Alive, well, and in the mood to make recommendations

And he woke the next morning feeling approximately 93% better than he did the day before, when even his hair felt sickly and his toenails trembled with self-pity.

Anyway, on to more important matters. For the past two years I’ve been in the habit of watching at least a film a day, if not two or three. I’m definitely not boasting about renting DVDs at a rate most would be embarrassed to admit to, I just reckon that it’s a truth worth stating. But since I take in such a large volume of films each week, I think I’m in an unusually good position to make some recommendations. And recommend I shall.

With this (rather than sinus inflammation) in mind, I’d like to offer a couple tips as to what you may want to consider renting, whether it be from Four Star, any of the Madison libraries, NetFlix, or wherever.


La ciénaga (dir. Lucrecia Martel, 2001) – A damp, noisy and profoundly unnerving exercise in cinematic mood-conjuring. Martel’s camera changes its position and angle abruptly, alternating between slight shakiness and occlusive, unsettling stillness. Her style of montage effectively constructs an image of space and time that’s thoroughly synthetic and yet eerily incomplete, like a mosaic with two or three tiles missing. The film’s somnambulist narrative does threaten to jump the proverbial shark towards the end, but even so: I can’t recommend this ghostly family drama highly enough.


Magnificent Obsession (dir. Douglas Sirk, 1954) – Come for the camp, the kitsch, the corn, the self-parody, the pervasive suggestiveness; stay for the incredibly stimulating palette, the luscious shadows and a handsome, hilarious Rock Hudson, who can seemingly appropriate any “serious” line and flip it on its head without giving himself away. Indeed, much of Sirk’s sensibility can be described as “hiding in plain view.” Robert Bresson once remarked that the best ideas in a film are usually the most hidden ones, but if there’s any artist whose work serves to refute this thesis, it’s Sirk. Yet it’s also important to emphasize that Sirk was more than just some cynical, subversive, psychoanalytically-informed jester wreaking havoc on the screen without being noticed by the powers that be: he was also a masterful creator of images.

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