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7 Unforgettable Films I Watched in February

03 March 2012 | Film Lists | by David Zou

I actually watched 21 films last month but lots of them were just re-visits.I’m always in the dilemma of choosing re-watching the old and exploring the new,just decided to be on the nostalgia side for a while and finished almost all the BDs I bought at the beginning of the month.As I said in the previous post,it has been a truly rewarding month and every single film I watched for the first time worth a mention.

Paper Moon

69-Tatum-ONeal-in-Paper-Moon-1973

I have only seen one Peter Bogdanovich film before this one but his face is never strange to me since he appears in many supplements of both Criterion and Universal Hitchcock dvds.I’m very impressed by his close relationships with directors like Orson Wells and Alfred Hitchcock,and he really not only talks the talk,he walks the walk as well.He is the kind of rare native filmmakers who knows how to shoot the typical American small towns and bring out the authenticity to the audiences.Tatum O’Neal presented one of the most memorable kid performances ever and as many other kid stars,disappeared in front of the mainstream audience very soon after it.

Though the director did not make many famous films,I think this is his best and definitely a comedy you should visit.

 

Battle of Algiers

04.-BATTLE-OF-ALGIERS

I’m not a guy into politics and I do not like watching political films whatsoever.However,this 3-disc Criterion dvd is not something I can easily avoid,not only because it is one of the rare CC dvds that has 2 supplement discs but also for its appearances in so many filmmakers’ top 10 Criterion lists.The watching experience explained everything,this documentary is powerful,thought provocative and blows my mind.

There are two interesting points noticeable.One,is the director’s political point  neutral or biased(to the Algerian side) ? The way he shoots the bomb scenes happening on both side and the music used in those scenes are pretty similar,but at the end of the film,it looks like he is trying to highlight the scene when  Algeria got its independence.

Two,is the film a great textbook of doing research on Terrorism and Anti-Terrorism? One of the reasons this film is so great is that it never dates as time goes by,there are still lots of Terrorism activities going on all over the global,and the bombs scenes in the film look all real on today’s TV news.In a dvd supplement called Case Study,two high authority American experts discuss how they use this film to study  Terrorism and Anti-Terrorism,I’m not a political and military guy so I doubt it is that useful for a complicated issue like this.

This is a film about politics but the substance is more than you think,I hope Criterion will release another masterpiece of Gillo Pontecorvo called Burn! .

 

A Seperation

One of my favorite films in recent years,and definitely my best film in 2011.Since you guys must have all watched it and know exactly how good it is,I will not try to add more words about its greatness.

The success of this film forces me to think of the current Chinese cinema since we are all Asian countries.Two facts really frustrates me.One,Iranian director can shoot a Oscar-winning film with the budget of half a million,but many famous Chinese directors shoot so-called “artistic films” spending money 100 times more than that,and still can not even get an Oscar nomination.

Two,family has special meaning in Chinese Culture,and there is a saying that Home is a small country, country is everybody.But how on earth there are no good family dramas produced in China?

 

Mean Streets

mean streets

Fantastic beginning of Martin Scorsese’s NY street legends.Though his story telling skill is not mature at that time,this film reveals many talents of Martin’s use of music(the opening song “Be my baby” especially) and his camera movement(the long shot in the fighting sequence in the bar).Robert De Niro’s first appearance in Scorsese film is remarkable,especially the scene where he argues with Harvey Keitel about how he spends his money and why he has no money to pay his debts.

This film is influential in many ways,one noticeable way is the raw quality and the character models in gangster films.One thing needs to be mentioned is that the basic story structure and main characters in Wong Karwai’s debut As Tears Go By is so similar to this film,it makes me doubt how much he was influenced by it.

 

Sweet Smell of Success 

sweet-smell-of-success

Definitely one of the best screenplays ever in a Hollywood film,as a non-native English speaker,I just could not grab all those fast punchlines,let alone understand them. Let me know how well you did catching up those dialogues in the comments. Burt Lancaster’s presence is the coldest one I’ve ever seen and every line,emotion and gesture of his sent me chills.The gorgeous cinematography from legendary Chinese-American cameraman James Wong adds tremendous amount of noir feel to the film,and some of the night shots are just amazing,I can only think of some shots in Night of the Hunter which shares the equal beauty and power.

