May 26, 2011 / Filmwell
Kenji Koiso has his summer vacation all planned out: he and his friend Sakuma have …
December 7, 2008
(Ed. Note: Originally appeared at Film-Think)
1. Silent Light (Carlos Reygadas) – Cycling image by image through the idea of things being revealed and unveiled, the time-lapse Genesis imagery that sets the film in motion culminates in a theologically rich network of visual and thematic allusions – as if Regygada’s natural cinematography needs an additional shove towards the transcendental. My favorite introduction/conclusion set since Herzog’s Heart of Glass.
2. In The City of Sylvia (José Guerín)- Guerín deposits many narrative crumbs along the trails left by his elliptical wayfarer, sketching his way across Strasbourg’s cafés. Stacked in long and flat compositions, the film is a masterful exposition of plane, profile, and geometric suspense. And a little Manet too.
3. Flight of the Red Balloon (Hou Hsiao-Hsien) – Simon’s red balloon is a perfect evocation of Bazin’s idea that “the cinema more than any other art is particularly bound up in love.” It is a companion, a reference, a cinematic apology bouncing on the sharp edges of his mother’s impenetrably adult world – only Hou’s acrobatic direction keeps it afloat.
4. Still Life (Jia Zhang-ke) – As horrific as it sounds, if an apocalyptic Gursky and Tati mash-up could be imagined, then Still Life would come close. The film captures the rhythm of erosion in a town exiling its own inhabitants. Fragments of poetry, documentary, and social critique – this film is a negative image of his last one, The World.
5. 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days (Cristian Mungiu) – It is frightening that the resolute honesty of Mungiu’s massive takes still doesn’t prepare us for the film’s final shot. 4 Months… somehow does its subject justice, legitimizing its events as traumatic before moralizing them as mistaken.
6. Aleksandra (Aleksandr Sokurov) – Sokurov’s dreamstate approach to trauma has the odd effect of holding history at arm’s length while enshrining its awful implications in imagery crafted to overcome the quick pace at which corresponding news footage evaporates.
7. My Winnipeg (Guy Maddin) – I learned a lot from My Winnipeg, including but not limited to: how to straighten out a hallway rug, how to sense the presence of subterranean rivers and negotiate their philosophical implications, and that a “gynocracy” smells like the inside of a purse. Finally, we see the man behind the curtain.
8. Heartbeat Detector (Nicolas Klotz) – I can’t understand the odd response most reviews have to Heartbeat Detector‘s reference to the Nazi Germany. It derives from precedent, and is sufficiently awful to give historical form to the Bacon-ish corporate horror Klotz is attempting to express. The lyrical way Klotz moves so adeptly across a wide range of expressions in this film reminds of of Godard in full Notre musique form. And there’s Code Unknown panache in its ending.
9. Son of Rambow (Garth Jennings) – Lee and Will’s sweded First Blood is a fable of first contact, an untutored reaction to the fake relief offered by Hollywood storytelling. But despite the difficulty of Will’s first media-bending interaction with cinema, his impulse to rediscover himself in the task of culture-making is a “younger evangelical” touchstone.
10. Secret of the Grain (Abdel Kechiche) – What makes Secret of the Grain so engrossing is not just Kechiche’s expressive camerawork, but the success of this massive cast in believably staging a wide range of immigrant joys and griefs. Just like the simple dish offered by Slimane’s restaurant, its few exotic components are irreducibly complex.
11. The Visitor
12. A Christmas Tale
13. Wendy And Lucy
14. Encounters at the End of the World*
15. Shotgun Stories
16. Paranoid Park
17. The Island
18. Man on Wire
19. Taxi to the Darkside
20. Wall-E (On account of the first act.)
*(I am duty-bound to appreciate any attempt by Herzog to extract apocalyptic first things from the wind-stripped ends of the earth. Here his proleptic natural musings merge well with his wry explanation for the people he found in this place rife with things to encounter. But despite the flourish of some underwater sequences, Herzog’s typically expressive approach to nature was oddly absent. This was to be a collision of two of my favorite immovable objects, and there was a distinct shortage of sparks.)
The Ascent (Shepitko), The New World Extended Cut (Malick), Vagabond (Varda), Nazarin (Bunuel), Killer of Sheep (Burnett), Badlands (Malick), Satantango (Tarr), Hail Mary (Godard), The Case of the Grinning Cat (Marker), First Dream and The Passing (Viola)