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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

My CCC Top10 Canon

I usually refuse to compare CCC films on a merit basis, since this blog is dedicated to the study of the aesthetic, of this narrative mode, not to fuel the craving of detractors for reasons to dismiss "bad" CCC films (because they don't know how to find CCC-specific reasons to blame a film for failing to achieve its goal).

But in the context of Sight & Sound 2012 Top10 canon, let's also establish a referential standard for the quintessence of CCC, the greatest achievements of this particular aesthetic, which is now a little over 40 years old.

My (partial and non-consensual) Top10 ballot of the greatest aesthetic achievements in Contemporary Contemplative Cinema since 1970 :
  1. Sátántangó (1994/TARR Béla Tarr/Hungary)
  2. Mother and Son (1997/SOKUROV/Russia) 
  3. Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce 1080 Bruxelles (1975/Chantal AKERMAN/Belgium)
  4. The Turin Horse (2011/TARR Béla/Hungary)
  5. Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks (2003/WANG Bing/China)
  6. I don't want to sleep alone (2006/TSAI/Taiwan) 
  7. Los Muertos (2004/ALONSO/Argentina) 
  8. Blissfully Yours (2002/WEERASETHAKUL/Thailand)
  9. Freedom (2000/BARTAS/Lithuania)
  10. Our Daily Bread (2005/GEYRHALTER/Germany) 
Only 3 titles predate 2000, but they occupy all 3 top ranks! Instead of the big names, I went for the films that rely the less on narrative conventions and dialogue and music and editing (Technical minimum profile), to celebrate the core of the minimalist cinematic image (CCC basics), among the films I know qualify for the contemplative narrative mode (Recommended CCC). Many of these on my ballot could arguably replace numerous winners of the S&S2012 final Top10, yet they wind up outside of their Top250 because none of the voters watched them or didn't learn how to look at and appreciate this new aesthetic...

If there are any CCC fans still alive and kicking, please leave your own personal Top10 in the comments below... Thanks for your contributions over the years.

Related : 


Nick B said...

Thanks for all of the work you put in to this blog! There are still quite a few of us CCC fans out there! Here is my Top 10:

1. Sátántangó (Tarr)
2. The River (Tsai)
3. Tropical Malady (Weerasethakul)
4. Three Days (Bartas)
5. Birdsong (Serra)
6. Werckmeister Harmonies (Tarr)
7. Distant (Ceylan)
8. Aurora (Puiu)
9. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Weerasethakul)
10. Los Muertos (Alonso)

Carson Lund said...

Off the top of my head, the best films that I feel give me a state of contemplative reverie of the physical world, with minimal help from narrative, music, acting, etc.:

1. Werckmeister Harmonies (Tarr)
2. Goodbye Dragon Inn (Tsai)
3. Jeanne Dielman (Akerman)
4. Sátántangó (Tarr)
5. In Vanda's Room (Costa)
6. The Flight of the Red Balloon (Hou)
7. Two Years at Sea (Rivers)
8. Liverpool (Alonso)
9. Silent Light (Reygadas)
10. The Anchorage (Edstrom and Winter)

Still haven't seen any Diaz, Benning, Martin, Serra, Wang, Jayasundara, Omirbaev, or Bartas.

HarryTuttle said...

Thanks for sharing both of you!
I didn't see The Anchorage, what is it about?

Slow Immersion said...

Interesting reading your favourite films, as well as the directors from the recent poll. I've always been a big fan of your blog, and I'm guessing 80% of my favourite films are all classed as being contemplative. It is just too difficult for me to create a top 10, but I've gone with films that I've viewed and appreciated most of all.

I've decided to include a few contemplative films which you may not have seen, or heard of, but I would highly recommend them to you:

1. L'intrus (Denis)
2. Sut / Milk (Kaplanoğlu)
3. I Don't Want to Sleep Alone (Tsai)
4. Satantango (Tarr)
5. Aita / Father (Orbe)
6. Voices of Time (Piavoli)
7. Taste of Cherry (Kiarostami)
8. Still Life (Jia)
9. Los Muertos (Alonso)
10. Three Monkeys (Ceylan)

HarryTuttle said...

