October 2007

Music to run a marathon by: 50 tracks and 26.2 miles of audiopedal power

Submitted for the Reeler Totally Unrelated Blog-a-Thon

Just 10 days away from my debut at the ING New York City Marathon. As I enter my tapering period (avg. 2 miles per day instead of 5), I’m starting to cast my attention on other preparatory matters, like which $100 pair of running shoes to designate for marathon day (currently leaning towards Nike over Saucony). But the order of this post is to compile my official marathon iPod playlist, four plus hours of music to sustain me over the 26.2 mile jaunt through the five boroughs.

Some may roll their eyes at me for choosing to spend one of the largest and most boisterous public events in NYC with my head between two earphones. Aren’t the cheers of hundreds of thousands of spectators all the aural motivation one needs? My friend Eric who ran it a few years ago ran with his name written on his shirt and got a thrill from having people yell his name out encouragingly throughout the run. I dunno. After hours of training to my Nike+ iPod system I just can’t imagine running without music. And frankly the thought of strangers yelling my name kind of creeps me out.

So at the risk of reinforcing my solipsistic tendencies in one of the most public events I’ll probably ever experience, I’m going to run with my iPod, which means that I need to program four hours of the most motivational music I have from the 12,000 tracks I have to choose from in my iTunes drive. I like to think of myself as having eclectic tastes, but compiling this playlist has been revealing in terms of what music gets me most pumped. It’s also taken me back to the lost art of high school and college mixtapes, something that the iTunes era has rendered obsolete, at least for me.

I’m going to try to arrange these songs timed to estimated points along my run (based on a target split time of 9 minutes per mile). By the same token I’m going to try to place as many tracks as I can within certain neighborhoods that I think have some resonance, though I sheepishly admit this may amount to cheesy stereotypical profiling, so forgive me that… Well here goes:

Miles 1-2: Staten Island / Verazano-Narrows Bridge

1. “D’s Car Jam / Anxious Mo-Fo,” Minutemen. Double Nickels on the Dime is the perfect album for getting a road trip started, with the key turning the ignition that starts this track. Also a shout out to film critic and fellow first-time marathoner Ed Gonzalez, who is getting pretty anxious as the big day approaches.

2. C.R.E.A.M.” Wu-Tang Clan. Gotta represent Shaolin aka Staten Island. Also has a mellow beat to help me tolerate being stuck in a pack of 38,000 runners for the first mile or so.

3. “Shimmy She Wobble,” Otha Turner and the Rising Star Fife and Drum Band. From the Gangs of New York soundtrack – has a great anticipatory quality, like the biggest ass-kicking is waiting on the other end. No wonder Scorsese tapped it.

4. Bo Diddley,” Bo Diddley. The wobbly rhythm segues perfectly from the drumbeat of the previous track, and the song has a reassuring steadiness.

5. Baba O’Reilly,” The Who. Image of Pete Townshend ostentatiously strumming his guitar over this song’s grandiose riffs will help me get into a stride as the pack stretches open.

6. I Feel Free,” Cream. Another song to open things up – especially when Clapton comes in with that seagull-in-flight guitar solo, which I expect will land me safely from the Verazano-Narrows onto Brooklyn.

Mile 3: Bay Ridge

7. Kashmir,” Led Zeppelin. If long-distance running did not exist, they would have invented it just so people could run to this song. This part of Brooklyn has a heavy Pakistani population – or at least it used to pre-9/11 before thousands were profiled, harassed and deported.

Mile 4: Sunset Park

Brooklyn’s Chinatown, but sorry, there isn’t a Chinese song that’s sufficiently pumped for this occasion. Instead I’ll pick:

8. Firestarter,” Prodigy - in honor of my students back in China and the amazing Christmas party we had in 1998 when I single-handedly introduced rave culture to the city of Jinan.

9. Without Me,” Eminem – in honor of MC Rei, the best rapper I know in Beijing and one of the most fascinating people I met when I was there last December.

Mile 5: Red Hook – no particular associations with this neighbohood so I’ll just go with a couple tracks to bring out the high school trackstar in me:

10. Hollaback Girl,” Gwen Stefani - this should have been the climactic theme song of what would have been the best teen comedy ever.

