Monday, January 01, 2007

Old/New Extravaganza

Here it is. This may be my best list of the year. First things first, as Jonathan Rosenbaum points out, it is kind of ridiculous to place some movies over others when they are all excellent (see his top 100 American films in Movie Wars). But I don't want to remove the fun and pain of list-making by doing alphabetical order lists. So please remember that all of these are probably interchangable. I also can't remember if I saw things this year or last for some things, but I'll do the best I can. In addition, like Paco, I am not trying to sound awesome or obscure. These are really the best movies I watched this year, and many are actually embarassing that I am only now watching them. I should have watched most of these at least 6 years ago. Finally, I may be very brief on comments because of the length of this list. So without further ado...


1. Bande a Part (Band of Outsiders) by Jean-Luc Godard (1964). How does one rank out Godard films over each other? Here's how I do it. First, I have a huge crush on Anna Karina and she is at her most charming in Bande a Part. Plus, this is during my favorite era of Godard's career. He's always brilliant, but I enjoy his early 60's career the most.

2. Banshun (Late Spring) by Yasujira Ozu (1949). I enjoyed this departure from Ozu's usual negative focus on the generational gap. Here is a touching portrayal of generational love and self-sacrifice. Plus the interaction between Chishu Ryu and Setsuko Hara is completely beautiful.

3. Qianxi Manbo (Millenium Mambo) by Hou Hsiao-Hsien (2001). I had no idea how to rank Hsiao-Hsien's work (I only started watching him this year), and this may be the most arbitrary pick on the list over Hsiao-Hsien's other work. I love him so much because you can always recognize his voice in his films, but they are so diverse at the same time. I guess I picked this because it is a bit of a departure from his usual focus on Taiwan's changing culture in the 20th century and instead looks ahead at the dawn of a new millenium.

4. Sud Pralad (Tropical Malady) by Apichatpong Weerasethakul (2004). The only Weerasethakul films I have seen are this and Mysterious Object at Noon. In Tropical Malady, I felt like I was introduced to Weerasethakul's true voice in film-making. From a director's standpoint, the vision behind and compiling of Mysterious Object were ground-breaking and completely encapsule what I think film-making should be as an art. But if you take all that and add writing credit to Weerasethakul, you get the whole package in Tropical Malady.

5. L'Age d'Or (Age of Gold) by Luis Bunuel (1930). Although I seriously appreciate Chien Andalou, I really enjoy Bunuel's longer solo absurdist adventure.

6. Ni Neibian Jidian (What Time is it There?) by Ming-Liang Tsai (2001). Coming almost at the current midpoint of his career, I think this may be the most fascinating work Ming-Liang Tsai has done. Maybe not though, because the River also rules.

7. Bad Ma Ra Khahad Bord (The Wind Will Carry Us) by Abbas Kiarostami (1999). Unfortunately thus far I have only seen this and 10 by Kiarostami. The Wind stuck with me hard. I'm not really sure why, but I keep going back to it. Something about its quiet progression touches me in a major way.

8. Ikiru (To Live) by Akira Kurosawa (1952). I guess it makes me a Philistine, but I don't love a lot of Kirusawa's historical/fictional history films about the Japanese Empires. That is why this incredibly human exploration into "progress" is by far my favorite Kurosawa film.

9. Down by Law by Jim Jarmusch (1986). This was really fun to watch. As one of the first Jarmusch films I watched this year, it was a great introduction to his style, themes, and cinematic aesthetics.

10. Le Souffle au Couer (Murmur of the Heart) by Louis Malle (1971). Weird sex-with-mom-action and Godard-narrative-style-rip-off aside, I thought this was a great summation of the French New Wave coming basically at the end of the necessity of New Wave. I dig it.

11. Noi Albinoi (Noi) by Dagur Kari (2003). I have seen almost no Scandanavian films. But if this Icelandic jewel is any indication, I love Scandanavian films as much as I love Scandanavian music (a lot).

