Best Movies of 2016

I might be a bit late but here’s my top 20 best films of 2016:

 

  1. Paterson
  2. Toni Erdmann
  3. Fire at Sea
  4. Cemetery of Splendor
  5. Cameraperson
  6. The Death of Louis XIV
  7. Aquarius
  8. No Home Movie
  9. Sunset Song
  10. Everybody Wants Some!!
  11. Speaking is Difficult 
  12. Elle
  13. Certain Women
  14. Moonlight
  15. Don’t Think Twice
  16. Mountains May Depart
  17. Love and Friendship
  18. Sin Alas
  19. Cosmos
  20. Weiner-Dog
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The Imaginary Conversations

Where I’d Like to Take Some of My Favorite Filmmakers Out in New York

As he usually does, my father flew from Barcelona to check in on me a couple of years ago. I’ve been living in New York since 2010— he came in May of 2012 during the end of my sophomore year at the School of Visual Arts. My dad was familiar with the city since he’d lived in New York sometime in the mid-80s when he was in his 20s and has since developed a nostalgia for lower Manhattan, always insisting we tour Soho, TriBeCa and Bowery looking for a New York that no longer exists. Even though I seldom wander these now lavish neighborhoods by myself, I enjoy my dad’s remembrances of a time where junkies, artists and yuppies inhabited the area long before it became the East Coast version of Beverly Hills that it is today. Since I couldn’t accommodate him (nor would he want to) in my micro-apartment in Brooklyn, he decided to rent an apartment on Franklin and Church St for about a week.

As every college student knows, one of the perks of having one of your parents visit is eating for free. In one of our dinners, after feasting on steak frites at The Dutch, we went for one of our digestive walks and began talking about cinema and food. The conversation then turned from “What filmmaker would you have dinner with?” to “Where would you take your favorite filmmakers?”. After naming a few examples, the game increasingly became more specific, we asked each other, “Does it have to be food?”, “Does the filmmaker have to be alive?”. We added some rules to make it more stimulating. We decided that the filmmaker has to be alive and the place needs to be in New York City but it doesn’t necessarily have to be a meal. We made a list of examples, argued our reasons and laughed over it. For whatever reasons, the conversation became fixed in my memory as one of the best times I’ve intimately shared with my dad. Eventually, I wrote about this in a previous post in this blog. The thought came back to me recently and I decided to recover this conversation and reopen the list. Perhaps because I was nostalgic about that particular conversation with my dad as I remember it as a good father-son moment. But more likely because it’s fun to imagine silly things like that.

Here are the new rules of the game:

  1. The filmmaker has to be alive.
  2. The “dinner” doesn’t have to be centered on food.
  3. The “dinner” should have nothing to do with the nationality of the filmmaker or their movies, it should relate to their character and artistic sensibility.
  4. The intention of this imaginary “dinner” is to have an in depth conversation about anything you want while enjoying food and/or drinks.
  5. The place must be in New York City.

Here’s my list:

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Pierogis with David Lynch at Veselka’s in the East Village.

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Baked goods and a lemonade with Todd Haynes at the backyard of Bakeri Brooklyn in Williamsburg.

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Sushi and sake with Apichatpong Weerasethakul at Momo Sushi Shack in Bushwick.

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Cheap beer and a brawl with Werner Herzog at the Sly Fox in the East Village.

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A sour or dry gin-based cocktail with Alex Ross Perry at The Narrows in Bushwick.

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Live music and party with the Duplass brothers at Our Wicked Lady in Bushwick.

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Cortados and a shave at Parlor Cofee in the back of Persons of Interest Barbershop with Abbas Kiarostami in Williamsburg.

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Grilled cactus and enchiladas with Gabriel Mascaro at Mesa Coyoacan in East Williamsburg.

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A glass of Merlot and a cheese platter with Jia Zhangke at Tuffet in East Williamsburg.

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A 4-course tasting menu with Whit Stillman at Le Bernadin in the Theater District.

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Party all night with Leos Carax at Baby’s All Right in Williamsburg.

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Tapas and wine with Jane Campion at El Born in Greenpoint.

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A reuben sandwich with Woody Allen at Eisenberg’s Sandwitch Shop near the Flatiron.

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Oysters with Noah Baumbach at Marlow and Sons in Williamsburg.

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Drinks and a poetry slam with Olivier Assayas at Nuyorican Poets Cafe in the East Village.

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Beer, Jazz and a game of foosball with Michel Gondry at Fat Cat in the West Village.

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A ham and cheese sandwich with Claire Denis at Campbell Cheese and Grocery in East Williamsburg.

