Friday, September 05, 2008

Produced and Abandoned: 12 Must Sees

I've been tagged by Adam at DVD Panache with another incarnation of the 12 movie meme. What originally started as this at Piper's Lazy Eye Theatre blog has completely morphed into something different courtesy of The Dancing Image.... and it's a doozy.

So, what are 12 films that I've never seen, desperately want to see, and virtually impossible to find. I had bits and pieces of movies lying around over the years, but combining them (and remembering them) was a whole different animal. I'm sure this list will change if I re-write it tomorrow, but as of right now, these are my 12 holy grail films, in no order:

1. A Brighter Summer Day- The one Edward Yang film that I have been able to see ("Yi Yi" in 2001) stands as a minor miracle, a film brimming with life and wonder. This 1991 film has never been released on home video in any form. With a run time of anywhere between 3 and 4 hours based on which source one references, "A Brighter Summer day" has only been shown in select repertory screenings. It's sad to say, but maybe with the passing of Yang at a young age last year, some of his works ("Majhong", " A Confucian Confusion" and "Taipei Story") will receive some type of exposure.

2. A Deadly Affair- As an earlier post expressed, I went a little obsessive over watching any and all Sidney Lumet films I could. With the exception of a handful that have never been released on VHS or DVD, the one that aggravates the most is his 1966 spy thriller entitled "A Deadly Affair". There are some region 2 copies floating around, but I don't feel like paying $35 plus. Here's hoping a recent retrospective at New York Film Forum will put pressure on certain distribution companies.

3. Los Angeles Plays Itself- Thom Anderson's paean to Los Angeles and its place in the movies will likely never get an official release due to its use of copyrighted film clips. It's still making the rounds for 1 or 2 showings in the city of angels, but its highly unlikely that Anderson's film (which he filmed for educational purposes for his California film studies classes) will ever see the light of day. I've been dying to see this thing since reading about it back in '05.

4. The Mattei Affair- Since watching some of Francesco Rosi's films late last year, I became immediately interested in his work. Part social commentary and heavy on Italian bureaucracy, his films are often sweeping examples of Italian life from the poor to the upper class, refusing to take a side and presenting a social problem from all angles. This film, charting the work, life and assassination of an industrial game-changer promises more of the same. Again, never released on any video format. For that matter, I'd love to see Rosi's other lost 70's films such as "Lucky Luciano" or "Illustrious Corpses".

5. Cold Water- As a staunch Olivier Assayas fan, it's a damn shame that none of his work before 1996's "Irma Vep" is available in this country. I read about this film and his other short works back in a mid-90's Film Comment article shortly after his international rise to stardom. Still yet to talk to anyone who's seen these films.

6. The Fixer- Another purely auteurist example- John Frankenheimer. I've managed to see all of his films except this one from '68 and the martial arts thriller called "The Challenge" in 1982. That movie is available on VHS (for over $50 on Ebay) but no sign of "The Fixer" which seems to follow Frankenheimer's early stage days as a film about a Jewish man kept in captivity for unjust reasons.

7. Last Night at the Alamo- This has been regarded as a regional legend for some time. Maverick Texas filmmaker Eagle Pennell wrote and directed it back in '82 at the end of a career burning out on drugs and alcohol. It's been widely cited as the film that kick started a whole generation of Texas filmmakers like Richard Linklater and Robert Rodriguez. Earlier this year, Pennell's 1979 film entitled "The Whole Shootin' Match" got a few revival screenings, so there's hope that other pieces of his work will surface.

8. The Outfit- If I wanted to spend at least $65 for a VHS copy I could, but other than that I missed my one chance to see this hard boiled 1973 film when it aired on TCM a few months back. No excuses. I fell asleep before it came on.

9. Slow Moves- Really just an excuse to decry the amount of Jon Jost that is available on video. Out of almost 15 films, only 2 are available in any format. One of the premier independent film godfathers, this 1977 film is just the beginning of his neglect. But, if anyone's interested, check out "The Bed You Sleep In" or "All the Vemeers In New York". His films are an acquired taste, but ones that pay dividends when in the right mood for his swaying music and textured images.

10. Mary- What the hell happened to Abel Ferrera? After 2001 and his film "R-Xmas", he's directed four films which have yet to see any distribution. Is it because he's making films in Europe and being financed by European studios? Still, the great word of mouth from film festival showings should be good enough to warrant a small release here, no? This 2003 film stars Juliet Binoche, Forest Whitaker, Heather Graham and Matthew Modine as a modern day version of Joseph and Mary (yes that Joseph and Mary).

11. Until the End of the World- This gets confusing. I have seen Wim Wenders' two and a half hour version of this dreamy sci-fi film (one of his very best) but there's also a four hour and five hour version out there. The four hour version played at a German film festival years ago and a reliable internet buddy (who was also a devotee of the film) once told me had seen the 5 hour version at a Florida film fest years ago. Regardless, there's a much larger cut of this film floating out there, and I'd love to get my hands on it.

