I’m starting to get reliably late with these round-ups, though September’s round-up was sort of on time. Much of my October filmgoing was taken up with the London Film Festival, which I’ve written about separately here. As most of those titles haven’t (yet) been given a release this year, most of them don’t qualify for my new films list, which for some arbitrary reason is just films “on release” (hence excluding festival screenings), but I think I manage to scrape a few through on the basis of the rest of the month. (As ever, daily write-ups are at Letterboxd.)
Top 5 New Films (on their first release in the UK)
Columbus (2017, dir. Kogonada)
Shirkers (2018, dir. Sandi Tan)
Yours in Sisterhood (2018, dir. Irene Lusztig)
Tonsler Park (2017, dir. Kevin Jerome Everson)
A Star Is Born (2018, dir. Bradley Cooper)
One of these titles was in the London Film Festival, but also got released on the same date online by the streaming service Mubi: Yours in Sisterhood, a film in which women read unpublished letters sent to Ms. magazine in the 1970s, in the places where the letter writers were from, and comment on them. It’s straightforward and simple in form, but quite lovely (mostly). Two others are documentaries released online: Tonsler Park (also on Mubi) is by far the more minimal, showing the work of African-American volunteers in an election polling station in 2016; while Shirkers (on Netflix) has a playful sense of engagement with its own film history, being the story of a young Singaporean girl who made a film with some friends then had it stolen by its director.
The films that bookend the list are the cinema releases. Columbus was in last year’s London Film Festival, and is a lovely story of two people meeting in a small midwestern town most notable for its modernist architecture (Columbus, Indiana, not Ohio). There’s a really keen sense of the architecture, and much of the film is framed beautifully within and around these structures, as the two characters talk about their lives. And then there’s Bradley Cooper’s latest retelling of the old Hollywood story, and, well, it does what it needs to do, rather messily and sloppily at times, but effectively all the same (and Lady Gaga is excellent).
Top 10 Old Films (but new to me)
Enamorada (1946, dir. Emilio Fernández)
Possibly in Michigan (1983, dir. Cecelia Condit)
Ears, Nose and Throat (2016, dir. Kevin Jerome Everson)
Pas de Deux (1968, dir. Norman McLaren)
Thunder (1982, dir. Takashi Ito)
Nobody’s Daughter Haewon (2013, dir. Hong Sang-soo)
Katatsumori (1994, dir. Naomi Kawase)
The Island of Saint Matthews (2013, dir. Kevin Jerome Everson)
Scenes from a Marriage (1973, dir. Ingmar Bergman)
Embracing (1993, dir. Naomi Kawase)
I stretched a bit to get ten films this month, as most of my viewing was new films, so the bottom three or four are probably not what I’d call solid recommendations. The Kawase mid-length films are from a screening in the London East Asia Film Festival of her earliest documentary works, while the Everson documentaries are part of a season on Mubi that included his most recent work, featuring in the first list. Then there’s the Criterion film by Ingmar Bergman, which is lengthy and not without its positive features, but has a slightly dull 1970s made-for-TV aesthetic.
The top film was in the LFF, and I mentioned it there, but it’s a full-blooded Mexican golden age melodrama. A number are short films (Possibly in Michigan, Pas de Deux and Thunder) which I watched online on YouTube, as I didn’t have much time, and they ended up being really interesting, though Ears, Nose and Throat is also a short film, and just shows how much you can pack into such a concise format.
Finally, the Hong Sang-soo film is one I caught up with a few years late (it got a cinema release, rarely for Hong’s work), and is one of his more straightforwardly enjoyable exercises.