Jaime’s Film Diary: March 15, 2020

As expected, I’ve been keeping my Letterboxd up to date – so here’s yet another update for here in regards to what I have been watching as of late.

Au Hasard Balthazar (1966) – ✯✯✯✯✯

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image via Janus Films

Directed by Robert Bresson
Screenplay by Robert Bresson
Produced by Mag Bydord
Starring Anne Wiazemsky
Genres: Drama

The sort of film that you can put on whenever you feel like you’re ready to just hate all of humanity as a whole.

Robert Bresson’s Au Hasard Balthazar is a film all about cruelty, especially as it is experienced from the titular donkey’s point of view as he is continually passed on from owner to owner. When we are first introduced to Balthazar, we see his story start off innocuously, but in a series of vignettes we also feel his plight; wanting to find the eventual release but also ending up back exactly where he came from, leaving behind one of the most heartbreaking films ever made.

If you’re ready to upset yourself in under an hour and a half, then this is without doubt the movie for you. In Bresson’s eyes, he understands that a receptive audience would want to find a way to intervene, but like the other human characters in the film, all you can do is watch without judgement.

35 Shots of Rum (2008) – ✯✯✯✯✯

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image via Wild Bunch

Directed by Claire Denis
Screenplay by Claire Denis, Jean-Pol Fargeau
Produced by Bruno Pésery
Starring Mati Diop, Alex Descas, Grégoire Colin, Nicole Dogue, Eriq Ebouaney
Genres: Drama

Yasujiro Ozu’s style of filmmaking is one that feels so distinctive to him only, and I feel like comparing other films to his style as a form of praise would only seem like hyperbole at most: but Claire Denis’s 35 Shots of Rum warrants those comparisons.

For 35 Shots of Rum, Denis takes inspiration from Late Spring, Ozu’s own film about a loving relationship between father and daughter complicated by the daughter’s feelings for another young man. As far as modern day “slice of life” movies go, 35 Shots of Rum feels almost as if it’s inviting the audience not only to see the lives of Lionel and Josephine as if they were people you knew up close, but also making you a part of their own daily routines too.

A film whose quiet beauty speaks volumes towards how bittersweet it all feels, 35 Shots of Rum isn’t just a sad movie simply for being such: it’s a sad movie because it already feels like a time that’s passed by in your life, or one that’s inevitably going to come by. The only way we can celebrate that time moving on is through drinking 35 shots of rum.

Diabolique (1955) – ✯✯✯✯✯

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image via Janus Films

Directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot
Screenplay by Henri-Georges Clouzot, Jérôme Géronimi, from She Who Has No More by Boileau-Narcejac
Produced by Henri-Georges Clouzot
Starring Simone Signoret, Véra Clouzot, Paul Meurisse, Charles Vanel
Genres: Horror, Mystery, Thriller

It’s pretty easy to see why Alfred Hitchcock would have wanted to adapt this, but the film that we got from Henri-Georges Clouzot’s vision is still just as masterful as is.

Diabolique sets your expectations up perfectly, before continuously twisting around what you think you’re set to see as it all leaves behind one of the greatest horror-thrillers ever to grace the screen. It starts off as a perfect mystery, before it shifts over to its horror roots, but Clouzot already sets up the atmosphere to become so perfectly deceptive as he already leaves you as the viewers to make sense out of everything that you’d been watching.

But on the whole, it’s also everything that one could ever want from a perfect film-noir – where you find every small detail is laid out so wondrously. As it all culminates into the film’s noted twist ending, what comes forth is not only one of the greatest endings of all time but it’s something that almost seems too shocking to take in, because you know even by that moment, one thing still feels off. Diabolique is all so calculated, so precise – but all around wonderful.

Mirror (1975) – ✯✯✯✯✯

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image via Janus Films

Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky
Screenplay by Aleksandr Misharin, Andrei Tarkovsky
Produced by Erik Waisberg
Starring Margarita Terekhova, Ignat Daniltsev, Larisa Tarkovskaya, Alla Demidova, Anatoly Solonitsyn, Tamara Ogorodnikova
Genres: Drama, History

Is there any reason to doubt that Andrei Tarkovsky is one of the greatest filmmakers ever to have lived? There’s no other filmmaker that I can think of that carries a style quite like his own, and putting it lightly – they’re all just like visual poetry.

