Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary
Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary

Highlight clips from Criteria: The Catholic Film Podcast

These engaging and informative clips on our YouTube channel, taken from longer episodes, provide a wonderful introduction to Catholic Culture’s podcasting program:

Discerning when cinema becomes pornographic [14:47] (05/07/2021)
When does depiction of sexuality in a movie become pornographic? Does the director's intent (artistic vs. salacious) matter? Conventional wisdom would say so, yet the Catechism does not mention intent in its definition of pornography, which it says "consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties". It seems, then, that certain things may never be displayed, even for an artistic or moralizing purpose. On the other hand, the Catechism's definition does not exhaust all the varieties of sexual immorality found in media, because it would not include mere nudity in a film, even if the nudity were clearly intended to provoke lust. Dekalog: Six, included on the Vatican's 1995 list of important films, includes scenes that, though not entirely explicit, call for discernment from a Catholic viewer. It is clear that, whether strictly pornographic or not, certain aspects of the film cross the moral line, and also clear that the Vatican did not intend to endorse these depictions in including the Dekalog series as a whole on its list. Clip from Criteria: The Catholic Film Podcast, episode A Short Film About Love—Dekalog: Six (1988).

Without fatherhood, motherhood lacks proper boundaries [8:53] (07/29/2021)
In Kieslowski's film Dekalog: Seven, a grandmother and a mother battle for custody of a child while the father and grandfather stand by, doing nothing to stop things from spiraling out of control. One possible reading of the film is that motherhood requires fatherhood to set its proper boundaries so that it does not turn in on itself and become a devouring thing. But the film, inspired by the seventh commandment "Thou shalt not steal", is also about a young woman having her motherhood "stolen" from her, raising the question: in what other ways does society rob women of motherhood? Clip from Criteria: The Catholic Film Podcast, episode Theft of Motherhood—Dekalog: Seven (1988).

Andrei Rublev: the whole of a life in a fragment [10:39] (03/16/2021)
The film Andrei Rublev, about Russia's greatest icon painter, consists of narrative fragments whose unity only becomes clear at the end of the film. In this, the film reflects life itself, whose full meaning does not reveal itself except in its consummation. Clip from Criteria: The Catholic Film Podcast, episode Sanctification of an Icon Painter: Andrei Rublev (1966).

What the movie Calvary gets right about priesthood [13:11] (04/23/2021)
Fr. James Searby talks about the portrayal of the priesthood in the movie Calvary, and his experience showing it to students in a film class at a secular university. Clip from Criteria: The Catholic Film Podcast, episode Crucifixion of a Parish Priest: Calvary (2014).

Great art transcends the corruption of its patrons [8:43] (03/16/2021)
The film Andrei Rublev shows that art and artists can transcend the impure motives of their patrons, because the true commissioner of the work is God. History bears this out too, as in the Renaissance, when many of the Church's great treasures of sacred art were commissioned by very worldly popes, who may have been as interested in bolstering their own worldly reputation as in giving glory to God. The film also depicts the artist's struggle against his own impurity, especially in the forms of vanity and envy. Clip from Criteria: The Catholic Film Podcast, episode Sanctification of an Icon Painter: Andrei Rublev (1966).

Tarkovsky: a cinema not Soviet but Russian [9:08] (03/16/2021)
Discussing one of the great masterpieces of spiritual cinema, Andrei Rublev, filmmaker Nathan Douglas takes a moment to place its director, Andrei Tarkovsky, in the overall context of Russian cinematic history. One major contribution of Russian cinema was "montage theory", the idea that films create meaning not by spelling everything out but by juxtaposing images in such a way that the viewer generates the meaning of the film in his own mind. This technique was often connected with the spread of Soviet ideology, but Tarkovsky went deeper further back in history to discover something about the Russian spirit, telling the story of Russia's greatest icon painter in a series of seemingly disconnected vignettes whose unity only becomes clear at the conclusion of the film. Clip from Criteria: The Catholic Film Podcast, episode Sanctification of an Icon Painter: Andrei Rublev (1966).

Good priests suffer from the sins of evil ones [3:06] (04/23/2021)
While discussing a scene from the 2014 film Calvary, Fr. James Searby recounts something similar that happened to him when he was a seminarian. Clip from Criteria: The Catholic Film Podcast, episode Crucifixion of a Parish Priest: Calvary (2014).

Expose your kids to art above their level [2:45] (02/17/2021)
As a child, James was bored and baffled by the movies he saw his father watching. Yet he knew that there must be something in them that his father could see and he could not. Thus began his fascination with the art of cinema. Clip from Criteria: The Catholic Film Podcast, episode Wild Courtesy: Dersu Uzala (1975).

Cinema in communist Poland vs. the cinema of the free market [10:28] (01/17/2021)
Filmmakers in Soviet Poland had to be very creative to get their message through the Communist censors. Problems of censorship aside, the historical record forces us to recognize begrudgingly that state funding for cinema in this period removed the artists' concern for profit and made room for some great art dealing with serious issues in a non-sensationalistic way - even on public television! - that is seldom seen in the United States. But it was not only the economic circumstances, but the great suffering of the Polish people, that made their cinema markedly different from the products of Hollywood. Clip from Criteria: The Catholic Film Podcast, episode A Short Film About KillingDekalog: Five (1988).

