Scandal Sheet (1952, Phil Karlson)

Howard Hawks planned to film Fuller’s “The Dark Page” with Edward G. Robinson and Humphrey Bogart while Fuller was still in the war, but by the time the story finally staggered onto the screen featuring a lower-prestige cast and director, Fuller himself had directed four pictures and was working on his own newspaper drama, Park Row. Maybe that explains why he was so disappointed in Scandal Sheet while he had no complaints about It Happened In Hollywood or Power of the Press. Or maybe he saw the early ones as collaborative screenplays, while this was his novel, written alone, being adapted without his input by three screenwriters – James Poe (Attack, The Big Knife), Eugene Ling (Behind Locked Doors) and Ted Sherdeman (Them!). The reason I wonder is because I think Scandal Sheet blows away the earlier movies and rivals Fuller’s own first two films. I’m sure the script wasn’t what Sam envisioned, but Phil Karlson (later 99 River Street, The Phenix City Story) sure knew how to shoot it. It’s noirish and well-paced with good acting throughout (the hero failed to impress, but isn’t it always that way) and looks like it’s been given care and attention. I doubt Sam was any more pleased when the film was remade in the 80’s with Burt Lancaster and a plot that sounds not-at-all similar to this one).

L-R: some extra, Donna Reed, John Derek, B. Crawford, H. O’Neill
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You can’t tell from the beginning, with crime reporter McCleary (John Derek of Knock On Any Door) and his photographer (Harry Morgan, who played a character named Sam Fuller the same year in High Noon) deceiving a grieving victim into telling them her story before the cops arrive, if the reporter is a slimeball bastard or just a resourceful newsman. Eventually he starts to look like the editor in Power of the Press (but with dreamy slick 1950’s hair), a good guy at heart but a slimeball by association with his muckraking boss, ed-in-chief Broderick Crawford (depressed train operator in Human Desire). That’s not really the point of the story, and the question is dropped when it becomes clear that McCleary is our hero (you can tell because Donna Reed likes him).

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Dudes are going about their business raising circulation at the paper by treating the public like dolts (as in Power of the Press, this seems to work) when the editor runs into his ex-wife (Rosemary DeCamp, above, of 13 Ghosts) at the paper’s Lonely Hearts Ball. She’s rightfully pissed at him for ditching her twenty years ago without a divorce, changing his name and moving to the big city, so she offers to blackmail him until violent hubby pushes her into a bedpost, killing her. Now he’s trapped (Broderick Crawford always seems to be short-tempered and trapped), trying to cover up his crime while allowing his star reporter to try cracking the case. Loose end Henry O’Neill (The Sun Shines Bright) is eliminated, turning the accidental killer into a cold-blooded murderer, and the paper follows the case until its own editor’s face is plastered on the front page as circulation finally surpasses the level that would’ve made him a partner.

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As a possible shout-out to Sam Fuller, the actor who played the judge who fingers Broderick in the gun-totin’ final showdown was actually named Griff.

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Griff! He played a judge in Angel Face the same year.

Gomorrah (2008, Matteo Garrone)

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A film by a guy who I’m surprised hasn’t been killed, based on the novel by an author who I’m surprised hasn’t been killed (IMDB says he’s living under police protection). Won every Italian academy award and every European Film award, got second place to The Class at Cannes. After watching the beginning of Fellini’s 8 1/2 on TCM a few nights ago, I was just glad to watch an Italian flick without rampant dubbing.

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Multiple story threads that manage not to crash (see: Crash) together into one narrative, but stay where they belong, illustrating different parts of the problem. The problem is the Camorra, the Naples crime organization which, as the end titles claim, is widespread enough to have invested in reconstruction of the world trade center in New York. Movie is well-shot, but mostly handheld, not stylish like most classic gangster movies (such as Scarface, referenced here a few times). Scary as hell in that non-horror, Collapse sort of way; I would never ever like to visit Italy after watching this.

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Toni Servillo is a busy man, playing Franco the illegal dumping magnate and the lead in Il Divo the same year. Two dumb-as-fuck youth steal some guns and get predictably killed at the end. Clothing manufacturers spy on each other. A kid helps get his neighbor killed, desperate to join the local gang. All is sadness and violence with no hope. To hell with Italy.

