gems of march-april

One From the Heart (Coppola, 1982): coppola’s best film or coppola’s best film? man what kinda glorious maximal vibe was he on when he did this? and it’s not just in the aesthetics, though those are all-time worthy, but also in the dialogue, the structure of the film. it’s obviously a big homage to the zaniness of technicolor musicals, but even the bizarre decisions the characters make particularly at the end is fully in that mold – a lesser director could have succumbed to revisionism over maximalism.

Nuestro Tiempo (Reygadas, 2018): a film i had been looking forward to for quite some time now, reygadas delivers with what i believe to be his 2nd greatest film (behind the towering Battle in Heaven). i love when great directors are just able to make free-form films that can indulge in their runtime to this degree; i surely could have watched another 3 or 6 hours of a film of this caliber, and reygadas’ eye for great shots and harsh drama has never been more particular. slowly solidifying himself in a pantheon of sorts.

Last Chants for a Slow Dance (Jost, 1977): a jost film to the core, and while it doesn’t hit as hard as a few other films i would describe that way, it’s still magical filmmaking; the stuff amateurs attempt and get points for trying. i think his option to go for a less sympathetic protagonist here is an interesting one, and despite its working class roots, i’m not sure that the antihero approach is as good as something like Bell Diamond. great stuff regardless.

Misery Loves Company (Brown, 1993): i think what brown achieves here is similar to what brakhage went for in many of his hybrid pieces. while brakhage’s painted work is kinda unparalleled in my eyes, he sort of could struggle at times like this, outside of like Dog Star Man or Spring Cycle, but brown excels. i haven’t seen anything else from the director but i think his sense of aesthetics and rhythm are both great and i want to check out more.

Odds Against Tomorrow (Wise, 1959): i’ve generally perceived wise to be a competent workman director and this is a general reaffirmation of that belief. he does late noir (which is where noir could get particularly interesting as it ventured into fusion areas), plays it up with some racial commentary, and lets it play out with his usual excellent pacing. great looking stuff especially at the end too.

The Diary of an Unknown Soldier (Watkins, 1959): watkins does eisenstein, maybe better than eisenstein. another “student film you wish you made” type deal, almost pathetically simple concept pulled off in a style that hardly draws attention to itself yet remains compelling the whole time.

It has to be lived once and dreamed twice (Kohlberger, 2019): i wanna rewatch this a couple more times to really absorb what sort of primordial soup it’s dishing out to me, but my semi-immediate thoughts here are that it’s got an aesthetic rhythm that many experimentalists can only dream to achieve and that the writing is great but not quite as great as some make it out to be. if i ever screen Wax, i’ll screen this first.

The Swimmer (Perry, 1968): this was, imo, a really bad time for american cinema because it was trying to play catch up with the rest of the world and transitioning from the classic era to the modern era is never quite easy unless you’re godard but perry makes this beautiful, very visceral/physical feeling work that makes me wonder sometimes. great thing about this one is how it subverts even its own structure, playing around with its episodic ways that it lays out within the preliminary minutes. the direct and biting social commentary is something that i think movies could have used more of and can still do good with today.

Project X (Moltke & Poitras, 2016): speaking of direct biting social commentary, this /x/-core short doc definitely has that. it’s like 10 minutes so just watch it instead of reading me talk about it.

Rise and Fall of a Small Film Company (Godard, 1986): though technically every day i get nearer and nearer to running out of good godard movies, it seems like with every few new ones that i see from him, that endpoint gets further and further away. minor in every sense of the word, this mid 80s production has an almost staggering beauty that i think he attempted in Passion that captures this sort of artistic, economic, and emotional hopelessness that can only come in the eyes of working class people. for that alone, it’s worth checking out for godard enthusiasts.

I Am Keiko (Sono, 1997): wish that every great director would do 1 structuralist film and 1 slasher film. i’m sure sono’s done the latter at some point, but i wouldn’t have pegged him as the structuralist type. the product remains as playful as his other works and as compelling as the decent ones, pretty comfy watch if you’ve got an hour and want to check out a major director.

Kamikaze Taxi (Harada, 1995): almost reminiscent of The Sunchaser as far as plotting goes, harada’s 3 hour yakuza flick is equal parts fun, meditative, and accomplished as a genre outing. really can’t believe that this is so great at doing so many things that directors so often stumble to achieve, but this harada dude (who i hadn’t heard of previously) manages in flying colors. something that feels like a comfort film in the making.

The Element of Crime (von Trier, 1984): this is the I Know Who Killed Me of lars’ filmo because it’s like 100 movies i know put together but it’s totally a unique thing by the end of it. beautiful to behold and i didn’t even know he had a visual palette this well refined (which explains The Kingdom by extension).

Lady Terminator (Djalil, 1989): a Terminator ripoff that goes into psychosexual uturns and campier dialogue, in a film that amounts to being a glorious construction of genre, trash, lo-fi greatness. where so many vinegar syndrome core flicks can falter in their technical inadequacies or poor editing decisions, this one revels, spitting out the bone of course. it’s what the movies are all about sometimes.

Long Day’s Journey Into Night (Gan, 2018): i’m a huge sucker for anything 3d that isn’t a corporate smorgasbord, so obviously i have to love this. this is sort of my form of escapist entertainment; high art, totally trashy meta-noir flick with a bunch of flashy long takes and an extended 3d sequence, all with the appropriate slow pacing and half-turalist dialogue that i’ve come to find comfort in. see it in 3d if you can.

Demons (Matsumoto, 1971): completely unlike his other joint i’ve seen, this is a rather straightforward samurai tale with few stylistic flourishes. this minimalism is what allows matsumoto to bring great effect to when those touches do reveal themselves. early on there is some double-play with imagination, and later on, well, there’s some crazy stuff that sits up there with some of the best cinema i’ve seen all year. wish he did more features.

Keep That Dream Burning (Kohlberger, 2017): makino-lite, but makino-lite is pretty good by my standards.

Duel to the Death (Siu-Tung, 1983): one of those wuxia films that’s able to deftly combine the actual reasons why we watch wuxia films and the reasons that we watch other films, basically something that people who misunderstand genre films often want to make and suck at. works here, though; grueling meditation on nationalism and honor ends up being a work about clout chasing through the ages. recommended if you want to broaden your genre horizons.

Cinema Steve (Buck, 2019): straddles a fine line between self parody and parody, between malicious tomfoolery and harmless satire. makes me excited for what comes next, but hoping this character can die in this great film.

Deafula (Wolf, 1975): after all the dracula movies i’ve seen, it’s the one by the guy who remakes it in sign language to the same style as Manos: The Hands of Fate that sticks with me? crazy stuff, but the film is unironically pretty cool. there’s some eerie uses of shadows and the characters all seem like they’re out of franco movies. last half has some fun imagery and setpieces; surprisingly comfy all in all.

The Zero Years (Nikolaidas, 2005): another surprisingly comfy film, this time about a sex dungeon. yeah. check it out.

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