First movie of my Rivette Fest, to get acquainted with his work before seeing Out 1 in March. But Sam just told me that his late movies, like this one, have little in common with the early batch. So maybe my efforts are misdirected, but whatever the case, I enjoyed this one.

Lab rat Sandrine Bonnaire (Rivette’s Joan of Arc, also starred in Vagabond, East/West, Intimate Strangers, and Chabrol’s The Ceremony) hears from her brother Paul (Grégoire Colin, young star of The Intruder and Dreamlife of Angels) that old family friend Walser (Jerzy Radziwilowicz: Rivette’s Julien, Godard’s director in Passion, star of Man of Iron and Man of Marble) may have killed their father.

it all starts with a photo:
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angry brother:
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Rounding out a star-studded cast is their mom Francoise Fabian (of 5×2, Belle de Jour, and the title role in My Night at Maud’s) and Walser’s girlfriend Laure Marsac (of nothing in particular).

Sandrine confronts Walser and accidentally kills the girlfriend. Later, the gf’s twin sister (also Laure Marsac) shows up. Everyone is sleeping with Walser except for the brother, who’s still all hopping mad. Eventually the twin sister accidentally kills Sandrine (both deaths were caused by someone jumping in front of Walser).

dig the mobile:
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dig the sexy girl:
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Movie is usually captivating, but every time Sandrine rides the train in the first half, it shows us the entire train ride. Goes beyond “setting the mood” and starts to get boring. Much improved in the second half (unlike most movies). A twisty little mystery movie… liked it.

a long train ride:
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final shot:
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I’ll probably remember the feeling of Satantango, the length of it, the way it moves and the way it looks, a lot longer than I’ll remember the plot and characters. So here:

The money from the harvest has come in. Mr. Schmidt is planning to run off with Mr. Kraner and their wives instead of splitting fairly eight ways. Futaki, sleeping with Mrs. Schmidt, finds out and wants in. The doctor watches all this from his room getting drunk on fruit brandy. But the news is that Irimias and Petrina, long thought dead, are approaching town.

At the bar, Mr. and Mrs. Halics frolic with the innkeeper and a talkative Kelemen (“Irimias hugged me and the waitresses jumped like grasshoppers and I was plodding and plodding and plodding”) while the Doctor fails to make the long walk in the cold rain to get more brandy, the town prostitutes have no customers, and a young neglected girl kills her cat then herself.

Irimias shows up at the funeral and rebukes everyone, tells them he will help them start a new life with meaning and honor if they give up all their cash. They abandon the town and head for a crumbling manor, but Irimias shows up soon and says the time is not yet right, that they must scatter and live quietly until attitudes shift enough that they can begin this new life. Irimias fiddles around trying to get lots of gunpowder, finally submits some kind of report to the police captain informing on the former townsfolk, whom he clearly detests. The doctor, alone at home after a hospital visit, boards up his windows.

Simply amazing to sit in a dark theater for eight hours, surrounded by this movie. Time expands and contracts, bends and warps, loops back upon itself. The black-and-white cinematography, the scattered diehard audience, the closeness to the screen, the jitters and scratches and cuts in the film, the swing between almost inaudible dialogue and ear-splitting bell-ringing, the middle-of-the-night drive home from Nashville… the most perfectly realized cinema experience I’ve had for years. A true cinephile/cult film. Seeing it at home on video over the course of a few nights was to study the movie, to follows the story and see what the movie might look and sound like… it was a preview. Seeing it in Nashville is to be part of something, to feel like there’s a point to cinema besides my own living-room amusement. The movie gives hope, if not to the dismal and defeated small-town Hungarian people, then at least to me.

Katy picked this out. I liked it, maybe better than either of Luhrmann’s other movies, but still wish we’d watched Henry & June instead.

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Scott wants to dance his own wild made-up steps at the ballroom dance competition but everyone tells him he’s being selfish and stupid and will ruin everything. His own partner goes off with the fancypants guy, and then the fancy guy is dancing with the superstar super girl. Now Scott needs to audition a partner and quick. In comes Fran, dance student at Scott’s parents’ studio who wants to dance Scott’s steps at the competition, and has a few of her own to contribute. A happy ending is had by all. Even though most of the movie looks like it was filmed in a gymnasium, it still manages to look great the whole time. The dancing not so impressive, even the big finale, but at least it’s well presented.

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“Dick Laurent is dead” bookends the film, spoken and heard by Bill Pullman.

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Pullman becomes Balthazar Getty for a while, long enough to get involved in a shady robbery of a rich guy leading to the rich guy’s accidental death. Not sure if the Mystery Man really exists or if Bill or Balthazar even exist, but one or all of them kill Dick “Mr. Eddy” Laurent.

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Below: Robert “Dick Laurent / Mr. Eddy” Loggia with Patricia “Renee/Alice” Arquette. This movie and Spider are sort of the opposite of That Obscure Object of Desire when it comes to casting the female lead. Then again, this movie is sort of the opposite of itself. And its own companion movie. Argh.

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Below you can just see Gary Busey running out of his house to see something that is never properly explained to us. Nothing is really explained. It’s a seductive movie though, more so than Mulholland Drive because the tone stays the same, always slow and dark and headachey, always barrelling down the highway towards an unknown fate with no hands on the wheel. Mulholland gives the appearance of control before yanking it away again, but Lost Highway stays lost the whole way through. I’m starting to prefer it overall. Or maybe I just never got to properly compare them because by the time Mulholland was easily viewable in theaters and on video, Lost Highway had been out of reach for years. Nice new DVD changes things.

