Friday, July 10, 2020

CARLO PANGALANGAN LABRADOR'S THOUGHTS ON SAMUEL BECKETT'S FILM



First off, I’d like to thank Marcus for letting me guest post again. This time around I proposed that he and I collaborate, I’ll provide the words, he’s got the side-by-sides. I hope you enjoy it:

When I was a burgeoning cinephile, my first ever resource was the 1996 Edition of the Time Out Film Guide. I hardly had access to movies, but discovering films through these pithy capsule reviews, underscoring the titles, gave me prospective films to look forward to seeing, I made my first endless watchlist. One of the best features of the guide was its index that re-sorted the films into subgenres, a couple of my favorites were “Urban Nightmares” and “Experimental”. It was in the latter where I found out about this underground Buster Keaton film, with a self-reflexive and elemental title like Film, and it was purported to be the vision of Samuel Beckett, whom I had no idea who he was. I eventually learned about Beckett, and read his prose, which I ended up preferring over his plays which made his name. Film was difficult to find, so my first experience of it was reading Beckett’s very detailed screenplay. I eventually was able to get a copy of Five Minutes to Live DVD (cinephiles in the early 2000s would be familiar with this label, they also released The Dirk Diggler Story), which looked like a terrible third generation vhs dub, but it allowed me to finally see this hidden gem.

Beckett didn’t decide overnight to try his hand at writing a screenplay, long before he had success in the world of literature and theatre, he had expressed interest in attending film school, and this is evident in the application letter he wrote to Sergei Eisenstein below:



Beckett was known for precision, something he had complete control over in language, which translates well enough in theater, which, for the most part, has control over its setting. But this could not be accomplished completely in Film, it’s exactly the flaws that make it fascinating.

So let’s break down his screenplay. It is not written like a screenplay or a scenario, more like a treatment or outline. It contained very detailed instructions, down to the diagrams of the action and camera placement. Physics and Geometry play an integral part in the piece, leaning on Keaton’s physicality and the way the camera films him. Beckett’s placement of the camera has more purpose than most filmmakers working today.

Beckett works with the idea of “self-pereceivedness”, that Keaton is one character, O, the Object, and the camera, E, the Eye, being the other character. E always views O through a 45 degree angle from behind O, his right side. Every time, E goes even slightly past this “angle of immunity”, it threatens the imbalance. O traverse through three different spaces, not wanting to be perceived.
This rule is only broken when we occasionally see O’s perspective through the distortion of a cloth, blurry lens obstructed by an object too close.
They got Boris Kaufman (who was Jean Vigo’s cameraman, and also shot On The Waterfront and 12 Angry Men) to be the DP, ensuring that Beckett’s precise camera directions were followed, and not a shot or movement was wasted.

Wouldn’t be intriguing to put this side-by-side with Keaton’s own distinct visual style: it was always a conscious decision to shoot and frame him in long shot, rarely ever getting close.

A young Buster Keaton in One Week (above) vs. an older Buster Keaton in Film (below)


Despite being relatively obscure until recently, it seems that Film’s DNA can be found in subsequent films. I am a believer in Jung’s Collective Unconscious, except when it comes to stand up comedy—fuck all y’all joke stealers. It’s hard to imagine what kind of release Film had in 1965—was it screened on its own? Or did it accompany a feature? It makes one wonder if David Lynch had possibly seen it while attending AFI, as the opening scene of Film with O traversing an industrial landscape, stumbling, evokes Eraserhead, when Henry staggers around a similar landscape—and steps into a puddle. And even O’s look with his hat and a handkerchief underneath it, obscuring his face—recalls Merrick in The Elephant Man.

Film /
The Elephant Man

Film / Eraserhead


It also reminded me of the post opening credit scene in Dead Man when William Blake enters the town of Machine, his shock at seeing the blow job out on the street, and a gun being pointed at him, is similar to the shock expressed by the couple that O encounters at the end of the street.

