2015: Film

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.


Love Streams (John Cassavetes, 1984)

Love Streams (John Cassavetes, 1984)

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, 2015)

Cemetery of Splendour (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2015)

10 (New)

  1. Cemetery of Splendour (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)

  2. Happy Hour (Ryusuke Hamaguchi)

  3. Carol (Todd Haynes)

  4. Blackhat (Michael Mann)

  5. 88:88 (Isiah Medina)

  6. Right Now, Wrong Then (Hong Sang-soo)

  7. Neon Bull (Gabriel Mascaro)

  8. Office (Johnnie To)

  9. The Forbidden Room (Guy Maddin)

  10. Mountains May Depart (Jia Zhangke)

The Puppetmaster (Hou Hsiao Hsien, 1993)

The Puppetmaster (Hou Hsiao Hsien, 1993)

10 (Old)

  1. The Puppetmaster (Hou Hsiao Hsien, 1993) / Flowers of Shanghai (Hou Hsiao Hsien, 1998) (35mm)

  2. Love Streams (John Cassavetes, 1984) (35mm)

  3. One From The Heart (Francis Ford Coppola, 1982) (35mm)

  4. Taipei Story (Edward Yang, 1985) (35mm)

  5. Floating Clouds (Mikio Naruse, 1955) / Scattered Clouds (Mikio Naruse, 1967) (35mm)

  6. New Rose Hotel (Abel Ferrara, 1998) (DVD)

  7. L’Intrus (Claire Denis, 2004) / U.S. Go Home (Claire Denis, 1994) (DVD)

  8. Out 1 (Jacques Rivette, 1971) (DCP)

  9. M/Other (Nobuhiro Suwa, 1999) (DVD)

  10. Bush Mama (Haile Gerima, 1979) / Harvest 3000 Years (Haile Gerima, 1976) (16mm)

2014: Film

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 TownA 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.

Films (New)

  1. Goodbye to Language 3D (Jean-Luc Godard)

  2. Horse Money (Pedro Costa)

  3. Winter Sleep (Nuri Bilge Ceylan)

  4. From What is Before (Lav Diaz)

  5. Inherent Vice (Paul Thomas Anderson)

  6. Journey to the West (Tsai Ming-liang)

  7. The Tribe (Miroslav Slaboshpitsky)

  8. Hill of Freedom (Hong Sang-soo)

  9. August Winds (Gabriel Mascaro)

  10. Listen Up Philip (Alex Ross Perry)

Films (Old)

  1. A Brighter Summer Day (Edward Yang, 1991) (35mm)

  2. Histoire(s) du CInema (1988, Jean-Luc Godard, 1988) (DVD)

  3. A Time to Live, A Time to Die ( Hou Hsiao-hsien, 1985) (DVD)

  4. Grin Without a Cat (Chris Marker, 1977) (35mm)

  5. Marketa Lazerova (František Vláčil, 1967) (DCP)

  6. The Terrorizers (Edward Yang, 1985) (35mm)

  7. A Borrowed Life (Nien-Jen Wu, 1995) (35mm)

  8. Stray Dogs (Tsai Ming Liang, 2013) (DCO)

  9. An Autumn Afternoon (Yasujiro Ozu, 1962) (DVD)

  10. Moving (Shinji Somai, 1993) (35mm)

2014: Music

25 albums that stood out above others, in alphabetical order because I haven’t listened to a lot of these enough to assign an arbitrary order / this doesn’t come as easily as it does with films. The best things about these sort of lists is looking back at how much they change. How by the end of 2015 many of these won’t be my favourites anymore. My favourites will be ones I do not yet know, or ones that won’t surrender their treasures without significantly more time invested.

The best thing about compiling these things is the process of compulsive discovery it evokes. I spend ¾ of the year ignoring all but the most loudly talked about releases and then the final few months pouring the deep web in search of those more elusive, more quietly celebrated gems. There are at least four albums that would almost certainly be here if I’d ever managed to find a download link store that stocked them. A pathetic attempt to seem relevant, but in the process exposure to better things. 

it is all learning, it is all time [well] spent. Things are something to devote oneself to. Music is one of those things, and in many ways the most important. It is a thing that gives a lot back - that energises, soothes, appeases, narrates and releases. A thing that does a lot of things and can be a lot of things. A thing that is simultaneously universal and deeply personal. A thing to climb inside and a thing to open up and share. A way to spend time, and another place to invest self in, and get self out of. It is [some]thing I have been very thankful for this year.

10 favourites in bold, because I couldn’t resist some kind of rank system, yet couldn’t commit to a complete one. 

  • A Winged Victory for the Sullen - ATOMOS

  • Actress - Ghettoville

  • Aphex Twin - Syro

  • Arca - Xen

  • Andy Stott - Faith in Strangers

  • D'Angelo & The Vanguard - Black Messiah

  • Ben Frost - A U R O R A 

  • Dean Blunt - Black Metal

  • Fennesz - Becs

  • FKA Twigs - LP1

  • Freddie Gibbs & Madlib - Pinata

  • Gigi Masin - Talk to the Sea

  • Grouper - Ruins

  • Ian William Craig - A Turn of Breath

  • Kassem Mosse - Workshop 19

  • Kyle Bobby Dunn - Kyle Bobby Dunn and the Infinite Sadness

  • Lawrence English - Wilderness of Mirrors

  • Moodymann - Moodymann

  • Objekt - Flatland

  • Perfect Pussy - Say Yes to Love

  • Sharon Von Etten - Are We There

  • Sun Kil Moon - Benji

  • Shinichi Atobe -Butterfly Effect

  • Swans - To Be Kind

  • Theo Parrish - American Intelligence

  • Yamaneko -Pixel Wave Embrace

                             B ~ O ~ N ~ U ~ S              C ~ O ~ N ~ T ~ E ~ N ~ T 

Top 3s of sound-related activities that occurred this year, but don’t fit into that limiting frame of album format. Yes, I didn’t listen to enough mixtapes.

Concerts

  • Tim Hecker + Merzbow, Gustafsson & Panda Trio - Oval Space

  • Ben Frost + Tony Conrad + John Chantler - St Johns Hackney

  • Kelela + Novelist - Corsica Studios

Mixes/Internet things

  • Jam City - Earthly III

  • Theo Parrish’s Black Jazz Signature Mix

  • A. G. Cook, GFOTY, Danny L Harle, Lil Data, Nu New Edition and Kane West - PC Music x DiSown Radio 

EPs/12s/Mixtapes/etc

  • Oneohtrix Point Never - Commissions I

  • Floating Points - Nuits Sonores / Tangerines

  • Rich Gang - Tha Tour Pt.1