Films of Faith List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

An ongoing survey of the Criterion Forum membership to create lists of the best films of each decade and genre.
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domino harvey
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Re: Films of Faith List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Proj

#151 Post by domino harvey » Wed Jul 15, 2015 5:45 pm

This has to be some kind of record: Three lists in so far and there are a grand total of five qualifying films between them

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swo17
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Re: Films of Faith List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Proj

#152 Post by swo17 » Wed Jul 15, 2015 5:48 pm

The 1990s list looked exactly the same after three lists.

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domino harvey
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Re: Films of Faith List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Proj

#153 Post by domino harvey » Wed Jul 15, 2015 5:50 pm

Image

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knives
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Re: Films of Faith List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Proj

#154 Post by knives » Wed Jul 15, 2015 6:02 pm

swo17 wrote:The 1990s list looked exactly the same after three lists.
Now this list just needs as many submissions as the '90s list did.

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Shrew
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Re: Films of Faith List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Proj

#155 Post by Shrew » Wed Jul 15, 2015 6:08 pm

Blagh, I kept meaning to write up stuff, but life/work/etc. but for now just a few things that I haven't seen mentioned...

A Touch of Zen- The English title isn't just an attempt to cash in on the new age market. Perhaps the major theme of the movie is the conflict between China's two major religious traditions: the wordly attachment of Confucianism (embodied in filial piety, ritual, and sense of duty) and the worldly detachment of Buddhism. This becomes more clear as the film goes along, especially in the second half and conclusion, where a character is
SpoilerShow
transformed into a living Boddhisatva.
Life on a String- I talked about this in the 90s thread already. Chen Kaige's at times confusing but often moving exploration of mortality and transcendence, shifting between the physical and metaphysical with hardly any notice.

The Wrong Man- I Confess is the only Hitchcock film with the religious subtext is text, and Vertigo is sort of like a religious experience for me, but I think this is the most faith-driven of Hitchcock's films, turning a real-life incident into an allegory for the story of Job/the definition of "Catholic guilt."

Unknown Pleasures-A bit of a long shot, but Jia's film can be seen as exploration in modern China's lack of faith, specifically daoism. I'll expand more on this when I get a chance.
Last edited by Shrew on Wed Jul 15, 2015 7:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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swo17
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Re: Films of Faith List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Proj

#156 Post by swo17 » Wed Jul 15, 2015 6:08 pm

knives wrote:
swo17 wrote:The 1990s list looked exactly the same after three lists.
Now this list just needs as many submissions as the '90s list did.
It typically takes around 10 contributors for there to be a consensus of 100 titles. That's just math for you.

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knives
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Re: Films of Faith List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Proj

#157 Post by knives » Wed Jul 15, 2015 6:22 pm

Just wishful thinking Swo (and I suspect we'll need more than 10)
Shrew wrote:Blagh, I kept meaning to write up stuff, but life/work/etc. but for now just a few things that I haven't seen mentioned...

A Touch of Zen- The English title isn't just an attempt to cash in on the new age market. Perhaps the major theme of the movie is the conflict between China's two major religious traditions: the wordly attachment of Confucianism (embodied in filial piety, ritual, and sense of duty) and the worldly detachment of Buddhism. This becomes more clear as the film goes along, especially in the second half and conclusion, where a character is
SpoilerShow
transformed into a living Boddhisatva.
This is an absolutely amazing film though I find its sister film Raining in the Mountains (or however the tenses go) the more exciting film, just in terms of watching and how it deals with themes of Buddhism in the context of a deceptive world.

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Re: Films of Faith List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Proj

#158 Post by zedz » Wed Jul 15, 2015 6:27 pm

swo17 wrote:
knives wrote:
swo17 wrote:The 1990s list looked exactly the same after three lists.
Now this list just needs as many submissions as the '90s list did.
It typically takes around 10 contributors for there to be a consensus of 100 titles. That's just math for you.
Oh, you and your math. I'm with domino, and think this vote will be much more split than usual, as there was much less consensus going into the discussion than with any of the decades or previous genre lists.

Is there any title that is such a shoo-in as The Searchers, or The Band Wagon, or Out of the Past that its exclusion from somebody's list would be cause for comment / rationalization?

