My second pick from Vogel’s “Assault on Montage” after the first Bach movie, and this one feels more assaultive – but it’s an assault on everything, not just montage, a big youthful 60s movie full of formal energy and manic-depressive characters. Not sensory overload though – plenty of plain backgrounds and scenes without music to keep you off guard.

Fabrizio’s blonde friend dies in an (accidental?) drowning. Aunt Gina tries to cheer him up at the funeral, not acting much like an aunt, he ditches the pretty age-appropriate girl meant as his fiancee to have a rocky affair with Gina. Halfway through we finally meet his academic commie idol Cesare, who he keeps mentioning, and she has her own older confidante who she calls Puck. Fabrizio wanders back to his own girl in the end.

A young cinephile movie, even with a scene discussing Godard and Rossellini and Nick Ray at a cafe. “I’m a bore who makes lists of films.” Has some character behaviors in common with giallo – Italians are emotionally unstable people. Does Italian music sound circusy because they invented the circus? More research is needed. Aunt Gina would later star in Phantom of Liberty and The Best of Youth. Fabrizio would direct and write The Perfume of the Lady in Black. The drowned Agostino was the only Bertolucci regular.

Michael Fassbender is a reportedly excellent assassin, but after his long, confident voiceover and setup, he botches the first job we see, hitting someone other than the target then escaping to find that his bosses are trying to erase him, getting to him through his girlfriend (Sophie Charlotte of a bunch of Brazilian films Filipe did not like). Fass proceeds up the chain, killing according to personality – physical smashing through walls with “Brute” Sala Baker, cool chat with Tilda Swinton, bloodless faceoff with client Arliss Howard (a fellow film producer of Mank). Fass’s second spy-revenge action movie which I found enjoyable enough, nothing more (Nayman found more). This is the most I’ve wanted a movie’s soundtrack in a while (I mean the Reznor, but yes it’s also prompting a Smiths re-listen).

Killer in Florida:


Since The Social Network, he’s seemed dead-set on making incredibly detailed films about stupid things. As is so often the case these days, we cannot be certain whether The Killer is just a lunkheaded, self-important project or whether it is a film about lunkheaded self-importance. Based on the reviews I’ve read, one’s appreciation of The Killer seems to be directly proportional to the extent that the viewer believes it’s a comedy. But even then, how are we to take the jokes that don’t land?

RIP Alan Arkin, who even the day after watching this I was back to getting confused with Alan Alda. If I’d checked what else I’ve seen by Hiller I might not have watched this silly movie, but it’s a solid excuse to watch Peter Falk for 100 minutes. Mismatched guys’ kids are about to marry, Falk gets Arkin mixed up in an international incident, the movie staying ambiguous whether Falk is criminal or CIA or insane. They’re finally taken to the General who plans to crash the global finance system, and rescued from firing squad by American forces. Arkin had recently played Freud, Falk was between Muppet movies.

The Guys:

El General: Richard Libertini of the Unfaithfully Yours remake

BONUS: David Paymer’s first feature

With the frantic pace of the first film and my useless writeup, I worried we wouldn’t know what’s going on in this movie. But it’s just Spider-man, dealing with his usual Spider-man teenage problems while also trying to prove himself to the interdimensional society of Spider-men who say Miles only became a Spider-man through infinite improbability when a spider from Universe 42 warped into his version of New York. Attempts to save the universes from a Jason Schwartzman-voiced Watchmen-looking portal beast, then the movie cuts off before the next battle, Miles and his buddies facing off against an Evil Miles who became Venom The Prowler. Looks somewhat less splendid and amazing than the first movie because we made the mistake of skipping it in theaters and watching at home.

Wenders apparently working without a script, just putting two guys together and following them around – a good idea, turns out.

Rudiger* Vogler isn’t a writer/photographer this time but a traveling film-projector maintainer. He picks up rider Hanns Zischler after watching him roar his Volkswagen into a river, and they barely speak, just proceed along the route of small movie theaters in western East Germany.

One night they’re woken by a guy despondent over his wife’s suicide – second Wenders in a row where a suicide causes a mood shift. Hanns walks off to the town where his father lives, visits/harasses him at his newspaper office. After this cathartic visit he thinks Rudiger should also have a cathartic visit home, so they borrow a motorbike and sidecar. After all the not-talking, they do finally get drunkenly combative and introspective, but part on pretty good terms.

Hanns and the sad man in the jukebox-equipped back of the truck:

Commentary says the photography was an homage to Walker Evans, the photographer who also inspired Upland Stories. I’ve seen the rider in a few things, including Clouds of Sils Maria and Dr. M. Man who lost his wife was in a bunch of Fassbinders – he’s the landlord in Fear Eats the Soul. Alice’s mom (of the Cities) works at a theater in one town, a Lang Mabuse actor plays the rider’s dad.

*Okay, first all my old posts‘ diacritics went bad, and now my macbook isn’t letting me make new ones by holding down vowel keys.

