Saturday, April 24, 2010

2003: All the Real Girls (David Gordon Green)

2003: All the Real Girls (David Gordon Green)
I'm one of those in favor of the auteur theory.  I do believe in most cases that the best films are made by the best directors and that in most cases, the directors are the "authors" of their films.  However, what I think is perhaps undervalued in this idea is the contribution of some of the great cameramen, composers, editors, art directors, and producers.  Film is a collaborative medium, and many of the great directors benefit substantially from their relationship with their great collaborators.

Here is a perfect example.  There's no doubt in my mind that David Gordon Green is unusually talented.  But I also think his cameraman, Tim Orr, is an exceptional talent.  Just look at Orr's work outside of Green, a film like Raising Victor Vargas, and it's clear that Orr has a style all his own.

But when together, to these eyes, Green and Orr are the most poetic visual stylists of their generation.  Their work is earthy, muted but natural, and incredibly picturesque.  Like Bujalski, there's also a touch of grace and class to their approach that separates them from many of the other independents.

Green's cinema is mannered -- particularly his unusual dialogue, offbeat casting, deliberate pacing, and lack of conventional narratives -- and frustrates some.  But I'm a fan, and all of his work so far, this is my favorite.    

Other contenders for 2003:  From this year, I still have some things to see.  These include: Francois Ozon's Swimming Pool, Peyton Reed's Down with Love, Abbas Kiarostami's Five, Lars von Trier's Dogville, Thom Anderson's Los Angeles Plays Itself, Jafar Panahi's Crimson Gold, Marco Tullio's The Best of Youth, Patrice Chereau's Son Frere, Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, and Kim Ki-duk's Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter,... and Spring.  At some point, I'll need to revisit Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation and Clint Eastwood's Mystic River as I struggled a little with both the first time I saw them.  But from this year I really like Gus Van Sant's Elephant.  And my closest runner-up is Tsai Ming-liang's Goodbye, Dragon Inn.

12/13/10 I watched Lars von Trier's Dogville.  Perhaps intellectually stimulating.  But I found it way too much of a slog and way too distanced emotionally to care much at all.  Jump cuts abound and so does von Trier's nihilism, something that I feel is a bit of his trademark.  

1/23/11 I watched Francois Ozon's Swimming Pool.  I'm a fan of Ozon and Rampling, and the start of this one is pretty delicious.  But it starts to unravel in a way that's more frustrating than englightening.  And by film's end, it's far from satisfying. 

3/26/11 I watched Abbas Kiarostami's Five Dedicated to Ozu. Interesting but not transcendent for me.  Kiarostami is our ultimate humanist right now, and this little exercise certainly reminds us to be mindful and observant.  I just question his decision to go digital, and a few of the segments feel slightly uninspired.

7/5/11 I watched Andrew Jarecki's Capturing the Friedmans.  An extremely thorough and well-crafted look at this horrific story.  A bit manipulative at times though to a fault. 

10/8/11 I watched Hou Hsiao-hsien's Cafe Lumiere.  He dedicates it to Ozu, and you can feel the Japanese master's influence.  Unfortunately, it also highlights the fact that the Japanese filmmaker is able to go deeper, entertain with greater facility, and is ultimately the more masterful filmmaker of the two.  As always, I respect Hou's approach and esthetic.  I just wish he allowed more humanity and lyricisim into his work. 

10/19/11 I watched Vincent Gallo's The Brown Bunny.  I'm a big fan of Buffalo '66.  But this one simply felt shallow, lazy, and self-indulgent. Disappointing.  

9/21/14 I watched Serge Le Peron's Chaplin Today: The Gold Rush.  An interesting short little doc on the making of The Gold Rush.   There are a couple of memorable interviews, and it is moving to watch how the film plays today and affects the youth in Burkina Faso.  

7/13/16 I watched Robert Altman's The Company.  Told in Altman's trademark, hazy manner, this one impressed me most with Malcolm McDowell's performance and the way that Altman glides from scene to scene.  Not in the hard-edged jumpy style initiated during the Nouvelle Vague but more in the way that a wave slowly takes over still water.  

11/25/16 I watched Kim Ki-duk's Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring.  The first film I've seen of Ki-duk but among many I have seen of the new South Korean cinema.  Ki-duk has little if nothing in common with Hong Sang-soo.  Based on this work, Ki-duk's cinema is more spiritual, more allegorical and more tone poem than any sort of traditional narrative.  

12/20/17 I watched Thom Andersen's Los Angeles Plays Itself.  Andersen's scope is impressive and there certainly has never been a more thorough work done on the history of Los Angeles on film.  But it just all felt a little too academic and pedantic.  It needed more life, more style and more shape.  

4/3/20 I watched Abdellatif Kechiche's L'esquive.  Kechiche, an actor himself, has a tremendous ability for achieving vital, piercingly plausible performances.  The other two films I have seen of his, The Secret of the Grain and Blue Is the Warmest Colour, are stylistically bolder, employing long takes and complex mise-en-scene but all of his work features extraordinary acting.  What I admire about Kechiche, perhaps above all, is as daring as his cinema can be, he also understands restraint.  Here there is hardly any music at all and although mostly composed of tight, handheld shots, Kechiche sticks to this one approach rather than combining many different styles and approaches.  I put Kechiche in a small group of the greatest filmmakers working today, and this film only deepened that feeling for me.  

10/23/21 I watched Jafar Panahi's Crimson Gold.  It is the first film by Panahi that fully grabbed me.  I have also seen Offside.  Aside from Panahi's remarkable restraint with respect to sound, or other words the film's almost complete absence of music and use of only minimal sound, what impressed me most was the depth and presence of Hossain.  The narrative structure of the film is also quite unique as it flashes back from the opening scene.  But until the end is unclear how the beginning relates exactly in a linear manner to the rest of the film's proceedings.     

