November has flown by. Looking back on the list of movies I watched in the past month, I’m not impressed, but I am content. Note that the following is not all the films I watched over the course of the month. There may be one or two I left out, but anyway… let’s have a look at the list:
Watched for the first time in November 2011:
Paris, Je T’Aime: A delightful, enjoyable collage of short films collected together in one brilliant anthology. Fantastic work from all involved.
The Sting: A classic if ever there was one. Paul Newman and Robert Redford star alongside each other for the second time, working to pull off the perfect heist.
The Right Stuff: One of the most informative, enjoyable films about the American space administration, The Right Stuff does not disappoint with a stellar cast and excellent screenplay, making three hours fly surprisingly fast.
The Making of Fanny and Alexander: A 110-minute documentary available on the Criterion boxset, this informative feature on the making of a masterpiece is definitely mandatory viewing for Bergman fans.
Contagion: Because of the pisspoor availability of films where I live, this was the only cinematic release worth seeing, and it was indeed worth seeing. Soderbergh crafts an impressive thriller that is quite possibly his best film since 2000’s Traffic.
Tape: I absolutely love films that rely heavily on dialogue, as long as the dialogue is well-written and keeps my attention. Derek Jarman did it with his final film Blue, and Richard Linklater has done it in a similar but different way here, with only three cast members and a hell of a screenplay.
Permanent Vacation: Those who read my October in Movies post will remember how I raved about my favourite film I saw that month, Jim Jarmusch’s Stranger than Paradise, which is now one of my top ten films of all time. I decided this month to watch Jarmusch’s often neglected first film, which came a few years before Stranger than Paradise. Permanent Vacation is a far less impressive film, but it is still very interesting and provocative. However, if you don’t love indie films, you won’t love this.
Grizzly Man: Werner Herzog’s most acclaimed and well-received documentary, Grizzly Man delves into the partially psychotic world of Timothy Treadwell, grizzly bear enthusiast and wildlife preserver, who rejects society and goes to live among the bears he cares for, before he is famously killed by a rogue one. Powerful, powerful stuff.
A Short Film About Killing: Believe it or not, I had only seen the shorter, Dekalog versions of Kieslowski’s two famous “short films,” before this month. Killing, a disturbing look at society broken by its own sensitisation to violence, examines the pointlessness of the death penalty, reminding us we are all, in some way, murderers of something.
A Short Film About Love: The second of Kieslowski’s two feature-length adaptations of two Dekalog episodes, Love is probably the better of them. Looking at the relationship between a shy young man and a wounded, weary woman, Love turns quickly from a quirky, unusual romance to a depressing, moving drama.
Beyond: Sweden’s submission to next year’s Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film, Beyond is indeed an interesting film about a family affected by domestic violence. However, it just didn’t do it for me; I didn’t find it as provocative or moving as similar films such as Once Were Warriors or I Stand Alone. That said, Noomi Rapace gives quite possibly the best performance of her career and is a stellar standout.
Another Year: Mike Leigh’s latest film is a harsh but beautiful look at a happily married couple whose lives are affected by two idiotic drunks who desperately search for friendship and meaning, whilst the couple cope with a grievous death, all over the course of one eventful year. Fantastic.
Meek’s Cutoff: On Twitter I likened this film to Jodorowsky’s desert mindfuck El Topo and Gus van Sant’s existentialist masterpiece Gerry. While in general it does not surpass either film, it is still a powerful, effective drama with an excellent central performance from Michelle Williams.
Rewatched in November 2011
Troll 2: I saw this months ago out of curiosity and vowed never to see it again. But, naturally, my girlfriend Ashley developed this curiosity also and decided to watch it. What the hell, I thought. Maybe I’ll sit down for another laugh. How stupid was I. The film is even worse than I remembered it – absolutely terrible in every single way. There is only one redeeming moment, and that is the famous line: “You can’t piss on hospitality! I won’t allow it!” But other than that, a fucking awful movie. The worst film I have ever seen.
Nanook of the North: Widely regarded (incorrectly) as the first documentary feature ever made, Flaherty’s film is still the first really important and influential one. Tremendously beautiful with an amazing soundtrack (which may vary depending on which DVD release or screening you are viewing), it is truly one of the best silent films ever made.
