It’s a painful truth that so very many people watch films with the wrong muscle. Whether they’re looking strictly from a critical eye, are paralyzed by their own bias, or simply look to movies to numb themselves from reality, if you’re not allowing yourself to feel and to use the cinematic experience as a gateway into another portal of yourself and your soul—what’s the point? Whether you’re a devote, self-diagnosed cinephile or just a casual lover of the screen, there’s no doubt that seeing a film in a theater is a remarkable, shared necessity of that appreciation for the medium. However, sometimes there really is nothing better than curling up in your bed and unraveling the thrill of watching a new film that might just turn out to be your new favorite, or re-living the magic of a classic that’s come to haunt you in the best way possible.
And thanks to the Criterion Collection and Hulu, many of the most stunning films ever made are available for you online streaming to indulge in. But with an overflowing number of options available from the collection, I often find myself spending hours just trying to making a decision on what to watch, unsure just what will speak to my tender sensibility at that moment. So to make your nightly existential battle with yourself a little easier, I’ve rounded up some of the best films on Hulu this week, plus a little something to entice you with each film (click on the titles for more). Peruse our list, dim the lights, and enjoy.
"Surely cinema contains few statements of its own powers of psychological and social beneficence as affecting as this tortured man’s testimony. And Sabzian’s appeal to “art” is duly rewarded. The judge, a calm and generous presence throughout, asks the Ahankhahs to forgive their transgressor, and they grudgingly agree. Soon after, Sabzian emerges from prison and is met by Makhmalbaf. After he collapses in tears in his hero’s arms, the two board Makhmalbaf’s motorcycle and head off across Tehran. Though problems with Makhmalbaf’s mic prevent us from hearing most of what they say—the annoying sound glitches eventually give way to the lovely theme from The Traveler—Sabzian’s joy at embracing his idol is transparent. The two stop to buy flowers (closing the visual rhyme opened in the first scene) and then arrive at the Ahankhahs’ house, where the film ends with a breathtakingly beautiful epiphany. Each viewer will have to decide whether this ending is compromised by its wholesale contrivance. In reality, Kiarostami coaxed the judge into his verdict. The Ahankhahs were outraged; they wanted Sabzian to be convicted. Even Sabzian went to the judge later and complained, saying he felt sure Kiarostami had somehow tricked him! As for the moving departure from prison, it was staged, and Kiarostami shot from a distance purely for dramatic (or docudramatic) effect. And those “sound problems”? Most were created during postproduction to serve the final scene’s emotional punch."
"You wish that something might exist, and then you work on it until it does. You want to give something to the world, something truer, more beautiful, more painstaking, more serviceable, or simply something other than what already exists. And right at the start, simultaneous with the wish, you imagine what that “something other” might be like, or at least you see something flash by. And then you set off in the direction of the flash, and you hope you don’t lose your orientation, or forget or betray the wish you had at the beginning.
And in the end, you have a picture or pictures of something, you have music, or something that operates in some new way, or a story, or this quite extraordinary combination of all these things: a film. Only with a film—as opposed to paintings, novels, music, or inventions—you have to present an account of your desire; more, you even have to describe in advance the path you want to go with your film. No wonder, then, that so many films lose their first flash, their comet."
"What makes the treatment of memory in Sans Soleil so compelling, though, is that it is never merely the dry object of the essayist’s inquiry but the very impassioned dynamo of the film’s structure and unfolding. The film flits from one idea or visual association to another, and in it we can trace the habits of our own inner processes of recollection, which condense, displace, plunge us abruptly into forgotten recesses of our past. The fugitive allure of Sans Soleil’s images owes much to the feeling that they are something more than simply records of places and events in the world—they are things that have been cherished and remembered by somebody, because they have momentarily quickened the heart, like the list in The Pillow Book, a collection of writings by the tenth-century noblewoman Sei Shõnagon, that Krasna takes to his own heart while filming. Marker is alert to memory’s self-serving distortions, but even more so to our deep human need for memory as a form of protection, a shield that keeps at bay the losses imposed by time, forgetting, and forced obliteration, even as our emotional investment in a memory exists in a direct ratio to whatever absence brought it into being: “Memory is not the opposite of forgetting but its lining.”
