#019 Green Snake (1993, Tsui Hark)
#018 Night and Day (2008, Hong Sang-soo)
#017 Double Play: James Benning and Richard Linklater (2013, Gabe Klinger) (T)
#016 Out of the Blue (1980, Dennis Hopper) (T)
#015 Jealousy (2013, Philippe Garrel) (T)
#013 Hard to be a God (2013, Aleksey German)
#012 Watermark (2013, Edward Burtynsky, Jennifer Baichwal)
#011 Life Itself (2014, Steve James)
#010 Marketa Lazarova (1967, Frantisek Viacil) (T)
#009 Boyhood (2014, Richard Linklater) (T)
#008 The Five Deadly Venoms (1978, Cheh Chang)
#007 Fist of Fury (1972, Wei Lo)
#006 A Touch of Zen (1972, King Hu) (T)
#005 The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1978, Liu Chia-Liang) (T)
#004 Ida (2013, Pawel Pawlikowski)
#003 Happy Christmas (2014, Joe Swanberg)
#002 Oxhide (2005, Lui Jiayin)
#001 Spring in a Small Town (1948, Fu Mei) (T)
Theo Parrish & Live Band, The Forum
Hyper Japan, London Excel
Surprise highlights were Marketa Lazarova, a film which was apparently widely ignored for a long time up until Second Run put it out on disc in 2007, to some acclaim, and then moreso when in the US Criterion brought it out in 2012. Since then, its reputation has grown and grown, and its now billed as a ‘cornerstone of the Czech New Wave’ and an ‘neglected gem,’ and its easy to see why. A 3 hour medieval epic, that while not as confounding as many claim it to be, is still more focused on the visual than narrative side of things, diverting off frequently into semi-abstract dreamy sequences and focusing more on the poetic qualities of the time and place than narrative acceleration. Apparently the director had a background in Art and Art History, which explains both the attention to detail in the period setting, and the incredible visual quality. Some of the most incredible compositions captured in that immensely appealing style of stark high-contrast wide-set black and white that reveals the splendour in ugliness.
Speaking of which, the other highlight. Also a visually remarkable, three hour long black and white medieval epic, and one that has been in process from its beginnings in the same year (?) as Marketa Lazarova through to completion last year slightly after its director, Aleksey German’s death, following a 6 year long period of principal photography. Hard to be a God blew me away at home, so I can’t wait to see it properly, hopefully at LLF in Oct. Perhaps more richly textured than any other film I’ve ever seen, Hard to Be a God shows a displaced fictional medieval setting in all of the most obsessively detailed disgusting glory. As the protagonist wades through shit, suffering and squalor, German’s camera tracks close, rarely moving from this space as the environment encroaches on the frame, characters, scenery and props breaching and blocking the tight square frames, creating a suffocating, overwhelming spectacle. Though difficult and admittedly challenging, its a film that makes its mark upon the viewer and imposes the level of craft on display.
Otherwise Boyhood delivered, without particularly surprising. One of the great things with that film is how uniquely relatable it manages to be. Both me and the person I watched it with found that parts had direct correlation with our own lives, but always completely different moments. My mum too, found aspects of the motherhood relatable, and my dad apparently found moments in Ethan Hawkes experience similar to his, though exactly what that means I’m not sure. Not quite sure how much of it daughters and girlfriends would find sympathetic though, as they don’t exactly receive the best representation in it. You kind of know what you are getting with Linklater now, white males* etc. but it is nice to watch a three hour film with little interest in conflict or resolution.
