My pick of the year, sort of, is up at THE AUTEURS. Go!

27 Responses to “2008”

  1. My favourite film of the year is probably Roy Andersson’s DU LEVANDE (You The Living)

  2. Oh, that was very nice. I think I saw it last year, though. Or is that impossible? Anyhow, he has a beautiful style and a unique worldview, I look forward to his next thing.

  3. Very pleased that you enjoyed The Last Flight enough to rank it in your Top Ten! I would love to see that film enjoy a revival…

  4. (* indicates that I had seen the film before)

    My Top Ten Cinematic Experiences would include…

    – ”Le Corbeau” which I saw on a big screen this year and which is the stunning and chilling peak of Clouzot’s highly uneven career.

    – ”Imitation of Life” made me into a Sirkite. Before I liked and admired, now I love unconditionally.*

    – ”The Silence” which I saw on 35mm, really spellbinding stuff. *

    – ”The Horse Thief”. Made in 1986, Martin Scorsese saw this earth-shattering masterpiece by Tian Zhuanzhuang in the 90s and decided that nothing was made in the 90s to match it, and later said it was the best of the decade. I concur.

    – ”A Brighter Summer Day” by the recently departed Edward Yang however comes close. A 4hr national epic of Taiwan, it’s colours, mise-en-scene, cast of dozens and the greatest Elvis impersonators in film history.*

    – ”The House of Mirth” I spent a lot of time trying to catch up with the good films made this decade and many could come here except I am saving up for next year’s end of the decade lists. One early offering is this divine beautiful film by Terence Davies. Gillian Anderson in this film is one of the most erotic and beautiful presences since Ingrid Bergman in ”Europa ’51”.

    – ”It’s Always Fair Weather” – I never saw this final film of Donen and Kelly’s musical trilogy but this is one of the most innovative and moving films made in the 50s about the 50s, topical enough to be timeless and full of the best damn dance numbers you’ll ever see. Cyd Charisse passed away last year and seeing this film two weeks after she left us and the fact I hadn’t seen it before felt a little religious. Her legs just never end.

    – ”White Dog” – Fuller’s ferocious masterpiece, his greatest film is at last available on a director’s cut from the lords and ladies at Criterion.*

    – I really got into Robert Altman’s films and cinema this year and he’s now one of my favourites, I hope to see more or as much as possible. To choose my favourite – ”McCabe & Mrs. Miller”.

    – ”L’Armee des Ombres” – The most beautiful and powerful film Melville ever made. Lino Ventura’s work is one of French cinema’s proudest achievements.

  5. A few other good films I saw during 2008:
    Bresson’s Une femme douce
    Marker’s Sans Soleil
    Cavalcanti’s Went the Day Well?
    Abrahamson’s Garage
    Yamanaka’s Humanity and Paper Balloons
    Kitano’s Kikujiro

    Apropos television, the most enjoyable viewing during 2008 was probably Wallander and Little Dorrit.


  6. Hi David,
    I’m glad you got to see Sebastian, that film made a big impression on me as a child and possibly the codes hidden in slowed down recordings of coins in jars sent me on my career way of klanking and hooting, love Mr Bogarde’s character in that, I’m almost certain that Mr Fry’s HOUSE solving puzzles and general misanthropic Character is sourced from there?? ( ok maybe there are other sources sherlock! but I’m sticking with the theory ) I would love to see this film again. I’ve haven’t seen it since I was about 10 yrs old and yet I can still visualize Dirk’s total Brown Bachelor pad decorating ( maybe too many years spent in brown bedsits?? ) and the rows and rows of computers and computer dollybirds…. mmmm … spymovie computer dollybirds would be a nice 2009 calender?? whaddya think Mr C???

  7. I’ll make you a copy of Sebastian, Matt. It’s well worth revisiting. And I think you’re right about House — I made a copy of the film for regular Shadowplayer Kris, but without really knowing why — you’ve provided the answer, as she’s a big House fan.

    Great choices everyone! I have Humanity and Paper Balloons and House of Mirth “lined up” as they say. So maybe in 2009.

    Love Sans Soleil, have blogged about Went the Day Well? a favourite of mine, and somehow failed to write anything much about It’s Always Fair Weather despite seeing it this year. White Dog is class. I particularly like the strobing back projection of Venice! McCabe and Mrs M is a great film to watch this time of year!

  8. Arthur S. Says:

    That’s Sam referencing ”The Naked Kiss” which also uses Venice as projected on a wall.

