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Sorry for the awful thread title, but I couldn't think of anything clever, so I went in the opposite direction for the title. Anyway, I've decided to use the month of December to watch 15 movies from highly respected directors, similar to how I use October to watch 15 horror movies. I'll probably rank the movies afterwards and write a little something about them, so hopefully those of you who have seen the movies can add a little to the discussion. Here's the list I came up with:

1. The Big Heat (1953) – Lang
2. Pickpocket (1959) – Bresson
3. Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972) – Herzog
4. The Man Who Would Be King (1975) – Huston
5. Day For Night (1973) – Truffaut
6. Through A Glass Darkly (1961) – Bergman
7. To Have and Have Not (1944) – Hawks
8. Amarcord (1974) – Fellini
9. A Woman Under the Influence (1974) – Cassavetes
10. Contempt (1963) – Godard
11. Nashville (1975) – Altman
12. The Exterminating Angel (1962) – Bunuel
13. To Catch a Thief (1955) – Hitchcock
14. The Battleship Potemkin (1925) – Eisenstein
15. Blow-up (1966) – Antonioni

I tried to choose directors I hadn't seen much of, but wanted to get into. That's true for all but a few (Hitchcock, Huston, Bergman, Hawks, Altman). Ideally, the 30s and 40s would be better represented, but the 70s are just so damned awesome that I couldn't bring myself to replace any of those movies.

The only criteria for choosing a movie for each director was that I've never seen it. I'd probably say I'm most looking forward to Nashville, as I've seen a bunch of Altman movies, love him and his style, and have been consciously putting this one off to delay the gratification of finally seeing it. It's the last "big" Altman movie I have left to see, and I just don't like the idea of not being able to look forward to discovering something great from the man.

Has anyone seen any of these (of course some of you have - chime in, you!)? Am I in for a great month, or have I gone down a path of pretentious boredom?

I started with The Big Heat last night and enjoyed it. I'll write something about it soon.


Tue Dec 03, 2013 2:01 pm
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Post Re: I'm doing this thing
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13. To Catch a Thief (1955) – Hitchcock


well this one seems a bit out of place(in case you wanted to replace it with a 30s/40s flick)

I would've liked to hear your thoughts on Only Angels Have Wings instead of To Have and Have Not.

Other than that, cool list.


Tue Dec 03, 2013 2:42 pm
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Yeah, that list will make for a damn good month. Plenty of legitimate classics, and some I can't believe you haven't seen yet (NASHVILLE!!!). The only two that I haven't seen are Pickpocket and A Woman Under The Influence, and the latter I'll be watching for sure sometime in December.

I watched The Big Heat back in April. Here is what I wrote about it then:

Quote:
One of the big pleasures of reading through Roger Ebert's Great Movies collection is reading about films I haven't seen yet, and then tracking them down myself. Ebert's great movie review of Fritz Lang's 1953 film The Big Heat is a particularly interesting one, as he focuses on the sinister edges present in a character who at first glance appears to be a straight arrow. After viewing the film, I had to ask myself if my perception of Glenn Ford's central character Detective Dave Bannion was directly influenced by Ebert's writings, or if I would have made the same inferences on my own. After some thought, I have a feeling I would have perceived the same undercurrent. Ford plays a police detective who decides to stand up against a powerful crime syndicate, even if it means endangering himself, his family, and anyone else who crosses his path in the process. He knows that the syndicate is "too big to fail," is in the pockets of just about everybody in town, but that doesn't stop him from naively pursuing his one-man mission and sacrificing lives other than his in the process. Maybe he truly believes there won't be personal repercussions for his actions. Or maybe, and this is more likely, he just figures his mission will inevitably have a few casualties, and he's willing to sacrifice a few lives as long as he gets to keep his own.

