Saturday, May 12, 2018

Favorite (four), part fifty-one

Just like in my other fifty 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.

Edward Yang's Taipei Story
Stillness and quiet reign in this early Yang film and a memorable, brooding performance by the masterful Hou Hsiao-hsien.  Makes me want to run down all of Yang's work as he seemed to excel in the same vein as Hou when he chose to stay contemporary rather than period.

Hal Hartley's The Unbelievable Truth
I thought I had seen Hartley's debut, but it turns out I never had.  It has to be one of the most stylistically assured debuts in the history of cinema.  Hartley's films are heavily musical, rhythmic in their mood and editing, but not in the way Hollywood uses wall-to-wall music to provide most of the surface emotion.  Hartley's music is his primary tool for carving out his special cinematic world.  While there may be no known adjective, it is as distinctly "Hartleyian" as David's world is Lynchian.  The acting, the locations, the framing, the almost Bressonian dialogue delivery combined with 80's Godard unique feel for the ellipsis immediately announce a very singular auteur.  This is a startling debut.  

Bi Gan's Kaili Blues
Gan's ability to move a camera is startling.  Almost every shot is magical in the way it uses both space and time.  The locations are consistently among the most interesting and cinematic I have seen in a very long time.  Meanwhile, Gan's choreography of the long take immediately announces him as one of the next great filmmakers in the tradition of Hou Hsiao-hsien or the Romanians.  To read that Gan was in his twenties when he made  this film is beyond comprehension. 

Susan Seidelman's Smithereens
A great post-punk portrait of early 80s NYC that features an extraordinary use of The Feelies' Crazy Rhythms.  it feels more like a Rivette or 80s French film in its looseness and in its "road movie" within one city approach.  Paired on Filmstruck with Jarmusch's Permanent Vacation this double feature is a great introduction to the American indy film proliferation that would soon follow.    


  1. I watched Smithereens a few months ago, It shares the same themes of self identity and aimless wandering as permanent vocation and Jarmuchs next effort Stranger then paradise.
    This film had such great style and confidence. Way better film then her more famous one

    I no little of Rivette other then seeing Celine and Julie go boating twice and stopped watching it at the same point in the film due to it being on late on tv at a silly hour.

  2. I could not agree more with your comments on the Seidelman film.

    As for Rivette, I won't lie to you. He is a not an easy filmmaker, for numerous reasons. But I've made the time now for a few of his films, including Out 1, and really found his work rewarding.