November in Review
Hana-Bi, Takeshi Kitano. [/] november 6th 2006.
[I slept through this. I wasn't entirely blown away by what I saw while I was awake, the cinematography seemed fairly uninteresting, but everything I've heard about this film is overwhelmingly positive, and considering its fragmented narrative, I can't really claim to have gotten anything out of it at all. You can't wake up every 5 minutes and figure out what happened.]
Easy Street, Charlie Chaplin. [B+] november 7th 2006.
[This was fun, but I don't have much else to say about it. There's something real bleak about some of these Chaplin movies I've been seeing in my silent class. Really, about all of the films of his that I've seen. I was half expecting him to a be a junkie at the end of this.]
The Last Laugh, F.W. Murnau. [B+] november 7th 2006.
[This easily rivals Murnau's other indisputable classic, Sunrise, at various moments, but is ultimately brought down a couple notches by the completely inexplicable and extraneous epilogue. I can't be sure whether the intertitle preceding it is entirely true or not - that the producers felt bad about the unhappy ending and decided to tack on a hypothetical good outcome - but the way it's written steeps it in melancholy because you know, they say as much, that it could never happen. The sets are incredible. The forced perspective on the street scenes is unbelievable: little figurines run through the windows of the buildings in the backgrounds, little cars run on tracks down streets in the distance; not to mention the courtyard the main character lives in. The Last Laugh also boasts one of the finest dream sequences I've ever seen. Even with all this technical virtuosity, the story doesn't get entirely overshadowed and there are some genuinely affecting moments in this film. Still, it's a little too unfocused and spotty at times to be a complete masterpiece.]
The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, John Cassavetese. [A] november 8th 2006.
[Shadows didn't really do it for me, although I'd like to revisit it, but this really blew me away. I think a lot of bad films have been made in the verite style because the filmmakers assumed that they had to assume a very cold, objective stance on the characters and situations they were depicting, but I think the best films I've seen done in this style, of which this is one, are borne from empathy more than anything else. I like that a lot obviously went into the art design of this film, too. It's real interesting to consider that so much went into choreographing these crappy shows. The drive to make art and make a life for yourself through it seems to be the crux of this film, and it's definitely a pretty bleak look at the frustrations an artist is sometimes forced to face in their efforts to get a project made. I really like that the main character isn't treated like a maroon.]
Calendar, Atom Egoyan. [B+] november 9th 2006.
[Calendar's a structural experiment more than anything else, but it's one that winds up being really fun to watch. It moves in a cycle, through which it takes a couple rounds to fully pick up on, that allows for very subtle variations in procedure to take upon great significance. In an earlier post I wrote about Chantal Akerman's Jeanne Dielman. That movie uses the first of its four hours just to fully establish its world in the most precise terms imaginable. Only because we know Jeanne makes potatoes for dinner every day does it deeply affect us when she messes up while making them. Same thing with this movie. Certain unexpected glances get to mean a lot. Watching the main character's marriage fall apart in such a small scale gets to be very moving. I like the additional idea of this film being an exploration of ones cultural roots. Egoyan's an Armenian-Canadian filmmaker, but he clearly identifies with his Western home more. The first shot feels like an evocation of Kiarostami, so there's a way in which Egoyan appears to be exploring his "roots" in a cinematic sense as well as a literal one. One of my only complaints with this film is the visual inconsistency between the Armenian and Canadian sections. Because the Armenian section's entirely shot outdoors during the day and the Canadian one is entirely indoors at night, the lighting conditions are drastically different, but the way the light falls is also quite different. After seeing these beautiful, stark images of ancient churches in the countryside, the Canadian parts draw even more attention to themselves as artificially constructed sets, which I don't think serves the film. Even if a visual contrast was something Egoyan was going for, the dinner scenes are lit for a sitcom.]
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, Larry Charles. [C+] november 10th 2006.
[Yeah, it's funny, but it was still a bit disappointing. The fun of Borat is his interactions with other people that aren't hip to his schtick, so why so much in character stuff with no one around but other characters? I really would have been okay with this movie not having any narrative arc at all.]
Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht, Werner Herzog. [B-] november 10th 2006.
[Worth seeing, if only for Klaus Kinski's performance. I realized while watching this movie that I've now seen 5 Herzog films and not a one of them doesn't have forests, mists, rivers and waterfalls in it. Good to know. I like that Dracula's kind of the hero in this movie. Harker and his bride are so boringly perfect that you don't care much about them. Dracula, meanwhile is sympathetic and really kind of pathetic. This isn't really the best Herzog I've seen, but not everything can live up to Aguirre, I guess.]
Double Indemnity, Billy Wilder. [B+] november 11th 2006.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Shane Black. [B] november 12th 2006.
Dead Man, Jim Jarmusch. [A] november 12th 2006.
Solaris, Andrei Tarkovsky. [A] november 12th 2006.
Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham..., Karan Johar. [F] november 13th 2006.
Stardust Memories, Woody Allen. [A] november 13th 2006.
The Limey, Steven Soderbergh. [B-] november 18th 2006.
Punch-Drunk Love, Paul Thomas Anderson. [A] november 18th 2006.
Three Days of the Condor, Sydney Pollack. [C+] november 19th 2006.
Bringing Out the Dead, Martin Scorsese. [A-] november 20th 2006.
Lady Windermere's Fan, Ernst Lubitsch. [B] november 21st 2006.
A Note of Triumph: The Golden Age of Norman Corwin, Eric Simonson. [A-] november 22nd 2006.
[Viewed as a companion piece to Good Night and Good Luck, it's rather impressive how much more this film manages to accomplish within its brief, 40 minute span than Clooney's biopic. It's unfortunate that it won't enjoy the same level of exposure. The content far outweighs the form of this movie, there are clumsy sound mixing decisions and moments where sounds and images are uneffectively reused, but sometimes that's ok. The stories, sounds and images being presented are so strong and affecting that it's impossible to diffuse their worth. Which isn't to say, even, that I think the film as a documentary is without its merits. As a filmmaker, Simonson isn't terribly interesting or great, but as an editor he chooses some excellent moments to highlight in this film. That ending, man. Makes me want to listen to On a Note of Triumph again.]
Solaris, Steven Soderbergh. [B] november 23rd 2006.
North Country, Niki Caro. [C+] november 24th 2006.
Mihai si Cristina, Cristian Nemescu. november 24th 2006.
Povestea de pe Scara 7, Cristian Nemescu. november 24th 2006.
Fun with Dick and Jane, Dean Parisont. [C] november 24th 2006.
Short Cuts, Robert Altman. [A-] november 24th 2006.
The Isle, Kim-Ki Duk. [B-] november 27th 2006.
October, Sergei Eisenstein. [B] november 28th 2006.
Zelig, Woody Allen. [B+] november 29th 2006.