Monday, November 28, 2005

Film Comment


Hou Hsiao-Hsien's Café Lumière

The movie magazines I subscribe to include Sight & Sound, Cinemascope and Cineaste, but the one that’s most fun to receive in the mail is Film Comment. It’s pitched blatantly to the cinephile set, and contains a well-rounded mix of essays, reviews, film festival coverage and trade news. The new issue arrived last week.

  • Like heading first for the cartoons in the New Yorker, I always begin with the DVD new releases page. Two of my faves from last year, Café Lumière and Kings And Queen, will be out soon.

  • I saw one of this year’s best films, Michael Haneke’s Caché, with three friends. We each had our own take on it, which makes me wish all movies were this customizable.

  • Over time, I've discovered that J. Hoberman is the critic my taste lines up most closely with. Normally tightfisted with his ratings, he lavished four stars on Tim Burton's Corpse Bride, taking it from “totally-off-my-radar” to “must-see-this-week” at my local second-run theater where it’s showing.

  • One of the best American movies I saw this year was actually three years old — it took that long to get a distribution deal. Alas, it looks like the director's new one might be headed the same way.

  • A film I caught in Toronto but never had a chance to mention was Italian avant-garde filmmaker/artist Olivo Barbieri's 12-minute site specific_LAS VEGAS 05, which he shot from a helicopter over Las Vegas. The city and people below are real and yet they look uncannily like scale models and toys. Only part of the image is in focus at any one time, which heightens its unreality. A quietly spooky experience.

  • Errol Morris’ guilty pleasures include Bubba Ho-Tep and Blood Feast.

  • I closed the magazine and hightailed it to my local bookstore to pick up a collection of Roman Polanski interviews. Always enjoyed hearing him talk.

42 Comments:

Blogger girish said...

Latest addiction: Random House word-of-the-day archives.

November 28, 2005 7:54 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Smart-alecky but amusing automatic-Jonathan-Rosenbaum-review-generator. Gets old fast but good for a few minutes.

November 28, 2005 7:57 AM  
Blogger girish said...

A blog consecrated to Netflix.

November 28, 2005 7:58 AM  
Blogger girish said...

You all know I'm a sucker for "day-in-the-life-of" posts.
Here's Jeannette's.

November 28, 2005 9:04 AM  
Blogger Tuwa said...

Bruce Campbell is amazing in Bubba Ho-Tep. Ossie Davis, too.

November 28, 2005 11:36 AM  
Anonymous Chuck said...

Yep, Bubba Ho-Tep was fantastic. Loved teh performances by Campbell and Ossie Davis.

Word on the street is that the planned sequel, Bubba Nosferatu is back on the agenda.

November 28, 2005 12:44 PM  
Anonymous Michael said...

Girish, just to let you know, Kings and Queen came out on DVD just last week. I picked up a copy (but haven't watched it yet).

November 28, 2005 1:07 PM  
Blogger girish said...

I tried to add Bubba Ho-Tep to my Netflix queue and it yelled at me for being a glutton. ("Queue limit reached--Please remove a title if you'd like to add another.")

Michael, nice to know that. I'm a also a huge fan of the movie Desplechin made about 10 years ago called My Sex Life, Or How I Got Into An Argument. (Acquarello wrote about it recently.)
Also recently rented his first film, La Sentinelle, which was characteristically and sublimely weird.
I love the bordering-on-nutty reach of his films; it's wonderfully awe-inspiring.

November 28, 2005 1:20 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Oh, and I need to say this:
I drew the Japanese characters from a screen capture of the credit sequence of Hou's film.
But, I realized later that I had inadvertently taken some "decorative license" and for all I know, the characters now mean something totally different (possibly even indelicate, who knows.)

November 28, 2005 1:29 PM  
Anonymous Aaron Hillis said...

If you buy the Bubba Ho-Tep DVD, you'll be the proud owner of some of my back-of-the-box blurb whoring!

And Girish, where are your quiz answers this week? ;)

November 28, 2005 2:14 PM  
Anonymous Michael said...

Girish, I wasn't really aware of Desplechin until Kings and Queen came out, and I picked up the DVD solely based on what I've read about the film, even without seeing it first. I hope to watch it this weekend. I think I'll follow your cue and rent La Sentinelle.

November 28, 2005 2:25 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Aaron--your blurb whoring sounds impressively immortalizing, I kid not.
And I'm sorry but last week's quiz was a bear, man!
I have one or two ideas about this week's though (I think.)

