Brian Davisson's Posts
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Found Footage Films about 3 years ago
“Train of Shadows” is a nice pastiche of the found footage concept, since he fakes the film that it centers around. It helps in large part that José Luis Guerín has other films that are in fact documentaries (“In Construction”), and also homages to film (“Innisfree” is about the making of “The Quiet Man” and includes footage of the latter film). I’m not sure if that’s exactly what you’re looking for, but it might at least be an interesting counterpoint.
Is Renoir Overrated or am I Missing Something? about 3 years ago
Boudou Saved from Drowning is a whole lot of fun. Along with Grand Illusion, it’s the film I would recommend to anyone wanting to start working through his filmography.
HERMAN HESSE almost 3 years ago
Narcissus and Goldmund is a very good choice. I also remember enjoying Journey to the East quite a bit, though it’s closer to Siddhartha than to Demian in terms of genre.
If you’re looking for novels with a similar style, Robert Musil’s The Confusions of Young Törless is excellent (and there’s a film by Schlöndorff), as is Robert Walser’s Jakob von Gunten, which is one of my favorite novels (the Quays made this into Institute Benjamenta, which I can’t recommend because I haven’t seen it). I also was quite a bit into Thomas Mann when I started reading Hesse, and would recommend pretty much anything by him, though most of his works aren’t examples of the Bildungsroman.
Best starting point for Russian Literature? almost 3 years ago
Start with Gogol. Read his short works, like “The Overcoat” and “The Nose,” and maybe ‘Dead Souls.’ (There’s a silent film of “The Overcoat” by Kozintsev which you can find on YouTube.) Dostoevsky was influenced early on by Gogol, though he is obviously different in style. Gogol is probably more “fun” than Dostoevsky, particularly in his shorter works, so he might be a better starting point.
As for Dostoevsky, ‘The Idiot’ is good, though not as good as ‘The Brothers Karamazov,’ which is brilliant, though just a bit shorter than ‘War and Peace.’ I remember enjoying ‘War and Peace’ a lot when I read it years ago, though I prefer going back to Dostoevsky than to Tolstoy.
Other authors I’d recommend are Bulgakov (‘The Master and Margarita’) and maybe Mikhail Sholokhov (‘Quiet Flows the Don’). There are films of both of these works, though they’re a bit hard to track down.
Walker and Alex Cox almost 3 years ago
I haven’t seen anything else by Alex Cox, but the film itself isn’t surreal in the Buñuel, Lynch, or Jodorowsky style. I wouldn’t call it surreal in any sense, in fact. It is on one level a standard-looking hollywood film, with hollywood actors such as Ed Harris and Peter Boyle, as well as a brief appearance from Alfonso Arau (El Guapo from The Three Amigos, and the director of Like Water for Chocolate). The surface level of the humor is also on par with Hollywood films from the 80s, and it comes across as just as goofy as anything from that period.
At the same time it subverts both this paradigm and the idea of history itself, as it’s filled with anachronisms, distortions of history, and in the end, a very stark critique of American intervention in Nicaragua (and Central America by extension). Whenever it’s funny, it’s also challenging conventions.
It seems like a lot of people (or maybe just critics) hate it for not being accurate, and frankly, it’s deliberate in not trying to be accurate. (The anachronisms and distortions actually increase and become more blatant as the film progresses.) In this way, it fits into the model of New Historical Narrative, and in this respect it’s maybe a distant cousin of Aguirre the Wrath of God or How Tasty Was My Little Frenchman, though the humor and tone are distinct from both.
On the whole I think it’s rather clever in what it does. It tends to be visually interesting, and I enjoy going back to it with some frequency. So there’s my ringing endorsement. If you’re interested in history or in Latin America, I’d say to definitely give it a look.
Five star films with the least amount of dialogue....? almost 3 years ago
Blue already mentioned them, but Bartas’ Few of Us and House should be included. Corridor also has zero dialogue, but it’s not a five star film in my mind.
Brand Upon the Brain! has a lot of voiceover, though minimal dialogue between characters. Just the voice of the mother overwhelming everyone else. I don’t think Tales from the Gimli Hospital has any dialogue at all.
Five star films with the least amount of dialogue....? almost 3 years ago
José Luis Guerín’s Train of Shadows is closer to a documentary (albeit a faked one), and it only has one very short line of dialogue.
