Monday, January 19, 2009

Favorite Cinema Discoveries in '08



Of the 300 or so films I managed to catch last year, over 250 were older, non-current films. Let me collect some of my favorites here, in no particular order, and then I'd like to ask you for yours:

(1) Two '70s films by Basu Bhattacharya: Anubhav ("Experience"--1971) and Aavishkar ("Invention"--1973). Neither full-blown commercial Bollywood films nor part of the arthouse Indian Parallel Cinema (the Indian New Wave), these films occupy a fascinating in-between space informally known as "Middle Cinema". They feature leading stars (Sharmila Tagore, Rajesh Khanna, Sanjeev Kumar) but are made on low budgets, and follow few genre conventions. Both films examine the modern-day, urban Indian married couple--in microscopic, messy detail.

(2) Imtiaz Ali's Jab We Met (2007). For me, the main attraction of this film is its spoken dialogue: nearly every single line is multilingual--an inventive mix with bits of English and Hindi wedged together, jammed willy-nilly, with some Punjabi thrown in for good measure. The movie is a romantic drama with echoes of Frank Capra's It Happened One Night, and has a strong performance by Kareena Kapoor.

(3) Two '80s Bollywood B-movies by B. Subhash, Disco Dancer (1983) and Kasam Paida Karne Waale Ki (1984). Both these movies show a refreshing lack of smoothness, coherence and high production values, instead featuring a home-grown, inadvertent surrealism, with narrative and formal gestures that leave you gasping in disbelief, laughing at their outrageousness. An example: Mithun Chakraborty in Disco Dancer plays a disco musician who contracts a mysterious disease called "guitar-phobia" which leaves him unable to approach his instrument, until he is "cured" of his ailment (!).

(4) The films of Tamil filmmaker Mani Ratnam, the way he turns even ordinary moments into occasions for his almost absurdly rhapsodic mise-en-scène . His films may not all be 'perfect' but every one of them contains delirious sequences that give me goosebumps. Dil Se (1998) is, for me, his masterpiece, but I also enjoy Bombay, Roja, Nayakan, A Peck on the Cheek, and Alaipayuthe.

(5) Hrishikesh Mukherjee's Namak Haraam (1975), a 'buddy film' starring Bollywood heavyweights Amitabh Bachchan and Rajesh Khanna. On the one hand a thoroughly mainstream and commercial movie, and on the other, fiercely socialist, pro-labor--a workers' film. Where are such passionately left-wing films in today's slick Bollywood landscape?

(6) Edward Yang's Taipei Story (1985), a Taiwanese narrative fiction film whose story and characters I remember less than its vivid images of modernity. An expressionless Hou Hsiao-hsien plays the lead. A favorite moment: Hou brings back a VHS tape of baseball games he recorded in Japan. His sister pops the tape in, and fast-forwards past the games to watch only the commercials. I could relate to this, having been spellbound by the first Western commercials I saw in India as a child.

(7) A trip to San Francisco at the invitation of the generous Michael Guillen to catch the city's Silent Film Festival. The films included: Dreyer's Mikael, Kinugasa's Jujiro, William Desmond Taylor's The Soul of Youth, and Tod Browning's The Unknown. (See this post.)

(8) The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On (1987), Kazuo Hara's radical documentary. Here are the posts and discussions at Film of the Month Club.

(9) Fergus Daly's documentary Experimental Conversations (2006). (See this post.)

(10) Kenji Mizoguchi's final film, Street of Shame (1956), an unsparing, unsentimental and devastating film about prostitution. The final scene (and final words) are shattering--the most indelible moment of my movie year.

And now: your favorite discoveries of older cinema in 2008? I'd love to hear about them.


* * *

Links:

-- First, best wishes for new beginnings!--to David Hudson at IFC; and Aaron Hillis at Greencine Daily.

-- Adrian's current column at Filmkrant on "The Criterion Effect"; and an interview with him at André Dias's Portuguese-language blog, We have yet to start thinking.

-- Dave Kehr in the NYT on: Rossellini's history films; and on two recent Michael Powell DVDs.

-- Also at the NYT: Stanley Fish posts a list of his "10 Best American Movies."

-- David Bordwell on "movie bugs" ("those little channel logos and watermarks that hop onto your screen"); and on the ten best films of 1918.

-- Lots of new posts at Zach's place, including this year-end entry.

-- A marvelous collage post at The Art of Memory on the sea in art.

-- A year-end series of posts at Hell on Frisco Bay: Brian Darr invites a dozen or more writers to contribute their lists.

-- Michael Guillen collects links of Jonathan Rosenbaum's writings on Chantal Akerman.

-- Catherine Grant has two collections of links on Kevin Lee vs. YouTube: One; and Two.

-- Jason Mittell at Just TV: "The media library in a post-disc world."

-- At Film of the Month Club: Curtis Hanson's Bad Influence (1990).

-- At Critical Culture, Pacze Moj collects some Rossellini readings.

pic: Rajesh Khanna and Sharmila Tagore in Basu Bhattacharya's Aavishkar (1973).

97 Comments:

Blogger dave said...

I listed my favorite discoveries of 2008 here.

I have too much to say to begin on some of these films, but anything in that list of top 15 is a potential pantheon film for me. I had a terrific year of discoveries!

January 20, 2009 12:35 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

Adoor Gopalakrishnan's RAT-TRAP, just released on DVD by Second Run...

January 20, 2009 12:46 AM  
Anonymous Peter Nellhaus said...

I really liked Le Deuxieme Souffle by Melville, and the early Mizoguchi's that were just released on DVD. More recent are the films by Minoru Kawasasi, especially Rug Cop. I was also thrilled to see the Thai action film, Insee Thong.

January 20, 2009 12:54 AM  
Blogger André Dias said...

Oh, my favorite kind of lists! Of exhumed films! At least, comparing these with current films ends up being very educational, even if somewhat depressing. The exhumed are almost always much better than the current. But, and here is the interesting thing, these exhumed preciosities weren't themselves "the best of the year" when they came out. Some of them may not have even had a proper outing. So, one might arrive at the suspicion that there's a lot of speculation regarding contemporary "bestness". It may just be one more speculative bubble. Let's patiently expect its recessive effects... And a century for an art form is pretty slim. One needs to pass one's hand through cinema's history, so that, while lifting its stinking fur, we can catch a glimpse of the cinematographic parasites joyfully living down there, instead of all these splayed out bright living dead.

ODNAZHDY NOCHYU / DARK IS THE NIGHT (1945) Boris Barnet: this is one of the reasons why some people don't hesitate to consider Barnet the best of Soviet filmmakers; a barefooted girl walking through war ruins... it would do a wonderful double feature with Rossellini's GERMANIA ANNO ZERO (1948); I even had the pleasure of almost seeing Jean-André Fieschi crying after watching this for the first time... not that it would be a surprise, since it's one of the most moving of films.

Bill Douglas' TRILOGY (1972-7): well, the best contradiction so far to the common joke of non-existing British cinema; the incredible discovery of how to film one's memories without any lame sentimentality... and a powerful spit in rich people's face, without us ever seeing the spit per se.

AI TO KIBO NO MACHI / A STREET OF LOVE AND HOPE (1959) Nagisa Oshima: violence can be so liberating; there was never such rage as in these first Oshima's; and the end (fuck anti-spoilers) is simply terrifying, with a pigeon being shot - no hope.

BANDITI A ORGOLOSO / BANDITS OF ORGOSOLO (1960) Vittorio De Seta: after his short documentary masterpieces that showed the landscape of peasant and fisherman's work, this feature fiction makes clear that the first and foremost landscape, with its rocky mountains and deep scary valleys, is the human face.

ONE WAY BOOGIE WOOGIE (1977) James Benning: experimental film and humour, what a rare and happy combination! such a grace displayed here by Benning; it's strange he got embarrassed over the years by his own playful and tender display, but it nonetheless now appears as his most impressive work; it's a pity he didn't also re-record the sound (and reinvent it) for the remake 27 YEARS LATER (2005).

KOROTKIE VSTRECHI / BRIEF ENCOUNTERS (1967) Kira Muratova; films like this make us understand the strange phenomenon that makes all late Soviet filmmakers political "conservatives"; the low tone rage residing underneath those lives destroyed by that dream; an opportunity to see the great singer Vladimir Vysotsky act.

ISTORIJA AS KLAJNICY KOTORAJA LIJUBILA DA NE VYSLA ZAMUZ / ASYA'S HAPPINESS (1967) Andrei Konchalovsky: the most terrible image of censorship: an infant (infans = unspeaking) that puts his hand in the mouth of his grandfather to innocently stop him from telling how he got out of a concentration camp; I would pay to confirm if this scene was one of those that got censured.

LA MADRIGUERA / HONEYCOMB (1969) Carlos Saura: the pure lunacy of late modernism; the heaviness in film, the red and brown colors, the furniture design and architecture of a world gone mad; and yes, being in love with the main actress (oh, sweet Geraldine Chaplin) proves once again a major motivation for producing a great film.

A BRIGHTER SUMMER DAY (1991) Edward Yang: an overwhelming masterpiece; for this one I have no more words...

CAROLYN CARSON SOLO (1985) André S. Labarthe: programmed by the aforementioned Jean-André Fieschi, this incredible film on a choreographer proves that the burden of having been a critic, after the first Cahiers' generation, doesn't necessarily mean you can't do a great film; one hears Labarthe has a lot of those to be discovered...

SALOMÈ (1968) Carmelo Bene: what a blast of color! and what a joyful invention of Bene's histrionics full throttle ahead; Deleuze made a theory of theatre and acting all based on Bene, and this film shows that it was not only possible but necessary to do it.

January 20, 2009 2:00 AM  
Blogger Brian said...