But Mirror feels like it’s taking that term to a more literal sense, yet that’s what makes it so hypnotizing to watch. It’s a film that’s drawn through its visuals, yet still feels like it’s telling something very personal at its core. It’s not always easy, but I can’t help myself from wanting to revisit this again and maybe getting a better sense of what’s going on.

Stalker (1979) – ✯✯✯✯✯

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image via Janus Films

Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky
Screenplay by Boris Strugatsky, Arkady Strugatsky, from their novel Roadside Picnic
Produced by Aleksandra Demidova
Starring Alexander Kaidanovsky, Anatoly Solonitsyn, Nikolai Grinko, Alisa Freindlich
Genres: Science Fiction, Drama

I could already feel myself trembling from the inside as I watched Stalker on the big screen, but it also leaves me pondering about how I can make sense out of what I had seen.

Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker is a film I’d already seen numerous times through the years, but it always leaves me with a different feeling upon every revisit. But so much of it also depends on the day, or how I’m feeling prior, on some days I feel like I have witnessed something so devastating but on others it feels almost as if it leaves me hopeful.

Yet overall, I feel almost as if the beauty of Stalker can best be summed up by how contemplative an experience all of it is. On many days I wonder what the Zone represents as Tarkovsky spends his time wandering through that space. But I also wonder what that space reveals about the people who have been through it, maybe it isn’t something that needs an immediate answer.

I feel like I can go on forever about Stalker, but it truly is a masterpiece in every sense of the word – although I admittedly still prefer Solaris in terms of Tarkovsky’s films.

Some Like It Hot (1959) – ✯✯✯✯✯

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image via MGM/UA

Directed by Billy Wilder
Screenplay by Billy Wilder, I. A. L. Diamond
Produced by Billy Wilder
Starring Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, Marilyn Monroe
Genres: Comedy, Romance

A case can be made for Some Like It Hot being the greatest comedy film of all time, and I would also see no worth in saying otherwise.

For a classic Hollywood film from the late 1950’s, the frank discussions of sex that are present in Some Like It Hot make it so unique for the time period where it had come out. At the film’s core, it’s a classic screwball comedy but it also works wonders as a deconstruction of the conservative gender politics of the time period – with Jack Lemmon’s arc revolving around his own self-discovery, akin to the struggle that many closeted people face.

But on the whole, it’s also just very funny from start to finish – it’s always a delight to listen to Marilyn Monroe singing “I Wanna Be Loved By You,” there’s way more to cover here. Nobody may be perfect, but Some Like It Hot is a perfect movie.

The Trial of Joan of Arc (1962) – ✯✯✯✯

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image via Agnès Delahie Productions

First-Time Watch.

Directed by Robert Bresson
Screenplay by Robert Bresson
Produced by Agnès Delahie
Starring Florence Delay, Jean-Claude Fourneau, Roger Honorat, Marc Jacquier
Genres: Drama

The story of Joan of Arc is one that’s been adapted to the screen numerous times; although looking upon what more could be done with the template always makes it very fascinating to come back to.

Robert Bresson’s The Trial of Joan of Arc plays a more straightforward version of the story when you’re putting it side by side with Carl Theodor Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc, but at over an hour long it still gets down to the point very quickly without sacrificing any of its own power. But it still carries that sort of detached perspective that is familiar to Bresson’s work that I’m not entirely sure works in this film’s favour, as much as it speaks volumes towards the work done in regards to the political subtext of the film.

But there’s always something more to take from exploring this same story too, which I’m glad to see out of how Bresson interprets it for the screen.

A Touch of Zen (1971) – ✯✯✯✯✯

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image via Janus Films

Directed by King Hu
Screenplay by King Hu, from a story by Pu Song-ling
Produced by Hsia Wu Ling-fung
Starring Hsu Feng, Shih Chun, Pai Ying, Roy Chiao
Genres: Action, Adventure, Drama

It all seems so simple, but the more it goes on, you already feel like A Touch of Zen is slowly building all of that into a whole other world unlike anything you’ve ever seen.

