Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Terri Saul Has Two Eyes

The Frisco Bay repertory/revival scene cannot be taken in by a single pair of eyes. Thankfully, a number of local filmgoers have agreed to share their favorites from 2009. An index of participants is found here.

The following list comes from Terri Saul, who blogs at Sister-Rye:

December 18th, 2009
Part of the series: Four by Hungarian Master Miklós Jancsó

This new print reminded me of bleak Antonioni, without the shelter of buildings. It evoked a series of poetic images, slideshow-like, my first response to the film being composed via Twitter, something like:

Stars disappearing behind a wall;
Going upstairs to never come home;
Saying goodbye to a cheek in a rural place;
Truncated, amputated, and absurd.

I preferred this piece to Janscó’s more famous THE RED AND THE WHITE (1967), which I also saw at the PFA as part of the same series.

October 11th, 2009
Part of the series: Life’s Work: The Cinema of Ermanno Olmi

Set in Asiago, in the Dolomite Mountains of Italy, somehow Tom Waits inhabits the older scavenger. Taking a young unemployed mudlark under his wing, training him in recycling and cleaning up after the landscape has been devastated by war and artillery, the elder rummager also learns from his junior.

Memorable details:
Paper hats worn by construction workers;
A dangerous mentoring relationship;
Tragic but beautiful landscape, peppered with potentially deadly treasures;
Experiments in removing the detonator of a bomb;
War-related deaths after the war is over

Kazuo Hara in person, May 2nd 2009

Extreme Private Eros: “… The film doesn’t shy away from messiness; on the contrary, it revels in it. Miyuki grants Hara and his camera an astonishing level of access, stripping herself bare both literally and figuratively. The result is a rich, emotionally raw film that is as much about its director as it is about its ostensible subject…” —Jonathan L. Knapp

“…it makes the tension between the subject of the documentary and the maker of the documentary more explicit. It plays into the broader issues of control and independence found in these films, and often into their themes of revelation and repression - as all these characters in many ways seek to say and show things that have been suppressed.” (FOTMC)

The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On: “…its thematic interrogation of ethics; its own ethical problematic in facilitating violence; and its use of the performative persona of Okuzaki as a key author-agent of the film…” (FOTMC)

Emperor's Naked Army mocks this quest for knowledge while enticing it, poses any deliberative action as quixotic while taunting those who are inactive, and sides with confrontation over reason.” (FOTMC)

Both films challenge historic and cultural taboos while revealing what was happening socially and politically among artists and leftists in Japan in the 70s and 80s.
Co-presented by the Center for Japanese Studies at UC Berkeley.

April 5, 2009
Part of the series: Radical Strategies, by Film on Film Foundation

Awarded the first Cannes Film Festival Grand Prix Spécial du Jury
Directed by Joseph Losey.

“Adopting Resnais-influenced oblique editing strategies for the first time, Losey creates from the future Nobel-Prize-winning Pinter's script a superbly-crafted corrosive vision of sexual and social anomie, one of the high-water marks from the classic period of European Art Cinema. Accident is proof-positive that Joseph Losey was the most brilliant filmmaking victim of the Hollywood Blacklist, and that an American was the greatest director of the British Cinema of the 1960's.” (FOFF)

“The sustained Sunday sequence is as precisely plotted in its visual and emotional gradations as the celebrated island search in Michelangelo Antonioni's L'Avventura (Italy, 1960)” —Neil Sinyard

Aug 5th, 2009
Part of the series: Ecco l’uomo: Celebrating Italian Actors
Directed by Valerio Zurlini

“A looming fortress (the film was shot at the fortress of Bam, in southeast Iran) is a strange purgatory for the aristocratic officers who inhabit it, latter-day Crusaders devoted to defense against chimerical enemies. This allegory about the need for illusion takes on Kafkaesque qualities as the garrison becomes entrenched in its ritualized preparations for the enemy-that-never-comes.” —Judy Bloch

“Visually the film is stunning and makes a mockery of the ghastly special effects which in a film like Gladiator make the world seem like a landscape of precious celluloid grey. It is filmed in the Middle East in a now earthquake-torn ancient town. If one didn't know such a place existed one would think that special effects had accomplished impossible beauty. But no, it’s all real, and all spectacularly realized.” (IMDB author: smolensk)

I responded immediately to this film via Twitter, hence my notes being written in slideshow fashion:

Like a painting in motion, with some indications that the print was in disrepair, in need of a touch up;
Powdered sugar burn holes;
Waiting for Godot's binoculars;
Desertion in the desert fort, and friendly fire;
The memorable scar on a soldier's face lit by desert sand filtered light;
The issue of imaginary enemies.

November 8th, 2009
Part of the series: New Spanish Cinema

More like a documentary of a sketchbook than an animation, it’s lovely, but very slow and lacking a narrative foundation. I wouldn't compare Miguelanxo Prado to Miyazaki, but there's a similar odd preference for the Victorian in both of their works. This dreamy, vague, and difficult to appreciate film draws from an odd mixture of influences, including the artist Egon Schiele.

“A tribute to the sea and to love, this magical film is entirely wordless, kept afloat by fantasy and a mournful cello score.” —Jason Sanders

November 7th, 2009
Part of the series: A Woman’s Face: Ingrid Bergman in Europe
Directed by Gustaf Molander

Also very Egon Schiele—dark shadows under the eyes.
I can't believe I'd never seen it before 2009.

“ ‘A human being only experiences such happiness once’ is the running gag—but Anita knows that Holger, as a man, will have had it twice.” —Judy Bloch

“When Selznick fired the cinematographer Harry Stradling Sr. and hired the great Gregg Toland to take over the photography of Selznick's remake of the 1936 Swedish version of Intermezzo, he asked Toland how it was possible that Bergman looked so beautiful in the original European production and so ghastly in his Hollywood version. Toland replied, ‘In Sweden they don't make her wear all that makeup.’ ” (IMDB trivia)

August 14, 2009
Part of the series: Into the Vortex: Female Voice in Film
Directed by Mitchell Leisen

“Based on Cornell Woolrich’s I Married a Dead Man, this has all the trappings of a film noir (uncertain identities, murder, forbidden desire), but the film’s use of voice cuts through noir convention to underscore an address to women in postwar America.” —Britta Sjogren

“This was the first of four versions to have been made of the book. In 1983, there was I Married a Shadow (Jai Espouse une Ombre) starring Natalie Byle. In 1996 came Mrs. Winterbourne with Ricky Lake and in 2001, a made for TV movie called She’s No Angel with Tracy Gold. By the way, do not get this film confused with the 1932 Clark Gable/Carole Lombard No Man of Her Own. The only thing in common is the title.”
—John Greco (24 Frames)

My Twitter write-up of this melodramatic film focused more on the PFA audience members, than on the film itself: I enjoyed the murderous noir grip of No Man of Her Own but not the intermittent focus problems. Also, some PFA regulars don't come to screenings fully clothed. What's with ripped-ass pants man? There's also the shhhhhhh lady, but at least she wears clothes.

The film was followed by a boisterous discussion of the book; audience members insisting only cowards wouldn't read it (including the man with a large hole in his pants.) Please people, take a shower and get fully dressed before sitting closely in a dark room. I’ll take your literary unhappy ending over the happy one, but not your buttocks in public.

PONYS (2005) and CHARISMA (2003); PFA

November 7th, 2009
[Both by chance preceded a newer film]
Part of the series: New Spanish Cinema

David Planell didn't show up for his director's talk before THE SHAME (2009). He was stuck in Spain for an unknown reason. Thankfully he sent his two shorts Ponys and Charisma as a stand in for himself. The two shorts said more than a brief introduction could, although he was missed. Sighs of disappointment were audible in the theater when his absence was announced. Planell's shorts are referenced a few times in his feature. All three films screened deal with uncomfortable situations between friends and family members in which unaired grievances surface. His actors display raw feelings quite well, tackling issues of class, taboo, abuse, secrets, game playing, naiveté and, as the feature’s title implies, shame.

JOURNEY TO THE MOON (2003); William Kentridge at SFMOMA

May 22nd, 2009
Part of the exhibit: William Kentridge, Five Themes
35mm and 16mm film transferred to video (black and white, sound) Drawing and direction by William Kentridge

Journey to the Moon was particularly lovely and evocative, the small flickering lights, little ants aligning themselves like constellations, following rings of liquid. Is it sugar, painting using ants instead of inks? Kentridge watches his own charcoal drawings voyeuristically through the bottom of an espresso mug, as if spying on himself. He twists the ceramic vessel to engage rack focus. Multiple mugs mimic a telescope. A coffee pot rocket ship takes off. His studio vibrates in reverse gravity. Drawings on book pages reassemble themselves in the artist’s hands. A magician, Kentridge links elbows with the earliest cinematic wizards, such as Georges Méliès (A TRIP TO THE MOON; 1902).

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