Wednesday, September 17, 2008


So Dennis has "tagged" me to take part in a "meme". Is that what this is? A meme? I think so. Anyway, this one, as I'm sure you're aware, has to do with twelve films that I've never seen and would really, really like to. Originally, it was supposed to be twelve movies that aren't readily available, but Dennis, brash iconoclast that he is, said screw that noise, I'm just gonna pick twelve movies I ain't never seen, and to heck with your rules (his words). Jonathan followed suit, while imposing a few (meaning one) rules of his own.

I, myself, am also a brash iconoclast, so I've chosen to construct a list that falls somewhere in the middle, in that some of these movies can be easily seen, and others can't. Yes, I agree, that is a pretty crazy and original way to go about it. Up is down, black is white, and so on. So let's begin!

1. La Dolce Vita - This film is right at the top of my list of movies I feel like a dick for not having seen yet. The fact that I haven't has to do with the fact that my early, limited experience with Fellini was not especially pleasurable. I started with Fellini Satyricon -- a choice I believe even the most aggresive Fellini fan would agree was a bad one -- and then went on to Amacord. I actually did like that one well enough, but there are certain elements of Italian cinema, and Fellini films in particular, that I don't really get along with: the grotesqueness, the broad humor, the general bigness of it all. But later, much later, I went ahead and watched Nights of Cabiria, and loved it. And I realized that when someone uses the word "Fellini-esque", they're talking about something I'm probably not going to care for, but that doesn't describe all of Fellini's own films. And I'm thinking that La Dolce Vita falls more in line with Nights of Cabiria. So up in the queue it goes.

2. The Stepfather - This was written by Donald E. Westlake. And it stars Terry O'Quinn. And look, O'Quinn's face is all bloody. So make with the region 1 DVD, you sonsabitches!

3. Babe: Pig in the City - I know, this movie is supposed to be better than anything, and kids should see it so you don't have to teach them about death yourself or whatever, but I'm gonna be honest with you: when it comes to seeing animals killed and/or abused in films, I'm a humongous pussy. I do not like it. I'm not saying I'm taking a moral stand, I just get really sad when I see a dog or monkey or what have you being treated badly. I won't even watch that episode of Futurama about Frye's dog. But, I know: this movie's great. So I'll see it. One day.

4. 10 Rillington Place - I missed a golden opportunity to see this one years ago, on cable. I can't remember why I didn't just stay up and watch it -- maybe I had to "work" the next day -- but I did try to record it. This is before DVR (or before I had DVR, anyway), and I must have set it up wrong, because I only got about half of it. Since then, I haven't seen it listed on any channel. There is a region 2 DVD of it, and I do have a region-free DVD player (of which I've taken very little advantage), but I don't know if it's worth the scratch. Is the movie as good as I hope? I'm guessing yeah, probably, but is the DVD itself a good one? Good extras and whatnot? Anybody know?

5. Satantango - Because why the hell not? For one thing, Satantango is the film equivalent of a book like Moby-Dick or Ulysses: one of the reasons you (I) watch it is so that you can tell people you've seen it. I have to admit that I have seen Bela Tarr's Werckmeister Harmonies, and I never once clicked with it. But I wanted to. Not for bragging rights this time, but because Tarr is clearly all on his own, making films that he needs to make, with no thought about any other factors. His movies are the way they are because he made them, and if you don't like it then he'll catch you in the funny papers. At the moment, I don't know what Tarr is up to, I'm not tuned into his wavelength, but I'm willing to try to understand, even if I never really like his work. And I recently heard a quote attributed to the playwright Alan Bennett that I think applies here, at least in part. He said that there should be a sign hung outside the National Gallery that reads: "You don't have to like everything." Amen. But you should be willing to give everything a chance.

6. Salesman - Why isn't this available on Netflix? The Criterion disc is still in print, so what's the deal? I remember seeing clips of this in a college class I took on documentary films, and I was immediately absorbed, because this was as close to a time machine as I was ever going to get. Quite frankly, the ultimate point of this film, its argument (I assume it has one) is not as interesting to me as simply seeing these people from another time living and working and talking, free of any (or as little as possible) outside filmmaker influence. I've heard that the appeal of certain of Warhol's films is similar, but Warhol, from what I can tell, preferred it when nothing much was happening in front of his camera, and the people he hung with were affected going in, so I'll take the Maysles, thank you.

