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Fowler’s Flix 10.24.18: Recent Selections from the Criterion Collection (Part Two)

Criterion Collection
"The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez" is part of the Criterion Collection
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To continue what I was on about last week, the Criterion Collection is any cinephile’s first and only resource for some of the greatest films ever made—some well-known, some highly obscure—but all treated with the utmost care and compassion in their mastering, transfer and collection of special features.

Here’s a few more classic from around the world that have been recently released to disc and are fully deserving of your attention.

A world leader who makes paranoid statements of supposed power over his imagined enemies? No, I’m not talking Trump, but a close second in Idi Amin Dada, who is ruefully eulogized in Barber Schroeder’s mesmerizing documentary General Idi Amin Dada: A Self-Portrait. Following him at the absolute height of his power as the charismatic dictator of Uganda, Schroeder shows not only how badly a monster can scare people in follow, but also how they usually tend to worship them out of sheer fear.

Whether it’s showing off one of his numerous children, exercising control of giant alligators or beating his aides in a swimming race, this usually charming dictator says all the things only a true nationalist could love; the cult of personality led by Dada truly is as dangerous today as it was then.

Schroder’s camera desperately tries to maintain its objective stance, allowing every instance Dada is on-screen to cinematically sign his own death warrant.

Almost as complicated but far more literate about it, Ken Ogata stars as the byzantine Japanese author Yukio Mishima in Paul Schrader’s evocative Mishima: A Life in Four Chapter. Featuring a wraparound story of Mishima on his way with four men from his private army to commit seppuku, this mixture of biography and adaptations of his novels traces not only Mishima’s life, but his constant attempts to find harmony within his art, his mind and his body. He nearly succeeded.

With a veering eye between romantic realism and harsh surrealism, this film, produced by Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas and bred from the heights of Schrader’s then power in Hollywood, is a wholly trying biopic featuring a full Japanese cast—with subtle voiceovers from Roy Scheider and a lush score by Phillip Glass—that sits with viewer long after the credits and complications have long rolled. Very rarely has self-actualized passion and self-inflicted pain been captured on film like this.

Meanwhile, while Disney was here in the states making films about donkeys that played college football, in France they were screening the hauntingly poetic Au Hasard Balthazar (Balthazar, at Random), about the cruelties and indignities that a beast of burden, human or donkey, goes through in its miserable life.

Based on a weaving of Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot and the tenants of Christian faith, we witness as both Balthazar the donkey and his owner Marie grow apart, living a sorrowful life of ultimate tragedy.

Even though their life starts out full of hope and promise, through circumstances that he doesn’t understand and that she can’t control, their lives become one instance of abuse after another. Going through the seven deadly sins, Balthazar and Marie are hurt and mistreated continually, until a surprisingly tearjerking ending that’s sadly very befitting. Widely regarded as one of the best films ever made, Au Hasard Balthazar still makes every part of my heart and soul ache just recalling it here.

Finally, the famous Texas corrido comes to life in The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez, a film that has been called the “most honest western ever made” by various historical societies and, when you actually see how director Robert M. Young’s realist camera goes deep into the legend from both the sides—the Texas Rangers and Cortez himself—it delivers both a groundbreaking and heartbreaking film that mixes heroic derring-do with an ultimately upsetting reality.

Edward James Olmos essays Cortez as a simple man who, in the middle of a misunderstanding, shoots a couple of powerful white men. On the run, pretty soon most of Texas is after him, with newspapers and Rangers alike unknowingly making him a hero to the Mexicans of Texas.

However, he’s eventually caught and given a sham trial as his helpless wife and kids are used as jailed bait. The case was an absolute miscarriage of justice that is remarkably told by Olmos and Young, one that is unforgettable and more than worthy of a place in American history.

Next week: South African cinema gets a new life on DVD!

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About the Author

Louis Fowler

Güicho. Gadfly. Chicano. Choctaw. Cristero. Freelancer. Leftist. Activist. Vilified. PKD....

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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