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  • Shoah

    Shoah 1985


    *Based on various excerpts that amounted to around two hours, but if the rest of this film is as strong, this could be an all time for me*

    Shoah may be Exhibit A for a consideration of “pure cinema,” a needlessly debated and fraught term that often creates exclusionary practices, but appears quite apt here. Godard exclaimed that cinema’s greatest tragedy to the 20th century was the fact moving image cameras were never brought into the camps, but Lanzmann’s film…

  • Nixon by Nixon: In His Own Words

    Nixon by Nixon: In His Own Words 2014

    ★★★ Watched 11 Jun, 2015

    The role of Nixon in Our Nixon and Nixon By Nixon is quite strikingly different, especially given that both films emerged out of the release of new archival materials of the president’s time in office in 2012. Lane’s Our Nixon privileges the home movie footage made by Nixon’s closest aids, while Kunhardt’s Nixon By Nixon takes more interest in the voice tapes. Of the two, Nixon By Nixon seems more interested in the historical consequences of Nixon, and his role…

  • Nobody's Business

    Nobody's Business 1996

    ★★★½ Watched 09 Jun, 2015

    “The truth is I don’t care.” Much of Alan Berliner’s documentary of his father’s life is made up through the contentious battle between the filmmaker’s subject and himself. While the filmmaker has turned his camera on his father, the father consistently repeats that he deems his life and his family’s history unworthy of filming, lacking any importance in the grand scheme of the world. But Berliner’s goal is to reveal this contentious sparring (which he literally animates through archival footage…

  • Tongues Untied

    Tongues Untied 1989

    ★★★½ Watched 09 Jun, 2015

    *Happy SCOTUS decision y'all*

    The key sequence in Tongues Untied comes about halfway through when director Martin Riggs intercuts footage of various black cultural leaders discussing their fears and paranoia over homosexuals. This includes political leaders like Louis Farrakhan and stand up comics like Eddie Murphy. As the voiceover explains at that moment, the problem of the black gay community is the silence they hold during these moments, allowing others to speak for them. Tongues Untied is thus an attempt…

  • Hapax Legomena I: (nostalgia)

    Hapax Legomena I: (nostalgia) 1971

    ★★★★★ Rewatched 09 Jun, 2015

    Hollis Frampton’s (nostalgia) has obvious traces of the documentary—we can assume that the photos being described in the voiceover correlate to the truth claims they represent. But of course, that issue of correlation is one of the central conceits here. The voiceover is first of all not that of director Hollis Frampton, but Michael Snow (who at one point must describe himself as described by Frampton), and secondly the relationship between the visual viewing of the photos and the listening…

  • Pitch Perfect 2

    Pitch Perfect 2 2015

    ★★★½ Watched 24 May, 2015

    "Unlike fraternities or sororities, the extra-curricular activity is almost an entirely new world for film, and the way that director Elizabeth Banks handles the camaraderie that occurs in the film. In a quiet campfire sequence, the girls simply go around discussing their futures while also relaying how their lives have been shaped by each other. It strikes with such honesty and heartfelt emotion, that listener, I must admit there was perhaps a single tear on this reviewers face, and when…

  • Stop Making Sense

    Stop Making Sense 1984

    ★★★★½ Watched 03 Jun, 2015 2

    One of the most pure Mise-en-scène movies, with a performance at its center that rivals the most creative and physical work of Jerry Lewis and Denis Levant. Discussed with Tim Grierson in the latest podcast, and well worth listening to.

  • Results

    Results 2015

    ★★★★ Watched 04 Jun, 2015

    There are audience pleasing movies and then there are Peter pleasing movies. This is the latter (the USC audience was not into this as much as I was, at least), and much closer to Computer Chess in the way Bujalski treats psychology as a series of programmed gestures and responses, here based on the social milieu of the exercise world. I think that final iPod montage near the end says a lot about how Bujalski understands these people—literally trapped in…

  • Regen

    Regen 1929

    Watched 26 May, 2015

    If Vigo's A Propos De Nice emphasized the chaos of the city, the film seems to represent the community spirit that it brings out. Once the major rain begins, Ivens captures moments where people attempt to commute home, jumping onto streetcars and opening umbrellas. One shot in particular stands out: a large group standing quietly in the town square, all with umbrellas open and simply communicating with each other. There is very little bustle in this panning shot, and the…

  • Chronicle of a Summer

    Chronicle of a Summer 1961

    ★★★★ Watched 04 Jun, 2015

    Chronicle of A Summer puts its filmmakers, Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin, as observers who are no doubt also the instigators. They begin filming from the first time they approach the subjects of their documentary, thus noting the participation and thus manipulation from the very beginning. This sort of openness thus qualms a number of issues that would plague spectators if this was a “normal” documentary examining labor issues in France. A long sequence follows one of the workers at…

  • Titicut Follies

    Titicut Follies 1967

    ★★★★ Rewatched 04 Jun, 2015

    Attacking the work of the Direct Cinema movement, Jean-Luc Godard wrote, “Their eye in the act of looking through the viewfinder is at once more and less than the registering apparatus that serves the eye.” Wiseman’s eye, meaning his choice in framing within a particular location, is located in its gaze toward the patients of the hospital. He often shoots their faces in close-up when in interaction with the guards. This is one of the more crucial choices in his…

  • Millennium Mambo

    Millennium Mambo 2001

    ★★★½ Watched 17 May, 2015

    Even when Hou makes films in the present, they're always set in the past. Goodbye South's landscapes connect it to an ancestry its characters can't escape, Three Times traces the same couple moving through time, Cafe Lumiere's plot revolves tracing the history of a dead composer, and here a voiceover makes clear that this very "now" story is actually 10 years ago—the use of the third person pronoun (she/her) suggests a separation of a past self.

    Shots are soft-focused in…