Lost in the Movies: September 2012

October (and beyond)

From now on, I will post steadily - usually Monday, Wednesday, and Friday - so you can expect a consistent output from this blog. I'm not talking short-term, I'm talking long-term, at least a year if not more. I'm already building up a substantial backlog.

This begins in the coming month with three reviews a week. After writing these pieces, I accidentally discovered that they neatly fell into four groups, and so each week has a theme: teenage struggles, forties films, movies about Africa, and fantasy entertainment from the eighties. A discussion of two idiosyncratic Spalding Gray works, which (appropriately enough) didn't fit in with any of the themed weeks, will wind things up, along with (maybe, maybe not) a horror film for Halloween. All of these reviews will be relatively short and focused - a new approach I want to take in my written work. But that's just the beginning.

Movies I watched in 2012

Capsule reviews of 15 films viewed since January 2012

(This post originally went up on Monday morning, but was quickly bumped. I fear it's been overlooked since, so I'm re-posting it now; I'd really like to hear back from readers on what they thought of these particular films; also I'd like to highlight "Who's Killing Cinema - and Who Cares", my response to the fascinating David Denby article; it went up middle of Saturday night because I couldn't wait, but deserves a bump now too...)

Histoire(s) du Cinema • The Long Day Closes • Madchen in Uniform • Me and My Gal  Melancholia • North Shore • Road to Morocco  Savages • Shoah • The Story of Film • Super 8   Tangled  Tanner '88 • Ways of Seeing • The Wind in the Willows

Great minds think alike? (Dance of the Criterion Collection)

It don't rain but it pours. All summer, I've taken my sweet time in updating this blog, yet in the past four days, I've put up four posts, all (I think) worth reading. This is the second post in three hours but time was of the essence, and not just because the subject is a Criterion flash sale (good till tomorrow morning) - or rather the video Criterion is using to promote said sale.

The video, a delightful and enticing montage featuring brief clips of every single DVD in the Criterion Collection, bears more than a passing resemblence in construction and spirit to a video I posted last fall though it's probably just a coincidence (I am hardly the first to employ the "in ... seconds/minutes" concept, though most seem to focus on a single film). See 'em both here for yourself:

Who's Killing Cinema - and Who Cares?

I've just finished one of the best essays on film I've ever read. It's called "Has Hollywood Murdered the Movies?" and it's by David Denby in The New Republic. Denby's essay is about the effect that over-digitalization and informal formalism have on movies: how the narrative art has been pruned to the point of poisoning the tree, how a concern with fleeting impression over deep-seated effect has destroyed the relationship between the spectator and the spectacle. In six pages, Denby effectively conveys things I've been feeling and saying for years. I don't necessarily agree with all of Denby's examples (some of the films he sees as exceptional I think are endemic, and vice-versa) but his overall point seems irrefutable. Movies are no longer made, marketed, or (especially) received the way they used to be, not in an evolutionary sense (these goalposts are always shifting) but fundamentally. This passage in particular had me shouting "Yes!" aloud as if I was watching the Patriots score a touchdown:

"The glory of modernism was that it yoked together candor and spiritual yearning with radical experiments in form. But in making such changes, filmmakers were hardly abandoning the audience. Reassurance may have ended, but emotion did not. The many alterations in the old stable syntax still honored the contract with us. The ignorant, suffering, morally vacant Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull was as great a protagonist as Julie Marsden. The morose Nashville was as trenchant a group portrait and national snapshot as the hopeful Stagecoach. However elliptical or harsh or astringent, emotion in modernist movies was a strong presence, not an absence." (emphasis added)

Fragments of Cinephilia, Pt. III

Short thoughts on: The Honeymoon Killers • Forbidden GamesTout Va Bien & Masculin Feminin Moby Dick • Robert Bresson • Yasujiro Ozu and Early SpringMy Dinner with Andre • Stanley Kauffmann Sweet Movie

As I prepare a batch of fresh posts for the fall (a dozen new reviews are already written, with dozens more on the way), here are some more oldies but goodies. These sporadic notes and musings were originally comments on IMDb. Many of these thoughts led to longer conversations, and you can click on the date to see the original thread. Some of the responses are pretty interesting; in fact under the final fragment, on the extremely controversial Yugoslavian film Sweet Movie, I actually included some samples of the ensuing discussion (most of which I didn't see until now). And if you've viewed the film in question, I'd be really interested in your own opinion on the matter.