12. L'Enfant (The Child) by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne (2005). Hey, French films are still really good and I think this is a good indication of the emotional depths French film can explore after the passing of the New Wave.

13. Yaju no Seishun (Youth of the Beast) by Seijun Suzuki (1963). This was kind of trippy, plus Suzuki got in trouble with Japanese movie industry execs, so I have to give him props on it. Plus Jo Shishido has awesome chipmunk cheeks, so he makes a really sweet gangster.

14. Une Femme est une Femme (A Woman is a Woman) by Jean-Luc Godard (1961). I wanted to see how long I could go before I listed another Godard film. 14 spots, that's how many. I can't love anyone else as much (especially French films), because I want them to be more like Godard.

15. Nanguo Zaijan, Nanguo (Goodbye South, Goodbye) by Hou Hsiao-Hsien (1996). Once again, this is kind of odd subject-matter for Hsiao-Hsien, but he manages to totally keep his genius style and concerns within the framework of a gangster film.

16. Bu San (Goodbye Dragon Inn) by Ming-Liang Tsi (2003). This film is the perfect metaphor for the current state of cinema in America. Plus it is both sad and beautiful. Kiyonobu Mitomura cracks me up. Soft-spoken eerie melodic times.

17. Dokfa Nai Meuman (Mysterious Object at Noon) by Apichatpong Weerasethakul (2000). You have to find the DVD of this and watch Weerasethakul explain his inspiration for this film. I'd share, but I'll just mess it up. This film's setup and exploration adequately display Weerasethakul as a modern artistic genius of film.

18. Tokyo Monogatari (Tokyo Story) by Yasujira Ozu (1953). I watched this right after I saw Late Spring, so it was weird to see Chishu Ryu and Setsuko Hara in a completely different type of relationship. I feel like this film is timeless given some of my own experiences this year.

19. Kohi Jiko (Cafe Lumiere) by Hou Hsiao-Hsien (2003). What's better than one of Taiwan's greatest modern directors paying homage to Japan's greatest film-maker ever? I don't know. That's why this is so good.

20. Jules et Jim (Jules and Jim) by Francois Truffaut (1962). I have a hard time with Truffaut. I love all the Doinel adventures bad, but outside of those 4 films, I don't really love his style and story-telling. But I place Jules and Jim here out of respect to an auteur. I have no place to criticize.

21. Dead Man by Jim Jarmusch (1995). I really love Jarmusch's style bad. Plus I have a man-crush on Johnny Depp. This film requires some serious reflection. I love.

22. Alphaville, Une Etrange Aventure de Lemmy Caution (Alphaville) by Jean-Luc Godard (1965). Godard plus Karina equals I love it. We already talked about that. The political commentary isn't very subtle, but I like it a lot more than Godard's explicitly political films (Carabiniers, Masculin Feminin, Le Petit Soldat, Tout va Bien)

23. Umberto D. by Vittorio de Sica (1952). I have a major love/hate relationship with de Sica's films. They are humble and earthy in such a wonderful way, but they also tend to leave me majorly depressed. Umberto D. is about as close to a happy ending de Sica was willing to give us. Plus Umberto's dog totally rules.

24. I Bambini ci Guardano (The Children are Watching Us) by Vittorio de Sica (1944). I get super-used to the way the French New Wave treats marital fidelity (super-loosely), so it is nice to know that Italians still thought sleeping around was not cool. Also, as sad as it is, the end of this film is absolutely perfect. Not quite there, but almost as good of an ending as the 400 blows.

25. La Ilusion Viaja en Tranvia (Illusion, Travels by Streetcar) by Luis Bunuel (1954). Most people don't like Bunuel's mexican period because he was a commercial whore. But he kept his flow. I like the mexican period, especially this one.

26. Viridiana by Luis Bunuel (1961). I know that as a Christian, Bunuel's disdain for the church and anything Jesus-related should bother me. At the same time, in growing up in the chaos of the Spanish war and the nature of the Catholic church in Spain, his criticism isn't necessarily of Jesus, but of the way Jesus was mis-used by the church. Here is what I think is one of his most pointed indictments against Christianity overall, but climaxing in the Last Supper of Fools and Drunkards. I was intrigued to the maximum. Plus Silvia Pinal is super-hot.

