Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Film Discoveries of 2013 - Josh Brunsting ""

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Favorite Film Discoveries of 2013 - Josh Brunsting

Josh is a writer for CriterionCast.com and is a regular on that podcast as well. He's a dedicated cinephile. Truly dedicated. 
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Abouna (Haroun, 2002)
While nations like Italy, Germany and France have produced arguably just as many influential and unforgettable classics as those released here stateside, an entire continent’s worth of cinema has gone relatively unseen by most cinephiles. With African film being as hard to come by as any foreign body’s cinematic output, one of the best film this writer saw this yearwas this masterpiece from iconic African auteur, Mahamet-Saleh Haroun. Typically stayed and introspective, as is the relative standard for African cinema, but with a nice hint of surrealism and a sense of humor to balance out the relatively bleak meditation on abandonment and innocence that would rival any Western coming of age tale. A real masterpiece, this picture.

Fireworks Wednesday (Farhadi, 2006)
Asghar Farhadi may be best known for his award winning A Separation, but this film may be the best he’s ever made. With stunning performances, a screenplay interested in blending discussions both intimate and broadly reaching, and finally a director at the height of his meditative aesthetic powers, Farhaditakes a narrative that is relatively standard (it ostensibly follows a handful of women as they deal with emotional turmoil during the Persian New Year) and turns it into a perfect breeding ground for themes ranging from gender roles in Iranian society to that same nation’s class divide. A truly breathless piece of humanistic filmmaking, Farhadi proves himself to be one of world cinema’s greatest filmmakers.

The Unknown (Browning, 1927)
And now, to silent cinema. While much of horror cinema seems to have taken its inspiration from films of the sound era, some of the most influential horror pictures are those of the silent set. With films like Nosferatu forever changing the horror game, one film is not only monstrously influential, but monstrously under-valued by those out of the horror community. From Dracula director Tod Browning and starring Lon Chaney, The Unknown is a crime tale with a despicable mean streak. Following a criminal on the run who happens to find hide out in a circus and love in the heart of a blind girl, the film is a brooding and atmospheric chiller that is as bleak a horror picture as you’ll find. Chaney’s performance is bombastic and unforgettable, andBrowning’s direction proves that while his iconic Universal thriller may not hold up well today, it’s this icy cold horror feature that proves him to be as influential a filmmaker as you’ll find within the horror genre.

Mishima: A Life In Four Chapters (Schrader, 1985)
What hasn’t been said about this Paul Schrader masterpiece? With the auteur’s latest film The Canyons arriving to much undeserved disapproval (it’s truly one of this year’s most misunderstood gems) this year, Schrader’s canon has become fodder for re-visiting or an introduction for many first time film fans. As singular and brazen a bit of real experimental filmmaking as you’ll ever find, Schrader’s film tells the story of legendary writer Yuko Mishima, and is a fitting tribute to a conflicted literary giant who lost his life when he committed public seppuku. Set, ostensibly, on his last day, the film isunforgettable, disturbingly singular and a deeply powerful look at the contradictions of one of Japan’s greatest literary juggernauts.

Marketa Lazarova (Vlacil, 1967)
Arguably the greatest Czech film ever made, this brilliant blend of Herzogian man vs. nature, Bela Tarr-esque realism and even a dash of Tarkovsky brood is one of the greatest films you’ve likely never seen. A meditation on the battle between paganism and organized religion, this piece of pure cinematic art is truly unlike anything you’ll ever find. Rewarding on multiple viewings, not only is this the greatest film I first saw this calendar year, but thanks to a beautiful new Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection, this film truly unfolds on many more viewings.  Unflinching and deeply bleak, this is a masterpiece of experimental filmmaking, and one of the most original and singular pieces of art ever made.

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