Sunday, September 3, 2017

Recent Twitter post

7YoungerFilmmakersI'mMostInterestedIn (cut off at 50 yo)
Gomes
Robert Mitchell
Saulnier
Mendonca Filho
Sciamma
Chazelle
Bonello
@colebrax


Sunday, August 20, 2017

Favorite (four), part forty-four

Just like in my other forty-three posts in this series, I want to take a second to single out the highlights of my recent film viewing.  Most of the films I have been glad to see but only very few have stayed with me.  This series is my filter for those and my hope is one or two will be good to you as well.

Gordon Douglas' The Detective
I had never heard of this film until recently when I saw it was programmed as part of a series at the Paris Cinematheque focused on late 60s and 70s American cop movies.  Sinatra proves he was once again a double-threat as a singer and actor, very comfortable in front of the camera and believable in a number of roles.  Bisset was gorgeous, reminiscent of  Julie Christie during this period, but even sexier and with an even more dangerous sensuality.  And the film, though raw and uneven, goes deeper than most detective films and gives a real sense of the feelings and conflicted morality many people in the profession must face.  

Stuart Samuels' Midnight Movies: From the Margin to the Mainstream
A very informative look at a special era in American cinema.  Great interviews abound from Hoberman to Rosenbaum, Barenholtz to Romero, Waters to Lynch.  I finished watching and now want to go watch all five movies that are its focus - El Topo, Pink Flamingos, Night of the Living Dead, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Eraserhead.  

Terrence Young's Thunderball
Although not considered the best Connery as Bond film, of all that I have seen so far it is Connery at his most brash, his most handsome and at his toughest.  Yes, it has a bit of a bloated ending but there are so many other great moments that far outweigh its final minutes.

Claude Chabrol's Que La Bete Meure
Chabrol's work does not have the playfulness of Godard, Truffaut, or even Rohmer, so I am not quite drawn to it in the same way.  But I like the way he uses his camera, moving through frames, capturing details, gestures, expressions gracefully and silently.  The locations and nature bring a warmth that balances out the cold, calculating nature of Chabrol's filmmaking approach.


Monday, August 7, 2017

Jean Pierre and Luc

I have seen a number of filmmaker's favorite film lists but of all the ones I have seen so far this one probably affected me the most.  I am a fan of the Dardenne brothers so it is not shocking that their list would align eerily close to my own (even if 10-15 films on their list are still blind spots for me).

But the Rossellinis, yes!  The Pialats and Bressons, yes!  And the Kiarostamis, are the Dardenne brothers reading my blog?

http://www.indiewire.com/2017/08/dardenne-brothers-favorite-films-streaming-1201864264/


Sunday, August 6, 2017

#7Fav

Recently I was inspired by a list that had been circulating on my Twitter Feed where people had been naming their seven favorite films in a certain category.  I had seen #7Fav Film Noir lists, I think John Ford lists and maybe even John Carpenter lists.

Since I do like lists and am always trying to think about how my ratings of certain things change over time, I thought I would do a week or so of my #7Favs on Twitter.  I started with my two favorite periods of film, the French New Wave and the New Hollywood of the seventies, and then I went forward through the decades alternating French and American films.  

Here is where I ended up below:

#Fav2010sAmericanFilms
The Tree of Life
Margaret
Zero Dark Thirty
At Berkeley
La La Land
Carol
Only Lovers Left Alive

#7Fav2010sFrenchFilms
Film Socialisme
Carlos
Tomboy
Blue is the Warmest Color
Saint Laurent
Goodbye to Language
Clouds of Sils Maria

#7Fav2000sAmericanFilms
Our song
Mulholland dr
Funny Ha Ha
Femme fatale
All the Real Girls
No Direction Home
No Country for Old Men

#7Fav2000sFrenchFilms
Under the sand
Va savoir
Etre et avoir
Les amants reguliers
Secret and the Grain
Love Songs
35 Shots of Rum

#7Fav90sAmericanFilms
My own private idaho
Trust
Metropolitan
King of new york
Carlito's way
Heat
Dead man

#7Fav90sFrenchFilms
Oublie-moi
A Single Girl
JLG/JLG
A Summer's Tale
How I Got into An Argument...(My Sex Life)
Van Gogh
Thieves

#7Fav80sAmericanFilms
Blow Out
Stranger Than Paradise
Melvin and Howard
Blue Velvet
Sherman's March
The Thing
The Big Red One

#7Fav80sFrenchFilms
The Green Ray
L'argent
Boy Meets Girl
Mauvais Sang
Loulou
Full Moon in Paris
A nos amours

#7FavNewHollywoodFilms
McCabe & Mrs. Miller
Shampoo
Taxi Driver
The Godfather
Five Easy Pieces
Night Moves
The French Connection

#7FavNovelleVagueFilms
Shoot the Piano Player
Pierrot Le Fou
Vivre Sa Vie
La jetee
Les cousins
Breathless
Cleo de 5 a 7


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Favorite (four), part forty-three

Just like in my other forty-two posts in this series, I want to take a second to single out the highlights of my recent film viewing.  Most of the films I have been glad to see but only very few have stayed with me.  This series is my filter for those and my hope is one or two will be good to you as well.

Michael Ritchie's Downhill Racer
Ritchie is definitely a filmmaker that I am now far more curious about, having seen Smile (with him in person), The Bad New Bears and now this.  He has an auteur's deep feel for character and the freewheeling sensibility of Altman and Demme.  The soft shape of scenes and the way he slows down time during some of the races are what most affected me with this one.  I look forward to continuing to investigate more of his work, particularly The Candidate and Prime Cut.  

Michael Ritchie's The Candidate
Further proof of the Ritchie style being similar to Altman and his loose, freewheeling 70s work.  Redford puts in another confident, affecting low-key performance and the surrounding cast, particularly Boyle and Garfield, are unusually strong.  Ritchie surely deserves a much larger reputation.

Werner Herzog's Grizzly Man
Having recently been in Alaska,  I was especially interested in seeing this now even if it had been on my radar since first coming out.  Herzog's unique sensibility and world view really come through and his restraint and humanism were surprising given what I thought I knew about him.  It is far from Wiseman's world of documentary but it is still of great interest with a different type of rigor.  

Richard Rush's Freebie and the Bean
A movie that had never hit my radar until about a week ago even though it stars James Caan and Alan Arkin and was made during my favorite period of American film, the Seventies.  The Stunt Man was the only movie I had seen by Rush, and though it had a huge reputation, it never meant very much to me.  Freebie is a bit of a challenge, a loose, messy installment in the buddy cop movie that cares less for plot and narrative logic and more for feel and character.  It has great feel, for instance, for San Francisco and shows us areas of the city I don't feel I have ever seen before on film.  And it has great feel for character.  The bond between Freebie and Bean is deep and most remarkable is that Rush makes us feel the bond simply by having us hang out with them for a couple of hours.  


Monday, May 22, 2017

Favorite (four), part forty-two

Just like in my other forty-one posts in this series, I want to take a second to single out the highlights of my recent film viewing.  Most of the films I have been glad to see but only very few have stayed with me.  This series is my filter for those and my hope is one or two will be good to you as well.

David Lynch's Twin Peaks Season 3, Episode 1
David Lynch is one of my favorite filmmakers still at work.  And though I would not call myself die hard about Twin Peaks, I am a fan of both the first two seasons and the film.  So when Season 3 started, more than 25 years later, I had high hopes for it.  For it and Lynch who had also been away from screens for more than a decade, since Inland Empire.  When Episode 1 began last night, at first I thought "it looks strange".  First, it was the images, most likely video rather than the film of the first two seasons.  Then, it was the actors from the first two seasons, all weathered by time (25 years!) looking like the way Hollywood ages actors in a biopic or an epic but psychologically to an even different effect because this is actually how all of the actors look now.  I have no idea how this trip will end but when the two hour premiere ended last night, I felt once again Lynch's special talent and that he had succeeded in tackling the nearly impossible.  He had revisited a much beloved property 25 years later and gotten back inside its rhythm.  In a way, I feel like I am about to re-experience the way El Dorado and Rio Lobo played off of Rio Bravo, but this time Lynch-style.  

Eric Rohmer's The Marquise of O
The first period piece I have seen from Rohmer and it is a stunner.  What impresses most is the way that Rohmer uses his incredible talent for distillation to tell a story of transcendence and humanism in the unexpected backdrop of the late 1700s.  Rohmer proves that he learned much from Rossellini and the effects he is able to achieve do not feel terribly far removed from Rossellini's great La prise de pouvoir de Louis XIV.