27. Hai Shang Hua (Flowers of Shanghai) by Hou Hsiao-Hsien (1998). Just like 2005 was the year of Wong Kar Wai for me, 2006 was the year of Hou Hsiao-Hsien. What is there to say? This film concerns what seems to be Hsiao-Hsien's fave time-period with some of his fave themes. Masterpiece.

28. Hsimeng Jensheng (Puppetmaster) by Hou Hsiao-Hsien (1993). Let's just wrap up all the Hsiao-Hsien with two in a row that begin at a table with a bunch of people hanging out. Super-duper pacing and dialogue for a movie whose english title makes it sound like a horror film.

29. Mystery Train by Jim Jarmusch (1989). Even though I don't like Elvis Presley at all, this film was still extremely accessible to me. I was also glad that Jun and Mitsuko got the most screentime.

30. 10 by Abbas Kiarostami (2002). I think I could have appreciated this more if I knew more about the Iranian cultural and political climate. However, I learned a lot and also developed a deeper appreciation for Kiarostami.

31. La Regle du Jeu (The Rules of the Game) by Jean Renoir (1939). This was really fun plus it raised some interesting class stuff that still applies based on socio-economic classification in our culture.

32. Tout va Bien (Everything is Fine) by Jean-Luc Godard (1972). This was wacky as hell. It also made me realize how ignorant I am of all the political and union crap that went on in France in the 20th century. Plus Jane Fonda is kind of hilarious (not intentionally).

33. Masculin Feminin: 15 Faits Precis (Masculine Feminine) by Jean-Luc Godard (1966). First, the "cul" (French for ass) play on words in the title that Godard points out a lot is fun. Chantal Goya is supposed to be the hottie, but she's kind of annoying. Paul should totally be with Elisabeth. Marlene Jobert is much more attractive and kind. It's also weird to see Jean-Pierre Leaud not playing Antoine Doinel. Plus his cigarette flipping trick is super cool. All of these things are positive.

34. Broken Flowers by Jim Jarmusch (2005). Yet another film with a brilliant ending. It is Jarmusch through and through.

35. Naked Lunch by David Cronenburg (1991). I know it makes me lame, but I hadn't read William S. Burroughs before watching this early this year. After reading the book, I grew in great appreciation for Cronenburg's ability to adapt such a sweet crazy mess of prose.

36. He Liu (The River) by Ming-Lian Tsai (1997). This kind of blew my mind. The mom-lusting-after-son action weirded me out, but it seemed like it was meant to. I also like films that explore the connectedness of things a lot.

37. Eraserhead by David Lynch (1977). I know I should have watched this so long ago, but I finally did. I can't decide, but I think I love that Lynch won't explain the film almost as much as I love the film.

CONGRATULATIONS! You made it through the whole thing. If obvious things are missing (like Wong Kar Wai and Ozu's Good Morning), that's because I didn't watch them this year. I watched them before. Thanks for reading this. It took me a long damn time.


At 1/02/2007 7:30 AM, Blogger Jeff BBz said...

Rye Bread. Sweet list man. I made a list of old stuff too but there is no way i could remember the top 37 I watched let alone more than 37 films period. So I made 16. But First some comments on your listy list.

First of all your library is the most awesome library ever. I can't believe all those films are there. you need to find out who is in charge of that crap and become thier best friend.

Glad to see you catching up on your Godard. I would maybe trade alphaville for band a part, but that could be because it was the first Godard I ever watched, before i really knew who he was or why i should love him with all my heart. Needless to say I was blown away at an entirely new experience.

You actually now more than me about Ozu. This is a huge embarrestment if anyone cool were to find that out as, everyone ever knows he is "the" master. My watching of the early japanese masters (mizoguchi, ozu, naruse) is pretty sparse (despite being a 1 hour plane ride from tokyo), but what I have seen is incredible.