(See here for Pt. I and Pt. II of this archival project.)

Time Travel and Pretty Pictures (and a Fall Forecast)

New to The Dancing Image? An old friend? Either way, there are probably a lot of posts or features you haven't seen yet. If you're like me, you're always discovering new blogs and saying to yourself: "Wow, this site has an extensive backlog. Some of this stuff looks great. I'll have to go back and check it out sometime!" And then of course, we never do.

Well, this is my invitation to break that trend! Visit (or re-visit) these two central pages and you can navigate easily and entertainingly through all this site has to offer. You can also just enjoy these pages without following any links; they are both directories and features in themselves:

Year by year, from the silent era to the present, I've linked every single film discussed in original essays or through quotations from other critics, illustrated with screen-caps or sampled in appetizing clips. This is the best route for those who have a particular favorite era in movie history, or who, like me, just love surveying the whole crazy chronology, from silent slapstick to the glamorous Golden Age, from sexy black-and-white to dazzling Technicolor, from the raw "cinema verite" of the Sixties to the computer-generated universe of today. It's all there, with plenty of pictures to illustrate the incredible journey. Power up the flux capacitor.

This one's ALL pictures, for those who think a visual medium deserves a visual approach. Generally alphabetized by title of the film (or sometimes painting or actor, if it's a promotional still), each image doubles as a link. You'll be led back to the post originally featuring any image you click on. This is a great way to let your eye guide your mind and imagination. (Fair warning: there's a bit of NSFW stuff in the form of some very mild nudity and generally cartoonish carnage.) If your browser is slow, the Picture Gallery may take a little while to load - but it's worth the wait, I promise!

And of course you can always visit Top Posts for my highlights from four years of blogging, The Directory for a straight-up list of all the reviews I've written, or, my personal favorite, the Video Gallery for a guided audiovisual tour through the movies - with uninterrupted 30 to 60-second clips from my DVD collection as your guide. I hope if you find things you like along the way, you'll let me know. I always enjoy hearing back from readers, especially on older stuff.

As for the new...

With summer ending and my priorities shifting, I'm hoping to hunker down soon and create lots of fresh content for this site. That means short essays (and occasionally long ones, though this summer's marathon essays were mostly exceptions to the approach I want to take!). But it also means, hopefully, pictures, multimedia posts, video essays, interviews with young independent filmmakers and perhaps even a short film or two of my own within the next year. The more ambitious projects, of course, hinge on finally getting a computer again (I've been working off library monitors, friends' PCs, and my iPhone for a while now). I want to create at least a hundred or so fresh posts before returning which shouldn't take long if they're short, so wish me luck.

And in the mean time, enjoy exploring The Dancing Image!

Connecting the Movies

I like that title. I like that picture. They probably deserve a post that's more than, essentially, a link, but for now that's what I've got.

Like Clint Eastwood, I often find myself in imaginary conversations though - the state of the American politics being rather depressing - they more often revolve around the cinema than the presidency. Sometimes, however, that topic can be equally downbeat. I think we are living in a golden age of cinephilia, but a dark age of mass movie appreciation.

Jason Bellamy addressed this subject recently, from a somewhat different angle, in a widely-circulated piece on the recent Sight & Sound Top 10 poll. It has 43 comments at present, including 10 from me. The last five of mine, in particular, are what led me to write this post on the dead of a Saturday morning. Besides, I'm tired of looking at The Big Chill post atop the page (while I'm happy with some of the insights, it was a bit of a chore to write and I fear it may be a bit of a chore to read), and I don't want to put up my periodic placeholder post (in this case an end-of-summer incantation to, as ever, explore my blog via colorful directory pages) until after Labor Day weekend. Plus, I spent all yesterday compiling a quixotic reorganization of my Cinema of Pictures post which I ultimately deleted, so I want to put something up.

So, for now, I encourage you to reflect on the topic of whether and how cinephiles have "failed" cinema, and to read what Jason and his readers have to say on the subject. The aforementioned quintuplet of comments I left began when I woke up this morning, and after an hour of hammering away on my iPhone I wisely moved to my roommate's computer and (relatively) quickly finished my thoughts. They had to be split into several different comments, which should indicate how much this whole discussion triggered thoughts that had been circulating in my mind for a while. Well, it beats ranting at a chair.

Without further ado:

And because it seemed like a good idea, I've reprinted my entire comment after the jump. Typos and all.

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