Saturday, January 18, 2020

plato's cave one hundred and one (being a film journal)

Todd Douglas Miller Apollo 11 2019
Beautiful archival photography here but as a film it really doesn't have that impact that Al Reinert offers with his For All Mankind from 1989 which features music from Brian Eno's Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks.

Tom Harper Wild Rose 2018

Michael Tyburski The Sound of Silence 2019
Interesting idea, Peter Sarsgaard as a gentleman that tunes houses and documents the effects of sound in different parts of New York City.

Pedro Almodóvar Pain and Glory 2019
Superb film with some stunning performances by Antonio Banderas and Asier Etxeandia.

Jia Zhangke A Touch of Sin 2013
Slowly going through the work of Jia Zhangke. Damn good film.

Hirokazu Kore-eda Nobody Knows 2004
Also slowly going through the work of Kore-eda. Solid and emotionally intense film.

Bong Joon-ho The Host 2006
Watching and rewatching works by Bong Joon-ho, some I liked at the time, some I was not sure about. The Host not as solid as Parasite or Memories of Murder, but pretty damn good. Still have to see his Barking Dogs Never Bite.

Park Chan-wook Oldboy 2003
A film that I have had mixed feelings on over the years. Regardless of its shortcomings, it is a beautifully put together film with some sequences that are just stunning to the eyes and ears, especially when our hero is engaging in violence.

Susan Seidelman Desperately Seeking Susan 1985
Hard to get into a film with Madonna, but this film has some solid moments, and it was great to see NYC in 1985. Many heavy actors (and non-actors) show up like Laurie Metcalf, Will Patton, Steven Wright, Giancarlo Esposito, John Turturro, Victor Argo, Richard Hell, Rockets Redglare, and Anna Levine.

Mike Nichols Charlie Wilson’s War 2007
A great film worth many revisits.

Claire Denis Let the Sunshine In (Un beau soleil intérieur) 2017

Todd Phillips Joker 2019
Was expecting to hate this film but it was what an old music teacher of mine use to say; "not without interest". A very good performance by Mr. Phoenix, but the story was a little soft and the photography frankly too slick for me. The comedy bits reminded me of Marty's great performance work in The Big Lebowski (I’d Love It If You Came Over And Gave Me Notes). Great score of course by Hildur Guðnadóttir. Not a film I would probably watch again but it had its moments. I really loved David Harbour's Oscar the Grouch on SNL, would almost rather see that film.

Lee Chang-dong Burning 2018
Can watch this over and over, gets better every viewing. Such a perfect ending with a killing that resembles love-making.

Lynne Ramsay You Were Never Really Here 2017
One of the best films from 2017, third or fourth viewing. Another film that really starts to come to life after multiple viewings, like a wine that needs a bit of time to breath, there are many moments that wait to reveal themselves to the patient viewer.

Ryūsuke Hamaguchi Asako I & II 2018

Tsai Ming-liang Rebels of the Neon God 1992
Was really into Tsai Ming-liang back in the 1990s but had not seen his films much lately, and plan on going through most of them this year. Good stuff, very strange. Beautifully shot by Pen-Jung Liao.

Ari Aster Midsommar 2019
I liked parts of this film the first viewing and disliked much of the second half. This second viewing I was a bit more into it but still like Hereditary more. Great camera and sound work, and beautiful set design, quite a lovely film to experience. Still not totally sold on it but a decent film.

David Lynch Twin Peaks: The Missing Pieces 2014

Paul Haggis The Next Three Days 2010

Heitor Dhalia Gone 2012

Ridley Scott Alien 1979
The 1979 theatrical release.

Shintarō Katsu Zatoichi 1989
Intense fighting sequences and some really stunning low light photography.

Jérémy Clapin I Lost My Body 2019

Stanley Kubrick Eyes Wide Shut 1999
Rewatched Kubrick's last film as I was wondering why it has become such an essential film for contemporary film enthusiasts. Being a huge lover of Kubrick's films I saw it when it was released but truly hated it. A second viewing a few years later with the same results. Third time now and I still don't see too many outstanding qualities. Thinking about the reasons for this lack of feeling it is mostly a reaction to the lackluster performances by Kidman and Cruise. I normally love Kidman's work but here it really feels insincere and Cruise is even worse except when he is silent and more like a Bressonian model. Sidney Pollack shows up and adds quite a bit, and Cruise gets better as the film progresses, but the soap opera screenplay Kidman struggles with hurts the ears, and the inconsistent lighting and cinematography often times gives the film a B movie feel. The color blue keeps appearing and its artificiality is jarring and for this viewer meaningless (does it refer to blues qualities of depth, stability, trust, loyalty, wisdom, confidence, intelligence, faith, truth, heaven, producing a calming effect?). Have not read the book Traumnovelle (Dream Story) but the story reminded me very slightly of Arturo Pérez-Reverte's The Club Dumas except chronicling here a horny yuppie instead of a sleazy bookseller. The film gets cooking when Cruise visits a prostitute, then his friend playing at a basement bar, then Mr. Milich's costume shop, and finally the Bohemian Grove inspired orgy. The restrictions on what Kubrick could show give the film a great abstract quality, instead of seeing the sex full on, the camera glides through the spaces with obstacles slightly obfuscating the perversions. The character of New York City, at times raw, and other times looking like a set, is very appealing in this film and the Bohemian Grove circle of hell is quite wonderful and not unlike Passolini's Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom environment. Music by Jocelyn Pook gives the film an eerie feel throughout, very Kubrickian like it came directly out of his mind. Really the film is not so bad if you minus the scenes with Kidman and Cruise discussing infidelities, but still not a great one in the master's œuvre.

Jean-Marc Lamoure Tarr Béla: I Used to Be a Filmmaker 2014
Behind the scenes of The Turin Horse.

Michael Crichton Westworld 1973
Grew up as a pre-teen watching Michael Crichton's 1981 film Looker over and over on cable. That film was truly transformative for a kid to see and offered a counter culture world view. In addition, there were films like Cherry 2000, They Live, Terminator, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, The Hidden, and the television show V. A little later for me I saw Repo Man. Westworld would have fit in good, but somehow never saw it, one of the many holes for a kid growing up watching only cable. Compared to Looker, this film is a bit messy and could have used some serious editing or a more thoughtful approach to the total structure of the film. Surely worth watching and better than the HBO show.

Abel Ferrara King of New York 1990
Really enjoyed the recent Rewatchables podcast featuring Quentin Tarantino on one of his favorite films; King of New York. Perfect film.

David Cronenberg The Dead Zone 1983
As a kid I remember seeing the end of this film often on the television, but somehow never saw it fully through. Stunning film, with wonderful music by Michael Kamen (not unlike Howard Shore). Christopher Walken offers a perfect performance, and the only thing a little strange is how the film awkwardly combines multiple stories in a way that draws attention to the off-beat structure. Somehow this gives the film an uncomfortable quality which works well.

Riley Stearns The Art of Self-Defense 2019

Brett Haley Hearts Beat Loud 2018

Thursday, January 9, 2020

rotating in the year of our lord 2019 from the followers of local cheese eaters 51

M a t t h e w S w i e z y n s k i

:: film, in order ::

Bong Joon-ho Parasite
Martin Scorsese The Irishman
Craig Mazin Chernobyl
Pedro Almodóvar Pain and Glory
Quentin Tarantino Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood
Robert Eggers The Lighthouse
Jia Zhangke Ash is the Purest White
Hu Bo An Elephant Sitting Still
Joanna Hogg The Souvenir
Jennifer Kent The Nightingale
Mati Diop Atlantique
Bi Gan Long Day's Journey into Night
James Gray Ad Astra 
Claire Denis High Life
Chad Stahelski John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum
Takashi Makino Memento Stella

:: kill your television, not in order ::

Susannah Grant, Ayelet Waldman & Michael Chabon Unbelievable
Nic Pizzolatto True Detective season three
Alec Berg & Bill Hader Barry season two
Phoebe Waller-Bridge Fleabag season two
Ava DuVernay When They See Us
Joe Penhall Mindhunter season two

:: music recordings ::

Jakob Kirkegaard Opus Mors
Jim O’Rourke To Magnetize Money and Catch a Roving Eye
Éliane Radigue Occam Ocean 2
Biosphere The Senja Recordings
Catherine Christer Hennix The Deontic Miracle
Beth Gibbons, Henryk Górecki ‎Symphony No. 3 (Symphony Of Sorrowful Songs) Op. 36
Stuart A. Staples Music For Claire Denis' High Life (OST)
Jakob Ullmann Fremde Zeit Addendum 5
Sunn O))) Pyroclasts
Hildur Guðnadóttir Chernobyl (OST)
Jóhann Jóhannsson Retrospective I
Tangerine Dream In Search Of Hades (The Virgin Recordings 1973-1979)
Werner Durand Schwingende Luftsäulen 2
Thom Yorke Anima
Maria w Horn Epistasis

:: books ::

Vija Celmins To Fix the Image in Memory
H.P. Lovecraft (Leslie S. Klinger) The New Annotated H. P. Lovecraft
Robert Musil Intimate Ties: Two Novellas
Luc Ferrari Complete Works
Chris Roberts and James Marsh The Spirit of Talk Talk [new edition]
René Daumal Mount Analogue: A Novel of Symbolically Authentic Non-Euclidean Adventures in Mountain Climbing (Exact Change)

C h i  Y u n

:: film, in order ::

Bong Joon-ho Parasite
Martin Scorsese The Irishman
Pedro Almodóvar Pain and Glory
Hu Bo An Elephant Sitting Still
Quentin Tarantino Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood
Jia Zhangke Ash is the Purest White
Mati Diop Atlantique
James Gray Ad Astra
Robert Eggers The Lighthouse
Nanfu Wang & Lynn Zhang One Child Nation
Bi Gan Long Day's Journey into Night

J o h n  S p e l l

:: music recordings ::

Éliane Radigue Occam Ocean 2
Jakob Kirkegaard Opus Mors
The Deontic Miracle Selections from 100 Models of Hegikan Roku
Jakob Ullmann Fremde Zeit Addendum 5
Félicia Atkinson The Flower And The Vessel
Sunn O))) Pyroclasts
Autechre Warp Tapes 89-93
Patsy Millicent Todd 45s on Gay Feet:
I Don’t Want To Be Hurt/Certify My Love
We Were Lovers/Give Me A Chance [w/Stranger Cole]
Your Photograph/Tell It To Me [w/Stranger Cole]
Just Like It Is/I Tell Myself
Tujiko Noriko Kuro (OST)
Kali Malone The Sacrificial Code
David Terry & Eye Spirit The White Horse Of The Sun
E-Saggila My World My Way
Not Waving Futuro (Music For The Waldorf Project)
DOME reissues
The Caretaker Everywhere, An Empty Bliss
Andrew Chalk One Long Year

:: film/kill yr television ::

Jeffrey Addiss, Will Matthews The Dark Crystal: Age Of Resistance
Chad Stahelski John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum
Takashi Makino Memento Stella at OMSI with live score by Takashi Makino
Zal Batmanglij & Brit Marling The OA Season 2
Joji Matsuoka & Nobuhiro Yamashita Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories Season 2
Aki Kondo & Masahito Kobayashi Rilakkuma and Kaoru

:: music recordings ::

Marion Brown Three For Shepp
Marion Brown Capricorn Moon to Juba Lee:  Revisited
Louis Moholo Octet Spirits Rejoice
Sonny Sharrock Ask the Ages
Maleem Mahmoud Ghania with Pharoah Shanders The Trance of Seven Colors
Alice Coltrane Carnegie Hall '71
Alice Coltrane Sextet Live at the Berkeley Community Theater 1972
Bill Orcutt Odds Against Tomorrow
Peter Brötzmann I Surrender Dear
Matana Roberts Coin Coin Chapter Four: Memphis
Arve Henriksen the timeless nowhere
Yoshi Wada Lament For the Rise and Fall of the Elephantine Crocodile
Winfried Muhlum-Pyrapheros Musica Nova Contemplativa
Biosphere The Senja Recordings
jürg frey fields, traces, clouds
Hildur Guðnadóttir Chernobyl (OST)
Stuart A Staples High Life (OST)
Mark Korven The Lighthouse (OST)
Lustmord First Reformed (OST)
Catherine Christer Hennix The Deontic Miracle
Jerome Noetinger and Anthony Peteras A Sunset For Walter
Terry Fox Linkage
Purple Mountains S/T
Tindersticks No Treasure But Hope
Thom Yorke Anima
Bill Callahan Shepard in a Sheepskin Vest
Phill Niblock and Catherine Lamb Ensemble neoN
Phill Niblock Music For Organ
Joshua Abrams and the Natural Information Society Mandatory Reality
75 Dollar Bill I Was Real
Kali Malone The Sacrificial Code
Deathprod Occulting Disk
D Jackman Herbstonne
Bendik Giske Surrender
Fire! Orchestra Arrival
Jakob Kirkegaard Opus Mors
Jakob Kirkegaard Phonurgia Metallis
Leila Bordreuil Headflush
Roland Kayn Scanning
Jakob Ullmann solo V fur Klavier
Jim O'Rourke To Magnetize Money and Catch a Roving Eye
Éliane Radigue Occam Ocean 2
The Caretaker Everywhere at the End of Time Stages 4 to 6
Sunn0))) Pyroclasts
Keith Fullerton Whitman STS
Klein Lifetime
Black To Comm Seven Horses For Seven Kings
FKA Twigs Magdalene
People Like Us The Mirror
Petra Dubach and Mario van Horrik Church WAVES

:: surround sound found in 2019 ::

The Band S/T
Tangerine Dream In Search of Hades
The Beatles Abbey Road
Gene Clark No Other
Ryuichi Sakamoto and Shiro Takatani async surround
Roxy Music S/T
Velvet Underground Loaded
Fleetwood Mac Tusk
Jethro Tull Aqualung
Johann Johannsson Viroulegu forsetar
John Luther Adams Become Ocean
John Luther Adams Become Desert
Herbie Hancock Sextant
Talking Heads Fear of Music
Talking Heads Speaking in Tongues
Bjork Selmasongs
Bjork Medulla
Bjork Vespertine
Bjork Volta
Bjork Homogenic
Bjork Drawing Restraint
King Crimson In the Court of the Crimson King (50th Anniversary)
Bass Communion Loss
Beck Sea Change
Pink Floyd Atom Heart Mother
Pink Floyd Meddle
Pink Floyd Wish You Were Here
Yes The Yes Album
Yes Fragile
Yes Close to the Edge
Yes Relayer
Yes Tales of Topographic Oceans

 B e a  K w a n  L i m

{ nothing listed in any particular order }

:: film ::

*The first two address a numinous silence that can only come from the innermost parts of individuals who come to truly know their soul’s compass - words have no domain, mindless mob mentality be damned. In a way all the films have that quality in some shade or moment.

Hu Bo An Elephant Sitting Still
Terrence Malick A Hidden Life
Béla Tarr Sátántangó (new restoration)
Chad Stahelski John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum

:: live music ::

*The Radigue and Monk shows had sacred and virtuosic qualities. Must say most of these shows  had kind and respectful audiences - rare! Grace Cathedral’s cavernous echo and light from sunset to darkness is spectacular. I’m also very fortunate to count admired friends in my list.

Éliane Radigue - Occam Ocean at The Lab
Meredith Monk at Grace Cathedral
David Novick, Donovan Quinn, Six Organs of Admittance at Adobe Books
Tashi Dorji and Sumac at Rickshaw Stop
This Is Not This Heat at The Chapel
Elysian Fields at Starline Social Club
Bill Callahan at the Castro Theatre

:: music recordings ::

*Several recordings that took many years to make in this list. The common thread I noticed is some very sophisticated maturity in all these albums.

Rustin Man Drift Code
Donovan Quinn Absalom
Akira Rabelais CXVI
Beth Gibbons / Henryk Gorecki Symphony of Sorrowful Songs
Lumine Quiet Ends
Alice Coltrane Live at the Berkeley Community Theatre 1972

:: books ::

*Was a very bad reader this year.

Éliane Radigue Intermediary Spaces
Jean Ray Cruise of Shadows
Luc Ferrari Complete Works
Chris Roberts and James Marsh The Spirit of Talk Talk [new edition]
Benjamin Piekut Henry Cow The World is a Problem
Vija Celmins To Fix the Image in Memory

Biosphere, Chernobyl, High Life OST, Phill Niblock Music For Organ, The Lighthouse OST, Pain and Glory

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

cosmic representations hovering around 2010 - 2020

:: best of the decade ::

films. primary list, alphabetically

Michael Haneke Amour 2012
Starring Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva, and Isabelle Huppert. Still, no film by him (for this viewer) matches his 2001 The Piano Teacher, but this film has a quiet intensity that makes it stand out and some beautiful performances by these three heavies.

David Michôd Animal Kingdom 2010
Many films this decade involve the stellar performances of Ben Mendelsohn. This film also first brought to my attention the actor/filmmaker Joel Edgerton and the work of David Michôd, whom also made The Rover. The Australian films this decade were some of the best.

Mike Leigh Another Year 2010
Leigh's first film of the decade, and one of his best. Intense relationships shifting and unraveling in a film that flows so beautiful it leaves you completely overwhelmed by the virtuosic abilities of Mr. Leigh.

Derek Cianfrance A Place Beyond the Pines 2012
Another stunning performance by Ben Mendelsohn. This film and many others from the decade have a definite relationship to the 1970s and early 1980s. Not in the mindless way that Stranger Things does, but present a subtle ambiance working under and above the surface. Clearly this time period shaped many filmmaker's aesthetics from the last ten years, and here it is very much present in A Place Beyond the Pines and in addition Killing Them Softly, both with Mendelsohn and both with a sort of perverse sense of the world that often times can make a viewer quite uncomfortable.

Viktor Kossakovsky Aquarela 2018
Often times it is very enjoyable to see a non-narrative, non-documentary, and non-avant-garde film that is perfectly shot and put together. Aquarela is one of those rare films that just concentrates on the craft of filmmaking, and a preoccupation with the magic of cinema.

Alejandro G. Iñárritu Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) 2014
"A big bang of movie razzle-dazzle from Alejandro G. Iñárritu, opens with a winking sleight of hand. Riggan Thomson, a Hollywood has-been turned Broadway second-chancer played by a blissed-out Michael Keaton, is hanging out in his dressing room at the St. James Theater in Times Square, by which I mean floating, like a mystic who’s passed transcendence and gone straight to nirvana."  Manohla Dargis New York Times review.

Yi'nan Diao Black Coal Thin Ice 2014
Chinese Serial Killer film, classical in some ways, but highly abstracted. Almost like a Beckett meets Tsai Ming-liang film. Drunken and depressed, our hero navigates a depressed existence, with his general atmosphere of absurdity being more what I followed than the plot. Virtuosic in that the film does not rely on music like a Fincher film would, but builds tension and mood through alternative modes. After a couple of viewings, I believe it would be difficult to put my finger on how this mood is executed so strongly, truly a mysterious and subtle magic this film has. It is wonderful to watch a film that you understand is executed perfectly, but the abstraction of it keeps you at a distance.

Denis Villeneuve Blade Runner 2049 2017
All of Villeneuve's films from the decade are ones I have watched quite a few times and have felt a strong connection to. Hard not to put them all on this list.

Woody Allen Blue Jasmine 2013
After Bullets Over Broadway from 1994, I basically gave up on Mr. Allen. One of the few watchable films in the first part of the 21st century was Small Time Crooks from 2000, but it was really Blue Jasmine that is on par with his classics. When I first met my wife, she was living in an apartment building just next to Sally Hawkins' fictional apartment building which appears briefly in the film. Tragic ending that hits very hard every viewing, one of his best films.

Richard Linklater Boyhood 2014
A great achievement by Linklater to put together a film like this and maintain the concentration. Quite novel film that gets better each viewing, and one of the few films that makes you want to re-watch immediately after it ends.

Chang-dong Lee Burning 2018
Have seen this a couple of times and the film just blows me away and is often in my mind. The visual ambiance he creates is dark and sublime without using tricks and tomfoolery. Besides Australia, South Korea has really had a strong decade.

Luca Guadagnino Call Me By Your Name 2017
After seeing the trailer for Call Me By Your Name, I thought the film seemed pretty lame but after realizing it was written by James Ivory, I immediately went out to see it. Watched a few times in the last couple of years and it is easily one of my favorites of the decade.

John Michael McDonagh Calvary 2014
Both McDonagh brothers have made some great films in the last decade or two. Calvary and The Guard are great ones that portray a strange humour and feel that is utterly unique and quite a bit in the tradition of theatre or literature.

Todd Haynes Carol 2015
I recently read Patricia Highsmith's Carol and believe that Haynes and Phyllis Nagy greatly improved on the story, one of those films that adds much to the book (in my opinion) and so beautifully shot. Haynes best film since Safe.

Christopher Nolan - Dunkirk - 2017
Very nice for Nolan as it mellows out a bit with some of the non-linear narrative tricks, at least the tricks are presented in a subtle way. Stunning visually and sonically with one of Hans Zimmer's best soundtracks. Very much love Tom Hardy's finale, memorable when so many films are competing this decade for the most non-traditional ending.

