Sunday, 1 January 2012

New Year Film Challenge

I never really make New Year Resolutions, mainly because I know I'll never keep them. This year, I stole an idea from my fiancée to set myself a film challenge instead (she is doing it with books) as I might actually complete it. It will also give me a concrete goal of what to eliminate from my watchlist, which currently sits 725 films. Hence, I have created a list of 30 films which I want to have watched by the end of the year:

1. The 400 Blows
I have not yet seen a single Truffaut film. For someone who claims to know a thing or two about cinema, this is practically inexcusable. I don't know the reason why I've not seen The 400 Blows yet, but I'll aim to see it this year.

2. The Blood of a Poet
I find surrealist cinema fascinating; the short films of Maya Deren and such works as The Seashell and the Clergyman and L'Etoile de Mere continue to amaze me. I have only seen Cocteau's La Belle et la Bete, which I found visually astounding, but otherwise underwhelming. I am very interested to see his visual style applied to surrealist film.

3. The Burmese Harp
Music, great cinematography and anti-war message — what's not to like? Additionally, Ichikawa's An Actor's Revenge is one of my favourite films. The only thing holding me back is the hefty price tag on the Masters of Cinema dual format edition.

4. Celine and Julie Go Boating
Probably the film I'm most looking forward to seeing, despite knowing very little about it. The film seems like a mystery in itself and all the reviews I read struggle to explain how the film affected them. This one is simply a case of finding a free period of three and a half hours.

5. The Decalogue
Okay, it's a TV series instead of a film, but I'm still counting it. I've seen the majority of Kieslowski's work and am told that The Decalogue is his best. This is as good a reason as any to watch it.

6. Diary of a Country Priest
My two favourite directors are Tarkovsky and Bergman, so Bresson seems like a logical director for me to love. So far, however, I've only seen Au Hasard Balthazar, which I wasn't particularly impressed with at the time (it is on my rewatch list). I feel that I need to try more of his films, and Diary of a Country Priest seems to my taste, so here it is.

7. The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
Bunuel is another director who's films remain mainly unseen by me. I've only watched Un Chien Andalou and L'Age D'Or so far. I keep meaning to watch more, but seem to get thwarted by scratched DVDs, lack of region 2 availability etc. each time. This year I will succeed!

8. La Dolce Vita
I've seen a few Fellini films, but La Dolce Vita continues to be at once not in the university library and very long (you'll notice that the latter becomes a theme as we go down the list). I promise I'll get down to it this year.

9. The Face of Another
There are three main reasons for this particular inclusion:
1. Woman of the Dunes and Pitfall by the same director are both among my favourites.
2. I recently watched The Skin I Live In and Eyes Without a Face, both of which I enjoyed, but felt they had something missing. This seems to have similar content, so perhaps it will have what the others lack?
3. Anything published by Masters of Cinema goes on my watchlist at one time or another.

10. The Gospel According to Matthew
This has been on my watchlist for a long time, mainly due to reputation. Since Masters of Cinema recently released a dual format edition of the film, this seems like an excellent time to see it.

11. The Great Dictator
I have seen and loved most of Chaplin's highly acclaimed works, but have still not watched The Great Dictator, which many cite as his best. I aim to remedy that this year.

12. The Human Condition
The Human Condition Trilogy is widely considered one of the best films of all time. Since it is also directed by one of my all-time favourite directors, I owe it to myself to watch this, even if it is difficult to get hold of in my country (Scotland).

13. Late Spring
Although I found Tokyo Story to drag unbearably, I intend to go back and watch it again at some point. Perhaps the best plan of action is to familiarise myself with more Ozu films first, so Late Spring gets a place on the list.

14. Marketa Lazarova
I bought Second Run's immaculately presented Frantisek Vlacil collection after getting some Amazon vouchers for a Birthday and recently being recommended his films. I found The Valley of the Bees rather amateurish, but tried to watch Marketa Lazarova anyway. I got 20 minutes through and turned it off as the incoherent editing was getting on my nerves too much. I'm willing to give it another go after getting more into Czech cinema, however.

15. At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul
As unlikely as it may seem, I greatly enjoy low-budget horror films such as Carnival of Souls and Night of the Living Dead. This and its sequel are considered classics of the genre, so it earns a place in my list.

16. Nostalghia
Since Tarkovsky is my favourite director and Nostalghia is the only of his non-student films which I am yet to see, it is an easy choice.

17. Ran
I tend to find Kurosawa's films very hit-and-miss. For example, High and Low, Stray Dog and Rashomon are among my favourite films, but Seven Samurai and Throne of Blood did little for me. The reason I've not watched Ran (or Kagemusha for that matter) yet, is that I don't want to start watching it, get through an hour and find that it's not to my taste (the film is three hours long). This year I'll bite the bullet and watch it anyway.

18. The Red Shoes
Powell and Pressburger are my favourite British filmmakers after Kubrick. Black Narcissus is a masterpiece for my money; I love the colours, hand drawn scenery and intensity. The Red Shoes is considered one of their best.

19. Repulsion
Madness is a theme which I find very interesting. A number of my favourite films (e.g., Through a Glass, Darkly, The Cremator) explore it to different lengths and I find that it generates scope for intensity and surreal imagery. Repulsion goes on my list due to its reputation for this, and also because it's a classic which I should probably see at some point.

20. The Rules of the Game
I have no excuses. This frequently tops best film of all-time lists, but I am yet to watch it. I hope to fix that soon.

21. Scenes From a Marriage
The problem with Bergman is that he has made so many films which are considered masterpieces, it takes a very long time to watch them all. I've seen a great deal of his pictures, but not Scenes From a Marriage, which is probably the most highly rated of those I have missed.

22. Scorpio Rising
I love Kenneth Anger. Eaux D'Artifice is probably my favourite short film of all time. I have no idea why I haven't seen Scorpio Rising yet.

23. Songs From the Second Floor
I regard You, The Living as one of the best films of the Noughties, so I am very interested in exploring Andersson's other works.

24. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans
Another which I am rather embarrassed about not having seen yet. This one is on here more because I feel like I should watch it rather than wanting to see it more than other films on my watchlist.

25. The Sword of Doom
Tatsuya Nakadai in a well-photographed jidaigeki in the Criterion collection? Yes please.

26. The Terence Davies Trilogy
These films have been on my watchlist for a while, but reading a very moving article in Empire magazine about Davies made me want to watch them as soon as possible.

27. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
Another classic of low-budget horror which I am yet to see.

28. The Thin Red Line
Anyone who has read more than one of my reviews here will know that I have a tendency towards visually beautiful films. The Thin Red Line is here mainly due to its cinematographical reputation and my enjoyment of Malick's recent The Tree of Life. I actually own this film on DVD, I just need to find three hours to sit down and watch it.

29. Les Vampires
I've actually seen the first three episodes of Les Vampires. I hope that by putting this on the list, I'll force myself to watch the rest.

30. A Woman Under the Influence
I recently joined to get film recommendations. I am very impressed with it in general, but its main purpose seems to be to force me to watch A Woman Under the Influence. Every third suggestion seems to be for this. I guess I'll need to see what all the fuss is about.

There we have it. We'll see how I fare throughout the year. I'd be interested to hear any feedback about the list — anything I should avoid? Something I should watch as soon as possible?

Also, I'd love to hear other people's film challenges if you have any.

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