The first half of 2010 I managed to watch an average 40 films a month (close to 240 in the first six month), but on the second (thanks to World Cup and moving back to Kurdistan) I managed to watch only 68 films in six Month.
Favorite Films of 2010:
Certified Copy (Abbas Kiarostami, 2010) Kiarostami’s tribute to Rossollini’s Journey to Italy. A film that make you think about the nature of filmmaking itself, reality vs fiction, the real and the fake, the original and the copy.
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Apichatpong Weerasethakul) Every frame is magical…..
Film Socialisme (Jean-Luc Godard) Everything that Godard touch, turns into GOLD
Liverpool (Lisandro Alonso) If Cinema had a definition and certain tendency to storytelling, Alonso had destroyed that. A film that I enjoyed very much, asked more questions than answers, each scene felt like an experimental short on time and space with characters playing minor rules.
The Ghost Writer (Roman Polanski) An explosive film that get deep into the root of the Tony Blair presidency, the corrupt collaboration between him and the Bush administration, a film that explore the corrupt nature of politic and its secrecy. A thrilling mystery that is among best of Polanski since Chinatown.
Police, Adjective (Corneliu Porumboiu) A film about Dialectic. it is a bout language and cinema as a language that is used to the minimalism, time and space flow so realistically, an intellectual film that uses language to its maximum. It was Hitchock who said, “Cinema is life without the boring part”, this film is life with the boring parts, it create suspense by eliminating all the major actions.
About Elly (Asghar Farhadi) About Elly is among the best to come out of Iranian Cinema in the past year, and Asghar Farhadi is a name that will be mentioned with giants of Iranian Cinema, the likes of Kiarostami, Makhmalbaf, Panahi, Ghobadi and Majidi. . Imagine Antonioni’s L’avventura (1960) with psychology, or a Hitchcock film with a mix of Fassbinder, or Kiarsotmai with a plot for story-line from Agatha Christi.
Bright Star (Jane Campion) Campion has created a tragic love story that is equal in power and beauty to the tragic romantic tales by masters such as Shakespeare, Tolstoy and Chekhov.
Vincere ( Marco Bellocchio) After a silence, Bellocchio is back with another thought provoking film about Mussolini’s wife and his child whom he abundance, the story is told from his wife’s POV, from the begging of Mussolin’s early start with the Communist to him becoming Il Douche of Italy, it is a film about Fascism, politic and government’s power over individuals.
Welcome (Philippe Lioret) A heart breaking story about a friendship between a Kurdish immigrant trying to swim across the English channel into England and a French swimming teacher (Vincent Lindon), beautifully acted, the film slowly builds its pace toward the heartbreaking end.
Wild Grass (Alain Resnais) Resnais is back again with force, beautiful is the word….
White Material (Claire Denis) The World as its today, nothing more……
Goodbye Solo (Ramin Bahrani) Characters in a Bahrani film is so real, that one wonders at how he achieves such greatness, nobody act in his film, they are who they are, there are Bresonian touches, the use of acting as little as possible. A true auteur, the future is bright for Bahrani.
Best DVD Release:
City Girl [Blu-ray] (F.W. Murnau 1930) Masters of Cinema
Dillinger Is Dead (Marco Ferreri, 1969) Criterion Collection
Two Films by Yasujiro Ozu (The Only Son/There Was a Father) – Criterion
Red Desert [Blu-ray] (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1964) Criterion
Close-Up [Blu-ray] (Abbas Kiarostami, 1990) Criterion
Modern Times [Blu-ray] (Charles Chaplin, 1936) Criterion
Vivre sa vie [Blu-ray] (Jean-Luc Godard, 1962) Criterion
Metropolis Reconstructed & Restored [Blu-ray] (Fritz Lang, 1927) Masters of Cinema
The Night of the Hunter [Blu-ray] (Charles Laughton, 1955) Criterion
Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? [Blu-ray] (Frank Tashlin, 1957) Masters of Cinema
The Thin Red Line [Blu-ray] (Terrence Malick, 1998) – Criterion
Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence [Blu-ray] (Nagisa Oshima, 1983) – Criterion
Breathless [Blu-ray] (Jean-Luc Godard, 1960) – Criterion Collection
Broken Lullaby aka The Man I Killed (Ernst Lubitsch, 1932) A film that could make even a rock cry. Based Maurice Aostand’s play The Man I Killed, Broken Lullaby is a masterpiece from a master. Phillips Holmes gives one of the best performance from any film in the early sound era as an ex-French soldiers who is consciousness is guilty for killing a German solider during WWI, he set out to Germany to find his grave then his family in order to ask them for forgiveness. Among the greatest anti-war films,it is emotionally devastating.
