Thursday, September 22, 2011

Favorite (four), part fourteen

Just like in my other thirteen 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).

Lee Chang-dong's Poetry
Another film that makes me feel that the two countries with the most interesting cinema right now are South Korea and Romania.  By no means an easy work, this film ambles around, so soft and subtle in its approach that the viewer has to forge a different kind of relationship within the experience.  My first Chang-dong viewing tells me that he's an incredibly patient filmmaker, unusually adept with actors and a humanist in the vein of the Dardennes and Rossellini.  A bit too vague at times in his ramblings but a filmmaker employing methods of the highest rigor and truth.

Werner Herzog's Fitzcarraldo
Part of that unique genre, "extreme film", along with works such as Apocalypse Now and Sorcerer.  These films all show filmmakers willing to travel to dangerous lengths to paint unprecedented canvases and test their own abilities as storytellers and dream purveyors. Herzog's film might feel slightly disjointed at times.  But the scope at which he is working and the heart that drives both him and Fitzcarraldo allow this film to rise memorably above any shortcomings. A classic of the genre, and probably about as personal as Herzog's work can ever be.  

James Ivory's Mr. & Mrs. Bridge
Two unusually strong performances remind us of the wonderful nuance, depth, and humanity that can happen when a filmmaker decides to make a work for real, aging adults (think Make Way for Tomorrow). Woodward is particularly memorable here, and of the Ivory films I've seen so far, this one seems the most sophisticated and pleasantly ambiguous.

Andrew Niccol's Gattaca
I found it to be one of the most unique, thoughtful, and moving Hollywood films I have seen in awhile.  It has to go down as one of the more striking debuts of the last twenty years with a Niccol script that is spare and poetic, all in the best of ways.  I wish visually the world was a little less flat and generic, but Nyman's score and Niccol's smooth direction lift the story well above the sterile visuals.  


  1. Wow. To say that this lot is extraordinary is actually to unerate the choices. I voted GATTACA as my favorite film during the 90's countdown, and consider it one of teh greatest science-fiction films of all time, though it's an interesting hybrid with some noirish underpinnings and a philosophical inquiry into the nature of mortality and genetic pre-determination. As you astutely note Nyman's score is piercingly beautiful (it's one my favorite scores ever) the cinematography arresting and Niccol's diorecting and the acting all inspired.

    You said it all about Herzog's masterpiece, which may well be his most personal film.

    I adore Merchant & Ivory's MR. & MRS. BRIDGE, which features those two unforgettable lead performances and a terrific script adapted from Evan Connell's novel. Richard Robbins's elegiac score is beautiful too.

    And then there's POETRY, one of my favorite films of 2011. Nice comparison there with the Dardennes and Rossellini. At the center is the stunning performance from Yoon Jeong-hee, which is probably the most exceptional of any female lead this year.

    What a quartet you've watch this week, and as always you frame everything beautifully.

  2. Thanks so much, Sam! We completely agree on all of these. And I have to credit you probably with seeking out at least three of them, all but the Herzog.

    I appreciate the wonderful addition here!