Thanks for the Use of the Hall - Archive

This archive contains posts from May 2007 to November 2008. More recent posts are at:

Name: Dan Sallitt
Location: New York, New York, United States

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Frivolous Lists: Poland

In honor of my recent trip to Kraków for the Off Camera Independent Film Festival, here is a list of my favorite Polish films:

1. Iluminacja (Illumination) (Krzysztof Zanussi, 1973)
2. Wojaczek (Lech Majewski, 1999)
3. Matka Joanna od aniolów (Mother Joan of the Angels) (Jerzy Kawalerowicz, 1961)
4. Czlowiek na torze (Man on the Tracks) (Andrzej Munk, 1957)
5. Smierc prezydenta (Death of a President) (Jerzy Kawalerowicz, 1978)
6. Walkower (Walkover) (Jerzy Skolimowski, 1965)
7. Gdy spadaja anioly (When Angels Fall) (Roman Polanski, 1959)
8. Nóz w wodzie (Knife in the Water) (Roman Polanski, 1962)
9. Kung-Fu (Janusz Kijowski, 1979)
10. Przypadek (Blind Chance) (Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1987)

Of course, I haven’t seen a great many celebrated Polish films, classic and recent. I note that some of the directors I mention above did their best work outside of Poland: I’d probably choose Chinatown (1974) over Polanski’s Polish films, Deep End (1970) over Walkower, The Garden of Earthly Delights (2004) over Wojaczek. (However, my minority opinion is that Kieslowski’s early Polish work is superior to his later international productions.)


Friday, February 15, 2008

Frivolous Lists: Japan, 1998-2007

A recent blog post by Michael Kerpan made me think about my favorite Japanese films of the last decade. In order of preference:
  1. M/Other (Nobuhiro Suwa, 1999)
  2. Vibrator (Ryuichi Hiroki, 2003)
  3. Sharasojyu (Shara) (Naomi Kawase, 2003)
  4. Gaichu (Harmful Insect) (Akihiko Shiota, 2001)
  5. Yawarakai seikatsu (It's Only Talk) (Ryuichi Hiroki, 2005)
  6. Kanzo sensei (Dr. Akagi) (Shohei Imamura, 1998)
  7. Hush! (Ryosuke Hashiguchi, 2001)
  8. Tony Takitani (Jun Ichikawa, 2004)
  9. Kaza-hana (Shinji Sômai, 2000)
  10. Yurîka (Eureka) (Shinji Aoyama, 2000)

There are countless interesting-looking Japanese films from this period that I haven't seen, so this list is even more frivolous than other lists.


Friday, January 4, 2008

2007 Lists

I like making lists, but only when the parameters are meaningful. There is always something arbitrary about making a list of theatrical premieres in your home city, and even more so lately, with an increasing number of good movies eking out a bare one-week run in specialty venues. I'm fonder of lists of world premieres, because they better reflect the state of production at a moment in time. But only the most ardent festival-hoppers can make a stable world-premiere list at year's end; the flow of 2007 films into New York theaters will continue unabated throughout 2008. Now is actually a good time for a list of 2006 world premieres, but no one would care.

I keep my lists of world premieres online and update them every few months, so you can check them any time you want. Here's a list of my favorite films that received their first one-week theatrical run in New York during 2007. (I exclude films that were made too long ago to feel contemporary.) The director's name follows the film title. This year's list wants to stop at nine, so I will oblige it:

1. The Wayward Cloud (Tsai Ming-liang)
2. Lady Chatterley (Pascale Ferran)
3. The Darjeeling Limited (Wes Anderson)
4. Vanaja (Rajnesh Domalpalli)
5. Flanders (Bruno Dumont)
6. Hannah Takes the Stairs (Joe Swanberg)
7. Stephanie Daley (Hilary Brougher)
8. Day Night Day Night (Julia Loktev)
9. Summer '04 (Stefan Krohmer)

A pleasing list of honorable mentions (in alphabetical order): Bug (William Friedkin), Charlie Wilson's War (Mike Nichols), Drama/Mex (Gerardo Naranjo), Death Proof (Quentin Tarantino), Love for Sale (Suely in the Sky) (Karim Aïnouz), Offside (Jafar Panahi), We Own the Night (James Gray), Whole New Thing (Amnon Buchbinder).

