Monday, September 08, 2008

Wish List Meme

Thanks to Adam Ross, who pushes a fine new meme on me - The Holy Grail List. A variation on the 12 films meme Piper sent into the world - 12 films (1) you haven't seen - and (2) aren't available on Netflix. As usual, it's taking me forever to get this thing written - but here it is! and in time for my first item still to be true!

Those who know me won't be surprised that this is heavy on the Asian films. And I know that this is a list that I will add to, in my head at least, endlessly after I post it. (Heck - I might put it in the sidebar alongside the blogathon list and keep adding to it on purpose...) This is going to have to be the first 12 films [more or less - I fully intend to cheat when possible] that come into my head, which isn't likely to cover it....

1. I have to start with Edward Yang -because if things go well, his films will come off this list over the next week or two. The HFA is running a retrospective - complete, I believe. I have seen 2 - Mahjong and Yi Yi - the first interesting, the latter a towering masterpiece. I suspect if I could see Mahjong again, it would rise as well. I don't know why his films are so hard to see - granted, they're difficult art films - but not that difficult. Maybe that's the problem - they're not as extreme as Hou Hsiao Hsien, lack the romanticism of Tsai Ming-liang - so they get short changed. I don't know. I can't explain it. But I am intensely grateful that they are finally coming...

2. Humanity and Paper Balloons - Sadao Yamanaka's classic, the values of contemporary films by the likes of Ozu and Naruse applied to the Japanese period film. Gotta see it. I could fill this list with 30s Japanese films (just going through Michael Kerpan's blog, say), but this one can stand as emblem for them all.... 

3. ...maybe not all - take for instance Chikamatsu Monogatari - AKA, Tale of Crucified Lovers - Mizoguchi.... this is often listed high in rankings of his films, but never available as far as I have seen. Sooner or later, I suppose, these films might make it here - Mizoguchi is slowly coming into print in the US. Kurosawa has always been available in the states; Ozu is catching up - with 14, 15 films available here - another half dozen and he might be reasonably well represented. (The 30s masterpieces - An Inn in Tokyo and The Only Son, at the very very least, have to be available first.) Mizoguchi has a lot of ground to make up. And then Naruse and Imamura and Oshima and Ichikawa and all the rest... (Of that lot, only Oshima is a good candidate for this list - decent retrospectives of the other three have played here, so I have seen a fair sample - all of Imamura, most of it multiple times... also probably no surprise to readers, at least those who recognize a reincarnated husband when they see one. Though Oshima might not be long for this list either - a retrospective is touring...)

4. Ishtar - what? Foul, you cry - Ishtar IS listed at Netflix! True true, I say, that's why it's been sitting in my "Saved DVDs" list there for 3 years (more or less.) I notice A New Leaf and the Heartbreak Kid are there too, to "Save" - not to "Add." The bastards. Those of you who haven't seen it though, can console yourselves with Mikey And Nicky. Why yes, I do like Elaine May. And - shit... I am cheating: "You must not have seen any of the films on your list, either in theatres or on video" - shit. That ruins that. Of course I've seen Ishtar -  on TV - most of it anyway - have I seen Ishtar? It used to be on TV all the time, but I dont know if I have seen it, start to finish, on purpose, or not. I want to. Given its reputation, at least when it came out, compared to what I know about May, and now that I've seen May's other films - could it be so bad? The bits of it I've caught in the last few years have played as sneakily amusing instead of ham-fisted and dull. One should also consider the effects of seeing (and loving) a bunch of Luc Moullet films (many of them available on Netflix!) - that might be an instructive comparison.... I have to see it again... but that seems more or less impossible.

5. Out One: Noli Me Tangere - The French could be pretty well represented here too. I've seen the short version of Out One, but not this. I've never seen a Rivette film that came close to being too long, including 6 hours of Jeanne la Poucelle, so I quite expect this to be a riveting 13 hours.

6. La Cicatrice Interieure - I've had the good luck to see some pretty darned obscure Philippe Garrel films - Le Lit de la Vierge, say... but nowhere near enough. Like a few directors on this list, almost all his films could qualify - Cicatrice Interieure sounds fascinating - it can stand for them all....

