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Films Seen 2008

2008 NEW RELEASES

THE SECRET OF THE GRAIN (Abdel Kechiche, France, 2007)

REVOLUTIONARY ROAD (Sam Mendes, USA/UK, 2008)

THE WRESTLER (Darren Aronofsky, USA, 2008)

MILK (Gus Van Sant, USA, 2008)

A CHRISTMAS TALE (Arnaud Desplechin, France, 2008)

SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE (Danny Boyle and Loveleen Tandan, UK/India, 2008)

SYNECDOCHE NEW YORK (Charlie Kaufman, USA, 2008)

CHANGELING (Clint Eastwood, USA, 2008)

ZIDANE: A 21ST CENTURY PORTRAIT (Douglas Gordon and Philippe Pareno, France, 2006)

LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (Tomas Alfredson, Sweden, 2008)
Seen in Rotterdam in January. Comments here.

FEAR(S) OF THE DARK (Charles Burns, Blutch, Marie Caillou, Pierre Di Sciullo, Lorenzo Mattotti & Richard McGuire, France, 2007)
Seen in Rotterdam in January.

STRANDED: I’VE COME FROM A PLANE THAT CRASHED ON THE MOUNTAINS (Gonzalo Arijon, France/Uruguay, 2008)

RACHEL GETTING MARRIED (Jonathan Demme, USA, 2008)
The boho muso wedding guests at Demme’s lo-fi shindig are all way too delighted by each other, to the point that Anne Hathaway’s acidic self-regard comes as a breath of fresh air. Alternately cringe-worthy (that dishwasher scene) and compelling (any scene with the much-missed Debra Winger), Rachel is another interesting detour in Demme’s eclectic career, but why does such a celebration of all-embracing cross-culturalism have such an all-white poster?

BALLAST (Lance Hammer, USA, 2008)
One of the year’s best. Comments to come.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY (Mike Leigh, UK, 2008)
Wonderful. Will be writing on it very soon.

WILD COMBINATION: A PORTRAIT OF ARTHUR RUSSELL (Matt Wolf, USA, 2008)

MOVING MIDWAY (Godfrey Cheshire, USA, 2007)

Vicki Cristina Barcelona

VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA (Woody Allen, USA, 2008)
Poor Rebecca Hall (whom I loved in Starter for Ten); she is pretty much the central character of Woody’s latest, and the best thing in it, and yet she doesn’t get a look in on the poster which is all about Penelope Scarlet Javier. (Faring even worse is Wire alumni Pablo Schreiber, brother of Liev, who gets what Dennis Miller once called the “expository eunuch” role as Vicky’s boyfriend of five minutes). I liked this a lot, though I’m not sure what it was I enjoyed because frankly I agree with most of Michael Atkinson’s dismissal of the thing. But it’s a pleasant way (and place) to spend some time, despite some annoyances (the narration that tells you what everyone is thinking or about to do; the stilted talk about the nature of love or the nature of artists) which I chose to indulge as Woodyisms rather than severe lapses of imagination. Compared to Scoop or Hollywood Ending this was like Casablanca (or should that be Ricky Ilsa Casablanca?) so be thankful for small mercies. Oh, one other thing that bugged me: while Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz are arguing in private, Bardem repeatedly insists “Speak English in this house!” (translation: “Speak English in this movie!”). There are few things more exciting than listening to Penelope Cruz spout invective in Spanish (those sibilants!) so I really wished he would shut up.

Pineapple Express

PINEAPPLE EXPRESS (David Gordon Green, USA, 2008)
Like Snow Angels, David Gordon Green’s second release of the year starts out with wit and charm and ends with dumb shenanigans involving shotguns. But DGG is of course by no means the author of Pineapple Express, simply a hired gun in the Apatow posse. Seth Rogen has still to wear out his welcome for me, so I loved this for over an hour, and any film reuniting half the Freaks of McKinley High is worth seeing, but the violent and stupid finale seems like something only a half-baked teenager could love.

Momma's Man

MOMMA’S MAN (Azazel Jacobs, USA, 2008)
One of the year’s best. Here’s what I said when I saw it in Rotterdam this February:
It’s no slight to say that this unusual, achingly moving film feels like a throwback. To me it has the timeless feel of a lost indie classic from a previous decade, a hidden gem like Jon Jost’s Bell Diamond or Jim McBride’s David Holtzman’s Diary. Not that it’s copying anything in particular; in fact, despite the fact that it’s made by the son of one of America’s great experimental filmmakers it also seems strangely sui generis, which is a rare thing these days in any medium. The Momma’s Man is a thirty-something schlub from L.A. who returns to his parents’ Tribeca apartment on a business trip and finds himself unable to go back home to his wife and child, at first out of a need for comfort, then out of apathy and later out of something less tangible and more disturbing. It doesn’t help that the apartment, a warren of furniture and knicknacks, feels like both a womb and a trap. Since this was the actual home that Azazel Jacobs was born and raised in, and the parents are played (simply and beautifully) by Ken and Flo Jacobs, the film has additional interest as a documentary of the environment out of which was born Tom Tom the Piper’s Son and Star Spangled to Death. Momma’s Man was the toast of Sundance so it’s sure to be playing at a theater near you one day soon.

Trouble the Water

TROUBLE THE WATER (Tia Lessin and Carl Deal, USA, 2008)
Hard to be impartial on this one but I’m pretty sure it’s one of the best docs of the year. See the trailer and then see the film.

A Girl Cut in Two

A GIRL CUT IN TWO (Claude Chabrol, France, 2007)
Promises more than it delivers, but it is still completely engaging for most of its two hours. Reminded me more of Match Point than of vintage Chabrol, but maybe Woody Allen was channeling Chabrol more than I realized at the time.

Man on Wire

MAN ON WIRE (James Marsh, USA/UK, 2008)
Superb. By happy coincidence I found myself watching this on August 7th, the 34th anniversary of Philippe Petit’s excellent adventure.

TRANSSIBERIAN (Brad Anderson, USA, 2008)
Great poster. Nice cinematography. Shame about the rest.

The Dark Knight

THE DARK KNIGHT (Christopher Nolan, USA, 2008
I have nothing much to add to the cacophony of opinion on this one, but that shot of Heath Ledger’s Joker in nurse-drag shuffling away from the exploding hospital is a shot for the ages.

Tell No-One

TELL NO ONE (Guillaume Canet, France, 2006)
The surprise arthouse hit of the summer. For some reason this knocked around for ages, despite being a huge hit in the UK a year ago, without any major American distributor picking it up. Music Box Films, out of Chicago, are now deservedly reaping the rewards. A solidly entertaining thriller, with superb actors, Tell No One has been described as a cross between The Fugitive and Vertigo. To be honest, it’s nine-tenths Fugitive and one-tenth Vertigo, but I think that’s the secret of its success.

Wanted and Desired

ROMAN POLANSKI: WANTED AND DESIRED (Marina Zenovich, USA/UK, 2008)
For me, the unlikely hero of this fascinating doc was the Mormon Robert Redford-lookalike prosecutor Roger Gunson, chosen to prosecute Polanski’s case, the joke had it, “because he was the only lawyer in the D.A.’s office who hadn’t had sex with an underage girl.” Gunson, who seems set up to be the villain of the piece, comes across as the only person with any real sense.
The Last Mistress

THE LAST MISTRESS (Catherine Breillat, France, 2007)
Seen on a screener in ’07. Those eyes, those lips…

CHRIS & DON: A LOVE STORY (Guido Santi & Tina Mascara, USA, 2007)
Seen on a screener in ’07.

My Winnipeg

MY WINNIPEG (Guy Maddin, Canada, 2007)

The Happening

THE HAPPENING (M. Night Shyamalan, USA, 2008)
So bad its good. Review here.

Encounters at the End of the World

ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD (Werner Herzog, USA, 2007)
Saw a screener of this in ’07. One of the best releases of this year.

