Friday, April 9, 2010

1988: Bird (Clint Eastwood)

1988: Bird (Clint Eastwood)
Clint Eastwood as a filmmaker appears on this list three times.  And even though I can't say any of his work are "desert island films" for me, I do greatly admire both his formal and business approach.  

Formally, his work recalls some of my favorite early films from Hollywood, well-told by a director that backgrounds style and makes the material his focus.  As for business, he's among the few directors with a system of delivering nearly a film a year. 

I can't say too much about this work; I haven't seen it in many years. But I do remember feeling that it gave me a great sense of what it meant to be a jazz musician in the forties and fifties.  It features two remarkable performances by Forest Whitaker and Diane Venora and displays an extraordinary patience in the way that it allows its story to unfold.  

There's nothing really flashy and nothing really cool here, but that doesn't mean Eastwood isn't conscious of film form.  He just uses it sparingly, and as always, with great discipline.

Other contenders for 1988: I still have some titles to see.  These include: Mike Leigh's High Hopes, Jean-Luc Godard's King Lear, John Waters' Hairspray, Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ, Krzysztof Kieslowski's Decalogue, Jean-Claude Brisseau's De bruit et de fureur, Jacques Demy's Trois places pour le 26, Terrence Davies' Distant Voices, Still Lives, and Isao Takahata's Grave of the Fireflies. I need to revisit Giuseppe Tornatore's Cinema Paradiso as it's been too long since I've seen it to know where it'd place on this list.  But from this year, I really like David Cronenberg's Dead Ringers.  And my closest runner-up is Catherine Breillat's 36 fillette.

9/1/11 I watched John Waters' Hairspray.   Incredibly inventive, it's truly amazing to see this whole world that Waters creates.  He's also able to maintain his trademark, tongue-in-cheek tone, even as he navigates some pretty difficult political and esthetic terrain.  I prefer a little more depth and seriousness, but I greatly respect this achievement.

2/4/12 I watched Claire Denis' Chocolat.  Already sensuous like the best of Denis even if the subject matter feels slightly too esoteric to connect. A strong debut but not at the same level, I would say, as some of her very best. 

7/20/12 I watched Andrew Solt's Imagine: John Lennon.  Impressionistic approach gives us a feel for Lennon. This approach also deprives us though of some real opportunity to understand this fascinating man and all his many transformations.   

5/28/18 I watched Mike Leigh's High Hopes.  Incredible acting meets Leigh's overly forced direction.  Too much music and too many close-ups with no real purpose.  

3/14/20 I watched Sidney Lumet's Running on Empty.  Not a very good film but Phoenix is once again remarkable.  The sensitivity and depth of emotion he shows at such an early age are astounding.

1/8/22 I watched Jean-Luc Godard's Histoire(s) du cinema.  Is it possible to praise a film in which you grasp less than 10% of what the filmmaker is saying?  I would argue that it is.  Particularly with someone like Godard who can send shockwaves through your brain with some of his insights and with the lyricism he sometimes finds as he works sound and image together.  

1/17/22 I watched Claude Chabrol's Story of Women.  An interesting story with a very strong Huppert performance but Chabrol's direction feels quite broad.


  1. Jeffrey I do like BIRD well enough, and am always smitten with it's subject matter, as that form is very dear to my heart. This is another bold and visionary choice here!

    It's true that some have derided CNEMA PARADISO for it's strong flavor of sentimentality. But sentimentalism is the very subject and essence of CINEMA PARADISO, so I never took issue here. The razing of the theatre and that return by the film's protagonist to the cow-web enshrouded theatre before it's demise rank as two of the most shattering scenes in all of cinema. When our local theatre, the Ridgefiel Park Rialto closed maybe 18 months ago, they played the film over the final weekend. Although it's one of my favorite films and have seen it endless times, I again attended and cried my eyes out. Morricone contributed one of his great scores here, which was as important a part of the film's emotional core as any other element.

    My Own #1 of 1988:

    Cinema Paradiso (Tornatore; Italy)


    Dekalog (Kieslowski; Poland)
    Distant Voices Still Lives (Davies; UK)
    Grave of the Fireflies (Takahata; Japan)
    Hairspray (Waters; USA)
    Dead Ringers (Cronenberg; Canada)
    Hotel Terminus (Ophuls; France)
    Chocolat (Denis; France)
    The Accidental Tourist (Kasden; USA)
    War Requiem (Jarmon; UK)
    The Thin Blue Line (Morris; USA)
    The Navigator (Ward; New Zealand)
    Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (Spain Almodovar)
    Why Has Bodhi Darma Left for the East? (Yang-Kyan; Korea)
    Last Temptation of Christ (Scorsese; USA)
    Eight Men Out (Sayles; USA)
    A Fish Called Wanda (Crichton; UK)
    The Vanishing (Sluizer; Holland)

  2. Jeffrey, Bird is a good choice for what may be the strongest year in the decade for American cinema. On my own list, Bird ranks behind Phillip Kaufman's The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Francis Coppola's Tucker:The Man and his Dream and John Sayles's Eight Men Out. Your to-do list for this year looks a lot like mine, but the Scorsese is definitely worth a look despite (to me) an unconvincing main character.

  3. Sam, I definitely need to see CINEMA PARADISO again! It's been forever. And though I liked it the first time, I really can't remember it all that well.

    Thanks, Sam. Always awesome having you here!

  4. Samuel, I need to revisit all the films you mention: THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING, TUCKER: THE MAN AND HIS DREAM, and EIGHT MEN OUT. It's been at least ten years since I've seen any of them and so would be too hard for me to know where they place on the list.

    Glad to hear you're a fan of BIRD, too. Thanks, as always, for stopping by here!

  5. I remember admiring Bird and particularly Whitaker's strong performance, but it's been a long time for me and I no doubt owe it another viewing. Intriguing choice. And the Breillat you've listed as your runner-up looks mighty interesting; again another director I should be more familiar with.

    For me it's no contest with this year; Kieslowski's Decalogue is a work I consider to be one of the staggering achievements in all of cinema, so that would be my clear favorite here. Right behind that would be Rivette's Gang of Four, Sluizer's The Vanishing, and Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.

  6. "Bird" is a great film! Formal is a great description for this film and for Eastwood's work in general. I also think you are accurate in describing this film giving you a real idea of what a jazz musician's life was like. It ranks up there on my HM list. My own choice is the same as Sam's, "Cinema Paradiso" a film about friendship and the love of movies. Yes, it does get a bit sentimental but who so what.
    #1 Cinema Paradiso

    Best of the rest

    The Last Temptation of Christ
    Dear America: Letters Home From Vietnam
    Eight Men Out
    Who Framed Roger Rabbit
    Dead Ringers
    A Fish Called Wanda
    Bull Durham

  7. Drew, thanks so much for the great comments! Yeah, I really like that Breillat. She's definitely a very interesting filmmaker.

    The Rivette, Sluizer, and Gilliam are all things I still need to see. And DECALOGUE I definitely need to take in soon.

    Thanks, Drew. Always great having you here!

  8. John, good stuff! From your list, I still need to see DEAR AMERICA: LETTERS HOME FROM VIETNAM. I also need to revisit WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBITT, A FISH CALLED WANDA, and BULL DURHAM as it's been forever since I've seen any of them.

    Thanks, John. Always great to have you here!

  9. John - Checking in late on this one, as I had a wild night last night and needed to recover this morning! (LOL) I haven't seen your choice, but being a big fan of Eastwood I need to check it out.

    I have to agree with Sam's pick of CINEMA PARADISO. For very personal reasons that I outlined in my own review of it, it is a movie that has meant a lot to me.

  10. Dave, yeah I'll be curious to hear what you think of BIRD. It's one of my favorite of all of the Eastwood-directed films.

    Thanks, Dave. Always great to hear from you! And wild nights are most welcome here!