Month: August 2010

Youth Without Youth (2007), Francis Ford Coppola, A-

They’ll never, ever make a movie version of Gravity’s Rainbow, and that’s just fine, but there are moments in Youth Without Youth that definitely reminded me of vague memories I have of that book I read but didn’t understand. …..And there were stretches where I didn’t understand Youth Without Youth, if not on a plot level than on a “what can this mean, man?” level. Youth Without Youth, a history-skipping, genre-bouncing trip through Central Europe (and a little bit of the Dawn of Time) is nothing if not heavy, and certainly is beautiful. The cinematography, camera moves, set design and music will leave you thunderstruck right there on your couch – all the more easy for the unconventional and unpredictable screenplay to try and knock you out with its many head-fakes. More than once I said, “wait, what? Really? That’s awesome!” I didn’t expect shots of Tim Roth center frame speaking into a microphone babbling in an invented language. Wait,...

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A Passage To India (1984), David Lean, A

For some strange reason my parents took me to see this when I was ten years old. I can’t say I understood it all but it left an indelible mark on me. Looking at it now (and I’ve seen it many times since) I can’t ignore there are some moments of overacting and trite dialogue – and maybe the Law & Order section at the end drags a bit – but if this isn’t exhibit A on how cinema can be magic, well, I just don’t know what is. It’s a big movie, but a very intimate one as well. And sad. Emotionally, this is closer to Lean’s Brief Encounter than, say, Lawrence of Arabia. Any time I’ve been in a foreign country and I’ve seen indigenous people working for Whitey I’ve thought of this film. Mrs....

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Every Which Way But Loose (1978), James Fargo, B+

Before anything: I know this movie is awful. I mean, it’s just stupid. It’s stupid. But, as a cultural artifact, it is altogether fascinating and, I think, important, in that it is a time capsule not only of blue collar living in in forgotten crannies of urban 1978, but it represents a now extinguished brand of product that really doesn’t exist for this particular demographic. This is a movie for a blue collar audience that revels in its blue collar universe. It does not aspire, in any way, to a white collar existence. (What’s targeted at trailer parks today? Keeping Up With The Kardashians?) EWWBL presents a world completely isolated from a white collar/blue state way of life. Biker gangs, beer-in-cans, underground bare-knuckle fighting circuits, lawns with car parts, country music – and everyone is in on it and that’s all it is. It’s practically sci-fi, or, at least, some sort of opposite to Sweet Sweetback’s Badasssss Song. EWWBL takes advantage of this world of fantasy to support its paper-thin, almost stream-of-consciousness script. What is the relationship between Philo, Orville and Ma? Does Clyde actually understand Philo, like Chewie and Han? What exactly do all these people do for a living? How do they always go to the bar, but not pay for anything? How does the quasi-Nazi biker gang just “find them” when they are in Santa Fe...

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Jordan Hoffman is a New York-based writer and film critic working for The Guardian, Vanity Fair, Thrillist, Times of Israel, NY Daily News and elsewhere.

He is the host of ENGAGE: The Official Star Trek Podcast, a member of the New York Film Critics Circle and challenges you to a game of backgammon.

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