Author: Eric Shoag

October 2, 2015 / / Main Slate Archive

Some motion pictures create a compelling alien world so convincingly that their auras linger long after the viewing of them. Rene Laloux’s Franco-Czech production FANTASTIC PLANET (1973) is one of those special films, wonderfully and hypnotically so. Its sounds and images burrow their way quietly into our subconscious, remaining forever entwined with the multitude of dream objects, memories, fears, and fantasies that compose our vast mental landscape.    

July 28, 2015 / / Main Slate Archive


If one takes pleasure in the delectable delights of language, silence, music, design, photography, and the way all these elements are put together to create that wonderful art known as the motion picture, then a case can be made for TROUBLE IN PARADISE (1932) being the pinnacle of the form. Add the thrills of sophisticated subversion and perfect chemistry among the performers, and there can be no doubt that Ernst Lubitsch’s sparkling concoction is that rarest of achievements: a masterpiece that still feels modern and continues to entertain and inspire audiences more than eighty years after its creation, despite being pulled from circulation once Hollywood’s self-imposed code of censorship kicked in, in the mid-1930s, and not seen again until the late sixties.

June 25, 2015 / / Main Slate Archive


From a certain angle Jacques Tati’s PLAYTIME (1967) appears a dinosaur; an anachronism, an entity so improbable that it simply should never be able to exist today. A big-budget movie (the most expensive ever made in France at the time), it has almost no dialogue, minimal music, and no real plot to speak of. Appearing at a moment when the film world was exploding with new sounds and sensations, it is essentially a subtle silent film, made by an artist supremely confident in that realm, yet one whose first movie was made 20 years after the advent of sound. It was shot in 70mm, a big-screen movie wherein nothing big happens at all, but rather hundreds of little things. The stories surrounding it are legendary: it took almost a decade to complete; Tati had his own mini-city built on the outskirts of Paris which he bankrolled mostly out of his own pocket; the film’s commercial failure threw him deep into debt. And yet his gorgeous, gleaming monument stands; a stunning, singular achievement in the history of the cinema. Perhaps the key to tuning in to PLAYTIME’s unique wavelength begins with an understanding of its audacious author, himself a kind of living relic from a bygone age.