(Belmondo and Karina, from Godard's Pierrot le fou. A top fifty title, says TONY.)
The summer’s usually a time of decompression, the time I try to allow my body and mind a chance to relax a bit and find a certain purity of expression and solitude. My War and Peace summer project has been progressing slower than I hoped, in part because I’ve been more transfixed by other books.
My summer, for practical purposes, ended last weekend.
My time off has been fruitful, but it’s now over and I’m ready to get back into the swing of things. College and pro football are about to start for real, some of my favorite basketball players are playing for the US in the world championships.
The fall festivals are about to ignite. New York just announced their full program. As a salon festival that curates the best of the best, New York is again heavily invested toward Cannes titles. (As my friend Gabe Klinger pointed out, seventeen of the twenty-eight titles are films that premiered at Cannes.) Update: it would appear, Gabe's number is a bit generous, and via selection committee member Todd McCarthy, the actual number of Cannes premieres is actually thirteen.
Interestingly, only six of those titles were main competition titles, which seems about right to me. It also reiterates the oft-observed point that Cannes always appears stronger upon reflection than immediately perceived.
Toronto’s also announced a bunch of titles, as part of their thirty-fifth anniversary and the first to be unveiled at their new Bell Lightbox complex.
Meanwhile, a trio of excellent writers and critics at Time Out New York (Joshua Rothkopf, David Fear, Keith Uhlich) recently published a list of the fifty greatest foreign language sound films.
It's my not fifty, but it is well thought and argued, I think. My only real criticism is the tendency to favor better known works by contemporary masters: for instance, I love Edward Yang’s Yi Yi, but it’s not nearly as entrancing and out of the world overpowering as A Brighter Summer Day. Same with John Woo’s The Killer, a terrific film but less astounding and hot wired brilliant than the director’s follow up, A Bullet in the Head.
Likewise, I love Breathless, but I think Contempt and Two or Three Things I Know About Her are more alive, mysterious and breathtaking than Pierrot le fou.
I was thrilled to see Kieslowski’s The Decalogue, but it also points out the absence of other works of duration, like Rivette’s Out 1, Fassbinder’s Berlin Alexanderplatz and what for me is the greatest film I’ve seen in the last two decades, Bela Tarr’s Satantango.
It also cries out for more women and works of greater formal abandon, like Věra Chytilová’s Daisies, Marguerite Duras' India Song or Kira Muratova's The Aesthenic Syndrome. By the same token, they could have gotten rid of one of those redundant Fellini or Kurosawa titles in favor of something by Straub and Huillet, or Manoel de Oliviera, especially something like Doomed Love or Francesca.
Finally, there’s not a single work of the holy trinity of French poetic naturalists, Maurice Pialat, Jean Eustache or Philippe Garrel. The Mother and the Whore is a far greater work than La dolce vita or Persona, for starters. (I’ll have more to say about Pialat in the coming days.)
But I applaud them for having the skill and passion to convince their editors to run such a piece. Let’s have more of it.