Saturday, April 02, 2005

Cinephile Bonanza

I saw eleven films (a lot of them short films) and bought two film books yesterday and the day before. It was a feast. The rundown:

Ride the High Country: I kept thinking, 'What is organizing this film?' Didn't like it much, though McCrea and Scott are fine.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: The last canonical Ford Western (and close to the last Ford sound Western) I needed to see. I'd been waiting years for a chance to see it on 35mm, and the wait was worth it.

Light and World: Jordan Belson, didn't strike me as that impressive.

Joan of Arc: Piero Heliczer. I didn't think this was particularly good either, but its cast (Malanga, Warhol, I think also La Monte Young, et al) is enough for me to give it the benefit of a doubt. I'll give Heliczer more chances in the future.

NY, NY: Francis Thompson's high-energy kaleidoscopic vision of a New York day, using elements of Art Deco and Expressionism, with some sequences in which the cutting (and music) are Hitchcockian or Tashlinesque. Quite good.

Epileptic Seizure Comparison: I've waited to see this film for a long time, ever since Nicole Brenez (in Movie Mutations) cited it as a film 'for which one must become much stronger' or something to that effect. She's certainly right. But after Liberty Valance it's probably the most impressive and important film I saw these two days.

Threnody and Alaya and The Visitation: Nathaniel Dorsky. The Visitation is the first of Dorsky's two recent "devotional songs," the second of which was Threnody (finished last year). Alaya was wind and sand and film grain (pace Dorsky's own description). I thought that The Visitation was the most interesting (and most mysterious), but Threnody's colors were heart-stopping.

DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story: Can we say "complete opposite of Nathaniel Dorsky"?

The two books I got were the Martin/Rosenbaum edited Movie Mutations (about time I finally owned the book, right?) and Patricia Zimmerman's Reel Families: A Social History of Amateur Film (on sale at Kim's).

Also, here is another reason why Olaf Möller is a
hero of mine. (A dozen languages? I'm still struggling with French and Spanish, and making verrrry slow progress.) One of the reasons I regret not buying or subscribing to Film Comment anymore is Möller's current column (though I've been able to get permanent access to most of them online thru NYU), and also Kent Jones and various other contributors. But there's no excuse for my not having issues of Cinema-Scope sitting around. (Well OK, I do have some, but a good English-speaking cinephile should support this magazine and have all of them.) I'm going to run out and buy the current issue today, I think. Anyway, Möller gets a bad rap because of his didactic streak and his ease with esoterica. But for me he fulfills some of the most useful and important functions of a critic, that is, he contextualizes all that he writes on (because he sees and reads a lot), he highlights things that get almost no press (and which he thinks deserve it), and he's always overloading my list of films, filmmakers, and film books to catch up with. I've never heard of Japanese yakuza-movie director Makino Masahiro or Syrian documentary "master" Omar Amiralay, but that's because the J-genre isn't even close to a specialty of mine and I know almost nothing about documentary films from the Near/Middle East (although a Google search turns up at least as many hits in non-English languages as English--and the English ones at least all seem to treat Amiralay with respect similar to what Möller pays him). Anyway Amiralay has a film playing at Tribeca this year, as I find out here--guess I've got to get a ticket.

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