Film /
Dead Man

Film /
Dead Man


The first part of the film was compromised, it was supposed to be a busier street scene with extras bustling, and the couple O encounters at the end of the scene was supposed to have a monkey with them (!). It was Beckett’s realization that film had a lot more compromise compared to Theater, but according to director Alan Schneider, Beckett was open to the changes.

But compromises didn’t begin with the opening, it started with the casting. Beckett originally wanted Chaplin, not Keaton. Beckett had written many of his tramp characters, like Vladimir and Estragon, inspired by Chaplin. I certainly feel Film carries more weight with Keaton, his face cragged, having gone through the wringer in the sound era, living most of his life thinking that all his silent work had been destroyed for its silver elements. He didn’t get what Beckett was trying to do, yet his performance is integral. I’ve always been more partial to Keaton because of the lack of sentimentality, with gags coming from the narrative rather than basing a narrative around gags. There was beautiful imperfection in Keaton’s films because he has so few chances to get it right.

Save for one surprising (and ironic) moment of a character saying “Sssssh”, the entire 22 minute film (about the length of an old Keaton two-reeler) is completely silent (no musical accompaniment, no sound effects). It’s premise is simple enough, but it’s the fact that it is without words, you left to figure it out as the film moves on. Another filmmaker known for making completely soundless films was Stan Brakhage, and he said that you’re actually able to see more without sound. Maya Deren’s At Land intentionally came with no accompanying score. One of my all time favorite filmmakers, Peter Hutton also made films without sound.

Another Maya Deren connection: Film / Meshes Of The Afternoon


Beckett himself was no stranger to wordlessness, 3 short plays: Act Without Words I&II and Breath (to the point where it didn’t even have characters).

Look, I get it, watching Film in complete silence might be challenging, but think about the other activities you do in your day to day in silence. I browse the web in silence, how about you, are you reading this in silence? You have more quiet moments in your life than you imagine.
I remember the first time I ever saw Man with a Movie Camera at Anthology and it had no accompanying score, it creates a 4’33” effect, wherein incidental sounds outside of the screen become part of the experience. I’ve had similar experiences watching the films of Peter Hutton.
It’s gotten to the point that I frequently mute scores on DVDs of silent films, finding most the scores grating. One of my more recent whims has been to put on a record to match the silent film, I’ve found Alessandro Cortini’s Risveglio and Sonno to be quite effective.

So if you can’t imagine sitting in silence for 22 minutes watching Film, I would recommend playing Mogwai’s My Father My King alongside it, if you time the start of the Mogwai track after the opening credits, it aligns nicely.


Following behind a character, seeing the back of their head, has been a common shot in cinema, in fact, in 2017 it became de rigueur in World Cinema, but rarely has it been done with as much purpose as in Film. Hal Hartley also used it to great effect in Flirt, when Bill Sage is retelling an encounter with a married woman.

Film /
Flirt

The Hartley connection goes beyond the visual. He has expressed admiration for Beckett in interviews, saying he felt a kinship in the work being about “the word”. Graham Fuller, interviewing Hartley as a preface to his published screenplays for Simple Men and Trust, made the comparison to Keaton, both in the precise framing (Hartley apparently shot all of Simple Men with a 50mm lens, which gave the film a consistent look with almost all the shots being medium-range), the deadpan humor, but more importantly, the lack of sentimentality, that Hartley’s characters express self-abnegation rather than pity.


O’s journey leads us to a room, that bare room where he rids himself of reflections of his existence. I imagine this approximates what Keaton must’ve felt, like his existence was erased when a studio head told him his silent films were melted down for their silver elements.

I’ve always been predisposed to characters who find themselves alone or in isolation, Lisandro Alonso has practically made a career on films about this, but it’s his first three, the trilogy of La Libertad, Los Muertos, and Fantasma. We are witnesses to evidence of these characters' existence being filmed, and an awareness of this (in the now deleted ending of La Libertad) and in the entirety of Fantasma.

Film /
Fantasma


Another thing that fascinates me about Film is that it’s Beckett and Keaton meeting at a crossroads of their careers. This was when Beckett’s work really to get interesting for me, he had just published the English translation of How It Is around this time, and in prose he really begins to narrow down his work to voices in closed spaces, narratives whittled down to their very essence, a voice telling a story that may or may not have happened.
Despite making a posthumous appearance in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, I consider Film to be Keaton’s final performance, the same way I consider Love Streams to be Cassavetes’ last film, not Big Trouble. Keaton passed away a year after Film was released, and we get a sense that the character O is dying, too. Film culminates with a look directly into the camera (E), expressing “The agony of perceivedness”, the same look that the couple in the street and and the lady in the staircase had.

And with Keaton’s passing it was the end of an era: black and white was becoming rarer in the 60s, and Film could be considered the last silent film.

There is a note at the beginning of Beckett’s screenplay which states that “no attempt has been made to bring into line with the finished work.”, but who would even attempt it today? Film could never be remade with the same circumstances, it will just feel like a cheap pastiche or homage. Probably only Guy Maddin could get close, but who could he cast who would have the same weight and magnitude as Keaton?

Beckett is now rightfully credited as director on imdb, even if he isn’t in the restored version’s credits. His screenplay is directing, Alan Schneider was the intermediary. Ultimately, Beckett was gracious with the result, stating that Film acquired "a dimension and validity of its own that are worth far more than any merely efficient translation of intention."


ZEBRAS IN AMERICA EPISODE 131 W/ SPECIAL GUEST MTUME GANT


Frequent guest & friend Mtume Gant joined us to talk about Spike Lee's latest.

Enjoy...

ZEBRAS IN AMERICA EPISODE 130


Scott & I watched The King Of Staten Island on father's day then recorded a podcast about it.

Enjoy...

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

LIBERTÉ


Liberté is a weird combination of sexual liberation and sexual repression happening at the same time. In the film we follow a group of high society “swingers” in 18th century France having a sexual romp in the woods. It’s a beautiful mixture of the bath house scene in Reygadas’ Post Tenebras Lux, the nightclub scenes in Friedkin’s Cruising and the climactic orgy scene at the end of Brian Yuzna’s Society (early on in Liberté we hear agonizing screams coming from the woods and I was immediately reminded of the screams coming from the bath house in Post Tenebras Lux). I enjoyed this movie a lot but I also felt the need to cleanse myself afterwards (for those of you familiar with the aforementioned films I compared Liberté to, you should understand). I don’t mean to get too gross but you could almost smell this movie at certain points. But perhaps that’s part of the point of the film. An unabashed/unflinching look at sex & sexuality which can be "gross" at times (it should be noted that bathing practices were a little different in the 18th century so the smells must have been extra potent).
There’s a very “matter of fact” approach in the acting style which highlighted things. There’s no guilty or surprised looks on the faces of the actors as they touch, fondle, screw & suck their way through the film. This hammers home the idea of their sexual liberation. The deadpan emotionless looks on the faces of the actors implies they aren’t ashamed of what they're doing. However, they are off in the woods secluded from the rest of the world which obviously implies some kind of shame or discretion. No matter how comfortable they are together, they all know this is something that can’t be done out in the open. 
I know I compare a lot of things to Bresson but the Bresson comparison is very valid here. Not only is the acting style in Liberté similar to films like L’Argent & The Devil Probably, but, like Bresson, Albert Serra uses (some) non-professional actors.


This felt like a callback to the films of the New French Extremity. If I went in to Liberté blind without knowing the actual director (Albert Serra) I would have thought it was made by the likes of Bertrand Bonello, Francois Ozon or Marina De Van (all varsity lettermen of the New French Extremity scene).
Liberté takes place in the woods and I was reminded of the opening sequence of Bonello’s Tiresia (another film that’s partially about sexual repression and sexual deviancy). In Tiresia we follow Lucas Laurent cruising the woods for prostitutes and if you take out the modern wardrobe (Tiresia is set in 2003), you'd think the events in the film were overlapping with Liberté (it should be noted that Liberte co-star Lliana Zabeth worked with Bertrand Bonello on The House Of Tolerance which also deals with similar subject matter)

Tiresia / Liberté


It also isn't too far-fetched to compare the events of Liberté to certain moments in Ozon's See The Sea (a movie that has a pretty memorable cruising scene in the woods)

See The Sea / Liberté


Or the more recent Stranger By The Lake...
Stranger By The Lake /
Liberte 



As for direct influences, Albert Serra was open about the fact that the look of the film was inspired by the artwork of François Boucher & Alexandre-Évariste Fragonard...





