Dead Slow Ahead is a slow film that relies on visual composition, and very little on traditional dialogue-driven narrative. It is haunted and phosphorescent. If you have sojourned with such "slow cinema" films before, imagine a phantasmagoric version of Peter Hutton's At Sea. This is the nightmare to Hutton's reverie.
The movie follows the ship Fair Lady and its crew over the briny and through miasmic ports. You could call it an experimental documentary. Whilst on the one hand the movie is very literal, that is, it is showing the normal activities of an actual crew on a working ship, on the other it seems to be designed as some sort of introspection on humanity's current phase, characterised by overreach, ecocide and unsustainable activities.
A middle section of seascapes has a tone after Clark Ashton Smith, a ship wandering in search of safe harbour on a globe overcome by wyrd happenings. The treatment of the humans we see remains empathetic throughout, with the criticism being of the machines in which they are entwined. This is the dystopian vision of Lang's Metropolis come true.
Hints of the supernatural come from various shadow plays, spectral presences amongst the sailors. The movie has all the unreasoning beauty of the death wish, and regularly took my breath away.
Jacques Demy's movie of Lady Oscar frequently moved me. It is not a "swashbuckler" in spirit, it does not glamourise violence; it is not a movie about "girl power". It is a tragedy that raises important questions about freedom and gender. After becoming father to a series of daughters whose mother dies in childbirth, Général de Jarjayes decides that his latest daughter will in fact be a son, Oscar, and brings her up to be an heir and defender of the de Jarjayes name. He is delighted to find her a position as bodyguard to Marie Antoinette. Oscar is unquestioning of the system into which she is inducted, a bubble of privilege, acid wit, and decadence. She is dutiful and she "knows her place". At the same time the young boy and later groom who was her companion when Oscar grew up seems to have much more class consciousness.
What her gender transformation helps to do is to de-romanticise the material, when Oscar accepts a duel, the result, devoid of machismo, comes off as a banal murder, which is precisely what it is. It is difficult to wholeheartedly see Oscar as an éoniste or transgender hero as her identity as Oscar is created for her by her father. Indeed her self-actualisation is intertwined with her accepting a more female identity. On the other hand she does use her identity as Oscar to react against male society, and becomes a role model for some of the Versailles women.
Oscar, despite adopting a male role, is not free. This is potentially quite an important point of the movie, equality and freedom are not the same thing. Her role is to hang around the wilful and indolent Antoinette, and she develops a strong sense that her life has become meaningless. To become a man is not to have meaning, it's an escape from a trap within a trap, the outer trap being the Ancien Régime in the case of this movie. When Oscar attempts to enter a regiment, her male soldiers refuse to obey her, and her superior officer gives her no support whatever. In any case the regiment only exists to suppress the people.
At a very late stage Oscar finds freedom in an act of defiance. You can feel the weight lift off her shoulders as she spends her first day as a truly free adult, despite residing in a prison cell. This feels very contemporary, freedom is something very few of us are born with, it's something we have to seize, it's profoundly personal and cathartic.
Another reviewer on this site refers to Barry Lyndon as inspiration, "Now the magic of that was its carefully spaced vacuums. It had engineered emptiness, something that only a master could do." That is definitely something Lady Oscar is attempting, in my belief it worked better than my fellow reviewer felt.
A note on historical accuracy. Thomas Jefferson described Marie Antoinette as, "...proud, disdainful of restraint, indignant at all obstacles to her will, eager in the pursuit of pleasure, and firm enough to hold to her desires, or perish in their wreck." That is exactly how she is portrayed in Lady Oscar by Christine Böhm. Jefferson also describes the relationship between the King and the Queen thus, "he had a Queen of absolute sway over his weak mind and timid virtue..." Again this seems to have been very well captured in the movie.
Lady Oscar is a politically complex movie which seems often to have been misjudged by relying on a fruitless comparative analysis with the animé and manga sources of the story. Whilst actually quite serious it does however have its gorgeous moments.
This one's a little firecracker. An astute and observant young Malian man gets tired of life working as a porter on a minibus after he is leapfrogged in the hierarchy due to nepotism. There is no reward for his loyalty on square street so he tries a more crooked path. His talent is quickly recognised by local narcotics traffickers and he handles a number of increasingly taxing operations whilst affording a life he could only have dreamed of previously including sampling the luxuries of Bamako's flesh pots. He stays alive by his sharp wits and nerves of steel through some perilous situations, including tangling with Al Qaeda. Ladji is naturally an upright person and an impressive man and so the moral hazards he exposes himself to inevitably takes a toll, as does the realisation that he can never be accepted into posh society. The director though has a feel for and education in the crime genre such that you never feel, "I've seen it all before".
I felt watching the film that I got an interesting insight into some of the cultural complexities and vibrancy of Mali. Wùlu means dog and is a dual reference to the fact the Ladji becomes a dog in order to try and achieve the lifestyle he's looking for, and also to the stage of learning in Bambaran culture when one is taught how to fit into the world.
Hollywood should be scared, because Africa is coming, this movie had an incredible vibe, and the continent is starting to produce movies that make many Hollywood ones look average. Wùlu is Daouda Coulibaly giving Michael Mann a run for his money, with his debut feature film!
Lover For A Day is about a philosophy teacher who is in a relationship with one of his students, Ariane, and his daughter, Jeanne, of the same age who moves in with them for some time. It is very French in that they immediately co-exist instead of making spectacles (although there are some hints that they are human like the rest of us despite being Parisienne).
The title of the film refers to the brief infidelities of Ariane. This behaviour seems to be treated as enigmatic, as a philosophical curiosity. There is nothing curious about it, the magisterium of anthropology is the place to turn to, it is well documented that the human animal has primary and secondary sexual strategies for transmitting their genes to the next generation. The answer is banal, the participants in this drama are banal, they do not rise above what is animal in themselves, there is no transcendence, no romance.
Ariane describes falling in love with Gilles when he says in class, "Philosophy is not about divorcing oneself from life". It was difficult not to see some humour in this in that he comes off as a bookish and torpid man. Of course Ariane is simply sleeping with him because he has roguish good looks, is comfortable in his own skin, and is the nearest authority figure.
One cannot fault the actors, Éric Caravaca, Esther Garrel, Louise Chevillotte, who absolutely outclass the boring story. I hope that the career of Louise Chevillotte takes off, as this appears to be her "break" as the Americans say.
The film's main positive is that it has a certain quality of eroticism, Esther finds out that Ariane has appeared in a pornographic magazine quite by chance, and there is no clang here as Chevillotte is genuinely attractive enough that this is believable. The sex scenes are very warming.
Garrel shoots in black and white because he knows nothing else, an old dog that cannot learn new tricks. Is he the last victim of 1968, dead alive? When the credits rolled there were little gasps and titters, "is that it?", yes that's it, no punchline, a little story without profundities.
A paunchy and tired-looking John Wayne, insistently wearing a cowboy outfit in the Sahara, is the sore thumb in what is a pleasant enough and indeed gorgeous "psychological adventure" outing. I guess if you own the production company you get to wear what you want and "fine tune" the script how you want. Poor old Henry Hathaway. The actually intelligent Ben Hecht got money for old rope with an ironic turning of the handle on the script. One of his sayings applies to this movie quite well, "A movie is never any better than the stupidest man connected with it."
The movie is a love triangle, that plays out during a trip to find a lost city of gold in the desert. The characters undergo implausible personality changes and the morals, metaphors and symbols being imparted seem variously barren, inappropriate or misplaced.
The movie does however have its ecstasies, the photography of Jack Cardiff, and the fire in the eyes of Sophia Loren. The first 20 minutes have a wonderful sense of exoticism, even if that sort of thing is frowned upon in these politically correct times. I class this as a "film malade", a film with a sick soul, a a rare bird, different from simple incompetence. Legend of the Lost get's compared to Hathaway's Garden of Evil a lot, I'm definitely in the Garden of Evil camp, the atmosphere and Gary Cooper versus John Wayne makes it somewhat of a no contest.
Where the Chocolate Mountains is a 55 minute experimental movie that uses amongst other trickery multiple superimpositions, mirroring (hence the title of this review) sculptural work, and delivers a visual narrative. I was sceptical before viewing the movie because the works of this artist that I've adored looked very definitively like the work of a celluloid film artist and this work was digital. Indeed in the Q&A after the screening I attended, Pat said that he was very resistant to changing to digital, but he said he did it because working with film was getting harder and harder. Contrary to his expectations it actually freed him up; he could do what he wanted more quickly, and he had more materials available (digital archives particularly). Digital technology has set him free to become an absolutely major artist, in my opinion. And I think old age has led him to "Pinturas negras" territory.
The Chocolate Mountains are an area of California where the military tests ordinance. They aren't anything special to look at. As a child growing up in California, O'Neill's family used to take holiday trips to Mexico. They used to go past signs to The Chocolate Mountains and Pat always wanted to go there because of the name. So it's some sort of analogy for America, the name is very seductive, but there's a lot of violence there and actually the mountains don't look so great. It's a complicated movie, he finds a lot of beauty in and around the L.A. River and in L.A., but there's also a sense of the infernal at every turn.
He made some sculptures from wood for the movie which are integrated throughout. His first calling before film was as a sculptor and his influences as an artist are largely sculptors. He manages to use some fairly simple cone scultpures in a variety of ways, some end up being very erotic (suggestive of thighs). He sometimes rotates them just to illustrate the relentlessness of time marching on (that was my take at least!). Oftentimes the conic imagery relates to unexploded ordnance.
My favourite shot from the movie is in the L.A. River, below some sort of bridge, and it looks like two snake-like creatures made of pure flame flirting with one another. He filmed a lot of actual materials on fire to graft into the movie. Scenes like this in the movie often have an unusual eroticism.
Although most of the film had scenes which are multiple superimpositions (O'Neill mentioned that 5 is his magic number for number of images to layer), some of my favourite shots are just completely unvarnished mobile phone footage he took whilst on a holiday in Ireland. There was a dog on the beach where he was staying who was lame in one of his front feet, but would still chase after anything, and would bark incessantly to try and get people to throw things to chase after. O'Neill said that he identified with the dog, mad, pathetic, old, energetic. Some of the scenes which chimed most with me are of buildings such as cathedrals, which he somehow manipulates to look more like capricci, filled with these flame creatures, filmed with a reflection along a vertical line, i.e. horizontal symmetry.
He uses a lot of weird cool sound clips. Creaky doors from his house but also audio from a long list of old b-movies such as The Beast of Yucca Flats.
It's a haunting film noir that has a true sense of night's mystery. The title potentially makes reference to the fact that though inspired by the Chocolate Mountains, they do not actually appear at any point in the movie.
The Missing Person is a contemporary noir that plays with the classic genre conventions in a comic way, although without invalidating or trivialising the content (scenes where you may expect an escalation of suspense often intentionally end bathetically as convention meets the real world). Private Detective Rosow is a Chicago-based private detective originally from New York who receives a short notice commission to tail a man and a boy cross country. He's an alcoholic and clinically depressed, but he still has some level of ability to achieve his task. "Missing Person" on a surface level refers to the guy Rosow is tailing, but also is about Rosow being missing in an existential way, someone for whom family and community have become concepts only. The bathos allows you to connect in a deeper way with his state, by challenging your familiarity. What's shocking about modern society is how the dissolution of traditional social structures, and omnipresent material convenience has led to so many "missing" people.
Fundamentally The Missing Person is an image driven movie, the shot I liked best was a shot at night in the dining cart of the train to California, a cupola of light surrounded by thick darkness, the characters hurtling in cheap comfort through vast emptiness. The image that is iconic (or would be if anyone had watched the movie on release) is of Rosow in the dark with his day-glo glasses. I think from reading about the movie, many reviewers didn't get that it was a movie where much effort had been made on the visuals; you need to stick with it and carry on inspecting it to realise the contrary. At the start, Buschel uses the most purely functional credits anyone could imagine, they look like the yellow writing you get in PowerPoint presentations (supposedly as yellow on blue is the easiest writing to read if you're dyslexic). America is shot just exactly how it is (one of very few movies that have reminded me of my trip to America), and it can be assumed that this means the shooting is amateurish. It's actually more of a statement at the start of the movie, this movie is going to look the opposite of a John Alton shot movie, it's going to be as unmannered as we the filmmakers can make it.
"L'assassinat du Père Noël" opens with an act of defiance, the village school teacher Villard announces to the onlooking children that there are two ways to be successful in life, either through one's own hard work ("propre industrie") or the imbecility of others ("l'imbécillité des autres"). This is a slightly bemusing point decades later without the context that the film was released in 1941, during the German Occupation of France. It is one of those breath-taking moments you see in films of the Occupation where someone essentially risks their life to defy the Nazi death cult (another is a sotto voce mocking of the Nazi salute at the end of "L'assassin habite au 21"). Here "imbecility of others" would appear to be referring to the support of the people for the rise of popular fascism. The censors appear to have been too square to notice any of this. There is further poignancy when you realise that one of the stars of the movie, Harry Baur (as Cornusse/Santa Claus), was tortured to death by the Gestapo very shortly after this film was made.
The plot is about a snow globe village at Christmas, and you know that given the title of the film, and indeed if you were a cinema-goer at the time, from the movie posters, that Santa Claus or someone dressed as him will be murdered. Who killed him, the Baron who has mysteriously returned after many years, or one of the various "pillars of the community" we are introduced to. It is a noir film for sure, the village in claustrophobic, snowed in, the atmosphere is thick, which bits are as they seem? Is fair foul or foul fair to borrow from Monsieur Shakespeare.
It doesn't really matter whodunit, not to me anyway, and so I wasn't bothered by the quick wrap up at the end of the movie. The main theme of the film for me was truth and fantasy. The teacher Villard is a commie and a freethinker, not of the obviously deplorable kind, he has a lukewarm heart as well. But his search for the "truth", who he is the champion for is ridiculed by the events of the movie, although he is a "freethinker" his thoughts are obviously not free enough to realise that Catherine, championing fantasy, is almost completely unmoved by his wooing, and indeed that the reason for this is that they are no match at all. Perhaps the truth is like the white vermouth he habitually orders in the bar, not a particularly palatable drink. Perhaps the primary motivation for exposing the truth, is a deep-seated hatred. However the movie is even-handed, there are perils to fantasy as well, Cornusse and his cockamamie stories, for all their charm, mess with the heads of the children, as you evidenced by the bitter speech of the Baron, who heard them in his turn, and was led by them into misadventures. Catherine at one point talks of wanting a knight in shining armour husband who will kill any other man who looks at her, romantic fantasy can be pathetically cruel.
The encirclement of the police near the end of the movie is perhaps a message to the audience to hold tight, the world is coming to save us. There are hints throughout that even greater themes are lying just between the surface of the film, which plays with narrative and explores the nature of narrative (a paradoxical falsity that allows us to believe we have made sense of things) marvellously well. The two old men playing Belote may be our only gods.
Noce Blanche is a story where a philosophy teacher falls in love with a "wayward" 17-year-old student of his. Viewings of this will likely be motivated by the subject matter, however the film does offer up substantial insight into the human condition. What is very interesting about children, especially bright ones, is that they can see through the hypocrisies of the adult world through all our false pride and double standards, and love means everything to them. They are trumped by the muscularity, cynicism, experience and judgement of adults. But they see through us, Mathilde sees straight away that François, despite a wife, career, and friends, is completely alone in the world, she sees it because it is obvious and she has not been desensitised.
There are two particularly interesting philosophical ideas that come up in François' classes, that we are the unknowing accomplices of our "other self" the subconscious, prisoners of its fate, and also that people who choose to study metaphysics, choose death, as a preference over life.
The aesthetics of the movie are very subtle, it could easily be mistaken for one of those French dramas where the camera is simply pointed at the actors, but there is a palette of blue and greys here, and I ended up freezing the view a few times to admire the stills. It is far from being ostentatious or mannered however.
The story ends up feeling quite Grecian in the end, but who am I to say unrealistic, reality is almost always stranger than fiction. Works for purposes of titillation for sure, but also has great depths. Two successful watches in a row from Brisseau for me, following on from The Girl From Nowhere, more adventures to come!
L'été takes place mostly at a large country house in Normandy, called Le Broy. A young activist has left Paris following the riots of 1968 and is spending some time on her own at the house. The house is owned by friends of her parents, who are not using it that season, but it's due to be refurbished at some point, which stops the stay feeling open-ended.
She spends time corresponding with a friend, listening to classical music and thinking about her partner who she has left behind. She also spends quite a lot of time frolicking in the gardens and the surrounding countryside. The movie anthologises a lot of the slogans from the 1968 rioters, maybe the touchstone here is "Vivez sans temps morts - jouissez sans entraves" or "Live without dead time - play without hindrance".
Reading about 1968 would be a pre-requisite for watching this movie. It is still an inspiring time for me. A group of very beautiful French students decided it was time to overthrow the government and free people from the oppression of parliaments, laws, consumerism and wage slavery. They weren't even close to a victory, but their lessons for personal fulfillment live on. The world wasn't ready for these actions, but the Time of Cherries will come again.
The young lady is often shown naked, which is in line with the theme of sexual revolution for 1968.
Although the movie is playful, there is also a sense of grief, those that make revolution only halfway, dig their own graves, is a very poignant slogan. The lady is shown with her face being reflected in some old dark glass, as if she has a foot in the next world.
It is ironic, probably intentional, that a privileged upper middle class woman holidays in her wealthy parents friends' home, and also that she comes across quite a lot of people working, and all she does is essentially take leisure. Not inconsistent with '68 principles, but a fairly essential comment. I know that if any of my reactionary friends watched the movie they would hit the roof seeing this contrast.
The music is perhaps represented as being in touch with the revolutionary instincts, no brash Russians, but mellifluous Monteverdi, Couperin, Handel, Bach etc. One interesting tune was Fantasy for guitar imitating the harp in the style of Ludovico, by Alonso Mudarra. The major expression of grief and betrayal is expressed by a relating of the plot of Kleist's novella Michael Kohlhaas, which ends in a baroque act of defiance.
My heart goes out to the filmmakers. This film sits apart from the other three seasons in the Tetralogy of Marcel Hanoun. The others are much more connected in a group.
