I didn’t know it was possible to make a biopic this sentimental about Bunuel, of all people. At least it’s animated, so we get the occasional vision of elephants on horse-leg stilts. Opens with artists at a cafe arguing about the purpose of art, and closes with Luis discovering that art is for helping the poor people, I guess. The movie could at least use animation to abstract away all the gruesome animal killings from the Las Hurdes shoot, and it does, but then it makes sure to show us the original footage right after.
After a screening of L’age d’or ends in fire and threats, LB is annoyed that everyone thinks all his good ideas come from Dali, then he can’t get funding for a follow-up until his cousin wins the lottery. LB and producer cousin and cameraman and writer meet in the mountains, get into hijinks, and shoot a movie. LB has many flashbacks and dreams about trying to please his father, and everyone learns a little something about truth and fiction and the true purpose of art.
Always a good call to open your movie with “The Passenger” by Iggy Pop. I lost track of the relationships and double-crosses, because I think all the cops are dirty and spying on each other… or rather, it’s not hard to follow while watching, but with the state of everything, I’ve lost track a month later. Story told in named chapters, out of order.
Our main dude is Cristi, with conspirator Gilda and boss Magda. The conspirators’ whistling language (and Cristi’s Old-Mark-Wahlberg look and performance) mostly serves to add notes of absurd humor, so this doesn’t turn into another grim tale of Romanian society/government corruption like Graduation.
Two dirty cops:
Sharp-looking and pleasurable, filled with guns, whistling, hidden cameras, vinyl records, movie theaters – after 12:08 and Metabolism and Infinite Football, I now have no idea what to expect from this guy.
A superb effect, mountains and fields of crinkled foil surrounding us in 3D, rapidly rotating and expanding, but never getting anywhere, the constant strobing of color inversions masking the loop point where the motion repeats so it looks like continuous motion that never progresses.
Icy blue and warm gold flicker, with blunt text sections (censorship of the Poltergeist DVD is used as an example of America’s shame). The visuals set up predictable patterns only to break them and reset. Watching right after She Dies Tomorrow, the colors flashing on my face, I felt like I was fulfulling some dark omen, or going crazy.
From movie music with vinyl surface noise to mad science lab electro-noises, flies buzzing in stereo, later an argument with the tape sped up. It’s no wonder I enjoyed the music – it was JG Thirlwell.
Jacobs called it “a reversion to my mid-twenties and that sense of horror that drove the making of Star Spangled to Death.”
David Phelps in Mubi:
Sort of reversing the structuralist impulse to let the movie’s internal system arrange the order, movement, and duration of its materials, Jacobs plays his movies like 1st person interrogations of his footage, the artist constantly adopting and discarding new approaches toward his material … Jacobs’ movies can operate like works in progress; abstract expressionism’s emphasis on process seems to carry not only through Jacobs’ compositions, successions of half-completed movements, but his own approach over the duration of the movie.
Opens with a lot of text about a lot of people in 1980 that I’m not gonna remember, but fortunately the rest is easy to follow. After an absolute slaughter of various gang members, including Tommaso’s two sons, Tommaso does the unthinkable and testifies. He’s tortured in prison, hides in witness protection in the USA, testifies in two major trials, sending friends and enemies to prison. The action spans from 1980 to 2000, and with nonstop event and dialogue for two and a half hours, it’d take me longer to unwind and recount it than it took to watch it. It’s no American Made, but it passed the time on a weekend afternoon.
Such a talky movie, it’s hard to find screenshots without subtitles:
Best period detail: in New Hampshire the grocery store sells AR-15 rifles. Our (anti)hero is Pierfrancesco Favino, star of a movie called ACAB. His enemy/friend Judge Falcone is Bellocchio regular Fausto Russo Alesi, and his wife is TV star Maria Fernanda Cândido. This played the stacked competition at Cannes along with Portrait, Parasite, Bacurau, Atlantics, Hidden, Joe, and Hollywood.
Not sure if this guy was real or just a story, but it’s a good story:
Portentous opening, then we get to hang out with two nerdy boys watching scrambled porn, then they meet some other boys and hang out, with nothing clever to say or do, and my notes just say “I hate teenage boys,” until Glasses Boy accidentally kills Daryl with a sword, then things pick up.
In Glasses’s defense, Daryl was being a total shithead, but understandably all the kids are freaked out and decide to hide the body and sword and never speak of this again. Only, Main Kid Zach can’t seem to shut up with his paranid obsessions, and Glasses Kid Josh goes in another direction, deciding to become a drug dealing sword serial killer. Kinda rare that a movie’s second half is this much better than the first – the mystery/thriller stuff worked better than the hangout Stand By Me stuff – and hilarious to see Mike D’Angelo has exactly the opposite take on letterboxd: “Starkest direction/script divide I’ve seen in a while … the film boasts maybe the lamest third act of 2017, and I saw freakin’ Geostorm.”
Since this came out, the director has made a mid-length movie with Nick Stahl that ties into a Lumineers album, the fourth boy who I haven’t mentioned was in a movie with Chris Walken and Steve Coogan, the Girl in one with Angela Bassett, Glasses in one with Edie Falco, and Kid is in the new Larry Fessenden Frankenstein thing, so maybe one day we’ll look back at Super Dark as a launching pad for stardom, the Tigerland of its time.
I didn’t notice until the end credits that only one of the Daniels participated, and there’s a new writer. I’d been thinking of this as the followup to Swiss Army Man and didn’t know what it’s about – if advertised as “the horse-fucking movie from one director of the corpse-farting movie,” I would’ve skipped. In the end it’s trying to be an Alabama misadventure incompetent-crimes comedy (Matt Lynch called it “Dipshit Fargo“) and also a sad story about friends + wife dealing with Dick’s untimely death, and none of it worked for me, except some of the jokes (trying not to swear in front of a kid: “the S has hit the fan… the S! the fuckin S!”).
After a long night of drinking and fire, Dick is fatally hurt in back of a car for reasons unknown until later, gets dishonorably dumped at the emergency room and picked up by Roy Wood Jr., the dialogue so far down there with Super Dark Times. Dick’s friends, who have been fooling around with the horse for years, do a hilariously poor job at covering up, telling conflicting stories to an inquisitive minor and accidentally getting cops involved. Owner of the car Zeke is a Jeff Nichols regular, his dense vaping buddy played the asshole friend in Relaxer, the lead cop was in Mascots and the widow starred in Chained for Life.
From the Bressane straight into another movie opening with a long take, wind overloading the mic. Sometimes long static shots of empty rooms – but this one goes even further than the Bressane, if that was our goal. Consumer-grade looking and sounding, despite the evident care that went into editing.
Chantal hangs out with her mom… later, her mom is not doing so well. In the kitchen they talk about escaping Belgium during WWII, and on skype they talk in circles. One great bit when Chantal zooms all the way into the screen during a skype call to see her own reflection overlaid on her mother. Otherwise, I have to say I preferred the documentary.
Andréa Picard in Cinema Scope gets it, and links it to Akerman’s memoir and her gallery work that came out shortly before the feature:
In No Home Movie, it is as if Chantal Akerman, perhaps for the first time in her career, has revealed the core of her work and her wounds in the most naked of ways: her frequent focus on confinement, repetition, and confrontation; her longing to be elsewhere; her dizzying instability.
Marcello’s Martin Eden is getting Cinema Scope cover-story attention, so I’m catching up with his previous feature. “Dreams and fables, although imaginary, should tell the truth.” There’s something here, history and metaphor, with documentary footage of protests edited in – it was sometimes beautiful, but the meaning was lost on me.
Tommaso is a volunteer caretaker at an abandoned palace. He dies unexpectedly, so party-masked afterlife character Pulcinella takes on Tommaso’s rescued baby buffalo and searches for its home, the movie narrated at times by the buffalo and using a cow’s-eye lens.
Tommaso did die, at Christmas a year and a half before this movie came out. Marcello had filmed him for an episode of a doc journeying through parts of Italy, and after Tommaso passed, he transformed the film by summoning Pulcinella to continue the journey.
Blake Williams in Cinema Scope:
Both of them, the immortal and the livestock, traverse the bucolic Roman region on a odyssey comprising assorted side narratives, dispirited souls, and scraps of historical detritus they encounter along the way, absorbing them into the film’s whimsical and sombre exquisite corpus … [the buffalo] meanwhile, rambles about his quest to live on a distant star, recounts dreams of humans sprouting wings and flying out to celestial lands of immortality, and preaches about how “being a buffalo is an art,” living as he must in a world that denies animals have souls. To Marcello’s credit, he’s able to keep the barminess of these proceedings in check, balancing the film’s didactic “points” and fantastic flourishes into its network of ideas without lessening the sincerity of its depressive tone.
At Locarno 2015, Julio Bressane served on a jury, programmed a section of Brazilian films, and presented his new work Garoto (Kid). I was psyched for this, since I’ve seen Bressane’s name around forever. He has an early feature called Killed the Family and Went to the Movies and a brand new one starring a parrot, a woman and “a large portion of raw meat.”
A young woman (Marjorie Estiano, star of Good Manners) calmly philosophizes in static scenes shot with a video-looking handheld camera. She tells her mute boyfriend a story about a boy who loved killing, then she, um, kisses and performs oral sex on the camera. Later, they go to her friend’s house (Josi Antello of Sentimental Education), where the boy apparently freaks out, killing Josi then running away to wander through the desert accompanied by quiet wild-west sounds and the effect of wind overloading a microphone.
Inspired by a Borges story about Billy the Kid. Struck me as a sort of half-assed Révélateur, every shot held too long in that familiar arthouse fest-film way, but without the technique to keep it interesting. I admit a scene that kept panning to a man softly drumming on a painted board was intriguing – the first time it happened. The lo-fi video look might’ve just been me getting a poor-quality copy online, but the mic problems say maybe that’s not the case… either way, it made me think of LNKarno discovery Jean-Claude Brisseau, especially when he positions the two actresses in front of his bookshelves. On one hand, Brisseau seems 100x more interesting and I should look up more of his films… on the other hand… the new Bressane stars a parrot!
Bressane’s messaging was ahead of its time: