A LNKarno screening with Katy as special guest. This is the foster home drama that The Dissolve went nuts over. I wasn’t much in the mood to watch a movie about young counselors barely managing a house of angsty teens when it came out, but it’s better than the description sounds, mostly for all the terrific performances. Brie Larson is tops as an extremely capable counselor who becomes worried that the new girl (Kaitlyn Dever of this year’s Outside In) is being abused by her father, and having been in the same situation at that age, Brie loses her distant professionalism and goes into vigilante mode to rescue the girl. Also great: Brie’s very patient boyfriend John Gallagher Jr. (10 Cloverfield Lane) and in his debut, Lakeith Stanfield as a doomed over-sensitive kid dreading his impending release into the real world. The plotting is a bit obvious – Mike D’Angelo uses the word “overwritten,” which is probably what I’m looking for. Cretton has made two other features, neither of which sounds good, but he’s supposed to be working on a Michael B. Jordan movie next.
“Listen, the mustache is the trendiest thing out there.”
Okay, I followed The Unity of All Things pretty well, enjoyed the atmosphere while barely following the “very minor” narrative threads, but this one is just scenes from a party without anything going on. A 4:3 frame shot on 16mm, the post-punk party music skips forward or back with every edit – maybe the sound is strictly accurate to the single-camera picture, so any cut necessitates interrupting the music flow. Most of the time the conversations are too indistinct to make out or subtitle, so this music thing is all I had to hold onto.
“I don’t know if I belong to the working class struggle.”
Finally it gets good, with a slideshow of family photos over a song about nuclear destruction, and near the end the edits start glitching, and there are sound dropouts and giant cigarette burns over the picture, but after fifty minutes of nothing happening, this is too little too late.
Set in Madrid 1982 – Franco was dead and socialism was in, and the kids were free to grow trendy mustaches and listen to Spanish-language covers of “Heroes”. Filmmaker says it “pinpoints a willful political ignorance,” but I’ve got enough of that these days, and Mubi says the facial expressions start to tell a story upon the fourth viewing, but I haven’t the time – I’d settle for trading in this movie for a CD of its soundtrack.
A massive particle accelerator is being shut down, and the team is scouting locations to build a new one in the Sonoran Desert along the U.S./Mexico border. We are focused on two female scientists who may be lovers, one of whom has two children visiting. None of the plot or character is extremely well defined, the movie content to float in a Super-8 haze, producing some lovely images but it’s all so diffuse and quiet and soothing and still that it was hard enough to stay awake, let alone figure what is going on.
Personal and professional setbacks… mild flashbacks to Tropical Malady… teenage insults… stories of a Weird Uncle… mystical talk about particles and sociopolitical talk about borders, while lost men search for the last North American jaguar. A kid nails his brother in the eye with a rock while their mom gets a snakebite… things happen all at once, in low trance tones.
Not sure who played what, but the main cast features Celia Au (star of Bad Tara), Andrea Chen (Lorelei’s roomie in Boyhood) and Jennifer Kim (Mozart in the Jungle, Wild Canaries). Carver also made an Anohni video and Schmidt made waves at Cannes this year with his weirdo soccer film Diamantino.
The word online is that the boys (played by girls btw) have an incestuous relationship, how did I miss this? Also, Schmidt’s dad was a particle physicist.
In conversation with Filmmaker magazine:
Psychology doesn’t really exist at all [in the film], and [it’s] replaced with desire. Everything is rendered as erotic, basically, in one way or another, but this eroticism and sensuality is not a reflection of the characters’ psychologies or the cultural psychologies that they belong to, but is simply a force.
The film is deliberately reckless and playful with representation, and this is sort of uniformly distributed. It’s not just people that are treated with this irreverence, but whole landscapes … We really wanted the film to be sensual and humorous and perverse. To maintain a level of chemistry, we’d sort of write forward and erase back. I think it ultimately helped to create a very pliable structure. One of the technical challenges was how to maintain the narrative threads. They’re very minor, but they exist.
Almost the entire movie is a film director (Bogdan Dumitrache of Sieranevada) having conversations, rehearsals and affairs with his lead actress (Diana Avramut). He fakes a stomach illness, claims he had it checked by a doctor, and his producer (Mihaela Sirbu of Aferim!) has his cover story carefully verified, either to catch him in the lie or, as she says, because of picky insurance demands. Another filmmaker (Alexandru Papadopol of Toni Erdmann) pops into a dinner chat, possibly representing a future job for the actress. This is practically all that happens, and it ends abruptly – so why is it a movie? I get the self-reflexive talk about long takes and film cartridge capacity in a 35mm movie composed entirely of long takes, and after all the film-vs-video talk, video gets finally represented in the form of a colonoscopy DVD. After two long scenes where the director tries to convince the actress that a newly written nude scene is dramatically necessary and she goes over the blocking with him to verify that this is properly motivated, our movie finally shows her gratuitously topless. All this is worth a few meta-chuckles – surely I got more out of it than 12:08 East of Bucharest, and if the whole thing feels slightly pointless and the conversations go on for too long, that’s probably intentional too, for reasons I don’t feel like researching at the moment.
Lightweight absurd comedy about a group of not-good cops. It’s self-consciously weird about the Mr. Oizo songs this time – one cop (eyepatched Eric Judor, a main guy in Steak) is a bedroom dance-pop producer, and other characters are playing similar instrumental grooves in headphones and car stereos. I can’t tell if I like it more or less than the other Dupieux movie I’ve seen because it’s been too long, but this one has more actors I recognize: Eric Wareheim (using his uniform to harass yoga women in the park) and Steve Little (a drug dealer trying to hide his gay-porn history from his family). Best of all, and I never thought I’d say this, playing a teenager (?) with the absolute most hilarious line deliveries: Marilyn Manson.
Yoga woman strikes back:
Little delivers drug packages duct taped inside a dead rat. Eric’s partner is MADtv regular Arden Myrin, and the main cop harassing Manson is Mark Burnham. I think he shoots a guy watering the lawn (Daniel Quinn), who ends up riding around in Little’s trunk for half the movie before making a valuable contribution to Eric Judor’s music composition. Both of Laura Palmer’s parents appear (separately). At least one person dies at the end (Little stabs himself in the neck with a gardening tool). It’s a silly bit of fun which would be forgotten tomorrow if not for the fact that it features Marilyn Manson, and – I cannot stress this enough – he is great.
I had to open LNKarno with the Claire Simon film to tie it together with True/False, where she was last year’s True Vision Award winner. Cannes Month got interrupted by vacation this year, represented only by The Salesman and Bright Star, so I didn’t give LNKarno a time limit, just picked some selections and kept watching ’em until it felt over. Simon had two related films at the fest in 2013: the train station-set drama Gare du Nord in competition, and a documentary about people they met at the station, Human Geography, in the out-of-competition Fuori Concorso. It reminded me of the In the City of Sylvia double-feature, another doc/fiction pair set in the same spaces.
Gare du Nord stars Nicole Garcia, a filmmaker in competition four times at Cannes, also a star of Mon oncle d’Amérique and Duelle. Mathilde is taking trains to get treatment for an unspecified illness, and runs across the younger Ismael (Reda Kateb of A Prophet and the most recent Wim Wenders), who talks with people in the station for his sociology thesis. “When you’re here, you’re nowhere really, but at the same time it’s like a village square.” She’s a professor and shows some interest in his project, and he shows some interest in her (she’s married but we only see the husband once).
Meanwhile, a TV host (Francois Damiens of Les Cowboys, The Brand New Testament) has a missing daughter, hangs out at the station waving her photograph around and reluctantly taking photos with fans. A fellow student gets Ismael involved in a health services protest that aims to shut down train service. A giant unstable man wreaks havoc in a lingerie shop. Joan (Monia Chokri of a couple Xavier Dolan movies, this year’s Ravenous) is a harried realtor whose job is destroying her family, runs into each of the other characters. The movie ends abruptly with Mathilde’s offscreen death after some vaguely hippie plot contrivances lead the TV host to his missing daughter. Mostly it’s realistic, but sometimes there are ghosts.
Human Geography is a straightforward doc, the music and photography pretty basic, either the film or the DVD transfer turning black faces into smudges. Claire speaks with station workers and regulars, and also employs her friend Simon as an interviewer, meeting people from Tunisia and Mali and Brittany, Vietnam, Algeria, Cuba, USA, Mauritius, Iran, Congo. They talk with a couple of racist Belgians, and witness so much fare cheating at the turnstiles.