 

Before Revolution

before-the-revolution

Though I enjoyed Bernardo Bertolucci’s epics a lot like 1900 and The Last Emperor but my feeling towards some of his other works is quite mixed,like Stealing Beauty and The Sheltering Sky,the images all look great but I had a difficult time following those stories.And the same situation happened again when I was watching this film,it is obvious he was heavily influenced by French New Wave at that time,especially by Jean Luc Godard and Alain Resnais.The B&W cinematography is gorgeous and some of the shots are very edgy for its time.But the story about the young man losing directions both in revolution and love is not told in a easily acceptable way.If you can bear it and love beautiful imagery,it worth a try.The BFI blu-ray transfer is superb and it gets some great supplements as well.

 

Ashes of Time

ashes of time

This Wong Karwai film only has the second least number of rating users on IMDB among all his films,and it is such an ignored masterpiece that should be treasured by any of his fans.One great thing about this film is the director really captures the essence of Chinese martial arts,which is not the action,but the inner power(you can call it zen) and the atmosphere.I’ve watched the TV drama which is adapted from the same trilogy as the film lots of times and surprised how Wong put his own stamps on it.Doyle’s cinematography never looks more stunning and the star casts are just eye candies.The redux version was displayed in Canne Festival in 2008,and there is a dvd version of Artificial Eye,just don’t miss it.

 

Let me know your thoughts on some of the questions raised in the post and the films themselves.Also you are welcome to share what great films you had seen last month.

 

 

 


   

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  • And Paper Moon SHOULD be a Criterion!

  • David, how much do blu-rays now cost in China?

  • seconded on Paper Moon. I’d even take Nickelodeon and the directors cut of Texasville (which is only available on Laserdisc currently). Yes they are considered minor works but I still love them.

  • Stephen Furda via Facebook

    i want they all laughed and saint jack from bogdanovich

  • The Battle of Algiers is a film I was so into. I really want the DVD. I also like Mean Streets which I have on DVD as well as Ashes of Time (the Redux version). A Separation is now in my top 5 of 2011 if you check my list on Letterboxed.

    • The CC dvd(bd) is terrific,definitely one of the best in the whole collection,tons of supplements,why don’t you get it when they are running sales campaigns? the last one is Valentine’s Day,it’s a 50% off discount.

  • Matthew Sheldon via Facebook

    Paper Moon is great. Too bad he was a horrible father in real life

  • Tigerr Terrific It’s 76RMB,the pirated one is 20RMB,you know,there are always 2 kinds here

  • @Matthew He’s also a lousy dad in Barry Lyndon,lol

  • Ashes of Time is great but I have to confess that I prefer the original theatrical release, the first WKW film I ever saw, to the “redux” version. BTW, you can check out photos of my visit to Hong Kong (including many locations from WKW’s films) here: http://whitecitycinema.com/2011/07/14/wongs-hong-kong-a-photo-tour/
    Out of curiosity, David, is your wife as much of a film fanatic as you are? Or is she like me wife – more of a normal person who puts up with your insanity?

    • That is a great question,Mike,I think she is in between.She is not crazy about cinema but she loves the films I recommend to her,like Hitchcock and Kurosawa films.She does not remember names of directors and actors as I do,but she will join me when she is interested.It is not easy to balance the time spending with her and films,but I tried my best and no complains from her so far,that makes her a good wife I think,haha.What about you?? Did you have any problems about this issue?

      • She’s nowhere near as into cinema as I am. I watch all of the movies she wants to watch (because I’ll watch anything) and she watches about 10% of the movies I watch. Somehow it works!

        • I have a bigger ego than you,sometimes I don’t mind her recommendations though they are good ones,lol.

  • Ah, Sweet Smell of Success. Can’t go wrong with that one at all. Sleaziest film I’ve seen, and I love it to bits.

    • Thanks for your comments,Ann.Everyone who has seen it liked it a lot,we all have to thank Criterion for bringing a new look to this film.