My Night at Maud’s
"It is a common misconception that too much dialogue can sink a movie, which is in turn based on the equally common misconception that dialogue is always a forum for direct communication—the kind of dialogue easily found on television or in the majority of commercial films. In Rohmer’s cinema, talk is never just talk and is always a form of indirect action. For Jean-Louis, it is, or becomes, a means of endless postponement. And then there is the crucial matter of the actor who’s speaking the dialogue. There are some things that can be imparted to us easily, without contrivance, by means of narrative exposition. There are other things that cannot. And Rohmer’s knowledge of the difference between the two is one of the many rare qualities that make him such a great filmmaker. Casting is always important, but in Rohmer it is essential. Careful exposition allows us to see all the exterior traits of Jean-Louis—Catholic, intellectual, engineer, former womanizer, etc. But all the exposition in the world would not allow us to see his reticence, referred to in the dialogue long after we’ve noted it (consciously or not) in Trintignant’s comportment, his way of imparting himself one little bit at a time. Rohmer is not the only filmmaker who has mined this trait in Trintignant—it certainly served Bernardo Bertolucci in The Conformist, and it has also worked well for André Téchiné, Truffaut, and Krzysztof Kieslowski. But it is employed in those other films for its sinister edge under extreme melodramatic conditions, while in My Night at Maud’s it is the ordinary trait of a fairly common type of man seen under unremarkable everyday circumstances."
"The eroticism of this couple indeed announces a thematic reversal in Antonioni’s work that has continued up to the present, a shift away from viewing Eros as a kind of contemporary sickness and toward a less-reserved appreciation of it. The earlier position is powerfully illustrated in the previous two films—in the tryst of Sandro (Gabriele Ferzetti) with a prostitute near the end ofL’avventura and the brief encounter of Giovanni (Marcello Mastroianni) with a nymphomaniac near the beginning of La notte, among other places—and was stressed by Antonioni in a famous statement made at the Cannes premiere of L’avventura: Why do you think eroticism is so prevalent today in our literature, our theatrical shows, and elsewhere? It is a symptom of the emotional sickness of our time. But this preoccupation with the erotic would not become obsessive if Eros were healthy—that is, if it were kept within human proportions. But Eros is sick; man is uneasy, something is bothering him. And whenever something bothers him, man reacts, but he reacts badly, only on erotic impulse, and he is unhappy."
"Yes, this is a story about identity, but it is a very Japanese and peculiarly Kobo Abe–esque approach to the subject, where the identity sought is not only that of the individual in personal relationships but, at the same time, that of the group/family/village in opposition to the greater society. Japanese identity is layered in that way. It comes in concentric circles. Abe always examines the individual for comfort level in his society: Is his family or job oppressing him? Does he feel any connection with or loyalty to the group he claims to be part of? And the most important question pervading the writer’s work, whether it is in his other collaborations with Teshigahara, such as Pitfall (1962) or The Face of Another (1966), or in his stage plays, such as Friends: what kinds of bonds with the group does the individual find positive and meaningful as opposed to constricting and demeaning?"
"In maintaining sympathy for all his characters, Etaix pulls off a delicate balancing act: neither portraying Pierre as a scoundrel nor demonizing his wife, he shows how the humdrum irritations of daily life, and an unformed sense of regret at freedoms abandoned, lead Pierre to contemplate adultery, which has the potential to completely destroy his comfortable existence. As the third corner of the triangle, Calfan must be alluring and seemingly open to seduction, yet innocent enough not to seem a schemer. The character is in truth a little underwritten, but the effect is to give her added mystery. In a sense, she’s a blank onto which he’s projecting his fantasies; of all the film’s characters, she’s the one we see the least of in reality and the most of through the lens of Pierre’s fevered imaginings. Etaix’s camera doesn’t leer, but it does put the audience into the situation, and Calfan’s fresh beauty is enticing. Etaix’s gauche attempts at playing the seducer provoke sympathetic cringes rather than scorn, and it’s interesting to see a story where we’re not wishing for the hero to succeed."
"In this cool, seductive jewel of the Japanese New Wave, a yakuza, fresh out of prison, becomes entangled with a beautiful and enigmatic gambling addict; what at first seems a redemptive relationship ends up leading him further down the criminal path. Bewitchingly shot and edited, and laced with a fever-dream-like score by Toru Takemitsu, this gangster romance was a breakthrough for the idiosyncratic Masahiro Shinoda. The pitch-black Pale Flower (Kawaita hana) is an unforgettable excursion into the underworld. "
"Only one actress could embody such a complex heroine with credibility: Jeanne Moreau. A rising star in the mainstream cinema of the early 1950s, in which she played bitchy young minxes, Moreau underwent a fundamental transformation under the aegis of Malle in Elevator to the Gallows, where he made her wander the streets of Paris, dimly lit and without makeup. As he later put it, “Cameramen would have forced her to wear a lot of makeup, and they would put a lot of light on her because, supposedly, her face was not photogenic [. . .] They were horrified. But when Elevator was released, suddenly something of Jeanne Moreau’s essential qualities came out.” This rebirth is indeed self-consciously reiterated in Jeanne’s transformation in The Lovers, from artificial, frivolous creature to “existentially” sensual woman. Bernard tells her, “I love you because you are different.” From her huge close-up at the opening of Elevator to the Gallows, Moreau was at the center of a shift in the representation of female eroticism, from the body to the face (even the sex scene in The Lovers avoids showing her body). Her face connoted interiority, her full, slightly down-turned lips gave her a proud, independent allure. Moreau brought to the cinema a new type of glamour, less overtly sexy than Bardot, more cerebral—she was known offscreen as a cultured woman, in tune with the new art cinema. With Moreau, the “new woman” of the New Wave had arrived. The fact that her character Jeanne’s new identity is defined by the choice of another man, albeit a kinder and more bohemian one than her husband or former lover, would prove premonitory. As film historian Geneviève Sellier puts it in her book La nouvelle vague: “This deliberate confusion between liberation and amorous revelation is recurrent in the construction of female characters in the New Wave, which entails erasing the idea of social emancipation.” New Wave filmmaking was aesthetically innovative, but its depiction of women, while acknowledging huge changes in their lives, still defined them according to male myths of femininity in a predominantly masculine cinema. The Lovers is testimony to these tensions, and it remains, in other ways too, a captivating document of its time."
"The solitude, or rather isolation, that envelops so much of Polanski’s early cinema is seen again in Knife in the Water. He told The New York Times Magazine in 1971: “What I like is a realistic situation where things don’t quite fit in. I like to begin with a mood, an atmosphere. I begin to people the atmosphere with characters. When I thought of Knife in the Water, I thought, first of the north of Poland where I used to sail and of a theme that wouldn’t involve large numbers of characters.” In Knife in the Water, the Polish lake district appears utterly uninhabited. Not a single other human being even slips into the frame. So, despite the immense skies and vast stretches of water, the three characters remain trapped in a hermetic, Sartrean huis clos. "
"It’s no detriment to Mystery Train—and in fact makes a kind of theoretical sense—that Jarmusch had never been to Memphis before he came up with the idea for the movie. Many of his characters find themselves having to decipher an alien environment, and it’s telling that some of them rely on old frames of reference. (On balance, Jarmusch’s films suggest that travel sharpens the senses, but he’s also sensitive to Emerson’s contrarian assertion that it “narrows the mind.”) When one of the New Yorkers gets to Cleveland in Stranger Than Paradise, he grumbles, “You come to someplace new, and everything looks just the same.” Similarly, Jun insists that Memphis is just like Yokohama, but with 60 percent of the buildings removed. (Mitzuko, enthralled by how “antique” everything is, begs to differ.) One way to familiarize the foreign is to identify shared cultural referents. In Memphis and inMystery Train, that common denominator is obviously Elvis. But even so, all the characters have vastly different conceptions of the man and his myth. Johnny, who hates his nickname, bemoans the omnipresence of the Elvis brand. To Mitzuko, he’s the most American of icons. To Luisa, he’s simply a local curiosity, but the grief-stricken widow is also the only one in this ghost town blessed with an Elvis sighting. Culture, of course, can be as much a barrier as a bridge—with a typically transnational cast, there are the familiar language breakdowns of a Jarmusch film, and some other untranslatables (Johnny, a Brit, doesn’t get why Will, whose last name is Robinson, has to endure Lost in Space wisecracks)."
Jules and Jim
"Jean-Paul Sartre once wrote that the greatest art is about the passing of time. Jules and Jimflies by like a dream, suffused with a sense of life’s evanescence. As the characters grow older, and perhaps wiser, we become aware of how much has been lost—loss of love, loss of innocence, loss of the marvelously lamplit Bohemian past to the searchlight horror of Nazism. An intimate melancholy pervades the movie’s voice-over narration, which adores the characters’ brave inquiry into love’s possibilities but is also wryly aware of the relief that accompanies the end of such inquiries. As critic Andrew Sarris once wrote, Jules and Jim celebrates “the sweet pain of the impossible and the magnificent failure of an ideal.”
Truffaut was not yet thirty when he made this film, and decades later it’s still astonishing that one so young could be so open-hearted, so willing to give everyone’s motives and passions their due. But if Jules and Jim casts a mature eye on the limits of freedom (by the end, everything seems uncannily, but satisfyingly, preordained), it remains indelibly a young man’s movie. It’s a lyrical joyride propelled by leaping, elliptical edits, Georges Delerue’s sublimely evocative score (one of the most memorable in film history), and Raoul Coutard’s ecstatic photography, which helps underscore Truffaut’s visual ideas about the great circle of life. At one point, Coutard’s camera follows a young woman in a bar, does a 360-degree pan, and winds up watching Jules draw another girl’s face on the surface of a round table.
Almost every scene is shot through with such casual stylistic brilliance. Yet what audiences have always loved about this movie isn’t simply its technical brio but its emotional warmth, its embrace of a world in which tragedy is forever playing hopscotch with farce. Jules and Jim is a movie that enters viewers’ lives like a lover—a masterpiece you can really get a crush on."
Sing a Song of Sex
"Nagisa Oshima was a destructive force in Japanese cinema—and he wouldn’t have had it any other way. Intent on exploding taboos and jabbing the eye of the status quo, he created films that leave us with a richly skewed vision of Japan in the second half of the twentieth century. Socially, politically, and intellectually, Oshima’s forty-year career, beginning in 1959 and ending in 1999, was that of an outsider. A theorist and critic as much as a director, Oshima, writes scholar Maureen Turim, “saw film as an activist intervention.” Naturally, this iconoclast found it difficult to function within a studio system, and the titles gathered in this set hail from the period, in the midsixties, when he had just broken away from those strictures and started producing his films independently. With this new freedom, he was able to explore what would become his favorite subjects: sex, crime, death, desire, the failure of the political left, the power of the unconscious, and the place, or displacement, of the outlaw in society."
