At war with itself between being a slow elliptical fest film (opens with an improved version of Forms of Forgetting‘s net fishing shot) and an info-doc. Eventually gets around to being about indigenous peoples’ interest in US genome patents, and before that we get nuns raising salamanders (axolotls) and robotic apple picking.
Franz breaks up his marriage to Ben because he’s fallen for Adele. Ben starts going with Erwan, Franz wants to get to get Ben back while keeping Adele. Everyone gets sick of Franz’s shit and he ends up alone. A typical love triangle story, only set apart by the unusually hot leads and strong use of Franz’s nude thrusting ass and his ridiculous wardrobe.
The only screenshot I took was the music credits… which song was I looking for? Brendanowicz says it’s “the best designed/lit/composed/colored film I’ve seen all year, but I didn’t find it very interesting,” so maybe Laura Citarella should write a movie for Ira Sachs to shoot.
AMC Theaters 1200 AD (2023, Damon Packard)
Heavily AI-assisted parody of the Nicole Kidman AMC ads, a grudgingly multiplex-supporting voiceover with face-melting visuals.
The Man Who Couldn’t Miss Screenings (2023, Damon Packard)
Both better and worse than AMC Theaters. It’s mainly a slo-mo “Comfortably Numb” music video, toggling between a laptop dude arguing with his angry wife about the importance of screenings and a a street scene where an electric car has burst into flames, with an Albert Pyun tribute postscript. For me, who has not overdosed on 2023 AI imagery, the mutant characters and text, everything looking like a botched render, it’s all aesthetically interesting.
Pool Sharks (1915, Edwin Middleton)
Two absurd men fight at a picnic, Proto-WC-Fields vs Checkered Suit Guy, leading to a game of stop-motion pool. Checkered Suit Guy might’ve been Billy West sideman Bud Ross.
The Golf Specialist (1930, Monte Brice)
A house detective’s hotwife flirts with every guy then her husband beats them up. She goes to watch WCF golf – he never hits the ball, being upstaged by his idiot caddy. WCF with his worst mustache yet, thriving from here out in the sound era, drawing laughs by being mean to children and dogs. Hotwife Shirley Grey went on to costar with Lugosi in Hammer’s first horror film, The Mystery of the Mary Celeste.
The Barber Shop (1933, Arthur Ripley)
Fields in his element, muttering comic insults at people. He encourages his pun-loving young son, and collects two upright basses as setup for some late prop humor. A wanted bank robber (Cocoanuts flimflam man Cyril Ring) comes in to crank up the drama, not that we needed suspense when we’re getting lines like “I belong to the bare-hand wolf-chokers association.”
The Pharmacist (1933, Arthur Ripley)
Sound is awful on this one, and rude things are done to a cockatoo. Another crime story / police chase into the shop, whole place gets shot up. Unsatisfying ending involving the daughter’s boyfriend. Maybe I watched one too many of these in a row. Daughter’s boyfriend Grady Sutton is maybe the only person to appear in both My Man Godfrey and Rock & Roll High School, the daughter would go on to play “Saloon Floozie” in a Marlene Dietrich movie.
Will Sloan in Screen Slate:
As with the Marx Brothers, Fields’s work enjoyed a revival in the ‘60s and ‘70s among college kids who took him as an anti-authoritarian hero. He has been less visible in recent years, but he would have been well known to the writers of shows like Saturday Night Live, SCTV, Late Night with David Letterman, and The Simpsons in their most important years. If his contemporary presence is indirect, it is still prevalent.
Also watched in January:
I’ve been meaning to watch Oldroyd’s Lady Macbeth for 6+ years now, so instead of finally doing that, I immediately hopped on his new thing, a period piece with two actors I like getting into hijinks. But I guess you’re not supposed to know about their hijinks – the blurb gives it away, but if you came in cold, one late-movie Anne Hathaway line could’ve been the craziest surprise in any movie all year. Far less surprising (and also given away by the promo materials, this time the poster) is that Thomasin McKenzie will eventually wield the gun she confiscated from her drunk ex-cop dad. The grainy look, winter Massachusetts light and 1960’s sweaters are all fab, as is Thomasin’s excitement by the hot new prison psychologist, who alternately seems too good for her job and very, very bad at her job (the woman Anne kidnaps is Marin Ireland, the missing girl’s mom in The Empty Man). The movie’s also full of ugly sordid details, making sure nobody who watches it will remain unharmed.
