Haiti, 1962: a guy dies after walking in shoes cursed with ashes of puffer-fish- innards, becomes part of an army of twilight zombies cutting cane, but awakens from his half-life and returns home.

Decades later, a rich white girl comes along with her petty problems and lack of belief or understanding, causing someone to ruin their life. The white girl is boarding-school Fanny, who befriends Haitian zombi child Melissa. Heartbroken after being dumped, Fanny visits Melissa’s mambo aunt Katy, paying an absurd amount for an improper ritual which accidentally summons the demon god Baron Samedi from that Goldeneye game.

Child (with killer phone case):

Zombi:

Violet Lucca in Reverse Shot:

The Baron taunts Katy for disrespecting her father, and, to use a Lynchian expression, something really bad happens to the girl and the woman. (What, exactly, we do not know, except that they are both being punished.) In the final shot, Mélissa emerges from an endless darkness wearing a white dress, the color of Dambala; for the rest of the West, it will likely read a symbol of purity. It’s perhaps the only image that could make sense at that point, unsatisfying as it may be. Receiving closure from relationships, stories, or life isn’t universally guaranteed.

Nocturama reference:

Mambo X-fade:

In a WWII prison camp, Beat Takeshi is a sadistic guard led by humorless youngish Capt. Yonoi (the film’s composer, Ryuichi Sakamoto). Lawrence (Paddington 2‘s Tom Conti) is a prisoner who speaks some Japanese and represents the Brits, a bunch of sensible dudes until David Bowie (same year as The Hunger) comes along.

Cruel Story of Middle Age. A classy-looking narrative movie with tricky subject matter, feeling more like a prestige 80’s international coproduction than those late 60’s Oshima youth films. Cool rumbling music, and lots of singing, never as fun as the pub songs in the Terence Davies movies. The story is mostly survival tactics, power games, betrayals and brutality – strange that the lead actors were two rock stars and a comedian.

In between short films, we watch couple-minute Mitchell & Webb segments about a post-apocalyptic game show. Unknown Male 282 doesn’t survive, and we are urged to remain indoors. Also, a stir-crazy, homebound Madonna sings a parody of her own song into a hairbrush, but this was on instagram so the endless scroll of horribly rude user comments next to the image is unavoidable.


It Is Here Where We Are (2018, Andrew Busti)

A 14-second flicker film loop of planets and circles and HERE.
I watched it a bunch of times, sometimes chanting along with the HERE voice.
I have Busti’s vimeo bookmarked to watch more shorts for a different but related thing, so more on him later. Busti teaches in Boulder, wonder if he knew Brakhage.


Apt. 309 (2014, Rosario Sotelo)

“Remain indoors.” Quarantine cinema, shot inside an apartment with a Timecode split-screen, unusual way to make art out of the everyday.


Victory Over the Sun (2007, Michael Robinson)

Real standard-def macroblocky quality to the trees. Some serious chanting/recitation in this. Futuristic architecture covered by weeds and trees gives a post-apocalyptic feel, then we go into flicker-film hyperspace and back again.

Apparently last time I watched this moments before seeing The Wizard of Speed and Time for the first time, which pretty much erased it from my memory (and that music that sounded “very familiar” is November Rain, duh), but this is good – apparently I like Robinson now, and can move past the Full House thing.


Life is an Opinion, Fire a Fact (2012, Karen Yasinsky)

Death scene on VHS, paused and blown up so each pixel is visible.
Hand-drawn man on fire.
Rotoscoping and filming a TV, both techniques to borrow someone else’s motion (and the latter reminds me of Paul Schrader’s Dark).
Reading material is provided for most of the films, and the Yasinsky interview is the best thing so far.

The older I get, the less I believe in just about everything involving institutions and ideology. But I believe in art, I have faith in the artistic impulse, and I believe in artists, not in some master / genius kind way but in the simple fact that our works, our gestures, are expressions of altruism in the face of the utter venality of our time.


Barneys New York (2020, Sara Cwynar)

Visiting the final sales inside a high-end store, the slashed discount prices still unreasonably high. Completely silent – I filled the audio in my head with memories of the Sabres of Paradise / Red Snapper song from that late-90’s Warp comp. Could be multiple camerapeople, but I think Sara came back on different days, once with ink all over her left hand, and once without. More Cwynar another day, but remember to come back to this one, because I want that camera mount she’s using.


37/78 Tree Again (1978, Kurt Kren)

Another one I’ve seen, another silent, and another movie where the trees are too low-res, sorry ubuweb. Last time I watched this I excerpted Huber’s article about this being the greatest movie ever made. My opinion of it has risen, watching in this program, rather than alongside Kren’s actionist crapola.


Strange Space (1993, Leslie Thornton)

Rainer Maria and hospital tests on dying Ron Vawter, grid graphics and pictures-in-picture by Thornton, mixing in what looks like moon rover images. The second intriguing short I’ve watched by Thornton.


