Great opening titles, the credits created from an array of redacted documents. I took a note when pausing to grab snacks: “no way will the movie live up to these opening titles” – and it didn’t!

but it’s thrilling when G’s laser-breath is finally unleashed:

It doesn’t go the full Cloverfield, but sticks close to the ground, glimpsing giant monster battles from a panicked human perspective, much of the action unreadably dark on my screen. Bomb disposal expert Col. Witwicky must be cursed, he and each of his family members getting right in the path of monster attacks, until he breaks the curse at the end by torching the bad-guy monsters’ eggs before they can overrun the planet. And oh yeah there are evil monsters here, and Godzilla’s the good guy. And Juliette Binoche dies horribly after only 15 minutes, and Bryan Cranston is the star but he dies too, and Sally Hawkins gets three lines, and Ken Watanabe plays the Japanese scientist, and David Strathairn plays the serious military one, but mostly we’re left with Witwicky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson, lead rapist of Nocturnal Animals) trying to get home to his Olsen wife before the world ends.

Evil Mantis Monster:

Hidden Mothra reference on a fishtank:

Gareth made this between indie alien thriller Monsters and a Star Wars spinoff. I was planning to double-feature this with the even newer Godzilla movie from the creator of Evangelion, but after two disappointing action flicks in a row (this and Alien: Covenant) I couldn’t risk a third, so rewatched Fury Road instead. Normally I’d say “argh, why did I watch this bland multiplex junk,” not recalling why it ended up on my must-see list, but now thanks to Letterboxd I can look up exactly who recommended it… aha, Ehrlich with 4.5 stars. “One of the most satisfying, well-paced & beautifully directed blockbusters since Jurassic Park… genuinely registers as the first post-human blockbuster.” And MZ Seitz listed it as one of the century’s best. They are high.

Dumont goes even wackier than Lil Quinquin, though this one seemed more coherent, story-wise. I thought it’d be hard to top Quinquin‘s twitchy detective and dullard assistant, but now he’s dressed his lead detectives like Laurel & Hardy, the head cop (the fat one) rolling himself down hills when he’s too tired to walk, and simply inflating and floating away at the end.

Just like Quinquin was named after the lead rapscallion from a poor, possibly criminal family, the French title of this movie was Ma Loute – the nickname of the young man from the only family that seems to live in this picturesque rural town. I suppose they fish, though when a wealthy family arrives at their palatial summer home, we discover what else they do; they kidnap, murder, and eat the rich. The richies are so ludicrously over-the-top (and inbred, it turns out) that it’s tempting to root for the local brutes, except the richies also have ringers in Juliette Binoche and a beautiful/mysterious transgender girl who has a short-lived romance with Ma Loute. Also they’re just too damned silly to wish death upon.

Sicinski describes the richies:

Descending upon the bay for the summer are upper-class cityfolk, bizarre caricatures of humanity sprung from some Gallic division of Monty Python. The Van Peteghems are “led” by spastic, bumbling André (Fabrice Luchini), his prim, lachrymose wife Isabelle (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi), brother / cousin Christian (Jean-Luc Vincent), a sort of lacquered descendent of brain-addled mystic Johannes from Dreyer’s Ordet; and eventually, Aunt Aude (Juliette Binoche), a wailing, flailing hysteric whose behavior resembles that of a regional dinner theatre actress on nitrous oxide.

I never would’ve guessed that the richie paterfamilias had been in Rohmer films, but there you go: he played the lead in Perceval. Tedeschi is lately known as a director, was also in Nenette & Boni and Saint Laurent. Vincent and Binoche costarred in Dumont’s much more serious Camille Claudel 1915. Ma Loute, his dad The Eternal, his mom, his almost-girlfriend Raph and the two cops just came out of nowhere.

I suppose the first half is more tense if you’ve read beforehand that the movie involves a terrorist bombing plot – there’s little backstory or explanation as our young heroes walk briskly around Paris, check into hotels, take the subway, looking very serious as they drop off packages into vehicles and trash bins. After a half hour of this, an older-looking mustache guy shoots a dude in his apartment, breaking the simmering tension. Then we see the results of their efforts:

The long second half has our bombers gathered in a department store after hours waiting out the night, for some unexplained reason, instead of going home their separate ways. They blast some Willow Smith on the high-end stereos, shop amongst the high-end toys and expensive clothes, lounge in the designer living spaces, invite a homeless couple inside (Hermine Karagheuz!) and watch the news of their own exploits on TV until it starts to show the outside of the building they’re in. It ends the only way it could, the cops storming the store and killing everyone (even Hermine).