Someone with an even greater disinterest in conflict, resolution or really traditional narrative of any kind, James Benning meets Linklater in Gabe Klinger’s Double Play, an entry in the Cinema de Notre Temps series that looks into the relationship between Benning and Linklater, one that is mostly extraneous to their filmic styles, but occasionally finds crossover. Near the start, Benning talks about how memory is everything, that the future hasn’t yet happened and as the present has no dimension, memory is all there is, shaping and informing everything - an opinion Linklater relates to frequently, in Boyhood and other films. It is great to see people in the same business, and so heavily and () invested in it, talk about their craft - over lunch, in the edit suite and during baseball practise. “A cinephile’s dream lunch date expanded to feature length”
*esp. that absolutely heinous white saviour scene with the migrant worker who is educated about the value of education and the great white hope
Never lose your dinosaur.
I’ve watched two episodes. If, by the end, I sympathise with Shinji, am I a bad person?
The best person online.
How is this not directed at one of my [objectionable] text posts?
But instead a harmless series of screencaps. Your objection to NGE?
I was recently pointed towards the 33 1/3 series of books by a friend, and I’m having a good time with them so far. They’re a series of monographs with each (short) volume devoted entirely to a single album, ones considered significant (at least to their respective authors.) I’m sure they’re basic-bitch when it comes to music writing but thats not the point, as I’ll explain. Music criticism has always struck me as a bit redundant compared to film writing, and perhaps thats unfair.
They are mostly on guitar music (zzzzz), but there are a few on major hip-hop/electronic works. I just tore through the one on J Dilla’s Donuts album, and have the My Beautiful Twisted Dark Fantasy one pre-ordered, and Illmatic and Entroducing ones are in the post.
Donuts is a significant album for me in a lot of ways. On a simple level, I like to eat donuts, I like the aesthetic of donuts. I like donuts as imagery, and donuts as lifestyle. I even like the word [doughnuts also acceptable]. Donuts tie in with The Simpsons, the show that raised, educated and built me. Dilla’s Donuts was an album I came to fairly early on during my delving into hip-hop, but It was an album that landed immediately. I find it takes 5 listens often for me to take to an album, but Donuts blew up my mind from the intro. Since then, whenever that was, I’ve gone back to it regularly and it has lost nothing. Its definitely a classic. Its definitely timeless. I’m also fairly certain I lost my virginity to it
I’ve always been drawn to instrumental stuff, as well as sampling/looping and Donuts is obviously a touchstone for this. Dilla ‘The King of Beats’. More than any other record of its type though, it has depth and meaning that emerges with repeat listens. The construction and craftmenship, and it challenges you as much as its comforts you. A record that gives and gives etc. Its also remarkable in the story that can be attached to it (hence this book) - Dilla making it on his last legs, completing it on his hospital bed with a laptop and sampler. The author, Jordan Ferguson, gets into the possible readings on this - how you can pull out the five stages of dying from samples in the album. It’s a little pseudo-intellectual and self-selfing but the author accepts this, acknowledges it and moves on (a process I hugely respect.)
Its also particularly interesting because the nature of Donuts' coming out raises the unanswerable question, would that album and the back catalogue be appreciated as much if the author hadn't died when he did [see also; Nujabes]? The book argues that death is the material of Donuts [weird phrasing], that the themes of mortality run hauntingly through it, and that the finality is part of the essence. I think thats fair. I think I came to it after Dilla died, so that knowledge would have shaped my engagement with it from the getgo. its interesting.
Point is, I’m not a terrible [music] listener, but I’m not a fantastic one either. I listen to albums through, I appreciate them, I engage with them, but to some extent music has been background for me. Sometimes with a new release, I’ll sit, headphones in and fully take in the sounds gifted me, but mostly i treat music as background, a secondary activity for travel, internet or social.
For Ferguson, the point of criticism is to “pull meaning and appreciation from a work art from the prism of one’s experience, as well as an understanding of historical and biographical context and one’s familiarity with the conventions of the genre.” In film at least, criticism isn’t, or shouldn’t be, an consumer guide to films - should I watch this or not? I read about films after seeing them mostly, to understand them better and see how others engage with them, to enter [passively] into the conversation. I haven’t found that with music writing.
