Sunday, March 26, 2017

April's TV Tsunami

Have you heard? Have you heard? April this year is going to see the premieres of countless high profile prestige television shows. In addition to the return of "Better Call Saul," "Veep," The Leftovers," "Silicon Valley," "Fargo," and "Doctor Who," we'll also get our first look at "American Gods," "The Handmaid's Tale," "The Son," and the "Prison Break" update Meanwhile, new seasons of "The Americans" and "The Expanse" are in full swing. And two of the usual major event series are missing this year - "Game of Thrones" and "Orphan Black," which have been pushed back to summer.

As many news outlets have pointed out, the end of May is a cutoff date for Emmy eligibility, so television has developed its own prestige season, similar to the one that the movies have in November and December. Good television premieres all year round now, especially on the streaming services, but there's a noticeable uptick in the good stuff during the spring and summer months, and I'm definitely anticipating at least half a dozen of this year's April premieres. It's fascinating how the traditional schedule of television shows premiering in the fall and ending in the spring has become so inverted now, with the shorter seasons and so many new alternatives to network television.

And the best part of this is, since I don't write this blog for a living and have no obligation to be particularly current with the content, I don't have to watch all of these new episodes at the same time. I don't have access to the shows on premium cable at the moment anyway, because of my current subscriptions (Next round of HBO Now will be after the next season of "Game of Thrones" is finished). Sure, dodging the spoilers is going to be some work, but I have a ton of other shows from last year that I'm still working on, and my current priority is with cutting that massive list of '70s movies for my Top Ten project down to size. Technically I still have a few shows that I consider appointment television, because I'm watching them with other people, but in most cases things can wait. Years, in some cases.

Right now I'm seriously weighing whether I want to continue with the second seasons of "Mr. Robot," "Humans," and "The Expanse." And if I want to start "The Crown," "The Affair," or "Horace and Pete." Limited series like "The People vs. OJ Simpson," "Big Little Lies," and "The Night Of" are more tempting because they aren't open-ended and won't require as much commitment. Then again, I've been meaning to start "The West Wing" and "Parks & Rec" for ages. Or should I go back and pick up "Downton Abbey" or "House of Cards" or another series that I dropped? Surely I should at least finish out a full season of each, right? There are also a couple of cases where I'm waiting for current seasons to finish to see if they live up to highly touted premieres - the new Noah Hawley show "Legion," for instance. Even if all these new episodes weren't premiering in April, I have no shortage of things to watch.

And the bar just keeps getting higher and higher for new shows. If a series doesn't get good buzz and good reviews, I tend to overlook it. Unless they get an unusual amount of attention, I ignore most soaps, procedurals, and comedies nowadays. If a series doesn't hook me within a few episodes, I tend to put it aside for later, until I forget about it and move on to something else. I can't count the number of Netflix or Hulu or pay cable shows I've decided to put off because I didn't have an active subscription for the particular month it premiered, and then never got around to them. I meant to watch "Marco Polo," really I did.

Part of me wonders how long the deluge of content can last. Every time I think we've hit peak TV, suddenly there's some new must-see series, another web service or independent content creator joining the fray, and another beloved movie actor or director has made the leap to the small screen. There's no way to keep up anymore, and I've pretty much just accepted it.


Friday, March 24, 2017

My Top Ten "Dollhouse" Episodes

Joss Whedon's 2009 science-fiction series doesn't get enough credit. The first season made some major missteps, but the ship righted itself eventually, and went on to tell the stories of so many characters that I absolutely adore. As always, episodes are unranked, and listed below by airdate. Major spoilers ahead, because it's impossible to talk about some of the later episodes without them. And here we go.

"Ghost" - This was a notorious reworked pilot, meant to allow for an easier audience entry into the world of "Dollhouse" after the network rejected the original, darker premiere While there's probably too much emphasis on Echo's imprint of the week, a hostage negotiator, this episode does start making some important introductions to the primary characters and get the ball rolling on various storylines. I immediately latched on to Boyd, and was always a little disappointed that he never got more to do.

"Man on the Street" - Many fans maintain that "Dollhouse" didn't really get going until its sixth episode, when the major storylines finaly started to move forward and we got some important character development. Most importantly, we finally learn the truth about Mellie, Sierra and Victor's relationship runs into trouble, and Paul gets thrown for a loop. This is also the episode that guest-starred Patton Oswalt as a man who uses an Active to spend time with his deceased wife, which is awfully poignant in retrospect.

"Omega" - The first season closes with some revelations about Dr. Saunders and Echo's past, and a big change in status for Paul. I really love Alan Tudyk's performance as the fractured Alpha, who fulfills his rolle as Frankenstein's monster analog and the first season's Big Bad wonderfully. The other standout here is Amy Acker as Dr. Saunders and Whiskey, who finally got to show what she was capable of after sitting on the sidelines for far too long. Really, this show had too many actors with too little screen time.

"Epitaph One" - The episode that never aired on American television, and wouldn't have existed at all except for contractual obligations. And yet, this dystopian vision of the "Dollhouse" universe ten years into the future it is my favorite by far, the episode that finally got me totally invested in the series and many of the characters. Most of the regular cast members are barely in this, but get some of their best moments, especially Adelle, Whiskey, and Topher - finally a male version of the Whedon mad prophet character.

"Belle Chose" - Okay, i admit this episode is on the list almost totally because of Enver Gjokaj's performance as Kiki. The serial killer story is suitably creepy, especially the business with the poor mannequin women, and I like Ballard's continued adjustment to life in the Dollhouse. Gjokaj is great as an evil bastard, but it's his unfettered silliness playing Kiki in the middle of a pretty intense thriller story that gets me every time. The show didn't have as much humor as I'd have liked, but it certainly had its moments.

"Belonging" - A fantastic hour that looks into the events that lead to Sierra becoming an Active, with Topher forced to confront his worst suspicions about his role in the operation. This is also one of the better Boyd episodes, as he helps Topher to take responsibility and contain the fallout. The performances are great, the direction's great, and overall the episode does a fantastic job of pushing the whole series toward darker, more psychologically fraught territory. You can see the moment Topher starts to crack.

