Search davidnmeyer.com
Film Review Cloud
13 Tzameti A Prophet Afghanistan Alan Sharp Aldous Huxley Aldrich Alex Garland Alphaville Altman Anthony Mann AntiChrist Antonioni Assazyez Baader Meinhof Badlands Baumbach Belmondo Ben Foster Bergman Best Films of 2008 Best Films of 2009m Jia Zhang-ke Best Films of 2010 Beyond the Valley of the Dolls Bielinksy Big Dead Place Bill Pullman Billy Name Binoche Black Narcissus Blleder Blue Crush Bob Dylan Bone Tomahawk Breillat Bresson Brick Brisseau Bruce Surtees Bullwinkle Carlos Casino Royale Celine and Julie Go Boating Chabrol Chaplin Charlie Haden Cherry Jones Chris Pine Clint Eastwood Coen Brothers Criterion Da Vinci Code Daisies Dante Spinotti Dassin David Watkins David Wilentz Days of Heaven Deadwood Dean & Britta Death Proof Deborah Kerr Delon Delueze Dennis Wilson Derek Jarman District 9 Don Cherry Douglas Sirk Dreyer Driver Dumot Dunst DW Griffith Eastwood El Aura Elizabeth Olsen Elliot Gould Emeric Pressburger Errol Morris Ex Machina Exiled Exodus Exterminating Angels Fata Morgana Fiennes Film Forum Fish Tank Fistful of Dollars For a Few Dollars More Freddy Herko French Frtiz Lang Gaby Rogers Galaxie 500 Ghost Town Gil Birmingham Godard Gomorrah Greenberg Greta Gerwig Grizzly Man Guadagnino Gus Van Zant Hackman Hank Williams Hara Kiri Help Me Eros Henry Fonda Herzog HHelp Me Eros Hitchcock; Vanity Fair Hong Sang-soo Hudson Hawk I Am Love I Know Where I'm Going ImamuraTarantino In Bruges In The Loop Insomnia Isabelle Huppert Jar City jazz Jeff Bridges Jennifer Warren Jimmy Stewart Joanna Hogg John Ford John Woo Johnny To Jose Giovanni Jude Law Julia Ormond Kael Kang-sheng Lee Ken Russell Kiiyoshi Kurosawa Kill! Kiss Me Deadly Kristen Stewart Kubrick Kwaidan LA LOI Lance Rocke Lars Trier Laurie Bird Layer Cake Le Mepris Le Samourai Lebanon Lenny Bruce Lessons of Darkness Lester Bangs Let The Right One In Linda Linda Linda Lino Ventura Lou Reed Lumet Maddie Hasson Maïwenn Malick Marc Abraham Marcel Ophuls Margot at the Wedding Marina Vlady Masculin feminin Mastroianni Mayersberg; Croupier McCabe & Mrs. Miller Mechanic Meeker Melancholia Melville Memories of Murder Michael Blodgett Michael Caine Michael Mann Michael Powell Michael Shannon Miroslav Slaboshptskiy Miyazaki Montand Monte Hellman Mopar Mungiu Nicholas Ray Nicholas Winding Refn Nico Night and the City Night Moves Nolte Nuri Bilge Ceylan Oliver Reed Olivier Assayas Ornette Coleman Oscar Isaacs OSS 117 Lost in Rio Pale Flower Paranoid Park Paris Passion of Joan of Arc Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid Paul Schrader Paul Verhoeven Pecinpah Penn Pierrot le fou Police Adjective Polisse Preston Sturges Pulp Fiction Pusher Pusher II Pusher III Raoul Coutard Raw Deal Raymond Chandler Red Riding Red Shoes Refn Restrepo Richard III Rififi Rivette Robert Altman Robert Graves Robin Hood robots Rock Hudson Rodney Crowell Rohmer Russ Myer Sailor Suit & Macine Gun Sam Raimi Samuel Fuller Samurai Rebellion Samurai Spy Sautet Schnabel science fiction Sergio Leone Seven Samurai Seventh Seal Sexy Beast Shotgun Stories Sjostrom Soderberg Spartacus Blood and Sand Spartacus: Blood and Sand State of Seige Sterling Hayden
Books By David N Meyer
  • Twenty Thousand Roads: The Ballad of Gram Parsons and His Cosmic American Music
    Twenty Thousand Roads: The Ballad of Gram Parsons and His Cosmic American Music
    by David N. Meyer
  • The 100 Best Films to Rent You've Never Heard Of: Hidden Treasures, Neglected Classics, and Hits From By-Gone Eras
    The 100 Best Films to Rent You've Never Heard Of: Hidden Treasures, Neglected Classics, and Hits From By-Gone Eras
    by David N. Meyer
  • A Girl and a Gun: The Complete Renter's Guide to Film Noir
    A Girl and a Gun: The Complete Renter's Guide to Film Noir
    by David N. Meyer
Social Links
Login

