Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Project)

An ongoing survey of the Criterion Forum membership to create lists of the best films of each decade and genre.
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domino harvey
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Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#426 Post by domino harvey » Wed Mar 19, 2014 4:32 pm

Parenthesis is how many lists had it in their Top 10, final number is the highest ranking it achieved on any one list

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Lemmy Caution
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Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#427 Post by Lemmy Caution » Wed Mar 19, 2014 4:40 pm

Ah, thanks.
I couldn't figure out the parentheses.
Top 10 ... got it.

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Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#428 Post by zedz » Wed Mar 19, 2014 5:21 pm

Lemmy Caution wrote:Some of the foreign docs I've never heard of, such as:
29. Hear My Cry/Uslyszcie mój krzyk (Maciej J. Drygas, 1991) 99/3(2)/6
33. Wanda Gosciminska, a Textile Worker/Wanda Gosciminska - wlókniarka (Wojciech Wiszniewski, 1975) 95/3(1)/10
Both of these are from PWA / NINA Polish Documentary sets, which are just absurdly great. I could have filled half a list with films from those collections (Witnesses also comes from the same source).

Wanda Gosciminska really has to be seen to be believed. It was one of the docs I identified from my list that includes (as far as I can ascertain) no documentary footage (the other was, more obviously, The Sinking of the Lusitania). Visually, it makes your average Fellini film look like a daytime soap.

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Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#429 Post by martin » Thu Mar 20, 2014 9:41 am

Thanks for a great job, matrixschmatrix, compiling the lists. I can't have been easy, especially in cases like mine where I had a couple of films that are not even on the IMDb!

I ended up with 35 orphans and 2 also-rans on my list. It was much more difficult to make a list of 50 than I had expected. A Scandinavian/French influence is evident, and it's clear, I guess, that I'm interested in music, art, and films. But most of all, my lists represents availability and what I've been presented to during education, TV, and limited cinematic showings in my part of the world. Here are the first of my orphans (ignoring the titles I've already mentioned in the thread):

1. Richter: The Enigma (Bruno Monsaingeon, 1998)
This is a film about the Soviet classical pianist Sviatoslav Richter. He's sitting at a table and reading aloud from his personal diaries (called notebooks in this context, and partly published by Bruno Monsaingeon, btw.). Lots of archive footage accompanies his readings, and many formidable music excerpts are used throughout. Richter was such an extraordinary personality, very humble, almost self-effacing. "I'm not great", he said. He reminds me of Kieslowski in many ways, also in the view on USA. Yet, despite his humble personality, he was an imposing figure when he was playing his piano. The Chopin Etude Op. 10, No. 12 is executed with a unmatched physical brutality. But he could also play Schubert with a poetic beauty which in my opinion has never been surpassed (the pianist Glenn Gould said he only liked Schubert when played by Richter). You probably need to know a bit about classical music to fully enjoy this film, because there's an implied familiarity in the way some of the statements about fellow pianists, conductors or composers are delivered. This film was also a top 10 choice (and orphan, obviously) when I submitted a list for the 90's project 5 years ago - the only other time I've submitted a list.

8. Der Ring des Nibelungen (Brian Large, 1980)
Patrice Chereau's setting of Wagner's Ring at Bayreuth in 1976. Chereau's version played in Bayreuth for 5 consecutive summers, and was shot live for TV by Brian Large after the last performance in 1980 (although without audience). Musically perhaps not the best of the Rings but brilliant in concept and visual execution.

9. Katka (Helena Treštíková, 2010)
10. Søren Kierkegaard (Anne R. Wivel, 1994)
We follow a group of teachers (professors, theologists, writers) during their lectures on philosopher Søren Kierkegaard at a Folk High School and at Folkeuniversitet ("Danish University Extension" in English). These courses are not for academic purposes, but rather courses people choose for personal reasons (learning for the sake of learning, and nothing else). The typical cost at the time would be $50 for a course of five or six 90 minutes lectures. The level of enthusiasm in the film is enormous, and there's something beautiful about the whole thing. Has philosophy ever been more fun? And I wonder how they managed to sneak a couple of Pink Floyd tracks into the soundtrack without making it seem out of place? Shot on 35 mm film, and released on a beautiful BD by DFI (1080i50, although 25 fps may have been the intended framerate, since it was meant for TV/Video release at its time).

11. Dancing Dreams/Tanzträume (Ranier Hoffman & Anne Linsel, 2010)
15. Place de la République (Louis Malle, 1974)
16. Toute la mémoire du monde (Alain Resnais, 1956)
Beautifully shot with lots of low and (especially) high-angle shots. And some great tracking shots, wonderful editing and splendid use of a theme so common in these early Resnais-films: Memory.

19. Per Kirkeby - vinterbillede (Jesper Jargil, 1996)
Per Kirkeby is one of the most celebrated contemporary Danish painters/artists, and his works are among the most expensive works of contemporary Danish art. In this film we see him paint a gigantic painting, approximately 6 x 3 meters, filmed from a fixed position with an almost fixed framing. It's fascinating to see the painting undergo all sorts of transformations as he adds layer upon layer, to such a degree that he sometimes has to remove the paint again. And he's really good at telling about his thoughts and his process. This film became an instant classic in art-classes in Denmark. Apparently the first Danish film to be shot on HD video. Released on BD by DFI.

20. Être et avoir (Nicolas Philibert, 2002)
This has a big appeal also among non-cinephiles, not unlike Varda's Gleaners, I guess. Touching and very easy to watch. I like it, although I'm not a fan of the fly-on-the-wall attribution that is often attached to these films. Same goes for the other Philiberts among my orphans.

21. Lo sguardo di Michelangelo (Michelangelo Antonioni, 2004)
I like documentaries on art, like no. 19 on my list. I considered Une visite au Louvre for this project but discarded it and chose Antonioni's wordless film instead (much less radical than the Huillet/Straub film though). Can never get enough of Antonioni.

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Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#430 Post by Lemmy Caution » Thu Mar 20, 2014 10:51 am

zedz wrote: Both of these are from PWA / NINA Polish Documentary sets, which are just absurdly great. I could have filled half a list with films from those collections (Witnesses also comes from the same source).
Thanks for the info.
Only the Andrez Munk ever turned up here, and I have it but forgot and failed to unearth it for the documentary project. Otherwise only the PWA Animation set was available here.
Hope the other PWA doc sets make an appearance. I'll have to ask around if any have been here that I might have missed.

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Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#431 Post by swo17 » Thu Mar 20, 2014 2:00 pm

I didn't fare too badly orphan-wise, probably because I got most of my recs from zedz, er, I mean this thread, where they were already more or less guaranteed another vote. And several others were just me being the only one crazy enough to call the film a documentary.

I've already discussed many of these already in the thread, so I'll keep my comments here brief.

01. The Great Ecstasy of Woodcarver Steiner (Werner Herzog, 1974)
02. Las Hurdes (Luis Buñuel, 1933)
03. Les Maîtres fous (Jean Rouch, 1955) ORPHAN -- Well, eventually, Icarus will put this out and you will all thank me by setting yourselves on fire.
04. Vertical Features Remake (Peter Greenaway, 1978) ORPHAN -- I figured this did well enough in the '70s project that it might easily place here without any effort on my part.
SpoilerShow
Perhaps it would have helped if it were actually a documentary. BUT...unlike something like Spinal Tap, where the comedy is derived from faked moments and the documentary format is somewhat incidental to enjoyment of the film, this works like a parody of the self-seriousness of many documentaries. It may be fake, but "documentary" is in its DNA--it couldn't exist in any other form.
05. The Ossuary (Jan Švankmajer, 1970)
06. Fuego en Castilla (José Val del Omar, 1961)
07. N.Y., N.Y. (Francis Thompson, 1957) ORPHAN
08. Zorns Lemma (Hollis Frampton, 1970) ORPHAN
09. Granton Trawler (John Grierson, 1934) ORPHAN
10. Leviathan (Lucien Castaing-Taylor & Verena Paravel, 2012)
11. The House Is Black (Forough Farrokhzād, 1963)
12. ¡Vivan las Antipodas! (Victor Kossakovsky, 2011)
13. Henri-Georges Clouzot's Inferno (Serge Bromberg & Ruxandra Medrea, 2009) -- How Clouzot's best film, and perhaps one of the best films of the '60s, never got made.
14. Blood of the Beasts (Georges Franju, 1949)
15. Méditerranée (Jean-Daniel Pollet & Volker Schlöndorff, 1963)
16. Finis terrae (Jean Epstein, 1929) ORPHAN
17. Salt for Svanetia (Mikhail Kalatozov, 1930)
18. Plate-forme mobile et Train électrique (Louis Lumière, 1900) ORPHAN -- When oh when is someone going to put all these great Lumière brothers films out on DVD?
19. Daybreak Express (D.A. Pennebaker, 1953) ALSO-RAN
20. Time Indefinite (Ross McElwee, 1993)
21. Walden (Jonas Mekas, 1969)
22. Walking from Munich to Berlin (Oskar Fischinger, 1927)
23. Wanda Gościmińska, a Weaver (Wojciech Wiszniewski, 1975)
24. Washerwomen on the River (Louis Lumière, 1897)
25. Water and Power (Pat O'Neill, 1989) ORPHAN - A much weirder and yet more palatable rendition of what Koyaanisqatsi attempts to achieve. (I still like that film a lot, but more for the audiovisual element.)
26. The Quince Tree Sun (Víctor Erice, 1992)
27. Man with a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, 1929)
28. Sherman's March (Ross McElwee, 1985)
29. The Sinking of the Lusitania (Winsor McCay, 1918)
30. News from Home (Chantal Akerman, 1977) -- I was fully expecting this to be orphaned, so thanks to whoever else voted for it!
31. New York Portrait II (Peter Hutton, 1981) -- Take heed, '80s list participants!
32. 79 primaveras (Santiago Álvarez, 1969)
33. ¡Que viva Mexico! (Sergei Eisenstein, 1932) ORPHAN
34. Near Death (Frederick Wiseman, 1989) ORPHAN
35. Sopralluoghi in Palestina (Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1965) ORPHAN -- Unravels the mystery of why Pasolini made a film about Jesus.
36. Screen Test: Ann Buchanan (Andy Warhol, 1964) ALSO-RAN -- And Ms. Buchanan sheds a single, solitary tear for being beaten out by a bunch of Michael Moore films.
37. Shoah (Claude Lanzmann, 1985)
38. Witnesses (Marcel Łoziński, 1988) ALSO-RAN
39. Stories About a Man (Bogdan Dziworski, 1983) ALSO-RAN -- It might have helped if the guy who spotlighted this had submitted a list!
40. Alamar (Pedro González-Rubio, 2009) ORPHAN
41. Hear My Cry (Maciej Drygas, 1991)
42. Panoramic View of the Morecambe Sea Front (Sagar Mitchell & James Kenyon, 1901) ORPHAN
43. Blockade (Sergei Loznitsa, 2006) ORPHAN
44. Decasia (Bill Morrison, 2002) ORPHAN
45. Koyaanisqatsi (Godfrey Reggio, 1982)
46. Crazy (Heddy Honigmann, 2000) ALSO-RAN -- There's something magical about people being deeply moved by terrible music.
47. La Soufrière (Werner Herzog, 1977) ALSO-RAN -- Epic, apocalyptic treatment of a false alarm.
48. RR (James Benning, 2007) ALSO-RAN -- Train porn.
49. South (Frank Hurley, 1920) ORPHAN -- A really stunning record of Ernest Shackleton's expedition to the Antarctic, particularly remarkable for when it was made.
50. Surviving Edged Weapons (Dennis Anderson, 1988) -- Though this did place on the final list, I'm really concerned at how few of you still seem to have seen it. Are you naïve enough to think that you won't one day be face to face with an edged weapon?

Incidentally, since the deadline, I've also watched Rules of the Road and it is rather formally brilliant, with a great use of songs. (Not just the songs themselves, but also how they abruptly cut off at just the right moment.) I might have tried to make room for this if I'd seen it in time.

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Lemmy Caution
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Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#432 Post by Lemmy Caution » Thu Mar 20, 2014 2:50 pm

N.Y., N.Y. (Francis Thompson, 1957)

I watched that on your rec, and really enjoyed it, and sent a link for it to my niece who is in photography school in NYC, and ... forgot to put it on my list.
Altogether, I didn't do a good job with the bottom quarter of my list.

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Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#433 Post by Lemmy Caution » Thu Mar 20, 2014 3:25 pm

Last night I watched 20 Feet From Stardom. Well done.
I liked how they put the focus on Darlene Love (and The Blossoms), even taking time to explain how Darlene Love was jerked around by Phil Spector. Then branched out to other backup singers -- detailing how Merry Clayton tried to make it as a solo act, while Lisa Fischer was mostly content to be a featured backup singer, and Judith Hill is currently trying to break through. This structure worked well, while they added in other singers and famous headliners discussing backup singers.

