Been a while since I’ve seen a good essay doc. Stephens is fast becoming a fave after The American Sector and Perfect Fifths – though I have concerns about her longevity (she doesn’t expand much on her brain-cloud diagnosis in the voiceover). This is archive footage shot mainly by women on travels, in which the narrator tries to locate the feminine gaze. Chapter headings, and sections devoted to each traveler instead of mixing ’em together. Bonus points for including a sloth and a toucan.


Ida Western Exile (2015)

A little bit of Georgia O’Keeffe painting mountains, but the soundtrack of a woman making calls to companies to prep for a potentially dangerous solo trip takes over the movie – and ties it to the feature about women traveling.

Documentarian, drama therapist, and legal representative round up some men who were sexually abused by priests and let them direct short films representing past traumas or wish fulfilment, scouting locations and acting in each other’s stories. Fits in nicely with Greene’s project of making semi-docs about performance and history, also seems to exemplify some utopian ideas of collaborative film directing. Alas, no screenshots since it is a netflick.

First movie watched in 2022. I’d seen this before, but ages ago. Opens with voiceover and archival footage of mustacheless Chaplin directing. He makes fun of Edna, then introduces three classic shorts with new music.


A Dog’s Life (1918)

The Tramp kicks some cops’ asses, and fails to land a job. He gets robbed in a bar, and the proprietor responds by throwing him out – so much injustice in this movie. The bit with sausage-seller Syd is real good, as is the thief-puppeteering of Albert Austin.


Soldier Arms (1918)

He’s actually a war hero in this one, until it turns out to all have been a dream while exhausted during basic training, but for a while there Charlie had his own Inglorious Basterds, capturing the Kaiser along with a mustachioed Edna.

In disguise:


The Pilgrim (1923)

Plays the same cowboy song thrice – again he’s sort of a hero, again with a sort-of downer ending, the bet-hedging version of the better previous film. CC’s a prisoner on the run, stealing an Edward Norton-looking chaplain’s clothes. He gets the hell out of town, and the place where he lands was expecting a new minister, so he’s given lodging with a family with lovely daughter Edna. Runtime is padded when a horrible family comes to visit. More coincidences, sure why not, CC’s ex cellmate is in town and recognizes him, and Edna’s mom keeps a large amount of cash laying around. Criminal CC preventing his own partner in crime from robbing the girls he likes, somewhat ripped from His Regeneration in the Essanay days.

Awful Family feat. Syd Chaplin:

Sand (2018)

A Walker feature – 80 minutes of walking extremely slowly. I was in heaven – Katy tried to ignore me. Emerging from a pipe onto a beach, past tents and hovels, the surroundings become more industrialized as his journey goes on. Other people sometimes heard in the distance, never seen. Where does he end up? Somewhere indoors, but not heading towards what looks like the exit. That long final shot transitions from machine noises on the soundtrack to the sound of ocean waves. Maybe the walker’s going in circles indoors but dreaming himself back to the sea. 16 shots in 80 minutes, filmed in Taiwan’s Zhuangwei Sand-Dune Visitor Service Park.


The Night (2021)

Bustling Hong Kong nightlife – not in a party sense, doesn’t seem like a party section of town, just everyone is out and moving around. Closes with a song about being sad the night has to end. Watched in headphones and thought I could hear the cameraman softly humming in my left ear. 13 shots in 20 minutes, no walker to be found.

Unconscious London Strata (1982)

Defocused colory blorbs. Some nice reds in there. Tiny flickers of what might be a street scene (London?), or water, or a person, but mostly it’s very defocused, the image scrambling back and forth, cutting to a new blorb every couple seconds. SB says he’s exploring the depths of the unconscious here. I played the first four tracks of Mary Lattimore’s Collected Pieces II and it was extremely peaceful.


Boulder Blues and Pearls and… (1992)

This is my kind of stuff. Boulders and streams and such, overlaid with frantic single-frame paintings that turn on and off, get more and less intense, all picture frequently fading to black. Good music, a light spazzy buzzing. SB says he’s showing the inside of the mind, and viewers say this one’s frightening, but I dunno.


The Mammals of Victoria (1994)

Brakhage goes on a beach vacation, sometimes patiently watching the tide come in, sometimes darting like a fish through the shallows. Shooting from every possible angle, of course, and mixing in hand painted sections, and what looks like shots from a microscope – even scrambled pay-per-view shot off the hotel TV. All kinds of lighting and composition and movement, the green film grain sometimes clashing with the waves, brief shots of fire and sky for contrast. A really beautiful movie, I watched with Mary Lattimore’s “A Unicorn Catches A Falling Star In Heaven” and “What the Living Do” (I’d reverse their order next time).


