26 novembre 2006

Another Counter-Canon

Counter-Canon : another viewing recommendation list



From the reaction of Zach Campbell at Elusive Lucidity to the articles in Film Comment by Paul Schrader on the construction of a highbrow canon, I'm tempted to propose my own "counter-canon" (as coined by Zach), even though my knowledge of film history isn't wide and deep enough to allow me to do so. But I guess it's always possible to find criminally under-represented (alternative) gems when we talk about canonical masterpieces. I don't think a canon can be representative with 60 titles out of thousands of great films out there, much less for a counter-canon meant to open new leads into non-trumpetted territories, so I pushed the limit to 111 (arbitrarily) to give some room. I don't have the viewing history to make a top1000 like Rosenbaum yet. I'm not sure they are really original, but I hope there will be at least a couple of new gems new to you, that you will adore discovering. Only prime material that floored me and revealed inspired ways to form cinema. Although I tried to leave out the familiar films critically acclaimed in every academic Canon. So the complete oeuvre of Bergman, Ozu, Kurosawa, Bresson, Maya Deren, and the Soviet Montage will not make the final cut, only because most advanced cinephiles already know them.
An anti-canon, an alternative breech into offbeat cinema territories, the favorite milestones from my subjective journey through cinephilia :

Counter-Canon Gems anti establishment
(111 recommendations ranked chronologicaly) :