7. Gesualdo: Death for Five Voices - I first heard about this in the early days of my obsession with Werner Herzog. The way I heard it, on one of those movie groups, was that this documentary is about a relatively obscure classical composer who did something along these lines: killed his family, and then wrote music about it. I'm pretty sure that's not quite correct, but I'm also pretty sure that it's not that far off, either. I have no idea what watching this film will be like, but I have to see it. And I'm pretty sure it's available, too.

8. The 47 Ronin - You might say that, in the case of Kenji Mizoguchi's The 47 Ronin, I ran out of excuses a long time ago. And you'd be right. No, it's not readily available on DVD, but IFC aired both parts of the film several months ago, and I've had the sucker lingering in my DVR ever since. So no more excuses. Get on it, you douche. (PS - I'm the douche in that last sentence.)

9. The 1000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse - Fritz Lang's last film, it was also his first film about the diabolical Dr. Mabuse since 1933's brilliant and bizarre The Testament of Dr. Mabuse. I have no idea what this movie's about, apart from that it obviously has something to do with some deeply unsettling plot by Dr. Mabuse, but look at that picture above: creepy! What's up with that dude's eyes, anyway? So, yeah, a DVD of this would be much appreciated.

10. Titicut Follies - A bit obvious, maybe? Anyhow, as you all know, this movie is decidedly not available -- I think my chances of seeing it fall somewhere between the possibility of my seeing The Other Side of the Wind and The Day the Clown Cried -- and even if I did see it, afterwards I may wish I hadn't. But, as with Salesman, the pull of getting an unfiltered look into a time and a world that no longer exists is impossible to ignore. This movie must be considered one of the most important filmed historical documents of all time, and I want to experience it some day.

11. Last Year at Marienbad - The idea that the true meaning of this supposedly quite eerie Alain Resnais classic is that it has no meaning intrigues me no end. There's not much more I can say about it -- the only Resnais film I've seen thus far is Hiroshima, Mon Amour, and I'm not sure what I think about that one -- but that's why I want to see this. Criterion is bound to release this sooner or later, but as of now there's a region 2 DVD I could plunk down my money for. Anybody know if it's worth it?

12. The Sorcerers - One of the dangers of finally watching a film that you've been wanting to see for years is that, if you're anything like me, the film has a lot of living-up-to-unreasonably-high-expectations to do. I've been let down by many films this way (or you might say that I've actually let down many films), although I'm not going to tell you what those films are, because then I'll probably get flooded with about five comments yelling at me for not liking Hawmps!, or something. But three films that did meet all of my expectations are the original The Wicker Man, Peter Bogdonavich's Targets, and Witchfinder General. The fact that all of those are either horror films or horror film-related is probably not a coincidence. And The Sorcerers is like a mash-up of Targets (in that they both star Boris Karloff) and Witchfinder General (in that they were both made by Michael Reeves). Reeves only directed three films, of which The Sorcerers is his second, before dying at the horribly young age of 25. Witchfinder General, his last film, contains a career-best performance by Vincent Price, and is overall such a nasty, harrowing, unblinking piece of work that, as a horror fan, I can't help but think that the genre lost someone who could have been one of its greatest interpreters. Well, at least we have these three...except for The goddamn Sorcerers, which is still floating around somewhere in DVD limbo, despite MGM's recent release of Witchfinder General. I mean, the thing stars Boris Karloff, for Christ's sake! What the hell is the hold-up!? And why is it that I can't see The Sorcerers, but Reeves's first film, The She-Beast, which not even his fans seem to give much of a shit about, is available on Netflix?? This problem needs to be fixed. Now.

All right, well, that's all she wrote, folks. I hope knowing about twelve movies I want to see but haven't yet has been as elucidating for you as I imagine it must have been. Enjoy your dinners.


Crap, I was supposed to tag someone for this, wasn't I? Pretty much everybody I know in what is known as the "blogtmosphere" has already gotten this thing, however. I am a regular commenter on Glenn Kenny's blog, and even though I'm pretty sure he doesn't know about this blog, I'm going to tag him anyway. Should he take part, I imagine his answers will be pretty interesting.