Alice’s mom with Rudiger:


Essential equipment for long drives:

Watched on beautiful 35mm at Plazadrome, antidote to the DCP Blues. The culmination of Woo’s HK career before he moved to Hollywood and had to make movies with Van Damme and Travolta and Lundgren for a decade. Chow Yun-fat’s first obstacle at the bird bar is machine-gunner Jun Kunimura (most recently seen as the filmmaker friend in Audition, but he’s in everything). His partner is killed, so Chow stays on the arms dealer case. The cops have got informant Little Ko, who cashes out after directing them to the illegal armory beneath a city hospital, and undercover agent Tony Leung, who teams up with Chow. Leung betrays Kwan Hoi-San (a ship captain in Project A) to get close to big boss Anthony Wong (the year before Heroic Trio). Wong’s lead muscle Mad Dog (played by one of the Five Deadly Venoms) fires more bullets and throws more grenades than anyone else here (or anywhere). Teresa Mo (who costarred with Sammo Hung a year earlier) attempts to save the babies while Wong plots to blow up the hospital (hospital bombings are in fashion these days).

Before this, also on 35mm, was In the Mouth of Madness. Given my particular tastes, it’s an even more perfect movie than Hard-Boiled, though it doesn’t feature anybody firing two guns whilst jumping through the air AND holding a baby. Movie connections: Freddy’s DeadStranger Than FictionThe Empty Man.

Instead of playing The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach alongside another movie from Vogel’s chapter on editing, I followed it with another Bach movie. This one places delicious performance footage within little conceptual scenes, cutting between scenes and eras like it’s no big deal (“juxtaposing past and present as if they were attractions in a theme park” per Rosenbaum).

Player piano rolls and spins slowly around a gallery.

Blind piano tuner goes to work

European trucker tells his story to a rider at a roadside cafe, rider impossibly plays a Bach piece on harmonica.

Wigged pipe organist alone in St. Thomas church, where Bach is buried

Close-up on hands during a harpsichord performance, first-person camera.

Tour guide goes to work performing as Bach – no music in this one.

Another tour – a boat, then a subway car full of cellists.

Mendelsson’s man goes to the market in 1829, the apocryphal backstory of how some of Bach’s compositions were discovered being used as wrapping paper.

Evoking the Holocaust, “music hurts,” a piano silently falls into the sea.

Connections start getting pieced together: a cellist goes on a trip to St. Thomas and speaks with a female descendant of Bach, while her husband is calling the trucker to set up a difficult crane delivery of an antique piano.

Manohla Dargis:

The film demands engagement and a kind of surrender, a willingness to enter into a work shaped by correlation, metaphor and metonymy, by beautiful images and fragments of ideas, a work that locates the music in the twitching of a dog’s ears, in the curve of a woman’s belly, a child’s song and an adult’s reverie. Like the music it celebrates, this is a film made in glory of the world.

A Bach concert film, solo and small/large ensembles performing his works chronologically, with narration from wife Anna’s diaries for context. As with all concert films (see my dislike for the Bowie movie) enjoyment is largely dependent on whether you like listening to Bach, and I’m getting from the reviews that the critics who love this are big Bach fans. I’m mixed here, but would freak out over a film called Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Zorn – either way it’s a vital entry in the biopic and concert film genres.

Difficult to understand Anna’s English narration as she rapidly, mechanically rattles off the words. Compositions are mostly static but they’re not afraid of a subtle or grand camera move. Scenes step on each other’s heels, the editor anxious to move on the moment a music piece has ended. Besides the musical performances we get great churches and lovely instruments – pre-piano keyboards such as harpsichords, clavichords and pipe organs – and closeups on (real?) historical documents. It’s an example film in Vogel’s “Assault on Montage” chapter, where he helpfully lays out the rules of “the received canon of editing” in order to show how some films break them. In this movie, “the refusal to move the camera or render the image more interesting and an insistence on real time… represents a frontal assault on the cinematic value system of the spectator.” In other words, anti-art people would call the movie boring.

Neil Bahadur:

Here we see the art go from the mind, to the page, to the finger, to the performer, and finally to the audience. In every performance Straub makes it so the hands are always totally visible, so we see the complexity that Bach/Gustav Leonhardt must transfer from the mind to the hands in full force.

I’m figuring out who Laurie Anderson is before the Big Ears fest. This is a poem-essay film about “the connection between love and death”… still drawings and an animated Laurie give an introductory dream sequence about giving birth to her dog, then straight to the death of her mother over blurry, barely-there archive films and photos. The dog goes blind, Laurie has her make paintings and sculptures and play paw-piano (they show a long stretch of dog piano music, including live performance footage from a benefit concert), and Laurie speaks of dog perception and post-9/11 surveillance. Ends with Lou’s song “Turning Time Around” and in the closing credits you realize her real home movies were mixed with staged(?) archive-looking footage (and Chris Marker is thanked). I kinda loved this – all these years I assumed I would find it tedious. It can go either way with personal docs and poetry.