In the mood for another 1960’s Czech movie after Loves of a Blonde. Chytilová pre-Daisies doing the hybrid-doc thing before it was invented. The mom having an affair with a light-haired guy isn’t terribly enlightening – I came for the dance segments. Good photography overall, but one particular shot, the camera upside-down then rotating rightside in sync with the dancer’s flip, takes your breath away.

Opens with a catchy pop song about turning into a hooligan. At least half the movie is the party scene (dudes chasing after blondes) and her at the musician’s house with his parents, waiting for him to come home (blonde chasing after dude). Forman must’ve stayed in touch – the blonde cameos in Amadeus.

One love of a blonde, a dodgy musician:

Dave Kehr called it “certainly one of the most sweetly seductive films ever made, an ironic quality in a film whose main theme is the cruelty of seduction and its costly aftermath.”

Harsh party scene, soldiers have a bottle of wine delivered to the wrong table of girls:

Some notes I took along the way:

Day 2 opens with them looking thru Beatles fan magazines

Michael L-H is kinda an ass

Cutting between 1966+69 on “Rock & Roll Music” at end of day 4 is great

Mal is round-headed guy who plays anvil on Maxwell’s

We know that it’s magic to spend time with the Beatles, but episode two presses its luck, showing us different views of a flowerpot while John and Paul argue near a hidden mic

Peter Sellers shows up after The Magic Christian sets arrive

Reminiscing on their India trip, discussing the footage, which we get to see

Michael and Glyn are credited with the roof idea

Jackson has overbaked everything since Frighteners

Soon before the concert, John simply sings the setlist, wow

During the concert the movie thinks we want to hear everything the teenaged chinstrap-chewing pigs say, but we’d like to hear the music please

Problems with the crowd interviews on the street: British people are boring, and clearly Beatlemania is over

Beatlemania is back on in our house, though.

Aspirational Post-Beatles Media To-Do List

The Magic Christian (1969)
– Ringo: Beaucoups of Blues (1970)
– George: All Things Must Pass (1970)
– John/Yoko: Plastic Ono Band (1970) + Imagine (1971)
– Paul: McCartney (1970) + Linda/Ram (1971) + Wings/Wild Life (1971)
The Concert for Bangladesh (1972)
Concert for George (2003)
– Beatles Anthology (1995)
– Beatles Love (2006)
Rock and Roll Circus (1968)
How I Won the War (1967)
The Last Waltz (1978)
Jimi Plays Monterey (1967)
George Harrison: Living in the Material World (2011)

When Anthology Film Archives first opened in 1970, its inaugural screening – presented during a private event on November 30 – showcased four highlights from the foundational repertory cycle that would come to be known as the Essential Cinema Repertory Collection … The four films represented a short survey of film history, spanning from the turn of the century all the way up to the (then-)present day.

Voyage Across the Impossible (1904, Georges Méliès)

The hand tinted color is supremely excellent, the handcrafted, cardboard-looking sets and props very nice, and I couldn’t care less about the slapstick steampunk nonsense plot. More or less a sequel to A Trip to the Moon, this time to the sun. Jules Verne died the following year, so could potentially have seen this. When some passengers accidentally freeze into an ice block in the protective cooler car, their guide hurriedly warms them up by starting a fire with some hay… on the sun. I like the copyright notices hidden in plain sight, on cliff walls and the sides of trains and submarines.


The Midnight Party (1940s/1968, Joseph Cornell & Lawrence Jordan)

Stock Footage: The Movie. Sometimes the shots are flopped or frozen or repeated, with flashes of intertitles in between. The whole thing feels like it was made by mistake.


The Canaries (1969, Jerome Hill)

Canary songs and chirps are visualized as color blobs, which finally form new canaries made of pure sound and light which float away from the cage, visiting lovers on the beach. I wish I’d thought of this one.


Film No. 11: Mirror Animations (1956, Harry Smith)

I just watched this last year, probably my favorite of all the Harry Smith films I’ve seen.

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).

Opens with no titles or credits or logos, just busts into a scene, is that right? Early dialogue with main guy Michel Piccoli at work was unexpected. “Isolation in a chamber in which one must wear a mask to survive strongly evokes the conditions under which modern man lives. Doesn’t knowing that one must wear a mask create a sense of anxiety?” The poor dubbing was sadly expected, though when Piccoli turns on the TV news and that is also badly dubbed, it gives the impression that people in Italy just speak out of sync with their own mouths.

Piccoli putters around his house listening to records, making a late night meal while his wife sleeps, when he finds a pistol in his pantry, wrapped in a 1930’s Chicago newspaper with a John Dillinger headline. He takes great pleasure in restoring the gun with oil while watching home movies (then he restores the maid with oil, if you know what I mean). Mostly he putters alone, a Secret Honor fever dream of a movie. After annoying both women, he paints the gun, returns to the pantry to find some ancient ammunition, then shoots his wife to death.

What a nice kitchen, though:

It’s not made very compellingly or convincingly, but valuable as one of those “a movie can be about anything” movies, and there’s some groovy music. I did like the Ruizian ending, where Piccoli swims out to a ship and gets hired to replace their late cook. Anita Pallenberg of Performance is the wife, and maid Sabina is Annie Girardot, who’d play the mother in The Piano Teacher 30+ years later.

Dillinger’s dames: Pallenberg top, Girardot bottom

After the Prince movie, I went back to Criterion for more music docs and gave Deep Blues (1992) a shot. Looking for blues guys playing music, but we got the guy from Eurythmics shopping for voodoo stuff in Memphis. Might give it another shot sometime since RL Burnside’s in the cast and Glenn Kenny recommends it, but for now we switched from blues to jazz.

Opening credits over beautiful shots of reflections in wavy water, already a good sign. An outdoor festival, single stage I think. Since it’s mostly in broad daylight, they’re able to shoot audience member antics, which often involve impractical hats, and there’s a boat race happening in the same town in case the editors need a visual shift. Cutaway skits of a portable jazz band traveling around town, in a car, to an amusement park, houses, a rooftop. Just a perfect lesson in how to make a music doc in an engaging way, codirected by fashion photographer Stern and filmmaker Avakian, whose brother George was the fest’s music producer.

The music itself – well, my idea of “jazz” has been warped by last month’s Big Ears fest, so it took some time to get into the 1950’s groove. As with Big Ears, there’s also a non-jazz headliner in Chuck Berry. A toothy, confident scat-singing white woman almost derails it (this was Anita O’Day – apparently John Cameron Mitchell is a fan), but things pick up nicely, culminating with night sets by Louis Armstrong and Summer of Soul fave Mahalia Jackson.

Something to space-out to on the plane, one of those very silly sci-fi movies from the 60’s that gradually becomes a Godzilla knock-off. Movieishness is high, reasonable human behavior low, with some really cool miniatures, but the zero-gravity effect of “dangling stuff on strings” is lame. A mission to Mars (to discover why all other missions to Mars have disappeared) is led by Captain Sano with White Biologist Lisa. They stop for a shower on the moon base, where radio operator Michiko is jealous of the white girl, leaving behind their doctor who wasn’t feeling well, and picking up the whiny, dubbed, panic-prone Dr. Stein. Their ship loses power after they collect a Luminous Object near Mars, and they get a tow home. Of course the object grows into a giant monster that threatens Tokyo, but at least the massive-scale destruction and countless deaths resolve the astronaut love triangle. The cast is mostly nobodies, but the comic relief guy was in an Imamura film, and the guy in charge of ground control is Eiji Okada, star of Hiroshima Mon Amour and Woman in the Dunes.

Fun-loving crew:

The X has a name: Guilala

The flying saucer is a Monty Python fan:

Watched this when I realized I’d get to see the Goodbye, Dragon Inn restoration in theaters. More focused on simple conflict and action than the other two King Hu films I’ve seen, the plot keeps accumulating unstoppably brilliant fighters who kill scads of flunkies until all the brilliant fighters finally converge against each other – or more specifically, five legendary heroes team up against the sinister eunuch army seeking to kill a slain general’s entire family.

The two who will later meet in Goodbye’s dying theater are lead hero/drifter Shih Chun (also star of A Touch of Zen) and the white-haired eunuch boss’s chief soldier Miao Tien (already a Tsai regular by the time of Goodbye). Shih joins the orange and blue sibling team of Hsieh Han and Shangkuan Ling-fung (the perpetually pissed-off woman in front on the new Criterion box art), and eventually another supernaturally fast duo joins up. It takes all of them to dispatch the lead soldiers and then the eunuch boss himself (Bai Ying). The subtitles say he suffers from “asthma” but it appears to be psychedelic migraines. Reportedly a game-changing film, King Hu breaking from the Shaw Brothers studio to independently reinvent wuxia cinema, it still holds up as a beautiful and kickass picture.