Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Film Discoveries of 2015 - Cole Roulain ""

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Film Discoveries of 2015 - Cole Roulain

Cole co-hosts a podcast with his wife, Ericca Long, called The Magic Lantern in which they discuss the films in their personal canons and their enduring cinematic memories.

You can find it or contact him in these places:
The website: http://www.magiclanternpodcast.com/
On Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/magiclanternpodcast/
On Twitter: http://twitter.com/Lantern_Cast
Cole on Letterboxd: http://letterboxd.com/coleroulain/
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The Devils (Russell, 1971)
I had been waiting to see this one for a long time, based on its reputation. I had always been intrigued by the unhinged blasphemy that I heard was in store for me. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that what gets overshadowed by that hoopla, though, is the fact that it's a fairly trenchant historical drama that completely skewers the hypocrisy of the church and is one of the most effective examples I've seen of the one-man-against-the-system genre. Oliver Reed is a damned (literally) powerhouse, as always, and Vanessa Redgrave's crawling, writhing, inflamed performance is a spectacle to behold. Don't get me wrong - it has the blasphemy in spades. There's just a lot more to recommend it than that. Come for the sacrilege, stay for the political machinations!
Aparajito (Ray, 1956)
I was fortunate enough to see Satyajit Ray's entire Apu trilogy in the theater in 2015 and it was one of the greatest cinematic experiences of my entire life. Of the three, though, the one that sticks with me the most is the middle installment, Aparajito. The middle film in a trilogy is always tricky. It's a pivotal position and they often let the series down, but not this time. I think what moved me so much was the loving emphasis given to his intellectual development. It truly captured the overwhelming excitement of what it means to be facing your young life head on, with a head full of new ideas and the entire world open in front of you. As with any series that covers a large portion of one life, this one ebbs and flows as triumph and tragedy come and go, but this film is the one that filled me with the most hope and wonder.
Celine and Julie Go Boating (Rivette, 1974)
This is another on my list of world cinema milestones that I was able to check off this year. This trip through the looking glass was more than I could have hoped for. It's full of heady ideas about identity and viewership, but it maintains its playfulness and is never so self-serious that it's a chore. The chemistry between Juliet Berto and Dominique Labourier has a lot to do with that. Their love of adventure becomes our love of adventure and as they are pulled further into the unending loop of the story, the audience willingly gets pulled right along with them. It's so full of surprises and is such a commentary on itself and the nature of cinemagoing that a second viewing will certainly yield a completely different than the first. It's the only one on my list that could legitimately be a discovery this year and next.
Begotten (Merhige, 1990)
I don't know how I missed this one all these years. It's right up my horror/experimental alley and I was the right age when it initially came out that it should have been right in my college/post-college wheelhouse. Be that as it may, it took me until recently to see it and I am happy to report that it didn't let me down. Distorted, bleak, and unapologetically "arty", it gave me that feeling of discovery that I haven't often felt since living in the freshman dorms almost three decades ago, as any film that begins with "God" disemboweling himself with a straight razor should. Pretensions aside, it remains a pretty powerful watch and a great example of experimental technique and how budget and technical limitations are often the mother of invention. I give this one two of Al Jourgensen's thumbs up.
Belladonna of Sadness (Yamamoto, 1973)
After years of seeing subpar, washed out clips, I was able to see this in a luminous 4K restoration in 2015 and it was revelatory. Imagine if some genius had commissioned Egon Schiele to draw a highly eroticized retelling of the story of Joan of Arc and put a superlative psych score underneath it and you'll be getting close to the beautiful watercolor madness of this film. If you have been longing for a film that features stunning, kaleidoscopic animation and a phallic, diabolical imp and still manages to have something important to say about sexual agency and economic and social liberation, then welcome home. With any luck, Cinelicious will be releasing the blu-ray of this before too much longer and I highly recommend it when they do. It's no accident that this and The Devils are bookends on my list. They would make quite the double feature.

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