Welcome back, and thanks for the link to my round-up of "older cinema discoveries" from Frisco Bay bloggers. If I were to add to my list of in-the-cinema discoveries with 2008 DVD experiences, it'd probably go like this:

Tokyo Chorus Yasujiro Ozu, 1931
Passing Fancy Yasujiro Ozu, 1933
the Emperor's Naked Army Marches On Kazou Hara, 1987
Room 666 Wim Wenders, 1984
Mr. Freedom William Klein, 1969
Kiki's Delivery Service Hayao Miyazaki, 1989
the Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl, Ray Müller, 1993
Nightmare Alley Edmund Goulding, 1947
Four Sons John Ford, 1928
Harlan County, USA Barbara Kopple, 1976

I'm glad you were able to see Street of Shame; it seems you were as knocked out by it as I was. I'm even gladder, of course, that you were able to come out to the San Francisco Silent Film Festival and that you enjoyed it.

January 20, 2009 3:48 AM  
Blogger adam said...

Can I second the Rat-Trap revelation? (I actually attended a screening at a church hall in Bath, which probably helped to make it memorable!)

It’s also interesting to mention Second Run DVD in the light of Adrian Martin’s words on the ‘Criterion effect’. Because although Second Run also releases cinema masterpieces, they clearly steer clear of the ‘deluxe’ approach – perhaps because it’s less a case of re-selling you films you’ve already heard of or seen (as is often the case with Criterion) and instead presenting films and filmmakers you may well have never come across.

In an ideal world, we’d have both – and we do!

January 20, 2009 9:25 AM  
Blogger roujin said...

I'm still fairly new to movies and stuff but 2008 was a great year for me in terms of discovery.

1. Eureka (Aoyama, 2000)
2. Hiroshima mon amour (Resnais, 1959)
3. Los Olvidados (Buñuel, 1950)
4. Ordet (Dreyer, 1955)
5. Pierrot le fou (Godard, 1965)
6. Millennium Mambo (Hou, 2001)
7. Fallen Angels (Wong, 1995)
8. Les Amants du Pont-Neuf (Carax, 1991)
9. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Demy, 1964)
10. Singin' in the Rain (Donen/Kelly, 1952)
11. Sherlock, Jr. (Keaton, 1924)
12. Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (Almodovar, 1988)
13. A Brighter Summer Day (Yang, 1991)
14. Kings and Queen (Desplechin, 2004)
15. The Red Shoes (Powell/Pressburger, 1948)
16. Jules and Jim (Truffaut, 1962)
17. Johnny Guitar (Ray, 1954)
18. Young Mr. Lincoln (Ford, 1939)
19. Beau Travail (Denis, 1999)
20. Blood for Dracula (Morrissey, 1974)

I can't wait to see more!

January 20, 2009 1:53 PM  
Blogger Gareth said...

I think this is consistently my favourite best-of-the-year...

1. A twinbill of "Pre-Code" films, Female (Michael Curtiz, though he inherited work by Wellman and Dieterle) and Employees' Entrance (Roy del Ruth), the former for introducing me to Ruth Chatterton, the latter for re-introducing me to Warren William, whom I hadn't seen onscreen for years.

2. Apichatpong Weerasethakul's films; I hadn't seen anything by him and caught up on all the features over the first few months of the year.

3. I'm repeating one of Girish's choices: The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On was probably the most unusual, and certainly the most hypnotic, film I saw in 2008.

4. La Maternelle, Jean Benoît-Lévy and Marie Epstein's unsentimental 1933 film about a Parisian nursery school.

5. Jacques Becker's extraordinary Occupation-era Goupi Mains Rouges, a spectacularly black-hued satire.

6. Two by Claire Denis: her second feature, 1991's S'en fout la mort, and 1994's US Go Home, both set on the southern fringes of Paris, and utterly different.

7. Dani Kouyaté's Ouaga Saga; you could say the same thing about so many films, but this really is an African film that deserves to be rescued from oblivion. It's only a few years old, but I fear it may never really see the light of day.

January 20, 2009 3:08 PM  
Anonymous Paul Doherty said...

Thanks to Criterion I was able to finally discover the films of Max Ophuls. While "Earrings" was a moving camera delight, "La Ronde" was the film that had it all for me. I had been reading Kubricks thoughts on Ophuls for years and now know what he was talking about.

A beat up VHS of "Orphee" by Cocteau was still able to dazzle. Had I not read about his use of doubles I would have thought him a magician with the camera.

"Godless Girl" and "Soul of Youth" were both fantastic on the Social films box set.

"Passing Fancy" with live accompaniment was a highlight of last years Syracuse Cinefest.

January 20, 2009 7:47 PM  
Blogger weepingsam said...

This was almost too good a year for me to make this kind of list. Big retrospectives for Edward Yang, Oshima, Manoel de Oliveira, Joseph Losey (though I didn't see as many of those), Leo McCarey, smaller, but still significant series for Claire Denis, Lee Chang-Dong, Vincente Minelli, Jose Luis Guerin, Shaw Brothers... Plus I finally saw Jeanne Dielman 23 Quai du Commerce 108 Bruxelles, saw a bunch of Greenaway, saw Children of Paradise for the first time, saw A Grin Without a Cat - I saw as many great films for the first time as I can remember in a while. Seeing one or two first rate series' in a year is usually the best I can ask - but that's three or four major retrospectives, and bunch of strays - I haven't been this lucky since the 90s, when almost everything was new....

If I were listing the 10 best Firsts, though (and I am because some of these I have been dying to see for 10 years or so):

1. A Brighter Summer Day - Yang - this has been the one film I most wanted to see for most of the last decade... I could add Terrorizer and Taipei Story, though I will stick to one per filmmaker...
2. Ceremony - Oshima - though the Oshima I have been most longing to see - Diary of a Shinjuku Thief - played a day when I was out of town. But there are half a dozen or more masterpieces in the series, so I'm satisfied.
3. Some Came Running - Minelli - also just the best of 3-4 great films
4. Make Way for Tomorrow - McCarey - same here
5. Grin WIthout a Cat - Marker
6. Titicut Follies - Wiseman
7. Doomed Love - Oliveira - another series with 3-4 films almost as good..
8. Jeanne Dielman 23 Quai du Commerce 108 Bruxelles - Akerman
9. West Side Story - Wise/Robbins - not sure how I missed this through the years, but did.
10. The Servant - Losey

[Finally - though this has nothing to do with the subject at hand - I hope it doesn't mean anything that the word verification blogger is asking for is "Beria". I hope this isn't the start of a name that famous Soviet trend in captcha words.]

January 20, 2009 8:38 PM  
Anonymous Eli said...

Taipei Story is one of mine as well.

The two most significant viewings for me this year were Out 1 and L'amour fou. I regretfully wasn't able to watch them at the Rivette retrospective, but I don't know if I would have been ready for them either. I feel like I've been seeing film in a different way after both (especially the latter) and nearly everything I've seen since can only compare unfavourably!

Some other very significant first time viewings:

Lancelot du Lac
Gertrud
Muriel
India Song
Histoire(s) du Cinema
Chimes at Midnight
L'Enfant secret
The Saga of Anatahan
Beau Travail

Directors (not including films by them above):

Straub/Huillet
Edward Yang (Only had seen A Brighter Summer Day and Yi Yi before. ABSD was an indescribable experience in 35mm. Taipei Story and The Terrorizers are also incredibly potent masterpieces.)

January 20, 2009 10:24 PM  
Anonymous Adrian said...

My discoveries this year mainly came from Film Festival jury duty:

- at Las Palmas: DRIFTER by Cao Guimaraes (Brazil), THE REBIRTH by Masahiro Kobayashi (Japan)

- at Brisbane: GOOD CATS by Ying Liang (China)

- at Valdivia: OUR BELOVED MONTH OF AUGUST by Miguel Gomes (Portugal): absolutely best film of '08; PARQUE VIA by Enrique Rivero (Mexico) - and not to forget the found and restored amazing first short of Raul Ruiz, LA MALETA (1963), an archival coup which is fully rhe equal of the rediscovered METROPOLIS !

elsewhere: the films of Alina Marazzi (Italy), FOR ANOTHER HOUR WITH YOU and WE WANT ROSES TOO

I caught up with some of the New New German cinema of note: Birgit Grosskopf's PRINCESSES and BE MY STAR by Valeska Grisebach (thanks André D!)

A few old films re-seen but only truly appreciated when I looked into them for study: Preminger's WHIRLPOOL and Fassbinder's MARTHA

And two hilarious and/or intriguing US trash teen comedies: David Wain's WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER (thanks Andy R!) and ACCEPTED (Steve Pink)

$2 melo-thriller-telemovie DVD bought randomly and thus discovered: HUSH (Harvey Kahn, 2005) starring Tori Spelling.

January 20, 2009 10:46 PM  
Blogger steevee said...

I wish Criterion would move beyond its '50s Western arthouse conception of world cinema (essentially confined to North America, Europe and Japan) and put out something like a Kim Ki-young or Ritwik Ghatak Eclipse box, but I can't fault it for getting its DVDs into stores efficiently - including the Borders near my hometown - and doing a good job of transferring them.

The biggest revelations of 2008 for me - all films older than 10 years seen on the big screen for the first time:
ANATOMY OF A MURDER (Otto Preminger)
THE CANNIBALS/DOOMED LOVE/FRANCESCA (Manoel de OLiveira)
CONFLAGRATION (Kon Ichikawa)
DILLINGER IS DEAD (Marco Ferreri)
EASY LIVING (Mitchell Leisen)
EMPIRE OF PASSION (Nagisa Oshima)
HATARI! (Howard Hawkd)
LOLA MONTES (Max Ophuls)
MEDITERRANEE (Jean-Daniel Pollet)
MY MAN GODFREY (Gregory LaCava)
TOBY DAMNIT (Federico Fellini)
TO SLEEP WITH ANGER (Charles Burnett)
UNTAMED (Mikio Naruse)

January 20, 2009 10:55 PM  
Blogger André Dias said...

Adrian, both your overwhelming generosity and frenetic high-lowbrow movements are known to us all, and I have no problem with trash teen comedies, but mixing in the same sentence these other teen movies, Birgit “Leni Riefenstahl was only an artist in search of her dream” Grosskopf's PRINCESSES, from which I left immediately after the phony sound of the first fight scene, and Valeska Grisebach's subtle and beautiful BE MY STAR, should entitle you to a summary trial at the People's Court of Cinephilia's Popular Republic! :)

January 20, 2009 11:23 PM  
Anonymous venkat said...

for me the biggest and most important discovery of 2008 was Touki Bouki...amazing film

January 21, 2009 4:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A long list of amazing films that I caught up with this year, but primarily two major shocks, one of them I expected to blow me away, the other coming out of the blue:
-The main works of Dreyer. I expected to be blown away, and, well, Ordet. Need I say more? And Vampyre may not be the greatest, but I have very little hesitation calling it the most unique film of all time (maybe La Jetee comes close, but it's been more copied. And Night of the Hunter).
-Hiroshi Shimizu. Like Olaf Möller said, genius, pure and simple. This one I bought on trust and blind hope, and in the enthusiasm of discovery I'm prepared to call him the greatest Japanese director I know of. Maybe that'll wear off but there's no doubt that he's way up there with Kurosawa and Mizoguchi and Ozu.

And then many mindblowingly good encounters, among them mainly:
The complete films (not television work) of Joaquim Pedro de Andrade; Six films by Jancso; Satantango; Beau Travail; Le Fond de l'air est rouge, 2084 and La sixieme face du pentagone, by Chris Marker; Hiroshima, mon Amour and Muriel; more Straubs, especially From the cloud to the resistance and Fortini Cani; and Hour of the Furnaces.
Also my first experience of film festivals (I'm growing up!) in San Sebastian for a Japan in black retrospective which allowed me to catch up with two of Ito Daisuke's masterworks, Jirokichi the Rat and especially A Diary of Chuji's Travels, Tomu Uchida's masterwork Police Officer, and Kato Tai's I, the Executioner (in terms of visuals maybe the most pleasing film of the year) among many others.
As for new films, I caught many of them on DVD a few years after they came out, but even on DVD, Opera Jawa... and Black Book...

Two biggest disappointments: El Cant dels Ocells, by Albert Serra, and La Frontiere de l'Aube, Garrel.

Two films that I revisited and that fully revealed their utter perfection on second viewing: By the Bluest of Seas, Barnet (my appreciation was helped by Nicole Brenez's invaluable video essay on youtube), and Ugetsu Monogatari, Mizoguchi (my reaction to most Mizoguchi so far has been polite admiration (probably the weight of expectation was too heavy), but my reaction to a second viewing of this confirmed my suspicion that when I will revisit those film, I will be in for something very very big).

Happy New Year!!!
Nathan

January 21, 2009 9:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, and five Oshima films, which aren't quite up there with Shimizu and co but come very, very, very close, especially Night and Fog in Japan and Cruel Tales of Youth.
Nathan

January 21, 2009 9:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My big ten for 08:

1) Whiskey Galore A. MacKendrick

2) Mr. Freedom W. Klein

3) The Small Back Room Powell/Pressburger

4) At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul Coffin Joe

5) Make Way for Tomorrow Leo McCarey (seen in January at Paris' Action Ecoles, a true cinephile epiphany for this here Yank)

6) Hot Blood Nick Ray (another cinephile-in-Paradise experience at the Action Christine in Paris)

7) Classe tous Risques Sautet

8) Leo the Last Boorman

9) The Furies A. Mann

10) Wings Shepitko

January 21, 2009 5:09 PM  
Blogger David said...

Too many to name (Street of Shame for me too), but the two jaw-dropper forgotten films that have got to be classics, largely because in their endless, endless brilliance there's nothing classic about them: Sternberg's Thunderbolt, and Brakhage's Song 27: My Mountain/Rivers.

There's so much left to see. Thankfully.

January 21, 2009 5:58 PM  
Blogger Ryland Walker Knight said...

I'm a broken record, as I keep repeating this all over, but I learned a lot from Costa, Eustache, Jia and Hou. Also, _On Dangerous Ground_ is a top film for me now. I could say more, but, like Brian, I'll end on the fact that your visit, Girish and Darren, was a highlight. I look forward to more screenings in your company soon, here, in this big city I'm now (trying to be) a part of...

Until then, I better get on that Mizoguchi, huh? Right after I get done with all that other crap, like finding a job.

--Somewhat related: Anybody got any Jacques Doillon favorites?

January 22, 2009 1:30 AM  
Blogger celinejulie said...

--Ryland, I have seen only two films by Jacques Doillon: THE CRYING WOMAN (1979) and LA PURITAINE (1986). I much prefer LA PURITAINE, because it is strange in the way it is mixing life and theatre. THE CRYING WOMAN is good, but I think it is just as good as many French films dealing with adultery and marital problems.


--My favorite old films seen in 2008:

1.MOSES AND AARON (1975, Jean-Marie Straub + Daniele Huillet)
I don’t think I should use the word “entertaining” with films by Straub+Huillet, but since my vocabulary knowledge is very limited, I have to say for now that I feel very entertained (maybe there is a better word?) or captivated by this opera/musical film, which is the opposite of what I feel for THE CHRONICLE OF ANNA MAGDALENA BACH and EUROPA 2005 – 27 OCTOBER. (I like these two films, too, though I have to try to focus my attention while watching these two.) I even think MOSES AND AARON entertains me or moves me much more than other opera films such as PARSIFAL (1982, Hans-Juergen Syberberg) and CARMEN (1984, Francesco Rosi).

2.JUBILEE (1977, Derek Jarman)
It is as outrageous as MADAME X: THE ABSOLUTE RULER (1978, Ulrike Ottinger).

3.HEART (1955, Kon Ichikawa)
I like the unintentionally homoerotic undertone of this film.

4.SARRAOUNIA (1986, Med Hondo, Burkina Faso)

5.SAMAR (1998, Shyam Benegal, India)

6.BOONTHING (1991, Hamer Salwala + Saipin Kulkanokwan + Orawan Ovathasarn, Thailand)
This is a very strange and memorable short film. I don’t understand anything in it at all.

7.BUNTOC EULOGY (1995, Marlon Fuentes, Philippines, documentary)

8.MOTHER (1963, Kaneto Shindo)

9.THE CREMATOR (1969, Juraj Herz, Czechoslovakia)

10.HAPPY END (1966, Oldrich Lipsky, Czechoslovakia)
This film tells its story backwards. Maybe there is nothing much in this film except its innovative way of storytelling, but if you like the narrative structure of MEMENTO or 5x2, maybe you can give this film a try.


--My favorite old horror/thriller films seen in 2008:

1.DEATH BED: THE BED THAT EATS (1977, George Barry, USA) There is some strange charm in this film.
2.SHOCK TREATMENT (1973, Alain Jessua)
3.LET’S SCARE JESSICA TO DEATH (1971, John Hancock)
4.RED QUEEN KILLS SEVEN TIMES (1972, Emilio P. Miraglia)
5.SPIDER BABY (1968, Jack Hill)
6.LET SLEEPING CORPSES LIE (1974, Jorge Grau)
7.I DRINK YOUR BLOOD (1970, David E. Durston)
8.CHILDREN SHOULDN’T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS (1972, Bob Clark)
9.DOLLS (1987, Stuart Gordon)
10.THE GHOST STORY OF YOTSUYA (1959, Nobuo Nakagawa)

January 22, 2009 10:15 AM  
Blogger André Dias said...

Ryland, Doillon's LES DOIGTS DANS LA TÊTE / TOUCHED IN THE HEAD (1974) is a very moving and subtle film about adolescents in crisis and discovering love (such a rare subject, isn't it?), photographed in a very deep contrast black & white that reminds Garrel's most recent films. Definitively worth seeing.

January 22, 2009 10:24 AM  
Blogger David said...

Also, thanks to David Cairns, Mandom: http://youtube.com/watch?v=CV3gA7hNItY

January 22, 2009 1:02 PM  
Blogger Blake said...

The Earrings of Madame de... (Ophuls)
Ivan's Childhood (Tarkovsky)
Wavelength (Snow)
The Terence Davies Trilogy
Ordet and Vampyr (Dreyer)
Dillinger is Dead (Ferreri)
La Cienaga (Martel)
Trafic (Tati)

January 22, 2009 3:52 PM  
Blogger Matthew Flanagan said...

Off the top of my head, last year's personal discoveries would probably stack up something like this:

16/35mm
La Région centrale
The Round-Up
City Streets
Stromboli
Colossal Youth


DVD
Les Vampires
Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles
Chris Welsby's River Yar & Seven Days
3 films by John Cook
L'Enfance-nue & Police

Apologies, André, for the lack of exhumations - my film on film list is regrettably limited, but the video one could run and run... Seeing La Région centrale at the end of the year eclipsed everything else for me - surely the greatest experiential film ever made...

January 22, 2009 5:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ryland, most Doillon is worth watching. My personal favorites may be "Ponette", "Petits frères", "La Fille de 15 ans", "La Femme qui pleure", "La Drôlesse", "La Vie de famille", "Le Petit Criminel"...
Miguel Marías

January 23, 2009 11:44 AM  
Anonymous Adrian said...

