I love the convenience and the selection of the Criterion Channel… and the quality, and the extras, but it’s tough to take screenshots, which ruins my blog flow. This was presented with Biller’s The Love Witch, which I was sorely tempted to watch a third time, but thought I’d better check out her debut while it’s online. Set in the early 1970s, it’s more campy than Love Witch, with self consciously horrible dialogue, shot like a cross between a sitcom and an advertisement. These aren’t complaints necessarily. Of the actors, I only recognized Sheila’s horrible husband Mark, who led the ren-fest scene in Love Witch.

Anna plays Barbi, whose husband Rick leaves her for weeks at a time. Anna and her friend Sheila decide home life is dull, so they sneak off to a modeling agency and get jobs as call girls. Anna as “Viva” meets a nudist musician, a hot girl named Agnes, and a big-deal artist… stars in a few musical numbers and a psychedelic animated fantasy. On one hand, as Viva she becomes a glorious sex goddess, but still everyone she meets is abusing her.

Love to spend years following rumors of the recreation of the lost masterpiece by an all-time great filmmaker, only for the thing to finally appear direct-to-video, then watch it in fragments over a week of late nights because I keep falling asleep. I watched the previously released scenes of this in the early days of the movie blog, never thinking there’d be a feature, and here we are, not quite knowing what to put in quote marks (the “complete” feature “by” Welles). Rosenbaum approves, so who am I to argue?

Stills, narration, and the line “that was long before cellphone cameras” mar the opening minutes, then hammy P-Bog becomes a main character, and the movie’s in trouble. It recovers easily – a party film with a magnetic John Huston as the Wellesian center, artists and hangers-on all around, cutting all over the place, and then the scenes of Huston’s never-to-be-completed film (this is an extremely self-aware movie – even Hammy P-Bog appears to be playing “hammy” “p-bog”), a miniature, fragmented work inside the work, which is both a beautiful art film and a pretentious parody of a beautiful art film, problematically starring an always-nude Oja Kodar, who in fact cowrote this film, making it knowingly, self-parodically problematic, I guess. Playfully homoerotic dialogue, apparently documentary sections, and all the colored lights making this more Suspiria-like than the Suspiria remake. The whole project and its implications fill your brain up all the way. Besides P-Bog there are a few overdone performances – I’m thinking of the film critic (Susan Strasberg) and Zimmy The Southern Gentleman (Cameron Mitchell) – but on first viewing it seemed 15% tiresome, 85% wonderful.


They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead (2018, Morgan Neville)

I remember this being fun… let’s see, my notes say “uses every bit of Welles footage they could find to place in dialogue with interviewees” and “ends with Why Can’t I Touch It, wow.” I should watch the making-of and the new Mark Cousins doc then rewatch the feature, but I also got things going on besides Orson.

Only a couple minutes after Buster Scruggs ended, the opening titles of this movie announced that it’s a story told in six chapters – what are the odds? Unexpected suicides in both movies too. It’s not that I wanted a faithful remake, since the plot is the weakest thing about Argento’s Suspiria, but what made them turn a bonkers Italian horror about witches in a dance studio into a 2.5-hour movie set in Berlin during the Baader-Meinhof hijacking, with long sections about a psychiatrist who lost his wife in the Holocaust? What’s the meaning of Tilda Swinton playing both Evil Mothers in charge of the studio and also the psychiatrist? Nice plot twist with Dakota Johnson (the older sister in Bad Times at the El Royale) appearing to be the fresh-meat new girl with especially good dance-murder skills, later revealed to be the reborn Mother Suspiriorum come to cleanse the school by killing one or both Tildas. I mean, this was a lot of movie for a single weeknight, so I think that’s what happened. I have mixed feelings, but pretty sure I need to keep watching all of Luca’s movies (this is my second of the year).

Chloe Grace is a paranoid escaped dancer in the opening scenes, then disappears forever, followed shortly by suspicious Olga, who gets gnarled up in the practice room. Mia Goth (A Cure for Wellness) is the dancer who shows Dakota around, and Jessica Harper cameos as the psychiatrist’s dead wife. Most unexpected name in the credits: The Turin Horse cinematographer Fred Kelemen as one of the cops who Psych Tilda asks for help. Writer David Kajganich has also done a Body Snatchers remake and a Pet Sematary remake.

