Tuesday, February 18, 2020

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

Abdellatif Kechiche La Vie d'Adèle - Chapitres 1 et 2 (Blue Is the Warmest Color) 2013
Manohla Dargis has eloquently written on the flaws of this film related to the “male gaze”. In addition the actresses have complained about working conditions during the long and up front scenes of coitus. I avoided this film for many years because it seemed offensive for a man to make a film of lesbian lovers going at it, but after seeing it I am a bit perplexed on how I as a spectator should feel. The film is a beautiful love story, incredibly tragic and over the top emotionally. The two actresses Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux give some of the most gut wrenching performances imaginable, and especially Exarchopoulos total descent into melancholia is something I cannot imagine too many popular young American actresses being capable of. The film is stunning in its physical qualities, something often times rare in the Post-Bressonian world of French Cinema where directors make the decision to avoid the je ne sais quoi. This film is alive with color and light, memorable edits, sound design and overall filmic magic. I do find many of the intellectual reasons for disliking this film valid but in all honesty I loved the film and see it as something quite special in the long list of great films from the last 10 years.

Luca Guadagnino The Staggering Girl 2019

Tony Richardson Tom Jones 1963
The Criterion Blu-ray features an overview of and interview with cinematographer Walter Lassally, placing his hand held camera work concurrently with the French New Wave cinematographers Raoul Coutard and Henri Decaë. His other seminal films with Richardson were A Taste of Honey and The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. His photography for this film really goes beyond what was seen or executable in the day, especially during the dog chase where he mixes aerial footage with hand held work from the back of a vehicle with hand held on the ground shooting. Being a viewer who is much more deeply in tune with the British New Wave, this honoring of Lassally was good business. Brilliant film.

Karel Zeman The Fabulous Baron Munchausen 1962
Very interesting use of color with many scenes contrasting deep reds with out of this world yellows. Enjoyed the music by Zdenek Liska.

Jeremy Saulnier Blue Ruin 2013
Was not a fan of Green Room, so avoided this film but after finally watching admit it is quite something. Quietly f*cked up, with most of the time subtle happenings on the screen except an underlying dread hovering around beautiful landscapes, trash bars, or dark suburban streets, with moments of extreme violence creeping in when they can not be contained any longer. Very different from what people now are calling, I understand, torture pornography.

Trey Edward Shults Waves 2019
The film is broken up in two segments, firstly focusing on the brother Tyler (played by Kelvin Harrison Jr.) and his descent into iniquity and the ne plus ultra of fire and anger. We then focus on the sister Emily (played by Taylor Russell) and the repercussions of Tyler’s wickedness, her relationship with Luke (played by Lucas Hedges) and hovering between ecstasy and tragedy. Connecting the two segments we have the father so excellently performed by Sterling K. Brown, and structural camera work hovering somewhere between Michael Snow’s La Région centrale, Cuarón’s Children of Men and Sergey Urusevskiy’s impossible camera work for Soy Cuba/I Am Cuba. Waves directory of photography Drew Daniels gives both sections of the film memorable sequences with a camera methodically spinning in the interior of a moving vehicle offering fragments of the characters and their moods in relationship to the Floridian environment moving quickly by. The majority of the film but especially Tyler’s section has bizarre camera work, leaving the spectator in total bliss. Many moments in the film the image transcends into total color field abstractions similar to the work of Jeremy Blake or the painters Mark Rothko or Helen Frankenthaler. The color work for the film was quite extreme with heavily saturated colors so we are confronted with an ocean of dark blues interfered with here and there by dark deep reds. A few times the color work got a little out of hand and artifacts or aberrations appeared, like in Tyler’s bedroom where the curtains looked like Brakhage hand painted them. Great film and an intense emotional ride which I would love to get on again.

Alan Holly Coda 2013

Norman McLaren, Evelyn Lambart Begone Dull Care 1949

Lindsay Anderson Britannia Hospital 1982

Herschell Gordon Lewis Two Thousand Maniacs! 1994
Good ol' fashion Southern Sadism.

Alex Pettyfer Back Roads 2018

John Sayles Passion Fish 1992
One of those perfect films. Definition of humble.

William Cameron Menzies Invaders from Mars 1953

Monte Hellman The Shooting 1966
Hadn't seen since the VHS days. Loved the ending which resembles the abstraction of Two-Lane Blacktop. And padre; Warren Oates is so bloody good in this film.

Vincent Gallo Buffalo '66 1998
Hadn't seen in 10 years or so, holds up very well. Classic '90s film. Great use of King Crimson's Moonchild, Stan Getz's I Remember When, and Yes in the strip club. Recording of Vincent Gallo Sr.'s Fools Rush In (Where Angels Fear to Tread) quite lovely as well with Ben Gazzara lip-syncing on the verge of tears. Has a Dennis Hopper quality. Gallo always uses music so well in his films, in addition to his own downer tunes. Photography seems inspired by William Eggleston, especially when camera focuses on Kevin Corrigan's belly. Great film!

