Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Film Discoveries of 2012 - David Arrate ""

Friday, February 22, 2013

Favorite Film Discoveries of 2012 - David Arrate

This outstanding list comes from Mr. David Arrate. Look for him out on twitter at @DavidArrate and also check out his site:

AN AUTUMN AFTERNOON (1962, Yasujirô Ozu)
I liked Tokyo Story when I saw it years ago, but it didn't entice me to want to see more films by Ozu. That wasn't the outcome however with this one, which I have Michael J. Anderson of Tativille to thank for arousing my curiosity. I've seen over a half-dozen movies by this master just this past year, but none I've loved more than his final film.

BLACK MAGIC, aka CAGLIOSTRO (1949, Gregory Ratoff and Orson Welles)
Back in 1996, when I first learned about what a film director actually did I picked up a couple of helpful books, including The Complete Films of Orson Welles by James Howard. The two most alluring titles and accompanying images I kept flipping back to in that book were The Trial, which I sought after and found fairly quickly, and Black Magic. Thanks to Hen’s Tooth Video I had one of the most enjoyable movie nights of 2012. It was such a treat to finally see this visually stunning film, after so many years, especially to watch a young Welles with later collaborator, and a personal favorite, Akim Tamiroff (Mr. Arkadin, Touch of Evil, The Trial) sharing the screen for the first time.

BUFFALO RIDER (1978, George Lauris)
I had been asking around online for lesser-known but worthwhile westerns—not necessarily "classics", just favorites—and thanks to TheDenzMan of In Defense of Bad Movies I discovered and watched this hidden gem, and got more than what I was hoping to find. Buffalo Rider feels like an old Disney nature documentary combined with a tall tale from the Old West. I felt like a young boy watching this, and the feeling according to two other friends was mutual. Frankly, this is as unique and as special as they come. You may recognize the voice of the narrator as prolific cartoon voice actor Hal Smith.

THE DOCKS OF NEW YORK (1928, Josef von Sternberg)
I saw a framed, blown up photo of The Docks of New York when I was a kid somewhere, but I didn't know the name of the film until recent years. Then in early April, the first episode of The Silent London podcast posted a similar image on their blog which prompted me to finally see it. I've loved von Sternberg's work for as long as I've loved Marlene Dietrich's (my favorite of their collaborations remains The Scarlet Empress), but The Docks of New York has a look, an atmosphere and an attitude that fires up my writer's imagination like few films do. Was George Bancroft ever more amusing on film than as Bill Roberts?

FLASH GORDON (1980, Mike Hodges)
A friend of mine saw Seth MacFarlane's Ted and asked me to rent Flash Gordon before going to see it for myself. I thought I had seen Flash Gordon at least once as a kid, but as the film started I realized I was wrong. And I wound up buying the Blu-ray just after the film ended. That was one of the funnest nights watching a film with company I had all year.

THE FUGITIVE (1947, John Ford)
When I began a serious exploration of the western genre over five years ago, I purchased a copy of Taschen's John Ford: The Complete Films by Eyman and Duncan. More than Ford's westerns, the few images (shot by the great Gabriel Figueroa) and details provided on this adaptation of Graham Greene's The Power and the Glory really grabbed my attention. Thanks to Warner Archive, what turned out to be one of my favorites among John Ford's body of work is finally available on DVD.

FUNERAL PARADE OF ROSES (1969, Toshio Matsumoto)
"I'll never jerk off again," a friend of mine said, shortly upon realizing that the lead character (who's name is Eddie) was performed by a female impersonator (Pîtâ); I actually hadn't told him what the story was about beforehand. Ain't I a stinker? Actually, this is truly one of the best and most impressive art house films I've ever seen, and about as Criterion worthy as it gets (it's presently available on Region 2 DVD via the Masters of Cinema series, and rightly so). Although I first read about it a few years ago in Amos Vogel's indispensable Film As a Subversive Art, where it caught my attention due to a photo which reminded me of a Trevor Brown illustration which once accompanied John Zorn's The Gift, reading about its obvious influence on Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange on Dangerous Minds prompted me to seek it out. If this isn't pure cinema, I don't know what is. Other mind-blowing, but shorter works by director Toshio Matsumoto can found at Ubuweb.

