TOP 100 FILMS - 51 - 55

(Sorry! Its been awhile. The long delay is mostly because I'm finishing my undergraduate studies and also because I'm busy catching up with so many films for the past few weeks.)

The Man from Earth (2007) is not your ordinary science-fiction film, and maybe one of the most underrated sci-fi of all time. What is so strange about this sci-fi film is that it is only set in a living room with six to seven people talking. And for one and a half hour, the whole of man's history is revealed. Unlike 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) which tracked the evolution of men with the full usage of the film language, in The Man from Earth , the evolution and the history of men was told in words from the main character. This gave the film a post-modern bent, not much explored in many sci-fi films of the past decade. It follows a professor named John Oldman, played by David Lee Smith, who was about to leave. He doesn't tell anyone even his closest friends why he was leaving and where will he go. A day before he leaves to nowhere, his friends went by his house. Pressured by his friends to tell the reason of why he was leaving, he was forced to tell them that he was a prehistoric man who have lived 30,000 years. He never gets old and he claims to have been involve in creating much of what we know about history: Da Vinci, Siddhartha Gautama, Christopher Columbus, Van Gogh. His friends were fascinated: all academicians themselves and part of the university where Oldman teaches each of them challenged Oldman and his claims. Based on the last script written by award-winning sci-fi screenwriter Jerome Bixby before he died, the film is filled with so many philosophical, spiritual and political questions that stretches from reconciliation of biological make-up and spiritual make-up to immortality to human strife to human existence. The film has delivered verbal entertainment on such a small budget of $200, 000. It was distributed via BitTorrent sites. It has the qualities of a cult film, that someday, a few years from now it will be considered as one of the most of enthralling, most philosophically sophisticated sci-fi film of all time.

My Night at Maud's (1969) is perhaps my most memorable ordeal with Eric Rohmer who died earlier of 2010. Rohmer, whose literary origins gently melts within his films, gave this film so much life that I want to stay within the film forever. The narrative of the film is about a mathematics teacher named Jean-Louis played by Jean-Louis Tritignant, visits Clermont-Ferrand for a conference and one night he met with his long lost Marxist friend, Vidal played by Antoine Vitez. Vidal later brought Jean-Louis at Maud's, his friend. Maud is strong-willed woman, divorced, rich, playful and seductive while Jean-Louis is reserved, emotional, religious and single. Vidal flirts with Maud, but Maud is uninterested. On one night they conversed about politics, as it is being fueled by Vidal's Marxist commentaries, and philosophy, triggered by Maud's insistence to know the private life of Jean-Louis as they discuss about how to reconcile Jean-Louis' previously implied promiscuity and his devotion to the Catholic religion. The film has simple, its core is a series of talks shaping each character perfectly. When Jean-Louis fall in love with a beautiful girl he met on the streets of Clermont-Ferrand, it was apparent that this people are not hero and heroines nor the story is a melodrama. But they are, in they're own way, simple people with simple personalities. Rohmer magnifies this simplicity by presenting to us the most banal way to love a person, and that is to say I love you as plain as it is. This directness and simplicity is quite rare in cinema, one thinks of many ways to compare this instances to Bresson, the way it can be viewed as paratactic. But the uniqueness of Rohmer is his capacity to draw out complex emotional and psychological depth of his characters through this technique, a thing most directors find it hard to do.

Eureka (2000) is a film by Shinji Aoyama. Shot in sepia tone, the film returns to monotonic frame compositions that we rarely see today. Rare is a film that takes you within the heart of violence while exposing the humanity of his characters. A film exquisitely paced, it begins with a bus hostage wherein three of the four main characters met to face their immediate death from the hostage taker: the bus driver and a sibling, a young girl and a young boy on their way to school. The scene rather sparse in filmic information. The absence of the beginning of the hostage taking process was cut, and what is shown is a bus in an empty parking lot surrounded by the police under surveillance. The sparse aesthetics delivers contemplation beyond the form. The balance between minimalist staging and slow pace editing demands new perceptual challenges for non-contemplative audiences. The film commands new concepts of time and space, that, at one point in the film, the violence is a preempt and hinted by a series of images when one of kids is cutting the trees. It takes space integral to the character's mind, subtle expressionistic imagery almost art. Its epic three hour running time consumes one from within: melancholia steaming deeply from its unabashed roots. Eureka is one of the most underrated art films of the decade.

Querelle (1982) is one of the most revolutionary works of Rainer Werner Fassbinder. When one digs into Queer theory in film, writers and authors devote time and space to discuss its significance in the history of queer film. What Fassbinder have done was to take Genet's work, Querelle de Brest, and transform into a phantasmagorical and homoerotic work that would echo Jean Genet's classic Un Chant d'Amour (1950). It's main character, Querelle, embodies one of most atypical non-straight masculine gay roles in anticipation of its full exploration in the Queer New Wave of the 1990s. Querelle's experimental air can be traced from underground cult film Pink Narcissus (1971) by James Bidgood. The mix of heightened sensory overload and melancholy plus its refutation for being the posthumous work of who was once a gay director, Fassbinder, demands strenuous allegory to what Fassbinder was up to in making this film. The film stands on its own for being stylistically unique and adventurous. Its sexual content will still be of a question. It can be considered as a liberation of Fassbinder in film. Its transcendent quality makes it his most personal film, his masterpiece. His authorial presence is so strong, it echoes a revolution.
Winter's Bone (2010) has an emotional core so deep it creates waves of bursting tour-de-force acting by Jennifer Lawrence. Jennifer Lawrence and Natalie Portman's acting are galaxies apart. Yes, Natalie Portman do have her own of way of wearing a ballet shoes, but Jennifer Lawrence's acting is nuanced and very raw. She do know how to put up a brave face and speak the language of the locals. What i like about the film is its unforgiving air, stuffy and full of territorial issues. Territorial boundaries have structured the whole film, and we course with Ree Dolly in her journey to break some of these unseen boundaries. The cinema verite style Debra Granik infused with the dark and bleak mise-en-scene heightens the intensity of the film. It delivers a point of fact reality of people living at the harshest conditions. A document of the cultural and political battle in America in its quest to regain their identity and stability.