By Monica Peck
When filmmaking and film viewing get out of the hands of studios and distributors, conventional constraints go the way of the bathwater. One recent trend is longer films - even longer versions of previously released films - and with DVD we have a better way of appreciating them. As Filipino filmmaker Lav Diaz explained in a recent interview with Green Cine: “There are different concepts of viewing now. My films are just like paintings that are just there. Nothing changes. You can watch it for eight hours, and you can have a more fulfilling experience. Or you can leave the house, go to work, and when you come home, it is still there.”
1. The Best of Youth (La Meglio Gioventu, 2003). This Italian drama spans six hours, but has some of us still begging for more. Director Marco Tullio Giordana follows in a fine tradition of long cinema: Morandi's Paisan, I (6 hours) and Leone's Once Upon A Time In The West (3 hours, but that scene at the train station seems like an hour). Bertolucci's The Last Emperor (219min), could also be included on this list, especially with the new epic Criterion DVD.
2. Divine Horseman: The Living Gods of Haiti. Some claim the recently released hour-long version to be the film, but others believe Maya Deren always conceived her hours of Haitian footage as ritual-in-proxy. I don't know where this screens anymore. I heard rumors that it screens for three days non-stop every year somewhere in New York City. Maybe someone can let me know if this is just an urban myth.
3. The Burning of the Red Lotus Temple (1928-1931). At merely 27 hours, this silent film from China's Zhang Shichuan could be the longest film with a definite plot. It was originally released in 18 feature-length parts over a period of three years (1928-31).
4. Grandmother Martha (1996). If you love Grey Gardens, get thee some Grandmother Martha. Holds the Guiness Book of World Records title for Longest Documentary ever made at 24 hours and 12 minutes. Directed by 'the most amazing communication wizard of our planet' Lord Sydney Ling.
5. Berlin Alexanderplatz (1980). At more than 15 hours long, this sweeping Rainer Werner Fassbinder masterpiece is really a television miniseries masquerading as cinema. Or maybe it's cinema masquerading as television? Book a Lufthansia flight to Berlin and take it along. You won't be the same afterwards.
6. The Journey (1987). Peter Watkins 15 hour tour du force explores notions of peace in a nuclear age. According to his web site, a long overdue DVD release is currently in production. Another Watkins wonder, La Commune (Paris, 1871) likely broke some kind of record for ratio of run time to shooting time: 6 hours: 13 days.
7. As I Was Moving Ahead Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty (2000). Living legend Jonas Mekas constructed this meandering revelation on life, nature, the human and divine. A five-hour length gives us time to absorb the unabashed effervescence that Mekas presents to the world.
8. Fanny and Alexander (1983). The late, great Ingmar Bergman's five hour family saga certainly deserves its many accolades and four Oscars. I have always found this to be his most humorous film.
9. Shoah (1985). A list of long and amazing movies would be amiss without mentioning this nine hour documentary on the Holocaust. Director Claude Lanzmann's fascinating interviews with survivors and former Nazis make this a must-see. In the era of the Ken Burns' effect, Shoah stands out by utilizing oral history, rather than archival footage.
10. Death in the Land of Encantos (2007). Director Lav Diaz's tale of love and poetry evolves over ten hours, which is not a problem for his viewers. “A lot of people bring lunch to the cinema, when they come to watch my films,” he explains, “so they do not need to go out of the theater when they get hungry.”
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