Friday, January 01, 2010

Auld acquaintance/new acquaintance: 2010 on The Agitation of the Mind

First and foremost, Happy New Year to everyone who reads this blog.

Last month's Peckinpah tribute was the biggest project I've undertaken on The Agitation of the Mind, but incredibly rewarding. It's the second retrospective I've undertaken, following an on-off consideration of Andrei Tarkovsky's filmography which spanned August - November 2009.

Now my thoughts are turning to another retrospective, maybe mid-year. But who? Running through a list of some of my favourite directors - Werner Herzog, Powell & Pressburger, the Coen brothers, Pedro Almodovar, Martin Scorsese, Michael Mann, Dario Argento, Luis Bunuel, Don Siegel, Raoul Walsh, Quentin Tarantino, John Carpenter, Hayao Miyazaki, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Luchino Visconti, Francis Ford Coppola, David Lynch, Sergio Leone, Stanley Kubrick, Steven Soderbergh, Takeshi Kitano and probably about two dozen others whom I'll kick myself for omitting five minutes after I post this - I realised that I've already written about at least one of their films, if not a whole bunch of them. The point of a retrospective is a chronological journey through an entire filmography.

I nixed some directors for either having such an extensive filmography (Woody Allen, Sidney Lumet) that between my LoveFilm account and my limited budget for DVD acquisitions it would take me the whole of this year to work my way through them, or such a variable output in terms of quality control that the pleasure of acquainting or reacquainting myself with a couple of outright great movies doesn't quite compensate for journeyman work proliferating elsewhere on the CV.

There were only really three directors of whom I have any degree of knowledge that fit the bill: fabulists Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Tim Burton, and occasional realist/occasional poetic-realist Neil Jordan. A couple of not-so-great entries on Jordan's filmography, but on the whole a filmmaker whose career it would be interesting to take a good, in-depth look at.

Then it occurred to me to throw the remit open to directors whose ouevre I'm not overly familiar with, but have seen enough of to convince me that there will be some degree of consistency. Alex de la Iglesia, whose 'Day of the Beast' and 'Perdita Durango' I remember loving when I first saw them at Nottingham's Broadway Cinema, and who recently contributed 'The Baby's Room' to a series of six tales of the supernatural made for Spanish TV and boasting superior production values, was an immediate choice. Chan-wook Park wasn't far behind - the 'Vengeance' trilogy and 'I'm a Cyborg But That's OK' are all superb. I've only seen two movies by F. Gary Gray - 'Set it Off' and 'Be Cool' - but both of them contained enough, well, cool to convince me that even if it means sitting through the critically mauled 'Law Abiding Citizen', Gray's a director worth watching.

I've seen nothing of Mira Nair's work beyond 'Monsoon Wedding', but damn if that film isn't good enough to make me want to correct this. True, 'Amelia' looks like flagrant Oscar-bait but who cares? A Mira Nair retrospective guarantees at least one modern classic as well as a good excuse to watch 'Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love' without my wife considering me a fully-paid-up member of the dirty raincoat brigade.

So, merrily appropriating an interactive/ask-the-audience approach used by Tim at Antagony & Ecstasy last year, the shortlist of Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Tim Burton, Neil Jordan, Alex de la Iglesia, Chan-wook Park, F. Gary Gray and Mira Nair is now the subject of the sidebar poll to the left. I'm leaving it open for three months, after which I'll clear my LoveFilm queue, prioritise the winner's filmography and whoever you the public decide upon will get the retrospective treatment beginning mid-2010.

In the meantime, I've let things slip on the Personal Faves front so I'll be working my way through the remainder of that list over the next few months. I've neglected the Hellraisers series - a celebration of the films of Richard Burton, Richard Harris, Peter O'Toole and Oliver Reed, inspired by Robert Sellers' splendidly scurrilous book of the same name - so amends will be made there, as well. Shots on the Blog, my summertime celebration of crime cinema which replaces the sadly now defunct festival that Broadway used to run, will return in July. Finally, in honour of my one and only - but, boy, do I mean it - New Year Resolution (get a new job and get the hell out of the place I'm currently working), I'll be launching a new series: Work Sucks, an overview of films which tell the truth about how utterly crap earning a living can be.

So: plenty of movies to get stuck into. Just give me a few days to recuperate from the Hogmanay hangover and the 30,000 words I expended during the Peckinpah tribute and it'll be full steam ahead on The Agitation of the Mind.


The Film Connoisseur said...

Speaking of Neil Jordan, a couple of months ago I re-watched one of his earlier films called High Spirits, with Peter O Toole, Liam Neeson, Daryl Hannah and Steve Guttenberg...not a bad little film. Not perfect...but not bad.

I wouldnt mind seeing that Chan Park Wook restrospective either because Ive still to see some of his films like Im a Cyborg and his earliest stuff. Thrist was awesome, and powerful for a vampire movie. I reviewed it a couple of weeks ago. Park Wook is an amazing director!

By the way Neill, congrats on your whole Peckinpah retrospective, it was so informative, I learned more about Peckinpah and will certainly get down to watching a couple of his films I have not seen. The one that interests me the most is Straw Dogs.

J.D. said...

I love Alex de la Iglesia's films as well! He doesn't get much press in North America but I have loved every one of his films i've seen so far, including PERDITA DURANGO (esp. the European cut), DAY OF THE BEAST and 800 BULLETS. I've been meaning to write something about him for ages.

The Film Connoisseur said...

I wish Day of the Beast was on DVD! I would make it a permanent part of my collection, that film is so great! The idea behind it is what I love! A priest who wants to be the most evil bastard on the planet, just so he could get close to the antichrist!

Perdita Durango is awesome and off beat! Love it as well! BArdem shines! (AS always)

Hey Neil, I replied on your Peckinpah in his own words post, check it out!

Neil Fulwood said...

Francisco - thanks for your comments. I'll check out your reply on the Peckinpah in his own words post. Thanks again for your support during the Peckinpah project.

I agree with you: it's annoying that 'Day of the Beast' isn't available on DVD. A brilliant film, with the right balance of darkness and humour. Plus, as you say, a provocative idea at the heart of it. If Alex de la Iglesia wins the poll, I'll have to write about 'Day of the Beast' from memory. Shouldn't be difficult, though - it made a big impression on me!

Neil Jordan's a fascinating director. To have films as diverse as 'High Spirits', 'The Crying Game', 'The Butcher Boy' and 'Breakfast on Pluto' on his CV - yeah, he's definitely someone worth devoting a month on the blog to.

J.D. - I've just picked up a copy of '800 Bullets' on the cheap. I'm torn between watching it straightaway and waiting till the results of the poll are in.

You're dead right on 'Perdita Durango' - has to be the European cut. I seem to recall the American version was even retitled!

J.D. said...

Yeah, PERDITA DURANGO is known as DANCE WITH THE DEVIL or some such nonsense here in North America. Not to mention its edited... even the unrated version! Such a shame...

Aaron said...

Jeunet gets my vote! I watched all of his films last year (after DELICATESSEN) and would love to hear your thoughts on them all. AMELIE turned out to be my favorite of the bunch, surprisingly.