Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Films in 2017

Ten movies that resonated with me this year. Thank you for reading. 

LOVELESS: Andrey Zvyagintsev brings us another searing indictment of humanity; a tragically relevant portrait of narcissism within a disintegrating family. It's an intimate, dour film largely told through colors and atmosphere - a poignant and powerful work as always from arguably the finest filmmaker working today.

VOYAGE OF TIME: A profound, all encompassing, pagan masterpiece that tracks the evolution of Earth from before time until it's end. This is a bravado, ridiculously ambitious big picture from the singular Terrence Mallick. The confounding beauty of the images seamlessly integrating the macrocosmic and microscopic were unutterably sublime – but it was the narration that I found even more astoundingly poetic. While watching the film I assumed it was sourced from holy texts from throughout history, I was amazed to find out Mallick had written it all.  “Oh Mother, abyss of light, all beholding...”

I, DANIEL BLAKE: Ken Loach and Paul Laverty savagely attack the corporatization of public services and the maddening banality of hostile bureaucracies. It makes sense that this simple, direct call to action - with such a powerful ending - caps off the most important and radical filmography to ever emerge from the United Kingdom. Thank you Ken.

TWIN PEAKS THE RETURN: Beyond film; an 18 hour journey into Samsara, where time is looping and the immaterial prevails along further explorations into impermanent non-self reality; so subtly  illuminated in the physical realm by the atomic bomb motif – as above so below, atom to star. The final episode with the two characters driving through the night together was as a magnificent distillation of Lynch's inner world realized that I have come across. David pulls out all the stops and transcends limits in what may be the culmination of his vision.

PERSONAL SHOPPER: An extremely rare movie: a ghost story that is actually sort of realistic and also at times genuinely scary. If you smoke weed, watch it stoned. Kristen Stewart is amazing.

ONE MORE TIME WITH FEELING: I shed a couple tears during this portrait of Nick Cave in mourning by Andrew Dominick. Some of the looks on his face as he is trying to elucidate his feelings on the death of his son will be with me for a very long time. It was also cool to see Warren Ellis working in the studio. Powerful stuff.

BLADE RUNNER 2049: In sure form once again, Denis Villeneuve utilizes his control of cinematic language to create a visceral psychedelic darkness that flows effortlessly throughout a subversive story of a slave awakening.

THELMA: A Qigong witch explores the potentials of consciousness in this visionary tale for a New Age from Norway's finest dramatist, Joachim Trier. It starts slow but evolves into a unique, trippy thought provoking work.

THE SUNSHINE MAKERS: "Those that say, don't know; those that dont know, say." This mantra of the psychedelic underground is apparently no longer relevant for a certain generation. I never thought I'd find out who was making our acid all those years but here we have a straight forward look at the once secret world of LSD manufacturing - in particular, chemists Nick Sand and Tim Scully, two heroes that profoundly changed world consciousness. It's done in the standard, unremarkable, talking-head style documentary format but the topic is an important one. It's difficult to truly fathom the number of lives these men enhanced.

WHITNEY CAN I BE ME: A tragic, human portrait handled with class by Nick Broomfield.

THE MEMORY OF JUSTICE: The best film I saw this year was actually from 1976 - an epic documentary from marcel Marcel Ophuls that has been beautifully restored by HBO. It's a brilliant, profound, complex, 5.5 hour deep dive into the Nuremberg trials and an examination of the bureaucratic excuses the Nazi scum attempted to hide behind. If you haven't seen Ophuls' other films they are well worth seeking out, especially A Sense Of Loss (on the ground in Belfast, 1972) and Hotel Terminus (Klaus Barbie and CIA activity after WWII).

Addendum: Just caught up with a few movies from last year that are as good or better than the ones above: the very entertaining art-word satire THE SQUARE, dystopian horror IT COMES AT NIGHT and the ultra-heavy documentary on emotional healing work in a prison THE WORK FOUR DAYS TO REDEMPTION which will probably stay with me longer than all the other films mentioned. 

John Cage & David Tudor, 1963.

An incredible film of Cage and Tudor shattering notions of what music can be:

...and this Q&A from after a performance of Empty Words in 1978 is full of inspired wisdom:

John Cage 1978 from Larson Associates on Vimeo.