Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Defining Moments in Movies/Rosenbaum's 1000

Defining Moments in Movies, edited by Chris Fujiwara, is an 800-page, 4-pound bag of potato chips. You can’t just read one entry and stop; instead, you dive in at random and go snacking all over the place. The entries are brief, half a page each, comprising a couple of paragraphs.

The writers include several familiar figures from our corner of the film blogosphere, including Adrian, Dan, Noel, Matt Zoller Seitz, Michael Sicinski and Miguel Marías. To whet your appetite and recommend it as a most worthwhile stocking stuffer, let me offer up, as previews, some titles of pieces by these writers. The entries are devoted to key scenes, films, or events, and the book walks chronologically through the decades.

* * *

Adrian: “The blow job” in The Wayward Cloud; “This time tomorrow” in Regular Lovers; “The dance” in La Vie Nouvelle; “The narrator coughs” in Dogtown and Z-Boys; “Hole in the head” in The Quick and the Dead; “Charlene warns Chris away” in Heat; “Get with the program!” in Bad Lieutenant; “Art gallery impressionism” in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off; “Embrace in a taxi” in Love Streams; “The lift” in Dressed to Kill; “The on-screen guide falls asleep” in The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting; “The Frankenstein screening” in The Spirit of the Beehive; Bulle Ogier as Gigi la Folle in Marc’O’s Les Idoles; “Nita’s song” in The Cloud-Capped Star.

Dan: “I will break your fall” in Trust; “Suzanne’s missing dimple” in A nos amours; “Making dinner while listening to the radio” in Marco Ferreri’s Dillinger is Dead; “Andrew Sarris’s The American Cinema” (1968); “Helicopters rule the earth” in Losey’s The Damned; “Beginning to tunnel” in Le Trou; “Dead body on the lawn” in Phil Karlson’s The Phenix City Story; “Publication of Bazin’s “The Ontology of the Photographic Image”” (1945); “Two gunshots interrupt the lake party” in von Sternberg’s An American Tragedy.

Noel: “Nena teaching Jose how to dance” in Mario O’Hara’s Demons; “Noel shut out of his in-laws’ house” in Mike de Leon’s In the Blink of an Eye; “Leper and church tower” in Gerardo de Leon’s Touch Me Not.

Matt: “The birth of the blockbuster” (1975); “Dolby noise reduction used on the soundtrack of A Clockwork Orange”; “Sam the Lion’s monologue by the fishing hole” in The Last Picture Show; “The parting of the Red Sea” in The Ten Commandments; “The bathtub” in Diabolique; “The cutting of Greed” (1924).

Michael: “The testimony song” in Bamako; “Jackie reads her children’s book to Michael” in Tom Noonan’s What Happened Was…; “A kulak claims the land as his” in Earth; “Freder catches his father with the false Maria” in Metropolis.

Miguel: “The mysterious little buzzing box” in Belle Toujours; “Americans take photographs of the Chaplin-like emperor” in The Sun; “The blind Korean masseuse and Trebor’s scar” in The Intruder; “Stopover embrace” in The Brown Bunny; “The shooting of a costume ball to a Them song” in Garrel’s Wild Innocence; “Bath and shower” in The Captive; “The girl carrying her boyfriend on her back” in Guerin’s Work in Progress; “Two painters singing” in Dream of Light; “Thornton sitting in the dust, rising to join old Sykes” in The Wild Bunch; “The horseback tournament” in Lilith.

* * *

Also featured extensively in Defining Moments is Jonathan Rosenbaum. His book, Essential Cinema (2004), contains a canon of 1000 personal favorites that is available on-line, thanks to Harry Tuttle. Combing the list, I find that I’ve seen almost exactly half the films on it. The films I haven’t seen are split evenly (about 250 each) into those available on DVD/video and those that are not.

For 2007, I resolved to watch a film a day on average, which worked out well. In 2008, I’d like to keep up the pace but include at least 100 films from the Rosenbaum list; I’ve meant to catch up with these titles for ages now and this resolution will give me a good incentive to.

Looking over the Rosenbaum 1000, I’m impelled to disclose some dirty little secrets—films I should’ve seen long ago but still haven’t. There was an issue of Cinema Scope a few years ago that had a special section devoted to just such films, called “guilty omissions.”

Here are 10 of my horribly guilty omissions: Andrei Rublev, Dumbo, Barry Lyndon, Limelight, Ivan the Terrible parts 1 and 2, Spartacus, Greed, East of Eden, The Barefoot Contessa, A Star is Born (any version). Your guilty omissions from the list, if you have any?

* * *

A few links:

-- Dave Kehr on "Ford at Fox" at his blog, and in the NYT.

-- Two posts featuring James Benning, by David Bordwell and Alexis Tioseco.

-- Dan on cinema sound.

-- Thierry Jousse looks back on the film highlights of 2007 in the new issue of Frieze.

-- Dave Hickey is interviewed at The Believer.

-- Ignatius Vishnevetsky on Max Ophuls.

Drawing: The cover of the Defining Moments book features The Silence of the Lambs.


Blogger Brian said...

I keep a yellow file folder with Rosenbaum's 1000 in it, and I refer to it often. I'm not yet at the halfway-mark. Too many gaps from the 70s-90s!

I'll join you in admitting to omit Barefoot Contessa and Cukor's Star is Born, and add:

Alexander Nevsky, the Man Who Shot Liberty Valence, Weekend, Jeanne Dielman, Stalker, the King of Comedy, the Puppetmaster (and in fact any Hou prior to 1996), Happy Together.

December 05, 2007 9:10 PM  
Blogger Peter said...

Not only have I seen all the films you have yet to see, Girish, I confess to having seen all three versions of A Star is Born. Now that I have seen almost everything by Carl Dreyer, I don't feel guilty about anything! I am trying to watch a few more older films though, filling in the gaps as I can. Barbary Coast seems to have been lost in the mail, while Eyes in the Night is on its way. My recommendation from your list is Spartacus so you can dig Kirk Douglas as the only gladiator with a flat top haircut.

December 05, 2007 9:43 PM  
Blogger Cinebeats said...

I've added Defining Moments in Movies to my xmas wishlist thanks to your recommendation Girish.

