Bastards (2013, Claire Denis)

One of those grimy revenge dramas in which the filmmaker seems to be asking if the rewards of revenge are worth the costs, further complicated by the revenge-seeker getting his facts wrong. The way Denis parcels out information in context-free fragments, I don’t blame the guy for being confused.

Vincent Lindon (Friday Night) is back in town (after fleeing his family to be a sailor) because his sister Sandra’s husband has killed himself, and their daughter Justine (Lola Créton of Bluebeard and Goodbye First Love) is receiving medical attention for a horrible sexual assault. He sells all his possessions for cash, and goes after the guy he assumes is to blame for all this, the dead guy’s former business partner Michael Subor.

So Vincent gets involved with Subor’s younger wife Raphaelle (Chiara Mastroianni of Love Songs, A Christmas Tale). Subor realizes this, takes their son and splits, saying she needs to get away from that awful family – and in the final confrontation, Vincent struggles with Subor and Raphaelle shoots Vincent dead. It’s just as well. Turns out Justine’s dead father was responsible for her abuse, aided by a slimy (pimp? drug dealer?) played by Gregoire Colin of 35 Shots of Rum. Justine kills Colin and herself in a car crash. The movie had a few asthetic pleasures, but story seemed more sordid than usual, and I ended up angry with everyone involved (except Alex Descas, who only has a cameo).

Apparently inspired by Kurosawa’s The Bad Sleep Well. R. Koehler says “it marries her interest in narrative jumps, classical tragedy” and “the workings of capitalism.”

Venezia 70 Future Reloaded (2013), part 3

The Venice Film Festival posted 70-ish short films online to commemorate their 70th anniversary. I watched them gradually over the past year. Already rounded up my favorites and least favorites – this is the rest.

Krzysztof Zanussi

Kids haul a film can containing Zanussi’s Venice prize-winning A Year of the Quiet Sun from a trash can.

Sono Sion

“Cinema’s Future is My Future” title cards. An excited man films things in a neon room. A crowd chants “seventy!”

Antonio Capuano

Green-haired teen zombies carry video cubes on subway station escalators.

Tariq Teguia

“Still, tomorrow’s cinema will be saying: someone is here.”
He has a Film Socialisme poster. Show-off.

James FrancoThe Future of Cinema

FF Coppola says he hopes filmmaking professionalism will be destroyed and regular people will be able to make them. Then some vandals trash a house and it looks like we’re watching the framing story of V/H/S. Then all goes berzerk, and Franco appears, laughing amidst the chaos.

Pablo Larraín

Camera perched atop one of those sail-surfboards looking down, piano playing a riff on “My Blue Heaven”.

Nicolás Pereda

Single shot of couple in bed playing on their phones, unseriously discussing getting married.

Wang Bing

A guy works the land, comes home to his horrible, fly-infested cave.

Kim Ki-dukMy Mother

Kim films his own mother going to the store (slowly and painfully), buying cabbage and prepping dinner for his visit.

Edgar Reitz

Franz Kafka is moved by a film, walks outside into the present-day world of everpresent video screens and advertising. Searching for the source of his quote (“Went to the movies. Wept.”) led to an interesting-looking book called Kafka Goes to the Movies.

Pablo TraperoCinema Is All Around

iPhone videos of tourists taking photos at a waterfall while Doris Day sings Que Sera Sera.

Jia Zhang-ke

People watch old movies on new screens.
Unusually commercial-looking style for Jia.

João Pedro RodriguesAllegoria Della Prudenza

Grave sites (there are multiple) for Kenji Mizoguchi in the whispering wind. Cameo appearance by the grave of Portuguese director Paulo Rocha.

Peter Ho-Sun ChanThe Future Was In Their Eyes

Photo montage of the eyes of many dead filmmakers.

Isabel Coixet

A square little film sketch with bouncy music.

Haile Gerima

He’s in an edit suite reviewing Harvest: 3000 Years. “I am incarcerated in the historical circumstances of Africa. Our cinema is a hostaged cinema.”

Atom EgoyanButterfly

He lets us see video of an Anton Corbijn gallery exhibit before deleting it from his phone. “Frankly I can’t be bothered to store more useless memories that I’ll never look at again, so I have to make some choices of what to lose.”

Hong Sang-soo50:50

Guy smokes with a stranger, tells her that his wife, sitting on a nearby bench, is terribly ill.

Celina Murga

Theater full of kids watch a movie.

