A 2010s List for Those That Can't Wait

An ongoing survey of the Criterion Forum membership to create lists of the best films of each decade and genre.
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senseabove
Joined: Wed Dec 02, 2015 3:07 am

Re: A 2010s List for Those That Can't Wait

#276 Post by senseabove » Mon Apr 12, 2021 3:25 pm

Dorksy is famously, eccentrically (preciously, ahem) devoted to celluloid, even moreso than typical for avant-garde folks since he projects his films at silent-speed 18fps. I think the only digitization of his work he's even allowed is for gallery projection at MOMA, where he still has control over digitization and projection variables. Hence asking if anybody else has had a chance to see the cycle, taken it, and feels as strongly about them as I do.

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zedz
Joined: Sun Nov 07, 2004 7:24 pm

Re: A 2010s List for Those That Can't Wait

#277 Post by zedz » Mon Apr 12, 2021 4:28 pm

Tommaso wrote:
Sun Apr 11, 2021 11:05 am
I'd like to at least mention some of the films that I have rather high on my list. I fear they will get orphanised, because they are too obscure or too difficult to see, but I won't give up hope yet... :wink:

Chamissos Schatten
(Ulrike Ottinger, 2016): With almost 12 hours "Chamisso's Shadow" is even longer than Ottinger's "Taiga" documentary, but it is at least as impressive. Following the route of German author Adalbert von Chamisso who accompanied a Russian expedition to the Arctic in the years 1815-18, Ottinger visits the thinly inhabited places in the very North of Russia and Alaska, documenting the daily life, the nature, and the cultural traditions of the people living there today. Quotations from Chamisso's report of his travels and indigenous folk tales further help to complete the picture. Absolutely stunning cinematography: as always with Ottinger, she gets the framing right like hardly anyone else, and it's really made to be seen on the big screen (I had one of the rare chances to see it in a cinema, distributed over four days). Sometimes you may think you're watching an installation rather than a conventional 'movie', but the slow pace allows you to thoroughly discover the details of what is shown and let them sink in. I never imagined that a twenty-minute sequence showing the gutting of some fish could be this captivating...
Unusually for Ottinger, this was released on a real label in Germany and thus had an affordable price point (about 40 Euros for a four-disc-set). It even comes with English subs. It seems to be OOP, though, but if you can get it, don't hesitate to watch this masterpiece.
Yikes, I completely forgot this amazing film and now have to revise my list!

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therewillbeblus
Joined: Tue Dec 22, 2015 3:40 pm

Re: A 2010s List for Those That Can't Wait

#278 Post by therewillbeblus » Mon Apr 12, 2021 4:38 pm

senseabove wrote:
Mon Apr 12, 2021 3:25 pm
Dorksy is famously, eccentrically (preciously, ahem) devoted to celluloid, even moreso than typical for avant-garde folks since he projects his films at silent-speed 18fps. I think the only digitization of his work he's even allowed is for gallery projection at MOMA, where he still has control over digitization and projection variables. Hence asking if anybody else has had a chance to see the cycle, taken it, and feels as strongly about them as I do.
From what you describe I think you'll be throwing away a vote, but however you want to boost awareness (casting a vote and labeling your orphan, posting in the Experimental films thread, etc.) I find it to be sometimes more important to leave orphans be in order to flag unsung masterpieces to be discovered. Though since this particular film is not even available on backchannels, your efforts might be better served by posting in the Experimental films thread if/when it's touring cinemas (this is basically me asking you do to that as a civil service, now that I'm conscious to this film's existence), otherwise it becomes That Film that we all jot down on our 'to-see' lists when scanning list project orphans and become frustrated at never being able to consummate with ease.

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zedz
Joined: Sun Nov 07, 2004 7:24 pm

Re: A 2010s List for Those That Can't Wait

#279 Post by zedz » Mon Apr 12, 2021 5:01 pm

senseabove wrote:
Mon Apr 12, 2021 3:25 pm
Dorksy is famously, eccentrically (preciously, ahem) devoted to celluloid, even moreso than typical for avant-garde folks since he projects his films at silent-speed 18fps. I think the only digitization of his work he's even allowed is for gallery projection at MOMA, where he still has control over digitization and projection variables. Hence asking if anybody else has had a chance to see the cycle, taken it, and feels as strongly about them as I do.
I wish I could join you in the vote, but because of his aesthetic principles I haven't seen any Dorsky since a retrospective in the late 90s. I don't think that's any reason to not vote for him, however. It's the orphans and also-rans that make this project interesting.

Two very great experimental films I won't be voting for this go-round are Oskar Fischinger's Raumlichtkunst (2012), which is a modern compilation / speculative reconstruction of a multi-screen cinematic event originally staged in the 1920s. It's absolutely wonderful, but it falls between two temporal stools and I can't in good conscience attribute it to either decade.

The other one if Peter Kubelka's Antiphon (also 2012), a film created for the sake of the superimposed work Monument Film (in theory, a film in which literally nothing happens). it's the exact opposite of his 1960 masterpiece Arnulf Rainer. In mathematical terms, as Arnulf Rainer is one of the greatest abstract films ever made, Antiphon is just as good; but in aesthetic terms, as a 100% derivative work, it's weirdly valueless. That's a fascinating paradox, and the experience of watching the film is electrifying, but I find it very hard to consider it a 2010s work. Monument Film, of course, is, but I never saw that, as the London Film Festival had a catastrophic technical breakdown at its intended screening, and the only interest from the film would come from how it doesn't work as intended. (As Arnulf Rainer and Antiphon are completely opposite flicker films, a perfectly synchronized and superimposed 'performance' of Monument Film would consist of a consistent white screen and steady tone. But Kubelka knows that such perfection is unattainable, so in practice there should be all sorts of sonic and visual 'slippage' disrupting the perfection.)

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zedz
Joined: Sun Nov 07, 2004 7:24 pm

Re: A 2010s List for Those That Can't Wait

#280 Post by zedz » Mon Apr 12, 2021 5:05 pm

therewillbeblus wrote:
Mon Apr 12, 2021 4:38 pm
From what you describe I think you'll be throwing away a vote, but however you want to boost awareness (casting a vote and labeling your orphan, posting in the Experimental films thread, etc.) I find it to be sometimes more important to leave orphans be in order to flag unsung masterpieces to be discovered. Though since this particular film is not even available on backchannels, your efforts might be better served by posting in the Experimental films thread if/when it's touring cinemas (this is basically me asking you do to that as a civil service, now that I'm conscious to this film's existence), otherwise it becomes That Film that we all jot down on our 'to-see' lists when scanning list project orphans and become frustrated at never being able to consummate with ease.
I'd consider getting Dorsky on people's "to see" lists would be a pretty good outcome from a "thrown-away" vote. Certainly more useful than reassuring people that a film everybody likes is indeed pretty good.

bamwc2
Joined: Mon Jun 02, 2008 11:54 am

Re: A 2010s List for Those That Can't Wait

#281 Post by bamwc2 » Mon Apr 12, 2021 5:20 pm

Viewing Log:

Entertainment (Rick Alverson, 2015): The reviews I've read of Rick Alverson's Entertainment refer to film's protagonist, played by Adult Swim veteran Gregg Turkington, as "The Comedian". Indeed, that's how the imdb credits him as well, but we do learn his name in response to Michael Cera's stranded motorist Tommy. It's Gene. It is, however, fitting that the character goes unidentified in the press since he spends the film as a no-name loser at the very bottom of the comedy world making no money on a tour while performing at dive bars for audiences that never laugh. There is no plot here. It's merely a glimpse into the life of a thoroughly unlikable hack as he pours his energy into a career that will never take off, while spending his spare time wallowing in his own misery. I'm not familiar with Turkington's work outside of the film, but apparently, it's based on a persona he's perfected elsewhere where the balding middle-aged entertainer with a greasy comb over tells wildly offensive jokes (e.g. "Why does E.T. like Reese's Pieces? Because they taste like cum does on his world"). Whenever an audience member has the temerity to speak out during one of his performances, he explodes in a fit of rage. He snaps at one woman by telling her that everyone hates her STD-ridden breath, and we feel a sense of satisfaction when she throws her drink at him before beating him up in the parking lot. This may sound like a critique, but I'm going to go ahead and recommend the film. It's a stunning portrait of a miserable man who's self-loathing is eclipsed only by the hatred he inspires in others. As Gene stumbles haplessly between vignettes we get a good sense of the absurdity of his life, and, at least for me, it was something I could closely relate to.

La Flor (Mariano Llinás, 2016): Trying to give a plot synopsis of La Flor is a bit of a fool's errand. At over thirteen hours, the movie is actually six feature length films presented as one, each starring the four same actresses: Elisa Carricajo, Valeria Correa, Pilar Gamboa, and Laura Paredes. I'm unfamiliar with their work save for one exception but was shocked at the range they were able to pull off. Going from a kitschy B-movie of "the kind that America used to make" to dramatic turns, to absurdism, they prove remarkably adept at any genre. Yet these works defy simple genre classification as they loop around and self-reflexively make reference to one another. While the main praise in these works have to go to the four stars that form the glue that hold that holds the whole thing together through its punishing runtime, I'd be remiss if I didn't give credit to writer/director Mariano Llinás. I had previously seen his Extraordinary Stories, which seemed like a rewarding, but difficult view at the time. Now, it feels like a walk in the park compared to the slog of his most recent omnibus. I say 'slog' intentionally since it's neutral to value. I watched the first three of the four divisions on the Criterion Channel in a single day. It was a rough experience, but it was also a highly fulfilling one. I've never had a viewing experience like this, and probably never will again. Endlessly inventive, Llinás's paean to his four stars is a truly extraordinary singular achievement.

House of Tolerance (Bertrand Bonello, 2011): Set in the twilight of the 19th century, Bertrand Bonello offers a window into life within a French bordello named L’Apollonide (the name of a famous ancient Greek physician--if there's a connection to be made, and I doubt that there is, then I don't get it). Lacking any central character or theme, the film is more interested in emerging its viewer in a finely crafted world that Bonello made alongside his wife and collaborator Josée Deshaies. That's not to say that we don't follow the course of certain characters through the film's duration. Alice Barnole is given a story line as Madeleine (though she's often referred to as "Jewess") that sees her horribly disfigured at the hands of a patron; we trace Pauline (Iliana Zabeth) as she goes from neophyte to seasoned regular. There is no denying that L’Apollonide is the film's star though, demonstrated by the fact that we only leave its confines twice: first for an outing reminiscent of Manet's Luncheon on the Grass, and then again when
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the exterior red gas light goes out and we're transposed into the 21st century where the actresses portray prostitutes waiting for johns on the street.
Nudity abounds, but we never get the sense that it's gratuitous or there to titillate. Instead, it seems like the natural consequence of the film's setting. I really liked this one. It's the third film by Bonello I've watched for the project, and hos work feels like an important discovery for me.

The Kindergarten Teacher (Nadav Lapid, 2014): Over a couple of years in the 90s, Sarit Larry played a number of television and film roles in her native Israel. She gave up acting to pursue a life off screen, but returned in 2014 for a one off in this critically acclaimed drama about a caregiver and educator whose interest in poetry leads to drastic actions. Larry plays Nira, the titular kindergarten teacher, a character with one adult son in the army and a teenage daughter, and a middle-aged husband who looks forward to when they're both out of the house so he can go around nude. Five years ago, Nira discovered her love of poetry. Writing and reading it gives her an escape from the realities of a banal and unrewarding existence. One day she discovers that one of her wards, five-year-old Yoav (Avi Shnaidman), has the uncanny ability to improvise verse on the spot, but lacks any comprehension of its meaning. To the chagrin of Yoav's practical minded single father, Nira takes the boy under her wing in an attempt to nurture his singular talent. From the beginning there's a blurring of lines between Nira's role as teacher and mentor, that
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boils over into outright obsession as she starts to treat him as a possession to mold to her liking. In the end she kidnaps Yoav in a desperate attempt to make him hers.
Larry plays Nira with a certain melancholic charm that gives way to an unhealthy instability. She proves herself to be a talented actor here, but only time will tell if she ever chooses to take on another role.

Kirikou and the Men and Women (Michel Ocelot, 2012): One of my favorite discoveries back in the early days of my time reviewing for DVDBeaver was the work of Michel Ocelot, and none of his films hit me as hard as his 1998 animated masterpiece Kirikou and the Sorceress. Made in beautiful hand drawn animation, the film told a series of several stories of Kirikou, a newborn who enters the world able to talk and run faster than anyone else in his African tribe. Kirikou is also a kindhearted genius who works to better those around him. Instead of using violence to solve his village's problems, he reasons with those causing trouble and brings peace. It's a gorgeous film that had a 2005 sequel, that, while still very good, didn't match the heights of the original. I didn't even know that there was a third film in the series, however, until I went through the offerings on the Criterion Channel earlier this month. Like the previous films, it’s an episodic story narrated by his grandfather about the infant using his wits to overcome problems--five tales in total, averaging about fifteen minutes a piece. Unlike the first two films, however, Ocelot trades in the traditional hand drawn images for a two-dimensional CG approach. I hate to say it, but I kind of missed the style from the original. It's more of the same of what we've seen from Ocelot's Kirikou films before, but luckily, they're so endearing that a little retread can be forgiven here.

Magic Mike XXL (Gregory Jacobs, 2015): With a few exceptions, I've never been much of a fan of Steven Soderbergh. One of those exceptions was his 2012 tale of male exotic dancers, Magic Mike. I found Channing Tatum's Mike to be a charming character, and the film to be a lot of fun with some excellent choreography. It was no masterpiece, but still very good. Ever since it's 2015 sequel came out, I've had friends tell me that it was even better than the original. Since I'm unemployed right now, I've been trying to stick to films I can stream for free, but finally gave in and rented this one. And...it's really good too. When we pick up this time, Mike is out of the stripping game. He's still working on his designer furniture company, but recently broke up with his love interest from the first film. When one of his buddies from the Xquisite contacts him, Mike reunites with his old friends who talk him into going on a road trip headed north along the Atlantic border from their Miami starting point. A lot happens along the way, and I don't want to give too much away here, but I will say that there are great appearances from newcomers played by Donald Glover, Amber Heard, and others. The film gives us a portrait of loving friendships between adult men that felt downright wholesome. The leads all turn in wonderful performances, and again, the choreography is outstanding. I had forgotten what a talented dancer Tatum is, and he really shines here every time he busts a move.

Victoria (Sebastian Schipper, 2015): Having never seen a film of Sebastian Schipper's before, or even really knowing anything about Victoria prior to clicking on it, I wasn't sure what to expect going in. It turns out that it's a film that relies on a gimmick, but an impressive one at that. Like Russian Ark, released thirteen years prior, the film was recorded in a single two hour take. Unlike the Sokurov, however, the film isn't confined to a single building. Instead, the movie follows its cast of characters around the city of Berlin as they make their march to their inexorable fates. Laia Costa plays the eponymous heroine. Despite speaking little German, she's a transplant from Spain who works in a local cafe. At night she likes to go clubbing, which is where we first meet her. Leaving, she encounters a group of four men led by Sonne (Frederick Lau). The men are simultaneously goofy and charming, but also a little menacing. They ask Victoria to go for a ride in a car. She demurs, believing that the car isn't theirs. She's right, but still runs off with them anyway. They hang out for the next hour, laying the magnetism on thick, but Victoria ends up back at her job opening the cafe. A few minutes later, the men reenter and ask her to do something that will forever change her life. I have to admit that despite the impressive technical feat of dragging that camera around the streets of the city, I found the first hour a little boring. Things really pick up when the film becomes a
SpoilerShow
crime thriller
but there's no denying that there's a strong disjoint between the two parts. Like Uncut Gems, the film is ultimately about a protagonist who makes the worst possible choices whenever they can. If that bothers you, then this isn't the movie for you. I found it easy enough to suspend disbelief for both films, though I suppose that Safdies do a better job of showing Howard's compulsions. Here Victoria's motivations are never really explored. Costa is great in her role, but everyone who played a role in pulling this audacious stunt off deserves congratulating.

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therewillbeblus
Joined: Tue Dec 22, 2015 3:40 pm

Re: A 2010s List for Those That Can't Wait

#282 Post by therewillbeblus » Mon Apr 12, 2021 5:35 pm

zedz wrote:
Mon Apr 12, 2021 5:05 pm
therewillbeblus wrote:
Mon Apr 12, 2021 4:38 pm
From what you describe I think you'll be throwing away a vote, but however you want to boost awareness (casting a vote and labeling your orphan, posting in the Experimental films thread, etc.) I find it to be sometimes more important to leave orphans be in order to flag unsung masterpieces to be discovered. Though since this particular film is not even available on backchannels, your efforts might be better served by posting in the Experimental films thread if/when it's touring cinemas (this is basically me asking you do to that as a civil service, now that I'm conscious to this film's existence), otherwise it becomes That Film that we all jot down on our 'to-see' lists when scanning list project orphans and become frustrated at never being able to consummate with ease.
I'd consider getting Dorsky on people's "to see" lists would be a pretty good outcome from a "thrown-away" vote. Certainly more useful than reassuring people that a film everybody likes is indeed pretty good.
Yeah certainly boosting the filmmaker himself, which is why I offered that as a worthwhile option, but- speaking for myself- when I compile these lists, I'm going to seek out physical or digital copies of them, and when someone champions a director's work and stresses the asterisk that they need to be seen in theatres and are rare opportunities, etc., I note that outside of said backburner "to see" list. So I guess what I really meant to say is: If it's on your list, put it on your list and draw awareness, but also spread that awareness elsewhere in more tangible forms. For example, without this discussion I would have been far more inclined to enthusiastically seek out Dorsky if people were posting about the strength of his work as an overall filmmaker, stressing the rarity of his films, and citing retrospective tours in the Experimental films thread or elsewhere, than I would be to see an orphaned film, look at the director, read up on said director, find out his work is only shown in certain ways, and make a point to keep tabs on it. Doing both is cool, but one is going to get people more excited and more effectively streamline that cognizance to actually see his films.

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swo17
Bloodthirsty Butcher
Joined: Tue Apr 15, 2008 10:25 am
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Re: A 2010s List for Those That Can't Wait

#283 Post by swo17 » Mon Apr 12, 2021 6:34 pm

zedz wrote:
Mon Apr 12, 2021 5:01 pm
Two very great experimental films I won't be voting for this go-round are Oskar Fischinger's Raumlichtkunst (2012), which is a modern compilation / speculative reconstruction of a multi-screen cinematic event originally staged in the 1920s. It's absolutely wonderful, but it falls between two temporal stools and I can't in good conscience attribute it to either decade.

The other one if Peter Kubelka's Antiphon (also 2012), a film created for the sake of the superimposed work Monument Film
Well this is madness. For the record, Raumlichtkunst is eligible for the 1920s list, and both Antiphon and Monument Film are eligible for the 2010s.

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Ghersh
Joined: Thu Feb 04, 2016 7:05 pm

Re: A 2010s List for Those That Can't Wait

#284 Post by Ghersh » Tue Apr 13, 2021 3:08 am

I never made that connection between Victoria and Uncut Gems. The way I see it, the enjoyable Uncut Gems is more like a dark humour pastiche of its story, it felt satirical, not least through the Sandler protagonist who is an annoying caricature in the most positive sense. Victoria on the other hand felt more mature and natural to me, especially the characters who act very "realistically" in the semi-improvised dialogue, which maybe comes more into play if one speaks german like I do. This may sound stupid, but even the lack of her motivation felt somewhat real, as behaviour and decisions of other people often feel a bit illogical and disjointed to me in the world of nightlife and staying out long anyway.

Uncut Gem is fun, Victoria is great.

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colinr0380
Joined: Mon Nov 08, 2004 4:30 pm
Location: Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire, UK

Re: A 2010s List for Those That Can't Wait

#285 Post by colinr0380 » Tue Apr 13, 2021 3:15 am

bamwc2 wrote:
Sun Apr 11, 2021 1:37 pm
colinr0380, I found those live action segments pretty emotional. I'm decidedly not an adult Lego collector, but have had the same fights with my son that Farrell's character had with his...After it was over, my five-year-old gave me a lecture about how he just wanted to be creative like the boy in the movie when he did his free builds. I dropped any objections after that.
If it is any consolation I completely sympathise! I was always very much a 'follow the manual' kid myself in order to build the stated product on the box. Otherwise what was the point of buying the product in the first place, and deviating from the rules might result into a descent into pure anarchy! It has been nice to see that instead of having to experiment with Lego products that have a specific design and the parts are there mostly to facilitate that build, that it seems more recently that Lego have been providing 'free build' bags of bricks to allow for the more creative kids to make their own things without having to scrounge parts from boxes that make specific models. And whilst I have barely scratched the surface of that world through watching a couple of YouTube videos about adult Lego collectors, the advent of the internet seems to have allowed for purchases of types of bricks for builders wanting to design their own things (plus seems to have fuelled the Criterion-like inflation of certain rare bricks within that group. There was even an article recently about some rare ones even getting stolen!)

