Posting these out of order, but I watched this right after The Nightingale, making for a 4:3 double-feature – perverse, since no screens are shaped like that anymore. Tim & Eric and Neil Hamburger aren’t in this, so it seemed like a good starting point, and damn, now I need to watch Alverson’s other four features. In fact, I might need to watch this one again, since I suspect Denis Lavant’s big speech at the end should’ve had subtitles.

Doctor Jeff Goldblum tours hospitals, with a former patient’s introverted semi-orphan son (Tye Sheridan of Ready Player One) in tow, performing lobotomies with a seemingly low success rate. Sounds like a real drag, so I can’t explain why I loved it – the squared-off compositions, the bleak period-postcard look, Goldblum, Udo Kier as Tye’s late father, and a seething Lavant are all pluses for sure.

Benjamin Mercer in Reverse Shot:

For our fictionalized lobotomist, the object of the westward-leading circuit is to outrun the strengthening professional headwinds, the first wave of antipsychotic pharmaceuticals having recently been introduced, leaving fewer and fewer institutional decision-makers with an appetite for the operation in question, with its barbaric follow-through and uninspiring “success” rate … Andy learns that sharing a hotel room with Fiennes, not just a reckless physician but an alcoholic skirt chaser to boot, is its own special kind of hell, and he begins to sympathize more and more with the patients he’s charged with photographing for medical posterity.

Lavant’s daughter / Tye’s love interest played young Lois Smith in Marjorie Prime. Cowriters include the guy who made Person to Person and the star of Alverson’s first two features.

Japanese gang-war rap musical, opens with an epic long take, then blonde gang boss Mera (Ryôhei Suzuki of Kurosawa’s Seventh Code) explains the local gangs and neighborhoods to a noob cop he has stripped and threatened with a knife, and we already know what the movie is like: it’s gross and loud and sexist, and kinda fun as hell.

Mera ambushes his hated rivals, the peaceful gang Musashino led by Kai, and kills a guy, and his body is wheeled back home with a new girl in tow (Nana Seino). Meanwhile, Mera ally Lord Buppa (played by a pop-eyed Riki Takeuchi, a classic Miike star I haven’t seen since Battle Royale 2) is sent two elite fighters by the High Priest to recover HP’s missing daughter Erika (the new girl, obvs), and previously unknown gang the Waru is activated.

A holographic message from the wise High Priest:

Kai bands together all the Tokyo tribes, including the Gira Gira Girls and Neri Muthafuckaz and probably a couple more, to fight this new threat. It all looks impressively choreographed and real, neon lights and stunt fights, then a super-fake CG tank comes along and blows it. Still, for a full two hours of rap mayhem, this doesn’t lose steam. I’d been avoiding Sion Sono since Noriko’s Dinner Table, but this and Why Don’t You Play In Hell were fun, so maybe I should watch his four-hour masterpiece Love Exposure sometime.

This was just about a good enough movie to watch on a plane – which I did. I knew Chloë Grace got conned into being friends with lonely crackpot Isabelle Huppert, but not that Isabelle kidnaps and brainwashes her in the second half, murders private eye Stephen Rea sent by Chloë’s dad, then is defeated by Maika Monroe, who searches the subways until she finds a purse lure with Greta’s home address. When investigating, they’re told that Greta acts this way (the obsessive calling, not the kidnapping/murder) with everyone, and that she’s not even French (ha). Somehow only the third Neil Jordan movie I’ve seen – Mona Lisa was alright (so was this), and I’ve been meaning to watch The Company of Wolves.

For a two-hour movie it sure starts fast – there’s a “sea eruption” as the coast guard examines an abandoned craft, and a gushing leak in an undersea traffic tunnel, then a flurry of government workers reacting to the news, each worker rapidly introduced via subtitle, and this is all in the first two minutes. Little did I realize we’d mostly stick with these government workers for the next 118 minutes – this is a Godzilla movie told from the POV of the bureaucrats trying to devise a solution to the kaiju problem. I meant to watch this two years ago as part of a double-feature, but was so disappointed by the American remake, I cancelled. Should have carried on with the plan – despite its insistent focus on meetings, this is unique and excellent.

