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Top 25: Discussion of Nominated Films on Memory


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The Mirror (1975) - Andrei Tarkovsky - Russian

- First, I’m curious if there are participants here who would dispute the proposition that this should be #1. Second, I’d be curious if anyone would think it worth changing the Top 25 selection process so that a separate poll would somehow determine what film ought to be the #1 of a Top 25 list, rather than leaving it to chance. So far there is a sense in which we have simply left what ends up as our #1 to the surprise of however our ranked votes happen to add up together.

 

I suppose I could have attached this to the post I made above, but here you go...

 

Jeremy, I'm pretty sure I feel as highly about Blade Runner as you do about The Mirror.  My only experience with The Mirror came at a Tarkovsky retrospective last summer.  Unfortunately, while I loved the cinematography and composition (that scene with the burning cabin - WOW!), the print I saw had the worst subtitles imaginable.  The print must have been an older one, not one with the yellow colored subtitles that I've seen in short clips.  These were the older white subtitles, which were so faded that more than 50% of them were indecipherable.  I've had some people tell me this is a film where the subtitles don't really matter, but that can't be true of a first viewing.

Anyways, a few months back I found this essay - Postmodern Cinema and the Concept of Memory - which uses both The Mirror and Blade Runner as its main examples.  Thought you might want to take a quick read.

 

 

In connection to our discussion of memory and knowledge, The Mirror offers the perception of an individual. He is without a doubt not remembering his life objectively or correctly – but he is remembering, and although we never see him in the present, we get a sense of his individuality, of what kind of a person he was. We are witnessing what defines him, what makes him human and what makes him – him. This is what the replicant Rachael wants in Blade Runner, she wants memories, fantasies and individuality. When Deckard confronts her and tells her that her memories are false and where implanted by the Tyrell Corporation, she is stripped of her individuality and her identity.

 

But later in the film we see romance develop between Deckard and Rachael. Although they both know that she is not human and her memories are false, he still falls in love with her and she with him. We might ask the question, what is it that Deckard is falling in love for? If we assume that his love for Rachael is not based on lust for her body and appearance, we must assume it because of her personality – but personality is based upon memories and experience – but her memories are false and her experience is limited to her short life as a replicant.

 

What is important here is to remember that although Rachael has implanted memories that are not authentic – she still possesses them and they influence her behavior and thought process. That is the reason why the Tyrell Corporation implanted memories inside her mind, so they could control the future replicants better; your personality is defined by your memories. Similarly, the other replicants who where not given memories of a whole lifetime like Rachael – are shaped by the memory of their short lifetime as slaves on another planet.

 

The point is that Rachael remembers. What she remembers is not accurate, in the way that it didn’t happen to her, but when she remembers things from her artificial past she remembers it with the same intensity that we do. Our protagonist in The Mirror might as well be a replicant because he isn’t remembering real things either, just how he recalls them and he mixes his memories with his fantasies so nothing is like it really happened but that’s the point – it’s not about what really happened, it’s about our perception of memories and our feelings towards them which in turn shapes us and makes us human. So we might then ask; in what way is Rachael not human?

Edited by John Drew

Formerly Baal_T'shuvah

"Everyone has the right to make an ass out of themselves. You just can't let the world judge you too much." - Maude 
Harold and Maude
 

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Thanks, John for helping start up some discussion of this.  I will respond more to you soon.

 

Meanwhile, here is our working list of nominated and seconded qualifying films.  If I missed anything, let me know.

 

