Andrei Rublev – Long, slow and depressing, but a masterpiece nonetheless. Not as famous as Solaris, but this is a much better Tarkovsky film. Not nearly as solipsistic or pessimistic as that one, there’s actually some hope for humanity and society by the end of this film, though the three hours leading up to that point aren’t exactly fun.
Floating Weeds – I haven’t seen his silent film that this is a remake of, but I plan to eventually. The Criterion version comes with both versions. This is the third Ozu I’ve seen, and all of them are great. Late Spring’s my favorite, and that’s coming out later this year. Tokyo Story’s the most famous, the first I saw and the one I enjoyed the least. I probably should watch it again.
Hiroshima Mon Amour – A pretty perfect little movie. The lead actress, Emmanuelle Riva, played Juliette Binoche’s mom in Three Colors: Blue and gives an outstanding performance here. My first Alain Resnais movie, I really want to see Last Year At Marienbad though.
Band Of Outsiders – Totally charming. It’s easy to forget just how fun Godard can be. Anna Karina was, predictably, adorable and Michel Legrand’s score was terrific. I think it’s now my second favorite Godard, after Pierrot Le Fou.
Fitzcarraldo – My new #1 film from 1982 is this Werner Herzog movie about a crazy guy who wants to move a boat over a mountain so he can bring opera to the jungle. Stars Klaus Kinski (also crazy) and Claudia Cardinale (from Once Upon A Time In The West).
Dave Chappelle’s Block Party – Really just a pretty good concert film. The Fugees reunion at the end of the show was pretty cool, but the highlight was an amazing performance by The Roots with Jill Scott and Erikah Badu. Not a ground-breaking film by any means, but I certainly liked it more than the only other Michel Gondry film I’ve seen, the drastically overrated Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind. Now my #22 rated film of 2005.
Week End – Another wacky Godard film, this one is like Pierrot Le Fou, but mixed with cynicism and Maoist politics. There’s so much to love about it, though, that I can overlook the long anti-colonialist speeches (which are nothing but simple-minded justifications of terrorism). Someday, when I have my own movie theatre, I’m going to name it the End Of Cinemas.
Tristram Shandy – Very funny. It’s in a close race with The 40 Year Old Virgin as the Best Comedy of 2005 (I ended up rating it 9th, two spots behind Virgin). Right up there with the best movies about making movies (Living In Oblivion, The Stunt Man, Day for Night, etc.)
Burden Of Dreams – Les Blank’s documentary about the making of Fitzcarraldo is alright, but the only really great parts are a pair of rants by Herzog (The birds are not singing, they are screaming in pain!”). The second best movie about crazy people making a movie in a jungle. The #11 film of 1982.
George Washington – Indie film overrated for it’s admittedly very cool visual style (very Ozu influenced, naturally), while overlooking the fundamental silliness of its plot. There are some attempts at poetry, in the narration and the ending that mostly just don’t work. Still, a fine first film for director David Gordon Green. The #7 film of 2000.
The World – A stunningly beautiful film about workers at a Beijing amusement park that recreates the whole world, or at least the famous parts: Manhattan, the Eiffel Tower, London Bridge, the Pyramids. It’s magic realist Ozu, with text messaging. The film revolves around the two of the workers, with a little bit of every type of post-communist social issue thrown in: foreign workers forced into prostitution, country folk moving to the big city to try to make their fortune and failing, organized crime, overworked workers in unsafe conditions, plus your typical romantic issues. Interspersed are chapter breaks (one chapter’s even called “Tokyo Story”) and some clever animated sequences. A great first big-budget film by director Jia Khang-ze. I wish I had grabbed the poster when I had the chance last year, but I forgot. The #4 film of 2004.
Kill! – Adapted from the same source novel as Akira Kurosawa’s Sanjuro, I have a feeling that this is closer to thee novel than that one, the sequel to Yojimbo. This is a darker, less satirical, more densely plotted film than that one, but it’s still a very fine film. Tatsuya Nakadai’s performance in the lead role, while it can’t match the comic intensity of Toshiro Mifune’s in Sanjuro, is still quite good. The film is very nice looking: crowded frames, at times shockingly graphic violence, and New Wavy editing. Director Kihachi Okamoto also did Sword Of Doom, which stars Mifune and Nakadai and which I’ll be seeing very soon.
Samurai Spy – Another part of Criterion’s Rebel Samurai boxset (along with Kill!, Sword Of The Beast and Samurai Rebellion, which I saw years ago). Directed by Masahiro Shinoda, this is a remarkably beautiful film about, well, samurai spies (they actually seem more like ninjas, but I don’t know if there’s a difference). The plot’s ridiculously complex, but that’s OK because the movie’s just so damn cool. And there’s even a nice supporting role for the guy who played the Master Swordsman in The Seven Samurai.
Oldboy – If Danny Boyle made a Takeshi Miike film, this is what would result. It’s not nearly as original or interesting visually as Boyle’s films, though it does have some nice flourishes. And it’s not nearly as gross or disturbing as Miike’s (the the end comes pretty close), which in my opinion is a good thing. There’s one long fight that’s pretty cool looking, but this film has more in common with Japanese horror than Hong Kong action. Still, a pretty good revenge movie. The #8 film of 2003.