Thursday, November 27, 2008

Dreams in Celluloid, Part V


Day of Wrath (1943)

Dreyer is a master of minimal filmmaking. What he can do with minimal effort is astonishing – a technique which lends itself well to re-creating religious hysteria and moral ambiguities of his characters. The paranoia inherent within The Day of Wrath fills every scene with a quiet tension and overall sense of helplessness – a reflection of the Nazi’s occupation of Dreyer’s homeland of Denmark during the time of filming no doubt accentuated this effect. Few other directors are capable of recreating that sense of simmering disquiet with quite the same style. The closest I can think of is Clouzot’s Le Corbeau, but it lacks the intensity of Dreyer’s masterpiece.


Apocalypse Now (1979)

“Terminate with extreme prejudice.”

Everything about this films screams big, the opening shots of the exploding jungle, the Vietnam setting, the foreboding song by The Doors, but then it suddenly jumps to a single soldier with a single mission and the proceeding storyline takes place on a much darker and more personal level. Captain Benjamin L. Willard narrates his journey up the Nung River to assassinate the infamous, renegade Colonel – Walter E. Kurtz. Very few films ever do justice to the book that inspired them, especially such a literary work as Heart of Darkness so all credit to Coppola for being able to transplant it to Vietnam and retain the depth and intrigue of the original novel.


The Decameron (1971)

The controversial Pasolini made four (epic) films in the 1970s. I find them tough to watch. They are unflinching, dark in subject matter, but above all, unbearably human. Watching Sado for the first time made me feel ill – to be honest I wasn’t expecting much, after reading the book I remember thinking that there’s no way this can be turned into a film without becoming some kind of poor quality hardcore porn flick. Turns out it can, but not only that, Pasolini has an extraordinary sense of disquiet so it’s not the individual acts of cruelty which feel sickening, but the oppressive nature of the whole thing. The Decameron whilst retaining Pasolini’s trademark approach to sex and nudity is certainly less graphic, but no less powerful. Based on Boccaccio’s collection of short stories, Pasolini creates one of his most straightforward and honest films. The painterly nature of the film (Pasolini even plays the part of late Gothic, Florentine painter Giotto) is nothing less than sublime in the truest sense of the word – inspiring awe through fear.


Les Bonnes Femmes (1960)

I rarely watch Chabrol films. Perhaps he shouldn’t be on this list at all, but then again I rarely listen to Evan Parker’s Conic Sections and that’s a sure beast of an album, so rare isn’t necessarily bad. It’s not that I find Chabrol’s films particularly intense in a Tarkovsky or Resnais-esque manner, but I find them particularly unnerving without any real breathing space. So I chose Les Bonnes Femmes because being an early Chabrol flick it has more of a New Wave charm, although depending on your point of view it’s also Charbol’s most biting film, fully exploiting his sharp sense of irony and cynicism to throw everything back at the viewer.


There Will Be Blood (2007)

And just when I thought films had completely moved away from the all embracing, no holds barred, psychological examination of a single figure, There Will Be Blood comes along and kicks me where it hurts. So this is what happens when you get that magical click between actor and director. Because Daniel Day Lewis really gives Paul Thomas Anderson something along the lines of what Klaus Kinski did for Werner Herzog in Aguirre: Wrath of God. Slowly worked towards a melting frenzy is just what I enjoy in my power-crazed characters and Daniel Plainview hits the mark completely. A far cry from the perhaps self-indulgent Magnolia, but nevertheless Anderson isn’t a director afraid to take risks.


Code Unknown (2000)

Haneke is one of those directors who have a strange knack for delivering powerful slices of an often decaying family life that hit the viewer with an uncanny sense of unease. Hidden was like an intense shot of adrenalin, brutal and straight to the point. Time of the Wolf let things unravel with unease in its post-apocalyptic setting. But Code Unknown is the high point in his deconstruction and collapse of the family environment in a world where communication seems to have completely broken down. If only he hadn’t remade Funny Games to suit the Hollywood criterion, but perhaps he needed the money?


Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (1964)

Who is Sergei Parajanov? Good question. He was one of many suppressed Soviet Russian filmmakers that refused to adhere to the conventions of Social Realism. He also had a passion for Pasolini, Tarkovsky and Fellini and as a result his films are like a combination of all three, but no second rate imitation and amazing in their own right. "Beauty will save the world," he once said. Watch any of his films and maybe you’ll begin to understand why. Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors is a deeply symbolic, folkloric, magical tale of lovers, jealously and betrayal, slipping between dream and reality like every good fairy tale.


