Opens with a psychokinetic woman reading Bluebeard, then a guy kills someone with a pipe to happy upbeat music. I haven’t seen this since it came out, and didn’t remember most of it, except that the whole movie takes place in shabby, leaky buildings.

Takabe (the great Kôji Yakusho – he’ll always be “Ship Captain in Pulse” to me) investigates the pipe murder and finds the killer immediately. Then a guy kills his wife, a cop shoots his partner, each admits their crime and says it felt like the right thing to do at the time, and they’d all been in contact with a wandering amnesiac (Masato Hagiwara: Café Lumière, Chaos), a psychology dropout who got deep into hypnotism and occult psychotherapy. “All the things that used to be inside me… now they’re all outside.”

Peter Labuza on letterboxd:

While the film is told in long takes, these takes are given a mundane design. The initial scene at the beach is one of the most frightening moments in the film without anything in the frame to suggest that this moment is frightening. Characters are relaxedly placed in the frame, not tightly ordered, and the way that the antagonist controls his doomed subjects is through commonplace lighters and glasses of water. Kurosawa emphasizes their importance the first time in the frame, but then allows them to stand as far back in the frame as possible otherwise, letting our own paranoid spectatorship create the fear than letting the camera do it. Cure‘s mise-en-scene does everything possible to tell you “this is not a horror movie,” in the same way that the hypnotized have no understanding of the atrocities they are forced to commit.

Rewatched for the first time since theaters (?) in prep for M:I:6:Fallout, and it was much fun. I remembered Emilio Estevez’s elevator death, but not that it happens in the opening sequence and that he dies along with the entire team of Kristin Scott Thomas, Emmanuelle Béart (not really dead) and her husband and team leader Jon Voight (also not dead, and the secret double-agent mole who planned the whole thing to frame Tom Cruise and make off with the secret documents or whatever). On the side of evil Voight are Jean Reno, who dies in the preposterous helicopter-in-the-train-tunnel finale, and Vanessa Redgrave, who is just quietly arrested. I was impressed by the rubber-masks game, recalling the advanced digital trickery in M:I:4:Ghost:Protocol, and then happily, part six featured just as many rubber masks.

Dramatic camera angles, first-person shots and entire subjective scenes which play differently in flashback, because it’s still De Palma.

Team 1: Estevez (his last appearance in a theatrical film that he didn’t direct), Cruise (same year as Jerry Maguire), Béart (right between her two major Rivette films), and Burnt by the Sun star Ingeborga Dapkunaite:

Cruise and K.S.T., lurking:

“Your life was hard at times, but hard is not always bad.”

Dark and bleary, twisted and smeary, gives the sense of walking through paintings without the greenscreen feel of The Mill and the Cross.

The Son is home to visit his dying Mother. She can’t go for a walk, so he carries her. They decide that mom should live, then she promptly dies. He goes out and cries next to a shadowy tree, while a song plays beneath the breeze. A relentlessly slow movie that dares you to stay awake – certainly innovative and artistic, but maybe I’m not as excited as everyone who ranked it as a great film of the 1990’s. Probably watching it in a cinema would help, instead of DVD, which was the best I could find.

Nick Cave “wept and wept, from start to finish”:

The son leaves the house and moves into the exquisite landscape that surrounds it. It is in these long, lingering, nearly motionless scenes that the film rises to heights of the most breathtaking beauty. Sokurov’s landscapes are not burdened by any desire for realism. His scenes are transformed into cinematic canvases, far closer to painting than to film, awash with artificial, opalescent light. These dream-born vistas recall the work of the German Romantic painters of the early 19th century: in particular those of Caspar David Friedrich, in which everything is softened by a milky lustre. The vastness and mystery of this heightened nature creates a spirituality not dependent on any formula of traditional Christianity. And the care Sokurov applies to these fastidiously crafted scenes echoes the care with which his characters treat each other – the devotion to detail, the unhurried tenderness, the love.

Adam Cook on Letterboxd:

The son takes over the motherly duties. He carries her like a newborn child and shows her the world which has become new and foreign to her as her memory begins to fade. It is a very touching and tender portrait of their relationship but nothing is explained and no backstory is forthcoming. The son had clearly done something that shamed him in his past but what this act was is never revealed.

