Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Film Discoveries of 2015 - Everett Jones ""

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Film Discoveries of 2015 - Everett Jones

Everett is an avid movie watcher and user of Letterboxd like myself - follow him there: http://letterboxd.com/everettjones/ - I've gotten many good film recs this way.
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The Long Day Closes (1992)
Though I’ve known of Terrence Davies for a long time--including that the term “greatest living British filmmaker” is regularly used--it took me a while to catch up with Criterion’s 2014 release of this long-unavailable (in the U.S.) early film of his. Admittedly, on my first attempt to watch it, I bailed after a certain point--specifically, after a shot in which the camera's trained, for at least a minute, at nothing more than changing light patterns on a rug. Davies's movie is challenging, moreso than later credits like THE HOUSE OF MIRTH and THE DEEP BLUE SEA, both in form--as a near plotless stream of images and episodes--and content--a deeply sad account of a young boy’s loneliness growing up in 1950s Liverpool. When I did manage to make it through the entire running time, though, I felt the thrill you can only get from a truly great movie.
A Cottage on Dartmoor (1929)
A late silent movie, from 1929--the year when the format, though already doomed, also peaked. It's also a British film, from Anthony Asquith, who would settle into a long career post-silents in resolutely dialogue-centered, not particularly cinematic productions--oddly enough, because this is nothing if not cinematic, inventively and innovatively so, from its first frame to last. The story, on the other hand, is simple, like another late silent, Murnau's SUNRISE. And like an inverse image of that movie, it shows the deterioration of a relationship. The movie begins in Hitchcockian fashion, with a prison break and a figure dashing across the moors, then flashes back to a still-born romance, between a hairdresser and a beautician. This already has a bit of reputation, but it deserves to be one of those movies everyone's expected to see.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945)
One of the more satisfying movie-going experiences this year was reaching the final scenes of INSIDE OUT and hearing not-quite stifled sobs rising from the packed theater all around me. The last half hour of Elia Kazan’s directorial debut was more or less the same for me. It’s all the more affecting for how much Kazan, with his decidedly adult, unsentimental perspective, tempers this coming-of-age story’s potential for saccharine. HUAC and the blacklist aside, Kazan really was--as Martin Scorsese has been very insistent in reminding people--a truly great American filmmaker, but even his best films (ON THE WATERFRONT, BABY DOLL, A FACE IN THE CROWD) are dogged by some recurrent flaws--a tendency toward hysteria and difficulty in reaching endings, to name two. This, along with WILD RIVER, avoids those problems, and so it joins that under-the-radar 1963 beauty as one of my favorites of his films.
Vernon, Florida (1981)
I love some Errol Morris films and am left indifferent by others--often those with the more neatly definable take-aways.One of his smallest and simplest movies, Vernon, Florida is somehow also one of his most successful, and it helps that he doesn’t have anything more to say about his subject--the more eccentric residents of a small North Florida town--than to observe what’s in front of him.
Port of Shadows (1938)
Up to this year, the only Marcel Carne film I’d seen was the epic CHILDREN OF PARADISE. The three films of his I saw this year--PORT OF SHADOWS, DAYBREAK, and JULIETTE, OR KEY OF DREAMS--were, taken as one, one of my favorite discoveries of the year. They’re moody and fatalistic in a way that, at its best, we associate with film noir, but without the, let’s admit it, sometimes rote genre trappings. PORT OF SHADOWS, if only by a hair’s breadth my favorite of the three, follows an army deserter (Jean Gabin) to a seaside town that, as you’d only expect, proves to be populated by lost souls and dreams. It’s strange to think that this lushly movieish concoction was once described as “poetic realism”-as strange as it is to realize it was dismissed by the Cahiers du Cinema crowd and their American acolytes as “cinema du papa.” Jean Gabin is like a more charismatic Spencer Tracy, and the great actor Michel Simon--whose career goes from Jean Renoir’s BOUDU SAVED FROM DROWNING to John Frankenheimer’s THE TRAIN-makes for one of the more unique villains in cinema.

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