What I’m Watching #2

Welcome to the second edition of What I’m Watching, a series that once every two weeks looks at the films I’ve been watching recently, and the films I plan to watch in the future. Today’s post covers all the films I’ve watched since June 18.

Films Watched for the First Time:

The Haunted House (1921): Silent slapstick from Keaton with great gags and memorable sequences, as well as some particularly impressive editing trickery. FilmScore: 7/10

Hard Luck (1921): Similarly funny Keaton short with some impressive gags. 7/10

Once Upon a Time in America (1984): After blind-buying this film on DVD, I was excited to give it a watch, and surprised with how incredibly well made it was. Leone’s auteur craftmanship doesn’t falter for a frame, and the actors keep the story going for an epic four hours. There are some particularly haunting moments that will stay with me a long while. An American classic. 10/10.

The High Sign (1921): I had to watch the epic final sequence of this Keaton short twice to fully comprehend it. Wonderful gags. 7/10

The Goat (1921): Quite possibly my favourite Keaton short so far, The Goat is relentlessly hilarious and well put-together, with sequences that feel truly original and delightfully hilarious. 8/10

Landscape in the Mist (1988): As my recent review of this film will tell you, this was my introduction to the work of Greek director Theo Angelopoulos, and I was incredibly impressed. There are many sequences in this slow but steady film that had me in complete awe. 9/10

Nashville (1975): I haven’t seen a lot of Robert Altman films, but this one is certainly my favourite. Flooring from start to finish with an incredible soundtrack of memorable songs and an impeccable cast of varying characters, this 160-minute film went by too fast, and I will definitely be seeing it again soon. 10/10

Living in Oblivion (1995): After a recommendation from Emil at A Swede Talks Movies, I decided to check this low-budget indie homage to independent cinema out, and while it’s got its own flaws, they’re very easy to overlook and the film is quite funny. 7/10

This Is Not a Film (2011): Is it fair to list this amongst the other films on this list, when after all it is not a film? 10/10

Through the Olive Trees (1994): After a too-long wait, I finally finished watching Abbas Kiarostami’s Koker trilogy, and the final film is perhaps my favourite. A quiet but meaningful story of a filmmaker struggling to finish a project, there are so many aspects of Kiarostami’s directorial greatness on display here. 9/10

I Vitelloni (1953): An early film from Federico Fellini, this is a much-treasured work among fans of the director, and perhaps the man’s most autobiographical film, personal on the same level as 8 ½, perhaps even more intensely than that. An influential classic. 8/10

The Play House (1921): Though this is one of the less impressive Keaton shorts, it does have one sequence that’s utterly magnificent: the opening sequence, in which Keaton plays literally dozens of characters all at once! 7/10

49 Up (2005): Yet another film in Michael Apted’s glorious series, which seems to be getting more and more personal and hauntingly deep. Though many participants have acknowledged the series has nearly ruined their lives, they still bravely agree to take part and bare their souls. Amazing. 9/10

The Ides of March (2011): Yeah… nah… 7/10

All These Women (1964): It seems as if I’ve seen all of Ingmar Bergman’s greatest films, and all that’s left are the less impressive, mediocre ones on the bottom. All These Women, Bergman’s first venture into colour, is a film that looks nice, but apart from that is absolutely horrid in every way. A disgusting mess. 3/10

This Can’t Happen Here (1950): Bergman says that for him, this film is ‘the very bottom.’ He despises it with all his heart and tried to disown it, so finally getting a chance to see this rare work was excting for me, and I’ve got to say, it’s nowhere near as bad as he makes it out to be. Sure, it’s not great or even good, but it’s only mediocre and has its moments. 5/10

The Touch (1971): Along with This Can’t Happen Here, Bergman also considers The Touch one of his absolute worst films. Personally, I think the man’s being a little too serious. Yes, this is a flawed film; in fact, its third act is where it becomes almost appalling in its contrived idiocy, but the first 60-70 minutes at least are almost fantastic, and quite well put together. Bibi Andersson is wonderful, speaking English fluently and acting very well. 7/10

Shame (2011): I’ve seen this twice, written two mini-reviews and considered its meaning deeply, and I still can’t comprehend fully the excellence of Shame, which may be the best film I’ve seen this month (closely tied ironically with another Steve McQueen film, Hunger, which I saw at the very beginning of the month). Fassbender is incredible, McQueen’s direction is that of a true auteur and Harry Escott’s score is wonderfully dark. No flaws whatsoever in this modern masterpiece. 10/10