Ignatiy Vishnevetsky compares it to “the movies Nicolas Roeg was making around the same time, confounding mosaics of predestination and psychoanalysis … It’s a movie where most of the characters are liminal figures, mid-phase between identities. It is packed with doors, mirrors, ceremonies, rehearsals, shared secrets, and make-up, suggesting commonalities between the backstage world and the supernatural through collage.”

A couple of families go on an RV vacation and discover that everyone out in the country is a satanist. When I spotted a dog and a couple of motorbikes, I predicted a dead dog and a motorbike chase, but only got the lesser of these two events. This was dad’s only SHOCKtober participation, and he declared it the worst movie he’s ever seen (maybe not, but it ain’t too good).

Peter Fonda and Warren Oates costar the year after, respectively, Dirty Mary Crazy Larry and Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia, either of which would probably have been a smarter movie pick, since this one wasn’t particularly SHOCKtoberey (the Devil does not appear, just some snakes and ritual sacrifices). Our heroes, along with their lovely wives (Loretta “Hot Lips” Swit and Lara Parker of Dark Shadows), finally outrun the satanists, celebrate with drinks, and are caught by even more satanists. At least there’s some fabulously 1970’s upholstery. Writers Frost and Bishop also worked on Chain Gang Women and The Thing With Two Heads, and Starrett previously appeared as an actor in Hells Angels on Wheels, Angels from Hell, and Hell’s Bloody Devils.

After Possession and Cosmos, I’ve been anxious to watch more Zulawski. There’s a World War II drama, a space-travel sci-fi cult thing, a love triangle story, and this one, with which I informally kicked off SHOCKtober this year.

A nervous, wild-eyed stranger arrives at a convent in total bloody chaos where two political prisoners are being held. He kills Thomas, saves Jacob, kidnaps a nun and rides the hell out of there, but everywhere he goes is about as hysterical as the convent, and Jacob starts murdering people with a knife. He buries his father, attacks his friends, murders his mother, gets injured in a duel, deliriously gives up his co-conspirators to the stranger, then is killed. The nun takes out the devil, who transforms into an animal as he dies. It’s all very intense, and I didn’t always follow it (nor its political allegory which got it banned), but it’s definitely something else.

Jacob and the stranger:

Jacob’s mom with snake:

Jacob and the nun costarred in Zulawski’s feature debut The Third Part of the Night the previous year, and devil Wojciech Pszoniak was in Wajda’s Danton.

Jeremiah Kipp (director of The Minions and Contact) in Slant:

Jakub is led home by his dark-clad benefactor, only to discover that everything has taken a turn toward the rancid and horrible. His father has committed suicide, his mother has transformed into a prostitute, his sister has been driven insane, and his fiancée has been forced into an arranged marriage with his best friend, who has turned into a political opportunist and turncoat. Leading him through this world turned upside down is the man in black, who continually whispers sarcastic platitudes in the hero’s ear and inciting him to acts of extreme violence … As usual for his films, the camera hurtles vertically across rooms and fields and spirals around as the actors pitch their performances at maximum volume. Society for Zulawski is just a thin veneer used to disguise the horrible sadism and unhappiness lurking inside every human heart. The Devil would make for maudlin, depressing viewing if every scene didn’t feel like explosions were being set off, sending the inmates of a madhouse free into the streets outside.

A sexy 1970’s Euro-vampire movie. Newlyweds Valerie (Danielle Ouimet, of a few Canadian sex movies and devil movies) and Stefan (John Karlen, kind of a brutish, squished Mark Hamill type, of Dark Shadows) arrive at a hotel where a countess (Delphine Seyrig, between Donkey Skin and Discreet Charm) and her companion Ilona (Andrea Rau, of German sex comedies) are also staying. The newlyweds hear there have been murders in Bruges, so they take a day trip there and back, then a cop arrives at the hotel (final role of Belgian 1930’s and 40’s actor Georges Jamin), and at this point I’m pretty sure everyone in the movie is a vampire – they all wear scarves and act suspiciously.

