Unbelievably, I just opened my first Netflix account a couple of weeks ago. I am a habitual collector (its genetic… my dad is a huge collector as well and my mom will not throw anything away), so in the past I have purchased most of the DVD’s I want to see. I am not a huge DVD watcher; I usually prefer to go to the movie theater, and when I do have time to watch a DVD, it tends to be a film submission or another film for the festival I am currently working on. But when I do get time to sit on my butt and watch a DVD for pleasure, I really target films that I want to see desperately, so I have traditionally bought them in order to be able to watch on my own time. There is functionality inherent in my old system, and a financial commitment beyond my modest means of late, but Netflix has made that system unnecessary.
OK, I understand that most of you probably discovered this whole thing years ago, but I love my Netflix now. I have only been able to get through 3 films in two weeks, but so far, the account is working just as I had hoped: a pressure-free, pleasurable stroll through my cinematic wish list. So, I thought I would document that trip this year on my blog.
A journey of 365 days begins with a single rental…
1. The River Directed by Jean Renoir
He is one of my favorite directors, and his famous humanism shines in abundance in this gorgeously restored Technicolor disc, my first Netflix movie! The most startling thing is the quotidian detail that Renoir is able to capture in color. Martin Scorsese, in the bonus materials, says it spot-on: At the time, most films shot in India were full of tiger hunts and elephants and pith helmets– Kipling-esque stories of adventures among “the other.” Renoir rejects all of the obvious stereotypes and shows the beauty of Indian culture as experienced through the eyes of a young English girl. The color on the disc absolutely pops, and it makes me wish that somehow, someway, someone will make another Technicolor movie. There is so much to be done with color and composition in movies, so much to say. The buzz over Sin City highlights people’s interest in visual mastery. But I’ll take Renoir’s love of people’s everyday lives anyday.
2. Fucking Ämäl Directed by Lukas Moodyson
A prep for my double feature of at the Walter Reade of Moodyson’s AMAZING Lilja 4-Ever and a second screening of the very difficult A Hole In My Heart, I took in Fucking Ämäl on the ol’ DVD player. I had never seen it, and it is much closer to Tilsamans (Together) in its optimistic tone and hopeful approach to the lives of young girls trying to learn about love. The contrast between the first two films and the second two are startling, but Moodyson, having watched three of his films in two days, seems to me to have inherited Renoir’s deep love of people and their wondrous interactions. The main difference between them is that Moodyson, after an optimistic start, seems to have lost faith in society. It was nice to see the hope in the eyes of the girls at the end of Fucking Ämäl, to believe in the possibility of love. More on Lilja 4-EVER (probably in the form of a letter begging Newmarket to get this film on DVD as soon as is humanly possible) very soon.
3. Tout Va Bien Directed by Jean-Luc Godard
Speaking of the use of color, Godard’s exercise in labor union consciousness-raising, Tout Va Bien is an utterly gorgeous and ultimately tedious exploration of radical labor politics in the 1970’s. I don’t have much to say about it, other than I think Godard’s application of his considerable artistry is wasted on this film’s straw man story (see Laurent Cantet’s Human Resources for a much finer example of how to make a film about this topic.) I simply think his downhill slide into the murky (and not so dramatic) waters of Marxist politics took away one of the most important features of his filmmaking; his love of character and genre. His films continue to get more and more cinematic, but his love of characters becomes a political chess game; everyone is a symbol. Watching this disc, I missed the passion of his earlier characters, especially those in his recent Masculine Feminine. Nothing more boring than a revolutionary in a bathrobe (watch the DVD extras to see what I mean).