Saturday, December 22, 2018

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

Alan Clarke - The Firm - 1988
In 1994 the great filmmaker/professor Mark Lapore insisted I see the Alan Clarke retrospective at the MFA. I did and I saw the light. This one in particular left a strong impression. For years I got sick of telling people to see this great film with Gary Oldman and have them say "you mean Tom Cruise". Perfect film and beautifully put together, Clarke was a truly gifted artist. Strange but I couldn't find the film on imdb.

Sydney Pollack - The Firm - 1993
Speaking of which, I watched the Cruise film too. Had not seen since it came out and I then honestly hated it. It actually is not a bad film, good white knuckle kind of ride. Gene Hackman is as always spectacular. Not sure if I would watch again or think about it much.

David Lynch - The Straight Story - 1999
Another film I had not seen since it came out, in the movie theater I believe. This is one of Lynch's best films, so subtle for him yet full of his signature moves for the true initiates of his work. The bar scene (image above) is some really powerful and emotional stuff. Richard Farnsworth was quite the heavy actor.

Francis Ford Coppola - The Godfather - 1972
Of the handful of VHS tapes I had in high school, The Godfather One and Two were in there and were often viddied on our early 1990s shite television. Over the years I have watched this every five years or so and I was up for a screening, plus my wife had yet to see it. As usual "The Prince of Darkness" floats through my mind the entire screening.

Steven Knight - Locke - 2013
A little boring of a film but worth seeing for the Tom Hardy performance. Great photography as well.

Anthony Mann - The Far Country - 1954
I use to have the James Stewart: The Western Collection boxset and would watch the Mann films pretty frequently. Great films to watch over and over. William H. Daniels cinematography and Walt Brennan, John McIntire, Jay C. Flippen, Harry Morgan, and Jack Elam doing their business. Nothing better.

Anthony Mann - Bend of the River - 1952
Another gem of a Mann/Stewart western. Arthur Kennedy is a strange actor, their buddy business is a bit uncomfortable but adds to the greatness of the film. Kennedy often plays a sob or morally corrupt person. Good stuff.

Robert Altman - Gosford Park - 2001
Had only seen this once when it came out. Very lovely film, a little hard to follow which is a bit problematic. One of those films you have to watch often (like Miller's Crossing) to have the details make sense. I am use to Altman's dialogue being obscured and having multiple viewings bring the meanings to the foreground but here I am not sure how well it works as it is more names thrown at you rather than sound or words. Surely one of those films to see more than once with a solid cast.

Michael Cimino - The Sunchaser - 1996
A Cimino film I hadn't seen. Only made it 20 minutes through, a bit of a dog with some bad music.

Alfonso Cuarón - Gravity - 2013
Second time seeing this but first time on a big screen. The photography by Emmanuel Lubezki is unreal, the first long shot your jaw hurts from hitting the floor so hard. Not Cuarón's best film but surely a great once to watch with much of the music being rather stunning. Ending could be modified in my opinion but still a film to watch more than once.

Michael Cimino - The Deer Hunter - 1978
Vilmos Zsigmond as cinematographer in Cimino's great film staring the late and goddamn great John Cazale along with Meryl Streep, Robert De Niro, John Savage, Christopher Walken, and George Dzundza. Cazale had that true screen magic. Perfect film that one can watch many times over the years. My father served in the Marines in Vietnam, this film he showed me when I was practically in diapers. 

Peter Farrelly - Green Book - 2018
Double feature with this and The Favourite. This film maybe was a bit light but I really enjoyed it and was ready to watch again when it ended. Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali and Linda Cardellini are some of my favorite actors. They did a great job, beautiful film to look at as well.

Yorgos Lanthimos - The Favourite - 2018
Saw this in the theater today. I have seen most of Mr. Lanthimos' films, was looking forward to it. The trio of actors brings this film together quite nicely, especially love Olivia Colman and Rachel Weisz. My one major problem with this film was the way it was shot. The wide angle lens panning was just so ugly to me visually, I had trouble getting past it. Even many of the static shots just looked unappealing.  I understand wanting to show off the architecture/interiors but the look it gave the film felt like kitsch to me. Also it just was too "Barry Lyndon", like he made an ersatz version of the great film. Not without interest though.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

plato's cave seventy seven (being a film journal)

Ariel Vromen - The Iceman - 2013
Second time seeing this, I enjoy the Michael Shannon performance.

Ben Affleck - Gone Baby Gone - 2007
Have seen this a couple of times, mostly a pretty good film.

Terrence Malik - The Thin Red Line - 1998
My favorite Malik film, have seen this many times over the years. Purchased bluray and christened our new screening room with a viewing. Photography by John Toll and music by Hans Zimmer, Charles Ives (The Unanswered Question), Gabriel Fauré, Arsenije Jovanovic, Arvo Pärt, and Francesco Lupica. I hadn't thought of the very nice CD of Jovanovic's work which I plan to listen to this week.  Great soundtrack! I include an image of Elias Koteas as he just one hell of a great actor.

Andrey Zvyagintsev - Loveless - 2017
From the director of The Return from 2003. The film starts with some breathtaking winter photography by Mikhail Krichman, and a window shot not unlike Josef Sudek. The film is just beautiful to watch. The plot and characters were a bit grating on me, a couple of Russian yuppies neglect their kid and he runs away or is taken. So many melon farmers like this in the world I find I don't want to watch movies about them, but definitely worth watching as Zvyagintsev is a serious filmmaker.

Mike Judge - Office Space - 1999
Saw this was streamable and decided to give it a go as I was very tired and wanted something with a bit of humor. Stephen Root makes this film worth rewatching.

Ted Post - Hang 'Em High - 1968
Early Western with Clint Eastwood. I use to watch Westerns quite often but have not as much in the last few years, so going through some of the lesser known classics. This one is problematic but has some good moments, Eastwood is dirty sob as he is in so many films, a pleasure to watch.

Alfonso Cuarón - Roma - 2018
Watched this in the theater with Atmos sound. Have never seen a film with sound this overwhelmingly present in a theater, sound that washes all over you like a fog. The film transcends almost all contemporary films of the last 30 years and what they have to offer with the exception of Béla Tarr and a couple of Terrence Malik films.  Of course there are contemporary art house films but jeez louise many are like going to the dentist or too steeped in the Tarkovsky/Bresson/Ozu tradition to take seriously, this one transcends time and space throughout. I find many current arthouse films (one could use Loveless above as an example) have moments but you really need to make excuses for more than half of the film to talk about it with any kind of enthusiasm. Seeing Roma reminded me of my younger days seeing The Seven Samurai or Bergman Films or Andrei Rublev on the big screen for the first time. The shock of it, the pure pleasure. 100% and no fucking around. You get older and these shocks are less frequent.

For this viewer, there was a strong connection with the Structuralist filmmakers of the 60s and 70s like Michael Snow, Ernie Gehr, Malcolm Le Grice, Chris Welsby etc, and also with filmmakers deeply moved by these films whom moved into a more narrative space like Chantal Akerman. The artifice of the film itself is overwhelmingly a character in Roma, the movement of the camera and the relationship of architecture and people to the lens and therefore to the screen and how the viewer perceives the screen. One can say artifice as film is magic and not reality. Gehr had once said there was a desire for the Structuralists to remove the person, like how landscape painters had, yet the person does creep into many of their films like Snow's <-->Back and Forth. These filmmakers really played with sound in interesting ways as well which is what made me first think of them. An example in Roma is in the ending credits where the camera looks up towards the sky.  A few airplanes fly overhead (a big theme in this film). The sound is mostly field-recording based with some flute sounds here and there.  The first few planes go over and they give no sound, and then the last one goes past and we finally hear the familiar roar. Such a delicate touch, these delicacies occurs over and over in the film. Long takes with people floating by the lens. Early in we have a series of camera pans on the second floor of his childhood house followed by a cut where the camera is suddenly on the first floor and the pan continues with no effort or shock. Deeply poetic. Oftentimes the camera is a potential observer, an absent one or a loving one. Is the camera merely observing or possibly it is Cuarón looking back to his memories with some form of observation we all dream we could have. This dream/memory state gives Cuarón something rare in the history of cinema and this film such a force.

Along with First Reformed, this is the best film of the year. Roma maybe the best of the decade.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

plato's cave seventy six (being a film journal)

Kenneth Lonergan - Manchester By The Sea - 2016
About the fourth time seeing this. Great film with some spot on actorshippe. Really like the palette of the film as well, an abundance of oceanic blues.

Coen Brothers - The Big Lebowski - 1998
Have seen many times. Needed an old friend to take the pain away after packing, moving, and unpacking. This and a bit of wine. Pictured above is from the mesmerizing performance by Jack Kehler, a key scene in the film. Reminds me of second-hand descriptions of Jack Smith performances I heard back in college. The art made ridiculous in this film is refreshing.

John Boorman - Excalibur - 1981
Early 80s films have often times been analyzed here for their magical je ne sais quoi. Another good one here, a little silly at times but visually beautiful and a great cast which includes Helen Mirren, Gabriel Byrne, Patrick Stewart, and Liam Neeson & Ciarán Hinds in small roles. Photography by Alex Thomson is lovely. I don't know how I could have not seen this as a kid.

David Gordon Green - Joe - 2013
Very nice David Gordon Green film with some heavy actorshippe by Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan. Some nasty sons of bitches in this film as well, makes you want to loose some spittle. Potentially his best film to date.

Chang-dong Lee - Burning - 2018
Saw Mr. Chang-dong Lee's new film in the theater, the film is getting much praise and it is a hell of a film with a fucked up ending. Would have to see again to be more articulate about it but I really enjoyed the main actor's performance.

Alice Rohrwacher - Lazzaro felice - 2018
Very much in the tradition of Ermanno Olmi's films. Great film, beautifully shot, sort of absurdity mixed with Italian realism. Second above image could have come from Erice's The Dream Of Light (The Quince Tree Of The Sun).

The Brothers Coen - Blood Simple - 1984
First film by The Brothers Coen. I have seen this many times over the years, my favorite part is M. Emmet Walsh. Such a sleaze in it, reminds me a bit of Peter Boyle in Paul Schrader's Hardcore. After having watched their films many times over the years, I noticed many connections between films that are in a way overly simplistic but potentially well thought out and sophisticated. Like in this film there is the connection with The Big Lebowski with the private dick and his little blue Volkswagen Bug. In The Big Lebowski you have Peter Stormare's Lingonberry pancakes and in Fargo his repetion of "pancakes house". Steve Buscemi mentions many times in The Big Lebowski In-N-Out Burgers and in Fargo he talks about the in and out with his call girl.

John Hillcoat - The Proposition - 2005
I saw this when it came out and really took a strong dislike to it, although I loved the soundtrack (and of course the actors etc). I only remembered the look of it and the couple shots with high speed equus ian travel (not sure if that is a word) with cranked guitar and noise bursts. This second time I tolerated the film but didn't come to enjoy it like I was hoping. Not a bad film though, just possibly too much of a hodgepodge story or lacking some dynamite? Still loved the equus bit. Great acting too and the film looks fantastic.

The Brothers Coen - A Serious Man - 2009
Was listening to a podcast on the 5 best Brothers Coen films relating to the recent Adam Nayman book. My wife and I got to thinking about our favorites? Mr. Nayman said A Serious Man which I would potentially agree with. One reason being the concentration on Jewish culture which is unique for them. Also the more than usual subtle humor. This and The Man That Wasn't There are two strong contenders for best of films by them outside of the more obvious Fargo and The Big Lebowski. This film I have watched about 4 times so far, not as many as some of their others but the joys of watching a film over and over are starting to happen for me. One part I really enjoy is Richard Kind as Brother Arthur and his "just a minute"... never gets old. I hadn't realized the first few times just how many times he says that, often barely audible in the background overlapping other conversations.

Boris Sagal - Omega Man - 1971
Childhood film rewatch. I like this film when he is alone but it gets a little dull when the other humans appear. Charlton Heston is a very intriguing actor, the more films I see with him as an adult the more I get to like his aura in movies.

The Brothers Coen - No Country for Old Men - 2007
Another potential "best" Brothers Coen film. Have seen it around 20 times or more. I went with my mother to Marfa for a week just a year or so after this came out, more to see all the Judd works than because of my interest in film, but having seen this and There Will be Blood many times, and a recent rewatching of another great one Giant, one realizes what a great place it is visually in cinema. Even an idiot could point a camera at a bunch of dirt and get a good image around Marfa, some kind of magic there. The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada is another heavy film shot there.