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.

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