While the government works on their undersea-volcano theory, Godzilla’s tail shows up on the TV news, then as the PM is assuring the public there’s no danger of it coming onshore, it comes onshore. The fate of humanity may depend on the government’s response, but the higher-ups only listen to high-ranking officials, not anyone with actual knowledge or ideas. A scrappy young voice-of-reason deputy cabinet secretary named Rando (Hiroki Hasegawa, lead Fuck Bomber of Why Don’t You Play In Hell?, also in Before We Vanish) forms an impromptu committee of underrated functionaries to brainstorm solutions the old-guard leadership isn’t coming up with, making this the most Colonel Blimp-like of Godzilla movies.

Back to the giant monster movie at hand, the thing that comes onshore is… not Godzilla? I thought it might be a monster that G ends up fighting, but after struggling through the city and splashing blood everywhere, it collapses then suddenly evolves into the G we all know. Every time it stops and then rises again, it’s more powerful with new abilities – the fin-glowing, fire-breathing, purple-energy-releasing sequence is especially impressive.

When purple energy beams destroy the prime minister’s chopper, a know-nothing with seniority is made PM, and pretty easily convinced by the U.S. to let them nuke Tokyo. Sure he feels awful, but he has no ideas or power of his own, so it’s up to Rando, his team and his negotiations with the talented half-Japanese daughter of a U.S. senator. The movie is obvious about its politics and complaints – and again, it’s mostly meetings – but it’s also excellently paced and has outstanding monster-devastation scenes.

There are a million actors in this, each introduced with onscreen name and title, and I only kept track of a few. The PM is Ren Osugi, who shows up in every other Japanese movie I watch, and died last year. Kayoko is Satomi Ishihara of the Ring sequel Sadako 3D. Rando’s team includes Mikako Ichikawa of Anno’s live-action cartoon Cutie Honey, and Shinya Freakin’ Tsukamoto.

Not really horror, a disaster movie – made in response to the American version, which wasn’t good at all. This got a limited release in the US, where it mostly appealed to nerds on fansites, while in Japan it won best film and best director and was only outsold by Your Name. Hideaki Anno made this as a mental break between Evangelion films, the fourth of which is now five years delayed. Codirector Shinji Higuchi made Attack on Titan with some of the same cast, and directed sfx for the 1990’s Gamera movies. Anno might be following up with an Ultraman movie, and if he never finishes making the theatrical Evangelion series, I’m never gonna start watching it.

Publisher Guillaume Canet (writer/director of Tell No One) is married to TV actress Juliette Binoche, but we know she’s having an affair with writer Vincent Macaigne (The Innocents) because when her husband says the writer’s new book is about his affairs she perks up and asks if they’re recent affairs, and we know Guillaume is having an affair with his digital media director Christa Théret (a recent Man Who Laughs remake) because he’s gung ho about his company going fully digital even though this seems at odds with everything else he values. There’s a minor subplot about the publishing company being sold, which turns out a false rumor, or a power play by Guillaume’s boss.

“The blogosphere is heated”
“Tweets are modern day haiku”
“Now we have algorithms”

Assayas has made at least two incisive movies focusing on then-current technologies with Demonlover and Personal Shopper, and he’s covered inter-generational difference and relevance beautifully in Summer Hours and Clouds of Sils Maria, so it’s strange that this one feels so dated and inconsequential. IMDB says he began writing it in the mid-2000’s, so maybe that’s part of it. At the end they’re trying to get the “real” Juliette Binoche to voice their audiobook, then the writer’s girl announces she’s pregnant and Jonathan Richman’s “Here Come the Martian Martians” plays, and suddenly I’m wondering if the movie was meant to be a comedy.

A feature-length TV season, so every characters gets their moment, and it all feels squished and irrelevant, all “okay that’s out of the way, now here’s this.” Still mostly enjoyable, even for charlatans like me who quit the series after season 3.

Branson (the Irish chauffeur-turned-family-widower) is the star here, saving the king from assassination by Claire Foy’s husband, helping the princess (Kate Phillips of Peaky Blinders) figure out her marriage, and possibly falling in love with an heiress (Sense8 star Tuppence Middleton), the secret daughter of Imelda Staunton (great, her addition to the movie helps offset Elizabeth McGovern being reliably awful).