Simon, taking a breather after speaking with the Belgians:
The lingerie shop, the photomat, and at least one local (a diner worker with an economics degree who sells art online) appear in both movies. Gare du Nord didn’t come together for me, and the dialogue felt flat (maybe chalk that up to shady subtitles), and Human Geography is interesting enough – maybe if you’re a station regular who walks past the immigrant workers daily without considering their histories or inner lives it’d be extremely enlightening. Watching both movies in a row, though, is pretty great. Not to harp on the True/False connection, but the real stories in the doc suggest the sheer number of directions the feature could’ve taken – you could make a career’s worth of films in the station.
Another well-made, scary horror movie that oughtta make everyone’s decade-in-horror lists. Great cast led by Toni Collette and her son Alex Wolff (he played The Rock in flashback in a Jumanji sequel), with Gabriel Byrne as the only family member with one foot in reality, Milly Shapiro as the creepy daughter, and Ann Dowd (The Leftovers) as Toni’s grief counseling buddy.
I can’t complain about a well-acted horror that ends with the apocalyptic rise of a demon cult – that is one of my very favorite things – but it seemed while watching that the movie’s themes/intentions didn’t come together. Toni’s dollhouse models and the way Aster shoots the proper house as if it were a model are cool… and the ghosts/seances angle is neat… and Toni’s love/hate thing with her own children is fascinating… then Alex is set up to host his little sister’s spirit and/or the spirit of an ancient king, per the cult which Toni’s late mom and Ann Dowd were in together. Presumably the cult left the signs and words scratched onto walls and posts, but there’s no way the cult arranged the little sister’s complicated death (Alex swerves to avoid a dead thing in the road just as she sticks her head out the window, gasping for air because of an allergic reaction, and is beheaded by a telephone pole), and the cult’s final assault on the family makes Toni’s sleepwalk-firestarting and miscarriage attempts and other psychological eccentricities feel like false leads. I’m not extremely clear how the title factors in, since each of the family women seems to have her own unique set of problems, unless they’ve “inherited” the attention from the late gramma’s cult. I turned to letterboxd for answers and instead found Mike D’Angelo calling it “frustratingly muddled,” so we’ll call it a solid debut with script problems.
Besides the dollhouses (actually they are Important Art Projects) and the phone pole, there’s the daughter scissoring the head off a dead bird, Byrne burning, dead relatives who are not dead, nudity and dug-up corpses in the attic, ants, Alex slamming his own face into his school desk Nightmare on Elm Street-style, and most horribly, a possessed Toni floating up in a corner merrily garroting herself to death. I thought someone on twitter saying this movie is derivative of Kill List would be a spoiler – it was not, but the shot in the trailer and promo stills of Toni watching a burning family member sure was.
A fictionalized version of horseman Brady’s life and family. We only skipped this at True/False because I was pretty sure it would open here, and thankfully it did, with Brady and Lane in person on opening night. All respect to Zhao for making a lovely film, but it doesn’t work without Brady – he’s a nonactor who not only manages to carry a film, but does so with such grace and soul. Opening in the aftermath of Brady’s head injury after a rodeo fall (we see him watching the real footage), he struggles to envision a future where he can’t ride anymore. For a long time the film title seems like a cruel joke, since he never gets on a horse, until one beautiful scene shot in long takes through a fence (because it was essentially a documentary moment) as Brady demonstrates to a rancher that he can tame his skittish horse. At that moment, watching someone with a born talent for working with horses, every western movie we’ve ever seen felt more fake than ever.
After an earthquake half destroys their apartment, a couple of actors (both are stars of Farhadi’s About Elly) find a new place which was formerly rented by a sketchy woman, whose former “customer” wanders into the place one day and catches the wife alone in the shower. She is traumatized, and too distracted to carry on with the play. Between rehearsals her husband gets annoyed with everybody and tracks down the assailant, an old man, locking him into their old place until he has a panic attack and dies. I assume the moral ambiguity of it all mirrors something in Death of a Salesman, but I’ve really only seen the version in Synecdoche, New York.
Both Farhadi and Miller are fond of schematic narratives and cannily deployed didacticism; the strengths and weaknesses of this sort of social realism are crucial to assessing the muddled aesthetic achievement of a film that doesn’t replicate the impact of A Separation, the director’s finest achievement, but avoids the embarrassing histrionics of his previous (and weakest) film, The Past.
I think this is Mina Sadati playing the prostitute – she complains that the play dialogue refers to her having no clothes on, while she’s always wearing a raincoat: