1983: L'argent (Robert Bresson)
If you're a Bob Dylan fan (count me among the many), and your introduction to Dylan came by way of his solo work, there is something almost shocking the first time you hear Dylan accompanied by a band. Same with Bresson and his work in color. By the same I saw this late film in the director's career, I had probably seen six or seven of the director's other films, all in black-and-white.
With Bresson and color, the formal elements take on a different effect, something slightly more psychedelic than austere. However, the emotional impact and transcendental qualities are still very much intact. In fact, along with Pickpocket, my experience with this one was the most powerful of any I have had with Bresson's work. As always with the French master, the work sneaks up on you, gets under your skin, and leaves you in a different place than any other film work.
Put this in a small group of Dreyer's Gertrud, Huston's The Dead, Murnau's Tabu, Ford's 7 Women, Becker's Le Trou, and Yang's Yi Yi. In other words, among cinema's greatest of all swan songs.
Other contenders for 1983: I still have some things to see from this year. These include: Wim Wenders' Hammett, Andrei Tarkovsky's Nostalghia, Abbas Kiarostami's Fellow Citizen, Charles Burnett's My Brother's Wedding, Bruce Beresford's Tender Mercies, Bill Forsyth's Local Hero, Kon Ichikawa's The Makioka Sisters, Bela Tarr's Almanac of Fall, Andrzej Wajda's Danton, and John Sayles' Baby It's You. I need to revisit Martin Scorsese's The King of Comedy as it's been too long since I've seen it to know where it'd place on this list. But from this year, I really like Eric Rohmer's Pauline a la plage. I love Chris Marker's Sans Soleil, Maurice Pialat's A nos amours, Alain Tanner's In the White City, and Jim McBride's Breathless. And my closest runner-up is Francis Ford Coppola's Rumble Fish.
5/21/11 I watched Bruce Beresford's Tender Mercies. The film has a wonderful, lived-in look, a very memorable Duvall performance, and a feel for the wide-open Texas countryside that rivals any I've ever seen. But the plotting doesn't always feel organic to me, and there's a lack of regard for any real drama, ultimately leaving the film with a questionable pulse.
7/7/11 I watched Martin Scorsese's The King of Comedy. A somewhat unusual film in Scorsese's body of work, and a strange, distant look at celebrity. Might have some interesting things to say but so cold that I really don't care very much.
7/20/11 I watched David Cronenberg's Videodrome. Incredibly original and confident early flick from the Canadian master. Intriguing, and fairly compelling, but not completely easy to empathize with, very much.
8/25/11 I watched Bill Forsyth's Local Hero. Sweet, character study with a lot of heart. I just wish it had a little more vinegar in it to make its sentimental streak a little more palatable and affecting.
8/28/11 I watched Bela Tarr's Almanac of Fall. Austere and hermetic. I never really found my way in.
10/19/11 I watched Jean-Luc Godard's First Name: Carmen. There are absolutely some stunning lines and some stunning moments. And of all the post-sixties work from Godard that I have seen, this is probably my favorite. However, it still lacks the overall lyricism and vitality of the films of his that I love from the earlier period.
7/21/12 I watched Tony Silver's Style Wars. If you grew up with hip-hop like I did, this is one of the great documents of the era. I first stumbled upon it reading an interview with Michael Rapaport around the release of his Tribe Called Quest doc. It's a remarkably intimate look at the scene that would, just a year later, receive narrative treatment in the form of Beat Street and Breakin'. And special mention to that song unspooling over the end credits, a lost gem, Rammellzee and K-Rob's Beat Bop.