Magic Lantern Podcast

The Magic Lantern: Episode 101 – Shoplifters

Shoplifters (Kore-eda, 2018) was a revelatory filmgoing experience. So much so that as we were walking out of the theatre, I proclaimed that I would cover it in an episode as quickly as possible. I can’t think of another film in recent memory that I knew immediately was my new favorite as I was watching it. It has been recognized and acclaimed by many critical bodies around the world, and went on to become very financially successful in Japan. I think you’ll get a sense of why we are so attracted to this work of such great intelligence, depth of emotion, and sensitivity.

This film was also my introduction to the work of writer and director Hirokazu Kore-eda, as well as to the stellar cast. And though I found the second viewing to be just as emotionally difficult as the first, it’s a film that encourages multiple viewings. Each moment builds upon the last, and the way information is gathered or given to each character, and understood by them at any moment is key. There is also something new to be gleaned from subsequent viewings. I discovered so much visually that hadn’t occurred to me the first and second times just by advancing frames in certain scenes, and of course, by insights from Cole during our discussion.

What you’ll find in this episode: how the cinematographer contributed to the visual metaphor of compartmentalization, true stories that inspired this film story, and how Kore-eda works with child actors.

– Ericca

Links and Recommendations:
Check out Shoplifters on IMDB.
Ericca’s further viewing pick of Birds of Passage.
Cole’s further viewing pick of Bicycle Thieves.
One of the pension fraud stories that inspired the film.
More the 230000 Japanese centenarians are ‘missing’.

The Magic Lantern: Episode 100, Part Two – Listener Questions

Ok, grab yourself some treats from the concession stand and then we will get on to part two! If you just want to listen to us talk about Paris, Texas, please go back to Episode 100, Part One. If you would like to hear us answer listener questions, press on!

We wanted to make episode 100 all about the listeners that have been so great to us for the last three and a half years. So, not only did we ask them to choose the film they most wanted to hear about, we also collected all of the questions that they had about us and the show. As usual, they did not disappoint. These listener questions run the gamut. We get into everything from childhood inspirations to adult pastimes. It’s everything you wanted to know about the Lantern and maybe then some. Thanks to everyone that contributed such wonderful questions! We had a great time answering them!

What you’ll find in this episode: who is on our cinematic Mount Rushmore, our process for creating an episode, from viewing through posting, what film courses we would teach, and a lot of other surprises!

– Cole

Links and Recommendations:
If you would like to support the show, please check out our Patreon.
You can tweet at us here.
Come join our Facebook group.
Check out our network, The Twenty-Fifth Frame, for a lot of other great shows!

The Magic Lantern: Episode 100, Part One – Paris, Texas

Paris, Texas (Wenders, 1984) is our first ever crowdsourced episode choice, and we’re so grateful to you, our listeners, for sticking with us for 100 episodes, and for choosing something so wonderful to discuss and celebrate!

Wim Wenders originally envisioned this as more of a cross-country film, but Sam Shepard had a different idea. He encouraged Wenders to stick mainly to Texas for the setting, as he thought the whole of America could be found there and, by extension, in this film. And we happen to agree with him. It’s a road movie, it’s a movie about families, it’s a movie about fathers and sons, husbands and wives, and brothers. Whether you’ve traveled any of that terrain yourself—physical, emotional, or metaphorical—there’s always something new to be found in the performances, in Sam Shepard and L.M. Kit Carson’s script, in Wim Wenders’ direction and Robby Müller’s capturing of light and color.

Is there a character you identify most closely with? Travis, Walt, Jane, Anne, or Hunter? What might keep you from speaking? Where does this film fall on the spectrum of your favorite Wenders films?

This episode is also special in that it’s a two-parter. Episode 100, Part Two is our version of an Ask Me Anything. We took questions from our listeners, and had a wonderful time answering them. Thank you for this journey to 100 episodes, and we hope you’ll stick with us for the next 100!

What you’ll find in this episode: an exploration of Robby Müller’s reds and greens, Allison Anders’ story of catatonia, and a discussion of where we think everyone goes after the ending.

– Ericca

Links and Recommendations:
Check out Paris, Texas on IMDB.
Ericca’s further viewing pick of Mud.
Cole’s further viewing pick of David Holzman’s Diary.
Blind Willie Johnson, an inspiration for the score.
Robin Holland’s photos on the film set.

The Magic Lantern: Episode 099 – The Duke of Burgundy

The Duke of Burgundy (Strickland, 2014) is a prime example of a film that you come to for one reason and love for another. I was drawn in by the lure of the sexploitation throwback and pleasantly surprised to find it was so much more than that. I found a complex, intimate relationship drama that knew its way around a corset. Within that, I also found a film that treated kink with respect. It’s surprising, and often disappointing, how seldom that is the case. Erotic films are often a dodgy proposition, maybe even more subjective than comedy. Sex is such an undeniably powerful component in so many of our lives. Sometimes it’s an epiphany, sometimes completely bewildering, sometimes even boring. No one film is ever going to be all things to all people, but some don’t even try. We should celebrate those that are this ambitious, revealing, and beautifully rendered.

We should also celebrate those that find the universality under the more exotic sexual trappings. Simply put, The Duke of Burgundy is a love story. It addresses the most common questions of shifting power in a relationship. Don’t let the bondage fool you. The most complicated restraints are seldom visible to the eye. Insecurities can keep even the most dominant of doms off balance and dissatisfied. Living a life of subservience, even one that you have carefully scripted for yourself, may not be enough. Strickland builds a place here away from the world that lets us immerse ourselves. Don’t be afraid to explore and ask questions. Don’t be afraid to indulge.

What you’ll find in this episode: butterflies, bondage, baking, and what to do when your significant other polishes someone else’s shiny boots of leather.

– Cole

Links and Recommendations:
Check out The Duke of Burgundy on IMDB.
Ericca’s further viewing pick of The Lover.
Cole’s further viewing pick of The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant.
Six films that inspired Peter Strickland to make The Duke of Burgundy.
A look at BDSM, personality, and mental health.
Plan your trip to The Museum of Sex!

The Magic Lantern: Episode 098 – Andrei Rublev

This is a very special episode for us. For the first time, we are discussing a film that is a patron’s choice! Ian Buckley is our first Patreon supporter to pledge at our top tier. As a result, it was his prerogative to program an entire episode of The Magic Lantern. He chose what we would discuss and his viewing recommendation is included with ours and, I must say, he was not fooling around. He selected Andrei Rublev (Tarkovsky, 1966).

This marks our first foray into Russian cinema for the podcast and we couldn’t have chosen a better film ourselves to christen that part of the world. Andrei Rublev is arguably the greatest arthouse film ever made. This was both an intimidating and thrilling film to take on. It has the immense historical sweep of an epic, but simultaneously deals with the most eternal and perplexing questions about the interior life of the artist. 15th century Russia was not exactly a cakewalk. I can’t imagine trying to balance a subsistence existence with such lofty philosophical aspirations. Faith and artistic ability don’t keep the wolves or Tatars from the door. How does the artist survive, much less thrive? How does the penitent monk best serve his fellow man? Can you rekindle the passion for creating once you’ve lost it? We do our best to tackle all these questions and considerably more in this episode. Thanks again to Ian for giving us this opportunity to take up such a challenge.

What you’ll find in this episode: lofty pursuits, lowly peasants, crises of faith, political treachery, patrons and patronage, and the secret of casting a bell.

– Cole

Links and Recommendations:
Check out Andrei Rublev on IMDB.
Ian’s further viewing pick of The Passion of Joan of Arc.
Ericca’s further viewing pick of Solaris.
Cole’s further viewing pick of The Mill and the Cross.
A gallery of fifty-eight of Rublev’s artworks.
A brief overview of life in 15th century Russia.

The Magic Lantern: Episode 097 – Antonia’s Line

I purchased Antonia’s Line (Gorris, 1995) sight unseen from a bin at my local Blockbuster Video soon after it came out. My friends and I sat down to watch it, and were rewarded with a delightful experience. This film is full of joy, even though the joy comes from small pleasures rather than a larger feel-good view of life. I had been thinking about it for a long time, and wondered if it would still hold the same joy for me now. I think it does, and as with many works that chronicle the passage of time, my viewing of it benefits from my experience and living. Gorris is able to capture time in a unique way, fully capturing the sense that sometimes it speeds up and sometimes it slows down. Gorris characterized the film as a “celebration of life”, but has not shied away from incorporating cruel details and events. Some of these key events are told to us rather than shown to us, which illustrates to me that it is often their aftermath that has the most impact. Through it all, Antonia and her extended community of interesting women and men weather the years, often thriving, each in their own optimistic and pragmatic way.

What you’ll find in this episode: whether the male characters have balanced portrayals, whether negative critical assessments of the film are fair, and how we felt about the score.

– Ericca

Links and Recommendations:
Check out Antonia’s Line on IMDB.
Ericca’s further viewing pick of Wonder Woman.
Cole’s further viewing pick of The World According to Garp.
Why Are People from the Netherlands Called Dutch?
An interview with makeup artist Jan Sewell.

The Magic Lantern: Episode 096 – Thunder Road

It’s something that I always remind myself of anytime I begin to lament the state of the artistic landscape – there’s always someone out there, hustling, making sacrifices, trying to make that next great film. If I am not aware of it, that’s on me. I am not working hard enough to find it. Thunder Road (Cummings, 2018) was the latest discovery to remind me to keep after it, to keep chasing that feeling that I’ve been after since I was a kid, ordering records out of the back of fanzines.

Using his excellent short of the same name as a springboard, Jim Cummings vaults into a tragicomic character sketch unlike anything I have seen in a long time. It is on a wavelength all its own. Seldom has a downward spiral been so funny. Seldom has a comic masterclass been so heart-rending. If you find yourself occasionally despairing over the state of indie film, take heart. There are always folks out there doing good work. We just have to keep our ears to the ground. With any luck, Jim Cummings will be providing his fair share of those discoveries for years to come.

What you’ll find in this episode: the benefits and drawbacks of trailers and the expectations they set up, short fuses, long takes, and dancing at funerals.