My only quibble was that as far as I recall they didn't show one white backup singer actually singing -- except for the square trio from the fifties -- even though they interviewed two of them. They did spend a little time with the Hispanic singer Tata Vega and her career, and some of her singing. Though her singing wasn't highlighted that well.

I was pleased that there were some musicians I wasn't that familiar with. Always looking for more good music and now will have to track down Claudia Lennear's solo album. I was only slightly familiar with her before, but when you were one of the Ikettes, backed up Joe Cocker and David Bowie and were reportedly the inspiration for Mick Jagger singing about what black girl's taste like, well you're worth a listen.

The film also used The Shoop Shoop Song (It's in His Kiss) as an example of interesting background singing -- but failed to note that the title actually comes from the background singers (bolstering the contention made a few times that background singing is what often sticks with us) and was first recorded by Merry Clayton who is featured fairly prominently in the doc. Not a big deal, but that song seemed an opportunity to tie a few things together.

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Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#434 Post by zedz » Thu Mar 20, 2014 4:00 pm

swo17 wrote:04. Vertical Features Remake (Peter Greenaway, 1978) ORPHAN -- I figured this did well enough in the '70s project that it might easily place here without any effort on my part.
SpoilerShow
Perhaps it would have helped if it were actually a documentary. BUT...unlike something like Spinal Tap, where the comedy is derived from faked moments and the documentary format is somewhat incidental to enjoyment of the film, this works like a parody of the self-seriousness of many documentaries. It may be fake, but "documentary" is in its DNA--it couldn't exist in any other form.
SpoilerShow
I never considered this film (which I'm sort of ambivalent about) or A Walk Through H (which I'm not) as in contention, but there were a number of great films that looked like documentaries, walked like documentaries and quacked like documentaries that I ruled out because they really weren't documentaries, and I can't even discuss them because in most cases the fact that they're not documentaries is a massive spoiler!
16. Finis terrae (Jean Epstein, 1929) ORPHAN
Well, if it's a documentary then it's a snuff movie!
18. Plate-forme mobile et Train électrique (Louis Lumière, 1900) ORPHAN

Fateful vote-splitting on the awesome improvised dolly-shot actualities front!
25. Water and Power (Pat O'Neill, 1989) ORPHAN - A much weirder and yet more palatable rendition of what Koyaanisqatsi attempts to achieve. (I still like that film a lot, but more for the audiovisual element.)
I was trying to figure out how to accommodate O'Neill on my list and came very close to tossing The Decay of Fiction in there, since at one level it's an architectural documentary (if you leave aside the ghosts and thrashing demons). I'm delighted you found a seat at the table for him. Even though Water and Power isn't my favourite film of his by a long stretch, it's great to have an alternative to Koyaanisqatsi and its ilk.
35. Sopralluoghi in Palestina (Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1965) ORPHAN -- Unravels the mystery of why Pasolini made a film about Jesus.
This really is a surprisingly great film, considering it's basically a DVD extra avant la lettre.
46. Crazy (Heddy Honigmann, 2000) ALSO-RAN -- There's something magical about people being deeply moved by terrible music.
I'm glad you tracked this down, and should have known yours would be the other vote. Even today (14 years after I saw the film) I can't help getting a little teared up when I hear the title track, which is both annoying and slightly awesome, especially since the initial association with the guy who chose it was already so cheesy. It wasn't a song he listened to, or even knew, when he was in Bosnia (I think?), but it accompanied a news show montage that he saw some time later, and that's when everything came crashing down. This is one of the best films about the mysterious and unpredictable emotional connections we make with music.
49. South (Frank Hurley, 1920) ORPHAN -- A really stunning record of Ernest Shackleton's expedition to the Antarctic, particularly remarkable for when it was made.
I think technically it's more remarkable for where it was made, but I concede your point. This just missed out on my list.
Incidentally, since the deadline, I've also watched Rules of the Road and it is rather formally brilliant, with a great use of songs. (Not just the songs themselves, but also how they abruptly cut off at just the right moment.) I might have tried to make room for this if I'd seen it in time.
Yay! I hope you'll follow up with more of Friedrich's work, and even seek out the 'box set' (no box, but it is a set).

