2008: Tulpan (Sergei Dvortsevoy)
This will be the final year I'll tackle. I wasn't able to see enough last year to confidently put together a post. But I will do one more post tomorrow, wrapping up the countdown and discussing a little about where we go from here.
Tulpan, in terms of its bravura filmmaking, could be seen as the rural counterpart to my 2007 entry. If I had to guess, the film probably has less than 100 cuts. However, it covers a lot of ground. It's one of these rare films that pushes my understanding of what's possible in the medium and forces me to reconsider the directions in which I'd like to go. In fact, if somebody said that I have an endless amount of time and money to do my next project, I would love to take the Mungiu or Dvortsevoy approach. To me, in terms of sheer technique, this is the most exciting filmmaking I have seen in many, many years.
What's most inspiring to me about Dvortsevoy's approach is the way he's able to meld a virtuosic spirit with the most quotidian of subjects. It's as if Orson Welles or Stanley Kubrick suddenly took on neorealism. The approach feels completely groundbreaking and new to me. And when I watch certain scenes, of course the birthing of the lamb is the first come to mind, I feel like the approach is able to produce unprecedented effects and emotions.
Some people bemoan the death of cinema. But incredibly brave filmmakers like this will continue to open up new doors and directions. I for one continue to believe that the medium is still very young, and that we are only starting to see all its great possibilities.
Other contenders for 2008: From this year , I still have some things to see. These include: Stephen Daldry's The Reader, Andrew Stanton's Wall-E, Claire Denis' 35 Shots of Rum, Olivier Assayas' Summer Hours, Abel Ferrara's Chelsea on the Rocks, Hong Sang-soo's Night and Day, Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Tokyo Sonata, Arnaud Desplechin's A Christmas Tale, Hirokazu Kore-ada's Still Walking, and Ole Christian Madsen's Flame & Citron. At some point, I'll need to revisit Darren Aronofsky's The Wrestler as I struggled a little with it the one time I saw it. But from this year, I really like Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne's Lorna's Silence. I loved Megumi Sasaki's Herb and Dorothy and Claire Denis' 35 Shots of Rum. And my closest runner-up is Gus Van Sant's Milk.
4/9/10 I watched Claire Denis' 35 Shots of Rum. The style is absolutely sublime, and I thought Denis sustained poetry and nuance as well as I have ever seen her do. Perhaps slightly too elusive at times but overall just really powerful stuff for me.
12/18/10 I watched Arnaud Desplechin's A Christmas Tale. It's an ambitious work, and at times, Desplechin almost feels like he's inventing a whole new kind of film. It's modern and moves from lyrical moments to pretty intellectual highs with stylistic ease. Desplechin is wonderful with actors and a real talent, but here I thought he could have benefitted from subtracting some things. Not every subplot is satisfying, and the final feel of the film was a bit blurred as a result of its overreaching.
12/19/10 I watched So Yong Kim’s Treeless Mountain. It’s all one piece -- the colors, the texture, and the mood. And it’s all done in an incredibly deliberate and artful way. But I never felt very much, and it all felt a bit claustrophobic to me, with its insistence on filming almost everything in extreme close-up.
12/23/10 I watched Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Tokyo Sonata. Kurosawa's lightest and most accessible work I've seen. It's great to see the director working outside of genre and in territory that's already been masterfully done by Kitano (Fireworks) and Yang (Yi Yi). Restrained but lyrical with the best final scene I've seen all year. A wonderful film.
12/25/10 I watched Kristopher Belman's More Than a Game. As somewhat of a former athlete, I'm a sucker for this type of story, and much of this side of Lebron James' rise was unfamiliar to me. I was inspired by the friendship and obstacles these young guys had to overcome. And I was moved by Coach Jones' struggle. Not always the most well-made doc, but a story worth telling.
12/28/10 I watched Wendy Keys' Milton Glaser: To Inform and Delight. Glaser is an interesting person, who was unknown to me before the film. But the film never finds a terribly riveting way to present him, and I found myself questioning why I was spending this much time with him.
12/28/10 I watched Antonio Campos' Afterschool. Clinical and carnal, feels like an American Dumont or Noe. Air-tight in its calculations and from a distance. But suspect whenever it approached anything human and more realistic.
12/29/10 I watched Pablo Larrain's Tony Manero. Quite the dreary affair. Exquisite camerawork, at times, and some wonderful performances, but oppressive with seemingly little to no reason.