– Cole

Links and Recommendations:
Check out Thunder Road on IMDB.
Ericca’s further viewing pick of Bottle Rocket.
Cole’s further viewing pick of The Foot Fist Way.
Jim Cummings’ original short, Thunder Road.
A great article from Jim Cummings about how to get your indie film made.

The Magic Lantern: Episode 095 – Happy-Go-Lucky

Happy-Go-Lucky (Leigh, 2008) may be a bit of a litmus test. Do you fully embrace the character of Poppy and her sensibilities. Do you gradually warm to her, or does she make you want to run for the hills? Luckily for me, because he knows me, Cole told me in advance that nothing truly terrible was going to happen to Poppy. So, going in, I could relax and find myself falling into her rhythm, and think about how she has built her world, developed and nurtured her friendships, and made her way through life in exactly the manner she intends. Above all things, she is a listener, and so I think it best to give her the same due she gives to everyone around her. Whether this is your first or tenth viewing, I hope Poppy is a beacon of gentle hope that affirms how a positive approach and outlook can be fulfilling. Not that she’s a fool. I think that’s the best part of how the character was created (credit Mike Leigh’s amazing process and how Sally Hawkins was obviously made for this role). Even when challenged with the personification of ignorant and uncontrolled rage in the form of her driving instructor Scott, played by Eddie Marsan, Poppy manages gracefully to continue to listen, and to try to help. Because, as she says, there’s no harm in trying.

What you’ll find in this episode: how this film marks a visual and technical departure for Mike Leigh, whether some critical assessments of the film are founded or unfounded, and the rare pleasure of being around someone like Poppy.

– Ericca

Links and Recommendations:
Check out Happy-Go-Lucky on IMDB.
Ericca’s further viewing pick of About a Boy.
Cole’s further viewing pick of Bleak Moments.
A cringe-worthy interview with Mike Leigh about the film.
Mike Leigh visits the Criterion Closet.

The Magic Lantern: Episode 094 – Ants In Your Pants of 2018

It’s our fourth annual Ants In Your Pants episode, as we close out 2018! As always, our lists were culled with much difficulty from all the wonderful films we saw this year, and we only talk about those we saw for the first time which made the biggest impressions on each of us. We try to go around the world, and cover many different decades. We have some classics and some little-seen gems that we hope you check out. Thank you for listening to us throughout 2018 and we can’t wait to get started on the 2019 list!

Our shared favorite:
The Executioner (Berlanga, 1963)

Cole’s favorites:
Lake of the Dead (Bergstrøm, 1958)
Very Nice, Very Nice (Lipsett, 1961)
A Man Vanishes (Imamura, 1967)
The Hospital (Hiller, 1971)
Manila in the Claws of Light (Brocka, 1975)
You Got to Move (Phenix, Selver, 1985)
A City of Sadness (Hou, 1989)
Madame Tutli-Putli (Lavis, Szczerbowski, 2007)
Two Years at Sea (Rivers, 2011)

Ericca’s favorites:
The Passion of Joan of Arc (Dreyer, 1928)
The Brotherhood of Satan (McEveety, 1971)
The Fabulous Baron Munchausen (Zeman, 1962)
The Man in the Raincoat (Duvivier, 1957)
My Life as a Zucchini (Barras, 2016)
Cries and Whispers (Bergman, 1972)
Life is Sweet (Leigh, 1990)
Smiles of a Summer Night (Bergman, 1955)
True Stories (Byrne, 1986)

What you’ll find in this episode: our regrets, our honorable mentions, and our thanks to you, the listener.

– Cole and Ericca

Austin Film Society
The Criterion Collection
The National Film Board of Canada

The Magic Lantern: Episode 093 – Female Trouble

Female Trouble (Waters, 1974) is probably not for everyone, but I wish it was. The world would be a lot more fun if everyone could embrace their inner Divine. This towering achievement of trash cinema is my favorite of all of John Waters’ work. I think it’s the smartest, definitely the funniest, and, surprisingly, the sweetest underneath. Through sheer force of will, Waters created a universe where people on the margins could be powerful and celebrated and everyone else deservedly got taken down a peg or two. I wouldn’t blame you if you missed that the first time around, though. It can be hard to concentrate on anything else as Divine rips through this thing like a fabulous tornado – picking pockets, mugging people, breaking and entering, robbing, assaulting, and finally graduating to murder, all in pursuit of becoming the ultimate personification of the unity of beauty and crime. It truly is something to behold. And let’s not forget my favorite, Mink Stole, throwing spaghetti, dousing herself with fake blood while playing car accident, and hurling insults with incomparable élan. Oh, and did we mention it’s a Christmas film? Have some eggnog, get yourself a double egg salad on white toast, and knock the tree over on you mom. A finer yuletide tradition I can’t imagine!

What you’ll find in this episode: crime, beauty, the Balmer accent, cha-cha heels, and which sandwich is the funniest sandwich.

– Cole

Links and Recommendations:
Check out Female Trouble on IMDB.
Ericca’s further viewing pick of Carol.
Cole’s further viewing pick of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.
If you’re going to strut down the street, you must play Dig by Nervous Norvus!
Let John Waters be your guide to Baltimore.