Sonatine (Takeshi Kitano , 1993) Imagine a mix of Godard, Peckinpah and Ozu and you’ll have the cinema of Kitano, an abstract poetry in violence. Among the best of the Japanese cinema of the 90s.
The Sound Of Fury (Cy Endfield, 1950) The last 15 minute of The Sound of Fury aka Try and Get Me has to be among the most psychotic and explosive brutal emotional climaxes of any film that portray the mob violence.
Good Sam (Leo McCarey, 1948) A film that warms your heart, that make you happy, it will make you a better person, and that should be the aim of art, not just to entertain but to educate and make you share your deepest emotion.
Arkadas (Yilmaz Güney, 1974) The revolution is dead, now let us live our lives……not yet, we must keep on fighting, one could only love one thing at a time, your ideology or your girl and desire.
Opfergang aka The Great Sacrifice (Veit Harlan ,1944) A melodramas in style of Sirk way before Sirk made any, a story about a married man who fall in love with a wild girl, an over-woman in Nietzsche’s term who alway swims and ride horses, a wild spirit, but she is dying, it is her last days and falling in love with a married man does not make thing better. The film is a like a mystical folk German story mixed with a tragic love story, the acting is subtle almost Dryer like and transcendental.
The Great Consoler (Lev Kuleshov, 1933) This is a forgotten masterpiece, a landmark of cinema in term of narrative. It is hard to believe a film so fresh could had been made in the 30s. The Great Consoler is based on two short story by O’Henry told three times, once as a realistic and gritty narrative within the film that take part in the real life of O’Henry when he was in prison, the second a fictional and lighthearted comedy/adventure/Western/Gangster in the style of the Hollywood filmmaking that reflect the early short story’s of O’Henry, and the third is almost the dark side of O’Henry that later he became, the real and gloomy side of life that he struggles to achieves in his work.
Non, ou A Vã Glória de Mandar (Manoel de Oliveira, 1990) A mix between Bitter Victory and Alexander Nevsky. The story is set among a group of Portuguese soldiering during Portuguese Colonial War (1961-1974) in Africa, among the group is Luís Miguel Cintra, a pessimistic soldier who tells the other about the sad history of failure and colonization of Portugal, the film is like a fable/thatrical narrative, at times actors takes the roles of historical figures in their stories and talks to the audience directly. It is anti-war film because it deals with the failures of war rather than the glory of it. A mix of fantasy, realism, naturalism and surrealism imagery.
Dillinger e Morto (Marco Ferreri, 1969) A film that is only 90 minutes in length yet it feels like watching eternity. A film about a man, a house, a kitchen, a wife, a gun, Dillinger, experimental film, music, cooking, walking, killing, and on. It is hard to describe Ferreri’s film, one thing is clear, it is a unique film and a brilliant film in its uniqueness. Nihilism and existentialist , a tribute to Godard, a condemnation of a materialistic society, a Futuristic film. There has to be less than a page of dialogue, instead, we see, we hear, we react, it is everything that a true cinema should be.
Selvi boylum, al yazmalim aka The Girl with the Red Scarf (Atif Yilmaz, 1978) A film that is more about suppressing and hiding emotion that expressing it, with long gazes and multiple voiceover narration that uses first person, second, third, past and present tense, very similar to Guney’s Umutsuzlar. It is a tear choker. Simply Brilliant film from a giant of the Turkish cinema.
Westfront 1918 aka Comrades of 1918 (Georg Wilhelm Pabst, 1930) A war film unlike any others, it open with laughter and end in a cry of madness among soldiers who are mutated or gone insane. Concentrating on a group of German soldiers in the trenches, the film is about their attempt of survival in a constant shilling and grenade attack from the French and at times from their own artillery, it is full textures; muds, woods, dusts, constant sound of bombardment on the background. As someone put it, “soldiers don’t think about country when they are in the trenches, they think about their next meal, their survival and keeping their feet warm”
The Three Crowns of the Sailor (Raúl Ruiz, 1983) As complex as Citizen Kane, The Three Crowns of the Sailor has to be viewed multiple times in order to understand it. Imagine Orson Welles, Arabian Nights, Film Noir, Godard, Bunuel, Surrealism, Abstraction, Literature and Tournuer all mixed and you will get this film. People speak in prose, they don’t act they recite, Godard’s Alphaville is present when it comes to the first person narration and the voice over, Ruiz manages to create bizarre imagery and mood with a simple set-up of camera angles which at times are very abstract.
