THE POST MORTEM
Instead of live-blogging the end of the marathon from the comfort of my bedroom like I had intended, I immediately fell asleep for six hours. Now that I'm of reasonably sober mind, I'll dive right into the post-mortem.
How did this stack up to the two previous marathons Will and I attended? On the whole, I'd say that this was perhaps the most consistent slate of programming yet; virtually every film was worthwhile and the sequencing was basically spot-on. There were no momentum killers like Cinema Paradiso at 6am in 2013 or the double-whammy of Orlando and A Brief History of Time at midnight in 2015. Speedy got a sleepy response, but I can't imagine a better film to be drifting in and out of than a highly episodic silent comedy. It's also gratifying to see the an uptick in the number of non-english-language films and a greater diversity of decades represented; we got not one but two films from the 1920s!
In fact, my main programming complaint is more about what wasn't there: namely, something truly weird or campy. In 2013 we got the wacky Italian giallo film Demons, still my favorite viewing experience at any of these marathons, and in 2015 we got Army of Darkness and Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, both of which qualify as pretty demented. This year, the closest we got was Attack the Block, which is... fine. It's a completely lucid and pretty alright science fiction adventure flick, but it doesn't really come close to scratching that late-night b-movie itch. As a result, I felt like something was clearly missing when things wrapped up, and I can't help but think that some sort of surreal or otherwise mind-addled film could've taken its place and elevated the evening.
The way this year's theme (urban living) was dealt with was somewhat different from how 'Movies about Movies' and 'Time' were; it felt more loose. There was an overriding focus on race, gender, and class-based divisions in urban society; Killer of Sheep, Do the Right Thing, and Tangerine felt like the linchpins of the evening in this regard. The downside of this specific theme was that there was little room for surprise or clever interpretations; cities are cities. To take one example: time, as a more abstract concept, offered a whole lot of room for lateral thinking in terms of how the theme was interpreted. Rope, Before Sunset, Primer, and Army of Darkness all intersected with the theme on totally different narrative, metanarrative, and subtextual levels, and that's just not possible with cities.
So, to sum up:
Highlights: Pelham One Two Three, Tokyo Godfathers, Chungking Express, Man With a Movie Camera.
Weak Points: Attack the Block, and maaaaaaybe Tangerine; it's a tall order to take in ninety minutes of sensory assault at 5am, but it's as close to an impossible-to-program slot as there is.
Best Presentation: The Criterion restoration of Speedy. I've seen a lot of great restorations of 20s cinema, but the transfer on this thing is so impossibly pristine that I had to keep reminding myself that this wasn't some modern recreation of a 20s silent comedy.
Weakest Presentation: The White Balloon. It was what appeared to be an ugly DVD screener with a Sundance watermark in the bottom right corner. It's almost certainly a difficult film to track down, so I can't complain too much; there is a much better PAL DVD release out there, however.
Best Discovery: Pelham, of course!
Best Overall Film: Either Rear Window or Man With a Movie Camera.
You know, I didn't realize just how darn consistent this screening's visuals were until writing this down just now. Any programme where the cinematography of Do The Right Thing isn't even in the top half of my list is pretty stupendous.
1. Chungking Express | 2. Rear Window | 3. Man With a Movie Camera | 4. Cleo From 5 to 7 | 5. Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 | 6. Speedy | 7. Do The Right Thing | 8. Killer of Sheep | 9. The More The Merrier | 10. The White Balloon | 11. Attack the Block | 12. Tangerine
Well, that about does it. Thanks, Cinematheque team!
10:09 am - Will
It's over! The final film was Rear Window , a great pick (it's the only film of the bunch that focuses on the unique elements of domestic urban living), but surprised me; I ruled it out earlier on the basis that the 2015 marathon also included a Hitchcock (Rope ). I've probably seen Rear Window upwards of 20 times; it used to be my favourite film and hasn't fallen an inch in my personal estimation. It was a pleasure to sit through. And I'm not sure why, but all three marathons have ended with a 50s Hollywood film (others were High Noon and Singin' in the Rain ). Don't know why, but it feels like that kind of film works very well as a capper for these things.
Anyway, it's time for a feeble attempt to restore my sleep schedule with a nap. Devan will be chiming in with his parting thoughts below, and I'll have a separate post summing up and analyzing the whole experience either later today or tomorrow, but let me just thank those who have tuned in to any of this liveblog. If you liked it, please consider bookmarking this blog, which will have more content forthcoming, or if you have thoughts (critical ones even!), please feel free to give me your feedback on Twitter, where you can find me by the handle SadHillWill. Good morning and good night!