King Hu’s wuxia epic starts off with an impression you know where it starts, as a simple story told through the eyes of a painter whose ambitions remain stagnant. But King Hu also ties in so many different stories too, as all of them unfold simultaneously, with the glorious swordplay coming in every now and then, A Touch of Zen doesn’t remain any ordinary martial arts story, he toys around with everything that he’s been given in to craft something all the more puzzling, beguiling, among many other things.

Sometimes I’m wondering which story thread I should be following as I watch A Touch of Zen, but it only encourages me to come back and piece everything together. And all of those fight sequences still blow my mind.

Vertigo (1957) – ✯✯✯✯✯

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image via Universal

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Screenplay by Alec Coppel, Samuel Taylor, from D’entre les morts by Boileau-Narcejac
Produced by Alfred Hitchcock
Starring James Stewart, Kim Novak, Barbara Bel Geddes, Tom Helmore, Henry Jones
Genres: Mystery, Romance, Thriller

I feel like I just can’t only say that this is Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece because I know for a fact that if that’s all I’m saying to talk about Vertigo, I wouldn’t even be covering everything that makes it so great.

It’s a film that keeps on giving, one that feeds upon every human emotion possible – but getting down to the core of the film’s mystique also speaks volumes towards how psychologically complex this work is. In many ways, Vertigo is a ghost story all about the death of an ideal as romanticized by the human mind, but also how we obsess over that image to that point it even takes away from another’s own identity.

Hitchcock is already at his most playful regarding everything he loves in here, but even as he fits them all into one film it also turns out very melancholy. It’s a film all about a doomed romance, one where you already feel the looming danger at every turn.

The Daytrippers (1996) – ✯✯✯✯

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image via Janus Films

First-Time Watch.

Directed by Greg Mottola
Screenplay by Greg Mottola
Produced by Nancy Tenenbaum, Steven Soderbergh, Larry Kamerman, David Heyman, Campbell Scott
Starring Hope Davis, Pat McNamara, Anne Meara, Parker Posey, Liev Schreiber, Campbell Scott, Stanley Tucci

This feels so vastly different from everything that Greg Mottola had followed this debut up with, but if I were to judge what potential he was able to show from The Daytrippers alone, then you’d already think he’d be on his way to be an indie darling a la Steven Soderbergh or Richard Linklater.

If anything in particular does stand out here, Greg Mottola’s writing evokes memories of the deadpan sense of humour present in the films of Jim Jarmusch, but when putting the subject matter into consideration it also shows a greater intimacy being set forward. So much of the film happens to be constant bickering, at times taking place within a car or even within a more closed off space, but that claustrophobia makes you feel like you’re within the same area and it forces you to be a part of the conversations – as uncomfortable as they may get. But like those uncomfortable moments, it also gets very moving too.

I’m wondering if there’ll come a time where Greg Mottola could return to this wavelength, because it’s impressive to think about what he managed to achieve with so little for his first film.

A Man Escaped (1956) – ✯✯✯✯✯

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image via Janus Films

Directed by Robert Bresson
Screenplay by Robert Bresson
Produced by Alain Poiré, Jean Thuillier
Starring François Leterrier
Genres: Drama, Thriller, War

Arguably the most hopeful film that Robert Bresson has ever made, which is among the reasons it’s my favourite of his films.

It’s a film that already gives a vague idea of what’s going to happen from the title alone, but A Man Escaped racks up so much anxiety from having so little to actually look out for. If anything, it also makes Fontaine’s trip all the more fulfilling, because everything is set up for him to make the slightest error that could doom his life – you already feel that potentially coming forward with every creak in the floor, or the notion that his planning could eventually get him caught.

But even though you know so much of this is Bresson telling a story of a man who did so much on the fly, there’s something that continually stuns me about how precise and calculated every event is. Yet that also perfectly describes what makes A Man Escaped so perfect; for even if the plan goes through you’re not really celebrating a success as much as you’re left to fear for Fontaine’s life.

Audition (1999) – ✯✯✯✯✯

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image via Bodysonic

Directed by Takashi Miike
Screenplay by Daisuke Tengan, from the novel by Ryu Murakami
Produced by Satoshi Fukushima, Akemi Suyama
Starring Ryo Ishibashi, Eihi Shiina
Genres: Horror, Thriller, Mystery, Drama

I could already feel so much blood rushing right to my foot sitting down in the theater watching this.

