After finally catching up with Three Lives, checking out Ruiz’s latest posthumous release, completed by Valeria Sarmiento. Due to the vagaries of video releasing this lost/unfinished film from the mid-60’s is in better shape than the mid-90’s hit with the major movie star.
Iriarte is a gruff-voiced professor (the soundtrack was lost and all actors were re-dubbed in 2019), bottling sock water with his Jason Schwartzmann-looking nephew Joaquin. He visits friends Silva and Lola, tells them about his dreams, which involve a wig under the bed, rivers of blood, and the return of his late wife Maria. Finally, Iriarte can’t sleep, tormented by wigs, and shoots himself after writing letters to everyone he knows.
The second half is mesmerising, the scenes replaying in reverse with backwards dialogue and new thoughts via voiceover. Silva and Lola had appeared in Three Sad Tigers, and Joaquin joined them in Nadie dijo nada. Ghost Maria reportedly appears in a Sebastián Silva movie, and our main guy was in a couple Miguel Littín movies.
Sometimes when you’ve fallen behind on the ol’ blog, you realize that thirty movies ago, you took no notes on a movie that consisted mostly of essay readings by powerful actors, with newly photographed and stock footage visuals, written as a letter to the author’s teenage son about systemic racism. Katy wanted to watch it in case her students, assigned the book to read, try to get away with only watching the movie. Good film – Forbes had previously worked on a doc miniseries on a slam poetry competition, and appeared in a Grand Theft Auto game.
Portrait of a NYC clinic that sticks pins in your ears to treat stress and addiction. Through interview and archive footage it delves into the history of how Black Panthers and other associated groups studied Chinese acupuncture and brought it back to help their community, then keeps returning from the archives to the present-day clinic and its patients. The founding leader was Mutulu Shakur (below) – I’m behind on the ol’ blog, no surprise, and now we’re watching the new Adam Curtis movie, following the story of Afeni Shakur, so really covering Tupac’s roots this year. The fatal armed car robbery that gets Mutulu imprisoned for life came out of nowhere in this story, and it’s not interested in explaining much about acupuncture itself, more of a history lesson and community portrait.
I can’t tell if the movie pulled a fast one on us when the kid on the poster loses the climactic governor race to a kid we’ve never even seen before by distracting us with the speeches and strategies of the competing campaign leaders. Pretty impressed that the lowest-common-denominator guy lost running on a platform of dick jokes and then confessed to having underestimated the group and turned himself around. Really professionally assembled doc, and for once I mean that in a good way. Ultimately wouldn’t vote for any of these gun-rights Texans for any office, but after avoiding politics-in-movies for the last year, this turned out to be more harmless than we’d feared.
Another Pete Docter Pixar feature set in an imagined space that is about determining a girl’s destiny. This time she’s purgatorial soul Tina Fey (I spent all movie wishing she was Sarah Silverman) with teacher Jamie Foxx, a just-deceased jazz-pianist schoolteacher, who accidentally teaches Tina to treasure the material world while anxiously trying to return there himself. Longer and less inspiring than the God Baby scene in World of Tomorrow 3, but the abstract-shaped beings that oversee the soul realm are great, especially the Rachel House-voiced accountant who follows our heroes to earth and hides in 2D images within the 3D world.
Frank (Shaun Parkes of the current Lost in Space reboot) is the restaurant owner and social center who gets all the soulful closeups, Altheia (Letitia Wright) is the requisite movie star, a pregnant Black Panther, Darcus (Malachi Kirby of the latest Roots reboot) is a self-representing defendant who gets all the best speeches, and Barbara (Rochenda Sandall, who used to play a character named McQueen) has the best hair, and a spiel about how the children are our future. That leaves whiteys Jack Lowden (Dunkirk) as their lawyer who looks like Austin Powers’ buttoned-up brother, and Sam Spruell (Russian baddie of Taken 3) as the racist pig leader.
First half is in the streets and the restaurant, figuring out how to make a life without getting hassled by the pigs (impossible), second half has real based-on-a-true-court-case energy, as indeed it was. The lines aren’t as head-smacking as they were in Widows, and McQueen finds some evocative visuals every so often, but mostly powering through this to get to Lovers Rock.
My notes include things like “Ives leads red team splinter group to recover algorithm,” which didn’t even make sense at the time, so I’m skipping the attempted plot summary of this cinematic Sator square. Branagh is an arms dealer helping execute attacks from the future, smuggling in reverse-kinetic objects and backwards-moving people. His abused wife is Debicki, the helpless woman only concerned for her child’s safety while the real men do all the work. Those men are serious spy-dude Washington and his chill buddy Pattinson. Bits of exposition via Dimple Kapadia, Michael Caine, and Martin Donovan! I took some advice and just watched the hell out of this (with subtitles) without insisting that it make any sense – though I guessed early on that anyone half-glimpsed in the first half of the movie would turn out to be our reversed heroes in the second half – and had a good time. It never stops talking utter nonsense for 150 minutes, and none of the action scenes were as impressive as expected. Michael Sicinski on Patreon: “But then again, I’ve never seen a building un-blow-up on the top, only to re-blow-up on the bottom. That was cool.”
A fun concert movie of a Byrne show, starring the man himself in fine vocal form, a full barefoot band, and two excited theater kids. Unfortunately it’s impossible to watch this without comparing with Stop Making Sense, the best concert film ever made, especially when they keep performing the same songs, giving me flashbacks to those performances, the staging, the lighting from 35 years earlier. Byrne even does his signature dance moves during “Once in a Lifetime,” which doesn’t work great for me, despite being a crowd pleaser… in fact, I realized during “Burning Down the House” that it’s mirroring SMS‘s decision to not show the audience except in occasional scraps. I made note of some fave songs… “I Zimbra” is very fun, the first song with the entire band, and I need to revisit “Everybody’s Coming to My House” and “Toe Jam.”
Byrne with his understudy and Mary Jo Pehl:
Leading the barefoot band:
Johannes breaks up with mythological creature / freelance historian Undine (Paula Beer of Transit), and a few minutes later professional diver Franz Rogowski introduces himself, and they have a romantic moment that gets them banned for life from the local cafe.
Reverse angle of the poster shot:
Johannes tries to inject himself back into the mix, and gets killed for his efforts, while Franz was true but unfortunate, and gets resurrected.
Franz and coworker Maryam Zaree:
I need the relevance of the city planning lecture stuff explained to me, and thought the overall structure of the movie only kinda worked, but moment-to-moment I was quite thrilled to be watching it, if only as Transit-afterglow.