Sunday, July 08, 2012

The Last Ten Films I've Seen: June edition

1. Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)- Starts out with a trance-like fervor, endlessly following a group of poverty ridden people living on the outskirts of the levee in Louisiana, and then turns powerfully raw and magical. A terrific debut for director Benh Zeitlin.

2. Once Upon A Time In Anatolia (2011)- Slow moving but hypnotic, this is probably the longest film (2 hours and 37 minutes) that's ever dealt with what is 30 second fodder in most other 'crime' movies. A group of policeman and a doctor scour the countryside in search of a body when the killer can't exactly remember where he buried it. Nuri Bilge Ceylan is a master of composition and lighting here, none more so stunning than one sequence drained in candlelight and each man noticing the beautiful young girl's face behind it. Pure magic. The film's themes about masculinity and past sorrow are also resounding. Another terrific film.

3. X, Y and Zee (1970)- Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Caine are a couple in swinging London. He falls into a relationship with Susannah York and Taylor wears gaudy dresses and holds martini glasses in her hands ever so carefully. At one time I'm sure the film qualified as edgy, but it just comes off as passe now with static performances and even less emotional connectivity.

4. Jeff, Who Lives At Home (2012)- It's surprising how much one begins to care about a certain character in this film as it winds down. Quirky, slacker independent comedy from the Duplass brothers that does reach for some heightened emotion and earns it.

5. Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)- More Mark Duplass, this time in the starring role.... but just as quirky and slackerish as the above film. If low-fi time travel films is your bag, then "Safety Not Guaranteed" is probably your fix. The way it weaves several plot threads together left me a bit cold, but I do appreciate the way the film avoids an easy conclusion.

6. Endless Desire (1958)- Imamura’s deeply black comedy is an interesting set-up for what will come in the rest of his career. A rag-tag group of thieves (including one woman) rent a shack in the center of town in order to tunnel beneath the ground and steal a cache of morphine hidden before the war. While the copy I was able to view is saddled with a horrible set of subtitles, Imamura’s dark humor and fondness for the impossibility of the lower class to get ahead is clear. “Endless Desire” also features some stunning camerawork for the late 50’s. When a majority of Japanese cinema was imbued with the static low gaze of Ozu, Imamura is playful and almost Hitchcockian in the way he frames several scenes right at the floorboard level, raising the tension of the men burrowing underneath and staying quiet while visitors and the police rummage around on the wooden floor above them.

7. Gambling City (1972)- Euro crime from the great Sergio Martino about a card shark wrapped up with a casino boss and his bloodthirsty son. It's no "Rounders", but above average.

8. Ted (2012)- Like a live action version of "The Family Guy".... err wait. Written and directed by Seth MacFarlane, one gets what they see in the trailers, which is always a problematic exercise. This could have been so great... a cult classic comedy for this generation but instead we get fart and cock jokes.  Maybe that's all this generation wants?

9. Game Of Thrones (2011)- Halfway through season one on and yes, I'm hooked.

10. A Certain Killer (1967)- Kazuo Mori worked in prolific fashion during the 60's, but his work is largely overlooked and unavailable for distribution. This late 60's thriller, obviously influenced by Sejun Suzuki, tracks the machinations of a hit man hired to do a job and the trouble he gets sinto when he involves a woman (Yumiko Nagawa). Vibrant colors, paint that spills out in place of blood and lots of suits and shades highlight the effort which certainly places it in the pop candy 60's. I really want to explore more of Mori's work.

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