Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

December 19, 2014

My film picks for 2014

Filed under: Counterpunch,Film — louisproyect @ 11:44 am
From “Winter Sleep” to “Particle Fever”

The Year in Film


I deliberately refrained from attaching the word “best” to the films listed below out of consideration that my personal taste weighed heavily. While I would have no problem defending the picks based on artistic merit, there is a subjective factor that is probably no more arbitrary than that reflected in any other critic’s “best of” list even if they are reluctant to admit that personal taste tilted the scale. I can only say that if you have seen and valued films based on my recommendations, then you should look for those listed below in local theaters or on the Internet.

As a rule of thumb, I probably pay less attention to the visual aspects of a narrative film than I do to more conventional dramatic elements such as character development and plot. This meant that I had little use for a film like “Mr. Turner”, a work that made it to many ‘best of 2014’ lists on the basis of breathtaking images of the British landscape evoking the work of the boring and repulsive artist whose life it was celebrating. I could only wonder why Mike Leigh would want to make a film about such a man when you are better off going to the museum and looking at his paintings. My benchmark for such films was “Lust for Life”, the biopic about Vincent Van Gogh that was co-written by Irving Stone, from whose novel the script was adapted, and Norman Corwin. As you may know, Norman Corwin wrote and produced 100 radio plays in the 1930s and 40s, the medium’s golden age. The only images evoked in those classic plays were those that Corwin’s words produced in your mind’s eye.

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  1. Turner repuslive? There’s nothing I like more than going into the city on a Saturday morning and looking at his paintings in the Frick. When the “Golden Hour” gives way to harsher light outside, you can still see it on Turner’s canvasses.

    Comment by srogouski — December 20, 2014 @ 3:20 am

  2. It’s hard to follow you here on Turner. I saw the movie when it opened in London and then went to see the paintings in the big show at the Tate Britain. I admit the gallery visit was more worthwhile, but don’t see how once Mike Leigh decided to make a bio-pic he could have, against all contemporary reports, given us a more personable Turner. It was after all because Turner was stubbornly contrary, a real pain in the neck, that he was able to stand up to the academicians and set painting on a new path. Timothy Spall maybe does a too good job of putting this across and by the end, it’s true, we’ve had enough of the character. But the question is not so much why Leigh decided to do Turner but why he decided to do a bio-pic at all. It’s not what he does best, which is to show us the quirky little people who rarely get screen time elsewhere. We see something of them in Turner’s last companion and other minor characters. The pretty landscapes were obligatory, the point being to compare them to the paintings. It’s not a great film or great Mike Leigh, but it’s hardly contemptible.

    Comment by Peter Byrne — December 20, 2014 @ 4:51 pm

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