Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Favorite (four), part twenty-nine

Just like in my other twenty-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.

Martin Scorsese's George Harrison: Living in the Material World
One of the cinephiles I respect the most recently commented to me that Scorsese seems more of a master in his contemporary documentary work than in his recent narrative output and after seeing his Dylan and now his Harrison I would not argue.  What is most impressive is how vital he is able to make moments where his only footage is that of still photos.  Studying his technique during these moments and the unique way he is able to juice the medium through music, editing and camera movement is deeply instructive and a marvel to see and experience. 


Abbas Kiarostami's Like Someone in Love
What Kiarostami is hoping to convey I cannot say for sure. But as a long time fan of his work I took it in as a very personal statement. Here Kiarostami, one of the cinema's warmest practitioners, the lovely wise soul of Iranian cinema,  is working in the middle of the Japanese metropolis. Far removed are we (and he) from the wide open expanses of his classic earlier work and we can only guess how fearful he is of our world and what it seems to be quickly becoming. Through the Olive Trees this is not. Kiarostami has entered a far darker phase and in the process might be one of the few still holding up a mirror and trying to find a way to be hopeful.       


Hong Sang-soo's In Another Country
I used to think of Hong as a Korean Rohmer and there are strong similarities - a penchant for naturalism, conversation as the main action and activity, and a recurring interest in the potential disruption of relationships due to the arrival of a third person. But Hong also goes for real whimsy and seems lighter than Rohmer. In fact the more I think about it he seems like this odd blend of Rohmer and Rivette, structurally adventourous but grounded primarily in reality. And I have long had a thing for Huppert. Hong uses her well, brings out her appeal, and ends up delivering one of his smoothest, most likable films yet.


Robert Mann's Altman
A fairly straightforward doc at least when compared to the cinematic complexity in Scorsese's documentary on George Harrison. What I found most enlightening was that even though Altman has become someone I consider among my favorite filmmakers I  realized how very little I knew about his life.  Mann does Altman justice and I think this would be enjoyed by anyone who thinks they are a fan.


Saturday, July 18, 2015

I Flunked, But... (1930)

The first Ozu film I was unable to find with English subtitles so I was forced to watch it the Langlois way and focus almost entirely on its form.

Again I was surprised to see the flagrant American references - pennants bearing the names Michigan, Ohio State and Yale and yet another American film poster, this one from 1929 for the film Charming Sinners.  It has been shocking so far to see so many allusions to American culture since Ozu is considered one of the most Japanese of all Japanese filmmakers.  I am still not entirely clear if the references are homages or warnings to the threat of Westernization.  Either way they show up in very flagrant ways in almost every single one of Ozu's early works. 

It is also surpising yet again to see Ozu utilize tracking shots.  It seems later on that Ozu will move away almost entirely from using any movements at all of the camera. In these early works however Ozu at least seems curious about the potential information such moves can convey and utilizes them with little but some frequency.

There is also Ozu's playfulness again on display.  Like in Walk Cheerfully, the close friends have little dances and secret moves they like to occasionally break into.  These tiny little flourishes suggest a certain lightness in Ozu's sensibility but also underline what I am starting to feel is one of his key themes, solidarity.

As the main character's friends go off to celebrate their graduation success and we remain with the character who did not pass his exit exam, Ozu gives us one of the first glimpses at a hallmark piece of his style, the extreme low-angle shot.  This moment is the perfect utilization for the shot as it creates deep empathy with our main character at an extreme low point for him.  It will be interesting to see if the "tatami shot" will start to show up in every Ozu film moving forward.   

Lastly I want to mention the first lengthy cheating scene in the classroom as the most sustained and accomplished scene at this point in Ozu's cinema.  He creates great tension and sustains what is almost comparable to a Chaplin or Keaton gag.  Ozu's rhythm and storytelling shine and the scene is wonderfully entertaining.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Walk Cheerfully (1930)

I had to order this film which is part of the reason there has been a gap in time since I last posted in this series.

I would classify Walk Cheerfully as an Ozu gangster film or an Ozu noir.  Before this viewing I never even knew the director dabbled in the genre.  It is a little like seeing Dylan do electronica, a bit shocking and not fully satisfying.  It is actually a place where Ozu's later, famous style of slowness and emotional heft could have been quite comfortably worked in.  Other extraordinary cinema stylists have certainly flourished in similar worlds, Leone with Once Upon a Time in America, Coppola's Godfather films and the list goes on and on.  But I do not think Ozu had found his exact voice yet and for the most part this work comes off as a pretty by the numbers entry in the genre.

However a couple of stylistic elements I would like to mention.  Including the opening shot, Ozu surprises with a few pretty complex camera movements, particularly crane and tracking shots, neither of which will show up very much in his later work.  There is also a shot framed with substantial foreground and background action, something I will be curious to see if Ozu returns to in later films.  When done in a subtle manner like Ozu does here, it certainly feels at home in the naturalistic spaces Ozu likes to exist in.   

Is it merely a genre film?  Is there not anything that makes it recognizable as the genre work of one of the greatest filmmakers the medium has ever known?  Perhaps.  There is both a playfulness and a deep emotionality Ozu is able to create in the final few frames that is trenchant and leaves us feeling this work is perhaps at least a little more personal than we had been led to believe. 


Monday, May 25, 2015

A Straightforward Boy (1929)

Based on the thirteen minutes of surviving footage I was able to see, this film seems like quite the oddball.  It reminded me a little of On purge bebe in Renoir's work, a film that just does not really fit with what comes before or after. 

The only two elements that stood out for me were it seems that Ozu was beginning to experiment with longer takes, a component of his work that would become defining as his career evolved.

And this film really starts to show Ozu's remarkable gift for directing young kids, a talent we will see on very clear display numerous times in his later work. 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

I Graduated, But... (1929)

Ozu's next surviving film only had several minutes of footage left that I was able to find. 

Personally I had some difficulty in the version I saw completely following the plot and I even watched the "eight minute film" again to see if I could get a better handle on it.  Like Fighting Friends, only several minutes remain but even those few minutes gave me a handful of things I would like to quickly touch upon.

The first is the fact that so far, through the first three surviving works, none yet has any real sign of the long take style that would eventually become a trademark of Ozu's approach. 

This film again contains an American film poster, this time it is a Harold Lloyd movie, and also what appears to be the very same piece of college pennant decor that shows up in Days of Youth.  I believe it was Renoir that once said he was virtually making the same film each time out but simply trying to improve upon the result.  I have never read that Ozu was operating from the same goals and objectives.  But in seeing these first three works for the first time and combining them with the ten or so Ozu viewings I had prior to beginning this exercise I can say with some confidence that I know of no other filmmaker (and maybe artist period) whose work becomes hard to recollect in terms of individual works.  In other words, it becomes difficult to remember exact storylines from his films and to separate one film from another in his body of work.  Part of this has to do with the similarity of titles but now I am beginning to feel there is also an extraordinary similarity of plots and perhaps even similar locations and props to further complicate matters.  In this way he becomes a bit like Eric Rohmer in my mind, a filmmaker with a very narrow but focused filmmaking mission.

Lastly a shot that stood out was the main character tearing up a piece of paper as the camera remains on the shreds of paper falling into frame. i.e. a shot of off-screen action.  This restraint and choice not to record all traditionally considered narrative action seems to become more and more a part of the Ozu approach as his career deepens.  We will keep an eye out.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Fighting Friends (1929)

It is unclear watching how much of the finished film survives.  What I saw was a mere fourteen minutes long and almost worked as is but also could have been lacking more than an hour's worth of footage. 

It is so short only a couple of things jumped out at me.  The first was that Ozu once again included an American film poster in a couple of frames.  Not only did it reiterate what seems like one of his most personal themes - the threat of Westernization - but it also began to suggest that Ozu might have been a real cinephile.

The other small thing that struck me was Ozu's humainism.  The plot bears great similarity to the plot of his first surviving film, Days of Youth, and the way that Ozu resolves the conflict reminds yet again that Ozu must be considered among the greatest humanists ever to work within the medium of film.


Friday, May 22, 2015

2015

5/21/15 I watched Brett Morgen's Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck.  I always liked Cobain and a good bit of Nirvana and wanted to be enlightened by new footage and a deeper, new perspective on it all.  But I think for as much access as Morgen seemingly had, the doc comes off as too objective and too surface.  The style, particularly the animated sequences, also becomes tiring after a little while. 

