Friday, February 16, 2018

plato's cave fifty three (being a film journal)

Alejandro G. Iñárritu - Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) - 2014
Second time seeing this masterpiece. Really one hell of a film; Raymond Carver... rendered by an almost likeable has-been, Naomi Watts and an arrogant impotent drunkard... photographed by the master Emmanuel Lubezki (Malick's The New World and The Tree of Life, Children of Men, and The Revenant). Didn't know Bill Camp (The Night of, Midnight Special, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, 12 Years a Slave) as an actor when first seeing this, and it was very excited to see him doing some crazed bugger in the street Shakespeare. Also from the recent Twin Peaks; Clark Middleton has a brief appearance. The many levels of reality and unreality make for an engaging picture, as the picture is made by a serious man. Wanted to do a double feature of recent Iñárritu film The Revenant, but was too tired. Soon I hope.

Stephen Daldry - The Hours - 2002
Had seen this film previously and couldn't remember it. Didn't find it very engaging despite the cast being top notch.

Makino Takashi - Films 2002-2017 Excerpt - 2002-17
Partner in crime pointed out this guy's work. Jesus it is amazing.... only have seen this vimeo excerpt, will have to track down the DVDs. Soundtracks by Jim O'Rourke and many other heavies. Goes way beyond the contemporary music video.

Walter Hill - The Warriors - 1979
Near perfect film. Second time seeing this, projected which gave a lot of impact. Living now in New York, the film makes a lot more sense, understanding the geography. What a place New York was in the 1970s - a pipe bomb. Recently watched 48 Hours and David Patrick Kelly shows up in The Warriors as well as there, one of my favorites (introduced to him in Twin Peaks back in the day, then Abel Ferrara's The Funeral). Some great character actors like Michael Beck, James Remar and Paul Greco (funny looking gangster in Broadway Danny Rose) star in this work.  Through the years trains have played a prominent role in this blog, this is one of THE great train films. Abstracted footage of films moving through dark dirty stations, empty train interiors with Dubuffet like textures. Grit and grime. Barry De Vorzon's score is intense and adds many levels of dread unlike the lame scores of recent 80s pastiche works.

S. Craig Zahler - Brawl in Cell Block 99 - 2017
Not normally a fan of Vince Vaughn but this was a pretty good film. A tad gruesome but mild enough for a slightly sensitive viewer. Was not familiar with the director, he does a good job here. Solid photography by Benji Bakshi, film has a bit of a retro feel/look but assumed it took place in modern times. Part of the trend these days, sometimes works, sometimes doesn't.

Paul Schrader - Light Sleeper - 1992
This was one of those films I knew I had seen but could not remember, but remembered instantly as it started. Has an interesting ambiance to it, even though it is not a "great" film, there is something about it that works very well, and the gritty look and feel of NYC adds much to this. Not unlike The Warriors mentioned above, the city could add quite a bit of character to films in those days. Paul Schrader has done some really great work besides Taxi Driver, his Hardcore and Affliction are films this viewer has watched many times and thoroughly enjoyed.  Of course... Willem Dafoe is a big reason one would watch this film. Such a strong strong screen presence, he is a formidable actor. The photography was by the great Edward Lachman who shot Todd Haynes' Carol, Far from Heaven, and Mildred Pierce. Many other heavy works including The Limey.

Sidney Lumet - Serpico - 1973
First saw Serpico in early high school and quickly became an addict to the film's jouissance.  One of the films that started a lifelong interest in sitting and enjoying the light hitting my eyes. Have seen the film numerous times in my life, but the last viewing was some years ago. What does one say about this film except that it is a classic that demands numerous viewings. So many moments that leave deep impressions, also classic lines both serious and comic. For some reason the line spoken by James Tolkan always stood out :
Hold it, Serpico.
What were you two doing?

- What?
- In the shithouse in the dark!
Were you goin' down on him?

-What are you talking about?
-You gonna tell me you were peeping?
You were sucking his cock

Yorgos Lanthimos - Alps - 2011
Wanted to see this film after The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer. Lanthimos makes some strange works, not quite surreal, more like Walserian (to this viewer). Comical for sure. Sex-ridden... absurd... all good business. Had a little trouble following what the hell was happening but the confusion was indeed nice.

Ric Roman Waugh - Shot Caller - 2017
Second prison film in this list. Both films fit very nicely in the history of prison films. Le Trou and Escape from Alcatraz are films I watched often as a youngster, especially the Eastwood film when I was in middle school. Couldn't get enough of the idea of folks breaking out of a prison and all the steps involved, not unlike a procedural or a caper film.  Other classics would be Cool Hand Luke, Brute Force, A Man Escaped. More contemporary classics that are heavy are The Shawshank Redemption, Hunger, Paddington 2 (I am told, have yet to see), Starred Up. Many more not coming to mind at the moment.

