A LNKarno screening with Katy as special guest. This is the foster home drama that The Dissolve went nuts over. I wasn’t much in the mood to watch a movie about young counselors barely managing a house of angsty teens when it came out, but it’s better than the description sounds, mostly for all the terrific performances. Brie Larson is tops as an extremely capable counselor who becomes worried that the new girl (Kaitlyn Dever of this year’s Outside In) is being abused by her father, and having been in the same situation at that age, Brie loses her distant professionalism and goes into vigilante mode to rescue the girl. Also great: Brie’s very patient boyfriend John Gallagher Jr. (10 Cloverfield Lane) and in his debut, Lakeith Stanfield as a doomed over-sensitive kid dreading his impending release into the real world. The plotting is a bit obvious – Mike D’Angelo uses the word “overwritten,” which is probably what I’m looking for. Cretton has made two other features, neither of which sounds good, but he’s supposed to be working on a Michael B. Jordan movie next.

“Listen, the mustache is the trendiest thing out there.”

Okay, I followed The Unity of All Things pretty well, enjoyed the atmosphere while barely following the “very minor” narrative threads, but this one is just scenes from a party without anything going on. A 4:3 frame shot on 16mm, the post-punk party music skips forward or back with every edit – maybe the sound is strictly accurate to the single-camera picture, so any cut necessitates interrupting the music flow. Most of the time the conversations are too indistinct to make out or subtitle, so this music thing is all I had to hold onto.

“I don’t know if I belong to the working class struggle.”

Finally it gets good, with a slideshow of family photos over a song about nuclear destruction, and near the end the edits start glitching, and there are sound dropouts and giant cigarette burns over the picture, but after fifty minutes of nothing happening, this is too little too late.

Set in Madrid 1982 – Franco was dead and socialism was in, and the kids were free to grow trendy mustaches and listen to Spanish-language covers of “Heroes”. Filmmaker says it “pinpoints a willful political ignorance,” but I’ve got enough of that these days, and Mubi says the facial expressions start to tell a story upon the fourth viewing, but I haven’t the time – I’d settle for trading in this movie for a CD of its soundtrack.

A massive particle accelerator is being shut down, and the team is scouting locations to build a new one in the Sonoran Desert along the U.S./Mexico border. We are focused on two female scientists who may be lovers, one of whom has two children visiting. None of the plot or character is extremely well defined, the movie content to float in a Super-8 haze, producing some lovely images but it’s all so diffuse and quiet and soothing and still that it was hard enough to stay awake, let alone figure what is going on.

Personal and professional setbacks… mild flashbacks to Tropical Malady… teenage insults… stories of a Weird Uncle… mystical talk about particles and sociopolitical talk about borders, while lost men search for the last North American jaguar. A kid nails his brother in the eye with a rock while their mom gets a snakebite… things happen all at once, in low trance tones.

Not sure who played what, but the main cast features Celia Au (star of Bad Tara), Andrea Chen (Lorelei’s roomie in Boyhood) and Jennifer Kim (Mozart in the Jungle, Wild Canaries). Carver also made an Anohni video and Schmidt made waves at Cannes this year with his weirdo soccer film Diamantino.

The word online is that the boys (played by girls btw) have an incestuous relationship, how did I miss this? Also, Schmidt’s dad was a particle physicist.

In conversation with Filmmaker magazine:
Schmidt:

Psychology doesn’t really exist at all [in the film], and [it’s] replaced with desire. Everything is rendered as erotic, basically, in one way or another, but this eroticism and sensuality is not a reflection of the characters’ psychologies or the cultural psychologies that they belong to, but is simply a force.

Carver:

The film is deliberately reckless and playful with representation, and this is sort of uniformly distributed. It’s not just people that are treated with this irreverence, but whole landscapes … We really wanted the film to be sensual and humorous and perverse. To maintain a level of chemistry, we’d sort of write forward and erase back. I think it ultimately helped to create a very pliable structure. One of the technical challenges was how to maintain the narrative threads. They’re very minor, but they exist.