"The Left Hand" - There is so much good stuff to enjoy here. There's Summer Glau's Bennett sparking an adorable geek romance with Topher, there's the conclusion of the Senator Perrin storyline, and then there's the birth of Victopher, the show's best comic relief. It was clear from this run of episodes that there were seasons worth of stories being stuffed into smaller stretches, as Whedon and company tried to cover as much material as possible before the show was cancelled. Sometimes it didn't work, but here it did.

"Meet Jane Doe" - Olivia Williams' Adelle became one of my favorite characters in the second season, and especially her motherly relationship with Topher. This is one of her best episodes, trying to claw her way back on top after being demoted, and willing to take enormous risks to do it. Meanwhile, Echo and Paul become much more interesting characters after the timeskip, training up to cause more trouble. And this is great, because the two of them were frequently my least favorite part of the show.

"Getting Closer" - As the endgame comes into focus, we have our last big set of reveals and surprises. There's a lot going on here, including reunions, goodbyes, and flashbacks galore. I love all the little character moments that are packed in here, from Victor and Sierra getting their chance to be together, to Topher and Ivy's emotional split. Even Dominic gets his due. Also, while the next episode severely let me down in regards to a particular character, I loved the episode's final twist the first time I saw it.

"Epitaph Two: Return" - It's not a perfect goodbye, but to date it's still my favorite ending to a Joss Whedon show. There's such a wonderful finality to the fates of Echo, Paul, Topher, and all the rest. While I wish that "Dollhouse" had gone on longer than two seasons, this was the right place for it to end.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Star Wars Fan Speculation Post, 2017

It's been a while since I've indulged myself by geeking out over "Star Wars," currently one of the few major film franchises that I retain many geeky feelings for. So I'm going to get some things out of my system with this post, throwing out theories, ideas, hopes, and wild speculation about what might happen in "Episode VIII" and "Episode IX." Spoilers ahead for everything in the series so far.

While it would be nice if Rey didn't turn out to be related to anyone special, or who we've already met, setting up her origins as a mystery the way the filmmakers have suggests otherwise. So if I had to pick, I'd pick Emperor Palpatine as her father or grandfather, who had to secret away the existence of an heir. It would make for a nice parallel to Kylo Ren, who was supposed to be the successor of the champions of the Light Side of the Force but turned dark, and echo Luke Skywalker's reckoning with being the son of Vader. Ian McDiarmid's portrayal of Palpatine was also my favorite part of the prequels, so getting him back into the mix in some capacity would be great. Speaking of Kylo Ren, I'm looking forward to his continuing training, set in counterpoint to Rey's being a big part of the next film.

Now, one big element of the original "Star Wars" films that I haven't seen brought back so far is the romance. I don't want Rey to end up in a love triangle with Finn and Poe Dameron, but I would like to see some sort of love story in these movies. It would make the most sense to center one around Finn, who is striking out on his own and learning to be an individual with his own wants and needs. While Rey is off training with Luke, he should be off having his own adventures, maybe with Poe, maybe with whoever Kelly Marie Tran is playing. Of course, this assumes that "Episode VIII" is going to have the same structure as "Empire Strikes Back," when it easily might not. We don't really need to see all the Jedi training again, so wouldn't be surprised if the story skips a good chuck of it, and reunites Rey with her friends quicker.

If Rey is going to be a romantic lead, I could see her being tempted by Kylo Ren, who will probably be ordered as part of his training to either defeat or seduce her, and that might lead to him being brought back to the Light Side by her good influence. Of course, there are some tricky implications to doing that kind of story, but handled right it could be a really fun watch. I'm sure that Kylo Ren and Luke's explanations of what happened in the past won't be the same. There's probably a big lie or a big trauma in there somewhere. And of course Kylo Ren is going to kill, or at least severely incapacitate Luke Skywalker. It's part of the formula to remove all of your hero's support systems before the finale. I wouldn't be surprised if that's the end of "Episode VIII."

Still, as interested as I am in what happened to the Solo and Skywalker families before "The Force Awakens," I hope it's only a very small part of the films going forward. As much as I enjoy Mark Hamill, the last thing I want is for the regrets of Old Man Skywalker to end up overshadowing Rey or Kylo Ren's stories. "Star Wars" is not "The Karate Kid," and Luke Skywalker should have exactly as much narrative emphasis as Yoda or Obi-Wan Kenobi did, no more. And here's hoping that they don't bring back Lando or Wedge or Lobot or whoever else might be in line for a cameo. I'm hoping that the filmmakers got the majority of the nostalgia out of their systems with "The Force Awakens" and "Rogue One" so that the series can start really moving forward.

And finally, a few miscellaneous things. Yes to more droids, more Chewbacca, and more alien creatures. Yes, to more different planets. Yes to new villains. However, I hope that they do something more interesting with Snoke and Phasma. And I hope that we get some new ships to love as much as we all love the Falcon. I was always a sucker for the ships.

Monday, March 20, 2017

"American Honey" is Golden

We first meet eighteen year-old Star (Sasha Lane) in rural Oklahoma, dumpster diving at a run-down K-mart, with a pair of small children in tow. Later, we learn that the children are not related to her, though she looks after them, and her home life is a miserable, untenable situation. It's time for Star to leave. So she falls in with a band of itinerant youngsters who travel by van throughout the American Midwest, hawking overpriced magazine subscriptions for their team leader Krystal (Riley Keough). Star is initially recruited by Jake (Shia LaBeouf), who flirts with her and trains her in the art of conning and grifting her way to success.

"American Honey" is the first film from Andrea Arnold set outside the UK, and it retains all the raw style and lyrical realism of her prior films. You won't find many beauty shots of the landscape, but there are plenty of intimate moments in overcrowded vans, evocative glimpses of life on the road, and a transcendant sing-along or two. The cast is a strong mix of professional actors and non-professionals. Arnold reportedly cast newcomer Sasha Lane after running across her on a vacation, and other members of the magazine crew were found in parking lots and construction sites. Together, they form an eclectic, lively band of outcasts and misfits, always causing some kind of commotion, always living on the brink. They spontaneously start dancing in the K-mart where Star first sees them, and the ending revolves around a celebratory bonfire that the kids take turns dancing and leaping over. It's easy to see what draws Star into their circle.

And through Star's journey with the crew, Arnold explores the American landscape like so many of the great foreign filmmkers before her. Despite our heroine revealing very little about her background, we learn plenty about Star as she grapples with new circumstances and new choices. She resists lying to people or tricking them into sales. She's very good at getting herself out of bad situations, and proves scrappy enough to survive on her own. However, she isn't quite worldly enough to understand that having a connection with Jake doesn't mean she's not also one of his marks. Sasha Lane wordlessly conveys so much, giving Star a lot of charisma and raw intelligence. She's also, notably, one of the only cast members of color in a sea of white faces. This is also my favorite performance from Shia LaBeouf, whose recent bounts of oddity mesh perfectly with the tone of "American Honey," where to be odd and out of place may be synonymous with being free.

Really, though, it's America that is the star of the film, specifically all the depressed, abjectly poor, yet hopeful parts of it that rarely find their way to the big screen. Though nature occasionally makes itself known, the film spends the bulk of its time in motels, parking lots, and run-down apartments. I'm tempted to liken Arnold's work here to Harmony Korine's earlier grotesqueries, but Arnold's work is more celebratory, more sympathetic and humane. She lets Star call out the hypocrisy of a wealthy suburbanite, enjoy the comaraderie of her fellow fringe-dwellers, and have her moments of triumph and joy. Star has real agency over her life, which is vital. And while some have complained of the film's two-and-a-half hour length, I enjoyed all of Star's various misadventures, and the chance to really become immersed in her world. If the film is overlong, at least it's ambitious and entertaining all the way through.

There's a strong temptation to want to read political messages into the film, which is essentially about a group of forgotten, con-artist kids with no safety net and no prospects trying to find their way in crumbling middle America. However, the film is more interested in conveying an experience than a message, and tends to treat the social ills it encounters very matter-of-factly. It's hardest on the individual characters and the choices that they make. For instance, "American Honey" is bookened by two encounters that Star has with broken families, which highlight her best and worst impulses. And it leaves her with a long ways left to go on her journey.

But I leave you to discover that for yourselves.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

2017 Films I'm Anticipating, Part II

This is a continuation of my list of the 2017 films I'm anticipating most. This post is for the smaller films, many of which don't have distribution yet, release dates, or even titles. There's a good chance that a few won't be released in 2017 at all. However, I remain an optimist, and I'm spotlighting all of them regardless. Films are listed alphabetically below.

"Annihilation" - This is Alex Garland's follow-up to "Ex Machina," which imagines an all-female team of scientists making an expedition into a mysterious environmental disaster zone. I'm trying to avoid as much information as I can about the particulars of the plot, but the similarities to Tarkovsky's "Stalker" stand out to me. Natalie Portman will be playing the lead, and Garland is both writing and directing. The first images from the film have been floating around online since last years, and they look fantastic.

"Dark River" - It's been difficult to find much information about the next movie from Clio Barnard, a UK drama starring Ruth Wilson and Mark Stanley. However, it's been three years since "The Selfish Giant," and I'm itching to see more work from this director. Even without Barnard at the helm, though, I'd watch Ruth Wilson in just about anything. From the synopsis, "Dark River" is firmly in the category of films about small town mysteries, family estrangements, and uncovering murky secrets from the past.

"Free Fire" - Now this is my idea of an action comedy. Ben Wheatley has gathered a tremendous cast, including Brie Larson, Armie Hammer, and Cillian Murphy, to play a bunch of despicable characters, who spend the entire movie running around a warehouse trying to kill each other. Now, I've never seen Ben Wheatley do a full blown comedy before, but the trailer this gives me great confidence that he can pull it off. Unlike most of the other entries on the list, we'll be seeing this one in theaters very soon.

"Mute" - It's always nice when a talented director gets to tackle one of their dream projects. Duncan Jones, coming off of "Warcraft," is making his long-gestating science-fiction mystery film "Mute" for Netflix. Jones has described it as a spiritual sequel to his 2009 film, "Moon," which is very exciting. I'm always looking out for more of these small scale, twisty science fiction films. Netflix will also be distributing genre films "Bright," "Death Note," and "Okja" next year. I'm interested in all of them to varying degrees.

"The Death of Stalin" - After leaving "Veep," Armando Iannucci has returned to the movies. Based on the acclaimed French graphic novel by Fabien Nury, Iannucci's next political satire will look at the death of Joseph Stalin, and the Soviet bureaucrats who jockeyed for power in the aftermath. The cast in great, and includes Jeffrey Tambor, Steve Buscemi, Timothy Dalton, and Olga Kurylenko. This will also be the first film that Iannucci has directed himself since the excellent "In the Loop," way back in 2009.

"Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" - Martin McDonagh has had an interesting career, and I often forget that he's only made two films so far. His latest will star Frances McDormand as a mother who goes to war against her local police force after the death of her daughter. McDonagh's specialty is pitch black comedies, and I'm expecting that this will be one too. I'm interested to see how he'll handle a story set in the Midwest, however, as his work set in the U.S. has been uneven so far.

"Mother!" - For a long time, the details of Darren Aronofsky newest film have been sparse. We know that it stars Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Barden as a couple who have to deal with unwanted guests. We know that Domhnall Gleeson, Michelle Pfeiffer, Ed Harris, and Brian Gleeson ae also in the mix. There have been hints that it's actually a home-invasion thriller. It's not a lot to go on, but the bottom line is that it's a new Darren Aronofsky film, all the right people are involved, and I'm seeing it no matter what.

Untitled Alfonso Cuaron Film - I vacillated between this one and the Untitled Paul Thomas Anderson film with Daniel Day Lewis. Frankly, Cuaron wins out because I just like his work more. And after "Gravity" took up such a huge amount of his time, Cuaron films have been rarer birds. The existence of this project wasn't even confirmed until last November, when reports surfaced that members of the crew were robbed during filming in Mexico City. All we know is that it's a Mexican domestic drama, set in the 1970s.

Untitled Kathryn Bigelow Film - After being courted by every big action franchise in town, and flirting with a Bowe Bergdahl biopic, Kathryn Bigelow finally has her follow-up to "Zero Dark Thirty" in the works. Based on the 1967 Detroit riots, with an intriguing cast lead by John Boyega, this will be the third collaboration between Bigelow and writer Mark Boal. The pic is timely, ambitious, and sure to be another controversial awards contender. In short, it's everything I've come to expect from a Bigelow film in recent years.