Doug Liman Edge of Tomorrow 2014
Have seen this film maybe 4-5 times and love it quite a bit. Groundhog Day that is further examined here comedically in an unlikely film with Tom Cruise killing aliens.

Paul Schrader First Reformed 2018
There are many aspects of Schrader's First Reformed that implore one to watch it over and over again: Ethan Hawke's stunning performance, Lustmord's cosmic score (that only shows up later in the film), Amanda Seyfried and her Magical Mystery Tour, Schrader's tipping of the hat to not only his previous work but Bresson and the like, and also the film's relationship to environmental concerns. More than anything though is the ending and its relationship to the total film, which initially left me so confused after leaving the theater, until my wife explained it to me in such a straightforward way and the simplistic profundity was just shocking. It really brought back into my consciousness the importance of "reading a film" in a clear way, something this viewer had learned in film school but somehow half forgotten over the years. Reexamining how one watches a film in a way that happens not in a fog but under a clear conditions.  This could be supplemented by:
A. Watching the film numerous times.
B. Listening to interviews with Schrader and his Blu-ray commentary.
C. Rewatching Schrader's older work like Hardcore, Light Sleeper and Taxi Driver.
D. Reading or having some understanding of Schrader's study of Yasajiro Ozu, Robert Bresson, and Carl Dreyer in his book Transcendental Style In Film
A film enthusiast can seek alternative methods of watching a film that really assist an intimacy with the work. Alternative viewings can involve: Watching the film silent. Having the film play but only listening to it. Watching the film with attention to edits and shot lengths (does the director use hard cuts, dissolves, etc... how do the edits accentuate a filmic rhythm)? Watching the film without subtitles, slowing down certain sequences to get a better idea of how they were constructed. A film's ending has become something that makes or breaks it. The Sopranos' ending comes to mind, with its shocking and in many unclear narrative trajectories.

Jordan Peele Get Out 2017
One of those films I had to see a couple of times to get into. Solid film. Interesting how he mixes humor with dread, not always so successfully done by others.

John Slattery God's Pocket 2014
I am not a Mad Men enthusiast, but there are many aspects of the show that make it stand out. One of the biggest for me is John Slattery's performance, and general presence. Every so often he shows up and adds quite a bit to a film, like Spotlight. I had no idea he directed until this film and it is one of those quietly stunning films from the decade, hugely funny and endlessly rewatchable. A solid portrait of Boston Mass, the somewhat ugly city where Slattery grew up (and partially this reviewer). As stated numerous times on the art of memory; this decade in film has a strong relationship with the 1970s and early 1980s, a period when kids didn't wear seat belts, peoples breath stank, and apartment/house interiors were dark from ugly wainscotting, grime and a lack of light. I remember one teenage summer reading Thomas Mann, Jun'ichirō Tanizaki, and Franz Kafka in some ugly as shit Revere or Lynn Mass wainscoting-heavy interior and really understanding the importance of light in architecture to keep one from falling into a heavy state of depression. The actors (Philip Seymour Hoffman, John Turturro, Christina Hendricks, and Richard Jenkins) move to and fro in these ugly spaces, partially dipso and having a tough time at it. Great film with many memorable lines and an hell of an atmosphere.

David Mackenzie Hell or High Water 2016
Written by Taylor Sheridan who's work this decade includes Sicario as writer, and Wind River plus Yellowstone as director and writer. Timeless film that certainly is set in a time past where conversations involved more than what method people use to bleach their teeth. This website writer often times goes about in the quotidian world with many pressing questions: Where the hell am I? What happened to my comrades? Why is all music boringly monoculture? Why do people support a fast food chicken company that is anti LGBTQ and at the same time go about criticizing those who don't as OK-Boomers? Why is Star Wars the only topic of film conversation one hears anymore? Anyway... seeing films like Hell or High Water puts this viewer temporarily in a place where these questions don't need asking.

Thomas Vinterberg The Hunt 2012
In the 90s, the concept of Vinterberg and von Trier's Domga 95 was extremely appealing to me. Vinterberg's Festen (The Celebration) from 1998 was the first I believe and that along with von Trier's The Idiots were a big deal at the time. Looking back I am not totally sure that the films were as strong as the concept (I need to rewatch them), but Vinterberg's The Hunt is really a virtuosic and deeply meaningful film that in many ways seems like the adult film that came out of the freshman Festen. Much of what makes this film so solid is Mads Mikkelsen's performance, one of the greatest actors working today. He does not often get to shine but here he delivers one of the most beautiful performances of the decade, something that was perhaps missing from the Domga 95 films? I listen now to many film podcasts and try and keep up with what is happening and honestly I can't remember the last time someone mentioned Dogma 95, are their Vows of Chastity no longer relevant for contemporary film viewers? In many ways the ideas come up constantly when I watch film, like the relationship between what I am hearing and what I am watching (as does Bresson's many sound/image ideas). How many films does one watch these days where 100% of the film's dialogue and sound work was not what was recording sync? Does it matter? More times than I can count one sees a long static shot and the camera is moving about just enough to know that it has been hand-held, or lighting is obviously provided by what light there was available. These subtle touches really add a lot to films these days. The technology of digital image capturing has really come so far that so many things are possible now that were not in the early days of digital. With this many vows of chastity have perhaps crept into decisions that cinematographers and directors make these days?

Ken Loach I Daniel Blake 2016
That this film is made by the same man who made Kes gives justification enough to see it, and it happens to be a stupendous film.

Paul Thomas Anderson Inherent Vice 2014
I couldn't get excited about The Master, but PT made up for that film with this truly bizarre film and one of his best. The first time I honestly didn't get much of it but on repeat viewings the fog has cleared slightly but there is still plenty of fog in this Chandleresque nonsensical booze and sex induced ride. PT's use of Can's Vitamin C is surely one of the strongest moments of cinema magic this decade.

Martin Scorsese The Irishman 2019
This film I have mentioned a couple of times on this site. It joins the list of truly profound films by Scorsese like Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Italianamerican, American Boy, Goodfellas, No Direction Home, and The Last Waltz.

Chad Stahelski & (partially) David Leitch John Wick: Chapters 1-3 2014-2019
These three films show up in this list for a few reasons. I was never a Keanu Reeves fan, but when he is solid in a solid film, there is some cinematic enchantment that happens. Growing up watching him in films, it is hard to explain the aura he gave off when first watching John Wick 1, partially because of how great he looked and fought for his age, but also just how much he had minimized his acting style over the years, if 10 words were necessary, he would only use 1. Not too many actors can pull that off. 

Andrew Dominik Killing Them Softly 2012
Not sure how many people would agree, but for this viewer Killing Them Softly introduced a new kind of film into the 21st century, although a new kind of film that is hard to put one's finger on its qualities, or "hard to take its measure" as is said in No Country for Old Men. Perhaps it is the Australian/New Zealand influence on contemporary film, or the qualities I mentioned earlier in this post related to A Place Beyond the Pines, that the cinema from the 1970s and early 1980s are very present in these works but not blatantly like in Good Time or Stranger Things with their truly ersatz soundtracks. It is more like an obsession with lesser known works from that time period, like the writings of the novelist George V. Higgins who also wrote The Friends of Eddie Coyle, or John Flynn's The Outfit from 1973, or Stuart Rosenberg's The Laughing Policeman from the same year (both of which I had not seen until recently thanks to a friend's strong referral) or Jerzy Skolimowski's Moonlighting from 1982. These more crime-filled, seedy and grimy films from that period are in a way reborn in many films from this decade. Films where sound plays such an important role (like The Shout from 1978) or the shite of urban life like in Charles Burnett's Killer of Sheep from 1978. Perhaps being a fan of all of these films, the way contemporary filmmakers interact with that rich history is more of an interest. But more than any of this; Killing Them Softly is just a solidly made film and has stunning performances from actors that have really dominated the decade like Richard Jenkins, Scoot McNairy, Max Casella, Ben Mendelsohn, and of course heavies like Brad Pitt, Ray Liotta, Vincent Curatola and James Gandolfini. Other related works are : God's Pocket, Hell or High WaterA Place Beyond the Pines, Starred Up, Out of the Furnace, The Rover, Cold in July, Joe, The Kingdom, and The Drop.

Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Véréna Paravel Leviathan 2012
As mentioned earlier, experimental films over the years have really shifted into this anti experiential way of experiencing film for this viewer. They have gone from something I once obsessed over to something I barely pay attention to. Often times more experimental documentaries give this viewer the jouissance he once felt from the avant'garde. Leviathan and Sweetgrass by Lucien Castaing-Taylor and collaborators are good examples. Non-narrative films which explore what cinema is capable of without story, the relationship to early or pre-cinema (as written about by such writers as Tom Gunning), and explorations into sound and its relationship with image, a relationship that explores complexity in a way that most experimental film currently do not but rather settle into a world of alternative music video. This film delves into many beautiful cinematic experiences: movement from the screen to the audience's eyes using imagery that is the definition of liminal light, the sea and how the camera goes in and out of it like a bird diving for fish accompanied sonically in a way that completely mystified this viewer. Also, you so rarely see people in the sound art world working in film, here we have Ernst Karel's sound work adding so many layers to this great work. One also thinks of BJ Nilsen's sound design work in Sicario (I believe the aerial shot early on in the film, correct me if I am wrong.)

Yorgos Lanthimos The Lobster 2016
Growing up through my youth reading Robert Walser, Samuel Beckett and Franz Kafka, I felt an immediate connection to The Lobster upon seeing it. Lanthimos' The Killing of a Sacred Dear resonates in a similar way, but this film more so with its Walserian surrealism and (at first glance) cold aesthetics. Very much similar to Beckett's Sucking Stones.... repetitive and bordering on boring, but so humorous and strange the experience becomes irrational and dream-like. Nothing else really like it.

Kenneth Lonergan Manchester by the Sea 2016

Kenneth Lonergan - Margaret Extended Cut - 2011
Lonergan is certainly one of the most exceptional filmmakers working this decade. The first film I saw by him was Margaret, and after that was completely overwhelmed by his 2000 film You Can Count on Me. After seeing Margaret about 3-4 times I finally saw the extended cut and the difference between the 2 films is quite extreme, with so many more layers and subtleties in the longer cut. Extraordinary and often times hard to watch performance by Anna Paquin, and one of the best performances of the decade by J. Smith-Cameron. Manchester by the Sea also one of those powerful films that is not only beautifully constructed, but has performances so powerful your head spins faster than light. Two outstanding films.

Barry Jenkins Moonlight 2016
This film I have spent much time with and written about many times on this blog. Great film.

Mike Leigh Mr. Turner 2014
Honestly one of my favorite Mike Leigh films, from an oeuvre that has so many remarkable works. Some of his departures from the Leigh world have not resonated as strongly, like Topsy-Turvy, but this one is just so stunning and Timothy Spall here is utterly mesmerizing.

Jim Jarmusch Only Lovers Left Alive 2013
Jarmusch has made some great goddamn films and this is one of them.

Takashi Makino Origin of the Dreams 2015 & works in general
The works in general by Makino from this decade are gorgeous and essential for any enthusiast of transcendental jouissance in cinema. I picked Origin of the Dreams but many other films are very much worth watching including cinéma concretOn Generation and CorruptionThe Picture from Darkness, and Emaki/Light.

Aki Kaurismäki The Other Side of Hope 2017
The Other Side of Hope and Le Havre are two pretty damn good recent Kaurismäki films. A drastically underrated director with such a strong body of work. Immersing oneself into the world of Kaurismäki is unlike any world one can experience, something only really the cinema can offer.

Pedro Almodóvar Pain and Glory 2019
Incredibly nuanced performances from Antonio Banderas and Asier Etxeandia, the kind of screen performances one hopes so much to see but so infrequently does. I normally am somewhat repelled by Almodóvar (sorry to say), but here he really makes a wonderful film about memory and reminiscence, aging and mortality, inspiration, desire, friendship, depression, and restrained emotions. About in many way not dramatizing but living in a world of suppressed emotional fatigue. One moment incredibly touching was when the two old friends, having split and not spoken in 32 years, meet up and again thick as thieves.

Bong Joon Ho Parasite 2019
Often times a person that is sensitive to film style, meaning they consume it quickly and try and make sense of it, sees a film that has a truly unique style and has immediate respect. Perhaps like seeing Béla Tarr's films for the first time. Parasite comes from a direction that completely mystified this viewer and for that it instantly became one of those great films. As stated elsewhere, this is why film enthusiasts spend so much time in the dark; in Plato's Cave, trying to make sense of the light.

Jim Jarmusch Paterson 2016
Another basically perfect film from Jarmusch with a filmic rhythm that is completely mesmerizing. Some filmmakers offer up a completely original rhythm that offers you two hours more or less into a world not your own. Aki Kaurismäki offers up a similar one.

Paul Thomas Anderson Phantom Thread 2017
I have no interest in the business of making cloths, especially for rich folks, but Mr. Anderson's film here is truly one of his best and how could one not want to continually live in his aesthetic environment? Also that he shot this film really speaks volumes.... like Roma shot by Alfonso Cuarón, a great film shot by the director is really like nothing else.

Denis Villeneuve Prisoners 2013
Have seen this quite a few times and it really is just one hell of a film.

Ridley Scott Prometheus 2012
This is one of the better Ridley Scott films from this decade, and a solid cast. Really stunning on the big screen.

Alejandro González Iñárritu The Revenant 2016
Many great moments in this film, but the two things that have stood out over multiple viewings are the score by Alva Noto, Ryuichi Sakamoto + Bryce Dessner, and the long shots and totally gorgeous photography by the overwhelmingly talented Emmanuel Lubezki.

Chloé Zhao The Rider 2017
Quietly appears as a classic film of the recent years.

Alfonso Cuarón Roma 2018
Like mentioned earlier for Phantom Thread... a great film shot by the director himself is like eating a perfect piece of cheesecake with a bit of Tinta de Toro wine to wash it down, an utterly pleasurable experience. If you died after such an experience you could say you lived a full live.

Steve McQueen Shame 2011
This film is like a drug, you just want to keep getting another hit, like Ministry's "just one fix".... Michael Fassbinder here and in Hunger gives some truly great performances.