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Inland Empire… and More Things That Happened (2006, David Lynch)

Didn’t stick with me very well the first time, maybe because it didn’t make enough narrative sense for my brain to properly hold on to, like a wacked dream that I remember clearly when I wake up but is already gone by the time I hit the shower, not related enough to reality to survive my beginning to ponder my work day. Should have watched it a couple times originally. But now I see I should watch more than a couple times, maybe annually from now on. Lynch’s most free, most trippy and loose movie, existing almost entirely in dream state, but also his most dirty and real looking because the DV photography feels like a home movie. Completely inexplicable and entirely worthwhile.

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Hard to watch at home. The three hour runtime, the almost entirely black scenes, and the very dynamic audio levels (quiet whispers turn into sudden shock sound effects and screams) work best when I’m home alone and wide awake on a winter’s night. I think it freaked out my birds more than anything else I’ve watched. Next time I’ll watch on my laptop, in accordance with Lynch’s dreams of an all-digital cinema.

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The plot, thanks to Cinema Scope:

Dern’s first incarnation, Nikki Grace, is an actress who lives in a cavernous Hollywood mansion and lands a coveted role in a Southern melodrama titled On High in Blue Tomorrows opposite suave ladies’ man Devon (Justin Theroux). She soon learns that the film is a remake and that the original Polish production was aborted when both leads were murdered.

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Nikki begins to merge with her character, Sue, and the script’s adulterous affair spills over into real life. But what’s real, and who’s dreaming whom? The boundary between the film and the film-within-the-film — indeed between all levels of reality — vanishes completely. Besides Nikki and Sue, Dern plays at least two other overlapping variations on the character: One lives in a shabby suburban house, sometimes with a harem of gum-chewing, finger-snapping young women. The other, a tough-talking Southern dame, is spilling her guts out in a dank room, telling floridly vulgar tales of sexual violence and terrible revenge. Interspersed throughout are scenes from a Beckettian sitcom with a rabbit-headed cast. Certain phrases, often pertaining to identity confusion (“I’m not who you think I am,” “Look at me and tell me if you’ve known me before”), repeat in varying contexts and start to acquire talismanic power. (The key to transcendental meditation, which Lynch has practiced for over three decades now, is the repetition of a personal mantra.) Meanwhile, the film we are watching is beamed to a TV in a hotel room, and a mystery brunette watches along with us, silently weeping.

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Did I write this weeks ago, or was I quoting from a website?: “Dern changes identities and locations, each with only a faint memory of the others, giving her a constant sense of unease.”

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The neighbor who visits her is awfully good in a Twin Peaks sort of way. A choreographed dance to “The Locomotion” manages to be one of the spookiest parts. Seeing father Rabbit leave his locked-down living room set is thrilling. Cameo by the girls from Darkened Room (actually only Jordan Ladd is strictly from Darkened Room, but I like to think they’re the same characters). William H. Macy in a big cheesy cameo as a radio reporter and Harry Dean Stanton as Irons’ sad assistant, always bumming money off people.

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Bright Lights:
“It sounds complicated, but it makes clear emotional sense, just as Mulholland Drive did.”

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House Next Door calls the ending hopeful, and I guess you could say that. Dern escapes from at least one of the films she’s trapped within, wakes from the dead and goes back home where, per HND, “Lynch returns to the face of Grace Zabriskie’s Neighbor and, before our jaundiced eyes, this formerly intimidating and ugly figure becomes suddenly beautiful and ethereal. Moreso than Dern’s final close-up (a stunner in its own right) I think the answers to the film’s many mysteries, for those who need them, are contained in Zabriskie’s sideways glance and virtuous smile.”

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Extras on the UK DVD are all interview-style. One is by The Guardian, one is by Mike Figgis at a hotel in Poland.
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Interviewer: “If T.M. creates positiveness… some people might ask: what about all the darkness that’s in the films?”
Lynch: “Exactly.”

On the inclusion of Rabbits in Inland Empire: “Sometimes we start something and we think it is that, and later… it sprouts and becomes a bigger thing.” Okay it’s not a great quote.

