I paused this halfway since Katy wanted to watch To the Ends of the Earth, which features a lead actor from Sono’s Tokyo Tribe – kinda thinking I should’ve rewatched Tribe instead of this. As Sono’s movies get wackier, I lose more interest… I hated Noriko’s Dinner Table, but it at least felt like he was aiming for something more than prefab cult movies for festival midnight sections and Alamo Drafthouses. Anyway, most of us are here for Nicolas Cage, and he’s good – the production design > acting > editing > writing. It’s written by an American cartoon voice actor and an actor from A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night – Sono’s tendency to slow down and repeat everything does the weak script no favors.

Sofia in Ghostland:

The Cult of the Mushroom Cloud:

Escape from New York meets that Rutger Hauer movie Wedlock where the convicts wear exploding collars. This time there are multiple little bombs in his jumpsuit, so Cage can lose an arm or a testicle and survive to the next scene. He’s a bad dude (frequent slow-mo flashbacks to a bank robbery where his partner went all Michael Madsen on the customers), as is Governor Bill Moseley who hires him to retrieve escaped daughter Sofia Boutella (Atomic Blonde and Climax). The Ghostland isn’t such a bad place, compared to anywhere else in this movie, it’s just everyone there has mass delusions. The baddie with a nuclear-melted face turns out to be Cage’s psychotic criminal partner, and Cage turns his half-arm into a weapon – what horror movie fan could’ve seen either of those developments coming?? MVP the Ratman.

Discovering Sofia:

Psycho Nick Cassavetes beneath my favorite banner:

Ratman at left:

Katy’s Criterion Channel pick is my first Kiyoshi in a few years, having skipped the alien visitation movies. I found it barely recognizable as a Kiyoshi, not sensing the horror atmosphere that others mentioned in reviews. A few days in the life of Yoko, on location in Uzbekistan with an easily defeated TV crew (when one segment falls through they don’t have any backup plans, hadn’t even read Lonely Planet: Tashkent on the plane). They each become familiar over the fairly long 120 minutes: director, cameraman, flunky, and translator – though the viewer is always on Yoko’s side (Seventh Code star Atsuko Maeda).

The movie gives us a symbolic goat which the TV crew pays to free, then pays again after it gets recaptured, then Yoko sees it in the hills at the end. The one time the camerawork feels complex is when Yoko wanders into an opera house and gets jump-cut between ornate rooms before finding herself both in the seats and onstage. After visualizing her inner yearning, KK shows the absolute lack of imagination of her coworkers – the translator suggests shooting in that opera house, explains its specifically Japanese origin and his rich emotional history with the place, and the director shrugs it off, saying their viewers wouldn’t care.

Opens with 80’s dance music… I’ve been thrown off by the music in my early-decade French films lately. Sabine is Béatrice Romand from Autumn Tale, and the good marriage is all in her head – her boyfriend is married to someone else, but she starts fantasizing and telling everyone she’s getting married. As soon as that proves impossible, she meets André Dussolier at a wedding, and gets ahead of herself again, quitting her job, believing that she’ll marry him and not have to work anymore, even though he keeps ditching her for work reasons. Good ending on a train, leaving the future open.

Dave Kehr:

The second installment of Eric Rohmer’s “Comedies and Proverbs” is, like The Aviator’s Wife, a study in destructive imagination and the limitations of personal perspectives — which is to say that the characters talk as much as they did in the “Six Moral Tales,” but no one really hears what they’re saying.

Romand got an award at Venice, where Wenders and Zanussi also took prizes. Her blonde painter friend is Arielle Dombasle, last seen as the “American” in Time Regained.

The Flea of this movie is Jonathan Richman, who attended many VU shows and analyzed their vibrations. A terrifically assembled doc – instead of making me want to listen to the Velvet Underground at all, it made me feel like watching experimental film.

Edgar overusing “funny” stock footage, and it’s all people telling the band’s story chronologically with the music in background. Standard rock doc format, but I knew very little of their background and smiled through the whole thing – wonderful to see their visual history, all the promo stuff and album cover art outtakes.

The only good bit of analysis comes from Flea: “Something that’s always kind of confounded me in popular music is people’s inability to take humor seriously.” Ron says punk felt like an attack on what they were doing. They invented electro dance pop, and entered their current phase with 2002’s Lil Beethoven. The canceled Tati movie is covered, and the Tim Burton, but not the Guy Maddin Bergman – not even a Forbidden Room clip.

The Bresson movie with the most fashion and music and humor, even an action scene. Bresson cuts absolutely loose – it’s practically a musical by his standards. I loved it very much.

On night one, dreamer Jacques convinces Marthe not to jump off a bridge. Day 2, Jacques paints, records a primitive podcast on a tape deck, then entertains an unexpected visitor who spouts art philosophy. Marthe Backstory: she fell for her mom’s boarder shortly before he went to America, promising to meet up in a year – a year and three days ago. No major progress day three (he records some pigeons in the park). Night four she gives into Jacques love for her, says they will live together, then drops him in an instant when the old boarder walks by.

Shot by Pierre “The Man” Lhomme (Army of Shadows), played Berlin along with The Decameron. Isabelle Weingarten was in The Mother and the Whore after this, and The State of Things/The Territory, and married two major filmmakers. Why does everyone on my letterboxd hate this? At least I got Rizov and Rosenbaum on my side (J.Ro was an extra!). Adaptation of Dostoevsky’s White Nights, and now I’m contemplating watching the Visconti and the Vecchiali for a White Nights Trilogy.

A perfectly fine historical drama with some fab lighting and good faces (La Pointe Courte‘s Silvia Monfort). Coming between Beauty and the Beast and Orpheus, it lacks most of the sfx magic of those, but it’s so neglected I was half-expecting it to be lousy. I didn’t even have the correct title, knowing it as The Eagle Has Two Heads, while The Two-Headed Eagle makes more sense.

Monfort is the audience-surrogate newcomer to a castle where the widowed queen has shut herself away for ten years, and is about to hold a ball. Queen Edwige Feuillère (just off starring in a Dostoevsky adaptation) is surprised by a visitor at her window who looks exactly like King Jean Marais, and the bulk of the movie is psychological spy games between these two. She calls him “My Death” (which is very Cocteau) since he’s meant to be an assassin, the corrupt cops outside pretending to search for him. He is of course a poet, and she of course falls for him, in a dignified/suicidal way.

Police chief Jacques Varennes (La Poison) hides in a treehouse, and he and the queen run around giving everyone contradictory orders, until she gets to die with her king as she’s always dreamed (Marais taking a nice fall down the stairs).

The queen uses a room-sized model palace as a shooting gallery:

Still stuck in 2021-catchup until we get to the next Chaplin. This was a mid-1980’s ensemble movie where every one of the 20 lead characters is “the crazy one.” It’s like Vampire’s Kiss if Nicolas Cage played all the parts. For a while I was over the moon, but an hour in I hit my fill of wackiness.

After a successful bank robbery, the four thieves led by Tchéky Karo (Full Moon in Paris) meet a new friend on the train, latch onto Sophie Marceau (of a Pialat the same year), then declare war on the four Venin brothers who wronged her. Leon from the train (Francis Huster, star of Demy’s Parking the same year) takes over as the lead, falling for Karo’s girl Marceau, his eyes glowing yellow when he gets overeager. I lost track of everyone else, all of whom end up dead anyway, but a guy from Amer was in there, a guy from Malle’s The Lovers, a character named Andrzej Zulawski – and a flamethrower. Inspired by The Idiot, but certainly doesn’t follow that novel’s storyline… still, with the Bresson, I made an accidental Dostoevsky double-feature.

The best 2021 movies:

1. Mad God (Phil Tippett)
2. The French Dispatch (Wes Anderson)

3. Summer of Soul & The Velvet Underground & Get Back

4. The American Sector (Stephens/Velez) & Notturno (Gianfranco Rosi)

5. The Power of the Dog (Jane Campion)

6. Monster Hunter (Paul W.S. Anderson) & Malignant (James Wan)

7. Gunda (Victor Kossakovsky) & Rock Bottom Riser (Fern Silva)

8. Siberia (Abel Ferrara) & Annette (Leos Carax)

9. Strawberry Mansion (Birney/Audley) & Faya Dayi (Jessica Beshir)

10. The Killing of Two Lovers (Robert Machoian)
11. The Green Knight (David Lowery)
12. Her Socialist Smile (John Gianvito)

The best from the previous five years, watched this year:

1. Wolfwalkers (2020, Tomm Moore & Ross Stewart)
2. The Empty Man (2020, David Prior)
3. Fireball: Visitors from Darker Worlds (2020, Werner Herzog & Clive Oppenheimer)
4. The 20th Century (2019, Matthew Rankin)
5. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016, Akiva Schaffer & Jorma Taccone)
6. Martin Eden (2019, Pietro Marcello)
7. MS Slavic 7 (2019, Sofia Bohdanowicz)
8. Vitalina Varela (2019, Pedro Costa)
9. Let Them All Talk (2020, Steven Soderbergh)
10. Valley of the Gods (2019, Lech Majewski)