Thursday, March 16, 2017

2017 Films I'm Anticipating, Part I

It's that time again! I write these posts every year a little bit later than everyone else, in order to get a better sense of what the year's film landscape is going to look like. There are never guarantees about what's going to make it to screens by the end of the year and what isn't. And as usual, most of my picks are concentrated toward the later part of the year, where the release schedule is very much a work in progress.

As always, I will split this feature up into two posts, one for the mainstream, would-be blockbusters released by big studios, that everybody hears about, and one for the art house fare that may break through to the mainstream eventually, but only the cinephiles anticipate this far in advance. Big releases go first. Films are ordered below by release date. There are also a couple of titles that were delayed from 2016, like James Ponsoldt's "The Circle," which I'll leave off the new lists.

"Ghost in the Shell" - I have a heap of concerns about what director Rupert Sanders is planning here, but it's very exciting to see a franchise that I've been a fan of for years get a big budget adaptation. From what we've seen in the promotional materials so far, several iconic scenes from the anime will be recreated in live action. And considering how many times I've watched that leaked clip of the film's opening, set to a new version of Kenji Kawai's "Birth of a Cyborg," those recreations alone may be worth the price of admission.

"War for the Planet of the Apes" - The unlikely success of the revitalized "Apes" series has me excited to see Caesar and the apes in full blown warfare against the human race at last. Matt Reeves is returning, along with writer Matt Bomback, but we'll be getting a new human villain played by Woody Harrelson. I suspect that this won't be the last of this series of "Apes" films if it performs well, and there is so much that could still be done with the concept that I wouldn't mind them going on for as long as the creators want.

"Dunkirk" - Any new Christopher Nolan movie is cause for excitement, especially one starring Kenneth Branagh and Tom Hardy, among others. As much as I like Nolan's genre films, it's good to see him striking out in a different direction and trying something new. It's also good to see Warner Bros. throwing their full support behind the project. I can't think of another epic war film with such a prominent summer release since Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan" twenty years ago. I'm crossing my fingers that this pays off big.

"Blade Runner 2049" - Denis Villeneauve's "Arrival" was on this list last year, when it was still called "The Story of Your Life." At the time I wasn't entirely sold on the notion of returning to the "Blade Runner" universe, but now it's shaping up to be one of the promising science-fiction films of the year. Ryan Gosling is set to star, with Harrison Ford returning, and Ridley Scott thankfully only onboard in a producer role. Plot details remain scarce, but this is clearly the biggest project that Villeneauve has been involved in yet.

"Thor: Ragnarok" - The "Thor" movies have been among the weakest installments of the MCU films to date. However, "Ragnarok" looks like it may be the best of them by far, because it's hired New Zealand funnyman Taika Waititi to direct. Also, the film has been described as a comedic road movie, where Thor and the Hulk team up for an adventure together. The promise of more laughs and some great new additions to the cast (Cate Blanchette! Jeff Goldblum! Tessa Thompson!) make this my most anticipated superhero flick of the year.

"Murder on the Orient Express" - I confess that I never much liked the 1974 screen version of "Murder on the Orient Express," largely because I found Albert Finney's Hercule Poirot over the top and unintelligible. However, I've always like the Agatha Christie story, so I'm eager to see a new adaptation, especially one being helmed by Kenneth Branagh. An all star cast will play the suspects, and Branagh will be playing Inspector Poirot. And if this goes well, maybe we'll have a new Poirot-centric film franchise on our hands.

"Star Wars: Episode VIII" - Rian Johnson has come very, very close in the past to making a great film. I'm really hoping that he pulls it off this time. As with the "Star Wars" prequel trilogy, this is the film that's really going to establish whether the sequel trilogy lives up to the original films. I think all the pieces for a great piece of pop-culture are in place, but we'll see if the filmmakers manage to pull it off. I'm currently wrestling with some theories about where the story is going, which I'll write up a post about later this month.

"Downsizing" - Now, Alexander Payne movies would usually go on the smaller film list. However, his latest stars Matt Damon, and has already landed a December slot with distribution by Paramount Pictures. Though it's clearly being positioned to be an awards contender, "Downsizing" might also gain some wider attention because it's a genre picture. It imagines a world where the hero decides to uncomplicated his life by literally shrinking himself.


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Top Ten Films of 1999

This is part of my continuing series looking back on films from the years before I began this blog. The ten films below are unranked and listed in no particular order. Enjoy.

The Matrix - Nobody can be told what the Matrix is, but forgive me if I try. The Wachowskis' cyberpunk kung-fu movie still holds up beautifully to this day, thanks to its innovative special effects and stylish visual sensibility. Borrowing elements from cyberpunk stories, Japanese anime, and video games, this is genre filmmaking at its finest. There have been plenty of films that have tried to follow in its footsteps, but few managed to nail the right combination of ideas, aesthetics, and endlessly watchable screen violence.

American Beauty - Lester Burnham is Kevin Spacey's signature role, the suburban sad-sack who blows up his life and family by embracing what he truly wants. It's an iconic performance, one that anchors a fantastic ensemble of strong actors, young and old, navigating a lot of thorny material. Sam Mendes and Alan Ball keep their debut feature a darkly funny satire for the most part, but then there are those transcendent moments of emotional clarity, highlighting the genuine bonds between these deeply screwed up people.

Fight Club - This was the first time I really understood who David Fincher was, the fearless provocateur who introduced most of us to Chuck Palahniuk's work with this delightfully dirty, disturbing adaptation. Through an examination of the modern male id, cult dynamics, and the soulless consumer culture, the film captures a slice of the American zeitgeist like no other film of its era. Also, I don't think that it's a stretch to say that "Fight Club" is where Brad Pitt became the Brad Pitt we know today, via the irrepressible Tyler Durden.

The Sixth Sense - It's easy to forget that M. Night Shyamalan once made a truly great film at the start of his career. Built around fantastic performances from Haley Joel Osment, Bruce Wilis, and Toni Collette, "The Sixth Sense" is a genuinely spooky ghost story with lovely redemptive aims, and one of the best endings of the decade. The strong spiritual element elevates funhouse scares above the usual salaciousness of horror films, while the characters are so beautifully drawn, it's easy to become invested in their lives.

Three Kings - A student-teacher of mine once dismissed this film sight unseen as typical Hollywood Orientalist nonsense. While "Three Kings" certainly has its flaws, the filmmakers took every opportunity to criticize America's involvement in and attitudes toward the first Gulf War, often in some some pretty vicious terms. I really appreciated its alternative point of view, gonzo style, and bleak sense of humor. This is the kind of chaotic, but smart, thoughtful, and passionate film that I wish David O. Russell was still making.

