10 March 2009

Everything in Its Right Place

I had proposed an idea when recounting the best films of last year, an idea which would sum up the closing decade and avoid the yearly confusion of a film's placement. Starting today, I am visiting and revisiting the films of the year 2000 in the hopes to compile a revised list of the best films of that given year by the end of the month. Of course, it won't be revised as I don't think I even made a list that year. It will, however, place the films within the year of their international premiere. This will avoid the annual 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days dilemma I seem to be faced with every year and will also give me the advantage of time, having allowed many of the films the ability to settle and resonate. This will also discount a number of amazing titles, like Claire Denis' Beau travail, Lynne Ramsay's Ratcatcher and Laurent Cantet's Ressources humaines, that premiered locally during this decade but screened at festivals in 1999. Suggestions are certainly welcome, as I'm adding to my to-watch queue as we speak (the IMDb is a pretty solid resource for finding out a film's official premiere). A question to be addressed (though maybe not answered) with the piece: Has it really been ten years since Andrzej Żuławski made a film, and worse, since Wong Kar-wai made a good one? I think I'll probably avoid making "worsts" for each year, as I've hopefully forgotten most of the shitfests from a given year. I also have no desire to rewatch Almost Famous or Requiem for a Dream to justify my once intense dislike for them.


Jordany said...

"Has it really been ten years since Andrzej Zulawski made a film, and worse, since Wong Kar-wai made a good one?"

Brilliant! haha.

Matthew Doyle said...

Brilliant, indeed. Wong Kar-Wai lost me after viewing "In the Mood For Love," which I didn't like at all. As Fassbinder once similarly remarked about Herzog, I think he started filming the reviews for "Chung-King Express" and "Fallen Angels."

For a long time I thought I was the only person who didn't like "Requiem for A Dream." So often, when I begin the process of casting and crewing up for a production of my own, the question of favorite films usually comes up, and I'm disheartened when the title comes up in somebody's top ten (invariably he/she is under 30 years old and hasn't seen anything).


Joe said...

See, I'm quite fond of In the Mood for Love. I initially felt the same way about 2046 until I watched it again and realized Christopher Doyle's cinematography can almost trick me into liking a film I wouldn't otherwise (aside from the M. Night Shyamalan ones he shot).

I suppose a similar statement could be made for Requiem for a Dream, its hyperstylization and bleakness distract the viewer from the fact that it has very little to say about addiction or about its superficially-linked characters.

Matthew Doyle said...

Th whole 'style over substance' thing has always been a big deal with me - and, you're right, Chris Doyle (no relation) does the kind of cinematography than can be very seductive (the cinematic equivalent of beer goggles). But "Requiem" is all style and no substance (though seeing Marlon Wayans ass was a treat... seriously), which says a lot about the people who like it.

I've got the very same problem with Mumblecore; the hyper-aggressive, hand-held poverty of style (critics call it 'raw') appears to be designed to hide the fact the the films don't have anything to say. The hand-made titles on construction paper is just too much, especially when one considers that even a $99 NLE has great title features these days.

But maybe I shouldn't talk; you said my own movie was 'Middle of the Road' last month. ;)

Matthew Doyle said...

Ugh. The number of typos in the above post is truly embarrassing...

I also wanted to add that the Mumblecore guys should screen "Reprise" if they really want to see a good portrait of young, artist types during their post college years.

Joe said...

I think the same statement can be applied to the pre-"Mumblecore" films that utilized the handheld camera. I'll badly paraphrase my friend Tom, who said, after watching Lodge Kerrigan's Keane, that the tripod-less, digital camera was no longer providing the "rawness" it might have once entailed. Instead, it just makes you aware of the apparatus at hand, which is the flipside of its general intentions. Or, just ask Roman Polanski what he thought of the Dogme movement. I think he said he couldn't help but imagine the cinematographer jerking off while filming.

Matthew, which specific films are you referring to? I never like to include Andrew Bujalski's films when griping about those particular films.

Also, and not just because you're addressing me, your film in particular is the sort of reason I hate ranking the films I see, particularly right after watching them. Disquiet has stuck with me longer than, say, Yeti: A Love Story, which I placed in the "good" category. As I'm not held to delivering a star rating or, worse, a "grade," I've tried to find a better alternative. And aside from writing about every film I see, I haven't come up with one.

Thanks for commenting. I especially like finding superficial or carnal delights in films that were otherwise void of them. Nudity always helps... or Sandra Bullock falling down a flight of stairs (a line I overuse, but it's still the only thing I like about that film)... or a last-minute twist where all the characters are killed by terrorists (which is still how I like to imagine the show Friends signed off).

Matthew Doyle said...

Now that's rich! You gotta love Roman Polanski. I just just got done writing a scene where a director jerks off to his actors' headshots prior to a rehearsal. Maybe he should hold a camera, too?

I've only seen one Bujalski, and that was "Funny Ha-Ha," which I thought was actually very good. The construction paper remark was directed entirely at Swanberg.

Oh, Joe, I was just giving you a bit of friendly, good humored needling about "Disquiet." I was directed to your blog when one of the actors in Disquiet googled his name along with the title. Hell, I'm just pleased I'm not in with the BAD or SHITFEST crowd. I'm writing those directors now and linking to the post (just kidding).

Truth be told, a lot of people really hated "Disquiet" - and I mean frothing at the mouth, totally rabid hatred. One woman who saw it in a theater in Boise (during the Idaho International Film Festival) wrote me personally to ask for her money and time back. Very sweet. At two of the festivals where it played, they had these audience ratings cards - and Disquiet got all 1's (shitfest) and 5's (great!), with very little in between. Such deep division is rather gratifying, I think.

So, in this instance, I'm perfectly pleased with MIDDLE OF THE ROAD, given your tastes (which I share, for the most part - especially in re Jacques Rivette and Claire Denis). Seriously, I'm just really fucking pleased people are seeing it at all - and the fact that you say it has stuck with you is great. What else can a filmmaker ask for? Okay, funding and major awards, but other than that...

Anyway, I like your blog. I'm ready to pounce on your future comments about Bela Tarr, though, so be ready.

Joe said...

I'm going to plead the fifth on Swanberg, whose films I absolutely despise, for a bunch of reasons, one of them being the thing that really pisses his supporters off. However, I wouldn't base any of the other directors' films on his.

The thing you mentioned about the voting ballots at festivals made me recall the gripes I made to a friend about my local film festival, though it was more about the locals who attend the festival. Fat Girl was, easily, the best film I've seen in the eight years I've attended... and guess what, it was the second-lowest rated film that year. I realize Breillat falls into that "5" or "1" category, but c'mon. As far as I know, they don't post the total scores for the films that screen online any more.