-THE BEST OF JANUARY, 2005
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1. Limelight (1952, Charlie Chaplin), The Love of Sumako the Actress(1947, Kenji Mizoguchi), and Million Dollar Baby (2004, Clint Eastwood). Three films that dive headlong into the void of imminent mortality and ask what if anything can survive, be it knowledge, art or love. Each film, in its own nonchalant, also seems to shrug off conventional expectations for quality craftsmanship, which serves to throw their creators' emotional preoccupations into stark relief. They're rough around the eges but their centers are diamond hard with genuine heartache.
2. Shoah (1985, Claude Lanzmann), Dawn of the Dead (1978, George Romero), and Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975, Pier Paolo Pasolini) are each conceptually outrageous works (a 9 1/2 hour documentary of talking heads and scenery, an action horror flick set almost entirely in a shopping mall, and... well I can't even bring myself to describe the last one) that push the limits of our comprehension of who we are as human beings and what horrors we are capable of enacting upon others.
3. The first 45 minutes of Love Me Tonight (1932, Rouben Mamoulian) rank among the most creative, vivacious and simply beautiful experiences of musical cinema, or any cinema for that matter.
4. Histoire(s) du Cinema (1988-1999, Jean Luc Godard) is a sprawling, occasionally stoned, often bewildering and even more often breathtaking synthesis of one man's personal journey through the greatest artistic medium of the last 100 years.
5. The Decalogue Episodes IV-VII (1988, Krzystof Kieslowski) - Fesch was right, I needed to give these chamber pieces more time, patience and attention, to get past the gimmicky concepts and look and listen to the individuals grappling with formidable moral challenges. Episodes IV (where a young woman realizes her father is not biologically related, and that their love is a little more than just familial) and VII (where a peeping tom and his object of voyeurism get entangled in each other's gaze) were especially rewarding upon revisitation.
6. The Outlaw and His Wife (1917, Victor Sjostrom) shows the pioneering Scandanavian naturalist at his full prowess, directing and starring as a misunderstood farmhand who runs off with his buxom employer, only to have the travails of mountain life tear apart their love. A slightly keyed-down but no less stirring predecessor to Vidor's DUEL IN THE SUN.
7. Shoot the Piano Player (1960, Francois Truffaut) is every inch a young man's movie, playing hard and fast with several crime movie cliches while infusing the proceedings with a lot of visual wit, post-adolescent libido and existential anxiety. It's breathtakingly inventive and energetic, despite (or because of) its latent misogyny.
8. Of the dozen Fatty Arbuckle shorts I watched in January, Good Night Nurse! (1918) strikes me as his most quintessential, filled with narrative anarchy, crude proto-surrealist slapstick, sexual mixups and mishaps (the fat man sure loved to put on those dresses), and casual physical cruelty inflicted on all involved. Arbuckle is due some recognition as a noteworthy prototype to both Laurel and Hardy and Luis Bunuel.
9. Bus 174 (2002, Jose Padilha), a gripping, comprehensive exploration of a tragically botched bus hijacking in Rio de Janeiro, puts the overheated CITY OF GOD in much-needed perspective.
10. Gertie the Dinosaur (1914, Winsor MacKay), The Dinosaur and the Missing Link (1918, Willis O'Brien), and Christmas Eve (1913) rank among the most memorable landmarks of early silent animation and live-action/animation.
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