Reece Leonard's Profile - Rotten Tomatoes

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Rating History

My Neighbor Totoro
10 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Possibly the most perfect children's film of them all, My Neighbor Totoro is an elegant distillation of everything Studio Ghibli has attempted to achieve over the course of its existence. It focuses on young children dealing with serious, adult problems while attempting to find fulfillment in their relatively ordinary lives through elaborate fantasies filled with cat buses and giant, flying, bear-like creatures. This simple premise illustrates the notion that children use their imaginations to deal with things they aren't mentally equipped to handle, Totoro an E.T.-like surrogate for every imaginary friend any audience member ever had as a child and a point of accessibly for viewers of any age. Problems arise and they deal with them, with the help of their fantastic creations, finding contentment and love and companionship through their parents, another simple, universally accepted embodiment of security for a child. These elements coalesce in a film that's about as sincere as possible, supernatural wonder never outweighing the adorable family material, the result a perfectly balanced representation of everything it means to be a child and a pure, magical experience for those who are willing to revisit this adolescent mindset.

Woman in the Dunes (Suna no Onna)
10 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes

It's easy to throw around superlatives like "riveting" when referring to films that provoke a significant response from a viewer, but it's not at all excessive to refer to Woman in the Dunes as such. Although the bulk of the film takes place in a hole, Teshigahara manages to find an incredible amount of visually stunning images in the supremely limited environment, these images supported by a great, unsettling score that plays up the film's science-fiction elements.

Woman in the Dunes is, first and foremost, a simple and powerful indictment of systemic inequality, the premise involving a woman trapped in a hole, endlessly shoveling sand for the sake of the larger system a perfect encapsulation of what it's like to live at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder. No matter how hard she tries, she can't climb up the loose walls of sand. If she doesn't keep working, her house will be buried by it. When a man is added to the mix, the oppression of women also comes into play. The two live together in the dirt, clinging to one another out of desperation, and begin to believe that they belong where they are, their work providing them with a purpose. Their "superiors" give them just enough to survive, as well as opiates like alcohol and cigarettes to keep them complacent. They use them as a source of amusement as well as a source of income. Although the pair gains a further understanding of their environment that makes living bearable, escape is almost never possible. While it's certainly possible to read these developments as a commentary on the futility of human existence, it proves much more rewarding to view the film as a social satire instead; either way, it's an undeniable masterpiece.

Belle de Jour
Belle de Jour (1968)
10 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes
½

Though not as dreamlike as one might expect coming from someone like Buñuel, Belle de Jour is a deeply intelligent, deliberately bizarre look at sexual repression and class structures. Buñuel attributes Séverine's subconscious desires to her upbringing and the rigid social mores cultivated by religious institutions. Though she lives a relatively perfect, upperclass life, she wants something else sexually, something indicative of the ways in which society teaches men and women how to behave and how to perceive each other. Her life at the brothel is an independent entity that satisfies that need, her clients revealing quite a bit about what Buñuel is trying to say about what men and woman have been taught to want. Men want children or sex dolls or subservient slaves that they can abuse and control; Séverine wants to be abused. Buñuel doesn't single out these desires as natural so much as he makes clear that they are learned, decidedly unnatural. The decision to merge reality and her dreamworld is an intelligent one as well, and makes for one of the best portrayals of the almost precognitive nature of dreams I've ever seen.

Babette's Feast (Babettes Gæstebud)
10 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes
½

Babette's Feast focuses on a little town made up of devout Christians who believe in simplicity and regimens. Two sisters meet luxurious men, fall in love, but don't act on their feelings. A woman named Babette comes to town, living with them for many years before revealing herself to be a world-famous cook who makes them a meal as a gift. The town learns to overcome their petty squabbles after eating, for life is worth living and their troubles mean nothing in that context. This is a sweet, simple story and the film comes across as the same. The old ladies are adorable in their staid routines involving mushy bread and prayer, the scenery is beautiful, and the subtle commentary on absolution and balance is wise.

It's easy to see why Pope Francis is so taken by Babette's Feast given his propensity for mixing the old with the new (albeit certainly not perfectly). The film espouses this sentiment exactly, piousness never shamed and gluttony never condemned, because life isn't complete without either. I'm not at all religious, but this simple message resonated anyway.