At the moment, I can already say that I do plan on writing more about this, but from the introduction we had prior to the start of the film, Takashi Miike has said he did not intend for Audition to be read as a feminist narrative. Considering the fact that the film has also been accused of being misogynistic, I can’t bring myself to agree with that claim myself because it becomes clear that Miike has been deceiving his audience before the ending pulls everything under the rug.

Miike skewers the film’s point of view to highlight only Aoyama’s plight, which is best emphasized within the opening scene. It’s all too clear that he’s a very well-meaning man, but considering his reasoning for holding the auditions are so shallow – it lends itself well to a resonant commentary about societal gender roles. The film makes you feel everything he’s feeling, but as circumstances become more horrifying a greater tragedy is unveiled.

I feel as if Audition would be an interesting film to discuss within the #MeToo era, because all of the context coming forward in the ending doesn’t really make me see Asami Yamazaki as a “villain” as much as she is poised to be the antagonist of this narrative. When you see how everything slowly adds up in the ending, images that seemed at first to be terrifying are rendered into a more psychologically complex work.

I really want to write more about this later – because it succeeds in making you suffer exactly what Asami experienced for herself. After all, as the film states, only pain and suffering will make you realize who you are.

Throne of Blood (1957) – ✯✯✯✯✯

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image via Janus Films

Directed by Akira Kurosawa
Screenplay by Shinobu Hashimoto, Ryûzô Kikushima, Akira Kurosawa, Hideo Oguni, from Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Produced by Sôjirô Takita, Akira Kurosawa
Starring Toshiro Mifune, Isuzu Yamada, Takashi Shimura
Genres: Drama, History

Could possibly be the greatest adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth ever put onto film, maybe even the greatest Shakespeare adaptation ever made for the screen.

I don’t think anyone has ever brought him to the screen in that same way that Akira Kurosawa has done so; but I’m always astonished by how he mixes in the words of Shakespeare’s text and contextualizes them within the backgrounds of jidaigeki films – all I can really say is just that Kurosawa certainly knew how to make sure that they were every bit as thrilling as you could ever want them to be.

Also, that arrow sequence is still every bit as mortifying as I remember it being from the first time I saw it. I do wish that they stuck with the literal translated version of the title, because who wouldn’t watch a movie that’s called “Spider-Web Castle”?

Old Joy (2006) – ✯✯✯✯✯

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image via Janus Films

Directed by Kelly Reichardt
Screenplay by Kelly Reichardt, Jonathan Raymond, from the short story by Raymond
Produced by Joshua Blum, Julie Fischer, Todd Haynes, Lars Knudsen, Neil Kopp, Mike S. Ryan, Anish Savjani, Rajen Savjani, Jay Van Hoy
Starring Will Oldham, Daniel London
Genres: Drama

There’s going to come another point where I’ll have more that I want to write about Old Joy, but from watching it again it only leaves me thinking back to people whom I hadn’t seen in a long time. So much of this movie emphasizes what it feels like to be in a space with them once again, where there’s no one else around to potentially become a distraction – and it leaves you wondering how a fateful encounter will come to define what happens afterward.

Is it easy to let go of your old joys and sorrows? It’s a moment that sticks, but all because Kelly Reichardt knows it’s so familiar to us. And it’s just so beautiful – at 73 minutes, I feel like I could want an extra hour from this.

Wendy and Lucy (2008) – ✯✯✯✯✯

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image via Oscilloscope

Directed by Kelly Reichardt
Screenplay by Kelly Reichardt, Jonathan Raymond, from the short story Train Choir by Raymond
Produced by Larry Fessenden, Neil Kopp, Anish Savjani
Starring Michelle Williams
Genres: Drama

We’re simply blessed to be living in the same world as Kelly Reichardt. (a full review has already been provided for the site here)

Meek’s Cutoff (2010) – ✯✯✯✯✯

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image via Oscilloscope

Directed by Kelly Reichardt
Screenplay by Jonathan Raymond
Produced by Elizabeth Cuthrell, Neil Kopp, Anish Savjani, David Urrutia
Starring Michelle Williams, Paul Dano, Bruce Greenwood, Shirley Henderson, Neal Huff, Zoe Kazan, Tommy Nelson, Will Patton, Rod Rondeaux
Genres: Western

I’m only making it much harder for myself to pick a favourite from Kelly Reichardt’s filmography – but that alone should be enough for me to know she’s one of the finest working American filmmakers.