Doillon: like Miguel, I recommend "Ponette" (really the ideal JD introduction), "Petits frères", "La Fille de 15 ans", and like André I plumb for the early Touched in the Head, an Eustache-style film that influenced Garrel quite a bit. I would also add: Raja (one of his best and amost ambitious films), and Carrement de l'oeust (titled in Australia Totally Flaky). And there are plenty I have not yet seen! One can see too many at once and think they're all the same - better to space them out, like Fassbinders or Rohmers.

I often think one of the great 'dividers' in cinema is a director's relation to young teens and small children: do they have a 'feeling' for them and, more importantly, can they actually direct them, blend them into an ensemble? Erice, Rossellini, Truffaut and Doillon are among the directors who have this particular precious gift and 'vision'. Godard, Woody Allen, even Assayas as revealed by SUMMER HOURS are directors confortable only with adults and older-teens-who-are-already-adults: the teen part of SUMMER HOURS is its weakest, and the little kids are just anonymous bodies who tear around playing indistinctly. The very young Louis Garrel in his Dad's BAISERS A SECOURS is like a living homage to Doillon's cinema: what furious, intense, introspective, intellectual life these kids have!

January 23, 2009 12:35 PM  
Anonymous Adrian said...

... and Pialat, of course, was another great director of little kids and young teens.

January 23, 2009 12:38 PM  
Blogger André Dias said...

Adrian, you've nailed something very crucial in that divide. But lets not forget the most incredible director of children: Abbas Kiarostami. In fact, maybe his children might not simply belong to that "young teens and small children" category. Won't you agree that in his films they become something more, almost apart, and that it accounts for more than a feeling or a blend into an ensemble? I find it incredible, but I still can't quite describe it :)

Matthew, LA RÉGION CENTRALE is a truly incredible film. You probably know the very useful post on it at Shooting down pictures. It was a film that fascinated both Daney and Deleuze in a particular way (check my comment quotes there). I've saw it in Lisbon some years ago when it was programmed by the London based Portuguese wonderful film programmer (it's an art in itself!) Ricardo Matos Cabo. Recently I've got an abstract for a conference on that film turned down at this conference.

January 23, 2009 1:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew Flanagan said...

André, if I'd taken your advice about learning French, those Deleuze & Daney quotes would now make a modicum of sense to me! The abstract (yet somehow deeply concrete) wash of movement in the final half hour (or so) of La Région centrale is simply extraordinary - the only thing I've seen like it is probably the second half of <-----> (Back & Forth), which perhaps acts as a sort of un-mechanised test run. The series of superimpositions at the end of that film probably also anticipate his sly fuck-you to digital cinema, WVLNT. There were a bunch of screenings at the NFT in London over the last couple of months, and I was also very much taken with See You Later / Au Revoir, which, in elongating a somewhat innocuous event to almost insufferable proportions, plays out a bit like a non-violent Martin Arnold film...

Adrian - the house party sequence of Summer Hours was the most exhilarating part of the film for me, but it is perhaps a drawback that he directs and observes the teenagers in a manner indistinguishable from, say, the dinner party scene in Irma Vep. If I remember correctly, Desplechin (who is equally attuned to representing dynamic character movement and fleeting gestures) also risks relegating children to anonymous bodies in A Christmas Tale...

January 23, 2009 4:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"but let's not forget the most incredible director of children: Abbas Kiarostami".
Well, maybe it's still my enthusiasm that's just bursting at the seams, but man, Hiroshi Shimizu!!! And his children!!! I would just as gladly have Children in the Wind as Where is the Friend's House, and considering how highly I rate Kiarostami that's saying a lot...
Like Kiarostami, Shimizu views his children as intelligent and capable of understanding more than they are credited with (which in turn leads to their being misunderstood); and like Kiarostami, the dialectics between what happens in the children's world and in the adult's world, and how each one is worthy or not of the other, are played out to masterful effect, in a quiet delight that grants freedom to the children actors and the audience alike.
Nathan

January 23, 2009 6:35 PM  
Anonymous Adrian said...

Matthew, have you seen Assayas' earlier COLD WATER? Now THAT is a teen party in a stately country mansion: they absolutely trash the place, smash the windows, burn the furniture, yank the needle off the turntable (those first few notes of Creedence Clearwater we hear again and again!) - it's a very different film than SUMMER HOURS, granted, but Assayas wasn't going all more-Renoir-than-thou around teenagers at that point. I prefer (maybe it's just me) the punk 'teenage wldlife' to the 'seasonal cycle of life' strained epiphany in his evolution ...

André, you're onto something with the kids in Kiarostami. You're right, they hold to no stereotype, they are something else again. And 'blending into the ensemble' is indeed not his intention (nor Garrel's, where the children have a 'tearing', unsutured presence!).

BTW: Girish, where are you ?? Why have you forsaken us ???

January 23, 2009 6:45 PM  
Blogger André Dias said...

Adrian, yes, of course, no stereotype at all in Kiarostami's children. They're voyants, probably in the same sense Deleuze used to say about artists. In their humility, they grasp the reality, uncovering it... I must confess I always feel a bit stupid when I think an "idea" just crossed my mind and actually I might have just been unconsciously remembering something I've read :) Perhaps in the end (if and only if we're not malicious) it might amount to the same and no harm gets done. Alain Bergala, who is also known for his work with children and cinema, has a nice text called (in Portuguese) "A criança, a lei e a ligação [The child, the law and the connection]", apparently first published in the 2003 catalog of Kiarostami's Torino retrospective...

Nathan, I'm unfortunately not familiar with Hiroshi Shimizu. But, following your advice, I'll proceed with the investigation :) ...
The thing is that in Kiarostami we find a constant and strong presence of children or teenagers, who are the full blown main characters of all his first films, till the not so well known but brilliant GOZARESH / THE REPORT (1977), and continuing after. Not having an important child character in his films is actually the exception. And, of course, in the so-called Koker trilogy, children are fundamental, especially in the second feature, where the director's son is as much an observer of the destroyed landscape and an interlocutor to the local people as his father. Kiarostami became director through working at a pedagogical cinema unit, doing children's film or similar. His first short, NAN VA KUCHE / THE BREAD AND ALLEY (1970), brilliantly depicts the fear every child once felt about dog's behavior. I must confess I've never even lost that fear. So, I'm very thankful to Kiarostami for giving a cinematographic dignity to that fear, a dignity that probably exceeds childhood itself. The same could be said of the anguish the little boy in KHANE-YE DUST KOJAST / WHERE DOES MY (1987) feels while trying to return his colleague’s notebook... It's Kiarostami's perversity that makes him such a genius!

January 23, 2009 7:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course, I agree with Kiarostami, but take it to be fairly obvious by now, but Shimizu, as Nathan aptly recalled, is one of the greater (and less known) filmmakers, and one of the greatest children directors. The film he made in 1948 surpasses incredibly "Ladri di bicicletti", but the History of Cinema was written without anyone in the West knowing about it.
Miguel Marías

January 23, 2009 8:53 PM  
Blogger André Dias said...

So, taken by Nathan and Miguel's enthusiasm, can I suggest you to establish a quick Hiroshi Shimizu canon for dummies? Thank you :)

January 23, 2009 9:07 PM  
Blogger André Dias said...

Miguel, what do you take to be fairly obvious by now, that Kiarostami is indeed a great children director, of course, or the specific way that makes him so? Cause I'm very curious about the latter...

January 23, 2009 9:16 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

I haven't seen Shimizu films yet, and wouldn't be surprised if they're extraordinary (I've been hearing that they are for several years now), but it strikes me that Ozu and Naruse terrific with children as well. Perhaps there was something about Shochiku in the 1930s that made it a perfect place for directors to develop a rapport with child actors?

January 23, 2009 9:19 PM  
Blogger André Dias said...

Matthew, it's very interesting you've mentioned digital cinema in relation to Snow, because I think that in BACK & FORTH and LA RÉGION CENTRALE, by means of those accelerated camera movements (repeating pans along an horizontal and vertical axis, in the first film; continuous travelling-pan flow, with an attempt to erase axis altogether, in the second), Snow produced powerful abstractions of space itself. And, dependent on the increased velocity and iteration, these procedures would later become common as violence to our audiovisual perception in the electronic arts. Particularly the fastest of the camera movements in the longest of durations of LA RÉGION CENTRALE, while scanning the naked landscape's surface, elevates space to another level, somewhat analogous to the very different electronic space that was being created elsewhere. It seems as the intuition, or even the construction sketch, of the new electronic space was already present in these Snow's works made in film.

From Snow there's also this very different and beautiful video of just one shot of the wind blowing a window curtain, an event if there ever was one, presented in loop as a screen installation, called SOUFFLE SOLAIRE (CARIATIDES DU NORD) (2003) [the link is just to an image].

January 23, 2009 9:41 PM  
Anonymous Adrian said...

Just want to notify everyone that the special English language supplement to the new February issue of FILMKRANT, called "Slow Criticism", is on-line for the Rotterdam Film Fest: www.filmkrant.nl. Many good (and surprisingly funny) pieces there.

Also, I just discovered a 'lost' piece of mine, written a couple of years ago and otherwise unpublished, has been up for months at the LETRAS DE CINE blogsite (the magazine, alas, is no more): "Poetics of Garrel" (in English) at: http://letrasdecine.blogspot.com/2008/07/poetics-of-garrel.html. For Spanish readers, other stuff published or unpublished by LETRAS on this blog is invaluable.

January 24, 2009 7:49 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Here are clickable links to the pieces that Adrian mentioned:

-- The section Slow Criticism at Filmkrant.

-- His piece "Poetics of Garrel" at Letras de Cine.

Adrian and all!--

Apologies for being a bystander this week but I've been *amazed* by the dialogue that has sparked up here between you, André, Matthew, Miguel, Nathan, Brian, and everyone else. I've been learning *so much* from it!

