Daily Archives: October 29, 2021

Sight and Sound Ten Best List 2021

Jonathan Rosenbaum, film critic

1. First Cow (Kelly Reichardt)

2. Her Socialist Smile (John Gianvito)

3. Tiong Bahru Social Club (Tan Bee Thiam)

4. Martin und Hans (Mark Rappaport)

5. John Farrow Hollywood’s Man in the Shadows

    (Claude Gonzalez & Frans Vanderburg)

6. While We Were Here (Sunčica Fradelić) 

7. Letters from the Ends of the World (a dozen of the first

    graduates of Béla Tarr’s FilmFactory)

8. Uncut Gems (Josh & Benny Saftie)

9. Cry Macho (Clint Eastwood)

An incomplete list of nine titles for an incomplete, pandemic year that cries out for updates and afterthoughts. That may help to explain why many items here are at least partially films/videos about films/videos (and at least one item, Letters…, is about the pandemic). Having to compile a so-called ‘2021’ list in October compels me to add Uncut Gems, seen too late in 2020 to make it onto last year’s list. Read more

A Film of the Future

I truly regret not being able to illustrate this early piece for the Reader, published in September 1987, with the sort of illustrations its awesome landscapes deserve. In fact, the only other film by Tian Zhuangzhuang (see photo above) that I’m aware of that’s comparably impressive from this standpoint is his extraordinary Delamu (or, in Chinese, Cha ma gu dao xi lie), a 2004 documentary that’s even more neglected, at least in this country (see the photo below, immediately after the absurdly small landscape photo from The Horse Thief).[2020 postscript: Happily, illustrations are now more readily available; see below and http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film2/DVDReviews30/the_horse_thief_blu-ray.htm]

horse-thief-tian

The Horse Thief 4

It’s worth adding that one can now obtain The Horse Thief inexpensively, letterboxed and with English subtitles, at www.yesasia.com/us/1005182257-0-0-0-en/info.html. And see the previous link for a Blu-Ray.–-J.R.

 

THE HORSE THIEF

**** (Masterpiece)

Directed by Tian Zhuangzhuang

Written by Zhang Rui

With Cexiang Rigzin and Dan Jiji.

By Jonathan Rosenbaum

If the two aesthetically richest decades in the history of cinema have been the 1920s and the 1960s, it is in no small part due to the fact that it was during these two golden ages that film came closest to becoming a universal language. Read more

Teenage Wasteland [BATMAN RETURNS]

From the Chicago Reader (June 26, 1992). — J.R.

BATMAN RETURNS

* (Has redeeming facet)

Directed by Tim Burton

Written by Daniel Waters and Sam Hamm

With Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, Michael Gough, Pat Hingle, Michael Murphy, Cristi Conaway, and Andrew Bryniarski.

Even the title of Batman Returns is something of a lie, referring not to the fictional world of the story — where Batman can’t be said to return because he’s never been away — but to the dent this sequel is supposed to make in our lives. But how much of a dent can it make when it has virtually no characters, no plot, no fictional world, no mise en scene, no ideas, no developed feelings, no inspiration, no adventure, no sense of inner necessity beyond its status as an investment and marketing tool? It’s arrested development on every possible level.

Like everyone else who squeezed into Webster Place’s after-midnight shows on opening night, I was primed for some sort of revelation, however minor. It didn’t have to be elation; a good dose of mean-spirited negativity might have sufficed. I was ready for anything that could qualify as a mood changer — or barring that, a simple harking back to the original Batman, which had plenty of flaws but at least could boast the demonic vigor of Jack Nicholson’s Joker and his nihilistic media crimes, and a certain obsessional uniformity of mood and decor. Read more