Eternity and a Day (1998): My second Theo Angelopoulos film. While not quite as good as Landscape in the Mist, I thought Eternity and a Day was a very powerful arthouse film. Its pace is incredibly slow, but as you may already know I don’t have a problem with slow pace so long as there is something else interesting to keep me watching, such as the themes or imagery. This film is rarely boring and always wonderful to look at, with epic tracking shots reminiscent of Bela Tarr. 8/10

Le Havre (2011): A nice, harmless little French comedy which is delightful to watch and is wonderfully sweet the whole way through. Not a great film admittedly but one I felt a poignant attraction to and enjoyed a lot. 8/10

Rewatches Since June 18

  • Volver (2006)
  • World of Glory (1991)
  • Taste of Cherry (1997)
  • Raging Bull (1980)
  • 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007)
  • Shame (2011)
  • Three Colours: Red (1994)
  • Inland Empire (2006)

Films Ranked:

10/10

This Is Not a Film (2011)

Shame (2011)

Nashville (1975)

Once Upon a Time in America (1984)

9/10

Landscape in the Mist (1988)

49 Up (2005)

Through the Olive Trees (1994)

8/10

Eternity and a Day (1998)

The Goat (1921)

I Vitelloni (1953)

Le Havre (2011)

7/10

Living in Oblivion (1995)

The Haunted House (1921)

The High Sign (1921)

Hard Luck (1921)

The Ides of March (2011)

The Touch (1971)

The Play House (1921)

6/10

5/10

This Can’t Happen Here (1950)

4/10

3/10

All These Women (1964)

2/10

1/10

Upcoming Films

As I mentioned two weeks ago, I keep ten films always on my Letterboxd watchlist. When one film is removed, another is added immediately and the number always stays at ten. Ten films from ten different directors, for me to watch over time. Since June 18, I have watched five films from that watchlist: Landscape in the Mist, 49 Up, Through the Olive Trees, I Vitelloni and Nashville. Those five were replaced with: A Swedish Love Story (1970), Peeping Tom (1960), Chelsea Girls (1966), I Was Born, But… (1932), and 56 Up (2012). I imagine I’ll be seeing most of those five films in the next two weeks. Also remaining on the ten-film watchlist are: Film Socialisme (2010), Out 1: Noli me Tangere (1971), The Terrorizers (1986), Rocco and His Brothers (1959) and Les Vampires (1915). I imagine I’ll have started watching the 12-hour Out 1 before the next What I’m Watching post.

I also have plans to watch: more Buster Keaton shorts, Theo Angelopoulos’ The Travelling Players (1975), Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Love is Colder than Death (1967), Ingmar Bergman’s Torment (1944), Harmony Korine’s Julien Donkey-Boy (1999), Chantal Akerman’s Je Tu Il Elle (1976), Kenji Mizoguchi’s Ugetsu Monogatari (1953), and… whatever else I happen to feel like watching. Keep reading and stay tuned; we’ll see how many of these films I’ve watched in two weeks time.

So what do you think? Have you seen these movies? What do you think of them? What have you been watching lately? Leave a comment below.

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Posted on July 1, 2012, in Movies, What I'm Watching and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 24 Comments.

  1. Respect. I don’t know how you do it. Days must be longer in NZ or something. I can barely fit in one film a day and still have time to blog.

  2. thefilmfreak

    Glad you finally got around to Nashville and loved it…it’s my favorite by Altman and top 25 all time for me. If you decide to see more by him, check out M*A*S*H, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, and The Long Goodbye. For me, those are his best films, but he has other greats too. And I saw you have Ugetsu on your list of films to watch and think you’ll love that too.

  3. I’ve only seen two of the new films you saw: The Ides of March and (surprise!) Living in Oblivion. Both are good ones in my book. I’ve also seen one of yoru rewatches, in 4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days. That’s a film I’d like to revisit at some point. I dug the restrained tension of the movie, but I was probably a bit too caught up in the narrative the first time to fully appreciate it.

    • 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is one of my top favourite films of the last decade. The tension is excellent, and conveyed brilliantly in the long takes. Haunting, horrifying movie.

  4. So glad you liked Shame. 10/10 from me too. I really need to see Nashville, I saw 3 Women recently and loved it and it really made me want to see more of Altman’s movies.

