Saturday, June 29, 2024

Hong Sang-soo watch

This is a follow-up to the earlier March post when I had managed to see 24 out of 31 Hong Sang-soo features to date. I am happy to say that total has now increased to 27 / 31. The films in red are the ones left for me to see. This is the smallest gap I have had and while neither of the 4 films are available on any streaming platform, two are on DVD/Blu-Ray (Our Sunhi, The Woman Who Ran). So there is a chance that I can narrow the gap even further.

1. The Day a Pig Fell Into the Well (1996)
2. The Power of Kangwon Province (1998)
3. Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors (2000)
4. On the Occasion of Remembering the Turning Gate (2002)
5. Woman Is the Future of Man (2004)
6. Tale of Cinema (2005)
7. Woman on the Beach (2006)
8. Night and Day (2008)
9. Like You Know It All (2009)
10. Hahaha (2010)
11. Oki’s Movie (2010)
12. The Day He Arrives (2011)
13. In Another Country (2012)
14. Nobody’s Daughter Haewon (2013)
15. Our Sunhi (2013)
16. Hill of Freedom (2014)
17. Right Now, Wrong Then (2015)
18. Yourself and Yours (2016)
19. On the Beach at Night Alone (2017)
20. Claire’s Camera (2017)
21. The Day After (2017)
22. Grass (2018)
23. Hotel by the River (2018)
24. The Woman Who Ran (2020)
25. Introduction (2021)
26. In Front of Your Face (2021)
27. The Novelist’s Film (2022)
28. Walk Up (2022)
29. In Water (2023)
30. In Our Day (2023)
31. A Traveler’s Needs (2024)

The Top 10 Hong Sang-soo films list still stays the same

1. Right Now, Wrong Then (2015)
2. The Day He Arrives (2011)
3. Tale of Cinema (2005)
4. Like You Know It All (2009)
5. The Day After (2017)
6. In Front of Your Face (2021)
7. Woman Is the Future of Man (2004)
8. On the Beach at Night Alone (2017)
9. Night and Day (2008)
10. In Another Country (2012)

Saturday, June 22, 2024

Copa America 2024 Film Spotlight

Two games of Copa America 2024 are already in the books with Argentina kicking off their title defense with a 2-0 win over Canada while Peru and Chile drew 0-0. Prior to start of the next fixtures, I want to unveil the selections for the Copa America 2024 Film Spotlight. Similar to Euro 2024 Film Spotlight, I have taken the approach of selecting previously seen films to give each nation the best chance of doing well. The one change from Euro 2024 selections is that I have tried to select as many recent films as possible. I only went for older films if a nation didn’t have a worthy recent contender.

15/16 films are within last 20 years (2004-24) with 12 out of 16 films within last 10 years and 5 films from 2022. The only exception is that the Jamaican film is from 1972. In addition, half of the films (8/16) are directed by women.

Group A

Argentina: Trenque Lauquen (2022, Laura Citarella)
Peru: The Milk of Sorrow (2009, Claudia Llosa)
Chile: My Imaginary Country (2022, Patricio Guzmán)
Canada: The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open (2019, Kathleen Hepburn, Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers)

Group B

Mexico: New Order (2020, Michel Franco)
Ecuador: Cronicas (2004, Sebastián Cordero)
Venezuela:  The Box (2021, Lorenzo Vigas)
Jamaica: The Harder they come (1972, Perry Henzell)

Group C

USA: Showing Up (2022, Kelly Reichardt)
Uruguay: Window Boy Would also Like to Have a Submarine (2020, Alex Piperno)
Panama: The Fists of a Nation (2007, Pituka Ortega-Heilbron)
Bolivia: Dark Skull (2016, Kiro Russo)

Group D

Brazil:  Rule 34 (2022, Júlia Murat)
Colombia: Embrace of the Serpent (2015, Ciro Guerra)
Paraguay: EAMI (2022, Paz Encina)
Costa Rica: The Awakening of the Ants (2019, Antonella Sudasassi)

Group and Knock-out round results will be posted in next few weeks.

Sunday, June 16, 2024

Euro 2024 Film Spotlight

A criteria for previous Euro Film spotlights (Euro 2008, Euro 2012, Euro 2016) was to select previously unseen films or films from unknown directors. This led to some exciting discoveries and many months of viewing or hunting the film down. This time around, I have kept things a bit simpler. The main criteria for this Euro 2024 Film spotlight is to select some of the best films previously seen from each country. As a result, this will allow for a much more richer cinematic head-to-head competition. 9 decades are represented by these films with the earliest from 1949 and the newest from one from 2021.