Ford is backed up by a couple of strong supporting performances from Gloria Grahame, as a woman caught in the middle of the struggle, and Lee Marvin, as a particularly dangerous henchman. It's not a perfect film; the idea that a crime syndicate would allow a widow to blackmail them with her husband's confession letter locked away in a safe deposit box doesn't seem likely, and the ending doesn't quite ring true either. And even though Ford's character is fascinating, in the end it's Grahame and Marvin who command the attention whenever they're onscreen. Still, it remains a compelling watch, especially when the darkest corners of the narrative reveal themselves and take center stage. 7/10.

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Tue Dec 03, 2013 2:48 pm
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Post Re: I'm doing this thing
calvero wrote:
Quote:
13. To Catch a Thief (1955) – Hitchcock


well this one seems a bit out of place(in case you wanted to replace it with a 30s/40s flick)

I would've liked to hear your thoughts on Only Angels Have Wings instead of To Have and Have Not.

Other than that, cool list.


Yeah, To Catch a Thief was the movie I was least excited about. Still, I wanted to get a Hitchcock movie in there (I haven't seen a new movie from him all year), and I wanted something lighter than normal since a lot of these movies are pretty heavy.

As far as the Hawks choice, it came down to those 2. I honestly picked To Have and Have Not because it's about 20 minutes shorter and I'll be watching most of these movies on weeknights. I initially had Kubrick's Barry Lyndon and Kurosawa's Ran in there too, but replaced them with much shorter films (Pickpocket and Blow-Up).

Blonde Almond wrote:
I watched The Big Heat back in April. Here is what I wrote about it then:

Quote:
One of the big pleasures of reading through Roger Ebert's Great Movies collection is reading about films I haven't seen yet, and then tracking them down myself. Ebert's great movie review of Fritz Lang's 1953 film The Big Heat is a particularly interesting one, as he focuses on the sinister edges present in a character who at first glance appears to be a straight arrow. After viewing the film, I had to ask myself if my perception of Glenn Ford's central character Detective Dave Bannion was directly influenced by Ebert's writings, or if I would have made the same inferences on my own. After some thought, I have a feeling I would have perceived the same undercurrent.


Interesting! I haven't read Ebert's review, but I will on my way home (via the Great Movies app) on the subway. The interesting part is my girlfriend and I had this exact debate after the movie last night. She thought Glenn Ford's character was a "good guy" who's actions were justified by the film. I thought differently. The debate got a little heated, actually. More than a little. Largely so. One could even describe it as...no, I can't make that terrible joke. There really was a pretty heated disagreement, though.

As far as the film, I liked it about the same as you and had similar issues with it. It isn't able to completely nail the contrast between the calm, healthy family and the nasty, ruthless underworld. The nastiness just didn't feel nasty enough. Still, a good, subversive film with a ton of B-movie hammy metaphors.


Tue Dec 03, 2013 4:31 pm
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Post Re: I'm doing this thing
Looking forward to reading about these. But really, To Catch a Thief?

I only accept you watching it if you can promise me you've already seen Strangers on a Train, Foreign Correspondent, Frenzy, The Lady Vanishes, The Man Who Knew Too Much (remake), I Confess, Dial M for Murder, Lifeboat, and Spellbound.

If you have seen all those, then you can watch To Catch a Thief. Otherwise substitute any of them/

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Tue Dec 03, 2013 6:29 pm
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Post Re: I'm doing this thing
JamesKunz wrote:
Looking forward to reading about these. But really, To Catch a Thief?

I only accept you watching it if you can promise me you've already seen Strangers on a Train, Foreign Correspondent, Frenzy, The Lady Vanishes, The Man Who Knew Too Much (remake), I Confess, Dial M for Murder, Lifeboat, and Spellbound.

If you have seen all those, then you can watch To Catch a Thief. Otherwise substitute any of them/


I have seen all of them, along with his more famous movies and a handful of other "lesser" Hitchcock movies. So, I'm glad you'll know allow me to watch To Catch a Thief. I wouldn't want to disappoint His Wubness.


