An extended preface. Because.
This year I watched 246 (new to me) films. My records indicate that 112 of those were viewed in the cinema. I paid for almost half my cinema this year. What luxury, what ridiculous luxury. Call it repentance for a lifetime’s piracy, call it more disposable income, call it a love of the big screen. Call it something, otherwise its just a lot of hours spent staring at colours in the dark.
Of that time spent, a few experiences linger in the mind. I think recently of managing to get to see Tsai’s acclaimed last and latest feature Stray Dogs, after waiting an almost two year long period of no UK distribution for the film (cry more right). Seeing it finally after one cancelled A Nos Amours screening due to a M.I.A. D.C.P., and a second in Stratford Westfield Vue of all places, that had to be restarted after 20 minutes of immersion. How great it was to be finally taken under that film’s incomparable spell.
Similarly, of finally getting to see Edward Yang’s masterful A Brighter Summer Day on a terrific print, after four years playing the game of ‘should I, shan’t I’ watch an internet copy instead. (The moral of that one was, there are many years to go, where possible wait for a print.) Also, lesser anticipated but equally bright shining gems in that great 3 month Chinese language season. Film’s like Fei Mu’s Spring in a Small Town, A Borrowed Life from Hou Hsiao Hsien screenwriter Nien Jen-wu, and indeed Hou’s own Dust in the Wind and A Time to Live, A Time To Die.
In the same season, King Hu’s A Touch of Zen and Liu Chia-Liang’s The 36 Chambers of Shaolin, both playing to hugely appreciative genre audiences - a welcome change from that cinema’s usual demographic of old white men buying a concession rate nap. My non-friend neighbour In the Hu film, a rapturous child who must have been (at the most) 8 years old, lost in a film he’d evidently seen many times already. (Good parenting.) In the other, an adult male martial arts enthusiast who had travelled those chambers more times than likely healthy. More of this please, programmers/audience finders. More of this.
I think of Goodbye to Language 3D at the IMAX, where sitting in the front row proved for the first time a huge mistake. Eyes crossing and betraying themselves as the images convulsed and imploded in that most memorable film. Where massive 3D images split, folded and distorted themselves on that elephantine screen. I think of Pedro Costa’s steely but always entertaining Q+A manner at screenings of Horse Money, Centro Historico and Where Does Your Hidden Smile Lie?
Also of Inherent Vice, and the rush to book a surprise early public screening at London’s Prince Charles Cinema. Paul Thomas Anderson declaring beforehand how this is precisely the sort of place that the film was meant to be shown, on 35mm in a dusty, smelly converted once regal theatre, full of sweaty, fervent fanboys quivering with lusty anticipation.
Sharing a wider investigation into the films of Chris Marker with my best friend, through a strong retrospective and the Barbican and Cine Lumiere. In particular, the screening of A Grin Without a Cat, with the stunning introduction by Kodwo Eshun of the Otolith Group that would have been the best I’d ever witnessed if I weren’t also exposed this year to the magnificent spectacle of watching Ian Sinclair ad-libbing a post-screening interpretation of Jean Luc-Godard’s version of King Lear, claiming to have just seen it then for the first time. His magnificent 70x70 season of 70 favourites commemorating his own birthday screening across the capital was also a highlight.
Most importantly perhaps, travelling overseas for some screenings, a small pilgrimage to see some of the much revered, much hallowed 16mm work of one Nathaniel Dorsky. (Mostly) silent screenings of illuminating, intoxicating flickering moments. A treasured experience well worth the easyjet miles.
Lastly, I think of the wild, vocal audience reaction to Ulrich Seidl's In The Basement, at one of my first festival screenings in San Sebastian. Three rounds of applause before the opening credits, and hooting, groaning and clammers of applause throughout. Europeans eh? Also of walkouts during The Tribe and audible snores during Winter Sleep, and unexpected tears (on my part) during the Rihanna scene of Girlhood. As well too, I suppose, of beers, new temporary friends, sun, sea and pintxos, and of two bars called Mogambo!?
This reads almost like a boast. It’s not, there is nothing to brag about in rotting out in front of a projector, but it does go a way to explain the value, as I see it, in the pursuit. These things are why I love those things called movies I suppose? It is just pictures in the dark, of course it is. But yet, its absolutely not just that at all.
Ten new features, ten older ones. Rep as record of how my viewing year went. New as 10 I liked now, in my current naivety, and omitting those not yet available to see. For the films, 2010 I still intend to catch up on, look here.
Goodbye to Language 3D (Jean-Luc Godard)
Horse Money (Pedro Costa)
Winter Sleep (Nuri Bilge Ceylan)
From What is Before (Lav Diaz)
Inherent Vice (Paul Thomas Anderson)
Journey to the West (Tsai Ming-liang)
The Tribe (Miroslav Slaboshpitsky)
Hill of Freedom (Hong Sang-soo)
August Winds (Gabriel Mascaro)
Listen Up Philip (Alex Ross Perry)
A Brighter Summer Day (Edward Yang, 1991) (35mm)
Histoire(s) du CInema (1988, Jean-Luc Godard, 1988) (DVD)
A Time to Live, A Time to Die ( Hou Hsiao-hsien, 1985) (DVD)
Grin Without a Cat (Chris Marker, 1977) (35mm)
Marketa Lazerova (František Vláčil, 1967) (DCP)
The Terrorizers (Edward Yang, 1985) (35mm)
A Borrowed Life (Nien-Jen Wu, 1995) (35mm)
Stray Dogs (Tsai Ming Liang, 2013) (DCO)
An Autumn Afternoon (Yasujiro Ozu, 1962) (DVD)
Moving (Shinji Somai, 1993) (35mm)