Sunday, December 22, 2013

Recent Reading

-- "Best Films of the Year" lists: BFI; IndieWire; Film Comment "Best Undistributed" and "Best Theatrically Released";  Adrian Martin's "Ten Best Confrontations"; Michael Sicinski's "most inexplicably slept-on"; Steve Erickson's "Ten Best Political Documentaries"; Simon Abrams' "One-Week Wonders"; and Max Goldberg's "The year in media scavenging".  

-- I joined many others, including Jonathan Rosenbaum, Adrian Martin, Nicole Brenez, and Joe McElhaney, in contributing to this collection of lists of "12 Favourite Filmmakers" compiled by Rouzbeh Rashidi.

-- New issues of: Photogénie; Jump Cut; Film-Philosophy; Cléo; Senses of Cinema; Alphaville; and The Cine-Files.

-- Gender inequality in film, depicted in infographic form.

-- Two essays on Ritwik Ghatak by Adrian Martin: on A River Called Titas at Criterion; and The Cloud-Capped Star at Projectorhead.

-- "Names and Naming in John Ford" by Charles Barr, at 16:9. Via Adrian.

-- Kent Jones: "Robert Bresson: An Introduction". At Film Comment.

-- Jonathan Rosenbaum: "A Personal Account of an Adventure Called Film.Factory". Also by Jonathan: an introduction to a recent collection of Peanuts comic strips; and his ten-best lists for the year.

-- "A cat is never on the side of power": A great website on cats and cinema.

-- The slides for a presentation by Steven Shaviro on "delirious perception" in Spring Breakers.

-- "Predator, or A-Violence," an essay by Martin Barnier that first appeared in an issue of the French magazine Admiranda devoted to action movies in 1996. Now translated into English by Ted Fendt, at The Vulgar Cinema.

-- David Bordwell on Hitchcock, Lessing and the distinction between suspense and surprise.

-- J. Hoberman on David Cronenberg in The New York Review of Books.

-- Richard Tuschman's photographs inspired by Edward Hopper paintings.

-- Michael Sicinski on Luiz Fernando Carvalho's To the Left of the Father; and on the influence of Robert Gardner.

-- You can watch the documentary Film as a Subversive Art: Amos Vogel and Cinema 16 at Cinephilia and Beyond.

-- A lecture on photography titled "The Genius of the System" by Luc Sante.

-- A talk with Philippe Garrel in Interview magazine.

-- Leo Goldsmith on DocLisboa 2013.

-- DJ Taylor on a working-class pioneer of cultural studies, Richard Hoggart, in The Guardian.

-- David Davidson: "Brian de Palma at Cahiers du Cinéma in the 80s".

-- "What Has Happened to Modern Art?" by Ben Hourigan. Via Adrian.

-- "The 10 Best Film-Studies Books of 2013" by Clayton Dillard. At Slant.

pic: Hannah Frank's minute-long video, It's A Wonderful Face.


Anonymous Adrian said...

In the hope that this post will garner more than the TWO (count them) responses that your previous post did, I duly start the ball rolling, Comrade !! And if you reply, we've already equalled the previous tally !

December 23, 2013 7:35 AM  
Anonymous yusef said...

I’ve heard before that much of the conversation I used to enjoy on sites such as yours Girish has migrated to Facebook. If so, that’s too bad because I share Adrian’s disappointment at the lack of conversation here – and also because I ain’t signing up to Facebook, sorry.

Amongst the torrent of end-of-year lists which I have admittedly mostly ignored up until now, I did find Adrian’s fascinating. On the subject of confrontations, one of my favourite films of the last year was full of them – Seidl’s Paradise: Faith.

As Jonathan Rosenbaum has pointed out before, the varying distribution arrangements and myriad ways in which we can see films today mean that it is difficult to demarcate what are the 2013 films, as opposed to the 2012, or earlier, films just released to a wider viewing public.

