Saturday, November 26, 2011

Favorite (four), part fifteen

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

Maurice Pialat's La gueule ouverte
Who is Maurice Pialat and what makes him special as a filmmaker? Some have called him the French Cassavetes.  But I think that tag is a bit misleading.  Pialat, like Bresson, was a painter first before trying his hand at film, and his work is much more visually striking than that of Cassavetes.  Where their paths converge is in their raw approach, lack of music, and predilection for loose, extremely natural performances. Pialat only made ten features in his career, and this is the eighth that I have seen.  It's the one time he collaborated with the masterful cameraman, Nestor Almendros, and the partnership lends poetry and lyricism to Pialat's heavy, uncompromising cinema.  I think this is one of (if not) the strongest film(s) of Pialat that I have seen.  And I hardly ever throw the word out there, but I think it's a masterpiece.

Yasujiro Ozu's Early Summer
Ozu mixes up the approach a little, adding more music than usual and quite a number of incredibly expressive tracking shots.  The cumulative effect though is about the same as I have to come expect with Ozu's cinema - piercing and majestic as anything the cinema has ever produced.  Feeling rattled or a bit adrift, I would think anyone coming in with the right amount of patience would leave Ozu's cinema (this work definitely included), reminded of the lyrical beauty of life.  Ozu has gotten short shrift when it comes to a reputation as something austere and wholly cerebral.  There's a nice playfulness at times with this one, as well as a real lively spirit.  

Michael Rapaport's Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest
My four years of college could really be distilled down to two or three albums, one of which is Tribe's Midnight Marauders.  Rapaport does a great job of shedding some light on Tribe -- their creative process, inner friction, and tremendous importance within the history of hip-hop. Rapaport takes us through a wide range of emotions.  And even when the filmmaking might be a little generic, Tribe's music playing in the background reminds us of how many incredible and lasting tunes this wonderful group left to us.  A great trip back to the late eighties and early nineties, and arguably to the only great artistic movement I've lived through so far.  

Tsai Ming-liang's I Don't Want to Sleep Alone
Tsai's cinema is remarkably consistent from film to film, thematically, rhythmically, and formally.  No one does loneliness and modern alienation, post-Antonioni, as well as Tsai.  And there's a repressed sexuality about his work that's as strong in its charge as anything in Lynch, Cronenberg, or anyone else's work.