June 27, 2007

The Trench

In the middle of writing up To Have and Have Not and The Big Sleep and what comes across my proverbial desk than this image (WILD THINGS). Oh man. Pants tighter? You bet.

When Lauren Bacall says “Hey. . . I think I’m sitting on somebody’s cigarette” during Have Not’s drive-by shootout sequence – the combination of elements (the film on my television, the image on my computer, the joy of writing on good film and anticipating new ones) speaks long and loud about the absolute, un-distilled joy of going to the movies. God bless Faulkner. He didn’t do it alone and, really, didn’t do shit in Hollywood, but these collaborations with Bogie, Bacall, and Howard Hawks are for the ages.

Finished up a seminar series at the Denver Public Library last night with the beloved Bagdad Café; a film that I’ve never liked and liked less upon each subsequent viewing. Not easy to speak on a film one doesn’t like in the company of folks who love it. Next series in the planning stages and looking extremely promising: the finalists, from which the library panel will choose five, are: L’Atalante, The Sweet Smell of Success, Hud, Miller’s Crossing, Birth, Days of Being Wild, The Seventh Seal, Shadow of a Doubt and Out of the Past. Can anyone guess the theme? I suggested Children of Men early on in the process, as well, but I’d be pleased talking any of the titles.

Anyone read Christopher Doyle’s diary of the Happy Together shoot? Brilliant, stuff.

Didn’t get a screening of Die Hard 4: Die Harderer, but will catch it as a civilian. Wouldn’t miss it for the world, the first flick counts as one of my favorites from my halcyon teen years: John McTiernan really hit a couple of those bastards out of the park, didn’t he? And the third flick is underestimated.

Ratatouille is awesome.

Nancy Drew is still haunting me.

Negotiating a post-modernism series in a different library system – some proposed titles include The Stunt Man, Adaptation., and Tristram Shandy. Later in the summer will find me talking Pan’s Labyrinth in Beaver Creek and Hero in Douglas County.

A few weeks late, but an official shout out to Ousmane Sembene – the voice of an entire fucking continent, a novelist by devotion who turned to film because it could reach a broader audience. I reviewed Moolaade for our last Annual, and it’s a masterpiece, but so are the other films in his too-brief filmography. Next up after the Bogie/Bacalls for me are a pair of lesser Bette Davis flicks, Forbidden Planet (which I may be talking as part of a Shakespeare-on-film quartet down south); and a couple of things by Henry Rollins including an interview I conducted with the man a couple of weeks ago. That list of things to do before I die keeps getting shorter.

Musing, if time permits, a brief retrospective of the films of Jacques Becker and, I’d love to do it, a similar one on Kenji Mizoguchi starting with Sansho the Bailiff. Of course there’s roughly thirty pounds of DVDs staring at me with their hollow, Cyclops eyes, needing some serious attention before I go off on any skylarks.

Currently listening to Francis Cabrel – especially a song called “Bonne Nouvelle”. Extra points for figuring out how and why I tracked down this dude. He’s a legend in France, I guess, shame on me for only just now discovering him for myself. Also giving heavy play to the Children of Men soundtrack and Clint Mansell’s score for The Fountain.

This thing with the Germans and Tom Cruise - this not letting Cruise film in the country because he's a member of a cult - is everyone just being polite in not mentioning the irony of Germany of all countries offering a blanket, discriminatory condemnation of a religion with which they don't agree? I especially like the son of the proposed Cruise character coming out and predicting that the film they're sabotaging will inevitably be "kitsch."

Any early thoughts on the new David Milch series?

Late, again, but "The Sopranos" series finale? I loved it.

June 14, 2007

Ten Years, Ten-Lists #5 (Bill Chambers)

You may resent me for not giving you ten more rental ideas, but since I realized that FILM FREAK CENTRAL's tenth anniversary obliged me to recap the site's "origin story," anyway, I just decided to dedicate my list to landmarks in our turbulent history. (Like I warned, "self-indulgent.") Th..Th..That's all, folks!-Bill Chambers

10. 10th Anniversary (Present)
Woah... Meta.

