Sunday, December 30, 2007

Year's End

I've got to keep the tradition alive, and don't think I'll have time to craft a post tomorrow. So here's the diaristic, quick-and-dirty breakdown of the things I liked, as a cinephile, in 2007.

Film Events of the Year: Abbas Kiarostami retrospective (MoMA); Out 1 (Museum of the Moving Image); Pedro Costa retrospective (Anthology).

Somewhat Unclassifiable Amazing Experience of the Year: ENIAIOS IV (“Nefeli Photos”), Reel 2 (Gregory Markopoulos, 2004) shown at NYFF Views from the Avant-Garde … new film, old film, fragmentary screening—whatever it was it was one of the absolute peaks of my cinematic experience in ’07.

‘Humiliation’ Awards—the Five Masterpieces I Most Should Have Seen Years Ago That I Finally Got Around to Catching: Barry Lyndon (Stanley Kubrick, 1975), The Grapes of Wrath (John Ford, 1940), Rosemary’s Baby (Roman Polanski, 1968), Morocco (Josef von Sternberg, 1930), and El Dorado (Howard Hawks, 1967). OK, the last one maybe isn’t quite a masterpiece by my reckoning, but it’s very good, and I still should have seen it eight or ten years ago. The first four would definitely have spots on my year-end old films lists …

Recent films—in no real order—more or less, here are some favorites that I could not have seen in New York before 2007: Tachigui—Amazing Lives of the Fast Food Grifters (Mamoru Oshii, 2006—possibly my ‘film of the year,’ whether ’06 or ’07), Juventude em marcha (Pedro Costa, 2006) and The Rabbit Hunters (Costa, 2007), Quei loro incontri (Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, 2006), Espelho Mágico (Manoel de Oliveira, 2006), Pitcher of Colored Light (Robert Beavers, 2007), Respite (Harun Farocki, 2007), Correspondences (Eugène Green, 2007), Le Voyage du ballon rouge (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 2007, a gorgeous and gentle commercial film), Hide (Christoph Girardot and Matthias Müller, 2006), and We Own the Night (James Gray, USA). I also caught up on DVD with Volver (Almodóvar) and Miami Vice (Mann), among big 2006 releases, and liked them both a lot, especially Volver. (I like both Pedros.) Probably a few others I’ve overlooked. Without double-checking, I can’t remember if The Wayward Cloud played in NYC before 2007, but it mostly restored my faith in Tsai—I had a crisis after Goodbye Dragon Inn

And a ‘took them long enough’ award for distribution, this year, goes to: Fah Talai Jone / Tears of the Black Tiger (Wisit Sasanatieng, 2000). Special thanks to Jit Phokaew for connecting me with some of the colorful 1950s Thai films it evokes …

Funniest line of the year seen in an older film for the first time: “I feel like a pig shat in my head!” (from Withnail & I)
Funniest line of the year seen in a newish film: “I’m-a come at you like a spahder munkey!” (from Talladega Nights) … or … “Call them shells” (from Hot Fuzz)

I Don’t Feel Guilty About This Pleasure: The Transporter (Yuen/Leterrier) and The Transporter 2 (Leterrier). But yes, I know the films are bad. And fantastic.

Educational Film Award (Ahem): Correction Please, or How We Got Into Pictures (Noël Burch, 1979)
Much Better Than I Expected (Older Films): Darling (John Schlesinger, 1965)
Much Better Than I Expected (Recent Films): Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007)

Cribbing shamelessly from Olaf Möller’s/die Mannschaft’s ‘Eleven Friends’ mandate, I present here favorite older films (since that’s what comprises the bulk of my viewing) seen at home and in the world. One film per filmmaker. I’ve excluded Out 1 because it was specifically mentioned among the ‘events’ of the year (likewise the Markopoulos), but I have included my single favorite (newly-seen) Kiarostami and Costa films. I don’t know how exactly to explain the skew towards 1968-1977 films in my repertory list. Weird year, I guess. And surely there is a lot of gray area between these films and my 'humiliation' list. (The difference is that the humiliations are things I should & could have seen before I even graduated from high school.) Both lists are in very roughly descending order.

Eleven Friends on Home Viewing Formats

Sisters of the Gion (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1936)
Il general della Rovere (Roberto Rossellini, 1959)
The Parson’s Widow (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1920)
Knightriders (George A. Romero, 1981)
Cronica di un amore (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1950)
Cracking Up (Jerry Lewis, 1983) (hat tip to Andy Rector)
Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach (Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, 1968)
Letter from an Unknown Woman (Max Ophuls, 1948)
Alone. Life Wastes Andy Hardy (Martin Arnold, 1998)
Él—This Strange Passion (Luis Buñuel, 1953)
Iracema – Uma Transa Amazônica (Jorge Bodanzky and Orlando Senna, 1976)

Terribly Underrated: Steaming (Joseph Losey, 1985)

Eleven Friends at the Rep House

Killer of Sheep (Charles Burnett, 1977)
Serene Velocity (Ernie Gehr, 1970)
Homework (Abbas Kiarostami, 1989)
No Quarto da Vanda (Pedro Costa, 2000)
Sicîlia! (Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, 1999)
Themroc (Claude Faraldo, 1973)
Hapax Legomena: (nostalgia) (Hollis Frampton, 1971)
La Hora de los hornos (Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino, 1968)
Isabelle aux dombes (Maurice Pialat, 1951)
Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (Elio Petri, 1970)
The Spook Who Sat by the Door (Ivan Dixon, 1973)

Criminally Underseen (tie): Shabe ghuzi / Night of the Hunchback (Farokh Ghafari, 1965) and Furtivos (José Luis Borau, 1975)

I've been neglectful this past year of ... a lot of silent cinema (1910-1930ish), catching up on various unseen films by certain really key European women filmmakers (various by Varda and Akerman, any Shub or Ottinger, recent Breillat), keeping up with my Bollywood, tracking down more Ritwik Ghatak, and seeing more Italian genre films. And I've got a triple bill I must watch at home soon (inspired by Adrian Martin)--about which I hope to post in the very near future.

Resolutions include trying to see new releases on a more regular basis (and even write reviews for them--something I think I've forgotten how to do); try my best to stick to one book at a time and finish it off quickly; get my hands dirty with Stanley Kubrick again. Plus there will be some improvements to the blogging. I hope.

Happy New Year!


Aaron W. Graham said...

Great idiosyncratic list, Zach -- the best kind!

Your number two resolution ("try my best to stick to one book at a time and finish it off quickly") is one I always try my damnest to stick to, but I haven't been able to do it in the three-four years that I've made it. Here's hoping you'll the tenacity to stick to it.

Happy New Year!

Peter Nellhaus said...

I also like the first Transporter film. If you have time for another Corey Yuen directed film, try So Close. Unlike Brett Ratner, Yuen knows how to photograph martial arts.

Andy Rector said...

Enjoyed that Zach!

However, you shouldn't be humiliated about just now seeing those films. I still haven't seen ROSEMARY'S BABY, MOROCCO, or even EL DORADO (but I have seen RIO LOBO and put it up there in '05), and I didn't turn out to be a serial killer or anything. In fact, as you could see when we met in May '07 I'm quite harmless (with that preface I can now say: BARRY LYNDON is bourgeois cinema, no confusion). But what is this educational Noel Burch film?? Is it related to his film on early cinema and the Institutional Mode of Representation called WHAT DO THOSE OLD FILMS MEAN?? Where did you see this?

And, related to Burch, I propose a new year's resolution between the two of us, a pact: besides being in better touch (on my side!) and going From the Cloud to the Resistance more and more, how about we resolve to get at least one Hanoun film over here in the States on dvd and subtitled ready for underground distribution? I think we can do it...

Farocki's RESPITE is disquieting, now, exactly for its flatness. I'm glad to finally see an acknowledgment of the film.

Let me know if you find any Shub!

to the future, comrade!

Ed Howard said...