This is not my ballot for a generalist, All-Time-Greatest masterpieces, or my personal favourites, it is specifically a ranking of CCC films, which ones I consider are the greatest achievements of this particular narrative mode.

Indeed I haven't seen, nor have heard of Aita / Father (Orbe) and Voices of Time (Piavoli), so if you could describe them, or talk about them or any useful link, I would greatly appreciate. Thanks

Slow Immersion said...

Well, for me Piavoli is one of the greatest auteurs in cinema and probably the finest example of contemplative cinema that I’ve seen. I feel he is a cinematic painter and visual poet. When I discovered his work, it made me re-evaluate film, and what it is capable of. His films are almost free of dialogue completely, and he achieves things I’ve not seen from any other without the use of dialogue, whether it be his ode to the cycles in life (Voices Through Time), his nature/cycle of life documentary (Blue Planet), or his two other films. In some of his films such as Voices Through Time, and Nostos, there are a few words and voices which are used for their phonic quality, rather than their literal lexical meaning. Frammartino does share some similarities with Piavoli both thematically, stylistically, and aesthetically, but for me Piavoli, I feel is on a whole different level. So if you like Frammartino’s work, you will probably love Piavoli.

Three of his films are available on youtube, if you wish to preview them before buying them:


I hope you like his work.

As for Aita. This little known Basque masterpiece was a huge shock to me, and it was one of the most satisfying and surprising films I’ve ever seen in many, many years. No plot, other than it focuses on a rundown house in the Basque country. Transcendent piece of cinema, with masterful use of natural light, and an ode to history, family, life, and death. If you’ve seen Guerin’s Train of Shadows, and particularly the interior of the house segment, I’m sure you will enjoy this film.

Trailer for Aita can be found here:

Oh, and finally, I don’t have my own blog, but I have created a list of some other films I’ve seen and would class as contemplative cinema on MUBI:

Thanks again for the great blog. I’m always checking for new updates, to discover new contemplative films :D

alberto caeiro said...

doin this real quick, as i want you to know that there are people like me who love reading your blog, and THAT is much more important than how loosely I feel fixed/attached to these stream of conscious 10, but here ya go:

1. James Benning - El Valley Centro
2. Peter Hutton - At Sea
3. Nathaniel Dorsky - Hours for Jerome
4. Abraham Ravett - Everything's For You
5. Jeanne Liotta - Observando el Cielo
6. David Gatten - What the Water Said I-3 & 4-6
7. Robert Gardner - Forest of Bliss
8. Deborah Stratman - O'er the Land
9. Sandra Gibson/Luis Recoder - Untitled Film Performances
10. Lisandro Alonso - La Libertad

keep going!

fuKKhead said...

Have you had the chance to see La Sirga, by William Vega? It was presented at this year Quinzane at Cannes. Being a first feature, I think it was one of the most powerful movies I've seen this year, and I think it fits perfectly in the CCC canons (even if a plot is present, it's mostly hinted, and nothing is really explained). You should check it out if you have the possibilities.

HarryTuttle said...

@Slow Immersion
Thanks for your introduction to Piavoli. I wonder why I never heard of it before if he made one film in 1981 (before most CCC) as contemplative as can be... You should have told me sooner. It's more comparable to Pelshian or Reggio maybe, with the use of autonomous shots, intercut seemingly randomly, to create a flurry of point of views on an environment (of course the faster editing may distract contemplation, by adding its own intellectual construction suggesting a certain reading of the images). If you want to write an article on them for Unspoken Cinema, you're welcome.
I'll look for Aita when I can. And there are lots I need to see on your Mubi addendum too.
Thanks for your interest.

@alberto caeiro
I'm glad you think that way. If I was feeding this blog only for the comments, it would have stopped a long time ago I'm afraid...
I see you went for the eccentric Top10, staying away from almost all major CCC figureheads.
I haven't heard of Everything's For You, What the Water Said, Forest of Bliss, O'er the Land, Untitled Film Performances... so same as above, if you have more information, description, links, you're welcome.

I wanted to see it, but missed it in the end.

HarryTuttle said...

5 readers... that's more than I thought. :)
Thanks for the support guys.
When CCC will be acknowledge in 50 years, they'll say it was overlooked by its contemporary unfortunately.

