Back to Main Squeeze on Saturday morning, then our third film of the weekend at the Missouri, preceded by a guy with one of those whirlygig keyboard amps. This doc felt longer than its 95 minutes, but I wouldn’t mind watching it indefinitely. Wide variety of New Yorkers asked about their futures with good photography. I kept feeling that like Treasure Island, a central point of focus wasn’t coming through, but I also wasn’t hoping for a climate change essay doc, so I went with it. Starts to revisit its subjects – somewhat racist ex-cops in a bar, a white couple concerned about media reports of crime, the Afronaut. I need to watch more NYC movies – maybe In Jackson Heights.
Story in Filmmaker:
I’m interested in how power circulates, the ways in which it micro- and macro-confines us and can liberate us . I also think that, sure, we can call all films in some ways political, insofar as they’re made within certain power structures and get launched into the world within existing power structures. They can either reinforce the status quo, because they do very little to shake up our understandings of how the world works, or they can enable us to grapple with things differently … I also dislike message-y films, or whatever you want to call the films that see their role as delivering a particular policy line and/or demanding that people respond in very narrow terms to whatever they’re seeing. I’m much more interested in how cinema can reawaken the senses and our critical capacity to be in the world differently. That, for me, can have longer term results.
Jenn Takahashi opened, promoting her website where she makes fun of things people say on neighborhood message boards, I’m not sure why. My notes say “a variety of weird-tempo rock songs, each better than the last – get the EP” but who was the band? Summer Like The Season? They also say “Katy very tired, did not like movie, then hotel stole her toiletries,” which is accurate, and the Hilton Garden Inn still owes us restitution.
My notes do NOT say anything about the movie, which was a multi-angled portrait of youth at a French water park, mainly memorable for the extremely confident dude who picks up a bunch of girls to meet him after hours.
This was in theaters the week we got back and, as I write this, is still at the Fernbank Imax. Not knowing it’d stick around in theaters for most of the year, it was a hot ticket at T/F and we sat up front crammed into a corner. The picture worked out, but I think the sound was muffled up there. You can easily tell which is the newly-restored 70mm footage, and it’s mostly front-loaded. I’m no fan of the bass-drone dum-dum-dum-dum score, but overall a real good space movie.
A.A. Dowd in AV Club:
Including hindsight recollections would have spoiled the manufactured present tense – the way director Todd Douglas Miller, working with a trove of stunningly preserved archival footage, creates the sensation of experiencing these historic events as though they were happening right before you, not half a century ago.
Really there were only a few crowd-pleasing hits at this year’s T/F, which was interrupted (for us) by a snowstorm and fouled by some too-late nights and difficult film picks. This was one of them, despite being a two-plus-hour crackpot investigation into unprovable murder cases. I caught up with Brügger’s The Red Chapel shortly before this year’s festival slate was announced, and this was the #1 Sundance movie I was pulling for.
Some good uncomfortable laughter, some twisty investigation and humor in construction/presentation offset the ultimate topic: power grabs, espionage, mercenaries, murders, white supremacy, attempted genocide – US and UK governments blatantly destroying Africa’s hopes of self-sufficiency. Göran sparks off the investigation and does all the background research, and Mads provides context, theatrical antics and the overall sense that we can’t tell how much of this is true.
Opener was River Arkansas again, but with new songs, and we grabbed a juice at Main Squeeze beforehand.
This year’s True/False was pried in between two moves and the China trip, so I made a point to schedule two of the Chinese movies playing. This one’s about painting and a scenic retreat, figured it’d at least be some nice scenery a la last year’s Next Guardian. Turned out to be an excellent movie by an unknown master of the “sixth generation” who often casts people as themselves.
A squarish aspect ratio helps him create compositions that look like the paintings which he explicitly mirrors. The movie plays like a slice-of-life village portrait that happens to mostly be set at a painters retreat, with a birth, a death, a wedding. You wouldn’t necessarily know about the documentary aspects – and I still don’t, since we skipped the Q&A to get snacks – except that we see the women sketching and painting, and most of the character names match the actor names in the credits.
River Arkansas opened with a pleasant sort of country thing, and I noted not to get the french toast next time we’re at Cafe Berlin.
True/False 2019! I’m writing it up almost five months late, but at least I took notes at the time.
This feature was not as frenetic as I expected from the few shorts I’ve seen – certainly frenetic in segments but not for the entire hour. Sunlit stop-motion, shadows moving across the frame, sometimes obscuring the textiles. Flashes of notes, sheet music, paper planes, representing work, grids, global commerce. I was on the “less drowsy” motion pills after a very heavy week and six hours of travel, so instead of my zoned-in attentive mode, I had to tired-watch and space out to the images and music. Maybe a third was set to upbeat electro music, featuring the cinephile-notorious skype-tone remix, the rest calmer and less dense sound, including the noises made while shooting a scene. She started taking materials with her on trips instead of sourcing locally, since the fabrics she found weren’t locally produced anyway. Mack seems smart and energetic, ends every Q&A answer with “was that an answer?,” K says she’d be a great professor. Opening act Gibbz was poppy and lo-fi/distant-sounding – that might’ve been a quirk of the sound system, but I really dug it.
A musical Joan of Arc story soundtracked by a metal band! It’s a bit of wacky fun – except it’s not, really… you can still detect the serious Dumont of Hors Satan in the dramatic scenes (which stop the movie dead between musical numbers) and the comic Dumont of Quinquin in the playfulness and the casting, and this movie hangs weirdly in between. The two girls playing the lead seem very much like girls, without the fervor and obsession of other cinematic Joans. These Jeannettes are still figuring out what God wants from them, and their own headbanging and awkward dances (to metal songs interrupted by sheep) is filmed at about the same level as the religious figures and miraculous apparitions. It’s a materialist movie, if that’s the right word OR the right understanding of what he’s doing here, focusing mostly on Jeannette (with great help from her uncle D’nis) being unsure and hesitant about the journey she finally undertakes at the end.
Mouseover for headbanging:
I still want to catch up with Coyote and Buzzard, but had the chance to see this first, and like Ape, it’s about a delusional loner – and now that Relaxer is out, it looks like Potrykus is gonna make a career of cult indie films about delusional loners, not the worst idea. Or maybe the overall theme is “in Canada, you gotta make your own entertainment.”
Ty Hickson (Gimme the Loot) lives alone in the woods, is paranoid and undernourished and working through a series of occult rituals towards certain wealth. At the end it seems he’s just self-destructively off his meds.
Amari Cheatom returns as Cortez in Relaxer, hinting at a Potrykus Connected Multiverse, even though he is a zombie by the end of this movie.
This movie also contains a possible thesis statement on Hong’s cinema:
“Why do you take pictures?”
“Because the only way to change things is to look at everything again very slowly.”
Unfortunately, it’s also the worst movie of his I’ve seen. Everything’s going fine until Kim Min-hee meets Isabelle Huppert for the first time, they converse in English, and the movie stops flowing and I start feeling embarrassed for everybody. Set in Cannes, Kim is fired from her film sales company in the middle of the festival for sleeping with Film Director So (Jung Jin-young of Ring Virus), who is in a relationship with Kim’s boss (Chang Mi-hee of 36th Chamber: The Final Encounter). That situation’s not gonna resolve itself in 70 short minutes, and Huppert as a naive tourist blundering into meals and hangouts with the other three characters doesn’t add anything but international star power.
Of course, Sicinski and Bahadur on letterboxd put in more thought than this, figured out the point of Huppert’s connections, and appreciated the movie more than I did, so if letterboxd is still in business when I finally decide to go through all of Hong’s movies in a chronological marathon, remind me to re-read their reviews before rewatching this film.