“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.

“Full Moon Pictures presents”

Oh God, it’s happening. I delayed for seven years, watching the occasional Dollman or Demonic Toys movie, but there are still Puppet Master sequels to watch, and eventually I must watch them.

“A Charles Band Production”

Don’t be too impressed – IMDB says Band produced 30 movies that year.

“A Joseph Tennent Film”

Since his previous Puppet Master sequel only a year earlier, director David DeCoteau had made about seven movies under various aliases.

Retro Puppetmaster

It’s so retro that Puppetmaster is one word again – a throwback to the first movie, or a misspelling due to overall franchise confusion and underpaid titles writers?

Flashbacking from 1944 to “long ago” Cairo, a sorcerer is stealing the secrets of the gods, and everyone in this temple is repeating their lines of dialogue in order to pad the scene.

Vincent Price-ish sorcerer holding scroll of forbidden secrets:

To Paris 1902, and enter flamboyant Ilsa, who is acting her heart out, and uptight Marguerite, who seems to be appearing in this movie at gunpoint and reading her lines phonetically. “Don’t go into any opium dens,” Ilsa is advised as she heads for a puppet show. She meets Young Toulon (now played by Greg Sestero, soon to become infamous in The Room) backstage when sewer-dwelling Dark City fellows hire hit men to take out a hobo after the show.

Sestero is not strangling this hobo, he’s checking for signs of life:

The prop and costume budget on this movie seems higher than the talent budget. “I understand. You’re a 3000-year-old sorcerer from Egypt and you want to teach me the secret of life.” Afzel (Jack Donner, DiCaprio’s dad in J. Edgar) shows Young Toulon how to resurrect the soul of his dead hobo friend into a mute wooden puppet with oversized arms, telling him this is the most precious power in the history of the world, which I dunno. The new wooden puppets are cool: I call them Skeletal Surgeon, Primitive Screwhead, Sergeant Cyclops and Hobo Hulk.

“It is time to act,” say the Dark City Goons, and not a moment too soon… oh, but that’s not what they meant. While Toulon is off being arrested and beaten by Ilsa’s ambassador father’s soldiers, the DCGs head to the theater and psychically murder all the puppeteers by blurring the film over their faces. Cornered, Afzel proactively blurs himself to death.

Blur-attack:

Self-blur suicide:

After all this plot and dreadful dialogue delivery, Toulon only has 30 minutes left in the movie to transfer the souls of his dead friends into the wood puppets and direct them to murder the DCGs. “We shall be avengers.” It’s actually not bad as far as origin stories go.

They set out to search the country for the Dark City Goons, but they’re standing right in the other room, so we get our first showdown straight away: the DCGs’ film-blurring powers vs. a bunch of stabby, strangley little puppets. The DCGs are dispatched by a falling chandelier, then the voice of Sutek shouts “live again,” and two of them do, with newly green-glowing hands. The remaining DCGs (their leader, the appropriately-named Stephen Blackehart, was later in Super and both Guardians of the Galaxy) decide to get to Toulon by kidnapping his girl.

Lovely Ilsa: Brigitta Dau, a voice on My Little Pony in its least-popular era:

Blackehart, probably:

Second showdown, on a train this time, where everyone talks real slow to allow the puppets time to get into position. It’s all kinda underlit and non-dramatic, so DeCoteau tries tilting the camera around to build some energy. The puppets team up on one guy and Toulon punches the other out the window. As with the rest of the Puppet Master movies, it feels like they’re desperately stretching out scenes to make a contractually-obligated runtime.

In 1944 postscript, properly aged Toulon (series fave Guy Rolfe) builds anticipation for another movie by telling his puppets that he’ll tell them what happened to the original puppets “at another time” – but it would be four long years before the clip-show Puppet Master: The Legacy, a cheap and shitty move even by this series’s standards, then came the Demonic Toys faceoff, and in the 2010s a new nazi-themed trilogy began, so I guess we’ll never know.

Rewatching this series for obvious reasons, after recently reviewing the prequel film. I remember season two becoming tedious, so I’m only watching the late episodes directed by Lynch and/or written by Frost, which will leave some major plot holes I can cover with synopses from wikipedia or wherever. So many characters to keep track of, and so many actors I haven’t seen since the show ended in 1991, and some I have.

