gems of may and june

was kinda busy at the end of last month so here we are. mostly newer stuff!

Bitter Lake (Curtis, 2015) is my second feature-length curtis outing, and although its ambitions are surely short from the theory-of-everything scope of Hypernormalisation, it perhaps serves as a better pastiche of more direct essay film tactics, complete with coherent theses and beautiful archival footage/soundtrack combos. curtis has already with these two films made himself interesting enough to me to want to continue seeking out his work whenever i get bored with narratives in some regard.

Retribution (Kurosawa, 2006), while it doesn’t give me the body high that Pulse does by any means, has some distinct traces of that one’s emptiness and godless landscapes. i really enjoy when kurosawa can effectively communicate these guilty-feeling stories, and while he falls short in many of his outings, i think this one is one of the more successful ones.

Last Days in a Lonely Place (Solomon, 2007) and Rehearsals for Retirement (Solomon, 2007) are two shorts that take place within the GTA universe, mostly focused on landscapes or actionless roaming. alongside the music, and bereft of a lot of tryhard-y aesthetic choices that i believe younger filmmakers would resort to, they become moving mini-monologues, elegies to an open-worldness that was new to an old director.

Rose Gold (Cwynar, 2017) is the closest thing i’ve seen to successfully replicating mid 60s godard, which is a case of quantity over quality unfortunately so maybe not the highest praise, but it’s a fun outing that is equal parts decadence and light commentary, one that becomes touching by the time its brisk runtime has concluded.

Teenage Hooker Became Killing Machine in Daehakroh (Ki-woong, 2000) is, like, a dream SOV film. runs no longer than 61 minutes, with 10 of those inexplicably being credits. great bad SFX. overloaded with cheese in the most tasteful way – there’s a bit towards the end that’s one of the best examples of comic timing i’ve seen in any film, let alone some sort of genre excess as this creation. would like to see more, but this definitely feels like something you make and declare it your masterpiece.

The Forest for the Trees (Ade, 2003) reminded me of 90s era von trier in many ways, a kind of ode to when these depressing germanic arthouse flicks weren’t quite as doused in self-seriousness and allowed themselves to succeed as comedic when they dared to. anywho, the film itself is great – ade’s progression from this to Erdmann makes me question the middleman in more ways than one, but it’s a mark of consistency no doubt that she’s able to create such distinct works that are, at the end of the day, relatively simple dramedies. i dig the style on this one more, anyways.

Forevermore: Biography of a Leach Lord (Saks, 1989) is a somewhat difficult to describe film that has traces of essay film ambitions, conspiracy theory tones, and indie scifi aesthetic goals. i don’t entirely remember enough about it to really give much of an opinion on how it addresses and renders those divergent influences, but anytime a work attempts that sort of a fusion, it’s worth checking out for me.

Introduction to the End of an Argument (Salloum & Suleiman, 1990) would make a great double viewing with some adam curtis flick, or something like Notre musique if that’s more your vibe. there’s a review that says that it isn’t super deep or anything (probably true) but it is well made (very true), and that’s about all i can really ask for sometimes. not many deep films out there. free palestine and all that.

Welcome to New York (Ferrara, 2014) is a shocking, gruesome affair from one of the all-time greats in the medium. the bitterness in it towards its protagonist and the fervor it retains throughout its entire two hour runtime is nothing short of incendiary, a mammoth achievement that lesser directors often ham up or underplay at critical times. basically: if The Wolf of Wall Street was good, Welcome to New York is a masterpiece.

1857 (Fool’s Gold) (Elder, 1981) continues me on my goal to complete The Book of All the Dead with a bang; just as i was beginning to lose faith in elder’s capabilities past his now increasingly insurmountable Lamentations, along comes this peculiar short film to raise my expectations again. the best way i can describe it? Leviathan with a penchant for written poetry and set theory. again, the most intuitive combinations are rarely the best, as are the least intuitive, but at least those least intuitive ones have the advent of persistent interest behind them.

Candyman (Rose, 1992) is a solid with a capital ‘s’ horror film elevated to great with a lowercase ‘g’ in large part due to the lovely score by the ever-inconsistent glass, whose laziness ended up working out quite well here. while it unfortunately lacks anything that i would really call a standout, it’s not a must see or anything, it’s an effective horror that rarely lets up and explores some cool thematic ground and the direction is generally solid.

The Seasons (Makino, 2008) shows some of makino’s palette range that i wasn’t quite aware that he had even dabbled in (though the most that any of us have seen is like 1/4th of his filmography so i guess it’s good to avoid hasty conclusions) and i think that his textures are up to snuff with his masterpieces here, but it isn’t -quite- on that same level as his greatest work, perhaps because it lacks that aural haymaker that Still in Cosmos has, or the aesthetic progressiveness that 2012 oozes. but as a primer for what else he could do (and has matched several times over), it gets me excited for what makino we’ll get next online (Generator, anyone?).

Rangeela (Varma, 1995) is one of the few bollywood joints i’ve checked so far in my 22 years, but like the others it’s encouraged me to see more. adore the colors and the music in this, which was expected based on the raves i saw, but i more was moved by the romance. it’s a simple idea – make the romance based on understanding characters that have believable character flaws and reconciliations, but it’s effectiveness exponentiates when placed in this sort of kaleidoscope.

Ali (Mann, 2001) should have been about ten, maybe 20 times, longer. as it stands, we get an all-too-brisk rise-fall-kind-of-rise biopic about a figure more complicated than this complex film can hope to address, though mann fills in the gaps with some iconic fight choreography and the film has traces of the digital heaven he would go on to perfect.

Unhinged (Gronquist, 1982) falls into an ever-increasing list of “horror movies that bring into question why they exist at all,” and luckily this one’s one of the good ones. some believable drama and acting, every synthesizer that i have on FL studio, and some bouts into absolutely terribly choreographed gore is a combination i don’t think i could ever expect, and i think i’ve made it clear how much of a soft spot i have for these sorts of uncanny juxtapositions.

The Tulse Luper Suitcases, Part 2: Vaux to the Sea (Greenaway, 2004) excites me more than the first film in the trilogy for a pretty simple reason: with the possible exception of The Falls (i say “possible” because that film is so ridiculously exhaustive not exhausting, and bereft of head-scratching distancing effects) greenaway is a filmmaker whose moments of purely emotional drama elevate the baroque tales that his films display. the best moments of Prospero’s Books, A Zed and Two Noughts, and, as we see, the first two Tulse Luper films, are those wherein the overboard narrative-obfuscation is allowed to be reeled back to the ship a bit. this has more reeling than part 1, so it’s more to my tastes.

Prototype (Williams, 2017) is some of the most exciting new cinema i’ve seen in ages. obviously, the 3d is a big aspect, but even beyond that, this attempt to utilize found footage and archival media as a plot device in the form of an experimental science fiction essay film is just such a cool concept and i believe that this is already among the best in the small “noise film” category (think things like Night Awake, projects that ordinarily are more successful outside of feature length territory). along with King of New York, the only new masterpiece i saw in these two months.

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