November 28, 2005 2:35 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Michael--La Sentinelle is of course very interesting but for what it's worth, My Sex Life is the one that might be a bit more closely related to Kings & Queen.
Next Desplechin on tap for me: his English-language film set in London with Summer Phoenix, Esther Kahn.

November 28, 2005 2:38 PM  
Anonymous acquarello said...

Speaking of Desplechin, I know Zach Campbell was a lot more positive about En jouant 'Dans la compagnie des hommes' than I was when it played Film Comment Selects a few years ago, but I must admit, I've somewhat warmed up to it since then. (It didn't help that the soundtrack level was completely amped up when it played at Walter Reade, and unfortunately, I was a big Jam fan back in the 80s so every time a song would come on, it was too familiar and distracted from the dialogue.)

To his credit, there were some (snidely) ingenious uses of the songs throughout the film, like playing Dreams of Children when Leo first tries to scheme against his father to replace him as top executive, then Eton Rifles when they meet with other investors for a demonstration on the latest armament that their company is producing.

It's also typically Desplechin anarchic, but the adapted play is weak (although there is definite intentionality at work in its selection), so it's interesting to watch the crew try to wrestle with the inherent weaknesses of the story in their behind-the-scenes workshops, like adding women in the originally all-male script. Oddly enough, there is also a theme of surrogacy that runs through this film that later resurfaces in Kings and Queen.

November 28, 2005 3:03 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Acquarello--Other than Esther Kahn, it's the only one of his films I haven't seen. Wish it was available on DVD here.
And Lord knows we've heard Henry Mancini's "Moon River" a million times, but when Desplechin uses it as Emmanuelle Devos' theme in Kings And Queen, I didn't think it possible but it blew me away all over again.

November 28, 2005 3:07 PM  
Anonymous Filmbrain said...

"Tonight at 11 -- Blurb whoring -- what you need to know, and what you can do to protect your children."

Maybe I'm just an old(ish) crank, but I really couldn't get into Funny Ha Ha. I found the lead character too whingy. Plus, aren't twenty-something-angst films passé?

November 28, 2005 4:09 PM  
Blogger girish said...

"whingy".
Cool word. We used to fling it around more in the Commonwealth part of the world (India, UK) but I don't hear it as much in the US.

"Plus, aren't twenty-something-angst films passé?"
My philosophy on this is probably:
There are no good or bad genres, only good or bad movies.
That said, my tolerance for horror has declined precipitously in recent years, no doubt a function of my own ageing-crank-hood.

November 28, 2005 4:36 PM  
Anonymous Michael said...

Girish, thanks for the clarification about the films. I've added My Sex Life to my Netflix queue, with La Sentinelle as well.

November 28, 2005 5:00 PM  
Blogger girish said...

And is there, I ask you, a name with a more blurb-worthy ring than..."Filmbrain"? Only a matter of time...

November 28, 2005 5:07 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Oh, you're welcome, Michael.

November 28, 2005 5:08 PM  
Anonymous Peter Nellhaus said...

I liked Esther Kahn. If I wasn't such a nitwit when it comes to making stills from DVDs, I would have done nothing but post images from the latest movie that I've seen. I like Desplechin, but once again Patrice Leconte has blown me away. I'm sorry but I have temporarily lost rational thought since I saw Sandra Majani sans cullottes.

November 28, 2005 5:24 PM  
Anonymous dvd said...

I'll have to find a print copy to Hoberman's take on Corpse Bride. While I don't think it was a masterpiece, it was such a lovely little folk tale of a film that I can't help but love it, and indeed I hold it in higher esteem than a lot of (ostensibly better) films released this year.

I loved Funny Ha Ha and can't wait to see Mutual Appreciation - did you know, Girish (and anyone else who's interested) that, for lack of an official release, Bujalski is selling DVD screeners on his website? I've ordered mine...

November 28, 2005 6:06 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Home from 3-hr grad class, wrung out like a sponge, fixed myself a big penne-asparagus-puttanesca sauce meal with Cabernet and starting to feel normal again.
But I digress.

David-Yeah, my friend Doug ordered the DVD directly too. I'll be doing that this week.

I'm not sure if Hoberman actually wrote about Corpse Bride but he does mention it in his article on Ice Harvest. (In Film Comment, he was on the critics' star-rankings page along with several other critics.)