“You’re being foolish… I won’t let you leave until you explain” – different characters say the same lines, and it’s either a deep commentary on identity, or lazy writing. The camera lingers on bodies and gets draped in colored filters (Kumel also made an Orson Welles occult mystery the same year). Stefan tries to get playful (while nude) with Ilona, but I didn’t realize vampires hate showers, and she falls onto a razor. Delphine takes Valerie as her new travel companion, but they immediately go for a drive into the dawning sun and get burnt up. The whole thing’s got some fashion and visual style at least, and it’s agreeably colorful and odd.

Ilona:

Delphine and Valerie:

A selection of screenshots, with some notes I took, not necessarily going together…

Rough edits, film flares out at the end of each shot.

Mostly motor vehicle themed except for some especially long takes: a train ride, washing dishes, nude cuddling to an endless Dylan song.

The camera moved!

Not the best audio in the world, wind and transit sounds.

One editing trick at the hour mark to make sure you’re still paying attention.

Smokestack song is same as cuddling song, Black Diamond Bay by Dylan.

Staged-looking scenes and some natural street life.
(note photo in the above shot)

Good weekend afternoon movie.

The filmmuseum DVD comes with a great director interview:

What I am talking about is a general feeling that I believe people get when they watch a film. This feeling may be shared among members of the audience, and it may vary from one individual to another. What I am trying to do is to design films that are seductive, that leave gaps in the narrative that people will be able to fill with their own lives. I want the audience to help piece the shots together. I want them to have to work a little when they watch a film, to make watching a film more of an active experience. I think that when this happens, when people help tie a film together with their own personal experiences, the images in the film become what I am calling a metaphor. It is a pattern of meaning rather than a direct translation. You don’t say, well, this is what happened in the film, but rather this is how I relate the images, the events that occur on the screen. This kind of general pattern of meaning that you come away with is not really in the film, nor in the events that are photographed. There is no objective reality; there is only this metaphor.

The producers tried to raise the evil factor by opening with an Anton LaVey quote, but this movie seems much scarier in retrospect if you think of Cars as its sequel. Watched on 35mm after Christine in an Alamo double-feature, not enthused about the long drive home, and almost walked out after the first twenty minutes: a couple cheesy teens are run off a mountain road, then a comic relief french horn player is killed outside the home of horrible asshole Amos who parks his dynamite truck on the roadside. The movie shows every sign of being very bad, but I waited until our man James Brolin showed up to see where it’s heading, and something interesting happens. The goofy horror stuff recedes and the movie shows the cops and other members of this small town in Utah mourning the deaths, being very stressed out over this rogue car (they don’t yet know it’s demonic and driverless). The acting maybe isn’t up to Christine‘s level, but the overall portrayal of town life is more real and sensitive.

The next victim is Sheriff Everett (John “Jacob” Marley, lead in Faces), which really shakes up the surviving police. James Brolin (between Westworld and The Amityville Horror) takes charge, with his relapsed-alcoholic sideman Luke (Ronny Cox, the guy who gets “fired” in the climax of RoboCop, also chief of Cop Rock) and his best girl Lauren (Kathleen Lloyd of It Lives Again), amongst rising rumors that the car has no driver.

The Car, a long, low, dark, anonymous thing (customized by the guy who made the Batmobile) returns in broad daylight to bust up a parade, running down a couple of dudes who try to rodeo clown it. Orange-tinted car’s-eye-view shows it hunting down the surviving cops. In the most impressive scene, Lauren drives home alone, calls Brolin when she’s safe, then The Car drives straight through the house to run her down – having killed the love interest, Brolin has nobody to hug at the end but a few dusty cops. It appears in Brolin’s garage, and flies off a cliff to its presumed death after a day-for-night chase. No real explanation in either movie for their possessed cars – things were just allowed to be supernatural back then without a ton of backstory.

Opens with Etaix introducing the idea, explaining the sheer amount of film that was shot for this project, then being attacked by a giant flowing mass of unruly film stock. Unfortunately this turned out to be the best part.

The rest is an interview film, gauging the man on the street’s attitudes on sex and violence, entertainment and celebrity, TV and advertising, world events, personal relationships, and Pierre Etaix. Interviewees are French people on holiday, just after May ’68, which doesn’t really come up. He spends longer than necessary at some kind of open-mic festival. It’s all like the least interesting aspects of Chronicle of a Summer and À propos de Nice mixed together, with some fun/ironic editing, but not enough to make it worth sitting through all the amateur singing performances.