Monthly Archives: January 2017

WR, Sex, and the Art of Radical Juxtaposition

In memory of Dušan Makavejev (1932-2019). Commissioned and originally published by Criterion for their DVD of WR: Mysteries of the Organism in 2007. — J.R.


Between the mid-1960s and the mid-1970s, it was generally felt among Western intellectuals and cinephiles that cutting-edge, revolutionary cinema came from Western Europe, Latin America, and the United States. Among the touchstones were Jean-Luc Godard’s films in France, Newsreel’s agitprop documentaries and their spin-offs (like Robert Kramer’s Ice and Milestones) in the United States, such diverse provocations as Lindsay Anderson’s If…. and Godard’s 1+1 in the United Kingdom, and, in Latin America, films like LucíaThe Hour of the Furnace (Cuba), (Argentina), and Antonio das Mortes (Brazil).

By contrast, the wilder politicized art movies coming out of Eastern Europe at the time — such as those of Vera Chytilová, Miklós Jancsó, and Dušan Makavejev — were treated as curiosities, aberrations that wound up getting marginalized by default. The fact that they came from Communist countries made them much harder for Westerners to place, process, and understand; in most cases, an adequate sense of context was lacking.

Part of the problem was a certain intellectual as well as sensual impoverishment arising from the one-dimensional view of Communism fostered by the cold war, even among some of the better-educated leftists and cinephiles, which tended to lump together the Eastern European countries as if they were all part of the same stereotypical gray wasteland.… Read more »

National Society of Film Critics Awards (2016) & Two Comments (2017)

SPECIAL CITATION for a film awaiting American distribution: Sieranevada (Romania) Cristi Puiu

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FILM HERITAGE AWARD: Kino Lorber’s 5-disc collection “Pioneers of African-American Cinema

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BEST ACTOR

*1. Casey Affleck (65) – Manchester by the Sea

2. Denzel Washington (21) – Fences

3. Adam Driver (20) – Paterson

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BEST ACTRESS

*1. Isabelle Huppert (55) – Elle and Things to Come

2. Annette Bening (26) – 20th Century Women

2. Sandra Hüller (26) – Toni Erdmann [tied with Bening]

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BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

*1. Mahershala Ali (72) – Moonlight

2. Jeff Bridges (18) – Hell or High Water

3. Michael Shannon (14) – Nocturnal Animals

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BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

*1. Michelle Williams (58) – Manchester by the Sea

2. Lily Gladstone (45) – Certain Women

3. Naomie Harris (25) – Moonlight

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BEST SCREENPLAY

*1. Manchester by the Sea (61) – Kenneth Lonergan

2. Moonlight (39) – Barry Jenkins

3. Hell or High Water (16) – Taylor Sheridan

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BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

*1. Moonlight (52) – James Laxton

2. La La Land (27) – Linus Sandgren

3. Silence (23) – Rodrigo Prieto

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BEST PICTURE

*1. Moonlight (54)

2. Manchester by the Sea (39)

3. La La Land (31)

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BEST DIRECTOR

*1. Barry Jenkins (53) – Moonlight

2.… Read more »

Two “Best” Lists for Sight and Sound, 2016/2017

Included in Sight and Sound‘s January 2017 issue and on its web site. — J.R.

1. Best Films

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 The Day Before the End
Year: 2016
Director(s): Lav Diaz

EverybodyWantsSome
Everybody Wants Some!!
Year: 2016
Director(s): Richard Linklater

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Aragane
Year: 2016
Director(s): Oda Kaori
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Paterson
Year: 2016
Director(s): Jim Jarmusch

Louis-XIV

La Mort de Louis XIV
Year: 2016
Director(s): Albert Serra

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The first on my list, a short, I caught at the estimable Filmadrid; the third, a documentary by a former FilmFactory student of mine, I saw via a Vimeo link. Worthy runners-up would include João Nicolau’s John From, Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight, Whit Stillman’s Love & Friendship, and Kurosawa Kiyoshi’s Journey to the Shore – and perhaps certain other contenders I haven’t yet caught up with.