That was great reading. Alone. Life Wastes Andy Hardy is really a treat, deserves to be on the "best of" list in any year you happen to see it. It's also great to see some love for Antonioni's first film, which was really an amazing debut. I would guess that it's been overshadowed because it contains only traces and hints of his "mature" style, and is therefore viewed as just a stepping-stone type of film, but it actually has a great deal to offer in its own right.

acquarello said...

Wow, our selections seem to be very close this year, particularly with Tachigui and on what were the highlights from the Views from the Avant-Garde. I definitely agree with the Farocki/Costa/Green triptych in Memories, which was also high on my list, and the Markopoulos/Beavers program. The Markopoulos, especially, was quite experiential, I can't see how it could possibly translate in another medium.

I'm glad that you highlight Girardet and Müller's Hide too, which, as far as I could tell, no one else mentioned in the few Views coverage that I've read (I wrote a bit about it, but it was in the midst of festival coverage frenzy and got buried quickly). I enjoy Müller's work in general, but his collaborations with Girardet really seem to take his work into a whole 'nother level. Another highlight for me was Paolo Gioli's Face Caught in the Dark, which was in the same program as Hide. It would make a really good complement to Filmarilyn as studies in re-animation.

the prog lady said...

you may know this already, but the Transporter man is directing the new Hulk movie with Edward Norton.

Andy Rector said...

Louis Leterrier is the son of Francois Leterrier who played Lieutenent Fontaine, the main prisoner, in Bresson's A MAN ESCAPED. Francois went from doing that to directing one of the EMMANUELLE sequels!

HarryTuttle said...

Francois Leterrier also filmed the beautiful Un Roi Sans Divertissement (1963) adaptated from Jean Giono great eponymous novel! Both highly recommended.

Very nice twist of a year-end top10 Zach. ;)

P.S. did you see the edited version of Homework? We've been investigating this mystery with Rob at Errata without any success.

ZC said...

Aaron, we can start a one-book-at-a-time support club if necessary.

Peter, I'll give a look to So Close (I think I have, um, one free slot on my Netflix queue...)

Andy--Barry Lyndon as bourgeois cinema? That seems like an eminently reasonable assessment. Still, I think it is a great achievement. For about six or seven years now, any time I have revisited a Kubrick film I have disliked it this time around. (Maybe EWS would be an exception.) But this big one, that I'd let slip by so long, seemed to offer such richness. Bourgeois richness? Yes, probably. But ...

Re: Hanoun, as well as From the Clouds. Hell yes. More on this later.

Re: Burch--the film played here at MoMA, and if you haven't already done a Google search on it, you may want to check out Chris Cagle's write-up of the movie.

Ed, we are in agreement.

Acquarello, though I'm the New Yorker, you saw more than I did with a lot of the Walter Reade stuff--but yeah, I noticed from your write-ups we had a lot of overlap. I'm glad that Tachigui has at least a coterie following at this point.

Margaret--I did not know that. Muchas gracias.

Harry, I thought I read one or two places that the version of Homework that screened for us was the edited version. But let me revisit the Errata discussion & refresh my memory, and see if I can answer your question with any more certainty.

Thanks for the comments, everyone!

Anonymous said...

All that 'humiliation' stuff sounds a bit precious. It's not as if there's some squad of cine-police ranking your adequacy against a '1000 films to see before you die' checklist. There will be no special prize at the end.

ZC said...

Relax, Griffith. It's meant to be taken humorously!

celinejulie said...

I love SO CLOSE very much. If you like Hong Kong action films, I also recommend INVISIBLE TARGET (2007, Benny Chan). I hope the film will be released there soon.

Ryland Walker Knight said...

Once again I feel touched by humility knowing I don't see anywhere near as many films as you do. And further that I don't and haven't seen anywhere near as many highbrow classics.

Always a good barometer. Thanks.

ZC said...

Ryland, you're making my head swell (unjustifiably, no doubt)--I bet I don't see that many more movies than you (if I do at all), and I'm positive I've got viewing gaps as chasmic as everyone else.

Anonymous said...

Well dude, if you didn't understand Goodbye Dragon Inn and you like Volver (and few poor westerns are a reason to feel humiliated), then I suggest you should pay a visit to a brain surgeon. Pronto!