Hala Alabdalla

Driving through Syria shooting through a window with a beard-n-sunglasses silhouette stuck on. Then: close-ups of eyeballs.

Pietro Marcello

Silent stock footage and clips of film equipment at work, then a Guy Debord quote.

Jan CvitkovicI Was a Child

Nice moving camera while narrator tells of when she first realized that everything is god.

Jazmín López

Camera follows a trail of discarded objects to two identically-dressed girls making out.

Amir NaderiDon’t Give Up

Aged film of dust storm on a dead sea cut with some present-day film storage room.

Alexey German Jr.5000 Days Ahead

Single travelling shot, people on a beach discussing movies of the future, personal experiences using neural transmitters, “like dreams with subtitles.”

Benoît Jacquot

Single take of a girl looking into camera.

John Akomfrah

B/W travel footage rapidly edited, closing with titles about the Boston Marathon bombing.

Shekhar Kapur

Bunch of short fragments using the white balance and focus in nonstandard ways.

Davide FerrarioLighthouse

Open-air cinema is playing Buster Keaton, shown with nice helicopter(?) shot.

Ermanno OlmiLa Moviola

So that’s what a moviola looks like. Hands and a sort of stop-motion/time-lapse ghost set it up and start it rolling.

Giuseppe Piccioni

We’re at a party, dude goes to get a drink for the girl in center of shot, and she slowly glides with the camera into the other room, audio from a climactic scene from Double Indemnity in her head, then back again.

Brillante MendozaThe Camera

A movie is being filmed, shots of people across town already enjoying it on TV, but back on set someone has run off with the camera.

Monte Hellman

Slate, couple at a cafe, he pays and leaves while she silently cries, the traffic noise dialing down, slow pull in, then “cut”.

Teresa VillaverdeAmapola

Poem recital like a horror-movie bible reading, “jackals that the jackals would despise,” blurry TV sets with close-ups of faces upon them.

Guido LombardiSensa Fine

Last shot of a film, the lead actors kiss, then won’t stop kissing.

Shirin Neshat

Scenes from October and Potemkin played with a stop-motion-looking low frame-rate.

Chef (2014, Jon Favreau)

Simple, straightforward, obvious movie full of affable people, a pleasant diversion with some delicious-looking food but probably not even as great/interesting as something like Waitress.

Favreau’s smallest film in over a decade, but probably didn’t feel small since he was writer/director/producer/star/cook. Although it might’ve been ghostwritten by Twitter. His movie star friends come along – Avengers Scarlett Johansson and Robert Downey Jr. play his restaurant hostess and ex-wife’s ex-husband. Sofia Vergara (vengeful brothel mistress of Machete Kills) is the still-friendly ex-wife, Dustin Hoffman the chef’s boss, Oliver Platt the restaurant critic who sends Favreau on a road-trip journey of self-discovery, starting from scratch and remembering what he loved about cooking (alongside longtime assistant John Leguizamo) and reconnecting with his favorite regional dishes and his 10-year-old son and ex-wife and finally making up with the critic (but not with Dustin Hoffman) and opening his own place and getting remarried.

Belle (2013, Amma Asante)

I found it funny that Dido (“Belle”) calls her sister-cousin Elizabeth “Beth” (sounds like Bête).

Director Amma Asante is daughter to immigrants from Ghana, sadly no relation to Armand Assante.

The painting is nice – both the fake one in the movie and the real one they show over the credits.

Frozen (2013, Disney)

First movie watched since moving to Nebraska!

A movie with no baddies. Cursed ice-princess loses control of her snowy powers and hurts her little sister, then years later as hormonal ice-queen she dooms the whole town to endless winter and runs off. Little sister gathers hunky ice salesman and magic comic snowman (with the voice of Elder Cunningham) to set things right. There is singing.

Venezia 70 Future Reloaded (2013), part 2

The Venice Film Festival posted 70-ish short films online to commemorate their 70th anniversary. I watched them gradually over the past year. These are the ones I did not care for. Favorites are here and the rest here.

Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Visual: driving straight road in the rain through wipers
Audio: ocean with seagulls

Jean-Marie Straub

Single silent shot of pages relaying some quotes about death in a couple of French films.

Lluís Galter

Fuzzy slow-mo long shots of people near water.

Karim Aïnouz

Search party? Man in orange vest with flashlight helmet vanishes into mist.

Bernardo BertolucciRed Shoes

Electric Wheelchair drives over rough street.

Amos Gitai

Still photos of a man on beach crossfade while Jeanne Moreau speaks of a poem (or perhaps not literally a poem).