Eight years ago I introduced the characters – but where are they now?

Branson played Queen’s manager in Bohemian Rhapsody. Lady Mary starred in the series Godless, and was in that Jim Broadbent movie Sense of an Ending with her barely-in-the-movie husband Matthew Goode. Maggie Smith, who anticlimactically tells Mary she’s dying, is keeping it classy – after the Harry Potter and Marigold Hotel movies, she appeared in Sherlock Gnomes. I saw McGovern in The Commuter and she’ll star in a War of the Worlds miniseries with Gabriel Byrne. Lady Edith (pregnant again) is in another British period royalty drama series, and big daddy Hugh Bonneville is following Paddington 2 with a Christmas movie about a magic toymaker. Shaun’s mom followed The BFG with a Ricky Gervais series.

Bates (Mary Queen of Scots) and Anna (Bob the Builder) trick the royal servants so the locals can kowtow to the king personally, recruiting Carson (con-man movie The Good Liar) and Hughes (starring in Girlfriends with Miranda Richardson). Daisy (Iannucci’s David Copperfield movie) flirts with the plumber, is set to marry some footman. Thomas (netflix horror The Ritual) discovers a gay bar and gets into a side plot with some thudding dialogue, Molesley (plays a “ghost detective” on a British series) says some dumb things, and Patmore (an India-set period drama) does the usual. I was hoping the king and queen would be someone exciting, but she’s from Little Britain and he played Arthur Dent in the original Hitchhiker’s Guide, so, nope. The same writer & director made the dull-looking Elizabeth McGovern movie The Chaperone earlier this year.

I keep watching Porumboiu films because of my blind trust in the Cinema Scope critics – maybe one day his movies will click into place. At least they are always unusual, and always short, and I am always up for a short, unusual movie, so dude has got my number, even if I haven’t got his.

The man who was once injured playing football and has since decided that it wasn’t an issue of personal violence but of the game’s very structure, and has devoted years to devising alternatives, is a family friend of the director I think, and we’re not encouraged to write him off as a crank necessarily, but to pay attention to his ideas. Although it’s hard when he’s interviewed during his day job by a woman he completely can’t help, the movie briefly becoming a parody of failed bureaucracy, then he carries on “I feel a bit like those heroes. I’m here, filing documents, but in my double life I revolutionise sport.” He removes the right-angles from the playing field, then devises defense/offense zones so fewer players can end up in the same spot – the whole thing seems a bit silly, then gets kinda beautiful with its utopian philosophy at the end.

Water and ice, beautiful and frightening on the big screen.

Sometimes you lose all sense of scale until you see birds flying off the icebergs.

Metal soundtrack… egrets in a flooded cemetery.

Nice sailing scenes – so much winching! I want to show this to dad, but I know he’ll fall asleep long before the sailing begins.

Dedicated to Sokurov.

In late 1970’s Paris, Anne, the boss of a porn film company (pop star Vanessa Paradis) has to deal with being dumped by her editor (You and the Night‘s Kate Moran) and being investigated for the murder of one of her actors, actually perpetrated by a masked psycho wielding bladed sex toys.

Anne decides to deal with this by filming a porn parody of the investigation called Homocidal and casting herself as the murderer.

As actors keep dying, she visits a bird museum, discovers the victims are visited by a blind grackle, an extinct bird, and tracks down the story of a tormented youth, burned half to death by his father for being gay, come to the city as a scarred, homocidal adult.

Also featuring Nicolas Maury (You and the Night, Heartbeat Detector) as Anne’s blonde director, and Yann’s fellow-traveler gender-bending filmmaker Bertrand Mandico as the dramatic, floppy-haired cameraman.

With the giallo lighting, M83 music, movie theaters and rare birds, this was mostly up my alley.

Michael Sicinski on letterboxd:

If there’s one dominant hetero influence at work in Knife+Heart, it’s Brian De Palma. This is a sexualized murder mystery, based in part on who has the power of the gaze, who has been sidelined by desire, and how killing is a perverse sexual substitute. And even as the gravity of life and death are acknowledged, Gonzalez shares with De Palma a taste for the ridiculous, a recognition that movie violence can exorcise psychological demons precisely because it is not real, and the more outlandish the better.