“Really the only difference [between IE and the earlier films] is Inland Empire was shot with DV… and it was a low-grade, bad DV.”
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“It is true that the 50’s gave birth to rock and roll and that early rock and roll holds a very special power, I think. It started the whole thing rolling, but in my mind it drifted away a little too quickly. And I think there’s more gold to mine from that feel of the first rock and roll.”

Repeats the same information over and over, not saying much for long periods, interviewers asking stupidly general questions hoping Lynch will tell them a nice story. He does tell a couple light ones, but three times each. So the final segment, The Air Is On Fire, comes as a happy surprise. It’s a biographer (who knows enough about Lynch not to ask pedestrian questions) viewing and discussing Lynch’s paintings and sound installations.
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“We’re cooking quinoa.”
“This pan is unbelievable.”
The U.S. DVD is already better than the U.K., with a b/w video of Lynch in his kitchen and a nice stills gallery, and that’s before I even get to the meat of the disc. Hey, he times his cooking the same way I do, by yelling out numbers from the clock instead of setting a proper timer.
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More Things That Happened is outtakes from IE. First 20 minutes are scenes with Dern’s circus husband. He comes home late. He sells a girl a watch.
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Dern continues talking to the man at top of the stairs. She has a crossed out “LB” tattoo on her hand. A girl with earrings talks to Dern about meeting Billy at a bar. Mostly people telling each other stories.
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Ballerina
A ballerina performs behind cloudy overlays and blobby digital soft focus to ambient music. Some neat effects in there but too long by half.
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Lynch (one) is a full-length documentary by BLACKandWHITE, whatever that is, company or person, on the making of Inland Empire. Lots of behind-the-scenes dealings, set construction, some talk with the actors, Lynch in every scene. Lynch 2 on the IE disc is presumably deleted scenes from that doc, another half hour of material. Not tremendously eye-opening, just gives you the impression that IE is completely Lynch’s artistic vision, if you couldn’t have figured that out before, down to the smallest detail. He yells at his crew on set then praises them up and down in interviews. We hear a lot about the improv nature of the film and script, but we see careful planning and scheduling of shots and scenes. Watching David choreograph the closing credits musical number, telling the lumberjack not to cut all the way through the log because “we’ve only got one log,” you realize that all the backstage footage in the world might be fun to see, but still wouldn’t explain a thing.
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“It’ll be more than a mouthful, which will look real, and it looks great. And you can throw up a lot of blood. Two times you’ll throw up.”

“There was a thought for a long time that you had to suffer in order to create, and this is just about opposite of the truth. If you’re suffering, even a little bit of suffering cuts into your creativity. In fact, the happier you are, and the more wide awake and rested you are, the better it goes… then the ideas can flow way better, way smoother and faster, and more of them.”

Stories is Lynch talking for 40 minutes, maybe excerpts from the website Q&A segments, about IE and digital and meditation, the usual topics. This is where the famous quote about watching a film on a fucking phone is from. His hatred extends to computers as well, but I think if he was here and took a look at my television setup and laptop setup, he’d have to grudgingly admit that I’m getting better picture and sound off the laptop.
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On a separate disc, Room To Dream: David Lynch and the Independent Filmmaker is mostly Lynch talking about himself and his working methods, and partly an advertisement for Avid systems. Best of all, it includes an extra scene related to Inland Empire. Windowboxed and interlaced, unfortunately – nice going, Avid.
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Sur la route de Mulholland Drive is a half-hour behind the scenes, interviewing all the principals and watching the filming. More interesting than most backstage press-kits if only because I’m unusually interested in the film. Following that is a cutdown of the film’s Cannes press conference.
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Le Son de David Lynch, another doc, from French television in 2007, interviews Lynch and a bunch of people I didn’t understand. Hmm, Wild at Heart was called Sailor et Lula over there. He and Badalamenti (below) recorded music for Twin Peaks and Lost Highway before shooting, and he’d play the music on set… wonderful.
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On the Lime Green box set, Out Yonder is a three-actor stilted-humor throwback to The Cowboy and the Frenchman, only Lynch is one of the actors this time. Not really interesting at all, a conversation where all forms of the verb “to be” are replaced by “bees bein'”, with fart jokes, tooth pulling and a distant cavalry. In the next episode, a girl with gonorrhea seeks her missing chickens.
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Scissors is a Cannes short previously known (to me) as Absurda. A Flash-looking dream-cinema piece incorporating bits of the ballerina footage.
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A couple of greetings for film festivals, both in b/w, filmed in reverse, starring Lynch himself and just awesome.
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Fictitious Anacin Commercial is exactly that, a half-minute gag commercial. A Real Indication is an amateur music video (if amateurs had a crane). And Early Experiments is 16mm footage from the Grandmother/Alphabet/Six Figures era set to overdramatic string music, with some cool motion paintings and lots of mirror symmetry.
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Then there’s Dynamic 01: The Best of Davidlynch.com
David answers member questions about favorite pieces of music, how to write a screenplay, his box full of ideas on scraps of paper, Marilyn Manson, coffee vs. cappucino, and meditating with Roy Orbison.