I should say that while I rigorously followed the instructions to the letter whilst building, I would often go on to have little mini-disaster movie scenarios occur in the city that ended up reducing everything to rubble, ready for the rebuilding process to begin all over again! (And I remember that I always used to have my little Lego mini-figures standing around the 'construction area' looking on as I built, so I particularly liked the opening of the film having that as the main character's job!)

One of the things I like most about The Lego Movie is that while it critiques most clearly the forced attempt at bringing order to everything through its villain (mostly so because of the eventual context that its all coming from the son being frustrated at being unable to play with his father's precious Lego city. Although he has obviously somehow gotten in to begin his rampage through it in order to begin the movie!), it also lightly seems to critique the unbridled anarchy of something like that goofy anything goes world too. It sort of knows (as Lars von Trier did with his Dogme 95 manifesto! Maybe its a Danish mindset?) that you need structure and rules to bring shape to a world that you can then subvert, rebel against and do whatever you want inside, even utterly destroy the fabric of reality itself. But if everything is chaos already then there is no impact that results from randomness, compared to tearing the top off of a skyscraper and just floating it away like a spaceship!

The film with its jump into the 'real world' beautifully shows that its not either/or but both structured and freeform play have their own merits, and often work in compliment to each other. We as individuals might feel an affinity with one way or the other, but perhaps that's the genius of Lego itself: you are bringing order out of a pile of random blocks, whether officially following the instructions or just building (within the parameters of the blocks that are provided/available to you) to see what comes out.

And of course the father's Lego city was a result of his own freeform building project too, just without the intention of tearing it all down. He created a beautiful space that fascinated his son so much that he wanted to play inside it for a while. In that way I think the film is surprisingly deep and even gets into a kind of bigger Jacques Tati-style idea about architects designing spaces for people to exist in but without thought as to what would happen once real people actually begin to inhabit a space, getting their sticky fingerprints all over the previously pristine but impersonal beauty in order for messy individual life stories to occur within.

Basically The Lego Movie is a better 2010s film about architecture and its impact on people's agency within such spaces than the elitist Tomorrowland and Atlas Shrugged movies combined! And it probably does a better job than Ready Player One of showing homegrown characters and licenced tie-in brands clashing together before finding a way to co-exist!
Last edited by colinr0380 on Sat May 01, 2021 3:41 am, edited 1 time in total.

bamwc2
Joined: Mon Jun 02, 2008 11:54 am

Re: A 2010s List for Those That Can't Wait

#286 Post by bamwc2 » Wed Apr 14, 2021 1:48 pm

Viewing Log:

24 Frames (Abbas Kiarostami, 2017): Abbas Kiarostami was long fascinated with the division between reality and artifice, whether it was the faux documentary reconstruction of Close Up or his catalogue of a sea of faces in Shirin. I suppose that it's then fitting that his final film blurs these lines as deep as anything that came before it. The conceit is simple. Kiarostami, an amateur photographer, uses 21 one of his shots (along with three paintings at the beginning) to construct the 4.5 minutes before and after the image was taken. At first, the images, starting with Bruegel’s The Hunters in the Snow, are clearly the work of talented CGI engineers. Plumes of smoke begin to billow from the chimneys, crows stir and caw, and cows plod along through the background. However, once we get to the photorealistic reconstruction of Kiarostami's pictures, it becomes impossible to tell where life ends and contrivance begins. It's not clear what point--if any--Kiarostami's attempts to make with these vignettes. Then again, if art like paintings or photography can exist without a message or a purpose, then why does art in motion have to have one? I'm not going to lie. Like some of his other more formally abstract works, Kiarostami tests his viewer's patience as little occurs in these frames, and never anything of dramatic consequence. Yet, if we can appreciate the beauty of a still image by staring at it in a museum for several minutes, then an additional brief period of time to take it in isn't really asking that much after all.

The Comedy (Rick Alverson, 2012): A couple of years ago I caught Rick Alverson's The Mountain when it first hit streaming, and hated it. Just fucking hated it. I hated everything about it. That's why I was surprised to like his Entertainment when I streamed it a few days ago. And, hey. Guess what? I liked The Comedy too. Like the aforementioned Entertainment, it’s about a thoroughly terrible loser who thinks that his unfunny humor will allow him to get what he wants in life. This time the man child is Swanson (Tim Heidecker), a trust fund kid whose comatose father is on life support. Swanson betrays his porn habits when he quizzes his father's nurse about his experiences with prolapsed anuses, a phenomenon, he tells us, that occurs in women who have too much anal sex. When that fails to elicit any reaction, he throws out a free association of butt puns. Swanson seems to exist to get a rise out of people, but rarely does. He never has to work a day in his life, but jumps around as a tourist, taking up low paying jobs until he tires of them. Somehow, despite being a loathsome person, Swanson manages to be an intriguing character who captured my attention throughout the film's runtime.

An Elephant Sitting Still (Bo Hu, 2018): An astonishing debut from China's newest generation of filmmakers, sadly also proves to be the only film we'll get from the vital voice of writer/director Bo Hu. With four main characters, the film tells a series of seemingly disparate stories. A pair of picked upon high schoolers are confronted by a bully who believes one of them to have stolen his phone. A faithful husband kills himself when he finds his wife in bed with a local gangster. A family who can barely afford rent are desperate for their grandfather to sell his house so they can move. While these stories ultimately do unite in unexpected ways, they are also unified in their deep sense of despair and hopelessness. Set in a crowded part of China with heavy pollution, the industrial wasteland that exists just over the horizon and the numerous high-rise apartments that litter the landscape make this an unpleasant surrounding with little hope of change. The story is very well done, but equally impressive are the film's visuals. Shot with a steady cam, the perspective moves when it needs to before settling in for protracted shots without edits. This is an excellent film. It's a shame that we'll never get any more from Bo.

The Missing Picture (Rithy Panh, 2013): Cambodian-American filmmaker Rithy Panh was thirteen when the Khmer Rouge used the instability caused by the illegal US bombing campaign to seize power. Led by Sorbonne trained philosophy major Pol Pot, the group sought to institute their vision of agrarian communism through the systematic genocide of anyone they deemed to be reactionaries. Ultimately, upwards of 2 million--more than 1/4 of the country's population--was murdered in just four years. In The Missing Picture, Pahn gives an account of his experience in one of the regime's death camps. Told through narration (though it's done in the first person, it's not by Panh himself), surviving photographs, and hundreds of carved clay figures. With so much lost and memory holed by the Khmer Rouge, the construction of these striking dioramas became a necessary task to visually fill in the missing picture that the killers left behind. The story Pahn tells is harrowing. Those who escaped an initial round of extermination were sent to labor camps where they were forced to complete meaningless, but debilitating tasks and starvation diets that eventually kill off many of its prisoners. The Missing Picture stands as testament to one of the worst genocides in human history, as its become chic for some of the more unhinged elements of my fellow leftists to deny that such things ever took place outside of fascist regimes. It should have a place next to Claude Lanzmann's work documenting the Shoah.

My Golden Days (Arnaud Desplechin, 2015): I didn't realize it until I read a review to help me with this synopsis, but Arnaud Desplechin's My Golden Days is a sequel to his My Sex Life…Or How I Got Into an Argument released 19 years prior. Both films follow the exploits of Paul Dedalus (Mathieu Amalric). Here he is now a middle-aged anthropologist preparing to return to Paris after many years of conducting research abroad. However, then film is far less interested in the present than it is the past, as the majority of it explores formative episodes from Paul's childhood. Little time is spent on the death of his mother
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which we later learn was through suicide
before moving on to his teenage exploits. Here he travels to the USSR where he sneaks in contraband and loses his virginity. The final segment is centered on his experience in college where Paul carries on a long term relationship with Esther (Lou Roy-Lecollinet), a sweet and attractive girl that he obviously is in love with. And then we return to the present where we finally appreciate the impact that the previous segments had on Paul's life. I can't say how the continuing adventures of Desplechin's protagonist compare to the original, but taken as an isolated film, I quite enjoyed it. I suppose that the word 'melancholic' best describes Paul's reminiscing. It's definitely worth checking out.

Sorry We Missed You (Ken Loach, 2019): If Sorry We Missed You turns out to be the final film of 84-year-old director Ken Loach (as of now he has no forthcoming projects listed on imdb), then it'll be a fitting end. Loach long ago decided to make the working person the centerpiece of his films, and has spent the last several decades tracking the effects that Thatcherism and Labour's turn to neoliberalism has had on them. This reaches its apotheosis in the story of Ricky (Kris Hitchen), an unemployed family man too proud to take the dole, but finds he has to take on a job to supplement the income his wife Abbie (Debbie Honeywood) makes as a hospice worker. When the film begins Ricky is in an interview with Maloney (Ross Brewster), a middle manager who oversees a depot for the fictitious delivery company PDF. PDF employees are considered independent contractors who get no benefits from the company, and must purchase their own delivery van, uniform, scanner, etc. They're also required to follow a brutal schedule of deliveries that are constantly tracked by PDF. Fall behind schedule or miss a day of work, and you get a strike. Three strikes and you're out. Paul desperately tries to keep up with his absurdly dehumanizing work requirements, but trouble with his teenage son and the constant fees he accrues from PDF prevent him from ever getting his head about water. The film is a blistering indictment of the gig economy and the political policies that led us here. As someone who's spent most of the last decade spinning their wheels in academia, I really feel for Ricky. Over the last twenty years, the number of permanent positions has steadily declined, while we've seen a sharp uptick in hiring of temporary teaching jobs. Most of these are done on semester contracts with no benefits and starvation wages. This seems to be the trend of most work today, and I have no idea how the vast majority of us are going to survive it.

Sunset Song (Terence Davies, 2015): Adapting the first book of Lewis Grassic Gibbon's A Scots Quair trilogy, director Terence Davies once again gives us a film about the UK during a war. This time London has been transposed to the Scottish countryside, and World War II has been replaced by its progenitor. The movie is focused on the life of Chris Guthrie (Agyness Deyn), the daughter of a strict farmer who becomes abusive after a debilitating stroke changes his personality. He eventually dies, and her mother, played by Daniela Nardini, is not long for this world either. Alone in a world that doesn't allow for female independence, Chris is saved by Ewan (Kevin Guthrie), her suitor that she soon will marry. Initially life with Ewan is idyllic, but
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things change after he goes off to basic training. Traumatized by the prospect of death, he returns a changed man and rapes her. Then he dies in the trenches.
The visuals, particularly the exteriors that were shot on 70 mm film stock, look stunning. There is no doubt that Davies is a master of cinematography, but I found long stretches of the film a little staid. It's still an easy recommendation, but doesn't rank among Davies's best.

