Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Film Discoveries of 2017 - Jeffery Berg ""

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Film Discoveries of 2017 - Jeffery Berg

Jeffery is a longtime contributor here at RPS and also runs his lovely blog JDB Records:

Check out his 2016-2012 film Discoveries here:
and look for him on twitter here:
1. THE PIANO (1993; Jane Campion)
I finally got to Jane Campion’s lauded early 90s period indie and I loved it. The use of haunting music by Michael Nyman, the photography, the performances—especially Holly Hunter—and the film’s deep carnality. For those who haven’t seen in a while, it’s worth a revisit—as is most of Campion’s work. It’s the kind of movie that has multiple angles to view it from and feels modern in its sense of storytelling.
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2. STORMY WEATHER (1943; Andrew L. Stone)
A rousing revue. All the numbers are electrifying but title song sequence performed by Lena Horne is a stunning centerpiece. Breathtaking scene with the Nicholas Brothers is one of the most impressive dance pieces I’ve seen on film.
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3. A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE (1974; John Cassavetes)
A difficult movie in many ways; the dread was palpable throughout. The overcast, claustrophobic main house setting adds to the movie’s sinking feeling. Rowland is a bright light to behold here, slaying in her actorly turn: sometimes hilarious (mimicking the “perfect wife”) but also shattering.
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Having grown up around this particular area in the south in the 1980s, I was particularly enthralled with Ross McElwee’s Sherman March doc (which was a Film Discoveries pick for me back in 2012). One of the more compelling characters, Charleen, from that film is the central figure here. McElwee has an eye for detail and has the ability to capture conflicting emotions and personality traits. 

5. APOCALYPSE NOW (1979; Francis Ford Coppola)
My personal interpretation of Brian’s “film discoveries” lists is both about discovering movies I’d never heard of and also about witnessing movies from other years in full for the first time. I finally got to Coppolla’s Vietnam epic in its entirety. A visceral work with stirring use of sound design and music, I can see why it is a feat of direction and why it’s become iconic—especially those haunting riverboat scenes.
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6. LIANNA (1983; John Sayles)
Interesting portrait of a lesbian affair. Its eye of a woman’s balancing of her family life with her new sexual awakening is sympathetic and unusual for the time. The movie is both quietly constructed and tacit with an acidic emotional undercurrent.
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7. HITLER, A CAREER (1977; Joachim Fest & Christian Herrendoerfer)
This documentary really moves, illustrating Hitler’s rise to power. The assembly and the searing footage, much of it unseen until this doc’s release, is strongly-wrought.
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8. DREAMS (1955; Ingmar Bergman) / PUZZLE OF A DOWNFALL CHILD (1970; Jerry Schatzberg)
I think these two pictures make a good pair. I quite liked Eva Dahlbeck’s performance in particular in Bergman’s Dreams as the depressed head of a modeling agency. Not one of Bergman’s more fawned-over flicks, the picture is nevertheless elegantly-crafted and forward-thinking with his typical use of rich motifs (ticking clocks, mirrors, lightness/darkness) and vigorous philosophical themes.

Faye Dunaway delivers one of her best turns as fashion model in Puzzle of a Downfall Child. Director Schatzberg’s roots in the fashion industry inform the movie: the glam is ambivalent and the film is a starkly presented ride. I thought it had a kinship with last year’s Pablo LarraĆ­n film Jackie as well, with its similarly fragmented structure and unsettling depiction of despair.
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9. NIGHT SCHOOL (1981; Ken Hughes)
I’m glad I still haven’t maxed out on seeing 80s horror gems. This one, set in Boston, is a goodie with some well-directed scenes, very tense kills and a gorgeous soundtrack by Brad Fiedel.
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10. GUY AND MADELINE ON A PARK BENCH (2010; Damien Chazelle)
Another Boston movie. This precursor to director Chazelle’s and composer Justin Hurwitz’s more polished and ambitious La La Land (even a few strains of the same music are here and there) of a jazz trumpeter and grad school girlfriend, is grittily-filmed in black & white photography of mundane locations but inspired by set-heavy Technicolor musicals. Scene “The Boy in the Park” in a drab crab shack is a highlight, complete with tennis shoe tap dancing.
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