30 Days of Fandor Films: A Personal Challenge

UPDATE: A few thoughts on completing my 30 Days of Fandor Films Challenge.

Well, well, well: almost three years exactly since the last post on this blog, and here we are again. Not that I haven’t toyed with resurrecting Memories of the Future in those ensuing years, and certainly haven’t stopped writing my thoughts on the movies I watch, but just never quite actually got anything going here again. So why now?

Well, this last summer I’ve been contending with a particularly nasty creative/mental slump, and to help push myself out of it I’ve decided to undertake a small personal challenge: for the next 30 days—the month of September—I’m going to watch a film a day from the queue of my underutilized Fandor account, which has swelled over the years to an absurd 500+ films(!).

Each day I’ll post an image and a few thoughts for documentation purposes. All will be first viewings, and all films were available to stream on Fandor as of September 2016 (I can’t vouch for any availability beyond that!).

Below is the list of all films watched for this project, which will be updated daily. Thanks for following!

30 DAYS OF FANDOR – SEPTEMBER 2016

Day 1 – I MARRIED A WITCH (René Clair, USA, 1942)
Day 2 – ALICE UNDERGROUND (Kate Kline May, USA, 1984)
Day 3 – VIVIAN MAIER PHOTOGRAPHER (Tom Palazzolo, USA, 2012)
Day 4 – OF TIME AND THE CITY (Terence Davies, UK, 2008)
Day 5 – FAREWELL, MY LOVELY (Dick Richards, USA, 1975)
Day 6 – FATA MORGANA (Werner Herzog, Germany, 1971)
Day 7 – THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS (Ireland & Sampson, USA, 1955)
Day 8 – HENRI-GEORGES CLOUZOT’S INFERNO (Bromberg & Medrea, France, 2009)
Day 9 – MEET MARLON BRANDO (Maysles & Maysles, USA, 1966)
Day 10 – VISION (Margarethe von Trotta, Germany, 2009)
Day 11 – WITTGENSTEIN (Derek Jarman, UK, 1993)
Day 12 – THE TIES THAT BIND (Su Friedrich, USA, 1985)
Day 13 – SING SINNER SING (Howard Christie, USA, 1933)
Day 14 – THE ACADEMY OF MUSES (José Luis Guerín, Spain, 2015)
Day 15 – ZOU ZOU (Marc Allégret, France, 1934)
Day 16 – ARAYA (Margot Benacerraf, Venezuela, 1959)
Day 17 – GRANDMA’S BOY (Fred C. Newmeyer, USA, 1922)
Day 18 – ECCENTRICITIES OF A BLONDE-HAIRED GIRL (M. de Oliveira, Portugal, 2009)
Day 19 – THE CHESS PLAYERS (Satyajit Ray, India, 1977)
Day 20 – WORKING GIRLS (Lizzie Borden, USA, 1986)
Day 21 – AS TEARS GO BY (Wong Kar Wai, Hong Kong, 1988)
Day 22 – JANE B. PAR AGNÈS V. (Agnès Varda, France, 1988)
Day 23 – LA CAPTIVE (Chantal Akerman, France/Belgium, 2000)
Day 24 – THE GENERAL (Clyde Bruckman & Buster Keaton, USA, 1926)
Day 25 – DAKAN (DESTINY) (Muhammad Camara, Guinea/France, 1997)
Day 26 – NOTHING SACRED (William A. Wellman, USA, 1937)
Day 27 – NANOOK OF THE NORTH (Robert Flaherty, USA/France, 1922)
Day 28 – PUSSYCATS PARADISE (Ramsey Herrington, UK, 1960)
Day 29 – THE SACRIFICE (OFFRET) (Andrei Tarkovsky, Sweden/UK/France, 1986)
Day 30 – LA JALOUSIE (JEALOUSY) (Philippe Garrel, France, 2013)

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june is queer cinema month!

Who needs Pride when June is shaping up to be a non-stop celebration of all things queer cinema?  Not only is there an LGBT blogathon happening now over at YAM Magazine, but one starts next week over at Garbo Laughs, and as of today Fandor is hosting its own LGBT “festival” that I put together!