Hirokazu Koreeda Shoplifters 2018
An outstanding film from an outstanding career in film-making. One can endlessly watch this one.

Denis Villeneuve Sicario 2015
This film I have seen many times but I also like to put it on and just have it playing as the music and sound design are so strong. A really great work by Villeneuve and one of the truly best soundtracks ever in any film, composed by the late great Jóhann Jóhannsson.

Tom McCarthy Spotlight 2015
I always gravitate to Boston films and often times to investigative journalism films. Probably have seen this 5+ times and never tire of it, perhaps not the most inventive film, but the no frills construction is very pleasant for this viewer, in a world where so many films are unsuccessfully trying to expand the borders of narrative.

David Mackenzie Starred Up 2013
Ben Mendelsohn and Jack O'Connell both give some intense performances here. Scottish director David Mackenzie's Hell or High Water and this one are some great films that bring one back to the 1990s with the tradition of the indie film that is so opposite of today's super hero films.

Martin McDonagh Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 2017
Top notch performances, and interesting that McDonagh can make a pretty successful and engaging film about a story that in a way is meaningless.

Tomas Alfredson Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy 2011
I had read the book and seen the BBC show a couple of times and this really added another layer to the great le Carré story. Outstanding cast really brings the quiet rage of this story to life.

Maren Ade Toni Erdmann 2016
Just really one strange film that made quite an impression on a single viewing.

Terrence Malick Tree of Life 2011
Not really a perfect film or one of the best Malick works, but there are some wonderful moments in it that make it worth watching, especially the abstract photography segments. Never in any film except maybe 2001 does one see such large budget virtuosically photographed cosmic abstractions.

Coen Brothers - True Grit - 2010
A classic from the Coen Brothers, this follows their pretty much perfect film A Serious Man, and is about as different as you could image. Very nice how they are able to change gears so dramatically.

Béla Tarr - The Turin Horse - 2011
Truly beautiful film from Mr. Tarr, and possibly his last narrative film. You never eat potatoes the same after seeing this one.

Jonathan Glazer Under the Skin 2013
One of the strangest and quietly creepiest films of the decade, with an equally uncomfortable soundtrack by Mica Levi. The entire film but especially the ending is more queerly horrific than any horror film I have seen.

Valeska Grisebach Western 2017
Very original film from Grisebach, a great combination of grit and lush beauty. Unforgettable.

Lynne Ramsay You Were Never Really Here 2017
One of those films you watch and are just completely in awe of.

:: kill yr television ::

David Lynch Twin Peaks: The Return 2017
Best show of the decade by far, possibly ever made. It is completely incomprehensible that this was made; the many dense layers, the complexities, the mysteries, the length, and the lack of tv-filler. Part eight is truly one of the most divine experiences one can have in the dark, and after seeing the entirety of the Twin Peaks The Return, Lynch actually consistency reaches eight throughout.

Nic Pizzolatto True Detective season one & three 2014-2019
Profound television. After 5 times watching season one, this viewer is ready for another go. Stephen Dorff's performance in season three is one of the best of the year, not sure why more people aren't vocal about that? All those years working in film he just taps into and gathers up some kind of epiphanic grit which gave me goose bumps.

Craig Mazin Chernobyl 2019
Visually stunning and essential for those who follow the careers of Jared Harris, Stellan Skarsgård, and Emily Watson. I read the book it was based on and the screenwriters did a beautiful transformation into the narrative we follow here. So bloody beautifully shot as well. I have been obsessed with Hildur Guðnadóttir's since her first release from 2006 Mount A, here she is taking the work a step further bringing doom-laden ambiance to this series.

Derek Simonds The Sinner season one & two 2017-2018
Two solid seasons. Bill Pulman gives a stunning performance as do Jessica Biel and Carrie Coon.

Alec Berg & Bill Hader Barry season one & two 2018-2019
Mr. Hader is a film connoisseur with some great taste, the love is apparent when watching this.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge & Harry Bradbeer Fleabag season one & two 2016-2019
How often can a filmmaker make addressing the camera work so well?

films. secondary list, alphabetically

Dan Trachtenberg 10 Cloverfield Lane 2016
Steve McQueen 12 Years A Slave 2013
James Gray Ad Astra 2019
Sebastián Lelio A Fantastic Woman 2017
Hirokazu Koreeda After the Storm 2016
Hu Bo An Elephant Sitting Still 2018
Charlie Kaufman, Duke Johnson Anomalisa 2015
Joe Penna Artic 2018
Ben Affleck Argo 2012
Denis Villeneuve Arrival 2016
Terence Davies A Quiet Passion 2016
Jia Zhangke Ash Is Purest White 2018
Mati Diop Atlantics 2019
Jia Zhangke A Touch of Sin 2013
Jennifer Kent The Babadook 2014
Matt Ross Captain Fantastic 2016
Paul Greengrass Captain Phillips 2013
Kelly Reichardt Certain Women 2016
Lila Avilés The Chambermaid 2018
Jim Mickle Cold in July 2014
Jean-Marc Vallée Dallas Buyers Club 2013
Christopher Nolan The Dark Knight Rises 2014
Alexander Payne The Descendants 2011
Terence Davies The Deep Blue Sea 2012
Denis Villeneuve Enemy 2014
Alex Garland Ex Machina 2014
Robert Zemeckis Flight 2012
Ryan Coogler Fruitvale Station 2013
Corinna Belz Gerhard Richter Painting 2011
David Fincher Gone Girl 2014
Joe Carnahan The Grey 2011
John Michael McDonagh The Guard 2011
Alice Rohrwacher Happy as Lazzaro 2018
Aki Kaurismäki Le Havre 2011
Ari Aster Hereditary 2018
Claire Denis High Life 2019
Tamara Kotevska, Ljubo Stefanov Honeyland 2019
Ethan Coen, Joel Coen Inside Llewyn Davis 2013
Christopher Nolan Intersellar 2014
David Gordon Green Joe 2013
Andrew Haigh Lean on Pete 2017
Debra Granik Leave No Trace 2018
Robert Eggers The Lighthouse 2019
Bi Gan Long Day’s Journey Into Night 2018
Ridley Scott The Martian 2015
Jeff Nichols Midnight Special 2016
Alexander Payne Nebraska 2013
Jennifer Kent The Nightingale 2018
Dan Gilroy Nightcrawler 2014
Lars von Trier Nymphomaniac: Vol. I & II 2013
Quentin Tarantino Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood 2019
Sophie Fiennes Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow 2010
Scott Cooper Out of the Furnace 2013
Lee Chang-dong Poetry 2010
Oren Moverman Rampart 2011
Malik Bendjelloul Searching For Sugar Man 2012
Joanna Hogg The Souvenir 2019
Jeff Nichols Take Shelter 2011
Ben Affleck The Town 2010
Andrew Haigh Weekend 2011
Damien Chazelle Whiplash 2014
Jean-Marc Vallée Wild 2014
Taylor Sheridan Wind River 2017
Robert Eggers The Witch 2015

Sunday, December 29, 2019

plato's cave one hundred (being a film journal)

Lila Avilés - La Camarista (The Chambermaid) - 2018
Stars Gabriela Cartol as a hotel maid in Mexico City. Beautiful and sad.

