As mentioned in the Loznitsa movie, I attempted to repeat White Nights Fest here, only to realize the Loznitsa was far from a straight adaptation. But once again, Bresson can be counted on for Dostoevsky fidelity. After reading the short story I rewatched the Piotr Dumala short, which makes more sense now as an adaptation, though he added the nudity and insects. In fact there’s more sex in all the movie versions than in the book, unless it’s implicit there and I missed it. No insects in the Bresson though, just monkeys, both alive and skeletal.
Our lead pawnbroker had been a bank manager in his dark past (a soldier in the book). Bresson’s film contains much media outside the main story – she listens to LPs of tinkly instrumental music, they go to the cinema to watch a Piccoli/Deneuve film, and to the theater for a Hamlet swordfight (practice for Lancelot). Bresson solves the problem of the entire book being an internal monologue by the pawnbroker after his wife has died, simply by having him speak aloud to the maid. The actors perhaps more actory than in his previous films – deadwife Dominique Sanda would go on to a long career, eventually appearing with Piccoli herself (and if not Deneuve then Nico and Bulle Ogier and Léa Seydoux and Isabelle Huppert ain’t bad).
Woman in the countryside travels to confront the government about an irregularity, and the government laughs and destroys her. Although it’s not entirely the people in power – her fellow members of the public are awful, and she’s insulted by everybody. Tempting to watch it as a document and think “wow Russia is a terrible country,” but after a scene of beautiful cranes on rooftops, it felt more like sci-fi horror, as something that could befall any country.
Her coworker at home: “My man never went to prison, so I never had a chance to see the world.” Everyone certainly talks a lot, but Vasilina Makovtseva’s performance shines whenever there’s a short break from reading subtitles. She ends up in a town outside the prison where her husband is possibly being held (she never finds out), a corrupt little mini-society feeding on visitors like herself, nobody ever giving straight answers, or help without strings attached.
She dreams of being taken by guards to a fancy reception where all the people who’ve given her shit along her journey take turns explaining their points of view and applauding each other, after which she’s raped in a prison van, then awakens and is led away by another surely untrustworthy guide.
Upon realizing this is a Dostoevsky story, I realized I could repeat my White Nights Fest from last year. Then I read the story (written 30 years after White Nights) and realized this is more of an “inspired by” situation, since the book follows an unhappy marriage ending in her suicide. Seems like Loznitsa just liked the title – Makovtseva is surely a gentle creature, but more determined than she ever appears.
Miller has made an interesting movie out of typical prestige drama material by not shooting this in a typically prestige-drama manner. It looks Little Shop sound-stagey, with big cartoon Lost Children close-ups and boss scene transitions.
DC family’s beloved son starts having violent outbursts, they’re told it’s a fatal degenerative brain disease with no treatment, so the dad goes from support groups to library research to medical conferences to hiring labs to make custom experimental drugs, earning his son twenty extra years of life through the resulting treatments. Intro scene in East Africa pays off when they invite L’s protective buddy Omouri to help out towards the end (Nolte balks: “We can not bring an African to this racist country”).
All the nominations went to Sarandon and the writers, but all the awards went to Emma Thompson and The Crying Game. No noms for Nolte, who can’t do much to elevate the movie while saddled with an Italian accent.
Good movie, from the shockingly great opening synth theme song on.
Works fine as a hangout film of Johnnie regulars, and there are plenty of shots like this:
Assassination attempts go badly, double-crosses and twists, but it never feels plotty. The guys I didn’t recognize were Francis Ng (Exiled) and Jackie Lui Chung-Yin (horrors Snake Charmer and Wife From Hell).
Not trying to join the Stereogum Anniversary Culture, but I happened to watch this on the tenth anniversary of its premiere. This is bound to happen at least once during Cannes Week. Rounding out my viewing of Mungiu’s major features right before his brand-new one debuted, this one’s a prime example of a movie good enough to transcend its dreary subject matter (insular religious cultures; see also Silent Light).
Much of the appeal is in the character of Alina (Cristina Flutur of Backdraft 2, what?). She and Voichita (Cosmina Stratan of the Border guy’s surrogate pregnancy movie) were orphanage sisters, now separated, and Alina returns to visit then refuses to leave. She’s extremely needy, fearing abandonment, but also acts impossible so she can’t stay anywhere. Both the hospital and Voichita’s quiet monastery say they’re overcrowded during renovations, and anyway, Alina isn’t a believer. But she’s devoted to her friend, so the nuns read Alina a list of all 464 sins to see which she has committed, then when she’s violent they tie her down to drive out her evil spirits, but she’s also convulsive, and they leave her tied too long, and she dies. Seems like an openhearted, respectful take on a tragic story, made in the good ol’ master-shot long-take foreign-arthouse style.
Tonight’s movie was about an Icelandic grandpa with anger issues who scares everyone close to him, and threatens some with guns, but in the end is allowed to keep his job as a small-town cop. I complain about the trendy feel-good vibes in Everything Everywhere All at Once, but also don’t love watching movies about piece-of-shit dudes getting away with violent behavior, so what to do?
Our angry man Ingvar Sigurdsson was also in The Northman, which I missed in theaters because I decided to watch Crimes of the Future a third time instead. Enjoyed the biting string music, and most of the build-up before Ingvar destroys his psychiatrist’s computer then attacks and imprisons his own coworkers.
Love when a detective story involves library cards:
Tilda doesn’t even seem unhappy about The Sound, she’s just very interested. On her quest for understanding, everyone she meets – sound engineer Juan Pablo Urrego, archaeologist Jeanne Balibar, fish scaler Elkin Díaz – is open to her about their work, inviting her to sit down with them and participate. It feels utopian about human connection before we even reach the final stretch, then Elkin’s death and resurrection reaches Tsai-like duration, and the alien time-wormhole source of The Sound (and Juan Pablo being potentially the same person as Elkin) turn the movie into a cosmic puzzle. I haven’t seen a movie on the big screen at The Plaza in years, and was very happy to return with this one.
The compositions and edits offer suggestive juxtapositions that Apichatpong trusts you to generate meaning from. As usual with Apichatpong, scenes unfold in long, static takes, and important information is revealed without fanfare in hushed conversations that you really need to pay attention to. The urban settings of the first half are grey and overcast, and the rural setting of the second half is sumptuous, but Apichatpong does little with his camera to underline the ugliness or sweeten the prettiness.
I just sat back and took this one in. Took no notes, no screenshots.
Good movie, can’t remember much except that Sammo Hung plays one of the rival soldiers at the beginning, then reappears later as the powerful wizard LONG BROWS.
Celia’s beloved grandma just died, but she’s got the new neighbors next door to play with, and the eternal hope that she’ll get a pet rabbit. Unfortunately the neighbors are communists, and it’s Australia in the 1950’s during a myxomatosis outbreak (I’ve had the Radiohead song’s bassline in my head all week), so she’s constantly being warned against rabbits and commies.
Rabidly anti-commie dad (Nicholas Eadie of pre-fame Nicole Kidman miniseries Vietnam) chooses sides, and buys her a rabbit if she won’t play with the neighbors anymore, tells her they’re bad people. Cruelty abounds: the other kids hurt her rabbit, dad gets the neighbor fired. Her family’s cop friend John (Bill Zappa of The Road Warrior) straight-up kidnaps the rabbit, and after it dies in quarantine, Celia becomes the Joker. She shoots John to death while seeing visions of storybook monsters (major Heavenly Creatures parallels) and gets away with it, then fortunately doesn’t kill his daughter while staging mock gallows executions.
Not so harmless:
Celia was Rebecca Smart, who debuted in Dusan Makavejev’s The Coca-Cola Kid. Turner later directed Sam Neill and pre-fame Russell Crowe, and remade Teorema starring Sandra Bernhard in the Stamp role(!!)