Thursday, January 26, 2017

2016 Manhattan One-Week-Run Premieres

Here are my favorite films that played at least one week in Manhattan for the first time in 2016, in approximate order of preference:
  1. L'avenir (Things to Come) (Mia Hansen-Løve, France)
  2. Manchester by the Sea (Kenneth Lonergan, USA)
  3. The Apostate (Federico Veiroj, Uruguay/Spain)
  4. Fireworks Wednesday (Asghar Farhadi, Iran)
  5. Trois souvenirs de ma jeunesse (My Golden Days) (Arnaud Desplechin, France)
  6. For the Plasma (Bingham Bryant and Kyle Molzan, USA)
  7. Francofonia (Aleksandr Sokurov, France)
  8. Mia Madre (Nanni Moretti, Italy)
  9. Short Stay (Ted Fendt, USA)
  10. A Hologram for the King (Tom Tykwer, USA/Germany)
  11. Right Now, Wrong Then (Hong Sang-soo, South Korea)
  12. The Fits (Anna Rose Holmer, USA)
  13. Fatima (Philippe Faucon, France)
Edward Yang's 1986 The Terrorizers received its first NYC theatrical run this year, and would be on this list if it felt anything like a 2016 film. (Fireworks Wednesday is ten years old, but it passes.)


dm494 said...

This is quite off-topic, Dan, but I was wondering if you are able to post your L.A. Reader review of "Mike's Murder" here or make it available on your home page. Although it isn't a film I've seen, your review of it is, so far as I know, your only piece on James Bridges, whose 9/30/55 I caught up with last fall and was impressed by--it's a strong work in its own right, but I also value it in an auteurist spirit for the light it sheds on earlier Bridges films, "The Paper Chase" in particular. Given that Peter Tonguette thanked you in his book-length study of Bridges, I'm sure you have some excellent perceptions to offer about Bridges as a filmmaker.

One other question from out of left field: is it safe to say you're largely indifferent to experimental/avant-garde film? Assuming I didn't overlook anything (I also didn't go earlier than the 1950s), I count only three avant-garde films--one each by Frampton, Baillie, and Kubelka--on your list of favorite films by decade; and I don't think I've ever happened on any commentary from you about experimental filmmakers, even in the a_film_by archives, where one might have expected to come across an exchange between you and Fred Camper about Brakhage, say, or Robert Breer. Your criticism tends to be especially insightful about a director's formal handling of performance and his visual treatment of a script's narrative and dramatic material, so I'm tempted to speculate that films that dispense with such elements would for the most part leave you unmoved. This is obviously just guesswork on my part, however, and I'd be curious to read anything you may have to say about this subject.

Dan Sallitt said...

Drew - I really don't think the short blurb I wrote on Mike's Murder has much content, but I'll post it in a separate blog entry. I wrote another blurb on Bridges' Perfect, and seemed to be understanding him a little better with each film, so I'll post that as well.

"Indifferent" is too strong a word to describe my feelings about non-narrative film. And there are a few other such films on my favorite film lists that you didn't note: particularly a few by Warren Sonbert, my favorite among the American avant-garde. I wrote a bit about Carriage Trade here, and about Zorns Lemma here. Maybe there are some other pieces I can't recall.

I must admit that I feel that narrative is a huge aid to expression in cinema, and that working without narrative sometimes feels to me like boxing with one arm tied behind one's back. Of course a good boxer can knock you out anyway, but...

Here are a few a_film_by links where I discussed the topic:

dm494 said...

Dan, I posted a follow-up comment twice before but Blogger seems to have deleted it both times; I hope the comment manages to stay put this time. In any case, many thanks for the multiple links and the post of the two blurbs.

The comments on the Frampton piece were particularly interesting--Frampton's films as reactions to Brakhage's logophobia, etc. I took the Sonbert essay, rightly or wrongly, as advocating for a quasi-Bazinian approach to Sonbert's movies, none of which I've seen, unfortunately.

Regarding the discussion in the links, I'm not so sure I'd agree with your idea of narrative as a means of distracting the intellect so that the formal qualities of a film can be taken in without being conceptualized. My own tendency is to think of narrative and form as more tightly harnessed together than the narrative-as-ruse position would seemingly allow. The other poster's substitute concept of process/flow also struck me as being maybe only a broader notion of narrative, one that can be appealed to in the absence of a conventional story. Or it could be that narrative and process/flow are both to be subsumed under cause-and-effect thinking, which we're just stuck with as human beings in our attempts to make sense of our experience.

What stands out in your "Mike's Murder" blurb is your perception that the film's first part conjures a sense of wasted time and wasted feelings vis-a-vis characters who are presented in an anonymous light. And there were two key points in the "Perfect" blurb, the first being that one of the few sources of interest in that later effort is the line readings Bridges gets from his actors. The other point--that the movie has a cool, Pakula-like tone--had me wondering whether that mood, which you attribute to Bridges, shouldn't actually be credited to Gordon Willis, who shot so many of Pakula's and Bridges's films. Attribution seems like it would be a tricky matter here.