Thursday, April 28, 2005

Short Takes on a Few Directors

- Vittorio De Seta. MoMA retrospective in February. If his other films are as good as Bandits of Orgosolo and Almost a Man ... this will be a momentous "discovery" for American (or at least New York) cinephiles. Mark my words.

- Richard Fleischer. Only a little bit into my research and I've already got 1500 words on him (for the Film Journal's upcoming feature). The preliminary verbosity mostly comes from a discussion of auteur politics and theories that I'm trying to get a definitive opinion on.

- Chris Marker. He's not Ozu or Ford, so I don't think I can claim him as my "favorite" filmmaker ever. But it's quite possible that he's the most important one. I'll be writing a paper on his work this weekend. Something on the economy and discourse of images (hey, you in the back, don't roll your eyes!), and I haven't decided for sure if I want to most deeply examine his work on cinema (Vertigo in Sans soleil; Tarkovsky; Medvedkin) or his work on political events (Grin Without a Cat). More on that soon, probably.

- Tunde Kelani. Is Agogo Eewo (at BAM in a few weeks) worthwhile? Apparently it's a sequel (to a film I definitely have not seen).

- Rogério Sganzerla. I may get to finally see a film of his soon. Will definitely report back on that, if and when it works out.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Seijun Suzuki, et al.

I've been thinking a lot about Japanese genre films lately, in part because I have recently watched the first Takashi Miike film I've really liked (Dead or Alive 2: Birds--thanks Steve and Gabe, for the recommendation many months ago!), as well as a minor Seijun Suzuki effort, 1963's Kanto Wanderer, which is notable in my opinion almost totally for the climactic 10-15 minutes--absolutely heart-stopping colors, a sense of whimsy and spatial inventiveness, as if the aesthetic of Pistol Opera (a film I must revisit) were stuck, a bit muted, into the fabric of an otherwise innocuous genre film.

(By the way, does Kanto Wanderer technically count as a yakuza-eiga movie, is it an early example before the genre rigidified by the mid-1960s, or is it a variant? I know barely anything about this genre and am just curious.)

I have several viewing (not to mention reading) projects for this, my first post-graduation summer. One of them will be to explore further the works of Suzuki and Miike, not to mention Kinji Fukasaku's early stuff, and Koji Wakamatsu and Yasuzo Masamura, more Kitano, etc. (Actually one might say Japanese film in general. It's been a long time since I've seen anything by Mizoguchi, Oshima, or Kurosawa. I am keen to revisit a number of Ozu favorites. It'd be interesting to glimpse a few "pink films." You get the picture.) Those who read this and want to point me in the direction of really good lesser-known stuff in these veins that is accessible via video or maybe Japan Society screenings should feel free to do so. I'm interested.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Restaurants I Must Try in Queens

So ... this post isn't at all movie-related, but I'll be settling in Astoria post-graduation (and being on the G/R/V I'll be within 45 minutes of pretty much any theater I'd want to go to--and just a nice walk from AMMI). But I am so psyched about the food in NYC's best dining borough. Here are some must-try restaurants for me in Queens:

La Pollada de Laura (Peruvian)
Mombar (Egyptian)
Kebab Cafe (Middle Eastern - Lebanese? can't recall)
La Flor (mix/bakery)
Viko's (Mexican)
Pio Pio (Peruvian)
... and a particular Greek place whose name escapes me (out of the dozens in Astoria)

Also: frequent return visits to Tangra Masala and Sripraphai are in order. Bring the heat. Bring it.

I'll be back sooner or later with something substantial to post.

Sunday, April 03, 2005


So several months after its premiere, I finally went to the new MoMA space--the galleries, not for any movies. (Such a stereotypical cinephile, I guess.) I thought the new layout was OK; the periodic "openness" was cool but I also found the floor plans a bit confusing.

What did I learn?

Gilles Peress and Yayoi Kusama are contemporary photographers whose work I like, although I've just confirmed to myself again that I generally prefer photography from the first part of the twentieth century (Cartier-Bresson, Strand, Sheeler, Rodchenko, Stieglitz, etc.).

Marco Breuer: very interesting works up in one of the Painting & Sculpture galleries. Click here and scroll down for a little commentary that echoes my sentiments.

The first time I've been knocked off my feet (figuratively) by a Schiele: Portrait of Gerti Schiele, 1909.

The biggest impression made on me was Barnett Newman's work, which I found surprisingly and deeply affecting. (The paintings hung near Rothko works that just seemed inadequate by comparison.) I "felt" Newman's paintings in a way that I hadn't ever before, whether seeing them in person or reproduced in slides/plates. It's pointless to say it, but the paintings felt really ... honest.

And the big Monet Water Lilies was the most comforting thing to see.

(Is it clear that my interests--for this trip at least--were definitely geared towards photography and painting at the expense of sculpture, video--though Warhol screen tests were fascinating, architecture, or design?)

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.