For me, outside of the festival circuit, feeling far from the coal face, I am surprised at how many recent releases I’ve managed to see – on TV (of all places) and Blu/DVD before the year’s out.

I wasn’t as struck by Leviathan (for many a best-of-2012 film!) as many folks contributing to prominent lists have been. It brought curious, disparate associations to mind, from the POV approach of Enter the Void, or the music video to The Prodigy’s Smack My Bitch Up, to the focus on human labour in Phill Niblock’s Movement of People Working films (especially Remo Osaka, just released this year in which we see a series of fish sliced with clinical precision, and their guts tossed aside which overlaps with the subject matter of Leviathan) the phyical/light exigencies of Grandrieux, and even the proximity and detail of the colonoscopy – imagine my amusement when later in the film we see one of the workers staring fatigued at the TV, on which an advert for colon cleanser is heard! These comments do not clearly explain why I wasn’t really captured by the film, but at least they might indicate why I didn’t see it as illustrative of never-before-seen innovations within cinema that many have claimed it to be.

Still, 90% of my viewing this year has been comprised of films from previous years. Of those I would pick out The Offence, Little Malcolm and his Struggle Against the Eunuchs, 52 Pick-Up, Pontypool, AKA Serial Killer, The Red Chapel, Heilt Hitler, Defending Your Life, the films of Makino Takashi and Deep End as being among my favourite retrospective discoveries.

It is nice to see the translation from Admiranda was undertaken and completed. A valuable addition to film criticism and another indication of the unceasing energy and collective effort among writers.

December 23, 2013 8:19 AM  
Anonymous yusef said...

And as usual it's the obvious things and the superficial things that are the last things we understand. The deep things are easy, the superficial things are difficult. – Raymond Durgnat

That Durgnat doc, Images of the Mind, that James Rocarols unearthed and posted this year was an unexpected treasure. It's worth reminding everyone that it's online.

December 23, 2013 8:41 AM  
Anonymous Filipe said...

Yusef, sadly that seems to be true. I have Facebook, but it's a terrible place for discussion if for no other major reason the fact that it don't really index older posts (some remain easier to access, but many become impossible to find after a month or so). I always have great pleasure finding old discussions when I look at the archive here or in Dave Kehr's place or the old A Film By discussion list, Facebook is design not to allow that and as someone that is often haunted by the idea that online film criticism is a very fragile thing, Facebook central place in it is very unwelcome development.

December 23, 2013 8:59 AM  
Anonymous yusef said...

Filipe, I too continue to find the archives here, at Dave Kehr's and at A Film By invaluable. If they are inaccessible in the future due to shifts in technology or the whims of blog/forum hosts, it would indeed be a loss to film criticism. Still, many inspiring and insightful comments are shared among us offline, face to face about cinema all the time - many of which are never recorded.

Of course, after seeing that poll of 12 favourite filmmakers I rattled off a list of my own for fun. Depressing lack of Herzog among those polled, but some intriguing lists nonetheless.

December 23, 2013 10:00 AM  
Blogger Nathan said...

I have, sadly, sold out to enriching Mark Zuckerberg, but as I continue to refuse to add anyone I haven't actually met, it is indeed painful to see the best blogs being slowly deserted.
On a more positive note, Monte Hellman's comment on his director's list: "I could add, but could not substract." True love in a nutshell.
And Girish, having never heard of Dorothy Arzner before, and not having seen any of her films once I looked them up, any comments? Particular favourites?

December 24, 2013 3:44 AM  
Anonymous yusef said...

Kept noticing Zulueta's name popping up throughout those lists. Curious to finally see Arrebato now.

December 24, 2013 7:07 AM  
Blogger ZC said...

The anti-archive character of Facebook does make it an aggravating place to continue film discussion, unfortunately. That said, ephemerality is I think built into the cinephilic/receptive side of film culture - think of how many great observations in cinema lobbies and on streets and in coffeehouses or bars afterwards have been "lost."

Nathan, you addressed Girish, but re: Arzner, I would say that Christopher Strong is a particularly great film, and worth seeking out.