November 28, 2005 9:38 PM  
Blogger girish said...

At the risk of exposing my harebrained-ness, and despite Filmbrain's assurance that "this is a film that absolutely everybdy has seen", I just can't seem to place the dang thing. It's probably right at the edge of my nose and I can't see it.

November 28, 2005 9:51 PM  
Anonymous Filmbrain said...

What you copied in your graphic is the Chinese title of the film, which I'm guessing is similar to the Japanese title (Kohi Jikou), which does not translate to Cafe Lumiere. It's an odd expression, but it implies something along the lines of "settling the spirit and facing the realities of one's life". (Now why didn't they just use that as the title?) For what it's worth, the Japanese title looks like this (wonder if blogger will support it): コンペ部門

November 28, 2005 10:00 PM  
Anonymous Filmbrain said...

Not only is it right at the edge of your nose, it's also bashing you about the head.

You're gonna kick yourself on Wednesday. . .

November 28, 2005 10:02 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Filmbrain, what can I say: you're a serious savant.
"Settling the spirit and facing the realities of one's life": Does that sound like HHH or what?. Awesome.

As for the screen capture, I hide my head in shame. But I'm not throwing in the towel yet. (When all else fails, parse the alt-text to the image, torture it, make it speak.)

November 28, 2005 10:10 PM  
Anonymous dvd said...

Girish, just to frustrate you further: if I remember correctly, you've actually, within the past few weeks, written about the film in this week's quiz. But I won't tell you what you wrote, because that would give it away.

November 28, 2005 10:38 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Oh my God, David, that is so embarrassing!
Actually, that's beyond embarrassing--it's hilarious.
(I'm resigned to a night of insomnia, racking my brain.) :-)

November 28, 2005 11:02 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Nice: David's top 5 spiritually significant films.

November 29, 2005 5:47 AM  
Blogger girish said...

I must say: Sasha snaps the coolest pix.

November 29, 2005 11:28 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Atom Egoyan's ten golden rules.

November 29, 2005 11:37 AM  
Blogger girish said...

These kids today:

"Whether children are actually any worse behaved now than they ever have been before is, of course, debatable. Children have always been considered, basically, savages. The question, from the late 17th century onwards, has been whether they come by it naturally or are shaped by the brutality of society.

But what seems to have changed recently, according to childrearing experts, is parental behavior - particularly among the most status-conscious and ambitious - along with the kinds of behavior parents expect from their kids. The pressure to do well is up. The demand to do good is down, way down, particularly if it's the kind of do-gooding that doesn't show up on a college application."

November 29, 2005 12:17 PM  
Anonymous Darren said...

Girish, I got Filmbrain's screen capture. This is me gloating.

November 29, 2005 12:41 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Darren, you dog.
I'm still flailing.
Dreamt about the damn thing last night.

November 29, 2005 12:47 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Okay, I think I have it.
And it reminds me that there will always be a gulf between me and the "national collective unconscious" because I didn't grow up in the US. Now just watch: I'll get it totally wrong.

November 29, 2005 1:02 PM  
Blogger Tuwa said...

Wow. I still don't have that screen capture; my guess was way off (I forgot to hover over the image and do the anagram).

About the shift in emphasis from "doing good" to "doing well," it seems the logical result of a national psychology that still believes in laissez-faire and manifest destiny; the cynic in me wonders not why it happened but why it took so long to become aparent. But, you know, I'm probably just announcing myself as a self-righteous pompous ass in saying all that. ^_^

November 29, 2005 1:43 PM  
Blogger girish said...

No argument here, Tuwa.
(Not the pompous ass part, of course) :-)

November 29, 2005 2:02 PM  
Blogger Zach Campbell said...

Arnaud Desplechin is one of my favorite directors right now. I don't know if he'll ever top Esther Kahn, though. Kings and Queen is my least favorite, and though I do like it I'm continually surprised at how that of all his movies catapulted him into the 'arthouse mainstream' here in the States. The abitrariness of film culture is mind-boggling. But it's great to see him getting more attention, he deserves it.

Girish, have you seen AD's 1991 featurette, La Vie des morts, as well? It's available on French DVD and I believe American cinephiles have been circulating tapes of it, too. (I temporarily had my hands on one last year.) I recommend it.

November 29, 2005 9:22 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Thanks for the tip, Zach. I had only read about that featurette; I'll have to keep my eyes peeled for it.

November 29, 2005 9:43 PM  
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