7/14/15 I watched Alfonso Gomez-Rejon's Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.  It is charming if you do not think too much about it and heartfelt if you do not really question it.  Otherwise I think it is pretty manipulative, rooted deeply in artifice and arrives at most of its wins shamelessly with its toolkit of abundant music cues and twee hipness. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Days of Youth (1929)

Just a few expectations to set before I begin this exploration of Ozu.  My notes on each film will be more impressionistic, steering clear for the most part of plot summaries, and focusing instead on an overall effort to explain what exactly makes Ozu's work so powerful.  I will avoid reading any outside information on Ozu while completing this film by film viewing in an attempt to record only my pure reactions uninformed by any outside opinion or context.  The advantages of this approach I hope will ultimately outweigh the obvious limitations.  For his filmography, I am using what is listed on IMDb.  There are most certainly more definitive lists somewhere else but for this informal project I feel IMDb will be sufficient.  According to both IMDb and this article Ozu's first seven films are forever lost.  These films are:

Sword of Penitence/Zange no yaiba (1927)
The Dreams of Youth/Wakodo no yume (1928)
Wife Lost/Nyobo funshitsu (1928)
Pumpkin/Kabocha (1928)
A Couple on the Move/Hikkoshi fufu (1928)
Body Beautiful/Nikutaibi (1928)
Treasure Mountain/Takara no yama (1929)

And so I begin this project with Ozu's eighth film, Days of Youth, from 1929.

What I first noticed about the film is it lacked the typical Ozu contemplative and placid rhythm.  Instead, most of the shots seemed to last only a couple of seconds and the film was almost entirely devoid of the long static takes I often associate with Ozu's work. 

As early as this first surviving work, Ozu already has an interest in exploring the threat of Westernization on Asian culture.  During several moments he lingers over American products - characters eating "California" asparagus or American raisins, American university college pennants hanging on one of the main character's walls, and the most prevalent of all, a poster from Borzage's 1927 American film 7th Heaven

I would classify the work as Ozu still searching for his trademark style.  There are certain expressionistic camera angles and pans of the camera that Ozu would seem to entirely abandon later on his career (too flashy).  And there is an "action sequence", a scene of the characters dancing, that is perhaps the most memorable scene in the film but also far from the type of flourish Ozu would allow himself in his later work. 

A characteristic of Ozu's work that maybe does not get mentioned enough is his sense of playfulness.  There are a number of sight gags reminiscent of Chaplin or Keaton and a lightness Ozu attemps to infuse into the narrative that we will see again and again in his work. 

Lastly, more of a question than anything and something to look for as these viewings evolve is Ozu's Zen Buddhism.  The film often felt more cruel than the other Ozu work I had seen only to come around at the end to something that felt very much aligned to the Zen Buddhist perspective.  More on this theme and overall aspect of Ozu's work as the project continues.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Going Renoir on Ozu

I lived in France for about two years total.  About six weeks during the Summer of 1993, about a year from the Fall of 1994 to the end of Summer 1995 and then about a year from Summer 1996 to Summer 1997.  It is definitely what first hooked me on film and I still get quite the charge whenever I think about French cinephilia. 

During my early days of France and of really starting to get into film I would often hear about Jean Renoir.  People I came into contact with would tell me he was the most important French director ever, above all the rest of his peers including Bresson, Godard, and Rohmer. 

And so finally in early 1996 wanting to understand this Renoir fuss, I embarked on a two month endeavor to watch every single one of his films I could find, in chronological order, and write thoughts after each of them.  By the time I finished the exercise I felt like I had gotten a real handle on Renoir and that they were right.  Renoir did seem like the most important of all of the French filmmakers I had seen.

Fast forward to the last couple of years.  I have slowly begun to discover the cinema of Yasujiro Ozu, at this point having probably seen about ten or so of his films and having made the informal comment a number of times that I belive Ozu just might be the single greatest filmmaker of all time.  But I am a completist.  How can I make such a statement having seen less than 20% of his work?  And so I think it probably apt that I go Renoir on Ozu, charting his career, working to try to understand him, one film at a time in chronological order going deep and as complete as I possibly can. 

Coming soon.

 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Favorite (four), part twenty-eight

Just like in my other twenty-seven posts in this series, I want to take a second to single out the highlights of my recent film viewing (more infrequent than I wish it were but hopefully that will improve).  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.


Jean-Luc Godard's Goodbye to Language
Godard's cinema is chiant. It is impossible to grasp it all. It washes over you, drowns you until you feel overwhelmed by its intelligence, superior knowledge, its grappling with something you might not even be advanced enough yet to recognize. I will be the first to admit, there is no way I can begin to analyze everything he is wanting to communicate. But it is the small ideas that jut out (Plato's "Beauty is the splendor of truth") and the arresting images of the human body, dogs, water, and movies playing silent in back of a scene that penetrate deeply. Forever, at least for me, Godard will be the one that pushes me to keep learning.  Because, perhaps through knowledge life can be understood and allow us to obtain beauty, truth and make a lasting, maybe even important, impression on our generation, our world and our time in life.

