Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Favorite (four), part ten

Just like in my other nine posts thus far in this series, I want to take a second to single out the highlights of my recent film viewing.  I'm trying right now to take in almost a film a day.  Most have been first-time viewings, and most I have been glad to finally see.  But only very few have stayed with me.  This series is my filter for those (and hopefully one or two of these will be good to someone else, too).

Corneliu Porumboiu's Police, Adjective

The new Romanian cinema has gotten much recent acclaim, and after seeing 4 Months... and this film it's easy to see why.  What I find so striking about this film is its naturalism that runs in quite a different direction from the cinema of the Dardenne brothers.  Porumboiu keeps the camera fixed in wide frames, as opposed to the handheld close-ups that seem to populate the work of the Dardenne brothers.  Porumboiu also favors long takes in a way that we rarely see in the work of the Belgian filmmakers.  The sense of humor of Porumboiu is quite effective and unexpected and other than perhaps the final ten minutes, I would have no hesitation declaring this one of the greatest of recent films, and a full-blown masterpiece.   

Alberto Lattuada's Mafioso
I've long known this as one of Scorsese's favorites, and it certainly doesn't disappoint.  But it doesn't meet expectations either.  There's far less violence than one would imagine.  The tone more often resembles a vivacious and sunny foreign film than a somber and serious-minded noir.  And Lattuada shows an unexpected assertiveness with his editing, movement of the camera, and ability to juggle different genres. Lattuada also knows how to make great use of music to heighten the action (the jazz leading up to the barbershop sequence) and has no problem leaving the viewer with a great, big lump in his throat.  

Paul Schrader's Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters
This abstract, highly stylized oddity actually is one of the more interesting films I've seen from Schrader.   At times, it is almost too obtuse, but there is also something here that feels quite personal.  And it's the most cinematic of the Schrader-directed films that I've seen.  The actor playing the adult Mishima is quite powerful, and Philip Glass' score, though in typical Glass fashion repetitive, also binds it all together into a successfully surreal, cerebral, and intermittently visceral work.  

David Lynch's The Cowboy and the Frenchman
A short film from Lynch made in 1988 for French television at arguably the peak of his career (two years after Blue Velvet and right before the beginning of Twin Peaks).  It's vintage Lynch, in the best of ways, with its flights of fancy and often gut busting sense of humor.  Along with the Twin Peaks pilot, a Lynch work crying out for discovery.  

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