Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Film Discoveries 2013 - Jeffery Berg ""

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Favorite Film Discoveries 2013 - Jeffery Berg

Jeffery is a longtime contributor here at RPS and also runs his lovely blog JDB Records:
It was wonderful to watch two Alain Resnais films for the first time this year. 

Hiroshima, My Love, with a radiant Emmanuelle Riva (who recently delivered a quiet but incredibly potent performance in Amour), is a devastating, elliptical tale of two lovers that is fascinating stylistically with an amazing script.

Haunting and strikingly filmed, Last Year at Marienbad somehow behaves both like a freewheeling dream and a logical mathematical equation.

Oh my god what a movie. I was really floored by this visually and thematically and it's easy to see why it became one of Kurt Cobain's favorites and influential on many modern filmmakers. I think I had first heard about it on this blog and went to seek it out. These bored kids in a barren, economically shifting Western suburb driven to violence in an operatic school house climax are funny, frustrating and heartbreaking. A gorgeous depiction of brash, confused youth in the late 70s paired with a dynamite soundtrack (The Who, The Cars, and Valerie Carter's poignant version of "Ooh Child.")

CABARET (1972)
There's always a movie on this list that's a "I can't believe I haven't seen it already" and this year that film is Cabaret. Bob Fosse's snappy, unusually-devised flick, is a hat trick of a movie with an impassioned Liza Minnelli and an eerie Joel Grey. Having seen all of Fosse's films now, it's so apparent what a genius director he was and his ability to marry vibrant stagecraft with rich cinematic narratives in such exciting, bizarre and resonant ways.

One of the best filmmakers to explore the complexities of cinematic romance and adult relationships, Jean Luc-Godard dives into this distortion of Doris Day comedies with grandiose depictions of love. A primary color splash (his first in color), this film offers so many wonderful moments.

David O. Russell's goofy Gulf War treasure hunt features a lot of movement and electric camerawork (by Newton Thomas Sigel), sharp writing (by O. Russell and John Ridley, who penned the adaptation of this year's 12 Years a Slave) and fantastic performances (Wahlberg, Clooney, Spike Jonze and Ice Cube in particular and Nora Dunn in ruthless journalistic mode).  Lively and broad, it makes a good companion piece to revisit with O. Russell's excellent, exaggerated 70s comedy American Hustle.

SABRINA (1954)
Sympathetic Audrey Hepburn is the charming title character in Billy Wilder's indelible romcom.  Bogart ends up being pretty good in a role he did not want to play and William Holden is as suave and elegant as ever. It's all a tad corny at times but the cast, photography are all beautiful, grounded by Wilder's (and Ernest Lehman's) usual tart script. Also Edith Head's Oscar-winning costuming is a treat.

CAR WASH (1976)
A day in the life of an L.A. car wash. Like most 70s pictures, there's far more than meets the eye. It might be overlooked as fluffy screwball, but Car Wash has a melancholy underpinning to it that stings. And that Rose Royce soundtrack is incredible. 

Kill Baby Kill is one of the best Mario Bava films. A fog-drenched, village ghost story with the creepiest of creepy horror movie children.

Friday the 13th and many modern slashers probably wouldn't exist without Bava's mystery thriller Bay of Blood. It's influence is apparent in plot, scenes and in a few kills. Sometimes clunky and disjointed, but then suddenly beautiful (a shot of sundown through tree branches on a chilly lake).

I thought this would be a standard cheesy love story but it ended up being such a twisty and weird tale!   It helps that lead Martin Hewitt (and for others, Brooke Shields) is so hot in it and that the prevalent Diana Ross & Lionel Richie is so amazing.  Not sure how they'll remake this one and replicate its oddball aura (it's arriving on Valentine's Day, not the best of prospects).

Here's another literary adaptation panned upon release that I think is better than its original reception.  It was interesting to compare Baz Luhrmann's shiny, creaking hulk of a movie and go back to this quietly melodramatic and subdued flick. Surprisingly, I found the costumes in this more interesting and glimmery. Redford and Farrow are a bit stodgy but they sure are appealing to look at. Good supporting turns from Sam Waterson, Bruce Dern and the late Karen Black. There's also an underlying eeriness (the look of The Eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg billboard for one thing) that the new version lacked.

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