"Discussing this scene in an interview with critic Gerald Peary in 1977, Varda remarked that at this point Thérèse’s reaction should have been “Go to hell! I want to be alone with you,” but if Varda had such a thought in 1964, it’s not evident in the film. One of the remarkable aspects ofLe bonheur is that, regardless of how you, I, or Varda would act, or would like to think we would act, in a similar situation, there is no doubt that Thérèse’s response to her husband’s infidelity is the only response this character, in these circumstances, can have. Having defined her identityentirely in terms of the happiness she provides her husband, she hesitates only briefly before literally embracing a situation that is devastating to her. But while François sleeps contently after they’ve made love, she goes off and drowns in a nearby pond. Which is one way—unfortunately the most self-destructive—for Thérèse to tell François to go to hell. To be precise, since the drowning takes place offscreen, we never know whether Thérèse intentionally commits suicide or, wandering distraught, gathering flowers like Ophelia abandoned by Hamlet, accidentally slips and lets the water do the rest. In any event, her death intrudes on François’ self-involvement as little as her life. After a month or two of mourning, he marries Émilie. The nuclear family is restored. ‘Le bonheur’ continues."
Elevator to the Gallows
"The new wave doesn’t quite get born in Elevator to the Gallows, but it’s clearly in the late term here, more than ready to emerge. You can sense it in Decaë’s remarkably daring natural-light cinematography (which he would soon be putting to good use for Truffaut and Claude Chabrol as well); in the funky ebullience of young bit players like Jean-Claude Brialy and Charles Denner, both destined to become new wave luminaries; and, most of all, in the unleashing of Jeanne Moreau, who, nearing thirty, was a busy actress but never quite a star until Malle turned her loose in the nocturnal city and did justice, for the first time, to that amazing, imperious, gravelly sexy walk of hers—which would, over the next couple of decades, come to seem the defining movement of the new wave, the embodied rhythm of freedom. Malle later said of Elevator to the Gallows, “I showed a Paris not of the future but at least a modern city, a world already dehumanized,” a statement that, I think, serves as a useful description of the film itself: not of the future but at least modern. Some of that modernity is on the surface—in the “automated” paraphernalia of the office and the motel, in the glass-and-concrete boxiness of the Carala building, in the sleekness of Julien’s sports car and suit. What’s most deeply modern about the film, though, is an undertone of war weariness and general cynicism, which is most evident in the character of Julien, a veteran of France’s recent wars in Indochina and Algeria. Ronet, who doesn’t have much dialogue, is the very picture of postcolonial tristesse: all haunted eyes and uselessly correct bearing."
Through a Glass Darkly
"Out of the nothingness onscreen gradually materializes––next to nothing. Or rather everything, since the first image is of rippling water. We could be anywhere, but it so happens we’re floating above the Baltic Sea, on whose waves play dim reflections that fulfill the promised opacity of the title. Then a row of four bathers can be glimpsed at an enormous height––tiny dots that clamber from the wet onto a long, narrow pier leading to the shore of an island. For all we know at this point, they might be amphibians taking their initial, fumbling steps out of the primordial soup. Alternatively, they could be the survivors of a shipwreck or the last fauna alive after a nuclear holocaust. Bergman draws the horizon as an oppressive, leaden line that makes us uncertain whether we’re witnessing dawn or sunset, the beginning or the end. With the eternal white sky beating down and the stoniest of summer cottages for protection, the figures stand cruelly exposed. “Isn’t it rather chilly?” complains one of them, quite unnecessarily, because it’s alwayschilly in Bergman’s universe (spiritually, if not meteorologically). “If Hemingway can do it, so can we,” boasts another, with a singular lack of discernment. For so far as health, virility, courage, and general life force go, these people are the reverse of Hemmingwayesque. They belong to a decadent ace that wandered through much of European art cinema in the early 1960s, recognizable by its effeteness and self-absorption, its chronic inabilityto communitcate or love. Bergman’s specimens have been marooned on that rugged island with therapeutic intent. As in an emotional crucible, the characters’ suppressed resentments will bubble up, the mutual accusations multiply, until every polished illusion falls away and reality cracks open."
