Monday, November 14, 2011

Film Recommendations

DVD Recommendations


Muriel, or The Time of Return (1963) by Alain Resnais: Resnias follow-up to Last Year at Marienbad may appear to be a more subdued and less experimental effort, but Muriel is one of the filmmaker’s most amazing achievements. Whereas in Marienbad and Hiroshima Mon Amour Resnais favored flowing camera movements, baroque set design, and an over the top style, Muriel is more minimal in design, foregoing the ostentatiousness of Marienbad’s camera and mise en scene for an elliptic narrative and a fractured and obscured editing style. Muriel I believe is a far richer and more complex film both visually and thematically than what Resnias had previously made; it is a dense character study, a political film, and a deconstruction of conventional editing and narrative strategies. Muriel is available on DVD via Netflix and Facets.

Two—Lane Blacktop (1971) by Monte Hellman: There is a romanticism in American cinema for the golden age of the 1970s and the “New Hollywood” era; a time when Hollywood actually allowed art films to be produced and made within the mainstream. We at Shooting Wall have already talked about some of the inherent problems with these eras and many of its most famous films. Monte Hellman, however, was one of the few filmmakers who took this freedom and available money from Hollywood and truly made a difficult, dense, engaging, and fascinating film called Two-Lane Blacktop. The film, like all the films from this era that were truly difficult, was a failure and Hellman never got that kind of money or distribution again, but has nevertheless carved out a place in the American cinematic landscape as one of its few true and original outsiders. Two-Lane Blacktop is available in DVD via Netflix and Facets.

Under the Pavement Lies the Strand (1975) by Helma Sanders-Brahms – Like many of the later female filmmakers of the New German Cinema (Ulrike Ottinger, Helke Sanders, etc.), Helma Sanders-Brahms has remained largely unknown in American. Facets has done an excellent job of releasing a number of her early films on DVD including this one, her first feature from 1975. Brahms’ films are an excellent example of the more experimental, less mainstream feminist branch of New German Cinema that emerged in the early to mid- 1970s. The film is available on DVD via Netflix and Facets.

The Seduction of Mimi (1972) by Lena Wertmuller - For a time in the mid-1970s, Lena Wertmuller was the most famous and acclaimed woman in international cinema. For some reason, her status has fallen slightly, but I think she made some of the best international art films in the 1970s and early 1980s. The Seduction of Mimi is a great place to start and it features Wertmuller’s favorite actor, Giancarlo Giannini who would act in all of her best films from this era. The film is part political, part sexual, part farce, and really quite funny throughout. Available on DVD via Netflix and Facets.

Region 2 Pick of the Week:

Portrait of Jason (1967) by Shirley Clarke – A filmed interview with a New York street hustler, drug addict, and all around con man becomes something utterly fascinating and intense in the hands of Shirley Clarke. Jason, the aforementioned street hustler, is the only person on camera for the entire film and he tells stories and answers a barrage of questions from off screen voices as the camera hovers around him in a small New York City apartment. The film is a fascinating character study and a deconstruction of the “interview” and documentary film. Available in Region 2 DVD (even though it’s an American film there is no American DVD release!) via Facets.

Free Movie of the Week:

British Sounds (See You at Mao) (1970) by Jean-Luc Godard and Dziga Vertov Group – Made during Godard’s brief period in England in the late 1960s, British Sounds finds Godard expanding his revolutionary attitudes towards both politics and cinema. The film also shows Godard’s clear break with narrative and mainstream cinema, as well as his fascinating with the creating disharmonious sound and image which he would continue to expand upon throughout his career. British Sounds is a nice introduction of Godard’s revolutionary period a fascinating and complex film. The film can be viewed in its entirety on Vimeo.

Download of the Week:

Fallen (2005) by Fred Kelemen - Fred Kelemen’s (Bela Tarr’s frequent cinematographer) Fallen is a bleak and beautiful film about obsession, loneliness, and moral ambiguity. The film is shot in stark black and white and feature long, unbroken takes. This film got little to no release in the United States when it came out, only popping up at some adventurous film festivals, and has not received a DVD release either. The film is available for download on The Pirate Bay.

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