    • 3 Women looks like a good film. Altman’s a great director; I recommend his films The Player and Short Cuts. Loved both of those.

  5. I re-watched Once Upon a Time in America recently, and it’s definitely a must-see. I still need to see most of your first-timers though, especially Nashville, I Vitelloni, and This Is Not a Film.

    • I absolutely loved Once Upon a Time… as well as the others you mentioned. Definitely watch them if you can. I Vitelloni is a true classic.

  6. Kiarostami and Panahi for the win! I still need to sit down and watch the Wind Will Carry Us (I forgot to take the DVD with me on holiday, woops).
    I just had to lie there for a while after Shame. You (and Stevee I think) watched it twice already – braver than me! I think I prefer Hunger, but it’s a very close call.

  7. ALL THESE WOMEN is indeed an awful film, IT CAN’T HAPPEN HERE is inoffensive but amusing in its ineptitude. I’m surprised that you enjoyed THE TOUCH as much as you did, but more power to you. I’ve seen it twice and still consider it one of his worst. It’s hard to fault a director working outside his native language, though.

    Is LE HAVRE your first Kaurismaki?

    • I’m still surprised I enjoyed The Touch as much as I did. I think it was Bibi Andersson. She was fantastic. However Elliot Gould, like David Carradine in The Serpent’s Egg, was absolutely horrid.

      Yep, Le Havre is my first Kaurismaki.

  8. Alex Withrow

    I could not be happier that you love Shame as much as you do. It’s one of the best films I’ve ever seen. A masterpiece if there ever was one. I just got done telling Stevee that the Kiwi and Aussie fascination with it has breathed new life into the movie itself, which is just great.

    I’d like to comment on some of the other movies you’re watching, but I’m afraid nothing I write would be able to top my passion for McQueen’s work.

  9. I completely agree on Once Upon a Time in America, but I’m afraid I disagree on Shame. I feel the former is a truly great film, while I feel the latter is a basic story I’ve seen many times (minus the nudity) that broadcasts the ending 10 minutes after meeting the characters.

    • I think Shame is less about the story than it is about emotions, tension, terror, unease and sadness. It’s a film about addiction and the depths to which addicts can go, and it is carried beautifully well by Michael Fassbender. Sure, the film might be predictable, but does that really lessen its effect? I dunno, I guess for some people it does. Thanks for sharing your opinion Chip, it’s always refreshing to get a comment from someone who disagrees for a change.

      • Thanks. For me, being able to predict the ending does lessen the impact of a film. If it’s something I look forward to seeing (i.e a rom-com), this can still be a good thing. Unfortunately, a byproduct of how many movies I’ve watched is that I tend to see many of the same plots over and over.

        On a somewhat related note, I was frankly surprised by how few people made the connection between Drive (2011) and Shane (1953). They are essentially the same story done in a different setting (although it’s not until the ending that this is really cemented, so it didn’t lose much impact for me).

        • I think that if Steve McQueen hadn’t directed Shame, it’d be a far less impressive film. His direction keeps the viewer interested even if the film does have other elements that could be considered weak. Personally I think he should’ve won the Best Director Oscar for it, and it’s probably the best direction I’ve seen in an American film for a very long time.

          I haven’t seen Shane, but for me, when watching Drive, it’s obvious the film was inspired by a lot of classics from various genres, the most obvious being Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Samourai. It’s almost like the Quentin Tarantino thing that’s becoming commonplace, wherein filmmakers are borrowing styles and elements from older films to give their movies a bit of kick that’s not present among most of today’s films. I personally don’t usually have a problem with it, and I think it works very well in Drive, which is an excellent film that I’m very glad Quentin Tarantino didn’t make.

  10. Yeah, Shame is awesome

  11. Great look back at what you’ve been busy watching! Have only seen a small percentage of the films you mentioned, but I Vitelloni (1953) and Shame (2011) would definitely rate highly on my own list!

    Thanks for the heads up on Once Upon a Time in America, Landscape in the Mist , and Nashville. I hope to catch them during 2012, once I’m done with my Lars Von Trier film review marathon for the LAMB director’s chair event July 16th.

    Talking of Robert Altman, I agree with Sati in comments, if you haven’t already, do give 3 Women (1977) a look, which I wrote about in my monthly recap.

    • Once Upon a Time in America, Landscape in the Mist and Nashville are all great. Definitely check ’em out.

      I’m looking out for 3 Women. Sounds good!

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