Sunday, January 23, 2022

a record of consumption, part two (being a new film journal)

Chang Cheh, Pao Hsueh-Li The Boxer from Shantung 1972

From Arrow's ShawScope Volume One box set. Full immersion into Shaw Brothers films, of which I am a total neophyte. Kung Fu star Kuan Tai Chen has extreme screen presence, in the way Charles Bronson did, from simple scenes with him sitting and smoking to balls out fight sequences. Knife fight/death scene with David Chiang also brings this film to next level quality as does the mind blowing Peckinpah ending. Assistant director was John Woo! Blu ray has interview with him, very much worth watching.

Ryusuke Hamaguchi Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy 2021

Recently saw Hamaguchi's Drive My Car, based on the Haruki Murakami short story, which was my favorite film of 2021. Also read the short story afterwards which brought attention to the virtuosity of the screenwriting in Drive My Car. Now seeing his second feature from 2021, a film in three parts, or four parts as one section has a break in time, with each story equally solid and without mediocrity. Hamaguchi says "I think the biggest incentive for me to becoming a director was watching Cassavetes", good enough reason to watch his work over and over, these 2 films of 2021 are incredibly well written, beautifully performed, odd stories that are both basic in the way you understand them but having many layers of subtlety that keep them at the threshold of clear/unclear.

Jeong Chang-Hwa King Boxer (Five Fingers of Death) 1972

Second time watching King Boxer by the veteran Korean director Jeong Chang-Hwa, this time with David Desser commentary.

Chang Cheh Five Shaolin Masters 1974

From Arrow's ShawScope Volume One box set. Full chaos. Sublime fight scenes out of doors, in the fields, in rivers, blood and flying axes... Ends with cinematic bliss with 5 fights flawlessly intertwined with some of the most technical editing imaginable, and even though the cuts are far from invisible, they perform like a silent killer, perhaps much done within the camera. Unreal film.

Julia Ducournau Titane 2021

Truly bizarre and uncomfortable film. Hated it initially, the flashiness and amped up photography, but it really grew on me as the story moved on. Really liked the Future Islands dance sequence. Very good music (Jim Williams) / sound (Séverin Favriau, Fabrice Osinski, and Stéphane Thiébaut). Very Cronenbergian.... yet in its own trajectory, a powerful film.

Nicholas Ray Johnny Guitar 1954

Umpteenth time rewatch, both straight and with Adrian Martin commentary. From Master's of Cinema blu ray, also includes discussions with Tony Rayns, David Cairns, Geoff Andrew, Susan Ray, and Martin Scorsese's DVD intro. I remember in late 90s/early 2000s collecting many DVDs with the Scorsese intros, almost as good as the films some of them, the master can really access the magic of a film with apparent little effort.

Joel Coen The Tragedy of Macbeth 2021

Denzel Washington! Stephen Root! Brian Thompson! Corey Hawkins! Extreme black and white photography by Bruno Delbonnel, just beautiful and tactile. Coen music collaborator Carter Burwell returns and delivers a beautiful score. Set design by Nancy Haigh, buildings sort of look like a combination of black and white Luis Barragán with Giorgio de Chirico added in. My letterboxd account told me Denzel Washington was the actor I spent the most time with in 2021, after seeing his performance here I can understand why.

Favorite Denzel performances:

Devil in a Blue Dress (Carl Franklin)
Flight (Robert Zemeckis)
Philadelphia (Jonathan Demme)
Unstoppable (Tony Scott)
The Equalizer and The Equalizer 2 (Antoine Fuqua)
American Gangster (Ridley Scott)
The Taking of Pelham 123 (Tony Scott)
Inside Man (Spike Lee)
Deja Vu (Tony Scott)
Training Day (Antoine Fuqua)
The Mighty Quinn (Carl Schenkel)
The Magnificent Seven (Antoine Fuqua)
Glory (Edward Zwick)
The Manchurian Candidate (Jonathan Demme)
Roman J. Israel, Esq. (Dan Gilroy)
Man on Fire (Tony Scott)
Out of Time (Carl Franklin)
He Got Game (Spike Lee)
The Hurricane (Norman Jewison)
The Pelican Brief (Alan J. Pakula)
Crimson Tide (Tony Scott)
Malcolm X (Spike Lee)
Remember the Titans (Boaz Yakin)
Mo' Better Blues (Spike Lee)

Born 1954 in Mount Vernon, New York, just outside Manhattan, Mr. Washington studied Journalism at Fordham University and then moved to San Francisco and studied a year at the American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.). Left to work as an actor, and made his first big screen appearance in Carbon Copy (1981) with George Segal. Married Pauletta Washington in 1983 (they met in 1977) and is still married to her with 4 children and lives in Los Angeles. Tom Hanks said working with him on Philadelphia was like going to film school.