11. Johnny B. Goode,” Chuck Berry

Mile 6: Carroll Gardens/Park Slope

Two songs in honor of friend and longtime Carroll Garden resident Will Comerford:

13. Can’t Turn You Loose (Live),” Otis Redding – as featured in Jean-Luc Godard’s Histoire(s) du Cinema. For the better part of a year Will and his wife used to have Otis playing every time I stopped by for dinner – it became a bit of a running joke

14. Complete Control,” The Clash

Mile 7: Boerum Hill For former resident Eric Sommerfeld, who turned me on to classic Jamaican music:

15. 54-46 (That’s My Number),” The Maytals - Eric and I saw Toots & Co. at S.O.B.s back in 2003.

16. “Joggin,” Freddie McGregor (which has the most outrageous rationalization for jogging – so that God’s chosen people the Rastafari will be fit for Armageddon)

17. “Take It Easy,” Hopetown Lewis

18. “Roadrunner,” Jonathan Richman – in honor of Eric’s Boston roots.

Mile 8: Downtown Brooklyn

19. Beautiful Day,” U2. For Grant Koo, who first introduced me to this neighborhood during my first week as a NYC resident. He once sang this during a karaoke outing (“TOOOOUCH me! Take me to a better place!”)

20. “Tomorrow Never Knows,” The Beatles - A dose of psychedelia 30 years ahead of its time to put me in a transcendental pace as I approach the 1/3 mark.

Mile 9: Clinton Hill

21. Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” Michael Jackson - from the first album my family ever purchased for me, and for their generosity I was treated to many a car-bound lecture on the perils of homosexuality as the cassette accompanied us on weekend trips to Chinatown.

22. Hypnotize,” Notorious B.I.G. - courtesy of Brooklyn’s finest, produced by my nemesis. On senior night of college graduation week I requested this song and it stopped the dance floor dead cold until someone’s request of the B-52′s “Love Shack” resuscitated it. 10 years later at reunion this was the first song they played and everyone was grinding. Sigh.

Miles 10-11: Williamsburg – entering hipsterville, ergo:

23. Teen Age Riot,” Sonic Youth – for Cindi, and not far from where she and I watched SY perform the entire Daydream Nation album earlier this summer

24. Losing My Edge,” LCD Soundsystem. The desperate clang-beats and flailing street-cred assertions of James Murphy add fuel to my fire… sadly because I identify with this song more than I should admit. Still this song has the perfect tempo to establish a mid-marathon stride.

25. “Finer Feelings,” Spoon. One of my favorites of this year so far – this song takes 20 pounds off my shoulders just listening to it.

Miles 12-13: Greenpoint – I associate this neighborhood with having a strong trans-Atlantic flavor

26. (There’s Going to Be a) Borstal Breakout,” Sham 69. I envision the non-existent video for this song consisting of a single Sam Raimi steadicam shot following the singer breaking out of prison, running across the North England countryside, stopping for twelve rounds of ale at his hometown pub and then crashing into his own house to greet his wife – except the cops are waiting there for him. Bloody brilliant track.

27. “Black Milk,” Massive Attack. It was a toss-up between this and Daft Punk’s “Da Funk” and I guess at this point I’d rather be soothed than pushed.

28. Run Like Hell,” Pink Floyd. This song is like a cool ocean breeze blowing through your hair when you run.

29. Trans-Europe Express,” Kraftwerk - perfect for crossing the Pulaski Bridge into Queens – and I am halfway there!

Miles 14-15: Long Island City – some gritty songs for this industrial stretch

30. Down on the Street,” – The Stooges - so many good Iggy Pop songs to run to (half of Raw Power alone could work), it’s hard to pick just one. But I pick it in honor of the scene where this plays behind Meg and Jack White in Coffee and Cigarettes. Which leads to…

31. The Hardest Button to Button,” – The White Stripes - question: is it Riverside Park, Central Park, or some park in Jersey where they shot the video? Anyway, moving on to…

32. “Shake a Leg,” AC/DC - which played along with half of Back in Black before the Stripes’ show at Madison Square Garden this summer – which prompted me to play it on my iPod to remind myself of how much I loved this album in high school. Speaking of which…

33. Jump Around,” House of Pain - so many memories around this stupid song I couldn’t begin to relate.

Mile 16: Queensborough Bridge

34. Jump,” Van Halen – the ascent to the zenith of the bridge is the hardest incline of the race – need to summon the power of Eddie and David Lee.

35. Sweet Jane,” The Velvet Underground – can’t think of a better song with which to triumphantly enter Manhattan.

Mile 17-19: Upper East Side

36. Once in a Lifetime,” Talking Heads - a very strangely uplifting and soothing song, like riding on the back of a humpback whale through suburban desolation (or in this instance the Upper East Side).

From here on out, it’s time to pull out the big guns – some of my favorite old-school hip hop to break through the wall:

37. The Power,” Snap - played to death in 10th grade, then revived nostalgically in David O. Russell’s “Three Kings” – though maybe due to the Persian Gulf context of that film I can’t disassociate this song from images of smart bombs exploding.

38. Don’t Believe the Hype,” Public Enemy - The bassline and drums are so rock solid mellow it puts you in a trance despite the squealing samples.

39. It Takes Two,” Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock - The main hook is like being sat upon by a 800 pound gorilla named Sir Funky Bottom. “I wanna rock right now!” – greatest opening line to a song ever?

40. Strictly Business,” EPMD - Proof that you don’t have to trade in gangbanging iconography to sound badass. Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith Mos’ Def’nitely outdo Eric Clapton trying to outdo Bob Marley.

41. Follow the Leader,” Eric B and Rakim - This video is wack – they should have had them in a spaceship navigating through an asteroid belt and blasting into hyperspeed. Taking hip hop on a journey to the cosmic. Rakim, the greatest rapper ever.

Mile 20: Spanish Harlem - my brother says

42. “Coulibaly,” Amadou and Miriam (this neighborhood has seen a large influx of African immigrants) their Summerstage concert last year was one of the most joyous experiences I’ve had in NYC

43. Ain’t Nothing But a G Thang,” Dr. Dre - I think if I get drunk enough I can still rap this verbatim. Memorizing this was how I spent my first semester of college – at least it helped flex my mind for memorizing Chaucer.

My brother writes: “Ain’t Nothing But a G Thang in Spanish Harlem? How about reggaeton / salsa / cumbia?” Sorry, but “Gasolina” would probably give me a headache at mile 20 and if I run to salsa I might hurt my hips.

Mile 21: Bronx

44. Pump Up the Volume,” M/A/R/R/S (“Hey all you homeboys in the Bronx, this one’s for you”) – almost lost its coolnes factor by being featured in Michael J. Fox’s Bright Lights Big City as well as many 80s sporting event timeouts, but time has been kind to it.

45. What You Know,” T.I. - apparently not enough, as Total Idiot got himself arrested last weekend for possession of an illegal firearm. Still, the hook on this track is like a golden carpet inviting you to run freely on it for miles…

Mile 22-23: Harlem

46. “Give It Up or Turn It Loose (Remix),” James Brown - From In a Jungle Groove – not the regular version but the juiced up with some unbelievably funky rolling thunder drumming, sounding live and cooler than David Holmes in an icebox, with JB’s grunts and squeals goosing you on from start to finish like the godfather of drill sergeants.

47. “Bring It On Home to Me (Live),” Sam Cooke (from the Live at the Harlem Supper Club album) – this track was homaged in the immortal opening sequence of Michael Mann’s Ali.

Mile 24-finish: Central Park

48. Steppin’ Out,” Joe Jackson – my quintessential Upper Manhattan song. Heard it when I was in 2nd grade and it made me want to be a grown-up.

2 miles to go – time to pull out the big guns:

49. Opening medley from Ramones: Live NYC 1978: “Rockaway Beach,” “Teenage Lobotomy,” “Blitzkrieg Bop,” “I Wanna Be Well,” “Glad To See You Go,” “Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment,” “You’re Gonna Kill that Girl” Pure audio adrenaline.

And the final song for going across 59th St: Needs no introduction or justification.

And if they happen to be playing this over the loudspeakers of Central Park South I promise I will tear my iPod off my armband and toss it to the crowd.

Speaking of donations, thanks to all of you who helped me meet my fundraising goal for the cancer patient charity Team Continuum! I’m still welcoming contributions, just check out my athlete page for info. Or better yet help my buddy Ed Gonzalez meet his fundraising goal by visiting his page (and check out his “photo”).

927. Voyna i mir / War and Peace (1968, Sergei Bondarchuk) – Part III: 1812

screened Saturday October 20, 2007 on Ruscico DVD in Weehawken NJ

As Sergei Bondarchuk’s seven hour epic is currently enjoying an ultra-rare theatrical run at New York’s Film Forum – with a national tour certain to follow – I thought it wise to continue my multi-part coverage of this exhaustive and often beautiful film. Check out my notes on Part I and Part II.

Following the pensive, feminine-voiced Part II: Natasha Rostova, Bondarchuk’s epic roars back into the “war” side of its title with Part III: 1812, chronicling events leading into and during the epic Battle of Borodino, one of the bloodiest days in history, yielding over 70,000 casualties.

The credits roll over shots of trees – an image of nature that becomes a frequent strucutral counterpoint to much of the violence that follows throughout this segment of the epic.

The Moscow aristocracy is initially depicted as largely unperturbed by the devastation inflicted by the Napoleonic invasion – Bondarchuk sets up the dichotomy through a pair of spectacular ensemble shots:

The two worlds collide as Russian officers crash the ball to deliver news of the scorching advance of Napoleon’s troops across the country.

Bondarchuk’s depiction of the carnage inflicted on Russian towns seems heavily reminiscent of similar shots in Gone With the Wind (TSPDT #88):

Bondarchuk achieves another striking juxtaposition between the massive march of French troops and the restless vigil of an aging Russian prince in the confines of his bedroom:

There is actually very little dramatic or character development that occurs in the 79 minutes of Part III. This is made evident by the single scene between Natasha Rostova (the Audrey Hepburn-esque Lyudmila Savelyeva) and Pierre Bezukhov (Bondarchuk). Part II revolved around Rostova’s maturing consciousness as she experienced the highs and lows of love and seduction, and the blossoming of their relationship between her and Bezukhov was the climactic development of that episode. All of that development is held at bay in Part III, confined to a single scene where Rostova expresses her appreciation of Bezukhov’s kindness, while he seems uncomfortable with this degree of intimacy.

His subsequent entry as a civilian into the field of battle can be seen as an escape from his complicated attachments with Rostova, his friend Prince Bolkonsky’s ex-fiancee. His white outfit stands in sore contrast to his blood-and-mud-stained compatriots in battle.

At this point, as 200,000 Russian and French troops amass at the fateful site of Borodino, we are treated to some minor longeurs, the proverbial “calm before the storm.” Prince Bolkonsky, preparing to lead his regiment into battle, offers some simplified existential reflections: “Tomorrow I won’t exist anymore.” One assumes that the original Tolstoy passages went much deeper into this line of thinking, but, eager to commence with some extraordinarily coordinated epic bloodletting, Bondarchuk gets by with a solemn voiceover matched with sweeping shots of foliage, concluding that war is a solemn necessity when faced with such an unnatural force of evil as the French invasion. If anything, one wonders if Terrence Malick got any of his stuff watching this.

The following still pretty much tells you all you need to know about the 20 minute battle sequence that is often referred to as Bondarchuk’s crowning achievement. Judging by the results, there was probably more toxic smoke emanating from this set then there was at Chernobyl.

As with the Tolstoy novel, Napoleon is depicted in the film as a domineering force, solely focused on victory, refusing to eat or drink until victory is at hand. Interestingly, historians cite Napoleon as weak and suffering from a fever that day, which may have compromised his tactical abilities.

In contrast, consider how Bondarchuk frames the one-eyed Prince Kutzov, commander of the Russian forces, seated to one side and holding a piece of chicken as his generals report massive losses on all fronts.

Although the Russians sustained tens of thousands more casualties than the French at Borodino, the toll of this insanely bloody battle was enough to weaken the French advance, allowing their eventual defeat. Napoleon himself is characterized as an inhuman mass-murderer whose mind would not allow itself to acknowledge the massive scale of human loss it had set in motion.

Thus the stentorian voiceover quoting Tolstoy concludes, “A moral victory… that which compels the enemy to recognize the moral superiority of his opponent, and his own impotence, was won by the Russians at Borodino.”

Meanwhile, I was thinking more about the money and manpower that went into this film than on the full meaning of the war it depicts. It’s epic, it’s bombastic, it’s impeccably executed, and so punch-drunk in its own gargantuan simulation of 19th century warfare that whatever it has to say about the horrors of war seem as hypocritically self-serving as Coppola and Apocalypse Now. In fact, there’s even a long tracking shot across a cross section of buildings that shows Russians and French engaged in various skirmishes, worthy of the horizontally scrolling pomposity of Vittorio Storaro. The overall experience is a numbing spectacle of smoke, fire and horses and shouting.

Personally I prefer the sensuality, thoughtfulness and dark textures of Part II. Here’s hoping that Part IV offers more of that side to War and Peace.

New films I’ve seen in the past month (not counting NYFF)

comments welcome, as a way of helping me elaborate on these one word verdicts… 

Zodiac (2007, David Fincher) IMDb
yes (I’m going to try to offer some substantive observations in an upcoming video essay)

Blades of Glory (2007, Josh Gordon and Will Speck) IMDb
yes (strong first half, then it kind of coasts to the end)

Fong juk / Exiled (2006, Johnnie To) IMDb
yes (cinematographically impeccable, though the overt references to Leone / Peckinpah / Woo got in the way for me)

Transformers (2007, Michael Bay) IMDb
mixed (I want to reflect on this odd film further in a separate post, and posit a hopefully not-too-absurd premise that this film shares certain affinities with the Todd Haynes Bob Dylan movie.)

Back from mi viaggio in Italia, with a report on the Pordenone Silent Film Festival

It’s been exactly a week since Cindi and I returned from our ten day trip to Pordenone for the annual Giornate del Cinema Muto aka Silent Film Festival. Located an hour northeast from Venice, this is the mecca for silent film enthusiasts the world over.

While screenings were held from 9AM to midnight every day, to be honest I didn’t see a lot of films, about one a day. Cindi fared better with about 2-3 per day. I was more preoccupied with finishing up my New York Film Festival reviews, working on a script, and putting in my long runs as Marathon Day creeps closer.

We both skipped the opening night screening of D.W. Griffith’s Orphans of the Storm and the closing night of G.W. Pabst’s Pandora’s Box (at 15 Euros a pop we’d figure to spend our feeble American cash elsewhere). I had already seen many of the shorts included in the Ladislas Starewitch tribute, and I guess Cindi was pretty burned out from her work on The Griffith Project 11 (1921-1924). We also missed the retro of Dutch actress Annie Bos which constituted the 60th anniversary celebration of the Nederlands FilmMuseum. It’s amazing just how much silent cinema is out there to be discovered, which is why the festival is still strong after more than a quarter century.

One highlight we certainly did not miss, and was probably my favorite event of the festival, was the entertainingly erudite presentation by scholar and Oscar-winning filmmaker John Canemaker
(who is also this year’s recipient of the festival’s Jean Mitry Award given to outstanding work in preserving silent cinema). His lecture, “The Art and Life of Winsor McCay” was a passionately delivered slideshow offering many insights on the pioneering illustrator and animator. Seeing panels from Little Nemo in Slumberland blown up to the size of a movie-screen made for an awesome spectacle. Canemaker got to channel some of McCay’s vaudevillian talents when he did a live re-enactment of a Gertie the Dinosaur stage show, interacting with a screen projection of Gertie as McCay would have done during his celebrated Broadway revues.

The marquee program of the festival was “The Other Weimar,” about 15 rarely-screened features from post-WWI Germany. The only one I was able to catch was Der Mädchenhirt, the first feature by proto-realist Karl Grune, about a young man’s short unhappy life as a pimp. the other major program was a complete retro of the silent works of René Clair. Sadly I didn’t see any of the lesser-known works, but I was treated to pristeen prints of two films I’d previously seen on less-than stellar video. Paris qui dort / The Crazy Ray is a work of madcap brilliance, seamlessly blending together surrealism and French farce through Clair’s remarkable gifts for visual comedy. Un chapeau de paille d’Italie / The Italian Straw Hat suffers in the middle from its sitcom trappings, but for the most part it is an ingeniously executed mega-farce that pokes a lot of fun at bourgeois pride and the need to keep up respectable appearances at any cost. Perhaps much of this vein had already been mined successfully by Louis Feuillade in his Séraphin ou les jambes nues, which screened with Paris qui dort. Like The Italian Straw Hat, many hijinks ensue over a piece of despoiled clothing, in this case a pair of trousers – though Feuillade seems even bolder than Clair to take matters into outright bawdiness.

The Hungarian National Film Archive celebrated its 50th anniversary with a couple of screenings. A Pál -utcai fúk / The Paul Street Boys (1929, Bela Balogh) was a suprisingly affecting story of a young boy’s patriotic sacrifice as part of a juvenile gang that repeatedly abuses him; the subversive subtext towards nationalism seemed years ahead of its time. Csak egy kislány van a világon / Only One Girl in the World (1930, Bela Gaal) was Hungary’s first sound film, and like The Jazz Singer it earns its distinction with a generous helping of music, thanks in no small part to the debut performance of cosmopolitan actress / singer Márta Eggerth. Following the screening the festival called the home of Eggerth, now 95 years old but as spry as a teenager. The phone interview climaxed with her offering a song over the line that reverberated through the theater.