The events of Liberté brought me back to my three years of taking history of architecture in college where we learned about how (some) famous opera houses and music halls were designed with side rooms that were used for sexual romps and other debaucherous encounters.


Normally a film about sex has a tone or an overall ambiance that matches the subject matter. But that’s not really the case here. Liberté is intentionally cold which isn’t something that you don’t want to associate with sex. There is a softness & tenderness to some of the performances but at the end of the day Liberté is cold. I like to think that approach was intentional as to not fully distract from the beautiful backdrops & costume design. Sex is a beautiful thing (I don’t think Serra believes otherwise) but it can also be weird & strange. I imagine the average human being that enjoys having sex would think twice about joining in on the events presented in Liberté. There’s a “fluid” ambiguous feel to everything that not everyone would be down with (I certainly wouldn’t be). Helmut Berger’s presence in the film alone just adds to the sexual freeness & ambiguity as he’s known for his more “fluid” roles over the years.

Albert Serra uses Berger in the same way that he used Jean Pierre Leaud in The Death Of Louis XIV which is less of a performance and more like an artifact of the history of cinema he brings with him...
Helmut Berger in Liberte
Helmut Berger in The Damned


On the surface, Liberte comes off as a tool strictly to shock the viewer. But if you go a littler deeper (no pun intended), you’ll see that the events in this film branch off to everything from art to architecture and politics (this film is actually part of a larger multi-part/multi-media project). Liberte is also a reminder that a lot of the New French Extremity was rooted in and inspired by classic art, architecture & literature. There was a lot more to that scene than just shocking imagery.

I don’t know exactly where this movie ranks/sits on my “best of the year” list but I haven’t stopped thinking about it since first watching it over a month ago and that counts far more than some placement on a list...

Friday, June 19, 2020

ZEBRAS IN AMERICA EPISODE 129: PATRICK HORVATH & DALLAS HALLAM




Since the beginning of 2017 we’ve become increasingly fascinated with the films of Patrick Horvath & Dallas Hallam so it only seems right that we get them on the show.

Listen as we talk about their careers, influences, Stephen King, and unloved Hal Hartley movies.

You can follow Patrick on twitter at
@PatrickHorvath
And check out his artwork at:
patrickhorvath.com/

SOUTHBOUND is currently free to stream on Hulu, while ENTRANCE & THE PACT 2 can be found at:
www.ifcfilms.com/category/midnight

reach out if you are bored/struggling both or neither
We are virtually around

Enjoy...

Monday, June 15, 2020

FOURTEEN


God. I’ve known her for a long time. I guess I see her differently...



Breaking up with or separating yourself from a longtime childhood friend is complicated and incredibly difficult. Some might say it’s more difficult than breaking up with a romantic partner (although I imagine marriage/divorce can make things incredibly difficult from a legal standpoint). Even though you may grow close with a long time lover or spouse, there’s still a strong chance that you haven’t known that person as long or as intimately as a childhood friend (I know there’s a difference between a relationship with a romantic partner and a platonic friend but you do put in a lot of personal & intimate time with both which makes the comparison somewhat fair in my book). And I’m not trying to downplay romantic breakups or divorces but rarely has an ex been with you since childhood. A long time friend has watched you essentially become/find yourself. Transitioning with them from grade school in to (early) adulthood is a long time and a lot happens in between. It gets to the point where you’ve been through so much with each other and you’ve become accustomed to so many things that they’ve just essentially become a part of your life. The idea of no longer being friends is the farthest thing from your mind. But it happens.

That’s pretty much the case in Dan Sallitt’s Fourteen.