  9. It’s Always Fair Weather clearly inspired Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along/i>. It’s starting offpoint was Alexandre Dumans’ “Vongt ans apres” and it’s the greatest film ever made about post-WWII disillusionment and the death of friendship.

    It also features my opwn personal obsession Dolores Gray

  10. Arthur S. Says:

    I was thinking of The Three Musketeers in that opening section with them marching through Europe. And you are quite right about what it says about Post WW2 disillusionment. It’s a direct challenge to people harping about MGM musicals being safe conservative genres. It’s ambitious in a way that few films(then and now) are. The use of color is also splendid as is the breathtaking use of ‘Scope. And also it’s got great music numbers including Cyd Charisse’s(”baby you knock me out!) and Gene Kelly’s best(”I Like Myself”).

    The great thing I like about it is that unlike other serious musicals it’s able to be solemn and elegiac without giving up the spark and life of performing. Few moments are as buoyant than Gene Kelly suddenly realizing he likes himself after being chased by gangsters. It’s also a great mix of genres, Gene Kelly’s story is obviously a Film Noir, while Dan Dailey is the universal melodrama while Michael Kidd, I suppose is part of the comedies made at that time. The chase scene is straight out of a noir film only here done in beautiful soft technicolor.

  11. Vingt Ans Apres is an unlucky book! Most adaptors skip four volumes and go straight to The Man in the Iron Mask. Roy Kinnear lost his life making the main “official” version. Donen and Kelly got off lightly.

    Yes, and it’s the same footage from The Naked Kiss. I don’t know why Fuller didn’t play the film director character, who’s obviously based on him.

  12. What I intended to say about It’s Always Fair Weather (an upbeat-sounding title that, by referencing the concept of “fair-weather friends” darkens appreciably, until you can’t quite tell WHAT it means) is that it’s basically filmed entirely in master shots — no visible signs of coverage at all. A very bold, risky strategy, but one that results in visual perfection in this instance.

    This deleted scene is not quite as perfect in terms of cutting, but is well worth seeing…

    Dolores Gray’s number is notable, apart from its wonderfulness, for its wild jump-cuts, which are substantially ahead of their time.

  13. Also cut was a solo for the great Michael Kidd called “Jack and the Space Giants.” This was about his character — Angie — and his children. Like “Love is Nothing But a Racket” it was decided that it slowed the picture down. This was common practice in those days.

    What was happening on-screen was mirrored off. Kelly and Donen were once close friends as well as professional colleagues. By the time the shooting was over they were barely on speaking terms.

    The final blow was Metro’s decision not to play it at the Radio City Music Hall. It opened “citywide” in new York. I caught it at the Valencia in Jamaica Queens. Very odd not to go into twon to see a Metro msuical. But I loved it.

    In any event Betty and Adolph knew it was all over.

  14. Arthur S. Says:

    The theme of ”Love is Nothing but a Racket” kind of gets conveyed in the very Hawksesque interplay between both of those characters. One other thing I liked about the film is Gene Kelly’s performance. It’s a really restrained, subtle work. Cyd Charisse is also terrific. And Michael Kidd makes me wish he had more time on-screen, they could have gotten rid of that Dan Dailey’s attempt at a dance number in that board meeting in place for the Kidd one. And Dolores Gray in the Lina Lamont role is very good although her dance number shows more talent than Lina ever did.

    ”It’s Always Fair Weather” interestingly actually appears in the TV production climax. One of the escorts carries a signpost with that title as they lead up the three amigos for their very fake “reunion” anticipating Oprah and her minions well before their time. It’s part of the vein of anti-TV films made by Hollywood in the 50’s alongside ”A Face in the Crowd” and ”Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter” only here it’s kind of like a self-critical poke since the title of the film appears there itself, I guess parodying Hollywood’s repeated and insistent attempts to sell audiences fantasies I guess and the role played by MGM musicals as part of that.

    The lack of close-ups maybe because this was the first time both Donen and Kelly took on ‘Scope and it’s perhaps the first MGM musical in that format(David E. can correct me if I am wrong). Many early ‘Scope movies had that problem of how to edit and cut. Hence Lang’s legendary quip about it.

    Re: White Dog. Fuller actually appears in a one-shot cameo as a producer who bears Kristy MacNichol’s character the bad news over the phone. I guess he didn’t want to play the director because he didn’t want to distract the audience from that scene which is after all a vicious attack on an unsuspecting girl by a deranged dog by putting himself on-screen. Figured that his on-screen appearance might distract hipsters from the weight of what follows.