Alexander said...

Millennium Mambo
Butterflies Have no Memories
Brown Bunny
Colossal Youth
Goodbye Dragon Inn
Blissfully Yours
Vendredi Soir
The Wind Will Carry Us
Los Muertos

In no order.

Still need to see the films of Bing, Martin and Bartas as well as the Koker Trilogy and pre-Mambo Hou.

Verhoeven said...

There are much more readers then you think, Harry Tuttle. From the Netherlands alone there are a group of Guys who love to read your stuff.

My list of Contemplative Cinema of the 21st Century. From each director i choose one movie:
01. Sang Sattawat / Syndromes and a Century (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
02. L'intrus / The Intruder (Claire Denis)
03. Old Joy (Kelly Reichardt)
04. El Calambre (Matias Meyer)
05. Jean Gentil (Israel Cárdenas en Laura Amelia Guzmán)
06. Tee rak / Eternity (Sivaroj Kongsakul)
07. A Torinói ló / The Turin Horse (Béla Tarr)
08. Izgnanie / The Banishment (Andrei Zvyagintsev)
09. Distance (Hirokazu Koreeda)
10. Yurîka / Eureka (Shinji Aoyama)

11. Bir zamanlar Anadolu'da / Once upon a Time in Anatolia (Nuri Bilge Ceylan)
12. Zhantai / Platform (Zhang Ke Jia)
13. Die Große Stille / Into Great Silence (Philip Gröning)
14. Nang mai / Nymph (Pen-Ek Ratanaruang)
15. Last Days (Gus van Sant)
16. Mua he chieu thang dung / At the Height of Summer (Anh Hung Tran)
17. Sudoeste (Eduardo Nunes)
18. Le Quattro Volte (Michelangelo Frammartino)
19. Hwal / The Bow (Ki-duk Kim)
20. Zi hudie / Purple Butterfly (Ye Lou)
21. Sharasojyu / Shara (Naomi Kawase)
22. Aurora (Cristi Puiu)
23. Delta (Kornél Mundruczó)
24. Brownian Movement (Nanouk Leopold)
25. Florentina Hubaldo, CTE (Lav Diaz)

Also Liverpool, Ruhr, Unser täglich Brot, Politist, adjectiv, Los viajes del viento and so on.

HarryTuttle said...

Is your forum MovieMeter? I think I've landed on it a couple times because it talked about Contemplative Cinema.
Some films on your list I don't know : El Calambre; Jean Gentil; Tee rak; Sudoeste; Zi hudie; Brownian Movement; Florentina Hubaldo, CTE

Slow Immersion said...

It is great to see Nanouk Leopold being mentioned on here, as she is one of my favourite female auteurs, and I see several similarities both stylistically and aesthically between her and directors like Akerman and Schanelec. Brownian Movement is definitely one of the finest examples of contemplative cinema, and I think her earlier film Wolfsbergen would also apply, as well as possibly Guernsey.

If you like Leopold, it is worth checking out another Dutch female director Antoniak's two films. Nothing Personal was was a beautiful tale on conventional love and loneliness, whilst her recent Code Blue is more like Brownian Movement.

Verhoeven said...

Yes, especially this topic: http://www.moviemeter.nl/forum/20/11652/0

El Calambre is from a very interesting director from Mexico. It was his second movie after Wadley:

''Inspired by the films of for instance Abbas Kiarostami, Lisandro Alonso or Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Matias Meyer made a film virtually without dialogue in which man is confronted with himself, his loneliness and the overwhelming landscape. The beautiful long takes are impressive, even if we don't know anything about the protagonist, apart from what we see. His motivation to do what he does remains obscure. Yet the result is clear and powerful, like awakening from a drug high.''


El Calambre:

You should see the trialer of the movie:

And his newest movie is like a deconstruction of the westerngenre: http://www.moviemeter.nl/film/79441

Jean Gentil: http://www.filmfestivalrotterdam.com/professionals/films/jean-gentil/

Tee rak: http://www.filmfestivalrotterdam.com/professionals/films/tee-rak/
It's like Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Seen it twice in five days on the IFFR.

It's like Bela Tarr but then in Latin-America. Extreme cinemascope. I never seen something like this before...

