Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Film Discoveries of 2018 - Ashley Harris ""

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Film Discoveries of 2018 - Ashley Harris

Ashley is hopelessly obsessed with cinema, completely consumed by Francois Truffaut and Humphrey Bogart's eyes, and can be found writing about film and television on You can also follow her on Twitter @oOoOoBarracuda.

The 400 Blows (1959)
As a Fran├žois Truffaut devotee, #TruffautisLife, after all, I've been savoring his work and in typical fashion saving his debut for last. The 400 Blows is the most riveting and heartwrenching coming-of-age stories I have ever seen. Depicting Truffaut's own childhood, it's easy to see after watching The 400 Blows why Truffaut adopted the fervent humanism seen throughout his cinematic career. The protagonist and Truffaut surrogate, Antoine Doinel is neglected and abandoned, left to his own devices, he often finds himself getting into trouble. The memory of Truffaut's, who often found himself in the same predicament at Doinel, stealing of a typewriter and being made to believe he would be going to jail for theft made it into the film and is a moment that Truffaut remarked made a lasting impact on him. Fortunately for audiences, Truffaut channeled his rebellion mostly into the movies, skipping school and filling his days in the cinema provided him with a breadth of knowledge and exposure to films that informed his career as an auteur. Truffaut's life is especially inspiring, not only because he escaped the kind of childhood that could break someone, but because he maintained his passion for movies all the way until his untimely death in 1984. A brilliant achievement in filmmaking and a masterful debut, The 400 Blows is by far my favorite first-time viewing of 2018.

Hard Eight (1997)
Speaking of incredible debuts, 2018 also marked the first time that I saw Paul Thomas Anderson's feature film debut Hard Eight. (Sydney) A professional gambler who feels he has a debt to pay to the world for the way he treated his own family, Hard Eight highlights a broken man. Audiences are introduced to Sydney, (Philip Baker Hall) who devotes his talents to helping another broken man John (John C. Reilly) learn the ins and out of gambling, hoping to help him get on his feet and become self-sufficient. But as "the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry" so do John and Sydney's plans when John's girlfriend finds herself in trouble that John and Sydney soon find themselves embroiled in, drastically changing each of their lives. The confidence of Paul Thomas Anderson's camera throughout his debut film is incredible, complete with a tracking shot that follows Sydney all the way through a casino before settling on him taking his place at a craps table that made me want to change my religion and accept Paul Thomas Anderson as my lord and savior. Rarely talked about among the other entries in Paul Thomas Anderson's filmography, Hard Eight deserves a place at the table of conversation as it clearly shows the very early humanist bent for which the director is well-known.

Naked Lunch (1991)
The 1991 film by director David Cronenberg, Naked Lunch, is a film that I could not get out of my head since seeing it for the first time this spring. My experience with Naked Lunch represents the exact reason why I refuse to give up on a director's filmography. I had a few negative outings with entries in Cronenberg's filmography before seeing Naked Lunch, and I can't describe how disappointed I would be if I had given up on his films and missed this one. Naked Lunch is like a fever dream mixed with acid utilizing the senses and imagination in ways that films can rarely achieve. Films like Naked Lunch remind me of why I like movies in the first place. The experience that can be created by complete immersion into a film, as rare as these experiences are, are enough to keep one watching, chasing the same high through the annals of cinema. Naked Lunch depicts a writer who accidentally shoots his wife, and if that isn't enough, is left to deal with his typewriter who inexplicably turns into a cockroach. The narrative is told by combining elements of William S. Burrough's work and his interpretation of his drug-induced writing process; Naked Lunch is a paranoid madcap of a film not to be missed.

The Goodbye Girl (1977)
If there's one thing in life I wish I could embody into my daily life, it would be the energy of 1970's Richard Dreyfuss. His zany actions and eccentric mannerisms that pepper the screen through the '70s are something to live for. In The Goodbye Girl, his explosive and constant energy is juxtaposed by Marsha Mason's cool, level-headed disposition as her divorced single mother character is thrown into an unplanned co-habitation with Dreyfuss's struggling actor. The two inhabit different worlds, with Dreyfuss doing as he pleases all hours of the night and Mason attempting to work and keep her daughter on a reasonable schedule. The two eventually make an agreement and accept each other's intricacies, working together to make their time as roommates as peaceful as they can. Perhaps predictably, the two become close, peaking in a scene with Richard Dreyfuss in the rain that really is an all-timer. Dreyfuss's hyperactivity, Mason's mothering meticulousness, and Quinn Cummings precocious turn as Mason's 8-year-old daughter create a chemistry-infused treat of a film beautifully written by Neil Simon.

Bullitt (1968)
Frequently, after falling in love with a classic film I'm just seeing for the first time, I scold myself for having not seen it sooner. Such was not the case after seeing Peter Yates' Bullitt for the first time. Living in middle America, it's a rare treat to see classic films projected at the cinema, but that's exactly how I saw Bullitt, and there is just no better way to be introduced to this film. Seeing the high-octane car chase scenes and the brutally penetrating Steve McQueen fill a massive screen with the sound system reverberating through the movie theatre left me in a state of excited delight for the rest of the night. As much as New York is a character in Annie Hall, so is San Fransico a character in Bullitt. The elevated streets lined with palm trees under a glistening sun emphasize McQueen's Police Lieutenant intent on finding the person who wronged him and is trying to take him down. The car chase in the film is much talked about and lauded as one of the best, but my favorite part of the film comes near the end, in a cat-and-mouse chase that ranks among the best I've ever seen.

No comments: