After finally catching up with Three Lives, checking out Ruiz’s latest posthumous release, completed by Valeria Sarmiento. Due to the vagaries of video releasing this lost/unfinished film from the mid-60’s is in better shape than the mid-90’s hit with the major movie star.

Iriarte is a gruff-voiced professor (the soundtrack was lost and all actors were re-dubbed in 2019), bottling sock water with his Jason Schwartzmann-looking nephew Joaquin. He visits friends Silva and Lola, tells them about his dreams, which involve a wig under the bed, rivers of blood, and the return of his late wife Maria. Finally, Iriarte can’t sleep, tormented by wigs, and shoots himself after writing letters to everyone he knows.

The second half is mesmerising, the scenes replaying in reverse with backwards dialogue and new thoughts via voiceover. Silva and Lola had appeared in Three Sad Tigers, and Joaquin joined them in Nadie dijo nada. Ghost Maria reportedly appears in a Sebastián Silva movie, and our main guy was in a couple Miguel Littín movies.

Kalat says this was the sixth Mabuse movie, a combination sequel and remake. It has some typical sequel behavior, taking its villain backstory too far by explaining that brain abnormalities cause his evil power. Other than this, it’s a pretty good movie, much better than the 60’s Fantômas update.

Inspector Gert Fröbe (fresh off Fritz Lang’s own 1960 Mabuse movie) knows only one criminal mind could be behind a counterfeiting ring, but Mabuse (Wolfgang Preiss, also from the Lang) is secured in an asylum, so he visits the place and discovers that a doctor (the prolific Walter Rilla, who started out with Murnau’s Finances of the Grand Duke) is being hypnotized into passing along the mastermind’s messages. Corrupt cop Flocke tries to atone by getting into Mabuse’s gang, but is killed… Boxer Johnny joins the gang then finds he and his girl are trapped… the doctor apparently survives to appear in the next two movies.

Harmless Mabuse scribbles away while Gert reviews his notes and the bowtie doctor observes:

Trapped boxer:

Mind-controlled doctor takes a drive:

I thought this would be more Four Weddings and a Funeral, but all the lives/deaths in the title belong to Marcello Mastroianni, who lives at least three different lives in this almost-anthology movie.

Birds and snake:

Firstly, Marcello had walked out on his wife, rented an apartment down the street, and fallen asleep for 20 years, hypnotized by tiny Parisian fairies. When he escapes, he talks his wife’s current guy (Féodor Atkine of a couple Rohmers) into listening to his story, then coming to the apartment and taking his place (less “talks” and more “kidnaps and murders” at that point) while Marcello returns to wife Marisa Peredes (an Almodóvar regular).

Marisa:

Atkine, swimming in chicks

Then Marcello is a bachelor professor with an invalid mum until he gets the sudden urge to leave home and becomes a very successful street beggar and befriends CEO/prostitute Alla Galiena (The Tulse Luper Suitcases), living a double life with her dangerous husband.

Galiena and perverse husband:

Polyamorous couple Martin (Ruiz fave Melvil Poupaud) and Cecile (Marcello’s daughter Chiara Mastroianni) have a mysterious benefactor in Marcello, who leaves them a mansion then performs as their mute butler, and this turns out to be a scheme to steal their newborn and deliver it to Wife #1 Marisa Peredes. Marcello is introduced as a fourth character, a businessman whose young wife is cheating on him, but we’ve already seen characters from the other stories interacting, and now it turns out there’s only one Marcello, and he starts rapidly flipping between personas, then all Marcellos share one death after a fateful meeting at the cafe between the women from each chapter.

A Poupaud and two Mastroiannis:

Marcello is excellent in this, and would die a couple months after it came out. It played a stacked Cannes with Crash, Fargo and Breaking the Waves.

Perry Caravello is a local celeb comedian with Steven Wright hair and a high hoarse voice who gets involved in various challenges and pranks. Here he has called in all his comedy buds for a fake fake-documentary in which his frenemies Don and Mole get him cast as the star of a film that everyone but Perry knows isn’t real. But I don’t get this, because within the scope of this film, it seems real, and the rug is never pulled out even after the successful premiere. What’s the point in telling us it’s a ruse if we never see the ruse, like watching straight episodes of The Truman Show without ever seeing backstage or anything breaking down.

Everyone on set has stolen names, like a mistreated assistant named Burt Ward, and director Goldthwait is amusing as… the director of Windy City Heat. And there is a lot of yelling.

Sometimes when you’ve fallen behind on the ol’ blog, you realize that thirty movies ago, you took no notes on a movie that consisted mostly of essay readings by powerful actors, with newly photographed and stock footage visuals, written as a letter to the author’s teenage son about systemic racism. Katy wanted to watch it in case her students, assigned the book to read, try to get away with only watching the movie. Good film – Forbes had previously worked on a doc miniseries on a slam poetry competition, and appeared in a Grand Theft Auto game.

Watching the Detectives (2017, Chris Kennedy)

Silent and over a half hour long, so I played Zero Kama’s The Secret Eye of L.A.Y.L.A.H., as the director undoubtedly would’ve intended if he could’ve afforded the rights. The day or so after the Boston Marathon bombing, represented mostly through screenshots from reddit: marked-up surveillance photos and a long-distance attempt at forensic investigation by the chatmob. At least I liked that the text was against a gentle wash of dark static instead of plain digital black. Last ten minutes is just reporting news with no new redditting.


Once Upon a Screen: Explosive Paradox (2020, Kevin Lee)

Lee’s always in my feed championing essay film, so checking out one of his… it’s short and lo-fi. He parks outside the liquor store that used to be the movie theater where he saw Platoon as a kid, recalling that experience while shooting parking lots and brick walls. The credits shout out the director of The Viewing Booth, which I watched last night.


Green Ash (2019, Pablo Mazzolo)

A landscape turned into blobby light, like peering through fluttering almost-closed eyelids. Ordinary shot of a bush, but the foreground and background bushes jitter and blur independently. Light starts going crazy across grassy fields, a tricky version of Nishikawa’s Tokyo-Ebisu effect, making it feel like this is lo-fi natural footage, but simultaneously taking place in a glitching holodeck. The lush green Argentinian fields with the hand-drawn map at the end gave me La Flor flashbacks. I played Yazz Ahmed’s “Barbara” since the timing matched, very nice.


I Am Micro (2010, Shumona Goel & Shai Heredia)

Narration by a film artist who dreamed of being Godard or Pasolini before everything went commercial and became “scattered,” the camera roving the grounds of an abandoned studio.


Five by Tomonari Nishikawa – all quotes are by the director, from his website.


Tokyo-Ebisu (2010)

Scenes of a noisy train station, frames within the frames showing different actions, sometimes like a shot has been divided into a semi-grid and each segment is playing a different moment in time. Shot on film, which seems excessively difficult, since he says they’re “in-camera visual effects,” so what, mirrors? Exposing partial sections of the film then running it back?


45 7 Broadway (2013)

Times Square, and this time it’s the full frame overlapping with a time-shifted version of itself, but each source has been processed as red, green or blue, appearing to be a 3D effect gone horribly wrong, or a broken RGB projector during an earthquake, quite wonderful.


Manhattan One Two Three Four (2014)

Quick swish pans up, down, and across city buildings, rapidly cut together (“all edited in-camera”), no sound.


Sound of a Million Insects, Light of a Thousand Stars (2015)

Crackling hum, and a very scratched mothlighting blue-dyed image, the sprocket holes often visible. This one is political, the film image resulting from being buried in radioactive soil the government said was safe.


Amusement Ride (2019)

Tracking across the metal skeleton of a Japanese ferris wheel, never looking out at the typical views, the camera panning up a bit at a time, “which resembles the movement of a film at the gate of a film projector or camera.”

Reading my notes after the fact, it’s hard to piece the plot back together – a lot happening in 80 minutes, but it all made perfect sense at the time. Lange was working for a smalltime publisher named Batala, a scam artist and rapist. Lange just wants to write silly westerns and see them published. His dreams are working out, his stories gaining popularity, the cute Valentine is in love with him, but when Batala’s interference tries to bring it all crashing down, Lange kills him and goes on the run. Good movie, and commie film critics give it extra points for showing the publishing workers taking over production.

Lange is plain-looking René Lefèvre of Le Million. Valentine is Florelle of Lang’s not-great version of Liliom. This movie is set at a hotel where these two are crashing while fleeing for the border after the murder, most of the action shown as flashbacks as Valentine tells the story to the locals so they won’t turn Lange in. Jules Berry, who plays the villain, later costarred in Le Jour Se Leve – another film written by Jacques Prévert in which Berry is murdered and we learn the full story as the killer is hiding out in the aftermath.

Guess I should’ve watched the show instead of the movie, because the antagonistic interviews with celebrities are very fun, but I didn’t need the framing story of Zach G and his crew road-tripping to conduct a certain number of interviews in a week for boss Will Ferrell. After binging On Cinema episodes, maybe it was bad timing to watch another show about a deluded low-rent awkward talk-show host.

After watching Boys State and Dope Is Death with Katy, I rounded out the trilogy of True/False catchup movies with one she didn’t want to see.

The concept is based on a Virginia Woolf quote about people looking at the same war images and perceiving them differently. The filmmaker shows a curated set of Israeli/Palestinian youtube scenes to students then narrows down to a single student with Israeli parents who sees unexpected things in the images, sometimes to the point of absurdity, and questions her about her perceptions. It appears to be raw footage shot on cellphones, but she thinks everything here is staged. “They have the kids cry in the background as an added effect,” as if it’s unrealistic that kids would cry on their own while soldiers tromp through their house. The kids’ mom is being “overdramatic” and the soldiers are even criticized for not searching the house well enough. When Israeli kids are just pelting a Palestinian home with rocks, “This doesn’t look good for Israel,” then she self-corrects, imagining an inciting event from before the camera was rolling, “Arabs throw rocks all the time.” In the second half, the director calls her back to watch the videos again alongside her own responses (so, the first half of this movie). “The viewer also has control… Film is only so real, you’re not there.” A good experiment, but I resent having to spend this much time with an overthinking college student.