Andrei Rublev and Ivan the Terrible are two of my my own guilty omissions along with lots of Bergman and lots of Mexican cinema in general. I also keep avoiding Bela Tarr and I have no idea why.

East of Eden could be my favorite Kazan film and it is my favorite Dean film so I naturally recommend it and The Barefoot Contessa has been a favorite of mine since I was a child. I can't imagine anyone watching The Barefoot Contessa and not falling madly & deeply in love with Ava Gardner. She's absolutely stunning in that film!

December 05, 2007 10:24 PM  
Blogger Noel Vera said...

Oy, you missed my entry "Tonya urinating" from Insiang, 1976, or "Chato deflowered" in Burlesk Queen, 1977. It's not all high-minded art...

I don't think you're missing much with Chaplin's Limelight; you're better off checking out Raoul Walsh's Men at War, or Mario Bava's Danger: Diabolik or even Fulci's Zombi 2 (which is in that Little Black Book too), if you haven't seen em already...

December 06, 2007 3:58 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Brian -- I caught up with Jeanne Dielman just this year; it played at Eastman in what is apparently the film's only North American 16 mm print. And you have a gang of great Hou lying in wait for you.

Peter -- My only glimpse of Spartacus is through the eyes of Cher Horowitz ("Sparatacus") in Clueless...

Kimberly -- Unfortunately, I'm not sure I've seen much Mexican cinema beyond Bunuel...

Noel -- I'm still ricocheting through the book in 'random-access' mode and haven't come upon those entries yet...

December 06, 2007 6:27 AM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

Any comments on Don Morrison's very personal definition of (French) "culture" in Time (11-21-2007) : The Death of French Culture :
"Though homegrown films have been catching up in recent years, the only vaguely French film to win U.S. box-office glory this year was the animated Ratatouille — oops, that was made in the U.S. by Pixar. (...) Its movies are getting more imaginative and accessible. Just look at the Taxi films of Luc Besson and Gérard Krawczyk, a rollicking series of Hong Kong-style action comedies; or at such intelligent yet crowd-pleasing works as Cédric Klapisch's L'Auberge Espagnole and Jacques Audiard's The Beat That My Heart Skipped, both hits on the foreign art-house circuit."

December 06, 2007 7:08 AM  
Blogger WORKROOMFILMS said...

What about a "feeling proud" list of not seen movies?
Anyway, girish, i feel jealous of you having the chance to discover such a jew as Limelight and Greed.
Don´t care too much about the rest of your guilty list.
Ok, my list.
Guilty of:
The Big Parade/ Dovchenkovs´earth/ half of The Red Shoes/ Mizoguchi (all)/Aparajito /Histories of cinema, Godard/...
I had the chance of watching those movies but i didnt. That´s why i felt guilty. Another list would be the movies i wanted desperetaly to watch but so far wasnt possible.

Congrats for your blog (sometimes i feel guilty for not visiting it)

December 06, 2007 7:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny: Limelight and Greed don't look jewish...

December 06, 2007 7:29 AM  
Blogger Ed Howard said...

Rosenbaum's canon has been a valuable tool, and I've been haphazardly trying to watch more of the films I haven't seen from the list, checking them off in the book as I go. Still a lot to go, including Andrei Rublev, any Ford other than The Searchers, Mexican Bunuel (not so embarrassing considering its long unavailability, etc. Worst of all -- should I even admit it? -- Citizen Kane, which I plan to fix first of all. I'm sometimes loathe to approach the universally acclaimed masterpieces, especially if they've reached the cultural saturation that Kane has -- it'll be hard to watch it with fresh eyes at this point, having already seen it parodied and homaged all over the place.

December 06, 2007 9:04 AM  
Blogger Peter said...

Limelight is worth seeing just for the brief, hilarious appearance of Buster Keaton.

Of Mexican filmmakers, I've seen a couple of films by Arturo Ripstein and will try to see more by Luis Alcoriza, who was a screenwriter on several of Bunuel's films.

December 06, 2007 9:05 AM  
Blogger Brian said...

Limelight is also valuable as a self-reflexive autobiographical statement by an important artist. Though, the Keaton segment aside, it's certainly one of Chaplin's least funny films.

My current top five non-Buñuel Mexican films (in order of release):

María Candelaria (Emilio Fernández, 1944)
La Perla (Emilio Fernández, 1948)
Macario (Roberto Galvadón, 1960)
Frida, natureleza viva (Paul Leduc, 1984)
the Ruination of Men (Arturo Ripstein, 2000)

caveat: I've never seen a Carlos Reygadas film, though I'll be remedying that in one week.

I'm particularly rueful of having Jeanne Dielman and Stalker on my list, since I've been waiting years to see them projected but missed them both at the PFA this year due to an inability to change my work schedule. These opportunities don't come around often!

I'm excited to delve into early Hou when time allows.

December 06, 2007 9:45 AM  
Blogger Gareth said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

December 06, 2007 10:42 AM  
Blogger Gareth said...

The Rosenbaum list is a useful means of reminding myself, in particular, that cinema doesn't just mean narrative cinema. His pre-occupations are quite different from mine, and as a consequence there are entries that make me shake my head, having seen them (one example among quite a few: Renoir's short "Charleston". Really?). By contrast, there are times when he really nails it for me: "Guelwaar" (Sembène) would be a good example.

In terms of general cinephilia, those that I feel most delinquent - though not necessarily guilty - about would be (in date order):

Battleship Potemkin
Scarface (Hawks)
Les Visiteurs du soir
Ace in the Hole
A Man Escaped
The Leopard
Andrei Rublev

And for directors who represent major gaps in my knowledge, Rossellini (apart from the wartime trilogy) and Satyajit Ray.

December 06, 2007 10:48 AM  
Blogger Daniel said...

Defining Moments in Movies sounds like a great gift to hand out to cinephile friends this Christmas, I can't wait to dive into it!

December 06, 2007 11:26 AM  
Blogger Bob Turnbull said...

I picked up "Defining Moments In Movies" a few weeks ago and girish nailed the description...You can't help randomly flipping between pages. There's plenty of films in there I have not seen, but a bunch of them are moving to my must see list. Hopefully, I'll actually read it cover to cover over the holidays.