Yet another highlight was All At Sea, a recently discovered reel of 16mm footage shot by Alistair Cooke on a 1933 boat tour to the Catalina Islands with Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Godard.  Another treasure was a program of films saluting the career of Mabel Normand, who was at one time Hollywood’s most celebrated comic actress before a series of scandals, substance abuse and illness ended her life at 35.  Mabel’s Dramatic Career (1913) is a remarkably self-reflexive film by Normand’s one-time lover Mack Sennett that makes much merriment of Normand’s aw-shucks demeanor.  Head Over Heels (1922) stands in contrast as a more dramatic turn for Norman, who by this point has been made over as a romantic lead caught in a love triangle.  But the best of the lot is sadly one of her final performances, Should Men Walk Home? (1927).  Helped largely by the dynamic comic direction of Leo McCarey, Normand stars opposite Creighton Hale as two bandits who infiltrate a high class party in search of loot.  The timing of many of the gags (which include Eugene Palette and a pre-Laurel Oliver Hardy) are impeccable, making this a minor comic gem that, like its heroine, is in need of rediscovery.

The last film we caught was the 1927 silent version of Chicago, directed by Frank Urson with “supervision” by Cecil B. DeMille.  There is some contestation as to the extent of DeMille’s involvement; personally I see his stamp all over this film with its effectively crafted sensationalism, atmospheric lighting, and mix of sexual titillation reigned in at the last minute by DeMille’s moralistic streak.  In any event, it’s much more fun than the overcooked 2002 musical version. 

Thanks to Cindi’s birthday present we have immortalized our trip with many photos, which I have uploaded to Picasa.  This is actually the first online photo album I have uploaded.  Compared to the many many online albums out there (Kodak, Snapfish, Flickr, etc.) I like Picasa because it’s linked to my gmail account, and it has a cool mapping function that locates your photos on a Google Map.  Check it out. Or just watch the embedded version here:

I’ll just take a moment to mention a couple of highlights from Venice.  Our favorite meal of the whole trip, courtesy of La Zucca: pumpkin flan (YUM!), fennel with olives, tagliatelle with cauliflower and a half liter of Tocai.


And this shot of the Grand Canal, which to me captures the romance of the city (tourists be damned)

And last but not least, my favorite food in Italy – I tried an average of two flavors a day! (favorite was “Viennese Cream” – chocolate with candied orange pieces)

Catching up on my activies of the past week, incl. NYFF reports

from opening night party at Tavern on the Green, inside the hall of mirrors:

Celebrity sightings included Angelica Huston, Jason Schwartzman (grimacing through photos with an injured foot), Willem Dafoe palling with Abel Ferrara, Armond White walking arm in arm with Sylvia Miles, David Byrne in a cowboy getup, etc etc.

Had a wonderful talk with Filmbrain at the afterparty (though he might have been too drunk to remember…)

The following morning Cindi and I had brunch with Kristin Thompson, film scholar, co-author of the ubiquitous film school tome Film Art: An Introduction, and David Bordwell’s better half.  She was in town doing publicity for her new book The Frodo Franchise and had a wealth of information to share about her research on the art and business of LOTR.

Incidentally, Bordwell has a rich report on the Asian films that played at Vancouver recently, including an observant review of Jia Zhangke’s Useless.  A reminder that I need to sharpen my formalist observations of motifs and color schemes and go beyond glossy impressions…

I’ll get a couple more chances to work on that with my remaining New York Film Festival reviews, which I hope to finish tomorrow, my third day here in Pordenone Italy for the annual silent cinema festival.  More on that as I spend more time here (and less on the computer). In the meantime here is my ranking of the 13 films I saw that played at this year’s NYFF, with links to reviews where available: 

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Christi Mingiu)

Useless (Jia Zhang-ke)

The Last Mistress (Catherine Breillat)

Flight of the Red Balloon (Hou Hsiao-Hsien)

Paranoid Park (Gus Van Sant)

Redacted (Brian De Palma)

Secret Sunshine (Lee Chang-dong)

The Romance of Astree and Celadon (Eric Rohmer)

I’m Not There (Todd Haynes)

Alexandra (Alexander Sokurov)

Silent Light (Carlos Reygadas)

The Man from London (Bela Tarr) – this has grown in appreciation with time

Go-Go Tales (Abel Ferrara) – this has lessened in appreciation with time

I’ve also written about:

Mambo Girl and The Wild, Wild Rose from the Cathay Studios retrospective

New films by Peter Hutton and Robert Beavers from the Views from the Avant Garde Program – The Beavers film has made more of a lasting impression.  Kudos to Nathan Lee for giving special attention to both of these films in his Village Voice writeup.