Takashi Makino - Tranquil - 2007

Takashi Makino - Inter View - 2010
Overwhelming visuals and slightly overpowering soundtrack.

Herschell Gordon Lewis - Blood Feast - 1963
Mr. Lewis even outdoes Ed Wood with his films. Craziness beyond crazy and beautiful on the eye.

Kathryn Bigelow - Near Dark - 1987
Similarities to The Lost Boys, but lacking for the most part the 80s datedness. Near Dark is extremely raw and frightening, with both Bill Paxton and Lance Henriksen giving some mind-blowing performances. Hard to imagine more dreadful scenes than what Bill Paxton presents to the audience, one of the truly great actors of his generation. Other aspects that make it a great one are the soundtrack by Tangerine Dream, and cinematography by Adam Greenberg, who was responsible for The Terminator, Ghost, and Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Solid film.

Bi Gan - Long Day’s Journey Into Night - 2018
Really stunning film with some of the best photography I have seen in the last few years (shot by Yao Hung-i, Dong Jinsong, and David Chizallet). The last 59 minute shot was just spectacular and really must have been difficult to shoot with so many variables that chance could have shifted out of their favor. Dream like qualities, almost surreal at some level. This might sound ridiculous, but I really had a problem with the director interview when he mentions video game aesthetics.

John Schlesinger - The Falcon and the Snowman - 1985
One of the few Schlesinger films I didn't enjoy.

Clint Eastwood - Richard Jewell - 2019
Saw this on my birthday. Tragic story told very well by Clint Eastwood and acted well by Paul Walter Hauser.

Nanfu Wang, Zhang Jia-Ling - One Child Nation - 2019

James Gray - Ad Astra - 2019
For some reason I didn't expect much from this film but it was really quite impressive. From the music by Max Richter, to the visuals to the performance by Brad Pitt. One of the better space films from the last decade.

Diao Yi’nan - Black Coal, Thin Ice - 2014
Very much love this film.

Stan Brakhage - I Take These Truths - 1995

Stan Brakhage - The Cat of the Worm’s Green Realm - 1997

Stan Brakhage - Yggdrasill: Whose Roots Are Stars in the Human Mind - 1997

Stan Brakhage - “…” Reel Five - 1998

Stan Brakhage - Persian Series 1-3 - 1999

Stan Brakhage - Chinese Series - 2003
Rewatching all of the Brakhage films presented on the Criterion By Brakhage: An Anthology. Going through each set in reverse chronological order. The last set features some truly wonderful works from straight on hand-painted films to hand-painted films in which he collaborated with Sam Bush (who collaborated with me, on this, much as if I were a composer who handed him a painted score, so to speak, and a few instructions - a medieval manuscript, one might say - and he were the musician who played it) to hand-painted films mixed with photography in which he says he was inspired by Phil Solomon and Nathaniel Dorsky to pick up a camera again, and my god could Brakhage shoot water (I believe he meant Solomon when he said "Phil" in an interview on The Cat of the Worm's Green Realm). Also included is a film he purely shot, and his last film which is hand-scratched. Such perfect work.

Lorene Scafaria - Hustlers - 2019

Tony Kaye - American History X - 1998
Not sure if this film has dated that well.

Jonathan Demme - Something Wild - 1986
I like to watch this every few years. Ray Liotta's performance is quite memorable.

James Mangold - Cop Land - 1997
Great cop film, Stallone really gives a great performance here, as does Liotta. Could watch endlessly.

Philip Kaufman - The Unbearable Lightness of Being - 1988
Perfect film.

Sofia Coppola - Lost in Translation - 2003

Terry Zwigoff - Bad Santa - 2003

Leos Carax - Holy Motors - 2012

Lukas Feigelfeld - Hagazussa - 2017

Andrew Haigh - Weekend - 2011
Beautiful film from Haigh who also directed 45 Years and Lean on Pete.

Lav Diaz - From What Is Before (Mula sa Kung Ano ang Noon) - 2014
Directed, written, photographed and edited by Lav Diaz. Very much in the tradition of Béla Tarr but more grounded in the everyday. Will take some time to digest.

Lee Chang-dong - Poetry - 2010

Thom Andersen - Los Angeles Plays Itself - 2003
One of the great documentaries which attracts one endlessly to take in the light.

Mike Hodges - Get Carter - 1971
We see in this film Jack Carter (Michael Caine) reading Raymond Chandler, which gives some kind of clue into the plot that unfolds in this film. Wolfgang Suschitzky's constant abstractionist photography is unreal, in some ways pushes the viewer to move through the fog for a clear reading, or rather to just bask in the abstraction.

Tamara Kotevska, Ljubo Stefanov - Honeyland - 2019
Beautifully shot and edited, yet so very difficult film to watch.

Plato's Cave, being a film journal for the art of memory, gets to 100 at the end of 2019 and will start at 101 for 2020. Next posts are personal best of the decade and best of the year.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

plato's cave ninety nine (being a film journal)

John Sayles - Matewan - 1987
Classic 80s film. First time I saw Chris Cooper, Will Oldham or David Strathairn. Kevin Tighe plays one of the most intense heavies ever in film history. 

Arthur Penn - Night Moves - 1975
Perfect film engaging in the classic Chandler/Hammitt plot confusion.

Mati Diop - Atlantique - 2019
Strangely psychedelic Senegalese crepuscular voodoo aberrations drenched in Popol Vuh inspired soundscapes by Fatima Al Qadiri and white eyed black magic subtly shifting through the night. Orbiting a comparable cosmic world to Jean Rouch's film Les maîtres fous from 1955. Beautiful film for the entire family.

Richard Donner - Inside Moves - 1980
One of those great examples of early 80s or pre-80s cinema, with that 70s feel but a little more plain in style with some hidden ghost pepper chili sauce giving the film some kick. Written by Valerie Curtin and Barry Levinson, cinematography by László Kovács, music by John Barry, starring John Savage, David Morse, Diana Scarwid, Amy Wright, and the city of Oakland California. Just a fantastic film that revolves around friendships in a local dive bar. Savage shows his heavy actorshippe in some scenes that honestly leave you breathless.

Quentin Tarantino - Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood - 2019
Second time watching this and as equally moved as the first time, or more. The subtleties of this film contribute to a je ne sais quoi cinematic magic, like the shot of Brad Pitt driving through 1969 Hollywood which in its striking velocity reminds this viewer why he goes to the cinema. Or Leo snorting, stuttering, coughing,  and later cursing himself for forgetting lines. It would be easy to dismiss the film for the Bruce Lee scene or the ending violence which was of course gratuitous and misogynistic, but don't these qualities give the film's "true grit" and character? Tarantino entwines worlds of 1960s cinematic mediocrity into a film that is in no way mediocre. I heard Amy Taubin say Tarantino's obsession with shite cinema and bad TV made the film less appealing, and pointless in a decade that was so rich with good cinema. To disagree with her slightly, the period of 1969 finds us heading quickly towards the 1970s film culture where abjection ascends to a cinema that has yet to find its equal.

