august new discoveries

The Forgotten Colours of Dreams (Clyde, 2018): a delirious VHS trip into a purgatory of sorts, something that is so dedicated to its aura and mood yet retains high intellectual pursuits in the realm of a bergman or something. bergman is obviously the closest point of relevance as far as plots go with Seventh Seal but i think clyde retains many of his more spiritual ambitions as well.

Twice a Man (Markopoulos, 1963): this film is one of the miracles of the world. i love how repression and guilt are portrayed here; the real-world damaging psychological impact of disobedience and the lost hope of coming out. i think the editing style is really similar to a lot of brakhage shorts, but this one has a narrative and feels like you keep trying to remember that day, play it over and over, find some solace. great stuff.

Xtro (Davenport, 1982): it reminds me of some hybrid between roeg and carpenter, taking their strong elements of horror and misery. there is some flat out iconic imagery in here, as a genre film i think it’s honestly pretty close to unparalleled status – surely up there with the other greats of its time. would loved to have seen a hooper rendition on this story.

The Baron (Pera, 2011): i think this might be the most vampirey movie out there. i’m a huge proponent of vampire films as i think there is such a piercing cinematic appeal to them in so many ways, be it vulgar or transcendent (or both – see The Addiction), and this one goes so fully in the mood of vampires that i appreciate it for this alone. also goat ending.

At the First Breath of Wind (Piavoli, 2002): i don’t have much to say for this one. i loved the shots and how meditative it was; a bit of a “breather” film if you will. the setting and pacing kind of reminded me of La cienaga although with much less social nuance.

After Last Season (Region, 2009): singular. there is nothing out there quite like this. when your two biggest relatives are Inland Empire and Wax, you know you’re doing something right. confounding film, love the look, the structure, the tone, everything about this strange little picture. will need to rewatch it again and again.

Prospero’s Books (Greenaway, 1991): yeah i have no idea what this thing is about or anything but it’s beautiful so

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july films

Pacific Angels (Reese, 2018) – the sharpest film i’ve seen out of the letterboxd new wave, using most definitions of it that is. a gorgeous pastiche of different textures and ideas, none of them attaining cohesion but all of them concocting some unique blend that is only possible in this no budget sphere. the best film of the year was made for, what, a couple thousand?

Tongues Untied (Riggs, 1989) – in many parts it’s the formal to Paris is Burning‘s pathos. well, i mean that’s blatantly an oversimplification at best and a lie at worst, but that’s what i’m going with. love the poems in this, the rhythm, there’s something that reminds me of eisenstein in both the treatment of homosexuality and also the beat of the editing that pulsates through this curious film.

Borderline (Macpherson, 1930) – honestly man this film is way too ahead of its time. in race relations, narrative experimentation, and rhythm. it’s like trying to be a bunch of different sorts of film that still weren’t even perfected by 1930 and at the end of the day it falls short of its mammoth ambitions, but still it’s pretty insane that something like this even exists at all, let alone a relic from almost 90 years ago.

2012 (Makino, 2013) – i would honestly pick every makino short from cerulean spectacles volume 2 here, which includes Inter View, Tranquil, The Low Storm, and Ghost of OT301, but this is the zenith of em. this honestly kinda changed the way that i thought film was possible, stretches the notion of what 3d can do as an aural mechanic. adore this filmmaker and wish i could see more of his work.

‘R Xmas (Ferrara, 2001) – this has that tried and true wonky ferrara structure, and i think it’s so all over the place that i can’t tell what messages are just there by coincidence or by pure willpower but at the end of the day man this is a drug movie done great, twists and turns all over that can only happen in film and i love that lead and the look and whatever he was trying to do with that stupid ending.

Sanguivorous (Yoshimoto, 2011) – vampire films are great because they pretty much all revolve around similar themes and motifs but there’s so much you can stylistically vary with them that they’re always gonna be fresh, kind of like the opposite of westerns. what we get here is an abstract, hazy BW journey into… well something related to vampires i would guess. being able to deduce what’s occurring is akin to understanding the specifics of a tscherkassky short and the pleasures are similar as well.