Entries in Celine and Julie Go Boating (1)

Thursday
Jan012009

GENRE TRIUMPHANT: THE 11 BEST FILMS OF 2008

The best films this year were genre pictures: vampire, policier, art film, gangster, war movie…all using genre conventions to keep us anchored as they shattered every genre convention we know. The sensation of being on familiar ground and utterly unmoored made the usual fare seem even more schematic, yesterday’s news. Especially yesterday’s news was, for instance, the supposed cautionary tale ofWall-E; its metaphors of overconsumption proved unintentionally amusing in the face of the new economic reality. By the time Wall-E’s future arrives, we’ll all be fighting him on the slag heaps for those scraps of resonant refuse—Rubik’s Cubes, hubcaps, any sign of green life…

So many films this year seem equally time-warped, as if they didn’t realize their narrative methods just weren’t that effective. But the best of 2008 found ground-breaking story-telling modes (some are forty years old) and ways of conveying drama that rely on our inescapable visual sophistication. The best this year made nothing explicit and the implicit—wherein the emotional, thematic, and even dramatic material was held—was almost too much to bear. There was little arty self-consciousness in the Tarantino, Baumbach or Anderson mode. Why? Because there are only three American films on the list, and it’s only Americans who feel compelled to be self-conscious when they’re artful.

 

1) Let The Right One In (Låt den rätte komma in)

Love hurts. Love scars. It wounds and mars. Love will also get your arms torn right out of your shoulders if you fuck with someone a vampire loves. And loving a vampire might force you to spend the rest of your mortal days hanging innocents upside down from trees so you can drain their blood. The passive, aging Swedish hippies huddled in their Danish Modern state housing provide the perfect 21st-century equivalent to the terrified villagers who refuse to open their shutters when Count Dracula’s about, no matter how blood-curdling the screams. Despite the astonishingly original treatment of an old story, what lingers are the rigorous, gorgeous visuals, the twining of love and doom, the rescues that ensure only more brutality, the mysteriously disquieting presentation of what comprises gender, and an even more disquieting notion of soulmates.

     "No more sheep head!?!" © Blueeyes Productions.

2) Jar City (Mýrin)

2) Jar City

Contemporary artist Luke Murphy created a big pop-art graph that traces the relationship between Depression and Hidden Information. Director Baltasar Kormákur provides the real-life dynamic: an Iceland of the repressed, where seldom is heard an encouraging word and the skies are apparently cloudy all year. Toughness is admired (vegetarians get a hard time), toughness destroys (our protagonist cop’s junkie daughter comes to him only for money). The cop seeks not justice, really, or truth, but a moral cause, some proof that his corruption within is not wholly mirrored by corruption without. In that quest, as in all others, he will be disappointed. Jar City understands that the only the tiniest triumphs endure.

 

3) Help Me Eros (Bang bang wo ai shen)

A masterpiece of mise-en-scène and deploying color to convey emotion. At once lucid, apparent, and cloaked in mystery, joyous, transcendent, and heartbreaking. Taiwan’s loneliest man befriends a cigarette girl in a chaos dreamscape of urban pastels. He grows the best bud in town, and sells his priceless modern furniture in crap pawn shops to buy bread. He incarnates the artist’s dilemma manifest in the universe of the post-collapse of global markets. Deadpan Kang-sheng Lee directs and stars in a slow-moving poem of disconnection, alienation, and sex that achieves transcendence through a seemingly new cinematic language.

 

"When do we get our heads blown off?" © IFC Films.

4) Gomorrah (Gomorra)

Naples is one tough town. The mob stacks barrel upon barrel of industrial waste just down the street, murders moms who won’t give up their apartments, and functions with a mind-set that ensures its members and business partners the life expectancy of East Texas bikers, if that. Matteo Garrone, a thoughtful intellectual, chose a visual style that’s equal parts documentary and The Valachi Papers—half deadpan gaze, half lurid exploitation. As with all this year’s best, he explains nothing. We are hurled into the story as the locals are hurled into this milieu, and sink or swim with them. It’s strenuous, captivating, and it raises the bar for every gangster movie to come.

 

5) Waltz With Bashir

Guilt, confusion, the fog of war, political purpose, reluctance to bad-mouth one’s homeland, the determination to dehumanize one’s enemies, and an in-the-bone aversion to taking responsibility for atrocities committed on the periphery of one’s actions: these are the ingredients of national denial, as every American knows all too well. It took Ari Folman twenty years to come to grips with the terrors he lived through, the terrors he unknowingly enabled, and the terrors of slowly remembering who he was and what he did. He turned to animation in pursuit of realism, a genius move, and as counterintuitive as his methods of recovery, moral accusation and the refusal to forgive himself or his nation.

