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.

Best music (theater organist Travis McFarlane) and doc of the fest. Interrogating images and media coverage, avoiding easy/familiar archival riot footage by turning the images abstract. Centrist government commission released a report saying people were being repressed and cities needed massive funding, the gov’t’s only takeaway was to call for more police protection. Avoids the Dem convention in Chicago 1968 to show the jocular media coverage of minimal protests outside the Rep convention in Miami, and the protestors’ attempts to talk with local leadership. Nice archival ad for TV news sponsor Gulf selling a bug spray to rid yourself of unwanted abstract black dots, connected with footage of a private company selling a riot buggy to spray tear gas on crowds. Great abstract music and voiceover, writing and research. Would make a good double feature with All Light, Everywhere (or possibly with a fest feature we missed, 2nd Chance).

Famous lecturer Jean Desailly (of a couple Melville films) picks up stewardess Francoise Dorléac (a couple years before Cul-de-sac) and talks endlessly about Balzac at the bar. He falls for her, but is married, and the whole movie is about how hard it is to have a secret affair. It’s even harder because he’s well known, but he acts like Francoise has no other options, and is a pain in the ass to her for almost their own relationship, so when he finally proposes, she breaks up with him. And then his wife finds out.

The music took the whole thing seriously from the start. It’s a suave, smooth looking movie, each scene patiently revealing. A jump cut or two just to remind us this is the FNW, overall more admirable than any fun to watch.

Gradually rewatching the Suzukis I saw on DVD back in the day. This is one where Jo Shishido plays a tough dude, if you can imagine. He rolls into town acting like the biggest badass in the world, which impresses the local gangsters. He’s hired by one gang boss, and separately by the boss’s girl, and he barges into the other gang boss’s office with a shotgun and gets hired by him, too. Every genre cliche flying fast and furious to a swinging soundtrack. It all sounds like the usual until you see how this thing looks and moves.

Turns out Jo is an ex-cop out for revenge on the bastards who killed his partner, and all his noisy pot-stirring gets the gang war riled up. He’s assigned a gun crazy dummy sidekick (Eimei Esumi, second banana to Jo in a few other movies) by Boss Nomoto (played by the tormented youth star of Everything Goes Wrong). Boss Sanko is Kinzô Shin of Man Without a Map – a hands-on guy, he rigs a bomb and kamikazes his car into Nomoto’s house. Jo discovers that his ex-partner’s widow (the rich second wife from the first Kwaidan episode) is the gang’s secret puppetmaster, and killed her husband, so he sics Boss Nomoto’s razor-crazy gay brother on her, a happy ending.

Jo and Sanko at his office behind a movie screen:

This kind of scenario comes up pretty often:

Jiro (Black Sun star Tamio Kawaji) is a tormented James Dean type. Once I caught onto the fact that he tears off running at the end of every scene, it was always funny. A youth-gone-wild movie, all the parents lived through hell in the war, now their kids are all owowowowoe is me. Even if I hate all the whiny characters, it’s still a great-looking film that moves like a bullet.

There’s an abortion plot, plenty of money troubles, some muggings and car theft, then Jiro kills his widowed mom’s boyfriend with a wrench, and drives into the night to his own death. A bartender gets the last word, “Jiro was a nice boy,” but no he wasn’t.

Yoshiko Nezu is good, was in two more Suzuki movies in the next year, then disappeared: