As digital film has taken over the film industry, it has become increasingly rare for new films to be released on actual film stock. This is a real shame since – for reasons too complex to get into here – films recorded and projected on real film have a life and character that cannot be reproduced in a digital copy. I snap up any opportunity to catch a film shown on the big screen from a 35mm print (the usual size of film stock, though the wider 70mm films are even more worth catching), and I heartily recommend the practice to all who want to deepen their appreciation for the aesthetics of film.
The Oklahoma City Museum of Art is doing a real service to film stock fans on Jan. 5, when it will host a screening (on 35mm!) of one of the greatest of all Italian films, Roberto Rosselini’s The Flowers of St. Francis. An episodic, rich account of the life of the medieval saint, who forswore possessions and communed with nature, the film paints St. Francis’s life with both humor and reverence. It’s one of the great films about faith, and its being shown in Oklahoma on film is itself a minor miracle.
François Truffaut’s debut film, The 400 Blows, is actually the first of five films following protagonist Antoine Doinel as he grows up (but doesn’t always mature). Part of the fun is watching actor Jean Pierre Léaud get better over time, but this initial entry in the series has a raw immediacy fueled by the age-old struggle of a young man against his dull superiors. An iconic final scene on the beach is one of the finest expressions of futile rage against society – mixed with the pure joy of feeling free – ever captured on film.
The Blu-ray coming out from The Criterion Collection in January looks to situate the film within the context of Truffaut’s life, drawing biographical connections between the director and his subject. I’m sometimes suspect of movements like that, but in the case of a personal film like The 400 Blows it makes sense.
A lot of talk surrounding Moana has centered on the extent to which it does or does not subvert the typical Disney princess story. While it’s great to have a Pacific Islander princess, and refreshing to have her engaged in a plot that lacks a romantic arc, in the end none of this would matter if the film didn’t pop with style and bristle with fun.
Thankfully it does. The oceanic setting allows for multiple wild and exciting set pieces, and the songs, co-written by Broadway man of the moment Lin-Manuel Miranda, achieve a nice balance between hum-ability and complexity (I especially like a glam-rock number featuring Flight of the Conchord member Jemaine Clement). Dwayne Johnson continues to be a comic force, here playing a vain demi-god, and the whole enterprise floats nicely along by mixing humor and pathos to great effect.