Saturday, July 21, 2018

Favorite (four), part fifty-four

Just like in my other fifty-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.

George Cukor's Little Women
FilmStruck celebrated Cukor last week as its featured director, making it as good of a time as any to dig deeper into his work.  He never was a flashy stylist and many of his films seem comfortable taking their time even at the risk of running off some of the audience.  What makes Cukor so special is how deep he goes with his characters.  He trusts their freewheeling spirits, loves them, knowing it is possible both for them to entertain us and allow us into their souls.  As a result, we care an unusual amount about the characters in his films.  Cukor also was a master at restraint.  Just look at how long he withholds things from Hepburn, a practice run for his finest hour a few years later in Holiday.  Less entertaining than Hawks, less visual than Ford, less buoyant than Lubitsch and less clever than Wilder but just as great as them all.

Kelly Reichardt's Certain Women
I have never been much of a fan of her work.  Having seen Old Joy, Wendy and Lucy and Meek's CutoffI often felt her work was admirably minimal without the heft or depth of a Bresson or Ozu.  But her latest feels different to me, saying a tremendous amount without saying much at all.  Reichardt uses one of cinema's greatest weapons, silence, to get underneath her themes and wonderfully rich characters and stories.

Morgan Neville's Won't You Be My Neighbor?
Fred Rogers' life makes for a fascinating film and Neville gets into much of what makes the story unique and provocative.  My only complaint is I wish there were more interviews from kids, like myself, who grew up watching Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and the way they experienced the show as compared to Rogers' ultimate vision and philosophy behind it.

George Cukor's Dinner at Eight
Most extraordinary is not the drama but the acting and the multitude of characters and social situations we can recognize and have probably experienced.  Not completely sure if it should all be viewed as a critique and/or satire but it sure seems like it even though Cukor was such a fixture in the world he is depicting.


Friday, July 20, 2018

Honoring Stan

https://open.spotify.com/user/mynuitchezmaud/playlist/0J9XmwnGWlOR6yh1cmT7Fm?si=8GIcKx-FToa4U_oLKPZ-lQ


Sunday, July 15, 2018

Latest Mixtape

https://open.spotify.com/user/mynuitchezmaud/playlist/03L2jHfQ6aicq4eJzmYGi6?si=TL0aa1CPRv26Zcu-5Jxoeg


Sunday, July 8, 2018

Favorite (four), part fifty-three

Just like in my other fifty-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.

Zachary Treitz's Men Go To Battle
The kind of imaginative lo-fi work that makes me rethink my normal skepticism around low budget digital filmmaking.  It feels like the cinematic equivalent to something Will Oldham might author.  It is quiet and earthy and comfortable just being pure and unadorned.  The acting is tremendous, and its restraint from using much light or music refreshing.  As strong of an American micro-indy as I have seen since Blue Ruin.

Frederick Wiseman's Law and Order
Aside from Wiseman's complete formal discipline, what might be most impressive about his work are the moments he is able to capture.  Whether it is the angry father at the end or the belligerent juvenile early on, the characters he finds in the scenes he shows us feel so raw, so real, and so rich it is like we have never seen humans going through real emotions on film before.  It is such pure cinema, Wiseman's work, and such a successful approach.  For anyone that wants to see moments deflected exactly as the artist found them, without any fluff and without any fear that the sheer moment would have enough heft or interest on its own, these are hours full of reward.  

Kasper Collins' I Called Him Morgan
An unusually absorbing doc that not only gives us Morgan's greatness but also gives us other dimensions like a deeper understanding of jazz as black classical music or of the human capacity to forgive even in the midst of great anger.  Collins' most impressive achievement might be his ability to take a paucity of Morgan footage and supplement it with shots of skylines and nature without making it all feel like hollow re-enactments.

Peter Kunhardt's King in the Wilderness
Kunhardt's style is nothing remarkable and the music can be overdone and cloying at times, but Kunhardt reveals sides of King's life that adds dimensions to my understanding of him.  Most remarkable to me was the idea of non-violence as the more radical response, as compared to retaliation, to hatred and racism.  According to King, "...if you're really going to be free, you have to overcome the love of wealth and the fear of death."



2018

7/4/18 I watched Peter Kunhardt's King in the Wilderness.  Kunhardt's style is nothing remarkable and the music can be overdone and cloying at times, but Kunhardt reveals sides of King's life that adds dimensions to my understanding of him.  Most remarkable to me was the idea of non-violence as the more radical response, as compared to retaliation, to hatred and racism.  According to King, "...if you're really going to be free, you have to overcome the love of wealth and the fear of death."

7/14/18 I watched Morgan Neville's Won't You Be My Neighbor?  Fred Rogers' life makes for a fascinating film and Neville gets into so much of what makes the story unique and provocative.  My only complaint is I wish there were more interviews from kids, like myself, who grew up watching Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and the way they experienced the show as compared to Rogers' ultimate vision and philosophy behind it.   

