March 2012 in Films: Napoléon, Short Films and Business Trips
I guess I watched less new-to-me films this last March than I have in any one month in over a year. There were several factors in my lack of new-to-me’s this month. For one, I spent a day and a half working on a short film with some classmates. Then I was in North Carolina on business (something related to this blog, which I will post about later) for four days. I also hurt my back, which caused me to lay in a vicodin-induced haze for a few days. Lastly, two of the films I watched last month were over five hours long. YES. Watching Bertolucci’s Novecento took an entire day, as did my epic watching of Kevin Brownlow’s restoration of Abel Gance’s Napoléon at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland last weekend. Oh yes, also, the lovely Kristen Sales of SalesOnFilm was in town for the spectical and we spent the better part of three days either watching Gance’s brilliant film or wandering around San Francisco eating and drinking and taking in the city’s delights. I also continued my re-watching of old favorites. I found in my watching of soooo many new-to-me’s last year that I began to miss watching films that were dear to me. So this year I am trying to balance new-to-me’s with a healthy dose of old favorites. Lastly, I saw some great films (mostly old favorites, a few new-to-me’s) at the Castro Theatre this month: Manhattan, Welcome To L.A. (n-t-m), Reality Bites, My Own Private Idaho, Freeway (n-t-m), Shame and Take Shelter. As always, the full list of films is after the cut, plus five highlights.
- The Crush (2009)
- Umberto D.
- Sherlock Holmes & Dr. Watson. The Murder of Lord Waterbrook
- Lust For Gold
- A Woman Under the Influence
- The Hunger (1983)
- Velvet Goldmine
- Welcome To L.A.
- The French Doors
- A Way Out
- The Black Hole
- Salmon Fishing In The Yemen
- Proshchai, Gulsary! (Goodbye, Gulsary!)
- The Goonies
- Oh, Doctor!
- The Bell Boy
- Back Stage
- The Hayseed
- The Garage
- Battle Beyond the Stars
- Novecento aka 1900
- La délicatesse (Delicacy)
- A Film Johnnie
- Daydreams (1922)
- 21 Jump Street
- Jeux Interdits (Forbidden Games)
- Napoléon (1927)
- Checkmate (2009)
- The Slams
- Time For Tulips
- The Lunch Date
- The Deep Blue Sea (2011)
- Berkeley Square
- La Notte
I saw a lot of wonderful films this last month and even though my new-to-me count was pretty low, it was still hard to pick just five films to highlight. As always, I recommend pretty much all of the films I watched this month. There are just so many great films out there to watch and I always discover so many more.
A Woman Under the Influence, 1974 (dir. John Cassavetes)
So this is the second Cassavetes film I’ve watched this year (he was a director I always meant to watch and never did) and I absolutely loved it. Gena Rowlands gives a fearless performance as a woman with too much love to give and Peter Falk is heartbreaking as her husband, who loves his wife dearly, but doesn’t really know how to show it. The ups and downs of their relationship throughout the film are utterly devastating. I cannot recommend this film enough.
Freeway, 1996 (dir. Matthew Bright)
I saw this as the midnight portion of a triple feature that also included Reality Bites (one of my all-time favorite films) and Gus Van Sant’s brilliant, but underseen My Own Private Idaho at the Castro Theatre a few weeks ago. I had no idea what the plot of this film was. All I knew going in was that it featured Reese Witherspoon and Kiefer Sutherland. After the brilliant opening credits I gathered the film was a modern spin on the Little Red Riding Hood story. That’s all I want to tell you, because if you haven’t seen it I think it best to go in as blind as I did. It’s a fast-paced, wild ride of a film that doesn’t let up for an instant and when it’s over you’ll breathe a sigh of exhaustion, try to wrap your head around what you just saw and then realize you need to see it again because it is a masterpiece.
The Goonies, 1985 (dir. Richard Donner)
Yes. Somehow in my nearly 26 years on this planet I had never seen this film. I don’t know what to tell you. Most other seminal films of the 80s I have seen. This was my era. Somehow my brother and I just missed this film. Like I said, I don’t know what to tell you. I will say, now that I have seen it, I love it so much and if I had seen it as a child like I should have, I probably would have seen it 100 times by now.
La délicatesse (Delicacy), 2011 (dir. David Foenkinos, Stéphane Foenkinos)
I wish more Hollywood romances were as perfectly executed as this French gem. As I was watching it I kept thinking of all the ways a major Hollywood studio would have fucked it up and, in turn, was grateful that it was made in France instead. I don’t really want to spoil what makes it so different from your average Hollywood romance, but I will say that the trailer makes it look a lot more like your typical rom-com than it is. It’s more of a romantic drama if anything. Oh, and it has one of the most perfect endings ever. If it’s playing anywhere near you, I urge you to seek it out.
Napoléon, 1927 (dir. Abel Gance)
I bought my tickets for Kevin Brownlow’s epic five and a half hour restoration of Abel Gance’s Napoléon when they first announced the screening at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival last July. I don’t think I’ve ever bought anything that far in advance before. Okay, maybe that time my friend Erin and I went to Stars on Ice a few years ago. This was the most amazing cinematic experience of my entire life (which is basically completely made up of amazing cinematic experiences). I feel bad for everyone who couldn’t make it out to the Paramount Theatre in Oakland in order to see it. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime type experience. Gance’s filmic technique and strong artistic vision was awe-inspiring. After the film’s triptych finale sequence I had to take a deep breath in order to continue with life. Kristen stayed in her seat for a good ten minutes before she was able to walk again. It was that powerful. Two days after I saw this amazing film, I was lucky enough to speak with Carl Davis, who composed the score for the film – which he conducted live during the screening. You can read that interview here at YAM Magazine. I also got to chat for a little bit with legendary film historian Kevin Brownlow in the lobby of a hotel in Jack London Square. This is the third time I’ve talked with him in the last twelve months (and still I’ve yet to snap a photo with him!) and I really cannot even believe my own luck. That man is a personal hero of mine and one of the greatest things that has ever happened to the world of film.
So, all in all, March was a great month for film watching. I recently found out I will be covering the TCM Classic Film Festival which takes place in Hollywood in two weeks and the San Francisco International Film Festival right after that. You will be able to read all of my coverage of those festivals over at YAM Magazine. Oh and I recently hit a major follower milestone over at my tumblr (20K followers!), which is pretty unbelievable, really. I hope you all had a great March and that your April is also full of amazing cinematic adventures!
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