Robert Culp's Hickey & Boggs
It feels like a more sensitive Walter Hill film with pretty good Hill-esque set pieces and that buddy thing that Hill really excelled at.  Cosby certainly proves he could have been a strong dramatic movie actor if he continued on that path and Culp makes some very interesting choices that add a moral and emotional weight to what could have been shallow genre fare.

Bruce Robinson's Withnail & I
It is a cult film that has buzzed around me for years but for some reason I am just now seeing it.  It features deep, committed performances and an explosive feel and timing for language.  Robinson may not have a highly identifiable style but this film feels like it must have been a key film for the musical New Wave practitioners and for Boyle's zeitgeist catching Trainspotting a decade later.  


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

What a program

I saw a lot of this but how did I not see it all?

http://www.americancinematheque.com/archive1999/2000/newhollywood6070.htm


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Favorite (four), part forty-one

Just like in my other forty posts in this series, I want to take a second to single out the highlights of my recent film viewing.  Most of the films I have been glad to see but only very few have stayed with me.  This series is my filter for those and my hope is one or two will be good to you as well.

Josef von Sternberg's Anatahan
It has only been 20+ years since I first heard of the film and have been wanting to see it ever since.  It belongs in that special category of master director's final films and it has that same odd tone of finality of Dreyer's Gertrud and perhaps even Bresson's L'argent.  It is a mood film dripping with atmosphere and style and succeeds in throwing the viewer into its exotic land and bringing the strangeness terrifically alive. Sternberg excelled at this type of cinema that also includes Macao and Morocco.  

James Gray's The Lost City of Z
The film of Gray that has impressed the most so far is also the most revealing.  Treading in this territory is dangerous stuff.  How do you not immediately beg comparison to Apocalypse Now and Aguirre You don't.  What Gray does though is blend the epic and the chamber and in that way it feels different.  Herzog and Coppola's film were both always operating on a large canvas and their egos and talents had no problem sustaining an epic scope for their duration.  Gray's film fits what is seemingly his personality, something that is more cerebral and more measured than Herzog and Coppola.  What is most striking is that I have long known that Gray reveres the work of Coppola but never have I noticed their differences more than now.  Not only is Gray far more humble but he also struggles to reach the emotional shape of Coppola's best work.  I felt watching The Lost City that everything was of one piece - Ravel's music could not have been more perfect, sophisticated, difficult themes were borne out, Khondji's work seemed right (even if I have never been a huge fan of his) but Gray has trouble reaching the emotional heights of Coppola.  Lost City is an unusually ambitious and well executed American film in this current environment but without the emotional resonance of the films he most admires, it is difficult to call it great.  

Nicholas Ray's Wind Across the Everglades
Ray made numerous films that were haunted with very dark characters spiraling deep, and almost uncontrollably, into their own obsessions and struggles.  His visual sense of abstraction was among the greatest the medium has ever seen and his diseased tone potentially more unique and consistent than that of any auteur.  I have now seen early Christopher Plummer twice (here and in The Silent Partner).  His ability to tap the hysteria within his own compulsion is a perfect match for the sensibility of Ray and his talent simply remarkable.  It is a shame more people do not discuss this work as it is the rawest, most uncompromising Ray film I have seen to date.    

Warren Beatty's Reds
I was deeply impressed by Beatty's ability to handle a story of this size with such directorial grace and skill.  I found his performance to be as good or close to as good as his typical level but it was Keaton's acting that really got me.  I have never found her as affecting and as deep as she is here.  I could do without the Greek chorus device as I found it took me out of the story more than further embedding me.  But the rest of the style is quite beautiful from Storaro's cinematography to Sondheim's music. 


Saturday, April 22, 2017

2017

4/22/17 I watched James Gray's The Lost City of Z.  The film of Gray that has impressed the most so far is also the most revealing.  Treading in this territory is dangerous stuff.  How do you not immediately beg comparison to Apocalypse Now and Aguirre?  You don't.  What Gray does though is blend the epic and the chamber and in that way it feels different.  Herzog and Coppola's film were both always operating on a large canvas and their egos and talents had no problem sustaining an epic scope for their duration.  Gray's film fits what is seemingly his personality, something that is more cerebral and more measured than Herzog and Coppola.  What is most striking is that I have long known that Gray reveres the work of Coppola but never have I noticed their differences more than now.  Not only is Gray far more humble but he also struggles to reach the emotional shape of Coppola's best work.  I felt watching The Lost City that everything was of one piece - Ravel's music could not have been more perfect, sophisticated, difficult themes were borne out, Khondji's work seemed right (even if I have never been a huge fan of his) but Gray has trouble reaching the emotional heights of Coppola.  Lost City is an unusually ambitious and well executed American film in this current environment but without the emotional resonance of the films he most admires, it is difficult to call it great.  