Meshes of the Afternoon (1943)

The anti-Hollywood filmmaker par excellence. Everything one can possibly hate about Hollywood is nowhere to be seen in Deren’s experimental short films, which were artistic, creative, intelligent and above all else compellingly enigmatic. One thing I find so fascinating about Deren’s films is the beautiful dance-like camerawork and sense of rhythm and space. Deren was also a dancer/choreographer which no doubt helped considerably, but there’s also a wonderful poetry to her shorts that few filmmakers ever achieve. Meshes of the Afternoon is probably her most famous film (incidentally Teijo Ito created the music), but I think it’s also her most perfect combination of symbolism, movement and experimentation.


Brazil (1985)

Hurrah for dystopian future worlds, escapist, dreamy, black comedies with flying men, Rube Goldberg machines, facial stretching and credit card obsessed robots. When you watch a Terry Gilliam movie, you know that nothing is going to be the same again. Imagination always wins the day. Oh and there’s also the satirical point of view.

51. F. W. MURNAU

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)

And yet another film about the enduring power of human love – and this is silent film at its best with Murnau at his peak. Sunrise may well be the most influential film of all German Expressionist cinema (but there’s also Lang’s Metropolis so it’s hard to say). This is a film about love with all its sticky problems (and I don’t necessarily mean bedroom ‘sticky’), but mostly devoid of melodrama, there is a powerful realism to Murnau’s story that takes account of the inherent difficulties two people face when it comes to expressing themselves. And watching this film in retrospect of 80 years of cinema, its influence is remarkable.


Dreams in Celluloid, Part IV


The Cremator (1969)

Hypnotic camera work, a charming though ultimately disquieting protagonist and a particularly sinister undertone. Herz didn't make all that many films, but The Cremator ranks as one of the greatest of all time. Herz manages to capture the claustrophobic, uneasy atmosphere of a Czech nation about to be taken over by Hitler and he does so with a wicked sense of dark humour. The Cremator is a man obsessed with death it is constantly haunting him. Surrealist horror with a strong message. Great transitions between scenes too.


Fargo (1996)

Over the years the Coen Brothers seem to swing a lot from the amazing kind to the ‘what were you thinking’ kind of films. Take No Country For Old Men and the recent Burn After Reading and there’s definitely something lacking in the latter. But still, when they hit the mark, they hit the mark and few other American directors can touch them. And Fargo is a pretty damn special kind of film that only the Coen Brothers are capable of with their dark sense of humour and sense of drama.


Chungking Express (1994)

If there’s one thing I love above all else in film, it’s the ability it has to completely overwhelm you with a series of beautiful images. And Wong Kar-wai certainly knows how to enrapture his audience with his highly stylised, strikingly shot films. Coupled with that Chungking Express is one of my favourite modern love stories – a little bit quirky sure, but is full of unusual moments and interesting insights into one of the most hectic cities in the world.


Dead Man (1995)

If anyone can make a film about death, fill it full of subtle symbolism and metaphor, throw in a bit of existential musing and write a narrative in the form of a western then Jarmusch is the man. Of course Jonny Depp is great as the deadpan accountant on the run following a little bit of murder, but that’s not really what the film’s about – as always with Jarmusch, his effort to understand how different people see the world gives the film a strong intellectual backbone and philosophical tension. Maybe he’s become a little bit too hip in recent years – I mean Coffee & Cigarettes features just about everyone who’s considered cool from Tom Waits & Iggy Pop to Steve Buscemi & Bill Murray. Then again, that film is pretty damn funny.


The Conformist (1970)

Bertolucci is maybe best known for his provocative Last Tango In Paris, but it’s The Conformist which seems to excite all the critics and I guess they’ve got a point. It’s based on Alberto Moravia’s novel of the same name – the writer incidentally also inspired Godard to turn his novel, Contempt into the directors most popular film – except Bertolucci demonstrating his control over his medium, re-arranges the narrative and fills his film with an almost labyrinthine series of flashbacks. A powerful examination of political unrest and psychological disturbance.


Underground (1995)

One thing that really hits you when you’re watching a Kusturica film is the sense of fun. There’s usually a Yugoslavian gypsy band trawling through each scene, dancing and drinking, bizarre relationship ménage a trois’s, bawdy humour etc. etc. Underground was my first experience of Kusturica’s colourful world and I couldn’t help but admire his artistic vision and sense of grandeur. Certainly it’s epic, with a little bit of a Godfather trait as the generations pass and one character usurps another, but this is entirely Kusturica’s world and anything is possible.


