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.