Notes From The Cinema

explorations through the world of film

Tag: films

Marina Abramović Made Me Cry (and I’m not the only one)

It’s been a long time.

And I’m not just referring to the time that has elapsed since I last posted on this blog. It’s been a long time since a film has made me cry. And what was so great about spontaneously sobbing in the middle of Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present is that it took me totally by surprise. So often I feel like when a film is tugging at my heart strings with tragic circumstances and big swells of music, my heart just won’t budge. So I was extremely happy to find out that I can still be completely reduced, emotionally. By a film.

I won’t spoil anything about what I found so intense about The Artist Is Present except to say that it was the most moving Acts of Forgiveness I remember seeing on screen. At least that is how I interpreted what it was that affected me so deeply. For those of you wanting to follow up the reference in my title as to who else Marina Abramović made cry, you can look here .

This week I undertook a research project about the on-screen portrayals of women artists which means that I have watched a few films on my list more than once. But I won’t count those as having been viewed twice. I’m not desperate yet. Besides tomorrow I am off to Sheffield for the annual DocFest and late June brings a rendezvous with Virgin’s in-flight entertainment centre on my way to D.C., Pennsylvania, New York, Miami, and back again.

Without further ado here is my last batch of (more than) 10 films:

46.) Cavalry, directed by John Michael McDonagh – Amazing landscapes and acting, but the emotional impact of the film was lost on me. I wondered if I was just tired and distracted when I went into the cinema but my friend who was with me agreed. Was it because we weren’t Irish? Did we not get all of the Christian symbolism? My only theory is that the film sat so completely between a comedy and a drama that when the final blow came (and in my opinion it was far too graphic), I was not in the right mood to feel it. I’d give this film another shot though, when I’ve made a little more progress on the long list of films awaiting me!

47.) Before Midnight, directed by Richard Linklater – This was a film I had to see (on the basis of loving Before Sunrise and Before Sunset) even though I did not have high expectations for it. And unfortunately the film did not surprise me. It was as bland as I had expected with an ending that prompted my friend and I to simultaneously look at one another and ask What?! Yes, the previous two films primarily featured the same two lovers walking through cities but they were far more engaging. I was only left to ask: Does marriage in middle age have to be so dull?

48.) Synecdoche, directed by Charlie Kaufman – Another fantastic Charlie Kaufman world peppered with a good dose of surrealism and some of my favourite actors – Samantha Morton, Hope Davis, Catherine Keener, and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman.

49.) Connected: An Autobiography about Love, Death and Technology, directed by Tiffany Shlain – I had neither heard of this film nor the director before it caught my eye on Netflix. But as it turns out Shlain is the woman who invented the Webby Awards. The film uses her father Leonard Shlain (author of some interesting books now on my reading list) who is dying of brain cancer as its narrative anchor. And it works. A lovely essay film that blends science, psychology and personal experience, the film examines the blessing and the curse of today’s interconnectedness. An interesting and easy film watch especially if you are interested in a creative use of graphics.

50.) Marina Abramović: The Artist is Present, directed by Jeffrey Dupre and Matthew Akers – see above.

51.) Gattaca, directed by Andrew Niccol, 1997 – Great cast in this old sci-fi film but with too much music. Solid story yet it felt like one element was missing to allow me to completely buy into the world it created. Still highly recommended and stars a young Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman.

52, 53, 54.) Andrew Marr’s History of the World (first three episodes) – Bland and sweeping BBC series which is good for discovering nuggets that you can investigate further. Reminds me of a college survey history book which definitely has its uses!

55.) Camille Claudel, directed by Bruno Nuytten, 1988 –  Worth every minute of its 2.5 hours and not just for the performance from a young Isabella Adjani. Intense telling of the sculptor’s tragic story. Am now keen to hunt down the more recent film adaptation of her life starring Juliette Binoche.

56.) Séraphine, directed by Martin Provost, (2009) – Gorgeously shot film about Séraphine Louis, a painter in the “naive style” in France who started to achieve recognition just before the First War.

