Spectacular rain-soaked battles on horseback, romantic longing, and a howling performance from the great Toshiro Mifune make this first installment of Hiroshi Inagaki’s Samurai Trilogy a delight. The origin of the storied swordsman Musashi, broken down and transformed by a Zen priest from a skilled but bitter fighter into a balanced warrior.
In honor of Nowruz, I’m returning to Kiarostami’s Koker trilogy, for the director’s recreation of his search for the young leads of WHERE IS MY FRIEND’S HOUSE after the Manjil–Rudbard earthquake devastated the region. As the actor playing Kiarostami drives along, he recognizes and picks up actors from the previous film. The adults and children alike are trying to process the seemingly random inequity of luck. One boy recounts how a mosquito bite brought him out of the bedroom just before the ceiling collapsed on his brother; a man explains why he married his fiancée that very day rather than wait out the recovery and rebuilding. Philosophical but not sentimental, Kiarostami shows the futility of trying to make sense of events so vast in the moment, and how some people will grit their teeth, pick up the pieces, and find a way to watch the World Cup.
Not long after their sister’s funeral, three siblings gather with a group of truly terrible guests for their father’s birthday party, where one son finally works up the courage to turn the mirror on the monsters in attendance, and refuses to let them look away. The inaugural Dogme 95 film, Thomas Vinterberg shot it in accordance with the ruthlessly strict statutes of the movement he and Lars von Trier launched. By rejecting any post-production techniques or special effects, Vinterberg refused to let so much as a tripod or a lighting rig soften the rawness of the deranged proceedings he orchestrated.
Margot Benacerraf’s film captures the lives and livelihoods of a community of salt-miners working on a Venezuelan peninsula on the Caribbean Sea. Heightening her documentary with what she’d call “poetic realism”, Benacerraf immerses us in the generational ritual and the grueling labor these families take on. At different stages of life, each family member has a different task to collect and treat the salt: washing, drying, and shoveling it into 140-pound baskets, carrying it up the giant salt pyramids, weighing and sewing it into bags, while still others cast fishing nets, salting what they bring in. In a land where for centuries all sustenance comes from the sea, the film hauntingly asks how long this way of life can endure.
Based on the true story of Fahrije Hoti, whose husband was among the hundreds in their village in Kosovo who disappeared during the war. With no answers, and desperate to keep her family afloat, Fahrije started her own company, employing widows to help her make and sell ajvar and honey to local grocery stores. Just driving a car makes her a target for vicious hatred and violence from the men in her village, and even her own daughter and father-in-law accuse her of giving her husband up for dead. Writer-director Blerta Basholli and her lead actor Yllka Gashi pay tribute to the courage and fierce resolve of this woman, as well as to the over 1600 people in Kosovo who are still missing 20 years after the war.
The Bri-terion Collection
I’m loving the Criterion Channel streaming service, so every week I’m going to share my favorite new find.