Saturday, September 11, 2010

Looking Back at 2010, Looking Forward to 2010

With the length of my inactivity on this website, save for a new design necessitated by Tativille's illegibility on certain platforms, beginning to become something of an embarrassment, however slight, I would like to offer my seemingly annual mea culpa and promise of increased attention for the months ahead.  While naturally much of my neglect can be attributed to a relatively full summer and early autumn schedule, this alone does not explain my invisibility on this site, at least not entirely.   There is indeed an important factor beyond my various academic commitments that has prevented me from writing more: I haven't had that much to say.  Though certainly a general dulling of my mind is partially to blame, I would insist, nonetheless, that cinema has done very little the past few months to merit my recreational interest.  On those few occasions when I have found myself engaged by new or newish works, Alamar, The Father of My Children, Inception, La libertad (2001), I have taken the time to write down my thoughts, or minimally to transcribe the superior insights of my wife - for which I inevitably take co-credit.  (An exception to the former rule was the very fine I Am Lovewhich Lisa and I saw near the end of its run, in the midst of my summer class.  My single paragraph on the film can be found here, included among my retrospective choices for the "ten best" films of 2009.  I regret not committing a longer piece to the film.)

Such occasions, however, have been quite few.  Other than Inception, the American film of the summer almost certainly was Toy Story 3, provided both its top rank at the box office and the near ubiquity of its critical admiration.  Yet it was the "near" in this case that was the most interesting part for me, perhaps even more than this good though arguably unexceptional feature itself, and especially the vehemence leveled against its lone public detractor, Armond White, which approached shocking levels.  White dared to question a work whose popularity, I would aver, has at least something to do with its capacity for making teenage boys feel sentimental, and perhaps to shed their first post-pubescent, movie house tears.  The summer of 2010 also featured the belated release of 2009 festival favorite Wild Grass, which saw Alain Resnais morph into a poor-man's Pedro Almodóvar, and in the process land last year's opening night slot at the Lincoln Center event - not what I was hoping for following the director's elegant, confessional career peak, Private Fears in Public Places (2006).  Beyond the latter, the summer's biggest downer was the usually more reliable New York Asian Film Festival, which even so, at the very least offered Sammo Hung in the flesh, and his strong Eastern Condors (1987) on the screen.

In my own personal exploration of cinema's past, abstracted from 2010, the past eight months have been less notable than the previous twelve, thanks in no small measure to the extraordinary amount of superlative Pre-Code Hollywood cinema I finally caught up with in 2009.  One of the aforesaid era's high points that I did manage to see theatrically this year rather than last was Harry d'Abbadie d'Arrast's outstanding Laughter (1930), which accordingly I would rank alongside La libertad and Maren Ade's Everyone Else (2009) as one of the year's best.  Otherwise, it has been a year of more mediocre fare for this writer, mostly for reasons pertaining to my dissertation research, which over the course of the year focused first on Hollywood in the immediate post-World War I years, and then at the advent of synchronized sound.  In other words, I have seen a lot of Cecil B. DeMille - and more recently Alan Crosland - in 2010: interesting enough, and certainly notable from a film historical point-of-view, but hardly appropriate to a site devoted mostly to international art cinema.  Not that DeMille and Crosland fail to qualify as cinema or art.  Rather, I acknowledge that most readers who find this site thanks to something I have written on Lisandro Alonso or Manoel de Oliveira may not care so much about slightly above average Hollywood works from 1919 or 1926; and to be honest, I am not so sure that I have more to say about these films than the brief mentions I make in my research. 

Ultimately, for American cinephiles of the sort that I imagine read Tativille, this year, which is comprised of the truly vital, important work that will premiere somewhere in the world in 2010, has not yet begun.  Up to now, we have been experiencing the filmic foam following 2009's rather smallish wave, with the sporadic appearances only (now more than ever) of passable studio filmmaking.  2010 in particular promises foremost to be the year of the latest by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, a comeback from Abbas Kiarostami, another final film by Manoel de Oliveira, not to mention any number of unexpected pleasures from terra incognita (to steal Film Comment's expression).  Well, not really any number.  James Quandt seems to be fairly accurate when he speculates that “any given year turns up ten, maybe twenty good-to-great films, if we’re lucky.”  (This assumes, I think, that by 'good-to-great films' he means work at a higher level, though not necessarily that of the masterpiece.)  With the arrival of the New York Film Festival later this month, that higher level will again begin to emerge, and 2010 will finally commence.  With that soon-to-be eventuality, I too pledge to return to this site with increase frequency, charting once again where cinema is in this new year, 2010.


P.L. Kerpius said...

Welcome back, comrade! I, too, have felt a similar dispassion for what's been so far in 2010, with the exception of (and I am so glad you agree) I AM LOVE, which frankly, I found mesmerizing. TOY STORY 3 is also up there, but in a very expected and predictable way; I knew it would be good, and it kicked up a whole slew of memories for me about where I was in my life with each of the previous parts of the trilogy. TS3 was a movie of reckoning of time and age, for me personally, and obviously in the arc of Andy's character, too.

For now, I'll sit quietly with my hands folded on my lap in waiting for THE SOCIAL NETWORK to begin on October 1st.

R. Emmet Sweeney said...

There's no need for mea culpas, sir, but it's always nice to hear what you've been watching. Maybe a switch to shorter, more impressionistic takes would keep you writing more? It's tough to churn out fully-formed essays when there's other paying work to be done.

One wish for a future Tativille post: I would love to hear some words from you on the style of USA dramas, which I know you have an interest in.

But I look forward to your NYFF commentary...

Michael J. Anderson said...

Nice to hear from both of you. R., I suspect your idea of shorter, more impressionistic pieces may be the only way to sustain this site when I become even busier later this fall. I'm sure I will go longer on Eastwood, Kiarostami and a few others, and yes, the USA style piece will, indeed must happen, but largely I think abbreviation is the only viable strategy.

P.L., I too am waiting for The Social Network to initiate the fall film season, though my wait will be slightly shorting as it seems Yale will be holding a preview in a couple of weeks. Expect something longish on the film before the NYFF. A re-launch of sorts for Tativille.