Saturday, 24 December 2016
Nights | Frank Ocean
David Bowie died this year. Prince, too. Muhammad Ali. Kiarostami, Rivette and Cimino. Leonard Cohen. And countless others. It’s easy to get caught up in negativity when so much of what we love seems to be dying. I’ve found myself in my darkest moments re-living aspects of the life I lived as a teenager, spending hours sat despondently in the dark listening to emo bands and reading about aviation disasters on Wikipedia, wallowing in good memories and blocking out painful thoughts. When the present is too much to deal with, nostalgia is an easy crutch to lean on. It’s safe. There are no unknowns when you hide inside your memories.
And, now more than ever, nostalgia seems to be echoing throughout pop culture. Stranger Things, Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life, Pokémon Go, the revitalised Craig David and blink-182, Finding Dory and Bridget Jones’s Baby among others have all found success this year by drawing heavily on sounds, images, characters and experiences that resonate primarily because they have resonated before. This increasingly symbiotic relationship between the past and the present is something I’ve repeatedly seen confronted in cinema this year. Films about people struggling to free themselves from the ghosts of their pasts. About people living in the knowledge that they're no longer part of the future. About people questioning their lives and memories, about people forced to forget them. And about people lost to the present, living with no real concept of the past and no real thought to the future.
This, of course, isn’t a new thing, but it feels more prevalent this year. The films I seemed to gravitate towards all come imbued with their own sense of history: the outline of a rock formation reminding a surfer of her late mother in The Shallows; the burning statue of Joan of Arc in Nocturama; an antique dressing table formerly owned by a retired music critic’s beloved aunt in Aquarius; a once vibrant but now abandoned football stadium seen through the window of a sportswriter’s childhood bedroom in Sweet Dreams; a child’s drawing of a family given pride-of-place on the wall of a single woman’s home in Arrival. Each a monument to a feeling that no longer exists as it once existed, and to a life that has been changed forever.
The following twelve films, all of which I love, treat the present as an opportunity to break free from the past. In a year defined by regression, I think that's a valuable thing to see.
In alphabetical order:
Aquarius | Kleber Mendonça-Filho
Arrival | Denis Villeneuve
Creepy | Kiyoshi Kurosawa
The Death of Louis XIV | Albert Serra
Nocturama | Bertrand Bonello
Personal Shopper | Olivier Assayas
The Shallows | Jaume Collet-Serra
The Son of Joseph | Eugène Green
Sully | Clint Eastwood
Sweet Dreams | Marco Bellocchio
Things To Come | Mia Hansen-Løve
Yourself and Yours | Hong Sang-soo
how far is a light year? // how far is a light year?
Futura Free | Frank Ocean
The great nostalgist of modern music ends his latest album with a look to the future, repeating the voice of a child eagerly trying to understand the universe. Perhaps there's hope after all.
Street of Shame | Kenji Mizoguchi, 1956
Stromboli | Roberto Rossellini, 1950
Forever Mine | Paul Schrader, 1998
Starman | John Carpenter, 1984
Career Girls | Mike Leigh, 1997
Dracula | Francis Ford Coppola, 1992
Lifeforce | Tobe Hooper, 1985
House of Tolerance | Bertrand Bonello, 2011
Vive L'amour | Tsai Ming-liang, 1994
Something Wild | Jonathan Demme, 1986
Some ghosts I busted this year.
Memories. 1) Stumbling back to London Victoria after seeing Blissfully Yours, Tropical Malady and a ton of Weerasethakul shorts at the Tate Modern through hazy eyes one night in April, leaving the screen to daylight. 2) Slipping away from an AirBnB in the centre of Brussels to see Michael Cimino's Desperate Hours on 35mm. 3) Watching David Brent: Life on the Road to see Brad's name in the credits. 4) Sitting in stunned silence with Mike after seeing Personal Shopper at the London Film Festival, disappointed that more people weren't doing the same. 5) Throwing myself into Inside (2007) and In My Skin (2002), two disgusting films that I wouldn't have mustered the courage to see if it wasn't for The Final Girls. 6) Every conversation I had with people who love cinema, whether it was about cinema or not.
I need to broaden my horizons.
Maybe next year will be better.