Also despite having almost all of Tsai Ming-Liang's(usually people that are not IMDB put the Tsai first. Like Hou Hsieo Hsien, WKW, Japanese, and koreans, the family name goes first. They are also sometimes just refered to as thier family name, ie. hou, tsai, wong) films I have still only seen The river and Dragon Inn. Dragon Inn was the cat's meow, but yeah I wish it was a theatre. I liked the river, but his neck hurting made my neck hurt too and so i hated watching it an never want to watch it again. But it was probably good.

Also i need to rewatch the wind will carry us, I saw it like 5 years ago because I thought the title sounded cool but i wasn't really into awesome films then so I just thought it was okay. Now i realize Kiarostami is a giant of giant like gigatics and so i need to rewatch it.

I also don't love kurosawa like we are supposed to but I would recommend, Sanjuro and yojimbo. they're not as bombastic or "epic" or whatever. Super good.

I'm still up in the air about whether I like mysterious object or tropical malady more, but it doesn't matter any more because syndromes and a century is unbelievable!

there are too many comments to be made about this list and these films. great list man. before you know it we will both be cinematic geniuses. Although, Did you really like broken flowers? I didn't hate it but I felt like it was miles below his good stuff and even coffee and cigarettes. I felt like I could have made it, and while i hope to be a film maker at this point that is still not a good sign. I don't know. didn't do it for me.

At 1/02/2007 7:36 AM, Blogger Jeff BBz said...

man, i spelled almost everything wrong in that post huh?

list coming soon.

At 1/02/2007 9:14 AM, Blogger Jeff BBz said...

This year was also an awesome year for me watching old films too. Here is my list of oldies with some quick and dirty comments:

Sweet 16 Best Old Movies I Saw for the First Time this Year

1. Mother and Son (Aleksandr Sokurov, Russia, 1997)

You might have heard about Sokurov. His most well known movie was "Russian Ark" a full length film done entirely in one take. And not just a regular film, a huge time travelling costume ball drama, done in one take. For my moolah however, this film is 10 times better. it completely destroyed me bad. It's basically a son taking care of his mother. But the film is shot with these insane lens or filters or something, and the effect is insane.

2. The House is Black (Forough Farrokhzad, Iran, 1962)

Forough Farrokhzad was a pretty big poet in Iran, she directed only this film and then died in a car crash. It's actually only about 20 minutes long. It's a poetic documentary of a leper colony, with self voice overs of her own poems. It is an incredibly sad and hard to watch film, but also amazingly beautiful. How this could possibly be anyones first film is hard to imagine. Farrokhzad clearly understoond the medium of cinema as well as she did poetry. The end of the film when the boy says, "The house is black" and the people walk towards the gate, is an amazing sequence and still haunts me. I never want to see it again. and yet i also want to again and again.

3. Oh! Soo-Jeong/Virgin Stipped Bare By Her Bachelors (Hong Sang-soo, South Korea, 2000)

My favorite Hong film, chaptered and titled, black and white two parter. I am still not sure which part is which. The first part appears to be a relationship from the man's perspective while the second is possilbe from the womans. The film also continues Hongs disection of ridiculous men and the women they torture/think they love. amazing!

4. Dead Man (Jim Jarmusch, USA, 1995)

Great! Every aspect was well done and the music was awesome too. Plus jonny depp rules. My favorite Jarmusch.

5. Shadows (John Cassavetes, USA, 1959)

Finally I got a hold of the Cassavetes box set. A true pioneer. This may be his finest film, although i haven't seen love streams. Absolutely incredible and so important to film.

