Monday, June 4, 2018

Favorite (four), part fifty-two

Just like in my other fifty-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.

Frederick Wiseman's Titicut Follies
Not for the faint of heart, this edgy, unflinching documentary is the debut from master documentarian Wiseman.  It is more raw, still to this day, than most anything coming out of the American independent cinema.  Wiseman may not be unheralded, but with each of his films, for me his import only grows.  His films get inside their subjects, burrowing deep, like a Bresson or a Dreyer.  

Luis Bunuel's The Phantom of Liberty
One of Bunuel's most free-flowing and "liberated" films is pure and unpredictable fun.  There are a number of all-time great moments but for me it was the unconventional dinner party and the final sequence at the zoo.  Bunuel's key themes are still there - anti-establishment, anti-Catholic church, surrealistic flights of fancy - but the contemporary setting gives them a lightness and impact that I have rarely felt while watching his work.  

Hong Sang-soo's On the Beach at Night Alone
Proof yet again that Hong is one of the cinema's great simplifiers.  He is able to take all of life's complications and reduce them down until what is left are only his favorite things - women, smoking, drinking, nature, cafes and conversations.  If there is a filmmaker today churning out more consistently interesting works, I have yet to find him. 

Yasujiro Ozu's Where Now Are the Dreams of Youth?
One of his films I have never heard about and it comes immediately after one of his more famous works, I Was Born, But...  Like its predecessor, what is noticeable is Ozu's development into a very complex emotional filmmaker.  The final fifteen or so minutes, in particular, show Ozu's range as an unflinchingly brutal realist and a deeply searching realist.  In fact, I cannot recall a more emotionally uncompromising scene to date in Ozu's cinema than Tetsuo and Saiki's final encounter.  For films about the difficult transition from adolescence to adulthood or even for films about the meaning of friendship, Where Now Are the Dreams Of Youth?  deserves to be a part of the discussion.

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