HELLFIRE (1949, R.G. Springsteen)
While streaming the film thru Netflix, I kept pausing to take screen captures of Marie Windsor. I've been watching a lot of older westerns (ones I've never seen before) for inspiration while writing, and for where my head's at, Hellfire's colors, its mood, and Ms. Windsor as "Doll Brown" is about as inspiring as it gets. Big thanks to Hal Horn, as well as to Toby Roan for leading me to find this one.

THE HUNTING PARTY (1971, Don Medford)
Learned of this one thru an email by blogger Fred Anderson, in which he listed his favorite westerns—it was the only one I hadn't seen. The Hunting Party is as mean and nasty and as misogynistic as Peckinpah ever got. Highly recommended for fans of Sam and/or Spaghetti Westerns.

IN A YEAR WITH 13 MOONS (1978, Rainer Werner Fassbinder)
Besides Funeral Parade of Roses and The Turin Horse, this was the most impressive work of cinematic art I watched all year long. Since 2011 I've watched nearly twenty films by Fassbinder, and although it's not my absolute favorite (that would be World on a Wire) 13 Moons is by far the best I've seen in terms of craftsmanship and significance; I should note that I've been saving his fifteen-hour-plus Berlin Alexanderplatz for a rainy day week.

MARTHA (1974, Rainer Werner Fassbinder)
Featuring outstanding cinematography by Michael Ballhaus, and with great performances by Margit Carstensen and Karlheinz Böhm (Michael Powell's Peeping Tom), I found myself chuckling quite a lot on my first three viewings of Martha. Don't let the melodrama labeling fool you.

PARK ROW (1952, Samuel Fuller)
I'm extra picky with Fuller. I love Shock Corridor, Forty Guns, and Merrill's Marauders, but neither The Big Red One nor White Dog appeal to me (Shark is a guilty pleasure of mine). The only two I have been waiting to see for years with great interest are Fuller's personal favorite (Park Row) and Run of the Arrow. And now that I've seen the former, I also rank high up in my top three favorites of his. As far as dramas regarding the press at the turn of the 20th century go, Park Row may not be as sophisticated as Citizen Kane, but it is definitely enjoyable.

PETER IBBETSON (1935, Henry Hathaway)
I first came across this title earlier this year while researching one of Luis Buñuel's favorite surrealists (Benjamin Péret) in The Shadow and its Shadow: Surrealist Writings on the Cinema. Shortly discovering it's shared appreciation by surrealists like Buñuel and André Breton, who considered it "a triumph of surrealist thought", I rented it immediately. Luis Buñuel is my all-time favorite film director, and his interests also interest me, and what a memorable film Peter Ibbetson turned out to be. The story of two separated lovers who live out their lives together in dreams is an experience you won't want to miss.

THE PLAYERS CLUB (1998, Ice Cube)
Ice Cube did a fine job balancing comedy and drama in his directorial debut. Among the exceptional cast, Bernie Mac is especially unforgettable as "Dollar Bill".

REIGN OF TERROR, aka THE BLACK BOOK (1952, Anthony Mann)
Shortly after I saw Winchester 73 years ago, I dove into Anthony Mann's filmography and picked up Jeanine Basinger's book on his work along the way. And it was in there that I first learned about future favorite Devil's Doorway along with this excellent adventure. Photographed by John Alton, this costume drama/noir should interest more classic movie lovers than either fans of Alton and/or Mann.

ROBIN HOOD OF EL DORADO (1936, William A. Wellman)
I've wanted to see this since 2007, when I read about it in Paul Simpson's resourceful Rough Guide to Westerns. William Wellman's Robin Hood of El Dorado is highly entertaining, historically significant and a socially relevant tale on the repercussions of land-grabbing. Among all the great westerns I've watched in recent years, this is the one I wish I could have seen with my grandfather, who gave me my first westerns on VHS (Shane and The Outlaw).