Safdie Brothers - Uncut Gems - 2019
Exorcist beginnings move quickly to an onanistic experience. Soundtrack more onanistic than picture, with no sound to image relationship, and I will make a "point never" to listen to the soundtrack on its own. Made for an onansitic culture quickly forming a circle jerk together to celebrate and rejoice in this mind-bending coitus interruptus. And after all that we find our hero is the victim of a nihilistic ending.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

plato's cave ninety eight (being a film journal)

Bo Hu - Man in the Well - 2016
Beautifully shot short film by the Chinese novelist and film director Bo Hu, great to see this on the somewhat big screen of my apartment.

Bo Hu - An Elephant Sitting Still - 2018
My good good friend Bea recommended this highly and she was right as rain when she said it was a superb film.  Strikingly original photography with stunning depth of field and a near monochromatic / muted palette. Very nice (at times) soundtrack which really adds to the pacing of the film. Subtle and strong stories so expertly acted by this cast all making it a film to watch over and over. It is such a shame Mr. Bo Hu is no longer with us to continue his wonderful oeuvre.

Carl Franklin - Devil in a Blue Dress - 1995
Still trying to see all the Franklin films, this was a pretty solid one by him.

Jia Zhangke - Ash is the Purest White - 2018
Great film, would like to see this again as it has many layers to spend time with.

Jonathan Glazer - The Fall - 2019
Amazingly strange and beautiful short film, that you would expect from Mr. Glazer. This film really offended my pup Leviathan, who made a big stink and got angry when it was on, a sign it was a good film perhaps?

Craig Brewer - Dolemite is My Name - 2019
Great comeback film for Eddie Murphy.

Martin Scorsese - Italianamerican - 1974
I had the laserdisc of the 3 short Scorsese films while in college and would watch these 2 over and over. I had not really seen since the 90s, but found I remembered much of the details from it. As an example; whilst I do my own cooking, Catherine Scorsese's advise comes to mind (which could mean daily) where she explains she keeps a towel in her hand during cooking because she is always wiping. Perfect documentary.

Martin Scorsese - American Boy: A Profile of Steven Prince - 1978
Such a powerful film, one that would get viewed over and over by this viewer when a youngster, and not only because of being fascinated by Mr. Prince as a character, but by Scorsese's direction which can be so graceful, like the moment when he motions the camera man with a subtle hand gesture to pan during a dialogue, something so small gives a strong impact.

Tommy Pallotta - American Prince - 2009
Revisits Mr. Prince.

Julius Onah - Luce - 2019
Strange to see Tim Roth play a bourgeoisie sort of gent.

Scott Z. Burns - The Report - 2019
Was an ok film perhaps worth watching to see Adam Driver.

Viktor Kossakovsky - Aquarela - 2018
Stunningly beautiful film about ice and water. A profound immersion into this world full of not only lushness but also tragedy as we watch with horror as trouble comes to some men racing along the ice.

Martin Brest - Beverly Hills Cop - 1984
Watched this often as a 9-10 year old, but not since then. The film is quite solid with the exception of the rot gut music which often brings down these 80s films. Bronson Pinchot is perfect as the art gallery salesmen, and wouldn't it be wonderful to experience that in a New York City gallery rather than the blank looks one gets from the models in Gagosian and the like? I like 48 Hours more but Eddie Murphy's range here as an actor is more noticeable. As a kid his SNL James Brown hot tub bit really shaped my youth, and films like Coming to America gave this youngster some good dialogue to thrown down in the high school parking lot like "If lovin' the lord is wrong, I don't want to be right."

Don Siegel - Invasion of the Body Snatchers - 1956
I love Siegel's films but for me the Philip Kaufman remake is much better. Worth seeing though.

Jamie M. Dagg - Sweet Virginia - 2017
Very attractive cinematography by Jessica Lee Gagné. Pretty good quiet film with some scenes that are completely cinematically powerful, moments you only find in life when watching a really good film. My wife kind of makes fun of me for liking Jon Bernthal, but the guy really has a strong presence in film, a mixture of classic anti-hero mixed with raw American old school machismo? not sure but he does a good job at it. The rest of the cast is solid: Christopher Abbott, Imogen Poots, and Rosemarie DeWitt.

Martin Scorsese - The Irishman - 2019
Second time with this film, one of the best films seen in the last few years, just perfect. Anna Paquin's performance here is stunning on second viewing, how many performances does one see so strong with so few lines of dialogue.

Noah Baumbach - Marriage Story - 2019
Not a Baumbach enthusiast, but enjoyed the film. An online friend had recommended it and the subject matter obviously was intriguing, and honestly anything with Adam Driver is worth watching. This viewer (meaning myself) joined the many millions of Americans growing up in the 70s and 80s with parents divorcing at an early age and going through custody issues. I think the second or third film I saw in the theater was Kramer vs. Kramer, which I honestly don't remember the details of but it resonated through my childhood. Driver and Johansson gave their all in this film, both performances at moments hover perhaps pretty close to the area of ham, but the ham never gets really cooked and the innocence they bring to the film brings these performances into some area of near perfect beauty? I am thinking mainly of the scene that gets heavy in Driver's new LA apartment where there is a severe emotional breakdown. Both quite powerful actors who make this film extremely watchable and I would certainly watch it again.

Ki-young Kim - The Housemaid - 1960
At the offices of The Art of Memory we are coming up with a list of Asian films we have either sat down with and loved, watched and don't have a clear memory of, heard of and want to see or never heard of and want to see. More on that later but The Housemaid seemed like an appropriate film to watch as a sort of beginning of an informal study. Most of the films on the list are 1980s to present, with the exception of Japanese classics from the 50s-70s, yet this film has the unbelievable date of 1960 considering how cutting edge it is. Extraordinary film with levels of surrealism and early experimental cinema (Buñuel, Deren, and that rich history), class conflict and an intense fascination with desire and perversion. Strange thing about the film is on top of the just gut wrenching ending, the director tacks on some moral advise as a finale, which I assume was forced on him by studio or government. Beautiful film.

Karyn Kusama - The Invitation - 2015
(partial rewatch)
Attempted to watch this last year and couldn't handle the film and turned it off. Here we go with a second try at it, considering that Kusama's film Destroyer had moments of beauty and I liked her Criterion intro to the Korean film The Housemaid. The Invitation has virtuosity in direction, stunning low-light photography, and it is generally just a well put together film. The way the film revolves around the architecture of the Hollywood Hills house and its relationship to nature, is rewarding if you are interested in that sort of thing (which I am), but I think where the problem was for this viewer that the characters for the most part are just unbearable to spend time with. An exception was when John Carroll Lynch shows up as the scumbag (a character he does well, like in Zodiac), not only bringing dread but also a touch of a touch of comedy if you grew up with him in Fargo where he mentions to his wife Marge Gunderson "You got to eat a breakfast, Marge." In The Invitation, the main female character and new boyfriend (from Game of Thrones) are just completely oppressive and honestly I can never tell if these things are intentional or if I am just a sensitive person, but my gosh when those two were on the screen I wanted to fast forward. The film ends with anther story suggested, and I think that other story would be more a film I would be interested in, perhaps Kusama will make that film at some point.

Martin Scorsese - The Departed - 2006
This Scorsese film I never liked but it was on and I sat in to give it another (3rd perhaps?) chance. Has moments here and there but really hard to identify that signature Scorsese style.