This was made right between Whispering Pages and Russian Ark, both of which I kinda loved, though I gotta admit Sokurov is usually a tough watch (the recent Francofonia was surprisingly/relatively easygoing). Played Berlin in the international showcase “Panorama” section (along with Chasing Amy – that’d be a jarring double-feature).

Based on the style of newspaper comics, the animation has unfinished backgrounds that fade away on the edges, reminding me (in a good way) of Ernest & Celestine. Married couple, older schoolboy, younger daughter and gramma appear in disconnected sketches, stories and fantasies. The most dramatic thing that happens is the daughter gets left behind at the mall and while the family is stuck in traffic trying to retrieve her, she’s taken home by a friendly neighbor – it’s very lightweight drama with an overall big-hearted feeling (the polar opposite of the previous film I’d watched).

The first animated work to make me consider trying animation because it looks like fun, even though I know plenty of animators so I should know better.

Me IRL:

Maybe it felt more emotional because we watched it in memory of the great Isao Takahata, who increasingly looks like Ghibli’s secret weapon, a patient genius who never made the same kind of great film twice.

Shot in 1990 by Ruiz and completed after his death by Sarmiento. It’s political satire sketch-comedy… short films roughly stitched together – self-consciously artificial soap-opera episodes which sometimes comment on the nature of their own unreality (and/or other soap operas). Long takes with some purposeful camera moves. I enjoy the crazy directions the movie took without following most of the Chilean political references. Unlike the Oliveira, I wonder if this one’s message suffered from being released two decades late – you’d have to ask a Chilean. I also get the feeling from the subtitles that the characters’ impenetrable conversations are full of puns or language jokes. Ruiz mentions pirates, of course, brings up veils a bunch of times, shoots the actors and character-actors and actor-characters and apparitions, zombies and TV sets with his usual wild variety of camera setups and bizarre lighting.

If you don’t count the live version of Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun?, this is the first 2017 Locarno competition film I’ve seen. Not gonna try to parse all the actors, many of whom played multiple roles, but they include the dead guy in A Fantastic Woman, someone from Tres Tristes Tigres, and at least one actual soap star.

Day 1: a woman is cheating on her older husband Humberto with his brother Antonio, is always concerned that “people” are watching them, but seems barely concerned when the husband walks in.

Day 3: two dudes pretending to drive a car get shot, the assassins arrive to drop off their proclamation and they get shot, their killers show up with a new proclamation, get shot, etc.

Day 4: “For those who’ve just arrived, nothing happens in this soap opera. All we do is watch other soap operas and comment on them.”

Day 5: A stranger getting help with his car reveals that his name starts with an H, gets invited to the “Those with an H” bar, where they discuss… soap operas.

We followed up Bisbee with another great one, the story of an indie film shot in Singapore in Summer 1992 that disappeared without a trace, taking a few friendships along with it. Creative punk kids Sandi and Jasmine and their friend Sophie got the support of a French New Wave enthusiast professor/mentor named George, spent the whole summer shooting their would-be classic, then George vanished with the film, which only resurfaced after his death twenty years later, the sound reels having been lost or destroyed along the way. So Sandi uses scenes from the original Shirkers (with added sound effects) to illustrate her story, reassessing the original drive to make this film, what they accomplished, and the aftermath. Sophie is now chair of a film department, Jasmine still holds a huge grudge, and Sandi claims in the Q&A that she doesn’t blame George, which sounds crazy after he ruined their young dreams. There’s some owning up to past misdeeds and betrayals, some exploration of George’s life and his other creative partners (he stole their work, too) but Sandi still respects the guy, and she’s the one in charge of the Shirkers saga now, so perhaps this movie lets him off easy. This was a blast to see from the balcony of a sold-out theater, but we might have been its final proper audience, since it’s been bought by netflix.

Tim Grierson in Paste:

In Shirkers, novelist Sandi Tan accomplishes that trickiest of endeavors, making a documentary about herself that isn’t cloying or cringe-worthy. Quite the contrary, her movie is refreshingly candid and self-critical: She may be the star of the show, but she has a story to tell and the right perspective to frame it properly … the documentary ends up being less about tracking down the film canisters than being an exploration of nostalgia, friendship and the allure of mentors. Tan is lively, self-effacing company throughout — her voice has just the right sardonic tinge — but her visits with Jasmine and Sophia are particularly lovely and illuminating, suggesting how lifelong pals can see us in ways that we cannot.