7:43 am - Will
They played Speedy , which is funny but hardly drew any laughs at all. Looking around, a lot of people were asleep, and the second to last film tends to suffer the most in these marathons, so it's not hard to see why. Poor Harold.
Devan: I definitely fell victim to this - my energy fell off a cliff half an hour in. Also the film is kinda episodic and has the tendency to boil down to a series of semi-connected and slightly repetitive gags sometimes lolz
5:48 am - Will
they are serving breakfast bless you movie persons
4:14 - Will
Well, current film is Tangerine, which I've seen before, and I have to admit I'm not really nuts about it. Its low-fi energy and the socio-cultural realm it gives representation to are both laudable and important, but I find its improv pretty painfully self-conscious, and a lot of its aesthetics are more concerned with posturing as low-culture than with really complementing (let alone enhancing) the material. Will be interesting to hear what others think. So, gonna use this as nap time and give my all to whatever's left.
4:00 am - Devan
first short just played, what the heck did I just watch? Then two minutes of black. Will just informed me that the short was called "let forever be", a music video for the Chemical Bros. Neat! Up next: Daft Punk! This is fun. I was expecting, like, Chaplin shorts or something.
3:50am - Devan
Taking of Pelham 123 was fantastic! Was not on my radar much before this beyond "that well-thought of 70s thriller that I occasionally mix up with Assault on Precinct 13", but it's pretty close to a top-tier NYC school 70s crime thriller (which is saying a lot!) It's got just about every NYC character actor of the era in it, to boot. Great, great stuff.
Will: Ah, but Devan, you underestimate just how many NYC character actors there were in the 70s! Agreed. Fantastic piece of suspense and a really funny satire of public institutions. Everyone is contemptible, everyone has contempt for US institutions.
2:08 - Will
New underwear and socks, I am reborn babyyyyy!
Attack The Block is the midnight movie this year. First viewing for me, and it's fine - nothing to set the world on fire, but a good space invaders yarn. As a midnight movie, too staight-laced for my tastes, though. It's a fairly lucid and straightforward film, and I'm hankering for some delirious fever dreams.
Speaking of which, I finally changed my socks, and I feel like a new man! A new man!!!!
A fine film; hopefully not the peak of genre wacky fun as Demons and Army of Darkness were before it, but those actually played at around 2/3 am, so the next film could be the real banger. We'll see!
But Attack the Block is more or less as I remembered it: successful all around, though its successes are fairly modest (aside from the meta-accomplishment of making an alien film with such a low budget).
10:57 - Devan
Christopher Doyle's work in Chungking Express is just beyond words. Perfect handheld camera operation, perfect use of foreground objects, perfect softening filters, perfect source lighting... it's one of those aesthetic-defining films that just completely redefines how what it's portraying is portrayed. Flaws and artifacting are everywhere but only serve to deepen the sense that we're watching a world where everything is chaotic, alive, a little dangerous.
I've lost count of the number of times I've seen Do the Right Thing, so I'm also taking a breather. I can confirm that it is indeed one of the gr8est films of the 80s, though.
Also, Will decided to turn the marathon into an impromptu Bach party for me (I'm getting married in a week), so that's fun! Here's my bizarre panorama selfie of all of us at Breka.
10:39 - Will
Do the Right Thing is playing, and it's the second movie in a row that I've seen multiple times, and most recently in the last two months, so I'm taking a quick breather in the lobby and then might try to catch some sleep to stock up energy for the post-midnight daze. It's also a flawed presentation, which isn't really the Cinematheque's fault — the blu-ray lacks the intended orange tint that's supposed to be applied across the film, emphasizing the extreme heat of the New York day, but it's a tough call to choose between the detail offered by the blu and the colour offered by the Criterion DVD. (In case you can't tell, I love the film, and my skipping it is in no way a knock on it. You should see it if you haven't.) The Chungking Express screening, on the other hand, used the Criterion blu-ray, and it reminded me how incredible that disc was. Just a tremendous audio-visual presentation; it's a real shame it's out of print.
10:10 - Will
Fuck that movie's good. This might have been my best viewing yet (my... 4th? I think) of Chungking. One thing that amazes me about it is how it colloquializes mundane moments and emotionally weaponizes them. It's not that chef's salad is a complex metaphor that makes it worth using in both stories, and so affecting when it recurs. It's that when we first see it mentioned, someone is binging on it to cope with their feelings, and that sense of emotional intimacy and almost unwitting disclosure remains. Aesthetic pyrotechnics aside, that stuff is all over the movie, and I love it.