8 1/2 (1963) - Federico Fellini
2046 (2004) - Kar Wai Wong
A Moment of Innocence (1996) - Mohsen Makhmalbaf
A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001) - Steven Spielberg
The Act of Killing (2012) - Joshua Oppenheimer
Adam's Apples (2005) - Anders Thomas Jensen
After Life (1998) - Hirokazu Koreeda
The Arbor (2010) - Clio Barnard
Away From Her (2006) - Sarah Polley
The Beaches of Agnes (2008) - Agnes Varda
The Bird with Crystal Plumage (1970) - Dario Argento
Birth (2004) - Jonathan Glazer
Blade Runner (1982) - Ridley Scott
The Bourne Supremacy (2004) - Paul Greenglass
Cache (2005) - Michael Haneke
Casablanca (1942) - Michael Curtiz
Casualties of War (1989) - Brian De Palma
Certified Copy (2010) - Abbas Kiarostami
Chocolat (1988) - Claire Denis
Citizen Kane (1941) - Orson Welles
Close-Up (1990) - Abbas Kiarostami
Colossal Youth (2006) - Pedro Costa
Dark City (1998) - Alex Proyas
The Deer Hunter (1978) - Michael Cimino
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007) - Julian Schnabel
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) - Michel Gondry
Eternity and a Day (1998) - Theodoros Angelopoulos
Exotica (1994) - Atom Egoyan
F for Fake (1973) - Orson Welles
Fearless (1993) - Peter Weir
Field of Dreams (1989) - Phil Alden Robinson
Gaslight (1944) - George Cukor
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006) - Mamoru Hosoda
Grave of the Fireflies (1988) - Isao Takahata
Heartbeat Detector (2007) - Nicholas Klotz
Hiroshima, Mon Amour (1959) - Alain Resnais
How Green Was My Valley (1941) - John Ford
I Remember Mama (1948) - George Stevens
In Praise of Love (2001) - Jean Luc-Godard
In the City of Sylvia (2007) - José Luis Guerín
Inception (2010) - Christopher Nolan
Iris (2001) - Richard Eyre
The Island (2006) - Pavel Lungin
It's a Wonderful Life (1946) - Frank Capra
It's Such a Beautiful Day (2012) - Don Hertzfeldt
Ivan's Childhood (1962) - Andrei Tarkovsky
Je t'aime, je t'aime (1968) - Alain Resnais
Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) - Robert Hamer
La Jetée (1962) - Chris Marker
The Lady Vanishes (1938) - Alfred Hitchcock
The Last Time I Saw Macao (2012) - Jose Rodrigues & Joao da Mata
Last Year at Marienbad (1961) - Alain Resnais
Life of Pi (2012) - Ang Lee
The Lives of Others (2006) - Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
Lone Star (1996) - John Sayles
The Long Day Closes (1992) - Terrence Davies
Lucky Life (2010) - Lee Isaac Chung
The Man Without a Past (2002) - Aki Kaurismäki
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) - John Ford
The Manchurian Candidate (1962) - John Frankenheimer
Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011) - Sean Durkin
Marwencol (2010) - Jeff Malmberg
Memento (2000) - Christopher Nolan
Millennium Actress (2001) - Satoshi Kon
The Mirror (1975) - Andrei Tarkovsky
Moon (2009) - Duncan Jones
Mulholland Drive (2001) - David Lynch
Mr. Arkadin / Confidential Report (1955) - Orson Welles
My Winnipeg (2007) - Guy Maddin
Mysteries of Lisbon (2010) - Raoul Ruiz
Night and Fog (1955) - Alain Resnais
Nixon (1995) - Oliver Stone
Nostalghia (1983) - Andrei Tarkovsky
Oldboy (2003) - Chan-wook Park
Once Upon A Time in America (1984) - Sergio Leone
Orpheus (1950) - Jean Cocteau
Paris, Texas (1984) - Wim Wenders
The Passion of the Christ (2004) - Mel Gibson
The Pawnbroker (1964) - Sidney Lumet
Radio Days (1987) - Woody Allen
Rashômon (1950) - Akira Kurosawa
Rebecca (1940) - Alfred Hitchcock
The Remains of the Day (1993) - James Ivory
Rhapsody in August (1991) - Akira Kurosawa
Robot & Frank (2012) - Jake Schreier
Russian Ark (2002) - Aleksandr Sokurov
Saraband (2003) - Ingmar Bergman
Scrooge (1951) - Brian Desmond Hurst
The Secret Life of Words (2005) - Isabel Coixet
Shutter Island (2010) - Martin Scorsese
Solaris (1972) - Andrei Tarkovsky
Solaris (2002) - Steven Soderbergh
Spellbound (1945) - Alfred Hitchcock
Stardust Memories (1980) - Woody Allen
Stories We Tell (2012) - Sarah Polley
The Sweet Hereafter (1997) - Anton Egoyan
Syndromes and a Century (2006) - Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Tetro (2009) - Francis Ford Coppola
The Thin Blue Line (1988) - Errol Morris
Three Colors: Blue (1993) - Krzysztof Kieslowski
Total Recall (1990) - Paul Verhoeven
The Tree of Life (2011) - Terrence Malick
The Trip to Bountiful (1985) - Peter Masterson
Troubled Water (2008) - Erik Poppe
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010) - Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Upstream Color (2013) - Shane Carruth
Vertigo (1958) - Alfred Hitchcock
Waltz with Bashir (2008) - Ari Folman
Wild Strawberries (1957) - Ingmar Bergman
Wit (2001) - Mike Nichols
Wreck-It Ralph (2012) - Rich Moore

