"Cinema is the most beautiful fraud in the world." - Jean-Luc Godard
Best of The Criterion Channel December 2020
Badlands (1973): a Bonnie and Clyde-esque film from Terrence Malick starring Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek. Badlands is almost a fairytale in its portrayal of youth and the mindset that exists in young people. Spacek is a young schoolgirl who falls for the older Sheen and his no strings attached attitude towards life, an attitude that proves to be extremely violent and leads Spacek down a dark path that neither one of them can return from. It’s Malick’s first feature film and while it certainly feels like a young director getting his bearings there’s a maturity in the simplistic filmmaking that is hard to find.
Days of Heaven (1978): Another Malick masterpiece, Days of Heaven is as close to poetry as you can find in a live action film. The film follows a couple, Bill (Richard Gere) and Abby (Brooke Adams) as they take up work on a farm. To avoid the prying eyes of the other workers they pretend to be brother and sister, but when the boss takes interest in Abby, Bill convinces her to marry the man so that they may have claim to his fortune when he passes away. There’s something about how Malick uses the camera here to where it feels more like scripture than film. It’s an incredible film and I highly, highly recommend it.
Harold and Maude (1971): in a charmingly odd movie we follow the young, suicidal Harold and his relationship with the older, eccentric Maude and witness how Maude teaches Harold to look at the world in a different light. It’s a bittersweet, feel good movie. One that leaves us with a sense of optimism but doesn’t shy away from the hard parts of life. Scored by a collection of Cat Stevens’ songs and highlighted by the now famous “If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out”, Harold and Maude is a delightful film that should inspire you to live life to the fullest.
Paths of Glory (1957): the opposite of the uplifting Harold and Maude, Paths of Glory exposed the horrors of war at a time when the world was trying to get back to a sense of normalcy. While in post WWII Hollywood most films were patriotic and promoted family life, Stanley Kubrick brought out a darkness in humanity that everyone was trying to forget. Kirk Douglas plays a Colonel in World War I who must fight for the lives of his men after 3 of them are sentenced to death for disobeying a near suicidal order. It seems a little redundant to call this one of Kubrick’s best films, but it really is a standout picture that feels ahead of its time.