December 30, 2013 11:19 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Thank you, Comrade Adrian, Yusef, Filipe, Nathan and Zach--and Happy New Year to you all!

I have just returned from 10 days in the lovely but freezing rural American Midwest.

So, here's my own take on cinema discussion migrating away from blogs to Facebook. I think this is doubtless true, but that is, IMO, only part of the picture. I think that blogs can still attract discussion given the right topic and approach, but (to turn my eye to this blog) I've not been able to put up anything here that might allow that to happen. (The one exception was a post on "vulgar auteurism" which stirred up a great conversation.) This year, I'd like to resolve to do a better job of putting up posts with the express purpose of encouraging discussion and conversation--perhaps alternating them with "links posts".

Thank you for the many great suggestions in your comments!

Nathan, like Zach, I would suggest CHRISTOPHER STRONG (it's available on Warner Archive), and would add DANCE, GIRL, DANCE. The scholar Judith Mayne has written about Arzner's work. I hope you enjoy the films!

January 03, 2014 10:33 AM  
Anonymous Hamish Ford said...

Hi Girish, Adrian and all!

I like Adrian's idea of a 'what I taught this year' list, too. It would be great to be able to collate that kind of info into a searchable database eventually. Being on leave for half this year means my 2013 contribution would be rather unrepresentative, though.

Re blogs vs FB, it is kind of true, I think. However, let me import a recent FB topic. Before I returned to work this week, I posted the below...

If forced to name them, who would be the five filmmakers you personally consider the greatest of all?

Some background might be in order... A couple of weeks back the fellow in charge of The Uni of NSW in Sydney's 'Modernism Centre' - who posts wonderful birthday info packs of modernist figures from the world of cinema and far beyond, both famous and more obscure - threw out (at first inadvertently perhaps) the challenge of naming five filmmakers you think are the greatest of all after citing Murnau on his birthday as one of the five greatest ever. I argued that his own nominated nominated pantheon, while all great names (tho there was but one post-WW2 figure, Godard), surely needed adding to - helpfully then proposing another dozen or so - to which he responded that limiting oneself to 5 makes for wonderful discipline and says more about the list author at a particular time of life, etc.

So... criteria can be highlighted (most innovative, influential, consistent, etc. etc.) but I thought: 'Whose films can I re-watch and that not only retain their magic but often improve?' Any brief comparison of such short lists, of course, reveals how very personal all this is. For the record, while my unlimited list was longish but less than 20), the enforced stringency of coming up with a mere five was surprisingly easy: they all immediately sprang to mind as essential to my life... For the record, my personal - for now, at least (and as I said to The Modernism Centre chap, revealing my general post-WW2 bias) - pantheon in alphabetical order is: Antonioni, Bergman, Godard, Mizoguchi, and Kiarostami.

Anyone else care to confess?

I got a couple of responses, but not much traffic. Maybe people are less inclined to this kind of strict but very personal discipline than longer, more 'objective' list making. Might this be especially true of critical or academic film studies 'professionals' who may not want to reveal the unique, special taste - at least at a given moment in time (part of the idea is how various '5s' reveal our cinephilic but perhaps even overall proclivities at differents stages if life) - exemplifying and properly revealing the idiosyncratic film lover heart presumably alive and kicking within?

I guess I just thought an inadvertent provocation by Julian Murphet (the guy I refer to above, who does all the Modernism Centre FB stuff) was kind of an interesting, different take on the list mania that flooded us all at year's end, and a way to force us to 'fess up and omit from such a small list figures we respect and acknowledge as important but don't LOVE, and to reveal instead the makers of films we can watch again and again, and again, and they still get better and more significant to us. Whose work can you literally not conceive of being without?

Anyway, so there you go...


January 08, 2014 7:40 AM  
Blogger Tor Hershman said...

Jimmy Stewart pisses me off, but...I still enjoy his films.

February 26, 2014 1:14 PM  

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