A recap of short reflections that I haven't found time to expand into full-fledged blog posts over the past month or so.
On the Town is really, really fun. Early on, the film's narrative logic resembles an Animaniacs episode. Its naivete and childlike wonder is infectious.
The Seventh Seal is even philosophically richer than I remembered, but what makes it special is the utter simplicity of the story. Like a morality play from the era depicted (and of the type performed by the troupe of actors), it brings simple allegory and personified mystical forces into human conflict. Sublime.
Gladiator seemed successful the first time I saw it, but gets less so with each successive viewing. It now seems cliche-ridden and a bit of a slog. Certainly my tastes have changed since first watching it but, but I think the core issue is its lack of philosophical and thematic depth.
The most scarily prescient Hollywood film I can think of:
Enemy of the State is a film about surveillance, paranoia, and an irresponsible government, where privacy legislation is at stake, government officials lie and battle with other agencies, and 'security' is used as a cover for a high-level power-grab - all that with a villain born on 9/11. It's a disturbing experience watching this film and realizing it was made in 1998. Dystopias are supposed to be cautionary, not prophetic.
Bela Tarr's Damnation is a bit too rigidly formal. The camera movements are so slow that they mainly convey a sense of stasis, leaning closer to the boring rather than the affecting (easy to say compared to the arresting camerawork of Sátántangó). the film is quite dark (thematically) and rainy (on screen). The rain is clearly the product of a rain machine, whose usage just barely calls attention to itself as artificial (intentionally?). I enjoyed sequences from this movie very, very much, but it seems a training exercise for his later brilliance. Certainly worth a watch for students of Tarr (and we should all be students of Tarr), but not up to the level of his later films.
The Lake House is narratively complex enough to confuse viewers not practiced at juggling complex chronologies, but is essentially a very simple love story. A unique take on time-travel cause-effect relationships makes it more confusing than it ought to be - because without that, there would be no narrative engine. The film's ending is strong because it toys with the ending I wanted to see before restoring the possibility of romance. The ending should have referenced what I recall as the closing shot of Tsai Ming-Liang film (The Hole?... it might not be a Tsai film, or not the closing shot - I haven't seen this mystery film in 5 or 6 years. Please post theories in the comments). In any case, The Lake House carries a premise screaming for an oblique arthouse remake.
Hannah and Her Sisters is nearly my favorite "Woody Allen film" of Woody Allen's films (Manhattan is a shade better, Sleeper is funnier and higher concept, Match Point is better drama). It goes deeper than most of his "Woody Allen films" because Woody himself is an ancillary character, allowing Michael Caine to invest in the tortures of misdirected, confused love without also being his own comedic counterpoint (if you're wondering why I like Manhattan better, it's the cinematography, mostly. Also, Hannah and Her Sisters end with the optimism of resolution, while Manhattan ends with a future-directed optimism that understands the passage of time and the changes we go through in our lives).
I intend to put together posts on Werckmeister Harmonies, The Mother and the Whore, The Host, The Funeral, and Woman is the Future of Man. Look for those soon.
Also, I'm looking for a new format for the 'Cinephile NYC' feature. It may be on a dedicated blog, or perhaps an online calendar application... I'm currently in the research phase, but I do expect it to return in some form. I'll keep you posted.