Night Moves (Reichardt, 2013) – i think that this material and the pacing of it is so innately great that even if an untalented director made it, it would still probably at least be pretty good, but reichardt’s working with some strong imagery and cuts that other directors would probably stumble around in some way. i think there’s something missing to it to give it that extra oomph but i’m not sure what exactly. still, incredible stuff.

Ere erera baleibu izik subua aruaren (Sistiaga, 1970) – a texture animation film, similar to brakhage but with a more layered quality that only some of his later work would achieve, that ends up being some of the best abstract work i’ve seen in ages. psychedelia in film format that ultimately you either succumb to or tell me that i’m looking at literal chickenscratch & to which i’d be like yea.

I Know Who Killed Me (Silvertson, 2007) – a kajillion things goin on at once, but also throughout the entire film. extremely coherent narrative-wise, the formal elements and the magical twists and synthesis of so many genres, times, images, and even songs is done to a frame perfect precision. gorgeous to look at and there’s an almost spiritual catharsis to the ending. somehow among the best films i’ve seen in a while, my pick along with 2012 for the best i saw this month.

gems of june

Some Came Running (Minnelli, 1958) – it’s weird that i’ve never been big on minnelli when he does musicals, but i’ve adored the two dramas of his i’ve seen. but to be fair, the aspects in the musicals i liked – particularly Meet Me in St. Louis – were the dramatic moments. this feels like the end of the world, it’s collapsing in the face of realized idealism. this is an old man’s film.

Mountain in Shadow (Patino, 2012) – i can’t believeee there are even landscape shots that look this nice. a great one for projecting ambient style in the background somewhere.

Running Scared (Kramer, 2006) – it’s a wonderful genre gem that has a perfect balance of style for the sake of bravado, bonkers social commentary, some chilling lynchian subplots, all wrapped up in a totally nonsensical twist and a feel-good ending for the sake of it if only to avoid senseless nihilism. one of the best of its year.

Aaeon (Razutis, 1971) – i kinda think obvious brakhage riffing was a millennial invention but it seems the only thing we’ve contributed is the decline of country clubs. anywho, this one – like every other brakhage work – takes some of his abstract imagery and tries to personify and define it more, which brakhage usually restrained from doing (certain notable exceptions – Spring Cycle comes to mind). but it has great colors and cool themes and it doesn’t run long, so i like it a lot.

Todo Todo Terros (Torres, 2006) – extremely reminiscent of 88:88 though it trades thematic clarity for narrative in a sense, but it’s still super disattached from itself. not as much AV trickery a la late godard, feels more personal in some ways. the first torres i’ve seen and i’m hungry for more of this interpersonal filmmaking. inconsistent, but high highs.

In the Shadow of the Blue Rascal (Clementi, 1986) – i remember this movie about as well as any under-the-influence experience i can recall, and i remember the movie feeling akin to that as well. unique movie on the whole – watch it with Eggshells sometime.

Scarlet Diva (Argento, 2000) – it’s kind of a standard mold that it’s working with – rebirth thru hedonism, the limelight life, champagne wishes, portrait of the artist as a tortured soul stuff. but argento’s voice is loud and reflective – she neither surgarcoats the horrors she experiences nor her complacency in them. and you all already KNOW i’m on my lofi digital shiz tho.

I Come with the Rain (Hung, 2009) – well this is an odd one. it’s this mix between Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning and, of all things, Zerkalo. changes forward and backwards in time while retaining this chilling atmosphere that’s completely a genre film if you play it at a normal pace. i want to see some more of hung’s stuff, wonder if it’s all as wacky as this. also notable for the only context where radiohead is this good.

Mary (Ferrara, 2005) – ferrara’s got no minor works (thanx richie). super weird formally, i love its aesthetics and how much spiritualism it tries to both criticize, examine, and embrace. i think some aspects of it are too much in one of those directions, but it’s a remarkably lean piece of filmmaking that is, by the end, cathartic.

