It's probably needless to say, but I'll remind that VAMPYR was personally my favorite film of the few I saw from 1932. That doesn't mean that it's the best, or in John's case, that it's even any good. It was just the biggest surprise to me. I love HORSE FEATHERS and could easily have it at the top, and I love I AM A FUGITIVE FROM A CHAIN GANG and even had it at the top the first time I made the list. But then before submitting my final (well, final for the moment) list I thought about which film jumped out at me the most and it was invariably and undeniably VAMPYR. I was fully expecting to be bored by VAMPYR and for it to be a chore. But then I ended up being really impressed by everything I saw and become quite enamored with it. A lot of this is personal preference. I tend to be really fascinated by surrealism (hence my Bunuel, Cocteau, and Lynch love), but especially surrealism/dadaism emerging along with modernism Post-WWI because there was just nothing else like it at the time–it reacted to something and it actually stood for something (it's not the same today–thanks a lot, postmodernism). VAMPYR isn't aligned with surrealism theoretically, but it felt like surreal filmmaking to me, and that's something I really appreciate as a document of a time and place. John may be happy that we're out of the 30s (even if only said in jest), but I love seeing the experimentation of the time as well as the growth. To me, it's awesome to see someone work their way around a camera, to discover its limits and perhaps to test those limits. That's what Dreyer's film felt like to me–like someone trying to, as Rosenbaum says, speak a new cinematic language. Griffith did it 15 years earlier and similar visionaries have been doing it throughout cinema history. I don't mean to say that VAMPYR is a landmark like BOAN, but that it's a great example of surreal experimentation with film. That it paved the way for someone so awesome as David Lynch is only a bonus! :)
Anyway, that's my deal with VAMPYR. I have the same deal with L'AGE D'OR and THE BLOOD OF A POET. I love surrealism, but I don't expect others to. Like John, emphasis on the "I" here.
Chris already beat me to everything I wanted to say back to Ben about BROTHER BORN AGAIN, and he said it very well. I take the same stance, and I'm sticking to it.
Jason, your post is great because you do a tremendous job articulating why the film meant something to you. You were able to connect to it in a way I could not, and that's all that matters. You said on Facebook that you were clearly judging films from a different set of criteria than the rest of us, but have proved that you are judging them from the very same place as us all–we are all looking for that connection to what we see, whether it's personal, emotional, intellectual, aesthetic, political, etc. You found the connection–that's key.
However, you do bring up a point that illuminates one reason why I dislike documentaries like this though, and it's this: "Brother Born Again is probably as close to telling the truth of the situation as a film could." I agree completely, which makes me question what there is to discuss about it. When it comes to film, it's hard to criticize something that's true, so all we are left to criticize is the way it is made. BROTHER BORN AGAIN is human and true and that's great for Julia and everyone involved in it. But just beacuse something is true doesn't mean it's good filmmaking. To me, this documentary ultimately amounts to a human interest segment on 60 MINUTES or something. Those stories are true too, but that doesn't mean they are interesting or examples of good filmmaking to me.
I'm not trying to criticize you for liking the film (I'm glad you do), but I'm just trying to express how I judge BROTHER BORN AGAIN as a film that has to stand alongside something else from 2001 like MULHOLLAND DRIVE or IN THE BEDROOM. I usually don't like documentaries because it doesn't make sense to me to judge them on the same basis as fiction films. I mean, who evaluates non-fiction books the same as fiction ones? If you do compare them, you compare how well they are written. I can only evaluate how well BROTHER BORN AGAIN presents its case cinematically because that's what I'm interested in.
Anyway, it's interesting to see the dividing line emerge over those who like documentaries and those who do not. I'm opposed to judging them against fiction films, but that's just me. I'm really glad that you and Ben and others are fans of something I'm resistant to because it forces me to confront my negative feelings and think more about them.
Nice pick, nice response to it, and hey, it even got a nice little back and forth going, which is what we were hoping for with the group viewing in the first place.
P.S. I'm so stoked that you've seen LATE SPRING and GOOD MORNING! Aren't they amazing? Ozu is my new hero; I'm absolutely smitten.