Sunday, 16 December 2018

100 latest films I've just watched

From November 2017 to December 2018 
In bold: films that I consider good 

1/ Citizen Kane (1941)- twice
2/ 大红灯笼高高挂 (Raise the Red Lantern- China, Hong Kong, Taiwan- 1991)- again
3/ 祇園囃子 (Gion Bayashi/ A Geisha- Japan- 1953)- again
4/ Persona (Sweden- 1966)- again
5/ Harold and Maude (1971)
6/ Le Charme discret de la bourgeoisie (The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie- France, Italy, Spain- 1972)- again
7/ 近松物語 (Chikamatsu Monogatari/ The Crucified Lovers- Japan- 1954)
8/ Hot Fuzz (2007)
9/ 卧虎藏龙 (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon- China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the US- 2000)
10/ Love& Friendship (2016)- again
11/ The Princess Bride (1987)
12/ Thief (1981)
13/ A Monster Calls (2016)
14/ Three Bilboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)
15/ Crimson Peak (2015)
16/ El espinazo del diablo (The Devil's Backbone- Mexico, Spain- 2001)
17/ Beauty and the Beast (2017)
18/ La Jetée (The Jetty- France- 1962)
19/ 아가씨 (The Handmaiden- South Korea- 2016)
20/ Phantom Thread (2017)
21/ 내가 살인범이다 (Confession of Murder- South Korea- 2012)
22/ Personal Shopper (2016)
23/ Ива́ново де́тство (Ivan's Childhood- Soviet Union- 1962)
24/ 12 Monkeys (1995)
25/ The Shape of Water (2017)
26/ 天国と地獄 (High and Low- Japan- 1963)
27/ Lola rennt (Run Lola Run- Germany- 1998)
28/ Touch of Evil (1958)- version re-edited by Walter Murch according to Orson Welles's notes
29/ The Cost of Living (2004)
30/ Heart of a Dog (2015)
31/ The Lady from Shanghai (1947)
32/ The Trial (1962)
33/ Trainspotting (1996)
34/ Sommarlek (Summer Interlude- Sweden- 1951)
35/ Madame de… (The Earrings of Madame de... - France, Italy- 1953)
36/ Sven Nykvist: Ljuset håller mig sällska (Light Keeps Me Company- Sweden- 2000)
37/ 用心棒 (Yojimbo- Japan- 1961)
38/ Höstsonaten (Autumn Sonata- West Germany, Sweden- 1978)- again
39/ 椿三十郎 (Sanjuro- Japan- 1962)
40/ The Last Detail (1973)
41/ En passion (The Passion of Anna- Sweden- 1969)- twice
42/ Letters from an Unknown Woman (1948)
43/ F for Fake (1975)- twice
44/ 修羅雪姫 (Lady Snowblood- Japan- 1973)
45/ Against the Tides (2017)
46/ The Insufferable Groo (2017)
47/ Turning 18 (2018)
48/ The Eyes of Orson Welles (2018)
49/ On Her Shoulders (2018)
50/ Dancing with Le Pen (2018)
51/ Backlight: Radical in Birmingham (2017)
52/ The Cleaners (2018)
53/ Fake News Fairytale (2018)
54/ Dogville (2003)
55/ The Penis Extension Clinic (2016)
56/ Ocean's 8 (2018)
57/ Louis Theroux: Under the Knife (2007)
58/ Witness for the Prosecution (1957)- again
59/ Thelma & Louise (1991)
60/ Bringing Up Baby (1938)- again
61/ Les Yeux sans visage (Eyes Without a Face- France- 1960)
62/ The Inbetweeners Movie (2011)
63/ The Bank Job (2008)
64/ Bound (1996)
65/ The Third Man (1949)
66/ 3 Women (1977)- again
67/ The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)
68/ Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)
69/ Vertigo (1958)- again
70/ Deadpool (2016)
71/ The Brides of Dracula (1960)
72/ Thelma (Norway, Sweden, Denmark, France- 2017)
73/ The Last Seduction (1994)
74/ Fracture (2007)- again
75/ Shaun of the Dead (2004)
76/ Offret (The Sacrifice- Sweden- 1986)
77/ Belle de Jour (France- 1967)- again
78/ Le Fantôme de la liberté (The Phantom of Liberty- France, Italy- 1974)- again
79/ Cet obscur objet du désir (That Obscure Object of Desire- France, Spain- 1977)- again
80/ 花樣年華 (In the Mood for Love- Hong Kong- 2000)- again
81/ Crazy Rich Asians (2018)
82/ The Square (Sweden, France, Denmark, Germany- 2017)
83/ Viskningar och rop (Cries and Whispers- Sweden- 1972)- again
84/ The Apartment (1960)- again
85/ Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1989)
86/ I, Tonya (2017)
87/ Wreck-It Ralph (2012)
88/ 悪い奴ほどよく眠る (The Bad Sleep Well- Japan- 1960)- again
89/ Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)
90/ Le Scaphandre et le Papillon (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly- France- 2007)
91/ The Innocents (1961)
92/ Sideways (2004)
93/ Notorious (1946)
94/ Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari (The Cabinet of Dr Caligari- Germany- 1920)
95/ M (Germany- 1931)
96/ Mildred Pierce (1945)
97/ Being John Malkovich (1999)
98/ The Asphalt Jungle (1950)
99/ The Stranger (1946)
100/ Blind (Norway- 2014) 