I've seen this film described as Mumblecore, I think it is a useful starting point to describe the film, though I think it has marked differences. Both this movie and Mumblecore movies in general concern relationships between young white heterosexual folks with relatively privileged upbringings, who are undergoing changes in their lives, or are stuck in the Doldrums hoping for the wind of change. The thing is that Mumblecore often has a warts and all approach, and a comic aspect. So you might get a boy and a girl having a conversation about the internet porn they watch. The difference with The Exploding Girl is that, largely the characters in this movie are shown in a positive light, employing a lot of discretion, and there's no attempt to tickle your funny bone, plus the movie often actually looks really good (as opposed to the hand-held shakiness of Mumblecore).
The two main characters are Ivy and Al. Ivy is studying at Ithaca, but on a break, whilst Al is a friend of many years who stays with her over the period. Al is studying evolutionary biology at college and talks about Goldschmitt's theory of hopeful monsters, which I thought was a really good metaphor for the stage of life Al and Ivy are at, i.e. going from being really good at being kids to learning how to be really good as adults. A hopeful monster is a missing link in evolution between different more steady lifeforms.
Ivy has seizures and is on medication so she has to be careful about drinking, which makes it difficult to engage with a lot of the party life and experimentation that happens at college. Al is sympathetic with this and so they spend time hanging together. Both of them have different romantic interests but seem to do have the potential to do really well together. They're both great young people, which is the thing I liked about the movie, that it showed how great they were. I liked the writing, little things like Al recording his own songs on a tape recorder, with rather overstated lyrics! I felt kinda envious at the end because I wished when I was that age I could have shown a girl the things I was proud about (and vice versa). At one point Al went to see a Zed and Two Noughts (described as an English film called Zoo) with some friends. I watched that alone at about the same age.
They're both pretty gentle and thoughtful. The main reason I wanted to write a comment about the film is that it made me feel like being a bit more gentle and thoughtful. Corollary to that was that I went out and bought a friend a doughnut. It had jam and cream in it, when I came back he said he didn't like cream.
The title of this film leads you to believe that it's a Michael Myers slasher movie, but it isn't. It's an authorised use of the franchise label, Carpenter himself was involved in the production, but it's a really different type of horror movie from the first two. Carpenter actually originally planned for all the movies to have different characters and scenarios, but the first was so popular it got a sequel.
I knew it wasn't a Michael Myers film but I wasn't familiar with the plot. That's actually quite a good way to watch this one.
Scenario-wise the film is about as preposterous as it's possible to get, say as preposterous as toxic waste from a chemical plant producing Nazi zombies with laser guns. And if you care about such things, do not watch the movie. It's not just the premise either, there are particular plot developments that seem unfeasible.
That aside I found the film genuinely to have a horror atmosphere right the way through, and it contained moments of truly abject horror and byzantine creepiness. It has been pointed out to me that Nigel Kneale (uncredited), the writer behind Quatermass was involved with the project, and a lot clicked into place when I heard that, because you can feel some of the atmosphere of Quatermass 2 in the scenario here, and with the dialogue about Samhain, that just had to be written by the same guy who was writing the Hobb's Lane dialogue for Quatermass and the Pit (i.e. connecting the present with a quickly established supernatural past).
Halloween III is genuinely a horror film with messages, about corporatisation of culture, surveillance, the insidiousness of mass media, in a way that really sunk in for me, it wasn't just window dressing. You could even view it as positively avant-garde, it's almost Baudelaire-ian in its rejection of modern culture. People have scratched around for the villain's motivation, but for me it doesn't lie much further afield than this quote from Baudelaire, "Personally, I think that the unique and supreme delight lies in the certainty of doing 'evil'- and men and women know from birth that all pleasure lies in evil." It presents wickedness as its own reward. Dan O'Herlihy is particularly great here, who you may remember as "The Old Man" of OCP in RoboCop. He portrays an utter creep in this movie! The movie, however lumpy and problematic it is plot-wise, maintains its high standards in terms of visuals and soundtrack the whole way through (John Carpenter does the soundtrack). It actually gets good enough visually that I would say it has some pretty iconic images.
Recommended to people who liked films like Michael Mann's The Keep or Richard's Stanley's Hardware. That is people who like atmosphere-thick narratively-fractured horror movies.
So imagine if Bob Guccione kidnapped Werner Schroeter, forced him onto a diet of magic mushrooms, and at a point of a gun and with the regular administration of scopolamine put him to work making a serial killer movie. That's Mascara.
I actually can't believe I just watched that movie. I had an odd defeated day, and I got some Mazarin Omnipollo beer in (tastes as good as it sounds) and knew I needed to see something off the chain. I hadn't figured out how far off the chain this movie was, psychologically it was like being in an Itchy and Scratchy cartoon watching this movie. In my long film watching experience it has set a new high watermark for the bizarre. Carlo Ponti famously exclaimed "What?" when he saw a film Polanski made that was then in homage called "What?". But Polanski was a mere amateur at confusion compared to Patrick Conrad, the director of Mascara.
Police superintendent Bert Sanders (Michael Sarrazin) is an opera maven, and regularly attends with his sister Gaby Hart (Charlotte Rampling). There is more than a small hint that these two have a closer relationship than is recommendable between siblings. Sanders, in his late 40s, lives in with sis, and has massive problems with sublimated desire and sexual confusion. He visits a secret underground club where leading citizens dress in black tie, and watch drag queens lip sync Strauss and Gluck as well as pop music (including a Kris Kristofferson song). There's also some highly stylised S&M going on in antechambers. He's in a chaste relationship with a transsexual girlfriend who does cabaret at the club. When she comes onto him, all hell breaks loose, the tonne of psychosexual gelignite in his head blows sky high and he spends the rest of the movie alternating between catatonia and psychosis, digging himself in deeper whilst covering his tracks and trying to stop his sister getting with the dressmaker for the local opera house.
Parts of the movie have genuine pathos and are tres trans sympatico, but others seem almost hideously exploitational. The impression comes across that Partick Conrad is messing with you with some of the twists, like an experiment in blowing the viewer's mind.
And you know Charlotte Rampling is in the midst of all this acting her skin off at points. Unbelievable. She was not afraid of appearing in off the charts projects for sure, The Flesh of the Orchid is another superb example (no way could she have pretended that she was off for a straightforward gig with that one, not when James Hadley Chase wrote it!!!).