Agent Dale Cooper – loves Tibet, doughnuts, clean air and good coffee. I’ve seen Kyle MacLachlan in Northfork, Portlandia, and that version of Kafka’s The Trial which I don’t remember at all but IMDB says I gave it a 7/10.

Lucy is the police receptionist who has feelings for Andy. Kimmy Robertson did voices in some Disney movies and The Tick.

Deputy Andy is dumb as hell. Harry Goaz worked with director David Lowery before his Ain’t Them Bodies Saints breakout.

Sheriff Harry Truman is a good lawman, secretly (everything in the show is “secretly”) dating Josie Packard. Michael Ontkean costarred in a Disney movie with four monkeys and Wilford Brimley, and was apparently in The Descendants.

Deputy Hawk is a good, quiet cop. Michael Horse was in Passenger 57 and a movie directed by John Travolta’s older brother.

Agent Albert Rosenfield works with Cooper, expresses contempt for the locals. Miguel Ferrer died the week I started season two, also starred in On The Air.

James Hurley is sweet but so dumb, per an audiotape of Laura’s. He runs around with Donna playing detective. James Marshall was one of the murderous privates on trial in A Few Good Men.

Maddy is Laura’s identical twin cousin, who appears in the show immediately after the show-within-the-show (soap opera Invitation to Love) introduces its own identical-twin plot. Sheryl Lee played twins again in the great Mother Night, also costarred in the unfortunate John Carpenter’s Vampires.

Donna Hayward is Laura’s innocent friend who ends up with James after Laura’s death. Lara Flynn Boyle was Ally Sheedy’s predecessor in Happiness, also starred in Threesome and the show The Practice.

Leland Palmer, Laura’s dad and killer and the town lawyer… is complicated. Ray Wise is incredible and prolific but I’ve seen him in too few things (Good Night and Good Luck, Bob Roberts).

Sarah Palmer is Laura’s traumatized mom with freaky hair. Grace Zabriskie got to look freaky again in Inland Empire and My Son My Son What Have Ye Done, was a regular on Big Love.

Will Hayward is the town doctor who ends up discussing dead and comatose bodies with Agent Cooper. He’s Donna’s dad of course, with a wife in a wheelchair and at least one other daughter. Warren Frost, Mark’s dad, did some Matlock, died just last week.

Ben Horne runs the town’s hotel, department store, and a brothel called One Eyed Jack’s over the Canadian border, is always trying to do business deals with rowdy groups of foreigners who get frightened off by murderous town rumors. Richard Beymer was in Angelina Jolie movie Foxfire, earlier Bachelor Flat and West Side Story.

Jerry Horne is Ben’s excitable little brother who loves exotic food, business deals and the local brothel. David Patrick Kelly was the military guy who Lysistrata ties up in Chi-Raq, also in the John Wick movies and played the president in Flags of Our Fathers.

Dr. Jacoby was Laura’s wacky psychiatrist and had an unhealthy romantic interest in her. I don’t think we see any other locals going to his office except Bobby one time, so he’s got enough free time to chase ghosts. Russ Tamblyn, Ben Horne’s best friend in West Side Story, had roles in Drive, Django Unchained and Cabin Boy, and played a “Dr. Jacoby” on General Hospital.

Audrey Horne is Ben’s daughter who has to avoid a horrifying meeting with him at One Eyed Jack’s while she’s retracing Laura’s steps. Sherilyn Fenn starred in Boxing Helena, which I have yet to find a decent copy of.

Major Briggs doesn’t know how to deal with his wayward son Bobby, leaks mysterious military intel to Cooper. “The owls are not what they seem.” Don Davis was a regular on the Stargate TV series, which ran for more seasons that I realized.

Bobby Briggs is excitable boyfriend of Laura Palmer and Shelly, sullen son of Major Briggs, rival of James Hurley, drug dealer friend of Mike (“Mike and Bobby” mirroring the evil Black Lodge “Mike and Bob”) and associate of Leo and Jacques. Dana Ashbrook was in the L.A. Crash TV series and the latest Bill Plympton feature.

Leo Johnson is a drug dealer, spouse abuser and murderer, is in a coma at the start of s2. Eric DaRe appeared with good company (Brad Dourif, Angela Bassett) in Critters 4.

Big Ed Hurley, James’s dad, married to Nadine but thinking about leaving her for Norma. Runs a gas station. Everett McGill was the villain(?) in The People Under The Stairs and appeared in The Straight Story.