These series of books are giving me a way in, a means and excuse to properly evaluate and engage with albums as they should be felt, the same way that reading about films allows me to get more out of films. That is a good thing.
"Rumata’s curse is that he must endure a pain forever on the verge of relief without ever finding it. This world, it happens, is at the cusp of its Renaissance, when civility will begin to win out over perpetual barbarity. German’s trick here is to suggest that it may not happen — that instead the savagery of the Middle Ages will last forever. The film thus becomes a thought experiment asking us to consider what society and culture might look like had the Renaissance never ignited. The muck and filth and shit of medieval existence might continue uninterrupted, a reality that over the course of the film certainly seems plausible. German seems less interested in the science-fiction dimension of the source material than in the central idea it poses: the Renaissance was a fluke. Cruelty and brutality are the default modes of existence. Barbarism is human nature. " - Calum Marsh, on Alexey German’s How to Be a God
Meaning starting now, you’re just starting to see a glimmer of what the idea of West will mean. So right now, at this age and with this visibility and with the skill sets that Kim is now giving me, I think I have a good chance of success in building something that has longevity, high integrity, high success rate, and is very fulfilling, not only for me creatively but also in adding fulfillment to people’s lives. Adding ease. Adding wonder. Adding magic. - A Brand New Ye, GQ
“As Duchamp said ‘the artist of the future will merely point his finger and say it’s art – and it will be art.’ - Dennis Hopper, an abstract expressionist and action painter by nature, and a Duchampian finger pointer by choice.
"There is no filmmaker in America taking these kinds of chances and working in such a unique way. Moreover, there are few better American filmmakers right now, period". - Adam Cook, on Louie.
#007 Alamar (2009, Pedro Gonzales-Rubio) (T)
#006 Godzilla (2014, Gareth Edwards) (T)
#005 Web Junkie (2013, Shosh Shlam & Hilla Medalia)
#004 Celine & Julie Go Boating (1974, Jacques Rivette) (T)
#003 Particle Fever (2013, Mark Levinson)
#002 Ms. 45 (1981, Abel Ferrara)
#001 The Lego Movie (2014, Phil Lord & Christopher Miller)
The Book of Mormon, Prince of Wales Theatre
King Lear, National Theatre
Field Day, Victoria Park
How to Dress Well, ICA
Ai Wei Wei, Lisson Gallery
Dennis Hopper: The Lost Album, Royal Academy
Not selecting three favourites, as theres not one film, let alone three, there that was I taken by. Celine & Julie is pretty great, but not my sort of film, and Alamar was touching, humanistic and sporadically beautiful, but not quite major (though Reverse Shot makes a good case for why such a classification is reductive - “In a cinema world where hard-and-fast distinctions (New Waves, schools, and the like) condition both creation and reception, Alamar testifies to the endless pliability, the innate and uncontrived complexity of the medium itself—its indefatigable constancy even as its very matter changes” - and put it as their Year Best for 2010 (conscious contrarian alert).
Seven films in a month. This is what it must be like to be a normal person, doing things, going outside etc. I’m not going to use the ‘too busy to x’ garbage because though freetime varies, ultimately it comes down to allocation of resources and selection of priorities. Not sure what this month’s priorities were, but clearly not film.
To the films I didn’t see.
I’ve tried this year to be more present, and if that means seven films in a month, then that might be okay. It really does seem doing any one thing successfully comes at the immediate detriment of three or four other connected things (hence why the work-life balance phrase and issue exists in a privileged modern society). Perhaps even those people who seem to have it all in order are at constant risk of buckling under the weight of a thousand hidden internal shufflings. Perhaps not.
July is starting to delve into China, with Spring in a Small Town and some kung-fu flicks, ahead of a major quality overload in August, and a lot of incredible gaps to be filled. In July, Boyhood too, as well as the unseen Dennis Hopper, and a rep screening of Marketa Lazarova that will mark the closure of Riverside Studios.
Just when you’re out…