6. Scene from the Life of Andy Warhol (Jonas Mekas, USA, 1982)

At long last I found some Jonas Mekas! Mekas was an incredibly excitable film critic turned godfather of "New American Cinema" the avant garde movement of the 60s and 70s. a champion of amatuer cinema, he is the guy responsible inventing the handheld camera diary type film as well as countless beautiful documents of everyday life. A lithuainian by birth he was relocated to NY by the UN although never formally immigrated. He was friends with all the hip cool guys everyone knows, but I think he is much more amazing. I have only seen two films by him, but this one is hypotizing. I love it bad, and am so glad he fullfilled my expecations. Although really old now he has started a project to make a short film everyday of 2007. they are free downloads on the day of release (ipod size) at his website, There are two so far. They are decent although not yet as good as what i have seen by him. but definetly could be exciting. I am thinking about doing it too, but who knows.

7. Fantomas 1 - A l'ombre de la guillotine (Louis Feuillade, France, 1913)

Feuillade was an early silent film pioneer, and the Fantomas series are considered classics. So far I have only seen the first one. It is fabulous though. Clearly an influential film series.

8. La Chinoise (Jean-Luc Godard, France, 1967)

Typical Godard, awesome. Some of the marxist stuff is a little bit silly, but the film is great and hilarious.

9. Tropical Malady (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Thailand, 2005)

I watched this with ryan. He is right its awesome. Weerasethakul will be remembered as a master in the years to come.

10. The Red Desert/Il Rosso Deserto (Michelangelo Antonioni, Italy, 1964)

Out of print in American DVD, I downloaded this and am glad I did. Sort of an existensialist horror film. The whole film has ominous overtones, and you half expect something to attack and jump out, but the real horror is that life just goes on and on. We are all disconnected and moving in circles. Canvased by a dark and endless sea, a dreay idustrial landscape, life just continues in endless separation, though we seek each other.

11. Millenium Mambo (Hou Hsiao Hsien, Taiwan, 2001)

Good choice Ryan. This film is amazing. I love the opening sequence.

12. Last Year at Marienbad (Alain Resnais, France, 1967)

Not as good as I'd hoped, but still incredible, and still amazing resnais. An incredibly complex film, I am sure it will get better the more i watch it. How the french new wave had so many amazing people all at the same time is just a miracle.

13. Woman is the Future of Man (Hong Sang-soo, South Korea, 2004)

Another Hong here. Awesome stuff.

14. Tears of the Black Tiger (Wisit Sasanatieng, Thailand, 2000)

Thailand is churning out the hits left and right. This is a genre parody/homage. A Thai western filmed in garish fake technicolor, Sasanatieng's bag of tricks seems endless. This movie is great and funny and great. and the dvd i hear is coming to america soon! just 7 years late! Another case of mirimax buying things and then shelving them for no reason.

15. Paradise Now (Hany Abu-Assad, Palestine, 2005)

Good movie. Not sure whether i love it or just like it yet. Its hard to get away from the personal connection having been to palistine. Very nice.

16. Riff-Raff (Ken Loach, UK, 1990)

My first ken loach. I am not sure if he is a director i really want to see everything by, but Riff-Raff is very nice. a funny and tender little UK working class dramady. it was good.

alright, maybe more comments on things or lists tommorow, i am beat. its bed time!

At 1/02/2007 10:13 AM, Blogger Ryan 1 said...

Sweet list to you. I am glad for it as you always point me to directors I do not otherwise know to look for. I feel like I'm in a perpetual state of catching up on film. At least that gives me fodder for 2007's Best Old/New Films.

At 1/02/2007 8:10 PM, Blogger Jeff BBz said...

don't worry man, i feel like I too am in a perpetual state of catching up. There are so many amazing films out there and so many great new ones made every year. I may look cool here, but compared to real film people, i am a fools fool. I've got a bunch of film links and resources I want to give you. Maybe i will email you.

also i agree with your last comment about rosenbaum only reveiwing mainly american movies which sucks. But he does that because for the reader he tends to only review what comes to chicago. which sucks for people that don't care about chicago but is a nice idea. He also tries to keep it less academic there. However, he does occasionally write about other stuff around the net. i wil include more when i send you the links but the online site for the film magazine cinemascope has a semi-regular column by him about random dvds from around the world. It's good and usually talking about things i have no idea about or at least haven't seen.

i don't know how often it is updated. maybe monthly or bi weekly?


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