november gems

moved to NY

Death by Hanging (Oshima, 1968) – while this film, to me, has a major flaw in its structure (spends either too much time as a procedural, or too little time on its racial investigations), it is still an extremely potent, beautifully leftist film that i will pretty much always be thinking about. makes me very excited to check out more from oshima.

Extraordinary Stories (Llinas, 2008) – not only in its southern flair, but also in terms of its themes and structure, this reminded me of Amores Perros. however i believe this film is far more intelligent and mature, even though i love that film as well. frequently funny, always compelling, and there’s a ton of little things i think abut a lot. would love to see his latest.

China Girl (Ferrara, 1987) – honestly neil bahadur’s letterboxd review is one of the greatest things i’ve ever read so go read that instead of whatever gibberish i can throw together here. basically an incredible film based on a boring structure that most filmmakers don’t recognize is inherently uninteresting without the subtext ferrara endows.

Youth Without Youth (Coppola, 2007) – this has like crazy mood shifts throughout and goes through odd motions that evoke virtually the entire spectrum of ideas and themes that interest me in filmmaking. the imagery in it is stunning too, and at its core it basically seems to want to be a superhero film that indulges precisely what those sorts of films should be going for.

Choose Me (Rudolph, 1984) – really love how…consistently unique this feels? all of the characters feel at home only in this picture, they are all totally different yet cut of the same mold, and their interactions are all interesting the way a rivette from this era is. a soothing watch.

Changeling (Eastwood, 2008) – the fact that libs think eastwood is a) some dumb patriot type and b) is bad in any capacity in moviemaking is something i will hold over their heads in 20 years when i remind them how dumb they once were

Bitter Victory (Ray, 1957) – i know that nick ray had a lot of stuff that he did that he probably wasn’t that interested in but this strikes me as a passionate film from him. his screenplays are so hard hitting, his images are so spectacular, he just, to quote the goat, is the cinema man

Le revelateur (Garrel, 1968) – honestly garrel being insufferably boring for the most part (while having some great imagery sometimes) is like one of the biggest cinematic disappointments to me, but this is only an hour long and is completely unlike his other films where it’s full on abstraction instead of boring meta deconstruction so yeah lets hear it for high contrast black-and-white art thots

october gems

Aniki Bobo (de Oliveira, 1942) – what appears to be a slight and insignificant film, mdo’s first major feature is a commanding work, with a strong sense of scope, morals, and its own identity. in this, while you can’t see the sort of baroque stuff he would attempt later, one can surely identify the talent of a future great director.

(side note: i also loved his Doomed Love, A Century of Energy, and Mon Cas but i try to pick only one film per director per month for these)

Beaubourg (Rossellini, 1977) – a cool city symphony type film that explores, instead, the grand opening of an art museum. interesting to note is the quiet, deliberate camera movement which felt quite different from rossellini’s work in India, and also peculiar is how the masses here are significantly less pretentious (or, that is, appear to be less academic and wholly invested in the art they interact with) than people would have you believe. the “pretentious art critic” trope lives on as being my most hated one.

Period Piece (Andrews, 2006) – well paced version of Trash Humpers without as much deliberate nods to its own garish nature. super funny too, it’s basically sketch comedy in the most z grade way possible, and i would definitely love to see more by andrews if the rest of his films are anything like this.

The Last House on Dead End St. (Watkins, 1977) – no, not that watkins. dark film. evil film, even. there’s a level of sadism here that kinda permeates beneath and very much above the surface of its gritty appearance. i can’t believe a 3 hour version was originally considered – how much simulated misery could one endure – but as a 70 minute exploitation slasher, this is just the right amount of darkness.

Reflections of Evil (Packard, 2002) – next time i watch this i need to see the shortened version as this is just a bit too much in some areas (i think particularly with the watch salesman stuff).  however the current 138 minute cut is still a masterpiece that borders on transcending even that label; a towering achievement of camp, lofi digital, and middle class frustration at the world, portrayed as an anger towards capitalism rather than more specific zeitgeists.

But I’m a Cheerleader (Babbit, 1999) – a film which i can ultimately appreciate for giving a voice to people who have had it so bad for so long (and we have thankfully progressed at least a little since 20 years ago where this was the norm in a way), but, like a normie has their Schindler’s List, this film is ultimately too depressing for me to see it again anytime soon, because i know how real and unhappy stories like this truly were.

Personal Problems (Gunn, 1980) – one of the best pacing out of any film i have ever seen, gunn’s soap opera of sorts weaves together a long tapestry of characters and their struggles over the course of nearly 3 hours and makes it feel like almost a short film of sorts. i think that the film being somewhat difficult to follow is what holds it back for me, but ensembles of this nature (think A Brighter Summer Day) are really intriguing to me.

