Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Classics of Tomorrow?

This article in The Guardian asks the question, which films released in the last year can potentially enter the canon or be remembered and loved ten, twenty years from now. I think Michael Haneke, David Cronenberg and Wong Kar-wai all came out with great films last year and I loved them all. Even if the individual films do not stand the test of time, there is no doubt that their whole oeuvre will certainly do and if not for anything else, these films will be remembered for being associated with their respective auteurs.

Also, a few years back Guardian came out with a list of most important contemporary filmmakers based on the poll of their resident film critics. Except for a couple of names in the top ten, it is pretty well judged (my opinion of course and I haven't seen a few on the list at all). You can find out the list here.

In the same vein here is my own list of filmmakers who I like to keep track of (at this point in time) and impatiently look forward to their next works:

1. Michael Haneke: I have lost lots of my innocence, naivety and optimism (of whatever little that was left) because of watching his films, so far five of them. But I am all the more thankful to him because of that. With Cache, Haneke is now at the peak of his career. It is worth waiting for whatever he is upto next. I had written earlier on Funny Games, The Seventh Continent and Cache.

2. David Lynch: I am waiting desperately to see Inland Empire which should open later this year. This reminds me, I should try to get hold of Twin Peaks season 2 before I leave for India. Previous posts on Lynch here and here.

3. David Cronenberg:
Another dark maestro. He is making a horror movie about a plastic surgeon next. It is already giving me shivers. The bad/good news is that no one is willing to finance his film after reading his script! An adaptation of Martin Amis's misanthropic and apocalyptic London Fields is also in the works. Whatever it is, if it is a film by Cronenberg, that means not to be missed at any cost. Previous post on A History of Violence.

4. Lars von Trier:
I missed his latest Maderlay. One more reason why I should hate my life and my job and of course people too. It was in theatres here only for one week and before I could find time it just vanished.

5. Wong Kar-wai:
The list was getting too dark, bleak and misanthropic. So here comes Wong Kar-wai with his les affaires de coeur. Although even his films are suffused with a deep sadness and speak less about the pleasures of romance than they do about the impossibility of genuine, lasting connection between human beings in the modern world, specially in the big, impersonal cities. But whatever, at least his films have glorious music and lots of beautiful people and at least there is no violence (not of the haneke, cronenberg variety at least). Previous post on 2046 here.

P.S. Now that I am praising Haneke. I wanted to point to this entry in the culture vulture blog of the guardian. Apparently Time Out London revised their movie rating system to accommodate Cache. They gave it six out of five and then revised the scale upwards to six on the grounds of perhaps inflation and devaluation! Too many good movies?


Jabberwock said...

You're a Cronenberg fan too? One less thing to fight about! I'm really looking forward to seeing A History of Violence, which is rather unexpectedly being released in Delhi's multiplexes (maybe because of the Viggo Mortensen popularity factor!).

anurag said...

I will agree with your list, but probably not in that order and that is because I have seen only one movie by Lars von Trier, Michael Haneke and not seen what is considered to be the best of Cronenberg, although I am fan of 'Naked Lunch'.

I will also like to include Alexander Payne because I really liked two of his films, 'Election' and 'About Schmidt' and also heard that 'Sideways' is good too, his themes are very contemporary. I have seen one by Todd Haynes, 'Far from Heaven', and loved the film. They say 'safe' is a masterpiece.

Now that I have seen 'Fat Girl', I would like to see more of Catherine Breillat.

and what about Abbas Kiarostami ?

The one thing I feel is these all directors are fixed into their genres, do we really have a 'Kubrick' of our generation ?

Patient Portnoy said...

Am a pupil at your blog :-)

Alok said...

Hey Portnoy, very glad to see you here and thanks. But I think you need a psychiatrist more than a teacher :-)

Alok said...

Jai, As I said not to be missed. I was a little disappointed but that was only because I had very very high hopes from a cronenberg film. But still Cronenberg makes regular hollywood thrillers look like kiddie movies.

Alok said...

Anurag, that's some list of names! I haven't seen any todd haynes film (shame shame!) and I love election and about schmidt too. But they lack a formal ambition which you see in the work of these five directors. These five directors go beyond the conventions of style. Their subjects are more complex and their takes on these subjects more challenging. Each of these directors have shown me things which I never associated with the experience of watching movies.

Kiarostami? He would be at number six :-). I like his style of filmmaking very much but his films don't get inside your skin and they don't itch (I like that!). Although I did love A Taste of Cherry a lot which I saw after you praised the movie so much.

Breillat...let me see Fat Girl first. but Romance was an intellectual disaster. It was as if some stupid girl had read too much of feminist and psychoanalytic philosophy and then just decided to make a film out of it. Disaster...both for the libido and for the mind :-)

and yes of course there is no Kubrick currently making films.

km said...

Let me guess - "Cheaper By the Dozen 2" ain't on the list.

Food for thought: Casablanca was just a populist, sentimental studio project that joined the "classic" status only in the early 70s. Heck, half of Hitchcock's output is forgotten now!

My point is, who knows how these films will be evaluated by this generation tomorrow?

And am I the ONLY one here who finds Alexander Payne's films overrated? I mean, "Sideways" and "About Scmidt" were both "crisis-by-the-numbers" screenplays.

Have Fincher lost his mojo too? I hope not.

Bring on the flame-wars :)

Alok said...

What do you mean by "crisis by the numbers" screenplay?

I think their screenplays are one of the best in contemporary american cinema, concerned as they are with not just clever dialogues and wordplays but with the depth of character and a keen commentary on the contemporary society. About Schmidt is one of my favourites of the recent american films.

Of whatever else you can criticise Payne of, screenwriting should the least of them. And look at how many screenwriting he and his partner Jim Taylor (who is himself a novelist) have won


Have no idea what Fincher is upto these days. I used to be a big fight club fan a few years ago. but he has slipped off the radar completely in the last few years. I always feared he will get into the look-how-cool-I-am-when-I-wank gang of currernt generation filmmakers. I hope he does not and makes another fight club some day.

Jabberwock said...

"Casablanca was just a populist, sentimental studio project that joined the "classic" status only in the early 70s."

I get your larger point KM, but this bit above isn't accurate. In the first place, no film is going to be considered a "classic" until a significant amount of time has passed since its release. And if you meant that Casablanca wasn't rated highly when it first came out, that isn't true: it got great reviews and won the best picture and director Oscars. And (purely personal opinion here of course) even today it doesn't play like a "sentimental studio project".

Guptavati said...

Classics of tomorrow? Looking at this unrecognizable list (other than Lars Von Trier,Haneke&Payne) makes me feel that I am woefully behind times with the classics of today, stuck in a time warp of Fellini,Kurosawa and Ozu.The only contemporary movie makers I've seen are Chen Kaige,He ping and Zhang.

But do keep the lists coming.I am using this blog as my weekend guide.

km said...

Alok, like I said, I *must* be the only one :)

I tried really hard to like "Sideways". But to me, it had a certain progammed feel to it.

I could almost predict the beats of the screenplay as I was watching it. In itself, that is not a bad thing. After all, Payne writes in a genre. But then, even the characters in "Sideways" have been known to us through 3 decades of film and TV.

Jabberwock: May I forever be stranded in a train station on a rainy night for even hinting that Casablanca was a critical or a commercial failure in '42!!!

Alok said...

But then, even the characters in "Sideways" have been known to us through 3 decades of film and TV.

you do watch a lot of film and tv :-)

you might be right about that "programmed feel" of Payne's screenplays. But then they obviously don't work as one long dramatic arc binding everything tight in a narrative. they are more of a collection of largely independent set-pieces and work by the observation of small details which gives depth and sinecerity to their characters which you won't find in your regular mid-life crisis, old age disappointment serials and movies (of the last three decades!).

IMO About Schmidt ranks just below Wild Strawberries in its depiction of the horrors of old age disappointment.

Alok said...

guptavati, thanks! but I think these lists reflect my personal prejudices and they might not work for everybody ;)

km said...

Alok, I intend to revisit all of Payne's films one of these weekends. If I change my opinion about them, it won't be the first time I've done it!

At least we *do* agree on WKW and Cronenberg :))

Alok said...

I hope, I am not forcing you to watch or re-watch those movies :)

It is always good to have a dissenting opinion in any case!