Kundun – 1997 Scorsese

As just a film, it’s a fine effort, certainly in the archives, handsomely mounted with some nice photography and soft elliptical editing that matches material. However, as a Scorsese film—it’s a disappointment. It seems aggressively mediocre in comparison with the majority of his body of work. To add to that- when you also throw in that this is the only pairing between Scorsese and the great DP Roger Deakins, it features a genius score from Philip Glass, production designer Dante Ferretti and editor Thelma Schoonmaker—it can’t be seen as anything but an artistic disappointment I mentioned it above- but

Kundun – 1997 Scorsese2020-07-03T10:28:47+00:00

The 112th Best Director of All-Time: Michael Curtiz

Curtiz. Curtiz is the pretty far down this list for someone with a masterpiece on the level of Casablanca. He’s not a “style-plus” director and his auteur status can’t match his own filmography (he has the #90 overall ranked filmography) but I also think he’s a stronger candidate for this list than Victor Fleming or Oliver Reed. Curtiz has 17 archiveable films but obviously isn’t on this list without Casablanca. Casablanca is one of the best films of all-time and has often been called cinema’s “happy accident” (meaning a great combination of elements: writing, acting, music, etc) and is often brought up as

The 112th Best Director of All-Time: Michael Curtiz2020-07-03T10:28:47+00:00

The Lighthouse – 2019 Eggers

A confirmation of Eggers’ prodigious gifts and his auteur standing after the 2015 debut- The WitchHypnotically beautiful to look at (and listen to) but more than that really: distinctive, meticulous – I called The Witch curated and said that you could almost smell and feel the film—characterized it as method acting but from the director’s chair—and that praise and description certainly fits here for Eggers sophomore effort.Eggers has a background in production design—rum, flatulence, the cutlery, the beards—every object in the frame, the choice of aspect ratio, the colloquial Herman Melville-like specific time/place vernacular—the jargon-- these are all specific

The Lighthouse – 2019 Eggers2020-07-03T10:28:47+00:00

Force of Evil – 1948 Polonsky

Part film noir, part political allegory buried in a crime genre movie --- Abraham Polonsky’s debut film (background as a screenwriter- Body and Soul with Garfield in 1947) has strong performances, visuals and writing 79 perfectly panicked minutes Richard Day does the set decoration- he won a total of 7 Oscars and worked on films with great decoration that include Dodsworth, On the Waterfront and How Green Was My Valley. It’s a major achievement for John Garfield- think you can make a strong case for it as his best work in his tragically short (died at age 39) career

Force of Evil – 1948 Polonsky2020-12-13T03:22:27+00:00

Unrelated – 2007 Hogg

It’s a rough sketch, Joanna Hogg’s first feature film, and just a faint indicator of her future brilliance (notably in her follow-up sophomore effort the 2010 film Archipelago)Being transparent—I saw this before Archipelago and didn’t archive it, but then after seeing the brilliant 2010 sophomore effort film—I went back, watched it again and decided to call it a “Recommend”. There is just too much in common with Archipelago. It’s worthy of study Awkward fighting in other rooms, one-sided phone calls- just like Archipelago. Ditto with how it is on vacation (this is in Tuscany). A meditation on isolation. Or

Unrelated – 2007 Hogg2020-07-03T10:28:49+00:00

Archipelago – 2010 Hogg

An announcement of a burgeoning auteur- Joanna Hogg- it is her second film after 2007’s Unrelated Archipelago is much prettier than the crassly shot debut—much more attractive in its photography and decidedly more poised in its compositions It opens with an artist (Christopher Baker) and a painting recreating life- a landscape and a discussion on abstraction and understatement in art. It’s both Hogg speaking to us directly about her work and setting the ground formally for what is about to unfold. Hogg would bounce us off the artist here in the film -- discussions on art as brilliant formal