Being John Malkovitch - Charlie Kaufman and Michel Gondry did their best work together, and while I don't think that "Being John Malkovitch" was their best collaboration, it is still a groundbreaking film. The sheer off-the-wall wildness of the concepts and the willingness of the filmmakers to dive headlong in to metanarratives on top of metanarratives, make for a challenging watching experience. I was a little put off at the unconventional nature of the film the first time I saw it, but now I love it a little more every time.

Eyes Wide Shut - The final film by Stanley Kubrick is a surreal journey into the dreams and fantasies that lurk beneath the surface lives of a lovely couple, played by Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. I've written before that i consider this to be one of the primary films that made me a cinephile, as I came out of my first screening entranced with the menacing atmosphere, coded imagery, sterile sensuality, and brutal score. Decades later, I still can't decipher everything, but its mysteries remain as alluring and disturbing as ever.

The Iron Giant - Brad Bird's feature debut had everything stacked against it, from Warner Bros's lousy marketing to an animation studio in financial crisis However, there is perhaps no animated film more deserving of the enthusiastic audience that eventually embraced it. This thoughtful space-age fairy tale about a boy and his giant robot isn't afraid to talk about big, deep, important things, or to embrace big emotions. I think it may be the last traditionally animated masterpiece to have come out of Hollywood.

Magnolia - The existential melancholy of this collection of lonely people struck such a nerve with me. The performances, the music, and Paul Thomas Anderson's storytelling all contribute to the unique mood of the film. Here is a universe full of coincidences and strange miracles, perhaps best exemplified by the moment where every character sings the same sing in unison. It's a notion that wouldn't have worked in a different film, with a different filmmaker. But with Paul Thomas Anderson, you can't imagine "Magnolia" without it.

Titus - I was obsessed with this one for a while, having become fascinated with the idea of a Shakespeare play full of gory murders, dismemberments, and cannibalism. In the hands of Julie Taymor, "Titus Andonicus" becomes a theatrical phantasmagoria of Grand Guignol delights, borrowing elements from every time period and a huge range of cultures. Harry Lennix very nearly steals the show as the villain, while Anthony Hopkins and Jessica Lange do some of their best work as rival rulers, each of them out for revenge.

Honorable Mentions

Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai
Topsy Turvy
The Straight Story
All About My Mother
Fantasia 2000
Galaxy Quest

Sunday, March 12, 2017

"Lion" and "Silence"

Two more reviews of prestige pics here, that are for for now the end of my awards season coverage. It's been quite a run.

"Lion" seemed like an unlikely story to be made into a film, when I first ran across the magazine articles about Saroo Brierly a few years ago. As a five year-old, Saroo got on the wrong train, which took him from his rural Indian village to Calcutta (now Kolkata), where it was impossible for him to find his way home again. It was only twenty-five years later, with the help of Google Maps, that he was able to find his way back. However, the journey between those two endpoints definitely yielded some good drama.

The trials and tribulations of young Saroo (Sunny Pawar) take up the entire first half of the film, and it's fantastic. Pawar is deeply compelling as a lost child in an unfamiliar place, who has to dodge multiple dangers and pitfalls in order to survive. Though Calcutta is pictured as sinister and forbidding at times, director Garth Davis also takes the time to show its more picturesque and inviting sides. Saroo's village is poor, but surrounded by natural beauty. Sadly, once the story moves to the adult Saroo (Dev Patel), who now lives in Australia, the film loses a lot of that atmosphere. Saroo's search for his origins follows a far more typical dramatic arc, including difficulties with his adoptive parents (Nicole Kidman, David Wenham), a girlfriend Lucy (Rooney Mara), and adoptive brother Mantosh (Divian Ladwa)

Now, all the more famous actors give perfectly good performances, and Davis does his damnedest to make Google searches and flashbacks to mundane events look as exciting as possible. But compared to the first half of "Lion," the second half just doesn't have the same degree of verve and dramatic heft. It also feels a bit padded, as if to purposefully give Mara and Kidman more screentime. The finale is very satisfying, though, and overall this is a perfectly good bit of feel-good melodrama that shines a spotlight on the talents of its Indian actors the way that's rare to see in western films. I was surprised to learn that "Lion" was Garth Davis's feature debut, since his work here is so surefooted. I can't embrace the film fully because of that second half, but this is definitely worth a watch.

Now Martin Scorsese's "Silence" is a far more fascinating picture, an examination of religious faith, set in 17th century Japan, where the heroes are a pair of Portuguese priests. Japan was still largely closed to outsiders, and Christianity was considered a forbidden practice, so any converts were brutally persecuted. The two priests, Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Garupe (Adam Driver) journey to Japan after they hear rumors that one of their mentors, Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson), has renounced his faith after the persecution of his converts in Nagasaki. Their goal is to find Ferreira and tend to the Christians still in hiding, while evading the local inquisitor, Inoue (Issey Ogata). They quickly find themselves tested by the Japanese authorities, who employ incredibly harsh tactics, including torture, to stamp out Christianity.

Scorsese famously worked on "Silence" off an on for over two decades as a passion project, and the result is an uncompromising, difficult, gorgeous film. Cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto is the real star of the picture, with his transporting images of the Japanese landscape, that look remarkably like they were plucked out of a classical jidaigeki film. Many of the performances are very strong, especially Liam Neeson as the mysterious Ferreira, and Tadanobu Asano as an interpreter for the priests. However, I was most impressed by the script that Scorsese and co-writer Jay Cocks famously labored over, which is so much harsher and more troubling than I expected. It would be very difficult to sell this as a religious film, since there is so much persistent, fundamental questioning of the characters' faiths. And that's exactly what makes it so unique and involving.

Still "Silence" is far from perfect. I think the film's biggest flaw comes down to how it treats the Japanese. There are several excellent Japanese characters, and generally "Silence" does a much better job of portraying them than we've seen in roughly analogous WWII films like "Unbroken" or Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence." However, this is only true up to a point, and "Silence" still relies on a few too many white savior tropes, even if the film doesn't turn out to actually be an example of that kind of story. Scorsese's treatment of religion and the priests' relationship with the converts also comes across as a bit too whitewashed and unlikely. As complex and boundary pushing "Silence" feels on subject, it's still got some ways to go in others.


