Wednesday 22 February 2012

Some recommended readings (2)

Last year I recommended five good books for somebody who wanted to get a good introduction to the field of cinema studies. Today I will recommend five new books, which are more specific, but very good. Especially Alexander Mackendrick's book should be required reading for all film students (and quite a few scholars as well).

 On Film-Making by Alexander Mackendrick (both analysis, theory and practice of the art of cinema)

Engaging Characters: Fiction, Emotion and the Cinema by Murray Smith (on how we engage with characters and a theory on how fiction film works)

Film Fables by Jacques Rancière (essays on different films and filmmakers, as well as on film history)

Bazin at Work by Andre Bazin (selected essays and reviews by Bazin from the 1940s and 1950s)

Hawks on Hawks edited by Joseph McBride (interviews with Howard Hawks)

Thursday 16 February 2012

Wes Anderson

I forgot to include Wes Anderson on my favourite filmmaker list. I have added him now but this is unforgivable. Since all his films without exception are brilliant he must be there and these clips might go a way as apology!

It is possible that Bottle Rocket is the one I love the most.

(Aquatic alienation)

Wednesday 15 February 2012

My favourite filmmakers

I am frequently asked what my favourite film is, or my favourite actor, or my favourite filmmaker. In order to humour these people, and those who have been afraid to ask, I thought I write some blog posts on the subject. Today I will list my favourite filmmakers, actors will come later in the spring. As for favourite films I tweet one every Monday during 2012 (with the hashtag #mytop52) and at the end of the year I will blog about them here too.

Before the list I better say a few words about it. First of all, and obviously, all those listed have made great films. Films that move me, thrill me and dazzle me and films that I want to watch again. And again. But to qualify on this list there is more to it than that. They must have made great films over the whole of their careers. As an example, Michael Ritchie made some fantastic films in the 1970s but he then unfortunately fizzled out so he will not be listed. Some other filmmakers did not make the list because either they have made too few films or I have not seen enough of their films (which is the case with for example Jacques Becker and Abolfazl Jalili, even though their films that I have seen have been fantastic). Then of course there are a few filmmakers whose films I have not seen at all but that I am must eager to explore, such as Sacha Guitry or Fred Niblo. Maybe there will come a new list in the future.

Another important factor is that the listed filmmakers have a strong presence in the films that they have made. This presence is stronger with some (John Ford for example) and lesser with others (such as Satyajit Ray or William Wyler), but it is almost always there. These are also filmmakers who had (or still have) an idea about their work, conscious artists with a way of looking at the world and something to say about that world.

Finally, before the list, remember that these are my favourite filmmakers. If your favourite filmmaker is not listed, do not get upset. Make your own list instead. Also, I have listed 58 filmmakers. Instead of doing a top 10 or top 50 or any other neat, even number, I just listed all those that I felt must be on such a list. Restraining myself because of numerical reasons did not seem necessary. This is not science, it is for fun.

But enough said, here are the 58 filmmakers. First comes Howard Hawks, who is in a league of his own. The rest is alphabetical. Some of them I have written about before, and when I have there is a link after their name to one of these posts (on some of them I have written several posts, but I just link to one anyway). Some of the others I will write about, sooner or later.

Howard Hawks (read more here)

Akira Kurosawa
Woody Allen (read more here)
Wes Anderson
Ingmar Bergman (read more here)
Budd Boetticher
Jane Campion
George Cukor (read more here)
Claire Denis
Clint Eastwood
Hasse Ekman (among many posts, here is one)
John Ford (read more here)
Sam Fuller
Hal Hartley
Henry Hathaway (read more here)
Alfred Hitchcock (read more here)
Nicole Holofcener
Hou Hsiao-Hsien
Buster Keaton
Abbas Kiarostami
Fritz Lang
David Lean
Sergio Leone
Joseph H. Lewis
Ernst Lubitsch
Anthony Mann (read more here)
Michael Mann (read more here)
Jean-Pierre Melville
Mikio Naruse
Vincente Minnelli (read more here)
F.W. Murnau
Max Ophüls (read more here)
Sam Peckinpah
Michael Powell
Otto Preminger (read more here)
Nicholas Ray
Satyajit Ray
Carol Reed
Jean Renoir (read more here)
Jacques Rivette (read more here)
Roberto Rossellini
Robert Rossen
Martin Scorsese
Don Siegel
Douglas Sirk
Aleksandr Sokurov
Steven Spielberg (read more here)
Josef von Sternberg
Arne Sucksdorff
François Truffaut (read more here)
Orson Welles
Peter Weir (read more here)
Billy Wilder (read more here)
Luchino Visconti
William Wyler
Wong Kar-Wai
Yasujiro Ozu
Fred Zinnemann

addition after posting: it occurred to me that Sarrisians might be interested in this list. If any should drop by, my list here would be a combination of those directors suitable for Pantheon Directors and those suitable for The Far Side of Paradise. The implication of that is of course that I could narrow the list done to just Pantheon Directors, but it would be too short a list.

Corrections: 2012-02-16 I forgot Wes Anderson. This is unforgivable and unacceptable. But he is there now, and the list now has 58 instead of 57 names.

Tuesday 7 February 2012

François Truffaut

I have loved the films of Truffaut since I was very young and I hope I will still love them when I am very old. Truffaut is also one of those filmmakers where I am not content with just the films. I need more. I think I have more books about, or by, Truffaut than any other filmmaker. His is a cinema of people who love too much, and Truffaut himself might have been a man who loved cinema too much. If such a thing is possible. It would have been his 80th birthday today, had he still been alive, so I will celebrate him with some clips. Now watch, and listen to the music of Georges Delerue. Le cinema règne.

Wednesday 1 February 2012

Mann and Animal

The body of work of Michael Mann is one of the greatest in modern cinema, or indeed any cinema. There is too much to write about for just one post, but today I will highlight the presence of animals, metaphorical and real, in his films.

In Heat (1995) Justine Hanna (Diane Venora) says to her husband Vincent (Al Pacino) "You sift through the detritus, you read the terrain, you search for signs of passing, for the scent of your prey, and then you hunt them down." It is one of many examples of links, implied or explicit, between humans and animals in Mann's films.

There is for example a visual link between Hawkeye (Daniel Day-Lewis) in The Last of the Mohicans (1992)  and Vincent Hanna in Heat. In the beginning of the film Hawkeye is running through the forest, hunting a deer, and eventually he shoots it with a rifle. Just after the shot is fired there is a close-up of his face, and in slow motion he lowers the weapon. In the end of Heat, there is the same shot, this time of Hanna's face after he has just shot his prey, Neil McCauley (Robert de Niro).

In Manhunter (1986) there is an amazing scene where the blind woman Reba McClane (Joan Allen) caresses a sedated tiger at an animal hospital, while the man who is her would-be killer (Tom Noonan) is watching, acting like if it was him she was caressing.

In Collateral (2004) when Vince (Tom Cruise) and Max (Jamie Foxx) are driving through some L.A. wasteland they encounter two coyotes, crossing the street. In one sense the two coyotes are Max and Vince, and at the same time their appearance changes everything because it happens right before there is a switch in the power structure between Vince and Max, with Max getting the upper hand.

These connections between animals and humans, and the transferring of the roles of hunter and hunted from one character to another, says a lot about Mann's view of his characters. It also seems to suggest that in this world, if you scratch the surface, you will find we are all animals, with basic predatory needs. Perhaps there are only two kinds of men in this world, savages and noble savages.