Tuesday, October 06, 2009

I lost it at the movies (Or, how many of them have you seen?)

My friend Abaniko writes that he rode out the stormy weekend with a mini-filmfest of sorts at home. Inspired to “hunt for critically acclaimed films,” he bought “14 dvd's, four of which are Oscar's Best Foreign Films, namely: Shoeshine (special/honorary award) by Vittorio de Sica, La Strada and Nights of Cabiria by Federico Fellini and Nowhere in Africa by Caroline Link.”

“The last time I did this was over 5 years ago”, he says in his blog. He meant the search for films of a certain cache. Abaniko was among the first people I knew who bought a DVD player--a chunky Pioneer--back when VHS tapes were still the norm in home entertainment. My first experience watching DVD was courtesy of his player; we watched the Broadway's Leading Ladies concert headlined by Julie Andrews et al, a copy of which he had bought in the US.

Since he had the machine, he began collecting DVD titles. This was a few years before the explosion of the dibidi-dibidi phenomenon, so he spent quite a fortune buying original editions. Not all of them good, though--a batch he bought in Malaysia (or was it Indonesia?) consisting of Hollywood classics (The Grapes of Wrath, Hamlet, The Old Man and the Sea) were simply crude transfers from VHS to DVD.

Then Quiapo and Makati Cinema Square came along--or, rather, they became Ground Zero for cheap, bootleg DVDs, a lot of them collectible world cinema titles suddenly available in the country for the first time--and Abaniko and I began collecting films in earnest. Eventually, my assiduous hoarding would surpass his collection, but only because he decided one day to decamp to Davao, his hometown, which severely limited his choices. He brought his considerable collection with him, and pretty much stopped buying new titles.

His recent movie marathon had him taking stock of how many films he has seen from a very select bunch: the Oscar Best Foreign Language Film list. “Of the 61 winners... I'm surprised to know that I have already seen 16 of them,” he says.

I am purposely goading him to foam in the mouth with envy by saying that, while he has seen 16 out of the 61 awardees, I have copies of 47 of them (in bold):

1947 – Shoeshine (Italy), dir. Vittorio De Sica
1948 - Monsieur Vincent (France), dir. Maurice Cloche
1949 - The Bicycle Thief (Italy), dir. Vittorio de Sica
1950 - The Walls of Malapaga (France/Italy), dir. René Clément
1951 - Rashomon (Japan), dir. Akira Kurosawa
1952 - Forbidden Games (France), dir. Réne Clément
1953 - No award
1954 - Gate of Hell (Japan), dir. Teinosuke Kinugasa
1955 - Samurai, The Legend of Musashi (Japan), dir. Hiroshi Inagaki
1956 - La Strada (Italy), dir. Federico Fellini
1957 - Nights of Cabiria (Italy), dir. Federico Fellini
1958 - My Uncle (France), dir. Jacques Tati
1959 - Black Orpheus (France), dir. Marcel Camus
1960 - The Virgin Spring (Sweden), dir. Ingmar Bergman
1961 - Through a Glass Darkly (Sweden), dir. Ingmar Bergman
1962 - Sundays and Cybele (France), dir. Serge Bourguignon
1963 - (Italy), dir. Federico Fellini
1964 - Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (Italy), dir. Vittorio De Sica
1965 - The Shop on Main Street (Czechoslovakia), dir. Ján Kadár and Elmar Klos
1966 - A Man and a Woman (France), dir. Claude Lelouch
1967 - Closely Observed Trains (Czechoslovakia), dir. Jiri Menzel
1968 - War and Peace (1968) (U.S.S.R.), dir. Sergei Bondarchuk
1969 - Z (Algeria), dir. Costa Gavras
1970 - Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (Italy), dir. Lee Kresel and Elio Petri
1971 - The Garden of the Finzi-Continis (Italy), dir. Vittorio de Sica
1972 - The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (France), dir. Luis Bunuel
1973 - Day for Night (France), dir. Francois Truffaut
1974 - Amarcord (Italy), dir. Federico Fellini
1975 - Dersu Uzala (U.S.S.R.), dir. Akira Kurosawa
1976 - Black and White in Color (Ivory Coast), dir. Jean-Jacques Annaud
1977 - Madame Rosa (France), dir. Moshe Mizrahi
1978 - Get Out Your Handkerchiefs (France), dir. Bertrand Blier
1979 - The Tin Drum (West Germany), dir. Volker Schlöndorff
1980 - Moscow Distrusts Tears (U.S.S.R.), dir. Vladimir Menshov
1981 - Mephisto (Hungary), dir. Itsván Szabo
1982 - To Begin Again (Spain), dir. José Luis Garcia
1983 - Fanny and Alexander (Sweden), dir. Ingmar Bergman
1984 - Dangerous Moves (Switzerland), dir. Richard Dembo
1985 - The Official Story (Argentina), dir. Luis Puenzo
1986 - The Assault (Netherlands), dir. Fons Rademakers
1987 - Babette's Feast (Denmark), dir. Gabriel Axel
1988 - Pelle the Conqueror (Denmark), dir. Bille August
1989 - Cinema Paradiso (Italy), dir. Guiseppe Tornatore
1990 - Journey of Hope (Switzerland), dir. Xavier Koller
1991 - Mediterraneo (Italy), dir. Gabriele Salvatores
1992 - Indochine (France), dir. Régis Wargnier
1993 - Belle Epoque (Spain), dir. Fernando Trueba
1994 - Burnt by the Sun (Russia), dir. Nikita Mikhalkov
1995 - Antonia's Line (Netherlands), dir. Marleen Gorris
1996 - Kolya (Czech Republic), dir. Jan Sverák
1997 - Character (Netherlands), dir. Mike van Diem
1998 - Life Is Beautiful (Italy), dir. Roberto Begnini
1999 - All About My Mother (Spain), dir. Pedro Almodovar
2000 - Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Taiwan), dir. Ang Lee
2001 - No Man's Land (Bosnia-Hercegovina), dir. Denis Tenovic
2002 - Nowhere In Africa (Germany), dir. Caroline Link
2003 - The Barbarian Invasions (Canada), dir. Denys Arcand
2004 - The Sea Inside (Spain), dir. Alejandro Amenábar
2005 - Tsotsi (South Africa), dir. Gavin Hood
2006 - The Lives Of Others (Germany), dir. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
2007 - The Counterfeiters (Austria), dir. Stefan Ruzowitsky
2008 - Departures (Japan), dir. Yojiro Takita