Frameline Film Festival, the longest running LGBT film festival kicks off today here in San Francisco, and to coincide I was asked by Keyframe: the Fandor Blog to curate my own queer film “festival” out of films from their archive.  I specifically set the goal of seeking out films beyond the site’s genre tag and of finding ways to include not only a wide variety of film types (features, shorts, documentaries, etc) but to demonstrate my firm belief that “queer cinema” can and does involve much more than the simple inclusion of a prominent LGBT character or storyline.  It turned out to be an intensely pleasurable experience, and I’m very happy with how it all came out.  It gave me a both chance to revisit some old favorites (Happy Together, And Then There Were None) and make some really wonderful new discoveries (Mike Kuchar’s The Secret of Wendel Samson, Doris Wishman’s Let Me Die a Woman).  Please check it out!  And if you’re not already familiar with Fandor and its streaming services, you can try it out a no-obligations free trial for two weeks.  But don’t just take my word for it–let Roger Ebert tell you what a great service it is!

And as my submission to the YAM Magazine LGBT Blogathon, I include (and expand upon) the notes of a Mark Rappaport double bill that ended up getting cut from the Keyframe article.

RE-ROUTE OF THE PAST: A MARK RAPPAPORT DOUBLE BILL

In an insightful interview with filmmaker and scholar Mark Rappaport, Jonathan Rosenbaum claims that Rappaport “virtually invented a new form of film criticism” with his witty and erudite documentaries Rock Hudson’s Home Movies (USA, 1992) and The Silver Screen: Color Me Lavender (USA, 1997).  Indeed, both films serve as wickedly clever and irreverent re-readings of orthodox–and resolutely heteronormative–film histories.  The aim of these two films is to reveal the queer resonances subtly (or often not-so-subtly) embedded within classic cinema.  In the wake of Rock Hudson’s very public coming out and death from AIDs in 1985, Rappaport scans back through the actor’s extensive filmography, and begins to reveal that far from being some unknown secret, Hudson’s closeted sexuality seems to manifest itself in countless ways throughout his decades-spanning filmography.  “It’s not like it wasn’t up there on the screen,” narrator Eric Farr intones in the introduction of the film, “if you watched the films carefully.”  The was vividly re-confirmed for me at a screening of Sirk’s glorious Written on the Wind at the Castro Theatre just last week: early on in the film, Hudson sullenly looks on Robert Stack courts Lauren Bacall, and Stack suddenly commands “go look in the closet!”  The audience spontaneously erupted in affectionate laughter and applause.  The situation reoccurred several times throughout the evening.

The Silver Screen: Color Me Lavender is more ambitious in its scope, unmasking the queerness in a diverse array of Hollywood and European films made before 1970 or so (I’ll always love it for introducing me to the whacky little gem Desert Fury–as I wrote, the film has to be seen to be believed!).  The film also details the sexually ambiguous screen personas of a diverse array of actors, ranging from matinee idols–and rumored lovers–Cary Grant and Randolph Scott to comedians like Bob Hope, Jerry Lewis, and Danny Kaye, and on to supporting characters such as Walter Brennan and the “sissies” of 1930’s Hollywood cinema such as Eric Blore and Edward Everett Horton.  Of course there’s quite a bit of taking clips and quips out of context, and much of the effect comes from the narrator’s coy lead-ons that color the viewer’s perception, but that’s a great part of the charm and campy fun of it all.  But it’s Rappaport’s consistent daring to go there is what makes his films so illuminating and, sometimes, truly profound.

Rappaport’s presentation of the material has proved to be a stumbling block for some–the flat, uncharismatic Farr featured in Home Movies is widely reviled, and I’ve read dismissals of the lo-fi, home video aspect films.  But the lo-fi quality is exactly what I find most endearing about Rappaport’s entire enterprise–it’s like partaking in the obsessions of a slightly mad but brilliant cinephile nestled in their darkened bedroom, poring over stacks of VHS and dupes taped off of TCM (or AMC, back in the day) and then scanning and rescanning through beloved old films until they seem to be revealing their long-held secrets.  As a queer viewer myself, I view these films as dazzling displays of queer bricolage, of cobbling together disparite elements that reveal and/or create new narratives to serve our own purposes, and manipulate them until they begin tell our own stories and mirror our own desires and dreams.  And as Rappaport reveals, it wasn’t all that difficult to do–the latent queer impulses were always there, we just had to be on the lookout for them.
 
Make sure to click on the banner above to check out a number of posts on a wide, fascinating array of queer-related topics!

introducing visions of a city

Fandor‘s selection of Larry Jordan’s luminous Visions of a City (USA, 1978) as one of its “Featured Films of the Week” reminded me of something I’ve been meaning to start on this blog for a while now: a semi-regular series of posts showcasing cinematic San Francisco.  And what better name could there possibly be for such a series than the title of Jordan’s own film?

As the emphasis is on visual representation, I don’t usually intend these posts to contain reviews, but a few contextual notes seemed called for in this particular case.  Visions of a City is comprised of footage shot in 1957 but not edited until 1978, for in Jordan’s own words: “I found that it was one of those rare films that I have always deplored the scarcity of: documents of how it really looked in a certain place in a certain year.”  It is also serves as what he calls a “filmic portait” of the poet Michael McClure as a young man.

By focusing his camera on reflective surfaces such as windows, mirrors, and even bottles and car bumpers, Jordan captures glimpses of a vibrant cityscape that become layered in complex and strikingly beautiful ways that resemble dissolves.  San Francisco, then, is at once represented as simultaneously a tangible location and a fleeting, dreamlike mirage.  And the screen captures presented below hardly do justice to the film, as it is often in the intricate camera movement that the true wonder of Jordan’s images are revealed, so check out the entire film–it’s a painless and rewarding 6 minutes–either on Fandor or Ubu Web.

the gleaners and me

I was recently asked if I was interested in submitting some thoughts on Agnès Varda’s Les glaneurs et la glaneuse (The Gleaners and I) (2000), and as it is one of my favorite films by my favorite director, I jumped at the opportunity to do so.  I ended up being very pleased with the results, and you can read “10 Things Gleaned from Agnès Varda’s Gleaners and I on the Fandor blog, Keyframe.  You can even watch the film on the site by logging in through Facebook, if you’re interested.  You won’t be disappointed—cinephile or not, it’s among the loveliest of any film I know.

Varda as Posing as a Gleaner

The process of writing this piece was an unexpectedly fraught experience, but in retrospect it also turned out to be rather insightful.  And since it’s connected to Memories of the Future to some extent, I thought I’d jot down a few thoughts.  Anybody who once read this blog (I have no idea if anybody actually does anymore) knows it experienced a period of abandonment over the last few years, a time which has more or less coincided with my decision to pursue a graduate degree in Cinema Studies.  But what I quickly found was that turning a hobby into a “serious” academic pursuit made it nearly impossible for me to muster up the enthusiasm to write about film “for fun,” and as such this blog became more of a repository for occasional book reviews and blogathan contributions.

Now finished with my degree and in the process of shifting my academic energies back towards literary pursuits, I eagerly took up the opportunity to write about a film as “reviewer” instead of “film school student.”  I was fully expecting some bumps along the alway, but I admit I had not anticipated the minor existential crisis it turned out to be.  In short, I realized I had completely lost my “reviewer” voice somewhere along the way.  My short review quickly mutated into a much-too-long essay, and it’s quite good in its own way.  But it was not at all what I had wanted or intended to write, and not at all what I needed to write for this particular venue.  After spending a day (inevitably, the day of my deadline) frantically trying to revise the essay into something suitable, I finally gave up and pulled out a piece of paper and simply began to list all of the reasons I could think of as to why I love this film as much as a I do, and why I had wanted to write about it in the first place.  That gave me the idea for the fragmented structure it eventually took, and things just went from there.

I’m hoping that this experience has reignited some enthusiasm for writing about film again in the capacity of reviewer and film lover, and that spills over into Memories of the Future.  We’ll see, but I think this is, at the very least, a good start.