Monday, February 1, 2010

Announcement: Upcoming Director Retrospectives

With a light load this semester afforded by dropping a class that would prove far more trouble than it was worth -- I signed up for a Japanese literature/film class, only for an absurdly involved history class to spring from this wooden horse, which wouldn't be so bad if, along with my other, reading-intensive classes, I wasn't reading anywhere from 1,000-1,500 pages a week of differing material I had to constantly report on -- and even part-time jobs drying up all around me, I figured I'd spend some time between searching for employment revisiting the films of my youth, as well as the work of directors I've yet to explore.

Naturally, this leaves me with a massive choice of paths to take, particularly in the case of the latter, given my unfamiliarity with so much of contemporary foreign cinema. Throughout the year, I plan on watching films by such lauded directors as Tsai Ming-Liang, Claire Denis, Jia Zhang-ke, Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Sergei Parajanov, to name but a few. But I'm kicking off the year by starting a director retrospective for each of the aforementioned two categories. Having seen all but a small portion of his films, I shall return to the corpus of Steven Spielberg, beginning with his 1971 T.V. movie Duel (which I haven't seen) and running all the way up to -- sigh -- the latest installment of the Indiana Jones saga. With any luck, I shall complete this retrospective in time to participate in Kevin J. Olson's proposed blog-a-thon for the director's '00s output, provided he goes through with his initial pondering.

For my first retrospective foray into an artist whose work I've barely seen, I have decided, despite the wealth of potential subjects just outside our borders, to focus on the work of Brian De Palma, that hotly contested director whose work has been the subject of outrage by some and dismissal by others -- like Jonathan Rosenbaum, who by and large writes off De Palma as an unimaginative homage machine. Yet he also enjoys a small but fervent band of admirers, made only more evident in the age of the Internet and the freedom -- for good or ill -- of the blogosphere. I have seen a few of his films, but I've never paid full attention to them and so much of his work remains a mystery to me, and there's no better way to solve it than to finally give this debated auteur my consideration. And because I've sort of unofficially started this anyway, I will continue to work through the filmography of Jean-Luc Godard; I won't make it an official retrospective, though, as a number of his films remain unavailable here and, having just received a Blu-Ray copy of Pierrot le fou, will likely break chronological order momentarily.

Some of you might be thinking to yourselves, "Oh, but Jake, you haven't even finished going through your John Carpenter retrospective, yet, which you've only just now deigned to try to finish after dropping it for five months. Besides, those are some of your weakest reviews lately!" To the first part I can only agree, red-faced (though with my ultra-pale Irish skin, that might just be the light), and pledge to keep working on that marathon until I finish it sometime in the next few weeks. As for the second part, I'm afraid I can't quite make it out on paper, and I would ask that you call me to confirm what you actually said. For convenience's sake, you can reach me at your mother's.


  1. lol, your latest reviews seem ok to me. (I haven't read all of them. It's no fun when I read reviews of movies I haven't seen) But of course, I don't like pie, football, and the color orange, so when there's something I DO like, everyone around me should be scared.

    That being said, I wish you luck with your reviews. (Though that technically means I believe in magic. Ah, damn you evil phrases like "Thank God" that I don't believe in but say anyway. I shall get my revenge on you!"

    Seriously though, good luck.

  2. I'm definitely going to be doing the Spielberg thing...I'll wait for you to get started and then try and time it with your posts. I think it'll be an unofficial blog-a-thon as I don't have the time to make banners or anything like that, but I'll announce it on the blog and try to get others involved.

    Looking forward to these retrospectives you mention.

  3. Nice. I'm especially looking forward to some Godard reviews, especially if you cover some of the lesser-known and less-often written about works. I always love reading more about JLG.

  4. Spencer: Thanks a lot.

    Kevin: Don't hold up your blog-a-thon on my account. If history is any indicator, I will jump into these with gusto, tackling a fair number of films by the three directors over the next month or two, then hitting the summer season and finally getting into the swing of contemporary releases (seriously, I go to the theater maybe thrice in the first two months of the year to see a film from that year -- I haven't been to see any '10 films yet), and I'll start slacking. If you get to the point that you're ready, just go for it. I doubt I'm going to do a second review for A.I. anyway because I can't add anything to it without simply changing the wording, so if nothing else you can use that.

    Ed: I hope to reach some sort of conclusion about Godard through finally advancing beyond Breathless (which I had to watch four times before I was willing to review it). I'm always torn between my love for his love of art and the world around him, and my distaste for the tedium with which he feels the need to broadcast his intellectual range. Sometimes I worry that this telegraphs my own ignorance in all the artistic fields (certainly including cinema), but sometimes I don't care and just take issue with the pretentiousness. Hopefully I see more of the side of him I love as I progress.

  5. You probably missed it, but I staged a pretty extensive De Palma Blog-A-Thon back at my site last year that you might want to check out. It got a lot of attention, making news in the Philadelphia Inquirer's blog, and even writers like Jim Emerson, Glenn Kenny, and Mr. Kevin J. Olson above, contributed.

    It might be worth your time to check some of those posts as you make your way through his filmography.

  6. I second what Tony said. I loved that blog-a-thon because it allowed me to look at director I struggle with with new eyes. Check out the was an enlightening blog-a-thon.

  7. Looking through your archives, am I correct that the only Godard films you've seen are Breathless and Le petit soldat so far? I don't know if later Godard will change your mind any, but those two aren't exactly representative of Godard as a whole, especially the relatively straightforward second film. And Breathless I've always thought of as an exceptionally bold debut that provided the rough material for Godard to hone into more cohesive, powerful statements later on. It still packs quite a punch as the film that's become known as the New Wave's statement of purpose, but subjectively speaking there's a whole lot of 60s Godard I'd rank well above it.

    And yes, Tony's De Palma blogathon was great, even for a De Palma neophyte like me.

  8. Oh, I read through Tony's blog-a-thon when I first found his site. It's actually part of the reason I've decided to investigate his filmography. There were some incredible articles in that thing.

    Ed: I think I just got hung up on the whole "Breathless is the great watershed moment of cinema" and couldn't process it on its own terms until the time before I finally reviewed it. I actually preferred Le Petit Soldat, which almost certainly doesn't bode well, as I idly flipped through the booklet of Pierrot and saw the included articles talking about how it's all a mad jumble. But we'll see how it goes.

  9. Jake,

    The De Palma experience will mess with your head. After Sisters, The Phantom of the Paradise and The Fury,, I guarantee: you will be hooked.

    Ah yes, the blogathon over at Cinema Viewfinder from back in September. Lots of wonderful support for the great filmmaker. And plenty of fist-fighting on the side, too- in case you ever read the responses to Ryan Kelly's defense of Mission to Mars or to my defense of Redacted. Harsh stuff.