Tue Dec 03, 2013 8:05 pm
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Post Re: I'm doing this thing
PeachyPete wrote:
JamesKunz wrote:
Looking forward to reading about these. But really, To Catch a Thief?

I only accept you watching it if you can promise me you've already seen Strangers on a Train, Foreign Correspondent, Frenzy, The Lady Vanishes, The Man Who Knew Too Much (remake), I Confess, Dial M for Murder, Lifeboat, and Spellbound.

If you have seen all those, then you can watch To Catch a Thief. Otherwise substitute any of them/


I have seen all of them, along with his more famous movies and a handful of other "lesser" Hitchcock movies. So, I'm glad you'll know allow me to watch To Catch a Thief. I wouldn't want to disappoint His Wubness.


Okay we're good then. You've seen all the B to A- Hitches and I can't begrudge you a C

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Tue Dec 03, 2013 8:28 pm
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Post Re: I'm doing this thing
JamesKunz wrote:
PeachyPete wrote:
JamesKunz wrote:
Looking forward to reading about these. But really, To Catch a Thief?

I only accept you watching it if you can promise me you've already seen Strangers on a Train, Foreign Correspondent, Frenzy, The Lady Vanishes, The Man Who Knew Too Much (remake), I Confess, Dial M for Murder, Lifeboat, and Spellbound.

If you have seen all those, then you can watch To Catch a Thief. Otherwise substitute any of them/


I have seen all of them, along with his more famous movies and a handful of other "lesser" Hitchcock movies. So, I'm glad you'll know allow me to watch To Catch a Thief. I wouldn't want to disappoint His Wubness.


Okay we're good then. You've seen all the B to A- Hitches and I can't begrudge you a C


I like it a little more than Kunz, but it's definitely Hitchcock at his most light and frothy.

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Tue Dec 03, 2013 8:40 pm
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Post Re: I'm doing this thing
3. Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972) – Herzog 9/10
11. Nashville (1975) – Altman 9.5/10

That's all I've seen, unfortunately. I should probably watch more older movies after my 2013 movie goal is done. I do have Day for Night and To Catch a Thief laying around unwatched.


Tue Dec 03, 2013 9:39 pm
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Post Re: I'm doing this thing
Quote:
1. The Big Heat (1953) – Lang
2. Pickpocket (1959) – Bresson
3. Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972) – Herzog
4. The Man Who Would Be King (1975) – Huston
5. Day For Night (1973) – Truffaut
6. Through A Glass Darkly (1961) – Bergman
7. To Have and Have Not (1944) – Hawks
8. Amarcord (1974) – Fellini
9. A Woman Under the Influence (1974) – Cassavetes
10. Contempt (1963) – Godard
11. Nashville (1975) – Altman
12. The Exterminating Angel (1962) – Bunuel
13. To Catch a Thief (1955) – Hitchcock
14. The Battleship Potemkin (1925) – Eisenstein
15. Blow-up (1966) – Antonioni


I've seen 12 of these. Still have to check out Amarcord and Day for Night, somewhat less interested in the Cassavetes.


Tue Dec 03, 2013 9:59 pm
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Post Re: I'm doing this thing
Blonde Almond wrote:


I like it a little more than Kunz, but it's definitely Hitchcock at his most light and frothy.


I'm saddened to hear you prefer To Catch a Thief to me

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Tue Dec 03, 2013 10:30 pm
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Post Re: I'm doing this thing
peng wrote:
3. Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972) – Herzog 9/10
11. Nashville (1975) – Altman 9.5/10

That's all I've seen, unfortunately. I should probably watch more older movies after my 2013 movie goal is done. I do have Day for Night and To Catch a Thief laying around unwatched.


Cool! I'm really looking forward to both of those (watching Aguirre tonight), and have been for some time. You should check out Day for Night and To Catch a Thief (be sure to check with Kunzy first) this month and chime in.