  "Why aren't we on DVD yet?" ©Image Entertainment

6)Human Condition (Ningen no joken 1959—’61)

Give it up for the Film Forum: 10 hours of Japanese Tolstoyan, Dostoevskian hopelessness, the unblinking depiction of Japan selling its soul, citizen by citizen, while building to the war; of the dying during the war and the crushing poverty of the land after. Never seen (never on video) and, once seen, never forgotten, not as story nor as one of the more significant visual influences on a number of masters—Bergman, Tarkovsky, Akira Kurosawa among them. Let’s hope that one day soon Criterion will give this film the treatment it deserves.

 

Lonely are the bullied; Let The Right One In © EFTI.

 

 

7) Celine And Julie Go Boating (Céline et Julie vont en bateau—1974)

Give it up for BAM: 193 minutes of Jacques Rivette fucking around as only he could. Light-hearted Rivette proved a rare and lovely thing, and as I wondered when is he going to stop fucking around, he did. The contrast between the cat’s-paw decadence of the first 192 minutes and the door-slamming, party’s-over-oops-out-of-time of the final 60 seconds sear the film in memory. Like Human Condition, it’s set in a quite specific time and place that remains universal and constantly true.

  Three men who have not yet heard the terrible news. ©Blueprint Pictures.

8) In Bruges

Playwright, screenwriter, and director Martin McDonagh’s entire oeuvreseeks to prove the truth of Bertolt Brecht’s immortal line: “He who laughs has not yet heard the terrible news.” The poles of laughs versus terrible news form the yin and yang of McDonaghville, and the urge to escape remains as potent as the need to keep watching through fingers clamped over my eyes. He generates restlessness, and concern over whether to laugh. He makes us ask: is that too much? Has he gone too far? Has he responsibly connected all this gore and pain to something more? And the answer is: nope, and he ain’t gonna. Like Beckett, McDonagh omits what he regards as unnecessary. And like Beckett, that would be everything save ghastly humor and death. Those omissions resonate through his work and may grant a witty gangster farce more profundity than it warrants, but there’s no denying the laughs or the terrible news.

 

9) Shotgun Stories

As evidenced by …Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead and Revolutionary Road, Michael Shannon might be the best, not-so-unknown-anymore actor in America. He carries Shotgun Stories, the least embellished, most compassionate and accurate cultural and moral depiction of southern rednecks ever made. This is no small feat. Set in a succession of endless 1980s days in rural po’bucker nowhere, Jeff Nichols’s low-budget Neorealist approach captures the vanity, obsession, small-mindedness, and earned occasional nobility of white, hardscrabble, dead-end American life. As ever, violence and revenge offer the only possible transcendence.

 "I'm going to blast my fuckin' legacy right outta the water!"© WarnerBros.

10) Gran Torino

In the best Charles Bronson movie Charles Bronson never made, Clint proves more patient and more sentimental than Charles ever was. Having begun the cycle of revisionist Westerns by being (in Clint’s words) “the first hero to ever fire first,” Clint here repudiates forty-four years of on-screen bloodletting by refusing to fire at all. For both character and director the finale demonstrates true moral courage. Clint’s unregenerate misanthropy and his genuine wit—a late-career development—more than compensate for clanking exposition and underwritten characters. Much is lost by Clint’s insistence on singing over the closing credits, but it’s his epitaph, so what can you do?

 

11) Valkyrie

Every year the chickenshit sheep of American movie critics and irony outlets gang up on one picture before it comes out, label it ridiculous, and smirk as it fails. This year, they tried to lay that shit on Valkyrie, but audiences found it anyway. Cruise’s big vehicle is not his vehicle at all, but instead a perfectly solid, well-executed, dumb World War II movie, and I love dumb WWII movies. Is Cruise playing a good Nazi any more absurd or morally bereft than Michael Caine or Robert Duvall playing theirs (The Eagle Has Landed)? Director Singer assembled a Who’s Who of dignified British thesps—Kenneth Branagh, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Terrence Stamp for god’s sake!—to embody the Third Reich as he sought to make a John Sturges picture and he came damn close. It’s our era’s Where Eagles Dare, and there is no higher praise.

And, not while sitting in the theatre during Rachel Getting Married, but afterward and since, Jonathan Demme’s Gus Van Zant Lite sent my bullshit detector off the charts. I expect in a couple years we’re all going to be awfully embarrassed at being taken in. Ditto for Wendy and Lucy.