Friday, March 10, 2017

"Sully" and "Snowden"

Last fall had and awful lot of films based on true stories and famous figures from our recent past, including Clint Eastwood's "Sully" and Oliver Stone's "Snowden." Let's do a little comparing and contrasting.

Eastwood's "Sully," which looks at the events around the "Miracle on the Hudson" plane landing in 2009, is a fairly straightforward tale of heroism. Tom Hanks plays Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, who with his First Officer Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhardt), landed US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River after bird strikes took out both of the plane's engines. The film recreates the entire dramatic flight, using the NTSB investigations into the accident as a framing device. Sully is placed at the forefront, grappling with PTSD, guilt, and his newfound status as a hero.

There's been some controversy about the film portraying the NTSB as actively trying to find pilot error when there was none, but it works great as a dramatic device, and helps the film to make its case in holding up Captain Sullenberger as a heroic figure. The recreation of Flight 1549, the water landing, and the rescue efforts are all thrilling to watch. Eastwood goes back to it three different times, each in a different context, and it works every time. Sully's subsequent troubles are considerably less compelling, though it impossible to find any character played by Tom Hanks unsympathetic. There's very little to Sully as a character beyond being a sterling American good guy, with a lovely wife, Lorraine (Laura Linney), who finds himself in extraordinary circumstance.

That lack of depth ultimately hurts the film a bit. "Sully" is told in terms that are a little too simple, and Clint Eastwood can't resist giving our hero a little extra vindication. The result is a feel-good film that feels like it's trying too hard to make the case for a figure that has largely been lionized in the American consciousness already. It's also hard to ignore that the film feels awfully light on content, though it runs a scant 96 minutes. I'm thankful that the flashbacks to Sully's early days as a pilot were kept to a minimum, but surely Eastwood could have dug slightly deeper into his personal life? Why not get poor Laura Linney off the phone for just a scene or two? Or simply give us more POV characters during the fateful landing?

"Snowden" doesn't have this problem. It chooses to dramatise how the NSA spying scandal first broke in 2013, with former NSA and CIA employee Edward Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) meeting reporters Laura Poitras (Melissa Leo) and Glen Greenwald (Zachary Quinto) in Hong Kong. However, the bulk of the story takes place in flashback, tracing Snowden's career in the US intelligence community and his relationship with girlfriend Lindsay Mills (Shailene Woodley). "Snowden" does an excellent job of getting across how invasive and damaging the government's spying activities were, but Stone goes a little too far in painting Edward Snowden as a heroic figure.

Edward Snowden, unlike Captain Sullenberger, is a controversial figure in many circles, and still living in exile in Russia. So Oliver Stone goes to bat for him in the film's closing moments, and goes to bat with everything he's got. The final scene is an intereview with the present day Snowden that transitions into a closing credits sequence laying out more arguments for his position, with a laudatory Peter Gabriel song on top. It's too much, and actually undercuts a fair bit of the film. Up until that point I found the storytelling a little clumsy, but it was a decent biopic. Joseph Gordon-Levitt does an uncanny cocal impersonation of Snowden, which went a long way toward helping him disappear into the part. However, the romance was pretty tepid, and I'd already seen the Oscar winning documentary "Citizenfour," so the 2013 scenes were awfully repetitve.

"Snowden" is at its best when the title character is acting as a guide to the intelligence organizations that employed him, their operations, their culture, and the fears that drove them. Watching the CIA and NSA employees at work is frightening, and Snowden wrestling with the moral and ethical implications is far more dramatic than what happens once he finally decides to go public. It's easy to see why Oliver Stone was interested in this material, but at the same time he makes some perplexing choices, and lets the story ultimately become too much of a polemic.

It's worth mentioning that Eastwood also put the real Captain Sullenberger at the end of "Sully," but was wise enough to keep the appearance limited to the credits.


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

"Hacksaw Ridge" and "Hell or High Water"

Working my way through more Best Picture Oscar nominees, I've decided to group together the two entries about men with guns shooting at each other. I liked both, but wouldn't count either among my favorites from last year.

"Hacksaw Ridge" tells the story of conscientious objector Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), who enlists to fight in World War II with the intention of becoming a medic. When he refuses a firearm during training, under Sergeant Howell (Vince Vaughn), multiple attempts are made to have Doss removed from the army. He's pressured to quit, refused leave to marry his sweetheart Dorothy (Teresa Palmer), and finally arrested for insubordination. With the help of his father (Hugo Weaving), Doss is eventually vindicated and sent to the Pacific theater, where he takes part in the Battle of Okinawa.

"Hacksaw Ridge" is a very old-fashioned, straightforward tale of WWII heroism, without the complications of politics or cultural re-evaluation. The Japanese are by and large anonymous cannon fodder, and the Americans are occasionally loutish and bullying, but we root for them anyway. Doss's conscientious objector status is the main point of controversy, but this feels like less of a actual issue that the film wants to address than it is set-up for his eventual heroism in the back half of the film. So while the filmmaking is very strong, and I'm happy to see such good performances from Andrew Garfield, Vince Vaughn, and Hugo Weaving, "Hacksaw Ridge" does nothing remotely interesting with its material. A few expletives aside, John Ford could have made this in the 1960s with Jimmy Stewart.

To its credit, this is a very well executed film. The battle scenes are convincingly brutal, and it's a very entertaining watch throughout. I also admire the frank discussions of Doss's faith and family history, even if they weren't handled as well as I thought that they could have been. It's really not until the film's epilogue, and the brief snippets of interviews with the real Desmond Doss, that it becomes clear how much of the film was true to life. Without it, "Hacksaw Ridge" comes off as a little too simplistic, when Steven Speilberg and Clint Eastwood are regularly delivering their patriotic pictures with a healthy dose of cynicism these days. As war films go, I find nothing objectionable about "Hacksaw Ridge," but nohing that particularly elevates it either. Hopefully the Mel GIbson comeback will yield better things in the future.

