Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Film Discoveries of 2013 - Peter Gutierrez ""

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Favorite Film Discoveries of 2013 - Peter Gutierrez


[Peter Gutierrez writes for Rue Morgue and pretty much any other publication that will let him.]
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Le Main du Diable (Maurice Tourneur, 1943)
“Do you know what infinity is? I've been there. It's very pretty.”Maurice Tourneur’s Le Main du Diable, aka Carnival of Sinnersaka The Devil’s Hand, may very well be my personal discovery of the year. Available in the U.S. via Hulu though not, I’ve read, on disc, Tourneur’s film earned that status by making me feel like an explorer stumbling across an entirely new continent. Sure, elements of Le Main du Diable recall countless other classics: the frame story of the mysterious stranger, the centrality of a severed hand, the “mad artist” archetype, and the entire Faustian premise. Indeed, the playfulness of the latter may draw favorable comparisons to Dieterle’s The Devil and Daniel Webster, made just a couple of years earlier, but overall this is a unique blend of unearthly delights in the form of fantastic film.

L'assassin habite... au 21 (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1942)
Inspired by watching Pierre Fresnay in Le Main du Diable, I decided to seek out another film with him in the lead. There’s no good reason for why it’s taken me this long to see The Murderer Lives at Number 21, especially as I adore Fresnay and directorClouzot’s next collaboration Le Corbeau (The Raven). Though this is decidedly lighter in tone, it may be deceptively so—just check out the early subjective-camera killing sequence, which feels like something made three or four decades later, not to mention the air of frank sexuality throughout.

Late Spring (Yasujiro Ozu, 1949)
Speaking of long-delayed viewings, I feel kind of embarrassed including this Ozu masterpiece especially as it’s often considered an all-time great. Recently I heard someone cite the late Donald Richie’s observation that Ozu’s films aren’t boring so much as they have their own sense of time that the audience capitulates to once succumbing to everything else that’s so artful about them. I think this may be particularly true of Late Spring, which I could’ve watched if it had lasted a hundred hours—and I still would’ve been devastated by its ending. Also, expect to add one star to your personal rating for every decade your age is past thirty.

Late Autumn (Yasujiro Ozu, 1960)
Recently I was able to catch Late Autumn on the big screen at New York’s Japan Society, and going into it I’d expected mostly a now-in-color updating of Late Spring as I’d always heard that it was a quasi-remake. Little did I know how much else was altered, with the story expanded and made far more layered and complex—and all of this done in ways that are thoroughly satisfying. What’s more, Ozu’s supposed “gentleness” is belied by the incisive dark humor and, for lack of a better word,subversiveness that are consistently on display.

The Shout (Jerzy Skolimowski, 1978)
I’d wanted to see this since its original release and only this year realized that it was on YouTube. The screen resolution of that version stinks, but that only underscores how remarkable the film is, since I found it hugely memorable anyway. The reasons: the intriguing unreliability of the narration, psychosexual gamesmanship reminiscent of Losey’s The Servant, and fearless performances from all three leads All in all, I’m not sure why this isn’t generally considered “essential ‘70s viewing.”

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