Film Diary, vol. 3

I’ve gotten way behind on this, since I spent two weeks earlier this month in Mexico and was very busy with work in the weeks leading up to that. I’m going to streamline this installment: films are grouped together and discussed in batches where appropriate, and miscellaneous films get very brief comments.

Andrzej Żuławski and related

Cosmos, Fidelity, Possession, That Most Important Thing: Love, L’Amour Braque, The Third Part of the Night, Diabel, On the Silver Globe, Hard to Be a God (German)

I’m more than halfway through a full Żuławski survey. I will hopefully finish it for the next diary installment. The only one of his films I was familiar with was Possession, which is one of the best horror films ever made. I give it my highest recommendation, but gird your loins, it is definitely some shit. The first full Żuławski retrospective in the US was held at BAMCinématek in 2012, and they called it “Hysterical Excess.” Żuławski was so insulted by this title that he cancelled his plan to appear. I will therefore avoid using these words to describe his films. Żuławski is singular in his total disregard for the experience of the audience. Żuławski gives the least fucks of any major filmmaker. I wasn’t crazy about Fidelity (which is like a melodrama from hell) or Cosmos (which is about the human urge to assign meaning and is so untethered that it’s hard to engage with), but they are worth watching if you’re interested in Żuławski. The Third Part of the Night and Diabel are very strong early works from when was still in Poland. They are both challenging but relatively accessible (emphasis on ‘relatively’). Diabel is the better film of the two. That Most Important Thing: Love is even more accessible and was a hit in France, where it was made. It features Romy Schneider as a washed up actress working in soft porn. An admirer puts everything he has into financing a production of Richard III for her to star in (along with Kinski). It’s great. L’Amour Braque is awesome, but I need to see it again. The dialogue is experimental and hard to translate, and the subtitles on the version I watched were pretty bad. I know French well enough to follow it, but there’s a Mondo disc out there with better subs. On the Silver Globe is the single most aggressively abrasive movie I’ve ever seen. It’s nearly three hours long, and it was supposed to be longer. Polish authorities forced him to shut down production and destroyed his sets. He deals with this in the film by drawing attention to it. He includes sections of voiceover narration and dislocated footage where he summarizes scenes that are missing. The narrative is mostly incomprehensible except in outline, and these scenes where he narrates what’s missing are almost comical because he talks SO FAST and much of what he says is more confusing than clarifying and it adds to the breathlessly fucking insane feeling of the movie. The story is about a group of astronauts who are stranded on a distant planet and initiate a new civilization that progresses into the dark ages, a messiah arrives, etc. The whole movie is at a screaming, howling fever pitch. It takes endurance. I loved it. I followed it up with an obvious companion piece of medieval futurism: Aleksei German’s Hard to Be a God. German’s last film is about a group of Russian scientists who live on a planet that is just like earth except the Renaissance never happened because of a violent movement to suppress intellectual progress. The film is from 2013, but it certainly feels apt for the age of Trump. It’s about the aggressive stubbornness with which human beings cling to stupidity and ugliness. The movie is caked in mud, blood, and feces. The narrative is pushed to the background (I would advise reading a plot summary to help with following it) and the focus is on abjection. It’s a brutal three hours long, but I recommend it to anyone who’s into this kind of thing.

Jean Renoir

The Golden Coach, French Cancan, Elena and Her Men, The River, A Day in the Country, La Chienne, Night at the Crossroads, Toni, The Southerner, Woman on the Beach, This Land is Mine, The Lower Depths

The more Renoir I watch, the more I like him. I had watched several of his movies that I hadn’t seen before over the last few months and finally decided to just go for it and watch everything extant. I haven’t gotten into the silents yet but I only have a few talkies left. Once I finish all the stuff I had never seen before I will revisit the ones I was more familiar with (Rules of the Game, Grand Illusion, La Bête Humaine)

