The summer of learning how to read German (all of my language requirements FINISHED), science fiction books, medieval history, and films — 49 films total. There wasn’t much else to do — my fellow grad students were hanging out in France and visiting their families and capering around Poland and the like (well, most were in archives decoding bad handwriting in foreign languages), BUT I HAD to finish German, and watch films, and watch some more…. Oh, and read Jules Verne in its original French (I got through around 100 pages!) — and translate medieval abbreviated Latin — regardless, a VERY productive summer. But it’s over — time to recapitulate the best movies.
My Winnipeg (2007) — Guy Maddin (my review here)
My Winnipeg is by far Guy Maddin’s best film. A pseudo-documentary which ambles through a created and manipulated account of Maddin’s childhood in a city which he clearly loves. The seance scene performed by Winnipeg’s ballet troupe is one of the most gorgeous scenes Maddin has constructed in his magnificent career. My Winnipeg is also Maddin’s easiest film to watch — but has all the standard Maddin stylistic elements: grainy images in black and white with short takes and hallucinatory manipulations, stilted acting, unusual original footage spliced in, narration –a post-modern interpretation of silent film. A Masterpiece.
Coup de Torchon (1981) — Bertrand Tavenier
I’ve been unable to gather the courage to write a review for this film. Perhaps in a few months or, when I re-watch it with a friend… I’ve always loved French film and Tavenier has yet to disappoint me — currently watching Life and Nothing But. But, Coup de Torchon is an odd bird. The source is a pulp novel set in West Texas. Tavenier transposes the novel to French Colonial Senegal. A bumbling policeman (played expertly by the magnificent Philippe Noiret) ridiculed by everyone including his cheating wife decides to rectify the situation. The chemistry between him and Isabelle Huppert is top notch. I still don’t know what to make of his treatment of race, the transposition to French Colonial Senegal, and the drastic shift in Philippe Noiret’s character or the role of Isabelle Huppert. Definitely a wonderful film!
(10/01/2010 — I’ve finally written a review, here)
The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting (1979) — Raoul Ruiz (my review here)
An exercise in artifice? A vicious attack on art theory? An experiment gone a muck? A hodgepodge of thoughts which might not mean anything? Ruiz’s extreme self-indulgence? If you are in the mood for some bizarre truly wonderfully filmed overlong experimental film, this is for you. Otherwise, stay away!
Why did I like it one might ask…. Well, what other film is pure artifice? I mean, what other film does the audience does not believe the connections made by the main narrator (the art critic)? What other film contains a secondary narrator who ALSO does not believe the main person being interviewed?
An art critic in a gigantic house reenacts using his assistants the scenes from an invented artist (and a dismal one at that). He connects each painting to each drastically different painting in the most absurd ways creating something which does not exist besides in his demented mind. We are left on the street wondering what happened.
Perhaps more fun to discuss afterward than actually to watch.
Joseph Losey’s The Servant (my review here)
Top-notch examination of British Class by an exiled American Communist with a biting screenplay by Harold Pinter. And very well acted (besides Vera).