I’ve been meaning to watch Oldroyd’s Lady Macbeth for 6+ years now, so instead of finally doing that, I immediately hopped on his new thing, a period piece with two actors I like getting into hijinks. But I guess you’re not supposed to know about their hijinks – the blurb gives it away, but if you came in cold, one late-movie Anne Hathaway line could’ve been the craziest surprise in any movie all year. Far less surprising (and also given away by the promo materials, this time the poster) is that Thomasin McKenzie will eventually wield the gun she confiscated from her drunk ex-cop dad. The grainy look, winter Massachusetts light and 1960’s sweaters are all fab, as is Thomasin’s excitement by the hot new prison psychologist, who alternately seems too good for her job and very, very bad at her job (the woman Anne kidnaps is Marin Ireland, the missing girl’s mom in The Empty Man). The movie’s also full of ugly sordid details, making sure nobody who watches it will remain unharmed.

Based on an opera written by two guys named Bela, Powell and his golden-era designer Hein Heckroth went nuts with colored lights and jagged sculptures on this newly-restored musical. Judith gives up her old life for his castle, but finds it dank, and insists he open the seven closed doors. She doesn’t much like his bloody torture chamber, or the armory full of bloody swords, or that the walls and even the flowers are bleeding, but keeps insisting she’s not afraid. Behind door five is a view of Bluebeard’s vast kingdom, and now she sees blood in the clouds, might be hallucinating. Door six is his pool of tears, no points for guessing what else appears in that pool. BB seems really unhappy, not sure what he’s getting out of all the killing. Judith says he might as well open the last door since she’s already guessed it’s full of women he murdered. He credits his three previous zombie-statue wives with the glories of his kingdom, each representing different times of day, says Judith will be his midnight girl, “night belong to you forever.”

My second pick from Vogel’s “Assault on Montage” after the first Bach movie, and this one feels more assaultive – but it’s an assault on everything, not just montage, a big youthful 60s movie full of formal energy and manic-depressive characters. Not sensory overload though – plenty of plain backgrounds and scenes without music to keep you off guard.

Fabrizio’s blonde friend dies in an (accidental?) drowning. Aunt Gina tries to cheer him up at the funeral, not acting much like an aunt, he ditches the pretty age-appropriate girl meant as his fiancee to have a rocky affair with Gina. Halfway through we finally meet his academic commie idol Cesare, who he keeps mentioning, and she has her own older confidante who she calls Puck. Fabrizio wanders back to his own girl in the end.

A young cinephile movie, even with a scene discussing Godard and Rossellini and Nick Ray at a cafe. “I’m a bore who makes lists of films.” Has some character behaviors in common with giallo – Italians are emotionally unstable people. Does Italian music sound circusy because they invented the circus? More research is needed. Aunt Gina would later star in Phantom of Liberty and The Best of Youth. Fabrizio would direct and write The Perfume of the Lady in Black. The drowned Agostino was the only Bertolucci regular.

A Bach concert film, solo and small/large ensembles performing his works chronologically, with narration from wife Anna’s diaries for context. As with all concert films (see my dislike for the Bowie movie) enjoyment is largely dependent on whether you like listening to Bach, and I’m getting from the reviews that the critics who love this are big Bach fans. I’m mixed here, but would freak out over a film called Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Zorn – either way it’s a vital entry in the biopic and concert film genres.

Difficult to understand Anna’s English narration as she rapidly, mechanically rattles off the words. Compositions are mostly static but they’re not afraid of a subtle or grand camera move. Scenes step on each other’s heels, the editor anxious to move on the moment a music piece has ended. Besides the musical performances we get great churches and lovely instruments – pre-piano keyboards such as harpsichords, clavichords and pipe organs – and closeups on (real?) historical documents. It’s an example film in Vogel’s “Assault on Montage” chapter, where he helpfully lays out the rules of “the received canon of editing” in order to show how some films break them. In this movie, “the refusal to move the camera or render the image more interesting and an insistence on real time… represents a frontal assault on the cinematic value system of the spectator.” In other words, anti-art people would call the movie boring.

Neil Bahadur:

Here we see the art go from the mind, to the page, to the finger, to the performer, and finally to the audience. In every performance Straub makes it so the hands are always totally visible, so we see the complexity that Bach/Gustav Leonhardt must transfer from the mind to the hands in full force.