As for Rosenbaum's list - lots more suggestions as I've only seen about a quarter of them. Though I don't think either of these appeared on his list, my two most obvious "You haven't seen those yet?" films would be "Casablanca" and "It's A Wonderful Life". In my defense, I almost feel that I've seen them both...

December 06, 2007 12:43 PM  
Blogger Filipe Furtado said...

It's a great book. A very fun read. I wonder if I was the only one that went though it in order. And everytime I remember that Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle and L'Intrus are in the same page, I smile.

December 06, 2007 1:03 PM  
Blogger Tucker said...

Oh Lord, what a question! There are far too many films I have not seen that I SHOULD have seen. Every time I read some film blog, like this one especially, I find out about films and directors I have never heard of. A list of “guilty omission” films would be too long.

I would like to see more films from the 60s and 70s. I need to see more Mizoguchi, Fassbinder, Dreyer, Cassavetes, Ophuls, more experimental film, more classic horror, and a lot more films from all of Asia and India. I know almost nothing of Hong Kong film production, for example.

One thought: there are many films that deserve more than one viewing, maybe even many viewings. One could “be guilty” of not watching some of those films more than once.

I am also guilty of watching a lot of films only part way through. This comes from having worked a video store for several years and taking too many movies home with me for free.

December 06, 2007 3:10 PM  
Blogger bradluen said...

1. I save my guilt for more consequential things, so let's retitle my list "Embarrasing Omissions".

2. I don't really feel ashamed of missing movies that came out before I started serious filmgoing. I saw Intolerance for the first time last weekend (thanks Brian, et al!) - I've wanted to watch it forever, but I didn't think the DVD would do it justice. The downside of this is that expectations can become unreasonable: it's only the second-greatest silent movie I've seen (Dovzhenko, Earth.)

So picking from TSPDT's 21st century list, here are movies I should've seen, with excuses, and current Greencine queue position in parentheses:

About Schmidt - I like Payne, but not as much as many others do. Probably too low in the queue. (127)
L'Enfant - I appreciate the Dardennes' craft, but can't stay awake through their movies. (69)
Amores Perros - After seeing 21 Grams, my interest in Inarritu's other work has been pretty mild. (92)
Eureka - Has been on my radar for years, but it never seems to get to the top of my queue. (28)
Volver - I need a break from Almodovar, for reasons too emo to go into here. On the other hand, maybe it's Almodovar who needs a break. (NA)
A ma soeur (or anything by Breillat) - I was prudish about sex in movies when I started out, now it's quite the opposite, but I haven't caught up yet with Breillat. (128)
Werckmeister Harmonies - was unavailable for a long time. I still may not yet have recovered from the 4.5 hours of Satantango I saw earlier this year. (31)
George Washington - why haven't I seen this? Why is it so low in my queue? (153)
Flags of Our Fathers - this has been sitting on my desk for weeks. First I didn't watch it because my computer and only DVD player was busted; now every night I think "should I watch Flags of My Fathers?" and always find something else to do.
Late Marriage - didn't seem that interesting in the Film Fest catalogue; only recently has it seemed like a must-see. (20)

December 06, 2007 4:02 PM  
Anonymous wells said...

I posted this over at GreenCine, but here's a really helpful tool for those (myself included) making their way through the Rosenbaum-approved canon:

You can also track your progress on the "They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?" top 1000, although we're all probably behind Kevin Lee on that one!

As for this book, it sounds like incredible fun. After making my way through so many films, I often find that now I treasure individual scenes -- and moments -- even more than full movies. Some favorites, off the top of my head:

"Modern Love" in BAD BLOOD; "a bottle of beer and a chocolate doughnut" in SCARECROW; Grand Central dancehall in THE FISHER KING; pulling over the sweater in CHLOE IN THE AFTERNOON; the final phone call in LOCAL HERO; "Debaser" in PARIS AWAKENS; the boat on the roof in GHOST DOG; the morning after in KWIK STOP; the opening robbery in CRIMSON GOLD; the bowling alley pole dance in BUFFALO 66... I could go on for days!

December 06, 2007 8:11 PM  
Blogger Paul Doherty said...

Girish: I have seen only 127 of these films and watch about 5 movies a week. This is a fantastic list to get working on,very few films that i totally disagree with.
I watched "Elephant Man" again the other night and think it belongs, also Kubricks "Dr. Strangelove".

Thanks to Filmbrain I picked up the Cassavetes box set a few years back and knocked them off of the list.

So many films for one lifetime.

This post will help to expand my film addiction in a big way, thank you.

I really hope that you can attend Syracuse Cinefest naxt March, the pre 1945 films they show are obscure and would never appear on a list like this.

Paul Doherty

December 06, 2007 8:47 PM  
Blogger celinejulie said...

--I haven’t seen about 800 films in Rosenbaum’s list, including many famous ones, such as:


But I love Rosenbaum’s list, because it has many films I have never heard of, and because it has many films I truly adore, such as THE DEATH OF MARIA MALIBRAN (1971), NATHALIE GRANGER (1973), INDIA SONG (1975), CELINE AND JULIE GO BOATING (1974), TICKET OF NO RETURN (1979), THE HOURS AND TIMES (1992), THE LONG DAY CLOSES (1992), THE LAST BOLSHEVIK (1994), FROM THE JOURNALS OF JEAN SEBERG (1995), and MYSTERIOUS OBJECT AT NOON (2000).

--I like that Adrian includes the lift scene in DRESSED TO KILL in the book “Defining Moments in Movies”, because many times I am alone in a lift, I can’t help thinking of that scene. It really scares me.

December 07, 2007 12:15 PM  
Blogger Andrew said...

You have to watch out for those "guilty omissions" . . .

For much of the past 18 months or so my moviewatching was driven largely by guilt. I felt guilty because I irrationally thought the films I hadn't seen somehow disqualified me from writing about the ones I had. So I gorged myself on cinema, watching some 600 to 700 films in 2006, in a desperate bid to "catch up" (with whom I don't know).