I went back and watched The Golden Coach again because I felt like the first time I watched it I was in a foul mood and didn’t fully appreciate it. I’m so glad I did, because The Golden Coach is an unqualified masterpiece and one of Renoir’s best films. I liked it vastly better the second time around. Anna Magnani is profoundly funny. La Chienne, The Lower Depths, Night at the Crossroads, and Toni are proto-noirs that I totally loved. His version of The Lower Depths is very, very different from Kurosawa’s. Renoir has Jean Gabin doing a sort of Pépé le Moko reprise and the whole thing is light on its feet and comical, whereas Kurosawa’s is all doom and gloom. I like this one better. The River is easy to appreciate on the surface for its striking use of color, but it’s also perhaps Renoir’s most difficult and complex film. A Day in the Country, Woman on the Beach, and Night at the Crossroads are fragmentary, but there’s enough there to judge them by, and they are all great. Woman on the Beach is his best American film. It does feel sadly incomplete. The other two, however, feel oddly perfect in their fragmentary form. The ending of Day in the Country gains impact from its tacked on quality. Night at the Crossroads is already so elusive that the patchy narrative fits just fine. I can’t think of a movie from this time period that’s anywhere near so dark (literally: sequences are filmed outdoors at night without added lighting). It clearly had a huge influence on Bela Tarr, and is a key point of reference for The Man from London.

Last note on Renoir: while it’s not as great a film as The Golden Coach, French Cancan is extremely fun and I recommend it without reservation. It’s Renoir’s 42nd Street, with Jean Gabin as the founder of the Moulin Rouge.

Miklós Jancsó 

The Round-Up; The Red and the White; Silence and Cry; The Confrontation; Red Psalm, Elektra, My Love; The Pacifist

I had been wanting to reappraise Béla Tarr and I decided while I’m in a Hungarian frame of mind I should do Jancsó as well. Jancsó’s stuff from the mid-60’s through the early 70’s is extraordinary. The Round-Up is my favorite. It has more of a narrative than the other films but a very unconventional one. I would describe it as a Kafka-esque political horror movie in the visual idiom of the American western. I’m not sure if Leone saw this or not, but either he was influenced by Jancsó or they had a lot of similar ideas around the same time. The Red and the White is a stark, formally innovative anti-heroic war movie. It’s my second favorite. These two are among the best films ever made. Silence and Cry is a minor work, and The Confrontation is transitional (both are worthwhile). Red Psalm and Elektra, My Love are among his most important works. They both feature extremely long takes, constant motion, and tons of folk dancing. They are quite different from The Round-Up and The Red and the White, but they have related anti-authoritarian themes and are characterized by comparably brilliant large-scale outdoor cinematography. I also tried watching The Pacifist, one of Jancsó’s Italian films, but I did not enjoy it and gave up after a half hour. The sound design was just too terrible for me to cope with, especialy because, unlike his other work, this film is heavily dialogue driven.

Béla Tarr 

Damnation, Sátántangó, Werckmeister Harmonies, The Man From London, The Turin Horse

I like Tarr a lot, but I’ve never been quite as ardent a fan as many others. I wanted to reappraise his most important works (I still haven’t seen the earlier ones, but I intend to). My esteem for him definitely grew on this watch-through. For me, the ranking is very clear and there are big gaps between each movie and the one ranked below it. I like Sátántangó the best by far, followed by The Turin Horse, followed by Werckmeister Harmonies, then The Man From London (which I think is somewhat underappreciated), and then Damnation. Sátántangó is a masterpiece of the highest order and arguably the best movie of the 90’s. I watched it through in one sitting and was totally enraptured. It’s a 7 hour non-linear, ultra-slow burn, nightmare noir and every image is stunning. The Turin Horse is like an apocalyptic Jeanne Dielman for horses. Werckmeister for me has a bit of an identity crisis. I haven’t read the novel, but from what I’ve been told, the film strips away a lot of the more overtly political content. At the same time, though, it makes very explicit visual references to 20th century totalitarianism. I think it might have worked better to go further one way or the other: either be more direct about the politics, or go further in the direction of abstraction (which is what I would have preferred). I must say, though, that Werckmeister contains one of the most striking images in the history of film. If you’ve seen it, I hope you know which one I’m referring to. It nearly knocked me over in my chair. The Man From London makes the noir currents that run through Tarr’s work explicit. I think it’s necessary to see Renoir’s Night at the Crossroads (also based on a Georges Simenon novel) to fully appreciate what Tarr is doing in this film. Damnation for me feels immature. It contains the seeds for a lot of the ideas that reached fruition in Sátántangó, but he didn’t quite have the chops yet and the material is nowhere near as compelling. It’s worthwhile, though, for anyone interested in Tarr.