From: First Hymn to the Night – Novalis (1994)

Wow, a hyperactive flicker of colors and patterns with poetry in between, the handwritten text not limited to opening and closing titles anymore. Words by Novalis, a “late 18th century mystic poet.” Watched with Mary’s “Princess Nicotine,” which was written to score a different silent film, but it’s a minute too long.

I was supposed to go out and see Nightmare Alley, the first of a wave of Christmas-week movies, but the 3pm show was filling up and I didn’t want to be around other humans, so watched this on the TV instead. Obvs, I liked it.

1925 Montana, gentle friendly rancher Jesse Plemons weds sad widow Kirsten Dunst who has bookish son Kodi Smit-McPhee (Young Nightcrawler in the last X-Men), and they all move in with Jesse’s alpha-bully brother Benedict Cumberbatch. Seems like it’s all going in an unpleasant direction, but as BC begins to soften, the kid calmly plots revenge on Benedict for driving Kirsten to drink.

Sophie Monks Kaufman in LWL:

Campion is a master of intertwining character and plot, so that a revelation of one nudges the other along. In this, her first film explicitly centring male psychology after a career of female character studies, she makes observations about masculinity and power that defy classification. She has blown these subjects wide open and we can but stand still and try to catch the fragments as they rain down.

“Intelligence can be dangerous” – is this a quote from the movie, or something I wrote while watching it? A plague is going around, both within and without the movie, so I watched at home and took cryptic notes.

Benedetta’s dad pays for both his daughter and a beaten incest girl named Bartolomea to enter a convent under abbess Charlotte Rampling. Bene dreams that a cartoon superhero Jesus saves her from violent rapists then attacks her, also sees dodgy CG snakes and other miracles on the regular. The higher-ups decide she’s faking but keep that to themselves and make Bene the new abbess. She invites Bartolo to her bed, but sexual pleasure is not allowed in historical times, so both nuns must be tortured, per church leader Lambert Wilson.

The plague takes Rampling, and suicide takes her daughter/spy Louise Chevillotte (Synonyms and the last couple Garrels). Bene (Sibyl star Virginie Efira) lives out the rest of her days at the convent in a postscript title, and I already can’t remember if Daphne Patakia (the mimic of Nimic) lives or what. Fun movie with witty writing, but it’s still a nun drama, one of my least favorite genres.

Post-La Flor digressive cinema! Young lovers are kept apart by a curse, trying to find their ways back to each other and to themselves… but then, why not instead follow some dogs who want to watch the World Cup, and isn’t all this just a distraction from larger global issues? Anyway, the main plot ends up with a documentary film screening allowing the romantic leads to see their true selves again. The movie’s somewhat slow and wandering, but the music (in all different styles, by the director’s brother) is fabulous and everything is sufficiently magical (I did close my eyes when the narrator said to).

From the Cinema Scope cover story, Koberidze’s filmmaking origin story is hilarious:

I came home one day and my mom told me she had seen a film by Guy Ritchie called Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. She told me she liked it and her opinions have always been really important to me, so I watched it and it was the first time in my life when I realized that if this is good, than I can make something good too. It was like a switch went off in my mind. I wasn’t very impressed with the film, so I figured it couldn’t be too hard to make something like this.

Michael Sicinski on Patreon:

[The director/narrator’s] tendency to over-direct the viewer, combined with a relative indifference to the ramifications of the basic premise, suggest that Koberidze’s true concerns lay somewhere else … Koberidze makes use of the the flowing Rioni River and other physical features of his location, the Georgian town of Kutaisi. Still lives, portraits, and landscapes are the real stuff of What Do We See, and it is here that Koberidze excels.

Finally getting to Dumont’s debut. Parts of this movie about a dimwit boy in a nowhere town look familiar from Lil Quinquin – a yard where they fix up their car even looks like a location from that movie, and there’s a character named Quinquin. But this was before Dumont had learned to be funny or unpredictable, from his punishing slow art cinema days. Maybe the crappy marching band was supposed to provide levity, but in the end it’s simply no fun to watch a crappy marching band. This doesn’t give me much hope for L’Humanité – I’m guessing that’s as misleading a title as this one, which follows a kid who Dumont wants to portray as a sensitive soul, with his epilepsy and pet finch and cute girlfriend. But the kid’s also a horrible racist, and finally catches the Arab guy he’d seen hanging around with his girl, and uses his head as a soccer ball. The non-pro actors in this stayed non-pro. I was surprised to recognize the finch-song contest from Arabian Nights.

Nicholas Elliott for Criterion:

Rather than a description of the film’s contents, the title is an unusually active element of the viewing experience, a riddle that prompts the viewer to see beyond the low horizons of Freddy’s existence and imagine how the spiritual might be reintroduced into this context. In the trickiest of ways, Dumont titles the film to prime us to look for good where there is evil. Yet he does not ask us to like Freddy, only to accept that he exists…