Operation Filmmaker

OPERATION FILMMAKER (Nina Davenport, USA, 2007)
Saw this in Rotterdam 2007. A must see.

THE EDGE OF HEAVEN (Fatih Akin, Germany/Turkey, 2007)
Seen on a screener last year. Another Crash/Babel style melodrama of coincidences and chance encounters. I thought Head On was overrated and I feel the same way about this. Fatih Akin may have a great film in him but this isn’t it.

REPRISE

REPRISE (Joachim Trier, Norway, 2006)
Seen on a screener last year. Now finally in theaters, a full year after it played Sundance and New Directors. Some comments here

IRON MAN (Jon Favreau, USA, 2008)
Undeniably enjoyable and, I suppose, as good as any super-hero movie ever made, but I still felt as if I’d eaten junk when it was over.

UP THE YANGTZE

UP THE YANGTZE (Yung Chang, Canada, 2007)
One of the best documentaries of the year, even if I say so myself.

STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE

STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE (Errol Morris, USA, 2008)
Not top-notch Morris by any means. He makes a convincing case for the railroading of the foot soldiers at Abu Ghraib but by the end you feel his energies could have been better directed elsewhere.

STUFF AND DOUGH

STUFF AND DOUGH (Cristi Piui, Romania, 2001)
Given a belated theatrical release in the wake of the Romanian New Wave. An interesting little film but not a patch on Piui’s Mr. Lazarescu.

FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL

FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL (Nicholas Stoller, USA, 2008)
Disappointing, even for this Apatow apologist. A few more thoughts here.

The Visitor

THE VISITOR (Tom McCarthy, USA, 2007)
Review, of sorts, here.

JELLYFISH

JELLYFISH (Etgar Keret and Shira Geffen, Israel, 2007)
Seen on a screener last year.

FLIGHT OF THE RED BALLOON

FLIGHT OF THE RED BALLOON (Hou Hsiao-Hsien, France, 2007)
I’ve seen it twice now and it’s still sublime. More.

MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS

MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS (Wong Kar-Wai, USA, 2007)
Everything you’ve heard is true. More.

ALEXANDRA

ALEXANDRA (Alexander Sokurov, Russia, 2007)
Seen at NYFF 2007

BOARDING GATE (Olivier Assayas, France, 2007
Seen on DVD. Comments here.

LOVE SONGS (Christophe Honoré, France, 2007)
Seen on DVD.

SNOW ANGELS

SNOW ANGELS (David Gordon Green, USA, 2007)
Although David Gordon Green’s Snow Angels premiered over a year ago at Sundance 07, I had managed to stay oblivious enough so that I went in knowing absolutely nothing about it, which was a good thing. I loved the opening, which has a laid-back Michael Ritchie vibe, with its slow zooms and its scenes of a high school marching band torturing Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer. Though it becomes more conventional (the first half reminded me of another snowy small town ensemble piece, Ted Demme’s Beautiful Girls, a once guilty pleasure) and then regrettably melodramatic, the cast is wonderful (especially the underrated Sam Rockwell) and wonderfully eclectic (Amy Sedaris! Tom Noonan! Nicky Katt! Griffin Dunne! The best friend from Juno!).

PARANOID PARK

PARANOID PARK (Gus Van Sant, USA, 2007)
Seen at NYFF 2007

MARRIED LIFE

MARRIED LIFE (Ira Sachs, USA, 2007)
Seen at NYFF 2007

BLINDSIGHT

BLINDSIGHT (Lucy Walker, UK, 2006)
Seen at a screening in 2006

THE UNFORESEEN

THE UNFORESEEN (Laura Dunn, USA, 2007)
A rather strange and beautiful documentary that applies a Terrence Malick aesthetic (he’s an executive producer) to a story of urban conurbations and environmentalists.