Intervalometer Experiments:
Ambient videos with slow, rumbling music. The first consists of trees and a distant mountain at sunset, the video grain threatening to destroy everything. The second is a spooky set of stairs molested by an encroaching shadow. The third is the corner of a sunroom in time-lapse, with scary trees and a dormant alarm system.
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Industrial Soundscape is a lock-groove computer animation three times as long as it needs to be. Maybe we were supposed to use it for meditative purposes. Bug Crawls is animation of a bug climbing a mad science house in slow-motion as a blimp passes by. Lamp is a half-hour doc of David making a lamp, which isn’t as funny as when he makes quinoa. And there’s another episode of Out Yonder, which I think I’m gonna skip. No, I guess I’ll watch it. “You bees bein’ barkin’ right up the tree which bees bein’ the wrong one!”

Darkened Room
A Japanese girl dances with the camera, talks to us about bananas before introducing her crying fried (must be Jordan Ladd of Death Proof) in the other room. I think I hear the Rabbits music. Third girl (Ladd’s Cabin Fever co-star Cerina Vincent) comes out to torment the crying girl. Hmmm, my note three years ago said this is six minutes long, but now it’s ten. Maybe last time I lacked the intro with the bananas. A few visual cues and mention of a mysterious watch purchase tie this in with Inland Empire and More Things. Little did I know the first time I watched it. Little did Lynch know, probably.
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Boat / “When things go wrong, it gets like this.”
David takes his boat (the “Little Indian”) out for a spin, takes low-grade blown-out video then adds a woman-in-trouble descriptive voiceover. He goes fast enough to go into the night.
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Screenwipe seasons 1-2

Fun to watch British comedians tear apart TV shows I don’t watch while praising The Wire and Deadwood to the heavens. I tuned in because of a connection between this series and documentarian Adam Curtis in later seasons, but now I’ll have to hold off watching those later seasons for fear of catching Wire spoilers in the raving recaps. The show kind of works as a best-and-worst-of television. Now I can feel more connected to society, because I know what Deal Or No Deal? is, as well as major differences between the US and UK versions. Mainly, though, it’s worth watching because writer/host Charlie Brooker is a funny guy, charismatic despite his sociopathic posturing.

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Stray Dog (1949, Akira Kurosawa)

There’s a reason why this is the first Kurosawa movie on this site (and therefore the first I’ve watched in almost four years). After excitedly renting The Hidden Fortress, which I didn’t like, and Ikiru, which I did, I decided Akira was overrated and instead focused my attentions on Kiyoshi Kurosawa (no relation). Lately I’ve been greatly enjoying celebrated studio auteurs like John Ford, who make slow-paced movies without any spider-people, doppelgangers, magic trees, computer-virus apocalypses or killer jellyfish at all, so maybe it’s time to revisit A.K.

IMDB plot:

Murukami, a young homicide detective, has his pocket picked on a bus and loses his pistol. Frantic and ashamed, he dashes about trying to recover the weapon without success until taken under the wing of an older and wiser detective, Sato. Together they track the culprit.

A.K. follows his protagonist around the city, meeting shady characters in seedy parts of town, taking the camera out of the studio and bringing it along, influenced by the incompatible styles of film noir and neorealism. It’s a similar approach to The Naked City, and in a similar timeframe. I’d say Naked City was more successfully scenic, showed better city views, but Kurosawa did more with his less-than-stellar scenery. His mastery of camerawork, if not of pacing, shows up here.

At least the title character, the “stray dog”, is clearer than in The Thin Man – it’s Yusa, a small-time thief turned murderer with the help of detective Murakami’s pilfered pistol. The point is made again and again that Y. & M. came from similar backgrounds and befell similar fates until M. turned cop and Y. turned robber, leading to a climax of the two men fighting in the mud, dirty and interchangeable (not really, since Y. is wearing an unmistakable white suit by then). The other parallel is between M. as idealistic young cop with the weight of the world on his shoulders and elder cop Sato, with his burned-out black-and-white view of humanity. None of this is anything new by 2010 standards, but it may have seem fresh in ’49, and Kurosawa presents the ideas as if they’ve just occurred to him. By the end I couldn’t keep up my “ho-hum, Kurosawa” stance, was hooked by the style and story of the final third, featuring cross-cutting between Murakami’s bizarre interrogation of Yusa’s girl Harumi (with her mother in the room trying to help the cop) and Sato tracking down the killer in a hotel, as the oppressive heat of the last few days broke into a rainstorm.

Thanks to Emory for showing this on 35mm, though it features the kind of harsh, blaring music that always sounds better softened by my TV or laptop speakers than it does cranked loudly in a theater. Only the 7th listed film with superstar Toshiro Mifune (Murakami). Elder cop Takashi Shimura, with his giant Edward G. Robinson lips, was in 200+ films from Mizoguchi’s 1936 Osaka Elegy to Kurosawa’s 1980 Kagemusha, with some Zatoichi and Godzilla films thrown in, plus Kwaidan, Life of Oharu, and the lead role in Ikiru. Stolen-gun-toting Yusa is Isao Kimura in his first film – he’d appear in a bunch of Kurosawa films, the Miyamoto Musashi trilogy, Naruse’s Summer Clouds and Fukusaku’s Black Lizard. Harumi, Keiko Awaji, was in When a Woman Ascends the Stairs, and her mother Eiko Miyoshi would play scores of mothers in Japanese films, finally a grandmother in Ozu’s Good Morning. Movie was remade in cinemascope in the 70’s with the stars of Tokyo Drifter and Red Angel. I tried to draw comparisons with the missing-police-gun stories in Magnolia and The Wire but could not manage to do so.

C. Fujiwara:

Through the constant unfurling of interposed surfaces (multiple superimposed images, the strips of mesh and garlands down which the camera cranes at the Wellesian Blue Bird club), Kurosawa evokes a world in perpetual motion.

The sequence in Stray Dog in which Murakami goes undercover in the streets of Tokyo to look for the gun lasts slightly over nine minutes—much longer than necessary to advance the plot and convey that his search goes on for some time. The feeling of excessive length comes from the lack, or the randomness, of variation: the viewer’s main impression is the ever-dawning awareness that the sequence has nothing new to give. Kurosawa’s intention is to heighten our identification with Murakami as he slogs through the lower depths. By immersing us in the world’s chaos so thoroughly, the director makes us rely all the more on Murakami’s obsession as a potential source of meaning and order, while at the same time showing how inadequate it is to pose the problem of this chaos in the specific terms of a missing gun.

T. Rafferty:

Murakami poses as a down-and-out veteran, which turns out to be an uncomfortably thin disguise: he is a veteran of the recent war, and as he wanders through the ravaged city, in an elaborate montage sequence, we sense that he’s experiencing a life he might have led—that these mean streets are, for him, a collective image of the road not taken. That sequence, which incorporates a fair amount of documentary footage shot by Kurosawa’s assistant Ishiro Honda (later famous as the director of Godzilla and Rodan), is much longer than it needs to be, but it’s the key passage in Stray Dog because it sets in motion the film’s real story: Murakami’s growing identification with the man who now possesses his gun.