Giorgobistve aka Falling Leaves (Otar Iosseliani, 1966) A favorite of Tarkovsky, Fallen Leaves has a loose narrative about a week in the live of Niko, a young man who get a job at a wine factory, it is a simple film that shows life as it is, Iosseliani manages to achieve a realism that is true to life, people don’t act, they are what they are. there is no plot, rather we sees daily life as it flows.
True Heart Susie (D. W. Griffith ,1919) A favorite of both Rivette and Rohmer, True Heart Susie is one of the best work of Griffith and a forgotten masterpiece from the silent era. A story about innocent love and sacrifice that almost a century later still has the power to move us emotionally. Lillian Gish’s sensitive and beautiful performance is among the best of the silent era. It is a simple story about two simple people in a simple town, full of simple events, that could describe the whole cinema of Rivette and Rohmer, no wonder they admired the film so much. The first inter-title of the film tell the viewer that the film is made of everyday incidents. Griffith never force or try to manipulate the audience, rather he take his time with slow pace story telling, simple set-ups, cross-cutting and subtle acting, he manages to build up emotions and bring the audience to the edges of tears.
U samogo sinyego morya aka By the Bluest of Seas (Boris Barnet, 1936) Barnet’s film is one of a kind, neither %100 silent or talkie, musical or comedy, drama or documentary, it mixes all these elements to create a nostalgic, poetic, naturalistic film that will hunt ones memory with its beauty. The story is simple Yusuf and Alyosha are shipwrecked and they land in an Island at Azerbaijan in which they meet a beautiful comrade girl who run the place and they both fall in love with her, like other Barnet film, they are competing for her love, their friendship are about to break up because of their jealousy. Barnet’s naturalism is close to Flaherty and late Murnau, many times the film cuts into scene of nature; birds, wave of the sea, sun, it captures beautifully the landscape. There is a playfulness to the characters that the French New Wave took it to the extreme in later decades. Simply a marvelous film that one could only describe it as poetic.
Aerograd aka Frontier (Alexander Dovzhenko, 1935) If there is such a thing as Poetic Propaganda, then Dovzhenko’s Aerograd has to be the father of them all. It is a poetic masterpiece with imagery that are equal to his lyrical film, Earth. The only flap in the film could be its patriotic drum beat for the Soviet, take that away and you got a film that is gold from its first frame to the last. It has a mystical power that is comical and tragic at the same time. According to Rosenbaum, the film was a favorite of Elia Kazan and James Agee.
Hitori Musuko aka The Only Son (Yasujiro Ozu) The Only Son is about a relationship between a Son and a Mother whom both think they failed each other in their obligation and regret their past, Ozu does not take politically the issue of being poor in a capitalist society, rather he tackle the simple story of a Son in a poor family with a single Mother going to a big city college to become somebody but turns out to become just another average Joe, that is the plot. What Ozu does is put the emotion and the heart-break of the Mother and Son into the screen with such sincerity and lyricism that breaks one’s heart at the end of the film, the Mother becomes everybody’s Mother and the Son everybody’ Son, for parents always want best for their children. Ozu is the closest thing that come to Tolstoy in cinema.
A Time for Dying (Budd Boetticher, 1969) Every film that I had seen so far by Boetticher has been a masterpiece and A Time for Dying is no different. Under 70 minutes, it is a film that one wished never to end and when it does we are left with a sadness and a nostalgia for the loss the two characters that are both doomed at the end of the film, the two that we laugh so much with and fall in love. This was Boetticher’s last film, a film about a man that we spent all the film with and at the end we don’t even know who he was. The old West is a cruel one, the good loses and evil triumph, and memory erases the trace of those who were good and the few that become legend are not all that nice.
Illusion Travels by Streetcar (Luis Bunuel, 1954) What could one say about Bunuel, he is a genius. He manages to create magic right in front of you, nothing is predictable in a Bunuel Film. Illusion Travels by Streetcar has to be among his best work in Mexico, a masterpiece of illusion, realism, surrealism, comedy and social satire all mixed into one. Bunuel is always a step ahead of its audience, just as we think we know what will happen next, the opposite is happening and we are left with more puzzles to fix. The story is centered around two streetcar employee who get drunk one night and decide to take a ride in a Streetcar into the Mexico City street, they find themselves stuck with the machine and for the rest of the film we are stuck with them as they encounter different people and story. On the surface is seem like a simple film, but it’s very complex, we meet hundreds of characters, each as unique as the other one. The streetcar becomes our eyes as we get a glimpse of the social and political problem of the city which is played out on the background of the story, poverty, crime, political corruption, religion superstitions, capitalism, etc…Bunuel manages to put them all on the screen within a span of 90 minutes.
Twilight’s Last Gleaming (Robert Aldrich, 1977) Burt Lancaster play an escaped military general who takes over a nuke base and threaten to unleash 9 atomic bomb if the US President does not go on live TV and tell the world what the real reason was behind the Vietnam war, a provocative film that tackle the real issues that even today the main stream media hide from the public; the fact the the wars are for not what they appear but for military muscle exercise and interest of few over many.
The Old Dark House (James Whale, 1932 ) Boris Karloff seems to duplicate his character of Frankenstein a year after the popular success of the film, in this marvelous horror/comdey film which represent the pre-code Hollywood and a good example of Universal’s horror genre. It has a brilliant script with a humorous dialogue and a horror plot that was way ahead of its time, and let us not forget a marvelous cast and a great cinematography.
Hollywood or Bust (Frank Tashlin, 1956) The influence of Tashlin’s Hollywood or Bust if clear on such filmmakers as difference as Godard and Tim Burtons (Pee-Wee’s adventure is a clear rip-off), I came upon the film after noticing it on Godard’s list of the best films of 1956, and it is definitely among the greatest comedy and one of the best road film ever. Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis are wonderful as an odd couple who share a winning car and plan to take it to Hollywood to sell it and maybe meet Lewis’ favorite actress Anita Ekberg , that is the plot on the film, but on the way the film opens up to a serious of gags, songs and incidents, it is beautifully shot with mes-en-scenes that are as colorful as those of Tati.
Moonrise (Frank Borzage,1948) I can not believe that it took me this long to watch my first film from the great Frank Borzage, and what a film, one of the best Noir of the 40s. Dane Clark play Danny Hawkins, the son of a murderer, he is haunted by his father’s past, from a young boy to a young man, he is been made fun and laughed at for his father’s crime. Beautifully and masterful shot with acting and cinematography that are resemblance of the silent era.
El Patrullero (Alex Cox, 1991) Imagine a film that is mix from Luis Bunuel, Sam Pickinpah and John Ford and you will get The Patrolman, one of the best film of the 90s. It is a nostalgic tribute to Bring me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, even the main character looks like Warren Oates (and the dark glasses he is wearing is the exact same), a western/surelasstic thriller about a young man who decide to become a highway patrolman, the film span about six year in the live of him.
O Sangue (Blood) (Pedro Costa, 1989) “What was the greatest human invention?” a question that is been asked twice in O Sangue and we never get an answer, the film suggest that the invention is Cinema, and O Sangue is a tribute from Costa to Cinema, memory and life. The ending is a reflection of that, the best tribute to Murnau ever to be put on screen, a tribute to Sunrise that is equal in power and beauty as Sunrise itself. O Sangue is among the best black and white film that I have ever seen, it is equal in beauty to Sunrise and Ugutsu, two film that is stylistically must have had influence on this film. There are many filmmaker present in this film, Murnau and Mizoguchi in Cinematography. Ozu in compositions, Robert Bresson, Jean-Marie Straub, Danièle Huillet on acting, Godard’s Alphavile is present on the spirit of the film, and let is nor forget Tourneuer.
She Was Like a Wild Chrysanthemum (Keisuke Kinoshita, 1955) This is my second film from Kinoshita, the first being Twenty-Four Eyes, and both have moved to tears, for his films are about time, memory, past and a nostalgic, innocent vision of a world that is long gone.
City Girl ( F.W,Murnau, 1930) A masterful film by the master F.W.Murnau, City Girl, another romantic tale between a country boy and a city girl like Sunrise, that is stunning visually, every gesture, every movement, ever frame is made of gold, Murnau manages to model his actors by creating movement and gestures that is long gone today, the silent cinema had the charm to tell a story without dialogue, what Murnau does is to make the visual stand out above all, just watch the ending of this film, it is a cinema that will break your heart for its beauty and perfectionism.
Tabiate bijan AKA Still Life (Sohrab Shahid Saless,1974) If one film had to be named as the father of the modern Iranian Cinema, this film is the one. Every shot, every frame, every cut in this film is made of gold. It is a masterpiece that questions the foundation of cinema itself. This film has life, it lives, it has achieved simplify by using the elements of cinema to it’s basic form. If one want to learn how to set-up a camera, how to position it to tell a story, how to compose, how to cut, how to connect two shot, how to use sound, then Still Life is a perfect school for you.