January 24, 2009 9:15 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Miguel, I wanted to mention. I'm sure you're familiar with this but on the offchance you're not: The BFI DVD of Naruse's Floating Clouds features a good-sized interview with Paul Willemen in which he spends a considerable amount of time on your reading of the film--having to do with the lovers in the film being "out of phase"--and develops his ideas building upon yours...just thought I'd mention it in case you hadn't seen it.

January 24, 2009 9:19 AM  
Anonymous Adrian said...

I also just found my piece "Crossing Marker" (which is in my QUE ES EL CINE MODERNO book) at the website of the Institute of Modern Art here in Australia:

http://www.ima.org.au/pages/.exhibits/owls-at-noon-prelude-the-hollow-men72.php

January 24, 2009 10:38 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Excellent: here's a clickable link to it.

January 24, 2009 10:41 AM  
Blogger André Dias said...

Girish, I guess these sparks of dialogue have something to do with what Adrian called good will criticism. :)

January 24, 2009 12:24 PM  
Blogger Maya said...

Happy 2009, Girish! How lovely to have you back. I hope your visit home was relaxing and rewarding.

As ever, thanks for the shout-outs.

January 24, 2009 1:13 PM  
Blogger Noel Vera said...

celinejulie--glad to see you cuaght up with Bontoc Eulogy. Reading you and Alexis Tioseco praising the film throws me off a bit--I remember seeing it in the '90-s, and it not having made much of an impact beyond the screening I saw (I do remember liking it very much, tho, and finding it moving). Glad to see it's resurfaced again.

January 25, 2009 2:43 AM  
Blogger Ryland Walker Knight said...

Thanks, everybody, for the tips. Always a help. Especially with this retro approaching quick! Anybody else in NYC going to attend any? I'll try to see as many as possible.

January 25, 2009 6:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Adrian, I meant Kiarostami worked for years as a director of films about & for children or youngsters, and I think that now he is acknowledged as such and specialist. Of course he's not at all obvious, conventional or maudlin, but one of the great observers of children. In fact, he does not look them as children, but as grown-ups.
Girish, thanks for the cue. As I had already the Naruse DVDs the BFI issued, I was unawares of Paul Willemen's commets.
André, I'm afraid each of us would give you a different Shimazu canon. As far as the 17 films of his I've managed so far to watch (one, I must say, without any subtitles), my favorites would be:
"Hachi no su no kodomotachi"(Children of the Beehive, 1948), to which I referred (notice Erice was not the first to associate children with beehives), "Anma to onna"(The Masseurs and A Woman, 1938), "Kanzashi"(Ornamental Hairpin, 1941), "Minato no Nihon musune"(Japanese Girls at the Harbor, 1933, silent), "Kohi mo wasurete"(Forget Love for Now, 1937), "Hanagata senshu"(A First-Class Athlete, 1937), "Kaze no naka no Kodomo"(Children in the Wind, 1937) and "Kaze no sotogawa Nobuko"(Nobuko, 1940). Several of them are about or with children. My advice would be: see any Shimizu you can catch.
Miguel Marías

January 26, 2009 3:29 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Hi André -- You mention Jean-André Fieschi, whose writings I know (and admire) only through Richard Roud's Critical Dictionary. Are there other good places to find his writings--translated or not? And I'm curious to know what he's doing now: Does he also work--as you imply--as a film curator/programmer?

Maya, a happy '09 to you as well!

January 26, 2009 4:00 PM  
Blogger André Dias said...

Girish, you can't imagine the coincidence! I was myself just today thinking about the whereabouts of Jean-André Fieschi while reading L'animal écran, the Centre Pompidou catalog for his major 1995 film program Animalia cinematografica. I know him especially through his recurring and very inspiring presence at two of the most important cinema events in Portugal, the Doc's Kingdom seminar in Serpa and the film program Cinematography/choreography at the Portuguese Cinemateca. Maybe other people can also contribute to access Fieschi's overall work. He also taught cinema in various film schools and universities in France and Switzerland, and directed several films and television programs. One shouln't have to wait till these critics are dead in order to honor their work, right Adrian? ;)

January 26, 2009 5:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Miguel has seen more than me (lucky man!), which is not surprising since I've only seen the two box sets, but I'd add from those The Four Seasons of Children, a riff on the same theme as Children in the Wind in the same way that Ornamental Hairpin is a riff on the theme as the Masseurs and the Woman.
What's fascinating in juxtaposing those two pairs is what they show of his narrative method, which sets all the elements up very early and then consists in ordering in delicate, sensitive ways how they will rebound off each other, and what small variations can be observed within the interactions, and finally how those variations can be made significant and beautiful.
I posted here a few months ago how his films seemed to me to ressemble John Ford's and I still think that's true, but maybe their biggest difference is in the way they structure their narratives, with Ford more of a believer in classical narratives and Shimizu more bent on formal patterns, whether accidental or not, within the narrative arc itself. To phrase it differently, Ford creates unified narratives that allow space for disgressions from which to create a universe, while Shimizu uses disgressions as the primal clay from which to craft a narrative. Thoughts I'll have to explore more deeply...
Now let us pray that a rediscovery of many many of his films is imminent!
Nathan

January 26, 2009 5:15 PM  
Anonymous Adrian said...

The Internet seemed to eat up my last comment, so I'll try again: Fieschi is a figure of great fascination for me. His pieces of the early 70s (when he was teaching at a Uni alongside Noel Burch) that he wrote for Roud are amazing, and enduring. As I understand it, by the end of the 70s he basically took the same path as Kuntzel: he swapped writing for video art. He made a mythic series (I haven't seen it) called MYSTERIES OF NEW YORK, which CAHIERS and Bellour have championed. (I'm not sure if it's even in a viewable condition these days: that's the problem with video technology obsolescence - and JAF was pioneering the use of lightweight handheld video at the time.) He has since made various thing, including THE MAKING OF 'A SUMMER TALE' which is on the EDEN DVD (in the time it was managed by Bergala) of Rohmer's film, and he sometimes wrote (in 'personal reflection' mode) for the now sadly defunct CINEMA, where Eisenschitz wrote about this video work (now digital, bien sur).

January 26, 2009 5:19 PM  
Anonymous adrian said...

PS Speaking of the 'animal screen' connection with Fieschi, I just remembered his brief but superb piece on Marker's CAT LISTENING TO MUSIC (which he describes as being about a 'montage cat') which is included in the booklet to Marker's LAST BOLSHEVIK DVD.

There is also material about Fieschi in Evane Hasnka's tell-all memoir of Eustache: they were close friends, and (if I'm recalling correctly) it was Fieschi who found him dead.

January 26, 2009 5:24 PM  
Blogger dave said...

this all has me really jazzed for Eclipse's upcoming Shimizu box...

January 26, 2009 7:24 PM  
Blogger celinejulie said...

Noel, I feel very glad to have a chance to see BONTOC EULOGY. I hadn’t heard anything about this film before I saw it in the Thai Short Film Festival. I guess Alexis Tioseco might be the one who choose to show this film in the festival.

I just read Oggs Cruz’s review of this film in his blog. It is a great review, and it made me realize that this film is a faux documentary (or maybe you can call it a hybrid between documentary and fiction), though I used to think of it as a real documentary. I think its hybridity is one of the main reasons why I love this film, because I can’t separate fact from fiction in this film. I find this mixing of fact and imagination quite fascinating. The well-researched information presented in this film, the rare archival footage, and the great imagination of the director help make the person who lived and died about a hundred years ago come to life again vividly in the audience’s imagination.

Apart from being an informative film, BONTOC EULOGY is also poignant. It doesn’t lack emotions. We don’t only “know” about the lives of those tribal Filipinos, but we also get to understand how they might have “felt” while living in the world fair. I also felt quite moved near the end of the film. I think this film would make a great double bill with THE HALFMOON FILES (2007, Phillip Sheffner, Germany), which is also a great documentary about some ethnic minorities in a foreign land who became the target of some anthropological surveys.

January 27, 2009 9:04 AM  
Blogger Andy Rector said...

I wanted to chime in on Fieschi ("il nous faut redevenir sensibles au film en soi"~!)and say that some of his Cahiers writings are available in translation throughout the 12 issues of the Sarris CAHIERS DU CINEMA IN ENGLISH. I hope this doesn't hurt those interested in Fieschi more than it helps - it seems these CdCiE's are even more rare than the original issues themselves.

I have Fieschi's beautiful and provocative mid-60's reassessment of Bunuel's Mexican films and for anyone interested in reading it, email me (email's in the profile).

One can find fragments of Fieschi translated throughout jdcopp's My Gleanings, including in his most recent post, The Young Turks and Jerry Lewis 1954-1968, an extremely valuable reference copp has just quietly done for all internet time, besides.

Fieschi also made a very great movie (not exactly video art!) on Jean Rouch, for Labarthe/J. Bazin's 'Cinema de notre temps' series, called MOSSO, MOSSO - JEAN ROUCH COMME SI....(1997). Precious minutes of Rouch and his greatest friends and co-workers Tallou and Damouré as they make a film with big smiles in honor of their departed friend Lam (another long time Rouch collaborator). I remember Fieschi's words from behind the camera near the end of that particular video: "He went to thank the sun".

Thanks Adrian for the leads on Fieschi's extra-critical life - the Eustache detail (well, bigger than a detail). I know zero.

January 27, 2009 5:05 PM  
Blogger Andy Rector said...

PS-
thanks André for bringing up Fieschi activity and making (as usual) a point worthy of pause: honor them while alive!
It reminds me of something Tarantino said, that Jerry Lewis, despised and puzzled over in the American media by the same people who once adored him and only act puzzled, will be touted as "one of the greatest American filmakers the day after he dies."
Lewis will be honored at the Oscars this year, but, in true Oscar form, not for his films!
It would be a shame if Fieschi wasn't even hated, let alone loved (of all film critics his writing really lives on the page) while living and working.

