I must say, I was starting to worry about whether Martin Scorsese had sold his soul to the Hollywood media elite after a couple of decades of producing such shameless Disney-fied fluff as The Aviator and Hugo or bloated, pedestrian epics like The Departed and Gangs of New York. But with Silence, a visually haunting historical drama about several Jesuit priests’ struggles between faith and temptation in the face of religious persecution in 17th-century Japan, the veteran director has atoned for his past sins.
Movies about sadistic psychopaths seem to outnumber the number of hairs on a mad scientist’s head. But the diabolically addicting Saw shows that, as the old saying goes, there’s always room for one more.
“It’s a new and improved slasher flick! Now with dreams!” The way some people laud the jejune gorefest A Nightmare on Elm Street, they might as well be admen enthusing about the new features on their company’s latest stove model.
Were The Shining not helmed by one of the most critically acclaimed directors of the past 100 years, people would probably remember it as a creditable B-horror-movie effort. Steven Spielberg or Sam Raimi would be proud to be responsible for such gorgeously filmed nonsense. But Stanley Kubrick—the genre-defining director of such classics as 2001, Barry Lyndon, and Dr. Strangelove—should not have been.
Rarely, if ever, have I been so perplexed by a film’s critical accolades as I am by those bestowed upon Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita. In step with the central protagonist’s self-indulgent quest for amorous fulfillment, Fellini slogs through a seemingly interminable sequence of disjointed episodes, drily recycling hackneyed interpretations of love, God, and death that never gel into a coherent story—let alone come close to deserving the film’s hallowed “work-of-art” reputation.
Like his previous films Winter Light and The Silence, Ingmar Bergman’s haunting—if sometimes pretentiously abstruse—film Persona superficially appears to reject the idea that God has a hand in human affairs. At this point in his career, the great Swedish director seems to be inclining instead toward an atheistic worldview in which his characters attempt to make sense of the harshness of reality, including death, mental illness, and the presence of evil. But Persona, a story of identity crisis from the perspectives of two women whose paths in life are temporarily intertwined, is much more than an exercise in such nihilistic futility.