OLDIES '04: twelve classic films I saw for the first time in 2004. Big-screen celluloid projection only. My apologies for the funky formatting; I cut-and-pasted this from an internet movie nerd discussion group, and the cutting and pasting does weird things inside the Dreamweaver template.
LANCELOT DU LAC (Robert Bresson) -- More than lived up to the hype.
What's most amazing isn't the sound design (although it is stunning) but the
focus on ritual and repetition. The jousting sequence was like some sort of
medieval structural film. And the conclusion is a perfect summation of utter
despair, an honor-based society on the decline and not sure what to do with
THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS (Gillo Pontecorvo) -- I suppose some small part of
me is on Cahiers' side, not quite sure if this is really the most appropriate
aesthetic mode for adequately conveying radical consciousness. And yet
there *is* an immediacy here, a vision all the more blistering for seeming
unconstructed like a found object. Hard to believe that 40 years later, Owen
Gleiberman would make similar formal claims for OPEN WATER . . .
THE WORLD'S GREATEST SINNER (Timothy Carey) -- Cheating a bit, since
this was shown as a video at "Film Comment Selects." Part of what's
remarkable about this "outsider" film is that one can almost observe a perfect
correspondence between the film's thematic development and Carey's formal
chops. Who knows if it was shot in sequence, but there's a definite learning
curve on display, and whoever made the comparison in Film Comment
between TWGS's ending and that of EUREKA is actually not totally off his
VINYL (Andy Warhol) -- I'd only seen brief clips of VINYL on video before this. Andy's
CLOCKWORK ORANGE is one of the most overworked surfaces in cinema,
as crammed with incident and layering as the original TOM TOM THE
PIPER'S SON. Some people are just sitting there to fill out the frame, one
dude is getting tortured with a candle in the background right, and anchoring
the right foreground is our detached internal spectator, Edie Sedgwick. She
drops her purse, bends over and picks it up. The sum total of her involvement.
AND LIFE GOES ON (Abbas Kiarostami) -- It actually won me over, despite a
skepticism towards it that I maintained pretty much until the credits rolled.
RANCHO DELUXE and PLAY IT AS IT LAYS (Frank Perry) -- I posted about
these a while back. I had some minor reservations about PLAY IT, but over
time I've realized they were misplaced, some needless anxiety about Tuesday
Weld's performance. I tended to think that she was too "there" to convey Maria
Wyeth adequately. But it's that facade that allows others in her world to take
her seriously enough to expect comprehensible human behavior from her in
the first place, to mark her as insane when they don't get those expectations
met. Perry's style: Resnais-primitive.
RIDE LONESOME (Budd Boetticher) -- Missed this one in the original series. I
am always haunted by a quote of BB's that Laura Mulvey cites, that the
woman is of no importance whatsoever. That may be true, but there are
certainly more and less respectful, and more and less compelling, ways to
shunt her aside. Boetticher here lets the woman maintain her dignity while
clearing the way for a prairie-Beckett showdown with the past.
-- ----- (SHORT LINE LONG LINE) (Thom Andersen and Malcolm Brodwick) --
The father of Plunderphonics.
THE CHRONICLE OF ANNA MAGDALENA BACH (Straub/Huillet) -- Bizarrely,
it's the most sensuous of the films of theirs I've seen, and also the most
austere. And that's saying something with this duo. (Even HISTORY
LESSONS throws in some tracking shots through Rome.) The image track is
often static, giivng you a deeply contrasty, rich visual of a man making music.
The image stops yielding new information (although it doesn't stop being
sensuous). The music is all unfolding motion, so we have to grapple with this
film in new ways.
A TOWN CALLED TEMPEST (George Kuchar) -- A film that manages to
succeed on its own terms as an art object, *and* point back to the sheer joy of
its own making.
TIME PIECE (Jim Henson) -- The single best oldie I saw in 04, an ultra-rarity
that just happened to be in the Syracuse Univ. library collection. It's pre-
Muppets, a wacky, accessible American avant-garde work, all based on
syncopated rhythms and masterful edits and stopmotion. Surprisingly ribald
for Henson, and this may be why Disney (the owners of the Henson
Associates empire) have suppressed it. Basically it foreshadows the goofy yet
sophisticated humor he'll develop with The Muppet Show, but here it's filtered
through an almost Robert Breer-like sensibility. Pretty much a masterpiece. (Also on the program was an impressive short film by Canadian underground legend Arthur Lipsett, called VERY NICE VERY NICE. It was, although I'd need a second viewing to be sure.)