Friday, January 20, 2012

Film roundup

For any who are interested, I've updated my lists on the Golden Age Lists page with some honorable mentions that I didn't post before. I often get so excited to reach a solid 10 films for a list that I forget that I've seen others from the year and should give them some recognition. Anyway, thanks to John, I will now be able to add to those lists, as I consider none of them finished. They're just templates to augment as needed.

And I'll just say that when I post lists on my blog, I'm not assuming that they are finished; I'm just giving a preliminary ranking of what I've seen in case anyone is interested. Simply seeing 10 or 11 films and calling a list done seems kinda disrespectful to someone like Brandon who took a lot of time and effort to see 20 or more films for each year. So, all my lists are still works in progress and shall remain that way until I feel comfortable with any of them (if that ever happens). Even the 30s lists aren't finished. My goal in doing that project was to see at least 10 films from each year. I did that, but now it's time to slowly add to those totals.

I'm really excited for Brandon's 60s lists! They should be very impressive and fun to interact with. I've seen a decent amount of 60s films, not enough to make lists yet, but enough hopefully where I can offer some insight for him. I'm at least well versed in the Bergman, Kurosawa, Kubrick, Bunuel, Godard, Leone, and Antonioni films from the decade. They should all be a blast to revisit. Anyway, best wishes to Brandon on his new project! It's gonna be awesome!

I've been steadily watching films over the past few weeks (13 or 14 in the last 7 days...not bad). I plan on watching Jason's pick today or tomorrow so I can interact with y'all. But first I should mention a few of the films I've seen lately:

Hobson's Choice (Lean, 1954) - Perhaps David Lean's funniest film. It certainly has a wonderful sense of wit and charm to it. It's highly enjoyable, and it has what I'm now dubbing "the Lean touch." David Lean excelled at having great camera work, detailed set design, colorful characters, and garnering impressive work from his actors. This one has all those traits, with terrific comedic performances by the great Charles Laughton, as the drunken Hobson, and John Mills, as the soft-spoken but clueless Will Mossop, being the stand-outs. A great comedy about the changing of the guard.

Red Desert (Antonioni, 1964) - Breathtaking in HD. I've respected and admired Antonioni before, but now I straight up love him. His use of space is just remarkable to see. He's a master at framing, staging, and spacing; he knows exactly how to place his actors in space to evoke a theme, symbol, or character trait. He's a visual genius, for sure. This film is incredible for all of his mastery with the camera, but it's also plentiful thematically and characterfully (sure, that's a word). There doesn't need to be much of a narrative for us to understand what Monica Vitti's character is going through or what her relationship with Richard Harris' character means. Most if it all is developed silently or impressionistically. It's a beautiful film; one that is slow, methodical, enigmatic, but also intelligent and profound. I could say the same for nearly the rest of the Antonioni films I've seen, so I'm completely on board with him now.

And speaking of Antonioni, I re-watched Blow-up with Chris. It's still one of my favorites. I just love how much of an anti-mystery it is and how weird it is. Perhaps the same could be said for L'avventura or even Red Desert, which may be why people don't like his films. His style is very cinematic; it uses carefully constructed images and staging to tell stories and evoke themes or feelings, but it's light on traditional narrative. Some have called L'avventura almost an anti-film, which sounds kinda awful, pompous, and too postmodern. I don't think that that or any of his other works are anti-films (anti-mysteries perhaps, but I suppose that also sounds affected), they just use narrative differently than other films. Anyway, I'll be curious to read Brandon's thoughts on L'avventura, since I know he re-watched it recently. I put it in my "films I don't like but should" list a while back, which isn't really fair. I watched it when I was 16, and it's not that I didn't like it, I just didn't understand it at all. I'd like to re-watch it at some point; I think I'd have a much more favorable reaction now that I'm more familiar with Antonioni's work and appreciate his style.

Floating Weeds (Ozu, 1959) - My newfound love affair with the miraculous Ozu continues! Chris got me this for Christmas, and I'm very happy he did because I loved it and look forward to seeing it many more times. It's a beautiful story and looks stunning in color. It has been said that to see one Ozu film is to catch a glimpse of the totality of his work. I can't argue with this, as his gorgeous, assured style is the dominating force of every film I've seen by him. I love that his films can fit within an entire body of work as variations on a total aesthetic and thematic look and feel. To see one film of his and then another is to feel the safety, recognition, and assurance of something you know and love. I couldn't possibly rave about Ozu enough. My estimation of him has skyrocketed in the last month or so. I think this is the beginning of a beautiful film friendship.

The Defiant Ones
(Kramer, 1958)- Caught it on TCM on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Who knew Tony Curtis could play a certified Southern racist so well? He and Poitier actually make a great team. The film's real entertaining any time it's just the two of them, and probably could have worked even if it were just them. But, obviously, the mishaps they get into are important for pushing the story and racial themes forward, and introducing other characters is a great way to see the changes taking place in Curtis' character. A fun prison-break film with indispensable themes on race and a burgeoning friendship that ends up being really tender.

Le Plaisir (Ophüls, 1952) and La Ronde (Ophüls, 1950) - Watched both of these Max Ophüls films a few weeks ago, but forgot to mention them. Simply stunning camerawork on both, but of course that's his trademark. His style alone makes these masterworks and worth seeing. I probably loved Le Plaisir more because it has Jean Gabin in it, and I adored that middle story about the group of prostitutes going to Jean Gabin's daughter's first communion. But the whole film is entertaining, surprising, and perfect. La Ronde is equally as great, as another collection of bawdy tales about desire and pleasure. Again, Ophüls genius work with the camera in it is heaven for a film lover to behold.

Shadows (Cassavetes, 1959) - John and Brandon have done some nice raving about Cassavetes. As I'm sure I mentioned before, I've only seen Faces and A Woman Under the Influence, both of which I really liked, but also watched a while back. I hadn't seen Shadows (for shame), but I was at least aware of its historical and cultural impact on American film (Roger Ebert had it in his 10 most influential movies of the century list). Thanks to Hulu+, I finally got to see it. I don't know how any film fan could dislike it. It's basically the American equivalent to the French New Wave or Italian Neorealism. It's full of energy, life, great characters, impressionism, spontaneity. I loved it a lot. Interestingly, though we didn't watch it, for a class I took on Cold War American Culture, my professor did briefly discuss the film in relation to the Beats and Bebop jazz. It definitely has the same sort of outpouring of feeling and creativity as those two movements. Terrific film.

Also, I started watching Knock On Any Door last Saturday (thanks to John's heads-up), but fell asleep after 20 minutes and didn't record it. I was loving Bogie as the lawyer too. Dammit–I can't stay awake late afternoon. As Jason indicated, that's nap time.

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