New restoration looks terrific. Half the cast gets killed by their own zombified family members (coward Cooper and wife are eaten by their kid, the guy who says they’re coming to get you Barbra comes and gets Barbra), and the young people die due to fiery incompetence while escaping in the truck. We all remember what happens to Duane. I still haven’t played the commentaries but I watched some video extras, and Duane would like everyone to know that he’s totally fine – in fact extremely completely fine – not talking about the movie.

Corman the year after The Intruder and Tales of Terror, same year as X, lightens things up with a very silly Poe comedy. Based on the opening poem and magician Vincent Price casually drawing with light in his living room, you don’t get a sense of the movie’s tone, but as soon as the raven transforms into Peter Lorre you know what you’re in for.

Adventurers Price, Lorre, and their kids Jack Nicholson and Olive Sturgess:

Rival magician Boris Karloff has got the traitor Lenore (Hazel Court), and speaking of traitors, Lorre has been sent to retrieve Price by claiming to be in trouble. There’s a henchman named Grimes; Price zaps his brains with magic finger-bolts. Lorre gets turned into goo during the ensuing magician’s duel, I think the kids survive, and Price goes back to his happy place: giving soliloquies to birds.

Price and the gang are all good but the real MVP is the trained raven:

Sharp costumes and production design on a gorgeous blu-ray, a nice change of pace. Ferroni made this long before Night of the Devils, but not a horror specialist, made mostly adventures and westerns in between. In the 1920s Hans has come to write a research article in a historic mill full of remarkably realistic (uh oh) sculptures of people being murdered. He meets up with cute Lottie, but becomes obsessed with the secretive Elfie, daughter of millmaster Wahl. He discovers that Dr. Bolem also lives at the mill because Elfie is afflicted with a secret made-up illness: she’ll die if she gets too excited. In the very next scene, a secret meeting with Hans, she gets upset and drops dead.

Elfie’s first appearance:

Elfie hitting on Hans:

Turns out Elfie has recurrent death syndrome and her dad and the doctor keep bringing her back by stealing blood from local girls, then Wahl turns the dead girls into new exhibits for his horror windmill. They drug Hans so he loses his object permanence then they declare him insane and send him away so he won’t discover their mad science. Meanwhile they’ve got their eyes on his girlfriend Lotte’s especially rare blood. Hans sends the cops, but no need, the dad and the doctor feud to the death, and the mill burns.

Nice touch: local girl Liana Orfei pretends to be a statue for a drawing class:

Liana ends up as expected, Wahl adding final touches:

Hans was later in Night of the Damned… Elfie of euro-spy Operacion Gigante… Wahl of Christopher Lee non-horror Secret of the Red Orchid… Lottie in Clouzot’s Inferno and the Christopher Lee Hands of Orlac… and Dr. Bolem was Mabuse in the last Lang film.

Madhabi “Charulata” Mukherjee is the wife of banker Anil Chatterjee (The Cloud-Capped Star). They’re barely making ends meet, supporting kids and parents, so she gets a sales job. Grandpa would rather guilt his former students into buying him favors than accept lady-money, but after Anil’s bank goes under, Madhabi gets promoted and becomes the sole breadwinner. Without anything to do all day, Anil suspiciously follows his wife around. Ultimately she’s too principled to be a capitalist, and quits in solidarity with one of her coworkers. An obvious sort of social issues drama, but with a very excellent performance by Mukherjee at its center.

Written as a follow-up to Pather Panchali (and set in 1954) but not produced for eight more years.

Chandak Sengoopta for Criterion:

The Big City was awarded the Silver Bear for best direction at the Berlin Film Festival in 1964, but it was at a festival nearer home that it had its greatest impact. When screened during a 1964 international film season in Dhaka (the capital of Bengali-speaking East Pakistan, now Bangladesh), enormous crowds, including thousands of women, queued for tickets for the three scheduled shows. The lack of seats precipitated a mini riot, and after more than a hundred people were beaten up by the police, the festival organizers were forced to schedule ten extra shows, running consecutively over twenty-four hours.

My second Peebles after Watermelon Man, building up gradually to the big one. Harry Baird (The Oblong Box) has three days of leave, attempts to have the best time possible (accomplished) and not fuck up his brand-new promotion (ummm). Different versions of himself appear in mirrors and fantasies, and characters speaking to him look directly into camera, placing us in his head. The whole thing is electric and alive, and self-consciously French-new-wavey. The white girl who falls in love with him is even Nicole Berger of Shoot the Piano Player.

Baird flies into a rage when a Spanish restaurant singer calls him negrito, he’s spotted by other soldiers outside the range they’re supposed to travel, and after his lockup for breaking the rules, the girl is gone.