Centro Histórico Reviews Cheat Sheet January 1, 2014

Critics Round Up’s first blog post of the year (by the way, Happy New Year!) will be a change of pace. Recently seeing critics like Jonathan Rosenbaum, Daniel Kasman, Adrian Martin and Cristina Álvarez López identify Pedro Costa’s “Sweet Exorcist” as their favorite segment of the omnibus film Centro Histórico (and in fact the only segment of that film I’ve seen appear on best of 2013 lists) made me wonder why I couldn’t see that myself back when most of the reviews were being published last July. To me, reaction seemed more divisive than that.

So I reread the reviews, this time assigning points to each critic’s reaction to each segment. As I expected, there were no near-unanimous verdicts. For each segment, only a slim majority was satisfied. As is typical of omnibus films, everyone found something to appreciate, but no one could fully agree on which ones were the standouts (though, as I noted above, “Sweet Exorcist” appears to have now emerged as the ultimate winner).

Below are my best guesses at each critic’s appraisals of the short films. I used between 1-4 points. 1 = substandard. 2 = mediocre or a very qualified positive. 3 = good/ very good. 4 = outstanding. Take a look at what I’ve gathered.

June 3 update: In the comments section, Aaron Cutler wrote in to note that he “rejects the idea of ranking the segments,” so his 4 has been removed and the average has been re-calculated.

Averages

The Kaurismaki: 2.29

The Costa: 2.7

The Erice: 2.4

The Oliveira: 2.63

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The Kaurismaki

Marc Saint-Cyr: 2

Eric Hynes: 2

Aaron Hillis: 3

Elina Mishuris: 3

J. Hoberman: 1

Nicolas Rapold: 2

Jesse Cataldo: 3

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The Costa

Daniel Kasman: 4

Marc Saint-Cyr: 1

Richard Brody: 4

Eric Hynes: 3

Aaron Hillis: 2

Elina Mishuris: 3

J. Hoberman: 1

Nicolas Rapold: 3

Jesse Cataldo: 2

Adrian Martin: 4

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The Erice

Marc Saint-Cyr: 3

Eric Hynes: 3

J. Hoberman: 3

Nicolas Rapold: 2

Jesse Cataldo: 1

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The Oliveira

Daniel Kasman: 3

Marc Saint-Cyr: 2

Richard Brody: 4

Eric Hynes: 2

Aaron Hillis: 3

J. Hoberman: 2

Nicolas Rapold: 2

Jesse Cataldo: 3

 

I’m planning to do this again for other new omnibus films (or at least for the ones that are as stacked with major auteurs as Centro Histórico was). 3X3D doesn’t have enough reviews yet, but if it gets released stateside, that will certainly get its own cheat sheet.

2 Responses

  • Aaron Cutler says:

    Aaron Cutler: Thank you for drawing attention to Centro Historico. However, please note that at no point in my article mentioned here do I indicate Oliveira’s segment to be the best of the four. This is what I wrote:
    “Ever since Centro Histórico’s world premiere at last year’s Rome Film Festival, many critics have dismissed Oliveira’s ten-minute closer as an irrelevant trifle in comparison to the shorts preceding it. But although The Conquered Conqueror functions as a grace note, it also comments on the preservation of human memory in a moving, self-sufficient way indicative of its filmmaker.” (http://www.fandor.com/keyframe/private-mysteries-public-histories)
    My argument is clearly stated. Others have dismissed the Oliveira segment in relation to the other three; I will therefore try to redeem it by discussing how it works both in relation to Centro Historico’s other segments and on its own terms.
    I then later write: “…The Conquered Conqueror is an appropriate close to Centro Histórico, whose segments all look at public history as a record of formerly private lives.”
    A line like this implicitly rejects the idea of ranking the segments by arguing that they don’t compete, but rather work together to give each other meaning. Centro Histórico isn’t just four short films in sequence. It’s also a whole, coherent, and satisfying feature-length work.

    Reply

  • Aaron Cutler says:

    I see that this Centro Histórico post has been changed in response to my earlier comment. I wish to thank you for this, as well as for all of your excellent work with Critics Round Up.

    Reply

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