I'm still kind of struggling with the idea that this even is a genre in the usual understanding of the term, since hardly any of the films on my list fall within a narrowly defined version of the genre (e.g. Bible stories / lives of the saints) and most of them are much more readily identified with other genres (e.g. biopic, thriller, comedy, documentary, satire). Hopefully, this will just make the fallout discussion all the more lively.

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Re: Films of Faith List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Proj

#159 Post by knives » Wed Jul 15, 2015 6:43 pm

Pardon the ignorance, but wouldn't lives of saints be a biopic? That's certainly how I've taken Flowers of St Francis for example. Or do you mean something different? I'd like to think that the lack of a Searchers type of choice is more on account of the differences of religiousity than anything else. A Jew would canonize differently than a Muslim, than a Christian, than an Atheist, so on leading to a case where even common national backgrounds which largely determine these things are voided to a large extent.

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Re: Films of Faith List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Proj

#160 Post by zedz » Wed Jul 15, 2015 7:03 pm

knives wrote:Pardon the ignorance, but wouldn't lives of saints be a biopic? That's certainly how I've taken Flowers of St Francis for example.
It would be, but I think there's a particular, largely obsolete, subgenre of biopic that deals with inspirational 'lives of saints' stories, like The Song of Bernadette, various Joan films, Cavalier's Therese. They still get made from time to time (e.g. the 1994 Australian film Mary). The 'lives of saints' subgenre is specific enough to be parodied by Bunuel in Nazarin and Simon of the Desert, and I think its phantom informs Abel Ferrara's underrated Mary from 2005.

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Re: Films of Faith List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Proj

#161 Post by colinr0380 » Wed Jul 15, 2015 7:08 pm

Where do we put Derek Jarman's Sebastiane in this?

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zedz
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Re: Films of Faith List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Proj

#162 Post by zedz » Fri Jul 17, 2015 5:04 pm

Rather than tease my list with country composition stats, I'm going to tease the faiths. As I make it out, it breaks down like this:

Christianity and its variants: 15 films
- plus 5 more films that aren't explicitly Christian but are implicitly so, or illustrate Christian values.

Islam: 5 films
- plus 1 that's metaphysical and implicitly Islamic

Buddhism: 3 films

Judaism: 2 films

Pantheism: 2 films (possibly a third, but I've classified that as 'non-specific' instead)

Classical Greek: 1 film

Various Indigenous Religions: 4 films

Non-specific (films that include metaphysical or religious subject matter but don't align with any identified religion): 8 films. In some cases you could assume a religious allegiance based on the director's background, but I've avoided that.

No religion: 4 films. These are, I guess, 'mirror' films (including Mirror). where the audience brings their own spirituality to the material.

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Re: Films of Faith List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Proj

#163 Post by colinr0380 » Fri Jul 17, 2015 5:12 pm

I found that my list ended up skewing into strange religious-political areas. Who'd have thought that the two subjects would get so entwined!

And you all have no idea how close I came to putting Nuns On The Run on my list! It was a toss up between that and The Magdalene Sisters.

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knives
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Re: Films of Faith List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Proj

#164 Post by knives » Fri Jul 17, 2015 5:16 pm

How you counting overlapping films like Mother Joan of the Angels or Santo Luzbel?

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zedz
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Re: Films of Faith List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Proj

#165 Post by zedz » Fri Jul 17, 2015 6:23 pm

I'm not counting either of those films, but where there's potential confusion I just made an arbitrary call.

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Re: Films of Faith List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Proj

#166 Post by knives » Fri Jul 17, 2015 7:02 pm

I just gave them as examples.

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Gregory
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Re: Films of Faith List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Proj

#167 Post by Gregory » Fri Jul 17, 2015 8:15 pm

In case someone's looking for that special something for 50th place on their list (i.e., a "Gus Visser and His Singing Duck" for this round), I recently saw this two-minute, wordless film: Delmer Builds a Machine. There's not much I can say about it that wouldn't be a spoiler. For the record, the director described the child actor who played Delmer as being "clearly possessed by demons of a highly Satanic nature."

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domino harvey
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Re: Films of Faith List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Proj

#168 Post by domino harvey » Sat Jul 18, 2015 6:00 pm

Just a reminder that lists are due by 11:59PM EST Weds July 22nd, PMed to me. Four lists submitted so far, and here's a grim/fun fact: only one of the four films to top a member's list isn't an orphan (so far). Remember that even if you didn't participate in discussion, you are welcome and encouraged to submit your Top 50!

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Re: Films of Faith List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Proj

#169 Post by Tommaso » Sun Jul 19, 2015 9:10 am

domino harvey wrote: Remember that even if you didn't participate in discussion, you are welcome and encouraged to submit your Top 50!
All right, you convinced me. I'll probably hand in a list, as I've been reading this thread anyway but just didn't find the time or energy to participate. This will of course mean another vote for Wysbar's outstanding Anna und Elisabeth ;)

Talking of which, of course another Wysbar film should be seen, too, namely Fährmann Maria (1936). This mystical story involves a young woman (Sybille Schmitz) taking the job as a ferryman in a village. One of her passengers is Death himself - made up very much light the Death figure in Fritz Lang's Der müde Tod (another film for the list) - who is after a young man who is fleeing from some unknown invaders. The young woman falls in love with the man and resolves to trick Death by self-sacrifice. An unbelievably eerie and atmospheric film, one of the highpoints of German cinema in the 1930s.

As the term "Films of Faith" seems to have a rather wide meaning judging from the posts here so far, I would also recommend Das blaue Licht (Leni Riefenstahl 1932). A stunning parable about the conflict between a presumably pagan outsider living in the mountains with the over-religious village folks who regard her as a witch. Mystical atmosphere, and visually a knock-out. It owes a bit to her mentor Arnold Fanck's films, but still this is a totally astounding debut film.

I'm surprised that apparently nobody has mentioned a very obvious choice so far:
La religieuse (Jacques Rivette 1966). Brilliant performance by Anna Karina as a young woman who comes to a convent against her will in this adapation of Diderot's novel, which is one of Rivette's most immediately approachable films.

Also:
Die Pest in Florenz (Otto Rippert 1919): This is no doubt the silent film discovery of the year for me, thanks to a recent transmission on arte TV. Set in medieval Florence where a beautiful woman turns everybody's heads. A young priest, Medardus, tries to save the city from pure lecherousness, but soon falls under the woman's spell, too. As a revenge, God sends the plague... Absolutely stunning, painterly cinematography, great sets, and a quite daring sequence (for the time) in which the figure of Christ on the cross is replaced by that of the courtesan.

As films about the afterlife seem to be welcome here, I'll also include Cocteau's Orphée and Borzage's Liliom (which I find more impressive than the Lang version) on my list. And I use this as a chance to promote my spotlight from the 1990s list here again, Amos Gitai's astonishing modernisation of the Biblical book of Ruth, Golem, l'esprit de l'exil. See my post here.

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Re: Films of Faith List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Proj

#170 Post by swo17 » Mon Jul 20, 2015 2:19 pm

zedz wrote:Le Pont des Arts (Green) - Maybe it's the music, maybe it's the mise en scene, but this film effortlessly attains the sublime.
Oooouuuuuuh alright, I think I can see this one too. Not just because the art presented here is transcendent (which would rule in way too many films, such as Fischinger's Study No. 7, just because I really really really like them), but because the film is in fact largely about what happens when art transcends. A hint of which has to do with an afterlife, even if this is perhaps only emblematic of art's potential for immortality.

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Re: Films of Faith List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Proj

#171 Post by domino harvey » Mon Jul 20, 2015 5:27 pm

More lists in now and those of you who've been hoping and praying for an esoteric list are quite likely to finally get your wish with this one, barring some last minute rallying. Many, many films I would consider no-brainer inclusions are doing poorly, and several unexpected films are conversely doing quite well. Please remember that if you're reading this and can conjure up a Top 50 in ranked order, you can participate in the list, as there's still plenty of time to change the tide (well, like 54 and a half hours from this posting, but still)

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Re: Films of Faith List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Proj

#172 Post by Tommaso » Mon Jul 20, 2015 7:26 pm

Talking of left-field choices and films creating transcendence by musical means: how could I forget the only major film by John Cage when it came to the 90s listmaking? Probably because I always regarded One11 (1992) more or less as a musical composition using other means, but in fact it is a film, 90 minutes long and entirely consisting of white light projected on an empty screen. Cage used his usual chance operations to determine how the light was projected and how the camera movements were to be executed, and the finished film was accompanied by the orchestral piece "103". More details can be found in the notes on the Mode Records webpage for the film, the label who released the film on dvd.