  • Jean-Daniel Pollet essay-films (France) = Méditerranée (1963); Le Horla (1966); Tu imagines Robinson (1967); L'Ordre (1973); Pour Mémoire (la forge) (1978); Dieu sait quoi (1994); Ceux d'en face (2001)
  • Spring of Prague (Czech New Wave) complete oeuvre : (Fruits of Paradise; Peter and Pavla; The Party and the Guests; Loves of a Blonde; Daisies; Ucho; Long Live the Republic; Marketa Lazarová; Intimate Lighting; The Cremator; Closely Watched Trains; Nobody Will Laugh; Hop Side Story; Transport From Paradise; Higher Principle; Romeo, Julie a Tma...)
  • Leaves from Satan's Book (1921/Carl T. Dreyer/Denmark)
  • The Phantom Carriage / Körkarlen (1921/Victor Sjöström/Sweden)
  • La Roue (1923/Abel Gance/France)
  • Secrets of a Soul (1926/Georg Wilhelm Pabst/Germany)
  • Finis terrae (1929/Jean Epstein/France)
  • The Salt of Svanetia (1930/Mikhail Kalatozov/Russia)
  • The Glass Eye / L'Oeil de verre (1930/Lili Brik/Russia)
  • Bezhin Meadow / Bezhin lug (1937/Eisenstein/Russia)
  • Ye ban ge sheng / Song at Midnight (1937/Weibang Ma-Xu/China)
  • L'Espoir (1945/Malraux/Peskine/Spain)
  • Ryoju / The Hunting Rifle (1961/Heinosuke Gosho/Japan)
  • Le Feu Follet (1963/Louis Malle/France)
  • Pasazerka (1963/Munk/Poland)
  • Un roi sans divertissement (1963/François Leterrier/France)
  • Film (1965/Alan Schneider/Samuel Beckett/USA) Short
  • Cul-de-sac (1966/Roman Polanski/Poland)
  • Faraon / Pharaoh (1966/Jerzy Kawalerowicz/Poland)
  • Irezumi / Tattoo (1966/Masumura Yasuzo/Japon)
  • Ningen Johatsu / A Man Vanishes (1967/Imamura Shohei/Japon) DOC
  • Faces (1968/John Cassavetes/USA)
  • Je t'aime, je t'aime (1968/Alain Resnais/France)
  • Coming Apart (1969/Milton Moses Ginsberg/USA)
  • Invasión (1969/Hugo Santiago/Argentina)
  • Korol Lir / King Lear (1969/Kozintsev/Russia)
  • Days and Nights in the Forest (1970/Satyajit Ray/India)
  • The Ceremony (1971/Oshima Nagisa/Japan)
  • Le Moindre Geste (1971/Fernand Deligny/France)
  • Viva La Muerte (1971/Fernando Arrabal/Tunisia)
  • Wanda (1971/Barbara Loden/USA)
  • Le Journal d'un suicidé (1972/Stanislav Stanojevic/France)
  • Nous ne vieillirons pas ensemble (1972/Maurice Pialat/France)
  • El Castillo de la pureza / Castle of Purity (1973/Arturo Ripstein/Mexico)
  • The Holy Mountain (1973/Alejandro Jodorowski/Mexico)
  • The Hourglass Sanatorium (1973/Wojciech Has/Poland)
  • Edvard Munch (1974/Peter Watkins/UK)
  • India Song (1975/Marguerite Duras/France)
  • Impressions de la Haute Mongolie (1976/Dalí/Montes-Baquer/Germany) DOC
  • Le plein de super (1976/Alain Cavalier/France)
  • Twenty Days Without War (1976/Aleksei German/Russia)
  • Dossier 51 (1978/Deville/FR)
  • In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni (1978/Guy Debord/France) DOC
  • Shoah (1985/Claude Lanzmann/France) DOC
  • Le Déclin de l'empire américain (1986/Denys Arcand/Canada)
  • Mauvais Sang / Bad Blood (1986/Leos Carax/France)
  • L'homme qui plantait des arbres (1987/Back/Canada) Short Anim
  • Lonely Human Voice (1987/Alexandr Sokurov/Russia)
  • Out of Rosenheim / Baghdad Café (1987/Percy Adlon/Germany)
  • Akira (1988/Katsuhiro Ôtomo/Japan) Anim
  • The Eye above the well (1988/Johan van der Keuken/Netherlands) DOC
  • Elephant (1989/Alan Clarke/UK) Short
  • C'est arrivé près de chez vous / Man Bites Dog (1992/Belvaux/Belgium)
  • De Noorderlingen / The Northerners (1992/van Warmerdam/Netherlands)
  • Sátántangó (1994/Bela Tarr/Hungary)
  • [Safe] (1995/Todd Haynes/USA)
  • Das Schloß / The Castle (1997/Michael Haneke/Austria)
  • Généalogies d'un Crime (1997/Raoul Ruiz/France)
  • Lost Highway (1997/David Lynch/USA)
  • Pokój saren / Roes' Room (1997/Lech Majewski/Poland)
  • Alone. Life Wastes Andy Hardy (1998/Martin Arnold/Austria) Short
  • The Flowers of Shanghai (1998/Hou Hsiao-hsien/Taiwan)
  • Idioterne (1998/Von Trier/Denmark)
  • Paris, mon petit corps est bien las de ce monde (1998/Pressant/France)
  • Juha (1999/Aki Kaurismaki/Finland)
  • Father and Daughter (2000/Michael Dudok de Wit/UK) Short Anim
  • The Heart of the World (2000/Guy Maddin/Canada) Short
  • In Absentia (2000/Quay Brothers/UK) Short Anim
  • Songs from Second Floor (2000/Andersson/Denmark)
  • Sous le Sable (2000/François Ozon/France)
  • Altyn Kyrghol / My Brother Silk Road (2001/Marat Sarulu/Kyrgyzstan)
  • Copy Shop (2001/Virgil Widrich/Austria) Short
  • The Cinemascope Trilogy : L'arrivée / Outer Space / Dream work (1998-2002/Peter Tscherkassky/Austria) Shorts
  • Cremaster Cycle (1995-2002/Matthew Barney/USA)
  • De l 'autre côté / From the Other Side (2002/Akerman/France) DOC
  • Decasia (2002/Bill Morrison/USA) DOC
  • Dolls (2002/Kitano Takeshi/Japan)
  • Hukkle! (2002/György Pálfi/Hungary)
  • Japon (2002/Carlos Reygadas/Mexico)
  • L'Homme Sans l'Occident (2002/Raymond Depardon/France)
  • Los Muertos (2003/Lisandro Alonso/Argentina)
  • The Brown Bunny (2003/Vincent Gallo/USA)
  • Reconstruction (2003/Christoffer Boe/Denmark)
  • Struggle (2003/Ruth Madder/Austria)
  • Tiexi Qu : West of Tracks (2003/Wang Bing/China) DOC
  • Vozvrashcheniye / The Return (2003/Andrei Zvyagintsev/Russia)
  • 2046 (2004/Wong Kar-wai/HK)
  • La Blessure (2004/Nicolas Klotz/Belgium)
  • Our Daily Bread (2005/Nikolaus Geyrhalter/Germany) DOC
  • The Wayward Cloud (2005/Tsai Ming-liang/Taiwan)

EDIT : adding 7 films by Jean-Daniel Pollet I had forgotten, and taking out 7 films that were too "classic".

9 commentaires:

Zach Campbell a dit…

Harry, I meant to comment here about a week ago, but ... I think I've seen about twenty of the films mentioned here, and that was before you revised the list, so now it may be lower. (Or higher?)

Now I just wish I could see those Pollet films (and The Hourglass Sanatorium)! Hopefully the list gets other people interested in e.g. mutual favorites of ours like Viva la Muerte or Je t'aime, je t'aime. In fact I'll try to see a film on this list that I haven't before, and write about it, sometime in the next month or two.

HarryTuttle a dit…

Hi Zach, yes I remember you wrote about Viva La Muerte around the time I had seen it. I think it holds its ground with most Buñuel films.
It will be great if you write on one of these films. I'd like to know what you think.

Anyway, the spirit of my list is slightly different than yours... I guess it's the most "bulimic" I could get there, because I'm usually more in favor of an elitist/conventional canon for its pedagogical purpose.
So my "counter-canon" is less Avant Garde, less low-brow, less eccentric than yours. It's also quite heavy on recent films (26 titles post-2000), because I disagree with Schrader that Cinema is dead, or so "XXth century".
I tried to include the best surprises I had that are too often occulted by the usual masterpieces.

HarryTuttle a dit…

However what I really wanted was a new format for this type of alternative recommendation listing. But I didn't take the time to develop good ideas. Unusual entries breaking the mold of a strict canon, something like:
- A complete movement (Czech New Wave or Soviet Montage)
- A complete oeuvre (Maya Deren)
- A trilogy
- A single scene (The dream in The Hour of the Wolf, the ending montage in L'Eclisse).
- One character (The bum in Mulholland Dr.)
- A mythical movie never made/seen/lost
- A sound design
- A liminal image
- A camerawork technique (Errol Morris' interro-tron)
- A meta-film (the reconstruction of Welles' Four Men on A Raft)
- A transition (the moon and the eye in Un Chien Andalou, the color/B&W cut in La Noire de...)
- A citation (Buñuel's Life of Archiboldo de la Cruz in Almodovar's Live Flesh)
- An editing technique (time shuffle in Je t'aime, je t'aime)
- A collaboration (Bergman-Nikvist's oeuvre)

Well I'd really need more time to think this through...

Anonyme a dit…

I like where you're going with that "unusual entries" idea...

Paul Martin a dit…

- A single scene (The dream in The Hour of the Wolf, the ending montage in L'Eclisse).

About three months ago I wrote a piece (not online yet) on my all-time favourite film, Lost Highway for its screening at ACMI as part of a David Lynch mini-season by Melbourne Cinémathèque. This was significant for me, as previously I had only written bits and pieces on other sites, most notably At The Movies. Writing a 2,000 word article got my juices flowing, so to speak, and to cut a long story short, it led to me starting my own blog.

Since I wrote that article, I've been thinking from time to time about a single scene in that film that haunts me as my all-time favourite scene. It's when Fred (Bill Pullman) meets Mystery Man (Robert Blake) at Andy's party. There's something creepily menacing about Blake's character, and Fred's combination of amusement, confusion and anger as Mystery Man talks to him on the (somewhat dated) mobile phone. The whole scene is surreal and defies logic, challenging the audience and taking them down a rabbit hole.

I've never come out of a cinema in such an altered state of consciousness as that evening I saw Lost Highway some nine years ago. That was the day I truly discovered the power of cinema.

And by the way, this film also has my all-time favourite sex scene - the desert scene in Death Valley between Pete and Alice, that marks the unravelling of the dream.

HarryTuttle a dit…

That's a very nice story Paul.
I love Lost Highway, and it's full of quintessential scenes.
It's amazing how Lynch is able to film this tension. The scene with the cowboy in Mulholland Dr. functions the same way.

Paul Martin a dit…

Hi Harry, I saw Mulholland Dr. on DVD a couple of days ago. I really liked the cowboy scene, but I don't know if I'd agree with your comparison (though I'm not saying that I disagree either). I can see that superficially they seem similar.

There are different delusions in each film. Mystery Man played a specific role in Fred's psychotic delusion in Lost Highway but I'm not as clear about Betty's delusion in Mulholland Dr. Many of the weird characters in MD seem to have been put together in Betty's mind after she saw them at Rita's party.

HarryTuttle a dit…

You're right, the stories are distinct. The explanation of their existence (psychotic or supernatural) doesn't matter, and Lynch will never tell anyway.

Though what I pointed out was the recurrant obsession of a Lynchian trademark : a mysterious character coming out of nowhere, seemingly omniscient, with a superior ascendant on the protagonist pushing them to believe the unbelievable and to do what they're told even though there is no imminent threat to do so. Bob in Fire Walks With Me, or Mr Roque in Mulholland Dr. again.

Paul Martin a dit…

OK, I get your point now regarding a mystery character. Yes, Mr. Roque, or the same actor's character in Twin Peaks. I found Fire Walks With Me very emotional (I cried when it started with Laura Palmer). I think this was a brilliant and mostly under-rated film. It is one of my favourites by Lynch.

Bob was a very different type of character. By jove, this Lynch fellow produces some really bizarre epitomes of evil.