Bastards (2013, Claire Denis)

One of those grimy revenge dramas in which the filmmaker seems to be asking if the rewards of revenge are worth the costs, further complicated by the revenge-seeker getting his facts wrong. The way Denis parcels out information in context-free fragments, I don’t blame the guy for being confused.

Vincent Lindon (Friday Night) is back in town (after fleeing his family to be a sailor) because his sister Sandra’s husband has killed himself, and their daughter Justine (Lola Créton of Bluebeard and Goodbye First Love) is receiving medical attention for a horrible sexual assault. He sells all his possessions for cash, and goes after the guy he assumes is to blame for all this, the dead guy’s former business partner Michael Subor.

So Vincent gets involved with Subor’s younger wife Raphaelle (Chiara Mastroianni of Love Songs, A Christmas Tale). Subor realizes this, takes their son and splits, saying she needs to get away from that awful family – and in the final confrontation, Vincent struggles with Subor and Raphaelle shoots Vincent dead. It’s just as well. Turns out Justine’s dead father was responsible for her abuse, aided by a slimy (pimp? drug dealer?) played by Gregoire Colin of 35 Shots of Rum. Justine kills Colin and herself in a car crash. The movie had a few asthetic pleasures, but story seemed more sordid than usual, and I ended up angry with everyone involved (except Alex Descas, who only has a cameo).

Apparently inspired by Kurosawa’s The Bad Sleep Well. R. Koehler says “it marries her interest in narrative jumps, classical tragedy” and “the workings of capitalism.”

Venezia 70 Future Reloaded (2013), part 3

The Venice Film Festival posted 70-ish short films online to commemorate their 70th anniversary. I watched them gradually over the past year. Already rounded up my favorites and least favorites – this is the rest.

Krzysztof Zanussi

Kids haul a film can containing Zanussi’s Venice prize-winning A Year of the Quiet Sun from a trash can.

Sono Sion

“Cinema’s Future is My Future” title cards. An excited man films things in a neon room. A crowd chants “seventy!”

Antonio Capuano

Green-haired teen zombies carry video cubes on subway station escalators.

Tariq Teguia

“Still, tomorrow’s cinema will be saying: someone is here.”
He has a Film Socialisme poster. Show-off.

James FrancoThe Future of Cinema

FF Coppola says he hopes filmmaking professionalism will be destroyed and regular people will be able to make them. Then some vandals trash a house and it looks like we’re watching the framing story of V/H/S. Then all goes berzerk, and Franco appears, laughing amidst the chaos.

Pablo Larraín

Camera perched atop one of those sail-surfboards looking down, piano playing a riff on “My Blue Heaven”.

Nicolás Pereda

Single shot of couple in bed playing on their phones, unseriously discussing getting married.

Wang Bing

A guy works the land, comes home to his horrible, fly-infested cave.

Kim Ki-dukMy Mother

Kim films his own mother going to the store (slowly and painfully), buying cabbage and prepping dinner for his visit.

Edgar Reitz

Franz Kafka is moved by a film, walks outside into the present-day world of everpresent video screens and advertising. Searching for the source of his quote (“Went to the movies. Wept.”) led to an interesting-looking book called Kafka Goes to the Movies.

Pablo TraperoCinema Is All Around

iPhone videos of tourists taking photos at a waterfall while Doris Day sings Que Sera Sera.

Jia Zhang-ke

People watch old movies on new screens.
Unusually commercial-looking style for Jia.

João Pedro RodriguesAllegoria Della Prudenza

Grave sites (there are multiple) for Kenji Mizoguchi in the whispering wind. Cameo appearance by the grave of Portuguese director Paulo Rocha.

Peter Ho-Sun ChanThe Future Was In Their Eyes

Photo montage of the eyes of many dead filmmakers.

Isabel Coixet

A square little film sketch with bouncy music.

Haile Gerima

He’s in an edit suite reviewing Harvest: 3000 Years. “I am incarcerated in the historical circumstances of Africa. Our cinema is a hostaged cinema.”

Atom EgoyanButterfly

He lets us see video of an Anton Corbijn gallery exhibit before deleting it from his phone. “Frankly I can’t be bothered to store more useless memories that I’ll never look at again, so I have to make some choices of what to lose.”

Hong Sang-soo50:50

Guy smokes with a stranger, tells her that his wife, sitting on a nearby bench, is terribly ill.

Celina Murga

Theater full of kids watch a movie.

Hala Alabdalla

Driving through Syria shooting through a window with a beard-n-sunglasses silhouette stuck on. Then: close-ups of eyeballs.

Pietro Marcello

Silent stock footage and clips of film equipment at work, then a Guy Debord quote.

Jan CvitkovicI Was a Child

Nice moving camera while narrator tells of when she first realized that everything is god.

Jazmín López

Camera follows a trail of discarded objects to two identically-dressed girls making out.

Amir NaderiDon’t Give Up

Aged film of dust storm on a dead sea cut with some present-day film storage room.

Alexey German Jr.5000 Days Ahead

Single travelling shot, people on a beach discussing movies of the future, personal experiences using neural transmitters, “like dreams with subtitles.”

Benoît Jacquot

Single take of a girl looking into camera.

John Akomfrah

B/W travel footage rapidly edited, closing with titles about the Boston Marathon bombing.

Shekhar Kapur

Bunch of short fragments using the white balance and focus in nonstandard ways.

Davide FerrarioLighthouse

Open-air cinema is playing Buster Keaton, shown with nice helicopter(?) shot.

Ermanno OlmiLa Moviola

So that’s what a moviola looks like. Hands and a sort of stop-motion/time-lapse ghost set it up and start it rolling.

Giuseppe Piccioni

We’re at a party, dude goes to get a drink for the girl in center of shot, and she slowly glides with the camera into the other room, audio from a climactic scene from Double Indemnity in her head, then back again.

Brillante MendozaThe Camera

A movie is being filmed, shots of people across town already enjoying it on TV, but back on set someone has run off with the camera.

Monte Hellman

Slate, couple at a cafe, he pays and leaves while she silently cries, the traffic noise dialing down, slow pull in, then “cut”.

Teresa VillaverdeAmapola

Poem recital like a horror-movie bible reading, “jackals that the jackals would despise,” blurry TV sets with close-ups of faces upon them.

Guido LombardiSensa Fine

Last shot of a film, the lead actors kiss, then won’t stop kissing.

Shirin Neshat

Scenes from October and Potemkin played with a stop-motion-looking low frame-rate.

Chef (2014, Jon Favreau)

Simple, straightforward, obvious movie full of affable people, a pleasant diversion with some delicious-looking food but probably not even as great/interesting as something like Waitress.

Favreau’s smallest film in over a decade, but probably didn’t feel small since he was writer/director/producer/star/cook. Although it might’ve been ghostwritten by Twitter. His movie star friends come along – Avengers Scarlett Johansson and Robert Downey Jr. play his restaurant hostess and ex-wife’s ex-husband. Sofia Vergara (vengeful brothel mistress of Machete Kills) is the still-friendly ex-wife, Dustin Hoffman the chef’s boss, Oliver Platt the restaurant critic who sends Favreau on a road-trip journey of self-discovery, starting from scratch and remembering what he loved about cooking (alongside longtime assistant John Leguizamo) and reconnecting with his favorite regional dishes and his 10-year-old son and ex-wife and finally making up with the critic (but not with Dustin Hoffman) and opening his own place and getting remarried.

Belle (2013, Amma Asante)

I found it funny that Dido (“Belle”) calls her sister-cousin Elizabeth “Beth” (sounds like Bête).

Director Amma Asante is daughter to immigrants from Ghana, sadly no relation to Armand Assante.

The painting is nice – both the fake one in the movie and the real one they show over the credits.

Talk of the Town (1942, George Stevens)

Cute comedy, doesn’t seem like the kind of thing that’d be nominated for seven oscars, but there you have it. Town malcontent Cary Grant is arrested for a trumped-up charge. Everyone knows he’ll be killed by the town mob, so he escapes and hides out in old schoolmate Jean Arthur’s house. But she’s fixing it up for visiting law professor Ronald Colman, and when he arrives early, she arranges to stay in the house as his secretary so she can take care of Grant, keeping him hidden away from Colman in the attic. Colman is a self-important Good Man who refuses to deal with real people in real situations, preferring to stay apolitical and theoretical as he’s about to be appointed to the Supreme Court, so Arthur and Grant arrange run-ins between him and the corrupt town officials that are rigging Grant’s case, convincing him to bring his great influence into play.

Jean Arthur would be in Stevens’s The More The Merrier the following year, which I thought about while watching this – Jean and two guys in a single living space trying not to run into each other. Grant was between Suspicion and Once Upon a Honeymoon, and Colman played amnesiac in Random Harvest the same year. “This is a great country is it not?” I was happy to recognize the commie from Trouble In Paradise ten years later as a borscht peddler.

Sleepwalk With Me (2012, Mike Birbiglia)

The movie version of the Mike Birbiglia album. Not as much actual comedy as I would’ve liked, but great ending. Troubled-relationship plots and video of people picking glass out of bloody cuts both make Katy freak out a little, but she generally liked it.

Looks like Mike has a new special called My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend. Six Feet Under star Lauren Ambrose plays his girlfriend, and great character actors James Rebhorn and Carol Kane his parents. Cameos by David Wain, Marc Maron, Ira Glass, Kristen Schaal and John Lutz.

Brief Encounter (1944, David Lean)

Errand-running housewife Celia Johnson (lovestruck daughter in The Holly and the Ivy) is helped out by Trevor Howard (deposed captain in Mutiny on the Bounty). They get to talking, and eventually it’s a weekly appointment, then outings to movies and the park, a gradual love affair. Both are married, and they finally break it off when he’s offered a job in Africa. After a messy parting at the train station where they first met, interrupted by a shrill acquaintance, Celia returns home to her boring life at home. Her husband: “You’ve been a long way away… thank you for coming back to me.” Katy doesn’t approve of affairs, didn’t find it too romantic.

A. Turner:

Billy Wilder found Alec’s friend, who loans the flat, so interesting that he made an entire film about just such a character: The Apartment. … Brief Encounter is also the principal link between the small-scale films of Lean’s early career with the widescreen epics of his final phase. The Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia, Ryan’s Daughter, and A Passage to India each have central characters who are prone to a dreamy romanticism which borders on hysteria and hallucination. … Condemning Laura to a life of conformity and emotional suppression, Lean sets his own course towards the far horizon, where the English go out in the midday sun. Brief Encounter is not only Lean’s finest statement on the suffocating world into which he was born; it is also his train ticket out.

K. Brownlow:

But after [a flop preview], the film opened more widely, and a miracle happened. The public embraced it, people went to see it again and again, and it broke box-office records. In New York, it ran for eight months, and Johnson was not only voted best actress by the New York critics, she was nominated for an Oscar. David became the first director of a British film since Korda to be nominated, and he, Neame, and Havelock-Allan were also nominated for the screenplay.

Frozen (2013, Disney)

First movie watched since moving to Nebraska!

A movie with no baddies. Cursed ice-princess loses control of her snowy powers and hurts her little sister, then years later as hormonal ice-queen she dooms the whole town to endless winter and runs off. Little sister gathers hunky ice salesman and magic comic snowman (with the voice of Elder Cunningham) to set things right. There is singing.

The Silence (1963, Ingmar Bergman)

Not what I was expecting after the increasing despair of Through a Glass Darkly and Winter Light – I mean there’s plenty of despair here, and more relationships falling apart irreconcilably and suicidal behavior and children being forever warped, but for the culmination of a “Silence of God trilogy” and a film that was originally entitled God’s Silence, there’s a curious lack of discussion of God.

After a train trip through a country at war, Anna (Gunnel Lindblom, suicidal Sydow’s wife in Winter Light) and sickly Ester (Gunnel Lindblom, Winter Light pastor’s no-longer love-interest) land at a hotel, sit in their room deteriorating while Anna’s son Johan makes the hotel his playground, spying on the porter (I loved him, a friendly old man who only speaks his fictional home country’s made-up language) and cavorting with a roomful of dwarves. The sisters hate each other – Anna tells some uncomprehending hookup that she wishes Ester were dead, finally takes Johan and abandons her sister to the hotel.

Quiet and mysterious movie full of ambiguity – hard to tell much about the relationships or history, why they are here, where is here (a place that Ester, a professional translator, knows none of the language), what Ester and the boy are thinking.

L. Braudy:

Anna and Ester form two sides of a whole person, a theme Bergman would go on to further explore in Persona. Anna is defined almost entirely through her physicality — washing, anointing herself with perfume and lotions, getting dressed and undressed, having sex, watching others have sex. Ester, the translator, with her typewriter, paper, and pens, is instead a creature of language — suffering from the lung disease that suffocates her, masturbating, smoking, drinking, and thinking of sex as a mechanical matter of “erections and secretions” that disgust her. Her body in ruin, only words seem to keep her alive.

Ingmar Bergman Makes a Movie (1963, Vilgot Sjöman)

Extremely good, five-part doc on the making of Winter Light, which I’m obviously watching one movie too late, but I didn’t realize it existed back in February. Sjöman, who hadn’t yet made it big with the I Am Curious films, interviews Bergman at every step of the filmmaking process. Amazing to me how open Bergman is about his script after just having completed it, his intentions for filming before beginning.

Bergman:

“This is what we suffer from so terribly in watching American films, where everyone walks around acting so desperately natural, talking in this damned monotonous way. It makes it so dead and dull. It’s important to keep the dramatic contour. It’s not about just keeping up a naturalistic level of chatter, but actually playing a part, conveying a certain impression. And as you get towards the end of a movie – and the director must keep a careful eye on this – it’s important to raise the energy level in the actors. After having watched the film for an hour and a half, the audience is so tired that they need more energy. They need to understand the big picture.

Sven Nykvist:

Segments of process (except for scriptwriting) are interspersed with interviews discussing why things are done the way they are. For one Winter Light scene fragment, we see all the angles shot, then the first edit, then the final. Bergman gives this doc strict attention, not playing it off as PR fluff but maybe a chance to seem less forbidding to audiences as his films were turning more serious. And of course, he’s more conscious of his public image and the reception of the doc than he appears.

Vilgot for Criterion:

Bergman avoided some things, though. He was afraid of letting me read the first sketches he put on paper. These were later published in Bergman’s book Images: My Life in Film. So here we find the embryo for the film: the minister alone in the church, trying to force God out of his silence. Bergman was also afraid of letting the TV crew into the studio while he was working with the actors, so what I got for the TV series is an arranged rehearsal, made on a separate day after the real shooting was finished. … When time was ripe for the last interview, he didn’t approve of the result. “No good,” he said. He was blaming himself for being too superficial. “We have to do it once more, Vilgot.” So we did.

Bergman’s Dreams (2013, Michael Koresky and Casey Moore)

A Criterion-produced DVD extra without a DVD, stuck onto their blog and youtube, about dreams and dreamlike atmosphere in Bergman’s cinema – curiously without directly mentioning his film called Dreams or his TV adaptation of Stringberg’s A Dream Play (a major influence, Bergman closes Fanny & Alexander with a reading from it).