Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Some Favorite Films

Another occasional list. Recently seen enthusiasms.

Not the Terry Gilliam version, but the far superior Czech marvel that inspired it. A fantastical mix of cut-out animation, live action, and deliberately unreal backgrounds. Whimsy at its finest.

-HAPPINESS (Agnes Varda, 1965)
Candy-colored French pastorale, complete with Bach reveries, and true romance. Only there's one lover too many in this mix. And an unaccountably creepy undertone that only expands in your mind once the film is over. Nearly perfect.

-OUTER SPACE (Peter Tcherkassy, 2000)
Reedits a cheesy 80s horror film starring Barbara Hershey into 8 minutes of pure abstract visceral terror. Like Eraserhead, but with claws and fangs. Terrifying and exhilerating.

-ACTRESS (Stanley Kwan, 1992)
Normally hate bio pix, but this virtually reinvents the genre giving you both the story of a tragic Hong Kong silent film star from the 20s as well as a faux documentary about the making of the movie itself, which actually enrichs and deepens the original drama.

-Z (Costa Gravas, 1969)
For years I've mistakenly assumed this was just some middlebrow thriller. Stupid me. It's a top-rate political film about the overthrow of the Greek government filled with scenes of gripping tension, terrific performances, and an impassioned tone that comes off as a genuiue cri de coeur.

-PROVIDENCE (Alain Resnais, 1976)
How is this movie not better known?! Featuring an incredibly witty script and stellar English cast led by a career turn from John Gielgud. It's clearly a major influence on Charlie Kaufman, only this moves between various levels of reality and skips around in time with much greater sophistication and ease -- plus it delivers a whalloping emotional payoff. Hard to imagine the person who wouldn't love this. Not someone you'd want to meet for drinks.

-TO SLEEP WITH ANGER (Charles Burnett, 1991)
Ancored by a sly performance from Danny Glover, this movie creeps up on you. At first it seems like a typical family melodrama until people start hypnotizing chickens and invoking hoodoo enchantments. The elderly folks here are the wild ones, bringing the old ways into a middle class suburban Los Angeles neighborhood with deeply unpredictable results. Masterful.