Ready Player One

for the first time in my life, i’ve been paid to watch and review a movie. this has also been the first time i’ve asked, perhaps there’s a correlation there. as it turns out, this has also been a major artistic restriction; there are so many one-liners i could boil this atrocity down to, but instead i have to go more in-depth with my vitriol it seems. one in particular that i liked, and one that i truly believes sums up the thesis of this film, is as follows: “you know all those other movies we tried to leave in our childhood where the evil villain says to the hero ‘we’re not so different, you and i?’ well this is the one movie where this would be actually true and the film is plenty cheesy and reductive so why didn’t they at least give me that one?”

seriously, one of the biggest issues with this film isn’t its political stupidity but its lack of ideological narrative in a film whose entire premise is about political power and ideologies. what is wade’s desire? what is he like? well, we don’t really know, other than being a super nerd who everyone both irl and ioasis would probably mock for being as such, which in itself is kinda surprising. what are his goals if he gets the egg? well, he certainly liked the CEO changing the schools to be from john hughes movies (which, if the shining sequences are anything to go by, should already exist within some simulation, and if not, it’s not like it would be that difficult to do…) but surely, wade’s got more ideas than MORE 80s references, right?

of course he does. he wants to live in a big mansion, and to not worry about money anymore. while it’s understandable for a teen living in poverty (although, for someone who’s impoverished, even pre-key finding he doesn’t seem to have any of the struggles that impoverished people that i know have) to want to escape that, it seems to be about where his happiness begins and ends. it’s all a game, and he wants to win, and get rewarded. that’s how it should work; that’s how everyone in this movie preaches that it will work.

another rejected one-liner with this movie is that nolan sorrento frequently seems like a stand-in for spielberg himself. nolan poses as being genuinely interested in the subject material (such as him trying to negotiate with wade, and then later saying he doesn’t care about oasis at all as far as his experiences go), just as spielberg appears to be pretentiously touching upon a culture which he seems to be completely isolated from. knowing what a walkthrough is and mis-defining what an easter egg is aren’t really going to cut it in that regard. i’m not going to say it’s a sort of cultural appropriation or anything like that, but this is definitely poseur material – and unlike a film like Gamer which is also just as wildly inaccurate, this one appears to take itself substantially more seriously as an adaptation to this world.

but what, pray tell, is cline or spielberg trying to say? like i said, wade and nolan really aren’t that different. the end of the movie is wade learning to care less about the oasis and to instead revel in his riches while he does nothing for the working class, which… i mean, is what nolan wanted all along. both of their capitalist pursuits have similar end-results, which i mean, most capitalist pursuits do i guess. this is a pretty typical liberal narrative though so i can’t single it out too much i guess. in fact, while watching this i was reminded of Jurassic World’s narrative, starting out as a film making fun of the dumb masses for wanting to see genetically modified dinosaurs before subsequently abandoning that idea entirely to show us genetically modified dinosaurs. also, i’ll throw out here that wade’s pursuits aren’t any different than his villainous step-uncle or whatever; the key difference being that wade is a REAL g4m3r and his uncle is just an ol’ b055man69, or, in other terms, wade happens to be good at a video game that his uncle isn’t, though they make the same sacrifices for their obsessions. as someone who is actually kind of decent at a video game, this is preposterous thinking.

yet another silly one-liner i would have left could have been “wow thanks spielberg for interrupting the one good 80s song in the whole movie” when blue monday cuts to stayin alive. i wasn’t really considering it before, but i think this film’s editing is too erratic for it to not have happened at least a couple of times. the overlapping of STUFF happening is done in the worst of ways; while maximalist vulgar auteurism is all about overwhelming excitement and sloppy content, this seems like polished consumerism to the highest degree. the slew of references, from what i’m aware of from the book, are somehow lessened here but are no less cringeworthy every time they occur; this is on top of spielberg’s typically horrible snappy screenplays, to have me audibly groaning to my fellow audience members more than, and this is no exaggeration, at least the last 100 movies i’ve seen combined.