Two movies really, with full credits for each part. Not much here to gaze upon, and my copy looked like streaming mush; it’s all narrative. Chapters give different characters and perspectives (I like how their titles are tied together with song lyrics) as the missing Laura is tracked by her more arrogant boyfriend Rafael and her secret boyfriend Ezequiel (Ez’s job in the movie is to not follow what people are saying so everything has to be repeated). Ez had been helping Laura with her private project, following a love story through letters hidden in books donated to the library, but he doesn’t know about her second mystery, getting involved with scientist Elisa Carricajo who’s hiding a lake beast at her house. The music at the end of part one gets sci-fi in anticipation of this section. At the end of part two the picture goes widescreen as Laura disappears – having followed two great mysteries, she becomes one herself. Cast and crew are all returning from La Flor, and I hope they keep making these wheel-spinning mixed-genre movies.
A sort-of decade-later follow-up to the director and star’s Ostende. Citarella in Cinema Scope:
By trying to make a film in similar terms to Ostende, something else happened: a mutant film appeared, a plural idea of cinema. I like that Trenque Lauquen can’t be classified, that you can’t say the film is going this way or that way, or even that the film is this or that. It’s always trying to outrun this idea of being classified – it’s like the experience of reading a novel that takes a rhizomatic approach to storytelling, where each chapter proposes something new and mysterious. For me, the difference between the two films is that in Ostende, Laura is someone who wants to have a lot of lives – to live in fiction – but ultimately decides to go back to her normal life with her boyfriend. In Trenque Lauquen, Laura lives all those possibilities, and finally gets lost.
Trenque Lauquen (2023, Laura Citarella & Mariano Llinás)
During the Trenque Lauquen city premiere of the Trenque Lauquen double-feature, Citarella sits alone at a cafe across from the theater, the sounds of the film overlaying the town, noting walkouts (one) and people arriving to watch Barbie. Good to see Ezequiel in the crowd, I dunno why Paredes and Carricajo are backstage wearing fake mustaches. This was part of a Film Fest Gent online shorts collection pairing directors with composers, so I suppose the music in here by Eiko Ishibashi (Drive My Car, Drag City) isn’t from the feature film.
Indie-stilted drama with amazing music. A world of screens with Superjail pencil tests on every one of them. Suicidal Star bonds with counselor An. He passes his citizenship test.
Per Adam Nayman in Cinema Scope, “These characters feel unique to Canadian cinema, contemporary, micro-budget, or otherwise, and the actors inhabit them to the point where they don’t really seem to be acting at all … the slightly surrealist weave of images is heightened by the tour-de-force soundscaping of Andreas Mandritzki, who interlaces Autechre-ish electronica with musique concrete and stylized foley work.”
With my shorts and with Werewolf I was really inspired by my environment, its working-class history and textures. The logical representation of that was a social-realist film made in a verité style. That style fit my other movies well, and made a lot of practical sense too, but I did start to feel like it was limiting the way I thought about crafting characters, building scenes, and writing dialogue. Then Star and An started to emerge as complex, vibrant, and talkative creatures, and naturalism couldn’t contain them: their creative ways of conceptualizing and expressing themselves necessitated that I find new ways to engage. The entire movie is a sort of experiment in burrowing into their brains and vibing on their frequency.
Pairs well with Mad Fate – another potentially insane lead character, this time Lau Ching-wan, playing another Mad Detective. He’s now an ex-detective, living on the street but still solving crimes, pissed at the employed cop (Raymond Lam of P Storm) botching the cases, drawing interest from pregnant cop Charlene Choi (The Goldfinger). Things get convoluted as a young group called The Sleuths – Lau’s daughter and the children of crime victims and the wrongly-accused – uses Lau’s research for a revenge campaign, killing off criminals. Some traitor sleuth cops are pulling the strings, getting cops and sleuths killed. After a covid-delayed open, this got nominated for every HK award, so hopefully we’ll get a sequel.
MVP Willem Dafoe as a doomed pelican.
Flora (Eve Hewson of Tesla) raises her shithead son Max with little help from his dad Jack Reynor. She tries to get the kid a hobby, fixes up an abandoned acoustic guitar, but he’s more interested in rapping over laptop beats so she takes online lessons herself with teacher Joey Gordo-Levitt. The movie’s trick of teleporting him out of the laptop and into the room during a camera move is a good one. The power of music brings everyone together yet again… if Carney keeps making these things, we’ll keep watching them. Once > Sing St. > Flora > Begin Again.