Now "Hell or High Water" is a more interesting piece of work, a modern day cops and robbers story about a pair of brothers, Toby and Tanner Howard (Chris Pine, Ben Foster), who are committing a series of bank robberies in Texas. Two Texas Rangers, Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) and Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham), are hot on their trail, trying to work out their motivations and methods in order to anticipate the brothers' next targets. The narrative is about evenly split between the Howards and the Texas Rangers, and examines the relationships of both sets of men. The movie works nicely as a crime picture and neo-Western, with some thrillingly staged heist scenes and chases. There's also some pointed, but not too pointed social commentary as we learn how the depressed ecomonic state of this part of the country has fueled the actions of the Howard brothers.

Texas has never looked more barren, a dust-swept frontier where the rules of morality are starting to get shaky in the face of so much loss and ruin. All the major players have reason to start questioning the rules and their own codes of behavior. And as we observe and get to know them, they challenge easy descriptors and categorization. Toby is pegged early as the good brother, the more careful one who has stayed out of trouble, while wild-card Tanner has a record. Hamilton is casually racist and seems to come from the good ol' boy tradition, but it's soon clear why Parker good-naturedly puts up with him. The performances are a lot of fun, particularly Foster and Bridges,' and the script works in some great humor in unexpected places. The film is worth a watch for the Rangers' brief encounter with a very blunt waitress alone.

David Mackenzie is a Brit who has directed a lot of diverse, interesting titles like "Perfect Sense" and "Starred Up," and this is yet another film that doesn't look like anything else he's ever tried. And I'm so glad that he did, because his sensibilities are spot-on. Kudos should also go to Taylor Sheridan, who also scripted the recent "Sicario," for adding just the right amount of local color and thematic murk. I especially appreciate the epilogue for giving us closure without actually giving us any closure. This is a movie I just like more and more the more that I think about it.


Monday, March 6, 2017

China's Search For Crossover Hit

With the failure of "The Great Wall" at the U.S. box office, the Chinese film industry has struck out again at creating a film that appeals to both Chinese and U.S. audiences. "The Great Wall" has been the most expensive attempt to date, with a budget of over $150 million. Starring Matt Damon, Andy Lau, and Pedro Pascal, the film is a historical fantasy about repelling an invasion of monsters. Critical notices were poor on both sides of the ocean, but the film didn't far too poorly at the foreign box office, and will probably turn a profit eventually. However, it's far from the success of the Marvel movies or other Hollywood blockbusters.

It's been an awkward relationship that the U.S. and Chinese film industries have been navigating these past few years. While Hollywood has been eager to jump into co-productions with the Chinese to access the quickly expanding Chinese moviegoing audience, the Chinese have also been trying to jump-start their own film industry to compete internationally on the same level as the big Hollywood studios. The one thing that the Chinese have always insisted on is the promotion of distinctly Chinese elements in their media, which has lead to more U.S. films incorporating Chinese actors, locations, and product placement to win over wary Chinese censors and appeal to Chinese audiences. The success of these tactics have been very hit or miss. When it comes to the Chinese trying to appeal to the American audiences, however, it's mostly been misses.

To date, the most successful Chinese produced films in the U.S. are still "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," from 2000, currently the highest grossing foreign language film in the U.S., "Hero," made in 2002 and released in the US in 2004, and "Fearless," aka "Jet Li's Fearless," released in 2006. Clearly the Americans appreciate period martial arts spectacle. So it makes sense that the big, expensive Chinese blockbusters being pushed hardest at international audiences tend to be period action films. However, the tendency has been toward very serious epic war films, like John Woo's "Red Cliff." These have done okay, but have generated little enthusiasm outside of Asia. And I should note that the highest grossing Chinese films in China these days tend to be comedies like "The Mermaid" and "Lost in Thailand," or fantasy films like "Monster Hunt" and "Journey to the West."

Matt Damon being recruited to star in "The Great Wall" may have caused a kerfuffle over racial politics and claims of perpetuating the stereotypical "white man savior" narrative in the U.S., but clearly this was attempt by the filmmakers to give their movie broader international appeal. Its director, Zhang Yimou, also made "The Flowers of War" with Christian Bale in 2011. Like "The Great Wall," it was clearly making a play for American audiences, with a familiar Caucasian lead and much of the dialogue in English. And like "The Great Wall," it was critically panned and called out for being pandering. I really hope that everyone has figured out by now that just sticking a white action star in the middle of one of these movies isn't helping anything.

I am heartened by the fact that at least the Chinese are trying different things. Last year's "Skiptrace" was a Jackie Chan and Johnny Knoxville buddy comedy that was a good-sized hit in China. It didn't have a US theatrical release, but a future film in this vein might, and I suspect it would perform better than the big epics. After all, the buddy comedy with a foreigner is a familiar kind of story to American audiences already, and Jackie Chan has successfully starred in several of them, like "Rush Hour" and "Shanghai Noon." And there's no reason why a comedy should be considered any less culturally Chinese than a grandiose war movie.

It's tempting to want to give a list of dos and don'ts to Chinese filmmakers about what would make a Chinese film more likely to be a crossover success. The truth is that there's no real formula, and most of the big successes like "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" have been flukes. However, it really helps if the films are good and they're entertaining first and foremost. Including Chinese elements are all well and good, but personally I think developing and supporting Chinese stars and Chinese talent are more important, because that's what's really going to drive the industry in the long run.

A crossover hit is more likely to happen, after all, if they can figure out how to make films that U.S. audiences will want to see because they're Chinese, not in spite of it.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

"Hidden Fences" is All Prestige

I was all set to write a fake review of the famous "Hidden Fences" from the Golden Globes, but after giving it some thought, there are a few things I want to say about "Fences" and "Hidden Figures" that require legitimate reviews for. So here we go.

"Fences," based on the August Wilson play, is an acting showcase for Denzel Washington and Viola Davis. He plays Troy, a 1950s Pittsburgh garbage collector, whose genial exterior hides deep wells of dissatisfaction and bitterness with his lot in life. She plays his wife, Rose, who has remained loyal and supportive despite growing tensions in the family between Troy and their son, Cory (Jovan Adepo), an aspiring football player. Washington also directed the film, which he doesn't manage to make particular cinematic, but it works fine as a delivery mechanism for some excellent performances. Washington and Davis both played these roles on Broadway in a recent revival and won Tonys for their efforts. I'm not going to say they deserve Oscars for the film version of "Fences," but I wouldn't be surprised if either of them won.