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domino harvey
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Re: A 2010s List for Those That Can't Wait

#287 Post by domino harvey » Wed Apr 14, 2021 2:29 pm

bamwc2 wrote:
Wed Apr 14, 2021 1:48 pm

My Golden Days (Arnaud Desplechin, 2015): I didn't realize it until I read a review to help me with this synopsis, but Arnaud Desplechin's My Golden Days is a sequel to his My Sex Life…Or How I Got Into an Argument released 19 years prior. Both films follow the exploits of Paul Dedalus (Mathieu Amalric). [...] I can't say how the continuing adventures of Desplechin's protagonist compare to the original, but taken as an isolated film, I quite enjoyed it.
As with seeing Rois et reine to understand Les fantomes d'Ismael, you don't really need to. Desplechin likes working with recurring characters but there's not a lot of meaningful connective tissue.

Also, I have no interest in a serious take on his persona in Entertainment, but seeing Gregg Turkington perform as Neil Hamburger is the most I've ever laughed at a performance in my life. I kinda doubt you'd be into him based on some of your other comments on other films, but my audience was def on his wavelength and we were all collectively heaving in tears of laughter by minute four or five of him fixating on repeating a certain word.

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Re: A 2010s List for Those That Can't Wait

#288 Post by therewillbeblus » Wed Apr 14, 2021 4:00 pm

domino harvey wrote:
Wed Apr 14, 2021 2:29 pm
bamwc2 wrote:
Wed Apr 14, 2021 1:48 pm

My Golden Days (Arnaud Desplechin, 2015): I didn't realize it until I read a review to help me with this synopsis, but Arnaud Desplechin's My Golden Days is a sequel to his My Sex Life…Or How I Got Into an Argument released 19 years prior. Both films follow the exploits of Paul Dedalus (Mathieu Amalric). [...] I can't say how the continuing adventures of Desplechin's protagonist compare to the original, but taken as an isolated film, I quite enjoyed it.
As with seeing Rois et reine to understand Les fantomes d'Ismael, you don't really need to. Desplechin likes working with recurring characters but there's not a lot of meaningful connective tissue.
This lack of connection is most deliberately exposed as an audience tease when Émile Berling plays a teenager named Paul Dédalus, who is Amalric's character's nephew in A Christmas Tale, which takes place in present day

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Re: A 2010s List for Those That Can't Wait

#289 Post by bamwc2 » Wed Apr 14, 2021 4:23 pm

domino harvey wrote:
Wed Apr 14, 2021 2:29 pm
Also, I have no interest in a serious take on his persona in Entertainment, but seeing Gregg Turkington perform as Neil Hamburger is the most I've ever laughed at a performance in my life. I kinda doubt you'd be into him based on some of your other comments on other films, but my audience was def on his wavelength and we were all collectively heaving in tears of laughter by minute four or five of him fixating on repeating a certain word.
I laughed hysterically at his standup routine in the film. If Neil Hamburger is like that, then I'll probably love it too.

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Re: A 2010s List for Those That Can't Wait

#290 Post by bamwc2 » Thu Apr 15, 2021 9:25 pm

Viewing Log:

Bacurau (Juliano Dornelles and Kleber Mendonça Filho, 2019): Bacurau is the name of a dusty blip on the map of a town. Consisting of a small drag of a road with a general store, a local museum, and a few houses, the Brazilian backwater seems to be home to only a few dozen people. When the film begins its first twenty minutes or so are dedicated to the death of the town's 94-year-old matriarch. Instead of mourning her, the residents celebrate her life while looking toward new leaders like Pacote (Thomas Aquino) and Dr. Domingas (Sônia Braga). Unaware of the danger they're in, the town folk go about their daily lives until a pair of garishly adorned bikers pass through. Suddenly the cell service goes down, a water tanker comes to town after being shot at, and, more disturbingly, bullet ridden corpses are found outside of town.
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It turns out that a group of wealthy American tourists are there having paid Michael (Udo Kier) for the opportunity to hunt down locals for support free of legal repercussion. The villagers catch wind of the plans before the raid, and are prepared to fight back, killing everyone except Michael, who they bury alive.
The genre defying film borrows elements of traditional action movies, westerns, and sci-fi which it wraps in the bow of a darkly comic grindhouse flick. I've got to say that I loved every minute of this movie. Working with a strong anti-colonial message, Dornelles and Filho construct one of the most purely entertaining films to come out of Brazil in a long while. I saw Neighboring Sounds a few years back, and really liked it too. Now I can't wait to check out Aquarius.

The Eyes of Orson Welles (Mark Cousins, 2018): There exist no shortage of analyses of the life and works of Orson Welles, which is why it's so rare that any new publication or documentary adds to the discourse. Yet, that's exactly what Mark Cousins, the extraordinary talent behind the Ken Burns-esque The Story of Film: An Odyssey, pulls off here. Instead of giving us anything like a traditional biography, the film jumps around its subject's life with a grouping that's more thematic than it is chronological. While Cousins makes use of previously available material from the Welles archive at the University of Michigan, the best visuals come from the trove of previously unseen sketches that his daughter Beatrice supplied the documentarian. There's a lot to learn here for all but the most learned Welles aficionados. Cousins digs deep into the filmmaker's history to cover oft-ignored subjects like his days as an Art Institute of Chicago student, or his radio crusade against the unidentified "Officer X" who blinded a young man with an unwarranted beating. Occasionally visually stunning, and about as insightful a look at the filmmaker that we're ever going to get, The Eyes of Orson Welles should be required viewing for anyone interested in the history of the medium.

The Forbidden Room (Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson, 2015): Director Guy Maddin has been one of cinema's most unique voices ever since his debut in the mid-80s. Telling stories that mixed elements from his childhood in Winnipeg and love of the silent era, he achieved a style unlike anything that had ever come before him. However, his 2015 The Forbidden Room may be the purest distillation of Maddin's id that we'll ever see. The film is a loose collection of unrelated stories that make use of much of the same cast between them. We follow one thread until the filmmaker tires of it and takes up something else, only to return to the first one later. Bookended by an educational short on how to take a bath featuring plentiful nudity from it subjects, the film features absurdist scenarios like a lumberjack engaged in a scrotum weighing contest with a submarine captain after mysteriously appearing aboard his vessel at sea. Your potential for enjoyment can likely be predicted from past experiences with the director's work. This is uber Maddin. If you enjoy his style, then this is like mainlining it. I, for one, am a fan and had a blast. I'll be rocking the music video for The Final Derriere for weeks.

Ray & Liz (Richard Billingham, 2018): Coming of age in the West Midlands at a time when Thatcherism devastated the local economy, artist and photographer Richard Billingham has made a career off of documenting his abusive childhood and reconnection with his parents as an adult. Billingham rose to prominence at just 26 with his photography collection of his alcoholic father Ray, and equally dysfunctional chain-smoking mother Liz. Though I've never seen the book, it has a reputation for containing grotesque Diane Arbus-esque portraiture of the two, which resulted in the BBC commissioning a short film about them from the photographer. Ray & Liz marks Billingham's first foray into feature filmmaking and finds him dipping into the same well for inspiration as his previous work. Confined to a slummy shoe box apartment, the film follows the family over three separate periods from the early 80s through an unspecified point where Ray, now an old man played by Patrick Romer, gets out of bed only to get drunk. Throughout their time together, the family is marred by abuse both internal and external. Nowhere is this more evident than in the first scene where Liz's mentally handicapped brother Lol (Tony Way) is charged with watching the couple's toddler son Jason. Rude boy neighbor Will (Sam Gittins) invites himself in and intentionally gets Lol piss drunk so he can steal the man's money when he's passed out. Before exiting Will covers Jason with shoe polish and leaves him playing with a kitchen knife. Upon discovering her brother passed out on her couch, Liz too tries to steal his money and only becomes more enraged when she finds Lol's wallet empty. Things don't get much better for the remainder of the film. Shot in the same intentionally cheap and overly grainy manner as the portraits of his parents, the film is a depressing journey into the heart of working class British misery. As unpleasant as it may sound, the film is certainly worth checking out, just don't expect to have high spirits when it’s over.

Shakedown (Leilah Weinraub, 2018): With most of its footage originally shot in 2004, but not released for another fourteen years, Shakedown is a groundbreaking look at the brief existence of an underground strip club of the same name. The club was created for queer Black women, featuring queer Black dancers, for a queer Black clientele. During its time in the LA scene, Shakedown operated as kind of a utopia for its patrons. In a world where Black female bodies are objectified as hypersexual by white audiences, and heternormativty tries to shoehorn lesbians into straight relationships, Shakedown gave the women there a chance to celebrate sex and sexuality on their own terms. You don't have to be queer to appreciate the joy that the club goers experience, as we're treated to numerous shots of the exuberant women stuffing dollar bills into barely there g-strings. Alas, repeated police harassment and arrests (the exact reason for them wasn't clear to me) result in Shakedown's closure, but we do get a coda about the experience ten years later. Premiering on PornHub before making its way to the Criterion Channel, Shakedown is exactly the kind of underground filmmaking that I love discovering. It's celebration of Blackness and queer lust is just what the world needs.

Synonyms (Nadav Lapid, 2019): Yoav (Tom Mercier) has a romanticized view of France, and a burning hatred for what he sees as the militarized ethnostate Israel has become. So, when Nadav Lapid's Synonyms begins we're already greeted with the idealistic youth in his new country. Left alone in a shower in a barren, but impossibly large apartment, Yoav gets his first bitter taste of reality when his belongings are stolen during a shower. Naked, he nearly freezes to death before Parisians Emile (Quentin Dolmaire) and Caroline (Louise Chevillotte) find him in the morning. Both are interested in Yoav for different reasons. Emile, and aspiring writer, wants to hear stories of his time in the Israeli army. Caroline, on the other hand, tells Yoav that she knew they'd sleep together after first seeing him in the nude. Yoav enrolls in the naturalization process as he works odd jobs. Despite his hatred of his home country, he gravitates to a militant Zionist, Yaron (Uria Hayik), who tries to start fights on a public bus so he can claim to be the victim of antisemitism. Yaron gets Yoav a job at the Israeli embassy, which our protagonist intentionally screws up. Later working as a nude model, he's unable to escape the photographer's Jewish fetishification as he demands Yoav scream in Hebrew, suggesting that he will always be seen as an outsider in his adoptive country. This is the third film I've seen from Lapid, and perhaps the most overtly critical of his own nation. His Policeman was a searing look at both the ultranationalist and militarized security forces that run the country, and a vapid leftwing terror cell. Both sides welcomed violence, but Lapid seemed too overly concerned with denouncing everyone involved for it to be a sharp criticism. Here I assume that Yoav serves as Lapid's own mouthpiece in his rejection of what his home country has become under Likud rule. Forgoing Policeman's stone cold seriousness for a much lighter tone, the film still tells a deeply humanistic tale of someone searching for a place to belong. Regardless of our country of origin, that's something we can all relate to.