I kept that pace up for a few months in 2007, but then I started to notice that my enthusiasm for writing and reading other people's work was starting to wane. The next thing to go was my desire to see movies: first, I stopped paying for tickets to new releases, then I canceled my Netflix account. Finally, by the time I returned home from Toronto this year, I couldn't handle anything except for episodes of The Simpsons that I'd already seen.

My interest in the cinema doesn't seem to have suffered any permanent damage, I did give myself a pretty impressive Introduction to Film History, and now that guilt is all gone. But I suspect that I've been a bit of a grouch for the last n months (which affected my writing), I missed out on a lot of non-cinema-related books and music as a result of my obsessive pursuit of unseen films (which increasingly resulted in a general lack of perspective), and I spent far too little time with the films I was watching (which means my knowledge of film history, while broad, is also somewhat shallow).

Call this a cautionary tale: I suspect that most cinephiles are obsessive-compulsive to one degree or another (not that I fancy myself a typical case).

Now, all of that said (I can't always resist the urge to take things too seriously, but at least I'm aware of it), here are some films I'm surprised I haven't seen yet:

-Day for Night (1973)
-Anything by Pudovkin
-Wavelength (1967) (not my fault, but still)
-Love Streams (1984)
-The Mother and the Whore (1973)
-The Thin Blue Line (1988)
-Muriel (1963)

December 07, 2007 2:56 PM  
Blogger Flickhead said...

Rosenbaum and J. Hoberman are interviewed in the documentary, Midnight Movies: From the Margin to the Mainstream, new on DVD.

December 07, 2007 6:19 PM  
Blogger Ignatius Vishnevetsky said...

"Among the movies I have never seen there is not only October, Le jour se lève and Bambi..."
-Serge Daney, Tracking Shot in Kapo

December 07, 2007 9:36 PM  
Blogger Maya said...

I think Andrew's caution is sage. Proceed from the heart outward. Watch the movies you want to watch. At the moment I am so burnt out on Hollywood and Indiewood press junkets that if I never meet another demanding publicist in my life, it won't be any day too soon. Instead, I've turned to Val Lewton, someone whose movies I love. Not on anybody's list, just deep in my heart. I find watching them a complete pleasure and I'm revving up to write.

December 07, 2007 10:17 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Hi, everyone. Thanks for all the comments and ideas.

Michael, it's great that you'll be hosting your first blog-a-thon the week of Jan 14, on Val Lewton.

Flickhead, I have Rosenbaum and Hoberman's book on midnight movies but didn't know about the documentary; just added it to my Netflix queue.

Paul, perhaps you could drop me a line with Syracuse Cinefest details when you know them? I'd appreciate that.

Speaking of "guilty omissions," I feel little guilt, actually; I was being facetious. There is so much I need to see that I already have easy access to on dvd/video that my primary feeling is simply one of anticipation and gratitude. Even just 10 years ago, the options were significantly more limited.

December 08, 2007 9:51 AM  
Blogger girish said...

-- At Andy Rector's place: Jean-Marie Straub on Carl Th. Dreyer.
-- Kristin Thompson and David Bordwell have a conversation about Robert Zemeckis' Beowulf and 3D.

December 08, 2007 10:01 AM  
Blogger Maya said...

Thanks for the shout-out, Girish. I'm so enthused about my first blogathon. TCM is already securing interviews for me with Val Lewton's son, director Kent Jones (who, incidentally, is hosting an advance screening of the new documentary at the Lincoln Center) and child actress Ann Carter (Curse of the Cat People). On my own I've secured an interview with Mark Viera who's written a seminal essay on Lewton for his Horror in Hollywood volume. That essay is duplicated over at Bright Lights. This evening I'm attending the SFFS advance screening of Paranoid Park with Gus van Sant present for Q&A and Andrew Baily promoting his new Taschen volume Cinema Now. Andrew, I know, is a great fan of Lewton's I Walked With A Zombie and I'm going to hit him up for an interview as well.

For someone who doesn't like movies anymore, I sure do love them alot.

December 08, 2007 12:03 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Wow, Michael, your preparation is awesomely and typically ambitious! We all go through phases, not infrequently, when we need a break, even from the things we love deeply. Best wishes for your party.

Dozens of critics name and write about their favorites in the Sight & Sound Films of 2007 poll.

December 08, 2007 12:18 PM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

Bon laissons tomber la culture française...

From Rosenbaum's top1000, of which I've seen only 382, the most obvious omissions : Johnny Guitar (N. Ray), Zabriskie Point (Antoinioni), The Barefoot Contessa (Mankiewicz), Moonfleet (Lang), McCabe and Mrs. Miller (Robert Altman), Lola Montes (Ophuls), Intolerance (Griffith), The 47 Ronin (Mizoguchi), Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder)...

And the ones I feel bad about not having seen yet:
Sawdust and Tinsel (Bergman), Katzelmacher (Fassbinder), Eraserhead (Lynch), Killer of Sheep (Burnett), Almanac of the Fall (Tarr), Les rendez-vous d'Anna (Akerman), Naked Lunch (Cronenberg)

Great insights on the consuming effects of bulimic cinephilia. I begin to feel the burn out. Am especialy becoming more and more picky with recent films, I don't know if it's a good thing. The "new cinephiles" face a larger catalog of film history that is impossible to grasp in a life time. And at the same time we'd want to acquire the knowledge of the older cinephiles in just a few years, just because all these films are readily available. Now film culture is determined by consumption greed rather than working hard to seek and wait for films to come to audience...

December 08, 2007 3:35 PM  
Blogger Tucker said...


yes, yes, and yes

December 08, 2007 4:21 PM  
Blogger girish said...

And yes. Good points you make, Harry.

About the practice of the "new cinephile," rather than see it as being driven only by "consumption greed," I view it slightly differently as a hunger for cinema learning (viewing, reading, talking, writing--all of these practices can constitute learning), keeping in mind that the "old cinephiles" already have a big headstart. But I'm doing the same thing as you--being somewhat selective with new films. Although, living in Paris, your bulimia is much more difficult to manage than mine!

About that Time magazine article, it's interesting that the one and only measure of culture and its importance, applied consistently and brutally throughout the piece, is of course, money...

December 08, 2007 4:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stages of a Cinephile:

1. Ages 6-13/ marvel at the lights, learn about adult life, eat sugar/Disney, Spielberg, John Hughes

2. Ages 14-19/ age of discovery, excitement and inspiration/ Rear Window, Bicycle Thief, early Godard

3. Ages 20-26/ O.C.D. attempt to see everything by every major director/ Dreyer, Ozu, late Godard

4. Ages 27-33/ burn out period, start seeing films rarely and complain about how bad movies have gotten, sell your old videos/ Straub, Snow, Dziga Vertov Group

5. Ages 34-41/ burn out continues, fall asleep in one two many Sokurov films, stop watching art films and start watching blockbusters again, become a faux-populist and develop inane arguments about movies you’ve never seen

6. Ages 42-45/ watch only Reality TV and Internet porn, get drunk alone, send mass emails linking to Armond White reviews

7. Ages 46- /after therapy and anti-depressants repeat steps 3-6.

December 08, 2007 9:22 PM  
Blogger Noel Vera said...

Many Mexican films to love, and second Macario, mentioned above, but would like to point out Arturo Ripsteain as having a varied and fascinating career. I thought his El Evangelio de las Maravillas a powerfully blasphemous attack on the Catholic Church (unlike heavy-breathing bodice-rippers like El Crimen del Padre Amaro or Priest), and his La Virgen de la Lujuria beautifully theatrical, erotic, perverse.

I agree the confrontation between Keaton and Chaplin is the highlight of the picture--but I keep hearing about the stuff Chaplin deleted because Keaton kept stealing the, well, limelight.

December 09, 2007 1:20 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Andrew's wise advice above has me thinking of this. It's only this year that I'm figuring out that it's hard for me personally to see films (theatrically or at home) with the advance goal of writing about them. First, it takes away some of the enjoyment (pre-, during, and post-screening) until it can feel like 'work'; and second, perhaps I'd feel differently if I made a living as a professional at this work but as an amateur, I enjoy cinema much more when watching films is an act unburdened by obligation. Maybe that's why I end up 'reviewing' so few films here.

December 09, 2007 9:50 AM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

I forgot to mention I was repling to Andrew's comment of course.
Girish, we want to catch up this 50 years headstart, condensed in 5 years of intense viewing, it's silly. I realize that the "young turks" also went through an intense period of 5 films/day at La Cinémathèque. But today, the DVD cinephiles have become their own DJ. They sample their culture on-demand, instead of staying a "spectator", receiving the line-up selected by a programmer (like Langlois for instance). Sure we acquired a freedom of choice, less dependent on the contingency of the official distribution (especially pirate downloads), and we can learn a lot and a lot faster. But the confusion between curator and audience builds a "home-schooled taste". The leading figure of the film critic has vanished. And I'm not sure it has only positive consequences. What I mean is we acquire massive cultural references, but not necessarily the critical distance (which doesn't depend on the number of films but on the aging maturation).
And today this blind bulimia involves the average audience, not just hardcore cinephiles.

December 09, 2007 10:39 AM  
Blogger Tucker said...

I think it is critical to ask what is the goal. To "catch up" on film history is both a daunting task and could backfire to some degree. It is better to view fewer films and truly appreciate them in all their richness and complexity than it is to have seen everything and get burnt out. It takes time for any good artwork to do its magic, including the time after the initial experience for that artwork to slowly root itself deeply into one's consciousness, and then for that artwork, from it's place in one's consciousness, to provide meaningfull connections to other works of art. Viewing 500+ films in a year just might produce the effect of diminishing returns in that regard. But I would not propose any kind of formula either. To each her/his own.

December 09, 2007 10:53 AM  
Blogger celinejulie said...

--Girish, thank you very much for the link to Sight and Sound poll. I'm glad to see some critics choose SAVIOR'S SQUARE and AUTOHYSTORIA in this poll.

--I think I'm in the early stage of getting tired of seeing some commercial films, especially romantic and action films. I still love horror films a lot.

However, I still believe in what jmac wrote in her INVISIBLE CINEMA's blog in September: " You know how the sun rises each morning? That's how I feel about cinema. It is always new."

--"The stages of a cinephile" posted by Anonymous reminds me of the main character in LOVE THAT BOY (2003, Andrea Dorfman). This main character is a college student, so she may be in the ages group of 20-26, and she tries to see every film by the French New Wave directors.

--I love these Mexican films:

1.VIOLET PERFUME: NOBODY HEARS YOU (2001, Maryse Sistach).
The DVD of this film was released in September by TLA. Strongly recommended for those who love films about troubled female teenagers such as LOVELY RITA, HI TERESKA, STRONG SHOULDERS, I ALWAYS WANTED TO BE A SAINT, and OR.

2.CRONICAS (2004, Sebastian Cordero)
This film is available as DVD.


4.DANZON (1991, Maria Novaro)

5.Films by Alejandro Jodorowsky—SANTA SANGRE (1989), EL TOPO (1970), FANDO AND LIS (1968). His films are available as DVDs and they are MUST-SEE.

I also think EL EVANGELIO DE LAS MARAVILLAS, mentioned by Noel Vera above, is truly stunning.

Someone told me I should watch some Mexican vampire films, but they are hardly available here.

December 09, 2007 11:14 AM  
Blogger Noel Vera said...

celinejulie--glad to see you saw and liked Autohystoria; wish you got to see Todo Todo Teros; it's one of my favorite films of 06. May you see more Filipino films!

On the subject of Filipino films, don't know if I posted this before, but two of Lino Brocak's best, Insiang and Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang are available here

December 09, 2007 4:15 PM  
Blogger girish said...

via David Hudson: The new book KINO-SINE: Philippine-German Cinema Relations, edited by Tilman Baumgärtel, has contributions by Lav Diaz, Harun Farocki, Nan Goldin, Rosa von Praunheim, Werner Schroeter, Kidlat Tahimik, etc.

At the site, you can download a pdf of the entire book.

December 10, 2007 11:52 AM  
Blogger girish said...

In the Guardian:

"France has been stung by a lament in Time magazine that French culture is all but dead. In a response, French intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy argues that the criticism tells us more about the US cultural landscape which informed the article."

December 10, 2007 1:20 PM  
Blogger Flickhead said...

Does anyone know if The Shamus, aka That Little Round-Headed Boy, has a new blog? His "Bad for the glass" is gone.

December 10, 2007 2:23 PM  
Blogger Ed Howard said...

That's a very interesting Guardian piece, Girish, and I think (sadly) right on about the current cultural shortsightedness of America, largely caused by our nation's tendency to equivalate artistic and commercial success.

And I was also wondering what happened to Bad For the Glass -- it's been missing since at least Sunday afternoon. I hope it'll be back in some form, the Shamus has always been entertaining.

December 10, 2007 2:28 PM  
Blogger Gareth said...

"BHL" is especially well-qualified to denounce unbearable narcissism.

There's a piece in the November issue of Le Monde Diplomatique, not yet officially available online, that savages BHL's latest tome.

December 10, 2007 2:44 PM  
Blogger Tucker said...

Ed, your comments remind me of: "Whenever I hear the word culture, I bring out my checkbook." - says the American film producer Prokosch in Godard's Contempt.

December 10, 2007 2:55 PM  
Blogger Derek said...

Dumbo's a little over 40 minutes long. I say squeeze it in as soon as possible.

December 10, 2007 2:56 PM  
Blogger craig keller. said...

Gareth, your snark is pretty useless applied against that particular text by BHL. The Guardian piece was trenchant stuff, -- especially axioms two through four.

Additionally, that closing section, "What Time Said" -- whether appended by Lévy himself or the Guardian editors -- nevertheless made for a very powerful close. One doesn't ever catch such rhetorical strategies at play in The Guardian -- or anglophone-elsewhere, really.


December 10, 2007 4:47 PM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

Yeah, thanks for this Guardian article, Girish. Gareth is right, BHL is rather controversial in the French intelligentsia, but his 5 axioms debunk Don Morrison's Time article perfectly. He even admits some of the guilt of French culture should bear.

December 10, 2007 6:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Girish, Harry, Ed, Tucker, et al. - I haven't commented around here in a while 'cause I've been lurking and enjoying all of your insights into the problems facing cinephiles. A lot of what's written here is helpful to me since I try to explore film history and history together one year, one film at a time. It's nice to know that the film experts face some of the same problems I do (though not as many or as often I'll wager). I have an honest question: various comments here about the fallacy of using dollar figures as a measure of the cultural importance or artistic success of cinema are well stated. But, that said, are there any valid quantitative indicators that someone exploring film history (like, say, me) can examine as measures of a film's success? Thanks in advance all.

December 10, 2007 6:15 PM  
Blogger Ed Howard said...

Thom said:
"various comments here about the fallacy of using dollar figures as a measure of the cultural importance or artistic success of cinema are well stated. But, that said, are there any valid quantitative indicators that someone exploring film history (like, say, me) can examine as measures of a film's success?"

Well, I guess it would depend what you mean by "cultural importance." If you just mean a film that has had a large impact, then dollar figures aren't such a bad indicator after all, as long as you don't confuse a film's "cultural importance" in terms of being widespread and successful with any artistic success. Something has to be seen to have any kind of significant impact, so measurements like B.O. performance and (nowadays) DVD sales aren't bad measures of whether or not a film is being seen and enjoyed. But it's a big leap from there to the question of whether or not the film is in fact any good.

That's why I prefer to talk about artistic importance, and, well, there just ain't any quantifying that.

December 10, 2007 7:17 PM  
Blogger Gareth said...

craig --

We'll have to agree to differ. The original piece was polemical and simplistic, trading in tropes that we've seen many times before (the article even makes explicit reference to things like the 1993 "French exception" for movies, something that is still being trotted out in semi-informed terms).

The defense isn't, to my mind, much more nuanced. It simply preaches to another set of the converted; we need to do the same thing that BHL suggests, examine who wrote it, for whom, and where. Neither piece, to my mind, really moves beyond a dialogue between those who aren't really listening to each other. Both countries are so much richer, so much more varied, complex and internally inconsistent (a good thing) that we can be of America or France and yet have no truck with such writing. It pains me to see the same old non-debates again, gussied up a little from time to time.

And I stand by my view of BHL. I simply don't find him to be an especially considered thinker, but he's a remarkably successful showman.

December 10, 2007 8:10 PM  
Blogger Tucker said...

Thom, that's a great question. I can only offer my opinion. Cultural significance, aesthetic merit, and financial success are three different things, but they do influence each other in some regards, and maybe they overlap some as well. The box office is the only quantifiable measurment of the three, but that doesn't mean the the others are purely personal opinion or merely relative. There have always been judges of art, including cinema. There have also been numerous arguments for canonizing certain films. It's not a bad place to start with various lists put together by notable critics or film historians. I think the best place to begin is to work at forming your own opinions about films that you like, discuss those films with others, and try to give good reason why you like them. By doing so - which is a life long process - one gradually learns to appreciate the finer examples of the medium.

December 10, 2007 9:02 PM  
Blogger craig keller. said...

Gareth -- I suppose we will. (Agree to differ.) But barring that option: I don't see how Lévy's piece preaches to the converted, any more than any other piece ever written by anyone taking a stance on anything... does. Calling any American out on the poverty and disdain experienced by Poe and Fitzgerald in such a manner *is pretty fresh* -- show me the magazine or paper or revue that can be so violent and blunt and true in its picture-painting and I'll lick your boots. It's especially a sensitive and suspect claim for me, living in Princeton as I do, where not an iota of FSF's legacy exists, superficially or deeply.

And what are you doing to go "au-delà" in terms of the preaching to the choir, and the tired tropes and easy prose and -- ? I see your blog speaks about the same stuff as everyone else's, in the same tempered tone.

Unrelatedly a bit, but something I was thinkinga bout today, how disgusting is it, by the way, that the big discussion is the airing of one's opinion about the Coens' film, as opposed to talking about, say, 'Youth on the March' ("Colossal Youth") by Costa (another '07 major-metropolis'ly screened film, in the same way the Coens' currently is with regard to its U.S. roll-out at least up to this point in time, December 10th) in terms of general "bloggish" discussion? Most of the choir-bloggers have seen the Costa, make no mistake -- but are more interested to discuss the Coens' picture, because it's in English, and because at heart they really enjoy narrative Hollywood "entertainment" cinema more than any of the window-dressing (which I once read as a translation of "mise en scène" in a subtitle somewhere) of auteur cinema and so on.