Not sure who everyone was, but our gang included Finnegan Oldfield (Les Cowboys) and Vincent Rottiers (lead baddie of Dheepan). Omar, their inside man at the department store who murdered the other security personnel, was Rabah Nait Oufella of Raw and Girlhood. There’s some fractured chronology, hard to follow even though the current time keeps appearing on screen. This and House of Tolerance were so slick-looking, it’s not surprising he made a fashion film in between them.

Ehrlich calls it “intriguingly inert”:

Bonello’s camera tracks behind each of the kids as they go about their shady business, emulating Elephant as the tactic conjures the same sickening momentum that made Gus Van Sant’s film about homicidal youths so vague and disquieting … It’s fine that Bonello would rather raise unsettling questions than provide unhelpful answers, but his inquiry often feels every bit as confused as his characters.

It does seem confused and perverse, and possibly even offensively wrongheaded (after the Bataclan attack, Nocturama was denied festival appearances and distribution). Why make this film, and what did the characters hope to achieve (in either the first or second half)? Only Blake Williams in Cinema Scope seems to have a convincing, incisive explanation – though you’ve really gotta read the whole thing, so I’m only excerpting his description of the movie’s timeline:

[Nocturama] presents time as indefinite, opposing conceptions of the present as concrete or ahistorical even as it works to augment the gravity of the present happening. Bonello’s choice method for achieving this is through shaping the film’s timeline into something that, were it to be graphed out, might resemble a lightning bolt — working through narrative events from one vantage only to fold back and re-show the same temporal moment again (and again). Many of his time warps are accompanied by either the reappearance of an onscreen time stamp or a repeated music cue, but many others arrive unmarked — especially when Bonello moves us further back in time, such as an extended detour through the initial planning stages for the attack — destabilizing our footing on already tremulous turf.

How weird to be watching the DVD extras before the film – I can’t tell if the distributor thought this was necessary, or if Netflix fucked something up (they’ve done worse before)… no, a Cinema Scope review confirms that the 50-minute movie is meant to be preceded by 40 minutes of promo fluff interview material. I lasted less than 10 before skipping ahead.

Not sure if the rest of the promo fluff covers this, but I read online that this was somewhat of a failed experiment. Control freak Verhoeven decided to solicit movie scripts from the public based on a short intro scene, then film segments piecemeal with amateur actors… but he wasn’t happy with the story submissions, so he wrote his own script, cast professionals, and shot it. We’re left with a 50-minute light infidelity comedy that ends with a couple of main characters zipping off to a Rammstein concert. I suppose instead I’ll try Mary is Happy, Mary is Happy or Mysterious Object at Noon to get my fix for disjointed, crowdsourced stories.

Remco (an actor from Black Book) has a long-suffering wife, horny son and Rammstein-loving daughter. His business partners are trying to sell out their company, using Remco’s pregnant mistress to blackmail him into agreeing. Meanwhile the daughter and her best friend Merel (who is sleeping with Remco) figure out the mistress is faking her pregnancy.

Ignatiy in AV Club:

The fact that it’s fast-paced and diverting (rather than, say, a god-awful mess) is a credit to his skill at black comedy … Bereft of subtext and shot in a largely handheld, TV-ready style, it lacks Verhoeven’s usual deep bite, despite the cynical punch line of the ending.

Possibly even more of a casual hangout movie than The Other Side, refusing any backstory or narrative momentum. And as with that one, I never have any idea if what we’re seeing is pure documentary, or what has been invented for the film. These aren’t complaints! Handheld cameras shoved right into actors’ faces in low lighting while nothing much happens isn’t usually my aesthetic preference, but I do love Minervini’s work so far.

Sara lives and works on a goat farm with her large, homeschooling family (there are “bad influences” in the public schools), sells at farmers’ markets and directly to neighboring families, like the rodeo down the street, where Sara makes smalltalk with young Colby. It’s so low-key that you wouldn’t think there’s a budding relationship there, but for a couple marriage conversations she has at home (and is that an old-fashioned wedding dress she’s wearing in the final shot?). More than half of the movie is rodeo and praying. Substituting for the armed, drunken racist horror that was the last half-hour of The Other Side: a short scene, unexplained, of a cross burning in a field at night.

Hollywood Reporter:

Minervini is particularly successful at suggesting the parallels between Colby and Sara. A skinny, sweet-natured cowboy who’s all sinew but no muscle, he needs focus and determination to master his rodeo skills and avoid injury. A born nurturer with a special feeling for animals, she holds sacred beliefs yet at the same time is needled by doubts and fears that she’s unable to articulate, which her mother assures her are an inevitable part of the battle for inner peace … And while it isn’t quite a performance in the standard sense, it’s difficult to imagine the film working to the extent it does without a figure of such emotional transparency and innate spirituality as Sara Carlson at its center.

