1987: Where Is the Friend's House? (Abbas Kiarostami)
I'll never forget the first time I saw one of Abbas Kiarostami's films. I was living in Caen, France, and Through the Olive Trees was playing at the "local" arthouse. I use the term loosely as I didn't have a car that year, and sometimes the buses would go on strike, taking away my option of public transportation, too. But I was determined to see the film and decided to walk. It was least an hour each way, and I can remember questioning my decision a number of times while in transit. After seeing the final shot of the film though, I left the theater and began my walk back home in absolute movie nirvana.
Kiarostami is up there in a small group of my favorite filmmakers. More than anything, what I love about his work is the way he combines cinematic rigor with deep humanity. His filmmaking is simple, disciplined, restrained, and to throw in a culinary descriptive, clean. Meanwhile, the emotional core of his work is deep, honest, probing, and insightful.
Where Is the Friend's House? takes something so simple, a little boy unable to find his friend's house, and turns it into one of the most dramatic experiences imaginable. Like all Kiarostami, this one is quiet, fairly slow, visually beautiful, and almost earthy in its naturalism.
I love all of Kiarostami's films from this period and look forward to catching up on some of his earlier and some of his later work. But in these eyes, already by what I've seen, he's one of the greatest of all filmmakers.
Other contenders for 1987: I still have some films to see from this year. These include: Maurice Pialat's Under the Son of Satan, Souleymane Cisse's Yeelen, Elaine May's Ishtar, Eric Rohmer's Four Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle, Alex Cox's Walker, Woody Allen's Radio Days, Stephen Frears' Sammy and Rosie Get Laid, Nanni Moretti's The Mass is Ended, John Sayles' Matewan, Steven Spielberg's Empire of the Sun, John Boorman's Hope and Glory, Hal Hartley's The Cartographer's Girlfriend, Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire, James Ivory's Maurice, Mohsen Makhmalbaf's The Cyclist, Christine Edzard's Little Dorrit, Jean-Pierre Mocky's Agent trouble, and
Ousmane Sembene's Camp de Thiaroye. I need to revisit Louis Malle's Au revoir les enfants as it's been too long since I've seen it to know where it'd place on this list. From this year, I really like Brian De Palma's The Untouchables and The Coen Brothers' Raising Arizona. I love Stephen Frears' Prick Up Your Ears. And my closest runner-up is John Huston's The Dead.
5/8/10 I watched John Boorman's Hope and Glory. Although I found it a little broad, sentimental, and glossy at times for my taste, it did have a great deal of heart. It was obvious that this material was very personal to Boorman. And his intimate relationship to the film certainly gives it a certain freshness and originality.
5/9/10 I watched Steven Spielberg's Empire of the Sun. I was struck by how closely Bale resembled the young Jean-Pierre Leaud in 400 Blows, and Bale's performance certainly must rank up there with the finest ever registered by a young actor. A little overlong and a little overblown at times for me, but full of incredible moments. Also of note is the vitality Spielberg is able to give it throughout.
5/29/10 I watched Louis Malle's Au Revoir Les Enfants. The first hour buzzes along like a complete masterpiece. Then there is maybe a scene or two that feels a little unnecessary. But all in all, an extremely powerful, restrained look at occupied France. Full of heart and lively storytelling.
9/2/10 I watched Woody Allen's Radio Days. It's a very buoyant Woody with a great sense of nostalgia, and an interesting, heavy reliance on the zoom. Full of Woody's typical humor - this is a personal film by Woody with grace and some very excellent moments.
9/2/11 I watched Souleymane Cisse's Yeelen. This earthy and evocative work is the first film I have seen by Cisse. It's so rooted in African custom as to feel a little elusive. But I appreciate that there is a talent at work here.
9/6/11 I watched Mohsen Makhmalbaf's The Cyclist. A sort of political parable that left me a bit at a distance. A bit too disjointed and stylistically noisy for me to fully embrace.
10/13/11 I watched Eric Rohmer's Boyfriends and Girlfriends. A mediocre Rohmer. His sublime style is almost entirely intact, but the actors let him down a little this go around.
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