Forgot to add some important links! Thanks to Movieman at The Dancing Image, as well as the folks at Out 1 and The Lazy Eye Theater, for getting this meme rolling. And sorry to all of them for not linking to them earlier.


Greg said...

Terry O'Quinn is just terrific in Stepfather but I think I said that before on the Serge's site and then got into a dispute with Dennis over the movie's quality which I found somewhat lacking.

Several of these I haven't seen but I have seen La Dolce Vita and Last Year at Marienbad. I liked Vita but felt it explored it's story and characters deeply and fully enough by the two hour mark and then it went on for another hour. But I was like 23 at the time so maybe if I saw it again I'd feel differently.

Marienbad I saw when I was 18 or 19 and thought it was way over the top pretentious, just like Dennis, but again, I was a teenager so what the hell did I know? Nuttin. I should see that again too.

Fox said...

but Warhol, from what I can tell, preferred it when nothing much was happening in front of his camera, and the people he hung with were affected going in

He also liked it when the people he hung with were well hung.

But on the real, I prefer Warhol to Maysles. Then again, I'm probably the least enthusiastic documentary fan you'll ever meet... so. Oops, let me amend that, I meant that prefer Paul Morrissey to Maysles. I've never seen a straight up Warhol film. Something tells me he probably sucked.

bill r. said...

Jonathan - I hope I don't eventually find myself agreeing with your overall assessment of The Stepfather, but it's obviously worth seeing just for O'Quinn. That guy's one of the best there is, and, as a fan of Lost, I'm thrilled that he's finally being recognized for what honestly has to be the role of his career.

The length of La Dolce Vita does worry me a little, but I have to tell myself that I'm being a dumb-ass low-brow loser and just rent the damn thing.

And I remember you saying that you found Marienbad pretentious, but I'm hoping -- and maybe I have the completely wrong idea about the film -- for a kind of David Lynch/Renoir hybrid. I've heard the film is very eerie and completely inscrutable. So that's enough for me.

Fox - How can you not be into the Maysles brothers? I've seen very little of their work, but I find them absolutely absorbing. If you'll take Paul Morrissey over the Maysles, then maybe you should just leave. I said leave!!

Marilyn said...

If you don't like animals being abused, don't see Satantango. Do see Babe: Pig in the City because I wouldn't call what happens there abuse by any means, just a momentary problem for a dog.

La Dolce Vita is wonderful, fantastic, transcendent, wonderful (I said that). See it.

bill r. said...

Oh, no...what happens in Satantango???

This problem I have with seeing animals hurt (even fictitiously) is, I have to say, a bit inconsistent. A few months ago, I watched Lacombe Lucien, and as anyone who's seen that film knows, rabbits and roosters are not safe at any point during its running time. And I mean, actual rabbits and roosters are actually not safe. I didn't know this about the film going in, and while it was jarring at first, each of the killings was so fast and casual, that it became easier to see them as they were presented: farm killings. In other words, these animals would be used for food. And I even told myself that it was possible these rabbits and so forth might actually be used for food. Maybe Louis Malle gave the meat to nearby families. I didn't like seeing it, but I could justify it. Sort of.

La Dolce Vita will probably go to the top of my queue for next weekend.

Fox said...

I left!...

...but I came back.

I've only seen Salesman and Gimme Shelter but I didn't like either.

I don't like the outsider manipulation in Salesman. I mean, that's kind of what I dislike about documentaries in general, but that's the short version.

I like Gimme Shelter when they just let us watch the Rolling Stones.

bill r. said...

Well, Fox, I'm with you in theory, but it was my impression that any manipulation by the filmmakers was completely anathema to the Maysles. What do they do in Salesman that you would consider manipulative?

Kimberly Lindbergs said...

Interesting list Bill with some great stuff on it. I fully recommend La Dolce Vita (one of my favorite Fellini films), The 1000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse, Salesman and The Sorcerers (why isn't this one on DVD!?!). I think you'd enjoy them all a lot As a movie, The Stepfather didn't totally work for me when I saw it many years ago but it's worth watching just for Terry O'Quinn's terrific performance.

I love Titicut Follies and Last Year Last Year at Marienbad a lot but I have trouble recommending them since both films are probably a required taste. Titicut Follies is deeply disturbing but it should probably be seen by everyone.

And lastly, I'm with you on Santantango. All of Bela Tarr's films are high on my "should see" list and I keep meaning to check out his work but I've just never gotten around to it.

bill r. said...

Thanks, Cinebeats. Or Kimberly. Or...Kimberbeats?

Man, you've seen some pretty damn hard-to-find movies, haven't you? How did you get a chance to see Titicut Follies, anyway? You haven't seen The Day the Clown Cried, too, have you?? HAVE YOU!?

And I have to say that I feel a little weird saying that I "want" to see Titicut Follies, but I don't know what other word to use. Compelled, maybe?

As for Satantango...I'll get to it. Sometimes I feel like I don't so much want to see it as I want have already seen it, but at the same time I am very much looking forward to the experience...or, at least, I was before Marilyn dropped that "animals-get-abused" bomb on me.

And speaking of bizarre foreign films of a forbidding length that I want to see, I should have put Our Hitler on this list.

Kimberly Lindbergs said...

Titicut Follies actually played on my local PBS station about 7 years ago and I saw it then. At the time I had no idea it was so hard to see or I would have recorded it. I'd love to see more of Wiseman's film though!

I have not seen or The Day the Clown Cried so you got me on that one! I'm actually a Jerry Lewis fan so I suspect I would enjoy it too.

I've read a lot about Our Hitler but I haven't seen that one either. Good grief . . . so many movies and so few hours in the day to view them all!

Brian Doan said...

Fantastic list. And speaking of fantastic, I'm glad you mentioned Terry O'Quinn- I haven't seen Stepfather, but he's a marvelous character actor who I've enjoyed in TV and movies for many years. I was very pleased when Lost finally won him an Emmy last year. Linking (maybe oddly) to your comment about Salesman, O'Quinn's characters always feel so lived in-- he gives the impression that they've had a rich life before the cameras start rolling, and will continue to do so after they stop.

bill r. said...

It played on PBS...son of a gun. I wonder what the chances are of that happening again any time soon. Probably not very good.

I saw some of High School in college. I don't know why the professor in question didn't show us the whole thing, but I'm pretty sure she showed us a fair chunk of it. It was fascinating, but, alas, my memory of it is sketchy.

I hope I don't sound like a ghoul, but the other day I was wondering what was going to happen to The Day the Clown Cried when Jerry Lewis passed away. I'm not wishing for that to happen, but I can't help but wonder. I know you can the screenplay online.

Our Hitler and Satantango would make a great double-bill.

bill r. said...

Brian - Yep, that sums up O'Quinn pretty well. Even playing a character like John Locke, O'Quinn's characters always seem like guys you could bump into on the street. We've all met people, strangers, at bars or elsewhere, and had long conversations with them, and afterwards it seems as though we've learned a great deal about their lives. They put a face and name and history to the great mass of humanity we see around us every day, and then we never see them again. O'Quinn's performances do something very similar.

Does that make any sense? Anyway, whatever it is I'm trying to describe, Robert Forster has it, too.

Fox said...

They manipulate when they decide what to leave in and/or leave out. The portrait of the salesman is in their hands, not his.

bill r. said...

Well, yes. Again, I'm with you in theory, and what you describe is something that infuriates me about certain documentaries (apart from the obvious - *ahem*Michael Moore*ahem* - watch The Staircase, and then read up on the case. It's outrageous what that filmmaker did, and he essentially got away with it). But I'm not aware of the Maysles being called out for that kind of dishonest filmmaking. Are you aware of specific omissions that changed the reality in the ways you imply? If not, isn't it possible that they were two of the good guys?

I'm not really arguing with you, because I haven't seen Salesman. But the Maysles brothers reputation is for making documentaries that are the exact opposite of what you're describing.

Mike Doc said...

I'm gonna answer your Satantango question: there's a looong sequence in which a young girl proves her dominance over her cat -- she grips its front legs, jerks it around, rolls on top of it, shoves its face hard into its milk bowl, then puts it in a net and hangs the net from the ceiling. I'm pretty sure I'm forgetting things, too...

I usually don't get upset over animal violence in movies, but this is Bela Tarr -- loooong unbroken takes, my friend. No tricks. That cat is getting abused. It upset me enough to consider turning off the film. But then I imagined every cineaste in these United States striking me with a rolled-up copy of Film Comment and I finished it.

bill r. said...