Les Vampires (1915)

Feuillade was a prolific filmmaker – he made something like 800 (though the numbers differ depending on where you look) films over the course of 20 or so years. So you’d think that due to the sheer quantity there’d be little room for quality and the final results might have something of an Ed Wood ‘so bad they’re good’ kind of feeling. Feuillade certainly had a certain ridiculousness to his filmmaking – impeded by the war his series Les Vampires has an almost illogical progression as actors were drafted into the army and locations were limited. But Feuillade obviously had a very definite knack for turning out both bizarre yet intriguing films. Along with Fantomas, Les Vampires is one of the most entertaining early criminal mastermind series out there.


Le Notti Bianche (1957)

The Italian Count who decided to make some films. Mostly epic like The Leopard – two of my favourite shots in cinema (the house) and the shot of the family’s faces in church – but before all that, he made Le Notti Bianche with stylish Marcello Mastroianni playing a decidedly less cool character. Full of emptiness, Visconti successfully twists the Dostoyevsky short story on which the film is based into something as equally psychologically engaging. It’s a film about obsession and lust as the despondent Mario meets an upset Natalia (Maria Schnell) one evening. As always with Visconti, there is a real sense of poetry as the two characters begin to talk to one another, but as always with Visconti, there is an underlying fragility beneath it all, which wins the day.


Judex (1963)

Franju is probably most famous for Les Yeux sans visage – a film about an obsessed doctor attempting to discover a method of facial transplantation, told with fairy-talesque horror, sinister carnival music and expressionistic filmmaking techniques. But one step further into psychological (psychosexual call it what you will) meltdown is Judex – a film full of symbolic references, haunting characters and poetic metaphor. Franju’s film is a tribute to, but also a re-invention of silent French cinema, especially Feuillard’s 1916 film of the same name and has something of the magical quality of Cocteau’s best work.


Abraham's Valley (1993)

A beautiful film. Oliveira surely deserves wider recognition in the film world. Abraham’s Valley is similar in feeling to Rivette’s early 90s films - that same kind of delicate, nuanced approach to filmmaking, and since Oliveira’s film is based on Flaubert’s famous Madame Bovary, the naturalistic method is well suited in capturing the power of the book.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Dreams in Celluloid, Part III


Rififi (1955)

‘Out of the worst crime novels I ever read, Jules Dassin has made the best crime film I've ever seen.’ François Truffaut. Blacklisted by Hollywood in the 1950s, Dassin went to France where he made one of the greatest Film Noir style crime films ever. This is the film that includes the now infamous twenty-three minute silent robbery scene. A big influence on later French crime films, especially Melville, not to mention the countless Hollywood crime capers.


The Scarlet Empress (1934)

Visually this film is stunning with all the hallmarks of Sternberg's lush, expressionistic style, but what gives it the edge of works like The Blue Angel and Shanghai Express is how far Sternberg was willing to push these elements. Dietrich certainly wasn’t the best actress of her time, but what she did bring to a film was incredible presence. She sure did have charisma. And Sternberg was the director who could make the most of that. Dietrich was so comfortable in Sternberg’s presence that she barely had to do anything and he was able to capture exactly what he was after. The dialogue may be a little awkward, but as a visual spectacle it's something else.


Kes (1969)

Ah, to be a kid growing up in the sixties in working class Barnsley, Northen England. While Godard and Truffaut were making light-hearted New Wave cinema in Paris, Ken Loach was making dark, grim and gritty social realist films in Northern England, where even the briefest of hopes seems out of reach.


Still Life (2006)

I can’t say I’ve seen that many Chinese films and Still Life certainly has a European film to it, mostly because of its slow Antonioni style pacing, but despite that this film is still very much about China and the specifically the effect of the Three Gorges project, which continues to split the country, divide communities and isolate families. And Still Life captures that specifically Eastern style of searching for something from the past as a coalminer travels to Shanxi to look for his ex-wife he hasn’t seen in 16 years and a nurse Fengjie to look for a husband who hasn’t returned home for 2 years. Still Life is highly evocative of the human cost China’s global emergence has led to.


