June 17, 2009 / Filmwell
Criterion’s May release of Wise Blood (1979, John Huston) makes available the flawed but fascinating artistic meeting of two uncontested American masters, novelist Flannery O’Connor and film maker John Huston.
January 13, 2010
Splats of mud in Munyurangabo, the unexpected drift of the lens in Revanche, the train passages in 35 Shots of Rum, the ecstatic beginning of The Headless Woman, the en plein air end of Summer Hours. This year of cinema was rife with memorable shots and sequences from so many different contexts and technologies.
I like the way these scene lists cinephiles often put together revel in what ultimately makes cinema tick: well-composed glimpses of stuff that for whatever reason survive the journey between our short and long term memory.
Here are a few more:
Two real life twins, one wheelchair bound, play sisters in this film about Bujalski type things. Somewhere in there is a great scene during which they are taking pictures out in a wheelchair unfriendly rural area. Eventually, Lauren has to just pick Jeannie up and carry her along on her back. They laugh, it’s playful, it is an effortless reversal of the usual take on disability in movies.
Towards the middle of this film, Lorna and Claudy go out and purchase a bike for Claudy to tool around on. Lorna is late for work and in a bit of a hurry. Claudy begins to ride off in the other direction. On a whim, Lorna turns around and runs playfully after him, grinning and laughing like a young girl in love. It is a moment of unplanned joy; a bit of carefree romance we don’t expect here. And as someone who has experienced the kind of shameless love that happens between people who have fought through addiction together, I saw in this sweep of the Dardennes’ lens an expression of the gleeful candor of healing forgiveness. I suppose the moment is so memorable because, like much authentic joy in the world, it is so out of place. Cue the next edit… In a long line of many, my favorite Dardenne’s moment.
There are a number of memorable shots in Liverpool that are great descriptions of devastation, booze, and distance. But at the heart of the film is a garish key chain that we hear once, clanking against a bulkhead desk drawer, and then again far out in the frigid wilderness. It passes through the film as a token gesture, but in this second appearance ends up a hefty reminder of what happens when fathers give up.
Which brings the end of The Road to mind. This isn’t a film about fatherhood, but over time, the film does reduce fatherhood to its basic elements. Which makes the penultimate shots with Man and Boy just barely watchable.
Which I guess then brings Lake Tahoe to mind as well. Among many blackouts in Lake Tahoe, there is a very memorable one during a screening of Enter the Dragon at the local theater. We hear Bruce Lee’s grunts, the squish of flesh and snap of bone, heavy breathing. It is clear from Lake Tahoe that Eimbcke enjoys the basic stuff of cinema – sounds, lighting, compositions. In this particular blackout, his love for the expressiveness of cinema momentarily coincides with the anger and pain felt by his lead character.
Fantastic Mr. Fox:
Angry, stop-motion animated agricultural barons pilot bulldozers into Nature’s breach with the Rolling Stone’s Street Fighting Man in the background. Or the lone wolf at the end. Tough call.
Though I saw this years ago, the animated sequence towards the end of Sokurov’s The Sun lingers as on of the most effective abstractions of war I have seen in the cinema.There is a revelatory quality to the film that passes through the quiet bunker, begins to flicker in the details of Hirohito’s routine, and then literally explodes in a wash of hot colors in this animated sequence of marine warfare. It seems that Sokurov wants to show Hirohito as a human that could only really understand war in the odd categories of knowledge permitted him by worshipful isolation. But even with such limited descriptive ability, it was terrifying, and he could see history symbolically churning right above his bunker. Ages passing like natural cycles.
And perhaps my favorite film related moment from the year, the photograph from a college dorm room posted by Big Picture during the demonstrations in Iran: