So, as mentioned earlier, the shape of things over here will be a little different because the shape of the world is different. More first watches for me, fewer actually new films. For obvious reasons, my viewing habits have changed over the last two years, but I’ve been trying to do two things to keep from sinking into exclusively comfort viewing.
First, I monitor the page for films leaving Criterion Channel at the end of the month, & make a watchlist from that, prioritizing women directors, queer films, and world cinema. Second, I look out for remote film festivals (tips welcome!), as well as random free screenings popping up at Eventive.
…so that’s why one of the best new films I saw in January was a Taiwanese film from 1970. So let’s start with that! The End of the Track, a free offering from the Harvard Film Archive, is a raw and beautiful film about grief, class, and my favorite thing, subtextual queerness.
A Criterion highlight was The Official Story, a film from Argentina about the personal costs for a family that took in one of the stolen children of the Dirty War – one aware of it, one in denial.
Between Shadow and Soul, a silent, black-and-white reworking of The Third Wife, was completely engaging and effective in a different way from the lush green original.
I’m Your Man, the “Cousin Matthew as a robot boyfriend” movie mysteriously described by many letterboxd posts as a romantic comedy, despite the fact that … it’s not romantic. I liked it, and it made me think of Ex Machina (which I love) but I just don’t believe you can have a romance where one partner has no desires of their own. I felt like I had watched a completely different movie than everyone else. (The joke about why he speaks German with an English accent is very good.)
I don’t usually make film resolutions, but this year, since I’m not doing anything else anyway, I thought I’d try to watch a long film every long weekend. And by long I mean over three hours. For New Year’s I finally watched the four hour cut of A Bride for Rip Van Winkle, which actually turned out to be a series (imagine trying to sell that!) Still loved it, so precise and strange. Then over MLK weekend I splurged on Happy Hour, spending five hours living in a novel about these four friends. I could have stayed there longer.
In theater highlights include – The Tragedy of Macbeth (I honestly wished I was watching it on an even larger screen than the midsized multiplex house, all those gorgeous Expressionist lines and shadows, an impossible sound stage castle), Licorice Pizza (though I’m still furious about the racist “jokes” here because they were harmful, bad storytelling that overshadowed everything that was beautiful about that movie), Parallel Mothers, and Flee.
& finally, ~BL Corner~. At the end, so normal people can skip it! January saw the end of “Bad Buddy“, a series which I famously anticipated madly and then adored all the way through. It’s absolutely a classic Thai BL with all the soapiness and low production value and unsubtle product placement which that implies, but it also gives us an unusually healthy relationship, great chemistry, a GL side couple (!), and just in general P’Aof making interesting choices inside the genre.
On the other end of things, an anti-rec for “My Beautiful Man“, a super toxic BL from Japan. It’s one thing to have dark themes and complex characters, it’s another when it’s romanticized abuse and straight-up bad storytelling.
& that’s that for January!