DIRECTORS’ CUP 2011 VOTING, ROUND 1, MATCH 11: F.W. Murnau (Sunrise) vs José Luis Guerín (Berta's Motives) over 2 years ago
F.W. Murnau (Sunrise) —0 vs José Luis Guerín (Berta’s Motives) —1
DIRECTORS' CUP 2011 VOTING, ROUND 1, MATCH 10: Ritwik Ghatak (The Cloud-Capped Star) vs Todd Haynes (Safe) over 2 years ago
Ritwik Ghatak (The Cloud-Capped Star) – 1 vs Todd Haynes (Safe) – 0
DIRECTORS’ CUP 2011 VOTING, ROUND 1, MATCH 21: Aleksandr Sokurov (Mother and Son) vs. Pedro Almodovar (Matador) over 2 years ago
Aleksandr Sokurov (Mother and Son) 1 vs. Pedro Almodovar (Matador) 0
DIRECTORS’ CUP 2011 VOTING, ROUND 1, MATCH 23: Luis Bunuel (Los Olivados) vs. Peter Forgacs (Danube Exodus) over 2 years ago
Los Olvidados (Luis Buñuel) – 1 vs. (Péter Forgács) Danube Exodus – 0
DIRECTORS’ CUP 2011 VOTING, ROUND 1, MATCH 31: Pedro Costa (Ossos) vs. João César Monteiro (Trails) over 2 years ago
Pedro Costa (Ossos) – 0 vs. João César Monteiro (Trails) – 1
Monteiro (along with Ghatak) is one of the few filmmakers I can think of who make films that, to me, seem entirely disconnected from the major traditions of filmmaking. It almost seems like he’d never seen a film before, and just started shooting. This isn’t my absolute favorite Monteiro, but I do love it, and it was refreshing watching it again last night. He actually moves his camera, with pans, zooms, and tracks (though not many). I’d forgotten about that, since his camera is almost always stationary in his other films. I love his use of the oral tradition, and the willingness to just leave a camera running and capture all of the aspects of the stories that are told. I’m very much looking forward to what Kuxa Kanema picks next from him.
I tend to really enjoy contemplative cinema, but the two Costa that I’ve seen, this and In Vanda’s Room, don’t work very well for me. I’m not sure if it’s the colors, or the content, or some other part of their form, but I’m not drawn into their world in the same way as with other contemplative works. Hopefully I find one in this competition that I can connect with in a strong way.
Directors Cup Film Introduction: Subarnarekha (Ritwik Ghatak) over 2 years ago
Threads like this shouldn’t disappear as quickly as this one did. This is a great write-up of a fantastic film. Having seen The Golden Thread once and enjoyed it a lot, I’m excited to revisit it again. I think in part it helps having seen The Name of a River, since Ghatak’s style is so haphazard, as this post indicates. Spotting the elements of pastiche in Anup Singh’s film helps to orient the viewer a bit more, and give some element of centeredness to a film otherwise dealing with various levels of what it means to be uprooted or brought outside of the elements of comfort normally connected with a homeland, even if it only exists in the abstract. I love the scene on the airfield in particular, with Abhiram acting the part of an airplane, as well as Singh’s use of it in the latter film. I’m sure when I see it again soon I’ll find other scenes equally wonderful.
Vikram, you do a great job here with your analysis, and the comments from Ghatak’s writings, and from Omar Ahmed are equally helpful in understanding how there is order in a somewhat chaotic style (Ahmed’s analysis is likewise very well explained, with a clear reading of the use of film form; click the links above!). Thank you very much for this post.
DIRECTORS’ CUP 2011 VOTING, ROUND 2, MATCH 10: Miklos Jancso (Electra, My Love) vs. Michel Brault (L’Acadie, l’Acadie?!?) over 2 years ago
Miklós Jancsó (Electra, My Love) 1 vs. Michel Brault (L’Acadie, l’Acadie) 0
DIRECTORS’ CUP 2011 VOTING, ROUND 2, MATCH 11: Jonas Mekas (Lost, Lost, Lost) vs. Ritwik Ghatak (Subarnarekha) over 2 years ago
Jonas Mekas (Lost, Lost, Lost) 0 – Ritwik Ghatak (Subarnarekha) 1
This is an interesting match-up, as it shows two very different approaches to diaspora and exile.
This was my first Mekas film, and I can’t say it was an entirely enjoyable experience for me. It is fascinating in terms of its construction and the necessities of how it was filmed. (Hamid Naficy talks a bit about his filming style in An Accented Cinema, which helped me to respect the film a lot.) In the end, I think it’s more interesting in critical terms than in my more subjective first response to it; I wouldn’t mind talking about it, but I’m not so inclined to watch it again.
The Golden Thread isn’t my favorite Ghatak; I prefer the other two that Vikram has selected, as well as A River Called Titas, but it’s still a wonderful film for me. I made a brief comment on the analysis Vikram did of it, but I’ll mention as well here the scene with Sita singing a heartbreaking song in the middle of nature, alone, with the camera sweeping past her, isolating her in the world. Ghatak hits me with this type of sublime moment repeatedly, and I’m happy to see other people finding his films.