Lav Diaz

Handheld shot through an upper-floor window as an elderly person slowly walks down the street, then a poetic voiceover kicks in.

Todd Solondz

Ridiculous course catalog of a Chinese film history program 1000 years in the future, using an early-80′s-looking screen with early-90′s-sounding text-to-speech.

Marlen KhutsievIn Perpetuum Infinituum

Chekhov and Tolstoy are having a motion-picture portrait taken. Then: champagne, war footage, a brass band and a giant Viva Cinema intertitle.

Tobis LindholmThe Hit

Two camoflaged jeeps are driving. Bomb!

Claire Denis

Overheard conversation gives way to a noisy Tindersticks song. Is it that she can’t be bothered to find new music, or does she truly love Tindersticks that much? Camera seems to be inside a bag or under a scarf – I’m not convinced this short was even made on purpose.

Rama Burshtein

Man is told to open his mouth. Finally he does. A dance song plays. Hunh?

Semih KaplanogluDevran

Static shot of – what’s that, a tree? – with audio of thunderstorm and constant firefly flicker.

Franco Piavoli

Fire and yelling, then children and sunsets.

Amiel Courtin-Wilson

Rough-looking man plays a prolonged Amazing Grace on harmonica in close-up.

Tusi Tamasese

Stills of some leaves, then of two people doing… I don’t know what, since it’s over already.

Michele PlacidoYorick’s Speech

Old guy says the youth of today are the future of filmmaking while a banal pop song plays.

Julio Bressane

Silent 16mm clips, then clips from 1960′s period epics, something like that.

Computer Chess (2013, Andrew Bujalski)

“A man on three scotches could program his way out of any problem in the world.”

I was sure I wouldn’t like this b/w 4:3 analogue-video about a 1980′s supernerd computer-chess competition set entirely in a drab hotel, but that’s because I didn’t realize the directions the movie would take. Very glad I gave Bujalski another shot, after disliking his Mutual Appreciation.

P. Coldiron for Cinema Scope:

Bujalski has always shown a tremendous talent for letting big ideas work themselves out in mundane scenarios; this film takes both of those to their furthest limits… Computer Chess’ main force of narrative thrust comes not from any event, but from the its subtly dynamic formal movement from something like mockumentary toward out-and-out abstraction.

There is a camera within the movie, a news documentary being made on the event (whose cameraman gets yelled at for shooting into the sun), but most of the footage isn’t from its perspective. Honestly by now I get the characters and actors all confused, so I can’t recall who participates in which threads, or who Wiley Wiggins played, but I remember Myles Paige as a confident independent with a new approach to programming, who gets trounced in the matches and ends up on the run for stealing drugs from two apocalyptic-minded interlopers. Patrick Riester from the Caltech team goes wandering, gets picked up (and ultimately terrified) by new age swingers at a sad post-hippie conference. One team works for a secretive well-finded organization, and M.I.T. is “the team that’s got a lady on it.”

“I do not think that Tesla is a good role model for your academic career. That is the path to madness.”

The movie becomes very playful, and the outcome of the chess match starts to matter (to us) less and less. It plays with its cameras, and with sound sync and color. Coldiron: “One character, short on cash, returns home in search of money and upon his arrival the film suddenly shifts to colour 16mm, eventually locking into a loop that traps him in a formal purgatory where he remains for the rest of the movie.”

“Everything is not everything.”

Bujalski: “I think it’s odd from the beginning; that oddness just flowers and flourishes more as it goes… I have no doubt that it will frustrate a lot of viewers, but I think it will frustrate them in a new and different way.

Only Lovers Left Alive (2013, Jim Jarmusch)

If Jarmusch set out to film the coolest vampire movie ever made, he may have succeeded. It helps that it’s about stuff like immortality and eternal love without speaking philosophically about those things, just making wisecracks around the edge of the topics. It does speak directly to human society’s tendency to destroy itself, though.

Tilda Swinton and Loki play the lead couple, with Mia “Stoker” Wasikowska as Tilda’s unwelcome sister, who kills Loki’s only human kinda-friend, Anton “Charlie Bartlett” Yelchin. There’s also old family friend John Hurt, and briefly, blood-supplying doctor Jeffrey Wright, plus a Lebanese singer and an indie rock band. For a couple who’ve lived so long, they don’t seem to have a very reliable blood supply, so when John Hurt dies drinking diseased blood, the others slump around looking hopeless before finding a young couple to pounce on.

