Not Coming to a Theater Near You Two-Thousand Eleven In Review

September Seventh Two-Thousand Eleven

by Glenn Heath, Jr. Movies were grand this year (thanks in large part to superb festival stragglers from 2010), and many critics have written as much over the last few months. The consensus is that those viewers who sought out titles beyond the mainstream, like Certified Copy, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, The Arbor, and even dynamic Hollywood fare like Hugo and Fright Night, were justly rewarded with films that explored and destroyed the boundaries between cinematic time and space. Looking back at my own life-altering experiences in 2011, both as a writer, traveller, and film spectator, one common thread thread snakes through the highest of highs: regional cinema, or more specifically, the focus on cities and communities as extensions of perspective, character, and experience.

In terms of my personal repertory screenings, Thom Andersen’s Los Angeles Plays Itself and Louis Feulliade’s Les Vampires are both titanic films that hold great love affairs with their respective urban settings. The former dives so deeply into the history and passion and heartache of a Los Angeles ever-changing due to social corruption that it feels like a piece of great protest art ripped right out of the pavement. Andersen allows us to appreciate the history of a place, not through montage or music, but a shared sense of artistic identity and movement. The Paris of Feulliade’s masterpiece is equally evocative, constructed from rain-drenched roofs, winding stairwells, and vertical movement, truly a city in dynamic motion. Despite its intimidating running time, Les Vampires finds new avenues of interest throughout the many dark alleyways populating its mise-en-scene, creating a seamless plot structure based on the beauty and horror of tangential experiences. In the end, both Los Angeles Plays Itself and Les Vampires made me reassess my own ideas about spatial boundaries in cinema, and a cinephile can’t ask for much more.

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