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Christopher Doyle (#110 of 7)

If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot Kenji Fujishima’s Top 10 Films of All Time

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If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Kenji Fujishima’s Top 10 Films of All Time
If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Kenji Fujishima’s Top 10 Films of All Time

In trying to whip up a Top 10 for this alternative Sight & Sound poll, I decided from the beginning to try to forgo any extra-cinematic considerations and simply go with 10 films that mean a great deal to me personally. There’s an implicit canon-building aspect to this particular exercise, and surely some would feel a need to take into account not only previous Sight & Sound poll-toppers (Citizen Kane, The Rules of the Game, , etc.), but also such things as historical importance in coming up with a list for posterity. But where’s the fun in that? Besides, screw posterity: I’m totally willing to admit, at the outset, the possibility that any of my favorite 10 below may decline in estimation over time, to be replaced by another film entirely that I may begin to appreciate more as I grow older. For now, though, these are 10 films that I could not part with in my life.

Karlovy Vary International Film Festival 2011: Underwater Love, Medianeras, & The Skin I Live In

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Karlovy Vary International Film Festival 2011: <em>Underwater Love</em>, <em>Medianeras</em>, & <em>The Skin I Live In</em>
Karlovy Vary International Film Festival 2011: <em>Underwater Love</em>, <em>Medianeras</em>, & <em>The Skin I Live In</em>

It’s silly to complain about anything when spending time in the company of Pedro Almodóvar, Jerzy Skolimowski, Wim Wenders, and other auteurs, but with the exception of today’s off-and-on nice weather, it’s been unusually and unpleasantly cold here ever since the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival started. One of the fest’s famed specialties is two-layer circular wafers sandwiching a thin layer of chocolate, coconut, or whatever. You can buy them warmed up, which helps with the cold.

Tribeca Film Festival 2011: Highlights & Interview with Director of Programming David Kwok

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Tribeca Film Festival 2011: Highlights & Interview with Director of Programming David Kwok
Tribeca Film Festival 2011: Highlights & Interview with Director of Programming David Kwok

The Tribeca Film Festival allowed this frequent New York festivalgoer a chance to see three genuinely surprising features quite unlike each other, except that they’re three pop experiments that flit around their genres’ boundaries (music doc, food doc/road film, and porn/musical) and are all quietly unforgettable.

The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye: a rock doc as avant-garde love story (previously discussed here).

The Conversations: Wong Kar-wai

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The Conversations: Wong Kar-wai
The Conversations: Wong Kar-wai

Jason Bellamy: “When did everything start to have an expiration date?” That’s a question posed by a lovelorn cop in Wong Kar-wai’s 1994 film Chungking Express, and in a sense that line is a snapshot of what Wong’s films are all about. In the 20 years and change that Wong has been directing, he’s developed several signature flourishes that make his films instantly recognizable—from his striking use of deep, rich colors, to his affinity for repetitive musical sequences, to his judicious use of slow motion for emotional effect, and many more—but at the core of Wong’s filmography is an acute awareness of passing time and a palpable yearning for things just out of reach. In the line above, the cop in Chungking Express is ostensibly referring to the expiration dates on cans of pineapple, which he’s using to mark the days since his girlfriend dumped him, but in actuality he’s referring to that failed relationship, to his (somewhat) fleeting youth (he’s approaching his 25th birthday) and to the deadline he has created for his girlfriend to reconsider and take him back. In the cop’s mind, at least, whether they will be together has as much to do with when as with why. Or put more simply: if timing isn’t everything, it’s a lot of it.

That theme pops up again and again in Wong’s films. Roger Ebert zeroed in on it in his 2001 review of Wong’s In the Mood for Love when he observed of the two lead characters, “They are in the mood for love, but not in the time or place for it.” While that’s particularly true of Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chan, it could readily be applied to almost all of Wong’s lead characters. In this conversation we’re going to discuss Days of Being Wild (1990), Chungking Express, In the Mood for Love (2000), 2046 (2004) and My Blueberry Nights (2007), and over and over again we’ll see characters united by emotion but kept apart by timing. So I’d like to open by asking you the following: Do the recurring themes of Wong’s body of work strengthen the potency and poetry of the individual films or water them down? Put another way, are Days of Being Wild and Chungking Express enhanced by In the Mood for Love and 2046 or obliterated by them, or are they not significantly affected one way or the other?

Review: The Limits of Control

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Review: The Limits of Control
Review: The Limits of Control

If you were listening to a piece of groovy music and were responsive to it, you wouldn’t mind following its vibe, nodding at refrains, enjoying the use of instruments, tempo, rhythm—so why is it audiences get impatient when movies attempt to do the same thing? Jim Jarmusch’s The Limits of Control feels both formally rigorous and genuinely spontaneous, the way good musical improvisations allow for freedom within selected confines. And I’d argue it’s enough to create a movie about an actor with a very strong presence (in this case, Isaach De Bankolé) moving through spaces (in this case, various locations in Spain) and allowing the images to convey a sense of mood, tension, atmosphere, whatever you want to call that feeling we get from watching moving pictures on the screen. The narrative is pared down to a man purposefully going forward, occasionally stopping for Tai Chi or two separate cups of espresso.

On the Circuit: Paranoid Park

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On the Circuit: <em>Paranoid Park</em>
On the Circuit: <em>Paranoid Park</em>

In Paranoid Park, his fourth feature film chronicling the morbid dispositions of the youth of America, Gus Van Sant finally crawls out from under his Béla Tarr-inspired long-take detachment and dares to explore an interior landscape in ways not seen since My Own Private Idaho.

Indeed, the privacy of this film—a reflection of its insular protagonist—is what puts the shockingly violent death that haunts its sinuous narrative a league apart from those in Van Sant’s most recent work. Lacking the portentous topicality of a notorious high school massacre or a grunge celebrity’s suicide, Paranoid Park may seem less “important,” but the relative anonymity of the characters and incidents it depicts appears to have enabled Van Sant to achieve a higher degree of creative engagement. The film fully occupies the persona of a confused adolescent whose feckless shrug towards the world barely conceals the storm of activity brewing inside.