57.) Artemisia, directed by Agnès Merlet – a controversial but beautiful retelling of the first woman painter of note in Europe.

Now off to pack my Sheffield Survival Kit. Stay tuned from news of the films there . . .

Ten Mere Films At A Time

I was hoping for a big Easter, not in terms of eating chocolate, but in terms of watching films. And as with almost every ambition in life, or at least mine, there is a daily reckoning, a humbling that indeed you are only human and sometimes sleep, work, exercise, and regular interaction with loved ones is more important than one’s lofty goal of watching 365 films this year.

But still I tackle the task before me 10 mere films at a time.

So here without further ado, are films #36 – #45 out of 365:

36.) The Secret In Their Eyes directed by Juan José Campanella. This was my second time watching this film from Argentina, and even though I didn’t love it as much as the first time around, I do think it’s great when you’re in the mood for a good thriller-meets-love-story.

37.) Jeune & Jolie directed by Francois Ozon. I love Ozon but was disappointed in Jeune & Jolie as the motivation of the main character was not clear enough to me and so I couldn’t see what else the film was about other than a pretty, young French girl who sleeps with older men for cash. I couldn’t have helped not seeing this one though – even the trailer did not put me off! –  because I do admire the breadth of Ozon’s work. There are a few things that make this film worth one’s time (aren’t there always?) and that is an appearance by Charlotte Rampling and an ending I didn’t see coming.

38.) Drive directed by Nicholas Winding Refn. This is not the kind of film I’d like to make as it’s not a world I am interested in portraying, yet I really loved this film. Ryan Gosling was so well-cast, and what a study it was in tension – which for me as a filmmaker seems very difficult to pull off well. Some great moments in sound design too, especially in the opening sequence where police scanners (why on earth do Americans listen to these things?) vying with the baseball game. Yet despite loving this film I didn’t think the violence was justified. Drive was on my list as films “I think my mother would like” until the scene where a fork. . . you get the picture.

39.) Mud directed by Jeff Nichols. Like Drive, Mud created another intense world which I didn’t want to leave. And it was similar to Drive in that both films were about love and the misunderstanding of it. A great coming-of-age story set in the American south with solid performances by Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon.

40.) Upstream Color directed by Shane Carruth. I had no idea what happened in this film or what it was ultimately about and so it was a real struggle to get through, but I loved its pace and style of editing which takes you forward and backward in time. Definitely a film to see more than once, and it raised my interest in Carruth’s earlier piece Primer which is probably not a bad thing.

41.) Kramer vs. Kramer directed by Robert Benton. A film that I have been wanting to see for years and at last I needed this resolution to do so! The music is superb as are Dustin Hoffman’s jeans with penny loafers and his glasses of Tab with sliced lime. A young Meryl Streep, big 1970s furnishings in Manhattan apartments, and a divorce court room scene that could very well have taken place today: “I remember he said I probably couldn’t get a job that would pay enough for a babysitter for Billy.” If you haven’t seen this film, do! It really stands the test of time.

42.) Under The Skin directed by Jonathan Glazer. Another film that could bear repeated viewings, in fact I have a friend who has seen it three times and has revealed flashes I had missed the first time around. Absolute amazing sound design. The sound of Scarlett Johansson’s heels, the sound of a tea cup shaking on its saucer as it is carried across the room – this is a film – even if you don’t understand it! – that needs to be seen on the big screen to appreciate all of its striking images and sounds.

43.) Milk directed by Gus Van Sant. An unbelievably powerful true story that moved me to tears. Again, another film I have been wanting to see since I lived briefly in San Francisco in the late 90s. Hard to believe that in such recent history a gay politician could have provoked such controversy.

