EDIT: I've taken out the "political talk" paragraph. I must have made a misstep without realizing it. I apologize.
Gentile’s piece on ETERNAL SUNSHINE is lovely and great; I don’t think I could have said it better myself. This sentence is a gem amongst many other gems: “It's realistic in the fact that the romance is based around singular memories and doesn't put forth the claim of so many love stories that there is a blanketing divine value to the romantic relationship, or a romantic partner as a whole.” Absolutely spot-on.
The aughts lists were definitely nice to see. And the master list we ended up with is actually quite solid. That’s a pretty formidable top 10 we were able to muster. I haven’t seen MOULIN ROUGE or APPALOOSA so I can’t complain about their inclusion. The only film in the list that gives me pause is LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, but it isn’t that irksome. I’m surprised to see Brandon single out A SINGLE MAN (nailed that wordplay) and doubt its “cinematic impact” when he hasn’t even seen the film (homophobe ;)). As a great admirer of Tom Ford’s film, I can unabashedly attest to the film’s emotional wallop. It’s a gorgeous and lacerating amalgamation of sound and image, very much in the vein of IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE. If your eyes and heart are open, it cuts deep and it cuts true. To me, it’s impact cinema of the purest sort because it effortlessly makes us feel.
Anyway, Brandon, thanks for writing back. I was hoping you would. These back-and-forths are always a pleasure.
Malick’s film just got confirmed for next year (rats!). No word on Kiarostami’s, but I’m assuming it’s in the same boat.
Great distinction between taking your art seriously versus taking yourself (your image, persona, etc.) seriously. I completely agree. I have tremendous respect for artists who let their work speak for itself and demur to the sidelines (John Ford was notorious for doing this, almost to an absurd degree). Haneke is definitely an artist guilty of excessive self-satisfaction and an apparent lack of introspection. But I would certainly admit to being taken by his formalism, craft, and techique. And I would disagree about the nature of his last two films (excluding FUNNY GAMES, since it wasn’t a “new” film when it came out). I see less finger wagging and audience intimidating going on in CACHE and THE WHITE RIBBON than in anything else previous in his cannon. I think with these two films he’s moved away more from trying to beat answers over his audience’s head towards opening up more questions for them to contemplate and discover. In short, he’s being a smarter director and it’s showing. I know you aren’t quite taken with the man’s work yet, but it sounds like AMOUR might be the “unobstructed masterpiece” you’re looking for. If not, then maybe he’s incapable of one.
I think you and I could both agree that INLAND EMPIRE is pure Lynch, for better or worse (depending on which of us you ask). That may mean nothing to someone already skeptical of or disillusioned from his style, but to the initiated it means the comfort and embrace of a well-known companion. IE looks and sounds like everything Lynch that came before it, but it’s even looser and more ephmeral than any of his previous films, giving it both a sense of welcome familiarity and uneasy wonder. In some ways, it plays like the lesser but more freakish little brother of MULHOLLAND DRIVE (and it is), but it’s also more a document of Lynch’s conscious and subconscious than anything he’s done since ERASERHEAD.
IE is in no way a perfect film (and I emphasis the word “film”). But it is a diabolical and inspired experiment from one of cinema’s great experimentors. It is purposefully sloppy and disjointed, and I don’t use that as an excuse for any flaws it has, but as a testament to its unwillingness to unify. I don’t tangle with surrealist or avant garde cinema all that much, but when I do I can sometimes find it has a strong, unforced connection to a lot of the postmodern philosophy I enjoy reading and thinking about (I apologize for using the word “postmodern” in a defense on David Lynch – someone please kick me in my hipster balls the next time you see me). Thinking more about IE, it feels remarkably Deleuzean, which only makes it seem richer in my estimation. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but Deleuze is my favorite philosopher. He’s also incredibly difficult to comprehend. Anytime I can make connections to his work, it helps me understand it better, and helps me appreciate what I’m connecting it to more. Basically, I see a lot in IE that connects to Deleuze, and I think that's cool. That's about the best defense I can conjure without just resorting to the "personal preference" argument.
But I do accept your hesitation towards IE and won't try to dissuade you from it. One criticism I will definitely entertain about IE is its look. Lynch does some neat tricks with his digtital camera, but it still produces an ugly, unconscionable image to these eyes. I wish it had been shot on film. And for the record, yes, I find most Lynch mobbers unbearable, even as I spiritually must stand beside them. A lot of his most fervant fans know nothing about film, and only care about how loving his work makes them appear. This is annoying.
Anyway...this is a roundabout way of saying that HOLY MOTORS is something I’m interested in seeing, as well. haha.
I think we can forgive YOUNG MR. LINCOLN, THE PRISONER OF SHARK ISLAND, and ABE LINCOLN OF ILLINOIS for neglecting to represent “alternative readings of history.” I don’t think the idea of “alternative readings of history” even meant much of anything before 1960. Of these, I’ve only seen YOUNG MR. LINCOLN and, yes, that one is an undeniable masterpiece. I’m sure PRISONER is one too. It’s Ford, after all.
I do love Spielberg and I have high hopes for LINCOLN. I certainly don’t knock the man’s sentimental flourishes. There’s something pure and classical about them (I love Capra, ya know). I loved the brazen schmaltz of WAR HORSE and drank it up with relish. I won’t mind too much if there’s some in LINCOLN, but I’m hoping we're getting the brawnier and more incisive Spielberg for it. I just think the material might call for it. We shall see. Hopefully soon.
I would absolutely like to see POINT BREAK and NEAR DARK. Gotta fill those cinema gaps.
Speaking of gaps, I would also like to see CASINO ROYALE and eventually SKYFALL. I just haven’t had the opportunity to see the former yet and probably won’t rush to the theater to see the latter. Still, I’m hoping too see them at some point.
All right, good talk. Can’t wait for the Ford lists. Wonderful seeing ya last night too. We need to have another movie night soon. Has been too long.