Young Ahmed (Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne, 2019): Teenager Idir Ben Addi stars as the eponymous Ahmed, a Belgian youth who feels a pull to embrace a more fundamentalist interpretation of Islam than that practiced by his mother (Claire Bodson). Ahmed's Arabic teacher Inès (Myriem Akheddiou) teaches a westernized version of the language and uses French pop music in her lessons. Worse still, Ahmed suspects her of being an apostate. Unfortunately, Ahmed comes under the mentorship of charismatic cleric Imam Youssouf (Othmane Mouman), who preaches violence against enemies of Islam, including those who have left the faith. Convinced that it’s his duty, Ahmed travels to his teacher's classroom with the intent to murder her, but she escapes unharmed, and he begins his long journey of deradicalization. Idir plays his character with a kind of traumatic detachment, rarely showing any affect at all. This is puzzling given the fact that we're never told of any specific trauma experienced by the boy, but I suppose that trying to fit into a world that doesn't accept you might have that effect. The consensus on the film is that this isn't the Dardenne's best, and I think that's right. Thought there are real life cases like the one in the film, Ahmed's story follows the contemporary Francophone fear of Islamic radicalism a little too pat. The brothers feel like they're treading water stylistically, and the ending is a little contrived. There's enough here that works for a mild recommendation, but it's probably the worst film I've seen from the pair.

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Re: A 2010s List for Those That Can't Wait

#291 Post by therewillbeblus » Fri Apr 16, 2021 1:08 am

I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians: So this is what it might look like if Godard took some tranquilizers and tried to make a Kiarostami film casually and inconsistently, while remaining unable to part from his own sense of humor and passionate ethics translated through scattered intelligence. It's at once an irreverent absurdist comedy and morally urgent meditation on temporal concerns of history, accountability, and responsibility filtered through the artist's sense of peripheral power and philosophical humility. After watching Jude's shorts (though only Aferim! for features so far), he's ventured far in formal progression from his first (and best) short Alexandra's micro kitchen-sink acuity, yet still channeling that fervency for sociopolitical justice and implicit existential energy. This is a truly original work that simultaneously provoked multiple avenues of thought, diverse comedy styles, and realistic empathy that has no clear space to lend itself and relieve the burden of emotion. Even the social satire ranges from the topical minimization/rationalization of nationalist history to fleeting episodes of toxic masculinity in ways that are both hilarious and tragic in their objective framing. If I keep raving I'll just have to explain each gag and idiosyncratic reinvention of self-reflexive possibilities, because this is a series of eccentric and distinct notes that somehow create a unique masterpiece composition when strung together into some kind of lumpy, yet meaningful, narrative. I don't know how Jude pulls it off, but here he embodies our vantage point through Premingerian "outsideness" to soak up the haunting sobriety to truth and drollness to perspective, and I'll be eagerly awaiting his continued development as a filmmaker.

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Re: A 2010s List for Those That Can't Wait

#292 Post by bamwc2 » Sat Apr 17, 2021 1:16 am

Viewing Log:

Aquarius (Kleber Mendonça Filho, 2015): 65-year-old retired music critic Clara (Sonia Braga) lives alone in the apartment she owns in an aging high rise called Aquarius located in the city of Recife, Brazil. In fact, Clara is the last person to live in the formerly upscale building, and mostly keeps to herself with the exception of her Ladjane (Zoraide Coleto) and occasional younger boy toys. The Aquarius has emptied out after a development team run by an acquaintance and his grandson bought their leases for well above market value. They want to tear the building down and replace it with The New Aquarius, but Clara refuses to sell for any price. Reducing the film to the constant battle between Clara and the realtors ignores the fact that its simultaneously an evocative exploration of the rich life lived by a woman in the early portion of her senior years. For an industry that notoriously ignores women after they turn 40, seeing a love letter to a tough and sexually active old broad like Clara is a breath of fresh air. That's not to say that there's anything wrong with the plot. The film's main story just isn't the entirety of what it has to offer. With a strong central performance from Braga, this was a real winner.

August at Akiko's (Christopher Makoto Yogi, 2018): Jazz saxophonist Alex Zhang Hungtai play a version of himself named Alex who travels Hawaii to try and track down his family's home. Using only his early childhood memories as his guide, he comes up empty. Instead, he finds himself at a bed and breakfast run by Japanese ex pat Akiko Masuda (also playing herself). A practitioner of Zen Buddhism, the older Akiko imparts life lessons that Alex takes to heart. The film has some truly gorgeous scenery in it, which isn't much of a surprise. If you drop a camera in just about any unindustrialized region of Hawaii, then chances are you'll come up with some breathtaking landscapes. However, I've never really gotten jazz, and I have a special hatred for saxophone music, so I never got into that end of the film. At the same time, I found many of the Akiko's teachings to be trite. Writer/director Christopher Makoto Yogi was right to keep the film at a short 75 minute run span, but even with the welcome brevity I didn't enjoy it. If you're a jazz fan or into Japanese Buddhism, then you might get more out of this than I did.

Chained for Life (Aaron Schimberg, 2018): Mabel (Jess Weixler) is a pampered actress on the set of a B-movie about a mad scientist who promises an asylum of people with physical abnormalities surgery to live a normal life. There are individuals in the movie within a movie that live with gigantism, dwarfism, there are conjoined twins, and others with severe burns. The crew are led by Rosenthal, portrayed by Adam Pearson, who in real life lives with neurofibromatosis, which caused numerous tumors to cover his face. In the film within a film, the blind Mabel and Rosenthal are lovers, but their relationship is threatened both by the cure the doctor finds for her and the revolt of the asylum's exploited patients. Off set, Rosenthal is a nervous first time actor who turns to Mabel for advice. She attempts to demonstrate how to portray emotions with her face alone, but this isn't a possibility for her mentee. The film contains some hilarious material here, such as when the film's director, who wants to be referred to as "Herr director", gives his cast a motivational speech about The Muppet Movie. Ultimately, the film recalls Tod Browning's Freaks, but whereas that film was about the freakish nature that exist in the hearts of those "normal" looking people, this is about the normality of those that we consider freaks.

Chinese Portrait (Xiaoshuai Wang, 2018): Devoid of narrative or plot, or even conventional documentary devices, director Xiaoshuai Wang attempts to tell the story of contemporary China through a series of visual tableaus. Recalling Abbas Kiarostami's revolutionary photo extrapolation experiment 24 Frames, released just a year earlier, Xiaoshuai's film allows the camera to capture the motion for itself instead of relying on CG manipulation. In this sense, the camera becomes the only character in the film, as it records every segment, each lasting just a few minutes. We're treated to all sorts of images, from earthquake devastated cities undergoing a renewal to pastoral scenes of horses interacting with one another. The footage of the country's Muslim minority at prayer and washing their feet take on an additional relevance given the cultural genocide of western China's Uighur population. Like Kiarostami, Xiaoshuai expects his audience to not only pay attention, but to reflect in a way that many films don't require of us. If you can do that, then there's a lot to be gained in the film's short runtime.

Homeland (Iraq Year Zero) (Abbas Fahdel, 2015): In late 2002 and early 2003 President George W. Bush's administration engaged in prolonged sabre rattling against the Iraqi government. Warning us that President Saddam Hussein was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction, Bush's team built up the so-called "Coalition of the Willing" to preemptively invade Iraq before the fictitious WMDs could be used against the West. At the time this began, Iraq-born documentarian Abbas Fahdel left his residence in France to film daily life among the country's populace, including his own family, before and after the invasion. Clocking in at 334 minutes, the direct splits the time, giving each era approximately two hours and forty-five minutes. The early footage is fairly quotidian. Women carry out domestic tasks while their husbands labor. A little boy watches untranslated American cartoons on the television. However, everything changes in the film's second half. Coalition soldiers roam the streets populated by bombed out buildings. In one memorable scene, a group of young boys show off the spent mortar shells they collected in their town. Life was oppressive under Saddam, but the men on the street say it was preferable to the violent anarchy the invasion caused. Perhaps most notable is what's missing from the film. Fahdel uses no footage of the fighting itself, instead focusing on the human stories around him. There is a very real sense in which the first half of the documentary doesn't capture the reality of the situation. Whether you agree with the invasion or not, there's no doubting that Hussein was a brutal dictator, and Iraqi citizens were afraid to speak openly about him. Instead of giving Hussein false praise, Fahdel sidesteps the problem by not mentioning him at all. While imperfect, it's still a valuable tool for understanding the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives that were extinguished by Bush's choice to go to war.

Liberté (Albert Serra, 2019): Set in the waning days of Louis XVI's reign, Albert Serra's latest provocation tells the story of a group of French libertines on their way fleeing to the Prussian border in hope of avoiding punishment at the hand of the royal court for their hedonist excesses. The film opens at dusk after a caravan of buggies spent their day traveling eastward. Once night hits, however, the film turns into nearly two hours straight of unsimulated pansexual fucking in the forest that conceals them. While the cast is composed of professional actors--most notably Helmut Berger--with character credits on imdb, their identities mostly disappear into naked writhing bodies that are more or less indistinguishable from one another. Often the only markers we get to tell the characters apart are class markings, like the powdered wigs the aristocratic men keep on or the fancy lingerie their wives wear. Whatever your preferred paraphilia is, there's a good chance you'll find it here as we get, for instance, lengthy scenes of a woman's bottom being flogged (she gets mad because he's not whipping hard enough) and a man who gets off stroking his flaccid penis as both another man and a woman urinate on him. The sex acts are presented so matter of factly that it’s clear that Serra is less interested in judging the character than he is in telling their story the only way it can be told. While the unsimulated sex is undoubtedly going to be the main focus of the viewer's attention, it's worth noting that Serra gives equal--if not more--time to the reaction of others watching it happen. Some characters simply choose to watch until dawn, and we simultaneously peep on the voyeurs in a kind of meta-commentary of our experience. There is, of course, something very silly about the notion of people fucking throughout an entire night. Men, particularly the older men who are fairly well represented here, have refractory periods between ejaculations that'll put them out of action from intercourse for long periods of time. While they could do...um...other things with their time, I'd imagine that the orgy would peter out pretty quickly and most of the crowd would simply fall asleep like we see a few of them do. So, is the film any good? Like the repetitive elements of pornography--and no, I'm not saying that something is pornographic just because it's sexually explicit--watching two hours of sex can get a little tedious. I think that it works best if we consider the film to be akin to a work by de Sade, an effort to catalog the ever more transgressive acts to critique the prevailing morality of the day. It's certainly shocking, but a little shock to the system can be good sometimes.

