Daily Archives: January 10, 2007

Five 2006 Favorites

From Sight and Sound (January 2007). – J.R.

 

In order to write briefly about five films that I first saw in 2006 that are especially important to me, I have to violate a taboo against acknowledging works that aren’t (yet) readily available. More specifically, the first two on my list haven’t yet been seen very widely outside of film festivals and/or the countries where they were made, while the last two, even more rarefied, have only been shown under special circumstances, in both cases because their filmmakers are under no commercial pressures to release them and would like to oversee and monitor their exhibition. Although I’m aware that this may irritate some readers, I’d rather address them like adults than succumb to the infantile consumerist model of instant gratification, according to which works should be known about only when they can be immediately accessed. After all, some pleasures are worth waiting for.

Coeurs

Coeurs

Alain Resnais’ dark, exquisite, and highly personal adaptation of Alan Ayckbourn’s Private Fears of Public Places, which I saw at film festivals in Venice and Toronto, is eloquent testimony both to how distilled his art has become at age 84 and how readily Ayckbourn’s examples of English repression can be converted into French equivalents.… Read more »

M. Butterfly

I haven’t seen David Henry Hwang’s much-praised play, based on an implausible-but-true story, but it’s easy to see how the audience’s imaginative participation in the central premise could make it work. An accountant at the French embassy in Beijing in 1964 falls in love with the male diva who plays Puccini’s Madame Butterfly at the Peking Opera, thinking he’s a woman, and over the course of a lengthy affair gets coerced into spying for the Chinese government. The fundamental problems with David Cronenberg’s disastrous 1993 adaptation, written by Hwang himself, are twofold: the unsuitability of such a premise for film, where the actors and audience no longer share the same space, and the miscasting of Jeremy Irons as the accountant and John Lone as the diva. The bravura final sequence gives some indication of the movie that might have been. With Barbara Sukowa and Ian Richardson. R, 101 min. (JR)… Read more »