McCabe and Mrs Miller - Robert Altman
A Western beyond all other Westerns because it chooses to go an entirely different path to the others in the genre. It doesn't entirely shy away from gunfights and violence, but its real heart is in the pioneer atmosphere and the central relationship between the gambler businessman and the prostitute madam. The film captures a warmth that I haven't felt in other films- this warmth derived from the juxtaposition of snowy alpine exteriors against the to cosy golden interiors and an understated
soundtrack. The sort of film you put on during a cold afternoon. Insular and isolated beauty.
Kiki's Delivery Service - Hayao Miyazaki
Studio Ghibli has no shortage of brilliant films to pick from and I was left struggling, wondering if I should pick a Hayao Miyazaki film or a Isao Takahata film. And while my head tells me to select 'My Neighbors the Yamadas' by Isao Takahata, I find myself drawn to Kiki's Delivery Service instead. This is a beloved film no doubt, but isn't as popular as the great classics such as Spirited Away, Totoro, Princess Mononoke and Grave of the Fireflies. I think there's a hidden idealist/optimist in my that wishes the world could be this way. It's sincere, warm and free of antagonists. The film is just about a kid who's growing up and getting used to a new environment. Almost everything I admire about Ghibli is present in this film: boundless imagination, superb craftsmanship, human struggles, childhood innocence etc
Syndromes and Century - Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Both hypnotising and meditative, of all Weerasethakul's films, this one resonates most personally for me and is surprisingly calm and inviting experience despite its challenging nature. I think this was the film that made me truly realise that it's okay if you don't understand everything on the surface level. There's a transition halfway through the film that cleanly divides the work in two and it's the contrasts and similarities between the two sections that won me over. The brilliant structure of this film provides a look into the old world- maybe older values and also a look towards the future- a present day environment which seems a little too clinical and modern at times. The director states that the film is tribute to his parents and I can't help but internalise the idea and reflect on the rural origins of my own parents and their current lives in the modern world. We're left wondering about missed chances, alternate lives, the changing nature of the people around us, past present and future.
Still Walking - Hirokazu Koreeda
Still Walking is still Koreeda's greatest work and the purest version of the reserved family drama that he is so enamoured with these days. The director's talents for filming naturalistic characters in believable world are arguably strongest here. On the surface, the film is so relaxed and pure but there's a dark undercurrent of drama that presents itself in the film in covert and understated ways. It never gives into melodrama and that's one of thereasons it remains his most realistic and insightful work. Some families are all round crazy, but hidden away in the happier pockets of domestic life there's always mutter of diappointment and disillusionment. But the presence of happiness and love cannot be denied either.
Punch-Drunk Love - Paul Thomas Anderson
At the risk of breaking the rules, I can't help but include this one. It exists in a curious place in the director's filmography, between the sprawling ensemble work of years past and the more grander, singular character explorations of present day. Perhaps, that is the reason why it doesn't recieve the respect it deserves from the mainstream- it doesn't appear to have the earnest intensity and ambition of Magnolia nor does it appear to have the substance and virtuosic vigour of TWBB. But it's a bloody beautiful film, I adore it. Few things me feel as drunkenly fuzzy as Blake's colour palette and the appropriation of 'he needs me, he needs me'. It doesn't drown in saccharinity because the overwhelming gorgeousness and love of the film is balanced with scenes of incredibly discomfort and anxiety. I feel like I'm truly appreciating the title only now. After years of looking for ways to describe the film, the title appears to be more than adequate.
Shit, should have added Sorcerer.