Let's start this one with a few things going on here at The Auteurs. Hong Sang-soo's Night and Day is currently playing at Facets in Chicago and will be available in the US on demand via IFC Festival Direct starting December 23. And we're premiering the US trailer today, right here.
While the current lists and awards entry piles up linkage, The Auteurs community has inadvertently racked up a top 50 of the decade of its own. Members have also been posing questions for Peter Jackson in the run-up to the opening of The Lovely Bones, and Glenn Kenny's brought us his answers.
Then, just yesterday, Glenn wrote up the event of today, Criterion's release of AK 100: 25 Films by Akira Kurosawa, "a brilliantly curated presentation." Kurosawa, writes Dave Kehr in the New York Times, "was never forgiven for his early success by the Western critics who came to prefer the more stylistically refined films of Kenji Mizoguchi, Yasujiro Ozu and other directors whose work was discovered in Kurosawa's wake, or by the Japanese critics who considered Kurosawa too Western in his cultural references and aesthetic choices. Today these debates seem provincial and pointless." He explains, of course, and at Dave Kehr's own site, Kent Jones adds that he himself is "of the generation that saw Kurosawa, Bergman, and Fellini as old news, and who delighted in the takedowns of their work by various and sundry. Now, it all seems like so much busy polemicizing.... I started to watch The Idiot for the first time, and it's astonishing. It may be the ruin of a great movie, but it is Dostoyevsky brought to the screen so attentively and passionately that I couldn't believe someone had actually made it."
For Dennis Lim, writing in the Los Angeles Times, "the constant in his films was the principle of heroism, not as a vaporous ideal but a way of life, an awareness of individual agency and personal responsibility in a world that does not always reward or even allow heroic behavior." More from Jonathan Burrello (alternative chronicle), David Fear (Time Out New York), Vadim Rizov (GreenCine Daily, launching a four-day celebration of the release) and, offering an close analysis of the technical specs, Gary W Tooze (DVD Beaver).
"Somehow, there hardly seems a more pertinent time for a wide US release of Patricio Guzmán's epochal The Battle of Chile (1975-78), a massive, three-part vérité documentary about the rise of Salvador Allende's socialist government and its subsequent usurpation by the country's American-backed military junta," writes Michael Atkinson at IFC. "Co-produced by Chris Marker, Guzmán's historic epic creates a storm in the belly, even today." More from James van Maanen, who finds that "the film almost seems to have more to say now - to America and all the so-called western democracies, about the tools and tactics of both the right and left - than may have been perceived at the time."
Updates, 12/9: "I could live happily on a desert island with only the films of Ozu and Mizoguchi," writes David Bordwell. "I'd argue forever that Japanese cinema of the 1920s through the 1960s is rivaled for sheer excellence only by the parallel output of the US and France. (For more on this matter, see my blog entry on Shimizu.) On Kurosawa, however, my feelings are mixed. I still find most of his official classics overbearing, and the last films seem to me flabby exercises. But there are remarkable moments in every movie." Criterion's "Big Box makes it tempting to mount a career retrospective on this site, but that's far beyond my capacity. Future blog entries may talk more of this complicated filmmaker, but for now I'll confine my remarks to these early works. They offer plenty for us to enjoy."
"[I]n Kurosawa's films, the major theme is that the heroes are always, from Sugata on, not being but becoming," writes Donald Richie in Criterion's Current. "They live in a present where, though history may indicate, it does not define. You cannot sum up a living person. You can sum up only the dead. Maybe that is why the films of Kurosawa remain so alive and why this dedicated director, about whom we really don't know all that much, becomes so admirably the sum of all of his parts."
And at GreenCine Daily, Andrew Grant on The Most Beautiful.