Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Sight & Sound Challenge: Gertrud (1965)

Film: Gertrud (147/250) 
First Time/Rewatch: First Time

Oof. I think this might be the last Dreyer film on the list, and while I immensely enjoyed Vampyr, The Passion of Joan of Arc, Ordet, and Day of Wrath, this one was an absolute snooze-fest. This story of a woman meeting past and present lovers consists mainly of excruciatingly long conversations where the characters stand in fancy rooms and don't look at each other. It moves at a snail's pace, and there's something weirdly off-putting about every single character. My understanding is that this has been a pretty divisive film over the years...upon its premiere, it was booed and called a disaster. Others hailed it as a masterpiece. I'm going with this quote: "Dreyer has gone from serenity to senility...Not a film, but a two-hour study of sofas and pianos." Its very presence on this list shows that it's a film that is held by many in high regard, but I just couldn't get into it. Still, I'm grateful that this movie challenge introduced me to Dreyer's other films. Can't win 'em all!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Stray Cat Rock: Machine Animal (1970)

Since all five of theses films were released within eight months of each other, you can't really say that each factored in the audience's response to the previous installment, but it kind of feels like it. Wild Jumbo tried doing something wildly different from Delinquent Girl Boss by having a mostly male cast and then in Sex Hunter they seem to have learned that the less men the better. Gratefully, Machine Animal seems to have learned from Sex Hunter that loads of rape tends to undercut your political messaging. They even seem to be addressing it with dialogue before the opening brawl. Watching these filmmakers and actors actively figuring out what does and does not work via trial and error is a very interesting experience. I have only one film left in the series. Will it be the masterpiece where everything truly comes together? Probably not! But that doesn't mean this hasn't been a pretty wild and enjoyable ride so far.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Friday Quote: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

"I should say you look rather lost, but then I can't imagine where in the world the three of you would look at home."
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Stray Cat Rock: Delinquent Girl Boss (1970)

Oh man! Where has this series been all my life? It's so alive with cinematic energy! Like Steven Soderbergh with the Ocean's films, this film is willing to try anything to get your attention. Color, music, editing, swinging cameras - nothing is off-limits. One gag leads to another and before you know it the movie is over and you had a great time. It's ludicrous that a film this wild was able to be made by the same studio that had just fired Seijun Suzuki for being too wild. Perhaps they were too preoccupied with Suzuki's lawsuit against them to really know what was going on? Who knows! I just know that I can't wait to check out the rest of this series!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Sight & Sound Challenge: The House is Black (1963)

Film: The House is Black 
First Time/Rewatch: First Time

In making my way through this list, I've been confronted with images I didn't want to see. Torture, animal slaughter, gore and horror of all kinds. For the most part, these things were carefully staged by the filmmakers, trying to evoke a specific response in its audience. Knowing nothing about this film, I was struck by the first image of a human face, deformed. "What's wrong with that face?!" I thought. Then I realized that these were the real faces of leprosy, and my initial cringing reaction was their everyday reality. These images juxtaposed with poetry and prayers caused a strange reaction in me of sadness, of shame, of vanity. How little I know of the world outside my bubble! How petty are my daily concerns! I only wish that the version I watched had clearer subtitles so I could really take it all in. This film comes in at only 20 minutes but it packs a powerful punch. I can only imagine what writer/director Forugh Farrokhzad's career would have been if not for a car accident that took her from the world at age 32. It's a moving look at a world most of us would probably turn our heads from. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Sight & Sound Challenge: The Thin Blue Line (1988)

Film: The Thin Blue Line (145/250) 
First Time/Rewatch: First Time

I don't watch a lot of true crime, aside from the occasion rerun of "Snapped" with my sister. Like a lot of the country, however, I was drawn into "Making a Murderer" and "The People vs OJ Simpson". Watching The Thin Blue Line scratched a particular itch I didn't realize I had. The frustrating thing about watching this was how CLEARLY ridiculous this case of a man found guilty of murder based on the flimsiest of evidence was. The witnesses are jokes, the guy who did the accusing was smirking the whole time...it's amazing that so much can be overlooked or misremembered. Thank goodness this documentary was made to help set things right. Stylistically the film isn't anything remarkable, but the story is interesting, if not completely frustrating. This is a case of a film directly affecting a real life case, and that in itself is extraordinary.

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Man Who Wasn't There (2001)

Somewhere among the masterpieces, the failures and the crowdpleasers, this film tends to get forgotten in the Coen Brothers oeuvre. Even though it shared Best Director at Cannes with the newly ordained "Best Film of the Millennium" Mulholland Drive, The Man Who Wasn't There has become a bit of a phantom film. Sometimes I even wonder if it actually exists. But there it is on my self. It's almost too perfect that this film about an extremely passive and forgettable schlub, has itself become forgotten. And just like that protagonist, the film also holds surprising depth. That's the sort of extra-textual synthesis that you simply cannot plan. Or maybe the Coen's can?

Friday, September 16, 2016

Friday Quote: Sing Street

"Your problem is that you're not happy being sad. But that's what love is. Happy sad."
Sing Street (2016)

Thursday, September 15, 2016

In the Cut (2003)

If I were a filmmaker, I would not want to get anywhere near this material. Due to my privilege as a straight, cis-gender male, I've never had to constantly fear for my safety the way a female, homosexual or trans person does. I don't have to worry about roughly half of the world's population potentially wishing me harm. The threat of physical and sexual violence is completely alien to me. Yet, as an audience member I find this topic to be extremely compelling. Through Jane Campion and Meg Ryan I am able to glimpse that experience from the comfort and safety of my own sofa. Only a female, trans or queer filmmaker could have told this story. Imagine some straight, male director talking about how the danger of everyday life can sometimes be a turn on. No way! What danger do they know? Although, a male person of color does know the unique terror of living in a world where black lives don't seem to matter. You know, the more I think about it, this story isn't very niche at all. The only group this is a foreign idea to is the tiny minority group of straight, white, cis-gender males. And that is the power of cinema.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Sight & Sound Challenge: Rashomon (1950)

Film: Rashomon (144/250) 
First Time/Rewatch: Rewatch

A woman is raped, or is she? A man is killed, but how? Where's the dagger? What really happened? The events in this film are told through four different perspectives, and who's to say what the true version is? Everyone has their own motivations. Everyone has reasons to lie. Even as I watched it carefully, I had trouble recalling what happened in which version, there were so many overlapping events. The characters being told these stories lose faith in humanity, convinced there is no good left in this wretched world. But maybe there is a little good after all...

This is a masterpiece of filmmaking. I'm especially awed by the story told by the dead man through a medium...it's haunting and though you may think that the victim's story has to be the true one, is it really? It's an absolute crime that I've seen so little of director Akira Kurosawa's work. He's widely regarded as one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, and I'm barely scratching the surface of his filmography. Time to get busy!