Top 50 - 21 through 25

21. My Own Private Idaho (Gus van Sant, 1991)

Exhibit A in the case that Keanu Reeves can act, albeit within a rather narrow range, even if the film of course belongs to the gorgeous and sorely missed River Phoenix. This film is an odd mixture of the revered and the profane. It's a film about rent boys AND a loose adaptation of Shakespeare's Henry IV, it's a road movie and a catalogue of perversities. Gus van Sant uses a wonderful way to show sex scenes with still frames. It's funny and it's tragic, and impossible to dismiss as just a clever experiment: just when it starts feeling like that, a "I really want to kiss you, man" happens and breaks your heart.

22. The Long Goodbye (Altman, 1973)

How do you update noir? Well, apparent, one solution is to show just how ill-at-ease your character is in modern surroundings. Altman's digressive style and Chandler's clipped, hard-boiled prose are an odd fit, but somehow it fits perfectly: Elliott Gould here is Marlowe, but he isn't the smartest guy in the room, not any more, in any case. All this aside, the thing that makes this movie for me is the first 20, 30 minutes, which involve Marlowe hunting for...food for his cat. It's a sequence that establishes the mood and the character so perfectly it makes the whole film.

23. Blowup (Antonioni, 1966)

My love for Antonioni is by now well documented on this blog. This is the film I saw first, prompted by my father. I'll admit I didn't quite get it the first time: I was too busy looking for the plot to notice all the wonderful images and scenes, and I thought the film was laughably dated. I was, luckily, intrigued enough to watch it again, and that's when I started loving it. It's similar to the books of Paul Auster, in a way, playing off our conditioned search for clues and meaning, our need for stories to be more clearly delineated and logical than real life.

24. Chinatown (Polanski, 1974)

Our need for patterns, as well: for instance, I never meant for this, but it seems little threesomes show up in every post of 5 movies. In this case, three detective movies in a row. Chinatown, made one year after The Long Goodbye, doesn't displace its protagonist but chooses to place its story in a time where noir still fits. I'm still unsure on where I stand on Faye Dunaways maybe overly dramatic performance, but Nicholson is perfect as the cynical PI. In true noir fashion, there's no good ending here. Just an immortal line. "Forget it Jake. It's Chinatown"

25. Mulholland Drive (Lynch, 2001)

This, in turn, fits well with Blowup: a mystery without a solution, a puzzle that can never, in any configuration, fit exactly together, with too many connections to make sense of. Naomi Watts has never been better than in her dual role as the wide-eyes ingenue and the bitterly disappointed spurned woman later, but in my eyes, it's Laura Harring who steals the show: I didn't know they still made femme fatales like her. She's mesmerizing, and I have no idea why her career didn't take off like Watts' did after this film. After seeing it 5 or 6 times it still doesn't make sense to me, and you can see some threads were abandoned due to circumstance (I would love to know what the plan was for Robert Forster's detective), but I am fascinated by its intricate beauty every time I watch it.

Coming up next: some more noir and some more Faye.


The plan, yesterday, was to watch L'Eclisse a second time, this time with the commentary of a film scholar. I shut the commentary off after less than 4 minutes. Not the film though.

It's strange, because Antonioni's films almost beg to be analysed. You'd think watching one of his films side-by-side with an analysis would be illuminating, but to me it was just grating. I think it's because his films are so subjective, open to interpretation, and that nobody sees it the same way. Reading an analysis afterwards can make you realise there's another way of looking at the film, but trying to do both at the same time ruins the film. So I shut the commentary off, shut off even the subtitles - having seen the movie two days ago, my rudimentary understanding of Italian was enough to follow the film - and submerged myself once more.

My father needn't worry: his 40 bucks were not wasted, I'm sure I'll watch this movie many more times. I will admit, however, to loving the parts more than I love the whole. The unevenness of the film, going back and forth between the meditative, leaves-rustling pace of Vittoria's world and the manic energy of both Alain Delon's Piero and the stock market where he works. L'Eclisse doesn't have a central mystery to propel it forward like The Passenger and Blowup, and though those mysteries were never resolved, there is some forward momentum missing here.
But oh, there are so many beautiful shots here, utilizing shadows and chiaroscuro lighting, and there are so many scenes and sequences to fall in love with. The minute of silence on the stock market. The tour through Kenya with the African dance, and the nightly search for the dog that follows it, so perfectly captures the mood of late aimless nights it's almost scary. The scene where Monica Vitti follows a man who's just lost 50 million (though admittedly, that's in lire) and sees what he draws. The car getting tackled out of the water. The kiss through the glass. And, of course, the last sequence, where Antonioni manages to manipulate our anxiousness about seeing the main characters so well.He often films his characters, especially Monica Vitti, from the back here, not so much observing them as observing the world with them. Vitti often walks out of a shot backwards, and each time I would not have been surprised if she'd just disappeared there and then, to let the camera observe the world for itself. My crush on Alain Delon, as you can imagine, was only magnified by this film, but the true revelation is Monica Vitti. I'm not sure she'd work in a film by any other director, but she fits perfectly into the world he created here, and the look on her face when she flies above Verona is a wonder.

This is an art film, no doubt about it, but a "serious" film? Only if you don't allow yourself to see all the playfulness exhibited here. And if any of my friends want to watch it, I'll gladly watch it with them.


Top 50 - 26 through 30

26. Wonder Boys (Hanson, 2000)

A perfect film with a perfect soundtrack and some amazing performances, this is one of my comfort movies: I sit down and let myself go along with it, and I feel like everything will end up ok. ish. It might be the best stoner movie for grown-ups, if it weren't for my number 9. The book, by one of my favorite authors, Michael Chabon, is great too, and the film perfectly captures its lazy rhythm and its mood. It's nothing overly ambitious, it doesn't have a grand message or extravagant style, but who needs that when you've got so much warm humor and characters you'd love to spend a weekend with?

27. Sous Le Sable (Ozon, 2000)

Another dawn of the millenium film, this is possibly the best film ever made about grief, and oh so beautiful. Interesting, seeing how this was really kind of a loose, experimental project. Ozon first filmed the part where Charlotte Rampling goes on holiday with her husband, played by Bruno Cremer of Maigret fame. They go to the beach; he goes swimming; she falls asleep, and when she wakes up he's gone. The part where we find her again, months later, was in fact not only filmed but also written months later, and it dares to be both intriguing, involving, and oddly true. Worth it just for the scene with the red dress - watch the film, and you'll know what I mean. Ozon truly is one to watch, and this is the best film of his that I've seen so far.

28. Marnie (Hitchcock, 1964)

Not Hitchcock's most accomplished film by any means, but his most fascinating. Yes, the color red is infused clumsily, yes, the back-projection is much too obvious, but who cares when the main character is allowed to be so thoroughly messed up and fascinating? I'm grateful to Kim Morgan for pointing me towards this one, because it's generally not seen as great Hitchcock, far behind Vertigo, Psycho, Strangers on a Train and quite some others, and I might not have seen it otherwise. I don't think it's Hitchcock's best either, but it is my favorite.

29. Belle de Jour (Bunuel, 1967)

A nice double feature that would make: Belle de Jour and Marnie. Belle de Jour is better than Marnie because it doesn't seek to explain Severine's behavior: though there are short shots of her past, there is no neat psychological explanation here. Marnie, however, profits from the presence of a strong male character. But it's natural, in a way, that all men would pale next to the wonder of Catherine Deneuve, and ice princess with so much simmering under the veneer of sophistication -symbolized by those beautiful designer clothes - that she maintains. Bunuel trusts his audience to distinguish themselves between dream and reality, something that's still rare among directors today, and the result is a film that after these 40 years retains it's kinkiness without having to be explicit. We never learn what's in the Chinese box, nor what motivates Severine, and that's why the film still provokes.

30. All About Eve (Mankiewicz, 1950)

And so the trio, or maybe even foursome, of strong women continues. Who says there are no good parts for actresses? Bette Davis is awe-inspiring here, fierce, smart, but also vulnerable, and nobody else could have delivered the razor-sharp lines she gets so well. The film really should have been called "All About Margo". Also, what it says about the position of women is still relevant today. Luckily, while Margo is worthy of our pity in some respects, she never becomes pathetic, and that ought to give us some hope.

I'm There

Because I've been depriving you of images lately, and I cannot wait for this.

Also, more Cate.