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I want to make a plug for Millennium Actress and Radio Days. I know they're kind of difficult to obtain copies of, but both of them are deeply concerned with memory as an influence on identity, culture, and a way of learning, and both are really excellent movies as well.

"Anyway, in general I love tragic artists, especially classical ones."

"Even the forms for expressing truth can be multiform, and this is indeed necessary for the transmission of the Gospel in its timeless meaning."

- Pope Francis, August 2013 interview with Antonio Spadaro

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I'm thinking I probably won't vote this time. I've just seen too few of the nominated films, and I'm also not sure I have a good sense of how to judge a film's appropriateness for the list in the first place. 

 

Nevertheless, I'm excited for the results. This looks like it will be a fascinating list of films, though the short (and sudden) voting period is a potential pitfall. 

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I've been a bit out of the loop on A&F lately, but I'm very excited about this list. For the first time I've seen the bulk of the nominated films and feel strongly about the topic (since it's closely related to the dissertation I'm writing). Hoping to post my tiered rankings shortly.

"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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I would argue that waiting a couple months for the vote is a wise choice, as most A&F'ers (like me) likely have not been catching up on these nominated films in recent weeks.  It would seem good to have a number of weeks in which people know the vote is coming.  This will allow for better preparation and wiser voting.

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Ryan, I've seen enough of these films that I'm fine with voting now, but, honestly, I haven't thought about this list since last spring when we first started nominating titles, and I'm guessing I'm not alone. Given the long timeline for this project, going from "here's the final list of nominated films" on 1/26 to "cast your votes by 2/2" is an awfully fast turnaround.

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Question for Darren: what would be your argument for the inclusion of SYNDROMES AND A CENTURY over UNCLE BOONMEE? As a fellow Joe fan, I agree that both are about memory. Am I right in suspecting that you find SYNDROMES to be be more formally interesting, especially given UNCLE BOONMEE's status as a more "accessible" Joe film (winning the Palme d'Or, etc.)? Or is there some other reason. Because I think UNCLE BOONMEE is in some ways a culmination of the political and personal reflections on memory in Joe's work, especially with its additional tie-in to the idea of cinema-as-memory (references to old Thai films, film formats, etc.).

"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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I would argue that waiting a couple months for the vote is a wise choice, as most A&F'ers (like me) likly have not been catching up on these nominated films in recent weeks.

Given the long timeline for this project, going from "here's the final list of nominated films" on 1/26 to "cast your votes by 2/2" is an awfully fast turnaround.

I agree that it does now seem like a fast turnaround and I would have liked to spend more time on this. The problem is that "spending more time on this" had some consequences that I didn't foresee (and would have managed differently if I had), namely that a large number of us stopped paying attention to the preparation for the list completely.

We'll consider it another procedural lesson learned and something to do better next time.

In the meantime, while it would be more comfortable for us to take even more time, I do think it's worth pushing this through for the sake of the folks over at Image who have done quite a bit for us and who have told me that they would prefer to publish this around the time of the Oscars. So let's do the work we need to and get this done. After seeing another couple films, I'll do my voting this weekend.

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I would argue that waiting a couple months for the vote is a wise choice, as most A&F'ers (like me) likely have not been catching up on these nominated films in recent weeks.

Given the long timeline for this project, going from "here's the final list of nominated films" on 1/26 to "cast your votes by 2/2" is an awfully fast turnaround.