8:23 pm - Will
I like the idea of lengthier intros to certain parts of the marathon (they're doing one for Chungking Express !) but I'm not sure making them so academic is the right move, and they don't really tie the elements of the marathon together (first one: all urban living theme, no movie talk. this one: all movie talk, no urban living theme). Still, a nice way to settle into seats and break up the monotony and I could see it working well with future marathons, I'm just not totally sure of how much it's really adding to the viewing experience itself.
Devan: Yeah, it feels like a bit of an intrusion on the flow of the evening, like we're taking a break from our endurance test to attend film school.
Will: Thank god they're not having class discussion, tho.
7:51 pm Will
Dinner break! Cleo from 5 to 7 was a great pick that I never would have expected. Seeing how modernist/post-modernist life affects the way we process emotions in urban spaces through a real-time lens made for a great supplement to the theme, especially given that this is the first explicitly upper-class depiction of urban life of the marathon so far.
Tokyo Godfathers! It was great! Pulls some pretty great tonal tricks, and ends with a "catch the baby!" chase scene that's basically straight out of Raising Arizona.
My headache was gone by the start of that! It was great. Vastly preferred this to Paprika , the only other Kon I've seen. His relatively meagre sense of composition is vastly compensated for by his grip on other elements of mise en scene. Also its plot may be a little too brambly at times — nitpicks. Devan got at the good stuff before I did.
4:12 - Will
Killer of Sheep, first film where fatigue most definitely sapped my full engagement. Have had a headache lingering since the first film that took full bloom here (Devan rescued me with ibuprofens). The photography and sense of tonal despair were really impressive nonetheless.
This is my second viewing and I've yet to feel like I've 100% engaged with Killer of Sheep, though I've been greatly impressed with said tonal despair both times. Some great visuals, particularly during the Sheep massacre scenes. Had a bit more energy for this than I did the panahi.
2:35 - Will
The White Balloom , which was presented in a pretty shoddy condition to say the least: there was a Sundance logo in the lower right corner of the screen during long stretches. A very kindhearted film by Jafar Panahi, though certainly not my favourite of his — doesn't have the social or moral depth of the other films of his I've seen. Or maybe fatigue is setting in and I'm getting cranky.
Getting sleepy. Should not have had the free soda at noon.
1:07 - Will
The More the Merrier, which i had never heard of. The cast is really good, then Joel McCrea shows up and the chemistry hits the roof. Occasional unfortunate wartime undertones of xenophobia, and some uneven direction at the start, but a really terrific farce.
Devan - I'd never heard of it either. That was so damn silly. Stevens seems like a messier wartime comedy director than Sturges or Lubitsch; his comic timing is strangely laconic and he gives the performances a lot of room to meander in fun ways.
11:18 - Will
Man with a Movie Camera ! Pretty natural choice for a first film — rock solid canon pick, super energetic, and depicts urban life using a distinct ideological approach to cinema. Never been a fan of the Nyman score, but still great!
Devan - Here are our predictions. My super long shot hope is Claude Lelouch's crazy short C'Etait Un Rendezvous.
All movie marathons ought to start with an urban planning lecture.
10:05 am - Will
We are starting with a talk by a local architect (I forget his name) about how boring urban spaces+living in Vancouver are bad. There are PowerPoint slides on the big screen, but it feels like a bit much for the start of a movie marathon — I'll try to keep an open mind.
9:57 am - Will
They're playing "Cities" by Talking Heads in the lobby playlist — feeling pretty good about my theme guess!
Ah, they just announced the theme: urban life. Here we go!
9:41:32am - Devan
9:15 am - Will
The Cinematheque is cagier than usual with this year's theme and film selection — usually they announce one of the movies a day or two in advance and give a few pretty big clue about the marathon's connective throughlines, but this year the schedule we're given when we walk in has no trace of a film title, and the most substantial clue to the theme is an illustration of a city skyline in the advertising. If the theme is "cities", I think that could be incredible — it's a theme with so many avenues to tackle that it could be a rich experience. But even that's not far from a wild guess.
8:32 am – Will
Well, it's live, anyway. Hello, and welcome to the Sad Hill liveblog for the 24-hour Movie Marathon at the Cinematheque in Vancouver! The festivities will be getting started in a little over an hour, but for now it's the critical morning-of prep period I've got most of my gear all prepped and ready: full change of clothes, ample snacks, moist towelettes, blankets, deodorant, toothbrush/paste, and a notepad to draft thoughts for this liveblog for the movie. A quick trip to the neighbourhood supermarket for some gum and fruit, and I'll be ready. I try to overstock on the food factor a little — inevitably, someone sitting nearby will neglect to bring enough or will get a sudden craving when fatigue hits, and I'll lose a banana or a granola bar or two to the greater good.