Sounds boastful? Only to those who are unaware that many of these titles are actually easy to find in your and my favorite DVD stalls, especially the more recent ones. At one time or another, these movies have graced the nondescript bins at Makati Cinema Square, sparking orgiastic frenzy among cinephiles--moi among them--who live for such happy discoveries. All you need is a good pair of eyes--plus cat-quick reflexes to outmaneuver, say, that famous movie director (Is that really him?) who's on the lookout for the same stuff.

Astrovision used to carry a few good entries (I bought Antonioni's Blow-up, Lelouch's A Man and a Woman and Truffaut's Day For Night there), but it remains a wasteland of Hollywood tripe. Whenever I can afford it--admittedly seldom--I buy original; my Belle Epoque and La Dolce Vita and L'Avventura were all expensive purchases. But the way things are these days, the serious lover of cinema knows that the better titles can be found elsewhere. Think of the generations-long state of cinematic ignorance we've been shoved into as a result of this country's slavish devotion to the Hollywood system, and that's only now being redressed by the proliferation of these strange, wondrous movies from many other parts of the world that vibrate with their own voices and cultures, their distinct stories and ways of telling stories.

I've had my own mini-filmfests at home (the latest on the fabulous Beales--the Maysles Brothers' twin documentaries Grey Gardens and the Beales of Grey Gardens, then the HBO movie starring Emmy winner Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore, leavened on breaks with the Broadway soundtrack CD shimmering with Christine Ebersole's vocals--the subject is that fricking addicting), but I'm not stopping at 47, nor, in fact, with just the Oscar list. (How about an Overlooked by the Oscars list?)

Before I throw in the towel, I should be able to watch all Criterion Collection titles, devour every single one of my foreign-movie DVDs, happily get crossed-eyed from reading all those subtitles, and keep my elbows ever ready to jab at anyone trying to out-prowl me for new finds.

Oh, but I haven't forgotten to watch Kimmy Dora and In My Life. And all 10 Cinemalaya entries. Not on video, mind, but in a movie theater. Ay, película.


beektur said...

47? Pfft! I have 55 original copies from this list (including 1953's No Award.) Wait ka lang for Finzi-Continis and The Leopard (kung willing na magdala si Alemberg) after the Chicago film fest.

gibbs cadiz said...

i-compare ba ako zayo e nasa first world ka, nasa barely-third world ako?! hehe. si melvin hasn't contacted me! e paalis ako for a trip. pagalitan mo nga! :)

beektur said...

Ikaw naman, bitter ampalaya lang ako kasi while I settle for dibidi-dibidi, you got to watch the best of Philippine theater of our generation. Tapos you diskas-diskas pa kayo ni abaniko afterwards. Hmp.

Lyka Bergen said...

Does Ded na si Lolo has the distinctive quality of these foreign language films from this Oscar List? Hmmm....

Kolya, Tsotsi, No Man's Land and Cinema Paradiso are my favorites. I'll be watching Karakter and Antonia's Line tonight. My own little Danish Film Fest.

Abaniko said...

Gibbs, tagal na akong nagsusumamo sa yong kumopya ng dvd's mo eh. Pakopya na please. Treat kita sa KFC. Hehe. Pero salamat sa first installment mo na Belle Epoque. :-)

I remember borrowing several VHS tapes from Beektur. Astig ang mga title. Sa kanya ko nahiram ang Apu trilogy pati na yata ang Rashomon at The Seven Samurai ni Kurosawa. Salamat sa inyong dalawa.

Drei said...

gibbs when i have a whole long weekend, i'll have a filmfest of all the dvds you gave me (yes i brought them to madrid!). for now i can only squeeze episodes of how i met your mother during my free time hehe!

wow 47 copies, not to mention the non winners and cult favorites. idol talaga kita!

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