Here are my twelve most exciting old decrepit moldering smelly movies which I first saw in 2003. Note, I am not including stuff I only watched on video. Others can make their own rules, but for me, throwing out a bunch of Netflix shit would just be sad.  (Even though I discovered Sternberg in a big way this year and I think I am in love.) Also rather than ranking these masterpieces in some kind of 1-12 order, I am listing them in order of my having seen them. Note the precipitous drop-off after August, hmmm, I wonder what could have accounted for this. I am hoping to do better in 2004. Also, I apologize in advance for all the avant-garde films no one here gives a rat’s ass about.




THE BEGINNING AND THE END (Arturo Ripstein, Mexico, 1993) [Fine Arts Theatre, Berkeley]

[I am so glad I saw this that night instead of ROCCO AND HIS BROTHERS (which is in my Netflix pile as we speak). Epic in scope, existential in inclination, this is really something of a horror film. Cringe as the mother’s cruel, misplaced pragmatism scuttles her entire brood! Shriek as Ripstein’s interiors grow imperceptibly more constrictive, until you’re praying the characters will simply jump out of the screen and run away! Awesome.]




QUAI DES ORFÈVRES (Henri-Georges Clouzot, France, 1947) [Castro]

[The most open-armed, humanistic cynical noir I’ve seen. This “poetic realism” movement really had something going. I want to see it again in a year or two.]


WORK DONE (Robert Beavers, 1999) [s] [PFA]

[Finally got to see a film by the elusive a-g master, and it lived up to the hype. His images are pure, unscathed, and highly concentrated examinations of ritual labor in Old Europe. It’s in the rhythm and editing that Beavers works his magic. Dam.]




JOHNNY GUITAR (Nicholas Ray, 1954) [PFA]

[Saw this the same night as THE LUSTY MEN, so we’ll just call it One of the Greatest Cinematic Evenings of My Brief Life.  From Turkey’s lips to God’s ears, buds.]


INTERPOLATIONS 1-5 (Stan Brakhage, 1992) [s] [Yerba Buena Center]
[A sort of distant cousin to SB’s ARABIC NUMERAL films, which were the best oldie from last year. Shown in a program of nearly all of his 35mm films. (Sadly, one didn’t arrive.) The photographed lights of the ARABICS, which are like peripheral vision brought front and center for fleeting examination, are coordinated with hand-painted abstract imagery. I wish I remembered it all more clearly. It blew me away.]




PARTY GIRL (Nicholas Ray, 1958) [PFA]

[Dear Casey, would you please play “He’s a Whore” by Cheap Trick? It would mean a lot to me.]


TAKE THE 5:10 TO DREAMLAND (Bruce Conner, 1977) [s] / VALSE TRISTE (Bruce Conner, 1979) [s] [my classroom]

[Sort of a cheat, since I can’t remember which is which. I had never seen them, so naturally I ordered them for my course. Conner totally changes the game on these two, working against collision montage, against irony or anger. Both films are like gorgeous, half-remembered sepia dreams.]


OTHERWISE UNEXPLAINED FIRES (Hollis Frampton, 1976) [s] [my classroom]

[A minor masterpiece, part of the MAGELLAN cycle but complete on its own. Sort of a comparative field guide to different forms of life and consciousness.  A rooster knocks around the barnyard.  A tall tree sways in the wind. A robot jerks about.  A fire burns.  I read it as a reply to Brakhage – who really has the untutored eye?  Who can respond to light and refrain from turning it into a story?]




HAMLET GOES BUSINESS (Aki Kaurismäki, Finland, 1987) [PFA]

[“Andy Richter in his most revealing role ever.” –Jeff McCloud]


THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY (Sergio Leone, Italy / Spain, 1966) [Castro]

[A shitload of fun, and an afternoon I’ll cherish. A rare occasion for my dad and me to share cinephilia side by side.]




THE THIRD PAGE (Zeki Demirkubuz, Turkey, 1999) [TIFF / Ctek ON]

[SPOILER – Oh my god, did he screw up the post-production?  No, it’s only a moment of formalist genius.  All the more impressive for the occasions when it swings and misses, but mostly it's the very definition of “taut.”]