In the film we follow the declining friendship of “Jo” (Norma Kuhling) & “Mara” (Talliee Medel). Mara is slightly more stable and is trying to manage her career, her love life and her uneven friendship with Jo. Jo is more of a “free spirit”. Mara definitely gives the most and receives the least. Early on we get the sense that’s always how it’s been. But after years of this dynamic it’s starting to exhaust Mara because she’s become more like a parent to the unstable Jo and less like a friend/mutual. As the film unfolds we learn some of the source of Jo’s instability and why it’s important for Mara to remove herself from their relationship (it's important to note that while Jo is definitely a lot to deal with at times, she's not a bad person).

You need something all the time. It gets difficult. - Mara

Fourteen is an important film because it shows multiple sides of depression, addiction & mental illness. We see the depressed character's side of things (in one very heartfelt moment in particular) but we also see how depression & mental instability can affect those that try to help. Throughout the film Mara makes countless sacrifices and drops what she’s doing on multiples occasions to tend to Jo and the situations that she creates. Now...part of being a (good) friend is the ability to be there for others when times are tough. But when someone else’s needs take priority over your own all the time - perhaps it’s time to change the dynamic or, in Mara's case, slowly step away.
There’s only so much you can do for self-destructive/self-sabotaging people. As the film unfolds we see that Mara has her own life, career and other important life decisions that have to take precedent over constantly helping Jo. And Jo does need help. But it isn’t Mara’s job to help her (and it certainly starts to feel like a job).


This may sound weird to those that have seen Fourteen but there’s a soulful Bressonian style of delivery from the actors that really intrigued me. I say “Bressonian” because through most of the film there is somewhat of an intentional deadpan/calming style of delivery from the actors that really fascinated me. I added “soulful” because unlike Robert Bresson’s use of his characters as almost machines or predetermined game pieces (that’s not a criticism), Sallitt’s characters in Fourteen are more humanistic & relatable. Loving a director’s work isn’t always synonymous with being overtly influenced by them but it should be noted that Sallitt has at least one Bresson film included in every one of his (extensive) best of the decade lists on his own personal film site (click here). That has to count for some sort of subconscious influence...

Note the similar tone in delivery between Charles in Bresson's The Devil Probably (top) and Mara in Fourteen (below)...
The Devil Probably

Fourteen

The characters in both Sallitt & Bresson's films talk about more serious subject matter in a similar tone...
L'Argent


The Unspeakable Act (Sallitt)


Fourteen would make for nice triple bill with Hal Hartley’s Flirt & Kevin Smith’s Clerks (two other films that come from the school of Bresson in a sort of indirect way). Some of the conversations between the characters in Fourteen reminded me of Randall & Dante in Clerks. The only difference is the characters in Fourteen are a bit more mature in my opinion and have more ambition (especially in Mara’s case).

Clerks /
Fourteen

There are also a few really cool Akerman-esque moments as well (long unbroken shots, a camera set in one place following a character around a room, etc). In my opinion Chantal Akerman is another filmmaker in the same lane an Bresson so these comparisons & similarities make a lot of sense to me...
Toute Une Nuit /
Fourteen
Les Rendezvous D'Anna /
Fourteen


I enjoyed Fourteen very much. If you’re a completist of Sallitt’s work it makes for the perfect follow-up to his previous feature. We see actress Tallie Medel play a young woman (Mara) that has to make an incredibly tough decision much like the character she played in The Unspeakable Act (2012). Perhaps the team of Sallitt & Medel can work together on another project a few years down the road and make an unofficial trilogy of films that takes us from high school (The Unspeakable Act), through the 20's/early 30's (Fourteen) and in to our 40's and possibly beyond...


It’s important to stream & support movies like this in a time when filmmaking & film distribution is on uncertain & shakey grounds. That’s not to say major studio films aren’t in trouble but there has to be a place for independent movies like Fourteen to exist. Click here to rent/stream it virtually...