9. Press release from New Line (November, 1998)
I've said many times before, only half-jokingly, that I started FILM FREAK CENTRAL to get free LaserDiscs. Well, that never panned out--and the format was on its last legs by 1997, anyway. Cut to the fall of 1998: out of left field, I receive a press release from New Line Home Video; nothing ventured, nothing gained, I e-mail the address at the bottom asking them to send me review copies of both DVD titles they were promoting therein. The following day, a FedEx truck rolled into my driveway, accompanied--in my head, at least--by the Hallelujah chorus hymn. It was FFC's first fix, the first time the industry acknowledged our existence in any way, shape, or form...and I've probably been chasing that high ever since.

8. Sued...Sorta (2001-2003)
They say you haven't made it until somebody wants to sue you. In the interest of self-preservation, I'm truncating the details, but back when FFC was starting to gain some traction on the Internet, a certain web personality I had, contrary to his belief, not heard of before sent me a j'accuse! e-mail vis-à-vis my alleged trademark-infringing use of the term "film freak." I ignored him at first, but he was persistent, and so I sent him a list of about 30 sites with some variation of "film freak" in their brand (if I was ever going to change the site's name, that would be the reason). Well, I guess that pissed him off, because his rent-a-lawyer then couriered me a small forest's worth of paperwork, none of it amounting to anything but evidence that they had toner and they were gonna use it! Suffice it to say, I continued to do nothing, though I took advantage of a free hour of legal counsel from an entertainment attorney, whose advice boiled down to "do nothing." Eventually I got worn down by his passive-aggressive threats of litigation and e-mailed him ("Dear [name withheld], I'm not taking the bait. Bill, xo"), at which point I was notified by an Intellectual Property arbitrator that I had something like a weekend to counter his multi-point entitlement claim. This time I did something, but not much; and the committee unanimously decided in our favour. Justice! I still receive the occasional message from his cronies asking why I can't be a "gentleman" and, y'know, undo a decade of hard work by changing FFC's name to appease an ego obviously bruised by every disappointed visitor who goes to his site thinking they're going to ours. Should the day come, I'm partial to Cinema Jolie-Pitt.

7. Fight with Ebert (August, 2004)
The most e-mail I ever got in one day (not counting the odd spam flood) attended Roger Ebert's review of The Brown Bunny, wherein he rebutted my Ebert-baiting capsule on the same film. Perhaps more of a private milestone than one for the site, it nevertheless sticks out in my mind as a moment of validation from the establishment--when my own friends and family began to look at FILM FREAK CENTRAL as a legitimate pastime; Ebert did nothing less than make it easier for me to run this operation unabated, at least temporarily. You might be interested to know that I've crossed paths with him many times since (we even powwowed but a few weeks later at a screening of Saw), and if there were any hard feelings, I couldn't tell. I missed him greatly at last year's TIFF and wish him nothing but the best as he recovers from his gruelling medical ordeal.

6. "Attack of the Drones" (May, 2002)
If you ask me, Walter's written far better reviews than the one he wrote for Attack of the Clones, but I doubt he'll ever write another review with the half-life it's had. From being the root cause of our first bandwidth fine to begetting our first special edition of "Reader Mail" to, most notoriously, landing us on Lucasfilm's shitlist so that we were explicitly denied screeners of the Star Wars trilogy when it finally hit DVD, it holds a special place in FFC lore. It even, in a roundabout way, led to us interviewing Mark Hamill! For all that, what I like best about it is that it set us apart, at a critical juncture, from the fanboy contingent.