THE DUCHESS OF LANGEAIS

THE DUCHESS OF LANGEAIS (Jacques Rivette, France, 2007)
A film I wish I loved more. Some comments here

IT’S A FREE WORLD

IT’S A FREE WORLD (Ken Loach, UK, 2007)
My two favorite recent Ken Loach films have both been shorts: his rambunctious contribution to the 2005 Olmi/Kiarostami/Loach trifecta Tickets and his wry valentine to the multiplex in last year’s Cannes collection Chacun son cinema. It’s a Free World, while very watchable, suffers from the worst of Loachian didacticism, with the plot bending and twisting to suit its theme rather than being allowed to breathe.

DIARY OF THE DEAD

DIARY OF THE DEAD (George Romero, USA, 2007)
A stone-cold disappointment. Something apocalyptic in me loves a good zombie movie but give me the remake of Dawn of the Dead, 28 Days Later (and even 28 Weeks), and of course Shaun of the Dead any day over Romero’s last two zombie resurrections. I know bad acting and stilted scripts are a staple of teen-in-peril horror movies and maybe Romero was just playing with that, but it was the pretensions to seriousness that really got under my skin. The not very novel idea that we’re all recording everything these days is undermined by the fact that all the other characters (all film students no less) are appalled by the fact that their friend is, well, recording everything. And the shocking idea that at the end we might not all be worth saving because some rednecks are seen killing zombies for sport is undermined by the fact that Romero has been doing that very thing for decades. (That said, the ending was the most striking moment in the film). One more thing: with this and Redacted and Cloverfield are people going to look back at 2007 and think it was the year the camcorder was invented?

CLOVERFIELD

CLOVERFIELD (Matt Reeves, USA, 2008)
[Caught up with on DVD]. Not a patch on Bong Joon-ho’s The Host, a far superior recent monster movie, but what I liked about Cloverfield was the way the monster was gradually revealed, built up in glimpses until that magnificent, poignant overhead reveal from the helicopter. Otherwise though, this is as dumb as bricks.

STILL LIFE

STILL LIFE (Jia Zhanke, China, 2006)
Seen in Rotterdam 2007 (albeit with Dutch subtitles).

4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS AND 2 DAYS

4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS AND 2 DAYS (Cristian Mungiu, Romania, 2007)
What numbskulls at the Academy decided this wasn’t worthy of the Best Foreign Film shortlist? Go figure. If I’d seen this in time it would definitely have made my 2007 Top Ten. What I love about this film and The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, among other things, is how beautifully and subtly they nail the passive-aggressiveness of authority figures.

WOMAN ON THE BEACH

WOMAN ON THE BEACH (Hong Sang Soo, S. Korea, 2006)
Seen at NYFF 2006

THE KILLING OF JOHN LENNON

THE KILLING OF JOHN LENNON (Andrew Piddington, UK, 2006)
Seen in Rotterdam 2007

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NEW RELEASES: KIDS SECTION

THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX (Sam Fell and Robert Stevenhagen, USA, 2008)

KUNG FU PANDA (Mark Osborne and John Stevenson, USA, 2008)

HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 3 (Kenny Ortega, USA, 2008)

An American Girl

KIT KITTREDGE: AN AMERICAN GIRL (Patricia Rozema, USA, 2008
Twenty years since the wonderful I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing, Patricia Rozema has become a director for hire, moving effortlessly from the thinking man’s porn of HBO’s Tell Me You Love Me to this flagship of the tween-queen American Girl empire. Saw it with my own American girls and nothing lately has made me feel older than seeing Chris O’Donnell playing a Dad (to the ubiquitous Abigail Breslin). The film itself—part whodunit, part Depression-era history lesson—wasn’t half bad.

Wall-E

WALL-E (Andrew Stanton, USA, 2008)
The first half is astounding, though even during those slow, melancholic, beautifully “photographed” (the great Roger Deakins is credited) opening scenes I found myself slightly regretting the Pixar/Disney will to cuteness. Of course it has to appeal to the little ones, and even then my four-year-old was noticeably bored. The second half on the space station feels like a completely different, and lesser film.

HORTON HEARS A WHO

HORTON HEARS A WHO! (Jimmy Hayward & Steve Martino, USA, 2008)
This unnecessarily busy film turns a perfect bedtime story into something more like Birth of a Nation. But the animation is beautifully fluid and I particularly liked the scene where Horton makes Andy Goldsworthy style edifices out of a sea of pink clover.

