January 01, 2014

Cinema 2013: Looking Back at My Cinema Experience of the Year

With over 200 films that I ended up watching during the year, 2013 was a reasonably good year for me as a cinephile, considering the continuously increasing work-load and professional commitments. Although it averages at just 17 films every month, 200 is a good total and I would sincerely hope to hit it every year.

Discovering new filmmakers is always a great pleasure for us film buffs, filmmakers whom I may not have heard of but the world already regards highly. In the past year I discovered Philippe Garrel ('J'entends plus la guitare' (1991), 'Jealousy' (2013)), Denis Villeneuve ('Incendies' (2010), 'Prisoners' (2013)), Tsai Ming-Liang ('Vive la amour' (1994), 'The Hole' (1998), 'Stray Dogs' (2013)) and Jia Zhangke ('Still Life' (2006), 'A Touch of Sin' (2013)). So impressed I am today with these modern greats that it seems difficult to believe that I hadn't even heard of them until last year. Then there were Master whom I had always heard of, but got convinced of their importance only after watching some of their films now. Carl Dreyer ('The Passion of Joan of Arc' (1928), 'Vampyr' (1932), 'Ordet' (1955)), Luchino Visconti ('White Nights' (1957), 'Rocco and His Brothers' (1960)), Rainer Werner Fassbinder ('Veronika Voss' (1982)), Jafar Panahi ('Closed Curtains' (2013)) and Mohsen Makhmalbaf ('A Moment of Innocence' (1996)) were such names for me this last year.

And then, of course, watching more movies of favourite film-makers continues. At the end of 2013, my personal count of the Masters is as follows: Woody Allen (23), Alfred Hitchcock (19), Satyajit Ray (19), Akira Kurosawa (18), Ingmar Bergman (16), Martin Scorsese (16), the Coen Brothers (16), Steven Spielberg (14), Luis Bunuel (13), Stanley Kubrick (12), Federico Fellini (11), Roman Polanski (10), Krzysztof Kieslowski (8+Decalog), and Abbas Kiarostami, Clint Eastwood, Francois Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, David Lynch, and Jim Jarmusch (9 each).

Some of the greatest cinema of all-time that I watched last year included 'Last Year at Marienbad', 'The Color of Pomegranates', 'The Red and the White', 'Wings of Desire', 'Paris, Texas', 'Day for Night', 'Mon oncle Antoine', 'Inherit the Wind', 'The Long Good Friday', 'How Green was My Valley', and 'Do the Right Thing'. Add to it some of the modern classics from World Cinema, like 'Beau Travail', 'La Cienaga', 'Good Bye Lenin!', 'Exotica', 'Whale Rider', 'Distant' and '4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days' apart from some of the best films of 2013 (I will write a separate post on it). Also, I re-watched some great movies, like 'Raging Bull', 'Fargo', 'Vertigo', 'The Shining', 'Eyes Wide Shut', 'Eraserhead', 'Breathless', 'Ijaazat', 'Maqbool' and the big screen re-watch of 'Tokyo Story'. Re-watching the films of Sooraj Barjatya was a very pleasant surprise and he remains the film-maker I revere the most despite having watched the best of movies from all across the world. However, there were two movies that deserve special mention here. 'Short Term 12' (2013) is perhaps one of the most underrated films of the year, and I hope against hope that it gets some recognition at the upcoming Academy Awards. And there is one film, which I will choose as the stand-out film of the year. It is 'The Spirit of the Beehive' (1973), the brilliant Spanish drama, made by Victor Erice, who has made only three films in his life, this being his first. Please watch this as soon as you can. It is a hauntingly beautiful film that you will never forget.

Despite such an impressive list of some great cinema experience, let me now, before signing off, burst the bubble. There are certain films you cannot believe a modern film-buff has not watched. Every year, I try to watch some of those to make sure I do not surprise you with my complete ignorance of these widely watched, popular films. 'Gangs of New York' was one such film that I watched only recently. It is almost embarrassing to say this. 'Kabuliwala', 'Nayakan', 'Evil Dead', 'Chariots of Fire', 'Kramer vs Kramer', 'Edward Scissorhands', 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind', 'The Searchers', 'Thelma and Louise' and 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' were some of such films that I watched in 2013. I know some of you who know me very well would be tempted to ask if I finally watched 'Forrest Gump', 'Terminator 2', and 'Gunda'. Well, not yet. 2014, take a cue!

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