my bag but this one works just fine, and the musical numbers are especially fun (beautiful locations and sets). Amitabh Bachchan's cameo as a kind of Spirit of Love/Pirate/Dr. John the Night Tripper figure singing and dancing around Waterloo Station is a real highlight. Three Stars
Leningrad Cowboys Go America (1989) directed by Aki Kaurismäki
Not sure why I avoided this for so long. I remember some reviews from when it came out that made it sound really twee and precious and something about that really turned me off. Glad I finally got to it. Funny as hell and not at all precious. Sometimes wish he had a better DP for color and density, but the frame is always lovely. Three and a half Stars
Rocky VI (1986) directed by Aki Kaurismäki
A very silly music video that retells some of the plot of the Hollywood ROCKY IV with a more burly Russian and a weakling Rocky. Silly in a good way. Funny. Two and a half Stars
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966) directed by Sergio Leone
Was recataloging my iTunes this morning and got to osrting through the several hundred Ennio Morricone tracks in there. A brief taste of them made me decide it was one more Sunday to spend with this film and its follow-up (this happens about four times a year, for at least the past decade).
It remains a masterpiece. It just gets better each time. I feel fortunate to have the extended, restored version here and available (even if the newer dubbing on the restored scenes doesn't quite match) as it is indeed better than the cut I watched for years. I'll probably want to watch it again tomorrow, but I'll hold off for another Sunday sometime in a few months. Someday I will make a pilgrimage to the location of the finale. Five Stars
Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) directed by Sergio Leone
Well, this masterpiece again.
As with GBU, just gets better each time. I feel like I know every shot by heart at this point, and yet they all still surprise me somehow.
I surprised myself a while back when I was making up my own list of "10 Greatest Movies of All Time" (as everyone seemed to be doing after the 2012 Sight & Sound poll) and this wound up on there. It was unavoidable, it seemed -- and no matter how much I argued with myself about whether or not it belonged, no other film could budge it from my list, which is HERE. Five Stars
More reactions tomorrow or otherwise shortly...