12. Histories du Cinema- Jean Luc Godard's multi video essay has been weathered on the film festival circuit over the years, yet never received a formal release. So much of Godard's later work can easily be bogged down with pretentiousness, but he still manages to strike some beautiful moments. I'm betting this series would strike a lot of them.

So, the next five up include:

Dennis at Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule
Evan at Club Parnassus
Caitlin at 1416 and Counting
The Kinetoscope Parlor
Bob at Eternal Sunshine of the Logical Mind


Adam Ross said...

Some interesting picks here. I had read about "The Outfit" before it premiered on TCM, but also missed out on seeing it, sure seems like it deserves a DVD release. Never heard of "The Fixer," but the plot sounds like Frankenheimer at his best.

weepingsam said...

Yang's films are touring - they played in Toronto and New York (I think) earlier this year, and are playing at Harvard this month. With luck, at least some of them will continue on beyond that, or get a decent DVD release. I've only seen 2, but am quite confident that the rest will live up to those two... certainly very impatient for next week to come.

Assayas' films come through Boston regularly. DVD releases might be dicey though, since they tend to feature very dense pop and rock soundtracks - not sure how the rights are figured out in cases like that, so even if someone thought they had an audience for the DVD, they might have a hard time getting the clearances... which is a bloody shame, since this is a really great film.

Meanwhile, I've been plugging away at my list, but ran into a snag the other day when I realized that not only was the film I was writing about listed on Netflix (though its been sitting in my "saved" queue for years now), but I'd seen it, possibly more than once. Crisis of conscience! though one I should be able to overcome, since I have to see this film again, and that seems more or less impossible at present...

TALKING MOVIEzzz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dennis Cozzalio said...

Joseph: I stand convicted on Edward Yang-- I have yet to see even Yi Yi, and I've had plenty of opportunity. LACMA here in L.A. is doing a series on Yang this month, including A Brighter Summer Day. Wish you could be here...

The Outfit is terrific, as I remember it (I saw it theatrically when I was something like 13 or so). I continue to be puzzled over Ferrara-- he has his staunch admirers, but I find most of his most recent films insufferable. I have yet to see the Godard too.

And it looks like I'm gathering a group to go see Los Angeles Plays Itself next week at the Aero Theater here. It'll be my third time. If you get a chance, e-mail me. I can relay some interesting info re the Andersen film.

I will take the 12-film challenge and post the results on my blog! Thanks for the tag! I like being IT!

Joel Bocko said...

Another great list - Histoires du cinema in particular has always appealed to me, and probably should have been on my list come to think of it (though I did include Vent d'est, a Vertov group project that always fascinated me).

You have been added to the list ( & at some point I may post everybody's film together - it provides a great guide of Holy Grail works for everyone to seek out when they're in a rare DVD/video store, scanning retro screenings, or looking at an upcoming TCM schedule. Thanks for jumping in.

Joel Bocko said...

Oh, and great title for blog entry too.

Mike Doc said...

Dennis beat me to it, but yes, the Yang series is coming to LACMA in October. And wouldn't you friggin' know it, I'm flying to Pennsylvania for a wedding the weekend they're showing "A Brighter Summer Day". Gaaaaah!

I'll definitely be at the Aero this Thursday for Los Angeles Plays Itself, though.

Joe Baker said...

Sam, I remember you mentioning that there was a Yang series coming to Boston. Savor it for me.

Moviezzz, damn.. I don't have IFC or Sundance anymore. Since moving into my current apartment a few years back, I'm facing the wrong way (and in the center) so no room for a dish. Time warner cable is just now making it into this area, and I change over at the end of the month. Hopefully, I can catch up with the Assayas. I had no idea it was in rotation on that channel. Very cool.

Joe Baker said...


Awesome news on Anderson's film. I saw that you had written about it a few weeks back which rekindled my passion for seeing it. I definitely look forward to your 12 picks!


I think posting everyone's titles would be a great idea. I'm not sure if you've ever seen this now defunct list from DVD Journal, but its a pretty complete list of films not on DVD. I think a compilation from everyone during this meme could rival and even top that list.

Evan Waters said...

I'm going to have to think on this one a bit. I just found out a few titles I had been looking for were on Netflix the whole time.

Bob Turnbull said...

Thanks for the tag Joseph and sorry for taking so long to get to it. I posted my list here, though I haven't tag anyone back yet. I'll try to do that later today...

Anonymous said...

In regards to Los Angeles Plays Itself and A Brighter Summer Day: there are torrents of these movies circulating (see for instance). I'm still holding out hope that this Yang retrospective will result in some nice, high-quality DVDs of his work, but until then, this will have to do.

Anonymous said...

Someone like Criterion really needs to do everyone a favour with Franceso Rosi's missing films. Not just the Mattei Affair & Illustrious Corpses (I've seen the latter - it's incredible), but also his WW1 film Many Wars Ago.

Anonymous said...

I saw Last Night at the Alamo in a theater in Minneapolis when it first came out. Eagle Pennell was there afterward for Q & A. I have a poor quality videotape of it, but cannot remember where I got it. I think I copied it from a tape I rented when i lived in Dallas. It is a great movie, and both Claude and "Ichabod" have scenes in which they have elevated the use of profanity to an art form.