Here are the 24 Top European films:

Group A
Germany: Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972, Werner Herzog)
Switzerland: The Boat is Full (1981, Markus Imhoof)
Hungary: Satantango (1994, Béla Tarr)
Scotland: Gregory’s girl (1980, Bill Forsyth)

Group B
Spain: Death of a Cyclist (1955, Juan Antonio Bardem)
Italy: The Battle of Algiers (1966, Gillo Pontecorvo)
Albania: Daybreak (2017, Gentian Koçi)
Croatia: Buick Riviera (2008, Goran Rusinovic)

Group C
Slovenia: Spare Parts (2003, Damjan Kozole)

Denmark: Babette’s Feast (1987, Gabriel Axel)
Serbia: Underground (1995, Emir Kusturica)
England: The Third Man (1949, Carol Reed)

Group D
Poland: Dekalog (1989/90, Krzysztof Kieslowski)
Holland: The Vanishing (1988, George Sluizer)
Austria: Homo Sapiens (2016, Nikolaus Geyrhalter)
France: Pickpocket (1959, Robert Bresson)

Group E
Belgium: Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975, Chantal Akerman)
Slovakia: Orbis Pictus (1997, Martin Sulík)
Romania:  The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (2005, Cristi Puiu)
Ukraine:  My Joy (2010, Sergey Loznitsa)

Group F
Turkey: Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (2011, Nuri Bilge Ceylan)
Georgia: What Do We See When We Look At the Sky? (2021, Aleksandre Koberidze)
Portugal:  Mudar de Vida (Change of Life, 1966, Paulo Rocha)
Czech Republic: Closely Watched Trains (1966, Jirí Menzel)

Results of the Group matches, knockout phases will be posted in a few weeks.

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Top Argentine Films of All Time

As Argentina and Messi prepare to defend their Copa America, I wanted to do a Top Argentine film list. This isn’t a comprehensive list by any means since majority of the Argentine films I have seen start from the late 1990s with the onset of New Argentine Cinema. Three decades (1990-2023) isn’t enough to cover proper ground but over the last year, I have started to fill in the gaps by trying to watch Argentine films from the 1940s-60s. Therefore, this list will change over the next year.

For now, going into Copa America 2024, here are my starting 11 films with 5 honourable mentions looking to sub in if needed.

Top 11 Argentine Films of all time:

1. Zama (2017, Lucrecia Martel)
2. The Official Story (1985, Luis Puenzo)
3. Extraordinary Stories (2008, Mariano Llinás)
4. Invasion (1969, Hugo Santiago)
5. Liverpool (2008, Lisandro Alonso)
6. Bolivia (1999, Israel Adrián Caetano)
7. Mundo grúa / Crane World (1999, Pablo Trapero)
8. Apenas un delincuente / Hardly a Criminal (1949, Hugo Fregonese)
9. The Hour of the Furnaces (1968, Octavio Getino, Fernando E. Solanas)
10. Nueve reinas / Nine Queens (2000, Fabián Bielinsky)
11. Prisioneros de la tierra / Prisoners of the Earth (1939, Mario Soffici)

5 Honourable Mentions (in no order):
Bombón: El Perro (2004, Carlos Sorín)
Son of the Bride (2001, Juan José Campanella)
Pizza, birra, faso / Pizza, Beer and Cigarettes (1998, Israel Adrián Caetano/Bruno Stagnaro)
Silvia Prieto (1999, Martín Rejtman)
Trenque Lauquen (2022, Laura Citarella)

Friday, June 07, 2024

Top Iranian Films of All Time

There are a wealth of legal viewing options for Iranian Cinema unlike that for many other nations. Such a high number of entries made it an ordeal to narrow down a Top 10 list. It was also difficult to not make the entire top 10 list of films just by Abbas Kiarostami and Jafar Panahi, two of the best film directors in the world. However, the recent rediscovery of Chess of the Wind (1976, Mohammad Reza Aslani) is a reminder there could still be many worthy Iranian films hidden from view. Therefore, I do expect this list will change over time as I get to rediscover and even revisit Iranian films.

