Inspired by Dave Hicks’ excellent blog, I have decided to write about my favorite film for each year from 1926-2008.
1936: Les bas-fonds (Jean Renoir)
Yet another one of these gritty and very moody early works from Renoir. I also remember it having at its core one of the most wonderful stories of friendship I’ve ever seen (this time it’s between Jean Gabin and Louis Jouvet). If there’s anything I’m a sucker for onscreen (maybe even more than a great love affair), it’s a great friendship. We’ll come back to this interest of mine, at least another couple of times, as we count down this list.
One thing I love so much about Renoir is the tone he’s able to strike in these early films. He manages to be an extraordinary humanist without ever becoming overly sentimental. Not an easy balance to strike, and I think Renoir does it as well as anyone.
Akira Kurosawa re-made this film in 1957, and I haven’t seen it yet. But this is one I can’t wait to re-visit. It’s also exciting for me to think about people who have only seen The Rules of the Game and La grande illusion discovering these early Renoir films for the first time. It’s almost like going back in time and getting to watch your wise grandfather in his rough, and sometimes dangerous, early youth.
What moviemakers can learn: Don’t just watch the so-called “classics”. Sometimes flawed and uneven films by great directors can end up influencing you even more than their movies that history has deemed classic.
Other contenders for 1936: As with previous years, I have some things from this year I still need to see. These include Howard Hawks’ The Road to Glory, Sacha Guitry’s The Story of a Cheat, James Whale’s Show Boat, and Douglas Sirk’s Schlußakkord. I also need to re-watch Modern Times at some point. I think I’ve only seen it once, and for some reason, it didn’t have the impact on me of City Lights, or even The Kid. I really like Kenji Mizoguchi’s Sisters of the Gion. And I have two fairly close runners-up this year. George Stevens’ Swing Time might be my second favorite musical. And Jean Renoir’s 40 minute Partie de campagne (A Day in the Country) is my favorite short film of all time, and probably the most poetic film Renoir ever made.
After living in Los Angeles for seven years, Jeffrey Goodman returned to his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana to direct The Last Lullaby. Co-written by the creator of Road to Perdition, and starring Tom Sizemore and Sasha Alexander, The Last Lullaby was filmed entirely in and around Shreveport and financed by 48 local investors. Goodman is now at work, raising money for his next feature, Peril.