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Monday, Feb 16, 2015
by Steve Leftridge and Steve Pick
Marishka had a little lamb, and everywhere that Ivan went Marishka seemed to go. This week's Double Take tries to untangle Sergei Parajanov's Soviet masterpiece of color, culture, and calamity.

In Sergei Parajanov’s bleak, fatalistic tale, the window of grace provided for children to be children in post-war Russia is always too brief.


Steve Leftridge: Wild Horses of Fire! Where do we start with a film so stuffed with narrative, cultural, symbolic, and medulla-oblongata-curving technique? Perhaps we should start with a reminder that director Sergei Parajanov, a giant of Soviet cinema, did some serious time in labor camps for making Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors—and other pictures like it—due to his subversion of the old Soviet Union’s mandate that all art should fit neatly into the category of socialist realism. (This imprisonment happened despite worldwide protests from other filmmakers.) Once the ‘80s and Glasnost rolled around, Parajanov was free, but he didn’t live much longer, broken as he was by a lifetime of persecution. Now, however, he’s honored with statues and his own museum in Russia. They even named an asteroid after him.


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Thursday, Feb 12, 2015
This movie, which mines the dated territory of professor/student relationships, trivializes education while looking swank.

Abby Abbott (Loretta Young) is a chic widow on New York’s Fifth Avenue, beyond the means of her dividend checks. So that she can continue to pay bills, including her 17 year old daughter’s college tuition, Abby decides to take advantage of a $3,000 scholarship endowed to the college by her own grandmother for students called Abigail Fortitude, Abby’s maiden name. Having married at 16, Abby hadn’t taken up the chance, and neither had her mother, who married at 17. Now her grandmother’s desire to provide for her female descendants’ education will finally bear fruit, if only for temporary financial reasons.


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Tuesday, Feb 10, 2015
This Alain Robbe-Grillet film can get under the skin of anyone susceptible to its languid spell.

Last year, several of Alain Robbe-Grillet’s surreal erotic puzzles were released on DVD and Blu-ray by Redemption. Now, Olive Films has released one of his last films, La Belle Captive, which harks back to his debut with L’immortelle 20 years earlier. The male leads are similar, and both involve the hero’s obsession with a woman who might be a ghost, with both having a traffic accident motif. One of the main differences is that the later film opens the possibility that the hero might also be a ghost, perhaps one of those he’s told walk the streets disguised as the living.


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Monday, Feb 9, 2015
by Steve Leftridge and Steve Pick
Double Take looks back at a film that celebrated its 25th anniversary during another summer of strikingly similar violence.

Perhaps doing the right thing is figuring out how to go on after things that weren’t right at all.


Steve Leftridge: Well, Steve, it’s quite timely that the ol’ randomizer landed on Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, as 2014 was not only the Year of Ferguson but also the 25th anniversary of the Do the Right Thing. When Lee’s film, about a day in the life of Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood and a subsequent race riot, was released in the summer of 1989, the film was met with a storm of controversy and hand-wringing, primarily by members of the press who feared that the film would set off explosions of racial tension. While the film enjoyed widespread critical acclaim for the director’s unique storytelling, the great performances from the large cast, the cinematography, the modernist filmic flourishes,  and the complex issues the film raises, its artistic achievements were, at the time, overshadowed by what some in the press considered dubious racial motivations. Such concerns likely cost the film and its director Academy Award nominations. Fortunately, time has been more kind to Do the Right Thing; it’s now widely regarded as a modern classic, currently landing, for instance, at number 96 on the American Film Institute’s 100 Greatest American Films of All Time.


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Monday, Feb 9, 2015
This Delmer Daves-helmed Western is a middling picture with a relatively progressive veneer for its time.

“It showed the country something they had to learn and remember. Among the Indians, as amongst our people, the good in heart outnumber the bad, and they will offer their lives to prove it.” So speaks Johnny MacKay (Alan Ladd), an Indian fighter charged by President Grant (Hayden Rorke) with a peace mission among the Modoc tribe—a peace mission that involves killing or capturing a bunch of renegades.


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