By twhalliii | THE BACK ROW MANIFESTO by Tom Hall December 17, 2010 at 6:48AM
Note: For a complete list of my favorite films of 2010, please visit my wholly deficient list over at criticWIRE.
Obligatory Repetitive Introduction
In the past, in lieu of ranking movies and being held hostage by the dissonance between the film release calendar and my own experience of the ebb and flow of filmgoing, I have listed my favorite cinematic experiences of the year. I want to get back to that; as the way in which I get to watch movies and talk about them continues to diversify, as the idea of cinematic experience expands to multiple devices, formats, cities, communities, I think this list is here to stay. The age of the theatrical release calendar is dead for me; we’re living in a new time, where the movies can be found in every area of life, from online conversations to your home entertainment system, the back of a car seat to a projection screen at a restaurant, your phone to a portable tablet. So, I am going back to my old model, probably for good; over the next ten days, I’ll be posting my Top 10 Cinematic Experiences of 2010. Not necessarily films (although sometimes), these are the experiences that defined my year in film culture. Subjectivity alert!
8. Otherwise Unavailable: Cold Water at BAM
Olivier Assayas’ work continues to grow in esteem in this country, and this autumn saw another retrospective of the director’s work at BAM. Of all of the Assayas films that are not available on DVD in this country (and there are waaay too many), Cold Water remains my favorite; I try to catch the scratchy print that plays in repertory here as many times as I can. This autumn presented me two chances, and I took them both. The first time, I peeled myself away from family time and went alone to a late evening screening. Perfect. The second time, I took a friend, a filmmaker whose own work has much in common with the story presented in Cold Water. She had never seen the movie, and I took a few moments throughout the screening to look over at her, gauging her interest.
I Confess: I Have A Crush On Cold Water
When the lights came up, we talked about the movie for several minutes and I was really pleased that she liked it as much as I did. This experience made me think about all of the films that I love that are just not available to be seen outside of the theatrical environment. Movies like Samira Makhmalbaf’s The Apple, which, for my money, is a masterpiece, Arnaud Desplechin’s Léo: Playing In The Company Of Men, or say, the first five or so of Assayas’ films; as much as the digital revolution has changed the way we view movies (and more on that in an upcoming post-- I’m all for that change), still, the revolution has fallen short by not eliminating region coding, geographic rights management or changing the economics of putting out high quality (or, god forbid, Blu Ray) transfers of great foreign films in the USA.
Praise where it is due; Criterion, IFC Films and Oscilloscope can only do so much; there seems to be no market for the hard-to-see stuff outside of the hard work of programmers at repertory film houses like BAM, MoMA, The Film Society Of Lincoln Center, Anthology, The IFC Center and Film Forum. As much as the well intentioned film archivists among us strive to preserve our cinematic history, I can’t help but feeling that we’re already losing access to international cinema in an age when it should be easier than ever to see these movies. Yes, yes, I could just buy a region free DVD player and be thankful that the English have much better taste than most Americans and shut up, but all it does is make me more thankful for the art houses of NYC, who are doing the hard work of keeping small, foreign films alive in a world where instant access to everything sometimes means that the important things get forgotten. Save the art house, expand access to well-transferred foreign films on DVD; if we don’t preserve modern cinema, who will?