Wednesday, February 27, 2019

plato's cave eighty four (being a film journal)

"Often I find the less plot a writer needs, and the more restrained his setting, the more significant his talent. I am immediately wary of writers who excel at plot and claim practically the whole world for their characters. Everyday things are beautiful and rich enough that we can coax poetic sparks from them."
Robert Walser from Carl Seelig's Walks with Walser. A hell of a quote to use as guidance for watching film.

Lee Chang-dong - Secret Sunshine - 2007
This is a really fantastic film, my wife got the blu-ray so we will probably watch it often.

James Mangold - Cop Land - 1997
Basically an absurd story but if you can get past that, this is a film worth watching. Perhaps a bit dated but the pace of it is very strong, and some serious actors.

Karel Reisz - Saturday Night and Sunday Morning - 1960
Watched on new Criterion channel. Great film, rest in peace Albert Finney.

Marielle Heller - Can you Ever Forgive Me? - 2018
After having worked in the book world for almost 20 years, I find that my opinion on most high end collectors is they are slimly little astrologers that have never looked through a telescope. This aspect of the film was very appealing, Heller and Lee Israel capture it well. I recognized some bookstores in the film, like Argosy. Not without interest.

Paweł Pawlikowski - Ida - 2013
This is one of those films I have sort of put off watching because it seemed too slick. My feelings after viewing are that the film had some good moments but in all honesty I just don't dig the guy's style. An example is a shot of the saxophone player in a live setting and he is practically off camera on the right side, coming in and out, very poetic looking photography not unlike 60s live footage of Coltrane and those heavies, where there is a sort of steam emanating from them, except here it is almost too perfect where it looks basically like a Chanel commercial. After this shot, there is a hard cut and the Ida character is on far left extreme of screen as a spectator and equally in a sort of overly stylized/poetic ambiance. It came across as facile for lack of a better word. I did not dislike the film though but was bothered by many of these shots that just seemed like the director was trying too hard to be a visual poet. Another film that strikes me this way is the Brothers Quay's Jakob von Gunten. Not a bad film and based on one of the best novels ever, but over repeat viewings the film just seems like a commercial.

Ermanno Olmi - Il Posto - 1961
One of great Italian films, worth many viewings. I hadn't realized Olmi died recently, his films are really unique and special.

Tom McCarthy - Spotlight - 2015
Was listening to an interview with Michael Keaton on Marc Maron and prompted some light immersions into his work. I like his performance very much in this film which is somewhat subtle. Many people seem to really dislike this film but I find it to be quite good and have watched it about 4 times. After having spent some time with the Rewatchables podcast, it was pretty funny to see the "they knew" scene with Mark Ruffalo which they use as a standard for ham acting. I for sure agree even though he is usually quite good as an actor. His role in this film is pretty unusual for him, he maybe was trying to be sincere to the actual person.

Ron Howard - Night Shift - 1982
Another Keaton film, this one rotten. Normally 1982 was a good year but this film stinks. I can't think of a Ron Howard film I like though, the nudity was pretty extreme in this film, actually comical.

Rowdy Herrington - Road House - 1989
This is one of those films many members of the intelligentsia dismiss but in actuality it is a pretty good film (with some problems, which is ok, films don't need to be perfect). Sam Elliott is a real movie star in it, my wife mentioned that "The Dude" must have really been modeled on Elliott in this film. I have a strong memory of watching this in a hotel room late at night somewhere north of Santa Barbara with a bottle of whiskey back in my youth, also a couple times around when it came out. Probably will watch a few more times before I kick the bucket.

Robert Bresson - Mouchette - 1967
I am involved in a Mouchette related project and gave the film a rewatch, mostly focused on listening to it and letting the eyes relax (or not) on bits of gray here and there. Previously on this blog the sound design was analyzed with some depth. The entire sound of the film was put into Logic and all dialogue and most music were removed. Also many posts on Mr. Bresson were attempted with much obsession.

John Sayles - Limbo - 1999
(rewatch, I think...)
Not the best Sayles film but worth watching.

Sebastián Lelio - A Fantastic Woman - 2017
Had not seen this one. Intense film worth watching, the shot above with the wind was really nice to watch.

Seth MacFarlane - Ted - 2012

Sam Peckinpah - The Killer Elite - 1975
Intense film, not one of his best but has some moments. Always nice to see a San Francisco film, I noticed Duvall and Caan going over the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge but finishing off on the Golden Gate Bridge arriving in Marin. Nice to notice continuity problems related to transit in film. Have been over both bridges hundreds of time and that one didn't go past me no siree.

Steven Spielberg - Schindler's List - 1993
Had not seen this since it came out and was a bit mixed on the film's qualities. Much like Saving Private Ryan, the film focuses on a narrative that really seems completely unrelated to the war or the Holocaust. That is the reality of a successful narrative film though, it must speak to an audience although plenty of auteurs have managed to circumvent this. It is a good film though, beautifully shot by Janusz Kaminski, dark blacks you rarely see in contemporary black and white films which have a tendency to be a little too gray.

Newt Arnold - Bloodsport - 1988
One of those films I watched a lot and loved in when I was approaching high school age. Had not seen it in a long time and was really surprised what a Damme good film it was. With the exception of a couple of bad songs and a bit too much time spent on the random love interest (another element that always seems to be a stupid necessity in narrative film, most films it is fine but here it just seemed out of place), the film really is pretty amazing with some really stunning camera work, editing, action and general ambiance.

Monday, February 18, 2019

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

Olivier Assayas - Personal Shopper - 2016
Very nice film by Mr. Assayas. On paper it would seem like something too strange or not necessarily interesting enough but it worked great on the big screen. I love the ghost photography, very beautiful. Strange to see Hilma af Klint mentioned... but it worked well in relationship to the plot. Successfully "dark" film as well, meaning visually a lack of light in much of it. I really love Assayas L'Eau froide from 1994, and should rewatch his 90s films like Irma Vep, Clean, and others.

Gus Van Sant - Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot - 2018

Hirokazu Kore-eda - Shoplifters - 2018
Beautiful film. Story unfolds in a strange way; little to no details are given on characters and plot, yet clarity finally come together but things also remain clear as mud. This strategy really gives this film a unique elegance. Would love to watch more times.

Hirokazu Kore-eda - After the Storm - 2016
The main actor looks like Gregory Peck. Really good film, an alternative on the private dick film. Kore-eda's films are something quite unique and have a devastating quietness that rings loudly as a filmic experience.

Susanne Bier - After the Wedding - 2006
Heavy acting by Mads Mikkelsen and Rolf Lassgård. Problematic film.

Wim Wenders - Wings of Desire - 1987
Bruno Ganz! Perfect film I have watched dozens of times.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

plato's cave eighty two (being a film journal)

Henry King - The Gunfighter - 1950
(Univers du western)
Had not seen this one starring Gregory Peck as the outlaw Jimmy Ringo. Always a pleasure to see the great Millard Mitchell, here he stars as Marshal Mark Strett, once a dirty son of a bitch and now a marshal. Stunning black and white photography by Arthur C. Miller. Very good film.

Oren Moverman - The Messenger - 2009
Starring Ben Foster and Woody Harrelson. An important contemporary film worth more than one viewing, I also like Moverman's other film with Woody Harrelson; Rampart.  Also worth a look for fans of Samantha Morton and Steve Buscemi, both give strong performances. Very nice color palette in the film as well, gives a subtle ambiance throughout the film you wouldn't necessarily be able to pinpoint but is strongly present.

André De Toth - The Indian Fighter - 1955
(Univers du western)
Another fifties western I had not seen. I am a big fan of De Toth, Kirk Douglas  and Walter Matthau but I couldn't get into this one. Maybe worth it to see Hank Worden and Elisha Cook Jr. (as a Edward S. Curtis type photographer).

Christopher Nolan - Memento - 2000
Recently I watched Soderbergh's The Limey from 1999 and both films have a quality of transition between the 1990s and the 2000s. Each decade (in popular) cinema had a very distinct style, and looking back one sees some films that have this strange uber-90s quality (90s films on drugs), a quality that becomes very common in films from the 2000s decade.  Other works could include Paul Thomas Anderson's Hard Eight and Boogie Nights from the late 90s, Wes Anderson's Bottle Rocket from 1996, and Todd Solondz's Happiness from 1998. One could also include Fincher but his Fight Club is really one shite film, written by an author who's popularity truly boggles the mind.  Besides the brief bit of negativity, I wonder what are some other transitional films? On re-watching Memento after almost 10 years, an observation is that the story is basically not interesting and gets in the way. Obviously the films novelty lies in the way it is told, that sounds all good and proper but one wonders if this kind of alternative linear story telling works better in literature? Raymond Queneau's Exercices de style is a great example of a story with basically no interest transforming into a page turner.  Contemporary director's obsession with Kubrickian structure is something that is hard not to criticize, for this viewer at least (Tarantino, Nolan, etcetery). Directors that are definitely important but can one really say their experiments with structure are what make their films worth watching?  Some of the experimental editing in The Limey really stood out as dated and sophomoric, and got in the way of the film. Regardless of this criticism, I did enjoy this film, it is one of those films I have watched over the years starting from around age 23 and here I am approaching middle age. Not unlike the madeleine cookies method of film viewing (cookie pluralized for extra emphasis).

After writing the above text, some more transitional 1990/2000s film came to mind :  The Sixth Sense (1999), L.A. Confidential (1997), The Big Lebowski (1998), and The Truman Show (1998). Very much related to the early 80s films that are like uber 70s films.

Ingmar Bergman - Wild Strawberries - 1957
This is the Berman film I have seen the most, not necessarily my favorite but I owned the DVD for a time and would watch it often. The nightmare/dream sequences had much to do with the constant re-watching, also the character and performance of the director Victor Sjöström.  Gunnar Fischer's photography is so very enchanting here, perhaps not as moody and extreme as Sven Nykvist's but equally engaging, more subtle in a way. My friends and I had a musical collective for a while primarily rotating around the mood of Bergman films. Our moniker came out of hearing "ingenting" repeated so often in his films, I caught it once in Wild Strawberries from Ingrid Thulin. Such a lovely word in Swedish.

1.24.2019 - 1.26.2019
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel season two

Michael Cimino - Thunderbolt and Lightfoot - 1974
Second time seeing this but it has been a long time. Mostly remembered the absurdity of it, a strange sense of humor like with the rabbits in the trunk and "fuck a duck". Humor reminds me more of Clint Eastwood films like Every Which Way but Loose, which this viewer watched over and over as a kid. Such a sad ending, I can understand Jeff Bridges getting an Oscar nomination for this film. Also it is always a pleasure to see Geoffrey Lewis on the big screen.

Nicole Holofcener - The Land of Steady Habits - 2018
Didn't like this film but watched it because I am an enthusiast of Ben Mendelsohn.

Lewis Gilbert - Alfie - 1966
Goddamn great film, and also such pleasure to hear the lovely Burt Bacharach song. Michael Caine has some subtle moves, from Harry Brown to Get Carter, his talents go far beyond catching birds.

Sophie Huber - Harry Dean Stanton Partly Fiction - 2012
Really nice film, and a great portrait of one of the greatest.

Martin Ritt - Hud - 1963
(Univers du western, rewatch)
Two films this week with Melvyn Douglas, this and The Tenant.

Robert Redford - Ordinary People - 1980
Saw this in middle school and I am sure the story was too complicated for me. Film has a good feel to it but a bit dated. Timothy Hutton didn't really grab me with his acting but visually was perfect for the role.

George Roy Hill - The Sting - 1973
Solid film.

Roman Polanski - The Tenant - 1976
Polanski sure makes an homely women. Recently watched Topor in Nosferatu the Vampyre, and it made me want to watch this film. The novel is really something quite strange that I have looked at from time to time. Great film even if not one of his best.

Jack Hill - Coffy - 1973
No me gusta.

Matthew Saville - Felony - 2014
Didn't hit me the second time around. First time I enjoyed as I wasn't familiar with Joel Edgerton, but I like him in other films more.

Steve McQueen - Widows - 2018
Started with a bang but lost momentum, story too complicated. McQueen sure has a great visual style that makes it worth watching. Shame, Hunger and 12 Years a Slave some of the best contemporary films that leave most in the dust.

Damien Chazelle - First Man - 2018
I couldn't get too far into this film, sorry for the bad joke but it didn't have The Right Stuff. Didn't like La La Land either but a tad better than this one. Whiplash isn't bad but the music being some disneyesque contemporary jazz makes it hard to take seriously despite the fine qualities.

Richard Donner - Lethal Weapon - 1987
Richard Donner - Lethal Weapon 2 - 1989
Hadn't seen these since I was in middle school/high school. Glover is real good in them, Gibson hard to deal with. Richard Donner made some good films, the best being Inside Moves with John Savage and David Morse. Superman and The Omen also very good. I prefer 48 Hours, but it was worth it to see Arjen Rudd's "diplomatic immunity" at the end of the 2nd film, which has stayed in my mind since I first saw it.

John G. Avildsen - Save the Tiger - 1973
This is one of those great underrated 70s films, not perfect but the problems only add to the quality.  Has some really uncomfortable moments which are a strong part of the 70s experience, and also a strange LA film, with a different kind of Angel experience (similar to the New York in The French Connection). Avildsen's next big film was Rocky.

Samuel Fuller - Forty Guns - 1957
(Univers du western, rewatch)
A classic one, always loved the high contrast photography by Joseph F. Biroc.

Nicholas Ray - Johnny Guitar - 1954
(Univers du western, rewatch)
A few times seeing this film, this current time I found the Emma Small character to just be a bit too much, perhaps the psychological motivations behind her actions not subtle enough to stand up to multiple viewings, a great film regardless. Any excuse to see Sterling Hayden play guitar and shoot a fire arm at a punk-ass kid.

Peter Collinson - The Italian Job - 1969
Noël Coward, Benny Hill and Michael Caine. Good stuff.

George Stevens - A Place in the Sun - 1951
Montgomery Clift is up there in the top 10 greatest pursuers of actorshippe. This film drags a tad and is at many times almost too intense to watch but worth it for his and Elizabeth Taylor's performances.

Anton Corbijn - A Most Wanted Man - 2014
John le Carré, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Vicky Krie, Rachel McAdams, and Willem Dafoe. The German accents though, not sure if they work? Nice ambiance in this film.

Hal Needham - Smokey and the Bandit - 1977
Very colorful language from Jackie Gleason, yet he won't abide cussing in his presence. Film moves in a way that is rare these days. Really surprised the shit out of me seeing Hank Worden for half a second (image above).

Ron Shelton - Bull Durham - 1988
Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon, and Tim Robbins. Good names for the two male leads; Nuke and Crash.

Rob Cohen - Daylight - 1996
No me gusta

Francis Ford Coppola - The Conversation - 1974
It hadn't dawned on me previously that Caul's own phone at the end is the devise used to bug his apartment and the destruction of that fine SF apartment was mostly a waste... also hadn't noticed previously all the beautiful layers of gaudy wallpaper exposed by his violence, not unlike the French art where layers of street posters intermingle. I am use to seeing this film on a television screen, but projected (as was done last night) many details emerge. Besides Gene Hackman, this film has three really overwhelmingly strong performances; Allen Garfield, Michael Higgins, and of course John Cazale. A misconception would be that these three guys spent a lot of money on hair grease. Allen Garfield's crease paved the way for many actors seeking a left handed approach to acting. Purchased the fine soundtrack and spent a few evenings listening which suggested watching this classic 70s film. In 2007 this blog featured a list of must see films from the 1970s found here.

Walter Hill - 48 Hrs - 1982
Walter Hill did some fine films, mostly this one, The Warriors, The Driver, and writing for Aliens, The Getaway, and The MacKintosh Man. Have seen this a few times the last 2-3 years, it is just one hell of a good film with the cowboy bar scene being one of the funniest from the decade. Includes some actors from The Warriors - James Remar and David Patrick Kelly. Kelly is a favorite actor of mine, his performances in Twin PeaksThe Longest Yard and The Funeral are memorable. Pretty funny that he was cast as the therapist in Louie, as he is always the craziest sob in the room!

Wachowski - The Matrix - 1999
Rewatched this trying to remember why I have hated the film so much over the years. Thought it was dated as hell when it came out, a bit like an avocado starting to go brown. Putting it together now; the third tier poser goth aesthetics just didn't feel right back in old '99. The editing and stylistic elements of the film are just tasteless and heavy-handed. An example is a quick movement happens in the frame after a quick edit, and the filmmakers adds in a movement sound just in case some viewer out there didn't get it. The lie of the "hacker" as some kind of well meaning anarchist is a load of horse pucky, the reality is they are melonfamers out there trying to rip off the poor and the elderly. There must be other people out there that equally despise these directors?

Chad Stahelski, David Leitch - John Wick - 2014
Definitely a more enjoyable Keanu Reeves experience. Starts out with a great idea and remains heavy the entire film with a great cast. Was sad to read that Michael Nyqvist, who plays Viggo Tarasov, had passed away. His sympathetic heavy role is kind of unique and he plays it brilliantly. Great actor.