Just like in my other twenty-four posts in this series, I want to take a second to single out the highlights of my recent film viewing. Most of the films I have been glad to finally see but only very few have stayed with me. This series is my filter for those and my hope is one or two will be good to someone else as well.
Brian DePalma's Passion
A continuation of the director's pet themes of doppelgangers, betrayals, and a vision of the American dream doomed for failure. His cinema continues down its very singular path and his formal approach remains as identifiable as any filmmaker ever to take to the medium. For me the most interesting DePalma film since Femme Fatale.
DW Griffith's Orphans of the Storm
It is 1921 and the amount of cinematic language in which Griffith already seems proficient is staggering - the close-up, cross-cutting, the tracking shot, to name but a few. But even more impressive is the way Griffith builds suspense particularly whenever the sisters threaten to meet. Time and time again Griffith deprives the audience of the one thing they want, putting it off, teasing until the absolute very end. This is masterful, epic storytelling, 150 minutes that feels shaped just right.
Marco Bellocchio's Fists in the Pocket
Whenever you read about Bellocchio's debut feature, there is talk about how confident and assured it is and how it might just be one of the greatest debuts in the history of film. I cannot argue with any of that. But what I did not know is how intense and disturbing the work is. Bellocchio gets deep, unnerving performances from his cast and puts together stylistic counterpoints that enhance the specificity of his vision. The overall impact is that of a work separating itself from what we had come to know from Italian cinema at the time. This is neither a highly surreal (Fellini) nor a highly formal (Antonioni) work. Fists is an emotional fireball that thanks to Bellocchio's skill has a shape and form all its own.
Stephen Frears' Philomena
Frears is a director I almost always like. Versatile, invisible stylistically behind the camera yet uncommonly consistent and felt as an emotional filmmaker. This is mainstream art cinema that is all too rare - harmonious, moving, and craft of the highest order.