Films with a lot going for them: Close to Home (Vardit Bilu and Dalia Hagar), Comedy of Power (Claude Chabrol), Delirious (Tom DiCillo), Eastern Promises (David Cronenberg), Fay Grim (Hal Hartley), Glass Lips (Blood of a Poet) (Lech Majewski), I Don't Want to Sleep Alone (Tsai Ming-liang), In Between Days (So Yong Kim), Joshua (George Ratliff), Longing (Valeska Grisebach), Los Muertos (Lisandro Alonso), No Country for Old Men (Ethan Coen and Joel Coen), Persepolis (Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud), Private Fears in Public Places (Coeurs) (Alain Resnais), This Is England (Shane Meadows).

Films with something going for them: The Bothersome Man (Jens Lien), Colossal Youth (Pedro Costa), Dans Paris (Christophe Honoré), Daratt (Mahamat-Saleh Haroun), The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Julian Schnabel), The Host (Bong Joon-ho), I'm Not There (Todd Haynes), Juno (Jason Reitman), The Man of My Life (Zabou Breitman), Once (John Carney), Private Property (Joachim Lafosse), Quiet City (Aaron Katz), Honor de cavalleria (Quixotic) (Albert Serra), Red Road (Andrea Arnold), The Rocket (Rocket Richard) (Charles Binamé), Syndromes and a Century (Apichatpong Weerasethakul), White Palms (Szabolcs Hajdu), Wild Tigers I Have Known (Cam Archer).

Films that some people liked more than I did: 12:08 East of Bucharest (Corneliu Porumboiu), 13 Lakes (James Benning), The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Andrew Dominik), Atonement (Joe Wright), Away From Her (Sarah Polley), Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (Sidney Lumet), Beowulf (Robert Zemeckis), Dam Street (Li Yu), Falling (Barbara Albert), The Go Master (Tian Zhuangzhuang), I Love You (Volim Te) (Dalibor Matanic), Into the Wild (Sean Penn), Jindabyne (Ray Lawrence), Margot at the Wedding (Noah Baumbach), Poison Friends (Emmanuel Bourdieu), Radiant City (Jim Brown and Gary Burns), Rocket Science (Jeffrey Blitz), The Situation (Philip Haas), Southland Tales (Richard Kelly), Sunshine (Danny Boyle), Tears of the Black Tiger (Wisit Sasanatieng), Planet Terror (Robert Rodriguez), There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson), Zodiac (David Fincher), Zoo (Robinson Devor).


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Not Completely Frivolous Lists: Women's Names

In honor of the upcoming NYC screening of Esther Kahn, here is a list of my ten favorite films whose title consists solely of a woman's full name:

  • Daisy Kenyon
  • Esther Kahn
  • Cluny Brown
  • Vera Drake
  • Sylvia Scarlett
  • Lola Montes
  • Annie Hall
  • Vanina Vanini
  • Effi Briest
  • Nora Helmer

(Given how poorly Woody Allen's films have been faring with me on revisits, I'm hesitant to select Annie Hall...but I'll let it stand for now.)

And, just to be comprehensively silly, here's a list of my ten favorite films whose title consists solely of a woman's first name:

  • Gertrud
  • Christine (Alan Clarke)
  • Petulia
  • Alyonka
  • Raja
  • Marnie
  • Lola (Fassbinder)
  • Camille
  • Eva
  • Muriel

I made these lists because of an undocumented feeling that a disproportionate number of my favorite films are named after women. (I can verify that the list of films with men's names that I like at this level is about half the length of the women's list.) And I don't think this is a purely personal preference: I think that the auteurist tradition, which I absorbed as a novice cinephile, leans gynophilic.

The reasons for this leaning strike me as far from feminist. Certainly one notes that naming a film after a woman is akin to objectification.

To speculate further: tradition has ensured that male-centered films have often been about the exercise of power, about creating or altering destiny; and female-centered films have often been about being acted upon, about being at the mercy of larger forces, about destiny altering the protagonist.

It would follow that male-centered films would be more likely vehicles for the audience's power fantasies. Sometimes these fantasies are individualist: commercial cinema always has a prominent place for action-adventure films with powerful, victorious male heroes. Sometimes they are political - and cinema's political movements, which necessarily are built on power fantasies, have different ways of dealing with gender-based power issues. The Soviet cinema, for instance, made an official effort (I'll leave to historians the question of how successful the effort was) to invest women with a mythology of power rather than passivity; the woman's movement has had a similar tendency. On the other side, it often seems to me that the old American left, which grew as a social and cinematic force in the 30s, embraced the traditional masculine role, and occasionally risked misogyny by equating woman with the temptations of home and security that must be resisted by the politically committed male.

The politique des auteurs was associated in 50s France with a Catholic position, and frequently with a right-wing position. Positif, the magazine that most vigorously opposed the auteurism of Cahiers du Cinema, was committed to the political left, and saw the advocates of the politique as little more than fascists. (English-language readers who are interested in the history of the politique should try to find a copy of Peter Graham's out-of-print collection The New Wave, which translates and reprints articles from Positif, Cahiers and other magazines that illustrate the political issues at stake.)

I've always believed that the Catholic origins of auteurism, obscured over the years by other layers of ideology, had a lot to do with the prominence in the auteurist canon of films in which the world is a vale of tears, and protagonists (often women) are buffeted about by forces outside themselves, finding at best a spiritual victory. And Positif's tastes in American cinema, which reflected their political commitment, strike me as rather male-oriented.

I happen to feel that, in the final analysis, vale-of-tears movies reflect the human condition better than movies about victory over adversity. (As Pialat said in a late interview: "Death - it's not an improvement.") Not that you can't have good movies with active protagonists: the human condition covers a lot of territory. But this leaning of mine is probably the reason that my lists of favorite films contain so many movies with women's names.

Labels: , ,

Monday, September 24, 2007

Frivolous Lists: TIFF 2007

Vadim Rizov asked me to do a wrapup post for this year's Toronto International Film Festival. I'm actually going to write about the fest for Senses of Cinema, so I don't want to spill my seed on the ground by blogging about it. But here's a list of my favorite films at TIFF 2007.
  1. Bruce McDonald's The Tracey Fragments. Someday I will blog on this.
  2. Hur Jin-Ho's Happiness.
  3. Jacques Nolot's Avant que j'oublie.
  4. Andrei Zyvyagintsev's The Banishment.
  5. Sandra Kogut's Mutum.
  6. Francis Mankiewicz's Les Bons debarras. This is a 1980 film, which I hadn't seen since it got a US release back in the day. Anyone know about the rest of Mankiewicz's career? I doubt very much it's an accident. Marie Tifo and Charlotte Laurier are both amazing.
  7. Carlos Reygadas's Silent Light.
  8. Nanouk Leopold's Wolfsbergen.
  9. Ben Hackworth's Corroboree.
  10. Cristian Nemescu's California Dreamin' (Endless). This list naturally wants to stop at nine, but I'll observe tradition.

I'm saving some juicy prospects for NYFF (Une vieille maîtresse, Secret Sunshine, In the City of Sylvia, Useless, La Fille coupée en deux) or for their theatrical releases (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, I'm Not There).


Monday, May 28, 2007

Frivolous Lists: China

The subject sort of came up recently on a_film_by, so I made a list of my favorite Chinese films:

1. STILL LIFE (Jia Zhang Ke, 2006)
2. THE DAYS (Wang Xiaoshuai, 1993)
3. GRAIN IN EAR (Zhang Lu, 2005)
4. THE WORLD (Jia Zhang Ke, 2004)
5. PLATFORM (Jia Zhang Ke, 2000)
6. QUEEN OF SPORTS (Sun Yu, 1934)
7. ON THE BEAT (Ning Ying, 1995)
9. ZHOU YU'S TRAIN (Sun Zhou, 2002)
10. XIAO WU (Jia Zhang Ke, 1997)

I didn't include Taiwan and Hong Kong, which feel like different film cultures to me.

Wang pretty much lost it, I'd say, after THE DAYS and maybe FROZEN; it's weird to remember that I liked him that much.

I'd love to see Sun Yu's later films: he was just getting really good when I lost track of his career.