Casque d'Or (1952)

In the 1930s, Becker worked as Renoir’s assistant on some of his most memorable films, but during the 40s and 50s, Becker became an interesting director in his own right. So there are a few perhaps inevitable similarities between Becker and Renoir, but the former had a much more direct approach to cinema. Above all else, Becker was an observer. There’s a lot to enjoy about any of his three most accomplished films (Casque d’Or, Touchez Pas Au Grisbi, and Le Trou), the dappled impressionistic light, his poetic touches, the lightness of his style. So Casque d’Or has a particularly simple love plot, about a former crook trying to go straight, but there’s a lot of charm, which reminds me in particular of Jean Vigo at his best.


L'Homme Du Train (2002)

Fed up with your own life, then why not become someone else. Easier said than done, right? Well, that’s the idea that Leconte explores in [i]L’Homme du Train[/i], though I could probably have picked any number of Leconte’s films and they’d explore similar issues – mistaken identity, strange relationships, characters longing to be someone else – but L’Homme du Train is perhaps his greatest realisation of these ideas. There is something inherently French about his films that I don’t think any other country is capable of producing, and while the pacing is slow and subtle, the depth of character and plot are incredibly strong.


Straw Dogs (1971)

If ever you want to build and maintain tension in a film then watch Straw Dogs. Few other films are capable of such punishing conflict. And even if Dustin Hoffman was only doing it for the money, his portrayal of David Summer as the quiet, geeky professor is perfect. And there’s a good reason for Peckenpah’s association with violence on screen – just watching the opening sequence of the The Wild Bunch is exhilarating.


Orphans of the Storm (1921)
There’s something very beautiful about watching a film by D. W. Griffith. I think it’s partly because of the very timeless quality of his films and the sense that they cannot be recreated in the same way other silent era films can be pastiched or reworked in the present. Orphans of the Storm has a typically strong plot, exquisite staging, and some of the best acting I’ve seen in a silent film by the Gish sisters. Of course it’s still a stylised melodrama, but it’s one of the best.


The Heart of the World (2000)
And talking of silent film pastiche, are there any other contemporary directors able to do it with such understanding and originality as Guy Maddin? The key to avoiding plagiarism is innovation and Maddin is certainly an innovator. Taking silent films as a foundation, he uses their highly distinctive brand of filmmaking to explore his own bizarre, psychosexual, surrealist narratives and situations. Love triangles, mistaken genders, incest, it’s all in there.


Grey Gardens (1975)

The film that's been remade all over the place, but no remake is going to equal the weirdness of the original documentary. And how do people become so crazy? Publicity, money, power? It’s a very sad film in a way, but the Maysles Brothers manage to keep just the right balance between sympathy and absurdity. Judge for yourself.


Dreams in Celluloid, Part II

This is the second installment of an extensive list I'm currently compiling about my favourite directors. For the previous 10 click here.


Edge of Heaven (2007)

Akin is a pretty interesting director and one of the few contemporary filmmakers who manage to deal with the issue of race and cultural differences without falling into that horrible clichéd ridden pit of political correctness. I suppose the lack of sentimentality about such subjects is partly due to him being Turkish and living in Germany. So the few films I’ve seen by him all have that cross-cultural dichotomy between an increasingly liberal Germany and an increasingly global Turkey. His most recent film Edge of Heaven is by far his best and shows just how much he’s matured since Head On, which was good, but didn’t quite have the same amount of kick.


Marketa Lazarová (1967)

Long Czech epic set in the 13th-century as Christianity begins to replace the old Pagan cults. Beautiful black and white imagery, a complex storyline, profound insights, it’s almost like no other, almost… but then of course there’s that other film which has the same majestic grandeur set in turbulent times, you know the one, about the painter. Anyway, I haven’t seen any of Vlácil’s other films, but had to include him, because this film is a spectacle of all things grand. And impressively spiritual for such an epic. Bring on the Czech New Wave.


Nagareru (1957)

Naruse is probably one of the lesser-known post-war Japanese directors, but after recent revivals, he’s sure to get his day, which is only fair since his films have that same quiet beauty as his counterparts like Ozu and Mizoguchi. Quiet is a good way to describe Nagareru the best of Naruse’s films that I’ve seen. Everything is very formal, which lends itself quite easily to a kind of Buddhist spirituality, but Naruse is particularly discerning in what he does and doesn’t show as we watch the old world of the Japanese Geisha house come crumbling down. And surprise, surprise, it’s about as far removed from Memoirs of a Geisha as possible. The clip below is from When a Woman Ascends the Stairs.


Ashes and Diamonds (1958)

Wajda was an important figure in Polish New Wave cinema of the late 50s and early 60s, but subsequently seems to have sunk into obscurity, which is a shame because he made so many great films and is surely one of the precursors to later Polish filmmakers like Kieslowski. His films are notably centred on the history of his own country, but Ashes and Diamonds is his most, well, fierce.


Badlands (1973)

The tagline to this film says it all really: ‘He was 25 years old. He combed his hair like James Dean. She was 15. She took music lessons and could twirl a baton. For a while they lived together in a tree house. In 1959, she watched while he killed a lot of people.’ That’s it more or less. Very straightforward almost to the point where it turns into black comedy, I say almost, because it’s actually quite shocking despite its lighter moments. Malick seems to be one of those directors who only made a handful of films and gained a largely mixed reception, but there’s always something to admire in his slow paced, remote style of filmmaking. The Thin Red Line also deserves a nod for being one of the better Hollywood war films, if only because it’s a far cry from the sentimental, patriotism of anything by Spielberg or Stone.


Taxi Driver (1976)

I suppose there are some similarities between this film and Badlands, the slightly psychotic protagonist, his rather endearing affection for a particular girl, his apparent rationalisation of everything around him, and how to in the end none of that really matters. This is one of the more disturbing American films along with the obvious Silence of the Lambs, but it’s far more powerful in its message because everything about the film is so human. You can sympathise with Travis where you can’t with Hannibal Lector. Scorcese went on to make a whole host of films with De Niro, but I don’t think he ever quite managed to reach this level again, not even Goodfellas has the same amount of psychological depth.


The Dying Swan (1917)

Bauer was undoubtedly the master of early Russian cinema. Very much a precursor of the great German expressionist cinema of the 1920s. His films are some of the strangest, darkest vignettes into the lives of madmen, murderers, artists and dancers. They’re full of sex and death, jealously, obsession, strange habits. Bauer also was also one of the earliest filmmakers to use cinematic lighting with highly dramatic effects as opposed to the more stage-like conventions of other directors.


Les Enfants Du Paradis (1945)

A three-hour masterpiece and perfectly executed plot centred on the Parisian Theatre des Funambules during the 1840s. The film is awash with heavy symbolism and metaphor, from the dichotomy between artifice and reality, the nature of art, the clash between the classes and the need for escape. From the arrogant aristocrat to the devious criminal to the romantic mime artist, the characters avoid their typical stereotypes and stand as testament to the films awe. And at the heart of everything is the graceful, streetwalker Garance.


Close-Up (1990)

In the early 90s, Godard said that, ‘Film begins with DW Griffith and ends with Abbas Kiarostami.’ Recently Kiarostami has said that he doesn’t believe Godard would still agree with his own statement, but if the great French auteur makes such a grand statement about another director, you have to reckon there’s something special going on somewhere. And Close-Up is pretty damn special. Half-documentary, half-fiction, Kiarostami weaves an intriguing tale around the trial of Hossain Sabzian, an Iranian who was arrested for impersonating the Iranian director, Mohsen Makhmalbaf. And there are plenty of fascinating insights thrown up by the film into everything from identity to culture to our place within society.


Best of Youth (2003)

A six hour epic, following the Italian Carati family from the 60s to the present day. Picking up where Visconti left off, Giordana seems to be happy to fill the gap for long dramas left empty since the great Italian filmmaker's death in 1976. Giordana shows remarkable flair in constantly maintaining the films focus through his varied cast of characters. If you’re going to make a long epic that spans several decades it’s so important to keep a good sense of rhythm, and this Giordana does very well. Switching from political turbulence to domestic family affairs and complex personal decisions, Best of Youth is entertaining on every level.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Dreams in Celluloid, Part I

This is the first installment of an extensive list I'm currently compiling about my favourite directors. I tried to limit the list to 50, but that was just impossible. There are simply too many great films. So in the end, I enlarged it to cover 100 directors with my favourite film by each of them. There are still directors I would have liked to have included - Mike Leigh, Harmony Korine and Nuri Bilge Ceylan for instance - but when I really thought about the films that have made the greatest impression it's those in the top 100 are the films that continue to make me fall in love with cinema. I also avoided included filmmakers, whose work doesn't lie predominantly in film, so for example, while I admire the film work of Marcel Duchamp and Fernard Léger and their influence on later film, I consider them first and foremost artists. That said, I do view film as art and the directors I've included are all primarily concerned with furthering the limits of filmmaking as an art form. Some of the choices may perhaps be obvious to film lovers, but hopefully there are few strange names that reflect my own personal experience with cinema.