7. Hirokazu Kore-Eda's Hana Yori mo Naho - oh wait: look at that! So why wasn't this released? Because no one expects a samurai film from Kore Eda? that's certainly an annoying fact - directors who depart from their established styles, tend to be ignored. Take Zhang Yimou - now that he's become a big costume epic filmmaker, his smaller films (like Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles) get the barest of releases... This is off topic: darn - how do I get this back? Keep Cool? That was one of the first films I noticed this phenomenon with - after a string of historical epics and melodramas, Zhang turned to contemporary China, a looser, more comic film (so they say - I haven't seen it, obviously) - and besides whatever trouble the commies made for him back home, the film never got distributed - and - happily for our purposes, if not for those wanting to see the film - it ain't on Netflix!

8. Jang Sun-woo's Timeless Bottomless Bad Movie - one of the first Korean movies I read about, 10 odd years ago - it sounded very interesting, but I don't think it has ever surfaced anywhere near me. Lies is on Netflix - I guess a good flogging is always helpful in getting your films distributed. It's also a fairly remarkable film - makes me want to see more of his work.

9. Bigger than Life - Nicholas Ray's film, also mentioned at the Dancing Image - but yeah, one I haven't seen, and long to see.

10. Histoires du Cinema - Godard's big video project. This is another one others have mentioned, but I have to note it,because, damn.... I suppose it's just a region 2 DVD player and £25.98 away, but still...

11. Oh yes - Fantomas - Feuillade's 1913 epic... Another reason to get a Region 2 DVD player, I guess. But - yeah. In fact - freakin' Bordwell might as well be the last entry on this list - especially when he writes about the early silents. Enough of my Netflix queue is already occupied with Victor Sjostrom, Evgenie Bauer, William S. Hart and the like - never mind the ones that aren't there. Though if you think he's bad - try reading Noel Burch!

12. I knew once I started I'd never stop... Souls on the Road - one of the great early Japanese silent films, 1921... or Red Bat - 1931 chambara...

Enough!

For tags - well - how about the rest of the Film and Discussion crew? Joseph tagged Evan - but if I can get Karyn, Erik, Blade, Mike to join in - why, that would be a fine thing!

(I've also posted a shorter version of this list there.)

5 comments:

Joseph B. said...

"Hana" is in my queue as well. And spot on about "Keep Cool", the only Yimou film I've never seen. I know it did get a release in NY/LA back in the late 90's (I remember one of the old board buddies, JKin LA or PacinoF1 maybe) raving about it. Maybe with Yimou's smashing popularity at the Beijing Olympics, we'll finally get a chance to see this one.

Adam Ross said...

I knew you would have fun with this, cool list. "Bigger Than Life" was on Fox Movie Channel recently, that's one I'd really like to see. You'd think Criterion would jump on that Godard title eventually, they've been pretty good to him.

Bob Turnbull said...

Great list...I missed the Yang retrospective when it hit Toronto. Perhaps another reason his are tough to see is their length - so many of them are around or over 2 1/2 hours. "A Brighter Summer Day" is certainly one I hope to see sometime (I have to believe Criterion will rectify this).

Oshima is actually coming to our Cinematheque this Fall. I'm hoping to catch at least a couple.

And count me in as someone who would jump at the chance to see Yimou's "Keep Cool". I've seen most of the rest of his stuff and love it all (OK, maybe not "Curse Of The Golden Flower" quite as much...). Even the shorts he made for "Chacun Son Cinema" and "Lumiere And Company". One of my favourite filmmakers.

weepingsam said...

I think those Oshima films are touring - starting in NY and moving on I think. I've seen a fair sample of his films - though he was quite prolific back in the day... As for Yang - I hope the circulation of his films leads to some DVD releases: they should. But he has been badly served, even at home - I learned over the weekend that Yi Yi has never been released in Taiwan at all! Very strange...

Anonymous said...

ishtar, finally available via netflix instant viewing!