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Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#435 Post by knives » Thu Mar 20, 2014 4:06 pm

zedz wrote:
swo17 wrote:04. Vertical Features Remake (Peter Greenaway, 1978) ORPHAN -- I figured this did well enough in the '70s project that it might easily place here without any effort on my part.
SpoilerShow
Perhaps it would have helped if it were actually a documentary. BUT...unlike something like Spinal Tap, where the comedy is derived from faked moments and the documentary format is somewhat incidental to enjoyment of the film, this works like a parody of the self-seriousness of many documentaries. It may be fake, but "documentary" is in its DNA--it couldn't exist in any other form.
SpoilerShow
I never considered this film (which I'm sort of ambivalent about) or A Walk Through H (which I'm not) as in contention, but there were a number of great films that looked like documentaries, walked like documentaries and quacked like documentaries that I ruled out because they really weren't documentaries, and I can't even discuss them because in most cases the fact that they're not documentaries is a massive spoiler!
Zedz be telling no lies on this. :wink:

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Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#436 Post by zedz » Thu Mar 20, 2014 4:09 pm

Lemmy Caution wrote:Last night I watched 20 Feet From Stardom. Well done.
I liked how they put the focus on Darlene Love (and The Blossoms), even taking time to explain how Darlene Love was jerked around by Phil Spector. Then branched out to other backup singers -- detailing how Merry Clayton tried to make it as a solo act, while Lisa Fischer was mostly content to be a featured backup singer, and Judith Hill is currently trying to break through. This structure worked well, while they added in other singers and famous headliners discussing backup singers.

My only quibble was that as far as I recall they didn't show one white backup singer actually singing -- except for the square trio from the fifties -- even though they interviewed two of them. They did spend a little time with the Hispanic singer Tata Vega and her career, and some of her singing. Though her singing wasn't highlighted that well.

I was pleased that there were some musicians I wasn't that familiar with. Always looking for more good music and now will have to track down Claudia Lennear's solo album. I was only slightly familiar with her before, but when you were one of the Ikettes, backed up Joe Cocker and David Bowie and were reportedly the inspiration for Mick Jagger singing about what black girl's taste like, well you're worth a listen.

The film also used The Shoop Shoop Song (It's in His Kiss) as an example of interesting background singing -- but failed to note that the title actually comes from the background singers (bolstering the contention made a few times that background singing is what often sticks with us) and was first recorded by Merry Clayton who is featured fairly prominently in the doc. Not a big deal, but that song seemed an opportunity to tie a few things together.
I found this doc very entertaining, but also sort of sloppy and irritating. My main gripe was that, for a film that claims to set out to celebrate the art and importance of background singers, and stressed that they're not necessarily failed soloists, it spent almost all of its time focussing on the struggles of singers who (yep) tried and failed to have solo careers. That's the kind of simplistic narrative that most documentaries default to, but in this case it really shoots the film's thesis in the foot.

And could anybody really care less about the young hopeful they spent way too much time building up? Was she the producer's niece or something?

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Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#437 Post by swo17 » Thu Mar 20, 2014 4:13 pm

zedz wrote:
16. Finis terrae (Jean Epstein, 1929) ORPHAN
Well, if it's a documentary then it's a snuff movie!
I've already acknowledged this before, but it's my understanding that the part you're referring to is a reenactment. Lots of documentaries include reenactments of events that would be impossible or inadvisable to film in actuality. Otherwise, the film stars local non-actors and largely documents how they live and work, complete with educationally leaning title cards. I stand by my decision. [-(

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Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#438 Post by Lemmy Caution » Thu Mar 20, 2014 5:01 pm

I thought the doc just wanted to make the case for the value and importance of backup singing, while making it clear that it was only natural for most top backup singers to aspire to solo careers. Also noting that the two types of singing required different skills and approaches. The exception was Lisa Fischer who seemed to prefer being a top backup singer, despite everyone raving about her talent.

I thought it was good that they didn't solely reside in the past but also featured a young backup singer trying to make it. I thought Judith Hill had a nice voice, poise, and a striking look (she mus be part Asian). Just wiki-ed her, and she is 29 and her mother is Japanese. Wiki mentions that she also sings in Japanese. I thought they made a good choice and did pretty well integrating her story in the overall narrative. They did say that backup singing is less common than in the 70's and 80's heyday, but it's still part of the music landscape and touting a young talent, living the life and dreaming the dream, seemed fine to me.
_______________________________________________________
I should add that some of the archival footage -- especially Ray Charles, Billy Preston and the Raelettes; Tina and the Ikettes -- was terrific.
Bette Midler looked really good.
And Mable John had a much more interesting and varied music career than the documentary lets on. Before becoming a Raelette, she was one of the early acts singing at Berry Gordy's Motown/Tamla, and later had a solo career at Stax (her 1966 "Your Good Thing Is About To End" is a minor classic).

