Opens with 80’s dance music… I’ve been thrown off by the music in my early-decade French films lately. Sabine is Béatrice Romand from Autumn Tale, and the good marriage is all in her head – her boyfriend is married to someone else, but she starts fantasizing and telling everyone she’s getting married. As soon as that proves impossible, she meets André Dussolier at a wedding, and gets ahead of herself again, quitting her job, believing that she’ll marry him and not have to work anymore, even though he keeps ditching her for work reasons. Good ending on a train, leaving the future open.

Dave Kehr:

The second installment of Eric Rohmer’s “Comedies and Proverbs” is, like The Aviator’s Wife, a study in destructive imagination and the limitations of personal perspectives — which is to say that the characters talk as much as they did in the “Six Moral Tales,” but no one really hears what they’re saying.

Romand got an award at Venice, where Wenders and Zanussi also took prizes. Her blonde painter friend is Arielle Dombasle, last seen as the “American” in Time Regained.

Still stuck in 2021-catchup until we get to the next Chaplin. This was a mid-1980’s ensemble movie where every one of the 20 lead characters is “the crazy one.” It’s like Vampire’s Kiss if Nicolas Cage played all the parts. For a while I was over the moon, but an hour in I hit my fill of wackiness.

After a successful bank robbery, the four thieves led by Tchéky Karo (Full Moon in Paris) meet a new friend on the train, latch onto Sophie Marceau (of a Pialat the same year), then declare war on the four Venin brothers who wronged her. Leon from the train (Francis Huster, star of Demy’s Parking the same year) takes over as the lead, falling for Karo’s girl Marceau, his eyes glowing yellow when he gets overeager. I lost track of everyone else, all of whom end up dead anyway, but a guy from Amer was in there, a guy from Malle’s The Lovers, a character named Andrzej Zulawski – and a flamethrower. Inspired by The Idiot, but certainly doesn’t follow that novel’s storyline… still, with the Bresson, I made an accidental Dostoevsky double-feature.

The last in Oliveira’s Tetralogy of Frustrated Love is the third I’ve seen (Benilde, you’re next). Either this is the most eccentric of the bunch, or I’ve just forgotten how eccentric Past and Present and Doomed Love were. Each scene is a single-take diorama, and whole dialogue exchanges are repeated from different camera setups. Memorably in a late scene, the camera is between the characters, so each one speaks directly to us. Rigidly composed, more subtly dreamlike than Ruiz. Very writerly dialogue, “We live torn to pieces, in search of our bodies scattered all over the earth.” Also my second movie of the weekend with operatic singing, Balzac mentions and an unbalanced, punitive love triangle.

Camilo (Castelo Branco, the Doomed Love writer!) and Jose Agusto are both after “Fanny” Francisca. She is Teresa Menezes of the Non, Camilo is Mário Barroso with the thickest mustache (better known as a cinematographer, he’d shoot four of Oliveira’s 90’s films) and Jose Agusto is Diogo Dória with a droopy mustache (his first for MdO, he’d become a regular). Jose is with Fanny’s sister Maria, but he steals Fanny from his “friend,” eloping with her in the night (she falls off her horse immediately), then spends no time with her, leaving her alone in their new house. When Fanny dies, Jose thinks he’s to blame, becomes morose and obsessive, orders an autopsy and keeps her heart in a jar. Jose dies under suspicious circumstances soon after. Camilo was in his late twenties at this point – it’s set during the year he wrote Mysteries of Lisbon.

Doomed Lovers:

Dave Kehr:

In 19th-century Portugal, a rising young novelist falls in love with the daughter of an English army officer, provoking the obscure envy of an aristocratic friend, who resolves to marry the girl himself and make her suffer for her betrayal. The baroque plot is presented in a series of single-take tableaux, which do not attempt to embody the drama as much as allude to it, leaving the dense and passionate feelings to take shape entirely in the spectator’s mind. Oliveira limits himself to showing only what can truly be shown: not the story but a representation of the story, not the emotions but their material manifestations as they have crossed the decades.

Carson Lund in Slant:

Filming in immaculately dressed and lit rooms and separating his single-take sequences with matter-of-fact title cards that address, often with subtle wit, the actions about to take place, de Oliveira presents Francisca’s narrative progression as something of a foregone conclusion. The experience of watching the film feels akin to surveying a series of museum paintings and periodically pausing to digest the museum label beneath them; at times, de Oliveira will even play a scene twice, back-to-back, from two different angles, reinforcing the stuck-in-time nature of the storytelling. In the place of narrative transformation and suspense is a deadpan air of judgment that recalls the amused omniscience of Stanley Kubrick’s depiction of Enlightenment-era narcissism, Barry Lyndon, which charts another roguish gentleman trying to rise above his station via a marital engagement.

Glenn Heath Jr. called it “one of the greatest films about wasted time.”

Treated myself to a new Gena Rowlands movie and… well, I didn’t hate it, but I have no desire to watch the Sharon Stone version. It relies on big acting moments, but instead of Peter Falk we’ve got this ten-year-old kid. I warmed up to the second half, but until then, practically every moment felt phony. Still, it’s Gena as a tough broad capering through 1980 NYC, and that’s a lot.

“I hate kids, especially yours.” Gena inherits the neighbor kid when his family is murdered by gangsters. She happens to know the people responsible, and tries to keep both of them safe long enough to broker a peace agreement, but the baddies insist the entire family must be killed to set an example, and Gena too, since she interfered, so she shoots her way outta there. My people online all liked this, but if I can’t get into a Cassavetes/Rowlands take on the ol’ mismatched adult-child caper movie then I should definitely avoid C’mon C’mon.

Buck Henry, I just saw him in To Die For, which I also complained about:

“You know what this is, Mike?”
“I think it’s a pen.”
“It’s an opportunity!”

Besides inventing Wolf of Wall Street, this movie has good cartoony Hudsucker cinematography and plays an impressive balancing act. Michael’s parents Randy Quaid and Mary Beth Hurt are aggressively ordinary, but he’s suspicious of all their behavior and conversations and the food they prepare. They might be murderous cannibals or Michael might be at an age where he’s becoming more interested and confused by the adult world, and 15 minutes before the end we find out it’s both.

Happy family at dinner:

Michael through the looking glass:

Dad works at Toxico making chemicals to destroy plants. Michael gets caught in the freezer with the neighbor girl. The school psychologist (Sandy Dennis of 976-EVIL) takes an interest, comes over to help and becomes dinner. Balaban isn’t content with simple setups, keeps adding inventive visuals (there’s an insane shot traveling though the vents when Sandy’s in the basement). The kid is my age, and never appeared in another movie. Felipe writes “As a send off of Reagan era 50s fetishism this isn’t quite as good as The Stepfather,” I’ll have to watch that one next year.

Dennis discusses adult behavior:

Michael haunted by sausages:

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987, Chuck Russell)

Kicking off the second Elm Street double-feature, and Videodrome was right, this is the great sequel, a big blockbustery movie, more inventive than it is jokey. Classy intro music until Kristen (Patricia Arquette’s debut) plays a cock-rock song on her boombox. Freddy slashes her wrists to send her to the psych ward where Nancy now works helping people with dream issues. We meet a new group of weirdos and misfits, who will be killed off one by one, their personality quirks weaponized against them.

Kristen’s thing is that she can pull others into her dreams (good sfx on this), which is how Freddy plans to get new victims, something like that. Is there any reason Nancy’s house should be so important in the hauntings, besides visual reference for the viewer? We get some new backstory, as we must, meeting Freddy’s nun mom’s ghost (Nan Martin: a nun named nan) who reports FK was “the bastard son of a hundred maniacs.” They need to find FK’s bones and bury them in hallowed ground, but the kids don’t know where that is – maybe Heather’s drunk, washed-up dad John Saxon can help, before getting killed by a cool skeleton.

Arquette’s fellow survivors will be mute Joey (Rodney Eastman of I Spit On Your Grave Remake) and combative Kincaid (Atlanta’s own Ken Sagoes of the What’s Happening reboot). Memorable deaths include sleepwalker Bradley Gregg (of some major 80’s movies and also Class of 1999) featuring good stop-motion puppetry, and TV-loving Penelope Sudrow (the Jon Cryer ep of Amazing Stories). We also got punker Jennifer Rubin (Screamers) and wheelchair nerd Ira Heiden (Elvira: Mistress of the Dark) and a slumming Laurence Fishburne as a doctor.

I was getting Hellraiser II vibes from some of this – Arquette can’t help looking like Imogen Boorman, but the mute kid screaming and shattering mirrors, and Freddy pretending to be Nancy’s dad then stabbing the shit out of her all added to the feeling. Nancy gets another doctor (Body Double star Craig Wasson) to believe her crackpot stories about dream murders, the kids imagine themselves as the titular warriors, the bones are buried, and Chuck would go on to direct the pretty good Blob remake.


A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988, Renny Harlin)

They were “the last” of the Elm Street kids in part 3, so what’s left for this movie, which opens with a shitty pop song, and stars nobody? Part three felt like a real movie, now suddenly all the dialogue feels made-for-cable. Wikipedia says the writer’s strike was to blame for this. Parts 2 and 3 were like alternative sequels, different ways to follow up the original, but this one just feels like a part four, so I’m holding off on the next Nightmare movies before they get too depressing.

Should’ve watched Hairspray instead:

It’s a little funny that the dog who digs up Freddy’s bones (which reanimate using Frank’s Hellraiser re-fleshing effect) is named Jason. Different Actress Kristen is now Tuesday Knight, singer of the opening theme and star of Sex Demon Metropolis: Vampire Madonna and AI-generated werewolf film The Amityville Moon, but we’ve still got the real Kincaid and Joey, for a few minutes at least, before they succumb to junkyard and waterbed.

New Kristen is out of the psych ward and in regular school, starts losing classmates left and right. First goes asthma nerd Sheila, then Kung Fu Rick (of the same year’s Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama – it’s a shame John Saxon didn’t live to meet Rick) and Weightlifter Debbie, who gets Gregor Samsa’d. At some point Kristen herself gets burned alive, and the various powers of all these kids are absorbed by classmate Alice (Lisa Wilcox of Watchers 4) who chases after Freddy with her useless boyfriend Dan. Calling back to the childlike magic of the original movie’s ending, Alice shows FK his own reflection, and his imprisoned souls tear him apart. The movie’s one cool addition is sticking the kids in a time loop, a very dreamlike scenario. Harlin had a big moment in the 90’s, but I haven’t heard of any of the ten films he’s directed since he botched that Exorcist prequel.

“Destruction is all I need.” Tetsuo II was the right movie to watch after Videodrome, another analog video fetish film where flesh becomes guns.

Thugs keep tormenting a family, stealing their young son. They shoot the dad in the chest with some gadget while kidnapping the kid in a record store, then later, dad’s arm turns into a weapon and he blows the kid to bits.

The kidnappers return to a subterranean fight club factory of machinery-weightlifting space monkeys, where Goth Lord Shinya considers the transmogrifying gadget a success and orders everyone to be injected, to build an army. But the dad wasn’t transmogrified, it turns out he ironmanned himself out of pure rage, and he has a history of doing this. Same cast as the previous two movies, and practically a remake… it gets too plotty (Goth Shinya is IronDad’s brother), but if the alarming monochrome cyberpunk vision of part one isn’t fresh in your mind, it’ll do.


The Adventures of Electric Rod Boy / The Great Analog World (1987)

A half-feature made between Phantom of Regular Size and the first Tetsuo. Sure it’s yet another human-machine-merge movie (and watched the same week as Videodrome and Titane, wow) but this adds new twists to the Early Tsukamoto playbook: a vampire gang having covered the skies with a nuclear cloud so they can roam outside without fear of sunlight.

Boy with an electricity pole growing out of his back seems to be a gag, so he’ll conk his tormentors when he bows apologetically. The movie opens with silent-film silliness, and contains some extreme stop-motion, both in creeping metal cables winding over people and in the hoverboards the vamps ride down the city streets. Our guy travels into the future, meets Woman In Glasses (I’ve now seen Nobu Kanaoka’s complete filmed works) and an older electricity-pole guy who claims only they can save the world. Indeed, the Rod Boy apologizes so hard after his professor friend is killed, he takes out the robot vampire powering the global destruction machine.

Watching this for the first time in many years, right after Unfriended 2, a double feature of movies about perverted signals. Unfriended is purely digital, while this is the most analog movie ever made, just incredible. Multiple characters have already died but live on as a video signal. Pre-Hellraiser S&M horror and tech-flesh fusions. An optician named Barry Convex, everything here is great. The VR headset and the unwitting assassin plot tie this pretty closely to eXistenZ.

My first-ever Sammo Hung movie. This did have skeletons, a ghost pulling somebody into a mirror, a hopping vampire, an Evil Dead hand rebelling against its body, and a battle between magicians, but it’s really not a horror movie. Rather a comedy action flick: a likeable loser called Big Guts is getting cucked by his wife and set up by his boss, but keeps managing to survive. I can see the Sammo influence on Jackie Chan, using all the props in the room and looking panicked while doing cool moves. Magician Lau (Tai Bo) disapproves of his master’s murderous work-for-hire, kwaidans and protects Sammo, then defeats evil magician Peter Chan Lung. Internet says both magicians were in Enter the Dragon, all my early kung fu movie interests starting to come together. I think one of the Jackie/Sammo collabs like Project A or Dragons Forever should be next. This movie has convinced me that Sammo is cool, but it loses points for bird killing.

I thought it was the Plazadrome screening of part 3 that got me on a Nightmare on Elm Street kick this month, but no, it was probably this: