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Mauvais Sang (1986, Leos Carax)
TSPDT project #794
It's hard to describe a film that can alternate between pure bliss-out cinematic pyrotechnics and extended moments of just plain talking, and somehow it all stays airborne. I'm not even sure I can say what it's about, but I certainly *felt* something that I rarely feel, a restless, doomed need to keep pushing for the lyrical. Just that David Bowie dance sequence when Lavant trips over his feet like a drunk, beats himself with his fists and then stumbles into a high speed pirouette and somersault, god that says it all. I have rarely encountered a camera lens that was so in love with its two leads, and I can't blame it for feeling that way. The colors on the Fox Lorber DVD were so yummy I wanted to eat the screen.
YES (#2 for 1986 between ALIENS and BLUE VELVET)
Deep Red (1975, Dario Argento)
Baron Blood (1972, Mario Bava)
Black Sunday (1960, Mario Bava)
YES (#7 for 1960 between LATE AUTUMN and SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER)
Bay of Blood (1971, Mario Bava)
yes (#10 for 1971 between THE ACT OF SEEING WITH ONE'S OWN EYES and HAROLD AND MAUDE)
Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926, Lotte Reiniger)
TSPDT project #795
yes (#9 for 1926 between "THE PROLOGUE" FROM THE PASSAIC TEXTILE STRIKE and EMAK BAKIA)
Entr'acte (1924, Rene Clair)
yes (#10 for 1924 between THE LAST LAUGH and THE NAVIGATOR)
Floating Clouds (1955, Mikio Naruse)
TSPDT project #796
FLOATING CLOUDS strikes me as very Bressonian -- I think it's the only film from 1956 that is anywhere near the same level as A MAN ESCAPED -- and in terms of worldview the film seems to anticipate where Bresson would be in 10 years. I think that, compositionally, Bresson is closer to Ozu, but emotionally he is closer to Naruse, just in that cold-eyed, uncompromising look at the world in all its inhospitableness and unexpected beauty. This film also kicks LIFE OF OHARU's ass because it doesn't try to dress up the woman's suffering in pitying pedestalizing sentiments -- she isn't a victim at all, she just has these emotions and who the hell knows what's at the bottom of them. That's all the more difficult to pull off when you have someone as button-cute as Hideko Takamine who you'd think it would be easy to feel sorry for. But she owns her emotions, her dogged fixation on this jerk is her own choice, and she holds herself at bay even from the viewer in that ownership. It's challenging that she goes in the opposite direction of what most disillusioned couples do today, but I could still connect to those feelings. I was married for only 3 years, but I knew my wife for 8, and I know that despite the dissolution of our relationship, those feelings are never going to go away.
YES (#2 for 1956 between A MAN ESCAPED and EARLY SPRING)
Flowing (1956, Mikio Naruse)
FLOWING features one of the best actress ensembles ever. It's a cast of virtually every actress I'd want to see in a 50s Japanese movie (short of Setsuko Hara), and better still, they all deliver. That's probably what made it easier for me to hook into it than FLOWING CLOUDS on first watch. Also for that same reason, I came to realize that his characters are really the visual axis of his films, unlike in Mizoguchi where the characters seem to be placed within a dominant spatial environment, or Ozu where shots of people and objects take turns displacing the other. This may also be why Naruse's films have, for me at least, the most emotional immediacy of any of the Japanese masters, though it's a hardened, bitter emotion that's not bound to please everyone. but his way of seeing and feeling the world is just so damn REAL, so matter of fact, so honest.
YES YES (#3 for 1955 between LOLA MONTES and NIGHT AND FOG)
Crossroads (1937, Shen Xiling)
1937 looks like a banner year for Chinese cinema, with films like LIANHUA SYMPHONY, STREET ANGEL and CROSSROADS. These films suggest that China's filmmakers were at an all time high in their active engagement with their artform and the world around them, excitedly exploring the possibilities. In CROSSROADS, Zhao Dan -- the Tony Leung of his time -- plays a down and out graduate scraping to get by while avoiding the landlady of his hovel. The room he lives in is so run-down that the wall to the room next door is made of wood panels that don't even reach the ceiling! His new neighbor is a young lady out to make her own living as an independent woman. Both the characters and the filmmakers seem to take deep poverty as a point of inspiration, doing all kinds of funny things with clutter, garbage and the overall run down conditions of their environment. The film magically shifts tones and genres, from melodrama to musical to slapstick comedy, with a purposeful social consicence and irrepressibility that is to be envied.
YES YES (#2 for 1937 between STREET ANGEL and HUMANITY AND PAPER BALLOONS)
New Woman (1935, Cai Chusheng)
If there's any doubt that Ruan Lingyu was one of the greatest actresses who ever lived, check out her massive tour de force in this masterpiece, in which she plays in a true life story of an aspiring writer and single mother who was scandalized and abused to the point of suicide. Men are portrayed as horny and evil as they devise various ways to institutionally and sexually mistreat her, but Ruan's larger than life performance gives the work its own compelling logic, as the paranoid visions of a woman who is too full of life to submit to any man's subjugation and yet too powerless to protect herself. Ruan's performance plays like a trance -- she offers each gesture and close-up as if her life depended on it -- even when she's smiling at a friend there's a desperation gleaming from the enamel of her teeth, as if rejection and ruin were lurking next door and smiling is all she can do to stave them off. She dives into her own acting like a cathartic ritual, exorcising the demons of sexual objectification around her and insecurity within her. Cai Chusheng's direction plays almost like accompaniment to Ruan, employing a variety of stylistic flourishes to underscore Ruan's emotional state at each step. Sadly the film, Ruan's final performance, was to have a prophetic resonance, as Ruan killed herself under the strain of intense gossip and slander over her womanly virtue.
YES YES (#1 for 1935)
A History of Violence (2005, David Cronenberg)
yes (#12 for new films seen in 2005 between HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE and MEMORIES OF MURDER)
L'Intrus (2004, Claire Denis)
I am in awe of Claire Denis. Half the time I did not know what the hell was going on in this movie, but the visuals are strong that I didn't really care. It works like a dream, which as it turns out, it largely is. She is building bigtime on the work she did in FRIDAY NIGHT with personal thought-impulses leaping into onscreen fantasy representations -- here, it's even more lyrical and disjunctive and it becomes harder to tell the difference between actual events and subjective passages.
YES (#4 for new films seen in 2005 between THE DEATH OF MR. LAZARESCU and THROUGH THE FOREST)
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