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Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#439 Post by matrixschmatrix » Thu Mar 20, 2014 5:45 pm

Incidentally, I want to thank those of you who voted for Stop Making Sense, and curse those who didn't. I'm gonna vote for it again in the 80s list, have no fear.

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Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#440 Post by swo17 » Thu Mar 20, 2014 5:59 pm

So...curse all but two of us? I really like the film too, but mainly just because I love Talking Heads. Generally, I tended to vote for films for this list based on how they were presented rather than how interesting/entertaining I found the subject matter. Because otherwise, I wouldn't even know where to begin.

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Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#441 Post by matrixschmatrix » Thu Mar 20, 2014 6:09 pm

Yes, that's correct. You'll wish you voted for it when my plots come to fruition.

Honestly, I do think it's a wonderfully valuable movie as much for its presentation as for its subject matter- I've seen a lot of concert movies, and I've seen a lot of Talking Heads footage, and Stop Making Sense is a better presentation of a show than anything else I've seen. Its curse may be that it's so well executed that it's nearly invisible, and it just feels like you are at a nearly perfect Talking Heads performance.

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Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#442 Post by zedz » Thu Mar 20, 2014 7:20 pm

matrixschmatrix wrote:it just feels like you are at a nearly perfect Talking Heads performance.
I'd say it's a few years too late for that, but yes, it's really an exemplary documentation of a performance, and it very efficiently keeps out of the way of that performance (while still being, apparently, everywhere that matters when it matters).

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Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#443 Post by zedz » Mon Mar 31, 2014 4:11 pm

The first really great documentary I've seen since submitting my list is In Spring, by Mikhail Kaufman. It works beautifully as a companion piece to Man with a Movie Camera, using a dazzling array of techniques (ultra-fast montage, freeze frames, stop motion, match-cutting, superimpositions, split screens and so forth) to document the end of winter and the coming of spring. There are also a few self-reflexive 'man with a movie camera' moments. Some gorgeous and memorable images (e.g. a horse towing a boat along a flooded street), and the content ranges from People on Sunday observational material to 'look at these lovely tractors' industrial documentary to copulating snails natural history footage.

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Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#444 Post by colinr0380 » Fri Apr 04, 2014 7:07 pm

I don't know if anyone else here has been taking that Scandinavian Film & TV course that Matt mentioned a while back, but I thought I would link to some of the films discussed in the week that was devoted to Scandinavian documentaries. Unfortunately it turned up the week we submitted our lists, so too late to influence my list, but it threw up a host of material that I had not been exposed to before and thought that it would be worthwhile posting about it here too.

The lectures by Ib Bondebjerg started by discussing the early works of Peter Elfelt, an early filmmaker shooting both fiction and non-fiction films such as "Bicycle Champion Thorvald Ellegaard at the cycle racing track in Ordrup" (an early example of sport coverage!), the wonderful Tarantella From Napoli (1903), films of Danish royalty relaxed in front of the camera in Photographing The Royal Family (1899) and coverage of public events in The Inauguration of Ribe Cathedral (1904) or Ellehammer's First Airplane Trials (1907).

Then they moved on to everyday life documentaries by Nordisk Film such as A Tour Through Copenhagen (1907) or the compelling sounding Child Welfare Day In Copenhagen (1907) (!) before moving to world adventure films such as Roald Amudsen's South Pole Expedition (1913) (the penguin footage in this clip beats anything in Happy Feet or March of the Penguins!), the Borneo film Land of the Headhunters (1920) and of course the Oscar winning Thor Heyerdahl Kon-Tiki (1950).

Then to documentaries about nation and community: Finlandia (1922), Norway: A Description In Six Parts (1923) and Sweden: Our Beautiful Country (1924), leading up to what was described at the most famous of the early Danish documentary sound films, Paul Henningson's Denmark (which was apparently controversial in its radical decision to use a jazz soundtrack by Bernhard Christensen and having the editing follow the music to ironically comment on the action, rather than just providing an authoritative voiceover as in previous travelogues), and then moves to Danish Pictures (1970) a film commissioned as another official film with a controversial modern Danish poet Klaus Rifbjerg writing a poem used as voiceover.