Scott Frank The Queen’s Gambit 2020

4k rewatch. Enjoyed this the first time, and even more now. Really love Bill Camp in this. Moses Ingram from The Tragedy of Macbeth stars here as Jolene, as childhood friend of Beth Harmon, as does Macbeth's Harry Melling. Marielle Heller on rewatch really struck me as well, her Steve Buscemi facial expressions and strange way of talking are very charming.

Francis Ford Coppola The Outsiders: The Complete Novel 1983

Arrow 4k release. Classic Coppola film with memorable cast which includes C. Thomas Howell, Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, Tom Cruise, Diane Lane, Michelle Meyrink, Tom Waits, and Flea. Looked and sounded quite insane in 4K which much rear speaker action, Atmos atmospherics to give a powerful sonic experience.

Paul Thomas Anderson Licorice Pizza 2021

Couldn't find a point of entry into this film, and the pointlessness of the story made it unwatchable. I like that my friend's complaint was he thought all the running around was of irritating, it was indeed. On a positive note, it was nice hearing Chico Hamilton on the soundtrack.

Paul Thomas Anderson Phantom Thread 2017

Fourth time rewatch. Splendid, simply splendid film.  Hard to not love dwelling in the ambiance of this narcissistic, pompous, arrogant, and vulnerable man. Sort of the worst qualities of men, yet presented in an absurd manner.

Chang Cheh Shaolin Temple 1976

Fourth film from Arrow's ShawScope Volume One box set. A common theme in these films, martial arts training techniques throughout the film yield fruit in the end, in a Karate Kid type manner (wax on wax off). End is bliss.

Ryszard Bugajski Clearcut 1991

From Severin's All the Haunts Be Ours: A Compendium of Folk Horror boxset. Native American perspective on nature, capitalism, and the beyond, here seen through the lens of the horror genre.  Worth seeing also for Graham Greene and Floyd 'Red Crow' Westerman.

Liu Chia-Liang Challenge of the Masters 1977 & Executioners from Shaolin 1977

2 from Arrow's ShawScope Volume One box set.

Ridley Scott The Last Duel 2021

Scott's Rashomonesque violation film. Great performance by Jodie Comer.

Kent MacKenzie The Exiles 1961

Have been wanting to see this for many years, after watching and rewatching Thom Andersen's Los Angeles Plays Itself. Stunning film, shot by Erik Daarstad, Robert Kaufman, and John Arthur Morrill, a portrait of the no longer Bunker Hill, and Native American's getting loose and wild in the once atmospheric location, and offering an alternative view of West Coast Beat Culture. Essential.

Boaz Yakin Remember the Titans 2000

Disney film dealing with race, starring Denzel Washington, Will Patton, Ryan Gosling (small role), and Wood Harris (Avon Barksdale in The Wire).

Don Siegel The Shootist 1976

"I’m a dying man scared of the dark". Despite the made for tv quality, the film really stands up to multiple rewatches over a period of time, first saw in the mid 90s, being a huge Don Siegel and John Wayne fan, and have watched it a few times since, has some problems, but overall a very good film about a dying outlaw and a disappearing time in the same vein as the 1962 film Lonely Are the Brave.

Don Siegel Escape from Alcatraz 1979

Endlessly rewatchable film, really starts cooking when Fred Ward shows up.

Walter Hill The Warriors 1979

Perfect way to spend an evening, had to erase the director's cut from my mind with the straight up version.

Christian Petzold Undine 2020

Recent Petzold film with the magnetic Paula Beer & Franz Rogowski. Hard to not see Rogowski as a young Brando with the interesting addition of the hairlip. Lovely film.

Peter Tscherkassky Dream Work 2001

Flicker film merging into an homage to Man Ray.

George Cukor My Fair Lady 1964

Last time seeing this was probably 25 years ago. Had little memory of it except that there were great performances by Audrey Hepburn, Rex Harrison, Wilfrid Hyde-White, and Stanley Holloway (best known to me from Brief Encounter). If it is not clear enough that we are living in a world of near darkness, I was told and shown proof that many young people today only see this as a misogynistic film with little to no value. Having this in mind whilst watching, could only come to the conclusion that many film enthusiasts today are not watching what is on the screen but something else perhaps in their mind, with no ability to read a film as presented to them. Beautiful stuff, looked great in 4K Dolby Vision!

Frank Capra Mr. Deeds Goes to Town 1936

Essential cinema 4K rewatch.

George A. Romero Dawn of the Dead 1978

Watched the 3 different versions of this film many times in 2021, now watching the theatrical cut in 4K. Glorious film. Can it get any better?