i previously mentioned how this film’s maximalism feels way too polished to be messy, but i mean there’s a lot of ways that this falls short of most of the great stuff out of that canon. i’ll again reference Gamer, which i don’t even really like that much, and admire its onslaught of colors (which are genuinely mismatched to hell and back) and its abandonment of finer detail or heavy explanations. in RPO, instead what we get are a lot of half-explanations to, what are more likely, very complex ideas (who is a level 99 wizard? if TJ miller’s character already is one, then why even bring it up at all? if H dies, do her possessions also disappear? how often do the races in the first section of the film happen? why are there only a few dozen people in them, if oasis is a world-wide game with billions of people competing for billions of dollars? if getting killed means you lose the keys, then why don’t the sixers try past their first assassination attempt to kill the frequently-undisguised-despite-art3mis-mentioning-it-so-there-can-be-a-superman-reference high fivers? on that note, why doesn’t anyone? if there are “cameras” in a lot of places in this world, why were there none in any of the races where the high five won?). i understand that plots aren’t always that important in all-out genre pics like this, but i mean, at what point can you call something out which is supposed to have real meaning(tm) on its huge sum of logical ineptitude? as inaccurate and hokey as things like Resident Evil: Retribution and Crank are, i never get the feeling that they’re anything but anarchic genre pictures which wholly embrace their zaniness, as opposed to far more self-serious works like this or The Dark Knight Rises.

so if this film makes no sense in what it’s trying to say, has no idea what it’s about, and compromises whatever maximalist pleasures one can get out of it by simply trying to be an actual dramatic venture on top of its sci-fi ambitions, then surely it’s got to have some nice aesthetics, right? well, as you all know, this is pretty subjective. there are some genuinely cool setpieces in this film, but ultimately its structure doesn’t allow these to transcend any of them: this is pretty much a superhero movie in every sense of its beats and rhythm, fit with the big battle conclusion thingy where civilians ‘die’ so that the rich (in oasis) gifted hero can become more rich and even more gifted. as such, this is where things like the first race scenes and the end battle ones – competent action directing on its own – really start to suffer. this film is about as formally experimental as Captain America: CIvil War, and as such, any thrills that the action scenes produce are ultimately left to be discarded at the risk of ruining the buildup for the next one.

oh, and on the whole deaths thing: can we talk about how two confirmed people, and multiple unnamed others, died in a terrorist attack, which then goes unmentioned for the remainder of the film? wade wakes up in the care of samantha, where he flirts with her a little bit and they talk about more nerd culture or something, and they’re quickly back on the hunt with no explanation or catharsis. it’s one thing to call the film out on wade’s lack of care for other people, but it’s another thing when the film seems to consciously feel similarly. wade’s call to action of the masses to go to doom island or planet or whatever and risk losing their virtual lives felt almost laughable by this point considering how nobody in the film seems to care about the actual lives lost.

i recently read a number of summary posts on the book, because i already don’t read books very much and i wasn’t about to change that with this one, so i don’t feel the huge need to bring up the things that are more or less unchanged from their in terms of their negative qualities (like how grating the pop culture references are, how annoying wade is as a person, its praise of a sci-fi nerd kazillionaire as a deity of sorts, etc.), and i’m happy that spielberg was able to successfully adapt such challenging aspects of the book to the big screen, but also he does change quite a bit. a key here is different from the key in the book, the ending is different, wade isn’t as weird about art3mis as he was in the novel, etc. but what does this really amount to? instead of playing an arcade game in some dungeon, we get a horribly contrived Shining sequence and a romance that is so milquetoast and blase that i’m shocked it didn’t leap out from the silver screen and scream some normie’s tinder bio. what was initially a problematic yet, at the very least, interesting romance, has become neither of those things, and in a film that goes for 140 minutes and at least 140 million dollars, it desperately needs the latter quality.

seriously i mean for Master Craftsman Steven Spielberg(tm), how can something’s technical elements be so woefully boring? the pacing is so breakneck that it loops around and becomes uninteresting because so much STUFF(tm) happens, the score (and, while we’re on that, the soundtrack) is actively abhorrent, there are some genuinely wonky sound aspects (in terms of mixing and how it was stereo’d throughout the theater) that i can appreciate but that’s sort of par for the course for any huge blockbuster like this. the visuals themselves, while in oasis, remind me of all those bad cgi movies from my childhood which i have no reverence for, and those outside of this playground-turned-product are as dull and uninspired as anything else spielberg has done for the last ten years or so. and i know i love to rag on spielberg, but this doesn’t even feel like his film – there’s some daddy issues and some sentimentality in it towards the end, but this feels like anyone in the business of doing big pictures could have done this. a somewhat long one-take at the beginning that i’ve seen variants of dozens of times in these types of movies at the start is about all i have to compare it to with his other ventures.

and this brings me to my final one-liner: it’s so bad that it out-bads spielberg and becomes unrecognizable.

march stuff

not much happened this month

 

White Hunter, Black Heart (Eastwood, 1990) is a wonky film from eastwood with a particularly unusual central conflict, and one that doesn’t spend time on artistic tension so much as it does racial. it blows my mind how people see American Sniper as reductive when he’s done so much intricate stuff in the racial world as this film. funny stuff too, oftentimes, and the end credits are great.

