Stat mode

November 12, 2011





Some notable ones in film history. List and commentary will expand as I remember more. Warning: Youtube overload!

Touch of Evil (Orson Welles, 1958)

The grandfather of all tracking shots.

The Player (Robert Altman, 1992)

We are introduced to some of the characters through one long moving take as Touch of Evil is referenced.

Boogie Nights (P.T. Anderson, 1997)

An homage to Altman’s films.

Blue Velvet (David Lynch, 1986)

Seemingly normal suburban scene gone wrong.

Belle de Jour (Luis Bunuel, 1967)

Speaking of surreal.

8 1/2 (Federico Fellini, 1963)

And of Fellinesque surreal.

Manhattan (Woody Allen, 1979)

Woody Allen’s neurotic narration over gorgeous black and white shots of the island.

Satantango (Bela Tarr, 1994)

The 7 1/2-hour film naturally begins with a long take of desolate rural Hungary with some fine acting from the cows.

What Time Is It There? (Tsai Ming-Liang, 2001)

Humbler than most other clips in the list, this one begins with a long shot of Hsiao Kang’s father, who we learn in the next scene has become the ashes inside a jar.

Syndromes and a Century (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2006)

A doctor and two men in uniform inside a rural hospital room. They leave the room and the camera tracks to show rice paddies over which the opening credits appear. The actors continue their dialogue, wherein one complains of repeating too many takes.

Werckmeister Harmonies (Bela Tarr, 2000)

Strangely hilarious.

2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)

The title sequence alone is a beautiful sight. Fast forward a little bit more into the next video and we see perhaps the most famous jump cut in film history.

Cache (Michael Haneke, 2005)

The clip below is incomplete without the rewinding portion at the end of this particular scene. But it still sets the unsettling tone of the film.

Days of Being Wild (Wong Kar Wai, 1990)

Leslie Cheung and Maggie Cheung strikes a conversation with a hint of flirtation in Hong Kong. Then music cues as the camera tracks slowly above coconut trees in the Philippines.

Contempt (Jean-Luc Godard, 1963)

A way to avoid the same old conventional opening credits

Three Colors: Red (Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1994)

A phone call made somewhere in continental Europe that ends up as a red blinking signal on an English phone

Three Colors: Blue (Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1994)

Dripping fluid under a car sets the tone for what will happen.

Fanny and Alexander (Ingmar Bergman, 1982)

An ornately beautiful prologue

The Seventh Seal (Ingmar Bergman, 1957)

Chess with death.

Goodbye South, Goodbye (Hou Hsiao-Hsien, 1996)

Loud music, a running train and a phone call.

Code Unknown (Michael Haneke, 2000)

Another excellent tracking shot.

Best of 2010

February 23, 2011

First, the necessary pleasantries. Pre-top-10-list lists.

Not a chance: Black Swan, Inception, The King’s Speech


Close but not quite: SocialismAlamar, The Social Network, I Am Love, The Illusionist, Exit Through the Gift Shop


The Top Ten

Several Cannes entries, a couple of 2009 releases, a western, and a not-so-coincidental top four populated by films from my four most admired living filmmakers

10. Dogtooth

(Giorgios Lanthimos)

A satire about two Greek parents who shelter their adult children inside the walls of their compound and reinvent their worlds in a desperate attempt to keep them in. Always politically timely.

9. True Grit

(Ethan and Joel Coen)

While leftover irony, nihilism and comic violence from their other great Western, No Country For Old Men, remain in small doses, True Grit taps into the warmer, gentler, less pessimistic side of the Coens.

8. Blue Valentine

(Derek Cianfrance)

A small, falling-in/out of love film that probably would not have worked without the emotional investment and chemistry of fine actors Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams.

7. Another Year

(Mike Leigh)

Another Year is four seasons of an annoyingly happy couple contrasted with their increasingly self-destructive family friend. As with all Mike Leigh films, all actors shine, one more so than the others (Lesley Manville).

6. Mother

(Bong Joon-ho)

Bong once again rolls slapstick comedy, tense thriller and family melodrama  into one coherent, entertaining film.

5. Everyone Else

(Maren Ade)

Relationships are messy and complicated; men and women are inconsistent; lovers love and hate each other. The late Eric Rohmer made a long career teasing out various permutations of these observations in his talky, often neurotic films. Everyone Else is a worthy offspring of that tradition, with a dash of of Bergman and Antonioni in various places.

4. Face

(Tsai Ming-Liang)

In Face, Tsai transplants his usual staples – water, unconventional compositions, dialogue-free absurdities, and actor Lee Kang-Sheng – to Paris, employing a constellation of big-named French thespians (Fanny Ardant, Jeanne Moreau, Mathieu Amalric, and Jeanne-Pierre Leaud reflexively playing Truffaut’s Antoine ) to loosely tell the biblical tale of Salome. A colder, perhaps weaker companion to What Time Is It There?, Face will appeal to Tsai die-hards but probably won’t win him new converts. A strange gorgeous film nonetheless.

3. White Material

(Claire Denis)

“Whiteness brings unhappiness. It’s something we want to destroy.” says the rebel hero, The Boxer in White Material, which finds Claire Denis returning to Cameroon to explore her recurring interest in African landscapes, racism, colonialism and white guilt.

2. Certified Copy

(Abbas Kiarostami)

Kiarostami was always interested in the blurred lines between film and reality, truth and pretensions. Certified Copy brings these postmodern themes to Italy, where the Iranian filmmaker plays with the Tuscan romantic comedy genre and superficially-philosophizing arty European films. The film quietly implodes at the halfway mark and ends with a wonderful shot of rolling credits framed inside the view of a window that overlooks church bells tolling against the setting sun.

1. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

(Apichatpong Weerasethakul)

The best way to experience a Weerasethakul (aka Joe) film is to sit, wait, expect nothing in the way of plot progression, and absorb every fine cinematic detail: long stretches of humorous digressions; soundtrack of the buzz of bugs and intrusive pop songs; mysterious dark daylight jungle scenes; undercurrents of Buddhist mystical oddities. The catfish and the princess story within a story (one of Uncle Boonmee’s past lives? Were they making love?) at the center of the film specifically shows why Joe’s films are considered to approach, cliched a term as it is, pure cinema.