Tuesday 9 January 2018

The Ten Best First Films (4) - Serious long time cinephile Michael Campi explores some unbeaten tracks

Editor’s note: Editor's Note: Previous lists by moi, by Rod Bishop and by Bruce Hodsdon if you click here  here and here . 
Entries invited to filmalert101@gmail.com

Michael writes: First features that have wowed me over the years and sticking to Geoff's proposition that they should be first feature length films seen before other films by each director and not as later catchups.  So, for example, I didn't see PATHER PANCHALI till some time after THE WORLD OF APU so that it's not included. Similarly, with 400 BLOWS and of course we were denied the banned BREATHLESS till after other Godard films had been seen in Australia.

David Hare has mentioned the remarkable first film of Nuri Bilge Ceylan but I don't remember the order in which I saw it.

Additionally I would have included half of Geoff's list (the Italian, Chinese and Japanese titles) but decided to highlight some others instead.

LOLA (Jacques Demy, 1961) swept many of us away when it appeared in Melbourne three or four years later and it remains to dazzle over the years despite some controversial restoration work.

MUNDANE HISTORY, Anocha Suwichakornpong, 2009, seen at the Hong Kong IFF, seemed an astonishing, quiet but intensely touching look at a young man's bitter frustration on finding himself paralysed. The director's subsequently widely screened and lauded second feature BY THE TIME IT GETS DARK (2016) extends significantly the promise of the first feature. We are not including short works but her lovely GRACELAND (2006) signifies a bright future. 

THE DELTA (Ira Sachs, 1996) came out of nowhere when I first saw it probably on a preview tape for a festival. Sachs has continued to surprise and delight with subsequent projects,

THE DAYS (Wang Xiaoshuai, 1993) was one of the most assured of the sixth generation works from China. Happily the director has continued to stimulate us with many films including SO CLOSE TO PARADISE, BEIJING BICYCLE, 11 FLOWERS, RED AMNESIA and more.

BETELNUT (Yang Heng, 2006) revealed a new director who knew precisely how to use landscapes and long shots most creatively, aspects that have continued in his later SUN SPOTS, LAKE AUGUST and GHOST IN THE MOUNTAINS.

FROM AFAR (DESDE ALLE, Lorenzo Vigas, 2015) is another enormously assured debut and one that continues to satisfy after repeated viewings.

MOUNTAIN (Yaelle Kayam, 2015) is an unexpected and totally assured Israeli drama directed by a young woman who studied at the VCA Film School in Melbourne. One anticipates wonderful films in the future.

REBELS OF THE NEON GOD (Tsai Ming-Liang, 1992). Fresh from the lab and shown privately to a few guests at a film festival in 1992, the film announced a major new talent who really explored the frustrations and agonies of young people in Taipei. The rest is history.

The Life of Jesus
THE LIFE OF JESUS (Bruno Dumont, 1997) A new filmmaker of huge potential could be seen at work when this first feature appeared at film festivals. 

GHOSTS OF THE CIVIL DEAD (John Hillcoat, 1988) signalled a special new talent in Australian filmmaking.

CHRONICLE OF A DISAPPEARANCE (Elia Suleiman, 1996) impressed with a unique and droll treatment of life under very difficult circumstances.

GREEN FISH (Lee Chang-Dong, 1997) The first feature by Lee, a significant writer previously, dazzled with its visual assurance.  The director's subsequent films have continued to astonish.

BADLANDS (Terrence Malick, 1973) 

KNIFE IN THE WATER (Roman Polanski, 1962)

Hard Eight
HARD EIGHT (Paul Thomas Anderson, 1996). Even on first viewing a laserdisc on a CRT, something riveting leapt from the screen as several of us were swept away by this debut feature. It was twenty years later that Melbourne Cinematheque screened a matchless 35mm print of the film for proper appreciation.

Apologies to the directors of some important omissions to this rather hastily prepared list.


Geoff, think I've exceeded your quota.  Apologies.

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