Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Film Discoveries of 2013 - Max Goldblatt ""

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Favorite Film Discoveries of 2013 - Max Goldblatt

Max Goldblatt is a Los Angeles-based director, writer, editor, and recovering child actor. His love of film was instilled at an early age by his father, film editor and director Mark Goldblatt. Together they answered the question "How young is too young to watch Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!". You can see some things Max has made here http://vimeo.com/maxgoldblatt read sporadic blog posts here: http://tothemaxxx.tumblr.com/ and follow him on Twitter at @tothemaxxx
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2013 was an excellent year of film-absorbtion for me. While the lion's share of films absorbed were new releases, I was able to cross a bunch of "beyond embarrassed to have never seen this" titles off my list. Still keeping those a secret, but I'm thrilled to sing the praises of these other older discoveries.

DIAL M FOR MURDER in 3D, Alfred Hitchcock, 1954
In college, I took a class on Hitchcock taught by the great Jeanine Basinger. We watched almost all of his films, but she didn't show us Dial M. At the time, there was no way for us to see the film in 3D, so we skipped it. The thinking was that the 3D was an essential formal element of that film, so one couldn't properly watch and analyze it with that component missing. It'd be like watching Fritz Lang's M on mute, or something. There's probably a better analogy. Now that Warner Bros. has digitally restored the film in stereo, we get to see it as originally intended. I was lucky enough to catch it on that huge screen at the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theatre this year, and it was a total revelation. Wild to think that it's been dismissed for all these years. It's as immaculately constructed as Hitchcock's best. This is definitely more than just a gimmick film. If you have a 3D TV, it should be a punishable offense not to own this Blu-Ray.

YOYO, Pierre Étaix, 1965
I'm a big fan of physical comedy and clowning, so I was excited to see that Criterion was putting out their Étaix box. I had only heard of Étaix, didn't know any of his movies by name, but knew that his work had been lost for some time, and that he'd worked with Jacques Tati. Tati is one of my absolute favorites. So I bought the thing sight unseen (gotta love those 50% off Barnes and Noble sales). I haven't made my way through the entirety of the box yet, but Yoyostands out. Really smart gags and playful use of the medium. A delightful viewing experience. Also very cool to see Étaix pop up in Bresson's Pickpocket, which was one of those "embarrassed to have never seen" movies I crossed off my list on the big screen at AFI Fest this fall. But, yes. Yoyo; a treat. This is one of my favorite sequences from the film: 

DAISIES, Vera Chytilová,1966
Explosive, subversive work of the Czech New Wave, from the first female director in Czechoslovakia. The banquet scene. The banquet scene. It's all about the banquet scene; a debauched and excessive orgy of food and drink. It's said that the film was banned for depicting "food wastage," a sneaky tactic by which the government censors could avoid attacking the film's politics outright. Fantastic anarchy, feminism, and post-modern style. Counting the days until a music video rips off all of the brilliant dadaist imagery of this film, unless such a music video already exists. In which case, never mind. 

WAKE IN FRIGHT, Ted Kotcheff, 1971
Had a fantastic time watching this unnerving Australian shocker at the New Beverly Cinema. I knew absolutely nothing about it going in, which is my favorite way to experience a movie. I love stories where somebody is stuck somewhere they don't want to be, and this is a shining example of that stranded sub-genre, about a well-to-do English schoolteacher who can't, for the life of him, get out of a rough Outback mining town known as "The Yabba." Wonderfully drunken and menacing performance from Donald Pleasance as Doc Tydon. Respect to Drafthouse Films for rescuing this one.

DER FAN, Eckhart Schmidt, 1982
I consider myself lucky to live walking-distance from the Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theatre. I've seen earth-shattering films, and met dear friends there. Last February they presented a great series called House of Psychotic Women, inspired by Kier-La Janisse's book of the same name. Really enjoyed Full Circle (1977) andNext of Kin (1982), but the biggest mindblow for me that month was this West German oddity about a teenage girl's unhealthy obsession with a deadpan synth-pop star known as "R." A super-German slow-burn ensues, leading towards the inevitable, grotesque, and notorious climax. All set to kinda-catchy, krauty New Wave tunes. Dark stuff. Definitely not for everyone. I loved it.

STAR 80, Bob Fosse, 1983
This was the one film Fosse directed that I had not seen. Immediately after reading Sam Wasson's fantastic new Fosse biography, it became essential viewing. I thought I was terrified of Eric Roberts before, but... wow. I really had no idea. He burns up the screen in an astonishing performance as Paul Snider, estranged husband and murderer of Playmate of the Year Dorothy Stratten. Interestingly, Fosse saw some of himself in the character, telling Roberts that he was, in effect, playing  an alternate-realty Bob Fosse -- Fosse if he hadn't become successful. The same obsession and intensity, but misplaced and unrewarded. At first glance, this doesn't seem like a "personal" film for Fosse (where's the dancing? where's the razzle-dazzle?), but that couldn't be further from the truth. I hope to see a better-looking version of this sometime, in order to fully experience Sven Nyquist's cinematography.

FLESH + BLOOD, Paul Verhoeven, 1985
This is one of Verhoeven's pictures that had evaded me for years. I think I had a certain idea in my head of what it would be like, and that idea was way off base. Finally watching it, I found it much less "fun" than I expected it would be, but that's a good thing. It's really something, just how bleak and dark this film is; an epic descent into hell. One of Jennifer Jason Leigh's best performances, as a sort of morally ambiguous, medieval take on Patty Hearst (though Verhoeven denies that ripped-from-the-headlines connection). And great character work too, from Susan Tyrrell and Brion James, gamely wallowing in all the filth and gore and plague-infected meat.

LIFE IS SWEET, Mike Leigh, 1990
My Dad had been trying to get me to watch this movie for so long and I resisted for an equally long amount of time. I think the title turned me off. In retrospect, this is a terrible reason not to watch a film. And I was dead wrong to resist this one for all those years. Anyway, my god, what a gem. Jane Horrocks owns this movie as Nicola, the bitter daughter of the family at the film's center. Fantastic supporting cast of dudes whose wardrobes seem to have been a major stylistic influence on the band Hot Chip: David Thewlis, Stephen Rea, and Timothy Spall as the most hapless chef/restauranteur ever. I laughed so hard and so frequently over the course of this picture. Easily my favorite Mike Leigh. This is that movie you see and then immediately buy copies of it to give to your friends. At least it is for me. 

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