The besties review
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My first (and really only) experience with Great Expectations was in high school, when I read the novel and performed in our school’s stage production (I played Joe Gargery and Herbert Pocket, thank you very much). Watching this film brought back a lot of great memories and reminded me of how much I loved this novel.
Dickens’s dialogue is as breathtaking now as when I first read the novel, and David Lean captures it faithfully on the screen. But surprisingly enough, I found myself as interested in Lean’s visuals as I was in Dickens’s language.
Lean’s adaptation features incredible performances, costumes, production design, cinematography, and music. With seemingly little effort, Lean transforms Dickens’s verbose novel into a magnificently visual feast.
I think one of the reasons this is considered a masterful adaptation is the mere fact that it is two hours long. David Lean is known for his lengthy dramas, and yet he adapts Dickens’s beefy novel in just 120 minutes? I am often a proponent of *shorter runtimes!* but I think I actually could’ve watched a three or four hour version and still felt fully engaged.
Monsieur Hulot's Holiday
What’s with the sound? It’s freaking wild!
There’s a lot of cool stuff going on here (especially with Tati’s performance, the sound design/cinematography, and the miss en scene), but I didn’t feel fully connected to it on first watch. I could definitely see this one growing on me, and even after it was done I found myself appreciating different moments and scenes that I didn’t think much about while watching.
With the big cast of unique side characters (the blonde woman, the elderly couple, the waiter, the hotel manager, the children), I was waiting with bated breath for all the threads to connect. Alas, Hulot just keeps wandering around with no direction, causing a ruckus.
Like I said, I’m curious to watch again, maybe after I’ve gone through some of Tati’s later films, but my first impression was mixed on this.
Invention for Destruction
Not as instantly engaging as The Fabulous Baron Munchausen, but a marvel nonetheless. Like Baron Munchausen, Invention for Destruction is a Jules Verne-inspired, mixed medium adventure story from the great Karel Zeman. Using live actors, hand-drawn animation, stop-motion, miniatures, matte paintings, and even stock footage, Zeman creates a unique world in his own style. If you’ve never seen a Zeman film, Invention for Destruction would be a great place to start, but just be prepared for sensory overload— trying to take in every little detail of the frame is both fun and futile.
The Last Unicorn
This is quite a strange film… in a good way? Though sometimes light and colorful, The Last Unicorn is more of a wistful acid trip than a sweet kiddie flick. I don’t think the dark themes and trippy sequences would be “too much” for a younger audience, but it is noticeably less cushy than your typical Disney or Dreamworks fare.
What I liked best about The Last Unicorn was its animation style. Directed by Rankin and Bass, this film is a prime example of offbeat, 70s/80s era animation, fitting in nicely alongside similarly timed releases like The Lord of the Rings and The Secret of Nimh. Though Rankin and Bass are probably best known for their stop-motion Christmas fare (Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Santa Clause Is Coming to Town, etc.) their 2D animation is equally impressive… and a little creepy.
One other thing I wanted to note is that the voice cast is also weirdly stacked, featuring the likes of Alan Arkin, Mia Farrow, Jeff Bridges, Angela Lansbury, and Christopher Lee. Arkin and Farrow specifically carry the film with their great vocal performances.
If you’re even a little curious to see a 2D fantasy film with a lot of heart, then I’d give this a try. It’s not going to end up on any all-time lists for me, but I’m certainly glad to have tried it out.
Kirikou and the Sorceress
I went into Kirikou with little to no expectations, and let me tell you I was kind of blown away!
Kirikou follows the adventures of a clever newborn boy in West Africa who tries various schemes to help his village escape the oppressive grip of Karaba the Sorceress. A mixture of folktale whimsy and coming of age adventure, Kirikou and the Sorceress is a legitimately exciting film. From the dialogue and voice acting to the music and breathtaking visuals, this film is a treat in every sense. At just an hour and 17 minutes, there’s not a single wasted second in this film. Every scene has a purpose. If you want to show your kid something a little off the beaten path, I highly recommend Kirikou and the Sorceress.
All that said— one important thing I would point out before showing this to your child is that nearly every character (including little Kirikou) is naked, or at least partially naked in the film. This caused some controversy upon initial release in Western countries like the US, but just remember that the film depicts a society that views the human body in a much less sexualized way. If your children are mature enough to handle that, or are at least able to have a conversation about it with you, then by all means let this movie roll!
What is 5 Film Film Festival (5FFF)?
In short, 5 Film Film Festival is an ongoing personal project to help me watch more classic films. For each mini “festival,” I will choose a random theme (be it a genre, actor, director, etc.) and curate five movies that fit that theme to watch for the first time. When I started this journey, I posted my brief, unpolished thoughts on Letterboxd. I like this more informal, less pretentious mode of watching older movies, so as I begin documenting the project here on the site, don’t expect a lot of in-depth analysis— every “review” will read more like a “first reaction.”
If you’re like me, and you have more than a few blind spots in your cinematic knowledge, then consider joining me on this lifelong endeavor. Watch along, recommend themes, and organize some mini festivals of your own!