Feature Friday: “Withnail & I” (1987)

OK, so don’t get your hopes up; this is a pretty poor copy of Withnail & I. I mean, you wouldn’t want to watch it this way, not when the gorgeous Criterion edition exists. But it is the whole film, and as such perfectly fine for leaving on in the background while you down lighter fluid and watch your thumbs go all weird…

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Feature Friday: “Syndromes and a Century” (2006)

Easily one of the best films of the past seven years, by one of the greatest living filmmakers, Apichatapong Weerasethakul.

A funny story: I actually knew him, when I lived in Thailand (2003–5). I was given his cell phone number by a mutual film friend. One day I went to visit him at his studio in northern Bangkok. We sat around for a while, talking movies. Finally I asked what he was working on. [Note that this was in 2004, by which point I had seen only his first feature, the brilliant exquisite corpse Mysterious Object at Noon (2000).] He told me that he was finishing a new film, trying to get it ready in time for Cannes. “If we finish in time, we go,” he said. “If not—mai pen rai” (“no worries”).

That film turned out to be Tropical Malady (2004), which went on to win Cannes’s Jury Prize, effectively launching Apichatapong’s career. I’m glad I didn’t distract him overmuch!

Two years later, Apichatapong followed it up with a film some consider even better. (I myself rank them about the same, which is to say that they are both essential masterpieces of contemporary cinema.)

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Feature Friday: “Celine and Julie Go Boating” (1974)

What a surprise to find this up at YouTube! Although less and less surprises me these days.

How to describe Celine and Julie Go Boating, other than “one of the greatest films ever made”?

Two women, Celine and Julie, a magician and a librarian, bond over a shared interest in magic and the occult. Together they discover one of the weirdest haunted houses in all of cinema, a mansion in which a Henry James novel is being eternally reenacted. Celine and Julie can enter the house, which will expel them after a few hours with no memory of what’s going on inside. But when they eat a magic candy, they start to remember what they witnessed…

It’s funny and cool and sexy and more than a little spooky.

It’s inspired in part by Lewis Carroll, and was partial inspiration for Desperately Seeking Susan (1985).

Also, it’s one of the greatest films ever made.

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Feature Friday: “Sleuth” (1972)

John recently stripped this site of its “Features” tab, where I was steadily and secretly stockpiling links to feature films that are up in their entirety at YouTube. So maybe I’ll just start embedding them on the main page? One every Friday?

This week’s film will be:

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A D & Jeremy Talk about Movies: Source Code, Friends, Woody Allen, The Man from London, Sucker Punch, Zardoz, Tron, Willow, and Shoot ‘Em Up

[Last weekend, while en route to Abu Dhabi, my good friend Jeremy swung by my cold-water Chicago flat. After a lengthy Indian-wrestling match, we headed downtown to the AMC River East 21, where we caught a screening of Duncan Jones’s latest film, Source Code. Two hours later, expelled into the brisk April evening, we hunkered down at the nearest Applebee’s and, after ordering multiple appetizers and pitchers of Stella Artois, recorded the following conversation.]

A D: Jeremy, did you like Source Code?

Jeremy: It didn’t offend me.

That’s high praise. I can envision it emblazoned across the film’s poster (which is hideous and which did offend me).

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Mark Rappaport’s Blind Dates

Today marks the start of Anthology Film Archive’s four-day retrospective of Mark Rappaport, the visionary director behind two of my favorite films: Rock Hudson’s Home Movies (1992) and From the Journals of Jean Seberg (1995). I encourage anyone who’s anywhere near New York City to check it out.

Meanwhile, this short video documents a show of collages Rappaport exhibited last year at the Festival Internacional Cine Las Palmas Gran Canaria, Spain:

For more on Mark Rappaport’s work, see Jonathan Rosenbaum’s site, where you’ll find an insightful overview of his career (as of 1983), lengthy reviews of Rock Hudson and Jean Seberg, and an interview regarding that latter film (from Cineaste). See also Rappaport’s own writing at the online film journal Rouge. (I’m particularly fond of this essay.)

From Casual Relations (1973):

From Chain Letters (1985):

Why Do You Need So Many Cinemas?

“Evolution of Dance” by Judson Laipply (2006) (still).

In my last post on this topic, I argued that cinema can be redefined as “the cinematic arts,” which would include not only movies and short films, but also music videos, commercials, TV programs, experimental film and video, installation art, video games, Flash animations, animated gifs, and even “nonelectrical” forms of moving images, such as flipbooks and camera obscuras. This redefinition raises a few questions:

  1. Why should we do this? What would this expansive reconsideration get us?
  2. Can it be done? Can the same critical apparatus that we use to describe and analyze feature films be successfully applied to, say, animated gifs? Or camera obscuras?
  3. What would the be the common currency of cinema?

After the jump, I’ll try answering each of these questions.

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How Many Cinemas Are There?

“The Serpentine Dance,” the Lumière Brothers (c. 1899) (still).

[Update 30 Jan 11: I’ve since written a follow-up to this post: “Why Do You Need So Many Cinemas?”]

“The movies” used to mean one thing—or we acted like they did. “I’m going to the movies.” “I saw a great movie the other night.” “You really ought to watch this movie.” But even though we often talk about “the movies,” or “films,” or “cinema,” or “the cinema” as a single, homogeneous thing, there is not just one thing, and never has been—a fact that grows increasingly apparent every year.

When most people say “the movies,” they mean “feature-length films.” These have existed since the early 1910s, and can be considered cinema’s most successful form—they’re the stereotype of motion pictures. They run somewhere between 90 minutes and 2 hours, perhaps a bit longer, and they debut (most of the time) in movie theaters. Then they become available on DVD; later they broadcast on TV, with commercial interruptions. That said, even this familiar model is changing; the length of time between theatrical run and DVD release has been shrinking, and we can see how DVDs themselves are doomed, the way that CDs have long been doomed: you don’t need little plastic discs when you can stream a feature directly to your computer or your TV, via Netflix or Hulu.

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Brevity, Part 2: Long Takes

Some of us have been discussing long takes in movies, and John mentioned that he’d like seeing a list of films that consist primarily of the beautiful things. So here is a start at such a list. (And here is another one, which like this list embeds many YouTube clips, such as the magnificent opening shot Orson Welles’s Touch of Evil (1958), the homage Robert Altman pays it in The Player (1992), and many others—including some overlap.)

But first: What’s the value in the long take?

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