Chloe Sevigny (early-career, between Gummo and Boys Don’t Cry) works in publishing with her coworker/roommate/frenemy Kate Beckinsale, and they frequent the disco run by Chris Eigeman (Metropolitan). Kate dates ad-man Mackenzie Astin (star of The Garbage Pail Kids Movie a decade earlier), and Chloe dates Matt Keeslar (Waiting for Guffman, Rose Red), who turns out to be a district attorney investigating the club owners. Not being Stillman obsessives (yet) we didn’t recognize cameos by the Metropolitan and Barcelona casts.

M. ditched the movie halfway in, because she hated all the characters, but I thought hating the characters was part of the point (maybe not, since it’s based on Stillman’s own experiences) and greatly enjoyed. This came out a couple months before 54, less than a year after Boogie Nights, and I skipped it at the time, which was maybe smart since it’s more to my tastes now than in 1998.

Victor’s dad (Gary Farmer!) leaves, never comes back, dies a decade later. So sullen teenage Victor takes an interstate trip to see where he died, collect his ashes, meet dad’s girlfriend (Irene Bedard), that sort of thing. He is joined by an overenthusiastic nerdy neighbor Thomas, and they mostly ride by bus on the way down, and drive dad’s truck back.

References: Gary Farmer asks Victor who’s his favorite Indian, Victor repeatedly yells “Nobody“… and Thomas is said to be obsessed with Dances With Wolves, which featured Victor’s mom Tantoo Cardinal. A journey/road trip/family secrets drama that sometimes feels standard-issue, but has some standout technical moments (moving from the lead actors to their flashback-younger-selves without cutting, indicating that the past is always present) and an unusually strong ending, with Gary unforgiven and Victor dealing with a mess of emotions.

“Most likely Bonnie died while we were waiting in the living room.”

Narrated by the neighbor boys, still obsessed with the Lisbon girls who committed suicide 25 years earlier. I finally watched this because Coppola has a new movie in Cannes this week… I’d skipped it when it came out, because I was busy watching boy movies like Fight Club and Sleepy Hollow and Wild Wild West and 8mm. Heard it was good, meant to catch up with it, just another movie on the must-see list, never realizing it’s a stone-cold masterpiece, and now I want to watch it 100 more times.

And so we started to learn about their lives. Coming to hold collective memories of times we hadn’t experienced, we felt the imprisonment of being a girl – the way it made your mind active and dreamy, and how you ended up knowing what colors went together. We knew that the girls were really women in disguise, that they understood love and even death, and that our job was merely to create the noise that seemed to fascinate them. We knew that they knew everything about us, and that we couldn’t fathom them at all.

The Lisbon Girls: youngest Cecilia (the first to attempt suicide, and later, the first to succeed) is Hanna Hall (young Robin Wright in Forrest Gump, Michael Myers’s older sister in the bad Halloween). Lux gets the most screen time, because she is Kirsten Dunst. Older Bonnie is Chelse Swain (The Mangler 2), then Mary is AJ Cook (Final Destination 2, Wishmaster 3), and oldest Therese (Leslie Hayman). Their parents Kathleen Turner and James Woods seem protective, but not unreasonably strict, at least not until they pull all the girls out of school and order them to destroy their rock LPs after Lux stays out all night with prom date Josh Hartnett… things go downhill quickly after that.

The girls:

The parents:

Coppola does her Marie Antoinette thing, with perfect period costume design, gorgeous grainy photography, lively performances and good music, whether period-appropriate or not (Sloan songs, Air score). What I never would’ve guessed is that this movie is partly a comedy, and frequently hysterical. Doesn’t appear to have been taken very seriously at the time, only winning awards from MTV and a Casting Society, but it made the Cahiers top ten, at least.

The boys play them music over the phone:

Manilazic on letterboxd:

The boys keep on looking for clues as to what pushed Cecilia to suicide, but end up collecting objects belonging to the girls that only aggrandize their mythology: their answer is right under their noses, but their blossoming teenage male minds can’t see it. Even though the girls themselves attempt to communicate with their worshipers several times, they are always met with nothing but a blind fascination. Too mystified by the women in those girls and by the changes they see in all things as they grow up, the boys can’t connect with the Lisbon girls as human beings and see that they need help.