It's piss.


December 11, 2007 2:55 AM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

A good political debate like in the old days! :)
Thom, like everyone said, the fallacy of Morrison's comparison lies in the mismatching of his referential points. American culture is gauged in terms of instant zeitgeist, while today's French culture is expected to be century-old lasting landmarks such as Molière and Racine. Disposable pop culture v. historical canons.
It's not just a disagreement between choir boys... The comparison is unfair and the scope of the cultural markers are from different ballparks. BHL's arguments are sound, Morrison's aren't.

Film criticism doesn't deal with "cultural importance" on a weekly basis (maybe it should more), because it's an a priori judgement. It's not really the same as good/bad or high/lowbrow. A culture is made of good and bad, but in the end it's what lasts past the fashionable enthousiasm, and bears significant influence on later cultural figures, building a certain identity. The B.O. only characterizes this type of identity on the very short term, immediately replaced by the next big thing in town. Short term memory v. long term memory.

We could ask all of Morrison's question to America... where are the historical landmarks for USA today?
Being ignorant of what will matter to the next generations is an old song of critical blindness. We don't see it, and the buzz is not aware of it either, because we are immarged in the profusion of cultural references of various degrees.

December 11, 2007 6:21 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Thom, that's an interesting and difficult question. I suspect that a serious undertaking to measure cultural importance (if it even can be done) would be a huge econometric nightmare, involving a host of indicators both quantitative and qualitative and (importantly) the passage of time.

I know little about Lévy, his writings, and his reputation but this piece resonates strongly with me.

December 11, 2007 8:45 AM  
Anonymous jmac said...

I tried to read the Time magazine article, and I could not make it beyond the first page! The article is so contemptuous and just embarrassing! (How did this writer even get published?!)

By the way, I just read a poem from Leonard Cohen last night that strikes me as perfect for our situation, here's a rough quote . . .

"If you are not Arthur Rimbaud, we would prefer not to hear from you, and if you happen to be Arthur Rimbaud, we definitely don't want to hear from you" -- Leonard Cohen


December 11, 2007 10:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ed, Tucker, Harry, Girish, thank you all for your constructive responses to my question. I'll take your opinions and suggestions to heart. I have to admit I'm rather relieved by the lack of additional quantifiable measurements particularly some sort of overarching formula (Girish's "nightmare"--mine too) for evaluating cinema. Reading your responses reaffirms my attraction to critical and historical discourse as the best means to aid in our evaluation of the impact of cinema. Thanks guys.

December 11, 2007 11:48 AM  
Anonymous jmac said...

. . . I'm back with the full poem, but without Leonard Cohen's drawing. Thanks to the Sugar Plum Fairy for posting this online. :)

"If you are young
and you
don't happen to be
Arthur Rimbaud
we would prefer
not to hear from you
and if you do
happen to be
Arthur Rimbaud
we definitely
do not want
to hear from you."

-- Leonard Cohen

December 11, 2007 12:02 PM  
Blogger Dan Sallitt said...

I can't remember why people are posting lists of their favorite non-Bunuel Mexican films, but I'll jump in.

1. La Pasión según Berenice (Jaime Humberto Hermosillo, 1976)
2. Matinée (Hermosillo, 1977)
3. Sangre (Amat Escalante, 2005)
4. Japón (Carlos Reygadas, 2002)
5. El Verano de la señora Forbes (Hermosillo, 1988)
6. El Patrullero (Alex Cox, 1991)
7. La Tarea (video version) (Hermosillo, 1989)
8. Canoa (Felipe Cazals, 1976)
9. Stellet licht (Reygadas, 2007)
10. El Cumpleaños del perro (Hermosillo, 1975)

No other Hermosillo fans? He doesn't seem to be the director he once was, but even if Bunuel's films were included on this list, Hermosillo would acquit himself well.

December 11, 2007 12:34 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Dan, those are useful tips. I've seen only Japon. I notice that there are 6 Hermosillos that are netflixable, including the first 2 on your list and also La Tarea Prohibida. They also have Dona Herlinda, The Almond Tree Mystery, Esmeralda Comes By Night. Are these latter three also worth seeing?

December 11, 2007 12:50 PM  
Blogger Dan Sallitt said...

Girish - La Tarea prohibida is actually Hermosillo's third version of the Tarea story. I like the first best, but I don't know how you can find it. (I think I see it listed in the IMDb as El Aprendiz de pornografo.) This one was my least favorite of the three.

Doña Herlinda was Hermosillo's "breakthrough" film in terms of international distribution. It's not bad, actually, but it's the beginning of a new, looser, campier period for Hermosillo, and I certainly wouldn't choose it if I were trying to convince someone that he was an important director.

I still haven't seen Esmeralda. El Misterio de los almendros is in that later, goofier style - I didn't care a lot for it.

So I can't really recommend any of these - but if you don't like Berenice and Matinée, there's no reason to go further.

December 11, 2007 2:58 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Thanks, Dan. I'll begin with Berenice and Matinée, then.

December 11, 2007 3:27 PM  
Blogger Dan Sallitt said...

It's nice to see these are both available. Berenice is contained, controlled and a tour de force of style: almost like a Bunuel subject filmed by Sirk or Preminger. Matinée is a little more sprawling, close in story and theme to Mackendrick's beautiful A High Wind in Jamaica.

December 11, 2007 3:43 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Dan, that's sounding really good to me right now...

December 11, 2007 5:15 PM  
Anonymous jim emerson said...

Does French culture require a defense? If, indeed, French culture is in decline (I would not have thought so), what are the most significant signs of its fragility:

1) a silly essay in TIME magazine?

2) a counter-essay in the UK Guardian?

3) French laws banning the use of English phrases?

December 11, 2007 7:51 PM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

France doesn't need to be defended, especially not from the anti-French mentality of a certain administration. But that's what criticism is all about Jim, if defending a film proves its fragility we should stop talking about films we like. ;)

What's troublesome with this article is how American journalism could allow such shallow low blow, and turn it into common wisdom for the readership as long as someone come up and debunk its premisse.

