Through a Glass Darkly (1961, Directed by Ingmar Bergman) Swedish 5

Starring Harriet Andersson, Max Von Sydow, Gunnar Björnstrand, Lars Passgård

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(5-Okay Film)

Leaden. Dreary. Garrulous.

One long, revealing day on a remote island unfolds for Karin (Andersson), suffering from schizophrenia, her father, David (Björnstrand), sexually frustrated brother, Minus (Passgård), and embattled husband, Martin (Von Sydow). Dense with themes of God’s existence, incest, family turmoil, and mental illness, this chamber play grows bloated with symbolism and opaque dialogue. It’s a style many value, as Bergman is renowned, but I can’t stand it. The acting is strong, the visuals are striking, but I have no heart for Through a Glass Darkly, and it doesn’t appeal to me thematically.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


All About My Mother (1999, Directed by Pedro Almodóvar) Spanish 7

Starring Cecilia Roth, Marisa Paredes, Antonia San Juan, Penélope Cruz, Fernando Fernández Gómez

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(7-Very Good Film)

Humanist. Melodramatic. Sensitive.

Manuela (Roth), nurse and single mother, takes her son to a production of A Streetcar Named Desire for his 17th birthday. After the show, her son, seeking an autograph from star actress, Huma Rojo (Paredes),  gets hit by a car, killing him. She decides to search for the boy’s father whom he never met, and along the way meets and becomes a surrogate mother to Agrado (San Juan), a witty transgender prostitute, Sister Rosa (Cruz), a kind nun with HIV and a surprise pregnancy, and finally Huma, theater diva and personal wreck. What stands out, even among Almodóvar’s bawdy humor, is an unflinching compassion for all of his characters. It’s a loving dedication to women and mothers, and Manuela becomes a hero figure just by being there for the supporting characters and doing the little things for them. Also on display is the director’s colorful, expressive style and flair for melodrama. This film kicked off what I believe is his best period, making his best film just three years later in Talk to Her. All About My Mother is a very good film conspicuously indebted to several classics, but with a style that signifies its own director and makes it unique.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Mary and the Witch’s Flower (2017, Hiromasa Yonebayashi) Japanese/English 5

Voices of Kate Winslet, Jim Broadbent, Ruby Barnhill, Lynda Baron, Ewen Bremner, Morwenna Banks

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(6-Okay Film)

Beautiful. Disappointing. Passable.

A perennially bored young girl with flowing red hair, Mary (Barnhill), stumbles upon a rare and valuable flower known as a “fly-by-night,” which gives magical ability to the one who finds it, though for a limited amount of time. Next thing she knows, Mary’s being whisked away to a school for the magically gifted, where she discovers a dangerous plot led by the school’s headmistress, Madame Mumblechook (Winslet) and a professor, Doctor Dee (Broadbent). The story is unfulfilling, relying to heavily on the astonishing animation. As brilliant as that aspect of the film is, it serves what could possibly have been a short story stretched out to feature length.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


The Mirror (1975, Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky) Russian 4

Starring Margarita Terekhova, Oleg Yankovsky, Fillip Yankovsky, Innokenty, Smoktunovsky

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(4-Bad Film)

Dull. Opaque. Empty.

Fragmented narrative chronicling several key moments in the life of a poet, Alexei, based on the writer/director Andrei Tarkovsky himself. Alternating between adolescence and adulthood, color and black and white photography, this film is considered one of the great feats of modern cinema. I consider it an enigma that I’m not interested in probing. There are instances of great beauty in the film, but there are longer instances of uninvolving, static scenery, a meandering, monotonous rhythm, acting and action without context, and a surplus of meaningless poetry. The Mirror is a perfect litmus test film for film buffs. Many of those who laud Tarkovsky’s vanity project as a masterpiece will deride many of the Hollywood action flicks that I enjoy. That’s fine, but I’ll stand firmly on my belief that this is a bad film.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Chungking Express (1994, Directed by Wong Kar-wai) Cantonese 5

Starring Tony Leung, Faye Wong, Brigitte Lin, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Valerie Chow

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(5-Okay Film)

Vibrant. Spirited. Aimless.

Two romantic tales involving police interweave in this movie: first, a young cop (Kaneshiro), getting over a break up, falls for a mysterious criminal (Lin). Second, another cop (Leung), also dealing with a breakup, can’t see the cute food store worker, Faye (Wong) who secretly loves him and sneaks into his apartment to clean up after him. I’ve never cared too much for Wong Kar-wai’s work, and it’s a shame because I love the subjects he explores, his romantic flourishes, and vivid imagery, but I’ve never been anything but apathetic towards his films. Chungking Express was my first of his works, and seeing it now for the third time, I still find it monotonous. Even the humor, which is present at times, takes the same note as the moments of sadness.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Tampopo (1985, Directed by Juzo Itami) Japanese 6

Starring Tsutomu Yamazaki, Nobuko Miyamoto, Kōji Hashimoto, Ken Watanabe

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(6-Good Film)

Odd. Memorable. Winning.

Two truck drivers help a widowed noodle shop owner achieve her dream of creating the perfect ramen dinner. Thrown into the mix is a random group of vignettes, sometimes funny, sometimes erotic, sometimes just weird. This is one of the strangest films I’ve ever seen. It throws a number of things onto the screen, and still manages to be charming, if not coherent.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Christine (1958, Directed by Pierre Gaspard-Huit) French 6

Starring Alain Delon, Romy Schneider, Micheline Presle, Fernand Ledoux

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Tragedy about a young officer (Delon) caught in an affair with the wife of his superior, just as he has fallen in love with a local Austrian girl named Christine (Schneider). The fatalism of its ending was, for me, contrived, but that didn’t keep me from caring. The stars-Schneider and Delon- are two of the most beautiful and photogenic ever to be on screen, and their romance is brief but sweet.