MGamesCook wrote:
I've seen 12 of these. Still have to check out Amarcord and Day for Night, somewhat less interested in the Cassavetes.


Awesome. I figured a lot of the people around here had seen a bunch of these. Hopefully we can get some good discussion going. I know a few people have expressed a lot of love for some of these movies over the years, and it's always easier to talk about movies you love.


Thu Dec 05, 2013 11:03 am
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Post Re: I'm doing this thing
FYI - I'm going to be posting these on my blog, and a bunch of the folks who read that aren't as film literate as everyone here, so these are written more for them than you guys. This is basically my way of apologizing if the writing feels redundant for some of you.

The Big Heat (1953) - ***1/2

By the time 1953 rolled around, Fritz Lang had not only helped establish film noir, but had been directing films in the style (not a genre, pretentious film academics might bite your head off if you call it one) since he arrived in Hollywood in the mid-30s. It’s safe to say that in 1953 film noir was entering its self-aware, referential period, with a ton of the movies being made serving as comments on previous elements of the style. It’s something every genre of film inevitably goes through (think Clint Eastwood’s revisionist Western Unforgiven). Once certain “kinds” of films become commonplace, those films become part of an overall mythology who’s familiarity is drawn upon time and again. There are many reasons filmmakers do this – some for parody and satire, and some to intentionally subvert the norm. Lang’s The Big Heat serves as one of the most subversive noirs I’ve yet to come across.

The movie is populated with numerous noir staples: the femme fatale, the corrupt society, and the good cop crusading against it the name of justice. In order for something to be considered subversive, it has to, you know, subvert things, and that’s exactly what Lang does to all of these standard elements. Lang takes each of these elements and turns it on its head – the femme fatale is vulnerable instead of predatory, the corrupt society is brought to the protagonist (and his family) instead of the protagonist infiltrating that world, and the “hero” of the picture’s morality and actions are called into question as the bodies start to pile up. His goal is to muddy the waters between good and evil to ask if these concepts have any real value or if they’re completely arbitrary and dependent upon the situation. To accentuate this theme, Lang films a lot of the movie in twos. He uses a mirror motif throughout to show the character and their reflection and he contrasts the darkly lit, seedy criminal underworld with Sergeant Bannion (Glenn Ford)’s brightly lit, loving home life. Lang even hams it up a little (which fits the B-movie vibe just fine) by scalding the face of Gloria Grahame’s Debby with hot coffee, resulting in her essentially becoming the female version of Harvey Dent.

The Big Heat is basically a home invasion movie that morphs into a revenge film, but set in a noir world. It’s a smart way to position the movie, especially given the comments Lang wants to make. As with almost all noirs, there’s a pulpiness inherent in the material that allows the narrative to feel entertaining instead of preachy. I personally believe that’s why the style has always been so popular, because viewers can take ideas away from the movie without feeling like they’ve been condescended to. Regardless, The Big Heat is an excellent example of when a great filmmaker is able to elevate fairly standard material into something more.


Mon Dec 09, 2013 1:12 pm
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Post Re: I'm doing this thing
PeachyPete wrote:
FYI - I'm going to be posting these on my blog, and a bunch of the folks who read that aren't as film literate as everyone here, so these are written more for them than you guys. This is basically my way of apologizing if the writing feels redundant for some of you.

The Big Heat (1953) - ***1/2


No apologies necessary, I think your thoughts concisely nail what makes the film an interesting one. Wholly appropriate for this forum.

You should post a link to your blog in the signature. I seem to remember you having one at some point.