Saturday, February 15, 2020

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

Bong Joon-ho Parasite 2019
This second viewing focused my attention more clearly on the obsession with smell that the rich man has, a sickness so common today and brings to mind Harry Dean Stanton great description in Repo Man; "ordinary fucking people". Class oriented as critics are saying, but coming from a post-yuppie culture where everything needs to be bleach sanitized or it is unspeakable. Taking Buddhist meditation classes, the teacher taught that our minds need cultivation, as our bodies after a week of not being cleaned will reek with stink. Respect!

Jerry Schatzberg Scarecrow 1973
Nothing better than a film where you can hear the camera (diner scene towards the beginning).  Shot by Vilmos, great film.

Frank Perry Play It as It Lays 1972
Antonioni style sexual malaise. Beautifully jarring editing, almost ellipsis quality with many frames missing. Quite lovely to see this style of hard cut. Another film with that pleasant camera sound, as Tuesday Weld strokes Anthony Perkins hair as he fades. Heavy film with nice European style writing by Joan Didion.

Sidney J. Furie The Ipcress File 1965
Michael Caine has much bird talk in this film, and a plot that often times is difficult to understand but in a Chandler way where the lack of clarity is good stuff. Very innovative use of electronic sound when they are analyzing the Ipcress File tape, and latter with brainwashing techniques. This period in cinema one often finds heavy-handed reverb on folly sounds, such as footsteps, to represent the space of architecture and reverberant sound. The techniques they used to my ear sounds artificial and overly electronic, yet this artificiality is actually something I find I look forward to in older films, the magic of cinema, experiencing the world through the many techniques that go into making a film.

Peter Weir Fearless 1993
Jeff Bridges, Isabella Rossellini, Rosie Perez and John Turturro.

Ivan Passer Cutter’s Way 1981
Perfect film I love to watch over and over with the outstanding John Heard playing along side Jeff Bridges. Heard was one of those great underappreciated actors, especially good in Chilly Scenes of Winter, and The Sopranos.

Arthur Hiller The Hospital 1971
George C. Scott film. He is wonderful in it, but film is sort of mediocre. Has some good moments, and good comedy. The rather attractive Diana Rigg plays Olenna Tyrell in GOT.

Michael Winner Death Wish 1974
Becoming one of those films I rewatch fairly frequently. Great film.

Stanley Kramer The Defiant Ones 1958
Outstanding high contrast black and white photography with an emphasis on darks by Sam Leavitt.

Robert Aldrich The Big Knife 1955

Céline Sciamma Portrait de la jeune fille en feu 2019
Saw this in the wonderful Cinerama Dome in Hollywood with Sciamma Q&A.

Terry Zwigoff Ghost World 2001

Hal Ashby Harold and Maude 1971
Along with Clockwork Orange and a few others, this was for me as an early teen a gateway film into the world of art cinema. The film is a really unique portrait of an alternative The Bay Area; Hillsborough, Emeryville Mudflats, Colma, South San Francisco, and of course the Sutro Baths before the heavy renovation.

Robert Altman The Player 1992
Not my favorite Altman film, but always enjoy the not quite accurate cinema history especially that of films with long takes by the Fred Ward character.

William Dieterle Portrait of Jennie 1948
Some wonderful storm photography, much like Clarence Brown's The Rains Came, shot by Joseph H. August and Lee Garmes. One of those truly magical films.

Tony Scott The Hunger 1983(rewatch)
Scott's directorial debut and early film for Willem Defoe (2nd Phone Booth Youth). Was on a plane this week and saw Mr. Defoe in first class, he said "pardon me" to my wife. Great film with some truly original editing and sound work, some similar to Ridley Scott's Blade Runner or Alien, but going in a far more extreme direction, aggressive and avant'garde.

Andrea Arnold Wuthering Heights 2011
Shot by the outstandingly virtuosic Robbie Ryan, every frame of this film is alive with detail like a Netherlandish painting. The way the camera moves in and around the action is at times subtle and often times in your face. The focus work for this film is from another planet. Ryan has also shot; I, Daniel Blake, Catch Me Daddy, Wasp, Fish Tank, Marriage Story, The Favourite, The Meyerowitz Stories, American Honey, Philomena, and Sorry We Missed You.

John Carpenter Assault on Precinct 13 1976
1970s urban Western, originally titled The Anderson Alamo, and inspired by Howard Hawks' Rio Bravo and George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead. Carpenter used John Wayne's character in Rio Bravo "John T. Chance" as his editing pseudonym. Never noticed before that Officer Chaney here is played by Henry Brandon, who was Scar/Cicatriz in The Searchers. Father who takes revenge on his daughter getting shot resembles James Woods, has that classic 1970s sleaze look about him. Watched the Scream Factory Blu-Ray twice, second time with John Carpenter commentary. Stills show a real Western style shoot out.

Andrea Arnold Wasp 2003
Beautiful short film by Arnold shot by Robbie Ryan. Starting from a path cleared out by Ken Loach, Mike Leigh, and Alan Clarke, yet transforming into something very much her own. Intense business.