7/27/18 I watched Serge Bozon's Mrs. Hyde.  It is a strange film and I am unsure all that Bozon is after but it features yet another tremendous performance from Huppert and visually it all feels incredibly clean and clear.  It is, I guess, a little in the line of The Nutty Professor, but it takes that format to address the deep racism issues facing France at the moment.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Dragnet Girl (1933)

An interesting next film for Ozu that's as close to a genre film as I have seen from him.  Perhaps, it is his entry into the gangster arena that by 1933 included The Public Enemy, Scarface and Little Caesar

In this ongoing exploration of Ozu, I have focused more on tracking the evolution of his style rather than his thematic interests.  Here though it is interesting to see him taking on themes and ideas as diverse as the criminal with a conscience, the absence of the parent and the struggle for civility in a corrupt, criminal world. 

Formally, a few quick notes I would like to mention.  Signs pointing back to Western culture are once again abundant, whether it's movie posters for The Champ or All Quiet on the Western Front, Victrola record players, fight posters for American boxers such as Jack Dempsey or American quotes hanging on walls in different locations.  It is also interesting to see that, like I have noted in some of the immediately preceding films, there are a number of tracking shots that Ozu seemed to abandon later on his career.  I also noticed at least one crane shot, which is the first I have seen in his work.  By this point in his career, Ozu's shots are also notably seeming to last a little longer and filmed mostly tatami-style.  And, there are a few of what would become signature ellipses for Ozu.


Thursday, June 7, 2018

Latest mix

https://open.spotify.com/user/mynuitchezmaud/playlist/61nofBhglLrG497YEHCKLy?si=2mo4xKa5Th-btB66oUa-IA


Monday, June 4, 2018

Favorite (four), part fifty-two

Just like in my other fifty-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.

Frederick Wiseman's Titicut Follies
Not for the faint of heart, this edgy, unflinching documentary is the debut from master documentarian Wiseman.  It is more raw, still to this day, than most anything coming out of the American independent cinema.  Wiseman may not be unheralded, but with each of his films, for me his import only grows.  His films get inside their subjects, burrowing deep, like a Bresson or a Dreyer.  

Luis Bunuel's The Phantom of Liberty
One of Bunuel's most free-flowing and "liberated" films is pure and unpredictable fun.  There are a number of all-time great moments but for me it was the unconventional dinner party and the final sequence at the zoo.  Bunuel's key themes are still there - anti-establishment, anti-Catholic church, surrealistic flights of fancy - but the contemporary setting gives them a lightness and impact that I have rarely felt while watching his work.  

Hong Sang-soo's On the Beach at Night Alone
Proof yet again that Hong is one of the cinema's great simplifiers.  He is able to take all of life's complications and reduce them down until what is left are only his favorite things - women, smoking, drinking, nature, cafes and conversations.  If there is a filmmaker today churning out more consistently interesting works, I have yet to find him. 

Yasujiro Ozu's Where Now Are the Dreams of Youth?
One of his films I have never heard about and it comes immediately after one of his more famous works, I Was Born, But...  Like its predecessor, what is noticeable is Ozu's development into a very complex emotional filmmaker.  The final fifteen or so minutes, in particular, show Ozu's range as an unflinchingly brutal realist and a deeply searching realist.  In fact, I cannot recall a more emotionally uncompromising scene to date in Ozu's cinema than Tetsuo and Saiki's final encounter.  For films about the difficult transition from adolescence to adulthood or even for films about the meaning of friendship, Where Now Are the Dreams Of Youth?  deserves to be a part of the discussion.



Sunday, June 3, 2018

Woman of Tokyo (1933)

Not a very memorable Ozu effort, this short film, if nothing else, continues his formal progression in a forward manner.  There are almost no movements of the camera and an abundance of tatami shots.  There is none of the playfulness of his previous work and the only real allusion to Western culture is when Ryoichi and Harue go to the movies to see If I Had a Million.
 
In its study of social mores, it feels closer emotionally to a Mizoguchi film.  A curious, almost perplexing work, but regardless, I am excited to see where Ozu goes from here.


Monday, May 28, 2018

Where Now Are the Dreams Of Youth? (1932)

The first time I am back to working my way through Ozu in chronological order since March of 2017.

It is one of his films I have never heard about and it comes immediately after one of his more famous works, I Was Born, But....  Like its predecessor, what is noticeable is Ozu's development into a very complex emotional filmmaker.  The final fifteen or so minutes, in particular, show Ozu's range as an unflinchingly brutal realist and a deeply searching humanist.  In fact, I cannot recall a more emotionally uncompromising scene to date in Ozu's cinema than Tetsuo and Saiki's final encounter. 

Some formal elements that I noticed are Ozu's reliance on tatami shots but not entirely, some tracking shots and a predominance of shorter takes compared to where his cinema would eventually end up in the latter part of his career.  It would take a second viewing for me to confirm, but I think I noticed Ozu shifting to longer takes during a couple of the more emotionally important moments. 

A few other small observations.  Again, there is a scene that features an American film poster which was surprising to me, as I thought by this point in his career that Ozu had let go of any Western influence on his work.  There were also a couple of exterior shots as Tetsuo rode in a car.  I cannot recall a previous shot of this type in Ozu's cinema.  And, like I Was Born, But..., there is an underlying playfulness and almost silliness that exists that seems to disappear from most of Ozu's later work.

Interesting to note that it would not be until 1936 that Ozu would make his first talkie, possibly the latest of all adopters.  Also, of note, it dawned on me that unlike Mizoguchi I am not sure Ozu ever made a film that was period or not set in present day.

For films about the difficult transition from adolescence to adulthood or even for films about the meaning of friendship, Where Now Are the Dreams Of Youth? deserves to be a part of the discussion.






Wednesday, May 23, 2018

My latest mix(tape)

https://open.spotify.com/user/mynuitchezmaud/playlist/6OvZVsJHCw1NNcxDGmBcWK?si=JVZQkeUdTqGDSPXP7WJ2mg


Saturday, May 12, 2018

Favorite (four), part fifty-one

Just like in my other fifty 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.

Edward Yang's Taipei Story
Stillness and quiet reign in this early Yang film and a memorable, brooding performance by the masterful Hou Hsiao-hsien.  Makes me want to run down all of Yang's work as he seemed to excel in the same vein as Hou when he chose to stay contemporary rather than period.

Hal Hartley's The Unbelievable Truth
I thought I had seen Hartley's debut, but it turns out I never had.  It has to be one of the most stylistically assured debuts in the history of cinema.  Hartley's films are heavily musical, rhythmic in their mood and editing, but not in the way Hollywood uses wall-to-wall music to provide most of the surface emotion.  Hartley's music is his primary tool for carving out his special cinematic world.  While there may be no known adjective, it is as distinctly "Hartleyian" as David's world is Lynchian.  The acting, the locations, the framing, the almost Bressonian dialogue delivery combined with 80's Godard unique feel for the ellipsis immediately announce a very singular auteur.  This is a startling debut.  

Bi Gan's Kaili Blues
Gan's ability to move a camera is startling.  Almost every shot is magical in the way it uses both space and time.  The locations are consistently among the most interesting and cinematic I have seen in a very long time.  Meanwhile, Gan's choreography of the long take immediately announces him as one of the next great filmmakers in the tradition of Hou Hsiao-hsien or the Romanians.  To read that Gan was in his twenties when he made  this film is beyond comprehension. 

Susan Seidelman's Smithereens
A great post-punk portrait of early 80s NYC that features an extraordinary use of The Feelies' Crazy Rhythms.  it feels more like a Rivette or 80s French film in its looseness and in its "road movie" within one city approach.  Paired on Filmstruck with Jarmusch's Permanent Vacation this double feature is a great introduction to the American indy film proliferation that would soon follow.    


Sunday, April 1, 2018

Mixtape 3 of '18

I still like the craft of making mixes about as much as any creative endeavor.  Keeps my curating and editing skills from completely rusting out.

Here is the URL to my most recent mix:

https://open.spotify.com/user/mynuitchezmaud/playlist/2TJNPytM6eC4Rk1nmUuuz2?si=loH5JT-oQzyXUC4HDSibog

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Mixtape 2 of '18

I still like the craft of making mixes about as much as any creative endeavor.  Keeps my curating and editing skills from completely rusting out.

Here is the URL to my most recent mix:

https://open.spotify.com/user/mynuitchezmaud/playlist/0LcyRcOS1EgmvMwOu4BFwV?si=BXEFYw6ATSuUxfdj5Ulukg


Monday, March 26, 2018

Favorite (four), part fifty

Just like in my other forty-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.

Miguel Gomes' Arabian Nights
At this point no one in world cinema seems to deserve the title as Godard's closest successor more than the Portuguese filmmaker.  He possesses Godard's feel for music, sound, voiceover, politics, nature, playfulness and poetry.  His cinema is constantly unpredictable, formally daring and seemingly capable of wowing us at any given second.  The visual paasage from the first time we hear Rimsy-Korsakov's lyrical score ranks as the most powerful use of music I have heard in cinema in many, many years.  

Eric Rohmer's Nadja in Paris
A little known short by Rohmer is yet another great installment in the tremendous Nouvelle Vague body of work from 1958-1965.  It is ten minutes or so of pure voiceover but Rohmer announces early his extraordinary skill for capturing women and the streets and people of Paris.  

Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Tropical Malady
One of the more challenging works I have seen in a while and I am not positive I fully grasped all that "Joe" is doing.  The second half of the film is very unexpected and is as abstract and elusive as the first half is palpable and clear.  But it is that second half rupture that is still haunting me, pushing me for a quick revisit in the very near future.

Charles Burnett's My Brother's Wedding
In its subject matter, it could be looked at as an African-American Mean Streets, Pierce resembling Keitel's character and Soldier that of De Niro.  As different as Burnett is from Scorsese, both filmmakers have a special talent at bringing an over photographed city to life in ways we have never seen.  In fact, I would go so far as to call the combination of Burnett's first two features the most singular vision of Los Angeles the cinema has yet produced.  With rhythms as  unusual as Hal Hartley and acting as steadfastly noncommercial as Rossellini, Burnett represents a key marker in the neorealist timeline that history should do its best to remember.