Criterion Coronavirus Cruising: The Dog Days of Summer
And, we have the second wave coming. We opened up early, the number of cases went up, skeptics are learning the hard way, and I’m being forced to suffocate some more with my mask going outside. It’s the thick of summer, hot and heavy in South Florida, and I (and JD) will just stay inside to cool off and watch more streaming movies. Even if my theaters open up, I don’t know if I will go unless I’m all alone. As we wait patiently still for more COVID relief, here are some more films from the Channel that I saw.
Things To Come (1936)
H.G. Wells personally adapted his own novel in collaboration with noted producer Alexander Korda. His vision is of a dystopian world, where the world goes at war indefinitely and the pursuit of great technology fuels the conflict. From Everytown, England, a simple man named Cabal joins the Royal Air Force and becomes a lifelong pilot pushing technology to the Moon. Back on Earth, the land becomes a wasteland where a warlord simply called The Boss has total control over the whole area that Cabal has to come down to save. Set from 1940 to 2036, it is considered an early masterpiece of the sci-fi genre.
Rocco And His Brothers (1960)
Luchiano Visconti’s three-hour social realist trek follows a family who moves from the Italian South, poorer and rural-based, to the industrial Northern city of Milan during the Italian economic boom. The eldest son has already moved over and is married; the matriarch and her four other sons join in the trek where each brother takes a different path in their new surroundings. It is Rocco (played by Alain Delon), the middle brother, who is the central character as his innocence is challenged by his older brother and their romantic interest in the same woman. Blood is thicker than water, but it is tested all the way to its breaking point in a family’s struggle to adapt to Northern ways of life.
Mike Leigh, a director I profiled on this site before, has his brilliant drama about a working-class family living off the dole in Thatcher’s England on the channel along with other wonderful films of his including Life Is Sweet, Naked, Secrets & Lies, Vera Drake, and Another Year. His early film produced for TV follows the Pollocks, living in London’s East End in an apartment struggling for work. It contrasts with another family member’s marriage to a man with plenty of money, but it is an unhappy one. The main action follows the two adult sons played by Tim Roth and Eric Daniels plus the film debut of Gary Oldman who plays a skinhead friendly to one of the sons. It’s a slice-of-life of struggle in the family with commonplace events that fall in between.
Mysterious Skin (2005)
Director Gregg Araki, a figure associated in the New Queer Cinema movement from the 1990s, has a trio of films out. There’s the “gay Thelma and Louise” called The Living End, Totally Fucked Up, and this 2005 dark drama starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt. It’s certainly not one to just drop in watching, showing the lives of two friends who go on split paths after a horrific event marks them for life. The genre falls under coming-of-age as both characters enter their late teens, but its subject matter is handled delicately within the realm of coming to terms with the tragedy that connects them.
Pioneers Of African-American Cinema
Black cinema has been around since the 1920s, forced to work independently and thrive within their own communities, as well as the outreach to white audiences who cared for and supported their industry. Two decades worth of films, both silent and sound, available with an incredible eye into a world no one can understand as it was back then in the era of Jim Crow and the lack of stories told from the Black perspective. Two films, in particular, stood out for me: Body And Soul from the “Czar of Black Hollywood,” Oscar Micheaux, and The Blood of Jesus from Spencer Williams, who would gain more notoriety for TVs Amos n’ Andy in the 50s.
Body And Soul was the film debut of Paul Robeson, who plays an escaped prisoner that parades himself as a preacher planning to steal money from a congregation, only to be confronted with his past by one of the parishioners. One of only three silent films to survive of Micheaux’s, it is presented with a lively jazz score from the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. The Blood of Jesus is a fable about a dying woman who is at the crossroads between heaven and hell and is caught between temptation run by Satan and unification with Jesus Himself. It was shot in Texas for $5000 and used non-professionals except for Williams himself. Both movies represent the Afro-American life of the past, telling the stories Christian faith the community lives with to this day.
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