No Home Movie (Chantal Akerman, 2015): Director Chantal Akerman was never shy about exploring her identities in her movies. Akerman, an out lesbian, wrote, directed, and starred in Je Tu Il Elle, an exploration of queer love between women. This film, however, is about her Judaism, her life as the citizen of Brussels, and her role as daughter to her mother. Her mother, 86-year-old Natalia, is both a Polish immigrant and a Holocaust survivor who lived alone in a small flat for the last years of her life. The film is a love letter to her mother, featuring hundreds of hours of footage shot during visits over the course of several months. There is something both intimate and unappealing about the way that Chantal shoots her interactions with her mother. She simply lays the camera on a nearby flat surface and allows it to record the static shot. Oftentimes the women are centered in the frame, but sometimes they're maddeningly off camera or barely there. There's very little drama early on as mother and daughter engage in banal conversations, but Natalia's health takes a turn for the worse in the film's final act, creating the only real tension it has to offer. A surprising amount of time is dedicated to long takes of landscapes or (again) static shots of random people in public that have no obvious relation to the main thrust of the film. Indeed, I didn't measure out the times, but I suspect that there were more scenes like these in the film's runtime than there were minutes spent with Natalia on screen. It's interesting as a portrait of the Ackermans, but is far from Chantal's best work. It does, however, take on a new poignancy given the fact that the director killed herself after the film's release, apparently because she was unable to cope with the continued grief of losing her mother. As ghoulish as it may sound, I found it impossible to view the movie except through the lens of that subsequent event. I don't know how I would have reacted without it.

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Re: A 2010s List for Those That Can't Wait

#293 Post by Lemmy Caution » Sat Apr 17, 2021 7:03 am

The Forbidden Room (Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson, 2015)
That sounds great, thanks for mentioning it. I seem to have completely missed that.

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zedz
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Re: A 2010s List for Those That Can't Wait

#294 Post by zedz » Sat Apr 17, 2021 6:17 pm

Lemmy Caution wrote:The Forbidden Room (Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson, 2015)
That sounds great, thanks for mentioning it. I seem to have completely missed that.
It’s kind of the ultimate Maddin film, but my pick of his work from this decade is his found footage remake of Vertigo, The Green Fog (which just missed making my list).

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Joined: Mon Jun 02, 2008 11:54 am

Re: A 2010s List for Those That Can't Wait

#295 Post by bamwc2 » Sun Apr 18, 2021 1:08 am

Viewing Log:

Claire's Camera (Sang-soo Hong, 2017): After finishing Claire's Camera earlier today, I joked with a friend about director Sang-soo Hong's propensity to endlessly remake the same basic scenario about a film director that drinks heavily and falls in love with a woman who's not his wife, that will be played by either Kim Min-hee or Isabelle Huppert. Much to my surprise, he informed me that this frequent retread was Hong working through his own real life infidelity with Kim, which apparently reached the level of a national scandal in South Korea. Well, the same basic plot elements are here again, but this time the film is set at the Cannes Film Festival instead of Hong's native country. When the film begins film seller Jeon Man-hee (Kim) has just lost her job for reasons she doesn't understand. With her box of belongings in hand, Jeon travels to a local cafe where she meets up with her fellow Korean ex-pat coworker Nam Yang-hye (Chang Mi-hee). Eventually Kim meets elementary school teacher and amateur photographer Claire (Huppert) who just so happens to hold the photographic evidence explaining her termination. Even at a scant 69 minutes, Hong spends the duration obsessing over the same foibles and insecurities that have plagued him for years. His work, while narratively rich, is rather visually elementary as he seems to demur from any fancy camera work. But it does have positives in spades. Hong knows how to tell a charming story--whether it’s simple as it is here, or more complex in his elliptical work--and Kim is a natural talent. It's definitely worth your time!

In Search of the Ultra Sex (Nicolas Charlet and Bruno Lavaine, 2015): When I learned of the existence of In Search of the Ultra Sex yesterday, the plot synopsis I read made it sound like a bizarre work of outsider art consisting of found pornographic footage. Unfortunately the results are less Noema than they are What's Up, Tiger Lily?. That film, which may be the nadir of Woody Allen's film comedies, comes out looking golden in comparison with this piece of shit. Mercifully consisting of less than an hour worth of material, we're told that the planet Earth has been infected with a virus worldwide that causes people to forsake everything else to fuck up to thirty times a day. The only humans spared are those who live aboard a space station. While working on a cure, the crew observe the goings on back on Earth, consisting of the porn clips with the most explicit material left on the editing room floor. All of the clips have narration running over them to try and weave them into some sort of coherent plot. I'm not really a Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan, but still believe that the premise of riffing on old footage can be done well. It isn't here. The "jokes" in this film are painfully unfunny. I didn't come close to laughing once. This was abysmal.

Putty Hill (Matthew Porterfield, 2010): Prior to the opening shots of Matthew Porterfield's sophomore effort, Cody, the older brother to two sisters and a teenage boy, dies of a drug overdose. The film is less about the loss of Cody than it is the way that his siblings, mother, and prison cellmate react to his passing. We get to know these characters not only through their words and their actions, but also via the frequent use of an off camera interviewer that asks them about themselves and thoughts on Cody. In fact, that's how the film starts off, where we meet Cody's younger brother James (James Siebor) at a paintball match. The unseen questioner asks James about the loss of Cody, how many funerals he's been to, what he thinks happens to us when we die, and whether he believes his brother is in Heaven or Hell. It's a novel device, but one that I ultimately found distracting and unnecessary. The film is at its best, not when observing the mourning process of the family (spoiler: some are sad, others aren't), but when it observes the kids going about the rhythms of their ordinary lives. This is best observed in scenes like the one where a group of teenage girls sit around smoking in one of their bedrooms, while talking about how they need to get dressed for the funeral. No one wants to be the first one up, and none are sure what to wear. I enjoyed Porterfield's Soller's Point when I saw it last month. It was the work of a filmmaker reaching maturity in their craft. We can see the seeds of it here, but Porterfield wasn't there when he made this.

Sibyl (Justine Triet, 2019): A decade prior to the events of Sibyl, the titular character, played by Virginie Efira, gave up her career as an author to start a new life as a psychoanalyst. Having grown board with her role as a therapist a decade later, she decides to abandon it and return to writing. While transitioning out of her role, she refuses to take on any new clients until actress Margot (Adèle Exarchopoulos) comes into her life. Suffering from an interminable case of creative lethargy, Sibyl sees the relationship with Margot as a way of jump starting her writing. Margot quickly develops a codependency with her therapist, differing to her on all decisions. She confides in Sibyl that she's currently pregnant with the baby of her current costar Igor (Gaspard Ulliel). The two are carrying on an elicit love affair behind the back of his girlfriend/director Mika (Sandra Hüller). Margot wants Sibyl to decide whether she should terminate the pregnancy, and eventually convinces her to come to the set to act as an intermediary between herself and Mika. The film is decidedly not a thriller, but begins to feel like the kind that François Ozon used to make as the intensity of Sibyl and Margot's relationship keeps ratcheting up. Breaking down most barriers of professional ethics, the viewer is left wondering--in fact almost terrified--at how far Sybil will go in her toxic relationship with her client. This is my first film from Justine Triet and my introduction to the work of Efira as well. Both prove themselves to be skilled at their crafts, and I look forward to seeing more from them in the future.

Suburban Birds (Sheng Qiu, 2018): A group of engineers led by Xiahao (Mason Lee) are dispatched to an unnamed Chinese suburb to investigate strange goings on. A subway tunnel is under construction beneath the town, but above it mysterious sinkholes begin appearing in the asphalt. Are the two connected? In order to answer that question Xiahao's team studies the area with surveying equipment, which director Sheng Qiu frequently shoots from the perspective of the workmen using them. The crew also interviews local residents who have observed the sinkholes forming. One of them, Swallow (Lu Huang), starts sleeping with Xiahao afterwards. At this point Qiu plays a trick on his audience by suddenly switching narratives. While investigating a collapsed schoolhouse, Xiahao comes across a journal written by a child with the same name as him decades earlier. We now spend the next hour of the film following a band of kids around the countryside before returning to the present for the film's final act. I'm not really sure how it all fits together, and I'm not convinced that Qiu does either. Instead, the film has an ethereal dreamlike quality to it where not everything can be or ought to be rationalized. Don't go into this film expecting any answers. If you take it for what it is, then you'll likely enjoy it as much as I did.

Tikkun (Avishai Sivan, 2015): Like the other men in his ultra-orthodox community, Haim-Aaron (Aharon Traitel) spends his days studying the Torah. There's a strange, almost mystical quality to his time spent in the library early on in the film. Staying up into the wee hours of the morning when he's the only one in the reading room, Avishai Sivan's direction leads us to the grotesque elements of his environment. We observe a cockroach (the first of many) scurrying on the books of commentaries. Haim-Aaron attempts to sharpen a nub of a pencil with a kitchen knife only to give his hand a nasty cut. The phantasmagorical elements of the scene are made even more haunting by the dreamy black and white photography. Later we follow the Yeshiva student back home where he takes a shower where he's momentarily distracted by a sudden and spontaneous erection (and yes, we see the whole thing in the first of two surprisingly graphic shots of genitalia in the film). The water goes out, and suddenly comes back on, scalding Haim-Aaron and causing him to hit his head in a fall. Is this God punishing him? Reacting to his scream, his parents find him unconscious and call for paramedics. Unable to revive him after 40 minutes, he's declared dead, but his father, played by Khalifa Natour, refuses to give up the chest compressions. To everyone's surprise the paramedics discover a pulse on Haim-Aaron, and after a stay in the hospital, he makes a full recovery. However, Haim-Aaron undergoes a change in personality, morality, and spirituality from the experience. He opens himself up to trying new things, but I won't spoil what here. His father has troubling dreams that feel like a mixture of Dali and Lynch. Ultimately, he becomes convinced that God is angry with him for thwarting His plan by not dying. I had never heard of this film before a few days ago, but its discovery feels like a major revelation. Sivan's vision is terrifying for a non-horror film, creating a sense of unease and dread with unparalleled ease. Traitel gives it his all in this performance. This is a film that needs to be seen.