11’09″01 (2002)

Anthology film, with segments listed in decreasing order of greatness.

IRAN
A schoolteacher, an Afghan refugee in Iran with no equipment or facilities, tries to convey the 9/11 attacks to children whose world doesn’t extend far beyond the local well. By Samira Makhmalbaf (At Five in the Afternoon)
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BURKINA FASO
“Bin Laden, come back, please. We all need you here.” Idrissa Ouedraogo, director of Tilai, turns in an unlikely comedy. A kid has to drop out of school to support his mother, thinks he spots Osama Bin Laden, so he and his friends set out to capture him for the reward money. Osama gets away, the kids pleading for him to return so they can get paid. Kind of hilarious and awesome.
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INDIA
Mira Nair, following up Monsoon Wedding (and working with the same writer), recounts a based-on-true story of a woman whose son goes missing on Sept 11, is accused by the authorities of being a terrorist before he’s discovered to have been trying to help. The mother (Tanvi Azmi, I think) is excellent in this. When first questioned by the FBI, she points to her son’s posters, saying he’s American, he loves Star Wars, but she doesn’t say it defensively, just as a mother delightedly telling someone about her son. The final shot in this segment is my favorite of the whole anthology.
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UNITED KINGDOM
Ken Loach, between Sweet Sixteen and Tickets, takes a completely anti-sympathetic approach, choosing to discuss the American-backed Sept. 11, 1973 coup that killed Salvador Allende, including footage from The Battle of Chile. There was probably a time I would’ve considered this tacky, but now I’m thinking “good for you, Ken Loach.”
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USA
Sean Penn, recently off The Pledge (and I Am Sam, shhh), shoots an Ernest Borgnine one-man show in a grubby apartment in the shadow of the towers. Ernest putters around, laying out clothes for his absent wife, talking constantly, in his own crazy world, tending to a pot of dead flowers. Tower 1 goes down and sunlight flows through Ernie’s window for the first time in decades, bringing the flowers magically to life but waking him up to the reality that his wife is gone. Weird, sad one… I liked it better than Katy did.
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JAPAN
The final film of Shohei Imamura (The Eel, Vengeance Is Mine), with writer Daisuke Tengan (Audition, The Most Terrible Time In My Life), and if Shohei were alive he’d have some explaining to do. A man returns from the holy war (WWII) a spaced-out wreck, thinking he’s a snake (Katy did not appreciate the scene in which he swallowed a rat). Closes with the line “There is no such thing as a holy war.” Very odd way to end the anthology… still not sure what I think of it, though Mr. Grunes has named it one of his ten faves of the decade.
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FRANCE
Claude Lelouch (Roman de gare) directs an offbeat story of a French tour guide for the deaf in NYC. His girlfriend is writing him a note saying she’ll leave him unless there’s a miracle, then he comes home covered in dust. I liked it better the second time through.
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BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA
In 2002 director Danis Tanovic was high off his oscar-win for No Man’s Land. Since then, he’s adapted a Kieslowski script (Hell) and made one with Colin Farrell and Christopher Lee that played in Toronto. Women are going out for their weekly protest of something (local war/genocide) when 9/11 hits. They don’t know what to do, go protest anyway. Lightweight.
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ISRAEL
None of my Amos Gitai experiences have been happy ones. Starts with a guy disarming or examining a bomb after another explosion has already killed a few people, then the news team covering the event is told they’re not on the air because of coverage of 9/11. Gitai could be saying local problems feel humble compared to the scope of the 9/11 attacks, or maybe that America is hogging the spotlight away from his country’s problems, or possibly that it’s all Palestine’s fault.
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EGYPT
Youssef Chahine seems like a humorless Elia Suleiman, not that I know more about either of them than their Chacun son cinema segments. Here, Chahine pulls the same trick as in that anthology, a piece where I think he’s full of himself, then I think maybe he’s joking and it’s modesty in disguise, but no, he is just full of himself. Someone said “Youssef, write a September 11th movie” and he scribbled down every thought that came to mind then filmed them in that order.
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MEXICO
Alejandro González Iñárritu, between the great Amores Perros and the not-great 21 Grams, shot ten minutes of black punctuated occasionally by shots of people falling from the towers and closing with this quote.
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The Thin Man (1934, W.S. Van Dyke)

This must be my fourth time watching, and I still can’t remember who’s the killer (it’s the dead scientist’s lawyer!). Don’t think this counts as screwball comedy despite the fast-paced, often racy, comedic dialogue – it’s a detective comedy with screwball tendencies. Came out the same year as Twentieth Century and The Gay Divorcee – I think I like this one best of the three.

The titular thin man wasn’t meant to refer to detective William Powell (retired since marrying rich socialite Myrna Loy), but the missing, turns-out-to-be-murdered old scientist Wynant (Edward Ellis, sheriff in Fury). Nobody mentions this in the dialogue, hence all the Looney Tunes caricatures of Powell as a paper-thin man, and the carrying of the Thin Man title across the sequels.

Movie is a light joy to watch, so I won’t weigh it down by fussing over plot for three pages – there’s certainly enough of it. Powell (recently in Double Harness, not yet in My Man Godfrey) and Loy (post-Love Me Tonight, pre-Great Ziegfeld) don’t appear for a while but make up for lost time. Wynant’s death and the lawyer’s guilt aren’t revealed until the last minute at a grand suspects’ dinner party with cops as waiters (Katy thought the lawyer-as-killer was unjustified). Two older blonde women seem interchangeable until one is killed (the dead man’s girlfriend, Natalie Moorhead, no relation to Agnes). Dead man’s daughter (Maureen O’Sullivan of Devil Doll, The Big Clock, Song o’My Heart) and ex-wife Mimi (Minna Gombell, the law-breaking aunt in Wild Boys of the Road) and some other fools (including Cesar Romero, The Joker in TV’s Batman, and Porter Hall, a newsman in both Ace in the Hole and His Girl Friday) run around lying to each other for ninety minutes. All those actors, and the only one I recognize from other films is the dog, Asta, a main character in The Awful Truth and Bringing Up Baby.

Van Dyke directed three of the five sequels before dying of cancer. Prior to this, he made MGM’s first sound picture, White Shadows in the South Seas, which somehow involved Robert Flaherty.

The Intruder (2004, Claire Denis)

Movie opens on a border patrolwoman (Florence Loiret Caille, the eaten maid in Trouble Every Day, also in Time of the Wolf), then moves to her husband (Grégoire Colin, upstairs neighbor in 35 Shots of Rum), then quickly to the husband’s father Louis (Michel Subor of Topaz, Anatomy of a Marriage, Le petit soldat) with whom it remains, more or less, for the duration.

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Along the way we meet a pharmacist (attractively-freckled Bambou, best known for her relationship with Serge Gainsbourg) who sleeps with Louis, Louis’s dog-owning neighbor (Béatrice Dalle, cannibal Coré in Trouble Every Day, also in Clean and Inside), a sinister blonde woman (Katya Golubeva of Twentynine Palms, Pola X, I Can’t Sleep) who stalks him obsessively, and Louis’s ex in Tahiti who will not help him find his estranged son Tikki. Oh, “and Alex Descas,” proudly proclaims the opening credits, but he only appears in one scene, in close-up, as a priest.

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Nobody I’ve talked to seems sure of exactly what happens in this movie. Much of that can be explained by the director’s comment that some of the characters don’t actually exist except in Louis’s imagination – I’m guessing that accounts for his blonde stalker, but I’m not sure who else. Louis abandons his dogs at his wintery shack in northern France, goes to Switzerland to withdraw piles of cash, negotiates the purchase of a ship in Korea, then heads to Tahiti to look for his son (not caring half as much about his other son in France). Along the way, probably in flashback, he gets a heart transplant in Russia, the memory of which seems related to the mysterious stalker. Oh, and back in France he kills somebody with the knife he always carries.

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Guy from Tindersticks did the music without his band – it’s quiet and upsetting and wonderful. Played at Venice with 3-Iron, The World, Kings & Queen and The Sea Inside, but lost to Vera Drake. Between this movie and Trouble Every Day, I’m thinking the director of Martyrs could be a Claire Denis fan.

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Story interpretations vary, although apparently it helps immensely to read the essay by Jean-Luc Nancy on which the script was based. In the DVD interview, Denis describes the physical feeling the book gave her, talks about the film being a vehicle for Michel Subor as much as an adaptation of the book. “My producer also was absolutely the most perfect producer for that film, but he was also suffering from a very severe depression, and he killed himself before we finished.” – this is the same producer who worked on The Man From London.

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Carson:

The Intruder is loaded with Marxist Dialectics, the kind of suggestive cutting collisions that were pioneered by Sergei Eisenstein. A man describes a scene in the woods to his wife as a way of setting an erotic tone between the two of them, followed by a cut to the man’s father sitting amidst tall pine trees relaxing with his dogs. A priest speaks about the variety of immoral beings in the world, followed by a cut to the film’s blank protagonist, Louis Trebor. … In order to gather any semblance of narrative momentum, one has to look towards the way that the film is essentially divided into three parts, each comprised of a different locale, though not entirely limited to it, and connected by the theme of travel and intended self-renewal. … his lonely woodland cabin on the French-Swiss border, Pusan [South Korea], and Tahiti. … The film’s tempo steadily decreases … By the finale in Tahiti, The Intruder feels like a completely different work than what its opening anticipated. The shots lengthen, the soundtrack becomes quieter, comedic scenes appear, and Denis begins interspersing the action with footage from an unfinished 60’s film called Le Reflux, also set in Tahiti and starring Michel Subor.

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Claire Denis in Senses of Cinema:

My films are not highly intellectual, and L’Intrus is like a boat lost in the ocean drifting, you know? I think that’s the way I picture it … Even if it’s the dream of a voyage, I think it was very important for me that the film offer the two sides of the globe, the north hemisphere and south hemisphere, as the two sides of the heart.

He’s not aware of the people still around who love him. He has no respect for that. The only woman he’s gentle to, the woman with the dogs played by Béatrice Dalle, it’s because she doesn’t care for him that he’s attracted by her beauty. I would imagine that if she would let him enter her house and open her heart to him, he would disrespect her immediately. So I think Trebor is not a very lovable man. Politically, I would say he represents everything I dislike in my country, this sort of selfish-solitude mentality … So I’m happy that he is condemned at the end: He is defeated, and I think it’s only fair. But it’s interesting to me that this main character is someone I do not respect. I understand I can suffer from his anxiety, but I don’t like him. When I wrote the script, I called him A Man With No Heart, a heartless man.

[Subor] had read the script and I gave him those new [Johnny Cash] songs to listen to because I wanted him to be inspired. I told him, “Probably I will never use this as music for the film”, but I wanted him to feel that death is coming closer, to hear that voice, that man in Cash’s last two records whose life has been rich and full of love and emotion. And there is a trembling, as if the moment is coming.

For further study I rewatched Claire Denis’s episode of Ten Minutes Older in which L’Intrus author Jean-Luc Nancy talks endlessly in a train car about French homogeneity and foreigners as intruders, but didn’t find it any more interesting than last time.

The Wire season 3 (2004)

On one hand I’m proud of myself for burning through half a season in three weeks. That’s an unusually productive period of TV watching for me. On the other hand if you take the entire 12-episode season into account, I finished season 2 in August and season 1 a year ago, so bragging is not in order.

The usual stable of directors is joined by TV’s Leslie Libman, oscar-nominated filmmaker Agnieszka Holland, Alex Zakrzewski (lead cinematographer on Homicide: Life on the Street) and first-timer Christine Moore (who’d later work on CSI episodes). That’s twenty directors! The hardcore auteurists must go mad trying to figure this out.

Dead Men and Women:
Omar’s gang member Tosha: Edwina Findley, who went soap opera before landing in a new movie co-written by George Lucas. Main man Stringer Bell: the great Idris Elba, soon to appear in The Losers and Kenneth Branagh’s Thor. And Johnny, Bubbles’ junkie friend, in the least-surprising development in the entire series so far, dies of a drug overdose: Leo Fitzpatrick, who I didn’t recognize as Telly, lead character in Kids. Since The Wire he’s been in Hal Hartley’s Fay Grim.