January 27, 2009 6:13 PM  
Blogger Matthew Flanagan said...

Adrian - Unfortunately I haven't seen L'eau froide yet, but it certainly sounds like it will alter my perception of the end of Summer Hours. A subbed boot is now on its way to me!

André - I hadn't even considered an analogy with electronic space in La Région centrale - very interesting. I think I would be uncomfortable divorcing the effect from a very specific abstraction of filmic space, though - the materiality of the apparatus is always foregrounded (in every sense), even to the extent at which Snow leaves us with nothing to look at but the texture of film grain amidst an expanse of blue for quarter of an hour (or so) as the camera completes its first vertical 360° loop across the sky. I loved Solar Breath too, and thought it might have been better suited to theatrical exhibition like, say, Kiarostami's extended takes of natural phenomena in Five. The same goes for the pastoral Sheeploop, in which 3 sheep gradually (and determinedly) "munch" their way across the screen for 15 mins!

January 28, 2009 5:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fieschi can be seen in some Godard films of the mid-sixties, most prominently in "Alphaville", together with another Cahiers critic turned director, Jean-Louis Comolli (not a well-known figure perhaps, it seems to me one of the greatest living French directors.
Miguel Marías

January 28, 2009 6:29 PM  
Blogger André Dias said...

Matthew, you have an extremely elegant way to disagree :) When stating the birth of electronic space in those Snow's films, I have no need “to divorce the effect from that very specific abstraction of filmic space”, since I didn't felt so strongly the materiality of the apparatus per se in LA RÉGION CENTRALE. I mean, it's obviously there, all that you've mentioned, the grain, etc., but it's also clearly a camera, a dispositif trying to erase itself. Precisely what becomes lost in the violence and brutal abstraction of those fast movements is the constraint to the original materials, like in some sort of metallurgics or alchemy (a machinic phylum, as someone once put it). A “vision”, not the thing itself, of a new kind of space, one I associate with electronics and that should be properly defined, is offered there much more than in the final hallucinogenic trip through space of 2001 – A SPACE ODISSEY, for instance.

SOLAR BREATH is indeed better suited for a proper cinematographic darkroom. I had to seat uncomfortably on a cold marble floor in order to watch attentively as it deserves. Maybe art curators construct their work through our uneasiness as spectators.
SHEEPLOOP looks like a lot of fun! :)

January 28, 2009 10:19 PM  
Blogger André Dias said...

Miguel, while I know some of Comolli's work as a critic, I haven't seen any of his films. You've made quite a statement there :) What films of his would you recommend? LA CECILIA (1975) seems the most known...

January 28, 2009 10:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

André, of course "La Cecilia" (which just came out on DVD) is his best, and it remains as great as ever, but all his "fiction" (with actors) films are very good; his series of political documentaries about elections in Marseille are really astonishing. Most of them are also on DVD, in France of course.
Miguel Marías

January 29, 2009 6:25 AM  
Anonymous Adrian said...

Although the name of Comolli is surely very familiar to several generations of CAHIERS readers and students, he remains a major figure 'to be discovered'. LA CECILIA is quite something: as well as everything else, it's a 'Communit musical', all that Revolutionary singing !! Robin Wood praised it in FILM COMMENT in the mid 70s, and there used to be a 16mm print in Australia (I drove a class out the back door with it!); I'm glad it's on DVD now. I look forward to seeing his docos. I should also mention that Comolli's last essay collection, from the 80s to a 2004, VOIR ET POUVOIR, is a profound exploration of issues that have engaged Comolli since the 60s (including 'social mise en scène'). There is also the famous essay "Frenzy of the Visible" which is in the Heath-de Lauretis anthology THE CINEMATIC APPARATUS, and has some great stuff on the intentions behind LA CECILIA.

January 29, 2009 7:41 PM  
Blogger Matthew Flanagan said...

André, thanks for clarifying - I think I agree with you more than I originally realised, especially this idea of the camera's violent erasure of itself, eliminating its constraint to the original materials through motion, speed, acceleration... I'd love to see the film again with your thoughts in mind - or, for that matter, ASAP with anything or nothing in mind!

Was it Fieschi who wrote that extraordinary call-for-a-type-of-film-practice-that-already-exists piece on Straub/Huillet in Roud's Cinema: A Critical Dictionary? That book is the best of its type that I've come across - it always surprises me when I see second hand copies of both volumes knocking about, as it means that there must be people who actually passed up owning a copy...

January 30, 2009 10:34 AM  
Anonymous adrian said...

You're right, Matthew: That's Fieschi's piece on Straub & Huillet (I think it publicly exists only in this translation, not in French), it is an enduring masterpiece. You mention just what has stayed with me for almost 3 decades since reading it: how it describes an 'imaginary' cinema, and them in the last lines declares: "this cinema exists, these fragile images and sounds ... they are signed by Straub & Huillet". I use this in classes as a brilliant example of critical rhetoric, in the best sense! (I also refer to how Roud the editor sort-of apologises for the piece immediately afterward!) And it is funny you mention the copies in second-hand shops, because Australia was flooded with them: I think the original publisher collapsed in the early or mid 80s, and so the store of copies went instantly into the 'remainder' book market - rather than people giving their copies up, but if they did, SHAME ON THEM !!

January 30, 2009 5:14 PM  
Blogger André Dias said...

Matthew, I wonder if LA RÉGION CENTRALE isn't one of those films made for a single viewing. I have some doubts imagining myself going through it again, unless to study some details. Not only it's quite rare to catch a projection (DVD surely doesn't count with this film), but also it's such a truly demanding one, that it might just prove impossible to repeat that first blown away mystical experience. Is there such a category of films, by the way? Curiously enough, Daney had a list of films which, having slipped through his fingers for so long, he would consciously never going to watch.

January 30, 2009 7:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Girish, not wanting to crowd your blog, I refrained from telling you my favorite discoveries of 2008, but after all, that's what this thread started to be about. If you find it too long, don't hesitate to cut it out.
A) Greatest discoveries of recent films:1. Shirin (Abbas Kiarostami, 2008);2. La Frontière de l'aube (The Border of Dawn) (Philippe Garrel, 2007);3. Le Genou d’Artémide/Il Ginocchio di Artemide (Jean-Marie Straub, 2008);
4. Le voyage du ballon rouge (Flight of the red balloon) (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 2007);5. Kagadanan sa Banwaan ning mga Engkanto (Death in the Land of Encantos/La muerte en el país de los encantos) (Lav Diaz, 2007);6. L'Aimée (The Beloved) (Arnaud Desplechin, 2007);7. Gran Torino (Clint Eastwood, 2008);8. 35 Rhums (35 Shots of Rhum) (Claire Denis, 2008);9. Je veux voir (Joana Hadjithomas & Khalil Joreige, 2008);10.À l'Aventure (Jean-Claude Brisseau, 2008)
B) Greatest discoveries of older films:1. Sélskaia uchitélnitsa (The Village Teacher) (Mark Donskoí, 1947);2. Les Savates du Bon Dieu (Jean-Claude Brisseau, 1999);3. Akitsu Onsen (Yoshida Yoshishige, 1962);4. Onna no rekishi (The Story of a Woman) (Narusē Mikio, 1963);5. Trous de mémoire (Impromptu) (Paul Vecchiali, 1984);6. La Schiava del Peccato (Raffaello Matarazzo, 1954);7. Ang Tatay Kong Nanay (My Father Is My Mother) (Lino Brocka, 1978);8. Oro, Plata, Mata (Gold, Silver, Death) (Peque Gallaga, 1982);9. Haitan de yitian (That Day, on the Beach) (Edward Yang, 1983);10.Qingmai zhuma/Qing mai zhu ma (Cing mei jhu ma/Taipei Story) (Edward Yang, 1985);11. Tatlo, Dalawa, Isa (Mga Hugis ng Pag-Asa/"Hellow, Soldier"/Bukas, Madilim, Bukas) (Lino Brocka, 1974);12.Kaze no sotogawa Nobuko (Nabuko) (Shimizu Hiroshi, 1940);
13.Desert Fury (Lewis Allen, 1947);14.Kochiyama soshun (Yamanaka Sadao, 1936);15.L'Authentique Procès de Carl Emmanuel Jung (Marcel Hanoun, 1967)
C) Greatest films rediscovered or confirmed after a long time:
1. La Signora di tutti (Max Ophuls, 1934);2. Midareru (Torment/Yearning) (Narusē Mikio, 1963/4);3. There's Always Tomorrow (Douglas Sirk, 1955);4. Ani imōto (Older brother, younger sister) (Narusē Mikio, 1953);5. Blind Date (Chance Meeting) (Joseph Losey, 1959);6. Tsuma toshite, onna toshite (As a Wife, As a Woman) (Narusē Mikio, 1961);7. Unconquered (Cecil B. DeMille, 1947);8. Home from the Hill (Vincente Minnelli, 1959);9. Killer of Sheep (Charles Burnett, 1973//7);10.La Cecilia (Jean-Louis Comolli, 1975);11.Le Gai Savoir (Jean-Luc Godard, 1968);12.A Idade da Terra (Glauber Rocha, 1980);13. The Sunchaser (Michael Cimino, 1996);14.Day Of The Outlaw (Andre de Toth, 1959);15.Silver River (Raoul Walsh, 1948);16.Maria no O-Yuki (Oyuki the Virgin) (Mizoguchi Kenji, 1935);17.Kaze no naka no Kodomo (Children in the Wind) (Shimizu Hiroshi, 1937);18.A Woman's Face (George Cukor, 1941)
19.La Roue (The Wheel) (Abel Gance, 1922);20.Circle of Danger (Jacques Tourneur, 1950);21.Les Yeux ne veulent pas en tous temps se fermer ou Peut-être qu'un jour Rome se permettra de choisir à son tour (Othon) (Jean-Marie Straub & Danièle Huillet, 1969);22.Risate di gioia (Mario Monicelli, 1960);
23.The Wonderful Country (Robert Parrish, 1959);24.Der Verlorene (The Lost Man) (Peter Lorre, 1951);25.Lloyd's of London (Henry King, 1936);26.Moses und Aaron (Danièle Huillet & Jean-Marie Straub, 1975);27.Præsidenten (The President) (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1918);28.The Harder They Come (Perry Henzell, 1973); 29.Kongbu fenzi (The Terrorizers) (Edward Yang, 1986); 30.The Big Trail (Raoul Walsh, 1930);31.La commare secca (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1962);32. M.Butterfly (David Cronenberg, 1993);33.L'Argent (Marcel L'Herbier, 1928);34.Made in U.S.A. (Jean-Luc Godard, 1966);35.Figures In A Landscape (Joseph Losey, 1970);36.The Curse of the Werewolf (Terence Fisher, 1961);37.La Sindrome di Stendhal (The Stendhal Syndrome) (Dario Argento, 1996); 38.The Last Hunt (Richard Brooks, 1955);39.Cœur fidèle (Jean Epstein, 1923);40.Taza, son of Cochise (Douglas Sirk, 1953)
Miguel Marías

January 31, 2009 8:38 AM  
Blogger André Dias said...