Using film to teach the value of human life [8:30] (01/17/2021)
Kieslowski’s film Dekalog: Five, or A Short Film About Killing, is inspired by the Fifth Commandment. Film scholar Maria Elena de Las Carreras uses it to make her secular students reflect on the value of human life. Her writing on Kieslowski's work was "read with great interest" by Pope St. John Paul II. Clip from Criteria: The Catholic Film Podcast, episode A Short Film About KillingDekalog: Five (1988).

Where The Chosen falls short in reverence [10:05] (03/26/2021)
A very moving scene in season 1 of The Chosen depicts Nicodemus's secret nighttime meeting with Jesus. However, the scene has a significant flaw which may reflect, for whatever reason, a certain discomfort with solemnity. Any dramatic portrayal of Jesus will necessarily be an incomplete reflection of a perfect, Divine Personality, but in one respect this scene crosses the line into error. Clip from Criteria: The Catholic Film Podcast, episode The Chosen, an Education in Meditation.

Jonathan Roumie's Childlike Performance as Jesus [5:43] (03/26/2021)
Actor James Majewski and Br. Joshua Vargas praise Jonathan Roumie's performance as Jesus in season 1 of The Chosen. Clip from Criteria: The Catholic Film Podcast, episode The Chosen, an Education in Meditation.

The Functions and Dangers of Horror [12:37] (10/29/2020)
James Majewski discusses the appeal of horror and its cathartic function, but also its dangers and the potential of images to damage and traumatize the viewer. In particular, there must be a due gravity and sobriety in cinematic treatments of the occult. James mentions the films of Ari Aster (Hereditary, Midsommar) as negative examples. Clip from Criteria: The Catholic Film Podcast, episode Reverence and the Occult: Nosferatu (1922/1979).

Materialism Freezes in the Face of Evil [11:06] (10/29/2020)
James Majewski discusses the appeal of horror and its cathartic function, but also its dangers and the potential of images to damage and traumatize the viewer. In particular, there must be a due gravity and sobriety in cinematic treatments of the occult. James mentions the films of Ari Aster (Hereditary, Midsommar) as negative examples. Clip from Criteria: The Catholic Film Podcast, episode Reverence and the Occult: Nosferatu (1922/1979).

Why bother animating a movie? w/ Tim Reckart [5:29] (11/21/2020)
Catholic animator Tim Reckart discusses a common question in the world of animation: why animate something at all rather than film live action? In discussing a segment from Disney's Fantasia (1940), he comes to the conclusion that certain kinds of spectacle—such as dance sequences and fight scenes—tend to be less interesting when animated because we are aware that no real physical feats are being performed. Some additional magic is necessary to make something worth animating. Clip from Criteria: The Catholic Film Podcast, episode Fantasia (1940) w/ animator Tim Reckart.

Social hierarchy in Disney’s Fantasia w/ Tim Reckart [11:05] (11/21/2020)
Walt Disney didn’t animate his own movies after a certain point, but they continued to be Walt Disney movies. Likewise, a conductor doesn’t play a note, but he still gets the credit for the orchestra’s performance. Catholic animator Tim Reckart thinks this concern for social hierarchy pervades the 1940 Disney film Fantasia, which was produced around the time of a major animators’ strike and offers a series of analogues to the Disney studio organization, beginning with the conductor and proceeding to dancing mushrooms and an army of magically animated brooms. Clip from Criteria: The Catholic Film Podcast, episode Fantasia (1940) w/ animator Tim Reckart.

Groundbreaking animation in Disney’s Fantasia w/ Tim Reckart [7:00] (11/21/2020)
Catholic animator Tim Reckart explains some of the ingenious animated effects, enchanting even today, used in Disney’s 1940 film Fantasia. Clip from Criteria: The Catholic Film Podcast, episode Fantasia (1940) w/ animator Tim Reckart.

Documentary film and privacy under the Soviet police state [4:19] (12/01/2020)
The great Polish filmmaker Kryzstof Kieslowski started his career making documentaries, but switched to making feature films to avoid violating the privacy of real people (especially because he was living under a totalitarian regime). But the privacy of actors can be abused as well. Clip from Criteria: The Catholic Film Podcast, episode The Abdication of Fatherhood—Dekalog: Four (1988).

Why realistic acting isn’t always best [9:13] (12/09/2020)
Realistic or naturalistic acting is the norm in today’s movies, but non-realistic acting, such as that found in silent movies, can express things inaccessible to realism. The 1927 sci-fi film Metropolis is a great example, using the grotesquely striking techniques of German expressionism to convey, among other things, the dehumanizing aspects of industrial labor. Clip from Criteria: The Catholic Film Podcast, episode The Machine-Whore of Babylon: Metropolis (1927).

Echoes of Biblical Apocalypse in the sci-fi classic Metropolis [16:05] (12/09/2020)
The 1927 sci-fi film Metropolis, by lapsed Catholic director Fritz Lang, is chock-full of Biblical imagery and allusions, particularly related to the Apocalypse. Particularly prominent are references to Moloch, the Whore of Babylon, and Mary. The movie is also prophetic of evils in society today, such as the porn epidemic, transgenderism’s mockery of womanhood, increasingly transparent Satanism in popular culture, and more. Clip from Criteria: The Catholic Film Podcast, episode The Machine-Whore of Babylon: Metropolis (1927).