Firstly, my favourite piece of writing about film ( + love + life ) this year. Thank you Adam Cook.
Stats. In 2015 I saw a total of 248 films of varying lengths new and old, 201 features, 112 in the cinema. 66 of which were displayed on some kind of print. (Last year, I saw 246 features total, 112 in the cinema, so consistent, but with less home watching, more cinema rewatches.) COOL, HUH?
My film viewing this year has been fairly erratic, no real explorations of genres or directors, little of that sense of discovery and pursuit that kinda of makes it all fun. Mainly just, is it playing on film? Yes, I’ll go see that then. Barely any KG scourging, forum browsing, or home viewing. The actual dark cinema space seems to be the only appealing way of doing it for me now. Better or for worse.
Some highlights in filmgoing. Piss off ghostman.
Most anticipated for me was BFI’s Hou Hsiao Hsien season. A complete retrospective of my (2nd) favourite director, all on 35mm. Long rumoured, promised, and finally delivered. Annoyingly, I didn’t manage to find time for everything I’d planned, even booked, but the things I saw blew me away as most by him has done so far. The significant variations in scope and style, but consistency in quality, are so astounding in his work. Gap filling, I saw The Puppetmaster and Flowers of Shanghai which were both instant classics; as well as Goodbye, South Goodbye which was new and strange, and Millennium Mambo which was familiar and wonderful, and maybe the best time I had in the cinema this year. Important too, a tacked-on screening of Edward Yang’s (1st favourite director) Taipei Story, which stars Hou and was great, and supposedly very difficult to see.
Tate Film had some great screenings, mainly a season on the LA Rebellion, a group (?) of black filmmakers who came out of UCLA in the 60s and 70s. The best known film of the series was probably Charles Burnett’s Killer of Sheep, which I’d already seen. I saw Billy Woodberry’s very, very good Bless Their Little Hearts, as well as Haile Gerima’s similarly great American-set Bush Mama and Ethopian-set Harvest 3000 Years, as well as a programme of films by Ben Caldwell and Larry Clark. Stuff I’d not necessarily find my way towards normally, which Tate and George Clark are very good for.
In August, Close Up Cinema (a small, impossible to dislike outfit that is trying to play as much film prints as possible in London) opened with a run of John Cassavetes films. I caught Opening Night, which played on their sweaty July opening night without aircon on the hottest day of the year; as well as A Woman Under the Influence and Shadows. Then I worked through a fascinating book called Cassavetes Directs that someone called Michael Ventura wrote whilst on set with the great director during the making of Love Streams, before seeing that incredible film for the first time on a perfect print. The book was terrific. The film was terrific. It was all terrific.
Badlands Collective delivered some of my favourite film events this year, most notably by being the ones (along with A Nos Amours, who were a little more graceful about this honour) who managed to screen Out 1 in its 13 hour entirety. Booking out two whole days at the Prince Charles Cinema was no small risk (from them and the cinema’s staff), but I think it paid off. Those there were very happy for it, and for me it meant seeing a film I would never have gone to the lengths to work through at home otherwise. It’s really hard to fairly assess a film of that duration. You’ve just sacrificed an entire weekend, you’re going to be inclined to belief that doing so was worthwhile, but I think it was legitimately great, and certainly unique. While parts of it were a struggle, by the end me and the friend I saw it with were fully captivated, energised by the experience even. (Though, I didn’t watch a single film for a fortnight after.)
More emotionally resonant, and somehow one of my favourite film experiences of the year was also a Badlands screening. That was Francis Ford Coppola’s One From The Heart, which enthralled, excited and moved me for reasons I’m not exactly sure of. I’ve got very much into films about love, about the sincere expression of lofty, almost ridiculous feelings, and this film is very much about that. Big, bold and a little silly, but definitely sincere. I’d recommending reading this incredible piece by Masha Tupitsyn on the film, and seeking it out wherever you can.
Also good - Ghibli at the Prince Charles; two Mikio Naruse films buried amongst the Japan Foundation Touring Programme early in the year; being one of the six people who saw Blackhat in the cinema in the UK; seeing those Dorsky films again (!); seeing Luther Price’s Sodom almost by accident and without any context; an absolutely ruined print of Altman’s California Split; an all nighter featuring amazing prints of Christine and Halloween III; and neat surprises like Djibril Diop Mambéty’s Hyenas, Nic Roeg’s Performance, Assaya’s Irma Vep, and Alan J Pakula’s Klute, that I went to because fuck it, film.
For lists, 10 new films that I have managed to see in some way to this point. As ever, likely to change considerably by this time next year. (Compare for instance the 10 from last year, to the 10 I have for 2014 now.) And, 10 new discoveries seen in cinemas that made me feel things or want to continue watching films.
Cemetery of Splendour (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
Happy Hour (Ryusuke Hamaguchi)
Carol (Todd Haynes)
Blackhat (Michael Mann)
88:88 (Isiah Medina)
Right Now, Wrong Then (Hong Sang-soo)
Neon Bull (Gabriel Mascaro)
Office (Johnnie To)
The Forbidden Room (Guy Maddin)
Mountains May Depart (Jia Zhangke)
The Puppetmaster (Hou Hsiao Hsien, 1993) / Flowers of Shanghai (Hou Hsiao Hsien, 1998) (35mm)
Love Streams (John Cassavetes, 1984) (35mm)
One From The Heart (Francis Ford Coppola, 1982) (35mm)
Taipei Story (Edward Yang, 1985) (35mm)
Floating Clouds (Mikio Naruse, 1955) / Scattered Clouds (Mikio Naruse, 1967) (35mm)
New Rose Hotel (Abel Ferrara, 1998) (DVD)
L’Intrus (Claire Denis, 2004) / U.S. Go Home (Claire Denis, 1994) (DVD)
Out 1 (Jacques Rivette, 1971) (DCP)
M/Other (Nobuhiro Suwa, 1999) (DVD)
Bush Mama (Haile Gerima, 1979) / Harvest 3000 Years (Haile Gerima, 1976) (16mm)