DIRECTORS’ CUP 2011 VOTING, ROUND 2, MATCH 13: John Landis (The Blues Brothers) vs. Fritz Lang (The Big Heat) over 2 years ago
John Landis (The Blues Brothers) —1 vs. Fritz Lang (The Big Heat) – 0
DIRECTORS’ CUP 2011 VOTING, ROUND 2, MATCH 21: Aleksandr Sokurov (Russian Ark) vs. Jacques Tourneur (The Flame and the Arrow) over 2 years ago
Aleksandr Sokurov (Russian Ark) 0 – Jacques Tourneur (The Flame and the Arrow) 1
DIRECTORS’ CUP 2011 VOTING, ROUND 2, MATCH 22: Pedro Almodovar (Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown) vs. Dziga Vertov (The Eleventh) over 2 years ago
Pedro Almodóvar (Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown) 1 – Dziga Vertov (The Eleventh) 0
DIRECTORS’ CUP 2011 VOTING, ROUND 2, MATCH 29: Robert Altman (McCabe and Ms Miller) vs. Masahiro Shinoda (Assassination) over 2 years ago
I think McCabe and Mrs Miller was the fourth Altman film I’d seen when I watched it, and it was the first one that convinced me I might enjoy more of his films. It’s still one of my favorites of his. I thought Assassination was also very good, both in terms of the visuals, as others have mentioned above, and the story. Due to the structure, it probably deserves a re-watch at some point to focus more on how Shinoda toys with the narrative and works with the varying perspectives of those who had some interaction with Kiyokawa. It’s at least as good as any of the samurai films I’ve seen from the 50s and 60s (though I haven’t seen much beyond those by Kurosawa, Okamoto or Kobayashi). I’d vote for Assassination over probably all but 2 or 3 Altman films, but not this one.
Robert Altman (McCabe and Mrs. Miller) – 1 vs. Masahiro Shinoda (Assasination) – 0
DIRECTORS’ CUP 2011 VOTING, ROUND 2, MATCH 31: Pedro Costa (In Vanda's Room) vs. Mike de Leon (Batch 81) over 2 years ago
I didn’t like either one of these very much. Batch 81 seems to me to present the problem with allegorical filmmaking. It would seem to be a critique of the Philippines under Marcos, but (and some fault for this lies with me) without a clear sense of where the elements of the Marcos regime emerge in the film, it’s hard to know exactly how to respond to the film at quite a few points. The Nazi cabaret show the fraternity puts on, for example, left me scratching my head as to whether this had some sort of relevance to the regime specifically, or if it was more of a broad critique of repressive practices. I was left wondering if the rivalry with the other gang was a commentary on party politics in the Philippines at the time, or if it simply spoke to the broader levels of violence created by the political situation. I might have been making these connections since I was entirely turned off by a film about university hazing and social violence.
Just as with Ossos, I can’t get into Costa’s Fontainhas films very much. I keep hoping Casa de lava or O sangue will show up in the competition, since I’ve seen that they are different in style, and I’d like to watch both of them. As I mentioned in the vote for the previous round, the aesthetic of the Fontainhas films isn’t to my liking, even though I generally enjoy contemplative films. That being said, some of its images have stayed with me since I saw it, and I’d rather put Batch 81 out of mind.
Pedro Costa (In Vanda’s Room) 1 vs. Mike de Leon (Batch 81) 0
DIRECTORS’ CUP 2011 VOTING, ROUND 2, MATCH 32: João César Monteiro (Recollections of the Yellow House) vs. Ann Hui (Song of Exile) over 2 years ago
I feel like I was missing something with Song of Exile, since I can’t recognize whether the characters are speaking Japanese or Cantonese when it seems important, and therefore can’t immediately tell where they are at certain points. That said, I did find it interesting to look at how Hui uses intermediate spaces as undesirable necessities for the characters. So, instead of the absoluteness of Japan or China, Hong Kong (which is intermediary linguistically, politically, spatially, etc.) becomes a site of refuge, but isn’t really desired by the mother and seems to be a rather nondescript home for the daughter. In the same way, Hueyin’s shunning of her mother (intermediary in terms of generations) in favor of her grandmother when she was young shows how this plays out in their familial relationship.
