Thursday, May 13, 2021

Favorite (four), seventy-three

Just like in my other seventy-two 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 a 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.

Vincente Minnelli's Home from the Hill
A film that really would not even be on my radar if it weren't for Richard Brody and his Twitter feed that I follow. Aside from Some Came Running, I have been lukewarm about every other Minnelli film I have ever seen (probably ten or so others). And I can completely see why this one might miss for many, from the heavy presence of its score to George Hamilton's acting to the Sirk-like histrionics. If you can see past those elements, it makes a strong case for Minnelli's greatness. Look at the grace at which the camera moves around the scenes, Minnelli's careful, emotive framing and the space and time he allows himself (150+ minutes) to explore the characters, the story, the setting.

Agnes Varda's The Gleaners and I
Only the fourth Varda film I have ever seen.  What impresses most is Varda's lightness of touch, her openness to life and the experiences she finds along the way.  Her films have some of the analytical weight of the great Nouvelle Vague works but she also infuses them with as much of the characteristic New Wave playfulness as any of her peers.  Along with Demy, Varda stikes me as perhaps the most humanist of all of the Nouvelle Vague filmmakers.

Raoul Peck's I Am Not Your Negro
From an esthetic point of view, I wouldn't call this either the most rigorous or exciting documentary work. But Baldwin is an exceptionally interesting figure that I am just starting to discover.  For fans of his writing or just of Baldwin himself, a highly recommended watch.

Chaitanya Tamhane's The Disciple
While the style of the film is cohesive and fairly rigorous, it is not the aspect of the film that gets to you.  What gets to you is the subject matter.  I can't recall a film that spends as much time or goes as far into the question of what it looks and feels like to be an artist in today's world - an artist that reveres the past and the loneliness of refusing to adapt or change with the times.  It is a tormented film that feels truthful in so many ways.