11/26/21 I watched Jon Favreau's Elf.  An entertaining Christmas movie that is moving and imaginative even if some of the key plot points (like Caan's epiphany) seem forced rather than earned.

12/28/21 I watched Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott's The Corporation.  There is no doubt that some of the exploration and discussion are quite interesting, but the style of the film is so tawdry making it tough to get through.

3/13/24 I watched Martin Scorsese's Feel Like Going Home.  Mediocre Scorsese doc.  Mostly illuminating for me to learn that Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker both originated from MS.

3/14/24 I watched Wim Wenders' The Soul of a Man.  The strongest documentary I have seen by Wenders is a reminder of his abilities as a storyteller at a time that most people consider his good work behind him.  Just look at how he introduces Lenoir and the silent footage he compiles for the James sessions.  It is so many things at once - an important historical tool to teach about the blues, an ode to cinema with its varied filming techniques and a heartfelt confession of sources that have fueled and inspired him all these years.  

3/18/24 I watched Richard Pearce's The Road to Memphis.  My least favorite of the first three parts but worth it simply for BB King's telling of his breakout at Fillmore West.  

3/19/24 I watched Charles Burnett's Warming by the Devil's Fire.  Not one of Burnett's finest even if it has his poetic flight of fancy every once in a while.  

3/19/24 I watched Marc Levin's Godfathers and Sons.  My least favorite of the series so far even if it was really interesting to learn about Marshall Chess and Chess Records.

3/23/24 I watched Mike Figgis' Red, White and Blues.  A bit of a trudge even if we get to see Van Morrison perform and learn more about Skiffle.

3/23/24 I watched Clint Eastwood's Piano Blues.  One of the strongest entries of the series but not as strong as Eastwood's piece on Monk and nowhere near as strong as Wenders' entry.  Ray Charles is the highlight.


  1. Yeah I'm a big fan of this one Jeffrey. Its poetic imagery and nuanced depiction of the exuberance of young love really struck me in a way not many films do. I agree of course that DGG is a huge talent, and this is right up there for me with my other favorite, George Washington.

    It's probably my runner-up for this year, behind Lars Von Trier's fascinating Dogville, one of my favorites from the decade. I also love from this year Jacques Rivette's The Story of Marie and Julien, Maren Ade's The Forest for the Trees, Michael Polish's Northfork, Van Sant's Elephant, Chomet's The Triplettes of Bellville and your runner-up Goodbye, Dragon Inn.

  2. I also think this film has a wonderful, even lyrical quality. Green is wildly talented, although I am not sure he has yet made his best work. But I am curious, what was it about Lost In Translation and Mystic River that made you struggle?

  3. Drew, thanks for the words! I should have included DOGVILLE on my list and am adding it now. I still need to see THE FOREST FOR THE TREES, NORTHFORK, and THE TRIPLETTES OF BELLVILLE. And I like THE STORY OF MARIE AND JULIE although a little less than the ones I mentioned.

    Thanks, Drew! Always great to have you here.

  4. Anonymous, like you, I would love to see much more great work from Gordon Green. I definitely think he has it in him!

    As for LOST IN TRANSLATION and MYSTIC RIVER, I haven't seen either since they first came out. But, if I can remember correctly, it was more of a style thing with the former and a slight frustration with the plotting of the latter. But I also know that I'm in the minority with my feelings on both of these.

    Thanks, Anonymous. Good to have you here!

  5. David Gordon Green is a gaping blind spot in my viewing. I'm almost completely unfamiliar with his work and have not seen this one.

    My #1 for the year has to be a film that you struggled with - Sophia Coppola's LOST IN TRANSLATION. I fell in love with it immediately, although I honestly didn't expect to. It is, in my opinion, the best film made by a member of the Coppola family since Apocalypse Now. That's how much I like it.

  6. Dave, I'll be curious to hear how David Gordon Green treats you. He's definitely not up everyone's alley.

    Thanks, Dave! Always awesome having you here.

  7. I see Drew has DOGVILLE listed here, but I have it as my #1 film of 2004, so I'll leave that be. Green is certainly an important director, and I am a fan of SNOW ANGELS and UNDERTOW, which I just saw recently.

    My Own #1 Film of 2003:

    Son Frere (Chareau; France)


    Elephant (Van Sant; USA)
    The Return of the King (Jackson; USA;NZ)
    Since Otar Left (Bertucelli; France; Georgia)
    Time of the Wolf (Haneke; France)
    Spellbound (Blitz; USA)
    Triplets of Bellville (Chomet; France)
    Winged Migration (Perrin; France)
    Finding Nemo (Stanton; USA)
    Master and Commander (Weir; USA)
    Goodbye, Dragon Inn (Ming-Liang; Taiwan)
    Crimson Gold (Panahi; Iran)
    Mystic River (Eastwood; USA)
    Cafe Lumiere (Hsiao-Hsien; Taiwan)
    Teresia (Bondello; Italy)
    Friday Night (Denis; France)
    Girl With the Pearl Earring (Webber; UK)
    Swimming Pool (Ozon; France)
    American Splendor (Pulcini; USA)
    Saraband (Bergman; Sweden)
    A Mighty Wind (Guest; USA)
    School of Rock (Linklater; USA)
    Shattered Glass (Ray; USA)

  8. Thanks, Sam. I'll be curious to see what Green does from here. I think he's an interesting talent at an interesting time.

    Always great to have you here. Thanks, Sam!