5. The Publication of Our Annuals (2005, 2006)
Now's as good a time as any to formally announce that we will not be publishing a 2007 Annual--the first two simply didn't sell enough copies to make it worth our while. But we're not ruling out the possibility of another book of some sort; it's a genuine, selfish thrill for us to see all those bits and bytes quantified like that. And how many film sites can lay claim to two thick volumes of their work? With forewords and blurbs by some of their favourite directors, to boot? The whole experience was intensely gratifying, and it surely revitalized our writing, that intimate awareness of a destination beyond the ether.

4. Birth of a Blog (August 23, 2005)
Let me take this opportunity to set the record straight: this blog was Walter Chaw's idea. A lot of the stuff he was itching to write was difficult to contextualize within the traditional parameters of FFC. I was game but leery, seeing as how each of us has a backlog that could stop a river and this would just provide one more distraction. But I'm proud of the community that has sprouted up here and I feel, as I wrote in the introduction to "The Film Freak Central 2006 Annual", that it makes great scaffolding for the mothersite. Truthfully, I can't get over how civil the conversation around these parts is on average--the cynic in me is still waiting for the other shoe to drop.

3. E-Mail from Walter Murch (January 16, 2000)
I was DVD-shopping in Toronto when I spotted a childhood favourite, Return to Oz, sitting on the shelf. "Don't buy it," my friend advised, "it doesn't hold up." But for some reason, even if it wasn't as good as I'd remembered, I knew I would regret not buying it more. A few months after I wrote up the disc, I received an e-mail from Return to Oz helmer Walter Murch. He was quite complimentary towards my review, though I suspect he had an ulterior motive to correct a misnomer I perpetrated regarding the film's soundmix. Be that as it may, it took me a day or two to process that the freakin' editor of Apocalypse Now had casually struck first contact with me; I replied, paraphrasing Mario Puzo, that if I'd known he was going to read the review I would've written it better (I'm sure he groaned), then begged him for an interview. I credit the resulting Q&A with forcing me to get serious, truly serious, about FILM FREAK CENTRAL, if only to honour Mr. Murch's generosity and good faith.

2. The Hiring of Walter Chaw (April, 2001)
The name Walter has been good to me. You know how they say that some talk shows are host-driven and some are guest-driven? My utopian fantasy for this site was one that was review-driven rather than critic-driven, and when I first started recruiting writers, I wanted to create a cinephiliac supergroup of budding talent. But there's no denying that one voice has risen above the chorus. I can honestly say that while I created this site, with all due credit to esteemed colleagues Travis Mackenzie Hoover, Alex Jackson, and Ian Pugh, Walter made it. Dude's a rock star. For what it's worth, when he came aboard, a lot of folks informed me that he sounded the death knell for the site--and I usually responded that it's better to hate someone for the right reasons (Letterman?) than to love them for the wrong ones (Leno?). Unfortunately for Walter, he rarely equivocates in a world that petulantly equates anything but utmost equivocation with "meanness." Politesse has somehow become a greater virtue than honesty, conjuring the image of Rome fiddling while Nero burns. It's an honour to provide Walter sanctuary in these cowardly times, to be affiliated in any way with his genius, and to call him a friend. If anything gives me hope for not only the future of not only film criticism, but the battle against anti-intellectualism as well, it's that I detect Walter's influence in a lot of up-and-coming young critics. I'm sure that drives him batshit, though.

1. The Purchase of the Domain Name FilmFreakCentral.Net (November 19, 1998)
Christ, why didn't I pick .COM?!

See also:

June 07, 2007

Ten Years, Ten-Lists #4 (Walter Chaw)

In composing a Top Ten list to celebrate the tenth anniversary of an endeavour I've only been a part of for six (six of the most creatively fulsome and rewarding years of my life in this profession, I might add), I ran through a chum-load of possible topics. I thought long and hard about cannibal films--not just natives dancing around a pot in old jungle screamers, but actual on-screen depictions, the hook being that after so many words, I'm probably just cannibalizing myself nowadays. I considered using this as an excuse to write about ten movies I couldn't slot into any particular Top 10 list. At a low moment, I even toyed with doing ten flicks I was wrong about the first time around. But then it occurred to me that the best way to honour a collaboration as important to me as mine has been with Bill (for my writing, for clarifying--to whatever extent that it's clear--my thinking) would be to set down a list of ten films that were, at various points in my life, seminal to the way I think. Ten pictures that are for me like those railroad track junctures leading off into different destinations--not the ten that you necessarily need to see to experience a similar revelation, but the ten that I did. The change in direction hasn't always been easy, some were more like wrecks than like rivulets, but here are ten personal milestones as FFC crosses the threshold of its first decade on the Internet.-Walter Chaw