Sunday, 2 December 2018

On remakes

1/ Generally speaking, the majority of remakes are unnecessary and/or bad. However, I’m not against remakes per se. 
2/ I am, as a principle, against remakes that are unnecessary and offer nothing new. What does David Lee Fisher offer in his 2005 remake of The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, except sound? Even the visual style is the same. And what after all is the point of Gus van Sant’s shot-for-shot remake of Psycho—with colour? Everyone I know, and perhaps everyone, associates Psycho with Anthony Perkins, not Vince Vaughn. 

It’s because of this reason that I embrace the new Suspiria (which I intend to watch) and don’t understand some people’s complaint that Luca Guadagnino doesn’t want the same style and colour style of Dario Argento’s film.
Faithfulness may be a good thing for a film adaptation of a book (though it depends), but what do we need a remake for, if it offers nothing new? For filmgoers who only watch new films and refuse to watch B&W films and silent films? It is their problem that they deny history and the legacy of cinema, and miss out on masterpieces. 
3/ As a principle, I’m also against remakes of films that are already regarded as among the greatest films ever made.
For example, I keep hearing rumours about a Gone with the Wind remake. Why would you remake a film that got 10 Oscars? I can’t think of any reason. 
I’ve just discovered, though, that there’s a 2016 Ben-Hur. To be a precise, it’s not really a remake, but a 5th adaptation of the novel—however, the other adaptations are a silent short film, a silent film, and an animation, so this new film by Timur Bekmambetov would be directly compared to the William Wyler film, which got 11 Oscars. 
Even the 1995 TV version of A Streetcar Named Desire is not a wise idea, in my opinion. Glenn Jordan’s take on the play is different from Elia Kazan’s—closer to Tennessee Williams’s play, if I remember correctly, so in a sense it does offer something new. At the same time, how can you compare to the cast of the 1951 film, especially Vivien Leigh and Marlon Brando? Alec Baldwin was very brave to take on one of Marlon Brando’s best roles, and Jessica Lange looked more like she was playing Vivien Leigh as Blanche DuBois.  
4/ For some reason, all American remakes of Asian films I have seen are terrible. That includes The Departed, an acclaimed film which got Martin Scorsese an Oscar—the Hong Kong original Infernal Affairs is much better. 
Spike Lee’s remake of Oldboy I haven’t seen, but it looks like a big mistake, judging by the cast. The story is also, in some sense, very Asian. 
5/ However, I’m not against remakes in another language, country, and culture. In fact, when they’re good, I love them even more than standard remakes. 

The best remakes of this type that I can think of are The Handmaiden and Untold Scandal, South Korean remakes or adaptations of Western material—Fingersmith and Dangerous Liaisons respectively. They are excellent films on their own. As remakes/ adaptations, they retain the spirit of the original whilst adapting the story to the culture and traditions in South Korea, so they don’t feel foreign.
I haven’t seen A Fistful of Dollars, but I like the idea of it as a Western remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo. Same with The Magnificent Seven and The Seven Samurai
I suppose the question here is whether the remake in another culture offers anything new (as in the case of The Handmaiden) or just takes good material and makes it in English for filmgoers who are too lazy to watch films with subtitles. In the latter case, those people should watch dubbed films instead, and I’m saying that despite being against dubbing. 
6/ Here’s an unpopular opinion: I think David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is better than the Swedish version.

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Underrated films: a list

This is my list of favourite underrated films. 
To explain, I don’t mention films such as Cries and Whispers—generally speaking, most people haven’t watched it, but it’s regarded as one of the peaks of Ingmar Bergman’s oeuvre and recognised as among the greatest films ever made. 
By underrated films, I’m thinking of the films that are overlooked—the films that people don’t often include in the list of best films or films you should watch, and the films that people forget when talking about an important director. 

The list (strong favourites in bold): 
Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948), dir. Max Ophuls 
In a Lonely Place (1950), dir. Nicholas Ray 
Gion Bayashi/ A Geisha (1953), dir. Kenji Mizoguchi 
Street of Shame (1956), dir. Kenji Mizoguchi 
The Killing (1956), dir. Stanley Kubrick 
Nights of Cabiria (1957), dir. Federico Fellini 
The Bad Sleep Well (1960), dir. Akira Kurosawa 
The Innocents (1961), dir. Jack Clayton 
My Fair Lady (1964), dir. George Cukor 
The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970), dir. Billy Wilder 
The Last Detail (1973), dir. Hal Ashby 
The Phantom of Liberty (1974), dir. Luis Bunuel 
Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974), dir. Martin Scorsese 
3 Women (1977), dir. Robert Altman 
On Golden Pond (1981), dir. Mark Rydell 
My Left Foot (1989), dir. Jim Sheridan 
Bound (1996), dir. The Wachowskis 
Happy Together (1997), dir. Wong Kar-wai 
Happiness (1998), dir. Todd Solondz 
Memento (2000), dir. Christopher Nolan 
Sideways (2004), dir. Alexander Payne
Fracture (2007), dir. Gregory Hoblit 

This list would expand.

Thursday, 29 November 2018

My favourite horror films

Generally I don’t consider myself a horror fan. But here are the films I like: 
The Innocents (1961), dir. Jack Clayton 
Eyes Without a Face (1960), dir. Georges Franju 
The Silence of the Lambs (1991), dir. Jonathan Demme 
Psycho (1960), dir. Afred Hitchcock 
The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920), dir. Robert Wiene 
Hour of the Wolf (1968), dir. Ingmar Bergman 
Ringu (1998), dir. Hideo Nakata 
The Sixth Sense (1999), dir. M. Night Shyamalan 
The Others (2001), dir. Alejandro Amenábar 
Dead Ringers (1998), dir. David Cronenberg 
Plus a film I don’t know how I feel about: Suspiria (1977), dir. Dario Argento 

In this list, the 1st 2 are probably unusual choices. They are not the films people usually think of when talking about horror films, because they are more than horror—they have deeper meaning and convey something else. The films are eerie and haunting more than terrifying. The Innocents is possibly the most aesthetically pleasing horror film I’ve ever seen (not Suspiria), and among the best films ever made. 

Eyes Without a Face is very poetic—a word that we normally wouldn’t use for a horror film, but watch it and you’ll know what I mean. 
Once in a while I watch a film not in my favourite genres, and get a lovely surprise.

The jokes in Speak, Memory chapter 11

I’m still reading Nabokov’s Speak, Memory, slowly, because of all the other things going on. 
Look at chapter 11: 
“The kind of poem I produced in those days was hardly anything more than a sign I made of being alive, of passing or having passed, or hoping to pass, through certain intense human emotions.
But then, in a sense, all poetry is positional: to try to express one’s position in regard to the universe embraced by consciousness, is an immemorial urge.” 
That’s a good passage. 
And then I came across this line: 
“Vivian Bloodmark, a philosophical friend of mine, in later years, used to say that while the scientist sees everything that happens in one point of space, the poet feels everything that happens in one point of time.” 
I’m reading a copy that has no notes, no annotations. But I caught the joke—Vivian Bloodmark is Vladimir Nabokov, like Vivian Darkbloom in Lolita
It’s the next part that I don’t get: 
“Lost in thought, he taps his knee with his wandlike pencil, and at the same instant a car (New York license plate) passes along the road, a child bangs the screen door of a neighboring porch, an old man yawns in a misty Turkestan orchard, a granule of cinder-gray sand is rolled by the wind on Venus, a Docteur Jacques Hirsch in Grenoble puts on his reading glasses, and trillions of other such trifles occur—all forming an instantaneous and transparent organism of events, of which the poet (sitting in a lawn chair, at Ithaca, N.Y.) is the nucleus.” 
What are these references?

Monday, 12 November 2018

The most interesting shots in Jack Clayton’s The Innocents

The Innocents is a masterpiece and it is great in many ways, but the thing that interests me the most is the framing—blocking, framing, and the use of space. 
In the previous post, you could see what could be done with deep focus, in Citizen Kane. Here is the combination of deep focus and CinemaScope. It is terrific. 


Some personal opinions: 
1/ I like deep focus, combined with B&W. 
2/ I prefer B&W to colour. The ultimate B&W films for me are: 
- Persona 
- Citizen Kane 
- 8 ½ 
- Ivan’s Childhood 
- The Earrings of Madame de… 
- The Innocents 
3/ Whatever people say, I still prefer continuity editing and smooth cuts to French New Wave-style jump cuts. And prefer (complicated) long takes to lots of cutting. 
4/ The Innocents is probably the best film to learn from when it comes to blocking and placing multiple actors in the frame. An observation: it seems to be easier to frame when the actors are not looking at each other. I’m also thinking of the juxtaposed faces in Ingmar Bergman’s films.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

The most interesting shots in Citizen Kane

To steal in the future. 
Orson Welles is probably the best director to learn from, in terms of staging and framing.