"Call it Orpheus meets An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge—or an episode of The Twilight Zonedirected by Ed Wood and Antonioni. After surviving an accident in which she and two girlfriends drove off a bridge into a river, Mary leaves to pursue her career as an organist in another town. Before the accident, nothing about her suggested that she was emotionally cold, had girlfriends (reckless or not), or even that she played the organ. But after the accident, she plays a church organ without religious conviction and dates without desire; she has no libido and is accused of having no “soul.” She feels cut off and doesn’t know why. And to find out the reason is to be destroyed: to synchronize with and, quite literally, meet her fate. In several of the movie’s best sequences, Mary’s relation with reality shifts or slips, and no one can see or hear her. She’s as out of place in this world as if she were dead—until she touches a magic tree and hears its magic bird (who must have sung as well to David Lynch). In this altered state, the reality she sees is ours. It doesn’t include her."
"As Finnegans Wake was for Joyce, F for Fake was for Welles a playful repository of public history intertwined with private in-jokes as well as duplicitous meanings, an elaborate blend of sense and nonsense that carries us along regardless of what’s actually being said. For someone whose public and private identities became so separate that they wound up operating routinely in separate households and sometimes on separate continents, exposure and concealment sometimes figured as reverse sides of the same coin, and Welles’s desire to hide inside his own text here becomes a special kind of narcissism. When Welles made his never-released nine-minute F for Fake trailer three years later, he even avoided having his name spoken or seen (“Modesty forbids”)—except for when Gary Graver, his cinematographer and partial stand-in as host, prompts him with, “Ten seconds more, Orson.” For a filmmaker who studiously avoided repeating himself and sought always to remain a few steps ahead of his audience’s expectations, thereby rejecting any obvious ways of commodifying his status as an auteur, Welles arguably found a way in F for Fake to contextualize large portions of his career while undermining many cherished beliefs about authorship and the means by which “experts,” “God’s own gift to the fakers,” validate such notions. "
Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters
"Paul Schrader’s beautiful, complex, and at times even thrilling film Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters is intent on exploring that arduous path to self-transformation: it is a work of art about a man who tried to become a work of art. In his lifetime, Mishima was the only modern Japanese author to enjoy a significant reputation in the West, and it was not with any idea of belittling his literary accomplishments that Schrader (who considers Mishima a great novelist) explained to interviewers that he was less engaged with any of Mishima’s conventional fictions than with the sustained fiction that was “Yukio Mishima.”
For if Mishima had not existed, Schrader might have been obliged to invent him. In the early years of his career as a screenwriter and director, the typical Schrader hero—think of Travis Bickle hardening his spare, scarred body with weights and flames in Taxi Driver, or Julian Kay diligently learning foreign languages as he works out in American Gigolo—was obsessed with preparing himself for some unusual mission or some fatal role. He was an ascetic, cut off from experiencing true pleasure even when his profession, like Kay’s, was to deliver it; a loner, incapable of compromising his essential solitude; a kind of perverse or lethal artist. In short, an existential outsider. (The young Schrader read a great deal of Sartre.) Mishima is very much like these fictional creations, save that he is also a genuine artist."
‘Nothing is “unimportant” in Ozu’s view. The story is not meant to stand as an “exceptional” dramatic incident, but rather as part of the context of the ebb and flow of life. “Unimportant” people and actions are part of this ebb and flow. In fact, so are the places and inanimate objects surrounding them. And so we are treated to lovingly photographed shots of banners blowing in the wind, gardens dripping with rain, empty small town streets. They punctuate the action, signaling the beginnings and ends of scenes. But they are also there to be seen for themselves in a manner that can only be called poetic. As critic James Stoller has said, “If, to arrive at poetry in our time, we must sometimes go a long way, Ozu took us the longest way of all: back into the arms of a world we thought we had abandoned.” This abandoned world is nothing less than the one we inhabited as children—when each sight and sound was seen and appreciated by us as new. Ozu in Floating Weeds tells us a story, but at the same time he brings it to us through a child’s eyes. We cannot ask more of a film artist."