Archipelago – 2010 Hogg2020-07-03T10:28:49+00:00

The 111th Best Director of All-Time: Hsiao-Hsien Hou

Hsiao-Hsien Hou. I am in a difficult spot with HHH. The ranking of the best directors of all-time is a project I started in early 2019 (largely based on my list of the top 500 films of all-time- also completed in early 2019). HHH didn’t factor on that top 500 list at all. My knowledge of his work was severely lacking. However, I remedied that with a study of his work during 2019 and it’s obvious he’s a distinguished and worthy auteur—he has several films that will make for a nice addition to the top 500 when I updated

The 111th Best Director of All-Time: Hsiao-Hsien Hou2021-06-11T15:33:00+00:00

Loro – 2018 Sorrentino

Is there an auteur that makes a better first 15 minutes of his/her films? Il Divo, The Great Beauty-- both explode out of the gates. Loro is no exception, the spectacle (both in gaudy content and energetic filmmaking style) in the opening here is awe-inspiring- cinema. Unfortunately Sorrentino’s films are getting longer and longer and not the other way around. Astounding imagery and a meditation on decadence and corruption— in other words- a Sorrentino film. This is auteur cinema. It’s a nice return to form going back with his native Italian tongue and working with the talented Toni Servillo-

Loro – 2018 Sorrentino2020-07-03T10:28:49+00:00

The Witch – 2015 Eggers

A debut brimming with self-assurance and specificityThe specificity is two-fold-- the detail in the production design (Eggers background) and the vernacular. The corn stalks are real. The dialect is clearly authentic- the “thee’s” and “thou’s”. You can almost smell and taste the film – it’s curated—it is as studied as a method actor not breaking character but in the form of an entire film. You can almost smell and taste the film – it’s curated Ominous vocalizing in the score- like the opening of Kubrick’s 2001. Powerful (and horrifying) imagery in the witch montage with the hand on the

The Witch – 2015 Eggers2020-07-03T10:28:49+00:00

The 110th Best Director of All-Time: Elia Kazan

Kazan. Kazan’s strength is his unparalleled work with actors and that just gets eclipsed by so many auteurs with a superior cinematic style. That said- his filmography and impact on naturalism and acting is still an extremely important movement in cinema history. I’m not giving him full credit for Brando’s power on cinema in the 50’s (along with Montgomery Clift and James Dean) but he’s not the simple beneficiary of pointing the camera at Brando either or being in the right place at the right time. On the Waterfront is legit and Kazan has another 4 films that are somewhere in

The 110th Best Director of All-Time: Elia Kazan2020-07-03T10:28:49+00:00

The Aviator – 2004 Scorsese

Scorsese’s The Aviator is stunning to look at, it moves with an incredible speed (it’s an easy a 170-minute watch as there is), and it features DiCaprio giving us a tour-de-force lead performance (debatably his best). Scorsese sets the frame marvelously with that opening- it’s a jaw-dropping mise-en-scene and then he and Robert Richardson (DP here) cue the lighting to roll up. This is just before the “Quarantine” bath scene Scorsese sets the frame marvelously with that opening- it’s a jaw-dropping mise-en-scene and then he and Robert Richardson (DP here) cue the lighting to roll up. This is just

The Aviator – 2004 Scorsese2020-07-03T10:28:49+00:00

Farewell My Concubine – 1993 Kaige Chen

A handsomely-mounted, classically told biopic/drama epic with political backdrop the opening- magnificently beautiful use of lighting from Kaige Chen Apparently Miramax mangled it a bit and there’s a shorter cut out there but I was able to catch the 171 minute restored original versionStarts in 1924 with a b/w flashback, and then Kaige Chen turns the dial up to color in-scenethe Cannes Festival Palme d'OrBig, many extras—the background of the abuse and tough upbringing for the child actors in the biopic genre (runs about 43 minutes before the adult actors). The War with japan, the cultural revolution later— serve

Farewell My Concubine – 1993 Kaige Chen2020-07-03T10:28:49+00:00
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