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UNRELEASED NEW FILMS
FOSTER CHILD (Brillante Mendoza, Philippines, 2007)
OVER HERE (Jon Jost, USA, 2007)
THE SKY, THE EARTH AND THE RAIN (Jose Luis Torres Leiva, Chile, 2008) [Review]
PLOY (Pen-ek Ratanaruang, Thailand, 2007) [Review]
THIS WORLD OF OURS (Nakajima Ryo, Japan, 2007)
CHOUGA (Darezhan Omirbaev, Kazakhstan, 2007) [Review]
RAZZLE DAZZLE: THE LOST WORLD (Ken Jacobs, USA, 2007)
CAPTAIN AHAB (Philippe Ramos, France, 2007)
TOUT EST PARDONNÉ (Mia Hansen-Love, France, 2007) [Review]
NIGHTWATCHING (Peter Greenaway, UK, 2007)
LAMB OF GOD (Lucia Cedron, Argentina, 2008)
CARGO 200 (Alexei Balabanov, Russia) [Review]
MANGE, CECI EST MON CORPS (Michelange Quay, Haiti/France)
FROZEN (Shivajee Chandrabhushan, India)
FOUR WOMEN (Adoor Kopalakrishnan, India) [Review]

UNRELEASED NEW FILMS (DOCUMENTARIES)
WAITING FOR HOCKNEY (Julie Checkoway, USA, 2008)
PRODIGAL SONS (Kimberly Reed, USA, 2008)
OF TIME AND THE CITY (Terence Davies, UK, 2008)
GUEST OF CINDY SHERMAN (Paul H-O and Tom Donahue, USA)
CHILDREN OF ALL AGES (Scott Galloway and Brent Pierson, USA)
LA VIE MODERNE (Raymond Depardon, France, 2008)
CASTING A GLANCE (James Benning, USA) [Review]
STAUB [DUST] (Hartmut Bitomsky, Germany)
WE WENT TO WONDERLAND (Gui Xiaolu, UK/China)
THE END (Nicola Collins, UK) [Review]
WHO’S AFRAID OF KATHY ACKER (Barbara Caspar, Austria)
THE REVUE (Sergei Loznitsa, Russia)
TEAK LEAVES AT THE TEMPLES (Garin Nugroho, Indonesia)
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2007 RELEASES CAUGHT UP WITH

MR. BEAN’S HOLIDAY (Steve Bendelack, UK, 2007)

BREAKING AND ENTERING (Anthony Minghella, UK, 2006)

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY (Julian Schnabel, USA, 2007)
I got the feeling from fellow cinephiles that, despite its NYFF appearance, this was a film it was wrong to like, that somehow Schnabel is not a real director worthy of our attention. But I had loved Basquiat (the most aesthetically restrained of his films) which none other than Olivier Assayas had turned me on to, and, when I finally got around to it, I loved this too. Definitely no aesthetic restraint here, but Schnabel is still a better director than he has any right to be.

300

300 (Zack Snyder, USA, 2006)
I woke up on the couch one night and caught this at the halfway mark on HBO HD and I was blown away. I thought I hadn’t seen a more visually striking film in eons and wondered why this film had been so dismissed. Watching the whole thing days later I realize why: its belicose rah-rahism and its turgid attempts at dramatic intrigue drag the whole endeavor down. But, at its best, 300 is stunning, with moments worthy of Jodorowsky and Guy Maddin.

THE BRAVE ONE

THE BRAVE ONE (Neil Jordan, USA, 2007)
I didn’t think I’d see a dumber New York movie than Cloverfield this year but this trumped it. I can’t really blame Neil Jordan as this is one of the few movies he’s directed that he didn’t write (the others being Interview with the Vampire and We’re No Angels, written by Anne Rice and David Mamet respectively) but, still, what was he thinking?

SEA MONSTERS

SEA MONSTERS: A PREHISTORIC ADVENTURE (Sean MacLeod Phillips, USA, 2007)
Saw this in Charlotte North Carolina. I’m a sucker for sea monsters, and even more so in Imax.