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Small final role for Jack Nance (overplaying it) and small final role for Richard Pryor, as coworkers in Balthazar’s garage. Might turn out to be Robert Blake’s final role too, unless he has a post-murder-aquittal career comeback. He overplays his part to utter perfection. Marilyn Manson overplays his tiny part too. Pay more attention to Patricia Arquette next time you watch this instead of trying to figure out the whole wife-murder identity-crisis videotape-surveilance detective story.

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Below: Bill plummets down the Highway, possibly finally aware of who he is and what he’s done. He’s transforming again, but now that Balthazar is also a murderer, that might not help. Similar ending to Mulholland Drive, I guess… wake up, reality closing in (or giving chase). Wicked David Bowie song.

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Katy might have actually liked it. Except for the part where the guy gets his head split open.

Leo (Marisa Paredes, Huma in All About My Mother) is a 50-ish woman with major marital problems. Her husband Paco (Imanol Arias) is always off on distant NATO missions and when he does return one time, it’s just for an hour to shower, fight with Leo, and announce that he’s leaving her for good. He’s also having an affair with Leo’s best friend, psychologist Betty (Carmen Elias). Leo’s mother fights constantly with Leo’s sister Rosa (Rossy de Palma, the one with the nose). What’s more, Leo is secretly the hugely popular romance novelist Amanda Gris, and after interviewing for a newspaper column, the editor Angel (Juan Echanove) finds out. Fortunately, he and Leo are perfect for each other, and he even ghost-ghost-writes a couple Amanda Gris novels while Leo’s getting back on her feet by taking care of her mother in their old village. Oh also Leo’s maid Blanca stages a great flamenco show funded by a script that her son Antonio stole from Leo’s trashcan. Very much an adult movie, with the usual motherhood themes and suicide attempts. Not as wild and fun as the others… pretty grounded, for Almodovar.

Opens the same way as All About My Mother, with Betty taping a play-acted discussion at the hospital regarding organ donation after a patient has died. Nobody dies in this one, though.

Manuela (completely excellent Cecilia Roth) takes her son Esteban (Eloy Azarin) to see A Streetcar Named Desire, starring Huma Rojo (Marisa Paredes) as Blanche, and Nina (Candela Pena) as Stella. Esteban wants Huma’s autograph, chases her taxi in the rain, and is fatally struck by another car. Manuela travels from Madrid to Barcelona to tell Esteban’s father Lola (Toni Canto), a transsexual, that his son has died, and that he had a son in the first place.

In Barcelona she hooks up with Lola’s friend Agrado (Antonia San Juan), who got ripped off by Lola a few months prior. Agrado leads her to the nun Sister Maria Rosa Sanz (Penelope Cruz) to find Lola, not knowing that Sister Maria is pregnant with Lola’s son, a fact she tries to hide from her parents. The “Streetcar” theater company has also moved to Barcelona and Manuela tracks them down, sorta accidentally becoming Huma’s personal assitant (a job later handed over to Agrado), which mostly consists of tracking down Nina after she disappears to find/take drugs.

Sister Maria dies in childbirth, naming her son Esteban. Manuela becomes Esteban’s mother, because Maria’s mom has her hands full watching Maria’s alzheimers-suffering dad.

Awesome, with moving performances throughout… sad and happy and wonderful. Technically strong, well edited and written, but the entire focus is on the performances, the actresses. Worth seeing again and again. Beat a buncha movies I’ve never heard of for best foreign oscar in 2000. Apparently it was loosely based on The Human Voice by Jean Cocteau.

Both Almodovar movies seen today feature incredible coincidences happening while women search for the fathers of their children. Both take place in large cities (Madrid and Barcelona) but treat the cities like familiar towns, where you can always run into someone you know.

Almodovar’s closing dedication: “To all actresses who have played actresses. To all women who act. To men who act and become women. To all the people who want to be mothers. To my mother.”

More likeable than I’d expected. Don’t know why I thought it’d be a boring movie. Maybe just soured on the whole “western” thing after seeing The Wild Bunch and not liking it.

Anyway. Matthew “Willis” McConaughey is an alright thief with his explosives-expert partner, but could use a few more dependable men, so calls in his brothers Skeet “Joe” Ulrich, Ethan “Jess” Hawke, and eventually Vincent “Dock” D’Onofrio. They rob a whole ton of banks successfully, and finally pull off the biggest railroad heist in history, getting away with some millions of dollars and five bullets in Dock, who I couldn’t believe survived it. Eventually all get caught after the railroad job and get off with light sentences and live to a ripe old age.

Newton Boys

Completely fun, convincing movie that just gets better as it goes on. Great court scene, great ending and credits, lovely antiheroes, everything that Ocean’s Twelve wanted to be – a crime movie where the criminals are having such a good time that the audience gets caught up in in too. Don’t know why it’s got such a bad rap on the IMDB (5.7). I’d see it again.

Newton Boys

Not as Altmanesque as I’d first considered… just a lot of easily distinguishable characters in an ensemble piece. Should be easy, but hardly anyone can pull it off.

Dazed and Confused

I was barely two when the seventies ended. Avoided this movie for so long because I thought it was meant only for stoners and/or seventies kids wanting to relive their stoner and/or seventies days. But not having lived through that era myself, I can still tell this is a damned brilliant movie. Captures the high-school experience yes, but captures so MANY experiences, and character types, and so well, it’s almost an unbelievably good movie, one for the ages. Better even than most Linklater movies. I think. Better watch it again before making any sweeping declarations (“best movie of the nineties, better than Dead Man, etc”).

Dazed and Confused

No real point in outlining plot, since story wasn’t the point. No real point in outlining characters… just see it again sometime. Wiley Wiggins was great. Now I feel bad that I’m the last person to see this movie… somehow got it mixed up with Reality Bites or something. Now I wonder if I’d like Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Or Rock and Roll High School.

Dazed and Confused