Friday, June 12, 2020

ZEBRAS IN AMERICA EPISODE 128: SPECIAL GUEST: DJ 7L (CZARFACE, 7L & ESOTERIC)





7L is an award winning dj and producer, a member of legendary Massachusetts rap group 7L and Esoteric and with Esoteric is a member of Czarface, a super group with Wu Tang Legend, Inspecta Deck. We talked for a while about movies, music, wrestling, culture, why Soderbergh’s Solaris might be the better one, and more.
- Scott

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

TOMMASO



I hate to be that critic to relate serious real life/current events to a movie, but in a strange way Abel Ferrara’s Tommaso makes for an interesting companion to all this covid/isolation stuff we’re currently facing. While there are plenty of outside scenes or moments where we see Willem Dafoe’s Tommaso riding on a crowded public train (there’s also a subplot regarding an experimental actor’s workshop where people are in close proximity to each other) a lot of the key scenes take place inside cars, tiny European-style apartments or between two people on mostly empty streets. Plus the overall tone & ambiance of Tommaso is quite beautifully “blah” and (intentionally) aimless at times. I don’t know about you all, but “blah” & “aimless” are the two biggest feelings that come to mind these days (the movie is also set in Italy which was hit the hardest by Covid). 
Much like the character Tommaso I find myself zoning out, looking out of my window for extended periods of time and going through all kinds of strange insecure thoughts & weird memories that may or may not have happened.

I think the main reason I loved Tommaso so much is because it reminded me of Terrence Malick’s Knight Of Cups. These two films would make for a hell of a double feature. Both movies are semi-autobiographical stories about filmmakers/artists in the midst of an existential crisis. A lot of the camera movements are the same and they use voiceover narration in a similar fashion as well.
There’s also just that same general sense of intentional aimlessness in both movies that I love so much when done right. This is very much a personal preference so if you aren’t in to slightly aimless narratives this one may not be for you (I keep saying aimless but I assure you there is a plot). But at the same time - Dafoe‘s performance is so great that it’s worth sitting through even if movies like Tommaso aren’t your thing...

Knight Of Cups / Tommaso

Knight Of Cups /
Tommaso

Knight Of Cups /
Tommaso

I feel even more attached to this pairing because Abel Ferrara & Terrence Malick have an additional connection. Their previous films - Tree Of Life & Welcome To New York - have a subconscious bond as well. Both movies are semi-autobiographical to Malick & Ferrara and have similar scenes of self-reflection and existential dread combined with the same filmmaking style in certain moments...

Tree Of Life / Welcome To New York


Welcome To New York is similar to Tommaso in that both movies have identical layers. Even though Welcome To New York is loosely based on the Dominique Strauss Khan sexual assault case, Gerard Depardieu’s lead performance has pieces of himself as well as Ferrara sprinkled throughout (while this movie has a lot of Abel Ferrara's personal life, there are a lot of elements that relate to Dafoe's real life as well).

What sets Tommaso a part from Knight Of Cups is that Christian Bale’s portrayal of Malick is going through an artistic & family crisis whereas Willem Dafoe’s portrayal of Abel Ferrara (“Tommaso”) is struggling with all the aforementioned issues along with staying sober and haunting suspicions that his wife is unfaithful (it should be noted that Tommaso’s wife & children in the film are played by Ferrara’s real life wife & child).
This is hardly the first time Abel Ferrara has made an autobiographical/semi-autobiographical film. Harvey Keitel (Dangerous Game), Matthew Modine (Mary), Lili Taylor (The Addiction) & Willem Dafoe (Go Go Tales) have all played characters loosely based on Ferrara at different points in his life. Taylor represented the drug-addicted side of Ferrara while Keitel, Modine & Dafoe have all portrayed Ferrara as a filmmaker at different points in his career.
I just feel like Tommaso is the autobiographical film he’s always wanted to make up til now. Ferrara seemed to take his time with this one.
What’s interesting is that from a religious & spiritual standpoint, you can follow Abel Ferrara’s journey from a conflicted & haunted catholic (Ms. 45, Bad Lieutenant, The Addiction, etc) to his transition in to Buddhism (4:44) right back to the catholic imagery with a mix of Buddhism in Tommaso (I won’t give away the ending but the final shot is quite on the nose). While all the aforementioned films are excellent as far as I’m concerned, there’s a sense of light experimentation in Tommaso that the others don’t have. Not to take anything away from stuff like Dangerous Game or The Addiction but Tommaso doesn’t really have a traditional structure like the others. There’s no real beginning or middle. There is certainly a (powerful) ending but how Ferrara guides us to that end is kind of unexpected. Tommaso is more of a collage of anxious thoughts, fears & flashbacks that Ferrara has been struggling with. This film is an expression of all those things.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

CARLO PANGALANGAN LABRADOR'S PERSONAL FAVORITE FILMS OF THE DECADE



The 2010s were a very pivotal decade in my life, I ended my 20s and entered my 30s, moved to and then left New York, ended two long term relationships, and also began discover who I really was as human and a filmmaker. I made my first feature, and a couple of shorts that I’m proud of. I continue to evolve, but I certainly feel I know myself better at the end of the decade than I did when it began. I am grateful to everyone who helped me grow along the way, you know who you are.

These are the movies that were significant to me during this pivotal time, they inspired me, made me feel creatively engaged, reinvigorated. They’re not ranked per se, as we who obsess over our lists know that their order can change at any given day. But I will say that the ones closer to the top are probably more significant.

Paterson may be the most conventional movie at the top, but seeing it was the right movie at right time. It came out at the very end of 2016, which was a disastrous year for me, and Paterson was just what I needed. I saw it at the now defunct Landmark Sunshine, went back to see it again just to make sure what I had seen was truly great, and then came back a third time with a date (she loved it, but unfortunately it didn’t work out between us.); and after three viewings, I knew it was something special. It inspired me to write poetry, I went on trips to Paterson, NJ to visit the locations of the film, tried to do recreations of some of the images from the film and do side-by-side comparisons. The central relationship in Paterson is one I aspire to, yet I’m not quite sure if it’s even possible. The film’s assured calm, ambient mood make it the perfect film to have playing in the background, and then I end up watching it all the way through. The biggest take away for me, though, is how important it is to make work that is personally significant to you, even if you don’t end up sharing it with the world.

The next few films are closer to what I aspire to achieve cinematically: they are pushing the limits of the possibilities of the moving image, they’re ambitious, take risks, and make you feel like you won’t ever be the same after seeing them for the first time. And there’s some fun entertaining ones in there, too. I also avoided some of the more obvious choices that I knew would be ubiquitous on other people’s lists, I made this list in the hopes that there would be some discoveries for you, some stuff you may have missed, or had come across but never quite gave a chance to. Happy hunting!


TOP TIER:

Paterson (Jim Jarmusch, 2016)

Hill of Freedom (Hong Sang-soo, 2014)

Twenty Cigarettes James Benning (2011)

Holy Motors (Leos Carax, 2012)

Tape (Li Ning, 2010)

Street (James Nares, 2011)

Happy Hour (Ryusuke Hamaguchi, 2015)

Jauja (Lisandro Alonso, 2014)

The Measures (Jacqueline Goss, Jenny Perlin, 2014)

Small Roads (James Benning, 2011)

Knight of Cups (Terrence Malick, 2015)

We Have an Anchor (Jem Cohen, 2012)

All These Sleepless Nights (Michal Marczak, 2016)

The Clock (Christian Marclay, 2010)

Silence (Pat Collins, 2012)

Trypps #7 (Ben Russell, 2011)

The Observers (Jacqueline Goss, 2011)

Love in a Puff (Pang Ho-cheung, 2010)

A Matter of Interpretation (Lee Kwang-kuk, 2014) 

Don’t Go Breaking My Heart Diptych (Johnnie To, 2011, 2014)

Margaret (Kenneth Lonergan, 2006/2011)

The Rider (Chloe Zhao, 2017)

The Killing of a Sacred Deer (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2017)

A Spell to Ward Off The Darkness (Ben Russell & Ben Rivers, 2013)

Ponce De Leon (Ben Russell, Jim Drain 2012)

