The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Ant-Man and the Wasp
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All Critics (4)
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| Fresh (4)
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The film is overdirected and, paradoxically, underdeveloped, but it does feature some marvelous, dazzling imagery by ace cinematographer George Schneevoight.
An incalculable foundation of themes and images for Dreyer
An ambitious study of evil through the ages.
Dreyer's third film, his cinematic breakthrough, is overlong, a bit prosaic and doesn't offer much in terms of narrative, but his stellar mise-en-scène and George Schnéevoigt's cinematography make every stunning shot worthy of being framed and put on a wall in any museum.
This film does not live up to its sensational title, but Carl Theodor Dreyer ("The Passion of Joan of Arc") crafts an interesting look at Satanic temptation. Separated into four parts a la D.W. Griffith's "Intolerance," the film spans stories from Christ's time, the Spanish Inquisition, the French Revolution and Dreyer's own era. Satan (Helge Nissen, in his only screen role) is portrayed as a weary pawn of God who's ambivalent about his evil work but forced to carry on in hopes of shortening his banishment. In each tale, Satan adopts human form and conspires to tempt a virtuous person into betraying his or her peers. The fourth segment (set in Russia-occupied Finland) lacks universality and the sins of Judas have been depicted better countless times, but the middle sections fare better. In the second part, a priest weighs loyalties to the Church and his forbidden romantic love, while the third finds the fates of Marie Antoinette and a (fictional?) countess and daughter resting on the moral quandary of a well-meaning servant.
I understood what this movie was wanting the audience to understand with just watching the first couple of stories, but then it just keeps going on and on telling more stories that are exactly the same, and you just get bored with it.
Ambitious, but not wholly successful. Dreyer was still finding his footing here; none of the imagery resonates, as it so often did in all his later pieces, and his multi-epochal narrative is in equal turns interesting and dull (the Spanish Inquisition segment feels like a complete waste of time, and the Jesus segment isn't all that much better). The fact that it was cribbed directly from Intolerance at Dreyer's admission makes it feel a lot less impressive overall, but Leaves from Satan's Book's actual accomplishments still stand. The final two segments are stirring, but ultimately nothing here will really stick with you like it did in Joan of Arc or Day of Wrath.
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