Hiroshima Mon Amour: a Modern Film

Hiroshima Mon Amour

Hiroshima Mon Amour

 

“Hi-ro-shi-ma. That’s your name.” “That’s my name. Yes. Your name is Nevers. Ne-vers in France.”

There is much to discuss about Alain Resnais’ Hiroshima Mon Amour and much of it depends on subjective thought and critical perspective but one thing that could be said with fair certainty is that Hiroshima is a truly modern film in its entirety; from its content to its form and even its music. Since its 1959 release, the film has barely aged. It’s poetic structure, tragic themes and innovative use of non-linear storytelling is refreshing to this day almost 50 years later. But how do we classify Hiroshima Mon Amour? In its historical context, it’s a post-war classic, artistically it’s a gem of French cinema and for film historians, Hiroshima Mon Amour is considered as the catalyst for the Nouvelle Vague movement in France. French director Eric Rohmer once said “I think that in a few years, in ten, twenty, or thirty years, we will know whether Hiroshima Mon Amour was the most important film since the war, the first modern film of sound cinema.” (1)

Resnais, who is a pre-Nouvelle Vague filmmaker is often linked to the French movement as a father figure along with other earlier French filmmakers like Jean-Pierre Melville and Robert Bresson. But as opposed to the French New Wave, Resnais is not upbeat and spontaneous instead he is nostalgic, carefully constructing a classic symphony that is both distressing and poignant. He is direct and clear and altogether abstract and lyrical. Hiroshima Mon Amour could very well be a story of love, even if the film carries the devastation of history on its shoulders.

The film opens with a woman’s voice over images of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum in central Hiroshima. The poetic narration of the woman’s voice is juxtaposed to powerful images of the burned victims and genetically deformed children due to radiation poisoning from the atomic bombing, all of these images appear in the museum. This contrast is violently emotional. The image of ashes raining on the lover’s embrace is beautiful and horrific. The film consists of mostly a conversation or a series of conversations between two lovers, a French actress known simply as Her and a Japanese architect known as Him. It is understood that they had recently met in Hiroshima, Japan and had begun an affair that is now at its end. The film takes place in this final adieu between Him and Her. While she was in Hiroshima to make a “film about peace” (“What else can you make in Hiroshima?”) he was back from Paris. They speak French. They either have several conversations or they have one long conversation. It’s unclear. The film is purposely open to multiple interpretations. The film goes back and forth in time. It mixes cinema verité style documentary footage of the 1949 atomic bombing of the city of Hiroshima.

Hiroshima Mon Amour mixes historical trauma with personal trauma in a poetic manner. The film deals heavily with memory and forgetfulness. Memory as a way to deal with trauma and forgetfulness as consequence of a national and personal tragedy. Both of His and Her personal trauma is directly linked to the uprising of Fascism and World War II. When she was young she was punished and humiliated for having a love affair with a German soldier and he was in the Japanese army but was elsewhere but his family was in Hiroshima during the 1945 bombing. He rejects her comparison of both sufferings yet he continues to pursue her.

The wonderful script by Resnais’ collaborator and French writer Marguerite Duras adds powerful friction to the image. This contrast between the beautiful text and the horrible image reflects upon the duality of love and hatred: his and her love against the hatred of the past and the horrors of memory.

As a film, it is a wonderful example of how film medium can be used as a way to preserve memory and a way to reflect a nation’s cultural conscience. It is not just an intercontinental medium but it is an art form that is truly modern. I personally like to think all films are about film in some way or another. Cinematic fiction is in itself a very self-aware medium. In Hiroshima Mon Amour we have a very real and major historical tragedy that is perfectly fitted into a very small intimate story of two lovers. This can only be achieved in film. When asked to write about a film viewed in my Film and Literature class I chose Hiroshima Mon Amour because it can be viewed as a film as a singularity or as cinema as a whole. Films like these are important because they constantly remind us never to forget. Films like these remind us of tragedy, mistakes and human suffering to perhaps look into the future. The past is gone but it is eternally immortalized as light being spilled on a screen to make sure we learn what we’ve done and where we were so that we can look at what we’re doing and where we’re going.

“Listen to me. I know something else. It will begin all over again. Two hundred thousand dead. Eighty thousand wounded. In nine seconds. These figures are official. It will begin all over again. It will be ten thousand degrees on the earth. Ten thousand suns, they will say. The asphalt will burn. Chaos will prevail. A whole city will be raised from the earth and fall back in ashes….”

 

 

References:

(1) Kent Jones, “Time Indefinite”, essay for the Criterion Collection DVD release