Ugh...what's everyone's opinion of fast-forwarding through the cat abuse scene, when I finally get around to Satantango? Would that make me a Philistine?

Adam Ross said...

Hey Bill, this is hopefully the first of many comments on your great blog. I read your first post, but as is the case of late (baby crawling around, trying to destroy my receiver, etc.), I forgot to add it to my blog reader. But I just added you, so here's to your newest reader!

Enough about me, the point of this comment is that "Salesman" is indeed carried by Netflix. I know because I got it in the mail last month. Great documentary, be sure to catch it sometime.

bill r. said...


They must have added it recently, because I swear, that was one of the first movies I looked for when I got my account.

But I just checked, and you're right. On the queue it goes, for next week. Thanks for the tip, Adam, and welcome!

Kimberly Lindbergs said...

Confession time . . .

I have avoided Au Hasard Balthazar (and in turn all of Robert Bresson's films for some reason) for many years because I have no desire to watch a donkey be abused. I'm still damaged after seeing the donkey abuse in the Ranknin/Bass xmas special Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey. If that makes me a film Philistine, so be it. I'm sure it makes me a film wimp either way.

Bob Turnbull said...

Another great list...This has been a beauty of a meme so far.

The entirety (as far as I can tell) of "Titicut Follies" is on Google Video. I've been very curious to see this for years as well, so I'm going to see if it's watchable this way. I don't know if this is in public domain or not, but it appears to have been up on the site for awhile now.

"Satantango" would absolutely have been on my list as well, but I thought it had been released recently - though I still haven't tracked it down. "Werckmeister Harmonies" took my breath away at times - that opening 10 minute scene and its gorgeous music as well as the unbroken take of the rampage through the hospital. Wow.

craig keller. said...

Titicut Follies is available on DVD from Zipporah Films — Wiseman's company. I've got a copy sitting right here. Nearly a year ago, 18 or 20 of his films have been made available (at reasonable prices) directly from the Zipporah website, with the rest to follow.

The print, and the transfer, are very very good.

Titicut Follies: samizdat no more.

(And if you really want to see it, seriously, don't watch it on fucking Google Video — buy a copy of the DVD, put some money in Wiseman's pocket, and check it out in a fine transfer on a big[ger] screen.)


bill r. said...

Bob - You can get Satantango on Netflix, or, to buy, on Amazon. I was just released within the last few weeks or so.

Craig - Wow, I didn't know that about Titicut Follies. That solves that delimma, I guess. Thanks for the tip!

Joe Baker said...

Agreed that "Satantango" is available on DVD now. You know, I just can't get into Tarr. I checked out three of his early films ("Family Nest" "Pre fab People" and "The Outsider") and suffered through "Werckmeister Harmonies" and just wanna fast forward through them. I mean, hell, I've seen "Heaven's Gate" twice and never get tired of the long drawn out dance scenes, but there's something very empty about Tarr's films.

Mike Doc, I'll put away my copy of Film Comment now.

Nice blog btw and great contribution to the 12 movie meme!

Bob Turnbull said...

If "Titicut Follies" is available on DVD then I'll dispose of that Google Video link (sorry, "fucking" Google Video). Thought it wasn't available.

Yeah, I know Satantango came out in the U.S. awhile ago, but I haven't been able to track it down in Canada yet (I've had it on my queue, but nothing yet). I can obviously snag it via, etc. but hoping to avoid the shipping.

The Siren said...

Kimberly, let us declare eternal friendship. I have been avoiding Au Hasard Balthasar for years also, and for the same exact reason--donkey abuse and Rankin/Bass's Nestor.

Bill, great list. Since I'm in a confessional mood I'll admit that even before I heard about the cat abuse scene (SHUDDER) Satantango was way, way down on my list. Like, below Au Hasard Balthasar.

bill r. said...

Kimberly, Campaspe - Maybe I've been overstating my aversion to this sort of thing, but I don't remember the abuse Au Hasard Balthazar being all that bad. I mean, it makes you wince, but I don't remember getting the sense that the donkey was being hurt that badly. I don't want to steer the two of you towards the film and then have you both hate me afterwards, so don't take my word for it, but that's how I remember things.

James Hansen said...

Hey. Just catching up on all of this stuff. I'm James from Out 1. Thought I'd provide the address for the link since you didn't have it! Nice entry here, as expected! Thanks for the post and the link!