Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Favorite (four), seventy-nine

Just like in my other seventy-eight 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.

Jean-Pierre Limosin's Abbas Kiarostami - Verites et songes
For many years I have minimized the benefits of YouTube, preferring to criticize the quality of the works available there that could not be found anywhere else rather than revel in finally being able to see certain things.  The French series of documentaries, Cineastes de notre temps and  Cinema, de notre temps, refute anything I may have thought or felt all these years.  The documentaries are difficult to see in the states yet are some of the most powerful documents of some of the medium's greatest directors.  I believe there are more than 50 documentaries in all ranging from Renoir to Moretti, Lang to Cassavetes and many, many others.

What makes the series special is evident when watching the one on Kiarostami.  It is not a history of Kiarostami's life or cinema but rather an attempt to spend some time with the filmmaker.  We hear him talk and see him interact with different people he has worked with and different people he runs into on the streets.  By the end, we are no longer grappling to understand how a man could create such extraordinary work because we have just spent time in his shoes, sitting in his chair, seeing and feeling the world as he experiences it.

Jerzy Skolimowski's Walkover
Skolimowski continues to be a filmmaker that intrigues me.  This is the fourth of his features I have seen, after seeing Le DepartMoonlighting and Essential Killing.  All four films are incredibly different in their style and subject matter although in each Skolimowski proves he possesses an unusually strong cinematic eye as well as exceptional feel for the effectiveness of a camera capturing movement on film.  Walkover exudes that very New Wave quality of youth meandering through a city trying to find purpose and place.  The final ten minutes, in particular, churn up heaps of cinematic energy and leave the viewer with an outlook on life that powerfully captures a new generation's desire to reject the ways of the past.   

Cy Endfield's Zulu
I've only seen three of his films but I feel completely confident in saying that Cy Endfield is a name that should be far more common and known in cinephile circles than it is.  Each of his films has a strong directorial presence and a position to the material that encourages contemplation without being distancing.  Although not my area of expertise, I can't think of a war film set up in remotely the same way as Zulu.  We remain in one location for the first two hours with very little in terms of plot advances as we get to know characters as they prepare for what is probably their final battle.   
Clint Eastwood's Pale Rider
A top shelf Eastwood western that impresses on numerous fronts.  It is mindful with its location work, its pacing, its framing.  It contains one of the most memorable performances in Eastwood's filmography with Michael Moriarty's work.  And it reminds one how effective Eastwood can be when he's offering the public certain mythologies like a God-like hero that will save us all from our fears and challenges.  

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