Otto Preminger

Daisy Kenyon, Fallen Angel, A Royal Scandal, Whirlpool, Forever Amber, Bonjour Tristesse

A bunch of Preminger blind spots. I thoroughly enjoyed every single one of them. Forever Amber is particularly underappreciated. It’s Preminger’s equivalent to Polanski’s Tess or Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon. Bonjour Tristesse was my biggest Preminger blind spot and it did not disappoint. It’s possibly his best film.

Johnnie To:

Life Without Principle, Blind Detective, Breaking News, Running Out of Time

I hadn’t seen any of these, and it was a real treat to watch them. Breaking News is the most important work of the bunch. It’s about the police managing their public image through the media, and full of incredible action sequences. Running Out of Time is a lesser work, but it has its pleasures. Life Without Principle is exceptional. It does for the bank what Three does for the hospital, combining a Triad thriller with a financial thriller. It is the best film I’ve seen about the financial collapse. Blind Detective is the same formula as Mad Detective, but this time he’s blind and the cop who brings him back in for a cold case is a woman who he has romantic chemistry with. It’s a lot of fun.

Jean-Luc Godard

A Woman is a Woman, First Name: Carmen

A Woman is a Woman, a “neorealist musical,” is one of Godard’s most accessible movies and a great pleasure. I hadn’t seen First Name: Carmen before. I thought it was quite enjoyable for 80’s Godard. It’s very loosely based on Bizet’s Carmen and features a Maoist terrorist cell, a string quartet rehearsing Beethoven, and Godard himself as a filmmaker who pretends to be a patient in a mental hospital. I also tried to watch Detective, but I couldn’t do it.

Mario Bava

Black Sunday; Kill Baby, Kill

I’ve seen both these movies several times but they are always a delight to revisit. Bava is pure joy for anyone who likes horror. Black Sunday is goth heaven and a great place to start with Bava; Kill Baby, Kill is from later in his career and marks his return to gothic horror. It’s one of his best.

Agnes Varda, Sandrine Bonnaire

Le Bonheur, Vagabond, À nos amours

I didn’t like Le Bonheur. Its most obvious point of reference is Bonjour Tristesse, which is a million times better. The conceit of Le Bonheur is to maintain a sickly sweet tone throughout while exploring dark territory. The tone is so unpleasant that the only way to enjoy the movie is to actively engage with it at the conceptual level, but the conceptual level isn’t all that interesting. I liked Vagabond much better. The great Sandrine Bonnaire plays a voluntarily homeless young drifter. Things do not go well for her. I didn’t love it, but her performance is worth the price of admission. I decided to make it a Bonnaire double feature and watched Pialat’s À nos amours along with it. Hurray for Filmstruck. I had been wanting to see this film for a long time and it did not disappoint. Ultra-raw portrait of a teenage girl (Bonnaire, in her debut performance) with a chaotic home life who acts out sexually. It’s a great film.

Wuxia

Dragon Inn, Warriors of Heaven and Earth, A Touch of Zen

Filmstruck did a wuxia feature around the holidays and I immediately watched these. Dragon Inn is a perfect movie, with endless rewatch value. A Touch of Zen is more ambitious. It’s like the Once Upon a Time in the West of wuxia. Warriors of Heaven and Earth I didn’t care for.

Taiwanese coming-of-age movies

A Brighter Summer Day; A Time to Live, a Time to Die; Rebels of the Neon God

I don’t know what it is, but no one does coming-of-age better than the Taiwanese. I watched one movie each by the big three (Yang, Tsai, and Hou). All three of these films were new to me, and they were all great. They all showcase the distinctive ability of these three filmmakers to infuse images with emotion in the manner of a memory. A Time to Live, a Time to Die is extremely poignant and depressing. Rebels of the Neon God is less hard hitting and more stylized. The obvious points of comparison are Wong Kar-wai and 90’s Greg Araki. A Brighter Summer Day is a towering masterpiece, easily one of the best films of the 90’s. The restoration is gorgeous. It’s a four hours long and overflowing with nuance. I recommend it without qualification. I haven’t seen Yi Yi for a while, but my sense was that this is even better.

John Cassavetes

Love Streams, Opening Night

I hadn’t seen either of these late works by Cassavetes, and I was floored by both of them. They are among his best films. Love Streams in particular totally blew me away. I read someone describe Opening Night as “Birdman if Birdman was good.” While I think this is a little too generous to Birdman, which I hated, it’s a nice point. I recommend these strongly to anyone who likes Cassavetes. If you don’t know his work, I would start with the earlier stuff.

Sergio Corbucci

The Great Silence, Django

Top-tier spaghetti westerns. Note that the dubbed version of Django should be avoided at all costs. The dubbing is atrocious. The only way to watch it is on blu-ray, in Italian with English subtitles. It’s so awesome: the primary conflict is between Mexican Bandits and the Klan. The Great Silence features Klaus Kinski as the villain. It’s awesome, but the ending is…. questionable.

Fritz Lang

Ministry of Fear, Spies

Spies is available to stream in HD on amazon! It is one of the keystones of the espionage genre and the central influence for the Bond series. It’s an absolute treat. Ministry of Fear has narrower appeal but I liked it a lot. It’s a wrong man movie where the McGuffin is a cake!

Roberto Rossellini

Fear, Amore

A couple Rossellini blind spots, both minor works. Fear is an excellent tight little dramatic thriller where Ingrid Bergman is blackmailed for an extramarital affair. Amore is an anthology of two short films about love, both featuring the inimitable Anna Magnani. It was very controversial in the US, and became the subject of a landmark censorship case. The first short is an experiment, following one side of a phone conversation and resting entirely on Magnani’s considerable chops. The second short features a small role by co-writer Fellini as a vagrant who she thinks is St. Joseph. I wasn’t crazy about Amore but it’s worth seeing.

Murnau and related

Faust, Nosferatu, City Girl, The Last Laugh, Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, Tabu, Tabu (Gomes)

I have been meaning to watch Tabu (Gomes) for years, but I kept putting it off because I felt like I should watch the Murnau film it borrows its title from first, but then I felt like I should just revisit all of Murnau’s most important works at the same time. I finally did it. I would say my favorite Murnau is Faust, followed by The Last Laugh. Faust is half dark expressionism, half slapstick Satan. Both elements worked perfectly for me and I found many shots to be at least as striking as more famous material from Nosferatu and Sunrise. I was a little underwhelmed by Gomes’ Tabu. It’s okay. I think people overhyped it to me and my expectations were too high.

Satyajit Ray

Devi, The Music Room

I’m continuing to slowly work my way through S. Ray. The Music Room is stunning. Easily my favorite Ray film so far. It’s about the death throes of a noble house, as the patriarch spends every last penny bringing the greatest musicians in India to perform in his music room. It’s transcendent. Devi I didn’t care for. It is desperately in need of a restoration, but even bracketing the poor quality, I found it to drag quite a bit. It gets pretty good towards the end, but it was already too late for me. I also attempted to watch The Chess Players but I couldn’t get into it. I am not blaming the movie for this: I may just not have been in the mood. But the style is jarringly different from the other Ray films I’ve seen and I didn’t find it engaging.

Japanese New Wave

I had been watching through Imamura and really enjoying it, but I decided to take a step back and fill in a little more context. I watched quite a few movies from the Japanese New Wave, covering a lot of blind spots and revisiting important works.

Oshima

Cruel Story of Youth, Violence at Noon, Empire of Passion, Japanese Summer: Double Suicide, Death by Hanging, Diary of a Shinjuku Thief, In the Realm of the Senses

I’ve never been a huge fan of the Oshima movies I had seen, but so much of this stuff is on Filmstruck that I decided to reconsider him and take a look at a wider range of his stuff. I found it to be a mixed bag. I did not like most of the freewheeling 60’s stuff. I actively disliked Diary of a Shinjuku Thief and Japanese Summer: Double Suicide. They both played dated for me. Shinjuku Thief is full of stuff that Kurahara or Yoshida did better, and the Godardian formal flourishes didn’t impress me at all. Japanese Summer is too straight faced in its Freudianism. It has aged poorly. I didn’t like Violence at Noon either, but the technique is interesting (there are like 2000 cuts). Cruel Story of Youth is pretty good. Stylistically, it’s heavily influenced by Nicholas Ray’s Rebel Without a Cause, but the material is considerably more lurid. I completely loved Death by Hanging. It’s a pitch black comedy about a Korean murderer who inexplicably survives a hanging. I also liked Empire of Passion and In the Realm of the Senses quite a bit. I had seen them before, but they benefit tremendously from their beautiful HD restorations. I haven’t seen any of Oshima’s other later works, and that’s where I’ll go next. I definitely prefer his mature style to the early stuff.

Terayama

Pastoral: To Die in the Country, Farewell to the Ark

Terayama is arguably the most untethered of the bunch. His stuff is closer to Jodorowsky than Oshima, but more personal and focused. These movies are fantastic and completely batshit.

Suzuki

Gate of Flesh, The Taisho Trilogy: Zigeunerweisen, Kagero-za, and Yumeji

I’ve been a fan of Suzuki for a very long time, though I had only seen his yakuza movies (Branded to Kill, Tokyo Drifter, Pistol Opera, among others). Gate of Flesh is well regarded but I didn’t like it as much as the yakuza stuff. The Taisho Trilogy has only recently become widely available. There’s an arrow blu-ray set and MUBI played all three titles. He was fired back in the day for pushing his experimentation too far in what were supposed to be marketable genre films. He made the Taisho Trilogy independently many years later, and these films were his first chance to really do whatever the hell he wants. They are totally bonkers, of course. I loved the first two, but I wasn’t crazy about Yumeji. The narratives of the three films are not connected, but there is quite a bit of continuity. They share the 1920’s setting and a similar visual style and they all feature amazing performances by the great Yoshio Harada as an Id figure.

Misc

Eros + Massacre (Yoshida), The Warped Ones (Kurahara), Pale Flower (Shinoda)

I’m very excited about the new HD Yoshida transfers. Beware the version of Eros + Massacre on amazon streaming. It’s the shorter cut, and should be avoided. The movie is tremendous, and certainly one of the most essential works of the Japanese New Wave. The Warped Ones is a blast. It’s like The Wild One or Kathryn Bigelow’s The Loveless, but way more frenetic and scored with white hot jazz. Pale Flower was pretty meh compared to the other stuff.

Roman Porno Reboot

Wet Woman in the Wind, Antiporno

The Roman Porno is a venerable tradition. It was a series of films from the legendary Nikkatsu studio that ran from the early 70’s through the late 80’s. Promising directors were given an unusual degree of creative freedom, on the condition that they deliver a sex scene every 15 minutes. Nikkatsu rebooted the Roman Porno series in 2016, inviting a number of interesting directors to make new films following the old formula. MUBI featured these two and I was very excited to see them. Wet Woman in the Wind is a comedy, and it’s pretty good. It’s nothing exceptional, but it succeeds as a genre update. One probably needs at least some familiarity with Roman Porno to appreciate what it’s doing. Sion Sono’s Antiporno, on the other hand, will melt your damn face. What a movie. He follows the formula: there is a lot of sex and nudity. But he does everything he can to deny the viewer any degree of titillation. It is truly an “anti porno.” There is plenty of vomit and the emphasis is on humanizing sex workers. The visual style is stark and confrontational. I loved it.

Kubrick

Eyes Wide Shut, Barry Lyndon

I don’t know if any filmmaker benefits from rewatch more than Kubrick. These two, 2001, The Shining, and a Clockwork Orange are the top tier for me, followed by Dr. Strangelove, Lolita, and The Killing. The only one I don’t really like is Full Metal Jacket (I love the first half but dislike the second half, when they actually go to war). Anyways, Barry Lyndon is one of the greatest movies ever made and I was delighted to watch the new Criterion Blu-Ray. It’s really a tremendous upgrade. I watched Eyes Wide Shut as a Christmas movie, and I think looking at it through the Christmas lens serves it well. Christmas lights are to Eyes Wide Shut as candles are to Barry Lyndon. Between Sátántangó, A Brighter Summer Day, La Belle Noiseuse, and Eyes Wide Shut, I watched four of the best movies of the 90’s during the last few months.

Hollywood Musicals

The Gang’s All Here, Meet Me in St. Louis

I have been meaning to see both of these for a very long time. They were both tremendous. The Gang’s All Here is an over-the-top, awe-inspiring audiovisual bonanza. Meet Me in St. Louis, starring Judy Garland, is elegiac and moving. It seems to have influenced Renoir’s The River.

New(ish) Releases

Dunkirk: There are three stories that take up different amounts of time and the formal concept is that they all intersect at the critical moment. But the intersection turns out to be of the “improbable timing saves the day” variety. Meanwhile, the movie totally fails to give us any understanding of the layout and where everything is relative to the other stuff, and focuses on illegible close ups that try to capture the disorientation and confusion of battle. But the best action filmmakers– the Scott brothers, Kathryn Bigelow– can do both things at once. They can lay everything out, make us understand what’s at stake every step of the way, but at the same time capture the subjective experience of the individuals. Dunkirk is basically zoomed in confusion and then hurray we got there in time. It tries to overwhelm us with size and loudness to compensate for its inadequacies. Also: the dead boy on the boat storyline is shameless, unearned audience manipulation.

A Ghost Story: Ghost story from the perspective of the ghost, with some neat formal tricks. Meh.

Thor: Ragnorak: I enjoyed it to the extent that Waititi’s voice shines through, but I’m pretty much over the Avengers (though Thor is my favorite of the bunch). I also tried to watch the Spiderman: Homecoming movie but I turned it off after 10 minutes because they were the worst 10 minutes of any movie I watched this year.

Mom and Dad: Delightful new horror movie from Brian Taylor, director of personal favorites such as the Crank movies, Gamer, and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. Here he’s without his usual collaborator, Mark Neveldine, and it doesn’t seem like very much is missing. I appreciate this movie’s unity of purpose: parents everywhere are possessed with the uncontrollable urge to murder their own children. That’s it, nothing else happens in this movie. The Nicolas Cage factor is strong, and Selma Blair is pretty damn Cage-y in her own right. Anyone turned off by the idea of parents trying to murder their children should stay away.

Happy Death Day: Groundhog Day has become a genre. I absolutely hated Before I Fall, but this one was pretty good. Solid execution of the premise “Groundhog Day meets sorority slasher movie.”

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected): Pretty good, nothing new.

Atomic Blonde: Very fun.

Train to Busan: One of very few good non-Romero zombie movies.

Good Time: I haven’t totally made up my mind and I still need to see a few things, but I think this was my favorite movie of 2017. It absolutely requires good image and sound, so don’t watch this shit on your laptop.

The Last Jedi: Postmodern Star Wars. I loved it.

Better Watch Out: pitch black horror, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Girls Trip: Worth watching for Tiffany Haddish alone. Jada Pinkett Smith is also great, but I thought Latifah and Hall were weak and I couldn’t handle the inspirational speeches.

Blade of the Immortal: Middling Miike. Not as good as I wanted it to be, but enjoyable.

Dawson City: Frozen Time: Fantastic documentary about a trove of silent films found buried under an ice skating rink in Dawson, Canada (which is an old gold rush town in the Yukon).

Miscellaneous

The Color of Pomegranates: Awesome new HD restoration on Filmstruck (forthcoming on blu-ray). Exists entirely outside conventional film grammar. It’s awesome. There’s a code to be cracked but it’s one of those things where you wonder whether cracking the code would diminish it. It works great at the surface level.

The Night of the Hunted: I think this is the first non-vampire movie I’ve seen from Jean Rollin. It resembles early Cronenberg, with more sex. Very good.

Man with a Movie Camera: having this on demand in HD is a luxury that we must not take for granted.

Lady in the Lake: Whoa! First person noir. We see everything through the detective’s eyes, and the clues are right in front of us, and so we are invited to “play detective.” It’s a great film.

The Seventh Victim: tremendous Lewton/Robson horror noir.

Purple Noon: This is René Clément’s adaptation of The Talented Mr. Ripley. It destroys the Anthony Minghella version. Alain Delon approaches the limits of human perfection as Tom Ripley. I googled his performance in this movie and found lots of straight guys posting about coming to terms with homosexual feelings the movie induced in them. And then I realized that this was probably why I googled it.

Le Million: Delightful comedy from Rene Clair, massively influential.

Wagon Master: One of John Ford’s best movies. It’s about a Mormon wagon train headed west and the various less-than-savory characters they pick up along the way. It succeeds at every level.

Playtime: I revisited Tati’s greatest masterpiece to compare it with the Dougie Jones material from Twin Peaks: The Return. My brother was totally right: Lynch was clearly riffing on Tati. What is most distinctive about this movie is the sheer number of gags he works into a single sequence. Most comedies run one gag at a time, or one gag and a little something in the background. Tati just piles it on, to the point where it overwhelms the viewer and one must just give oneself over to the chaos.

A Zed & Two Noughts: The Cook, The Thief… was a favorite when I was a kid but I haven’t really followed Greenaway since. I finally watched this on Amazon and I didn’t really care for it. I thought the parts were better than the whole. The thematic focus on mortality didn’t do anything for me.

Touchez Pas au Grisbi: I was so excited to see this Becker maserpiece in HD on amazon. If you haven’t seen it, don’t hesitate. I haven’t seen any of these Becker movies in a long time and I’m excited to revisit more of them in HD.

City of Pirates: Ruiz at his most untethered. It’s great, but I prefer his slightly more tethered stuff.

The Conformist: I don’t love The Conformist, but its style is undeniably striking.

Yoyo: This is my first movie by Pierre Etaix. I loved it. It starts out as a silent film and traces the history of film in its form. It’s nostalgic and moving.

Lola: Demy’s first film. I didn’t like it as much as his musicals but it was interesting to see.

Tampopo: The best food movie.

The Tales of Hoffman: I have been wanting to see this for ages. I finally pulled the trigger and I was a little let down. I don’t really care for the music, to be honest, and the visual inventiveness became tiring well before the film was over.

Lady Snowblood, Lady Snowblood 2: Love Song of Vengeance: Lady Snowblood is a personal favorite, but I actually hadn’t seen the sequel before. I didn’t like it.

Scarface: I have seen the De Palma version a zillion times but I hadn’t seen the Hawks original in a very long time. It was very interesting to revisit it. De Palma’s remake follows the original more closely than I remembered.

Jacques Rivette, le veilleur: For Rivette fans only. Denis’ documentary is delightful. He is interviewed by Serge Daney.

A Colt is My Passport: Stellar Japanese noir, starring Joe Shishido.

The Devil, Probably: I think this is the only Bresson movie that’s not an adaptation. It’s difficult and bleak.

Keane: This showed up on the horror streaming channel, Shudder. It’s not really a horror movie, though. It’s a psychological thriller about a man with a loose grip on reality looking for his lost child. Incredible performance by Damien Lewis. I watched this because I like Kerrigan’s work on Starz’s Girlfriend Experience series. It’s a good film.

Léon Morin, Priest: To be honest I found it a bit dull. Certainly the only Melville film I would say that about.

Daisies: Věra Chytilová’s anarchic female buddy picture was the central influence for Rivette’s Celine and Julie Go Boating. It’s awesome.

Fellini Satyricon: I loved the first half, but I had the same issue here that I have had with other Fellini movies after his early period: the second half lost me. I don’t necessarily blame Fellini for this, it’s probably some defect in me as a viewer. I am going to keep trying with his later work.

Pandora and the Flying Dutchman: Ghost sailor has six months to make the most selfish woman in the world love him so much that she’s willing to die for him. Ghost sailor is James Mason, woman is Ava Gardner. She’s also pursued by a matador and a racecar driver. It’s even better than it sounds.

L’Âge d’Or: It has its moments, but not my favorite Buñuel

Zero de Conduit: perfect little movie.

The Naked City: I thought I had seen this, but it turns out I was conflating it with Dassin’s Night and the City. Night and the City is a much better film, but this is entirely worthwhile.

Ronin-gai: 90’s samurai movie. Underwhelming.

My Neighbor Totoro: Absent of any real conflict or villain, this film approximates the aimless imagination of a child, with the weighty backdrop of a sick parent.

Le Main du Diable: solid oldschool French horror

Sweet Smell of Success: This film is ripe to be remade for the social media era. It feels very relevant to the contemporary moment. Curtis and Lancaster could never be topped, though.

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past: I watched this on an airplane. It was terrible.

How to Be a Latin Lover: I also watched this on an airplane. It was delightful. I laughed so loudly (with headphones on) that people were giving me looks.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s