S'en fout la mort (1990)

Claire Denis is a filmmaker who certainly puts cinematography over narrative. Her films work best when nobody is talking and camera does all the work and it’s quite impressive the tension she can build up this way. She’s like a better version of Lynne Ramsay, and probably a big influence on her as well. S’en fout la mort is about cockfighting, but it’s not really about cockfighting because that’s just a front for everything else that’s going on… or something like that.


Songs from the Second Floor (2000)

Andersson is probably one of the few, contemporary directors who can actually make an interesting surreal/satirical film. Songs from the Second Floor is hilarious. The characters are all awful, self-obsessed crazies, who have no regard for anything else going on around them. There’s some singing on a train as well.


Birds, Orphans and Fools (1969)

Strange, farcical and surreal. They’re all mad. The characters, the filmmaker, hell, even the viewers end up mad. So it’s a little bit all over the place and perhaps Jakubisko wants to say too many things at once – a little bit of social commentary, a big of drug abuse, a ménage-a-trois storyline. But, it’s the first Jakubisko film I saw, and while his later films may undoubtedly be greater realisations of his skills as a director, I still have certain fondness for this trippy tale.


Weeping Meadow (2004)

Angelopoulos is a brilliant photographer, I’m not sure I would have enjoyed this film without the sheer magnificence of every shot. The stories not as wild as anything by Kuristica, the characters lack structure and there’s little philosophical insight into the plight of the Greek refugees when compared with his earlier films, yet there’s something highly original about Angelopoulos’ various depictions of his country’s history that stands as testament to his ability as an inventive auteur. Maybe you have to know about Greek history beforehand to really appreciate his funereal storytelling, but regardless of that one of my favourite things about film is cinematography. If it’s got enough pretty pictures, I’m taken (as this list probably demonstrates), so Weeping Meadow pretty much forces itself onto this list through images alone.


Pulp Fiction (1994)

There are few other filmmakers that have the kind of cult appeal to mass audiences as Tarantino. There’s definitely something very cool about his films, which so many others only dream of, and the coolest of them all has to be Pulp Fiction. Witty dialogue, good music, a little bit of storyline, and now countless spoofs. ‘Bring out the Gimp.


Lola (1961)

Oh it’s got dancing and cabaret and the beautiful Anouk Aimée and it’s very, very French, you know a little bit camp, a little bit silly, but exquisitely charming. It’s also a little bit less Hollywood musical inspired than Demy’s later features like The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and The Young Girls of Rochefort which I like, just not as much as Lola. Again beautiful, seductive black and white cinematography.


Talk to Her (2002)

Let’s make a film about a comatose patient and her nurse, but make sure it’s funny, and throw in a few surreal, dreamlike passages to really hook people, but above all let’s make it an emotionally wrought drama, which fringes on something psycho-sexual or what not. At least, that’s what I imagine Almodóvar was thinking before he made this one. And yes I prefer Talk to Her over All About my Mother.


The Garden (1990)

One thing to do when you told you’re HIV positive is to buy a small house with a garden and make a film where the Virgin Mary is a modern day celebrity, Mary Magdalene is a past-it drag queen, three Santa Clauses pay baby Jesus a visit and Judas makes credit card adverts. Read into the symbolism what you will, but few others would dare to make such an outrageous, but particularly personal film about homosexuality as this. Jarman’s other films are equally creative, especially Blue, which is one of the most poignant films I’ve ever seen and some people don’t even consider it a film.


Onibaba (1964)

Sexual tension runs riot in Shindô’s Onibaba, packed full with plenty of erotic symbolism from the swirling reeds to the dark pit, and then there’s also the bitter jealousy between mother and daughter, intrigue in a wayward soldier and plenty of dark, atmospheric horror. Shindô’s other films never quite reach the same intensity, but are beautiful in their own right, from his quietly moving, family drama Naked Island to his powerful look at a Japan devastated by the A-bomb in Children of Hiroshima.


The Science of Sleep (2006)

I had low expectations for this film when it was recommended to me. Another surrealist look at dreams and what not. Yeah, right… And then I watched it and I felt bad for doubting that it could be so amazing. Sure, it’s light-hearted, but it’s also very entertaining and not in a trashy way either. Gondry has some serious points to make to, but what really makes the film are the more endearing moments in the relationship between Stéphane and Stéphanie. I suppose he also made Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, but I assumed that most of the creativity was from Kaufmann, how very wrong I was.


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