Almost the entire movie is a film director (Bogdan Dumitrache of Sieranevada) having conversations, rehearsals and affairs with his lead actress (Diana Avramut). He fakes a stomach illness, claims he had it checked by a doctor, and his producer (Mihaela Sirbu of Aferim!) has his cover story carefully verified, either to catch him in the lie or, as she says, because of picky insurance demands. Another filmmaker (Alexandru Papadopol of Toni Erdmann) pops into a dinner chat, possibly representing a future job for the actress. This is practically all that happens, and it ends abruptly – so why is it a movie? I get the self-reflexive talk about long takes and film cartridge capacity in a 35mm movie composed entirely of long takes, and after all the film-vs-video talk, video gets finally represented in the form of a colonoscopy DVD. After two long scenes where the director tries to convince the actress that a newly written nude scene is dramatically necessary and she goes over the blocking with him to verify that this is properly motivated, our movie finally shows her gratuitously topless. All this is worth a few meta-chuckles – surely I got more out of it than 12:08 East of Bucharest, and if the whole thing feels slightly pointless and the conversations go on for too long, that’s probably intentional too, for reasons I don’t feel like researching at the moment.

Lightweight absurd comedy about a group of not-good cops. It’s self-consciously weird about the Mr. Oizo songs this time – one cop (eyepatched Eric Judor, a main guy in Steak) is a bedroom dance-pop producer, and other characters are playing similar instrumental grooves in headphones and car stereos. I can’t tell if I like it more or less than the other Dupieux movie I’ve seen because it’s been too long, but this one has more actors I recognize: Eric Wareheim (using his uniform to harass yoga women in the park) and Steve Little (a drug dealer trying to hide his gay-porn history from his family). Best of all, and I never thought I’d say this, playing a teenager (?) with the absolute most hilarious line deliveries: Marilyn Manson.

Yoga woman strikes back:

Little delivers drug packages duct taped inside a dead rat. Eric’s partner is MADtv regular Arden Myrin, and the main cop harassing Manson is Mark Burnham. I think he shoots a guy watering the lawn (Daniel Quinn), who ends up riding around in Little’s trunk for half the movie before making a valuable contribution to Eric Judor’s music composition. Both of Laura Palmer’s parents appear (separately). At least one person dies at the end (Little stabs himself in the neck with a gardening tool). It’s a silly bit of fun which would be forgotten tomorrow if not for the fact that it features Marilyn Manson, and – I cannot stress this enough – he is great.

Silent newsreel footage played at a handful of frames per second, beginning with Il Duce’s death. Unfortunately I am not someone well-versed in history who says “ah it’s that famous footage I know so well of the notorious event at the end of Il Duce’s life,” but rather I am someone who has to wikipedia who Il Duce was… ah, it’s Mussolini, fascist dictator of Italy for twenty years. The movie then flashes back to footage from early in his reign and carries on forward.

It’s silent for the first ten minutes, then gentle glimmering drone music kicks in as Duce stands at some kind of parade or rally, looking like the fourth Stooge. Closeups of the Great Man get intensely slowed down, while crowd shots of darker-skinned people run at almost full speed.

Segment 3 in Tripoli features a Florence Foster Jenkins song about modern Europe letting refugees die. 100,000 Libyans were shot in the 1920’s? Italy carried out a North African genocide by raining poison gas from planes? Someone needs to look into this. The movie is doing some sort of Ken Jacobs thing, hypnotizing the viewer with archive footage (I fell asleep at least once and had to rewind). “Barbaric Land” was a phrase used about Ethiopia when Italy was colonizing.

The evil dictator… the fascist system… the normal people who carried out orders to exterminate thousands, photos of them smiling casually next to their planes loaded with poison gas, and period pictures of Africans representing the victims… a photo slideshow, the pictures handheld by gloved fingers, trembling in front of the camera.

