Monday, October 15, 2012

Top 10 15/10/2012

Planet of the Apes: Originally saw this on a cinema outing while on school holidays and it was already old 'n' creaky but it was also freaky. No sequel, reimagining or reboot has that power and freakiness. I read the Pierre Boulle novel Monkey Planet somewhere halfway through my teens but gave up as it was nothing like the movie!

Eraserhead: Always and ever!


Life of Brian: It's shock value long gone (and even then no threat to anyone's genuine faith) Brian remains the tightest statement of the Pythons' dizzying absurdism. Each year I contrive to show this (preferably to at least one person who hasn't yet seen it) at Easter. Too many scenes in a film wall to wall with strong comedy but I still love the Latin lesson and its eventual (gloriously irrelevant) detour into Star Wars territory a long sequence that, from Cleesian verbal pyrotechnics to Gilliam's weird mix of goofy and violent, contains the essential range of the team. If you're a young 'un and skeptical about Monty Python and don't want to trawl through the tv series (and it does get surprisingly draggy even for big fans) you should start here. The blu-ray is exemplary.

Cruising: Even the few Friedkin fans who revere both French Connection and The Exorcist seldom mention this one. There was a misguided reaction against it when new from the gay community which might well have left an everlasting taint but if so it is unfairly so. This is a story about alienness that seeks not to resolve difference but to gaze upon it and bids us ask ourselves how we should sit with it. I remember seeing a crumbly old vhs copy of this which I paused at the shot of the killer's diary page. Just cursive words on paper and seen so briefly you'd hvae to wonder about their subliminal power. Friedkin put them under our skin before we could press the pause button at home. Think on't. Comparable to the lightless snarl of Looking for Mr Goodbar, also from the twilight of American mainstream originality. Goodbar might have made it in by itself but hasn't appeared (to my knowledge) on any optical format yet so I can only report a distant memory of it.

The Producers: Because it's funny and never gets old.

M. Hulot's Holiday: First Jacques Tati film I ever saw, this appeared late at night when my rowdy twenty something household greeted it with parodic ridicule. A few scenes later we were laughing breathlessly with it. Something like the opposite happened when my last programmed Shadows screening, Tati's Playtime, got me my biggest audience turnout who sat in puzzled silence in front of it. That was an awkward couple of hours.

Being John Malkovich: Because I laughed everytime I saw the expository trailer and all over again when I saw the whole film at a packed Nova back in '99. Jonez might make bigger and further reaching but probably never stronger or funnier.

Irreversible: Goes backwards to make it hard to empathise with the leads as they go about their violent revenge. Begins in hell but ends with a vision of heaven that the order of events makes heart rending. Gaspar Noe continues to create power on screen but never deeper nor as purposed as here. Seriousness often draws a nervous laugh. This cannot.

Unbreakable: M. Night Shamylan's least remembered film is also his best as it expertly balances its  concepts with the narrative that should carry them until the delivery of the purpose of what we have seen comes to us unruffled and immediately useable. The clunking ending, notwithstanding.

Cure: A tale of stress tightens as a Tokyo detective with the double burden of an apparently insoluble series of murders weighs down along with his wife's worsening dementia. The answer to both is in the investigation and, though effective, is more terrifying than the disease. Kyoshi Kurosawa's acknowledged masterwork has a subtle brutality that has the strange effect of warming up the icy proceedings and carrying us on to the what-did-I-just-see ending.

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