That's why BHL is right in turning the mirror back towards America. Why should the counter-essay come from the UK (a country we, in France, like to mock their absence of film culture btw) and not from someone in the USA? It's just fashionable to diss France, and American journalism is complacent.

Regarding your #3, it's weak in principle, but if this is the last ressort to preserve one's culture, I think it's especially sad for the hegemony of English as THE international language, conveyed by the low-brow American culture in every single country in the world.
The conversion of the entire world to the same language is not a honorable goal for humanity! Remember Babel? Why look down on the desperate ways a country establishes to fend of the destruction, selling out to a foreign culture? It's not a matter of culture superiority... even if the American culture is better, we still should preserve and develop our singularity. Bio-diversity!
I'm not looking forward to a world where there is only one majoritary culture ruling every societies.

That's what is dangerous with Morrison's arguments and this type of "unlimited free market" mentality. It's not because Hollywood can afford to crush and own pop culture in every country, with music and cinema, that it should happen.

December 12, 2007 11:29 AM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

3 bis) American congress voting a law to ban the use of the word "French fries" by any Americans?

So what are the today's icons of American culture? The Hugos, the Molières, the Sartres of America?
Oprah Winfrey? Paris Hilton? 50 cents? Johnny Depp? Homer Simpson? Tony Parker? oops he's French... (paraphrasing Morrison) ;)

December 12, 2007 11:38 AM  
Anonymous wells said...

SANGRE is indeed excellent. Given its pedigree -- FIPRESCI winner in Un Certain Regard, directed by Reygadas's AD on BATTLE IN HEAVEN -- how did it manage to fall through the cracks?

December 12, 2007 1:27 PM  
Blogger alsolikelife said...

Funny that I run into this post the same day that I joined the Jonathan Rosenbaum fan club on Facebook. I posted a link to the 1000 as the club's initial discussion topic.

for what it's worth Harry copied Rosenbaum's list from my site, though he mentions that it was "edited" for his site - not sure what the edits are.

I think I've seen about 600 films from the list. Of course I'd love to see them all though as girish mentioned there are probably at least 100 films that are unavailable unless you're really determined to find them, like King Vidor's last film. Top 10 that I most want to see:

Tih Minh (Feuillade)
Ivan (Dovzhenko)
Moonrise (Borzage)
Hotel des Invalides (Franju)
Murder by Contract (Irving Lerner)
India (Rossellini)
The Exiles (Kent Mackenzie) - coming out next year on Milestone DVD
Not Reconciled (Jean-Marie Straub / Daniele Huillet)
Scenes from Under Childhood (Stan Brakhage)
Chameleon Street (Wendell B. Harris Jr.)
Inquietude (de Oliveira)

December 12, 2007 2:18 PM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

Well Kevin, I credited you because you did all the keyboard work to type it in, and I just stole your sweat with a simple copy/paste. But I corrected a few typos and misattributions, not your fault, they are in Rosenbaum's book. Well I wasn't alone, I should also credit the guys at Rotten Tomatoes who helped to comb the list back then.
Thanks again for your list Kevin. I just thought it was easier to have it all on one page, so we can run a word search (F3) easily. I added all the stats too.

December 12, 2007 5:17 PM  
Blogger Andy Rector said...

In case you're interested, Vidor's last film METAPHOR is available in a beautiful dvd through the French journal Cinéma, issue 012.

MURDER BY CONTRACT is shown on TCM sometimes and there's was an old but good vhs of it that one can find (unlike CITY OF FEAR [Lerner] which I search and search for. it finally played on TCM and I watched it but did not tape or burn.)

MOONRISE, ditto, a vhs can be had.

As for something like EADWEARD MUYBRIDGE: ZOOPRAXOGRAPHER, on Rosenbaum's list, it seems just plain lunacy that this major American film goes undistributed.

I've gone bald trying to find a copy of IVAN (Dovzhenko, who had a full head of hair till the end).

And Franju is the biggest oversight of our so-called film culture. His "repressed" keeps coming back in the same form, EYES WITHOUT A FACE and I've always wondered if it was this film before the others only because of Billy Idol. In my opinion he's much more of a filmmaker than Melville, good as he can be.

December 13, 2007 1:54 AM  
Blogger craig keller. said...

I would very much like someone to subtitle-as-necessary the Moullet films that were included with that Cinéma 0_ issue a while back, too. And La Comédie du travail. And, hopefully, a DVD will be released of his latest feature -- Le Prestige de la mort (the review of which the Cahiers relegated in a bizarre and highly suspect pan-not-pan by Frodon to the "also-in-release..." section, several months back); not to mention his latest short -- Le Litre de lait. (Could the title portend the spiritual sequel to Essai d'ouverture..?!)

Because really, when one comes right down to it, Moullet is one of the 4 greatest living directors of film.

As for Franju: I don't see the point in pitting him against Melville -- for me, they're both masters, and all things considered (not having seen enough Franju) Melville I'd place somewhere in the best of the best. That said, I'm happy to see you, Andy, bring Franju up, especially in light of your comments about my They Live by Night piece and its business with the Mauriac novel + that particular edition of the Mauriac novel. Because look no further, for a film adaptation of cursed Thérèse Desqueyroux, than the rigorous oeuvre of M. Georges Franju. And for a picture that starred none other than Mme. Emmanuelle Riva, at that, in the title role -- who will be nothing at all like her turn in Hiroshima mon amour, -- neither hideous, nor cloying.

We need 25 other Franju films to come out on DVD posthaste!


December 13, 2007 3:39 AM  
Blogger alsolikelife said...

Thanks for the leads, Andy. I have a list of about 30 films remaining for my project that I have been unable to trace on video - I'll be posting out an APB on my blog sometime next year. That's stunning news about the Vidor film, btw.

I was fortunate to see MUYBRIDGE in the NYPL media center on a decent 16mm print - since you're in LA you probably could get it straight from Thom. It's these damn Brakhage films that are eluding me -- unless I can find another source I'm going to have to shell out upwards of $250 to rent prints and projection facilities to watch ART OF VISION and SCENES FROM UNDER CHILDHOOD at the Filmmakers' Co-op.

December 13, 2007 8:12 AM  
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