|The Passion of Joan of Arc
|Carl Th. Dreyer
|Au hasard Balthazar
|Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles
|Bless Their Little Hearts
My first exposure to Tarkovsky was seeing STALKER at the Fox Theater in Venice, California in the late '80s (the site has meanwhile become a low-end shopping mall). I was thunderstruck by the way he shot the back of heads which seemed to "speak". For me his best work is ANDREI RUBLEV: a testament to the profound struggle and illuminating glory of following one's vocation as an artist. The final sequence in which a young, penniless boy creates a giant church bell, guided only by his interior conviction, vision and his very own private God, is truly incredible.
The Passion of Joan of Arc
Accomplished without sound, the political and spiritual power of THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC transcends time. Dreyer is perfectly attuned to the cruel sexism of the ecclesiastical jurists and their bitter jealousy of Joan: his sympathy for her position as a woman and for her calling is profoundly moving. In my mind's eye, every shot in this film could be a painting from the heretical gospels of St. Thomas.
In VAGABOND, my favourite Varda film, documentary and narrative elements are seamlessly merged, creating a feminist exposé about a young woman who refuses to comply with any of the expectations which are imposed upon on her life and spirit. Sandrine Bonnaire’s performance is so convincing, and the truth in every frame so piercing, that one leaves the theatre feeling one has witnessed her actual life and tragic death.
It may be too early to call, but I found this film about filmmaking to be a totally cinematic experience that
will likely stand the test of time. Engrossing with minimal story, the UFO stars as a voracious hole in the centre of our consciousness, with fame and celebrity attached like leeches around the edges. Interweaving an existential threat with our modern inability to experience anything unless it's photographed, NOPE is the most experimental film to come out of Hollywood since Hitchcock’s THE BIRDS.
I saw Loden's WANDA for the first time on the occasion of its restoration by Ross Lipman at the UCLA Film and Television Archive in 2011. Not unlike her main character Wanda (and many other women directors), Barbara Loden had been essentially erased. The film is about a drifter: a woman who has rejected everything that was expected of her, but has found nothing satisfactory to take their place. With beauty hanging around her neck like a ball and chain, Wanda/Barbara's silent pain as she tries to navigate impossible choices is devastating.
Au hasard Balthazar
In this beautiful film about sacrifice and surrender, Bresson reflects on the perspective of the donkey Balthazar. Constantly subjected to the random cruelties of selfish and petty human beings who surround and control him, Balthazar carries our own hurt and loneliness far more powerfully than most human actors, all the way through to his death: possibly the most incredible moment ever captured on film.
Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles
When I saw JEANNE DIELMAN for the first time--once again at the legendary Fox Theater in Venice, California, in the late '80s--I was both knocked out and relieved. Here was a film director who reflected my own experiences and feelings so precisely: about being a woman, about cinema, and about how those two things might go together. Akerman refuses to compromise in showing us, with silent and rigorous intensity, the many ways her protagonist is fatally caught in the steel trap of 'femininity’.
Martel's LA CIÉNAGA is astounding in its creation of a cinematic world that functions as a circular vortex, pulling us into the morass of an enmeshed family with political undertones which make it both more real and more unbearable. Through a fluid camera and surreal use of sound, the film explores an emotional landscape where there are few healthy boundaries and we start suffocating, along with the characters, in a murky swamp -- both literally and metaphorically.
METROPOLIS, an absolute genius work, evokes the double mirage of a split woman. I use a clip from METROPOLIS to illustrate the 'male gaze' in my recent documentary film BRAINWASHED: SEX-CAMERA-POWER: it’s a great example of a riveting cinematic work that also includes the photographic objectification of a woman.
Bless Their Little Hearts
I saw this film at its first screening at the UCLA Film School and was blown away. Woodberry uses a politically charged neo-realist approach to express the spiritual and domestic crisis unfolding within a family in South Central Los Angeles. Written and shot by Charles Burnett, the wrenching performances alone deserved more than an Oscar, but were never even nominated.