Adrian, if Australia was flooded with copies of Roud's Cinema: A Critical Dictionary please put one aside for me :) Unfortunately, Lisbon's Cinemateca otherwise good library doesn't have a copy of that book.

January 31, 2009 7:39 PM  
Anonymous Adrian said...

Miguel, what happened, didn't SENSES OF CINEMA agree to print your fanous end-of-year monster-list this time around ??

Joking aside, I greatly enjoyed consulting it.

January 31, 2009 7:40 PM  
Blogger André Dias said...

Miguel, regarding your incredible list, I was wondering if the numeration is indeed hierarchical? I mean, does number two beats number three? If so, and if you did this every year, you could join together those lists and make a unique hierarchical list of all the films you ever saw! That's simply madness, of course, but cinephiles are allowed to it :)

And what about Kiarostami's SHIRIN? Having seen his contribution to CHACUN SON CINÉMA, which I was told resembles SHIRIN a lot, I must confess I got a bit nervous and afraid...

January 31, 2009 7:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Adrian, "Senses" seems (like every other webmagazine, ahem) belated or paralyzed; if they ask for them, I'll send the full list, not this much-shortened selection.
André, of course, I don't make this every year, because "first seeing" is after a time not so important, not even for oneself. But I have my best (from great down to "iteresting enough to remember") made each year, of course...only positions change because I revise a lot the films, which go up or down or even disappear, and new ones change the order. Of course, the numbered order marks preference. As for "Shirin", it has really nothing to do with "Chacun son cinéma", a film in which I dislike even the attitude of most director, and this does not spare anyone, not even Dom Manoel. Of course, they were paying in kind the insolence of being asked for only 3 minutes.
Miguel Marías

February 01, 2009 11:11 AM  
Blogger girish said...

André, Adrian, Matthew, Andy and Miguel -- Thank you for this wonderful discussion. Miguel, I enjoyed reading your list! You're always welcome to post anything you wish here.

Adrian, I discovered the Comolli article you mention through your social mise-en-scene podcast a few months back. (For those who haven't heard it, the link is here. The lecture is about 1 hr 45 mins long, and very enjoyable.) I look forward to any future pieces you may be working on in the topic.

February 01, 2009 11:29 AM  
Blogger peter said...

Three films I would mention are:
Bob Quinn's POITIN
Renoir's LE DEJEUNER SUR L'HERBE
Andersson's DU LEVANDE
Peter

February 02, 2009 6:24 AM  
Anonymous Jim Flannery said...

I wonder if LA RÉGION CENTRALE isn't one of those films made for a single viewing. I have some doubts imagining myself going through it again, unless to study some details. Not only it's quite rare to catch a projection (DVD surely doesn't count with this film), but also it's such a truly demanding one, that it might just prove impossible to repeat that first blown away mystical experience.

I guarantee this is not correct; or at least, there is an equal but different blown away mystical experience. And a third, fourth, etc. To suggest otherwise is to indicate not having seen it enough.

I would say actually that it belongs to a class of films which is more repeatable than the norm; if you watch Casablanca for the tenth time, you will always always be having Paris and only Paris; if you watch La Region Centrale for the tenth time, you are certain to think different thoughts than you did the first time. Because it doesn't present a set of data (plot points) which one can *already know going in*; can you say what the camera was doing (not what was on the screen) 13 minutes into the 5th reel (let alone, could you tell even while you were watching it?) or what your responses to that were?

For example, on the fourth viewing, you might recognize that in fact, the "constraint to the original materials" is precisely not effaced; the original materials are what is always there.

(Seeing Autour la Region Centrale adds a whole other twitch of "what has been effaced" ... but as far as I know it's only been screened once, here so the twenty or so of us who were in that room will just have to nod at each other [evil grin]. Not that I'd disagree that the footage was better left out.)

February 03, 2009 3:53 AM  
Blogger André Dias said...

Jim, if you personally guarantee [emphasis not added], that’s a whole different matter!
I’m sure you understand that “I wonder...” is a rhetorical device to indicate one is not sure of something. I may also instruct you that not everyone is so easily prone to having mystical experiences for a third, a fourth, etc time? For me they’re surely the exception in a quite mundane existence. Epiphanies don’t come often, even in cinema, you know? ... Regarding your point on the absence of set data in LA RÉGION CENTRALE, I’m not sure this helps, but it somewhat reminded me my experiences with acid while looking at a blank wall... In the end I must thank you, since “‘constraint to the original materials’ is precisely not effaced [and] the original materials are what is always there” awkwardly proves my point. After several screenings (how many too much?) you couldn’t say anything particularly interesting or new about that wonderful movie. Ideas don’t come often also, do they? So, perhaps I’ll stick to my one screening and keep that (vaguely) interesting (for me) idea. You know, screw the facts!

February 03, 2009 8:10 AM  
Blogger celinejulie said...

--Miguel, I really want to read your full list of 2008. I hope you will publish it soon.

--Andre Dias' phrase "films made for a single viewing" intrigues me. I think there are some certain films which I love but I don't want to watch them again soon. I think about THE CHEST TO BEQUEATH (2007, Ly Hoang Ly, Vietnamese video installation) and YOU HAVE TO WAIT ANYWAY (2007, Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit, 22-minute Thai film). In THE CHEST TO BEQUEATH, you watch fake and real roses congealing in a chest for about 40 minutes. Most of this beautiful video is literally like watching paint dry. In YOU HAVE TO WAIT ANYWAY, you watch a girl for 22 minutes in a nearly empty landscape in extreme long shot. Nothing happens. There's no story, no obvious aestheticization of the image, almost no camera movement, and no hidden information. It is like a mockery on a kind of arthouse films. Though I was not bored watching the filmed sky during my first viewing of this film, I think I prefer not to repeat this experience soon. This is partly because I doubt if the filmmaker really loves his image in this film or not, or if he just wants to make fun of it or has fun forcing the audience to watch it for a long time. My doubt about the filmmaker's intention is the main reason why I react to this film very differently from, say, the last scene of NEWS FROM HOME (1977, Chantal Akerman), or from NO ONE AT THE SEA (2005, Tossapol Boonsinsukh), which also presents a nearly empty view. I think YOU HAVE TO WAIT ANYWAY is like a conceptual film. Once you, the viewers, assume that you understand the concept of the film, you are not sure what more you can get from the film if you watch it for the second time. But NO ONE AT THE SEA is not a conceptual film. It is a film of feelings.

Actually, I watched the early scenes of THE CHEST TO BEQUEATH for the second time, because I wanted to observe how the fake and real roses were shown to be different in the early scenes of this video.

February 03, 2009 8:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Célinejulie, I'm sorry but there will not be "Senses of Cinema" Worl Poll 2008, so there's no place for that. You bring again, after Jim and André, the issue of films made to be seen (or experienced?) only once... Well, maybe most are made with such hope(?) or expectation in mind, and that might explain why an increasing number of them are so empty and so careless about the most elementary things. That defines for me a consumer cinema. Alas, I've always been unable to bring myself to the notion that I am a "consumer" of films, many as I watch even nowadays. But I don't eat them, spend them, use them. Contrary to some notions fairly popular in the '60s and '70s about looking at anything fully "prepared" (or stoned) so that even a blank wall would be "enhanced" somehow, I think you have to really watch films in order to (more) fully understand howw they work, whatever they really mean, and to be slightly sure about what one thinks I think it is crucial to see the movie more than once. In fact, I think even the worst or laziest movies are far too complex to be fully understood in a single vision; one must even give a second chance to a film one dislikes or finds boring, but which arouses your curiosity, has a very good scene or lingers on your mind days afterwards. I cannot recall any film I've liked a lot I would not have wanted to watch again. Not even such a terribly hard film as Pasolini's "Salò", or as long as "Encantos". It may require an effort of will and courage, and there's the risk of not recapturing the impression and of disappointment, but that's the curse of the spectator.
Miguel Marías

February 03, 2009 9:47 AM  
Blogger peter said...

Miguel,
Is there not the possibility that watching too many films may become a compulsive and addictive activity? As with so much else in life, less is often more.

