Because it’s summer, I have a lot more time at home to spend on both leisure and research. This means I have watched a lot of movies in the last month. Most of them (21 out of 30) are directly related to some part of my work, too, which makes me feel more productive than not. Here’s a quick overview of what I watched in July, followed by a few thoughts on my favorites.
- Advantageous, dir. Jennifer Phang (2015) – 4 stars
- La Jetée, dir. Chris Marker (1962) – 5 stars
- The Inbetweeners Movie, dir. Ben Palmer (2011) – 3 stars
- Filth, dir. Jon S. Baird (2013) – 4 stars
- The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, dir. Robert Wiene (1920) – 4 stars
- Black Sunday, dir. Mario Bava (1960) – 2 stars
- Invasion of the Body Snatchers, dir. Philip Kaufman (1978) – 4 stars
- The Wicker Man, dir. Robin Hardy (1973) – 5 stars
- Kuroneko, dir. Kaneto Shindo (1968) – 4 stars
- Picnic at Hanging Rock, dir. Peter Weir (1979) – 4 stars
- Daisies [Sedmikrásky], dir. Vera Chytilová (1966) – 5 stars
- Alan Partridge, dir. Declan Lowney (2013) – 4 stars
- A Nightmare on Elm Street, dir. Wes Craven (1984) – 3 stars
- Inferno, dir. Dario Argento (1980) – 2 stars
- Creep, dir. Patrick Brice (2014) – 4 stars
- Hatchet for the Honeymoon, dir. Mario Bava (1970) – 3 stars
- It Follows, dir. David Robert Mitchell (2015) – 5 stars
- Tig, dir. Kristina Goolsby and Ashley York (2015) – 4 stars
- Chasing Ice, dir. Jeff Orlowski (2012) – 5 stars
- Food, Inc., dir. Robert Kenner (2008) – 4 stars
- Mission Blue, dir. Robert Nixon and Fisher Stevens (2014) – 4 stars
- The Conformist, dir. Bernardo Bertolucci (1970) – 4 stars
- Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, dir. George Miller (1981) – 4 stars
- Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, dir. George Miller and George Ogilvie (1985) – 2 stars
- Eugene Mirman: Vegan On His Way to the Complain Store, dir. Bobcat Goldthwait (2015) – 4 stars
- Thirst, dir. Chan-wook Park (2009) – 4 stars
- The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, dir. Tobe Hooper (1974) – 4 stars
- Pontypool, dir. Bruce McDonald (2008) – 4 stars
- Jug Face, dir. Chad Crawford Kinkle (2013) – 3 stars
- The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears, dir. Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani (2013) – 2 stars
La Jetée, directed by Chris Marker, is a short film told in a series of still photographs rather than moving images. It’s a story of apocalypse and time travel and love. It is gorgeous.
This movie would be an interesting challenge to teach. Students might find it difficult to get into because of the experimental visual style – it’s just not what they’re used to – but because it’s short and apocalyptic, I think they could find a way into the story. I imagine we might have interesting conversations about the way the use of still photographs challenges us as viewers and what the use of this technique, instead of the moving pictures we’re used to, reveals about the way we watch film. What do we gain from the gaps between images? What do we lose?
Finally, and this is a bit of a spoiler if you intend to watch this film and don’t know anything about it already, La Jetée was a major influence on the 1995 film 12 Monkeys (which I love). It is fascinating to see those connections here and having students compare the two films (short film versus feature film, black and white versus color, still photographs versus moving images, etc.) could be fun.
Another favorite from this month was The Wicker Man, directed by Robin Hardy (this is the 1973 version, not the 2006 Nicolas Cage movie). I loved pretty much everything about this movie. It has Christopher Lee, for a start, but more substantially, it is dark and complex and subtly creepy throughout. There’s something about 1970s horror that I love (I watched Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) just before this and it worked for me, too) – something about its grittiness and uncertainty, I suppose.
My main issue with this movie is that – as I learned after watching what was available for purchase through Amazon Prime – there are multiple versions. The version I saw is apparently an edited version, missing an opening scene and an extended version of the naked dance scene (and perhaps with other changes as well). I desperately want to see the longer version, but I haven’t had any luck finding a copy of it (at a reasonable price, at least).
I already posted about Daisies, directed by Vera Chytilová; at the time, I had trouble finding words for the movie and simply posted images. I find that I still don’t have much to say about it, however. The film’s effect was so much tied up in its visual humor and cleverness that I’m having trouble translating my reaction into English. I liked it so much that I definitely want to watch it again, however, and perhaps then I’ll be able to come up with something coherent to say about it. In the meantime, I highly recommend it.
The last two movies I loved this month are quite different – It Follows, directed by David Robert Mitchell, is a horror film about sex (to oversimplify it quite a bit); Chasing Ice, directed by Jeff Orlowski, is a documentary about the disappearance of glaciers. They both, however, are about the way your actions (and their consequences) follow you – whether sex (in It Follows) or humans’ effects on the climate. Both are about a chase, both are visually stunning – and both scared the crap out of me. In It Follows, the fear is created through extremely effective uses of camerawork and sound. There is one scene in particular where the intensity of the score is increased very gradually and over such a long period of time that I almost had to pause the movie to breathe before I could continue. I held out and experienced the scene without having to stop, but it took real effort on my part because the score created such a strong feeling of anxiety in me. In Chasing Ice, the fear is less immediately visceral, less about the filmmaking, and much more real since the documentary tells the true story of what is happening to the planet and how little we can do to stop it.