MANUFACTURING DISSENT

MANUFACTURING DISSENT (Rick Caine & Debbie Melnyk, Canada, 2007)
As if Sicko wasn’t enough to put me off Michael Moore this year, this poorly made but persuasive portrait of an ego-maniac really did the trick.

AT WORLD’S END

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD’S END (Gore Verbinski, USA, 2007)
A friend whose opinion I greatly respect steered me towards this film and while I hated it almost as much as the first POTC film (to the point where I fast-forwarded through much of it) he was right about one thing: the stunning dream sequence near the beginning with multiple Johnny Depps and endless white sand, reminiscent of the Czech Surrealists.

HELVETICA

HELVETICA (Gary Hustwit, UK, 2007)
Perhaps the best film I missed in theaters in 2007, this beautifully shot doc was mother’s milk to me as a graphic designer of course, but I think it would open anybody’s eyes.

BLADES OF GLORY

BLADES OF GLORY (Josh Gordon and Will Speck, USA, 2007)
On a wet Saturday afternoon on tv, what’s not to like?

BEOWULF

BEOWULF (Robert Zemeckis, USA, 2007)
The kind of film I’m curious enough about to check out on DVD but am never pleasantly surprised by. I love Ray Winstone but his casting in this made no sense. I am however looking forward to the motion-capture version of Nil By Mouth.

COLOSSAL YOUTH

COLOSSAL YOUTH (Pedro Costa, Portugal, 2006)
Seen at MoMA. Thoughts here.

SICKO

SICKO (Michael Moore, USA, 2007)
I’ve always been a Michael Moore defender, but this lazily made exposé is by far the weakest of his films. When I heard he was muck-raking the American healthcare system I had high hopes, but this tells us nothing we didn’t know, and his fudging of facts is more blatant than ever.

BLACK BOOK

BLACK BOOK (Paul Verhoeven, Netherlands, 2006)
I had thought this was going to be a stodgy, plodding Sony Classics period piece, but, in true Verhoeven style, it is lean and fast, leaping from one catastrophe to another like the giant bugs of Starship Troopers. Sadly it degenerates by the end into a bad season of 24. Carice van Houten, however, is sublime.

STRANGE CULTURE

STRANGE CULTURE (Lynn Hershman-Leeson, USA, 2007)

OFFSIDE

OFFSIDE (Jafar Panahi, Iran, 2006)
A gem. Some comments here

REDACTED

REDACTED (Brian De Palma, USA, 2007)
Saw this in Rotterdam. As a longtime De Palma fan I didn’t want to believe what I’d heard, but this was pretty weak stuff.

PARIS JE T’AIME

PARIS, JE T’AIME (Various directors, France, 2006)

3.10 TO YUMA

3:10 TO YUMA (James Mangold, USA, 2007)

WATER HORSE

THE WATER HORSE (Jay Russell, USA/UK, 2007)

PERSEPOLIS

PERSEPOLIS (Vincent Paronnaud & Marjane Satrapi, France, 2007)

RESCUE DAWN

RESCUE DAWN (Werner Herzog, USA, 2006)
Herzog should stick to documentaries, the genre in which he has produced his finest work over the past two decades. This Hollywoodization of his doc Little Dieter Learns to Fly is watchable but could have been directed by any hack. And the triumphant ending is about as unHerzogian as you can imagine: a world away from Stroszek’s dancing chicken.

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RECENT-ISH FILMS CAUGHT UP WITH

LEMONY SNICKET’S A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS (Brad Silberling, USA, 2004)

THE TULSE LUPER SUITCASES, PART 1: THE MOAB STORY (Peter Greenaway, UK, 2003)

BREAKFAST ON PLUTO (Neil Jordan, Ireland, 2005)

THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP

THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP (Michel Gondry, France, 2006)
Caught this on tv, a couple of years late, and unexpectedly adored it. I am no fan of whimsy and this walks a thin line between charming and fey, but something about its low-fi combination of Czech modernism and kids TV D.I.Y aesthetic (Black Peter meets Blue Peter maybe?) won me over. It’s a great love story and a great Paris movie too.