The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant
"Many have likened love to an illness, a sickness in which recovery is never fully granted. But there are myriad ways to love, and the form each love takes is distinct. When love is mutual, expressive, and symbiotic, there’s a grace and beauty in the joining of two souls. But when one loves alone, when one desires with no reward, the pain can be exhausting enough to kill. That feeling that coincides with unrequired love—as if someone has removed your insides and spit them back out at you—burns deep, stemming from nothing more than the fact that, no matter the effort, those affections will never be returned. But there’s a fine line between the grandeur of love and an obsessive desire to possess.
But that kind of love is an addiction. One clings to the desired one’s words, every gesture holding the weight of one’s happiness. You can process that perhaps this isn’t love at all; perhaps it is simply the desire to possess another soul. You can rationalize it to yourself, but to be in love or to be consumed by the need for another means existing without the luxury of rational thought. Love does take courage and strength, however, and if one is only willing to possess, that is a form of cowardice. If one is unable to open and free herself into the arms of another without expecting reciprocation of obsessive emotion, than person will remain alone. And here, Petra is hindered by her unconscious adherence to patriarchal confines and societal norms, never allowing herself to truly connect with the woman she loves. Yes, this person, who so shamelessly flaunts her heartbreak and flounces around like an open would, is much more guarded than she wants to believe. It is as if her theatrics are her mask, when usually we make ourselves stoic in order to conceal from the world the inner melodrama that plagues us."
"Built on such an unstable social/political/psychological ground, Symbiopsychotaxiplasm Take One invites endless speculation both from the audience and from everyone on the screen. Increasingly restive, the crew decide to film themselves criticizing Greaves and his film, wondering all the while if the director has manipulated them into becoming his antagonist. They give him the footage they’ve shot of themselves, and, whether or not he instigated their acting out for the camera, it makes its way into the finished film. To add to the confusion, Patricia Ree Gilbert and Don Fellows, the actors who play Alice and Freddie, are sometimes replaced by other actors, among them the then unknown Susan Anspach, who carries a parasol and sings Alice’s lines as if she were Catherine Deneuve in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. If the production process sounds like a recipe for chaos, Symbiopsychotaxiplasm Take One is anything but. Thanks to Greaves’s lively, innovative editing (involving some of the most surprising contrapuntal double and triple split-screen images in the history of movies), the film has the polyrhythmic elegance of its Miles Davis score. More than mere background music, the score is the abstract model for the film’s improvisations on a theme and also an expressive element in its own right."
"And in the years since, it has only become increasingly obvious that time has been kind to Harold Lloyd. Thanks to the preservationist efforts of a dedicated few, “Safety Last!” still looks as though it could have been shot yesterday (perhaps on an iPhone with that great 8mm app). However, the film’s contemporary feeling isn’t rooted in its immaculate presentation so much as it is Lloyd’s undaunted visual economy (i.e. the bit where The Boy watches the food he can afford fade away piece by piece) and the haplessly human nature of the Glass character, itself. It’s not a simple dichotomy of laughing at him vs. laughing with him, but rather that the laughs he inspires (of both varieties) are never in service to themselves. He’s just trying to get through it all, to keep pace with expectations. The only instance in “Safety Last!” in which a joke is made for its own sake occurs when The Boy mistakes a police officer for his old friend and knocks him over as a gag, a sequence which effectively serves as the origin story for the film’s antagonist. Whoops. The film’s anachronistic feeling of modernity is even further reinforced by recent comedies. Thanks to “Meet the Parents” and an entire genre of contemporary comedies that are dependent upon the earnest foibles and well-intentioned deceits of quietly handsome everymen – watching “Safety Last!” re-focuses our attention on the movies of the present. While Harold Lloyd may never be the defining face of his time, he was never really of his time in the first place."