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  1. From what I've seen (skipping Silent Light, Ploy, and Edge of Heaven, which are probably already on your radar): Highly Recommended Calle Santa Fe - One of the better documentaries out there on the Chilean coup and the fall of Allende, definitely more sympathetic to the left, but in a more personal, idealistic way than a political one. I Just Didn't Do It - This is a court procedural on the Japanese justice system, and a pretty bracing one at that. It essentially looks at how the idea of "innocent until proven guilty" doesn't really mesh with the Japanese mindset of conformity, where it's easier not to make waves than to actually fight to clear your name. A Secret - This film grew on me quite a bit, the story itself is somewhat epic, about a boy born after the war whose Jewish parents lived through the German occupation of Alsace. There's a lot of interesting ideas being raised in the film, like growing up being denied of his heritage, and how the Holocaust continues to haunt the family, even though they never discuss it. Tell No One - This is a very well done thriller, a little more intricate than your average fare, but all the pieces fall together ingeniously. Good Fados - I'd say more like an acquired taste if you like watching performances on film. It's very sensual, like his Flamenco films. Mon Colonel - This one lists Laurent Herbiet as the director, but it's actually Costa-Gavras, and it has all the ingredients of a Costa-Gavras film: political intrigue, tension, modern day allegory. This one is about the torture of suspected insurgents during the Algerian War, so the allegory is pretty obvious. Shall We Kiss? - Smart, romantic comedy fare, Mouret's sense of humor is a bit like Woody Allen...neurotic, a bit self effacing, and endearing. The premise is a bit convoluted, but it's basically about the repercussions of a kiss on a platonic friendship. Skip The Contestant - This is one of those films that tries way too much to be clever, this one, about financial systems and how it fosters insoluble debt. That itself wouldn't be so bad if the director didn't also run through the gamut of Film School Workshop 101 clich
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    Black Gold

    When Black Gold screened at the NY Human Rights Watch last year, Tadesse Meskele appeared with the Francis brothers for the Q&A and it turned out to be a very eye opening session. Yes, it is only about one farm collective, but it's actually one of the more organized ones out there because Meskele does actually care about the farmers he represents. Even with the abject poverty shown in the film, the reality on other farms is even worse. I thought one of the more interesting aspects of the film was how corporations like Nescaf
  3. The title sequences to Se7en and Suicide Kings are both straight out of Stan Brakhage's scratch film technique. I'd also say that the "music immersion" sequences used by filmmakers like P.T. Anderson and Patrice Chereau, specifically where they depict moments of "excess" (drug use, sex, violence) are derived from Kenneth Anger, as are some depictions of occultism and the supernatural in horror films (like the color saturation in Carrie during the prom prank).
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    Ah, probably! I caught Tachigui at Film Comment Selects in February, but that's a two week catch-all program for unreleased (festival) films from the previous year (although Verhoeven's Black Book did get released after that, and Costa's Colossal Youth continues to make the rounds), so I'm sure it had already screened in Asia in 2006 at several festivals. Unlike Paprika which is straight animation, Tachigui is more of a combination of live action film that's been turned to stills and "puppet" animated. But both films give off that sense of sensorial saturation that's very infectious.
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    I'm really glad to see that people are responding so well to this film. This was my #1 pick for 2006 on the Senses of Cinema end of the year poll, and now almost a year since I last saw it, I'm still very passionate about it. It has the right balance of inventiveness and homage, and I think it makes a pretty relevant statement about the nature of psychological terrorism and how we enable it by letting it feed off our own fears. Anyway, so far this year, I've been fortunate enough to see another animation film that has really excited me as much as Paprika. It's Tachigui: The Amazing Lives of the Fast Food Grifters by Mamoru Oshii of Ghost in the Shell. If you liked the intelligence and deliriousness of Paprika, then this one is right up there. It's a chronicle of Japan's postwar history from the perspective of con artists who try to get free meals from fast food joints, and how their tactics are a reflection of Japanese society's dramatic transformation. It's absolutely brilliant!
