Saturday, November 16, 2013

Favorite (four), part twenty-two

Just like in my other twenty-one 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.

Agnes Varda's Cleo de 5 a 7
More masterful than I remember from my first viewing more than twenty years ago, Varda's work separates itself from many of the early New Wave films by eschewing genre and delivering a film with a focus entirely on character.  Varda's camera glides and records capturing a realness of faces and of Paris.  And what we are left with is, as a capsule of its time, a film as valuable as Breathless, 400 Blows, and any of the other key Vague work from the early sixties.  

Douglas Sirk's Magnificent Obsession
My first time with this well-known Sirk, and it certainly is as loony as I heard whisperings of.  But Sirk gives it tragic depth and keeps the emotion swirling and somehow manages to transform seemingly insane form (garish music and color) and content (plotting that no one in their right mind would ever consider plausible) into something uniquely wonderful.  Although I still prefer Written as it seems perhaps a little more restrained in its content and outlandish in its form, Magnificent deserves a place all its own. 

Nicholas Ray's Johnny Guitar
Feverish with Ray's unique emotionalism and spatial mastery on grand display.  Crawford is as powerful as ever, and this western is a world all its own.  It's pulp, melodrama, and baroque art.  It's no wonder this film enjoys such a major reputation;  it's a wonderful piece of work by a great filmmaker. 

Joel and Ethan Coen's Inside Llewyn Davis
If Renoir is correct that every filmmaker is simply trying to improve upon the same film each time out then the Coen brothers finally get an aspect of their work right that I feel they have fallen short on the last few times out, the film ending.  Whereas I felt they missed the mark in No Country and A Serious Man with their abrupt, oft kilter final moments, ILD's final moments bring everything together in a masterful, fresh way that keeps the Coen's work feeling very modern and daring.  One of their very funniest films and also one of their most accomplished.  


  1. I am greatly looking forward to INSIDE LLEWELYN DAVIS Jeffrey! Great that you have seen it and have issues a glowing report. Both the Nicholas Ray and the Douglas Sirk films are masterful examples of their craft, and you size them up perfectly. I must see the Varda again as my initial reaction is pretty much the same as yours upon first viewing. The "capsule of its time" is a formidable qualification.

    Great round-up again!

  2. Thanks so much, Sam. I can't wait for you to see ILD. I will be extremely interested to hear about your experience with it. And I would encourage at some point another look at the Varda if nothing else just to confirm the sentiments from the first viewing.