Top prizewinner at Locarno 2012, so it’s the closer of LNKarno 2017, and an ass-kicking low-key ghost movie, reminiscent of Personal Shopper down to the direct Victor Hugo references.

Dora (Virginie Legeay of Brisseau’s Exterminating Angels, also his assistant director) appears beaten and bloodied at the front door of Michel (played by the late-Depardieu-looking director himself), he invites her to move in, then strange things start to happen: objects moving on their own, glimpses of robed figures in the hall, and sounds from the closet like a wolf moving a bureau.

I liked the movie’s style, especially once the spirits appeared with charmingly simple ghost-costumes. The whole thing appears to have been shot on the cheap, with medium-res video and occasional mic problems – unless the DVD was just poorly produced. Set mostly in Michel’s apartment (the director’s own, per Cinema Scope), which is wall-to-wall media – books and albums and every classic-cinema DVD boxed set.

Dora tests Michel, suspicious of his intentions. For his part, he seems honestly enthused to have somebody to pay attention to, after living alone for three decades, acting like she’s a long-lost daughter home for a visit. She moves in and helps with his book “about the importance of delusion in our lives”. Then he proposes they marry, so she can inherit his apartment tax-free (there’s a Freud paperback in the movie’s second shot). In the end, the book is finished and he’s killed by a thief – I think with the inheritance issue unresolved.

Boris Nelepo, in an essential article:

So what can a filmmaker achieve with the absolute minimum at his disposal: a small camera (La fille is Brisseau’s first digitally shot film), a minimal space, and an amateur actress in the title role? As with the even more restricted Jafar Panahi, a filmmaker can proudly make a real movie, as if there were no production limitations at all. In La fille du nulle part, Brisseau has created a film of heavenly beauty, warmth, and tenderness, revealing and revelling in the Mélièsian essence of cinema. As with Philippe Garrel in La frontière de l’aube and Manoel de Oliveira in The Strange Case of Angelica, Brisseau understands … that it is the most seemingly naïve, handcrafted effects that best reflect the innate illusionism of film. Indeed, for Brisseau film is itself a magical medium, a portal into a different world … Frequently drawing his protagonists from the world of science … Brisseau continually posits the existence of an intangible world, one invisible to their rationalist eyes until a sudden inspiration, granted by art, mystical epiphany, or physical ecstasy, reveals to them the essential incomprehensibility of the outside world and the limitations of man’s understanding thereof.

I was finally bullied into watching this by the poster in the Ross front entry… Byington must have visited when this opened (before I moved to town). Story of Max (who carries a magic macguffin suitcase) and friends, jumping forward 5 years every 20 minutes (though the actors barely age). The movie plays like a deadpan, vaguely absurd stand-up comedy act – a funny one, but it’s hard to tell if we’re meant to have any affection for these characters.

Max and Kate:

Max is Keith Poulson (Hermia & Helena, Little Sister) who befriends coworker Nick Offerman and marries coworker Jess Weixler (a Rigby in The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby). As time goes on, Offerman ends up with Weixler and first Max then his son will date the babysitter Stephanie Hunt. Characters are unceremoniously killed – Weixler’s dad’s post-cancer-diagnosis suicide is played for laughs, and Max, now rich from running a pizza and ice cream franchise with Offerman, has a heart attack while racing a breadstick thief in the cemetery.

Max and Jess:

The director, lead actor, and Max’s ex Kate Lyn Sheil are all Alex Ross Perry associates. Byington’s followup starred Jason Schwartzman and Tunde Adebimpe and I have heard nothing about it. His latest premiered a few months ago at SXSW and I have heard nothing about it either.

My favorite visual joke: wedding singer with a four-man band who all look like the same guy. Are those all the same guy??

Rizov liked it roughly as much as I did:

What it basically comes down to is that I find Byington’s comic fixations — rudeness and morbidity — funny and compelling … It’s smart and sad about death, and the stupid decisions casually made on a day-to-day basis by adrift 20/30somethings who think marriage will give them the stability and rigor they lack otherwise. “You never know what’s good for you,” Offerman says, and he’s right.

D’Angelo hated its guts:

[Max] just drifts through life, responding to decades of minor turmoil with the same vaguely bored sneer … there’s no indication here that Byington’s characters, or Byington himself, gives even half a shit about anything at all. Somebody Up There Likes Me seems smugly pleased with its own detachment, a quality underlined by the cutesy-ironic score contributed by Vampire Weekend’s Chris Baio. (Hope you like tubas.)