  6. I haven't heard any rumblings about Darrat or Opera Jawa, but that doesn't surprise me because third cinema is pretty underrepresented in general, even in New York. The descriptions do sound very promising. I might actually try to catch those and the new Goutam Ghose (Yatra, although the screening I'm eyeing conflicts with Opera Jawa). Ghose's films tend to be highly allegorical and meticulously composed.
  7. Strongly Recommended: I think Alain Resnais' Private Fears in Public Places is Alain Resnais' best film since Mon Oncle d'Amerique. I really like the melding of longing and architectural memory on this one. Barbara Albert's Falling is something like a thirty-something version of Take Care of My Cat, in this case, the death of a teacher brings a group of friends together for a weekend. It's more about the life trajectories (and intersections) of these women who are, in some ways, at the crossroads of their own lives, whether it's moving on from having just a job to a real career, or getting married, or settling down and having a child, or taking a new professional direction. Denis Dercourt's The Page Turner is a well crafted thriller in the style of Claude Chabrol...slow brewing, ominous, and pitch perfect casting. The heroine is the M
  8. Indeed, Brocka's approach was more like the slaughterhouse installment of Michael Glawogger's Workingman's Death (in the Nigerian open air market) where the "slow death" method they were using (so the animal would flail and exsanguinate faster) seemed particularly inhumane. After some twenty minutes of that, a lot of us just kinda staggered out of the theater in a daze. Interesting context about the Catonsville documentary. I don't remember that particular one being mentioned, but the documentary does make a point about how the Camden episode had followed a string of other draft board "actions" (usually, burning draft cards in public) along the midwest and northeast (there were similar protests in Michigan and Philadelphia too, I think). Their framework was along the lines that the FBI was looking to discredit the Catholic left because of these series of actions that seemed to be spreading throughout the country. Since these arrests were more like slaps on the wrist-type civil disobedience offenses, they were looking to make an example by getting the protestors to commit crimes with very stiff penalties, and they did this by feeding them information and even furnishing them with tools for the break-in (through a mole) so that the break-in would succeed and they could be charged with more serious offenses. There definitely seemed to be a good deal of behind-the-scene shenanigans on the part of the government as to how this break-in was actually pulled off.
  9. Coincidentally, Our Daily Bread played a few days before Lino Brocka's Insiang, which opens at a slaughterhouse. Geyrhalter's film is pretty anesthetized and tame in comparison. I actually see his approach as being more along the line of Harun Farocki's "production" films, where technology represents the erasure of the human imprint rather than a kind of despiritualization of mass production. I'm not a big Lynch fan either, I actually prefer his non-Lynchian films like The Elephant Man, but I think Inland Empire really lays out Lynch's thematic "manifesto" quite well and I'd say really helps to understand what's at work in his other films too. Of course, it still doesn't completely make sense, but it's one of those experiences where pieces of one reality interpenetrate other realities, so the elements are all there, but not usually in the same plane, and you end up with instinctual resolutions rather than factual/logical ones. I'd say it's worth seeing, even if you don't immediately come away from it impressed. My experience was something similar to L'Intrus (although I like Denis' film more), where I didn't immediately like it, but as I got some distance from it and the specificity of plot points begin to recede in favor of more impression-based memories, the more it made "sense". Camden 28 is a documentary on the landmark case that basically used jury nullification to indirectly condemn the Vietnam War. In a nutshell, the FBI sought to discredit the Catholic left from their antiwar efforts by infiltrating the group and essentially helped enable them to break into a draft board office so they could be arrested. The documentary is composed of interviews, newsreels, and re-enactments from the break in and trial, along with their reunion in the same courthouse some 30 years later. Here's the film's website. It was kind of sad to hear Father Doyle talk about how he wished people had the same crisis of conscience now as they did then, but it was refreshing to hear people with a similar point of view articulate their convictions about spirituality and humanity so passionately. Kinetta is a tough sell because it's a flawed film. The closest aesthetic I can think of is Philippe Grandrieux - twitchy, wandering camera focus, destabilized images. It basically just follows a group of people (a hotel maid, a photographer, and a police detective) who film re-enactments of crime scenes. What really struck me about the film is the desperateness of the characters. They don't know how to connect, so they go through the play acting ritual. Another comparison would be Tsai Ming Liang without the humor. You see a lot of odd actions going on, and it's only in the last 15 minutes or so that the nature of the ritual crystallizes. Saratan is a deadpan comedy, and reminds me of something between Darezhan Omirbaev and Otar Iosseliani. It's basically an ensemble film about this rural province in Kyrgyzstan where they have a do-nothing mayor and only have one police officer (who uses his patrols to romance wives of shepherds who are away for the evening to graze the sheep). The film loosely centers on a rash of sheep thefts, but it's more about the absurdities of life in the small town. There's even a running joke about the mayor interviewing a Jehovah's witness as a possible "religious guide" replacement for the town after the local imam oversleeps and misses morning prayers.