2. Best DVDs and Blu-Rays

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Nico Papatakis Box Set (France, 1963-92) (Gaumont Vidéo, DVD).

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I Want to Live! (U.S., 1958) (Twilight Time, Blu-Ray)

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Electra, My Love (U.K., 1974) (Second Run Features, Blu-Ray).

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Early Murnau (U.K., 1921-1925) (Masters of Cinema, Blu-Ray box set)

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Marcel Hanoun: Les Saisons (France, 1968-1972) (Re:Voir, DVD)

 

Five exemplary releases condemned to obscurity by their resistance to being summarized in sound bites:

A comprehensive portrait of a singular filmmaker from Ethiopia and Greece (not simply a Greek, any more than Barack Obama is simply black), with excellent extras subtitled in English; a powerful piece of melodramatic filmmaking from Robert Wise that justifies its opening endorsement by Albert Camus; the first Miklós Jancsó Blu-Ray accorded to an exhilarating, colorful Hungarian musical pageant that unfolds in just a dozen shots; an essential package of five beautiful silent German features with many clarifying extras; and a neglected cycle of films by a major French independent.… Read more »

JOHNNY GUITAR: The First Existential Western

Written for the Olive Films Blu-Ray, which came out in 2016. — J.R.

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François Truffaut called it the Beauty and the Beast of Westerns, without saying who was the beauty and who was the beast. (One could find many candidates for either role). And Jean-Luc Godard, in his second feature, Le Petit Soldat, offered a spin on the movie’s most celebrated dialogue exchange, before offering explicit references to Johnny Guitar in several other films he made in the 60s:

Johnny (Sterling Hayden): Tell me something nice.

Vienna (Joan Crawford): Sure. What would you like to hear?

Johnny: Lie to me, tell me that all these years you’ve waited, tell me.

Vienna: All these years I’ve waited.

Johnny: Tell me you’d have died if I hadn’t come back.

Vienna: I would have died if you hadn’t come back.

Johnny: Tell me you still love me like I love you.

Vienna: I still love you like you love me.

Johnny (softly and sarcastically, about to down another shot of whisky):

Thanks.

 

Bruno (Michel Subor): Lie to me . . . Say you aren’t sad that I’m leaving.

Véronica (Anna Karina): I’m not sad that you’re leaving. I’m not in love

with you.Read more »

My “Best” Lists for DVD Beaver’s Annual Poll, 2016

Please go here for all of the listings. — J. R.

EarlyMurnau

 

 

 

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Electra

Top Blu-ray Releases of 2016

1. Early Murnau (F.W. Murnau, 1921-26), Masters of Cinema, RB, UK)

2. Muriel (Alain Resnais, 1963) (Criterion, RA, US)

3. I Want to Live!  (Robert Wise, 1958) (Twilight Time, RA, US)

4. Electra, My Love (Miklós Jancsó, 1974) (Second Run Features, RB, UK)

5. The Driller Killer (Abel Ferrara, 1979) (Arrow, RA & RB, US & UK)

6. His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks, 1940) + The Front Page (Lewis Milestone, 1931) (Criterion, RA, US)

7. Napoleon (Abel Gance, 1927) (BFI, RB, UK)

8. The Magic Box: The Films of Shirley Clarke, 1927-1986: Project Shirley, Volume 4 (Milestone Films, RA, US)

9. Son of Saul (Laszlo Nemes, 2015) (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, RA, US)

10. Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street (Samuel Fuller, 1973) (Olive Films, RA, US)

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saisons

Tricked

SD

Top 10 SD-DVD Releases OF 2016

1. Coffret Nico Papatakis (1963-2004) (Gaumont Vidéo, PAL, France)

2. Les Saisons (Marcel Hanoun, 1968-72) (RE:VOIR, PAL, France)

3. Tricked (Paul Verhoeven, 2012) (Kino Lorber, US)

4. Something Different + A Bagful of Fleas (Vera Chytilová, 1963 & 1962) (Second Run Features, PAL,  UK)

5. Read more »