These links caught my attention today, for one reason or another.

Check back later. I may add more look-worthy links as the day goes on.

Last night, thanks to the new Criterion blu-ray release, I finally got around to watching Ivan’s Childhood, the first feature film by master filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky.

I’ve seen Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev, Zerkalo (The Mirror), Solaris, and The Sacrifice enough times to count them among my favorite films, but have never managed to sit down and experience the war story that got the world’s attention.

No surprise here — it’s a strange, dream-like experience full of mystery, beauty, and horror. I suspect that it influenced Steven Spielberg in the making of Empire of the Sun. Now that I’ve seen it, I look forward to reading more about it. Today, I started by reading Darren Hughes’ decade-old responses to it.


I also caught a 2009 film called La Pivellina (Little Girl).

It recently showed up on Netflix, and some of my favorite film critics have been writing about it. And, well… wow. For many years, I’ve described Ponette as the most impressive film starring a toddler that I’ve ever seen. La Pivellina now rates a close second.

With documentary realism, filmmakers Tizza Covi and Rainer Frimmel bring us into a convincing and heartbreaking experience as a family of penny-pinching Italian circus performers discover an abandoned two-year-old and struggle with indecision. Should they give this child a family, and run the risk of getting into trouble with the police? Should they seek out the mother? Should they go directly to the police?

The most substantial and rewarding piece I’ve seen was posted at Filmwell, the blog overseen by myself and Michael Leary. It was written by Mike Hertenstein, who ran the remarkable Flickerings film festival at the Cornerstone festival until Cornerstone recently folded up its tents.

Hertenstein sais, “… [Y]ou have never seen a child this small so unselfconsciously involved in the action of a film — documentary or otherwise.” He’s right.

Then he adds,

The film, on the other hand, is definitely for grown-ups. As in [their earlier film] Babooska, the filmmakers avoid spoon-feeding plot points, meanings and sentiment. They’re stingy with back-story and exposition, embedding the action in an network of relations-and-action-in-progress.

In La Pivellina, the primary fictional element seems to be the creation of a scenario whereby the little girl is injected into this community.  After that, the child’s interactions with the traveling circus amount to a group improvisational exercise (which includes the cast and the crew). Like any improv performance it’s a high-wire act — stretched between documentary and drama — which holds us breathless at the edge of our seats.

It’s on Netflix Instant. Don’t miss it.

Steven Greydanus’s look back at his favorite films of 2012 has a follow-up post that includes several other lists he finds “notable.” (I’m grateful that he’s noticed mine!)

Steven is also thinking about the religious visions of Anna Karenina and Les Miserables. He argues, “Les Mis may be more explicitly religious, but Anna Karenina is perhaps more challengingly so.”

“What happens after the world ends? What does the post-apocalypse look like?” Joel Avery has a substantial contribution to criticism of Lars von Trier’s Melancholia: “Melancholia and the Apocalypse of God.” He might even have persuaded me to give the film another try.

Linday Marshall at Wheatstone Ministries is writing about The Auralia Thread, a four-book fantasy series by some guy who thinks he can write film reviews and novels in the same lifetime.