Sisters (1973, Brian De Palma)

Man and woman are contestants on game show, go back to her place after. She argues with her ex-husband in the evening, her “sister” in the morning, then her “sister” kills the man with a big knife. Neighbor Reporter sees the killing, bring the cops, they don’t believe her. She hires private eye, then investigates on her own. Finds out woman had siamese twin who died. Gets trapped, brainwashed at woman’s ex-husband’s suspicious psychiatric house, then twin kills doctor/ex-husband. Cops now believe brainwashed reporter, but she won’t help them anymore, only repeats that there was no body because there was no murder.

Amazing that in such a hitchcock-referential movie, IMDB and I can only think of three direct sources:
Rear Window, for the obsessive voyeurism
Rope, for the body in the couch that everyone walks around and sits upon
Psycho for the killing the “main character” 30 minutes in and switching focus to someone new, and for all the psycho-babble.
I guess Sisters just intensifies the sources, makes you all-too-aware of the references if you’ve seen the original movies. Strange then that Sisters itself is getting a remake.

Best visual gag: the cake decorator tool, which in close-up looks like a long dagger dripping blood.

Has that extreme-70’s-interiors look and red red fake blood of the early David Cronenberg movies sometimes. Cronenberg must’ve seen this at some point before making Dead Ringers.

Love the Bernard Herrmann score, love the split screen scenes. Movie’s far from a perfect thriller, but it’s definitely satisfying. Great, great ending (private eye on phone pole still watching the couch at a train station).

Infernal Affairs (2002, Andrew Lau & Alan Mak)

Crimeboss sends Andy to cadet school to be a police mole, and Policeboss kicks Tony out of cadet school to be a gangster mole. They spend a few tense scenes trying to find out each other’s identity and sabotage their own team’s operations. Eventually everyone’s paranoid… and then the gangsters kill Policeboss. Even though Andy swore loyalty to Crimeboss, he’s been working closely with Policeboss for 10 years, and he takes the death hard, ends up killing Crimeboss himself. Another police mole blows Tony away at the end, and Andy kills him, ending up head of the police division himself, with nobody (apparently) knowing where he really came from.

Great movie, tense in all the right places, uses quick flashback cuts to pack a lot of backstory into a pretty short movie. Could easily have been as long as Heat. I wonder if Scorsese’s remake will be.

Oops, director Andrew Lau and star Andy Lau are not the same person.

Starring:

Leonardo Dicaprio:
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Matt Damon:
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Mark Wahlberg:
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Vera Farmiga:
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Alec Baldwin:
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and Jack Nicholson:
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Statues Also Die (1953, Alain Resnais)

Great picture quality on my downloaded copy, but forgot it had no subtitles. Movie seemed to show statues and masks in a museum setting, then as part of daily life, and finally in a large storeroom in a government building. Half an hour long.

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Harvard Film Archive, or someone they’ve quoted, says: “This collaborative film, banned for more than a decade by French censors as an attack on French colonialism (and now available only in shortened form), is a deeply felt study of African art and the decline it underwent as a result of its contact with Western civilization. Marker’s characteristically witty and thoughtful commentary is combined with images of a stark formal beauty in this passionate outcry against the fate of an art that was once integral to communal life but became debased as it fell victim to the demands of another culture.”

Chris Marker wrote the commentary, not a bit of which I understood. Actually I got the word “mask” a few times. Don’t think this will help Katy’s research any, but she graciously watched it with me anyway.

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Night and Fog (1955, Alain Resnais)

More straightforward and less poetic than it usually gets credit for, pretty much a straight half-hour documentary about the holocaust.

More educational, more heartbreaking, more shocking, more horrible and a far better movie than any of the 60-minute PBS documentaries I’ve seen on the subject, any two-hour fictionalized concentration-camp movie, any three-plus-hour Steven Spielberg feature.

The poetic parts are mostly at the start and end, and in the juxtaposition between the 50’s color film and the 30’s-40’s b/w stock footage. Must be hard to craft an artistic film against this sort of imagery. Jean Cayrol (Muriel ou Le temps d’un retour) wrote the commentary and Chris Marker was assistant director.

Katy, if I seemed a little depressed on Sunday night, this is why.

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Letter From Siberia (1957, Chris Marker)

Yes, Chris Marker Fest is off! Even though I’ll never actually finish it, it’s nice to begin.

Hour-long documentary of Marker’s travels in Siberia. Messes with the documentary format by incorporating cartoons, opera, lots of anthropomorphic animals, and Marker’s usual poetry and humorous narration.

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Piss-poor picture quality on the copy I saw, but clearly a great movie. English spoken narration with subtitles in the opera parts.

References to cats and owls:
– talking owl wearing “I Hate Elvis” button
– from a plane, “silver birches look like owls’ tracks in the snow”
– “cars wend their way between the trains like cats playing hide and seek in a railway depot”
– song about a reindeer: “oh reindeer, sweet and just / friend of the birds and owls / they nest in your branches / happy he who has ideas in his head / happier still, he who has birds”

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Made me wish I was in Siberia with the talking owls and leashed bears, the gold rush, the reindeer races, the underground laboratories, the frontier towns and endless birch forests. Funny, I think this is one of the early movies that Marker has disowned. I’ll take it if he doesn’t want it.

A fox yawning:
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Toute la mémoire du monde (1956, Alain Resnais)

“All the memory of the world”. Twenty minute short on the French National Library. The long middle section is a class-filmstrip-type movie in that it tours the facility and shows how everything works, but with the gliding hallway cameras and poetic narration of a Resnais or Marker film. Posits the library as man’s collective memory, sort of like the library in that guy’s head in Dreamcatcher. Credits say “with the collaboration of… Chris and Magic Marker” and Agnes Varda, among many others. At the end, after comparing people to insects, over a shot of a hundred library visitors reading the books they’ve selected, it closes: “Astrophysics, physiology, theology, taxonomy, philology, cosmology, mechanics, logic, poetics, technology. Here we catch a glimpse of a future in which all mysteries are resolved. A time when we are handed the keys to this and other universes. And this will come about because these readers, each working on his slice of universal memory, will lay the fragments of a single secret end to end, a secret with a beautiful name, a secret called happiness.” Nice little movie.

Chris Marker’s book:
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Hiding in the stacks, a guard attacks:
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Last Year at Marienbad (1961, Alain Resnais)

“L’Annee derniere a Marienbad.” “Rarely has a film been more talked about since its release in 1961. Whether considered a pretentious chore or an aesthetic revolution, this is one of the few truly mythic films in the history of cinema” – Luc Lagier

I rewatched the movie, checked out the documentary by Luc Lagier and the introduction by Ginette Vincendeau on the DVD, and read author Alain Robbe-Grillet’s introduction to the book. Two of the three say that there are two ways of appreciating the film… analyzing the hell out of it, or simply letting the images flow over you and getting lost in it. Never being too big on analysis, of course I prefer the latter.

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Mr. X approaches Mrs. A and tells her they had an affair last year, which she doesn’t remember. He gradually convinces her, while her husband Mr. M lurks behind, playing games with other guests. The whole movie’s a game or a maze, with unannounced flashbacks, false memories, repetition, and breaks in time and space.

Lots of different interpretations mentioned in the DVD features. X is doomed to repeat this day a hundred times and this is the first time he’s convinced A of his scheme and broken out of the loop (kinda star trek / groundhog day). X and A are aping the play they see at the start of the movie. X is aware that he’s an actor in a film, and is using A to break out of the film. The Shining is a virtual remake of the movie. The movie is a virtual remake of North By Northwest.

Could that be Alfred Hitchcock on the right?!
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Katy jumped ship before half the movie was over. Can’t blame her – she didn’t know what she was in for, and it’s rough if you’re trying to follow the plot.

Volker Schlöndorff (The Tin Drum) was an assistant. No Chris Marker involvement, but maybe I can use his proxy appearance in “Tout la memoire du monde” to kick off my oft-delayed Marker fest.

As for Last Year At Marienbad, I appreciate all the theories and discussion, but most importantly it’s a beautiful movie and should be seen again and again and again and…

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Snakes on a Plane (2006, David R. Ellis)

The first film I see in theater in over a month is “Snakes on a Plane”. Sure it wasn’t good, but it also wasn’t bad enough or campy enough or aware enough to justify the hype. Not that I didn’t have a good time.

Things not to forget:
– the surfing scenes at the intro and outro
– the inflatable raft keeping the snakes in the main cabin
– snake expert vs. snake dealer showdown on the ground
– Sam Jackson shooting the witness in the chest at the end
– snakes are on the plane because the baddie had “exhausted every other option”
– movie would’ve been better without the witness

Gone with the Wind (1939, Victor Fleming)

Gone with the Wind! Currently sits at #170 in the IMDB Top 250. Strangelove is #19.

Agreed it’s a damn good movie, with lots and lots and lots of nice scenery and nice costumes and quotable lines and expensive-looking business all over. I found the first half (Scarlett O’Hara’s family plantation is slow to adjust to the losing Civil War) much more interesting and easier to sit through than the second (her relationship to Rhett Butler, reclaiming her Tara estate and worrying about her crush Ashley and his pregnant wife Melanie).

Lotta talk about Atlanta and Georgia. Mammy was fun, always talking to herself. I liked the fiddle-dee-dees.

IMDB trivia quotes a memo written by producer David Selznick about the firing of George Cukor as director of Gone With The Wind: “I think the biggest black mark against our management to date is the Cukor situation and we can no longer be sentimental about it… We are a business concern and not patrons of the arts.”