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Favorite (four), part forty

Just like in my other thirty-nine posts in this series, I want to take a second to single out the highlights of my recent film viewing.  Most of the films I have been glad to see but only very few have stayed with me.  This series is my filter for those and my hope is one or two will be good to you as well.

Jim Jarmusch's Gimme Danger
Jarmusch saves his rawest aesthetic to date for the rough and tough Stooges, and even though it is a major stylistic departure for Jarmusch he seems comfortable in this different skin.  Jarmusch provides new insight into the highly influential band and the deep emotional wounds that have propelled Iggy for the last 50 years.  

Michael Ritchie's The Bad News Bears
Ritchie's slacker sensibility is a perfect match with the material.  I don't think this one gets near enough attention and should be in any conversation around the greatest sports movies of all time.

Ewan McNicol and Anna Sandilands' Uncertain
How these thoughtful and talented filmmakers came to work right in my backyard I have no idea (tax credits?) but they do an excellent job at capturing life in the Caddo Lake backwoods.  They resist easy storylines and typical trajectories and leave us with an affecting look at a different world.

Michael Schultz's Cooley High
Even though it was an AIP production, it feels more like an American New Wave film or a 1970's Shadows.  I have heard it referenced in rap songs and as an important entry in that decade's pop culture but now finally seeing it, it exceeded expectations in the way it captures the clothes, the music, the feel of the times.  Required viewing for anyone that wants a link from Shadows to Burnett to Spike.


Monday, March 6, 2017

Favorite (four), part thirty-nine

Just like in my other thirty-eight posts in this series, I want to take a second to single out the highlights of my recent film viewing.  Most of the films I have been glad to see but only very few have stayed with me.  This series is my filter for those and my hope is one or two will be good to you as well.

Jim Jarmusch's Paterson
Another strong entry from one of my favorite filmmakers currently at work, after what felt like a slight drop in quality between Ghost Dog and Only Lovers Left Alive.  Like his great previous film, Jarmusch seems to be in an internal dialogue with the past and with art.  Whereas the excellent Lovers was with one of his favorite passions, music.  This time around Jarmusch seems to be most concerned with another of his primary artistic passions, poetry.  In fact, there is so much in common, formally and narratively, between the two films that they seem to form a couple relationship within his body of work.  The greatest strength of Jarmusch has always been his ability to distill and condense.  Like the best poems, his work conveys so much with so little.    

Jacques Demy's The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
I was frustrated by the backlash against La La Land.  And I was confused by the critical preference for Moonlight.  Sure, Chazelle's film had the more robust budget.  But I felt like his film also had far more filmmaking rigor than Jenkins' and that Chazelle's formal approach in general was much clearer and achieved at a significantly higher level.  And when I hear someone compare Moonlight's color palate to the incredible work Doyle and Wong Kar-wai achieved together I really don't see it at all.  

With that out of the way, I was looking forward to rewatching Demy's film, cited as a key influence on La La Land.  I remembered Demy's work with color as among the most impressive in film's history and it was as brash and beautiful as I remembered.  The pinks, purples, and splashes of bold colors of Demy's cinema certainly find their way into some of the clothes and onto some of the sets of La La Land (most noticeably in Emma Stone's apartment and her roommates' outfits).  What I did not remember though is just how bittersweet and powerful the final minutes of Cherbourg are.  Rewatching it now, if you felt it like I did, it seems that the secret behind the emotional power of some of La La Land's final exchanges is Chazelle tapping into the same cinema magic Demy was onto for Cherbourg's last moments.  Both films explore unrequited and both get deep rewards for staying on the other side of happily ever after.

Sadao Yamanaka's Humanity and Paper Balloons
I know nothing at all about the filmmaker and it was the first of his films I have seen.  What impressed most was the film's study of class and the way it examines the idea that there are other things in life of far greater value than money.  Yamanaka also infuses the film with a similar strain of poetry that seems to exist in the other great works of Japanese cinema. 

Yasujiro Ozu's I Was Born, But...
For the first time since February of 2016, I am back to working my way through the work of Ozu in chronological order.  This one I had seen before and I had very fond memories of and re-watching did not disappoint.  And, it was instructive to watch it in relation to what immediately came before it.

Ozu seems to be using "tatami" shots now in almost every shot but I wouldn't say all aspects of his signature style are present.  There seem to be far more quick cuts than we find in the later Ozu, when he begins to move to very long takes.  There also seems to be far more movements of the camera, primarily tracking shots to follow characters walking, but there is also a backwards tracking movement to introduce the dad at work that seems very reminiscent of Vidor's The Crowd.

Ozu's under-recognized sense of playfulness is really at the fore as is his unusually strong ability with his child actors.  Without a doubt, this is also his most complex film emotionally to date, as he delves into some very rich but tricky terrain as the two boys try to reconcile what they come to learn about their father.


Sunday, March 5, 2017

I Was Born, But... (1932)

For the first time since February of 2016, I am back to working my way through the work of Ozu in chronological order.  This one I had seen before and I had very fond memories of and re-watching did not disappoint.  And, it was instructive to watch it in relation to what immediately came before it.

Ozu seems to be using "tatami" shots now in almost every shot but I wouldn't say all aspects of his signature style are present.  There seem to be far more quick cuts than we find in the later Ozu, when he begins to move to very long takes.  There also seems to be far more movements of the camera, primarily tracking shots to follow characters walking, but there is also a backwards tracking movement to introduce the dad at work that seems very reminiscent of Vidor's The Crowd.  

Ozu's under-recognized sense of playfulness is really at the fore as is his unusually strong ability with his child actors.  Without a doubt, this is also his most complex film emotionally to date, as he delves into some very rich but tricky terrain as the two boys try to reconcile what they come to learn about their father.

 

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Favorite (four), part thirty-eight

Just like in my other thirty-seven posts in this series, I want to take a second to single out the highlights of my recent film viewing.  Most of the films I have been glad to see but only very few have stayed with me.  This series is my filter for those and my hope is one or two will be good to you as well.

Kleber Mendonca Filho's Aquarius
I know nothing of Filho's work, not even if the filmmaker is male or female (although the unusually sensitive treatment of the central female character leads me to think it is the latter).  Filho is a graceful filmmaker, reminding me of Moretti in the artful, light way he glides through scenes.  Most remarkable aside from the fully felt Clara is the way the filmmaker so effortlessly moves through time and the way quick cuts are used to show sexual actions and waves of Clara's thoughts and memories. 

Ivan Passer's Cutter's Way
It's been 20 or so years since I first saw this in a bad print at the New Beverly.  It's much stronger than I remember, Bridges and Heard quite impressive and the whole thing in much the same vein as Night Moves.  It is one of the more important final bookends to the American New Wave, artistic with an A list crew and disheartened that the utopic future for America envisioned by the youth at the time had clearly failed.  
Mikio Naruse's Floating Clouds
I have very little experience with Naruse's work, this being either only the first or second film I have ever seen from him.  I'm not a fan of his almost wall-to-wall music and I wish he were more similar to Mizoguchi and Ozu in his sense of restraint.  But I admire his ability to go the distance with the material, never becoming sentimental even when it would have been more palatable and more commercial to do so.  He is gifted with time, effortlessly gliding back and forth between the past and the present, and emotionally he is more engaged with reality than the cerebral Mizouchi and the distant Ozu.  

John Ford's The Lost Patrol
What I was most struck by, aside from Ford's signature ability to bring out the haunting poetry in natural landscapes, is a certain modern quality to the work.  McLaglen's physicality towards the end does not feel too much different than Pacino in the latter stages of Scarface and the fact that Ford almost never cuts to the opposition gives the film artful restraint that really helps create the effective, ominous atmosphere he sustains throughout.


Sunday, February 5, 2017

Before Hollywood, The Go-Betweens, 1983

Bouncy, jangly, and very far removed from the baroque and epic songwriting of 16 Lovers Lane.  In fact, if I didn’t know any better I would think they were two entirely different bands.    Certain albums shift into a different gear at some point in their sequencing.  Here that magic stretch happens from “Ask” to “Cattle and Cane”.  Not that the entire album is not top-notch but songs 3-5 are otherworldly, somehow more connected and more memorable than the other sections of the album.  The Go-Betweens never cracked my US mainstream.  They never even cracked my radar until years after they had disbanded and I was reading about them while I was living in France.  But for any fan of early REM, hours of sophisticated songs of beauty await.