In 2011, I Only Had Two Eyes

As 2011 draws to a close, there are no shortage of best-of lists to be found on the internet.  My friend, Brian Darr (aka. HellOnFriscoBay), asked a group of Bay Area cinema-goers to bring their top ten repertory/revival experiences of the year to the table, since we only have two eyes apiece.  The films listed here are, of course, fantastic on their own, but the real celebrities are the theaters, organizations and curators that make this list possible – a special possibility indeed.  In no particular order:

Good Morning (Ozu 1959) @ VIZ Cinema, seen 07/03/2011.

Here, Ozu makes the kind of observations he makes best, this time protracting out from the family to its surrounding neighborhood.  Politesse under duress has never been so silly.  I remember being very enticed with the VIZ Cinema’s crisp projection of one of Ozu’s few color films.

Lola (Mendoza 2009) @ YBCA, seen 10/02/2011.

It’s monsoon season in the Philippines and two matriarchs brave the impenetrable downpour to keep their families afloat.  Heartfelt, stunning and complicated.  It was the kind of screening that makes you want to hug a curator.

Woman in the Dunes (Teshigahara 1964) @ VIZ Cinema, seen 6/21/2011.

Meaningful allegories, for me, work best when they aren’t needed.  On a granular level, this film is a compelling piece of horror/suspense with sensual visual details.  A larger reading of the protagonist’s existential tightrope-walk manages to enhance without usurping.  Again, the VIZ’s projection was acute enough to leave me sandblasted.

Kuroneko (Shindō 1968)
House (Obayashi 1977)
@ The Castro Theater, seen 3/23/2011.

OK, so there are two films here, but they were part of a delightful Japanese feline horror-themed double feature.  From Kuroneko’s sexy & vicious apparitions to House’s ultra-campy blood floods, this was one hell of an afternoon altercation.

Days of Heaven (Malick 1978)
Badlands (Malick 1973)
The Castro Theater, seen 8/25/2011.

A somewhat less creatively curated duo, but no less appreciated. I sometimes think Malick’s quiet internal monologues were positively designed to resound through the Castro’s arched ceilings before reaching the ear.  This was my first time seeing Days of Heaven, and while sometimes a theatrical screening makes me want to hug a curator, other times the curator beats me to the punch.

The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (Herzog 1974) @ Red Vic Movie House, seen 3/30/2011.

Kaspar was not the last film I saw at the Red Vic, but it will be the one by which I choose to remember our departed.  Here, Herzog puts the entire genre of science fiction to shame by excavating human gems from a plausible, if controversial, case of man-in-the-wild.

It (Badger 1927) @ Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, seen 5/28/2011.

As in, Clara Bow has got “it.”  Her charisma and peppiness are monuments unto themselves, having injected a potent substance into the veins of our modern outlook on celebrity and Hollywoodland romance.  This evening at the Niles-Essanay gave me a taste of silent film the way its original audiences might have enjoyed it.

The Goose Woman (Brown 1925) @ The Castro Theater, seen 7/16/2011.

Another silent, this time during the San Francisco Silent Film Festival at The Castro.  Some alpha-noir stylings and an enthralling characterization of haggard, piercing irrelevance by Louise Dresser left me quite taken.  We have our own Stanford Theatre Foundation to thank for its preservation.

Gaslight (Cukor 1944) @ The Castro Theater, seen 1/22/2011.

One of the more psychologically twisted (my favorite kind!) noirs I saw this year.  I don’t know its technical term, but I just googled “the derivation of pleasure from simulated insanity,” so that should tell you something.  Oh, according to wikipedia, the word “gaslighting” has been appropriated for just such an occasion.

Streets of Shame (Mizoguchi 1956) @ The PFA, seen 6/25/2011.

For me, this very much more focused film is “streets ahead” of Mizoguchi’s sweeping epic, Sansho the Bailiff, which I also saw as part of the Pacific Film Archive’s Japanese Divas series.  It’s structured to examine multiple facets of prostitution that are typically hidden behind the bamboo curtain of everyday sensibilities.  This was one film in an excellent series overall.