This film of Thomas Heise, called Material, is a collection of film footage he collected over the years, not used in other projects. In the way it is structured together it gains more than the sum of its parts. The general topic seems to be the collapse of East Germany aka the DDR, though the spectre of the Third Reich is there too, for example a play being put together has to do with that and skinheads appear towards the end of the film. There is little music except "From Hanover Square North, At the End of a Tragic Day, The Voice of the People Again Arose" the last movement of Charles Ives' Orchestral Set No. 2, which originally refers to the moment when Ives learnt of the sinking of the Lusitania, but here I think refers to the process of Germany emerging from lost decades. There is a scene where some of the production team from the play access some dangerous ruins, no doubt from the war, and end up finding an apple tree in the overgrowth inside. In relation to the original project it is likely unimportant, but in the context of the film here it is very beautiful in its metaphor, a light at the end of the tunnel.
Other scenes appear to include footage of the Monday protests in Leipzig, seminal in the dissolution of the DDR, apparently because the secret police the Stasi did not have a major presence in the city; some pleas from prisoners in Brandenburg for further extension of an amnesty that was happening at the time; a residents meeting; a parliamentary session; children playing in ruins; footage of models of buildings by the Berlin Wall, footage of an art installation which contained miniature buildings too, but also model people in provocative situations; a cinema where a riot breaks out during the showing of what looks like a political documentary.
A fairly common feature was people being given the chance to speak their minds freely, which is so beautiful.
It was a slog as a viewer to watch this for nearly three hours, and I stopped at points to look into some of the relevant history as context, on the Internet. However, in its portrayal at the angst and confusion of a nation, it hit me as the credits rolled, with much more of a punch than Rossellini's Germany Year Zero, which I also watched recently.
I watched Behold a Pale Horse twice in a row. It's a long movie where little action happens until the end, and there are no heroes.
Manuel Artiguez is an outlaw who has continued to fight the Spanish Civil War for twenty years after defeat, from his base in the French town of Pau. His raids appear to serve little to no purpose other than as acts of defiance. His adversary is Captain Viñolas, a venal and rather fatuous adulterer, who despite being a Catholic is as far from grace as the radical atheist Artiguez.
Nothing appears to keep the men alive except for adversarialism and antagonism. A small boy Paco, crosses the border to find Artiguez in the hope that he can inspire Artiguez to avenge his father and kill Viñolas. He sees a bull on his trip, and it's pretty clear this represents Artiguez, who knows no other course of action than to fight (and, it's hinted at, womanise). The other children have a natural reaction to Paco, seeking out Artiguez, why would you do such a thing? There are several scenes in the movie where the old revolutionaries are shown alone, interspersed with many vibrant scenes of the young healthily enjoying themselves. Artiguez and Viñolas have become rather insistent irrelevances, in a region which wants to forget the bloodshed. The two of them engaged in a savage and stupid dance of death The young priest Francisco attempts to engage with Artiguez but has little effect. He is a confused man who is only just able to tell the difference between the warmth of his own heart and the coldness of logic. He is a neophyte, although he is able to put a few good thoughts out there. The baroquerie of Lourdes, shown in the movie hardly aids the case for religion with all its fetishisations.
It is a sad movie, full of manifest failure on the part of all its participants. One of the final scenes is of several dead participants led out on mortuary trolleys, all for once profoundly equal, the tragicomedy of their lives at an end.
The rich black and white photography seems often visually allegorical in its combinations of compositions and saturations. This is particularly the case where Viñolas antagonises a bull as a picador. It is an entirely bewitching movie.
Duvivier seems capable like no other of really laying out the most unpalatable truths. The movie shows a group of resistance fighters assemble for a reunion 15 years after the war is over. It's genre is whodunnit (who betrayed our leader in this case), but it's a lot more impressive than that suggests. What the structure does do is allow for a lot of suspense, the movie really kept me fascinated.
Right from the start nothing appears particularly heroic about the group, their meet up is as awkward as an SS reunion. After the war they all went their separate ways pretty much (with exceptions, such as Marie-Octobre and Francois, the rich industrialist who funds her fashion house). Why is this important. It feels like they maybe did dirty things together, took justice into their own hands, skulked around in the shadows. Maybe their cause justifies everything, I guess that would be the traditional view anyway. I'm in my mid thirties and I never met anyone who believed in a cause, people choose activities and roles that suit them, that is all, killing as an activity is much more fundamental than the cause it underlies. Some people prefer to be prisoners, other warders.
There is something extremely unhealthy about the male "comrades" and their attitude to Marie-Octobre. At the beginning Francois introduces her as "notre fleur de fusil", or the rose in our guns. Her role generally seems to be "unattainable sex object". She refers to the gathering at one point as a "huis clos", a term for a closed proceedings, but surely meant to evoke Sartre's play ("No Exit" in English), about the pain of being aware of yourself an an object to others' perception, set in Hell. I refer to them as comrades in inverted commas because they are all quite ready to suspect one another at the drop of a hat. In a particularly galling act of cowardice they all name of the person they prejudge as being guilty and anonymously drop their name on a ballot into an urn.
No new truths are discovered in the course of the meeting, these are all people who know one another, all they have to do is work out, in a rather anally retentive fashion how each individual's proclivities could have lead to the death of their leader.
I personally found the elegant and aristocratic Francois almost intolerably overbearing and sanctimonious. His view of order must be imposed on everyone else. I never felt more in favour of anarchy than when watching this movie.
Falling is an interesting movie. It didn't get much of an international release on home video or in the cinema, and I had great difficulty tracking down a copy. I was initially surprised at this because György Pálfi broke out into the international market with movies like Taxidermia, Hukkle and Final Cut: Ladies and Gentlemen (this last one is particularly excellent) and I would have expected he had enough of a brand to secure an international release even if the movie was a misstep. As it turns out, one of the episodes in the film, I'll term it the dcotor's appointment episode, is so brutal and vile, that it's not hard to understand how it didn't get released outside of the festival circuit. It's not just that the scene is miserable, it's more the lack of an obvious message to redeem it. The movie's overall message seems to be about cultural degeneracy and newly emergent selfishness, generally these seem to be fresh messages, although the elderly couple who talk past each other seem to be less au courant.