L. Cohen (James Benning, 2018)

Goodbye to Language 3D (Jean-Luc Godard, 2014)

Voyage of Time (Terrence Malick, 2016)

Sound That (Kevin Jerome Everson, 2013)

Certified Copy (Abbas Kiarostami, 2010)

It’s Such a Beautiful Day (Don Herzfeldt, 2012)

List (Hong Sang-soo, 2011)

Sun Song (Joel Wanek, 2013)

Coming Attractions (Peter Tscherkassky, 2010)

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (Edgar Wright, 2010) 

Destination Wedding (Victor Levin, 2018)

La Flor (Mariano Llinás, 2018)

Moneyball (Bennett Miller, 2011)

Detention (Joseph Kahn, 2011)

Entertainment (Rick Alverson, 2015)

Burning (Lee Chang-Dong, 2018)

Our Day Will Come (Romain Gavras, 2010)

The Passage (Kitao Sakurai, 2018)





WORTH MENTIONING:

Eden (Mia Hansen-Løve, 2014)

Museum Hours (Jem Cohen, 2012)

Celeste and Jesse Forever (Lee Toland Krieger, 2012)

The Mole Song: Undercover Agent Reiji (Takashi Miike, 2013)

As The Gods Will (Takashi Miike, 2014)

Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Taika Waititi, 2016)

The Raid Diptych (Gareth Evans, 2011, 2014)

Personal Shopper (Olivier Assayas, 2016)

Wonderstruck (Todd Haynes, 2017)

Camera/Film Tests for Phantom Thread and The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2017, 2012)

Park Lanes (Kevin Jerome Everson, 2015)

The Midnight After (Fruit Chan, 2014)

SPL 2 (Cheang Pou-soi, 2015)

The Emperor Visits the Hell (Li Luo, 2012)

Kaili Blues (Bi Gan, 2015)

Enemy (Denis Villeneuve, 2013)

Premium Rush (David Koepp, 2012)

Tour de Pharmacy (Jake Szymanski, 2017)

A Running Jump (Mike Leigh, 2012)

Clapping For The Wrong Reasons (Hiro Murai, 2012)

Nervous Translation (Shireen Seno, 2018)

Goon (Michael Dowse, 2011)

Dredd (Pete Travis, 2012)





TO EARLY TOO TELL:

The Souvenir (Joanna Hogg, 2019)

The Mountain (Rick Alverson, 2019)

Parasite (Bong Joon-Ho, 2019)

Redoubt (Matthew Barney, 2019)




I also wanted to briefly highlight what a great decade for music it was, this list nowhere as comprehensive as the movies, but the music I listed was very impactful for me. Although he didn’t release any new music in the past decade, Ornette Coleman’s passing affected me quite a bit, as his music was a big influence on my filmmaking, probably more than other film or filmmaker.

In terms of my favorite current living artists, Autechre and Lightning Bolt continue to make vital music that inspires me. Autechre, in particular, had an incredible run from Exai (2013) to NTS Sessions (2018), with each release becoming longer and expansive (Exai was 4 LPs and NTS Sessions was 12 LPs!), taking you to places most musicians can’t even touch. They are pushing the boundaries what can be considered music, similar to the filmmakers I admire, yet it seems like the boundaries are infinite, since they can’t be seen. The 2010s also witnessed the emergence of two of the more unique voices in rap, Milo (who now goes by R.A.P. Ferreira) and Mach-Hommy. Milo’s words, in particular, really resonated with me, he has become my favorite rapper.


Autechre—Exai and NTS Sessions and elseq and L-Event

Lightning Bolt—Sonic Citadel and Fantasy Empire

Milo—So Flies Don’t Come and Things That Happen at Day, Things That Happen At Night

Squarepusher—Ufubulum

Westside Gunn—Flygod

MIKE—War in My Pen

Mach-Hommy—Dollar Menu 2

Alessandro Cortini—Risveglio and Sonno

Godspeed You! Black Emperor—‘Allelujah! Ascend! Don’t Bend!

Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions—Until The Hunter

Max Richter—Sleep

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