I had to open LNKarno with the Claire Simon film to tie it together with True/False, where she was last year’s True Vision Award winner. Cannes Month got interrupted by vacation this year, represented only by The Salesman and Bright Star, so I didn’t give LNKarno a time limit, just picked some selections and kept watching ’em until it felt over. Simon had two related films at the fest in 2013: the train station-set drama Gare du Nord in competition, and a documentary about people they met at the station, Human Geography, in the out-of-competition Fuori Concorso. It reminded me of the In the City of Sylvia double-feature, another doc/fiction pair set in the same spaces.

Gare du Nord stars Nicole Garcia, a filmmaker in competition four times at Cannes, also a star of Mon oncle d’Amérique and Duelle. Mathilde is taking trains to get treatment for an unspecified illness, and runs across the younger Ismael (Reda Kateb of A Prophet and the most recent Wim Wenders), who talks with people in the station for his sociology thesis. “When you’re here, you’re nowhere really, but at the same time it’s like a village square.” She’s a professor and shows some interest in his project, and he shows some interest in her (she’s married but we only see the husband once).

Meanwhile, a TV host (Francois Damiens of Les Cowboys, The Brand New Testament) has a missing daughter, hangs out at the station waving her photograph around and reluctantly taking photos with fans. A fellow student gets Ismael involved in a health services protest that aims to shut down train service. A giant unstable man wreaks havoc in a lingerie shop. Joan (Monia Chokri of a couple Xavier Dolan movies, this year’s Ravenous) is a harried realtor whose job is destroying her family, runs into each of the other characters. The movie ends abruptly with Mathilde’s offscreen death after some vaguely hippie plot contrivances lead the TV host to his missing daughter. Mostly it’s realistic, but sometimes there are ghosts.

Human Geography is a straightforward doc, the music and photography pretty basic, either the film or the DVD transfer turning black faces into smudges. Claire speaks with station workers and regulars, and also employs her friend Simon as an interviewer, meeting people from Tunisia and Mali and Brittany, Vietnam, Algeria, Cuba, USA, Mauritius, Iran, Congo. They talk with a couple of racist Belgians, and witness so much fare cheating at the turnstiles.

Simon, taking a breather after speaking with the Belgians:

The lingerie shop, the photomat, and at least one local (a diner worker with an economics degree who sells art online) appear in both movies. Gare du Nord didn’t come together for me, and the dialogue felt flat (maybe chalk that up to shady subtitles), and Human Geography is interesting enough – maybe if you’re a station regular who walks past the immigrant workers daily without considering their histories or inner lives it’d be extremely enlightening. Watching both movies in a row, though, is pretty great. Not to harp on the True/False connection, but the real stories in the doc suggest the sheer number of directions the feature could’ve taken – you could make a career’s worth of films in the station.

It’s the second annual LNKarno Festival, a reprise of Locarno’s lineup from five years ago, viewed on my couch in Lincoln. Last year I watched ten features and some shorts in a long weekend – this time we have a busier summer so I spread things out over a couple weeks.

LNKarno-week viewings in green, regular links for films I’d seen previously, unlinked might be good to watch in the future.

Main Competition:

Gare du Nord (Claire Simon)
What Now? Remind Me (Joaquim Pinto)
Pays Barbare (Yervant Gianikian & Angela Ricci Lucchi)
When Evening Falls on Bucharest or Metabolism (Corneliu Porumboiu)
Short Term 12 (Destin Daniel Cretton)
Our Sunhi (Sang-soo Hong)
Story of My Death (Albert Serra)
The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears (Hélène Cattet & Bruno Forzani)
Sentimental Education (Júlio Bressane)
Exhibition (Joanna Hogg
Wetlands (David Wnendt)
Real (Kiyoshi Kurosawa)
Backwater (Shinji Aoyama)

Filmmakers of the Present (first and second features)

Sheep (Gilles Deroo & Marianne Pistone)
The Unity of All Things (Alexander Carver & Daniel Schmidt)
The Dirties (Matt Johnson)
Manakamana (Stephanie Spray & Pacho Velez)
Chameleon (Elvin Adigozel & Ru Hasanov)
Coast of Death (Lois Patiño)
By the River (Nontawat Numbenchapol)
The Ugly One (Eric Baudelaire)

Critics Week (new documentaries, selected by film journalists)

Master of the Universe (Marc Bauder)
Watermarks (Three Letters from China) (Luc Schaedler)

Signs of Life (first year)

El Futuro (Luis Lopez Carrasco)
A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness (Ben Rivers and Ben Russell)
Dignity (James Fotopoulos)
How to Disappear Completely (Raya Martin)

Piazza Grande (open air screenings, out of competition)

Wrong Cops (Quentin Dupieux)
Blue Ruin (Jeremy Saulnier)
About Time (Richard Curtis)
Gloria (Sebastián Lelio)

Fuori Concorso (recent work by established filmmakers, out of competition)

Géographie Humaine (Claire Simon)
If I Were A Thief, I’d Steal (Paulo Rocha)
Death Row II (Werner Herzog)
Strangers When We Meet (Masahiro Kobayashi)
America (Valerie Massadian)
Mahjong (João Rui Guerra da Mata and João Pedro Rodrigues)
The King’s Body (João Pedro Rodrigues)
The End Of Walnutgrove (Eckhard & Fiala & Fiala & Haidl)
The Green Serpent – Of Vodka, Men And Distilled Dreams (Benny Jaberg)
Un Conte De Michel De Montaigne (Jean-Marie Straub)

Histoire(s) du Cinema (sidebar devoted to film history)

L’Ours (Daniel Karolewicz)
Batang West Side (Lav Diaz)
Cinéastes De Notre Temps: Conversation Avec George Cukor (André S. Labarthe and Hubert Knapp)
Journal D’Un Montage (Annette Dutertre)
Notes On Film 6B: A Masque Of Madness (Monologue 02) (Norbert Pfaffenbichler)
Red Hollywood (Thom Andersen)
Red Ashes (Augusto Contento and Adriano Aprà)
Network (Sidney Lumet)
and tributes to Otar Iosseliani, Sergio Castellitto, Paulo Rocha and Anna Karina

The producers tried to raise the evil factor by opening with an Anton LaVey quote, but this movie seems much scarier in retrospect if you think of Cars as its sequel. Watched on 35mm after Christine in an Alamo double-feature, not enthused about the long drive home, and almost walked out after the first twenty minutes: a couple cheesy teens are run off a mountain road, then a comic relief french horn player is killed outside the home of horrible asshole Amos who parks his dynamite truck on the roadside. The movie shows every sign of being very bad, but I waited until our man James Brolin showed up to see where it’s heading, and something interesting happens. The goofy horror stuff recedes and the movie shows the cops and other members of this small town in Utah mourning the deaths, being very stressed out over this rogue car (they don’t yet know it’s demonic and driverless). The acting maybe isn’t up to Christine‘s level, but the overall portrayal of town life is more real and sensitive.

The next victim is Sheriff Everett (John “Jacob” Marley, lead in Faces), which really shakes up the surviving police. James Brolin (between Westworld and The Amityville Horror) takes charge, with his relapsed-alcoholic sideman Luke (Ronny Cox, the guy who gets “fired” in the climax of RoboCop, also chief of Cop Rock) and his best girl Lauren (Kathleen Lloyd of It Lives Again), amongst rising rumors that the car has no driver.

The Car, a long, low, dark, anonymous thing (customized by the guy who made the Batmobile) returns in broad daylight to bust up a parade, running down a couple of dudes who try to rodeo clown it. Orange-tinted car’s-eye-view shows it hunting down the surviving cops. In the most impressive scene, Lauren drives home alone, calls Brolin when she’s safe, then The Car drives straight through the house to run her down – having killed the love interest, Brolin has nobody to hug at the end but a few dusty cops. It appears in Brolin’s garage, and flies off a cliff to its presumed death after a day-for-night chase. No real explanation in either movie for their possessed cars – things were just allowed to be supernatural back then without a ton of backstory.