The Unspeakable Act (Dan Sallitt, 2012): Dan Sallitt's The Unspeakable Act is the second indy film about an incestuous brother-sister relationship that I saw for the project. Was that its own genre in this decade? Though seventeen-year-old Jackie (Tallie Medel) and her college freshman brother Matthew (Sky Hirschkron) share an emotionally intense bond, he's the only one ready to move on. Matthew brings his girlfriend--apparently the first one in his life--home from school to meet the family, where she gets a warm reception from everyone but Jackie. As we learn, Jackie's madly in love with her brother, and desperately wants him to take her virginity. Unable to convince him to do it, she lives in a masochistic mindset, demanding to know when Matthew has sex with his girlfriend for the first time. He returns to school, and we see little of him after that, but he still is a major presence in his sister's life. Rather than judge his characters or use their relationship in a tawdry manner, Sallitt is instead interested in understanding why Jackie feels the way she does. Although the primary rule of film is show, don't tell, we learn about Jackie and her desires primarily through the conversations she has with her sexually active girlfriends, and the confessional sessions she has with her therapist where she works out her feelings for Matthew. She loves him, she tells us, not because he's her brother, but because he's the best person she knows. Working on his own screenplay, Sallitt does an admirable job of humanizing his characters, and showing how they can experience emotional growth as they mature. Sure, the subject matter might be too much for some, but in my estimation it's a journey worth taking.

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therewillbeblus
Joined: Tue Dec 22, 2015 3:40 pm

Re: A 2010s List for Those That Can't Wait

#296 Post by therewillbeblus » Sun Apr 18, 2021 1:30 am

I don't know if I'll ever be able to overcome my anger towards Dan Sallitt for making the most immature portrait of a peripheral addiction hostage I've ever seen in Fourteen, which baldly authenticates the 'caretaker' role's grandiosity without any awareness of the ironic self-delusion that's seeking pleasure in suffering. This is the kind of film I would have loved as a teenager, perpetuating the self-pity narrative allowing me to be seen as a wannabe victim and the star of another person's pain. Many seem to love this film, but I can think of few so offensive and dangerous, a sociopolitical weapon targeting the narcissism in western individualists and exacerbating its growth.

bamwc2
Joined: Mon Jun 02, 2008 11:54 am

Re: A 2010s List for Those That Can't Wait

#297 Post by bamwc2 » Sun Apr 18, 2021 1:31 am

therewillbeblus wrote:
Sun Apr 18, 2021 1:30 am
I don't know if I'll ever be able to overcome my anger towards Dan Sallitt for making the most immature portrait of a peripheral addiction hostage I've ever seen in Fourteen, which baldly authenticates the 'caretaker' role's grandiosity without any awareness of the ironic self-delusion that's seeking pleasure in suffering. This is the kind of film I would have loved as a teenager, perpetuating the self-pity narrative allowing me to be seen as a wannabe victim and the star of another person's pain. Many seem to love this film, but I can think of few so offensive and dangerous, a sociopolitical weapon targeting the narcissism in western individualists and exacerbating its growth.
I haven't seen it, but that's really disappointing to hear.

bamwc2
Joined: Mon Jun 02, 2008 11:54 am

Re: A 2010s List for Those That Can't Wait

#298 Post by bamwc2 » Mon Apr 19, 2021 3:45 pm

Viewing Log:

Almayer's Folly (Chantal Akerman, 2011): Chantal Akerman's final narrative film begins with the murder of Dain (Zac Andrianasolo), a character who we won't see again until much later in the film. It also introduces us to Nina (Aurora Marion), who serves as one of Dain's backup dancers as he lip syncs to an old American crooner. The other women rush off the stage in terror as Nina continues her repetitive dance for what feels like an eternity before she finally breaks out in a song of her own. We don't know it yet, but the events here are a postscript to the film's conclusion. Akerman continues playing with chronology. When we next see Nina, she's now a young girl of maybe 9 or 10, a biracial child living with her father Almayer (Stanislas Merhar). He's a European who has relocated to Malaysia in the hope of finding his fortune. When that doesn't pan out, he dedicates his life to raising Nina. This was Marion's first role as an actress, and she proves herself to be a natural talent playing a character who's trapped between two worlds. Similarly, Merhar is excellent here, giving a performance that often requires long wordless takes of his face. I'm not familiar with the Joseph Conrad source material, but the story worked well regardless. It's not my favorite from Akerman--not even close--but the story is a fine one to take in.

Gangs of Wasseypur (Anurag Kashyap, 2012): Narrated by the seemingly inconsequential Nasir (Piyush Mishra), Gangs of Wasseypur tells the story of a bloody gang war that began over the city of Wasseypur's coal industry, but continues for three generations (over 70 years) where its ever escalating violence results from tit for tat killings. The film contains about as many characters as War and Peace, and tells a story equally complex. Trying to give a full synopsis of the film is a fool's errand, but it can be painted in broad strokes. Ramadhir Singh (Tigmanshu Dhulia), fearful that the marauding bandit Shahid Khan (Jaideep Ahlawat) poses a risk to his coal monopoly, has him killed. For the next three decades, Khan's son Sardar (Manoj Bajpayee) wages war against the Singh family as the two clans trade assassinations and violent attacks on each other's interests. The film is told in two parts. I won't spoil the end of the first by recounting the events of the second, but needless to say, nothing is settled as the war continues with many new players and a few familiar faces. I didn't know what to expect from the film, but this bloody (and yes, it might be the goriest film I've ever seen out of India) tale is an unrelenting examination of the carnage that greed and hatred can create. In fact, I wasn't expecting much from this recommendation, but I was completely blown away by it. Not only is it a lock for my final list, but it may well be the best crime film I've ever seen.

Ham on Rye (Tyler Taormina, 2019): There are microbudget films, and then there are feature length wonders that get made for less than the mean yearly American's salary. Co-writer/director Tyler Taormina somehow managed to pull off the seemingly impossible by making self-consciously weird debut feature for less than $30,000 by presumably calling in every favor he could with his filmmaker friends. Initially the film centers on three girls in their early teens--Haley (Haley Bodell), Gwen (Audrey Boos), and Trish (Gabriella Herrera)--who go about doing what you'd expect from girls of their age. They also live in anticipation of an undefined social gathering that we later find out takes place at a local deli where the junior high students dress up in their nicest clothes and gather to eat sandwiches with their favorite lunch meats. There's a ritual after the meal where the boys, one at a time, point at one of the girls who respond with either a thumbs up or a thumbs down. If there's a match they presumably go off to dance, but when one boy can't find a date, Haley goes rushing out after him. From here on she is defined as the closest we come to a protagonist for the film as it meanders between one bizarre quirky scene to the next. The movie manages to be better than most quirkfests by embracing its absurdity in a fashion that is reminiscent of Lynch at his most playful. This film, which is something like a dream within a dream, is an impressive demonstration of what can be done on the edges of professional filmmaking. I'm glad that it managed to catch a wider audience than most indie flicks.

Horse Money (Pedro Costa, 2014): There are certain directors that I admire more than I appreciate. John Cassavetes is a perfect example of this. I'm enamored with his dedication to the craft and the stories of how he managed to will films into existence, but, with the exception of The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, I never thought that his works were anything special. Pedro Costa is another director in the same category. With the addition of Horse Money, I've now seen five of his films. They all have some masterfully articulated shots, containing truly haunting images, but I never even felt close to appreciating them on a narrative level. As best I can tell, the film is a sequel to his 2006 Colossal Youth, bringing back the singular named Ventura to aimlessly wander about the region of Lisbon known as Fountainhas during Portugal's time under a military dictatorship in the 1970s. That's really the closest I can come to encapsulating the events here. Ventura--sometimes clad in only a pair of too-tight fitting red underpants or a ruffled shirt--drifts around, often by himself, but occasionally interacting with other characters like a human statue who covers his body in metallic pair or a woman who speaks in a raspy whisper. I guess that Costa specializes in mood over plot, but I never found Ventura's story compelling or really even cared about it. Sure, it's a gorgeous film, but that only takes us so far.

Joan of Arc (Bruno Dumont, 2019): Picking up where Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc left off, Bruno Dumont brings back star Lise Leplat Prudhomme to once again play the eponymous teenager (strangely enough, she's 10 playing 19) who leads French forces to drive out the English in a fit of religious and nationalistic fervor. There's still pop music played here, though less frequently than the near-rock opera style of the first of the two films. The music is also now non-diegetical, and used most memorably in a Busby Berkley style battle scene with dressage horses standing in for human dancers. However, this is mostly a step backwards as Prudhomme's charming song and dance numbers were the best part of Jeannette. Even with this weapon removed from her arsenal, Prudhomme turns in an excellent performance. Should she choose to continue acting, then I suspect she'll have a bright future ahead of her. Unfortunately, I can't say that the film as a whole works. Long stretches of it just aren't nearly as fun as the original. Nowhere is this more evident than the interminably long and excruciatingly dull trial scene. Whatever magic Dumont used to craft Jeannette disappeared for its followup.

Neon Bull (Gabriel Mascaro, 2015): Some of the most exciting films I've seen for this project have come out of South America, and Brazil's Neon Bull is yet another example of this. I find rodeos simultaneously inhumanely barbaric and dreadfully uninteresting, so I did not expect to enjoy Gabriel Mascaro's movie. Much to my pleasant surprise, the film is less about the rodeo as it is about the lives of the people who live off of it. The particular Brazilian take on the sport--known as vaquejadas--involves cowboy bringing down bulls by yanking (and often yanking off) their tails. Iremar (Juliano Cazarré) has the thankless job of grooming the tails, but, spending his spare time drawing clothes onto nude women in porno mags, and dreams of designing haute couture. Exotic dancer Galega (Maeve Jinkings)--who performs for the rodeo crew wearing a horse head mask!--serves as his only creative outlet when he designs and stitches together the sexy outfits she performs in. Told with a very attractive visual style that, yes, sometimes makes use of shades of neon, the film is a wonderful examination of a makeshift family and the dreams that motivate them.

The Princess of France (Matías Piñeiro, 2014): Speaking of South American cinema, I checked in with Argentinian director Matías Piñeiro's excellent Viola last month. The Princess of France, his follow up, continues the theatrical themes of the other work, and even clocks in at around the same just-over-an-hour runtime. The film begins with a soccer match played after dark on a field in the middle of an urban landscape. The team members switch allegiances until everyone is against one goalie who they chase off the field. I have to admit that I have no idea how this related to the rest of the film. Next, we follow the story of Victor (Julián Larquier Tallarini) who has just returned to Buenos Aires after a year in Mexico. When he gets there, he intends to start a new theatrical production as well as reconnect with his girlfriend after his long absence. However, she's nowhere to be found, and he begins a series of demi-romantic encounters with the various actresses in his troupe. While Victor is a useful framing device, as with Viola, Piñeiro's real interest seems to lie in the women who play the actresses. Each is given time to shine in their own charming ways. I found large parts of the film confounding, but there's still enough good will emanating from the screen for an easy recommendation.

bamwc2
Joined: Mon Jun 02, 2008 11:54 am

Re: A 2010s List for Those That Can't Wait

#299 Post by bamwc2 » Wed Apr 21, 2021 1:01 am

Final Viewing Log:

Counting (Jem Cohen, 2015): Existing at the intersection of a documentary and an experimental art film, Jem Cohen's Counting explores the exteriors (and occasional interiors) of some of the major metropolitan areas in the world. The film is divided into fifteen segments, most of which get a title card naming the location and give a poetic interlude. There's very little dialogue in Jem Cohen's Counting, and what little there is he left untranslated, leaving the non-polygot viewer (it'll differ from viewer to viewer, but most Americans only know English) to feel like travelers immersed in an unfamiliar culture. However, I don't mean to reduce the film's contents to a mere travelogue. Instead, I read it as an attempt to show these cities as living organisms in the tradition of Dziga Vertov and Walter Ruttmann. Cohen's presentation is certainly less abstract than those two, but his motivation seems to be at least in the same ballpark. Cohen is often interested with the quotidian aspects of the city as well as its monumental ones. His camera observes things as ordinary as trash on the street, and some much welcome (from my perspective) advice to Donald Trump scribbled into now dry concrete. Even though it bears a striking dissimilarity to Chris Marker's highly verbose documentaries, the film is still dedicated to him. Like Marker, there's still coherent philosophical content expressed in the film. That's enough for a recommendation.

Monsieur Lazhar (Philippe Falardeau, 2011): We follow a child making his way through the snow covered Quebec elementary school in the beginning of Philippe Falardeau's Monsieur Lazhar. The boy seems to be in the midst of an ordinary school day as he, the first one to enter the classroom, finds his sixth grade teacher hanging from a noose. She's killed herself, leaving a void in her student's lives bigger than a missing instructor. Before the week is over, a man introducing himself as Bachir Lazhar (Mohamed Fellag) volunteers his services to the school's principle. As he explains it, he's an Algerian transplant who has more than twenty years worth of teaching experience in his home country. He loves children and wants to continue his previous profession. With no other option, he's brought on to finish the school year where he tends to the lives and education of the emotionally wounded children. At the same time, Bachir has his own trauma. It turns out that he's a refugee in search of asylum, not a permanent resident. His wife published an essay in Algeria that made them the target of extremists. He fled to Canada first in order to clear the way for his wife and two daughters, but the three of them were murdered before they could escape. Films about healing from personal loss can walk a fine line between earned emotion and mawkishness. Fortunately, Monsieur Lazhar mostly falls on the more realistic end of the spectrum as there are no sudden breakthroughs or emotional epiphanies that feel unearned.
SpoilerShow
Yes, Simon (Émilien Néron) admits that he lied about their dead teaching forcing a kiss on him, but it seems the organic result of the growth he experienced throughout the film.
The film works hard to earn its resolution, and takes us on a wonderful journey to reach it.

Mountains May Depart (Zhangke Jia, 2015): Jia Zhangke regular Zhao Tao returns to this era spanning drama. Here she plays Tao, a youthful electronics clerk who is embroiled in a love triangle between blue collar miner Liangzi (Liang Jing-dong) and wide eyed capitalist dreamer Zhang (Zhang Yi). Despite their initial friendship, Liangzi and Zhang battle it out for Tao's affection in the first of the three segments, set in 1999. In the second act, which takes place in 2014, one of the men has fathered a child with Tao, and the other dies. Tao's a doting mother, but her life is filled with tragedy, leading her to make a dramatic decision. The final and weakest act, centers around Tao's son and is set in 2025. It's also the only segment to be set outside of China. The first two acts of the film are excellent, with the third hurt from a few flourishes like silly speculative visions of what cellphones will look like in a decade. Still, even with the last third slump, it’s a very good movie with Jia at his most playful. I especially appreciated the reoccurring motif of connecting Tao with the Pet Shop Boys Go West. Ultimately, that's what the film is about. Starting out using the Academy ratio, and expanding horizontally with each segment, the film also charts China's growth from an insular society to a fully globalized player in the world.

Our Time (Carlos Reygadas, 2018): Writer/director Carlos Reygadas plays Juan, a Mexican poet who leveraged his fame and wealth to buy a luxury ranch where he raises and sells bulls out of his appreciation for their sporting tradition. Juan lives on the ranch with his wife Esther (his real life wife and sometime editor Natalia López) and their three children. Not wanting for anything materially, Esther doesn't work, but keeps herself entertained through the open marriage she and Juan enjoy. American farmhand Phil (Phil Burgers) joins the ranch, and soon begins a romantic/sexual relationship with Esther. Initially Juan is pleased by the development, asking his wife to fill in the details about the nights she spends with Phil, but as her relationship with the interloping American intensifies, he becomes more obsessive and possessive. The fracture that this leaves in their lives is made all the more scintillating by the fact that, as at least one review I read stated, the film is based on the real life frictions of the filmmaker's open marriage with López. Before this, I've only seen Reygadas's first two films, but have found him an interesting director. Some of his choices straddle the line of artistic and pretentious, but he has quite a unique vision that makes his films worth checking out.

She's Lost Control (Anja Marquardt, 2014): Therapeutic sexual surrogacy exists in a legal gray area. While there's no law specifically forbidding it, taking money for the job of sleeping with clients to help them overcome their sexual dysfunctions runs the risk of incurring prostitution charges.
SpoilerShow
This fact explains, at least in part, why the main character refused to divulge her profession to the police in the film's final minutes.
Writer/director Anja Marquardt's feature debut tells the story of one such sex surrogate, Ronah (Brooke Bloom). Calling herself a social worker in public, Ronah works with a sex therapist while pursuing a master’s degree in psychology. She begins working with Johnny (Marc Menchaca), a nurse anesthetist suffering from erectile dysfunction and intimacy issues. He spends his time outside of work caring for his disabled sister and cannot carry on a meaningful relationship with women. As Ronah spends more time with Johnny, her feelings for him begin to go beyond the professional detachment she's supposed to maintain, but his volatility threatens more than just their sessions together. As Martuardt writes her, Ronah attempts to maintain a cold professional detachment as her personal life crumbles around her, which serves as a stylistic metaphor for the approach that the director herself takes toward the subject. It's refreshing to see a character do sex work without being judged for it, but it does fall into the trap of
SpoilerShow
punishing Ronah for her choices as an unhinged Johnny beats her, briefly sets her on fire, and attempts to rape her.
I'll still give it positive review, but found this last act extremely disappointing.

Submarine (Richard Ayoade, 2010): About a month ago I watched Richard Ayoade's ghastly The Double for the project, and was worried that his debut film would be just as bad. That's why I was shocked that I didn't just like it, but thought that it was really, really good. Here Ayoade adapts Joe Dunthorne's book of the same name, which one might assume is the author's semi-autobiographical account of growing up a bright Welsh teenager with an inflated ego. Fifteen-year-old Oliver (Craig Roberts) has never had a girlfriend, but is desperate to get laid. His parents (played by Sally Hawkins and Noah Taylor) haven't had sex in months and are experimenting with an open relationship, much to their son's chagrin. Finally, Oliver meets a girl willing to go out with him. Despite constantly pushing him to break out of his comfort zone, Jordana (Yasmin Paige) subverts the usual tropes of the manic pixie dream girl by being the far more grounded of the two in the relationship. Indeed, its Oliver who acts out here as he tries to cultivate Jordana's taste in literature and film to make her more like him. Ultimately, Oliver isn't a very likeable person, but he is an interesting character. Ayoade also shows a willingness to experiment with visual flares that most other directors wouldn't touch, and they generally work well here. Overall, I was reminded of another film I watched for the project: Marielle Heller's The Diary of a Teenage Girl. While I don't think that Submarine is quite as good as that one, they share similar subject matter (albeit gender swapped) and have unique and exciting visual styles. There were quite a few gems about teen life this decade.

There Is No Sexual Rapport (Raphaël Siboni, 2011): My current writing is on the topic of sex work in general and pornography in particular, so I thought I'd check out this documentary on the French porn industry when I saw it listed on Mubi. As the introductory text tells us, the 78 minute documentary was culled from thousands of hours’ worth of material recorded over a decade at porn shoots done by the nearly constantly nude (he sometimes performs himself, but doesn't seem to like wearing clothes when he's not) Herve P. Gustave. I've seen quite a few behind the scenes works on porn shoots before. All of them break the illusion of glamour that the final product projects, but I've never encountered one this unsexy. Most of the footage shot here is soft core simulated sex with the exception of the occasional penis in the mouth or gay anal sex towards the end of the film. The first forty minutes or so show in excruciating detail how actors, who are constantly masturbating between shots in a Sisyphean task of trying to maintain an erection, fake what they're doing. Whether it's hitting their own hand off camera to make a spanking sound or covering the actress in a faux semen substitute, the film knocks down any veneer you might have about how these shoots are done. Most participants, aside from a performer who is excited because her partner gave her, her first squirting orgasm, seem downright miserable. No one is having a good time. If director Raphaël Siboni really did record a decade's worth of material, then it's a real head scratcher as some of the sequences used are terrible. One in particular stands out for just showcasing a close up of Gustave's bare back and shoulders as he barks out direction. We hold the shot for what feels like hours. Really the only good thing I can say about the documentary is that it's nice to see that Gustave breaks from porn's typical heteronormativity and fatphobia. But that's it.

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brundlefly
Joined: Fri Jun 13, 2014 12:55 pm

Re: A 2010s List for Those That Can't Wait

#300 Post by brundlefly » Wed Apr 21, 2021 8:29 am

bamwc2 wrote:
Wed Apr 21, 2021 1:01 am
My current writing is on the topic of sex work in general and pornography in particular,
Have you seen Isa Mazzei and Daniel Goldhaber's Cam? Feel I should bang the drum for that one again, though not necessarily for this project. Written by a former sex worker and definitely feels invested/inhabited with/by her concerns. (Assume as you mentioned Tangerine before that you've also seen Sean Baker's Starlet, which is better, but also obviously very different.)

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