Edward Norton Motherless Brooklyn 2019
After reading the book, it was surprising how much Norton changed the story with his screenplay, very impressive work. A scene that really stood out was in the jazz club (that had an interior quite similar to the West Village's 55 Bar) where Norton aggressively hums along to Michael Kenneth Williams trumpet playing and dances with Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Great looking film, shot by Dick Pope.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

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

Joachim Trier Oslo, August 31st 2011
Absolutely stunning film with quite a novel method of dealing with the perception of time and reality and how it is muddled/blurred by imagination, the past and the future and also the magic of temporal abstractions in cinema. In a filmic interpretation of the world, one does not have to follow mundane rules of existence, but can move about in alternative methods. Many sequences in this film I (in a positive sense) had no ability to get a foothold on, not understanding if the camera was following a character's potential or a filmic dream state, or a poetic interpretation of something ordinary. Quite a heavy ending our hero finds himself in, which was difficult to watch but full of poetry.

Joachim Trier Thelma 2017
Not as engaging as Oslo, August 31st, but still worth watching.

Bill Forsyth Local Hero 1983
Unusual film from the early 1980s. Mostly know the star Peter Riegert from The Sopranos where he plays Assemblyman Ronald Zellman. Here he plays a slightly melancholic yuppie on the verge of entering some form of Scottish hippiedom, but doesn't quite get there. Very good ambiance in this film, esoteric humour with a good amount of nonsense, and plenty of alcohol. Quite enjoyed it.

Louis Malle Atlantic City 1980
Two nights of Burt Lancaster, an actor I really became preoccupied with after seeing Robert Siodmak's 1949 Bunker Hill exploration Criss Cross in my early 20s. This classic late 1970s / early 1980s picture has an unusual feel, being a Frenchman's portrait of a decaying American city, and of a man who has seen better days. Similar to a film later in this list: Model Shop by Jacques Demy, European interpretations of America in non prosperous periods.

Kenji Misumi Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart to Hades 1972

Larry Cohen God Told Me To 1976

Robert Clouse The Ultimate Warrior 1975

Kenji Misumi Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in the Land of Demons 1973
This entry has a bit of a Buddhist quality about it, but not as good as the first two. Also watched part of the fourth entry Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in Peril.but turned off early on.

Yoshiyuki Kuroda Lone Wolf and Cub: White Heaven in Hell 1974
The last entry didn't excite me as much as some of the earlier ones. One key ingredient to the early films, and missing in these latter ones, is the strange bursts of electronic music, often times these bursts seemed completely random, other times not, and always adding in some extreme ambiance into the film. The sound design in general was pretty strange in the early films, with sword sounds heard backwards, and spray sounds having a completely out there presence. These elements missing make the films sort of boring.

Thomas McGuane 92 in the Shade 1975
Directed by the writer McGuane who wrote Rancho Deluxe (1975) and The Missouri Breaks (1976). Truly perfect 1970s film shot by Michael C. Butler and starring Margot Kidder, Warren Oates, Peter Fonda, Harry Dean Stanton, Burgess Meredith, and William Hickey.

John Frankenheimer Prophecy 1979

Jacques Demy Model Shop 1969
This bloody beautiful film, featured prominently in Los Angeles Plays Itself. Devastatingly groove and doom oriented music by Spirit, along with Bach, Rimsky-Korsakov, and Schumann. Particularly love the prog-psych Spirit heaviness as we follow George Matthews (played by Gary Lockwood, known for Dr. Frank Poole in 2001: A Space Odyssey) through a dark grimy Los Angeles sleaze infested hallway in the Model Shop. Grimy but full of charm. Anouk Aimée so very wonderful in this film, just stunning and such a subtle performance. Fred Willard shows up as a gas station attendant. Seems like half of this film is George Matthews driving around the city, much of the time with the only sound being the classical music either coming from his radio or the cosmos. From time to time we hear the motor or the sounds of the city creeping in. Very poetic in its construction, as is the dialogue where conversations feel especially European (the geometry of the city....). Tarantino sites as influence on Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood, and you can clearly see this as our hero drives about the city, and also picks up a young lady hitchhiking from which he acquires a J. Going to Los Angeles next week so this perfect film is really setting up the mood for the visit.

James Landis The Sadist 1963
Damn strange film that lives up to its title. Quite a brutal depiction of an American psychopath whom would read the great Marquis de Sade if perhaps he could. This film could be added to the history of sports films in that they are attempting to go to a game but get waylaid.

John Carpenter Starman 1984
Starring the wonderful Karen Allen and Charles Martin Smith, and a nominated performance by Jeff Bridges. The final section of the film puts the viewer in total jouissance with one of the great pieces of film music by Jack Nitzsche along with utterly gorgeous cinematography by Donald M. Morgan  where we see light abstraction along with a cosmic snowfall over lush luminescent reds and blues. Great cameo by George "Buck" Flower most known for Carpenter's They Live (pictured above along with ending).

Adam McKay Step Brothers 2008
Felt like a little Richard Jenkins comedy.