The second lecture looked at some of the most important documentary filmmakers of the 1930s and 40s with Theodor Christensen's C - A Corner of Sealand (1938), Arne Sucksdorff's Symphony of a City (1947) (life in Stockholm, presumably another entry in the series of films influenced by Berlin: Symphony Of A City), and documentary shorts by Bjarne Henning-Jensen, Ole Palsbo and Hagen Hasselbalch.

Post 1960s and the loosening up of rules governing documentary filmmakers:

Henning Carlsen, best known for his Palme D'or nominated fiction film Hunger from 1966, was also known for his trilogy of social groups in Denmark: The Elderly (1961), Family Pictures (1964) and Youth (1965)

Then Stefan Jarl's "Mods trilogy" following a group of youths over the decades, from rebellious 60s generation in They Call Us Misfits (1968), to the dark drug use of A Respectable Life (1979), to a new generation in From Misfits To Yuppies (1993) (all three links are to the full films).

The Norwegian male voice choir film Cool And Crazy gets mentioned as well.

The third lecture from the 2000s onwards focuses mainly on television documentaries - The Fairytale Country (1998), The Girls From Hamtorvet (1992) (regarding prostitution), the 13 part Stories From A Police Station (2000), and Anders Riis-Hansen's Tall Stories (about people in a Copenhagen apartment block) and The Boys From Vollsmose (2002) (the integration of Palestinian youths into Denmark society and school system)

Post 9/11 films: Armadillo (2010); Enemies of Happiness (2006) (about the first elected female politician in Afghanistan), Home of the Brave, Land of the Free (2004); My Afghanisatan: Life In The Forbidden Zone (2012)

Then documentary films that play with style, dramatisations and narrative structures: The Five Obstructions (2002), The Red Chapel (2009) (about a fake cultural trip to North Korea), The Ambassador (2011) (about pretending to be a Liberian ambassador in order to expose the diamond trade and political corruption in parts of Africa)
Last edited by colinr0380 on Sat Apr 05, 2014 6:18 am, edited 5 times in total.

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domino harvey
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Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#445 Post by domino harvey » Fri Apr 04, 2014 7:08 pm

I'm enrolled but shamefully I haven't been logging in

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colinr0380
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Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#446 Post by colinr0380 » Fri Apr 04, 2014 7:20 pm

I wonder if Jonathan Rosenbaum is aware that during the Bergman week the lectures talked about a backlash against the filmmkaer and brought up Rosenbaum's controversial "Scenes From An Overrated Career" obituary article again for discussion! :-$

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Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#447 Post by colinr0380 » Sat Apr 05, 2014 6:02 am

martin wrote:19. Per Kirkeby - vinterbillede (Jesper Jargil, 1996)
Per Kirkeby is one of the most celebrated contemporary Danish painters/artists, and his works are among the most expensive works of contemporary Danish art. In this film we see him paint a gigantic painting, approximately 6 x 3 meters, filmed from a fixed position with an almost fixed framing. It's fascinating to see the painting undergo all sorts of transformations as he adds layer upon layer, to such a degree that he sometimes has to remove the paint again. And he's really good at telling about his thoughts and his process. This film became an instant classic in art-classes in Denmark. Apparently the first Danish film to be shot on HD video. Released on BD by DFI.
That sounds like a fascinating documentary, especially as I am only really familiar with his work through the pictures he created for the overture sequence of Dancer In The Dark and Antichrist chapter titles, along with the digital manipulation on the Breaking The Waves chapter titles.

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Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#448 Post by martin » Sun Apr 06, 2014 4:42 am

I saw Dancer in the Dark in the cinema without that ouverture. There was some uneasiness in the audience when the film began in total darkness. Some people were looking back towards the projectionist: Something had to be wrong for sure. But now that you mentions it, I also remember the added sequence with Kirkeby's pictures from the DVD.

I really like the film about Per Kirkeby's Vinterbillede (Winter Picture). But there's not much value for the money if anyone considers buying the Blu-ray from DFI: The film is only 48 mins., and the only extra content is a 30 min. interview with Kirkeby in what looks like VHS quality (English subbed as well). It's Reg. B according to the cover (not tested).

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Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#449 Post by colinr0380 » Fri Aug 01, 2014 12:25 pm


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Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#450 Post by bamwc2 » Fri Aug 15, 2014 9:47 pm

Here's the BFI's longer take on their recent documentaries poll, complete with breakdowns of individual ballots. As usual, the top 100 is nothing new, but there are some very interesting treats lower down in the rankings.

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