Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Two Eyes Of Carl Martin

If you didn't attend some wonderful repertory/revival film screenings in 2012, you missed out. As nobody could see them all, I've recruited Frisco Bay filmgoers to recall some of their own favorites of the year. An index of participants is found here.  

The following list comes from Carl Martin, film projectionist and keeper of the Bay Area Film Calendar.

on the silver globe: may 13, ybca

watching a near-incomprehensible 3-hour mess during the height of my allergic bout last year was torture.  i couldn't say what happened moment to moment--in broad strokes, astronauts alight on a far-flung planet and recapitulate in compressed time the evolution of human culture and religion.  i do know it's chock-full of shockingly beautiful shots, like that of a forest of pole-sitters perched on a beach.  this wildly ambitious relic was left unfinished, a victim of shifting political tides, the balance filled in years later via voiceover paired with fish-eyed guerilla subway footage--as if an andrzej zulawski (possession) film needed any help being totally schizoid.

white dogjune 3; arne sucksdorff shorts: june 7, private screenings
anti-wellesian high-angle shots implicate the viewer in perennial racial pot-stirrer sam fuller's sordid, methodical tale of a racist dog.  fortuitously preceded by
skipper learns a lesson, the 16mm educational film that so moved a young kristy mcnichol it inspired her participation in fuller's film, in which she gives a brave, emotionally naked performance.  morricone score!  a few days later, a pair of lovely and intimate nature documentary shorts, part of a larger shorts selection curated by k. wiggin.  shadows on the snow depicts the stalking of a bear, carefully balancing the fortunes of hunter and prey; rhythm of a city: a film from stockholm, because of its setting, also a city symphony of sorts.  as venues shut down or go digital and the studios increase their iron grip on prints, we'll rely increasingly on collectors and grey-area screenings to satisfy our celluloid cravings.

the man in the gray flannel suitjune 21, pfa
i did not expect this film to wander lustily into such a moral quagmire.  in flashbacks to his wartime experiences, "agreeable gentleman" gregory peck kills a man for his coat and conducts an affair while unambiguously still married.  one feels this to be an admirable corrective to the usual us-vs-them heroics of cinematic warfare of that time.  in a wonderful and prescient throwaway scene, peck wrests his kids from the tv and sends them off to bed, only to fall himself under its hypnotic spell.

valerie and her week of wonders: june 29, pfa
i'd seen this years before but was struck this time by its wondrous, dreamlike beauty.  as with
on the silver globe there's a lot going on i can't make much sense of beyond its deep resonance.

five elements ninjas: july 6, roxie
after quick-zooming our way through the usual confused exposition, we get to the meat of the matter: a series of truly inspired confrontations with super-natural ninja foursomes representing gold, water, earth, wood, and fire.  balletic kung-fu at its best.

die wunderbare lüge der nina petrowna (the wonderful lie of nina petrovna): july 13, castro
probably one of my top three silent film experiences ever, with one of my favorite stars.  the emotive power of brigitte helm's face is stunning.  majestic ophuls-like photography and settings, with the edge in sensuousness.  franz lederer needs to stop gambling already!

awāra: july 28, pfa
the pfa's
raj kapoor series featured some of the most horrid looking prints i've ever seen: black-and-white on inconsistently timed color stock full of all manner of printed-in defects.  incredibly, awāra, with its fatalistic melodrama and busby berkeley-caliber musical numbers, overcame all that.

walker: october 6, pfa
a troubling peckinpah-inspired masterpiece from alex cox--troubling for that world-beating american cowboy spirit and troubling for cox's career as a consequence.  ed harris goes on a messianic power trip in nicaragua in the best performance by him i've seen.  he won me over from the get-go in a tender signed scene with marlee matlin.

whisper of the heart: october 10, california
i never though i'd include an anime in this list.  but yoshifumi kondô's only film (as director) mostly eschews the wide-eyed te-heeing teens, moped hooligans, mystical animals, and steampunk fantasy embraced by miyazaki and his lessers in favor of bittersweet, down-to-earth, contemporary teen romance.  i still can't get olivia newton-john's country roads rendition out of my head.  one of the last films seen at my former workplace.

the frightened woman: november 17, victoria
a bizarre eurotrash revenge tale with so many delightful surprises involving props, sets, mise en scène, and plain wrongness that the plot twist at the end seems comparatively tame.  note to victoria: please adjust feed clutch so films don't break at the ends of the reels.

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