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Mon Dec 09, 2013 6:58 pm
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Quote:
1. The Big Heat (1953) – Lang
2. Pickpocket (1959) – Bresson
3. Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972) – Herzog
4. The Man Who Would Be King (1975) – Huston
5. Day For Night (1973) – Truffaut
6. Through A Glass Darkly (1961) – Bergman
7. To Have and Have Not (1944) – Hawks
8. Amarcord (1974) – Fellini
9. A Woman Under the Influence (1974) – Cassavetes
10. Contempt (1963) – Godard
11. Nashville (1975) – Altman
12. The Exterminating Angel (1962) – Bunuel
13. To Catch a Thief (1955) – Hitchcock
14. The Battleship Potemkin (1925) – Eisenstein
15. Blow-up (1966) – Antonioni


Is this the order you are going in? I will try to watch/rewatch some of these(except Man Who Would Be King, seen that so many times I practically have it memorized)


Tue Dec 10, 2013 1:55 pm
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Post Re: I'm doing this thing
calvero wrote:


Is this the order you are going in? I will try to watch/rewatch some of these(except Man Who Would Be King, seen that so many times I practically have it memorized)


*tear* And I thought I was the only one

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Tue Dec 10, 2013 2:34 pm
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Post Re: I'm doing this thing
Blonde Almond wrote:
You should post a link to your blog in the signature. I seem to remember you having one at some point.


You're right, I did. I don't remember why I took it out, or even taking it out. Weird. I'll put it back in there.

Anyway, all of these mini write-ups will be combined as one long blog post, and I'll probably write a short introduction too. That's how I did the horror month this year and it seemed to work out pretty well. It's easier for me to write them that way and I've found most people seem to prefer it to long, in-depth analysis.

calvero wrote:
Is this the order you are going in? I will try to watch/rewatch some of these(except Man Who Would Be King, seen that so many times I practically have it memorized)


It was going to be the order initially, but I had to change it up a bit once I worked out getting access to each film. Here's the order now, and the date I plan on watching the movie:

1. The Big Heat - watched
2. Pickpocket - watched
3. Aguirre: The Wrath of God - watched
4. Through A Glass Darkly - watched
5. The Man Who Would Be King - watching tonight (12/10)
6. Amarcord - 12/11 or 12
7. Day for Night - 12/14
8. A Woman Under the Influence - 12/16
9. To Have and Have Not - 12/17
10. The Exterminating Angel - 12/19
11. Contempt - 12/20
12. Nashville 12/23
13. To Catch a Thief - 12/24
14. Battleship Potemkin - 12/26
15. Blowup - 12/27

Which ones are you interested in watching?


Tue Dec 10, 2013 8:43 pm
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Pickpocket (1959) **1/2

Director Robert Bresson is a major figure in French Cinema. I’ll spare you the details (look them up yourself, you lazy bum), but along with Jean Renoir he’s regarded about as highly as they come. Earlier this year I watched his 1956 film, A Man Escaped, thought it was pretty amazing, and decided a new Bresson film was an ideal choice for this month. I landed on Pickpocket because, along with Au Hasard Balthazar, it’s his most well received movie. And since Au Hasard Balthazar is about the life of a donkey, I chose Pickpocket because I wasn’t quite ready for all that weird.

As I’m sure you were able to decipher from the title of the movie, Pickpocket is about a man who – big surprise coming – picks the pockets of unsuspecting people. The film follows Michel (Martin LaSalle) and his ups and downs in his life as a thief. Bresson’s style, which is very much what Pickpocket is truly about, is minimalist, and often more specifically referred to as ascetic. There’s very little dialogue in his movies, he frequently uses nonprofessional actors, the plot is usually straightforward and simple, and he’s almost obsessively interested in spiritual ideas, specifically redemption. He lets plain images speak for themselves to tell his stories, and attempts to let the poetry of everyday life tell his stories. It’s something most film nerds are going to geek out over, and something most casual movie watchers will find yawningly pretentious.

