Monday, August 20, 2007

No Claire Denis?

by Ryland Walker Knight

When Ed Copeland asked us to nominate 25 non-English films for a list to be voted upon by others I kind of dashed off my list. I have expressed some of my issues with lists here before. They rarely feel complete. Which is an impossible goal anyways, right? So my thought process was: I'll type out a bunch and then whittle it down to 25 or so. I initially only had about 30. I was surprised. Losing five wasn't too tough, actually, it was coming up with 30 I felt I could stand behind without any qualms that I found most difficult. So here's my list, silly as it may be, in the order they appeared in the email sent to Ed. After the first two the order is rather arbitrary but you can probably follow my train of thought.

Rules of the Game
Out 1
Celine & Julie Go Boating
Fanny & Alexander
The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser
Diary of a Country Priest
Au Hasard Balthazar
Pierrot le fou
La Dolce Vita
8 1/2
Talk to Her
Double Life of Veronique
Seven Samurai
Beau Travail
Law of Desire
Chung Kuo Cina
J'ai Pas Sommeil

I guess a fair ammount of my choices did not make the final list. The most shocking, to me, at least, was the absence of a single Claire Denis film (where you at Travis?!), and Bresson's Diary of a Country Priest. (And, yes, this list means I have now seen both Playtime and Celine and Julie. I cannot begin to express myself yet. I may have to shell out for both, though, when that fall disbursement comes through the pipeline.) But, you know, whatever, the list is good, fun. Lists are good and fun, even when they are frustrating endeavors for nerds like me who can obsess over idiotically banal, and minor, details. That is, nerds who niggle. (What a fun phrase! Alliteration!) If I were to spend more than five minutes on a list it would probably strain to look a lot "cooler" with less director repetitions and a broader scope of time, perhaps stretching back to include something like Le Million or throwing in one of those Mizoguchi films I fretted about a couple months, or so, ago. Or, if only we could stretch the timeline to include some Carlos Reygadas and Apichatpong Weerasethakul up in this. See: it's all silly. So, there's my list, for what it's worth. I know I'll think harder, and probably longer, about my next ballot for this project.

BTW: Jim Emerson is hosting the individual lists in the comments of this post on Scanners. He's a kind fellow. Enjoy. This is a helluva learning tool for a young film nut looking to broaden his or her horizons beyond the googleplex and Coca Cola. There's shit like art houses and red wine out there, too, and they're both delicious. But then again so is Coca Cola. Also, as Darren Hughes points out in the comments at Ed's site, this list shows how much the Criterion Collection has effected the shaping of the modern canon (notice the links above?). But let's not bring that word up again. That was really silly, right Zach?


  1. Ryland, I own BEAU TRAVAIL on DVD and I CAN'T SLEEP on VHS, but for some reason I've still never watched them. I wish they had made the cut anyway, since there are so few films directed by women on the list of possibilities for voting.

    I've also not seen OUT 1, CHUNG KUO CINA or THE DOUBLE LIFE OF VERONIQUE (though I just checked it out from the library today). And somehow I let STALKER pass me by once again last Tuesday. At least I finally saw KASPAR HAUSER this week.

    I guess my own list (which I posted at Scanners) is one of those that looks like more than five minutes were spent on it. But it didn't take that long, really. And it certainly wasn't a strain.

  2. Well, Brian, I think you will like Beau Travail when you get there. If you don't, we may have some problems... heh. J'ai Pas Sommeil is really odd, but really fucking smart, too. (Probably an apt description of all her movies.) Mick LaSalle told me it is his favorite of her films. And, yeah, there really aren't many female directors up in this. No Akerman (a blind spot) is a big surprise, especially after that DVD box set just came out. I may wind up voting for Cleo de 5 a 7 on principle alone...

    And boy was I bummed missing Stalker when I was in Oklahoma. Did you like Kaspar Hauser? I think its last line of dialogue is one of the greatest last lines of dialogue ever (kind of similar to Keith's reaction to the last line at the end of the sixth episode of John From Cincinnati):

    "Nobody will never see anything like this ever again." When I saw the movie for the second time last semester, after many years in between viewings, I immediately started laughing. I wrote a really convoluted paper about it that I thought was smart and funny but my GSI thought was designed to piss off its readers. I should have rewritten it once more, probably, before I turned it in. That was definitely tougher than picking a list of movies.

    Also, OUT 1 is totally worth the commitment. I still want to finish an essay about it...

  3. What word?

    The word does not exist! The power of Christ compels you not to use it!

    (BTW Ryland, still waiting to get around to the Staged Life Genre essay, which I have printed out and am waiting for a good time to sit down & read ... you have at least one reader who's straggling behind on this!)

  4. Whenever's clever. I lag on shit all the time. Did I tell you I was going to write you (and Matt) an unsolicited Cassavetes letter after seeing Love Streams last month? I may still do it. But I need to re-read all of yours before I get around to that. And, well, school starts next week, which is both a bummer and exciting; not to mention a big, furry monster that devours all my time.

  5. A fine list, Ryland, but 2046 is from 2004 and was therefore ineligible. No films newer than 2002.

    My initial list was 60-75 or so. I picked my 25 favorite, not thinking strategically at all. Now I see all these comments about films that were just a vote short of making the list and wonder if I did the right thing.

    Anyway, I've got a lot to watch between now and the voting deadline.

  6. Yeah, I forgot about that rule when it came to that one. I should have just put Happy Together, which I do, in fact, like more, but forgot cuz my brain is bad with these kinds of things and I refuse a spreadsheet project similar to your movies of the year project.

    My ballot will undoubtedly be strategic, or political, in where things go, what movies I want to see get points and whatnot.

  7. I don't think I could do that for the actual voting. But it would have made sense for the nominating process.

  8. I liked ENIGMA OF KASPAR HAUSER so much that it garnered my Herzog slot (I went one film per director) when voting in this project. I don't know precisely if that's because it's (at least momentarily) dislodged AGUIRRE as my favorite Herzog "fiction" film, or more because I was strategically expecting AGUIRRE to make it without my help. This is not an exact science.

    For the final voting, I'm probably not going to go strategic, or restrict myself to one vote per director. It'll be an interesting but probably doable challenge to try to rank 25 of these 122 films in order based on preference.

  9. I just sent in my ballot. It's somewhat strategic but I think it reflects my tastes pretty well, given what we have to choose from. My biggest regret, now, is not voting for Happy Together, which is probably my favorite WKW film. Especially since 2046 didn't even qualify...

    Also: Kaspar really is something else. I'm hoping to finally see Rescue Dawn tonight at the Parkway.

  10. I'm gonna wait and watch as many of the nominees I haven't seen before voting. Got through Cranes Are Flying, Viridiana and Exterminating Angel yesterday. I've got Ashes and Diamonds on the tivo and Kaspar Hauser and Lola Montes on the way from netflix. After that: Fassbinder.

  11. 2046 over In the Mood For Love? Blasphemy! ^_^

  12. Nonsense. It's all about Chungking Express.

  13. Actually, it's all about Celine and Julie. And Claire Denis.