Monteiro is just another beast altogether, though, and Recollections shows a different type of humor than Veredas. João de Deus is a fantastic character having experiences that shift from the mundane to the extraordinary. I love the scene in particular when he’s lying in bed and we hear the argument between the two women in the house, and when Benfica scores we see that he’s not in fact listening to the argument at all, but to the match. The women shouting insults to each other from their balconies is another great scene. I can see his humor not being for everyone, not only for its vulgarity, but also because it’s a fairly slow (and somewhat long) comedy. Overall, I like Song of Exile, but I love Recollections.
João César Monteiro (Recollections of the Yellow House) – 1 vs. Ann Hui (Song of Exile) – 0
DIRECTORS’ CUP 2011 VOTING, ROUND 2, MATCH 32: João César Monteiro (Recollections of the Yellow House) vs. Ann Hui (Song of Exile) over 2 years ago
Do Americans have problems with European films where characters are speaking maybe several different languages?
I showed The Double Life of Veronique in a class I taught last year and they were confused since they couldn’t distinguish between French and Polish. I know what French sounds like (can’t speak it worth much) so I had no trouble, and it didn’t occur to me at the time that that might be a problem. The film didn’t make much sense to them as a result, and a lot had to go looking around Wikipedia after class to figure out what they had missed.
taken seriously by dilettantes over 2 years ago
A couple of thoughts: I loved this film before I had any idea who Jacques Rivette was, and it has never waned in my appreciation. That said, I think there’s some truth to what Robert says above, though I don’t agree with what I assume to be his conclusion. The idea that Frenhofer’s art is taken seriously by dilettantes seems very true to me, since the impression I’ve gotten recently (though it didn’t occur to me anywhere near the first time I saw the film) is that Frenhofer is not necessarily a great artist. He speaks oftentimes in platitudes (blood on the canvas, his search for the cosmic (I don’t recall exactly how he puts it), etc.), he’s not really well known (one book of his works that’s long out of print), Nicholas has lost all respect for him as an artist by the end of the film, and even Porbus (the art market in Rosenbaum’s reading) only cares about him in commercial terms and not in artistic ones. He’s something of a parody of the brilliant artist, though it’s still very compelling in my view to watch him (or Dufour) create art.
I don’t think this detracts from the film at all, as with most Rivette it seems to be quite a bit more about the female characters than about the male ones, and both Liz and Marianne are very compelling, and perhaps Liz most of all. Furthermore, Rivette doesn’t always seem to take himself too seriously in terms of his films and what they’re saying. There are of course films where the consequences are dire (Paris nous appartient, Secret Defense, Jeanne la pucelle), but oftentimes it seems hard to take the content of the films too seriously. However, this doesn’t make them lesser films by any means. Perhaps looking at La Belle noiseuse in comparison with Love on the Ground would make some sense. Along with sharing Jane Birkin, it has a lot of thematic resonance with the former film, in terms of reconstructing art as a way of reconstructing the experience of a former love, and the inability to hide these motives, both from the muse and from the former lover. This helps to reinforce in La Belle noiseuse the idea of the unknown or mysterious presence that seems so characteristic of most of Rivette’s films.
DIRECTORS’ CUP 2011 VOTING, ROUND 3, MATCH 4: José Luis Guerín (Unas fotos en la ciudad de Silvia) vs Edwin (Dajang Soembi) over 2 years ago
José Luis Guerín (Unas fotos en la ciudad de Silvia) – 0 vs Edwin (Dajang Soembi) – 1
Unas fotos is an interesting idea, and while I adore En la ciudad de Silvia, I can’t get behind Unas fotos in the same way. All of the fun in En la ciudad, and the play with depth and perspective, the tension of the boy pursuing the girl, the outstanding resolution on the streetcar, is lost for me in Unas fotos. It’s the only Guerín film that doesn’t work for me.
I’m a sucker for the visual aesthetic of Dajang Soembi, which is partly why I love Tren de sombras so much (or a lot of the films of Guy Maddin, for that matter). Make a film look a lot older than it is and I’ll watch it. This was short, engaging, and while I’m not exactly sure what to do with it after the first watch, a lot of fun.
DIRECTORS’ CUP 2011 VOTING, ROUND 3, MATCH 3: F.W. Murnau (The Last Laugh) vs Michael Winterbottom (Tristam Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story) over 2 years ago
F.W. Murnau (Der letzte Mann) – 1 vs. Michael Winterbottom (Tristram Shandy) – 0
I enjoyed the ending to the Murnau. It’s certainly forced and has a tacked-on feel, but he uses it to bring the quasi-militarized class down in a way that’s distinct from the earlier parts of the film. I also liked Tristram Shandy, and while what it was attempting is perhaps impossible, it does a good job of giving a meta-adaptation of a difficult to adapt novel, and manages to be enjoyable throughout. It’s a shame the vote has to be for one or the other, as I’m probably about 60% Murnau/40% Winterbottom right now.
