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.

Traveling salesman/con-man Moses (Ryan O’Neal of Barry Lyndon, The Driver) stops by the Missouri funeral of “a friend” and takes charge of the deceased’s daughter (and possibly his own) Addie (Tatum O’Neal, Ryan’s daughter). She proves to be at least as good with the cons as Moses, and she claims he owes her money and threatens to turn him in, so they stick together through Kansas. Moses gets sidetracked shacking up with the pampered Trixie (Madeline Kahn) so Addie schemes with Trixie’s maid Imogene to break them up. The rest of the movie is small-time scams and gradual bonding, all extremely winning.

Tatum O’Neal won an oscar for this. John Hillerman of Chinatown plays a dual role, Moses wrestles Randy Quaid. P-Bog’s fourth-ish feature, between What’s Up, Doc? and Daisy Miller. Screenwriter Alvin Sargent started in the 1950’s and is still around, writing Spider-Man sequels.

Tatum with Imogene (PJ Johnson):

Madeline and Ryan with charming desk clerk Burton Gilliam:

I was ambivalent about Zalman King in Sleeping Beauty, but his particular intensity was perfect for this one – he’s sort of a late Jean-Pierre Leaud mixed with early Sean Penn. Zalman’s at a swinging party with some friends, when Dr. Richard Crystal has his wig torn off and sorely overreacts, beating up the party girls and burning them in the fireplace. Zalman follows and fights his buddy, throws him in front of a truck, and ends up being blamed for all the deaths so he spends the rest of the movie in hiding. Zal’s girlfriend Alicia (Deborah Winters of some forgotten 60’s and 70’s movies) helps him investigate, finding other balding psychotics who participated in a psychedelic experiment in college, including babysitter Ann Cooper (of the similarly titled Blue Thunder and The Sunshine Boys) who chases a child with a knife, and the bodyguard Wayne (Ray Young, best known for playing Bigfoot on TV) of politician Mark Goddard (TV’s Lost In Space and The Detectives).

The parrot survives the massacre:

Zalman and Deborah:

Politician Ed’s slogan:

I’ve heard Jean Rollin’s movies are very bad, but I’ve also heard that they’re sensual atmospheric wonders full of naked woman, so finally I am finding out for myself. Started with Rollin’s fourth feature after Rape of the Vampire, The Nude Vampire and Requiem for a Vampire, cowritten by Bernard‘s daughter Monique Natan. The verdict: it’s bad, but it’s true about the naked women, and I also enjoyed the groovy electric guitar music.

Half the cast: newlyweds framed by mute girls:

Whatever is going on, we’ve got two women who aren’t saying a word and there’s a coffin ritual and some unhappy guys chained in a castle. I’m starting to suspect vampires. The next(?) morning newlywed Isle (Sandra Julien of Je suis une nymphomane) arrives with her guy (Jean-Marie Durand, who had a career in film doing everything except acting) and learns that the cousins she has come to visit have just died. Then the cousins show up and say no, just a joke, everything’s fine. Isle meets the two silent women and two others: widow Isabelle (Nicole Nancel of Don’t Push Grandpa Into The Cactus) and Isolde (Dominique of Rollin’s previous film), who walks out of a clock. Everyone’s a vampire, of course, and there are playful attacks and serious attacks and lots of boobs, and I think Isolde uses boob-daggers to stab Isabelle in her boobs, and despite all this bawdiness I couldn’t focus very hard because it’s all so terribly dull, the sort of thing that happens when your slow arthouse movie relies on a sense of atmosphere you failed to create. There are some freeze-frames and fun camera pans, but there’s no saving it. One of the cousins was Michel “The Ethnologist” Delahaye, at least.

The Ethnologist and his dark-haired brother in front of some vampire wall art:

I guess the groom and the two unnamed girls from the beginning help defeat the evil Isolde and/or Isabelle, then the two male cousins and the bitten Isle die on the beach as the sun comes up. It’s possible that the groom Antoine was meant to be our hero, but he also gets beaten up by a library.

Isolde and her daggers… I’m actually trying to avoid nudity in the screenshots because I know all my traffic on this post will come from guys searching for “boobs”, but with this movie it’s difficult:

Every wall in the castle where they filmed has been vandalized:

Three balding middle-aged dudes wearing overcoats assemble at a tiny bar – The Writer, The Professor (of physics) and the Stalker, who will lead them to The Room inside The Zone, where… something will happen, possibly.

The Stalker is nervous, hired as a guide but seems unsure of everything. The Writer is drunk and arrogant, argues with the Stalker at every juncture. The Professor came as a saboteur, meaning to destroy the Room, but doesn’t go through with it. And the movie conjures its entire sense of mystery and horror through dialogue and behavior, with no special visual effects, just fields and damp rooms.

What exactly the Zone/Room does is mysterious – it provides enlightenment or fulfills unconscious desires – and the Stalker is cagey and possibly deceptive, revealing stories of other stalkers and their sorry fates. After an argument, the men presumably don’t even enter the room, meeting the Stalker’s wife back at the bar. Epilogue with their daughter, poetry and telekinesis, feeling like a scene from Mirror.

Wife of Stalker: Alisa Freyndlikh of Elem Klimov’s Rasputin

Daughter of Stalker:

The film’s writers also did the source novels for Hard to be a God and Sokurov’s Days of Eclipse. The Prof (in the hat) was Nikolay Grinko, at least his fifth Tarkovsky film, also in Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors. The Writer was Anatoliy Solonitsyn, Andrey Rublev himself.