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REVIVALS ON SCREEN

NAUSICAA

NAUSICAA (Hayao Miyazaki, Japan, 1984)
Seen at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s “Green Screen” eco-screening.

FRANCISCA

FRANCISCA (Manoel de Oliveira, Portugal, 1981)
Seen at BAM’s Oliveira retrospective. Some comments here

SERIE NOIR

SERIE NOIRE (Alain Corneau, France, 1979)
Seen in Film Forum’s “French Crime Wave” series. Like Mike Leigh’s Naked, this is a masterpiece of urban despair that takes place in dingy living rooms with bad wallpaper and revolves around one motor-mouthed tour-de-force of a lead performance. The great Patrick Deweare is not so well known in the US—except for co-starring with Gerard Depardieu in Bertrand Blier’s Going Places and Get Out Your Hankerchiefs—but in France he is their James Dean, one of their brightest stars and most inventive actors who died too young (he committed suicide in 1982, at the age of 35, three years after making Série Noire). An air of tragedy hangs over this film, since co-star Marie Trintignant, 16 at the time, also died violently, after a fight with her rock star boyfriend in 2003). As much as I liked Série Noire I feel that half of it was lost on me since, though adapted from a Jim Thompson novel, the dialogue is written by Oulipian genius Georges Perec (he who wrote a 300 page novel without ever using the lettter “e”) and is rich in slang. Watching Naked with subtitles would probably be a similarly diminished experience.

THE TOUCH

THE TOUCH (Ingmar Bergman, Sweden, 1971)
Seen in BAM’s Elliott Gould retrospective.

The Exiles

THE EXILES (Kent Mackenzie, USA, 1961)

Last Year at Marienbad

LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD (Alain Resnais, France, 1961)
Some comments here

VIOLENT SATURDAY

VIOLENT SATURDAY (Richard Fleischer, USA, 1955)
A revelation. One of the best films I’ve seen all year.

Day of Wrath

DAY OF WRATH (Carl Th. Dreyer, Denmark, 1943)
Some comments here.

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OLD FILMS SEEN ON DVD/TV

ALIVE (Frank Marshall, USA, 1993)

CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD

CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD (Randa Haines, USA, 1986)
A guilty pleasure when I saw it twenty years ago. Hasn’t aged well but it has its moments.

FOOTLOOSE (Herbert Ross, USA, 1984)

RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK

RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (Stephen Spielberg, USA, 1981)
I never cared much for the Indiana Jones films back in the day but felt compelled to re-watch Raiders of the Lost Ark again for obvious reasons. Compared to today’s blockbusters it seems positively quaint: from its TV-looking credits to its under-two-hour running time to its special effects, so state-of-the-art back then, now as clunky-looking as old Flash Gordon serials.

CARBON COPY

CARBON COPY (Michael Schultz, USA, 1981)
After my recent discovery of this poster I just had to check out the DVD. Directed by Michael Schultz, an African-American director who had already made Cooley High, Car Wash and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, this film was both less offensive (in its heart-warming message of acceptance) and more so (in its off-hand pre-p.c. outrages) than its ad campaign might lead you to expect.

TAXI DRIVER (Martin Scorsese, USA, 1976)

THE BAD NEWS BEARS

THE BAD NEWS BEARS (Michael Ritchie, USA, 1976)
Here’s that Michael Ritchie vibe I was talking about, though, good as this is, I like it even more in Smile.

BOB & CAROL & TED & ALICE(Paul Mazursky, USA, 1969)
I wanted to catch this in the Elliott Gould retro but ended up Netflixing it. Gould is wonderful and the scene in which he tries to get Dyan Cannon to sleep with him is pure Curb Your Enthusiasm. Loved the Burt Bacharach scored ending too.

I WAS BORN, BUT...

I WAS BORN, BUT… (Yasujiro Ozu, Japan, 1932)

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