10. Trouble Every Day (2001, Claire Denis)
Claire Denis' apocalyptic take on both the banality and reward of companionate love addresses the bestial roots of passion before taking on the terms of endearment we use to leash it. Vincent Gallo is extraordinary as the vacuum at the picture's dark core--and I don't know of a better illustration of what it means to love and fuck and grow old together in the tempest of the temporary. I saw this in a private screening at Boulder's International Film Series; later that week, the only public screening of the film in Colorado saw a few hysterics, including a young woman who locked herself in the bathroom and refused to be coaxed out for hours afterward. For me, the picture is the possibility of cinema as anthropology and as high art--a reminder, at a relatively late date, that there are still things that can get under the skin if the medium is wielded like a scalpel by a surgeon. Odd that a few knock-offs appeared not long after it. Not so odd is the cult that has gathered around it.

9. The Killer (1989, John Woo)
John Woo's ballet of bloodlust. The dubbed version with Brother Chow screaming "Dumbo!" as bloody tears stream down his cheeks was met with howls of drunken approval at my first screening of it in CU Boulder's Muenzinger Auditorium. I taught my pals that night how to say "shoot him again" in Mandarin (not knowing at that moment that Woo shot his pictures in Cantonese), and for probably the first time in my life felt a distinct pride in being Chinese in Colorado. Folks only familiar with Woo from his American output are missing the indescribable romantic machismo distilled by the director in his Hong Kong flicks--it doesn't translate. Yellow Power, man, and the wasting of Chow in this summer's Pirates of the Caribbean threequel is disappointing for sure. But that he's there at all is a result of this and other collaborations with Woo. I was ecstatic to hear that Chow is back in the fold with Woo's Chinese epic The Battle of Red Cliff.

8. Dragonslayer (1981, Matthew Robbins)
I hid under the seat for most of my first two viewings of Matthew Robbins' Dragonslayer--a picture I demanded to see because, unless I'm mistaken, I believed it to be some sort of sequel to Pete's Dragon. (A belief that, among other things, confirms that eight-year-olds are almost without exception stupid in the larger sense.) Little did I know that this "Disney" picture featured a flash of full-frontal nudity, a beautiful princess consumed by a litter of baby dragons, and the death of one--make that two--kindly father figures. A special-effects dry run for the groundbreaking stop-motion work of Return of the Jedi, its beastie Vermithrax Pejorative is pathetic in its majestic, pagan glory. It's helpless in the face of the encroaching Christianity, says one read, but for me at that moment, not-yet-weaned from a steady diet of Disney heroes slaying their shadows in a series of deeply-destructive problem-solving scenarios, it was a shot in the pants of that old-time atheism. I was terrified of the dragon, but I don't recall ever wishing it dead. The marvel of Dragonslayer and secret movie-brat Robbins' direction and script is that it proposes a happy ending that's not at all happy. The more I learn about myself through the movies, the better it gets.

7. Marnie (1964, Alfred Hitchcock)
I didn't really understand Hitchcock until I saw The Birds and then, soon after it, Marnie. You get a sense of the formalist (the auto-formalist, maybe) from stuff like North by Northwest and Notorious, but you don't get a full sense of Hitch's sly, unrepentant wickedness until you view his work through the prism of his Tippi Hedren pictures. I'd go so far as to say that Marnie is the Rosetta Stone for all of his pictures: you turn to North by Northwest for a sense of how Hitchcock's clockwork is wound; but you look at Marnie for a little sulphur whiff of the infernal electricity that makes the clockwork turn over. Tippi in this one is raped, and the whole sea reflects her change outside a porthole while Sean Connery--the dim, dashing rake cast perfectly at last--saves an empty glass cage in his room for her, his next and greatest trophy. Just as The Birds is Hitch's domestication fantasy for wild Tippi, all of a feminized nature arrayed against her wild individuation, Marnie is menstrual fear, sexual paranoia, and the price of carnality against the life of the mind. Though it's as much about artifice and illusion as any of the Master's treatises on the theme, it was my long-in-coming epiphany that the gateway to the secrets of the flesh is through the eyes of the artist.

6. Grave of the Fireflies (1988, Isao Takahata)
Isao Takahata's devastating war idyll Grave of the Fireflies was the singular event in my turning the corner on a fairly unquestioned bigotry against the Japanese. Raised in a household where a good portion of my mother's side of the family was fed to the Nipponese grinder in Nanking, I was, through glances and smirks and possibly even direct comments, bred to hate the Japanese. Watching this film for the first time my senior year in college, I came to terms at last with a lot of things I just took as plain truth and found myself confronted with the ugliness of my assumptions. The picture is so good on its own that it doesn't need much further endorsement from me: it's not just the best animated film ever made, it's one of the best films ever made in any medium. But for me, the switch that turned over in my heart has rippled into the way I look at everything in my adult life; things are never black-and-white, and the tactics of dehumanization make all manner of atrocity possible. Take the punditry of the modern day and consider something wonderfully acidic Melvin Van Peebles said to me in regards to bigotry in mainstream culture: how it's always possible to isolate our next enemy by identifying the "nigger" in our pictures.

5. Alphaville (1965, Jean-Luc Godard)
A houseguest asked once, while searching my library for a film to watch, if Jean-Luc Godard's neo-noir Alphaville was a good choice. My wife warned: "It's not conventionally entertaining." Fair enough. Indeed, more than fair--a quick look at most of my collection shows that the DVDs I keep are likewise not conventionally entertaining and, in the case of this selection, almost aggressive in their desire to not be conventionally liked. I saw Alphaville for the first time in college and it opened a door for me. It inspired, of all things, research, not into whether such and such a character was really real or this event happened or what have you, but into precepts of critical theory that I'd been using as reference points in the study of British Romanticist and Modernist poetry. The picture connected the dots, so to speak, allowing a dim student to finally understand that all the strategies that have been used for centuries to decode the sublimity of great works could be applied to bear fruit from film. A great picture by one of the great film theorists (talking about Alphaville or Week End or Breathless in terms of signs and signifiers is easy enough: they're textbooks already)--and if the case could be made that movies carry within them the same seeds as music or letters or brush strokes, then movies must also carry within them the possibility to understand the meaning of an individual's life. Of the critical life.

4. Revenge of the Nerds (1984, Jeff Kanew)
The first time I saw female full-frontal nudity once I was capable of assimilating what it was; my VHS tape became one of the most prized onanistic totems of my adolescence. Revenge of the Nerds has gathered around it a wealth of scholarship since its release because, more so than the oeuvres of Sylvia Krystal or Deborah Foreman, there's something genuinely sticky about the thing. The way that it equalizes gay people, and blacks, and women; the way that Darth Vader is turned into a literal rapist for a generation of boys like me secretly titillated by the fetishistic promise of his cyborg, insect carapace; the way that, the way that... Look, it's a hell of a film, and it holds up now as not a masturbation aid, but a scalpel for the dissection of the way that film is voyeurism incarnate: justification for voyeurism; idealization of voyeurism; and perfection of voyeurism. Too, it's a nutshell of why pornography's genres are such useful tabs for our real peccadilloes. A peek at what we hide between our mattresses reveals the taboos tattooed on our bestial pelts: miscegenation, pedophilia, sodomy, humiliation, promiscuity, water sports--you find these things in Revenge of the Nerds, encapsulated in the moment where a weak, physically ineffectual young man takes on the mantel of the Dark Lord of the Sith to rape a grateful Betty.

3. Apocalypse Now (1979, Francis Ford Coppola)
A lot of movies made me feel scared; Apocalypse Now was the first movie to make me feel awful. Was it Coppola himself who said it's not about Vietnam, it is Vietnam? Call this film the gateway drug for all the films of the 1970s in the United States, our very own Aguirre: The Wrath of God about the limits (should we call it "limitlessness"?) of man's ambitions in art and life. It's the siren's call to a period in our cinema (say, 1967-1981) that should be considered, with seriousness, the best of any in any place at any time. Before it, I had equated the decade with bad fashion and Blaxploitation, with Clint Eastwood in monkey movies, with the Burt Reynolds of Smokey and the Bandit and not of Deliverance; and a uniform grain to the film stock just couldn't hold a candle to the slick comfort of the 1980s blockbusters that were my celluloid teat. I looked at the period with ignorance and disdain--and then I saw this movie, which feels depraved in a way that few films, especially ones that try to be depraved, do. More than that, the picture sparked in a younger me an interest in T.S. Eliot that eventually led to more general avenues of study while strengthening the bond that film has with an idea of the Sublime in art. If you don't get chills listening to Brando recite lines from "The Hollow Man", you might have a nerve missing.

2. The Empire Strikes Back (1980, Irvin Kershner)
I stood in line for two hours to see this film and was rewarded with one of the most miserable moviegoing experiences of my life. What the fuck is this? Luke, behanded; Han in carbonite; Lando not in carbonite; Vader is Luke's mf'ing dad; the Republic in tatters; and then it's over?! Since the wait for relief was interminable, my buddies and I declared The Empire Strikes Back the worst movie ever, resolutely replaying the action of the picture with our now-priceless action figures, be-handing Darth instead and throwing Boba Fett into dry ice punch bowls, thus proving the maxim that you should never give the public what it thinks it wants. If only Lucas had remembered that before forging ahead--and backwards in his special editions. (Though to be fair, he started destroying his legacy with Return of the Jedi.) What The Empire Strikes Back did was make me a blockbuster junkie. With Star Wars the first movie I ever saw in a theatre, the anticipation I felt for "the next one" was my first taste of delirious anticipation. (Those long summers of youth, you know, they go too fast, but time is elastic in a way that it doesn't seem to be anymore.) When I think about The Dark Knight, I get that same tingle--I get it for the new Coen Brothers flick, too, especially because it's an adaptation of a Cormac McCarthy novel. In every way, this first sequel is The First Sequel: the reason I love movies--and, hindsight and age being what they are, it remains the only artistically viable film in the Star Wars saga.

1. The Conversation (1974, Francis Ford Coppola)
I've constructed a sort of personal mythology around this picture--I'm asked about it often in my public-speaking ("What's your favourite movie?") and I think it surprises people that I actually have a favourite movie. The preface is always that The Conversation might not be the best film, but it's the single most important film in my decision to try out this movie-critic thing professionally. A product of Walter Murch taking over final cut after Paramount backed a dump-truck full of money up to Coppola's door to make The Godfather Part II, it's not finished in the most perfect way imaginable. Still, it cemented in me this lingering belief in authorship in film, and it was the first time, truly, that I began to feel I had ideas about movies that were exciting enough to share. Harry Caul (the name actually an accident--the picture also suggests divinity between the sprockets) is Gene Hackman's quintessential creation: the listener, he is the purity of the actor's craft. The course of the film is a test of fidelity philosophical and technological, while a remarkable cameo by Teri Garr is full of the weight of loneliness that a lot of '70s cinema only hints at. The story is simplicity itself (a dame, a murder, a hero in a trenchcoat), but the execution is as circular and damning as David Shire's piano score. It's the breakthrough in therapy and, six years later, I'm still clicking.

