Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Two Eyes Of David Robson

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 David Robson, proprietor of the House Of Sparrows blog:

In order seen:

- Perturbed though I was that all of the offerings I caught at the Vogue Theatre's Mostly British Film Festival were offered on video, the chance to catch up, in a single month, with Michael Apted's entire 7 UP series was just one gift the series offered. But THE GREAT WHITE SILENCE was the most compelling thing I saw there, its imagery of Antarctica (the first film ever shot there) offered new vitality by a smart and emotive score by Simon Fisher Turner. Scott and four of his companions never returned; in some kind of solidarity, I walked home from the Vogue.

- I'm pretty sure that all of the TWO EYES participants who saw the epic restoration of NAPOLEON at Oakland's Paramount Theatre will include it in their lists. The restoration of Abel Gance's epic (itself only a sixth of the total story he wanted to tell) was certainly one of the major film events of the year, well-served by its orchestral accompaniment in that lovely theatre. A bonus came from seeing it with my girlfriend, who had no idea the three-screen finale was coming and gushed excitedly upon its arrival.

- When I made a vow to never watch the Oscars again if they omitted Raul Ruiz from its In Memorian montage, Mr. Darr gently, firmly (and, of course, correctly) told me that I could be sure it wouldn't happen. And sure enough, the passing of Ruiz, despite his voluminous body of work, to say nothing of the sometimes incredible shit executed within that corpus, warranted nary a blip on Oscar's radar. Pacific Film Archive were more generous, and offered us a series of films unified by their literary origins. And though the series was far from complete, as some observed (though I remain weirdly optimistic that a Ruiz series can never be complete, as I'm positive he created much more work than logged by even his substantial IMDB filmography), it offered this filmgoer a first look at a decent cross-section of his oeuvre. I didn't like everything I saw; THE HYPOTHESIS OF THE STOLEN PAINTING bewitched me with its shadowy labyrinth and quietly witty imagery. And even if Ruiz has finished expanding his work, the end of it is nowhere in sight. It lives.

- A screening of a loose trilogy by Wong Kar-Wai at the Castro gave me a welcome second look at these interconnected romances. Though I remain somewhat distant from DAYS OF BEING WILD and found myself liking 2046 a bit less on seeing it again, I finally, belatedly connected with IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE. It's my new favorite of his films, perhaps, its slo-mo fancies, Maggie Cheung's dresses, intimate rooms, and Umebayashi score resonating in my mind even as I sit here recalling it.

- A number of people (maybe a majority) on their list of all-time favorite movies include films they've seen hundreds of times, and would enjoy again. It's not a bad criterion, but there are a couple of films on my list that I've only ever seen once, and fear I may never see again. My experiences with these films are quite special, a one-time-only glimpse of an incredible, intimate but far-away world. Such was my time viewing Zulawski's ON THE SILVER GLOBE (part of a touring retrospective hosted by Joel Shepard at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts). Some movies function like drugs, and you feel your mind expanding, your brain building upon itself to take in, navigate, and fully process the movie unfolding before your eyes. ON THE SILVER GLOBE remains one of the most powerful trips I've ever had, with cinema my sole intoxicant. It's all you need, really.

- I mean god dammit, if all DCP restorations of older films were undertaken with the care, diligence, and fanpassion as the digital PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE that the Castro screened in September, it'd make digital cinema a hell of a lot easier to bear. It looked lovely. And the movie's terrific, of course.

- I woke up late one August Saturday and my mind went to film. I had a particular craving for old school, 35mm thrills that only an aging print of a possibly schlocky movie could provide. What's at the Castro today? EARTHQUAKE. This can't possibly have been a deliberate piece of highly focused (and extremely well-anticipated) film programming, but Mark Robson (no relation)'s ensemble disaster drama was just what the DR ordered. Fantastic.

- Jesse Hawthorne Ficks' Midnites for Maniacs series, though it continues to struggle with the nonavailability of film prints, continued to offer an always intriguing selection of overlooked, semi-underground films for the Castro's audience. And even though it wound up screening (rather beautifully, as it turns out) on Blu-Ray, PHENOMENON became my favorite Dario Argento film at its M4M showing. A rare (unique?) coming-of-age film from its director, PHENOMENON found a lovely setting for its horrors in a weird area outside Zurich, pitched between Argento's supernatural and giallo modes.
- The Not Necessarily Noir 3 series at the Roxie was one of those events that brings out every cinephile in the Bay Area. There really was something for everyone in that sprawling series, with a robust enough selection spanning from well-known gems in the neo-noir canon to rare films seen for the first time by many in the audience. And yet my most treasured film in the series was TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A. - though it's a film I know well, the screening here cemented it as an all-time favorite. It's probably William Friedkin's greatest labyrinth: though it yields a number of well-executed crime movie thrills, its more abstract details (from its tricky homoeroticism to its layers of artifice that suggest a film directed by its villain, counterfeiter Rick masters [Willem DaFoe]) continue to resonate and shift decades after its making. It certainly occasioned the most layered and intense post-screening discussion I had after a movie this year. I'm convinced that Roxie programmer Elliot Lavine had some kind of intimate congress with the print he screened, but I'm too polite and unimaginative to speculate here on the details. In any event, Lavine cannily paired the film with Woo's HARD BOILED, a film with as much to say about 1990s Hong Kong as TL&DILA has about 1980s America.

- I can't believe it took me this long to get down to the Stanford Theatre in Palo Alto, but after my first trip there in October I went a couple of more times before year's end. Most fun was blowing off work early, grabbing Caltrain down, and settling in for the MUMMY'S HAND/WOLF MAN two-fer. I was giddily excited for weeks before the program, and everything from the murky weather to the tastes of buttered popcorn and chocolate mixing in my mouth the the gonzoid fucking energy of THE MUMMY'S HAND made for a memorable night at the movies, and the perfect capper to the Halloween horror season. Exquisite.

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