Brevity, Part 3: Long Takes Continued (well, they’re long)

While writing my previous post, I grew aware that I wasn’t mentioning any women filmmakers. So I’d like to add something addressing that (because of course one can find numerous examples). And along the way, I’ll also try to say more in general about the power—and limitations—of the long take.

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James Kaelen’s Best of 2009

When John asked me to compose some sort of “best of” list for 2009, I thought immediately of film. Though I’ve read voraciously this year, most of the books I’ve consumed were written in the 20th Century. When I’m writing, I’m very particular about what I read. While editing my book We’re Getting On, I was reading Samuel Beckett’s Molloy and Malone Dies. While finishing Brute and Other Stories I read Cheever’s collected stories, The Sun Also Rises, and Jim Harrison’s The Man Who Gave Up His Name. That said, of the contemporary fiction I did manage to read, I was especially astounded by Kyle Minor’s In the Devil’s Territory — specifically the novella “A Day Meant to Do Less” which, slipping in and out of madness, contains at least forty of the most tormenting pages I’ve read recently. (In the Devil’s Territory actually came out in 2008, but who cares).

I did, though, see a number of films this year. I live in Los Angeles, and there are two independent theatres within easy walking distance, so I had almost no choice in the matter. Of the pictures that left the deepest impression on me, here are my top five, in particular order:

1. Antichrist — Lars von Trier directs one of the vilest things ever committed to celluloid. There were moments when I felt I would faint, and I pride myself on my constitution. Antichrist wasn’t the best film of the year, but no film has ever affected me so physically. I had to sit through all the credits just to gain the strength to stand.

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