Florentina Hubaldo, CTE
My very first Lav Diaz-movie and i like it right away. It was about 366 minutes with no break.

Zi Hudie is from Lou Ye and it is like a historic movie with very little dialogue, long shots, al the typical things about ‘Contemplative Cinema’. You should try it:

A lot of interesting movies i see is on International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR). You should come over some time. You can find there a lot of obscure movies / documentaries in the World(Art)Cinema.

I have seen al the movies of Leopold and Antoniak because there were distributed in the Netherlands. But i don’t like Code Blue because of is pretension in the last part of the movie…

You should join me on this site: http://whatiwatch.net/

This is my watchlist: http://whatiwatch.net/overview.php?ov=118

HarryTuttle said...

thanks for the links. I need to watch the films in full though. They look interesting indeed.

Slow Immersion said...

Thanks to Verhoeven for your forum. I decided to try and download some of the films discussed on the forum, and Ordinary People was one of the most interesting contemplative films I've seen in a while. Looking forward to seeing the rest.

Harry, I see on the recommended post you have added a few of Piavoli's films, so I guess you have watched most of them? I'm glad you liked them. How this guy is so unknown is one of the greatest mysteries in cinema for me, and I only discovered his work by chance.

dzondunkellicht said...

great site!

aside from the usual suspects (reygadas, ceylan, kawase, tarr, malick, benning, diaz, denis, weerasethakul, lotznitsa, et al.), here are a bunch of films of the last 1-2 years that i'd recommend checking out:

théo court - ocaso

israel cárdenas and laura amelia guzmán - jean gentil

heinz emigholz - perret in frankreich und algerien & parabeton: pier luigi nervi und römischer beton

mathias meyer - the last christeros

michel lipkes - malaventura

ben rivers - two years at sea

véréna paravel and lucien castaing-taylor - leviathan

alejandro fadel - los salvajes (the wild ones)

pat collins - silence

jamie rosales - the dream and the silence

pere vilà i barceló - the stoning of st stephen

bakur bakuradze - the hunter

valerie massadian - nana

isaki lacuesta - the clay diaries

mohammad rasoulof - goodbye

felipe guerrero - corta.

natalia almada - el velador

denis côté - bestiaire

josé maría de Orbe - aita

nicolas pereda - all things were now overtaken by silence

clarissa campolina and helvécio marins jr. - girimunho

jose alvarez - canicula

tatiana huezo - the tiniest place

there's also the new wang bing, yesim ustaoglu and grandrieux to consider but i've yet to see them...

HarryTuttle said...

@Slow Immersion
I watched the 3 films available on YouTube, unfortunately on the small screen... (just to know how he edited) These are typically films that must be watched on a huge screen, since they only have images to give. Apparently he received a couple of nods at major festivals... but he didn't make the headlines or left a lasting impression because, I guess, it is only admired as an odd lovely documentary... instead of being situated within a larger aesthetic form : CCC, where it would gain a more palatable talking point for the press.
However, if these 3 films are definitely fitting the strict model of CCC, I didn't find the artistic content, the authorial intention wasn't as powerful or deep as other similar "slide-show" documentary (such as James Benning's or Geyrhalter's Our Daily Bread or Peleshian's or Le Quattro Volte...). They are beautiful, and very much contemplative, very pure. But there are much greater works out there.

Thanks for the links.
Malick, Denis and Grandrieux give the voiceover a pretty important role in their films, that wouldn't exist without the verbal narration. They tend more toward the verbal description than the strictly contemplative observation...

Verhoeven said...

Our Canon:


HarryTuttle said...

Thank you very much. Very nice list.
So you prefer "openness" to "alienation" in the technical profile definition?
Personally, I make a distinction between the talkative storytelling (voice over narrator, abundant dialogues, overt verbalization) and the equally slow films that do not resort to the verbal aspect of storytelling. Strictly visual films are in my mind more contemplative, so to speak, than the spoken ones (such as Stellet Licht, Meek's Cutoff, 35 Rhums, Gerry, Shara, L'intrus, Old Joy, Georges Washington, 2046...) even if they talk considerably less than the average mainstream movie. It's just a matter of degrees. Thus "Unspoken Cinema".
But I noticed not everyone agrees with me. ;)