Pickpocket plays like a minimalist version of Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (something you’ll hear in virtually anything you read about the film…so don’t think I’m being smart of insightful for saying so). There’s a protagonist who thinks he operates above social norms, and a cynical, disconnected view of how society works. The problem with Bresson’s film is it's just plain dull. A Man Escaped, filmed in the same style, worked because the narrative was streamlined and focused solely on the main character’s attempts to escape from prison. There was nothing else that infiltrated the simple story, and it fit Bresson’s style like a glove. With Pickpocket, Bresson branches his story out slightly more, but, more importantly, he attempts to make the audience really feel for the main character. It’s a concept that doesn’t completely mesh with the austere style the movie employs. The resolution of the film, which is supposed to come off as profound and affecting, feels contrived, rushed, and empty. It comes off as cheap drama, which is the furthest thing from Bresson’s intentions.


Wed Dec 11, 2013 5:39 pm
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PeachyPete wrote:
Pickpocket (1959) **1/2

Director Robert Bresson is a major figure in French Cinema. I’ll spare you the details (look them up yourself, you lazy bum), but along with Jean Renoir he’s regarded about as highly as they come. Earlier this year I watched his 1956 film, A Man Escaped, thought it was pretty amazing, and decided a new Bresson film was an ideal choice for this month. I landed on Pickpocket because, along with Au Hasard Balthazar, it’s his most well received movie. And since Au Hasard Balthazar is about the life of a donkey, I chose Pickpocket because I wasn’t quite ready for all that weird.

As I’m sure you were able to decipher from the title of the movie, Pickpocket is about a man who – big surprise coming – picks the pockets of unsuspecting people. The film follows Michel (Martin LaSalle) and his ups and downs in his life as a thief. Bresson’s style, which is very much what Pickpocket is truly about, is minimalist, and often more specifically referred to as ascetic. There’s very little dialogue in his movies, he frequently uses nonprofessional actors, the plot is usually straightforward and simple, and he’s almost obsessively interested in spiritual ideas, specifically redemption. He lets plain images speak for themselves to tell his stories, and attempts to let the poetry of everyday life tell his stories. It’s something most film nerds are going to geek out over, and something most casual movie watchers will find yawningly pretentious.

Pickpocket plays like a minimalist version of Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (something you’ll hear in virtually anything you read about the film…so don’t think I’m being smart of insightful for saying so). There’s a protagonist who thinks he operates above social norms, and a cynical, disconnected view of how society works. The problem with Bresson’s film is it's just plain dull. A Man Escaped, filmed in the same style, worked because the narrative was streamlined and focused solely on the main character’s attempts to escape from prison. There was nothing else that infiltrated the simple story, and it fit Bresson’s style like a glove. With Pickpocket, Bresson branches his story out slightly more, but, more importantly, he attempts to make the audience really feel for the main character. It’s a concept that doesn’t completely mesh with the austere style the movie employs. The resolution of the film, which is supposed to come off as profound and affecting, feels contrived, rushed, and empty. It comes off as cheap drama, which is the furthest thing from Bresson’s intentions.


I *so* agree. I came out of A Man Escaped utterly invigorated. I was like "THIS. THIS IS HOW MINIMALISM SHOULD BE USED." And it was with this enthusiasm that I went into Pickpocket, and found it (as you say) dull

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Wed Dec 11, 2013 7:36 pm
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Post Re: I'm doing this thing
I don't find Pickpocket dull at all. It's definitely a slow, quiet movie, but the opening scenes are probably the slowest and the quietest. Obviously I can't speak for anybody else, but the effect for me was to calibrate my expectations. Sort of like the razor blade in the eyeball.

Pickpocket is basically a retelling of Dostoyevsky's favorite story type, about the jaded loner who lives in a hovel and engages in random, aberrant acts. I've always been drawn to those kinds of character studies. Pickpocket would probably be my favorite iteration of that story, if Taxi Driver didn't exist. Mishima is basically an other-side-of-the-coin telling of that story--the difference being that the same problems drove the character to excellence rather than aberration, and his aberrant acts were ultimately against himself rather than everyone else.

How do you guys feel about Diary of a Country Priest?

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Wed Dec 11, 2013 8:28 pm
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