Sunday, February 6, 2022

Favorite (four), eighty

Just like in my other seventy-nine 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.

Sidney J Furie's Sheila Levine Is Dead and Living in New York
Someone close to me when they were in their early thirties made the comment that they had already seen and read almost every great work and so there was no longer much of a need to seek out undiscovered movies or albums.  The seeking muscle had been quenched.  

I don't think the above statement is all that uncommon of a sentiment for people coming out of the rich discovery phase of their teens and twenties.  But I also feel it inhibits many rewarding future discoveries, particularly of works that are a bit more hidden and unknown.

Take Furie's 1975 film Sheila Levine Is Dead and Living in New York.  It was made during the period that is arguably the group of movies I have seen the most of and know the most about.  Yet not only had I never seen Sheila, I hadn't even heard about it.  

What grabbed me the most while watching Sheila is the freedom of the acting.  Furie frames the three leads at a generous distance and leaves many of their moments with unadorned direction and unbroken takes.  The acting felt brave, as though Furie was giving them an unusual amount of support and space to express themselves.   

Claire Denis and Serge Daney's Jacques Rivette, le veilleur 
This dream of a documentary consists mostly of Denis filming the great film critic Daney talking with the great filmmaker Rivette.  It is by far the most thorough portrait of Rivette I have experienced to date and ranks as one of the most enlightening documentaries I have ever seen on a filmmaker.  

Hong Sang-soo's The Woman Who Ran
I will admit the presence of Kim Min-hee immediately elevates a Hong film experience for me and she is the center of this 2020 work.  Hong has a particularly clear vision here - tell the story of Min-hee's character by filming her in long discussions with three different people from her life.  As an observer to these three (four if you count the ex-boyfriend) interactions, the viewer slowly comes to know her.  It is Hong doing what he does best, using simple means to get at complex characters and emotions.
Patricia Mazuy's Peaux de vaches
An extremely interesting first feature that impresses with its toughness and an ability throughout to subvert expectations of where a certain scene is headed.  It is this concoction of elements that seem recognizable - the physicality of Cassavetes, the ominous tone of The Night of the Hunter and Out of the Blue and the feel for provincial life reminiscent of Pialat.  While it has all of this.  To Mazuy's credit, in the end it feels like none of the above.  

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