James Gray - Lost City of Z - 2016/17
Having watched Sons of Anarchy a few years ago, it was really gratifying to see that Charlie Hunnam was an actor not without talent. Not that he was bad in that show, but it wasn't really a serious performance (I actually liked the show in a way, despite all its problems). He did a really top notch job in this, as did Robert Pattinson, whom was almost unrecognizable. Pattinson is one hell of an actor!

Craig Gillespie - I, Tonya - 2017
This was a film that I hesitated to see but ended up enjoying for the most part. The ice skating scenes, from a technical point of view (film, not ice skating) are quite impressive and poetic. Compared to sports photography which completely lacks poetry, getting right in there and having the camera move around got the blood up. I am sure it is an hommage, but the similarities of some shots and the general feeling of the film was surely in the Goodfellas tradition. In film school I would watch Goodfellas over and over, mainly because I liked the way the light from the film entered my eyes, but it was also a good crash course on how to read a film, understanding a film from a structural point of view. In I, Tonya we find one shot specifically (but many others similar) where a camera moves slowly toward a character, we hear the characters inner voice (or their idiolect), and not until the camera comes close to the character and he makes eye contact with said camera, does the voice actually come from the lips. Watching this film got me thinking about understanding the language of cinema. A static camera versus a moving camera. Where a camera is in an interior and in relation to the subject(s), what lens is used, understanding the purpose of the sound as being either realistic or purposely artificial (or both). A hard cut versus a dissolve. A viewer that has no comprehension of any of this business has a truly limited understanding of the work. Some of this goes a little beyond the film in a way, it is not nearly as sophisticated as a film like Goodfellas, but it has moments of this kind of gravity. Also, I spent the entire film wondering how the hell the actor was skating like this.... did a professional skater act in this (I could not recall the actresses face), or did she learn it? Someone after the screening said they must have achieved it digitally but that did not seem right. Turns out she learn to skate and they did some of it digitally (the triple axel), someone please correct me if I am wrong.

Jonathan Entwistle & Lucy Tcherniak - The End of the F***ing World - 2017
British throat cutting comedy. Stars Jessica Barden from The Lobster and Alex Lawther.  Not without interest, enjoyed it.

Trey Edward Shults - Krisha - 2015
There is some fancy foot work here in this film with the camera, sound and editing. The film did not really hit me much though, but not without interest for many.


Kopie Kat said...

Re: "pipe bomb" 70s NYC, I'm always tickled with how the "gritty" city aesthetic found it's way into mainstream TV and film sets in the post 70s decades. The sitcom 'Taxi' is maybe the best example. Even the early Seinfeld sets carried on with a few dingy walls and interiors. Same with the film 'Muppets take Manhattan', which I turn on for the kids anytime I feel like checking out the set design.

They just don't make them like they used to.

Also, I've read this blog probably since it got started. Are you currently doing anything in film? From everything I've ever seen on here I imagine you to be quite the cinematographer/photographer.

the art of memory said...

yeah even in Seinfeld! funny. I love how the city looked then. Also in "News from Home", some early Ernie Gehr films. Really beautiful.

Thanks for reading all that time :). I moved to NYC about a year and a half or so ago and tried to get a film related job or sound design but gave up. I was shooting and editing personal films for a long time and have not completed anything in a couple of years, but have been shooting a lot. Hope to start editing again. Honestly my computer is not totally up to it so I have not done as much, doing more sound related stuff... sound design without picture, like the new CD I am putting out in a month or so, uses only sounds collected from the Apu trilogy.

The grit of the city has inspired me for sure though to get into that world.

Kopie Kat said...

Do you show your work anywhere, online even?

When you started this blog I was watching just as many films as you do. Then in 2010 I had my first child, and in 2012 the second. Goodbye film time. For a while now I'm here to help filter out what I'll be able to watch. You do a great job with it.

My brother lives in NYC. A few years ago during a visit I had the pleasure wondering into Jamaica, Queens. Gritty NY is alive and well! Jamaica Ave was a treat. Same with the train station. Possibly some of the best aesthetics in the city, at least a few years ago. The colors, the obnoxious signs, the Chinese homes clad in gold and marble. It was great. Looked untouched by big money. A really neat place.

the art of memory said...

here are some :
I was looking at some notebooks from when I was a kid and writing down like 4-5 films a day and inspired lately to step it up.... I can imagine with a youngster it being slowed down. i have a pup that makes it hard to watch many films because he barks any time a critter appears on the screen.
I have to go to Queens more! sounds perfect. I wouldn't mind living there. Brooklyn can be pretty funky, especially where I live. Dirty, lots of buildings in disuse. Very attractive. French connection related visuals anytime I am underneath the J train on Broadway. Dark dirty and full of lowlifes :) some hip steers though too....