DIRECTORS’ CUP 2011 VOTING, ROUND 3, MATCH 6: Gustav Deutsch (Film ist. a girl & a gun) vs Kenji Mizoguchi (Street of Shame) over 2 years ago
Gustav Deutsch (Film ist. a girl & a gun) – 1 vs. Kenji Mizoguchi (Street of Shame) – 0
The contrasting relationship between Jagaddal and the train is intriguing right off the bat, since the two characters trying to make it to the wedding at the film’s opening have ended up in the wrong place by taking the train (even if it is their error). The train should be efficient in comparison to a taxi, yet here it has led the characters off the correct track. It helps to reinforce the right angles that Vikram notes above, between the travels of Bimal and those of the train tracks.
The sounds are also wonderful, as mentioned above. Aside from the anthropomorphic noises, like the gulping of oil, just focusing on the sounds of the car as it travels along the road shows a very intense dedication to sound. I’m not sure whether it’s the English translation I have to the film, but the comment by one of the first passengers that Bimal talks funny adds a level of connection between he and Jagaddal, who also “speaks” funny.
Opening the film with Bimal taking the taxi through flooded streams and a changing landscape likewise adds a dimension of malleable space to the film, as he and the taxi are forced to negotiate a landscape that is hardly static. It places the two of them again in contrast to the train, which ostensibly continues to navigate the terrain regardless of its condition (unless the tracks become covered or altered, of course). Reading into Ghatak’s circumstance following partition, and the implications of his wider filmography, shows the necessity of being able to negotiate landscapes that shift, places that take on new names, altering cultural spaces, and so forth. Jagaddal is a constant for Bimal in this shifting place, and therefore a source of comfort, which makes additional sense if he is an exile, as Vikram comments above is quite likely.
I mentioned to Vikram recently that I don’t hold Ajantrik as high as A River Called Titash, The Cloud-Capped Star, or Reason, Debate and a Story, and while that’s still true, having seen it four times now (I think), it is nevertheless very well constructed, and highly entertaining. If I still find some of Ghatak’s other films more enjoyable, significant, etc., then it’s because my esteem of this film raises up all of his filmography for me.
DIRECTORS’ CUP 2011 VOTING, ROUND 3, MATCH 12: Jafar Panahi (The Mirror) vs Ritwik Ghatak (Ajantrik) over 2 years ago
Jafar Panahi (The Mirror) – 0 vs. Ritwik Ghatak (Ajantrik) – 1
Both of these are great films, and it’s a bit hard to choose between them. Overall, though, Ajantrik is more engaging for me, and the film I’d rather return to (and have returned to several times).
I agree with your thoughts, Vikram, and I suppose in the end it gets at the fundamental sense of humanism in the film. The two characters/caricatures in the beginning don’t strike us as fully flesh and blood in the same way the bride does. The car is more human, in contrast, and it is what allows Bimal to respond to her in such a strong way.
In this same way, and related to the landscapes, Bimal’s ability to interact with the characters is contrasted to the train, and this contrast is clearly central to the film. The train is a mechanistic, static thing, whereas Bimal can correspond with the old man who is worried about missing the train, specifically because the train will not wait for him, and provide a very emotional response between the two. (The fact that they have to wait for the train to pass at a crossing, since it is a thing that controls the landscape, follows this same logic.) Bimal can interact with his passengers, and threaten to kick them out, or become attached to them, in contrast with the train that truly severs communication (as he cannot understand what the bride says to him as the train departs). The train removes all humanism and dynamism from human relationships, in contrast with the human and dynamic (ever changing) Jagaddal.
Thanks for the thread, and for putting this film out there for everyone to see, Vikram. It’s immensely rich, and I’m finding a lot to be said about it as I write and think on it.
DIRECTORS’ CUP 2011 VOTING, ROUND 3, MATCH 29: Robert Altman (Nashville) vs Richard Stanley (The Secret Glory) about 2 years ago
Robert Altman (Nashville) 0 – Richard Stanley (The Secret Glory) 1
I have a hard time getting into Nashville to start with, and then the music pushes me farther away. With a few exceptions (MASH, Gosford Park) I really prefer the films of Altman where he works with a smaller network of characters. Nashville’s focus on this slice of Americana is overall very off-putting for me, even as it’s being called into question. (The flag posted above is perhaps in this same vein.)
The Secret Glory is a very interesting story, and told rather well. In this case, the music from Parsifal pulled me further in. It adds a level of how certain figures (Wagner, Rahn) are appropriated by the ideologies of their time (though neither is innocent in terms of their own ideology).