Movie theaters are closing back down, studios are rolling back release dates (or moving titles to streaming), and WarnerMedia is getting ready to cut thousands of jobs. Things do not look good. Thankfully, home viewing options remain robust, particularly this week with Women Make Film on TCM and two restorations from The Criterion Collection.
First up, TCM’s 14-week series, Women Make Film, hits the midway point on Tuesday, Oct. 13. When I asked host Alicia Malone which of the 100 movies featured she was most excited to find on the schedule, she enthusiastically pointed to Rafiki, filmmaker Wanuri Kahiu’s 2018 same-sex love story from Kenya. Malone explains:
“It’s a beautiful love story between these two young girls who are daughters of political rivals,” Malone explains. “It shows the awkwardness of a first love experience as something that’s very relatable and universal.”“A fun, fierce and frivolous political act: Women Make Film host Alicia Malone on Rafiki“
Those three words, “relatable and universal,” describes TCM’s Women Make Film series in a nutshell — 100 films from around the globe providing glimpses into corners most American audiences never consider. And, as the series has shown, the further a movie feels removed from your personal experience, the more chance it has to resonate through similarities.
Now to a couple of home video release from Criterion. Let’s start with Gregory Peck in The Gunfighter:
When 20th Century Fox released The Gunfighter in 1950, Peck was a heartthrob with movies like The Yearling and Twelve O’Clock High in his rearview mirror. If director Henry King wanted to make Jimmy Ringo a hero, a quick shave and a costume change would have whipped a frumpy and weathered Peck into a handsome gunslinger. That might have helped the initial box office some, but it would have harmed the movie. The Gunfighter’s reputation has built over the years, and many consider it to be among the best westerns of the 1950s — a decade replete with magnificent westerns. But, the public’s appetite for the genre has diminished in past decades. True, it’s hard to look past the jingoism and the extermination associated with Manifest Destiny, but the America you see in westerns isn’t that different from the America you see today. (There are an awful lot of parallels between frontier mob justice and today’s cancel culture.) And as many prepare to take up arms in preparation for the November election, regardless of the outcome, there is a sense that the West never died; it’s just been dormant.Boulder Weekly Vol. 28, No. 8, “The high cost of being on top“
And from Peck to Pierrot, a superb collaboration between filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard and actor Anna Karina:
Pierrot le fou is filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard’s 10th film in five years. It all began in 1960 with his debut, Breathless — the movie that rewrote the playbook. The following year he met Karina and cast her in his sophomore effort, Le petit soldat. They married a year later, and three more collaborations followed: A Woman is a Woman, My Life to Live and A Band of Outsiders. Along the way, they got pregnant but lost the child. The marriage fell apart. Two days after filing for divorce, they made Alphaville, a stark black and white sci-fi take on dystopia. If you thought the climactic fight in Marriage Story was soft, try Alphaville on for size.Home Viewing: ‘Pierrot le Fou’
But Godard and Karina still had something left in the tank. If love could fuel their films, surely the absence could as well. The result: Pierrot le fou, a philosophical adventure story shot in anamorphic widescreen and Eastman color. It’s glorious. If Alphaville is Godard and Karina’s funeral, Pierrot le fou is the wake.