4:44 Last Day on Earth (Ferrara, 2011) is similar to lvt’s Melancholia in the setup which i’m sure a million hipsters have mentioned already, but i think the pacing and general attitude is similar to that film’s as well. while i don’t think its social commentary nor its cinematography are as good as von trier’s companion piece of sorts, there is a visceral energy to ferrara’s work that make it extremely difficult to endure. probably the best of his three science fiction films.

Bell Diamond (Jost, 1986) reminded me of cassavetes but with even more emphasis on the working class aspect of his films. there’s a hopelessness to small towns that i think is so cinematic, but also so genuinely dour that it’s common to see gritty, difficult films deal with them in powerful ways. jost is great at writing in this film as well, many lines stick out and the fact that the production was as troubled and lo-fi as it looks only adds to the desperation that its central characters feel. excellent stuff and i need to see more from jost.

Marebito (Shimizu, 2004) to me is this non-scary horror film which preys upon fears more than actually containing them. it acknowledges the threat of underground worlds, which i think is an interesting concept that captures lovecrafty vibes without actually resorting to silly giant monsters or anything; here the monster simply links itself to modern masculinity, which is far more compelling. looks like a kiyoshi kurosawa, and in many ways plays out like one.

No, or the Vain Glory of Command (de Oliveira, 1990) is mdo doing an intellectual war piece with his historical framing as a backdrop. i really love what i understand from this mulling over the price of political power, war victories, and the nature of colonialism, though unfortunately how much i do understand is limited by my ignorance of portugal’s cultural history. but there are enough obvious comparisons and sensory pleasures otherwise for me to love this film.

Shatter Dead (McCrae, 1994) is everything that i love in low-budget horror films. excellent aesthetic and effects, goes into areas that i think only genre films can really explore, many of them bereft of real-world comparison, and it creates moral conundrums within its sci-fi setup that are also wholly unique and i think it would be really fun to study.

the great films i saw this year

i will first shoutout All That Heaven Allows (Sirk, 1955) and The Searchers (Ford, 1956), two films i would now call masterpieces that i rewatched this year with this new realization. tender, gorgeous, horrifying films in their own ways, both with pure transcendence that only some could pull off, especially in romantic melodramatic and western frameworks. what held me back from sirk’s excellent work initially when i saw it in high school was i think some aversion towards melodrama that we all are surely ingrained with to an extent when we pursue “serious” art. ford’s, i’m not sure. two films which have earned their status in the pantheon.

though i have since lost interest, i binged three lubitsch films at the start of the year with the best definitely being the oft-hilarious To Be or Not to Be (Lubitsch, 1942). i often hear discussion of frank humanism and a refined comedic streak when i read about this director, akin to the qualities i usually associate with renoir, and i can totally see it here. there’s less romantic transcendence and more american screwball, but unlike a lot of hawksian screwball i actually dig this stuff a lot.

loved two viscontis this year: Death in Venice (Visconti, 1971) and Rocco and His Brothers (Visconti, 1960). extremely different films. the former is him impersonating antonioni and largely outdoing him, and the latter is him impersonating fellini and keeping up more or less. radically different films. Rocco is compelling, filled with gorgeous BW shots, it’s an extremely intimate movie and uses this to show its scope, not unlike how yang would do later. Venice is high art stuff, the stuff you’d watch in rick owens at some EWS party. gorgeous looking and decadent and it’s such a dreary film but it’s so good at conveying that. mysterious man.