Meek’s Cutoff is where Reichardt’s scope has started to broaden, but she still makes this film distinctly a vision that only she could have brought to the screen. As expected from Reichardt, it’s slow-moving, yet nevertheless incredibly beautiful from beginning to end, but there’s also something all the more wonderful that I find can be found from the choice to film this with the 1.33:1 aspect ratio – which, according to Reichardt, emphasized how the women saw everything from underneath their bonnets.

If it’s any indication for anything, this is also where Reichardt’s scope does increase drastically – especially in terms of how she explores such isolated groups of people onscreen with one another, on a count of their race or their gender. But as a picture of the untamed West, Reichardt paints a highly contemplative, challenging portrait – and it’s all the more beguiling for that reason too.

This isn’t a movie for everyone, and it certainly does test one’s patience, but it’s just affirmation for me that Kelly Reichardt is one of the greatest filmmakers working today. This could be my favourite of her films on most days, but it’s so hard for me to settle on just one.

Emma. (2020) – ✯✯✯½

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image via Focus Features

Directed by Autumn de Wilde
Screenplay by Eleanor Catton, from the novel by Jane Austen
Produced by Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Graham Broadbent, Pete Czernin
Starring Anya Taylor-Joy, Johnny Flynn, Josh O’Connor, Callum Turner, Mia Goth, Miranda Hart, Bill Nighy
Genres: Comedy, Drama

Getting the obvious out of the way: as far as adaptations of Jane Austen’s Emma can go, this one is good, but it’s no Clueless.

But it’s all the more fun watching how Autumn de Wilde can create a film that’s just simply defined by its looks all around – because they all suit Austen’s most sly sensibilities as a writer.

Anya Taylor-Joy for president.

The Seventh Seal (1957) – ✯✯✯✯✯

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image via Janus Films

Directed by Ingmar Bergman
Screenplay by Ingmar Bergman
Produced by Allan Ekelund
Starring Gunnar Björnstrand, Bengt Ekerot, Nils Poppe, Max von Sydow, Bibi Andersson, Inga Landgré, Åke Fridell
Genres: Fantasy, Drama, History

Max von Sydow has managed to escape death for so long, it just feels like a huge punch in the gut to think about the fact that we’d lost him.

Down here, all I can really hope is that he’s still playing chess with death now that they’ve joined forces.

Rest in peace to a real legend.

37 Seconds (2019) – ✯✯✯✯

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image via Netflix

Directed by Hikari
Screenplay by Hikari
Produced by Hikari, Peter Maez, Shin Yamaguchi
Starring Mei Kayama
Genres: Drama

Always glad to see proper representation on screen through the casting of an actor with cerebral palsy as a character with such.

37 Seconds, being the directorial debut of Hikari, tells a heartwarming story of Yuma, a comic artist with cerebral palsy as she finds a sense of her own independence – but also how she overcomes the restrictions she faces within her life, whether they be imposed by her overprotective but well-meaning mother or her own surroundings.

At the center of everything, it’s also about how Yuma’s treatment – even as a young adult, is unhealthy for her own growth. She’s still being treated as if she were a child, her creative partner is always taking credit for her work, and thus seeing how Yuma is able to establish her own agency becomes all the more heartwarming.

Looking forward to what Hikari does next.

Open Your Eyes (1997) – ✯✯✯✯✯

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image via Artisan

First-Time Watch.

Directed by Alejandro Amenábar
Screenplay by Alejandro Amenábar, Mateo Gil
Produced by Fernando Bovaira, José Luis Cuerda
Starring Eduardo Noriega, Penélope Cruz, Chete Lera, Fele Martínez, Najwa Nimri
Genres: Drama, Science Fiction, Thriller

Open Your Eyes plays itself out as a nightmare where you can’t escape, which is best elevated by the highly stylized flair of Amenábar’s direction. But I also feel like I’ll probably need to watch this again at a later point, because at the moment all I can really say is that I’m blown away by how everything came together too.

Amenábar also never tauts César as some sort of an underdog either, but what he also does a good job at comes in regards to how he’s also very self-aware about it too. César has already constructed a life for him that most would ever dream of having, and now that he’s lived within it for so long, he must face the same nightmares most people under him would be facing. At that point, you almost feel sorry for him, because he’s only coming to terms with the reality he’s been meant to face for so long – but it’s also everything that had to catch up one way or another.

Haunting stuff.

The Plagiarists (2019) – ✯

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image via KimStim Films

Directed by Peter Parlow
Screenplay by James N. Kienitz Wilkins, Robin Schavoir
Produced by James N. Kienitz Wilkins, Robin Schavoir, James Paul Dallas
Starring William Michael Payne, Emily Davis, Lucy Kaminsky, Eamon Monaghan
Genres: Comedy, Drama

Nope.

Probably the perfect representation of exactly what I hate about most independent films of this sort, and I don’t think the self-awareness helps either. If anything, it just makes listening to all of these opinions feel more insufferable – because the film tries to shove down how artificial every moment of it is, reminding you that even people who say stuff like this up close aren’t even their true selves but mere plagiarists.

Maybe that’s the point, but at 76 minutes this was a chore to get through.

Belle de Jour (1967) – ✯✯✯✯✯

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image via Janus Films

Directed by Luis Buñuel
Screenplay by Luis Buñuel, Jean-Claude Carrière, from the novel by Joseph Kessel
Produced by Robert Hakim, Raymond Hakim
Starring Catherine Deneuve
Genres: Drama, Romance

A peculiar contrast present in this film makes it a perfect surrealist fantasy, as one could ever expect from Luis Buñuel.

To best describe Belle de Jour, it’s a film all about how we perceive desires: we see Séverine on the surface as a beautiful, well-behaved woman yet her fantasies show something else entirely. You’re seeing Séverine fantasizing about being humiliated and whipped by her husband within the opening sequence of the movie before it abruptly cuts back to reality, hinting forth at the boredom she suffers as a constrained housewife with the intention of continuing to explore her sexuality.

Catherine Deneuve is a sight for the eyes, but if anything else makes Belle de Jour so stunning, it can already be felt from how the film explores a contrast between the desires of men and women in regards to their sexual needs – which perhaps best fits the fantastical nature of the film as it continuously indulges into the more erotic sequences, which haven’t even aged a day.

On a side note: I’ve already mentioned that Catherine Deneuve is beautiful, but those Yves Saint Laurent outfits are also every bit as stunning.

Red River (1948) – ✯✯✯✯✯

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image via MGM/UA

Directed by Howard Hawks
Screenplay by Borden Chase, Charles Schnee, from the story Blazing Guns on the Chisolm Trail by Chase
Produced by Howard Hawks
Starring John Wayne, Montgomery Clift, Walter Brennan, Joanne Dru
Genres: Adventure, Western

Trying to carry a grasp upon how Howard Hawks managed to move all those cattle across the river for that one moment in here, but I’ll be damned if this isn’t one of the finest American westerns that I’ve ever seen.

Red River exemplifies Howard Hawks at his very best; a filmmaker who plays only by his own rules more than any other Hollywood director of the era, it’s fairly easy to see why people like Quentin Tarantino or Peter Bogdanovich hold him in such high esteem. With that having been said, this film also makes a case for Howard Hawks’s own deconstruction of the American pathos as established by the western genre – but with the time period in which the film was made, there’s also a particularly epic feel you’re seeing here that few films ever manage to parallel so seamlessly. All around, it’s purely exciting filmmaking.

With all that talk about the ending being the film’s weak point, I’ll save that conversation for another day because I still think that the ending works perfectly for Hawks’s goal.

Rear Window (1954) – ✯✯✯✯✯

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image via Universal

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Screenplay by John Michael Hayes, from the short story It Had to Be Murder by Cornell Woolrich
Produced by Alfred Hitchcock
Starring James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Thelma Ritter, Wendell Corey, Raymond Burr
Genres: Mystery, Drama, Thriller

Probably something you’d have already seen so many film lovers say at one point of their lives, but Rear Window is among the many reasons I’ve fallen in love with movies to begin with.

