Monday, February 15, 2016

30 ans

My favorite cultural mag, Les Inrockuptibles, is celebrating its 30 year anniversary this week (I actually have copies of the first 500 issues which are among my very favorite of any of my possessions).  They have put together all kinds of articles and lists to celebrate, including polling each of their key staff writers to choose their 10 favorite movies of the last 30 years, their 10 favorite albums of the last 30 years, and their 10 favorite books of the last 30 years.  Here are the lists:

And if I were participating:

Le Rayon vert d'Eric Rohmer (1986)
Where Is the Friend's House d'Abbas Kiarostami (1987)
King of New York d'Abel Ferrara (1990)
Carlito's Way de Brian De Palma (1993)
Heat de Michael Mann (1996)
Dead Man de Jim Jarmusch (1996)
Mulholland Dr. de David Lynch (2001)
Les amants reguliers de Philippe Garrel (2005)
The Secret and the Grain d'Abdellatif Kechiche (2007)
At Berkeley de Frederick Wiseman (2013)

The Smiths - The Queen Is Dead (1986)
The Go-Betweens - 16 Lovers Lane (1988)
Beastie Boys - Paul's Boutique (1989)
Talk Talk - Laughing Stock (1991)
PJ Harvey - Dry (1992)
Wu-Tang Clan - Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (1993)
Jeff Buckley - Grace (1994)
Tricky - Maxinquaye (1995)
Massive Attack - Mezzanine (1998)
Rufus Wainwright - Rufus Wainwright (1998)

Books (too many gaps still for the moment to have any input of import)

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Favorite (four), part thirty-two

Just like in my other thirty-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 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 you as well.

Satyajit Ray's The World of Apu
Ray takes a few years away from his trilogy before coming back and completing it with this film, and the style feels a little different than the first two movies.  This film has a slightly more elliptical quality and seems intent on drifting closer to poetry.  The ending of the film is one of the very strongest moments of the entire trilogy with Ray attaining that transcendent experience achieved by only the greatest of neorealist works (Umberto D, Germany Year Zero, Voyage to Italy).  

Samuel Fuller's Underworld U.S.A.
Fuller's strengths - his constantly roving, expressive camera and his hard-hitting sensibility -are at the fore while his weaknesses - such as a heavy hand creating believable romance and intimacy - are hardly, if at all, noticeable.  Clearly an influence on later great works such as Carlito's Way and an argument as good as any that the noir cycle did not end with Touch of Evil in 1958 but was still going strong well into the sixties with important and powerful entries such as this.    

Monte Hellman's China 9, Liberty 37
It's a wonder Tarantino hasn't remade this one.  This might be the only western I have seen that boasts a krautrock score (terrific work by the way from Pino Donaggio).  Further proof of Hellman's cult status as an auteur and even if the third act drags a little, this little known pic sits comfortably with Hellman's Ride in the Whirlwind and The Shooting and needs to be seen as a clear precursor to Dead Man and all of Tarantino's work.

Steven Riley's Listen To Me Marlon
The wall-to-wall music is off putting but the remarkable audio footage of Marlon overcomes any formal shortcomings the film might have, making this one of the most immersive documentaries I have ever seen. In other words, it puts one deeply into the skin of its subject.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Tokyo Chorus (1931)

I am back to working my way through all of Ozu's work chronologically.  This next entry, Tokyo Chorus, seems to be the first-blown emergence of the style most people think of when they think of the filmmaker.  Nearly the entire film is shot tatami-style and with a static camera.

Thematically Ozu also seems to be hitting his stride.  There are moments that hint at his skepticism towards technology, the son's plea for a bicycle, and other moments that indicate Ozu's buddhist nature, the main character's line, "A bear getting out isn't going to change our lives."  Ozu's humanism is also more evident than it has been up to this point, the evolution of our main character's feelings towards his professor and the wife's compassion and ultimate offer to help her husband with his new responsibilities.

Lastly, of interest, is the fact that for the first time gone are the abundance of allusions and visual references to American culture.  In fact, the only blatant reference I noticed was a casual mention of (Herbert) Hoover at one point.