Nadine Hurley, James’s mom though we never see them interact, wears an eyepatch and is obsessed with creating silent drape runners. Later she gets amnesia and super strength and falls for Bobby’s friend Mike. Wendy Robie was in Corbin Bernsen horror The Dentist 2.

Shelly Johnson is Leo’s abused wife, working at the diner, dating Bobby and conspiring to frame her husband for Laura Palmer’s death. Lynch’s character, Cooper’s boss, is sweet on her in season two. Mädchen Amick has been on every TV show at least once, plus the terrible Stephen King movie Sleepwalkers.

Josie Packard runs the sawmill, has a suspicious past, and I think was supposed to be a bigger deal but got left behind by the writers. Joan Chen was a movie star from The Last Emperor but wouldn’t fare as well in Hollywood, appearing in garbage action flicks Wedlock, On Deadly Ground and Judge Dredd.

Peter Martell helps Josie run the mill, isn’t as dumb as he looks. Jack Nance’s final film was Lost Highway.

Catherine Martell is married to Pete, resents Josie for owning the mill, which used to belong to Catherine’s brother/Josie’s late husband Andrew, who of course turns out not to be dead. Piper Laurie played Carrie‘s crazy mom, later in The Crossing Guard and The Dead Girl.

Norma Jennings is dating Big Ed, runs the diner, unhappily married to Hank. Peggy Lipton is Rashida Jones’s mom, appeared in modern classic The Postman.

Hank Jennings is a criminal in cahoots with Leo and Jacques. He thinks he killed Josie’s husband, gets out of prison halfway through s1. Chris Mulkey acts in a ton of movies, recently Whiplash and Cloverfield.

Margaret has a log that sometimes sees things. Catherine Coulson starred in early Lynch short The Amputee, died before the reboot filmed but not before appearing as “Wood Woman” in a Psych episode.

Julee Cruise, house musician at the Roadhouse. I have her album The Voice of Love, produced by Lynch and Badalamenti.

The Giant appears to Cooper in dreams and visions, dropping cryptic clues. Carel Struycken played Lurch in the Addams Family movies and appeared in Men In Black.

The Waiter might be an alternate form of The Giant. Only Cooper can see the two of them. Hank Worden did nothing after Twin Peaks but plenty beforehand as a Westerns regular (marshall in Forty Guns, drunk in The Big Sky).

The Man From Another Place is maybe Bob’s boss or partner, speaks in reverse, is somehow connected to One-Armed Mike. Michael J. Anderson played a similarly mysterious fellow in a curtained room in Mulholland Dr., was a regular on Carvivàle.


Season two, Cooper recovers from a gunshot wound. I think Josie ended up being the shooter, but skipped enough episodes that I’m not sure why.

“You’d better bring Agent Cooper up to date.”
“Leo Johnson was shot. Jacques Renault was strangled. The mill burned. Shelley and Pete got smoke inhalation. Catherine and Josie are missing. Nadine is in a coma from taking sleeping pills.”

A bunch of new characters show up… I missed most of their intros, but got to see a few of them die. Sadly I missed cross-dressing David Duchovny completely, and I saw Billy Zane but don’t remember what his deal is.

Annie is Norma’s younger sister, starts dating Cooper then gets kidnapped by Earle. Coop’s searching for Annie when he ends up in the Black Lodge. I haven’t seen Heather Graham lately but it seems she was everywhere in the late 1990’s: Swingers, Austin Powers, Scream, etc., and most notably Boogie Nights.

Dick Tremayne was Lucy’s classy lover while on break from Andy. When she gets pregnant and isn’t sure which is the father, Dick and Andy get competitive. Ian Buchanan starred in On The Air and did a million soap opera episodes.

Windom Earle is Agent Cooper’s rival, who gets tangled up in the crimes and horrors before having his soul sucked out by Bob in the final episode. Kenneth Welsh, seen here about to murder Ted Raimi, seems to be tenth-billed in bunches of horror/action movies.

Andrew Packard returns from the “dead” in season two only to be blown up in the finale, along with poor Pete and probably Audrey who was chained to the vault door at the time. Dan O’Herlihy, Bunuel’s Robinson Crusoe, was also in The Dead, Fail-Safe, Imitation of Life and Odd Man Out.


I was surprised that nothing supernatural happens until the end of episode 3, four hours into the series. Really a top-notch melodrama with excellent casting, at least for a while. Here’s hoping the reboot is great.