AM/PM (1999, Sarah Morris)

Montage of nicely photographed moments within and above a city (Vegas?), somewhat recalling Broadway By Light with the closeups on signage and unique framings of familiar city objects… “the disorienting world of corporate hotels and casinos which utilise and redefine the spectacle in relation to architecture,” per an official description. Each scene of urban life has its own little MIDI song.


Capital (2000, Sarah Morris)

Opens in a parking lot, then moves to things we don’t associate as much with the word capital – Washington DC pedestrians, police, mail sorting, the newspaper. I assume we see Bill Clinton get out of a helicopter, but the picture quality on my copy is worse than ever so I can’t be positive. Finally an edit from a restaurant called The Prime Rib to a close-up of cash money, that’s the capital I’m talkin’ about. The music changes just as frequently as the other film, but here it’s darker and less dance-beatsy. I preferred Henry Hills’ take, called Money… or I’d gladly rewatch AM/PM with the soundtrack from this one. Sarah has made a bunch more movies since these. Her cinematographer moved on to Leprechaun 6: Back 2 tha Hood and the Teen Wolf TV series.


As The Flames Rose (Joao Rui Guerra da Mata)

A new version of Cocteau’s The Human Voice (a copy of which sits prominently on our protagonist’s nightstand) with excellent photography, theatrical lighting changes and fun greenscreen trickery. The lead (only) actor is João Pedro Rodrigues, Guerra da Mata’s codirector on Last Time I Saw Macao, talking on the phone with a longtime lover soon after their breakup, on the day of a huge (real) 1988 fire in Lisbon that destroyed shops and offices and apartments. Joao watches the news coverage on TV, and sometimes his body or his entire room gets overlaid with flame imagery while he sadly discusses the day’s events and the crumbled relationship with his ex. After hanging up, he puts on a James Blake record (in 1988, ahead of his time).

Mouseover to give Joao a new view from his window:
image


Beauty and the Beat (Yann Le Quellec)

Rosalba puts on the red shoes and starts dancing uncontrollably, and I thought for sure there’d be a connection but no, the premise is that she cannot keep from dancing when she hears music, a condition she tries to hide while working as a Paris tour guide. Her driver has a crush on her, invites her on a date, but is obsessed with Northern Soul records. I guess her secret gets out – anyway there’s lots of music and dancing, and that is fine. He was Serge Bozon, director of La France, and she (clearly) is a professional dancer.


Chemin Faisant (Georges Schwizgebel)

Drawings with great texture, the lines transforming into new scenes while rhythmic music plays. I know that sentence would describe thousands of animated shorts, but it’s all I got. “Through paintings that interact on the principle of Russian dolls, we are drawn along the swirling path of the thoughts of a pilgrim, a solitary walker,” says a description online.


Overseas (Suwichakornpong & Somunjarn)

Some handheld followcam action as a young woman in Thailand goes to work as a squid sorter. After work she gets a ride to the police station to report a rape, to obtain a police report for a legal abortion. The cop, who looks to be about 15, is kind of a dick. Codirector Anocha Suwichakornpong made By The Time It Gets Dark, which I heard good things about last year.

Time-lapse landscape photography with different parts of the frame running at different rates… or moving in slow-motion, then skipping ahead… or fading one time into another… or flipping back and forth between shots from different times… or looping back on itself. Since it’s all about glitching the time-movement, it’s odd that he chose some shots with hardly any movement.

“A survey of the physical qualities and metaphysical quandaries of the United States-Mexico border. Follows the boundary and its immediate surrounding topography incrementally from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean,” says the official description. Rappmund also made a Nebraska movie called Vulgar Fractions, and studied under James Benning (obviously). Cinema Scope has an interview, and a visual map of all the shots in the film. “Repeating images reinforces the stability of the portrayal; it gives viewers a chance to catch small things in dense snapshots; it highlights movement as well as clearly accentuating the static; it breathes a rhythm and a three-dimensional life into pictures that’s difficult to capture with traditional filmmaking techniques alone.”

My still screenshots are can show off the lovely photography, but not the time/motion tricks that bring each scene to life. Atmospheric sound, presumably recorded at each camera site, featuring some birds who got my cockatiels all flustered. It plays like installation art, and my attention phased in and out… I should have been staring raptly at the photography but Katy wrote to ask if I could find any indie movie theaters in Shanghai (short answer: nope), so that took precedence for a while.

Where can I get one of these?