Saturday, January 8, 2011

Kind of Blue


(Damien Cha-
zelle, US, 2009,
Digibeta, 82 mins.)

"No movie I've seen this year has given me more joy."
-- J. Hoberman, The Village Voice

During the short film-like opening credits to Damien Chazelle's jazz mu-
sical, Guy (musician Jason Palmer) and Madeline (film professor Desiree
Garcia) appear to break up. As the credits end, Madeline sits alone on
a park bench, but Chazelle's film actually begins some time after that.

The 25-year-old Harvard graduate shot his debut in 16mm B&W and es-
chews expository dialogue, so I didn't realize at first that the story unfolds primarily in Boston--it looks nothing like the city in The Town--but it's clear that Madeline sings and that Guy plays the trumpet (Filmmaker Maga-
coined the term "mumblemusical," which isn't too far off the mark).

Enhanced by Zemanta

Springing organically from the slender narrative, the music sequences occur in clubs, public squares, and restaurants. In one bit, the wait staff joins Madeline in a tap routine (there's also tapping at a house party).

Chazelle captures the duo as they lead their separate, but parallel liv-
es: goofing around with friends, fending off street vendors, and getting hit
on by sad strangers. A recent MFA graduate, Madeline rents a room, gets
a job, and dates an older man (played by the director's father, Bernard),
while Guy hangs out with his girlfriend, Elena (Sandha Khin). Though
the characters run in the same circles, they keep missing each other.

Chazelle is patient and attentive. When he isn't filming Guy and Made-
line from the back, he's moving in for close-ups. Consequently, I was
bored for the first half-hour, but the scenario grows more absorbing on-
ce the protagonists register as distinct individuals. It doesn't hurt that
they're so interesting-looking: Guy has delicate features (he appears
to be of Caribbean descent), while Madeline has full lips and a gap be-
tween her teeth (features that have done Béatrice Dalle no harm).

So, they don't re-connect until the end, except Chazelle doesn't indicate
whether they're getting together to say one last goodbye or starting all
over again. Instead of a duet, then, the film consists of a series of solos.
Though I was initially skeptical of the Godard and Cassavetes compari-
sons, it does recall Band of Outsiders and Shadows at times, especially when Madeline dances around the diner. By the conclusion, the movie
had won me over. Most impressive: the classic-sounding original songs.

Guy and Madeline on a Park
continues at the Northwest
Film Forum through 1/13 at 7 and
9pm. The NWFF is located at 1515
12th Ave. between Pike and Pine
on Capitol Hill. For more infor-
mation, please click here. Im-
ages from Variance Films.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Movies for Music Lovers: 2010 Edition

Click here for the
2009 edition

Some of these
films premier-
ed in the US in 2009, but didn't make their way to Seattle until 2010, in which case I deferred to local release dates. Some missed the city altogether, in which case I caught up via DVD. Altogether, I saw around 250 films, and wrote about most of them for Amazon, Siffblog, and Video Librarian.

The Tops
1. Fish Tank (Andrea Arnold)
2. The White Ribbon / Das Weisse Band (Michael Haneke)
3. The Social Network (David Fincher)
4. A Prophet / Un Prophète (Jacques Audiard)
5. Animal Kingdom (David Michôd)
6. Carlos (Olivier Assayas)
7. The King's Speech (Tom Hooper)
8. Greenberg (Noah Baumbach)
9. Daddy Longlegs (Josh and Ben Safdie)
10. The Red Riding Trilogy (Julian Jarrold, James Marsh, Anand Tucker)

Note: If I had gotten the chance to see Fish Tank and The White Ribbon in
'09, The Social Network would top this list. Last year's #1: The Hurt Locker.

11. The Kids Are All Right (Lisa Cholodenko)
12. Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky)
13. The Fighter (David O. Russell)
14. Sweetgrass (Ilisa Barbash and Lucien Castaing-Taylor)
15. Please Give (Nicole Holofcener)
16. Mother and Child (Rodrigo García)
17. Police, Adjective / Politist, Adjectiv (Corneliu Porumboiu)
18. Never Let Me Go (Mark Romanek)
19. Mid-August Lunch / Pranzo di Ferragosto (Gianni Di Gregorio)
20. The Ghost Writer (Roman Polanski)

Note: I've been saying all year that Annette Bening gives an even better per-
formance in Mother and Child than in The Kids Are All Right...but no one noticed.

