Inspired by Dave Hicks’ excellent blog, I have decided to write about my favorite film for each year from 1926-2008.
1959–Pickpocket (Robert Bresson)
Restraint, specificity. Simplicity, cinema distilled. I understand that Bresson’s approach is not for everyone, but I have always gravitated towards things that are spare, spartan and clean. Bresson’s cinema is like meditation for me. I enter clumped and cluttered and exit reminded of what is most essential.
Imagine being stuck on an island, without food, for four or five days. Then, after an excruciating period, someone suddenly shows up with the most appetizing gourmet entrée you’ve ever tasted (though not a very large portion, mind you). That’s the way the ride feels for me with most of Bresson. It is slow-going, even tough at times, but when the journey ends, it makes sense. I understand the reasons I was subjected to such an experience.
Pickpocket is my favorite Bresson. I like Bresson when he works with a contemporary, urban setting, but I also love Mouchette, Au Hasard Balthazar, A Man Escaped and L’argent.
My biggest artistic obsession is a concern over how the world–not to mention movies–is getting louder and faster every year. Although even more extreme than where I’d like to land, Bresson is a template for me in terms of how to go in another direction.
What moviemakers can learn: Pay-off. In many ways, I think you can subject an audience to nearly anything as long as in those final five minutes you pay it off. Bresson was as adept as anyone at this.
Other contenders for 1959: I have a good many gaps from this year, too. These include Roberto Rossellini’s India: Matri Bhumi, Luis Buñuel’s Nazarin, Satyajit Ray’s The World of Apu and Yasujirô Ozu’s Floating Weeds. I really need to re-watch William Wyler’s Ben-Hur and Alain Resnais’ Hiroshima Mon Amour, as it’s been too long since I saw either to know where they would place on this list. I should also revisit Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest, as it’s never impacted me like some of Hitchcock’s other films. But I do really like Otto Preminger’s Anatomy of a Murder, John Cassavetes’ Shadows and Claude Chabrol’s Le beau Serge. I love Roberto Rossellini’s General della Rovere, Claude Chabrol’s Les Cousins and François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows. My closest runner-up is another one of my favorite films of all time, Howard Hawks’ Rio Bravo.
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.