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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Film criticism mash-up: Exciting and new!

Another exercise in Godardian film criticism (making a movie as a critical response to another movie): This one's simple and straightforward (existing footage; new soundtrack), but it makes its points unimprovably. I don't mean to pick on "Bobby" (which opens November 23), but after the work-in-progress press screening in Toronto I compared it to an Irwin Allen disaster movie:

It's "Earthquake" with the RFK assassination as the disaster. It's "Airport." It's "The Towering Inferno." A whole bunch of familiar actors play "colorful" characters swarming around the hotel, and their day will culminate in the death of a Kennedy.... Why turn this traumatic national event into a Hollywood soap opera? The performances are fine for this kind of glitzy manufactured melodrama ("Where Were YOU When They Shot RFK?"), and on that level it's swell, trashy fun. It's just that the whole concept is inappropriate.

Last week, I said the movie turns the Ambassador Hotel into "Neil Simon's California Suite with Assassination." But the filmmaker/critic whose work is embedded above has an equally valid take -- and impeccable comic timing.

(Tip: David Poland, who rescued the clip after it was pulled off of YouTube.)

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