Julia Ducournau Titane 2021

Second time with Julia Ducournau's powerful film Titane, paying close attention to the use of music and sound.  As the film's antihero Alexia/Adrien shows a duality and goes through a noticeable transformation, the sound and music mirror these levels of consciousness experienced with Alexia/Adrien. In addition to the composer Jim Williams' score and the powerful sound design by Séverin Favriau, Fabrice Osinski, and Stéphane Thiébaut (like in the forest fire at night scene), there are songs used that either in themselves show transformation, or are manipulated sonically to demonstrate change. Wayfaring Stranger covered by 16 Horsepower in the opening sequence and a later version by Lisa Abbott as Alexia/Adrien dances atop the fire truck, same song rendered quite differently. The Kills' Doing It to Death is heard in the car/dance sequence. Caterina Caselli's Nessuno Mi Può Guidicare accompanies the first kill. The Zombies' She’s Not There from 1964 drives along the male bonding in the dancing/fighting scene between father and son. The most spectacular is when Future Islands' Light House is heard during the fireman's dance sequence, the song begins as the only audible part of the sound, then when an interruption breaks the transcendence, room sounds are added in as the song drops in volume a bit, and as we get back into the scene's transcendence the song is shifted and abstracted for a spell and then brought back to dominate the experience as the scene ends blissfully. Johann Sebastian Bach's St. Matthew Passion is modified for the extremely uncomfortable lust/birth sequence giving the cinematic illusion of angels watching over the events. End credits have Jim Williams' elated Sarabande. Ducournau is not only a master story teller, but also virtuosic with constructing an experience unlike any other through the medium of film.

Peter Tscherkassky Outer Space 1999

Flickering fuckery, being a rendition of Sidney J. Furie's 1982 film The Entity with Barbara Hershey. Pure virtuosity, Tscherkassky is a master of the visceral film experience.

Derek Simonds The Sinner, season one 2017

Going through the first season again, perhaps also the second.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

a record of consumption, part one (being a new film journal)

John Milius Big Wednesday 1978

The world of 4K, HDR, and Dolby Vision has initiated a new way of viewing films here at the offices of The Art of Memory, with many old and new favorites being seriously devoured in an action of uncompromising consumption. With a non-distorted way of receiving light, and a quality of color that is immediately more like 35mm film, a certain pleasure of the moving image is consuming me. This falling in love yet again with light moving through time has rekindled the old film journal, and why not start with the Jan-Michael Vincent / Gary Busey classic.

Amy Heckerling Fast Times at Ridgemont High 1982

Criterion blu ray. Essential 80s high school film veering towards the poetic anti-social.

Tony Bill My Bodyguard 1980
Kino blu ray. Essential 80s high school film veering towards the poetic anti-social.

Wes Anderson The French Dispatch 2021

Is it strange to call such a popular film pretension? Could one say the same thing for the equally unwatchable I'm Thinking of Ending Things? Folks forever called pretentious reject these films in unison and are promptly called pretentious.

Mike Mills C’mon C’mon 2021

Not really a Mike Mills (or Miranda July) enthusiast but enjoyed the charm of this film's sound / image construction. Black and white photography shot by the heaviest of heavies Robbie Ryan whose work is always immediately inspiring.

Destin Daniel Cretton Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings 2021

Not without interest.

Gareth Edwards Rogue One: A Star Wars Story 2016

4K rewatch which turned my lukewarm feelings into more on the warm side. Mads Mikkelsen and Ben Mendelsohn! Stunning photography by Greig Fraser (Dune, The Gambler, Killing Them Softly, Bright Star and many more).

Maggie Gyllenhaal The Lost Daughter 2022

Intense performances from Olivia Colman, Jessie Buckley, Dakota Johnson, Ed Harris, and  Peter Sarsgaard. Surprised by this film!

Peter Jackson The Beatles: Get Back 2021

Tsai Ming-liang Days 2020

Sublime film-making, Days transforms narrative time through long form techniques familiar from avant-garde cinema, shifting perception only in the way true cinema can. In the 90s my friends and I were very preoccupied with Ming-liang Tsai, and seeing his new collaboration with the actor Kang-sheng Lee and how their cinema has transformed over the years was an emotional experience honestly. His style from those days is so present here, with the subtle humor elements and slow temporal gaze, yet maybe more emotional and personal. Stunning film.

Jane Campion The Power of the Dog 2021

A film made to endlessly rewatch and bath in its light. Subtle Subtle Subtle surround/atmos sound work interlaced with the beautiful Johnny Greenwood soundtrack. The film is one of those great works with ambiguity as the starring character, giving a performance that is ephemeral, abstract, underscored, thought provoking, even mind-altering. As a record of consumption: Currently reading the 1967 Thomas Savage novel of the same name.

