Monday, December 23, 2013

Blu-ray Review: Martin Scorsese's World Cinema Project [Criterion]

Martin Scorsese remains the most quintessentially American of American filmmakers. Save for a couple of stopovers in more exotic territory, the now 71-year-old filmmaker has concerned himself almost exclusively with the cultural trials and spiritual tribulations that have helped shape our modern social hierarchy. From the guilt-ridden intimacy of his 1967 debut, Who's That Knocking at My Door, to the epic chronicle of economic larceny occurring among the financial elite in this year's The Wolf of Wall Street, Scorsese has displayed an unparalleled obsession in his depiction of America's dubious past, while managing to celebrate the moral and cinematic freedom that such a contradictory history affords. And yet it could be argued that Scorsese's greatest gift to contemporary cinephilia has been his ongoing commitment to preserving and restoring important works from regions far outside our borders with the World Cinema Project.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Year-End 2013 (Film)

Best Theatrically Released Films:
01. Leviathan / Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel
02. Post Tenebras Lux / Carlos Reygadas
03. The Last Time I Saw Macao / João Pedro Rodrigues and João Rui Guerra da Mata
04. Like Someone In Love / Abbas Kiarostami
05. A Touch of Sin / Jia Zhangke
06. Bastards / Claire Denis
07. Beyond the Hills / Cristian Mungiu
08. Drug War / Johnnie To
09. Night Across the Street / Raoúl Ruiz
10. You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet / Alain Resnais

Best Undistributed Films:
01. Story of My Death / Albert Serra
02. Stray Dogs / Tsai Ming-liang
03. Closed Curtain / Jafar Panahi
04. A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness / Ben Rivers and Ben Russell
05. ‘Til Madness Do Us Part / Wang Bing
06. Three Interpretation Exercises / Cristi Puiu
07. Vic + Flo Saw a Bear / Denis Côté
08. What Now? Remind Me / Joaquim Pinto
09. Nobody’s Daughter Haewon / Hong Sangsoo
10. The Strange Little Cat / Ramon Zürcher

Best Avant-Garde Films [Read the entire feature at Fandor]:
01. Let Your Light Shine / Jodie Mack
02. Variations on a Cellophane Wrapper / David Rimmer
03. Redemption / Miguel Gomes
04. The Realist / Scott Stark
05. Les troi desatres / Jean-Luc Godard
06. Three Landscapes / Peter Hutton
07. Mount Song / Shambhavi Kaul
08. Spring / Nathaniel Dorsky
09. Dusty Stacks of Mom: The Poster Project / Jodie Mack
10. Un conte de Michel de Montagne / Jean-Marie Straub

Best Blu-ray Releases:
01. 3 Films by Roberto Rossellini Starring Ingrid Bergman (Roberto Rossellini, 1950 – 1954) Criterion, R1
02. Pierre Etaix (Pierre Etaix, 1963 – 1971) Criterion, R1
03. Chronicle of a Summer (Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin, 1961) Criterion, R1
04. La pont du Nord (Jacques Rivette, 1981) Masters of Cinema, R2
05. Marketa Lazarová (František Vlácil, 1967) Criterion, R1
06. The Life of Oharu (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1952) Criterion, R1
07. Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project (Various, 1936 – 1981) Criterion, R1
08. Shoah (Claude Lanzmann, 1985) Criterion, R1
09. Riddles of the Sphinx (Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen, 1977) BFI, R2
10. Van Gogh (Maurice Pialat, 1991) Masters of Cinema, R2

Best DVDs Releases:
01. Out 1: Noli me tangere / Out 1: Spectre (Jacques Rivette, 1971 / 1974) absolut MEDIEN, R2
02. The Complete (Existing) Films of Sadao Yamanaka (Sadao Yamanaka, 1935 – 1937) Masters of Cinema, R2
03. Early Fassbinder (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1969 – 1971) Criterion/Eclipse, R1
04. John Ford: The Columbia Films Collection (John Ford, 1935 – 1961) TCM, R1
05. Pere Portabella: Complete Works (Pere Portabella, 1967 – 2009) Intermedio, R0
06. Masaki Kobayashi Against the System (Masaki Kobayashi, 1953 – 1967) Criterion/Eclipse, R1
07. Polish Cinema Classics Vol. II (Wojciech Marczewski, Andrzej Wajda, Krzysztof Zanussi, 1973 – 1990) Second Run, R2
08. Lost and Found: American Treasures from the New Zealand Film Archive (Various, 1914 – 1928) Image Entertainment, R1
09. Études sur Paris (Andre Sauvage, 1928) Carlotta, R2
10. French Masterworks: Russian Émigrés in Paris (Various, 1923 – 1929) Flicker Alley/Films Albatros, R1

Best Repertory Cinema*:
01. Sleep / Imitation of Christ / Andy Warhol (1963 / 1967) [Human Resources / Hammer Musuem]
02. The Art of Vision / Stan Brakhage (1967) [Redcat]
03. Unfinished Business / Gregory La Cava (1941) [Hammer Museum]
04. Terminus for You / Les soviets plus l’électricité / autrement, la Molussia / Nicolas Rey (1996 / 2001 / 2012) [Echo Park Film Center / Velaslavasay Panorama / Redcat]
05. Voluptuous Sleep / Betzy Bromberg (2011) [USC School of Cinematic Arts]
06. Manila in the Claws of Light / Lino Brocka (1975) [TIFF Bell Lightbox]
07. Sacrificed Youth / Zhang Nuanxin (1985) [Hammer Museum]
08. Moi, un noir / Jean Rouch (1958) [Hammer Museum]
09. Nightfall / James Benning (2011) [LA Film Forum]
10. Eadweard Muybridge, Zoopraxographer / Thom Andersen (1975) [Hammer Museum]

*These selections are not meant to represent the year in restorations, just my personal experiences on the repertory circuit. Most of these screenings, therefore, took place in Los Angeles, as that is where I am currently based. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Fandor Feature: Best of 2013's Avant-Garde

For all the cinematic death knells sounded these past twelve months, it speaks optimistically to the health of the medium that so many qualifications had to be implemented in the creation of this list. The term avant-garde has recently come to encompass so many disparate modes of progressive filmmaking that left to my own devices this list could effortlessly expand by at least a few dozen entries. These ten selections are therefore not meant to define the entirety of the year’s experimental cinema. In the interest of highlighting some of the more fringe and eccentric work being made today, I’ve limited my options to short form, non-narrative work that premiered (or, in one case re-premiered) at a festival in 2013. Thus, feature-length narratives that nonetheless implement similar aesthetic techniques such as Stray Dogs, Three Interpretation Exercises, and The Strange Little Cat were not considered, nor were works which combine elements of fiction and nonfiction storytelling such as Daredevils, Manakamana, and A Spell to Ward off the Darkness. Furthermore, as thorough as I’d like to be even within these parameters—and as nice as friends, programmers, and publicists have been to send me certain films—I only attended so many festivals this year. These ten selections should therefore be considered as a starting point, suggestions for further research as these films and their creators travel the festival and repertory circuit over the coming months and years.