High and Low 天国と地獄 by Akira Kurosawa 黒澤 明

This film played at the Trylon Microcinema as part of an Akira Kurosawa series that included non-samurai films only. The film is the only Kurosawa film I’ve seen in Cinemascope. At first, it follows the dealings of a businessman in the women’s shoe business. He is about to invest his last borrowed dollar and become the majority owner of the corporation he loves when, quite suddenly, his chauffeur’s son is mistaken for his own in a kidnapping. 

During the first part of the movie, we are trapped in the man’s expensive home waiting for the next phone call from the kidnapper. In the company of his wife and son, he must come to a moral conclusion about whether to sacrifice his career for the mistaken victim. After that, the story turns to follow the police investigation and the activities of the kidnapper. Finally we get to see Tokyo, and it’s beautiful.

The film is long and tense, but the cinematography is gorgeous, and the performances compelling. Not to mention, you get to see other parts of Japan, like the beautiful seaside city of Kamakura. Check it out!

Statues Meurent Aussi by Chris Marker and Alain Resnais

"When men die, they enter history. When statues die, they enter art. This botany of death is what we call culture."

A super-rare 35mm print of this short film screened at the Walker Art Center as part of a program called Censorship in Colonial France. Seeing it was an incredibly rewarding, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Marker’s essayistic approach to filmmaking early in his career was remarkably eloquent, and Resnais’ editing style pristine. The film was made in 1953 and suffered censorship for being anti-colonial. It brings to our attention that and discusses the cultural implications of, while Western art goes to the art museum, African art is sent to the history museum. It goes on to recognize roles that African bodies were being assimilated into at that time in Western pop culture by cutting together footage of the Harlem Globetrotters, Mohammed Ali, and a Jazz drummer. The film is extremely moving and comes highly regarded by the famed film critic, Jonathan Rosenbaum. 

While the film print may be rare, one can view the film online here

Screening Cops by Buster Keaton on Super 8 at Salt (Lick & Wood) Grain’s Too Much House Makes the House Go House event!

The Graduate by Mike Nichols

In The Graduate, Dustin Hoffman plays perhaps the most naïve 21 year old ever to be seen on screen. His particular brand of politeness and manners bring him to be duped repeatedly, and eventually seduced by his father’s partner’s wife, played by Anne Bancroft. To be fair, from the beginning of the film, Benjamin suffers from an acute mystification at having graduated. He has no idea what to do with himself. He just knows that he wants to do “something different”. His parents bully him to go to graduate school, while he and Mrs. Robinson rendezvous regularly at a nearby hotel. In many ways, our empathy lies more with her than with Benjamin. She is the other half of an unhappy marriage, who gave up a career in art to raise a family. That’s where Elaine comes in.

As soon as Elaine Robinson returns from school in Berkley, Benjamin’s parents implore him to ask her on a date. What they don’t know is that he’s been forbidden to do so by Mrs. Robinson herself. He’s forced into the situation however, and finds that he has feelings for Elaine. From that point on, Benjamin seems to have finally found something worth fighting for, while Mrs. Robinson herself becomes a shadow twisting the situation in whatever way she can. 

She says to Benjamin, “You’re not good enough for my daughter, but you’re good enough for me.” He takes that as a personal offense, but fails to see the weakness in her words. She’s lonely, unhappy, without hope, and he was her last chance to turn her life around.