44.) Brothers directed by Jim Sherdian. When a friend heard of my 365 films a year goal, she handed me a pack of DVDs in sleeves, and Brothers was one of them. I have to say I didn’t expect much from this film but it was one of the ones I loved best, perhaps because it was such a surprise. A film about war and hence a great anti-war film, nice interplay of scenes on the home front with Natalie Portman and Jake Gyllenhaal while Tobey Macguire experiences Hell On Earth in Afghanistan, even though at times the scenes felt crowded out by music. A great dinner table scene of tension when an eldest daughter defies the authority of her father by twisting a helium balloon in her lap whilst staring him down as if to say “What are you going to do about it?”. Squeak. Squeak. Squeak. The balloon pops and so does something else. Again, another moment of great cinematic tension to study and relish.

45.) Cosmopolis directed by David Cronenberg. I signed up for Love Film to watch this film (okay, along with the Girls series!) yet I was really disappointed. Perhaps I didn’t quite “get” this film, and if there is anyone out there who absolutely loves it, do drop me a line and explain to me what I missed. Even though Cosmopolis boasts a fantastic cast who appear in Robert Pattinson’s limo as it glides through a silent city, the absence of these city sounds heard from within the limo makes the dialogue seem stilted. This was probably the point but still I was bored, got distracted, and then no doubt missed out on important plot points which explains why when the film finished I was left thinking: huh? But there was a silver lining, and that was the ending which showed a reserve I wish I had seen more of in Drive. 

Until next time, when I hope the majority of the main characters in my chosen films aren’t roaming cities in cars…

The New Anxiety Dream

Last night I dreamt I was attending a film festival and running from screen to screen, voraciously watching films. This is how the night manifests my new anxiety, because let’s face it, the first quarter of the year is nearly over and I’ve only watched 35 of my 365-films-this-year goal. If the Sheff Doc Fest and possibly two trans-atlantic Virgin flights were not in my near future, I’d seriously be worried.

One of the reasons I set this belated 2014 goal for myself was that I wanted to see if I could really be this type of person – the one who watches on average a film a day. I’ve met a few in my life already who were accomplishing this feat, and had been for years, but to me it always seemed quite a challenge to clear one’s desk, settle one’s mind, and to truly believe that yes, watching films really IS work and therefore more than a good use of one’s time!

I’ve also been learning more about myself in this process, namely that I break every rule I set. Having first said I’d blog every 25 films I now decided that blogging every 10 is better. Not only does it keep up the momentum but it also keeps the posts (hopefully) more readable.

There were more than a few distractions this past month – a trip to Copenhagen where I presented my film Seduction at a conference on psychoanalysis, a filming reconnaissance trip to Latina, Italy and perhaps more unsettling, hearing: “I’m sorry, today is not the day, Ms. Horvath” at the conclusion of my first attempt at a British driving license (I’ll only reveal why I failed when I manage to pass!). Those words seemed to bounce around my head for quite a few days despite my best attempts at silencing them with Hitchcock’s 39 Steps in the cinema.

So here’s what I’ve watched since my last post:

26. Come As You Are (Hasta La Vista) (Belgian) directed by Geoffrey Enthoven – this was perhaps the most moving of this batch of films. A story of a road trip of three Flemish young men with physical disabilities.

27. Cutie & The Boxer (still on BBC iPlayer), directed by Zachary Heinzerling – I was pulled in by the film’s trailer which was so good while the film felt a little flat in comparison (

28. Nymphomaniac Parts I & II by Lars Von Trier

29. Of Time & City by Terence Davies

30. Tiny Furniture by Lena Davis – The DVD included some of Lena’s earlier shorts. She’s so good even when she’s bad. (Is this unconditional love?)

31. The 39 Steps by Alfred Hitchcock

32. The Five Obstructions by Lars Von Trier with Jørgen Leth – happily watched this at Stansted airport while waiting for my flight to Copenhagen.

33. The Matrix by the Wachowski Brothers

34. Kung-Fu Master! (Le Petit Amour) Directed by Agnès Varda, 1988 – really not the best Varda, but great seeing Birkin and Gainsbourg together

35. I Know Where I’m Going (still on BBC iPlayer) by Powell and Pressburger




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