Kier-La Janisse Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror 2021

Purchased the Severin boxset All the Haunts Be Ours: A Compendium of Folk Horror and started with the doc. Very engaging and informative, and was glad to get the ball rolling with this thoughtful study. One criticism is that every scholar presented had such a dramatically different sounding recorded voice it made the film honestly hard to watch, especially a couple that were so tinny to the ears it was painful. Strange because in final cut one can pretty easily fix these sort of issues to at least an acceptable level, the film would have really been enhanced without these problems. Still quite good though.

Danny Strong Dopesick 2021

With a sort of recent anti television mindset, this viewer is still trying to find new shows to engage with… Dopesick was not bad, good cast, writing a bit off but it worked for the most part. Very much prefer Unbelievable with Kaitlyn Dever, but this show had some nice moments and certainly an interesting story.

Hugh Dillon Taylor Sheridan Mayor of Kingstown 2021

Another attempt to find some good television. Mayor of Kingstown not bad but having trouble getting into Mr. Sheridan’s more recent works. Loved Jeremy Renner in it! PS, didn't watch both shows in the same day but ended them here and can't remember when I started them.

John G. Avildsen The Karate Kid 1984

Essential 4K viewing. Special features with Pat Morita very much worth watching. Elegant dude.

Paul Verhoeven Benedetta 2021

Not sure what I am watching here. Problematic.

Aleksandre Koberidze What Do We See When We Look at the Sky? 2021


Fran Kranz Mass 2021

Feels like a problem, but good actors (Martha Plimpton, Ann Dowd, Jason Isaacs, Reed Birney).

Thomas Vinterberg Festen / The Celebration 1998

New on blu ray from Criterion: Vinterberg’s second feature film Festen (The Celebration), being Dogme 95’s first film, followed by Lars von Trier’s The Idiots. It is nothing but pure pleasure for this viewer to read over the Dogme 95 requirements:

  1. Shooting must be done on location. Props and sets must not be brought in (if a particular prop is necessary for the story, a location must be chosen where this prop is to be found).
  2. The sound must never be produced apart from the images or vice versa. (Music must not be used unless it occurs where the scene is being shot.)
  3. The camera must be hand-held. Any movement or immobility attainable in the hand is permitted.
  4. The film must be in colour. Special lighting is not acceptable. (If there is too little light for exposure the scene must be cut or a single lamp be attached to the camera.)
  5. Optical work and filters are forbidden.
  6. The film must not contain superficial action. (Murders, weapons, etc. must not occur.)
  7. Temporal and geographical alienation are forbidden. (That is to say that the film takes place here and now.)
  8. Genre movies are not acceptable.
  9. The film format must be Academy 35 mm.
  10. The director must not be credited.

Also the lovely “Vow of Chastity”:
“Furthermore I swear as a director to refrain from personal taste! I am no longer an artist. I swear to refrain from creating a 'work', as I regard the instant as more important than the whole. My supreme goal is to force the truth out of my characters and settings. I swear to do so by all the means available and at the cost of any good taste and any aesthetic considerations. Thus I make my VOW OF CHASTITY.″

These rules perhaps in the cinema of the avant-garde are more commonplace, but for a narrative director to take them on was/is awe inspiring. Rule 2 (The sound must never be produced apart from the images or vice versa) struck me while watching Festen in the way that the sound moves so elegantly from shot to shot, sometimes coming in as a narrative tool, going beyond current sound design methods in a way that seems more like in the world of chance techniques. The sound and image relationship if one is engaged in it, is pure poetry, hovering somewhere between Saul Levine's works and Luc Ferrari's montages, what first feels random becomes full of emotion and pleasure. Room tone shifts quickly with fast editing like a speed up David Lynch film.  Jesus H  this film is just stunning!

Hal Needham Smokey and the Bandit 1977

Essential 4K viewing. Also recently watched Needham's Rad in 4k.

James Whale Frankenstein 1931

Essential 4K viewing. Love thinking about Víctor Erice's Spirit of the Beehive whist watching this.

 John G. Avildsen The Karate Kid Part II 1986

Essential 4K viewing.

Jeong Chang-Hwa King Boxer (5 Fingers of Death) 1972

From Arrow's ShawScope Volume One box set. For this viewer, the English overdubbing in Shaw Brothers films was always something too difficult to get past, and now seeing King Boxer in the original Mandarin, the poetics finally are unleashed. Included is a quite nice history of the Shaw Brothers by Tony Rayns.

Paolo Sorrentino The Hand of God 2021

Problematic in the Fellini tradition.

Pablo Larraín Spencer 2021

Story and acting lacking, yet with beautiful soundtrack by Johnny Greenwood (perhaps in a Polish jazz or 70s ECM tradition!), and beyond lovely photography by Claire Mathon (Portrait of a Lady on Fire and Atlantics).