Top 10 Iranian Films of All Time:

1. Taste of Cherry (1997, Abbas Kiarostami)
2. Crimson Gold (2003, Jafar Panahi)
3. The House is Black (1963, Forugh Farrokhzad)
4. Close-Up (1990, Abbas Kiarostami)
5. A Man of Integrity (2017, Mohammad Rasoulof)
6. A Separation (2011, Asghar Farhadi)
7. The Cow (1969, Dariush Mehrjui)
8. The Wind Will Carry Us (1999,  Abbas Kiarostami)
9. Turtles can Fly (2004, Bahman Ghobadi)
10. It’s Winter (2006, Rafi Pitts)

Honourable Mentions (alphabetical order):

Be Calm and Count to Seven (2008, Ramtin Lavafipour)
Downpour (1972, Bahram Beyzaie)
Iron Island (2005, Mohammad Rasoulof)
Salam Cinema (1995, Mohsen Makhmalbaf)
This is not a Film (2011, Jafar Panahi)
A Time for Drunken Horses (2000, Bahman Ghobadi)
Where is the Friend’s House? (1987, Abbas Kiarostami)
The White Balloon (1995, Jafar Panahi)

Saturday, June 01, 2024

Hugo Fregonese's Apenas un Delincuente

Apenas un Delincuente / Hardly a Criminal (1949, Argentina, directed by Hugo Fregonese)

This year’s AFOFF selection of the stellar 1949 Argentine noir Apenas un Delincuente was inspired by Allan’s ‘The Fish Obscuro’ column although the film isn’t as much in the shadows now as it was prior to 2022. That is because Apenas un Delincuente / Hardly a Criminal (1949) was part of a 2022 Hugo Fregonese retrospective that premiered at Il Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna and then later that year at MoMA. In addition, Apenas un Delincuente was the inspiration behind Rodrigo Moreno’s 2023 thoughtful film The Delinquents. In fact, both Apenas un Delincuente and The Delinquents share the same core story of a bank fraud but both films diverge in different directions.

The bank fraud in Apenas un Delincuente was inspired by a real-life incident and is one of those stories that emphasizes that reality is stranger than fiction. In the film, José Moran  (Jorge Salcedo) is a bank employee who fancies the rich nightlife and his day job is only a means for him to pay off his nightlife which also includes a gambling habit. José has run up a huge debt due to gambling losses and subsequent borrowed sums from loan sharks. His salary can’t cover off his debts and he is constantly trying to avoid the loan sharks who are looking to collect their payment. One day, the loan sharks arrive at the bank and demand their money. With no place to run, José gives them another customer’s deposit. Seeing how easy it was for him to use someone else’s money, José starts drawing up a plan to steal even more money from the bank. His ideas are strengthened when he learns that the maximum jail sentence for bank fraud is six years regardless of the amount stolen. José calculates that he can steal enough money, hide his loot, serve 6 years in jail, come out and comfortably live the rest of his life. His rationale is that this one time fraud followed by 6 years of jail time will yield him more money than working an entire life at the bank. José thinks his plan is perfect but like all film noirs, there are elements that José doesn’t factor in such as his family’s vulnerability or street smart gangsters. These unseen factors turn his plans upside down leading to a pulsating action packed finale.

Hugo Fregonese packs in a lot in just under 90 minutes. The first half of the film not only sets up the plan and execution but also gives enough of a family backstory which helps explain José’s decisions. The second half depicts fascinating prison power dynamics before the film incorporates car chases and a good old fashioned shoot-out. I hadn’t seen any of Hugo Fregonese’s films prior to Hardly a Criminal. The impressive execution of the film means that was a huge cinematic blindspot on my end. In reality, Fregonese wasn’t that much in the shadows if I had only looked in the right spots. He was a global film director who started his career in his native Argentina in 1940s before moving to direct films in Hollywood in 1950s such as Apache Drums (1951), Man in the Attic (1953), Black Tuesday (1954). He then moved around Europe to direct a string of films (The Beasts of Marseilles, The Death Ray of Dr. Mabuse) before returning to Argentina. If others haven’t seen a film by him, then Hardly a Criminal is a great starting point.

On another note, the running time of Moreno’s The Delinquents (3 hours 9 min) is double in length to Apenas un Delincuente (88 min) and doesn’t have any car chases, bullets or a backstory. Yet, both films are precious in their own right. In fact, the difference in treatment highlights how creativity can ensure that we will never run of worthy films to view.

Cross-published at Wonders in the Dark.