Rehearsals for Retirement (2007, Phil Solomon)

As I said last time, “Argh, machinima.” I think it’s Grand Theft Auto, not Second Life, and reading about Solomon, I realize that Untitled (for David Gatten) is in fact the short I watched as Crossroad, and both of these were written up in Cinema Scope 30, if I could find my copy. Anyway, a single chord drone, and moody, foggy textures (weird thing about watching avant-machinima on youtube is you don’t know if the low-res texture is part of the original or not) with a dark figure looming in the foreground, airplanes in the distance. Weirdly, it’s really good.


Lachrymae (2000, Bryan Frye)

Fireflies in a cemetery. In the side reading, Frye writes about found footage and copyright law, but fireflies in a cemetery brings to mind childhood summers in Virginia, and I’m going on my own journey here and have little interest in the reading.


All My Life (1966, Bruce Baillie)

It’s perfect that the program ends with the fourth (at least) film to display low-res flora via poor digital transfers, accompanied by a Manohla Dargis article saying: “You can watch All My Life and other Baillie films online, but don’t.” This loops back to Sicinski’s intro statement: “We did not count on toxicity or being under house arrest. We didn’t count on everything suddenly becoming television.” He could’ve picked 1080p HD Jodie Mack shorts with nice bitrates and perfect color on vimeo, so all these blurry TV trees were chosen for a reason. Anyway this was fun, and there are at least six more Ultra Dogme programs to check out as we remain indoors.

The Lion and the Song (1959, Bretislav Pojar)

Accordion player wandering the sand dunes finds an oasis and amuses the desert creatures with a pantomime dance, with his cape representing his lost love. Lion is more hungry than amused, eats our man, then dies of internal accordion-related pains. Czech stop-motion puppetry, obviously very good even in my old SD copy.


My Green Crocodile (1967, Vadim Kurchevsky)

A crocodile who adores flowers meets a beautiful cow, and they fall in love based on their shared interests, though the other crocs and hippos scoff at their relationship. When autumn arrives, the cow declares their love is gone with the flowers and leaves, so the croc in desperation climbs a tree and transforms himself into a green leaf. The narrator seems to approve of this action, though it feels like a downer ending. Loved the harpist moon.


Film Film Film (1968, Fyodor Khitruk)

Opens with a slideshow/montage music video, then goes into a comic parody of the process of feature filmmaking. After the tormented, sporadically inspired, often suicidal screenwriter creates a perfect script, the valium-popping director takes a hundred meetings, modifying the script each time. And so on – equipment problems, child actors, a tense premiere. 2D animation with a few cool bits and a sixties-rockin’ theme song. I wouldn’t have pegged this as the same guy who started making Winnie the Pooh shorts the next year.

how a cinematographer works:


How A Sausage Dog Works (1971, Julian Antonisz)

Some animation techniques using gels and layers and liquids that I don’t think I’ve seen before. Narrator with a high, irritating voice, untranslated. Based on the title, I might’ve assumed the vision of a dachshund full of gears with a heart in the middle, but I didn’t predict the dachshund being squished underfoot by the devil. Without translation, I don’t have a clear idea of what is happening here, but it looks like pure lunacy, and I love it.


Apel (The Roll-Call, 1971, Ryszard Czekala)

Shadowy semi-figures – smeary motion-blurs and tops of heads.
Not much of a roll call – the only words are Down/Up/Fire – a military commander or prison guard yells commands at a mass of bald figures. After one refuses to obey and is killed, all the rest refuse to obey and are killed. Not the most uplifting little movie but it has a cool look I guess?


Crane’s Feathers (1977, Ideya Garanina)

Convincingly Japanese-looking stop-motion tale of the Crane Wife. I do love cranes, and ten-minute tragedies. Does our lead guy hang his head low at the end? You bet he does.


King’s Sandwich (1985, Andrey Khrzhanovskiy)

Weird intro, steampunk imagery over the sound of a workout video. So far, all the stop-motion shorts – the Lion, the Crocodile and the Crane – have featured butterflies. This is 2D animation with a nude man and a sausage dog and a cigar-smoking cat dancing with a busty cow – but no butterflies… oops, I watched this thinking it was Khrzhanovskiy’s Butterfly from 1972. This one’s the story of a fussy king who just wants butter for his bread, despite the gigantic queen and the dairymaid trying to convince him to try marmalade instead, while shadowy security agents lurk absolutely everywhere. Bleepy electronic soundtrack.


Repeat (1995, Michaela Pavlatova)

Sketchbook 2D with crosshatch texture. Tight repeating behaviors: a man taking his dog for a walk, a wife feeding her husband, an interrupted tryst, a dramatic breakup, repeating and colliding until the dog brings the whole thing to a halt, wakes everyone up from their motion loops, leading to an orgy, before it all starts again.


Adagio (2000, Garri Bardin)

A stop-motion funeral procession through a terrible storm by origami monk crows. All seems hopeless until a white Jesus-crow leads the way. When the white crow displays his magical powers of cleanliness, the others beat the shit out of him, but after his dramatic resurrection, they all worship him with white-crow billboards. Kind of a dour little movie with halfway decent origami.


Deputy Droopy (1955, Tex Avery)

The one where two safecrackers have to be quiet, Droopy torments them into making noise, so they keep running out to a nearby mountain to unleash their yells. Droopy’s attacks range from silly (get ’em to sit on a snapping lobster) to quite violent (wailing on ’em with a spiked board while their feet are stuck in glue). Anticlimactic hearing-aid joke at the end.

Don’t know if it counts as a short film, but we watched Spike Lee’s NYC pandemic montage, psyched that he has a new feature out in a couple weeks.

This stupid year is trying to kill my blog, but it still lives.

Movie follows tantrummy four-year-old boy Kun, voiced very unconvincingly by an 18-year-old girl, as he gradually learns simple lessons. He resents his new sister Mirai until she visits from the future and shows him scenes from their family history. He becomes the family dog, goes on a motorcycle ride with his post-WWII grandpa, flies around with the swallows, and gets Christmas Caroled into being nicer to his baby sister. I never got over Kun’s voice – maybe the English version is better.

Now I’ve seen all of the 2018 animated feature oscar nominees – the worthy winner, an all-time fave, two disappointing sequels, and… this. We’re following Hosoda’s career but seeing diminishing returns.

Cool train station agent, tho:

Dawn: very sweet drone shots, then when we reach the ground, a Ben Russell follow-cam in reverse (literally, Ben is the cinematographer on this), music very droney. Woman walks through fruit trees then a large house, adjusting things here and there… I get the impression she doesn’t live in the house but works there. We recede from the grounds, then Sky Hopinka reads us some words about home and place and loss.

Noon: Inside a different house, a black man sings Dixie for the mostly-white others – ah, they’re all rehearsing something. Bald neck-tattoo guy casually walks in and out of houses and conversations, nobody seems to mind him.

Dusk: Much of the movie is in reverse. We see some ouroboros drawings to remind us what we’re watching. Bald guy seems oddly peaceful for someone with the word RIOT tattooed on his wrist.

Night, then Dusk, then Noon again. Fifty minutes in, our man asks “would you like to see a magic trick” – is this the first time he’s spoken? A phantom ping-pong match is unexpected, ghostly superimpositions, Metamorphosis of Birds leaf-play, a drone in a fancy sitting room that turns out to be diegetic. The movie ends quite wonderfully with a dance remix of itself!

Droneman:

The official description says it “turns the destruction of Gaza into a story of heartbreak,” and says our lead guy is Diego Marcon, an ontology-questioning visual artist whose latest short played Rotterdam.

Michael Sicinski:

We don’t know anything more about our traveler than we did when we began, but Alsharif has provided us with a utopian conception of lived space. In cinema, perhaps, begins responsibility.


Deep Sleep (2014, Basma Alsharif)

Trancefilm, again shot with Ben Russell in Palestine and elsewhere. Footsteps, and columns, and pointing. Like the feature, it slips between locations. Picture (and sometimes sound) will have full-color flicker freakouts.

We didn’t buy the essay part, but were mostly watching for the clips… and even that backfired when it kept focusing on horror, and Katy had to cover her eyes through scenes from Final Destination and Idle Hands.

Having a rough week, I considered pulling out the emergency relief film, Paddington 2, but Brian Dennehy had just died, and I’d long wanted to see it, so chose to watch the movie about a man in constant pain whose professional and personal life falls apart until he commits suicide – great fuckin’ idea.

Composer Wim Mertens does a serviceable Michael Nyman impression – or maybe that was Glenn Branca, one of his few film credits. Architect Dennehy is in Rome with wife Louisa (Chloe Webb, just off starring in Sid & Nancy) outlining the exhibition he’s preparing on an obscure French architect. Webb is pregnant, and having a blatant affair with Lambert Wilson, who is also stealing money and discrediting Dennehy so he can take over the exhibition, and whose photographer sister Stefania Casini (Jessica Harper’s murdered friend in Suspiria) is trying to seduce Dennehy. I like how Dennehy finds her room full of photographs of previous scenes, as if whenever Casini is offscreen, she’s filming the movie we’re watching.

A rapper named Sloppy moved with his friends to rural Colorado to grow weed and live in a utopian community. We missed the True/False premiere of this, so caught its online 4/20 screening. Katy thought it did not engender empathy… I thought there wasn’t much of interest going on, and the guys aren’t actors so you can hear in their voices the moment true turns into false. Sloppy hasn’t posted a new song in a year, and I forget the other guys’ handles, but maybe that Crestone bologna life hasn’t been good for productivity.