This isn’t my favourite of Alfred Hitchcock’s movies like it used to be, but it’s still one that I remember obsessively rewatching as a teenager, although looking at it again after having not seen it in years has also allowed me to see the film under a different lens. It’s the perfect set for Alfred Hitchcock to play around with a voyeuristic lens, where all the suspense is purely visual, aided by the equally wonderful Technicolor cinematography.

But it’s also where Hitchcock makes room for a more psychologically challenging film too, one that truly fits you within that voyeuristic and outright obsessive headspace akin to that of L. B. Jeffries while he’s confined to that wheelchair, only able to see the world through that window.

Seeing this in theaters, on a 35mm print, just felt like I was seeing it for my first time all over again.

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984) – ✯✯✯✯✯

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image via Toei

Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
Screenplay by Hayao Miyazaki, from his manga
Produced by Isao Takahata
Starring  Sumi Shimamoto, Ichirō Nagai, Gorō Naya, Yōji Matsuda, Yoshiko Sakakibara, Iemasa Kayumi
Genres: Animation, Fantasy, Adventure

There’s a great empathy that Hayao Miyazaki places atop everything else present in Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, something that still rings in all the most heartbreaking ways imaginable. Yet at the same time, it’s also where it seems as if Miyazaki is at his angriest: especially when it comes to how he reaffirms the environmentalist themes, which ultimately become a lead-in for what could potentially be the fall of human civilization.

Amidst the global crisis of climate change that we’re facing today, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind speaks of a more heartbreaking beauty that can be found within nature – one that we are slowly taking away piece by piece. And yet we only react with nothing but pure indifference or pure pedantry. All of this is spoken so beautifully from the film’s purely epic scale, because even today, the animation still looks so mind-blowing – creating the world around itself as something of its own character like the humans inhabiting it in itself.

One of the most beautiful animated films ever made, but considering this is Hayao Miyazaki we’re talking about, I think I would only be repeating myself.

Until the End of the World (1992) – ✯✯✯✯✯

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image via Janus Films

First-Time Watch.

Directed by Wim Wenders
Screenplay by Peter Carey, Wim Wenders
Produced by Anatole Dauman, Jonathan Taplin
Starring William Hurt, Solveig Dommartin, Sam Neill, Max von Sydow, Rüdiger Vogler, Ernie Dingo, Jeanne Moreau
Genres: Science Fiction, Drama

Something tells me that a single paragraph-long quibble won’t be enough to capture what I had felt from watching Until the End of the World, so I know this is one entry that I’ll definitely be coming back to later.

Wim Wenders promised this to be the “ultimate road movie,” and at the very moment I feel like I just need more time to process everything that I’ve seen but right now, all I can say is, I’m in awe.

This is the sort of film that I can only dream about making, only to find myself giving up because I’ll never create anything near as good.

I need a moment right now, but I’ll probably write something to replace this at some point. All I know is that this could very well be one of the best movies that I’ve seen in a long time.

Contagion (2011) – ✯✯✯✯

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image via Warner Bros.

Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Screenplay by Scott Z. Burns
Produced by Michael Shamberg, Stacey Sher, Gregory Jacobs
Starring Marion Cotillard, Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Bryan Cranston, Jennifer Ehle, Elliott Gould, Chin Han, John Hawkes
Genres: Drama, Thriller

Feels a tad too prescient now amidst the current coronavirus pandemic, but that’s probably been said numerous times already.

But if anything else best captures what makes Contagion anywhere near as effective as it is, Soderbergh doesn’t leave out any sort of reactions to such a huge event from the picture either. He makes this a film all about how people of all sorts choose to respond to a pandemic that only becomes much worse over time: from those who are rushing to try and find a vaccine, to those who see the event as a means of starting up chaos and funding their own conspiracy theories, but also those who want to survive.

Amidst the scientific jargon there’s never a moment where Contagion ever becomes boring, if anything it only feels like it has become more urgent because we know that even as one outbreak comes to an end, that won’t be the final one either. But it’s also fairly cautionary when speaking in terms of how difficult it is to keep said outbreak contained especially when the responses only conflict with one another – yet that’s all just purely human instinct.

 

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