But when all is said and done, "Fences" came across as pretty slight to me. Maybe it was the oddly toned epilogue and the ill-considered final shot. Maybe it was because as hard as everyone tried, "Fences" never stopped feeling like a stage play with too many important developments happening offscreen. It's a great looking film, with strong cinematography and production design. Maybe I was just disappointed that I didn't get to see more of this version of 1950s Pittsburgh, as the camera seems so reluctant to leave Troy and Rose's kitchen and backyard. I appreciate that August Wilson is a national treasure, but this is one of those cases where fidelity to the source material was a little too strong, to the detriment of the final film. And as good as the leading performances are, I can't help wishing I'd seen the Broadway versions instead.

Now "Hidden Figures" aims much lower, though it's still very much a prestige pic. It's a typical feel-good underdog movie, about three smart, talented African-American women overcoming adversity and prejudice. Set in the early 1960s, Katherine Goble (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) work as computers handling complicated mathematical calculations for the Langley Research Center. The Space Race with the USSR is in full swing, and Katherine gets assigned to work on Project Mercury, which aims to put an American in space, under the prickly Al Harrison (Kevin Costner) and dismissive Paul Stafford (Jim Parsons). Meanwhile, Dorothy contends with the incoming IBM computer threatening the computing group's jobs, and Mary struggles find a way to become an engineer.

To call "Hidden Figures" formulaic would be too kind, as it hews very close to the template of films like "The Help" and "The Great Debators," full of impassioned speeches against the racism and segregation common of the era. The melodrama is pumped up as high as it can go, and the films is full of shameless little fictions, like our three heroines being gal pals who gossip together after hours and rally to find Katherine a husband. There are some nice historical recreations of the Project Mercury tests, and science and history geeks should get a kick out of all the early technology on display. However, the story feels very obvious and calculated. I couldn't help rolling my eyes when Kevin Costner desegregates the ladies' rooms by going after the "Colored" sign with a sledgehammer. I mean, it's a great moment and it works in context - but it's so shamelessly over the top.

It's been heartening to see so many films about the African-American experience this awards season, even though many of them haven't been very successful. Both "Fences" and "Hidden Figures" have their flaws, but on the whole they're good, solid films, ones I'll be happy to point to as the ones that are getting it right. However, neither are really to my taste, and I can't help wishing that both sets of filmmakers could have done a little better, maybe taken some more risks. I mean, it's not like the source material didn't have the potential for greatness, right?


Thursday, March 2, 2017

My Favorite Eric Rohmer Film

I nearly titled this entry "The Eric Rohmer Film I Disliked the Least," as I did with Jean-Luc Godard's entry. Of the French New Wave directors, Rohmer is probably the one I enjoy the least on average - which means, of course, that I spent an awful lot of time tracking down his films and trying to figure out what other people saw in him. I've come to the conclusion that Rohmer simply does not make films I can connect to easily.

I was left completely cold by some of his most famous films, including "My Night at Maud's" and "Claire's Knee," part of his series of Six Moral Tales, where the heroes grapple endlessly with ethical behavior. They're full of beautiful young people playing out their love games and light comedic farces, but are too wrapped up in their own little neuroses to be much fun to watch. They're always terribly passionate and sincere, yet too often insufferable, and have a tendency to make lousy deicisions. However, as Rohmer got older, I found his output grew more interesting. After the Six Moral Tales came the Six Comedies and Proverbs, which were more varied and fun. And then the Tales of the Four Seasons, including my favorite, "A Tale of Autumn," or "Autumn's Tale."

Unlike most of Rohmer's other films, the would-be lovers are much older, and their interactions more direct and matter-of-fact. I found the forty-something heroine, Magali (Béatrice Romand), a very likeable presence. She runs a vineyard in the south of France, and is altogether a very successful and thriving woman. However, with her husband dead and her children grown, she admist to her friend Isabelle (Marie Riviere) that she has become lonely. Isabelle suggests placing a personal ad, which Magali shoots down, so Isabelle decides to place one in secret, attracting a man named Gerald (Alain Libolt). Then there's Rosine (Alexia Portal), the girlfriend of Magali's son Leo (Stéphane Darmon), who tries to set up Magali with her old professor, Etienne (Didier Sandre). Isabelle and Rosine are the ones who act like the typical Rohmer protagonists, who get themselves into trouble by trying to be too clever. )

Each of the Four Seasons films has a great sense of place, opening with picturesque landscape shots and frequenly having the characters take long walks as we get to know them. Magali and Isabelle are introduced as they ramble around the vineyard, discussing their lives and their agriculture. There's a comfortable familiarity to their conversation, an ease and openness that extends to most of the relationships that we see in the film. Everyone has been through the throes of love before, and likes to think that they understand it better than they do. Maturity turns out to be no safeguard against foolishness, but there's a remarkable warmth to even the most uncomfortable situations. When Isabelle cheerfully explains her plot to Gerald, he's taken aback, but good natured enough to take her at her word. Etienne, similarly, would clearly rather be with Rosine than Magali, but plays along.

As you might expect, what follows are misunderstandings, intrigues, hurt feelings, and complications in abundance. And it's the steadier, more even-tempered personalities of the characters that make the farce palatable. I don't find most of Eric Rohmer's films funny, or the little ironies in his plots especially illuminating. However, i was completely won over by the climactic wedding sequence where all the storylines in the film finally come together, culminating in a scene of a grumpy Magali failing to keep her ire in check as she's escorted home by a nervous would-be suitor. And later, depite all her protestations and attempts to isolate herself, she finds herself intrigued by possibilities. Because Rohmer is so hands off with the characters, the ending is ambiguous and can be read in many ways, but the personal journeys of his three heroines are easy to discern and appreciate.

Much has been written about Rohmer's approach to filmmaking, which boils down to shunning artifice in search of capturing moments of reality. They really don't look like much at first glance. And yet, his films are often fantastical in their construction, full of contrivances and clever plots that comment on the human condition. I still find Rohmer's work a bore more often than not, but he's certainly responsible for a few irresistable bits of cinema magic too. It just took a little time and a little patience to find them.

What I've Seen - Eric Rohmer

La Collectionneuse (1967)
My Night at Maud's (1969)
Claire's Knee (1970)
The Marquise of O (1976)
Perceval le Gallois (1978)
Le Beau Mariage (1982)
The Green Ray (1986)
A Tale of Springtime (1990)
A Tale of Winter (1992)
A Tale of Summer (1996)
A Tale of Autumn (1998)