erik lundegaard

My Year of Watching French Cinema

A quick word on some of the new images cycling to our left.

Late last year I was getting sick of that first image you’d see every time you navigated to this site: me, in the summer of 2007, slouched over and writing in my notebook on a bridge in le Somail in southern France. It made sense — here’s my writing, so here’s me writing — but it was getting old. We needed something new.

The images now cycling through are hardly new — most are old movie posters — but they’re new to me. I watched most of them for the first time in 2008. Excluding movies I watched for research (the Batman films, the Tyler Perry films), and films seen in the theater, I rented and watched, according to Netflix, 84 films in 2008. It seems like a huge timesuck but most of them were worthwhile. I’ve divided them into categories below.

We all arrive in our culture in medias res and spend most of our lives trying to catch up, and this was the year I tried to catch up with French cinema. Infinitely more difficult than catching up with pre-1963 U.S. cinema. How many Bogart and Cagney references — from Woody Allen to Frank Gorshin — did I see before I saw a Bogart or Cagney film? Hundreds. I knew these guys before I knew them. But no one referenced Jean Gabin when I was growing up. It wasn’t until this year, at the embarrassing age of 45, while watching Max Ophuls’ Le Plaisir, that I went: “Hey, isn’t that the guy from Touchez Pas Au Grisbi? And Port of Shadows? And La Grande Illusion?” Which lead to Can Can and Pepe Le Moko and La Bete Humain and Les Bas-Fonds. For those unfamiliar: Imagine Spencer Tracy with Humphrey Bogart’s roles and Katherine Hepburn’s longevity. Voila.

Thoughts, for what they’re worth, crystallized. Love Max Ophuls and Henri-Georges Clouzot. Jean-Pierre Melville strikes me a little cold. The French New Wave is beginning to annoy. The humor in Les Visiteurs doesn’t travel well but the humor in Le Diner de Cons does. La Faute au Fidel!, about a girl growing up in Paris, feels like me growing up in Minnesota.

As for American films? Boy, Gone Baby Gone was good. God, Brando was powerful in Julius Caesar. Jesus, how come Red Belt didn’t get better reviews?

This was also the year “catching up” felt more and more like a losing proposition. The more you know, the less you know, and I definitely don't know much about world cinema. How do you catch up with entire cultures? But you keep at it. You begin to plan. How much time do I have left? What’s worth that time?

The movies in bold were worth my time.

FRENCH FILMS
Boudu Sauve des Eaux (1932)     
Les Miserables (1934)
Pepe le Moko (1936)

Le Quai de Brumes (1939)     
Le Corbeau (1943)
La Ronde (1950)
Casque d'Or (1952)
Le Plaisir (1952)
The Earrings of Madame de... (1953)    

French Cancan (1954)     
Les Diaboliques (1955)
Nuit et Brouillard (1955)

Bob Le Flambeur (1956)
Les Liaisons Dangereuses (1959)
Pickpocket (1959)    
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)
Le Vieil Homme et L’Enfant (1967)     
Le Cercle Rouge (1970)
La Souffle au coeur (1971)
Cet Obscur Objet du Desir (1977)
Coup de Torchon (1981)
Au Revoir Les Enfants (1988)

La Gloire de Ma Pere (1990)    
Le Chateau de Ma Mere (1990)
Les Visiteurs (1993)
Trois Couleurs: Bleu (1993)
Trois Couleurs: Blanc (1994)
Trois Couleurs: Rouge (1994)
Le Diner de Cons (1997)
Henri Cartier-Bresson: Biogrpahie eines Blicks (2003)     
Le Placard (2001)
Un Long Dimanche de Fiancailles (2004)    
La Faute au Fidel! (2006)
Avenue Montaigne (2006)
Le Scaphandre et le Papillon (2007)

OTHER FOREIGN FILMS
The Flowers of St. Francis (1950)
Sansho Dayu (1954)
The Seventh Seal (1957)
Wild Strawberries (1957)

Sholay (1975)
Gegen die Wand (2004)    
Crossing the Bridge: The Sound of Istanbul (2005)
4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007)
Mongol (2007)

Om Shanti Om (2007)
El Orfanato (2007)
Lust, Caution (2007)

RECENT U.S. FILMS
The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
Grindhouse: Death Proof (2007)     
The Kingdom (2007)
The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
Gone Baby Gone (2007)            
The Savages (2007)
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007)     
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007)     
The Other Boleyn Girl (2008)
The Bank Job (2008)
In Bruges (2008)
Redbelt (2008)

Harold and Kumar...Guantanamo Bay (2008)
Baby Mama (2008)
Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)
Get Smart (2008)
You Don't Mess with the Zohan (2008)    

OLDER U.S. FILMS
Crossfire (1947)
Ace in the Hole (1950)
The Band Wagon (1953)    
Julius Caesar (1953)

The Longest Day (1961)
Becket (1964)
Silent Movie (1976)
All That Jazz (1979)

DOCUMENTARIES
I, Claudius: The Epic That Never Was (1965)    
Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures (2001)
Imaginary Witness (2004)
Taxi to the Dark Side (2007)
In the Shadow of the Moon (2007)
Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten (2007)

Pete Seeger: The Power of Song (2007)
Nanking     (2007)
Helvetica (2007)
Surfwise     (2007)
Standard Operating Procedure (2008)
Encounters at the End of the World (2008)

A demain.


Posted at 04:21 PM on Sun. Jan 18, 2009 in category Movies - Foreign, Jean Gabin  
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