SASY Wrap #5 – …And a SASY New Year

And so the epic saga continues. We here at Fan With a Movie Yammer are now 50 films — count ’em 50 films — into our experimental plunge into the Top 250 films of all time. That sounded impressive until we realized it means we still have 200 to go. Luckily our interest remains keen and our willingness to flood the screen with pixels remains undiminished. A quick scan through our word counts and a gambol through Google reveals to us that our yammers on these 50 movies are collectively longer than Sense and Sensibility, so take that Jane Austen! We only mention that because we really have enjoyed this experience and we think that tucked away in our small mountain of verbiage are some actual decent insights — hopefully you have been exploring our site and will agree.

But on to films 41 — 50. This most recent batch of 10 saw us thoroughly entrenched in American cinema of the early 1940s, as only one film was not from the United States (and it was a British short documentary, so no subtitles this go round). In this wrap up we’ll express the merits and problems with American cinema of the period, and why we are really jonesing for some European or Asian films right now. We will touch on reputation versus merit when it comes to film and film criticism. And we’ll try to sort out our own puzzlement over the inclusion of some of these films in the Top 250. But first, as tradition demands, our respective (and this time nearly identical) rankings of the last 10 films.

S.

J.

1. Casablanca (1942) 1. Citizen Kane (1941)
2. Citizen Kane (1941) 2. Casablanca (1942)
3. The Lady Eve (1941) 3. The Lady Eve (1941)
4. His Girl Friday (1940) 4. His Girl Friday (1940)
5. Meshes of the Afternoon (1943) 5. Meshes of the Afternoon (1943)
6. The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) 6. The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)
7. The Grapes of Wrath (1940) 7. The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
8. To Be or Not To Be (1942) 8. To Be or Not To Be (1942)
9. The Great Dictator (1940) 9. The Great Dictator (1940)
10. Listen to Britain (1942) 10. Listen to Britain (1942)

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#102 (tie) – Meshes of the Afternoon (1943), dir. Maya Deren & Alexander Hammid

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Samsara. Maya Deren and Maya Deren sit at a table waiting for Maya Deren to pull up a chair in Meshes of the Afternoon, a circular, surrealist dive into the outer edges of American wartime cinema.

A flower, a key, a knife, a phone with its receiver off the hook, and a mysterious figure in black. It is remarkable what one can achieve with a few stray images and a lot of imagination. This handful of components are remixed and repurposed in an inventive, circular narrative in the experimental Surrealist short Meshes of the Afternoon (1943). Made by the husband and wife team of Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid on a minuscule budget, Meshes is frequently cited as the film that really kicked off American experimental cinema and as a major influence on later filmmakers, particularly David Lynch. Much like Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí’s avant-garde image-fest Un Chien Andalou (1929), Meshes of the Afternoon taps into the imagery and feel of dreams, but its vision is less confronting and more meditative. It also has something closer to an actual narrative thread: A woman steps into a house and falls asleep in a chair, at which point multiple dream selves enter the same house and encounter different experiences with the five items listed above. The result is a cyclical narrative wherein the story repeats itself in different variations as dream clones of the woman begin to pile up in the house. Meshes of the Afternoon gives the viewer no quarter, drawing you in through its wild imagery and offering no explanation of the meaning of it all — if there even is one. (13 min.) Continue reading