every year i tell myself that i’m going to see more japanese new wave and i always see like 1 or 2 movies and like them and never see any more. this year, it was Woman in the Dunes (Teshigahara, 1964) and Throw Away Your Books, Rally in the Streets (Terayama, 1971). i thought the latter was overstuffed, a bit dated, and not rigid enough. but teshigahara’s gorgeous, luscious, enigmatic, atmospheric study of sand and walls is incredible. a fantastic work of surrealism which never collapses on its own narrative weight.

speaking of putting off perfectly great films, i went and did the same thing with The Devils (Russell, 1971). the one jarman film i tried to endure this year i hated but i adored his work on the set design here, some of the best of all time really. i love how unabashedly edgy this is; there’s literally no good point to it all but it has this ruthless punk attitude while being totally not attached to any existing punk movement. this film could have started a nation. look at those colors and listen to those screams.

over the years i’ve started to lose some of my interest in silents but there’s always one every year that knocks me off my socks. for 2017, this was The Wedding March (von Stroheim, 1928) but the most i can say here is that you go on letterboxd and read neil bahadur’s writing on it…

i finally decided to watch Julien Donkey-Boy (Korine, 1999) after all these years. i knew i would love it, i think i saw it during a slumpy winter day or something. i cried. it’s what you expect it to be.

two excellent horrors this year, both completely different. Twentynine Palms (Dumont, 2003) is an arty take on slow cinema, reminiscent of antonioni but also breillat, wholly a new french extremity phenomenon. this whole film is so unbearably tense, the landscapes just ooze uncomfortable vibes, familiar as they may be. and landscapes seem to be all we have; the people we are closest to seem so distant. the other great horror was, of course Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (Anderson, 2016). try reading my other review for my thoughts on that’n.

but luckily there were some other great genre films i had the fortune of seeing. this year i started going more in depth in tobe hooper’s filmo (rest in peace). Eggshells (Hooper, 1969) was the best; an experimental romp which manages the rare feat of getting its freedom across to the viewer. the film is freeform and so are we, while watching it. hooper is fascinated with this architecture, with people, with conversations, and somewhat with the extraterrestrial eggshell things downstairs. and the brakhage-esque visuals. i have no idea what this movie is or what it’s about.

at long, long last, i have settled upon a hitchcock i truly adore. that is Rebecca (Hitchcock, 1940). i didn’t think i liked hitchcock the romantic as i was kinda eh on Notorious but here he goes knocking it out of the park here. but i mostly love the setting. and the characters, how they look at each other, how the court case and tension build and connect – the temporal reverse chronology intersects simultaneously, that’s definitely some hitchcock stuff.

three fantastic experimental shorts. one was From the Notebook Of… (Beavers, 2000), the first beavers film i’ve seen. it’s the first great film about creation. it re-invents not cinema but the concept of cinema, editing, cuts, space manipulation. another was Dans le noir du temps (Godard, 2002), just when i had essentially given up on godard giving me another masterpiece, but he does it again. death; loss. the end. watch it with The End (Maclaine, 1953). one is temporal, the other is metaphysical. the final one was Seasons… (Brakhage & Solomon, 2002), which is probably his best purely painted work; it evokes such feelings of space, aesthetics, rhythm, and mood that i can’t believe it’s just painted images on film. there’s nothing to it, it’s just abstract mood music in movie form that works gracefully. a great branch from the criterion collection and his more challenging works.

in addition to hooper, i started to break into greenaway’s filmo a bit this year. the best one i saw was A Zed and Two Noughts (Greenaway, 1985). it’s all over the place thematically. i love it. it’s so beautiful, all these incredible films about architecture. but this one is also about zoos, and people, but mostly sex. read josiah morgan’s reviews though as i think they are more beneficial than i could do. greenaway’s sense of aesthetics has got to be among the best in history though, he’s not making painterly films but paintings themselves.

i watched jessica hausner’s three major films this year. i loved two of them and went gaga for Amour fou (Hausner, 2014). a black comedy with excellent pacing, it’s molasses and feels like it’s from a different decade. it’s like what i imagined bunuel would be like; funny, ruthless, political, and all around precisely how fun this sort of serious art film is allowed to be. i adore how funny yet serious this woman’s films are and greatly look forward to whatever she does next.