 

Damien Chazelle's Whiplash
As much as anything I have seen in a number of years, an indy that gives me hope and belief in the future of intelligent American cinema. Chazelle impresses first by his writing. The movie is perfectly sized and veers off into directions the spectator never quite expects. Then Chazelle adds to his impressive foundation two unsually well drawn lead charactors with Simmons seeming to put a career's worth of power into his role. The style is admirable, the attitude inspiring and the entertainment and artistic value both of a very high order.



Alain Giraudie's Stranger by the Lake
An example of what I would call "pure cinema" - zero music, almost no close ups, long takes, wide shots, fluid edits and camera movements. The ending again proves that the French might understand the power of the final five minutes better than anyone. And the way Giraudie uses sound further supports France's claim to that title as well.
 
Frederick Wiseman's National Gallery
Only my second experience so far with Wiseman (the first was At Berkeley), it too got inside me and worked on me in ways that rarely happen with film. Of course Wiseman gets there by taking his time, by restricting camera movement, depriving us of anything but diegetic music, and flooding us with a vast array of academic information. I come out of his films feeling more educated and with my view on whatever subject he is tackling (this time painting) deepened and altered. 
 
 
 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Television

For some reason I never grew up watching much television.  And as long as I have been a cinephile, I have known a lot about film and film history but embarrassingly little about cinema's cousin, television.  Fortunately a friend of mine has been on me for the last year or so to beef up on my tv knowledge and about six months ago I finally caved (and am so glad I did).

For the most part I have been watching pilots which I will list in a minute but other than that exercise I have committed to watching the entirety of a few shows.  So far I have completed True Detective and The Wire and am about a quarter of the way now through Breaking Bad.  After BB I plan on watching the rest of Fargo.

Anyway here all of the pilots I have seen in the last six months.  I am finding great pleasure getting to know this space better and cannot wait to keep going deeper and deeper.

Freaks and Geeks
Twin Peaks
Deadwood
The Americans
Masters of Sex
Mad Men
Boardwalk Empire
House of Cards
Homeland
Silicon Valley
Weeds
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
24
The Blacklist
Shameless
The Good Wife
Justified
Six Feet Under
True Blood
Entourage
Curb Your Enthusiasm
The Sopranos 
Girls
Modern Family
Sons of Anarchy
Ray Donovan
Carnivale
Californication
The Shield 
Rectify
Friday Night Lights
Lost
The Office
Orange is the New Black
Longmire
Jane the Virgin
Transparent
Dexter
Sonic Highways
Sherlock
The Newsroom
Happy Valley
American Horror Story
The Walking Dead
You're The Worst
Gotham
The Mentalist
Downton Abbey
The Killing
The Knick
Game of Thrones



Sunday, January 11, 2015

My Top Ten Films of 2014

Another year when I did not see as many new films as I would have liked.  Nor nearly as many films in general as in some other years.  Yet I still had some high points I wanted to share.  Here are the ten things I saw that most shifted me in 2014.
 
Joseph Mankiewicz's The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
Sometimes one film can make you completely rethink your opinion on a director and make you want to suddenly stop watching everything else and fill in whatever gaps may remain of that director's work.  I had one of those experiences with this film.  I have long been a fan of The Barefoot Contessa but aside from that Mankiewicz I have never had strong feelings about anything else I had ever seen from him.  The Ghost and Mrs. Muir reminds of all that I have come to love about Contessa.  It is deeply felt and wonderfully balanced in spite of some very unconventional tonal shifts and emotional territories in which it decides to tread.  Tierney is stunning.  Herrmann's score is among the most emotive I have ever heard.  And this is a flat out masterpiece that deserves a significantly larger reputation. 
 
Brian De Palma's Passion
A continuation of the director's pet themes of doppelgangers, betrayals, and a vision of the American dream doomed for failure. His cinema continues down its very singular path and his formal approach remains as identifiable as any filmmaker ever to take to the medium. For me the most interesting DePalma film since Femme Fatale.
 
Charlie Chaplin's A King in New York
What a wonderful oddity.  Although I know there are fans - Jonathan Rosenbaum, the Nouvelle Vague crew, and others - I am not sure this period of Chaplin gets its full due.  I am thinking of Limelight, this film and probably the final one which I have yet to see.  Chaplin does Godard before Godard and delivers one of the most scathing films of America ever made.  His handling of the young boy is marvelous and once again Chaplin proves himself uncannily adept at building scores for his heartfelt imagery.
 
 
Marco Bellocchio's Fists in the Pocket
Whenever you read about Bellocchio's debut feature, there is talk about how confident and assured it is and how it might just be one of the greatest debuts in the history of film. I cannot argue with any of that but what I was unaware of was how intense and disturbing the work is. Bellocchio gets deep, unnerving performances from his cast and puts together stylistic counterpoints that enhance the specificity of his vision. The overall impact is that of a work separating itself from what we had come to know from Italian cinema at the time. This is neither a highly surreal (Fellini) nor a highly formal (Antonioni) work. Fists is an emotional fireball that thanks to Bellocchio's skill has a shape and form all its own.  
 
D'Abbadie D'Arrast's Topaze
A film that is at times slightly lethargic from a narrative standpoint more than redeems itself through visual inventiveness and an all-in performance by John Barrymore. I have never seen Pagnol's version so I cannot comment on how it stacks up. D'Arrast proves himself though a very strong director with a keen sense of camera movement and emotive framing. I was particularly moved during the moment when he slowly pulls back the camera during Topaze's farewell speech to his classroom.

Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive
Certainly Jarmusch's most interesting film since at least Ghost Dog. It echoes and adds to so many other strands in his work, doing for Detroit what Mystery Train did for Memphis, doing for the vampire genre what Dead Man did for the western, and channeling Young, Mueller and other shades of Jarmusch in intimate ways that deepen the auteur's unique legacy and footprint in world cinema. There is not much humor making it the director's darkest and most disturbing work but it also rewards in what struck me as the deepest work to come from Jim since Depp was chasing William Blake. 
 
Yasujiro Ozu's Good Morning
Ozu continues to dazzle. There is so much life captured in his work. And there is a surpising amount of levity to his approach and tone. Although I might prefer a few of his other films, Good Morning would be an absolute masterpiece by most filmmaker's standards. As a portrait on the fear of Westernization in the late fifties, this one has few if any rivals. And it is interesting to see it as an influence on Kitano's style and as a bit of a sibling film to The 400 Blows.
 
Manoel de Oliveira's I'm going home
Only the second film I have seen so far from the celebrated Portuguese filmmaker and again I was impressed, moved and encouraged to seek out and watch more of his work. At times his aesthetic and sensibility remind me of Rohmer or even Rivette, something very loose and smart, and it does not hurt the feeling of similarity that the film takes place in Paris and features Michel Piccoli and Catherine Deneuve. The title holds several different meanings and the final image perpetuates the contemplative mood and tone that seem to be one of the hallmarks of de Oliveira's cinema. 
 
Roberto Rossellini's India: Matri Bhumi
Yet another brilliant piece by one of my all time favorite filmmakers. Rossellini teaches us about animals and makes us see them in ways we never have. In the process he also makes us think about our own lives and how many humans have a choice to hunt, be hunted, or like Ramu the monkey at the end actually have no choices at all. A brilliant look at India and a beautiful meditation on life. 
 
Orson Welles' The Immortal Story
One of the few works by Welles I had never seen is yet another testament to the director's genius and brilliance. The story is labyrinthine and deeply auto-biographical for anyone who wants to think about it in terms of Welles' one-off success with Kane. It joins Renoir's Partie de campagne as one of the medium's all time great short efforts and is incredibly poignant and powerful in spite of the limited means Welles must have had at his disposal.
 
 
 

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Les Inrockuptibles chimes in

I will be putting my own list together in the next week or so.  But in the meantime my favorite French magazine, Les Inrockuptibles, just put out their annual "best of" and thought I would share a few of their lists:

Film

Music

TV

Literature






Sunday, September 7, 2014

Favorite (four), part twenty-seven

Just like in my other twenty-six 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 finally 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 someone else as well.

Yasujiro Ozu's Good Morning
Ozu continues to dazzle.  There is so much life captured in his work.  And there is a surpising amount of levity to his approach and tone.  Although I might prefer a few of his other films, Good Morning would be an absolute masterpiece by most filmmaker's standards.  As a portrait on the fear of Westernization in the late fifties, this one has few if any rivals.  And it is interesting to see it as an influence on Kitano's style and as a bit of a sibling film to The 400 Blows.

