For the last four years, I have run a film club where we programme the kinds of movies we might not otherwise "find the time for". The screening is usually a double bill, every fortnight. When we started, my fear was that we might run out of unseen quality films quite quickly, and become stuck in some sort of mediocre world cinema back-catalogue. This has resoundingly not been the case, and there are now a vast range of films champing to get into our Sunday nights. Below I've listed all the films from 2013 that I can remember. Last year was unusual in having a larger than normal number of contemporary films, owing partly to a friend bringing a preview selection from the Brussels Film Festival. A particular revelation was Carl Theodor Dreyer's silent classic as part of a "Joan of Arc" night. On my wish-list for 2014: more films from Communist-era Eastern Europe (might sound dull, but the almost unknown films from the Czech and Hungarian New Waves are extraordinary), more documentary, more Tarkovsky, more silents, more Chinese 5th and 6th generation, plus creepy David Cronenberg.....
(I will add review comments as and when...)
Blue is the Warmest Colour (2013) - Kechiche
I loved the almost Wagnerian intensity of this film, about all-engulfing "first love" such as you very rarely see depicted on film. The subsequent controversy around it I found essentially uninteresting (the supposedly "male gaze" in the sex scenes), though we did watch "Lesbians react...." on YouTube, which was quite entertaining and insightful. I agree with one of the women there, that the long sex scene is a kind of recipe book of love-making, and about as interesting.
Joan of Arc - Melies (1900) / The Trial of Joan of Arc (1963) - Bresson / The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) - Dreyer
We moved from Melies hand-tinted frames, through Bresson's typically austere offering to Dreyer's extraordinary photography, full of intense close-ups, rendering the most expensive film set ever in Europe at the time almost redundant. One observation: the marvellous tracking shots - never say silent movies were static!
The Pervert's Guide to the Cinema (2006) - Sophie Fiennes
"Cinema teaches us how to desire" says Slavoj Zizek in 3 parts. Favourite moments: Zizek in Melanie's rowing boat in "The Birds": "You know what I want to do? I want to fuck Mitch!" - Zizek on "The Matrix: "I want another pill!" - Zizek on "Vertigo": "For Scotty, the only good woman is a dead woman." And his commentary on the hotel room kiss tracking shot, where the coordinates of Scotty's fantasy are finally aligned. Is this the greatest scene in cinema. I modestly ask?
To Live (1994) - Zhang Yimou / Lan Yu (2001) - Stanley Kwan
Zhang Yimou's film gives more insight into recent Chinese history than any number of Jung-Chang-style demolition biographies. Stanley Kwan's film is more interesting for its subject matter - the taboo subject of gay life in China - than for its style.
The Secret of the Grain (2007) - Kechiche
Kechiche's film-making is so intense. This film has mesmerising scenes, burning close-ups and terrific acting to tell this story about a Tunisian family trying to establish a boat restaurant despite bureacratic hurdles and the family's dysfunctions haunting it.
L'Avventura / La Notte / L'Eclisse (1960-62) - Antonioni
Beyond the Hills (2012) / 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007) - Cristian Mungiu
Festen (1998) / The Hunt (2012) - Vinterberg
Losing Your Mind (A Perdre La Raison) (2012) - Joachim LaFosse
Cyclo (1995) - Tranh An Hung
Die Welt (2013) - Alex Pitsra
Viva Belarus! (2013) - Krzysztof Lukaszewicz / Alphaville (1965) - Godard
Baby Blues (2013) - Kasia Rosłaniec
The White Ribbon (2009) - Haneke / Lancelot du Lac (1974) - Bresson
Blackboards (2000) - Samira Makhmalbaf
East Palace, West Palace (1996) - Zhang Yuan / Poetry (2010) - Lee Chang-Dong