Friday, April 6, 2012

Favorite (four), part sixteen

Just like my other fifteen posts in this series, I want to take a second to single out the highlights of my recent film viewing.  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 will be good to someone else, too).

Manoel de Oliveira's The Strange Case of Angelica
My first experience with a de Oliveira film so I can't frame it alongside the rest of his work.  But what I can say is that I found it masterful - one of these late films by a great filmmaker that is deceptively simple (think Gertrud) where the formal simplicity belies a specificity and depth that are the true signs of greatness.  Most shocking to me was the vitality of the editing, always cutting away seconds earlier than expected, to produce a level of restraint so vital to the heavyweight feeling the film ends up producing for the viewer.  I could go on and on about the brilliance of metaphor here, de Oliveira's wonderful visual tics, and a cinema that is as mannered as Hartley's but as weighty as Dreyer's, but I'll wait to elaborate on those things until I have the pleasure of seeing a few more from this great Portuguese filmmaker.

Martin Scorsese's No Direction Home
This should go down as one of the greatest of all Scorsese films and the single best doc on Dylan.  It's moving, incredibly cinematic, and really captures the great one at his absolute, creative peak.  

Fred Niblo's The Mysterious Lady
I can keep it simple here.  Garbo is sexy personified in this very inventive and entertaining early work.  Want to understand the mystique around Garbo - this is a great place to start.

Andre de Toth's Day of the Outlaw
Raw, dark, and artful, there's something absolutely uncompromising about De Toth's work here.  The tone almost makes you think you're watching a horror film, but the pacing and cinematography feel straight out of a European art film.  One of the most unique westerns I have ever seen and simply a key work of any genre.


  1. Thrilled to see an update here Jeffrey, though I know you've been busy. Your latest quartet is a great lot, with the Oliveira and de Toth in the top rank category. THE STRANGE CASE OF ANGELICA, which defty combines whimsy, mystery, humor and tragedy in a mix that's exclusive to one of the cinema's most incredible success stories. I love when you assert that Oliveira's visual style is as weighty as Dreyer's. De Toth's film is indeed one of the great art house westerns, and as you note it's uncompromising. Scorsese's Dylan film is the rank of Pennebaker's and Niblo's film does define Garbo.

    Splendid analysis here in a triumphant wrap!

  2. I share your enthusiasm for Angelica--it was the second Oliveira I saw and I fell in love with it. There's still many of his I need to see, but be sure to check out Abraham's Valley--probably the only one of his films that I've seen that I've liked even more than Angelica.

    Huge fan of the De Toth and Niblo too.

    Btw, I don't know your email address, but I'd love to talk about The Last Lullaby with you when you have a chance. Feel free to send me a line at

  3. Thanks so much, Sam - always an amazing addition when you're around. I can't thank you enough for all the support!

  4. Peter, I will definitely check out Abraham's Valley very soon. Already have it in the queue. Thanks, by the way, for putting some of these on my radar!

  5. Jeffrey--

    My thoughts and prayers are with you at this time. I hope the sorm has skirted around your location. It seems there is always a new adventure down there, but not the kind you would favor. I'm sorry youve had to endure this.

  6. Thanks so much, for the thoughts. I'm so sorry I'm just now responding. Fortunately, Shreveport was spared this time around, but south of us, of course, is still dealing with a good amount of flooding and power losses for many, many people. Your kindness and support mean so much. Thanks, Sam!