A. Tracy picks the film apart in Cinema Scope and argues that it didn’t live up to his potential. I see his point and it’s fair criticism (not too sure about his attack on The Limits of Control though), but I found very much to enjoy in the movie. It helps that the music was on my wavelength, from the introductory slowed-down cover of Funnel of Love to the score by Jarmusch and Jozef van Wissem which I played daily for my first couple weeks at work.

Tracy:

As good old George A. Romero’s use of [zombies] for a leftist critique of rampaging capitalism and middle-class apathy has evolved, in this fast-zombie era, into a stealth right-wing vision of the revolt of the underclass hordes, the less overtly political vampire genre has more and more made vampirism a marker of cultural elitism . . . This, of course, is the central—and, conceptually if not in execution, very funny—joke of Only Lovers’ premise: vampires as the ultimate in world-weary hipsters, immortality granting them the ability to quite literally be there for and have seen everything before you did.

On one, very prominent, level, this is what Only Lovers boils down to: a lament by the culturally and cultishly cool about the injustices visited upon the great (themselves included, perhaps) at the hands of the philistine “zombies” who have snuffed out the brightest lights of their culture while poisoning the planet.

Venezia 70 Future Reloaded (2013), part 1

The Venice Film Festival posted 70-ish short films online to commemorate their 70th anniversary. I watched them gradually over the past year. These are the ones I especially liked. Least favorites are here and the rest here.

Shinya TsukamotoAbandoned Monster

A giant robot vs giant monster film that handily beats Pacific Rim, co-directed by a kid (his son?)

Athina Rachel Tsangari24 Frames Per Century

Two film projectors on an island aim picture over the ocean, running only a frame per few seconds, and as the reel runs out a woman appears to insert the new one and switch over.

Paul Schrader

Paul wears a harness of cameras pointing at himself, walks the city giving a monologue about cinema which is worth transcribing in full.

Paul Schrader on the High Line, May 29th, 2013. When I first came into the film business it was a time of crisis. Society was in upheaval. There was a drug revolution, sex revolution, gay rights, women’s rights, civil rights, anti-establishment, and the times required new heroes, new themes for movies, and we had about fifteen years of interesting film. Motion pictures are again in a time of crisis – only today it is a crisis of form, not a crisis of content. We don’t know quite what movies are. We don’t know how long they are. We don’t know how you see them, where you see them, how you pay for them. Feels more like 1913 than 2013. Everything is being made up on the fly. The idea of filmed entertainment is undergoing a systematic change. Every week brings another change. No one knows for sure what it’ll be like. It won’t be a projected image in a dark room in front of an audience – that’s 20th century. I also know that content is character, story, theme. Form is delivery systems. Content is the wine and form is the bottle. There is no content without form. There is no wine without the bottle. When the form is changing, content can’t stabilize. You can’t make a revolutionary film in the middle of a revolution. My concern is that this period of transition we’re going through may not in fact be a transition at all, but a new status of permanent technological change, which never stabilizes, will never resolve itself to the point where content can again reign supreme.

Yorgos Lanthimos

A proper drama with full credits. Two girls have a pistol duel.

Yonfan

Costume dance!

Salvatore Mereu

Young goat herder is watching movie on his phone that starred older goat herder many years ago – presumably something by Vittorio De Seta, since the short was dedicated to him.

Catherine Breillat

Hilariously self-deprecating – a café monologue about cinema’s ties to money and power is interrupted by some kids on their way to see a movie, but not the new Breillat because “I want something light, not to have to think.”

Walter Salles

Two photographs taken minutes before new popes were announced, while a woman tells a story of her absent mother who sent her a letter. “I keep you inside of me, like a film I watch and watch without ever tiring.”

Abbas Kiarostami

Laughing kid directs a remake of The Sprinkler Sprinkled.

Samuel Maoz

Hilarious digital representation of “the death of cinema”

Milcho Manchevski

Ironic piece about people engrossed in their portable devices – one girl watches a video about people on the street failing to notice some tragedy, ponders the video while walking right past another tragedy everyone is failing to notice.

Franco MarescoThe Last Lion

Hammy gangster type sings happy birthday to the festival in front of a giant cake and two silent twins, then devours the golden lion cake topper.

Aleksei Fedorchenko

Close-up split-screen faces of people dreaming movies (with sfx)

Ulrich SeidlHakuna Matata

Three guys say “Hakuna Matata” mantra-like, four times. Then three guys in a different setting, standing together in the same way, same action. Finally two of the original guys sweeping the floor. I have no idea what it means but I liked it.