Manoel de Oliveira's I'm going home
Only the second film I have seen so far from the celebrated Portuguese filmmaker and again I was impressed, moved and encouraged to seek out and watch more of his work.  At times his aesthetic and sensibility remind me of Rohmer or even Rivette, something very loose and smart, and it does not hurt the feeling of similarity that the film takes place in Paris and features Michel Piccoli and Catherine Deneuve.  The title holds several different meanings and the final image perpetuates the contemplative mood and tone that seem to be one of the hallmarks of de Oliveira.  
Serge Bromberg and Eric Lange's The Birth of a Tramp
A wonderfully informative and entertaining account of Chaplin's early years, most of which I was learning for the first time.  Absolutely fascinating to watch and hear how Chaplin made it in the movies.  

Orson Welles' The Immortal Story
One of the few works by Welles I had never seen is yet another testament to the director's genius and brilliance.  The story is labyrinthine and deeply auto-biographical for anyone who wants to think about it in terms of Welles' one-off success with Kane.  It joins Renoir's Partie de campagne as one of the medium's all time great short efforts and is incredibly poignant and powerful in spite of the limited means Welles must have had at his disposal.


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Favorite (four), part twenty-six

Just like in my other twenty-five 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 finally 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 someone else as well.

D'Abbadie D'Arrast's Topaze
A film that is at times slightly lethargic from a narrative standpoint more than redeems itself through visual inventiveness and an all-in performance by John Barrymore.  I have never seen Pagnol's version so I cannot comment on how it stacks up.  D'Arrast proves himself though a very strong director with a keen sense of camera movement and emotive framing.  I was particularly moved during the moment when he slowly pulls back the camera during Topaze's farewell speech to his classroom.

Richard Linklater's Boyhood
I walked in feeling that this was the best-reviewed American film of the year so far and though I have been lukewarm with Linklater over the years I wanted him to astonish me, prove me wrong and force me into a categorical reconsideration of everything I had seen from him to date.  And for stretches he and the film did just that - during those moments when Marco Perella is on screen or when Mason and Sheena are fighting and reminding us of Kechiche's great work from last year Blue Is The Warmest Color.  It does so many things right by my book.  It updates that much beloved genre from the seventies, the American naturalistic character film, shooting it with our color and feel and the look of today's world.  By holding up a mirror to us no matter how awkward and vapid our words or actions or struggles may be, it also carries forward one of the great traits of those 70s films asking us to look and think rather than escape and ignore.  Linklater's approach of shooting the same fictional characters throughout their childhood alone gives his film a special effect and it is my feeling that anyone interested in knowing where the American art film is in 2014 needs to check it out.  However as much as I want to be with the majority and love what everyone else loves, like I was after seeing Kechiche's film last year, I have some fairly major reservations.  Linklater's charm has always been his aloof approach to storytelling, the naturalistic lived-in words and reactions he is able to coax from his performers in his relatively shapeless works. He probably hits more of those moments than ever during Boyhood's 164 minutes.  Ultimately though his approach also is a little his undoing as after a while a work of this ambition wants either more shape and formal discipline (Boyhood could have used a more discerning editing team) or a more powerful aesthetic such as what Antonioni, Malick, Kubrick or even Coppola would have given us.  

Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive
Certainly Jarmusch's most interesting film since at least Ghost Dog.  It echoes and adds to so many other strands in his work, doing for Detroit what Mystery Train did for Memphis, doing for the vampire genre what Dead Man did for the western, and channeling Young, Mueller and other shades of Jarmusch in intimate ways that deepen the auteur's unique legacy and footprint in world cinema.  There is not much humor making it the director's darkest and most disturbing work but it also rewards in what struck me as the deepest work to come from Jim since Depp was chasing William Blake.   

Kent Jones' Val Lewton: The Man in the Shadows
Jones could be an esteemed documentarian or a well known one if that was his desired path.   He is among the most astute and articulate of English-speaking cinephiles and his homage to Lewton is proof yet again (as if he needed anything else to support that claim).   Jones gives us a succinct yet heartfelt essay on the producer who should be far more of a household name, again like Jones.  His two hands full of films deserve to be an even greater part of the conversation and I imagine their reputation will only continue to grow as the years pass.   A required look for anyone interested in knowing more about the great Lewton.