12/30/10 I watched Richard Linklater's Me and Orson Welles. Linklater keeps things buoyant, and it all has a pretty charming and harmless spirit. And McKay, at times, bears a remarkable resemblance to Welles himself. Just felt a bit incomplete to me. Welles' lack of doubt made it hard for me to fully connect to him, and I wasn't always sure what to do with Efron.
1/2/11 I watched Oliver Assayas' Summer Hours. Assayas brings a realism and vitality that I greatly admire. And the acting and characters are all incredibly satisfying. But Assayas seems unwilling to stop and give any one moment too much weight and importance. While this might be the secret behind his cinema's energy, it also diminishes its weight ultimately. And isn't it strange that the family would allow a big party to be held at the home, as a new owner buys it and prepares to take it over?
1/4/11 I watched Tim Disney's American Violet. It's a pretty traditional David v Goliath story, but there are some moments where this smaller budget indy acquits itself well. I enjoyed Will Patton and Anthony Mackie, as always. And newcomer Nicole Behaire does a pretty fine job, too. Just wish it was a little more imaginative in terms of its use of music, and some of its directorial approach.
1/7/11 I watched Darren Aronofsky's The Wrestler. Of the Aronofsky I've seen, it's the one I like the most so far. But I still find him to be someone that enjoys causing the audience pain. And his esthetic, at times, the jump cuts and ugly cinematography, really don't do it for me.
1/8/11 I watched Gerardo Neranjo's I'm Gonna Explode. The film the most influenced by Pierrot Le Fou that I've ever seen. And when it's really riffing on one of my all-time faves, I think it's at its strongest. But it neither has Godard's wisdom, incredible sense of humor, nor formal inventiveness. Plus Maru has nowhere near the beauty of Anna Karina. And so its energy wanes about halfway in.
1/13/11 I watched Lance Daly's Kisses. Had a lot of heart, but the filmmaking, and most of everything else, felt pretty thin to me.
1/14/11 I watched Lisandro Alonso's Liverpool. As incredibly beautiful as it is painfully slow. An art film with a big ole capital A, the kind that would have Pauline Kael turning over in her grave.
1/19/11 I watched Steve Jacobs' Disgrace. A tough movie for me to get a handle on, not really sure what the filmmakers were hoping to say. At times, I felt it was entirely nihilistic, while other moments made me think there was a sliver of hopeful outlook within these rough circumstances. All in all, a little mixed on it as the characters' motivations seemed unfounded in any reality I could fully recognize.
1/22/11 I watched Charlie Kaufman's Synecdoche, New York. I'm in a huge minority, someone that has always struggled with Kaufman's work, and it's not really a different story here. I admire his quirky outlook and his unique modernism, but emotionally and intellectually I just end up frustrated. The acting's quite impressive though and so are some of Elmes' visuals.
1/30/11 I watched Hirokazu Koreeda's Still Walking. The third of the director's films I've seen, and he continues to be among my favorite of all the contemporary Asian directors. He's definitely a humanist, and there are moments that carry a tremendous power. Not perfect, I particularly found a little fault with the saccharine nature of some of the score. But all in all a memorable effort from one of the few directors still carrying Ozu's torch.
2/12/11 I watched Joe Swanberg's Nights and Weekends. It was my first experience with a Swanberg film, and I certainly liked it much more than I expected. The writing at times was very sharp, and I liked how uninhibited and intimate it could be. It also captured feelings and things about life in one's twenties that seem rare on screen. But I don't like Swanberg much as an actor, and there's something smug about his overall tone and approach.
3/24/11 I watched Abel Ferrara's Chelsea on the Rocks. Made with Ferrara's typical deceptively unpolished style, a strong documentary from the ever probing auteur. The material is perfect for Ferrara as he's able to filter the seediness of the Chelsea into his own debauched yet weirdly humanistic perspective. Certainly not for everyone, but fans of Ferrara will feel his work continues to evolve and excel.
6/4/11 I watched Nash Edgerton's The Square. I didn't care very much for the ending. But Edgerton definitely shows skill at the genre and a real inventiveness at times both in terms of his plotting and filmmaking. Will be interesting to see what he does next.
2/4/12 I watched Hong Sang-soo's Night and Day. There is something really impressive about Hong's cinema, and he is perhaps the greatest successor to Rohmer that we have right now. The use of the zoom was particularly masterful here. But the film ends up being overly long and pretty unlikeable and cold by the time it comes to a close.
11/27/15 I watched Marc Forster's Quantum of Solace. After a very positive experience with Casino Royale, I had high expectations for this next film in the Craig/Bond series. I have never been a fan of Forster's work though and this one proves in my mind yet again that he is neither a great builder of character nor an action director with any real inspiration.
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