Great year in review, John. I’m honored to be a part of what you and Brandon deem the best year in film club history. It’s been a lot of fun. My favorite moments of the year are easily all the film club gatherings, even the inadvertent film club gathering at Margarita’s with Ben. Here’s hoping we can include Jason in a gathering in 2012. If not, I’ll just have to go with Summer People to a Rochester show sometime to meet him.
I'm sorry to all for not responding to any posts you might have. I read them all with great love and admiration, but if I don't respond to any of them it is because I have nothing interesting to offer or because I haven't seen/heard of what you are discussing. Please, keep all the posts coming though. They are a joy to read.
I still haven’t watched THE KID WITH A BIKE, but I have been faithfully watching Hulu Plus’ Criterion Collection instead. The vast array of Crit.Co. films they have on there (especially the ones that are no longer in circulation) make it worth every single penny. It’s a an incredible deal–and probably better than NWI because of how crumby their selection is. I know I sound like a Hulu spokesperson (I wish they were paying me for this), but I highly recommend getting it if you are interested in having nearly unlimited access to Criterion’s expensive but peerless selection.
Consider Ozu’s EARLY SUMMER a beautiful continuation of his remarkable and tender LATE SPRING. And consider me a new convert to his work. I had seen TOKYO STORY in high School, but like with Bresson, I don’t think I was ready or mature enough to understand what he was doing with the camera or with his stories. His style might have seemed too simple to me at the time. Now, I see the simplicity, but notice this sort of mystical quality or radiance that makes the simplicity seem like the most complex and vital thing I’ve seen on a screen in a long time. EARLY SUMMER and LATE SPRING are never dull for a second. They are consistently warm, gentle, humane, fascinating, and effortlessly beautiful. Ozu is one of the most entrancing filmmakers around, and the simplicity on the surface of his film only belies a deeper connection that is constantly working upon you, like the way a familiar sight can sometimes seem as if you are looking at it for the first time. Ozu is my latest cinematic hero–I’m glad I revisited him when I was ready for him.
Rossellini’s GERMANY YEAR ZERO is devastating–a sort of anguished cry against the destructive magnitude of war and the lives it ruins. Between this and ROME, OPEN CITY, Rossellini excels at capturing civilian life during and after war time. I have no idea about his feelings as a man, but his films seem endlessly compassionate. What a ballsy move to shoot a film about a devastated German population so close after the end of WWII. To be able to look through the obviously warranted outrage, wrath, and demonization to find regular people suffering from the evil and vicious exploits of their leaders takes a lot of humility and courage. The images of our young protagonist walking through lonely streets of rubble and the last few images depicting his fate are some that I will never forget.
Carné’s HOTEL DU NORD, like LE SOUR SE LEVE and PORT OF SHADOWS, continues with his theme of love and doom in 1930s France. It has all of the melodramatic yet tender moments I’ve come to expect from his work, plus a great deal of humor. The greatest moments in the film are the ones where we spend time with the community in the hotel because they reminded me why I loved LE HAVRE so much, and surely why Kaurismaki loves Carné so much. I’m right there with him. Carné is one of my absolute favorite filmmakers. A director through which poetry and humanity flowed as if it were second nature. This is another great film from him.
Dieterle’s PORTRAIT OF JENNIE isn’t a Criterion film, but I caught it on TCM recently and should mention it. Ed Gonzalez has a really swell review of it where he discusses how well the film links artistic impotence with a burgeoning spiritual crisis. I can’t say it any better than he already did. The film does some wonderful things thematically (as well as being a nice love story). But, I will say that it also has some of the finest cinematography of any Hollywood film during the era. It’s amazingly shadowy and mysterious, and the camera’s movements through a snow-covered New York are incredible to see. The “canvas effect” and color saturation towards the end make it that much more strange and visually impressive. It’s all like watching a dream unfold through shadows and haze. An unusual film, but a great one, no doubt.
Right on cue with John’s post about me, I'll just mention quickly that I have completed my 1944 and 1934 lists and will post them as soon as I can. The same goes for my 2010 list. My 1951 list should be completed by the end of the week, and I hope to post it by then as well. 2003 list is waiting in the wings, all in an order I am comfortable with, but I gotta find the time/energy to write it up. Someday soon.