(also loved: Ganja and Hess also by gunn)

Tower (Meitland, 2016) – man 2016 had so many masterpieces from so many unexpected avenues, and this is right up there with em. animation sucks, normally, but i think the way it’s used here with visual motifs and to enhance the reality of the situation (or even act as a coping mechanism for it) is way cooler than anything i ever see the medium used. very moving stuff.

Grim (Ito, 1985) – you know the drill with ito at this point, never boring filmmaker.

september gems

The Blackout (Ferrara, 1997) – a super accurate portrayal of what i believe hell to be. dark, digital landscapes and soundscapes engulf everything in their path. the conclusion of the film is almost too destructive for words.

Halloween II (Zombie, 2009) – the kills in this are so visceral and hard-hitting, and coupled with the premise being based around the “last girl” having extreme PTSD it makes for a film that is effectively one long anxiety attack after another. i cannot believe this film impacted me as hard as this.

The Glass Shield (Burnett, 1994) – surprisingly entertaining and compelling LAPD story from, of all people, the director of Killer of Sheep. notable for how little it bootlicks (if at all) and it’s got a cool structure that sort of feels like how i wanted Black Klansman to go. great stuff, makes me want to see more from the dude.

Ludwig (Visconti, 1973) – obviously this is hardly a “hidden gem” but i think it’s far underseen in favor of other viscontis when i believe it’s his best work he ever did. it’s super personal, super beautiful, and i think it has that perfect mix of decadence and pathos that visconti so many times seemed to just miss. one of the best films i’ve seen all year.

Iguana (Hellman, 1988) – for some reason i thought this would be like an exploitation film, but no this is just a straight super arthouse, arguably art-horror film done by one of cinema’s under-appreciated masters. i think this film is extremely hard to pin down ideologically which makes it difficult to write much about in that way, but it’s a supremely beautiful endeavor and maybe hellman’s 2nd best.

Green Snake (Hark, 1993) – super fun, super interesting take on wuxia which is a genre i’m not that big a fan of (though i have only seen a small handful of them). this is a clear favorite as it de-establishes its tropes in interesting ways, is super funny, bright, visually inventive, and has this energy i see from few films. hark is great, folks.

Devils on the Doorstep (Wen, 2000) – i don’t think this film is saying that much super profound stuff but what it is doing is making a competent film on all cylinders and going above and beyond on pacing, camerawork, and writing. the film feels super coherent at all times and it’s able to effortlessly go from hilarious to thrilling and ends on a surprisingly beautiful note. really some incredible moviemaking.

Phase IV (Bass, 1974) – pretty much exactly what i expected out of the reviews + trailer. great cult sci-fi, not passionate about it, but it’s great at what it does.

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

ten of the most exciting directors of the new era

title. but i must clarify. when i say, of the new era, i mean i am only taking into account the films these directors made in the last 10 years. additionally, i must have seen at least 2 movies of theirs in the last 10 years, and they are judged off of those. this is why people like korine and godard will not make this list as i think their earlier work is what makes them exciting (in korine it’s his space between projects, and in godard it’s his inconsistency). anywho. here they are alphabetically:

paul w.s. anderson

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works seen: Resident Evil: Afterlife, Resident Evil: Retribution, Pompeii, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

notable omissions: Death Race, The Three Musketeers

future projects: Monster Hunter

the face of vulgar auteurism in the 2010s cinemascape seems to no longer be snyder, verhoeven, or even neveldine/taylor really, but instead looks increasingly more and more like pwsa. playing strictly a numbers game, only his most recent film has been masterful to me – but in all of the others there’s a gradual maturation of his themes and aesthetics that is very exciting to behold. the apocalyptic transcendence of Pompeii and the slick infinite implications of Retribution build to his finest work as a director in The Final Chapter, a work which seems to conclude a career of someone who has finally managed to play all of his cards right. no idea where his next one will end up going.

lav diaz

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works seen: Melancholia, Norte: The End of History, From What is Before

notable omissions: Century of Birthing, Florentina Hubaldo CTE, Storm Children: Book One, A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery, The Woman Who Left

future projects: Season of the Devil

you can tell by the omissions that i’ve missed out on a fairly large amount of his filmo in the last ten years, over 20 hours of material. i confess that he is one of the rare directors who makes so much work that it is hard to physically track down and consume all of it in any reasonable way, but this ultimately makes his films more fulfilling – it is impossible to speed through diaz’s calm, meditative, political filmmaking. ultimately i believe his earlier work here that i’ve seen is superior to the later stuff (Melancholia is my favorite diaz joint, From What is Before the least), but given the films that he’s been making range from low fantasy films to standard more realistically lengthed dramas to even a rock film of sorts, his versatility could bring a new flash of brilliance in the filipino’s filmography. always a face to look forward to.

clint eastwood

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works seen: Gran Torino, American Sniper, Sully, The 15:17 to Paris

notable omissions: Changeling, Invictus, Hereafter, J. Edgar, Jersey Boys

upcoming works: The Mule

eastwood’s a bit of a weird pick here; while there are directors who could maybe fill his spot in terms of making better films in the last few years, what gives each eastwood film additional weight is, similar to snyder and straub, the way that his work builds atop each other in such surprising ways. conceptually and cinematically, Sully is a standard above average biopic of sorts, but when placed into context about eastwood’s trilogy (and probably more) of modern heroism it gains surprising dramatic weight. American Sniper more than likely will go down with the best of his films, and 15:17 and Gran Torino are both more than worthy endeavors that tread through a changing political landscape attempting to rectify and heal damages. there are several of his films i have not seen from this new era, should change that sometime as well.

ezra edelman

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works seen: Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals, O.J.: Made in America

notable omissions: Requiem for the Big East, The Opposition

upcoming works: untitled roberto clemente film

edelman is surely among the most exciting documentary filmmakers out there, able to command a strong sense of history, politics, and genuine joy in his documents that excel at everything that great conventional docs should. Magic & Bird is an underrated basketball doc that would be interesting enough as an exploration of race and the perception of STDs in america, but O.J. is without a doubt the film that he will be known for. a towering shockwave of an achievement, time will only tell if this grandiose exploration is a taste of things to come or ultimately a peak that maybe only a few people in history can live up to.

jessica hausner

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works seen: Lourdes, Amour fou

upcoming works: Little Joe

already one of the unsung heroes of a generation, hausner’s diversity in themes, moods, and genres is already clear within the three features of hers i have seen (Hotel came out in 2005, a slow cinema horror film which extracts the mere concept of horror to its most basic fundamentals). her newer films are outstanding – Lourdes is a dreyer inspired religious drama, equipped with its own sense of faith and patience, and a film that ultimately offers a unique combination of sorrow and relief, whereas Amour fou is a hilarious black comedy that poses as a romantic period drama and is my pick for her strongest project. her upcoming work appears to be an ironic scifi of sorts. i cannot wait to see what she does next.

doug liman

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works seen: Edge of Tomorrow, American Made

notable omissions: Jumper, Fair Game, The Wall

upcoming works: Chaos Walking, The Canonnball Run, Live Die Repeat and Repeat, Luna Park, Splinter Cell

liman is a bit of an odd choice here; although he is strongly at 2 for 2 for me right now, i think he seems to be more of a journeyman director a la curtiz than a bonafide always interesting auteur. Edge of Tomorrow is without a doubt the best non-vulgar action film of the decade, and American Made is one of the best drug films of our times as well, yet i can see no discerning traits that connect these movies other than their tight editing and balance of dramatic and comedic. while i’m not really super interested in seeing the other works he’s done in the last few years, i believe at least one of his planned five films will reach near those two films in terms of execution, and that in itself is an exciting prospect.

terrence malick

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works seen: The Tree of Life, To the Wonder, Knight of Cups, Song to Song

notable omissions: Voyage of Time

upcoming works: Radegund

malick’s career at this point is one of the most exciting ones i’ve ever personally followed. The Tree of Life is up there with the highest masterpieces of the medium, and Knight of Cups and Song to Song both excel in beautiful yet diverse ways, each awakening things in malick that i didn’t know he had in him. even To the Wonder which is in many ways his weakest film has enough pleasures and potentials to get me pumped, and i still have yet to see either of his Voyage of Time cuts. malick would likely be #1 on this list if it were to be ranked in terms of how excited i am for his future work.

takashi makino

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works seen: The Low Storm, Inter View, 2012, Ghost of OT301

notable omissions: The Seasons, The World, Still in Cosmos, Generator, Deorbit, Phantom Nebula, Space Noise, Cinema Concert, On Generation and Corruption

soo many avant-garde directors want to be as good as makino. what he’s doing isn’t anything exceptionally new (except with how his work reckons with the digital era, but even still that’s been a narrative pursuit for a while too) but makino simply makes his films have this aesthetic brooding and power that few other directors in history can match. 2012 is more than likely his masterpiece, though i’ve only seen a small portion of his films and i’m sure that this isn’t the last we’ll see of the progressive filmmaker.

douglas reese

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works seen: Warwick, The Lonesome, Pacific Angels

notable omissions: The Vaughn Sister, Shakespeare’s Pets, Cleaners, Snake, Black Rain White Rain, Pazuzu, Nessa, Maysville, Nikki Alice Nessa, Concepts of Duality, Blue Guitar, The Trash, Cincinatti Storm, Caity and Paul Get High, Migraine, Other Side

reese, one of the members at the forefront of the loosely defined letterboxd new wave, has already matured quickly across the 3 loose features of his that i’ve seen. Warwick presents itself as a remake of Je tu il elle of sorts, The Lonesome is exactly the sort of slice-of-life material i expect from a generation of people making films with their phones, but Pacific Angels represents a type of progression i hadn’t entirely expected; a malaise of narrative and experimental filmmaking that many filmmakers lose a handle on. i hope this trend continues.

sion sono

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works seen: Love Exposure, Himizu, Antiporno

notable omissions: Be Sure to Share, Cold Fish, Guilty of Romance, Bad Film, The Land of Hope, Why Don’t You Play in Hell?, Tokyo Tribe, Minna!, Shinjuku Swan, Love & Peace, Tag, The Virgin Psychics, The Whispering Star, Madly, Shinjuku Swan 2, Tokyo Vampire Hotel, The Bastard and the Beautiful World

upcoming works: Prisoners of the Ghostland

sono’s filmography is intimidating; he has so many works and nearly all of them have at least a few prominent passionate supporters. knowing where to start and how to navigate his themes is difficult enough, but so much of sono’s films are about straight genre pleasures, delicate melodrama, and, of course, incredible visuals that it’s not extraordinarily hard to get into sono’s mode of cinema. he has a film with nicolas cage coming out and i’m sure we’ll get another 5 movies of his by 2020, and though i may not end up seeing all of them until decades from now, i eagerly await what this man has to offer.

april & may

i didn’t see much good in april so i didn’t write a post. here we are.

The Bed You Sleep In (Jost, 1993): so far the best work i have seen from a phenomenal director and new favorite. jost’s cinematography and slow building drama here is just unparalleled, there is something so sincere and haunting about his dramas. in any just world, it would be a jost world.

Let your heart be light (Romvari & Campbell, ????): this came out sometime in the last few years, not sure exactly when. letterboxd new wave stuff – i feel such a strong sense of comfort and shelter after viewing this film as i have done a couple of times. so many little touches in this 10 minute short and look at how pure the room is. wish we had more stuff like this – new sincerity when??

Salome (Hernandez, 1976): an abstract, probably gay adapt of a play or something. i couldn’t really tell you what it was about but there were a lot of powerful images and i loved how hypnotic the whole thing was. reminds me of schroeter a bit – speaking of which, need to see more from schroeter (and maybe hernandez as well). check it out if you like the avant-garde.

Raising Cain (De Palma, 1992): de palma does verhoeven, but it still feels wholly like a de palma joint. fun stuff.

Sure Fire (Jost, 1990): it’s somewhere between Bell Diamond and Coming to Terms in terms of how experimental it is, but it’s more successful than either of them at just being an emotional trainwreck for me. there’s a doom here that only lynch could capture, or so i thought; jost seemed to also realize the tragedy and depravity of modern suburbia (surely not a new observation), but he films it as an isolated event, one of the freak incidents we hear about. brutal.

Born in Flames (Borden, 1983): very wavy stuff. reminded me of watkins a bunch – depicts postrevolutionary worlds with revolutionary concerns, whereas watkins is sort of the inverse more often than not. it’s not up to par with his best work although it’s better than his lesser stuff. i like how unique the approach is and how important the problems being addressed are; borden has a great guerrilla filmmaking style that i’m interested in seeing more of.

Sixteen Tongues (McCrae, 1999): scooter mccrae is a treasure; with this and Shatter Dead it confirms it in my mind. nobody else has meshed this degree of trash, sex, philosophical leanings, and their own personified sensibilities (in his other feature it was religion, here it seems to be isolation). a grimy, grueling work – one which must me endured in some ways, but it oozes transgression through its gaping cracks.

Tea and Sympathy (Minnelli, 1956): other than richie i’m stunned that this doesn’t have a significant following. minnelli has always just kinda been there for me – his two major works didn’t floor me and i couldn’t quite find his soul in em. but this is more of a soul than the physical (or is it abstract? haha) representation of it. it’s the crippling half smiles or the frustration you can let out a little but not too much or else people make fun of ya. and how do we come back from that ending? whoaa.

A Bride for Rip Van Winkle (Iwai, 2016): saw this recently and still processing. please hold.

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.