Not my favorite Cronenberg film, but one that works, for obvious reasons, extremely well on home video. This was a pivotal movie for me, the film that bridged my adolescent love of horror and fantasy to a cinema of ideas. Just when, umpteen viewings on, I thought I couldn’t possibly get anything new out of it, Criterion drops the full cut of Samurai Dreams, the exquisite soft core J-porn excerpted in the feature, as an extra. The Criterion Collection, putting the bone in bonus since 1984.
The human soul examined by avant-garde gynecology in the saddest movie ever made. Cronenberg leaves the realm of master and steps into the pantheon, bringing Jeremy Irons—flawlessly doubled in one of the all-time great performances—right along with him. Timeless and devastating.
It’s a good thing you people only have three of his movies, because this whole list would get really predictable. On second thought, it’s a terrible thing that you haven’t done more Cronenberg. Armageddon, but no Rabid? Priorities, people.
Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles
There are great movies, and sometimes masterpieces, but only once in a blue Belgian moon are there movies that forever change the way you look at cinema—not to mention the peeling of potatoes.
By Brakhage: An Anthology, Volume One
Of all the titles in the Collection, this may be the one whose content is most radically altered by the shift from film to video, projection to electronic display. What’s lost in translation—flicker, physicality, the sheer thingness of a Brakhage film flung through space—is made up for by our ability to study the intricate compositions, structures, and rhythms in detail. Taken frame by frame, it’s like owning a Brakhage monograph with 350,000 plates. Is Commingled Containers the most beautiful of all films? Yes.
It was a toss-up between this, Pickpocket, and The Passion of Joan of Arc, all of which develop along pronounced geometric lines that play beautifully on my boxy old Sony Trinitron. I kind of miss square media formats.
. . . also A Woman Is a Woman, Band of Outsiders, Breathless, Contempt, Made in U.S.A, Masculin féminin, Tout va bien, and 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her.
Now I’m just waiting for Nouvelle vague, Germany Year 90 Nine Zero, Passion, King Lear, In Praise of Love, JLG/JLG, Le petit soldat, Weekend, Ici et ailleurs, Numero deux, Hail Mary, and a box set of Histoire(s) du cinéma.
I’d buy that for a dollar! Or $39.95, as it were.
The Earrings of Madame de . . .
Science Is Fiction: 23 Films by Jean Painlevé
I’m still working my way through this two-disc set of whimsical documentary shorts by a filmmaker unknown to me until now. Droll, enchanting, and perfectly scaled for home viewing, they open a window on an aquarium that Paul Klee would have felt right at home in—were he, you know, a fish.
Tom Schnabel’s Top 10
Music director at Los Angeles’s KCRW radio station, Tom Schnabel started the daily program Morning Becomes Eclectic in the 1980s, first bringing world music to U.S. radio with such artists as Buena Vista Social Club, Ravi Shankar, and Caetano Velos…