politically minded cinema was one of my big deals this year, and along with the slew of watkins joints i saw, Harlan County USA (Kopple, 1976) was the one that sort of kicked this off. this sort of communist presence in an unorthodox area is groovy, the whole thing is so inspiring and it never loses itself aesthetically or structurally. like so many great docs, its sense of rhythm is fantastic. pushes forward with hope among hopeless. beautiful stuff.

i adored Themis (Sono, 2011) but i couldn’t tell you why

for some reason i caved this year and saw My Neighbor Totoro (Miyazaki, 1988) but i ended up adoring it. for once, the weebs were right. it’s a breezy, patient, endearing piece, with pleasures that i only ever get out of experimental films thesedays. like the great films about happiness, this film understands that happiness requires sadness to be appreciated, which is why when people say it’s this pure film about sugar i can’t really vibe with that so much. but i can vibe with its reception.

the best romance i saw this year was probably Miami Vice (Mann, 2006), and the best melodrama was Mildred Pierce (Curtiz, 1945). both are huge, bombastic, over-the-top; they’re trying to go so far outside of their usual binding yet stay within what they can do. man that was a bad sentence, should rewrite sometime…. Mildred Pierce is the first and only noir epic, and i love the characters here. i wish sirk remade the film but curtiz has excellent pacing and a competent mise-en-scene at all times. mann’s film is his greatest. look at it.

now the top 5 we have been waiting for:

5. Liquid Sky (Tsukerman, 1982)

look up this movie and it’s as awesome as it sounds. chic, stylistic. punk. high concept stuff that doesn’t overstay its environment. so many gorgeous shots, it’s inspiring to see something with this much overt passion behind it succeed on so many levels. i love how it shifts back and forth – it’s about fashion, then sci-fi stuff, then it’s an addiction drama thing, eventually it becomes an erotic horror…. i thought films like this only existed in dreams.

4. Lamentations: A Monument for the Dead World (Elder, 1985)

it takes all of the most interesting elements of the great structuralist films (which posited what made narrative films have a narrative), synthesizes them with the aesthetic push of mekas, the rhythm of beavers, and the determination of gance. it’s about as dense and inscrutable as Histoire(s) du cinema, but where that project faltered was that its scope seemed too large and the execution was somewhat inorganic. in Lamentations, there is a clear focus (that of the struggle between logical reasoning and faith), yet this thesis is able to stem off into wild directions (such as the conclusion of part 1, using soviet era montage, a brakhage-inspired sex scene, all to conclude with how the formation of language becomes the perfect harmony of these two conflicting ideologies). this scene in question is quite possibly the greatest in cinema. and despite the clear nuance and beauty of it, part 2 quickly tears that optimism down as we learn to live in this incomplete world. there is no film out there like this.

3. La commune (Paris, 1871) (Watkins, 2000)

this is what eisenstein would have wanted (along with Requiem for a Dream)

2. Kiss Me Deadly (Aldrich, 1955)

avant-noir, boys and girls. post-noir. i want to say it was the last noir because it blew up the entire notion of noir. but i also want to say it was the first noir, because in many ways it’s the first to realize exactly what these silly b-pictures can achieve. that ending, the world explodes before our eyes as we escape, burdened with our memories. it cannot be the first and the last, so it must simply be the best. great sound. better characters. idk why so many insist ralph meeker is so selfish here when his pursuits seem to have a metaphyiscal quality to them. he seems to be fueled by some other force that isn’t cinematic, but spiritual. they should teach this movie in churches.

1. Make Way for Tomorrow (McCarey, 1937)

every single thing, every cliched plot point this film treads over, every glimpse, every voice crack, every cut, every pan, every echo that we get in our memory as we mentally process and reprocess the words these people have the gall to say to each other, every silence that cleanses the ears afterwards as we’re comforted by saccharine lines after, every phone call, every call, and every single little thing about this stupid film is what every single dramatist wants to do. everything works here, and nobody will ever figure out how exactly it does, because then the mysteries of cinema will be done, or at least, not needed anymore. but we still will never know precisely why this films works where hundreds, thousands of tearjerkers don’t. and i mean competent ones, not just that lifetime stuff. this film does not transcend boundaries; it’s ten feet before their edges. i hate it because it’s so contained and soars with grace that is incapable in physical flight. “you always were my favourite.” how will cinema ever recover from that? how can bad things happen in a world where this film exists? but then, happiness requires that sadness, and there is so much of both here. how did mccarey do it? how can anyone make something this great? how?

‘Rameau’s Nephew’ by Diderot (Thanx to Dennis Young) by Wilma Schoen

michael snow’s mammoth 4.5 hour exploration on text, language, structuralism, and time is surely one of the most unusual projects i have seen yet. while many structuralists seemed to limit each of their works to somewhat singular goals (kubelka) or at least thematically overarching content (frampton), snow’s project seems to try to be about everything at once. in many ways, this feels like an extremely long godard film – not the first way i have felt this way about snow, but moreso now than ever (the fascination of language, of male and female, film, the joy of experimentation, etc.). i believe snow is more interested in his formalism though while godard is a bit more of historian in many regards, although i still feel as though there are many comparisons to be made.

so what exactly is this…thing? in many ways, it’s the greatest hits of structuralist/formalist avant-garde, given in many short film type formats throughout. these range from a couple of minutes to around 30 or so at the longest, and there are 24 (or 26, depending on who you ask). these sections aren’t numbered or anything, just separated by bright flashing lights (made more complicated later in the film where one of the short films in question features its own bright flashing lights). the appeal to this is going to be limited to maybe a few thousand film enthusiasts, so unlike stuff like hutton’s At Sea i can’t recommend this to pretty  much anyone. that said, i did end up liking this a lot myself.

i’ve always been pretty big on snow. Wavelength in many ways is the structuralist masterpiece, a film which posits so many questions and does so much with so little and it really is a fusion of minimalist art and the actual structuralist movement going on in the 60s. few films have really explored space as La region centrale has, and certainly none have been as smart about it as that one. and *Corpus Callosum is everything digital avant-garde should be: trashy, explosive, colorful yet washed out. even though he has his own themes and roots, snow seems to love exploring a number of territories, and that’s very clear in this long, long microcosm of his own career.

RNbDTtDYbWS is at its best when its pacing is quick as snow’s ideas don’t take too long or too much concentration to really get the general gist of what he’s going for. in the first half of the film or so, similar to how he played with sets in Presents, he plays with the physical concept of location. in one rather extended scene, some actors play out a little scene while the camera slowly turns upside down and inverts itself multiple times. combined with the godardian use of showing the film set and the actors reading off their lines, it seems to illustrate the fraud of cinema and art as any sort of realism. but this concept continues on. in another scene, it’s simply a static shot of a man playing drums on a sink, which is equally silly although the camera remains in place the entire time. later, the camera shoots several characters waiting on a bus, and the background changes while the characters stay in the same place. in another scene, the characters are constantly moving while the background is constant.

this general toying with space – and similarly nuanced toying with words – is what i like the most about this film. what i don’t like is how long certain sequences are; while snow’s one-note filmmaking can be excused more in such projects as La region centrale where the entire film has a singular goal of sorts, when the film changes directions, tones, and ideas every few minutes or so, certain areas can be trimmed down substantially without any major effect being lost. and even still, a three hour structuralist epic is hardly any less impressive than a 270 minute one, especially if the editing is tighter.

while snow is like godard when he explores language and puns, he doesn’t seem to want to either go for nor attain the emotional heights of even godard’s experimental work. even in more minor avant-garde godard films, there is deep pathos that runs through his projects; the sadness of a man on the ship in Film socialisme or eddie constantine’s mulling on america in Germany Year 90 Nine Zero. this isn’t even counting his truly emotional work such as Notre musique or Nouvelle vague, and i don’t think snow even tries to go for this. in regular structuralist films that last between around 5 and 50 minutes this is fine, but when your work is extremely long and overstays its formalist welcome as is, i think some problems arise, and snow’s overt brechtian sensibilities get the better of him in this way i think.

while it is a film that is sloppy in many ways, it is also ambitious like few others i have seen. i’ll still take the more childlike brakhage films and the hybrid works of filmmakers such as jack chambers, but i’m glad i saw this, and i hope to check out the rest of snow’s filmography at some point. while i think it lags behind his three great films, it’s still worth checking out solely if you have an interest in snow’s work as is.