Before everyone gets frightened by the mentioning of the name of John Cage: both the film and the music are very late works in the artist's oeuvre, and so the music is - in Cage's own inimitable way - strangely 'harmonious', long-held sounds floating in and out, really nothing to be afraid of. And the film itself is the perfect embodiment of Cage's interest in Zen Buddhism and 'emptiness' which is just another expression of 'fullness' or 'potentiality'. In a way, this is not so much different in effect from Jarman's "Blue" (and both films work with the basis of cinema itself, ie. light), but all in all, the meditative and spiritual aspect is even more realised in Cage's film. Extremely beautiful and immersive.

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Re: Films of Faith List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Proj

#173 Post by colinr0380 » Tue Jul 21, 2015 6:16 am

I'll throw in a film that I had thought would be a lock for the lower half of my list and then utterly failed to connect with reviewing it in the last couple of weeks: Nina Danino's Temenos. This is an avant-garde piece involving the camera visiting and prowling around apparently significant locations in which the Virgin Mary once appeared, moving from grainy black and white film to colour footage and back again. I say apparently because there is little to convey the meaning in the film itself, aside from some patchy readings from accounts of witnesses that only start turning up half an hour in. When you have to read the liner notes of the DVD to understand the message being conveyed rather than it being present in the work itself, that is perhaps a failure! (Although maybe could be a good metaphor for religion itself, being a more or less believeable interpretation imposed over enigmatic source texts!)

I'm the kind of person who wouldn't judge a film to harshly for just showing country roads, tree lined groves, hills and big muddy circular areas about which the camera circles for minutes on end. I'm interested in landscape films generally so even if they didn't seem to be catching any religiously epiphanal sense from the location itself, I just liked looking at the countryside! I did wonder slightly whether there was meant to be a slight subversive edge to this of removing the divine from the landscape itself, adding a slightly deflating prosaic edge to scenes that has apparently witnessed miracles, perhaps emphasised by the monotonous and unattributed narration when it turns up, as if we've turned up far too late to the show to even connect with the human witnesses, let alone the Virgin Mary herself! Which in some senses the filmmakers have! Or whether we are supposed to see the presence of the divine in the landscape itself in general? Although if that is the case, why grunge up the image with grainy stock and handheld wobbly shots?

However we now come to the most actively irritating, and to my mind undermining, aspect about the film. The soundtrack isn't entirely a quiet narration. That's about five minutes of the 77 minute film. Instead the rest involves vocalisations and ululations, along with ear piercing, blood curdling screams, that cut in regularly throughout. Which becomes actively irritating about five minutes in and simply doesn't stop! Or rather worse, it stops then starts, then stops, then starts. It adds a kind of spooky sense to the film, but often one of a horror film than a religiously inflected one! But even worse, I think this soundtrack kind of undermines, even betrays, any attempt to connect with the imagery, as if it is trying to make up for the visual content just being simple landscape shots by layering on top a supernatural element of wailing and gnashing of teeth to seemingly 'prove' there is something unusual about these particular spots.

So sadly I found this a complete failure on all levels, which is a real shame as the material could potentially provide a fascinating subject. Aesthetically, spiritually, let alone just informationally it feels as if there is nothing being provided here but willful obscuranticism that seems actively trying to prevent a viewer from engaging with it on any level than that of someone gliding through an art gallery and noticing it for a moment before blithely moving on. Maybe with a new holiday destination in mind, if that.

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Re: Films of Faith List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Proj

#174 Post by domino harvey » Tue Jul 21, 2015 2:06 pm

We have a frontrunner. My hint is that the film has been released by the Criterion Collection. Not much of a hint, since the same could be said for at least a quarter of the final list so far, but there you go

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Re: Films of Faith List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Proj

#175 Post by knives » Tue Jul 21, 2015 2:20 pm

Dreyer? Though I'd love to be mistaken and have my Bunuel choice be tops which seems appropriate for a list culminated mostly by westerners.

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