Friday, January 13, 2017

The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (Lewis Milestone, 1946)

Terrific film noir, probably best known as a trivia question (Kirk Douglas's first film appearance), but much more interesting than that. Excellent performances, a plot that keeps you guessing, some fine photography (though perhaps not quite consistently so?). Deserves to be much more talked about, I'd say.

Ingmar Bergman Makes a Movie (Vilgot Sjöman, 1963)

Follows Bergman through the making of Winter Light, and easily one of the most fascinating films about filmmaking I have ever seen. Excellent interviews with Bergman, revealing rehearsal segments, a fascinating example of a short sequence at different stages in the editing process... All good!

Mary (Abel Ferrara, 2005)

Far from Ferrara's best film, but still has much that is intriguing about it. It strikes me that the way Ferrara risks both seeming excessively obvious, and merely muddled - when in fact he's something much more subtle, but not in a way that one can demonstrate, QED - is really rather brave filmmaking.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Edvard Munch (Peter Watkins, 1974)

Certainly a remarkable piece of work. Claustrophobically close framing for the full three and a half hours, and the quasi-fly-on-the-wall conceit, with supposedly late nineteenth century Norwegians constantly catching sight of the camera works very well indeed to get us close to Munch but also keep us at a distance from him. My reservations are that it certainly does seem rather long (though I think watching it in three parts on TV might have diminished its cumulative logic), that it so insists on the opprobrium that was constantly heaped on Munch's work that we get little sense of how he was able to carry on working, and that it doesn't make any serious attempt to explore the possibility, desipte all the undoubted agony that made up and surrounded Munch's life, that he was also perhaps a tiny bit given to indulge himself in his misery.

Winter Light (Ingmar Bergman, 1963)

Absolute stone cold masterpiece. Everything is remarkable - performances, photography, lighting, editing, pacing. Sure it's bleak, but it's not without lightness of touch (of a kind!) and even a little bit of humour. The only thing I wondered about was how much the pastor's misogyny could be separated from Bergman's own, but Bergman himself probably didn't know that. I expect there are books on it - and trying to decide is as good an excuse as any to watch it again.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Silence (Martin Scorsese, 2016)

Curious one, this. Certainly seems to be cinematic subject matter, and nothing here is actually bad, but it's rather plodding. Not much impact in the cinematography, a curious fondness for whip pans that don't seem to add anything, and what seems to be some rather bafflingly hamfisted editing (is Andrew Garfield standing up? no, he's sitting down...) Neeson is rather good - his first scene with Garfield throws up some genuinely interesting ideas, but it's a long way in getting there, and the final image flattens out the possible interpretations a little too much. Adam Driver woefully underused as well - others have said this, but I'd have like to see him have Garfield's part (which is to say, to play the lead).

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Une femme est une femme (Jean-Luc Godard, 1961)

Full of invention and humour (all the puns giving the subtitle writers a hard time for sure), but not sure if it really is one of Godard's most accessible films, as is sometimes claimed - the relentless turning of conventions against themselves without some sort of formal cathartic explosion (it actually keeps playing by its own rules throughout) means it is also one of his oddest films. And also probably one of the principle exhibits in the feminist case against him.

Endless Poetry (Alejandro Jodorowsky, 2016)

Extremely entertaining indeed, and with some remarkable sequences. I'd say the opening is more wholly successful than the film as a whole, but still, Jodorowsky handles his self-obsession with aplomb, partly with some surprising delicacy, and partly by not attempting to disguise it in the slightest. All of which has the effect of making the film's narcissism much more digestible than something like Alan Bennett's The Lady in the Van, a film whose pretence that is about Alan Bennett and Mary Shepherd makes the fact that it is really all about Alan Bennett all the more objectionable.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Les Carabiniers (Jean-Luc Godard, 1963)

Couldn't be anyone other than Godard, and yet not sure I've ever seen a film with quite this mix of humour (which somehow isn't really black humour) and bleak savagery. Might be interesting to consider why a bunch of young directors at (very) roughly the same time made black and white allegorical war films: as well as this Kubrick's Fear and Desire (the outlier in time, being from 1953); Tarkovsky's Ivan's Childhood (1962); and Herzog's Signs of Life (1968).

Blue Velvet (David Lynch, 1986)

Tremendous to see this in a cinema at long last. Though I don't think it changed my feeling that the film as a whole doesn't quite live up to the extraordinary mix of humour, menace and irony that the opening manages. (Though the scene at Ben's house is of course astonishing.) Enjoyed some trainspotter moments - it's only on this viewing that I realised how Jeffrey's blind friend knows how many fingers he's holding up! Plus there seem to be weird continuinty things going on with the knife wound on his face - at one point I thought I could reconstruct a previous edit from its presence or absence, but then I lost its thread.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Goodbye South, Goodbye (Hou Hsiao-Hsien, 1996)

Took me a little while, this one, much as I love Hou. I get the way the gangsters-being-ordinary turns into something much nastier, but without pyrotechnics, and some of the camerawork is simply extraordinary, but I can't say I was constantly gripped. Would love to see it in a cinema someday.

Adieu au langage (Jean-Luc Godard, 2014)

Been watching this a lot because I'm writing about it, and one thing that is intriguing me is how it not only gets both clearer and more complex with each viewing (like all excellent films) but how it actually looks better the more I watch it.

Detour (Edgar G. Ulmer, 1945)

Required watching for aspiring screenwriters (despite the fact that the actual language in it isn't amazing) and directors, to see how much you can get from very little. Taut and remarkable throughout, despite all the - what should have been - shortcomings; the scene above in the car is perhaps the finest. I didn't know that Ann Savage's other most notable role was many years laters as the mother in Guy Maddin's My Winnipeg.

Monday, January 02, 2017

White Heat (Raoul Walsh, 1949)

Wouldn't say I was absolutely gripped throughout, but this is very fine. The prison sequence where Cody gets news of his mother is excellent - and Cagney has a way of saying things like "first" that no other gangster can match.