I've been something less than consistent in keeping up with email and the Internet over the past week or more. But I hope to get back into the swing of things fully a few days into January. This blog entry will be my obligatory best-of-the-year rundown. Since I didn't really see many 2005 releases (almost all of those that I did see were DVD viewings at my family's place during the last two holiday breaks), I definitely cannot offer a "top ten of 2005." However, I saw something approaching 350 films this year (including shorts and repeat viewings, but I didn't pad the list with either!), there were plenty of older works to enjoy and savor.
Film of the Year - A Woman Under the Influence (John Cassavetes, 1974). I watched this alone, late at night, on DVD. Cassavetes is the supreme welder of the appearance of "documentary truth" with the cinematic potential offered by the performative-plastic.
Masterpieces - Know that this is not quite a complete list; I'm sure I skipped over a few when I ran through my film log; first viewings only - On Top of the Whale: A Film About Survival (Raúl Ruiz, 1982); My Darling Clementine (John Ford, 1946); Les Maîtres fous (Jean Rouch, 1955); The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (John Ford, 1962); Epileptic Seizure Comparison (Paul Sharits, 1976 - mentioned in the Liberty Valance link as well); Ugetsu monogatari (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1953); A Man Escaped (Robert Bresson, 1956); An American Romance (King Vidor, 1944); The Heartbreak Kid (Elaine May, 1972); Black Ice (Stan Brakhage, 1994 - only on DVD, but this is the only film of Brakhage's I've seen just on DVD and suspected I still was "getting it"); The End (Christopher Maclaine, 1953 - but really all of Maclaine's film work, probably an oeuvre of four films second only to Vigo's); Docteur Chance (F.J. Ossang, 1997); Le Voyage à travers l'impossible (Georges Méliès, 1904); The Cameraman (Edward Sedgwick and Buster Keaton, 1928); Carriage Trade (Warren Sonbert, 1973); The Loyal 47 Ronin (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1941-42); The Cloud-Capped Star (Ritwik Ghatak, 1960); The Long Gray Line (John Ford, 1955). The majority of these are major films by pantheon filmmakers, so no surprises here, except perhaps a few like Maclaine or Ossang.
Special mention goes to Dieter Roth's overwhelming installation Solo Scenes (1997-98), which isn't cinema, exactly. A great, great work anyway.
And of course, these were only the masterpieces amidst a whole ocean of exceptionally worthy films I saw, from which I'll mention five standouts:
Dark Horses - five near masterpieces (at least!) whose status took me at least a little by surprise - Bandits of Orgosolo (Vittorio De Seta, 1961); Winstanley (Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo, 1975); Blanche (Walerian Borowczyk, 1971); Mr. Thank You (Hiroshi Shimizu, 1936); Street Angel (Yuan Muzhi, 1937).
And this represents only a fraction of my filmic passions over the last year. What about Donovan's Reef (Ford, 1963)? Coffin Joe? Edward Yang's The Terrorizer (1986)? Artavazd Peleshian? A Touch of Zen (King Hu, 1971)? The bizarre mindfuck Three Crowns of the Sailor (Ruiz, 1983)? Cassavetes' Love Streams (albeit on pan-and-scan video--I forgot about the BAM screening a few weeks ago until it was too late!)? Strike! by Eisenstein? Naruse? Guru Dutt? Kawashima Yuzo's Not Long After Leaving Shinegawa (1957)? I could go on ...
But that was the best of my year in film-viewing.