Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Amour + hits & misses of the year ...

It seems a bit silly to do a Films of the Year when I have yet to see a lot of recent releases: SKYFALL or THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (I have the dvd though...), then there's ARGO to see, plus RUST AND BONE, THE MASTER does not interest me, as yet, though my pal Martin raves about it - so lots to catch up with then, but my Film Of The Year is:
AMOUR, the second Michael Heneke film in a row to win the Palme d'Or at Cannes is a chamber-piece about love but also mostly about impending death ... a devastating, but humane memento mori, for those - like me - who have been witness to the decline and deaths of our parents .... I fear London is becoming provincial in regard to European films. The buzz about AMOUR started back in May when it won at Cannes (see French label) - but we have had to wait till November for it to open here. 
In a pair of heartbreaking performances Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva play Georges and Anne, retired married music teachers enjoying a comfortable old age, (in their 80s so things cannot continue indefinitely). They are happy in their Paris apartment with their books and music and occasional concerts, and are devoted to each other after a long marriage. The films opens with an unsettling flash-forward which renders all that follows a foregone conclusion: one morning at breakfast Anne suffers a small stroke. We are shown her deterioration in all its horror as she gradually loses control ...... Georges tends to her with devotion as she makes him promise she will not be put into hospital ...... then there is his final act of devotion, and the aftermath.

Haneke here gives us a love story, compassionate and intelligent, there is also a ghost story element. The two stars are superlative, as is Isabelle Huppert as their daughter. I only know Riva best from Melville's LEON MORIN PRETE (French label), while Trintignant is one of France's leading men ever since Vadim's AND GOD CREATED WOMAN, and an attractive presence in films like LE JEU DE LA VERITE and ATLANTIS CITY UNDER THE DESERT, as well as those hits we still like, like Lelouch's UN HOMME ET UNE FEMME, Bertolucci's THE CONFORMIST, Costa-Garvas' Z, Rohmer's MY NIGHT WITH MAUD, Chabrol's LES BICHES , and I have recently acquired several of his with Romy Schneider (at least 3) to see and review soon. This is my first Haneke film, but I am now curious to see the others like THE WHITE RIBBON and HIDDEN. It would be perfect to see Trintignant and Riva (now in their 80s) nominated for awards .... if only for their courage here in showing what age does to  us. We are aware too of what use are their books and music and possessions to them as they decline ... AMOUR isn't for everyone, but for those who have first-hand experience of parental decline, it will be a profound and moving experience, not depressing but cathartic. Love, indeed.

This year I also liked KILLER JOE, ALBERT NOBBS, THE GUARD, SHAME, DRIVE, CRAZY STUPID LOVE, THE DEVIL'S DOUBLE, THE EAGLE (as at 2000s label).  As regards gay related titles, the British WEEKEND was rather a disappointment, but Peru's UNDERTOW more than compensated ...

Most over-rated:  THE ARTIST - nuff said, as per review at 2000s/French/Comedy labels.

Stinkers Of The Year: MAGIC MIKE - the least erotic film about stripping imaginable - and from earlier in 2012 that EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL, (reviews at 2000s label) if only for its lack of imagination in killing off the gay character once his story arc is completed - the others can stay on living in India but the gay gay has to drop dead ?  If thats 'cinema for old people' count me out - even Dames Maggie and Judi couldn't save this one; still, they got a trip to India. I wonder if Dustin's QUARTET will be more of the same ? 2013 shall reveal all ... 
Discoveries Of The Year: Three early '60s black and white Italian films by Mauro Bolognini: LA NOTTE BRAVA - 1960, SENILITA from 1962 and LA CORRUZIONE, 1963 - reviews at Italian label. Therse were only available at the time on YouTube with English subtitles. I have now though got a Spanish version of NOTTE BRAVA: LA NOCHE BRAVA, it should be just as marvellous with Spanish sub-titles, and a sub-titled disk of CORRUPTION where young Jacques Perrin is once again corrupted by his father's mistress and big business - only SENILITA (where Claudia Cardinale is ideal) remains unavailable, but I have got the novel by Italo Svevo, and 2 more Bolognini films:  GIOVANI MARITI from 1958 with another attractive young cast and co-scripted again by Pasolini, and the 1970 costume drama METELLO - reviews in January! His GRAN BOLLITO was a terrific discovery too a year or two ago.... Bolognini is now on the radar as much as say Antonioni, Fellini or Visconti ...
Also, another 'lost' Italian: Vancini's THE LONG NIGHT OF '43, not seen since I saw it at the National Film Theatre maybe in 1967 with a pal Guy Tremlett - where Belinda Lee and Gabriele Ferzetti are terrific in this 1960 war-time drama (Italian label)
Two good re-discoveries: at last English versions of 2 favourites: the 1958 THE SEA WALL (THIS ANGRY AGE) that first version by Rene Clement of Marguerite Duras' BARRAGE CONTRE LA PACIFIQUE with Silvana Mangano, Tony Perkins and Jo Van Fleet, which I had not seen since being a kid in 1958 - a friend and I got the Italian only version, then a sub-titled print in black and white, and now finally the English language colour and scope version but with French subtitles (and introduced by Alain Delon no less, as recorded from French television! - Sea Wall label), and also finally the English language version of Clements' 1954 KNAVE OF HEARTS (MR RIPOIS) - as commented on here previously at French/Philipe/Greenwood labels).  

Also the BFI restored British 1947 noir IT ALWAYS RAINS ON SUNDAY, as per recent review below ....

Hilarity of the year: was provided by those two 1970 Trash classics GOODBYE GEMINI and the Helmut Berger DORIAN GRAY, where in both opuses they visited the same tatty drag pub (it was The Elephant & Castle) and saw the same drag performer .... maybe they were there the same night ? BITTER HARVEST from 1963 was another wonderfully trashy British item from 1963. (See reviews at Trash label).

And, finally, HAPPY NEW YEAR - and lots more old and new movies ! 

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