Film Journal: August 2020

Bacurau

If you’re looking for something as nearly tuned into the modern world and its growing socio-economic divide as last year’s Parasite, have I got a new film for you. Bacurau, the latest from the Brazilian director of my second favorite movie of 2016, had a brief, mostly virtual digital cinema run just as COVID started shutting everything down earlier this year. Now available to stream on The Criterion Channel (and rent elsewhere), it’s a visionary take on an established genre (best not known going into it.) As it unfolds, a fervent chaos burrows deeper and deeper into both its narrative and moral code, surfacing in often thrilling ways: a drunken rant at a funeral, an unexpectedly brutal death, a certain ‘80s pop song appearing out of nowhere but recalibrating the mood perfectly. I’ve seen two new movies I’ve loved more in 2020, but won’t be surprised if a second viewing pushes this to the top.

In addition to continuing my Egoyan re-watch (The Adjuster, a leap forward in style/budget/concept, even if it’s hard to care about most of its quirky characters; Calendar, a formalist hoot and the type of low budget/experimental film I wish he made more of), I revisited for the first time in two decades Kiarostami’s “Koker Trilogy”, which was filmed in a rural Iranian village over about six or seven years. Not really conceived of as a trilogy, it nonetheless tracks his move from neorealism to meta-comment on narrative and filmmaking itself. He did the latter better elsewhere (Close-Up, Taste of Cherry), but the first of the three films, Where Is My Friend’s House? remains his peak regarding the former (and it also has what is still one of my favorite final shots ever.)

Apart from Bacurau, best first-time watches included my first Mia Hansen-Løve film (which takes its time but eventually arrives at a lovely place, in no small part due to Isabelle Huppert’s always reassuring presence), Shirley Valentine (Pauline Collins such a winning heroine in this) and Mr. SOUL!, a stellar doc about a forgotten early public television show/host you should know. Also liked Walk Hard (no one rips a sink outta a wall like John C. Reilly), Hollywood Shuffle (Robert Townsend could’ve been the black Christopher Guest), Cat On A Hot Tin Roof (young Paul Newman my god!) and Amy Seimetz’s first feature, which manages to be more Floridian than even The Florida Project.

Films viewed in August in chronological order, with director, year of release and my rating (out of 10)

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (David Dobkin, 2020) 5
Where Is My Friend’s House? (Abbas Kiarostami, 1987)* 10
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (Jake Kasdan, 2007) 7
Things To Come (Mia Hansen-Love 2016) 8
Cat On A Hot Tin Roof (Richard Brooks, 1958) 7
Bed and Board (Francois Truffaut, 1970) 6
Hollywood Shuffle (Robert Townsend, 1987) 7
Life, and Nothing More… (Kiarostami, 1992)* 9
Shirley Valentine (Lewis Gilbert, 1989) 8
Sun Don’t Shine (Amy Seimetz, 2012) 7
The Adjuster (Atom Egoyan, 1991)* 7
High Heels (Pedro Almodovar, 1991) 6
Picnic At Hanging Rock (Peter Weir, 1975)* 9
Lola (Jacques Demy, 1961) 7
Through the Olive Trees (Kiarostami, 1994)* 7
Leviathan (Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Véréna Paravel, 2012) 4
Bacurau (Kleber Mendonca Filho, Juliano Dornelles, 2019) 9
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004)* 8
I Used To Go Here (Kris Rey, 2020) 6
Calendar (Egoyan, 1993)* 8
Burning Ghost (Stephane Batut, 2019) 5
The Great Beauty (Paolo Sorrentino, 2013) 7
Safety Not Guaranteed (Colin Trevorrow, 2012)* 6
Epicentro (Hubert Sauper, 2020) 7
Mr. SOUL! (Sam Pollard, Melissa Haizlip, 2018) 8

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