Second Runners-up:
21. Everyone Else / Alle Anderen (Maren Ade)
22. The New Year Parade (Tom Quinn)
23. 127 Hours (Danny Boyle)
24. Somewhere (Sofia Coppola)
25. True Grit (Joel and Ethan Coen)
26. Nowhere Boy (Sam Taylor-Wood)
27. The Hedgehog / Le Hérisson (Mona Achache)
28. Mother / Madeo (Bong Joon-ho)
29. A Town Called Panic / Panique au Village
(Stéphane Aubier and Vincent Patar)

30. The Runaways (Floria Sigismondi)

Also worthy of note: 44 Inch Chest, The American, Blue Valentine, Cen-
, Crazy Heart, The Company Men, Disgrace, The Eclipse, Farewell / L'Affaire Farewell, Get Low, The Girl on the Train / La Fille du RER, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo / Män Som Hatar Kvinnor, Hereafter, Hipsters / Stil-
, Howl, I Am Love / Io Sono l'Amore, The Killer Inside Me, The Maid / La Nana, My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?, The Night Catches Us, No One Knows about Persian Cats / Kasi Az Gorbehaye Irani Khabar Nadar-
, Passenger Side, Rabbit Hole, Soul Kitchen, The Town, White Mater-
, Wild Grass / Les Herbes Folles, A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle
/ San Qiang Pai an Jing Qi
, and HBO's You Don't Know Jack.

1. The Tillman Story (Amir Bar-Lev)
2. The Oath (Laura Poitras)
3. Jean-Michel Basquiat - The Radiant Child (Tamra Davis)
4. Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo (Brad Beesley)
5. Inside Job (Charles Ferguson)
6. The Beaches of Agnès / Les Plages d'Agnès (Agnès Varda)
7. Joan Rivers - A Piece of Work (Anne Sundberg and Ricki Stern)
8. Exit Through the Gift Shop (Banksy)
9. Marwencol (Jeff Malmberg)
10. I Am Secretly an Important Man (Peter Sillen)

Also worthy of note: Beautiful Darling, Casino Jack & the United States of Money, Client 9 - The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer, Countdown to Zero, Four Seasons Lodge, Garbage Dreams, Glenn Gould - The Genius Within, Mine, Rio Breaks, Kings of Pastry, La Danse - Le Ballet de l'Opéra de Paris, LennoNYC, Pray the Devil Back to Hell, Prodigal Sons, Rush - Beyond the Lighted Stage, She's a Boy I Knew, Strange Powers - Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields, Two in the Wave, Waiting for Superman, The Way We Get By, When You're Strange, If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don't Rise.

Reissues and Rediscoveries:
1. House / Hausu (Nobuhiko Ôbayashi)
2. Léon Morin, Priest / Léon Morin, Prêtre (Jean-Pierre Melville)
3. Le Amiche / The Girlfriends (Michelangelo Antonioni)
4. Mamma Roma (Pier Paolo Pasolini)
5. Wild River (Elia Kazan)
6. Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (Nagisa Ôshima)
7. Tie: The Only Son / There Was a Father (Yasujirô Ozu)
8. Roger Corman's Cult Classics: Rock & Roll High School
(Allan Arkush) and Suburbia (Penelope Spheeris)
9. Senso (Luchino Visconti)
10. The River (Jean Renoir)

Note: Mamma Roma marked my introduction to Pasolini. It's as good a
place to start as any; I suspect I won't enjoy his other films as much.

Missed (or haven't seen yet): Air Doll, Biutiful, Certified Copy,
Enter the Void, The
Illusionist, I'm Still Here, Kick-
, The Complete Metropolis,
Of Gods and Men, Poetry, Se-
cret Sunshine
, Shutter Island,
The Strange Case of Angeli-
ca, Toy Story 3
, Uncle Boon-
mee Who Can Recall His
Past Lives
, Waste Land.

Yes, I did see: Scott
Pilgrim vs. the World

Endnote: Cross-posted here. Images from Cinema Enthusiast.