All the Youthful Days

A scene from Hsiao-Hsien Hou’s THE BOYS FROM FENGKUEI (1983).

For many young people, the time period immediately after their high school graduation is a crucial phase in which their lives could take many different paths depending on the decisions they make. This is especially true for those who don’t go to college and either go to work, are drafted into the military or hang out with friends before adult responsibilities consume their lives. Falling into the latter category is 1983’s The Boys of Fengkuei (The original Taiwanese title Feng gui lai de ren roughly translates as All the Youthful Days), an evocative coming-of-age drama from internationally renowned director Hsiao-Hsien Hou.

Continue reading

The Runaway Nuclear Physicist

Often considered alongside Luis Bunuel as one of the most important and influential Spanish film directors of the 20th century, Luis Garcia Berlanga (1921-2010) and his work is still being discovered in the U.S. Bienvenido, Mister Marshall! (Welcome, Mr. Marshall, 1953), Berlanga’s post-WW2 satire of the European Recovery Plan aka the Marshall Plan, was the first of his films to receive wide distribution at art houses in America and went on to win the International Prize for Best Comedy Film at Cannes. Placido (1961), a black farce in which a homeless man is invited to a Christmas Eve dinner sponsored by a cookware corporation, was nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. And El Verdugo (The Executioner, 1963) might be his most famous triumph with Nino Manfredi as an undertaker who is pressured into taking over his father-in-law’s profession as an executioner. The Criterion Collection released a special edition of it on Blu-ray and DVD in 2016, which helped introduce Berlanga’s satiric masterwork to new audiences. Less well known today but praised by critics during its original release in 1956 is Calabuch aka The Rocket from Calabuch, a seemingly gentle but subversive satire about life in a rustic seaside village which is disrupted by the arrival of an amiable but mysterious stranger.

Continue reading