  10. Interestingly, Filmbrain mentions in his Climates post about how the Ceylans had just had a child shortly before filming, so I seemed to make sense within the comparison to the Egoyans' Calendar being so close to the birth of their own son. I do think they're tapping into something of the same vein in terms of transforming a relationship from something more romantic and ephemeral to something more enduring and concrete...architecture as a metaphor for "legacy" if you will. Oops! To keep in line with the top ten, I guess I should post mine. Paprika (Satoshi Kon, 2006) D
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    Inland Empire

    Laura Dern's performance(s) in Inland Empire is nothing short of amazing, she'd definitely get my vote. She's not only playing two characters ("real life" actress and her character in the film), but also the incarnations of their dreams and anxieties. There's one scene where Jeremy Irons (who plays the director) tells her that her performance was Oscar worthy, so I guess there's a life imitating art imitating life self-reflexivity going on behind Lynch's stunt.
  12. I haven't read his Mike Leigh book, but yeah, part of it is that he's gotten more than a wee bit territorial with respect to Cassavetes, even to the extent that he wanted to air out all the dirty laundry in public on the brouhaha with Gena Rowlands over the Shadows "director's cut" controversy.
  13. I really like Carney's book on Dreyer (much more so than his work on Cassavetes, actually). One thing that he argues well is the debunking of the Dreyer "religious myth", particularly since his book was written when the only Dreyer films even remotely available were The Passion of Joan of Arc, Day of Wrath, and Ordet as well as the reputation for obsessing over the unrealized "Jesus film". I like that he tries to reconcile Vampyr within this more overtly spiritual fare, and not treat it as an aberration. Of the Dreyer books I've read though - Donald Skoller's Dreyer in Double Reflection, Ray Carney's Speaking the Language of Desire, David Bordwell's The Films of Carl Theodor Dreyer, and Jean and Dale Drum's My Only Great Passion: The Life and Films of Carl Theodor Dreyer, and even Paul Schrader's smoke and mirrors criticism, Transcendental Style in Film: Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer - I'd say my favorite is the Drum book because it does the best job of illustrating how Dreyer's life translated to his work, rather than presenting a critical reading of his films.
  14. Spike Lee does a really good job in this one, sure his politics are all over it, but it's not just quick caricatures either. He also does a good job at providing international context as well as socio-political issues and historical context (specifically, as to why there is a tendency in New Orleans to mistrust the government), even some "unexpected" ones, like global warming. And yes, there does seem to be a particularly spiritual framework to the film, even in the telling of anecdotes. My only quibble was that the visual device used for introducing the interviewees in the epilogue is similar to something I'd seen recently in Fran
  15. Heheh, FWIW, I saw Los Angeles Plays Itself, Gambling, Gods and LSD, and The Story of Marie and Julien on the same day, in the same theater. I'm so glad I ended up getting an aisle seat that backed into the stairwell...I was practically doing calisthenics on the handrail by the time they got to India in the Mettler film!
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