18 years later, Breaking the Waves might still be the grand accomplishment of Lars Von Trier's lifelong ambition to make his viewers feel terrible. Only, when I say it like that, it sounds like a bad thing. Von Trier, the consummate provocateur, is - whatever you may think of his movies - one of the most talented directors working anywhere in the world today. Breaking the Waves was the film that took him from something of an arthouse cult superstar to something very like a household name. Their shattering performances likewise raised the profile of stars Emily Watson and Stellan Skarsgard.
If you've liked the documentaries of Frederick Wiseman (whose recent At Berkeley and National Gallery seem to suddenly have netted him a new generation of fans), Les Blank seems like a natural next step. Simple, honest, life-affirming documentaries on occasionally surprising subjects. You'll like 'em.
Modern minds are boggled by the fact that the Monkees sold more records in 1967 than the Beatles and the Rolling Stones combined. Which makes Harold Lloyd a sort of curious genremate of theirs, having been more popular with contemporary audiences than either Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin. But before we judge historical audiences too harshly, remember that Kevin James' Zookeeper made about twice as much money as There Will Be Blood.
But, I digress. Lloyd's Safety Last! may not equal the artistic pinnacles of either Keaton or Chaplin, but it is a tremendous entertainment, and the climactic stunt of Lloyd climbing straight up the side of a skyscraper (including, as he hangs from the hands of the big clock high above a crowd of onlookers, one of the most famous images in the history of movies (many more people know the image than know Lloyd's name)) is definitely Keaton-worthy. Thanks to Criterion Collection for giving their special loving treatment to this lesser known classic.