I agree that it does now seem like a fast turnaround and I would have liked to spend more time on this. The problem is that "spending more time on this" had some consequences that I didn't foresee (and would have managed differently if I had), namely that a large number of us stopped paying attention to the preparation for the list completely.

We'll consider it another procedural lesson learned and something to do better next time.

In the meantime, while it would be more comfortable for us to take even more time, I do think it's worth pushing this through for the sake of the folks over at Image who have done quite a bit for us and who have told me that they would prefer to publish this around the time of the Oscars. So let's do the work we need to and get this done. After seeing another couple films, I'll do my voting this weekend.

 

Understood.  Thanks for your work, Jeremy!

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Anders, it's actually much simpler than that. I just think Syndromes is the better film! Also, I'm charmed by the idea of a filmmaker filtering the story of his parents meeting through each of their memories.

 

Cool. I just want to see Joe on this list and don't want us to split our votes.

"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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J.A.A. Purves said:  

 

Memory is a fascinating topic to craft a list of top films upon, and I've sensed a little burnout with discussing this one - the discussion died away more than I thought it would.  It may not be a bad thing to spend more time on this and begin discussing the theology of what exploring and thinking about memory in film could mean for us.

 
 
Joel Mayward said:  
 
The irony of this list is that I'd completely forgotten we were doing it.
 
-
 
It seems to me that we've possibly gotten tripped up in taking too long with this, even though it was an attempt to get past the problems of not taking long enough.  I suspect that the discussion faded away in part because of the long gestation period - there was lots of time to talk about it, so it was left on the shelf and then everybody just sort of forgot about it.  
 
Which, if true, is indeed ironic.
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I've plugged for my own personal favorites already.  But I thought I'd say a quick word for Raul Ruiz's Mysteries of Lisbon.  There are not many other selections on our nominated list that are as grand and epic in scope on the subject of memory as this one.  I'm guessing the majority of A&F has not yet seen it, so if you have been privileged to see it, go vote.  The way that it explores human reactions to (and hints towards the spiritual components of) memory, and how this relates to things like conscience, forgiveness and repetence is a treasure to see.

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Just voted. Difficult choices at times, because I think we have a strong pool of candidates. Some films that people feel strongly about will undoubtedly fall through the cracks. I hope people save their 5s for films that "Must Be On the List".

"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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I did get a chance to watch The Mirror again (Superwhat was yesterday?}.  Someone re-posted it on YouTube (a version that I found last Spring, but was taken down over the Summer).  This one had the best subtitles I could hope for, and man, what a difference.  Those poems, which I was losing out on, really do play out so well with the images.  It still wasn't the "perfect" experience I was hoping for (watching on a 14" screen), but enough to bump it up to a 4 in my voting.

Edited by John Drew

Formerly Baal_T'shuvah

"Everyone has the right to make an ass out of themselves. You just can't let the world judge you too much." - Maude 
Harold and Maude
 

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I know the calculation weighs votes based on post count. Any chance we could also weigh by percentage of films seen? No offense to any voters, but I trust the opinion of someone who has seen 100 of these films more than I trust someone who's only seen 50.

 

That's a great idea--but the survey had no way of identifying whether I'd seen a film or not.  There was no "N/A"--which caused me to vote "3" for films I hadn't seen, which should end up as a "neutral" value in the summation.

 

That said--if the calculations are really hairy, then please, Tyler, just remove me from the respondent pool.

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That's a great idea--but the survey had no way of identifying whether I'd seen a film or not.  There was no "N/A"--which caused me to vote "3" for films I hadn't seen, which should end up as a "neutral" value in the summation.

 

Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if a lot of people voted like this, then we need to redo the voting. Or, if everyone but me voted like this, then I need to redo my ballot. I didn't vote at all for films I haven't seen, gave 5s to the "musts," 4s to the "yes, please," 3s to the "I'd be fine with this one," and so on.

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Indeed, a "3" vote is not neutral at all, but could have a significant bearing on results. In the past a null vote has been cast by simply skipping the entry, which is what I did here.

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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I was heavy on "3"s myself, but am reluctant to state here my criteria for such a rating. Rest assured that I'd seen all the movies to which I assigned a "3," though. 

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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