Fanny and Alexander: The Television Version: Back in early April, I first saw the 3-hour theatrical release of Ingmar Bergman’s magnum opus Fanny and Alexander. It was more than six months before I saw the original, full-length 312-minute version of the film, courtesy of an excellent Criterion box set, and I am still breathless. Now my third favourite film of all time, the full-length television version of Fanny and Alexander is easily one of the most impressive films ever made.
A Clockwork Orange: Still an all-time favourite, Kubrick’s 1971 film may not be his best, but is still damn fine.
Diary of a Country Priest: I didn’t like it as much on the second viewing, but that does not take away anything at all from this film’s brilliance. One of the best films of the 50s, it is a widely appreciated masterpiece that tells the story of a priest with a very bad illness (probably stomach cancer) who is widely regarded with hatred by his fellow citizens, even though he has done absolutely nothing wrong. Contains possibly the best dying words a character has ever had: “What does it matter? All is grace.”
Taste of Cherry: The first time I saw this landmark Iranian film from Abbas Kiarostami, I gave it 8/10 and returned the DVD I’d rented quickly. I liked it a lot, but there were issues I had. Then I saw it again, and… I can’t explain it. Something clicked. I found myself on the verge of tears at such an emotional, beautiful masterpiece. And the epilogue which so many hated, inexplicably began to make sense. Kiarostami’s best film.
Certified Copy: Another Abbas Kiarostami film, this is the latest feature from the Iranian cinematic genius. Very much in the vein of Richard Linklater films such as Before Sunset, it looks at the relationship between two strangers; a relationship which begins inexplicably to manifest itself into that of a couple who have been married for ten years. Raising a lot of intriguing questions and leaving the audience to answer them, it’s an impressive feat from an amazing director, though not quite as impressive as his earlier works such as Taste of Cherry and The Wind Will Carry Us.
The Social Network: My second viewing of Fincher’s fast-paced drama greatly increased my appreciation for it. The second time round, I was able to focus more attentively and pick up more intense, smaller details about this amazing film which is easily one of the best of the last two years. How bout now, you still wired in?
The Silence: My third viewing of the third instalment of Ingmar Bergman’s Faith trilogy made me love it even more. On my first two viewings, I had glossed over vital details and not paid full attention. This time, I was fully alert and managed to get more out of this relatively dialogue-free experiment in the relationship between human siblings. The underrated Gunnel Lindblom shines here, and the indescribably talented Ingrid Thulin continues to prove she is one of the greatest actresses of all time.
Before Sunrise: Richard Linklater’s amazing romantic comedy, this is one of those few romantic films which really impresses with its knowledge of humanity. It doesn’t turn its characters into boring, cliche-ridden caricatures like so many other movies do. It is actually realistic and attentive, and captures the thrill of early romance beautifully.
Before Sunset: The even more impressive sequel to Before Sunrise, Sunset sees Jesse and Celine reunited 9 years later. They still share fond memories of their one-night encounter, but age has brought with it bitterness and hate for the way their lives have changed as they desperately try to reform the same connection they shared all those years ago.
Taxi Driver: Still as impressive as ever, Scorsese’s classic about a man’s loss of sanity following the degradation of his society still entrances and thrills us with its amazing portrayal of spiralling psychosis.
Naked: Mike Leigh’s impressive 1993 film stars David Thewlis in an entrancing role. Full of strangeness and bitter realism, it’s an intriguing film that at times falls flat but generally remains entertaining.
Secrets & Lies: Closing out the month was a rewatch of what I still maintain is Mike Leigh’s best film, and one of the five best films ever to have come from the isle of Britain. Over two hours long and nothing short of brilliant for every single minute, its fantastic storyline, strong screenplay, stellar acting and exceptional execution make it one of the most rewarding family dramas ever made.
Best Film Watched in November 2011 (not including rewatches):
A Short Film About Love (1988)
Worst Film Watched in November 2011 (not including rewatches):
Permanent Vacation (1980)
So what did you watch in November? What were the highlights and/or lowlights? What do you think of the films I watched? Leave a comment below.