Saturday, November 12, 2016

Favorite (four), part thirty-six

Just like in my other thirty-five 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.

Raul Ruiz's Mysteries of Lisbon
Ruiz's film is a display of filmmaking class with every shot meticulously framed and every movement of the camera elegant and graceful.  The prior film or two of Ruiz's that I had seen left me completely unprepared for the force and effect of this extraordinary achievement.  It leaves no doubt that a sort of classicism in filmmaking (beautiful acting, immaculate set design, repetitive, symphonic score) when done in the highest manner can reach the soul every bit (if not more) than any of the more contemporary techniques.

Celine Sciamma's Tomboy
A very strong addition to the kid in peril genre that includes 400 Blows, Kes and Germany, Year Zero.  This one is effective and incredibly unsettling, particularly for the way it takes the audience's experience with past movies and uses those memories of what could possibly happen to create relentless and nearly unbearable tension.  The end credits mention Ferran and Lvovsky, which come of no surprise as influences and reaffirm the cinematic world in which Sciamma is operating.

Jacques Rivette's Out 1
With my biggest commitment yet to Rivette's cinema (it is over 720 minutes long), I am beginning if not to like him more, at least to better understand his interests and style.  First his interests.  Rivette is fascinated by the process of being an artist and the steps by which one finds and makes its work.  He loves Paris, its architecture and infinitely picturesque locations.  He adores his actresses who seem to intrigue him more than his actors.  He likes communities.  In fact until now it hadn't occurred to me but the "13 plot line" could certainly be read as code for Cahiers and Rivette's yearning for a reformation of the gang.  As for style.  Rivette favors the long take, a handheld camera, and frames that allow the actors to roam both physically, and I suspect, emotionally.  Of course, much has already been written about Rivette's use of time and nowhere is it more evident than throughout the more than twelve hours of Out 1.  Rivette seems to possess if not a disdain then certainly an indifference to what is typically considered an acceptable duration for a film.  The same for his relationship to the conventional rules of narrative storytelling.  He rejects story arcs, traditional expectations of plot, and the entire notion of a beginning, middle, and end.  Watching Out 1, I realize finally that it is not Godard but actually Rivette who is the most unconventional of all the Cahiers filmmakers:  Godard's cinema plays within more known and accepted parameters of time and plot.  Rivette's cinema is challenging and frustrating because it defies convention and forces us into a space with very few recognizable cinematic landmarks from which to derive comfort and to which to cling.  On the other hand, his cinema's importance if one is willing to go with it is that it opens up new directions for the medium, shining light on areas previously considered prerequisites for the filmmaker (such as having a beginning, middle and end and coming in at 150 mns max) and proving there is still new cinematic language to discover and write and uncharted cinematic territory to explore.

Richard Price and Steven Zaillian's The Night Of
The closest television has come for me in terms of approach and execution and challenging the better cinema since 2014's True Detective.  The acting, particularly Ahmed's, was endlessly impressive and the way the two creators handled the final episode confirmed the subtlety, grace and amount of care I had felt since the beginning.  

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