Also: Near Dark, Miracle Mile, Star Wars, Back to the Future, Gandhi, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T., Last Year at Marienbad, Grand Illusion, Peeping Tom, The Life of Colonel Blimp, Hana-Bi, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Once Upon a Time in the West, Die Hard, Predator, Killer of Sheep, The Thin Blue Line, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, The Rescuers

See also:

June 03, 2007

Ten Years, Ten-Lists #3 (Travis Mackenzie Hoover)

A collection of genuine gems found among the detritus of my country's cinema. Good luck locating copies of most of these, but if you have the wherewithal, here's a handy guide to Canada's best.-Travis Mackenzie Hoover

10. La Vraie nature de Bernadette (The True Nature of Bernadette) (1972, Gilles Carle)
Gilles Carle's satirical tragedy involves a free-thinking woman named Bernadette (the implacable Micheline Lanctôt) who flees the city to set up shop in a rural village; all manner of misunderstandings ensue, including the idea of her as a miracle-curing Madonna. Unpretentious yet acid, La Vraie nature de Bernadette goes down easy without spoon-feeding you to get there.

9. Gambling, Gods and LSD (2002, Peter Mettler)
Training his camera on all things transcendent (from revival meetings to demolition sites to the lights on top of the Luxor pyramid), Peter Mettler shows the profound mystery involved on both the spiritual and the material planes, as well as the plain weirdness involved in being human.

8. Montreal Main (1974, Frank Vitale)
This semi-autobiographical work of photographer Frank Vitale places Vitale in an undefined relationship with a 12-year-old boy--and, subsequently, the censure of his circle (to say nothing of the boy's parents). Mournful but somehow not hopeless, the film's melancholy will stay with you for days.

7. A Married Couple (1969, Allan King)
Before reality-TV followed people around with cameras 24/7, there was Allan King's cinema-vérité masterpiece about Billy and Antoinette Edwards. A wrenching film about two people who talk past each other, with a rewarding moment of clarity close to the end.

6. Goin' Down the Road (1970, Donald Shebib)
A man went looking for Canada, and couldn't find it anywhere; the Anglo-hoser Citizen Kane: a movie that's satisfying no matter how many times you watch it.

5. Les Dernières fiançailles (1973, Jean Pierre Lefebvre)
A brilliantly structural take on the last two days in the disappointing lives of an elderly couple, this is the only film I've been able to track down by the great Jean Pierre Lefebvre, but it seems like it was the one to catch. The camera tracks beautifully as the details come spilling out.

4. Pour la suite du monde (1963, Michel Brault, Marcel Carrière, Pierre Perrault)
Another one of the great documentaries: three filmmakers revive the practice of whale fishing in rural Ile-aux-Courdes and in the process make a statement on the vanishing traditions of Quebec.

3. Dead Ringers (1988, David Cronenberg)
And God said, "Let there be Cronenberg." And when He saw what He had done, He disappeared in a puff of smoke as the master went about his bodily business in the most profoundly disturbing manner possible. This is Cronenberg's crowning achievement, about two Jeremy Irons who discover that their attempts at bodily control will come to naught.

2. Yes Sir! Madame... (1994, Robert Morin)
Technically this is a video, but whatever it is, it's a masterpiece. Robert Morin's bilingual exploration of what it means to live on the knife-edge of two languages and two cultures while living on the margins of society. Blunt, ballsy, and conceptually astounding, this years-in-the-making mini-epic will make your jaw drop.

1. Les Bons débarras (Good Riddance) (1980, Francis Mankiewicz)
There has never been a more appalling girl than Michelle, the 13-year-old who demands her mother's undivided attention in the most devious ways. She's the apocalyptic heroine of Francis Mankiewicz's quietly devastating classic: the most powerful film ever produced in Canada, and on the short list of best movies of the '80s. The climax must be seen to be believed.

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