Palfi is not alone in thinking that society is undergoing a fall from grace, I guess the other famous Hungarian director with the same message is Béla Tarr (very different approaches!). I agree with the message, I think my generation broadly rejected every value that their parents had, and through the baby out with the bath water. Generally people have chosen to use their new freedoms (sexual, religious etc) to destroy themselves.
Overall Falling feels rough around the edges and plays a few wrong notes. What I felt missing was any sense that the director actually cared about the fall from grace he's describing. This is much more apparent in a film such as Jan Svankmajer's Lunacy.
For reference I will list the episodes and what they are meant to represent in my opinion (in order of my recollection). You should not read this unless you are happy with "spoilers".
* Old long suffering couple. This is a fairly ordinary episode which frames the rest of the material. The couple (could be married or could be selfish old man with a live-in housekeeper, hard to distinguish!) ignore the needs of one another and the lady attempts to kill herself twice (the unordinary bit is that she manages to survive both plummets from the top of her apartment block). This is the failure to sustain love through a long term relationship.
* Yogics. A group of new age disciples receive banal instruction from a cult-like leader. One member is able to levitate but is told off for showing off, he then merges into a wall in an attempt to jump through it. I guess it is amusing in that for all the talk of opening one's heart chakra, this appears to be as insular a grouping as any of the others in the movie.
* Throuple. So a lady called Dede decides that one boyfriend is not enough and a second one is moved in. She acts as if this is some sort of completely reasonable step and boyfriend number one is unreasonable for resisting it. This scenario is presented as some sort of ultra trashy romcom. This is a tragedy of people trying to reinvent the relationship focusing solely on their own needs.
* Gynecologist. A lady decides that she wants to have an operation to be "repregnant", i.e. she pays an obstetrician/gynaecologist to reinsert her already born baby into her body. This is all presented in a very matter-of-fact way. It appears that this will lead to the child's death, the doctor talks about the baby being "reabsorbed" by the body. It was not very clear to me what this episode is trying to tell the viewer. It could be that there is suggestion that society focuses much more on mothers than children, like motherhood is a cult in-and-of-itself, and not about self sacrifice anymore. I'm not sure really. It came off as crass to me.
* Naked party guests. So this segment is not particularly original, Manet for example did a famous painting where there is a naked woman at a picnic with some fully clothed men (Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe - at the Orsay in Paris). The woman in this case is portrayed as naked at a party because she is a trophy, she is stripped of her opinions, in the end she meets a man in the same position, and it's suggested they will have an affair. This is a tragedy of a breakdown in the sacrament of marriage.
* Terrorised child. A child lives in fear of his father, represented by an omnipresent actual bull in the apartment. This is the fall from grace of the family unit.
* Germaphobes. A couple who misunderstand the imperatives of hygiene are engaged in a folie a deux where they become obsessed with creating a perfectly sterile environment. They have intercourse without touching one another and then there is an abject end to the episode.
I really felt that although folks mostly agreed that the movie captured the "poetry of everyday life", there was much more to be had from the movie, which has it subtleties aplenty. Yes the ruins of Paterson are beautiful, yes the dappling of the light is fine, yes Laura and Paterson are a beautiful couple but go deeper!
Most art that you initially create is going to be derivative. Paterson's poetry is essentially derivative of William Carlos Williams. You have to fight through this phase and find your own creations. So when Paterson's homework is eaten by the dog (remember to see the humour in this), I was mindful that the dog had done him a favour, because all of the early stuff is worthless, unless you happened to be called Rimbaud or Chatterton, and even then I imagine they burned a lot of doggerel before they wrote a good sentence. Derivation can be incredibly apparent in painting, for example Mondrian, where he dabbled with other folks' styles (impressionism, fauvism and even pointillism) before he arrived at his unique mature expression, for which he is famous (termed neoplasticism).
Writing poetry is difficult, as so eloquently pointed out by WB Yeats:
"We sat together at one summer's end,// That beautiful mild woman, your close friend, // And you and I, and talked of poetry.// I said, 'A line will take us hours maybe;// Yet if it does not seem a moment's thought, // Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.// Better go down upon your marrow-bones // And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones // Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather; // For to articulate sweet sounds together// Is to work harder than all these"
Paterson will need to break a lot of patterns and cobwebs if he wants to become a great poet.
Many have looked at this portrait of a relationship and saw something sweet and tender. I'm sorry but I saw two disconnected individuals, a freeloading girlfriend, a boyfriend without a backbone, and a couple that didn't make decisions together. They're both good-looking tranquil people, but they're not soulmates. Laura tells Paterson that his poetry is great, but he needs challenge, not a sycophant, he needs someone who understands him, not someone who uses his wages to buy an expensive dog and gets him to walk it every evening! So when he recites a love poem, it's something false, it's a confection, it's what we want to hear but it's not true, and this is why he's still so far from greatness.
The use of doubles in the movie is far from trivial, what it's saying is that there is a different lives Paterson (or any of us) could be leading, we have to make choices every day about which person we are going to be. The dissolve at the end when Paterson is lying in bed and seems to disappear momentarily is hinting that he might be best off disavowing his current life, he should be running a mile. Yet it's a comfortable life, and everyone likes comfy right? Two guys on the bus have a discussion where both recall recent encounters with women they liked and both had managed to fumble the ball through inaction, they chose, they don't live uncomfortable lives, but they chose not to live passionate lives. So that's why I chose the title for the review, because we all have to decide whether to embrace nonbeing, some sort of Taoist concept of naturalness, or whether we want to bristle our creativity, and streak like comets. Maybe the latter is innately egotistical. I think that the choice is what this movie is about, be humble or be brave. The movie is dualistic, no one interpretation is there to be forced on you. For me when he writes a poem about the song "Swinging on a Star" that's saying something key, he mentions that the only line he really plays again in his head is the one about being a fish, not being any of the others lives in the song. Again this is dualistic because it could be saying that he knows the life of a poet is for him, and it's the only one he thinks about, so he should embrace it, but if you read the full lyrics of the song, it talks about the fish who "can't write his name or read a book". Whereas another option "Would you like to swing on a star // Carry moonbeams home in a jar // And be better off than you are". Seems like the best though radical option that is open to Paterson, to change everything, but perhaps he won't take it.
Ending on a more playful note, congratulations to Mr Jarmusch for yet again working a matchbox into proceedings!
"So I asked myself, of all the melancholy topics, what, according to the universal understanding of mankind, is the most tragic? Death. And when is this most tragic of melancholy topics most poetical? When it most loosely alludes itself to beauty. The death, therefore, of a beautiful girl is unquestionably the most poetic topic in the world." So spoke the ghost of Edgar Allan Poe in Francis Ford Coppola's movie Twixt. These words are a paraphrasing of Poe's own writing, from his essay "The Philosophy of Composition". Coppola and Refn both seem to have taken some interest in using Elle Fanning in films about the death of a beautiful woman. The topic is insanely fascinating in this presentation.
The Neon Demon is about a girl who goes to Los Angeles in order to become a top model. The work, compliments, admirers and envy all start to roll in. The movie is essentially thematic, largely relying on the visual and on atmosphere.
NWR is an extreme addict of beauty, and the movie contains some staggeringly voluptuous photography. The message is that physical beauty is superficial. But there is no sanctimony to be had from Refn here, on the contrary he goes for full immersion, a beauty-holic on a bender. The film is a testimony to the power of beauty, it is a mesmeric, galvanic glory. The tail end of the beast mutates into images you see only in rare dreams, a mix of the abject and the byzantine. A judgemental reaction to this dreamworld would be a nonsensical act.
What this movie is, depends to a larger extent than usual on you the viewer. Garrel films Jean Seberg, Nico (in a relationships with Garrel at the time), Tina Aumont and Laurent Terzieff in Seberg's apartment, there is no sound recording or soundtrack. It's a silent movie consisting mainly of closeups of their faces. To me it was like visual Bach, I thought of his Goldberg Variations mostly. A large proportion of the film is Seberg, which I preferred as she was being the most intimate. Tina Aumont seems like an extravert in the Jungian sense, like she ceases to exist to an extent when others aren't around, and Nico seemed very distant in her few scenes. There was a certain amount of vanity on display, but also Seberg looks into the camera like she really wants to connect. She can laugh with just her eyes. There's a Zanzibar film called Deux Fois by Jackie Raynal where Raynal plays this sort of trick with editing where she shines a mirror at the camera and then disappears, and it appears like she is trying to make the same sort of connection that a magician makes with their audience. I had a similar feeling watching Seberg in Les Hautes Solitudes. Garrel incidentally was part of the Zanzibar group, although this film is post-Zanzibar.
Probably the iconic shot from Les Hautes Solitudes is the side of Seberg's face reflected against a polished surface, filmmakers love their mirrors. I wondered if this was some sort of comment about being an actor, that is having difficulty separating your roles from who you are, certainly I once saw a film where some people were being taught acting and a lot of it was about personal deconstruction, which must be as tremendously psychologically damaging as it is professionally rewarding. The reflection in the polished surface looks like the "silver screen".
Some people get Murnau or Dreyer type feelings when they watch this, i.e. as if they are watching classical drama as opposed to a type of documentary (Nosferatu or Vampyr). I just saw a woman to some extent lost, to some extent searching, and also thinking about the past. Her pain at some points seemed very raw and I wanted to comfort her. I thought a bit since about Garbo in Camille, and how nuanced and beautiful that role was, and the pain of her character there. It's rare that I ever see a film and think about how great it would be to meet the actor, but Garbo in Camille was one time it happened and here is another.
A man returns to the city of his life, where various military and paramilitary forces are vying to fill a power vacuum, shortly before the city falls to one General Fraga. The night that this inhabits this film is literal and moral, the city's inhabitants that we run into are either foot soldiers blindly following power and ego tripping on banal abuses, politicos letting lose their inner monsters after abandoning the window dressing of their ideals, or the general populace seeking the oblivion of sex, music and alcohol.
It was not hard for me to feel a contemporary resonance. Especially today rather than 2008 when the film was made, as Europe now has so many refugees. There is an almost indescribable darkness to modern life, and if the ill will of the individual was the substance of night, it would surely blot out the sun and leave us in a perpetual night. In the film the head of the secret police makes a church his office, and whilst much has been made of the failings of the church, nothing entered the gap left in the teaching of moral examples after its demise and disgrace. It was replaced by "reality TV". Now when people find happiness they cup it in their hands like a flame in the wind, they glut on it in private like vampires. Better that then let anyone else stick their fingers in it. There is no longer such a thing as unalloyed public jouissance.
Werner Schroeter was not a "good boy" he did not stay within the bounds of "good taste" and thus his film didn't really make it out of related countries (Portugal where it was filmed, France in the language of which it is filmed, and the Germany of the director). To my knowledge it has never been screened in the English-language world. There are scenes of the graphic aftermath of rape and torture, and some uncomfortable hints of pederasty, and this is outside of "good taste", but inside of people. Schroeter is a tender filmmaker so do not mistake this film for exploitation. The protagonist of This Night / Nuit de Chien, is a man, and only that, people try hard to associate him with various roles he has played, offices he has held and skills he possesses, but none of that is who he is, hence why he ignores any related questions. Only when we shed our vanities do we really become human.
In parts of the movie Charles Ives' The Unanswered Question is played, perhaps the most brilliant peace of classical music there is, I find it absolutely devastating every time I hear it. This movie is devastating as well and I hope more people find out about it, the German DVD of the film, Diese Nacht, has English subtitles so there is nothing stopping anglophones finding out about the movie.
After the "Battle of Valle Giulia" in the historic year of 1968, the film director Pasolini famously declared that he had more sympathy with the police than the protesting students, as the police were the children of the poor, and the students the children of the middle and upper classes. There is an implied reference to this at the start of La Pacifista, a plea from a generation of radical students who wanted to not be dismissed just because of the privileges of their upbringing.
There are radical groups from the right and the left in the movie. In between them is "La Pacifista", Barbara, played by the glorious Monica Vitti, who just wants to be an earth mother, in love with everyone. A right wing group of youths plan malfeasance against her. They come off as a fairly tribal group, fascinated with ritual, degenerating into a death cult.
I haven't been able to find much written about the movie, it seems that it has been ignored or found confusing (or indeed confused), and the overall impression is generally negative. It's definitely challenging and ambitious, and it feels like you have to go some to suspend disbelief. The movie presents a partially choreographed version of reality, a technique that goes full blown a couple of years later with Janco's Red Psalm; this is very visually appealing, although it's very hard to pin down why it's being done, except that it definitely reinforces the tribal nature of some of what is going on.
The most ambitious technique is to voice the thoughts of some of the characters via narration. It is a lot easier to make actions believable than it is to make thoughts believable. Sometimes I was not exactly clear which character's thoughts were being narrated, due to the tableau focus of some of the camera work. One of the right wing revolutionaries for example seems to have some concerns about his girlfriend being Jewish, or ex girlfriend, and how that conflicts with his ideology, but which one? Much of the movie focuses on Monica Vitti, who portrays a journalist covering the demonstrations. We hear a lot of her character's thoughts. It's difficult to sometimes tell what is going on there, because it often sounds like two characters, and this could be two sides of herself, or it could be that she is having a dialogue with her imagination of her mother or another relative or friend.
The revolutionary events of the movie seem very alien to her, and in fact the movie seems to become quite feminist, because she as a woman is generally ignored or seen as hysterical.
In the end I think the main message of the film is that you can't ignore fascists, you have to fight against them, pacifism is not an option. This seems rather tagged on by the final few scenes of the film, and a rather factional message in this particular case, given how useless and imploding the fascist group seems. Generally it's a very messy film and I can see why it has been dismissed. It is however a good looking and ambitious movie so I give it points for that.
This film was directed by Yuliya Solntseva, and presents an "autobiographical film story" written by her beloved husband Aleksandr Dovzhenko, who remained fascinated by a magical childhood on the banks of the River Desna in Ukraine. It was made after his death and serves as a wondrous memorial.
The Enchanted Desna has the feel of Under Milk Wood, a window into a time and a place where life was subject to a magical harmony. Young Alexandr, with a head of thatched hair runs past thatched roofed houses, rows of tobacco flowers and sunflowers, trees heavy with fruit and the people live with pre and post Christian superstitions.
The Soviet industrialisation that followed is also shown and is not contrasted unfavourably to the fin de siècle era, Dovzhenko in this sense was a bit of a Zhivago. There is a fair bit of the tragedy of war shown as well though the movie steadfastly refuses to show any recognition of the German troops' presence directly.
A very beautiful film, which I finished in somewhat of a fever. Here are some quotes from the movie (straight from the book): "We lived, to a certain extent, in harmony with nature. In winter we froze, in summer we roasted in the sun, in autumn we kneaded the mud with our feet, while in spring we were inundated by the flood. He who has not experienced all this does not know what joy and real living is." "We can only pity the man whose imagination is dull and dries up"whose recollection of childhood and adolescence yields nothing dear and unusual, and whom nothing can warm or make sad or happy, such a man is nondescript, whatever his status, and his work, denied the warm rays of time, is doomed to be nondescript"
The historical drama Mauprat is perhaps not the ideal novel for a silent film adaptation, it's a genre melange, with the courtroom element for example being a touch talky for a medium with no speech! On the other hand the Gothic novel element has very agreeable qualities for adapting in a visual medium! There are also elements of adventure, detective fiction, bildung and romance.
As usual with Epstein he does those superimposed shots and superimposed dissolves of his which make your heart float off.
The film also uses landscape to superb psychological effect and the tinting helps with this. Bernard is the only surviving member from the middle lineage of the Mauprat family; when he was an orphan the noble and ignoble sides of the family struggled over guardianship. It feels a little like Star Wars, the light and dark side of the force grappling for Bernard. The lowland Chevalier de Mauprat is an elegant and refined man, loyal to the king, whilst Tristan Mauprat up in his "Castle of Otranto", Roche-Mauprat, leads a group of his brothers who are atheistic libertines and brigands. Bernard is brought up in the heights of Roche-Mauprat, but a contrived series of events sees him attempting to become a gentleman living with the goodly Mauprats, who struggle to bring him out of his half feral half beautiful state.
This is the most compelling part of the story in which Bernard has to work to secure the affections of his cousin Edmée, who sees the good in him and has promised she will love no other (very different from promising to love him!). I thought that this was very resonant as many young men have to struggle to decide whether they will be inside predominant culture or sub-culture, whether they want to be self-effacing or self-serving, how much of themselves do they want to give up to lead their lives at a chosen level of comfort, and they have to learn how to be gentle around women. And so Bernard's story becomes something quite universal. Sandra Milovanoff's performance as Edmée is probably what makes the film, her face so emotive, so ardent, willing Bernard to temper himself. My favourite superimposition comes when Edmée appears in a vision of Bernard's, twice the size of him, and this is how I feel about love, it's aspiring to that which is greater than you, whether that is finding someone whose qualities insipires you, or in a religious sense.
88 minutes runtime is a very short time for all that happens in the film. Epstein makes some worthwhile changes to the novel, but the pacing feels very rushed at times. The secret I guess is to not be afraid of the chopping between genres, to luxuriate in some of the Gothic images, and to wait for the superimpositions to come like pennies from heaven.
This film is mostly about the relationship between Linda (the director's sister Linda Spheeris), a lesbian woman, a virago with a husky voice, and Jimmy/Jennifer a transsexual. It's a documentary though it has a large element of staging. It feels like it was pretty damned brave to make a film like this in 1972. It's a difficult relationship you can see that pretty clearly, there are reasons why it should work, but Jimmy isn't convinced. Linda takes a sort of male role if you want to call it that, she rides her bike and Jimmy sits in the seat behind holding onto her, and she has quite a traditional male role mindset, although she can sometimes be really feminine and doting on Jimmy. With Jimmy it looks like he wants someone more masculine, and he returns to his male lover were told, despite the fact that he'd received several beatings from him. So I guess it's a documentary of a very special but failing relationship. Towards the end there's another subject, Dana, who is a female to male transsexual with handlebar moustache. Dana and Jimmy were peas of a pod it felt like, drama queen and king. I absolutely loved this film to pieces, I just thought all the characters were really brave, trying to find their places in life when society didn't really have places for them (no-one is willing to hire Jimmy for a regular job for example).