1. Estiu 1993 / Summer 1993 (Carla Simón, 2017)
2. Visages villages / Faces Places (Agnès Varda / JR, 2017)
3. Desperately Seeking Susan (Susan Seidelman, 1985)
4. 2 Friends (Jane Campion, 1986)
5. Stories We Tell (Sarah Polley, 2012) (re-watch)
6. Bright Star (Jane Campion, 2009)
7. Not Wanted (Ida Lupino/Elmer Clifton, 1949)
8. Never Fear aka The Young Lovers (Ida Lupino, 1949)
9. Outrage (Ida Lupino, 1950) (re-watch)
10. Somewhere (Sofia Coppola, 2010)
11. Valley Girl
(Martha Coolidge, 1983)
I like how it opens up, with vast panoramic shots of the Los Angeles area, reminding us of the varied topography and cityscapes - an ideal location for a motion picture industry of course, and also a space where physical obstructions (mostly mountains) separate subdivisions of the community from each other in uncommon ways. Thus, Valley-speak and Valley girls and Beverly Hills boys. Nic Cage in his first starring role is the bad "punk" (not really, but in the world of this film, pretty much) guy from Beverly, Deborah Foreman is the good little girl from the Valley whose friends all hate the losers from the wrong side of the tracks...you get the picture. What's kind of fun about this is that Foreman's not a rich-bitch stereotype, rather she's the daughter of a couple of hippie natural food store owners, so in a sense she doesn't fit in to the Valley BMW and 18-room house lifestyle herself - although unfortunately not much is done with this element. It's all pretty predictable, but the 80s neon and big hair works for this viewer who is just a year younger than Cage, and of course there's the soundtrack, most notable for Modern English's biggest (only?) hit "Melt With You".
12. Hard, Fast and Beautiful
(Ida Lupino, 1951)
Somewhat an outlier in Lupino's filmography I think, in that it has neither the noir elements nor the social problem narrative that between them figure in all of her other feature work (leaving aside the late work-for-hire Trouble With Angels
). She also isn't credited as writer or producer here, and it does seem a bit less impassioned and focused than her other films to me. Basically it's a sports-parent story with go-getter Claire Trevor pushing daughter Sally Forrest into being the great tennis star that she really doesn't want to be. The stars are quite good but the male secondary characters aren't particularly well developed and 78 minutes just isn't enough time to make any kind of real statement on this kind of relationship work beyond it's shallowest measures.
13. Poema o more / Poem of the Sea
(Yuliya Solntseva, 1958)
14. Zacharovannaya Desna / The Enchanted Desna
(Yuliya Solntseva, 1964)
I've loved the work of Solntseva's husband Aleksandr Dovzhenko for a long time and it's a continuing frustration that his films aren't more widely seen and more readily available in quality copies - the visual qualities of films like Zemlya
really demand it. But Dovzehnko's widow Solntseva, whose career was essentially intended as a celebration and continuation of his legacy, is even less-remembered and her films hardly seen at all. Besides Jonathan Rosenbaum I'm not sure that anybody has written about her at length in English, certainly nobody I've come across, but on the basis of the two films I've now seen I'm prepared to believe that she deserves rediscovery and renewal just as much as her husband. Certainly there are similarities - she worked for the most part off of his screenplays or stories, and her inclination to the poetic and rapturous evocations of nature (and Communism!) is very similar to her late husband's. But both of these films are also concerned with reverie, nostalgia, and the vagaries of memory in a way that I don't remember Dovzhenko dealing with so explicitly, and they are in color and shot in 70mm widescreen formats - though the poor rips that are available online are only dim representations of what they must be like in the cinema. Poema
strikes me as slightly more prosaic, involving a man returning to his hometown, seeing the changes going on there, supervising a mighty construction effort, and trying to show his young son the value of the old days, the times past. It's just as beautiful as it's successor but rooted perhaps a bit more in socialist realism in the end. Desna
on the other hand is pure rapture of sound and image, water and landscape and smoke, childhood memories and old-age dimness wrapped together in a poetic style that calls to mind at time Tarkovsky, the Renoir of The River
, and Powell and Pressburger at their most mystical. Even though some of the night scenes are practically impossible to see in the low-grade copy I watched it is still a remarkable experience, and it seems to last much longer (in a good way) than the 77 minutes it actually screens for.
Early candidate for directorial discovery of the year.
15. The Party
(Sally Potter, 2017) (cinema)
At first I wondered if this was going to be comedy or social statement, satire or rage...around the middle third, I wasn't caring, and was pretty much hating it...in the last third, the film (or I) recovered somewhat, and I found a bit more amusement, and a little less irritation, and the last shot, while expected, was amusing enough. But still overall I am left with: a black comedy that just isn't very funny, and a cry of political anger that isn't all that deep, with dialogue that is often unbearable (like virtually everything that Patricia Clarkson says), characters that are very thin stereotypes, acting that is...questionable, from a lot of very good actors. I will say that I did overall like Kristen Scott Thomas, as the newly appointed shadow health minister whose self-congratulations party forms the narrative and title, and I found Timothy Spall as her drunken and depressive husband and Bruno Ganz as Clarkson's new-agey guru husband fairly entertaining, but that's about it. And it's always nice to see anything new in black and white though in this case I don't see the purpose really. Most of Sally Potter's features have given me mixed feelings but usually there's enough there to be impressed by, to say well that was something, and I've liked all that I've seen so far though only her 45-minute Thriller
has really knocked me out. There are still a few I haven't seen; I have a feeling I'll like all of them more than this one.
16. The Hitch-Hiker
(Ida Lupino, 1953) (re-watch)
Like Hard, Fast
this is quite short, and I think it might have been improved with just a tiny bit of background for any or all of the three characters (hapless weekend fishermen Frank Lovejoy and Edmond O'Briend, viscious psychopath William Tallman who they unfortunately pick up in the desert), might have added extra layers of psychological complexity, but maybe not. As it is we have a fairly simple but very entertaining and suspenseful crime story with Tallman forcing the two men to drive him down the center of Baja California, planning to make the gulf coast and get a ferry to the mainland of Mexico and disappear. It's all very well done and the two good guys - both the kind of average-looking joes who did lots of supporting work and occasional leads when the studios wanted a guy who didn't look like Cary Grant - are nicely contrasted with whack-job Tallman, but there really isn't that much to take away either. Just a solid hour of excitement, really.