February 03, 2009 9:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Peter, how many become "too many", and for whom? I can assure you I read at least one book per week, and I listen to music and write every day, besides working as an economist for more than 8 hours and wasting (well, I read meanwhile...) 2 hours and a half coming and going. Let's say I see an average of two to three films per day, which can seem too many but for me is less than half what I saw when I was many years younger. On the other hand, I feel any film loses context if you don't watch and rewatch a lot of them. No use to see only recent releases, if you don't compare and measure them with films from the past, as it would not have much sense to see only films made before 1968 (I know people who do that). To go on a diet of supposed masterpieces would be equally senseless: how do you know they are outstanding without knowing the average production from which they stand out or diverge? Compulsive? Might be, although I try to go about it quietly, and I have not anymore the urge I felt when I had to see "all Minnelli" or "all Hawks" or "all Godard", I've seen already most of what survives, I know no one is able anymore to see everything, and I'm still curious about things made anywhere anytime. So that's it.
Miguel Marías

February 03, 2009 1:22 PM  
Blogger dave said...

Miguel,

This is a running debate I have with Daniel Kasman about how to see films. He leans toward your point of view; I always end up citing Jean-Marie Straub:

"It’s not important to know then all, but just to know a few well. You don't need to know all the museum when you go to a museum, but only a few paintings. In my case, in fact, for example, I know three paintings by Cezanne very well. It didn't do me any good at all to the museum all the time, but to reflect concretely on a limited amount of work. That’s culture, as they say. It does not consist of having it all, but in having reflected concretely on a few things."

February 03, 2009 1:31 PM  
Blogger peter said...

Dave, I would agree with Jean-Marie Straub's view that "it’s not important to know then all, but just to know a few well" I also recall Flaubert's comment in his letters, when he said how wise someone might be if they knew half a dozen books well.
I think it is impossible to digest too much of anything, be it films or books. Film watching can, I believe, become a very addictive activity. I think it is impossible to engage mindfully with a very large number of films.

February 03, 2009 1:59 PM  
Anonymous Jim Flannery said...

Andre, of course I'm sure I don't need to instruct you on the difference between "couldn't" and "didn't" (and "wouldn't"). At any rate, I prefer to "suggest" rather than "tell" ... but then, if what La Region Centrale has for us could be "told" surely it would have been easier to write a book?

Perhaps the first step in approaching this kind of work is giving up on the practice of spending the duration of the screening finding things to say about it. (At least the first, or second time.)

February 03, 2009 2:00 PM  
Blogger dave said...

let's consider both 'impossible' and 'mindfully' as relative terms, but I am in general agreement. it also depends on what we mean by 'engage'

February 03, 2009 2:13 PM  
Blogger Matthew Flanagan said...

André, I'm not sure I'd like to test your theory either! Just a thought - as chances to see the film are so rare, might a viewing 10, 20 years or more down the line serve as sufficient distance? (If you're ever in the UK and fancy relenting, let me know and we'll head over to LUX for the afternoon and split the cost of screening it ourselves!)

Miguel - I salute your achievement of 2-3 films on an average working day, but personally find doing the same thing rather difficult (if not downright exhausting) at times. The 3-5 films a day regime at festivals can be particularly tough (not least the logistics of finding time to eat, drink, smoke, etc. between screenings) and leaves little time to digest or reflect - in a way, I'm usually quite glad when it's over!

February 03, 2009 3:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Matthew, I usually don't go much to festivals and there I see less films than at my hometown or at home. At a festival you jump from a country to another, usually watching films about which you ignore everything, and if you try to catch as many as time'll allow, you certainly are in a hurry and unable to assimilate them. If you choose what you see, you can perfectly separate one film from another, think about each, read or document yourself about them or see again some other film you feel has some sort of connection.
Dave, Peter, the example of Straub does not seem to me very useful: he's not a cinephile but a filmmaker, and anyone can do as he likes: much as I admire Godard, I've never understood his idea of seeing films in fragments instead of complete and in order (it has had some consequences on his structuring); Rivette on the other hand seems still to see almost everything. On the other hand, what Straub says sounds OK, but I feel it's a lazy answer, and I have no proof he knows that deeply or thoroughly the six or eight films he usually mentions, and probably recalls rather hazily. And then, you forget I see most films more than once, instead of trying to see all the Oscar nominations or the recent successful releases, so I don't see so many different movies per day. A film already seen is much more readable, you notice different things, you verify others, and you record them in your memory, you learn them by heart. If I mention or think about "The Searchers" or "Party Girl", "Pickpocket" or "À bout de souffle", "Ruby Gentry" or "Broken Blossoms", it's not a title, it's the whole film that comes to my mind. I've have had so far more than 45 years of learning, and that allows for many films, about which I don't pretend to have a definite notion or knowledge, and which, on the other hand, change in themselves as well as your own vision and understanding of them. It's not the same to see "The Birds" or "Marnie" at the time of their release, as new films, and when you are 15 or 16, than watch them for the 20th or 30th time, as "old" films, when you are 61.
Miguel Marías

February 03, 2009 7:02 PM  
Blogger dave said...

Miguel,
I think that Rivette "reflects concretely," as Jean-Marie says, through his own watching of many films. These competing virtues are not either-or positions but a sliding scale of ways of watching.

For what it's worth, I'm more filmmaker than cinephile - though certainly so is Jacques Rivette.

February 03, 2009 7:07 PM  
Blogger peter said...

Miguel, I understand what you are saying, and see your point.
We all watch films for different reasons, and appreciate them differently at different times. Our understanding and enjoyment of a particular film changes over time.
I agree with your point that a film already seen is much more readable. As someone once said about reading a novel, it is only the second reading that constitutes "reading" in a real sense.
Apropos Staub's comment, whether he embodies it or it is aspirational, nobody except the man himself can know for sure. I do think however, even as a statement of intent, his point that "it does not consist of having it all, but in having reflected concretely on a few things." is certainly true. "To see a world in a grain of sand", as William Blake wrote.
I think that balance is important. As I mentioned earlier, I feel that films are potentially very addictive, as is the Internet for that matter. And films, being part of "virtual" reality can come to dominate our existence to an unhealthy degree.
Of course, William Blake also wrote that the road of excess can lead to the palace of wisdom.

February 04, 2009 1:16 AM  
Blogger V. Manohar said...

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February 04, 2009 1:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Peter, not being William Blake, not even a poor poet, I would not even dream of seeing a world in a grain of sand, only of fancying it -- nor the universe in a cup of coffee, as Godard in "2 ou 3 choses que je sais d'elle", fascinating as the images are. And I'm afraid not even the most exhaustive analysis of "Metropolis", "Journal d'un curé de campagne" or "La Chienne", and lifelong reflection about them, would not lead to a proper appraisal of either Lang, Bresson or Renoir, which could be much more accurate (and fair) if helped even by their minor films. Naturally, if I watch films, read poetry, listen to jazz - music being probably my favorite art -, talk, smoke, walk or write it is mainly because these activities seem pleasurable to me,
and I don't suscribe to the notion that anything pleasant is addictive; enough unpleasant things have to be endured on a daily basis for most of our lives. That would make addictive breathing and feeling and loving and living. I assure you I can survive three months without watching a single movie, whereas I read and listen to music everyday, come what may, if I can help it. As for virtual realities, are not virtual TV, newspapers or (as recent, current events should at last make evident) money?
Miguel Marías

February 04, 2009 3:36 AM  
Blogger peter said...

Miguel, I certainly agree with you that the most virtual reality these days is money, and it sure has been abused, big time. In a way, the "unreality" and "virtual" nature of money and the consequences of what happens when it becomes separate from the real organic world illustrates the point I am making.

One of my favourite contemporary directors is Aki Kaurismäki. I think he does address, with wit and humour, how economics impinges upon the lives of people.

Breathing and feeling and loving and living can never become addictive, because they are natural and organic processes. And of course neither do I subcribe to the notion that anything pleasant is addictive. Far from it. It is rather a question of awareness, knowing how much we need of something for our own good.

You mentioned Renoir's "La Chienne". I think it is difficult to distinguish between major and minor Renoir. In my opinion, "This Land is Mine" or "La Nuit du carrefour" or "Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe" for example, is the equal of "Règle du jeu". There is a lovely joyousness in Renoir's films.

By the way, Miguel, I enjoyed reading your article about José Luis Guerín's "Innisfree". I have never seen it, but would like to sometime. I am a fan of Ford, especially such films as "The Quiet Man", "Donovan's Reef" "The Sun Shines Bright", "Pilgrimage" and "Wagon Master".

February 04, 2009 4:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Peter, I must make clear that I do not find "La Chienne" (or any other of the Renoir films you mention) in any sense "minor", and several of them rank for me above "La Règle". I mentioned it because Straub does, and because, as a relatively "early" Renoir, it doesn't cover the whole range of Renoir's cinema. It lack things that not only "The River" or "Le Testament du Docteur Cordelier", but also "Le Déjeuner", "Partie de campagne" or "Le Petit Théâtre de Jean Renoir" can show. I quite agree on your appreciation of Aki Kaurismäki.
Miguel Marías

February 04, 2009 11:25 AM  
Blogger André Dias said...

Correction: the Centre Pompidou 1995 film program Animalia cinematografica was in fact programmed by Marie-Pierre Duhamel-Müller, and not Jean-André Fieschi, as I've stated before.

February 04, 2009 8:40 PM  
Blogger peter said...

Miguel, I agree with you about Renoir.
By the way, two of my favourite contemporary Spanish films are Iciar Bollain's "Te doy mis ojos" and Pedro Almodóvar's "Hable con ella".

February 05, 2009 12:42 AM  
Blogger Ryland Walker Knight said...

Ummmmmm...
--Just saw _35 rhums_ today. Talk about amazing. Or, everything I love and more. Why MUST people talk about Ozu, huh? It's Denis! Thru and thru! It's amazing!

February 19, 2009 12:48 AM  
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Hi,
Seems you too have same kind of flair as me.Hope to know something more from you soon.

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