  15. My favourite film with Gene Kelly is Demy’s Les Demoiselles de Rochefort.

  16. It’s one of the first. The other notable scope musicals of that period are Seven Brides For Seven Brothers and Brigadoon.

    I was on the set of White Dog for three days and saw Sam shoot. One of the great experiences of my life.

  17. There are plenty of early ‘scope films that feel static and distant, but IAFW isn’t one of them — if the master-shot approach resulted from a lack of confidence in cutting, it nevertheless resulted in a tour-de-force of mise-en-scene.

    It does feel odd that Michael Kidd doesn’t get his own sequence — that contributes to the slight lack of conviction in the ending. But I rather like that quality of the ending, I think it’s a strength. It’s fitting that a film attacking romantic lies about enduring friendship should serve up a happy ending that feels rather phony. If you know your Vonnegut, it’s a Bokononist ending.

  18. Arthur S. Says:

    So I guess the logistics of concieving musical numbers for that width is what resulted in those master-shots.

    That’s really terrific. What was the atmosphere like? And what scenes did Fuller shoot on those days? Fuller liked to shoot fast from what I heard and almost never did retakes. Just one take and that was it. Bunuel shot the same way(mutual admirers).

  19. Arthur S. Says:

    I don’t see the end of the film as a happy ending or a phony ending at all. At the end, they do renew their friendship but they go their seperate ways nonetheless and who knows when, where or will they ever see each other again. The important thing is that they accept each other both as human and as friends. They know it won’t last forever but that doesn’t mean that it’s meaningless(far from it). It gives them a tragic weight.
    Pay attention to the lyrics the bartender sings. It’s a very existential film in that respects.

  20. That “happy ending” left me a sobbing wreck back in 1955 and I still chock up when I see it. These three guys are NEVER going to meet again.

  21. I think what seemed odd about it to me had to do with Michael Kidd’s lack of a cathartic moment of his own, and the fact that the simple act of fighting together unites the heroes and enables them to overcome their differences. Actually, that’s not so unlikely, since it’s war that brought them together in the first place.

    But something about it seemed like a movie ending, whereas the problems they face are not purely movie problems. That tension was very compelling to me, and it seems a particularly good thing for a musical to explore.

  22. I said Mr Fry, but I meant , of course, Mr Laurie… the people on this blog are either too Gentlemanly to mention such an obvious booboo or their collective DVD/VHS players burn hot throughout the night and terrestrial TV never gets near their celluloid Noosphere.. I applaud you all, wish you all a 2 light B&W new year and will try to restrict my tv viewing to just The RKO story…

  23. Arthur S. Says:

    Well IAFW is a MOVIE, it’s an MGM Musical for God’s sake. And in any case all three of them have to the self-realization with their friends before they came to the show. They all went there to meet there and apologize until they were sent on-air. And the fight with the gangsters happened possibly to punish bad guys and show that corruption in boxing will not go unpunished or something and the fight scene is played for laughs probably to off-set the tension before, and the three musketeers are also fighting to desecrate the set which they hate as well. Then the real end at the cafe where-it-all-began.

    IAFW has never gotten it’s due because it’s a very alienating film on the surface. It’s by a fair distance the most ambitious of the MGM musicals and among the most accomplished, though I’d hesitate to call it the best. It’s right up there with ”Meet Me in St. Louis”, ”The Pirate”, ”Singin’ in the Rain”, ”On the Town”(the obvious prequel), ”The Band Wagon”, ”Bells Are Ringing”.

  24. It certainly is, and you’re right that it’s more ambitious.

    If you look at Dan Dailey’s behaviour, I think it’s clear in the TV studio that he at least hasn’t found his catharsis until the fighting starts — he’s still a (very tall) mountain of self-loathing as he begins his TV appearance. So the fighting restores the friendship and that solves everything… except I’m still puzzled by what’s led Kidd to abandon pretension with his restaurant. The deleted scene, presumably.

    There are various forms of “movieness”, and the musical clearly has a lot of liberty to explore them. There are movies which aspire to the condition of real life, and movies which happily create their own consistent form of reality. By getting into real life-problems in a deeper way, IAFW sets itself the problem of having to solve them in order to produce the required happy ending. And the problems are not that solvable.

    I like David E’s reading: if they’re never going to meet again, then what they’ve achieved is a momentary rekindling of their wartime camaraderie, which enables them to part on good terms. Truly bittersweet.

  25. Somehow I missed your Fry-Laurie blunder, Mr Wand. I think it took me a second to remember House, and then I was stunned because I’d recommended Sebastian to a friend, without really knowing why. And it hit me that she’s a huge House fan.

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