My 2015 in Film: February, March

February 

Whiplash is one of the better films I’ve seen so far this year. People had been saying it’s an extremely tight film, which did slightly put me off – I usually like my films to breathe a little. But Whiplash is actually given space when it needs it. This is especially true in the lengthy final scene, which I loved but Jenny was less keen on. So maybe you just have to be into drum solos. But I thought it was an exciting finale, and the film built and sustained the suspense extremely well leading up to it. It’s filled with great moments along the way – the car crash in particular took my breath away. On reflection a few weeks later my thoughts of the film aren’t quite as ecstatic as they were at the time and much of it has faded from my memory. But it’s still a very good film that lives up to its acclaim.

Pat Garret and Billy the Kid. Well this substandard DVD transfer doesn’t do it any favours but it was an excellent film. I didn’t realise Bob Dylan was in it (a pleasant surprise – he’s good!) and his music adds an odd but welcome modernity to the western, even if that does sometimes make it feel like a music video. Sam Peckinpah really brought the western up to date. It’s tough, violent and melancholy. Kris Kristofferson looks odd without a beard.

Two Sam Fuller Films:

White Dog. Wow. It’s a strange concoction of the creative and the cliched. It’s often tacky but sort of brilliant. Well, it’s Samuel Fuller. It’s a sincere B-movie. It’s great.

Shock Corridor. Trashy, insane and kind of brilliant. Still catching my breath.Screenshot 2016-01-17 20.30.29.png

Five Broken Cameras. A stunning portrait of oppression. From depraved violence (people getting shot, killed, the camera records it unflinchingly) to hopeful humanity (his children playing on the beach – “What are you so happy about?” “The Sea!”)

Skhizein was fantastic. Really fantastic. I haven’t been impressed at all with the films on the IMDb shorts list but this one is really something. I wish I was good enough to come up with something like this. A seriously good animation that deals with mental illness in extremely well handled metaphors that also resonate with everyday life. The diagrams he draws everywhere to be able to deal with existence are fantastic. It really speaks to me. Here it is:

March

The Tin Drum was very good. It really was, although I don’t seem to have much to say about it. I liked its bizarreness. The very literal way in which the character holds on to his childishness. His obsession with the drum, which felt very human. The relationship between this teenager in a boy’s body and the teenage girl. That extraordinary scene of them in the changing hut. Their little quirks with the popping candy (or whatever it was), spitting into it for her to make it fizz, licking it off her hand, out of her belly button. The intimacy of it all, heightened further by the strangeness and perversion.Screenshot 2016-01-17 20.38.27.png

A Blonde In Love. This early Milos Forman film feels fresh and authentic. Frequently downbeat and cynical, but also romantic. It captures human beings.

Shoah has integrity. The way the camera lingers on the interviewees, speaking unsubtitled foreign languages, we watch their expressions, we watch them wait for their words to be translated for Lanzmann and for us. Lanzmann’s simple questions, prying every detail of the events. That is all that he can do, after all. He asks for the details and is given them – the heartbreaking beauty and horror of the film comes between the words, watching these interviewee’s faces. Some are often clearly trying their hardest not to break down, others recount the most horrific events in history with a disarming smile. These are the two sides of Shoah – a historical record of events, and a study in human psychology. The interview with the Barber is astonishing, almost too much to take. But it’s a film filled with such moments. It’s extremely long and certainly slow but it absolutely needs to be. I would have preferred it to be broken up into more digestible chunks, simply due to the logistics of watching two 4 and a half hour chapters – I probably ended up watching it in 6 erratic fragments, not exactly how it was intended. I would prefer if it was split up for me, so that I knew the best places to stop. A minor criticism of an important film.

I finally watched YiYi. It’s a film of distance and reflection. I should have seen it before making Mary No More. It’s kind of like an extended version of that, but much better, and in Taiwan. I probably would have made the film much differently after seeing this. I would have tried to be more courageous with longer takes. It’s not the most accessible of films but it has a quiet brilliance, and the kid in particular is sublime.Screenshot 2016-01-17 20.40.00.png

I just ‘favourited’ Salo. Which feels a bit wrong. But it has left me reeling and unsettled, as great films can do. I did feel almost like throwing up at one point. If you’ve seen it, it’s not hard to guess which scene. And that detached ending – watching torture and murder from a distance, played to soothing music – is brilliant and disturbing. What makes the film even more disturbing is that it is actually erotic in some ways – at the beginning at least. It’s full of young and attractive bodies, male and female. And that’s the point. Pasolini wants to make you complicit in some small way. I don’t know, I’m still reeling. The production design is also very nice, even without the controversial content it’s full of great shots of people in spaces. It’s a film that frames action, or stillness, in wide shots in bare rooms with painted walls.Screenshot 2016-01-17 20.34.18.png

I bought an imported German DVD of Tampopo (Dandelion) as a present for my Dandy Lion.  We enjoyed it very much. I forgot to write anything about it at the time. Which is a shame because it was a bizarre, unexpected treat and I wish I had more to say about it. It’s been described as Japanese food porn, but that doesn’t even begin to describe it. You’ll probably just have to watch it and see for yourself.

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