ROSETTA (1999, Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne)
Gary Tooze of knows cinema. As a frequent follower of his website for the past few years, I had been curious about his "favorite film of all time" for quite a while. In celebration of the Dardenne brothers' latest (The Kid With a Bike), the Miami Beach Cinematheque screened three of their earlier works months before the Criterion Collection announcement of the brothers' inclusion to their catalog. Now that I'm caught with the Dardennes, I must say that as much as I especially love The Son and La Promesse, Émilie Dequenne's performance as Rosetta is among the greatest I've ever seen. To my mind, Rosetta is on a short list of perfect films I'd include with The Passion of Joan of Arc.

SILENT LIGHT (2007, Carlos Reygadas)
While I didn't care for either of Reygadas' prior two films (Japón and Battle in Heaven), the divided appraisal on his latest (Post Tenebras Lux) and a nudge from Dana Keith (of the Miami Beach Cinematheque) aroused my curiosity enough to try out his third directorial effort. Despite borrowing from one of his favorite films (Carl Theodor Dreyer's Ordet), Reygadas knocked this one out of the park. For fans of Bresson, Tarkovsky, Dreyer, Ozu, and Bruno Dumont, Silent Light is definitely worth checking out. The opening shot is one for the books.

SILVER LODE (1954, Allan Dwan)
I LOVE Dan Duryea (John Payne is pretty terrific here too), and this one went way the hell up there among my favorite westerns of all-time. This little B movie (shot by John Alton) was one of the most enjoyable films I’ve seen all year, in or out of the theater. When I first heard about both this film and director Allan Dwan in A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies in 1998, neither grabbed my attention. Big thanks to Toby Roan at 50 Westerns From The 50s for not letting me miss out on this one, and for turning me on to its prolific director.

THOMASINE AND BUSHROD (1974, Gordon Parks Jr.)
I’ve liked Vonetta McGee for years, ever since I saw her in Repo Man and The Great Silence. But I fell in love with her in this film. She’s a powerhouse as Thomasine, and I wouldn’t have wanted anyone other than cool Max Julien for her leading man. They sure did make a nice-looking couple. Glynn Turman (who I also loved in J.D.’s Revenge) is especially unforgettable here as the Jamaican, gun-toting Jomo. I have Jeremy Richey at Moon In The Gutter to thank for this one.

WHO KILLED TEDDY BEAR? (1965, Joseph Cates)
I watched this pulp noir gem shortly after reading We're All Animals: A Peek Into "Who Killed Teddy Bear?" by Heather Drain. And I found it more fascinating, unsettling and infuriating than Sam Fuller's readily-accessible The Naked Kiss, which also deals with dangerous perverts. Actually the police lieutenant (Jan Murray) who takes it upon himself to protect the leading character (Juliet Prowse) is equally if not more repulsive than Sal Mineo's character, whose body the director and/or cinematographer seem(s) to have been in love with.


Scott M said...

Great list. I had The Hunting Party on my list here a year or two ago - it is amazing in its brutality. Who Killed Teddy Bear sounds fascinating - never heard of it. Thanks for the heads up.

Anonymous said...

Great list man. I've wanted to see Park Row for years. Seeing it on your list makes me want to get my butt in gear and finally watch it.

Unknown said...

Great list David! So much here I need to see. I especially need to get back into Anthony Mann’s movies. Jeanine Basinger is one of my mentors – I was lucky enough to study with her as an undergraduate. In just a couple years I learned VOLUMES.

SteveQ said...

I also saw "Autumn Afternoon" this year. I'm a big fan... "Drifting Weeds" is by far my favorite of his. There are so many great Japanese films that seem unknown here, from "Fires on the Plain" to "Woman in the Dunes." (and of course "Godzilla vs. Zigra")