Miller has made an interesting movie out of typical prestige drama material by not shooting this in a typically prestige-drama manner. It looks Little Shop sound-stagey, with big cartoon Lost Children close-ups and boss scene transitions.
DC family’s beloved son starts having violent outbursts, they’re told it’s a fatal degenerative brain disease with no treatment, so the dad goes from support groups to library research to medical conferences to hiring labs to make custom experimental drugs, earning his son twenty extra years of life through the resulting treatments. Intro scene in East Africa pays off when they invite L’s protective buddy Omouri to help out towards the end (Nolte balks: “We can not bring an African to this racist country”).
All the nominations went to Sarandon and the writers, but all the awards went to Emma Thompson and The Crying Game. No noms for Nolte, who can’t do much to elevate the movie while saddled with an Italian accent.
The opener was Little Mazarn feat. Thor Harris, a 3-piece with xylophone, keyboard, banjo, accordion, saw and loop pedals. A Personal Journey movie, gradually revealing the director’s own youthful voyage paralleling his current one. On reaching Bamako, Young Ike decided Morocco and Algeria sound dangerous and diverted to Gambia, but this time he pushes through to Morocco (Thor drumming his feet on the wood theater floor in time to the Moroccan music) and meets two women determined to cross over to Spain. The voiceover is usually plainly descriptive – he aims for poetry and time-collapsing poignancy and doesn’t quite get there.
A good haunted house movie, much scarier than the 1970’s one, with some good demons and a new twist: the couple can’t move out of the extremely ghost-filled house because they’re Sudanese refugees who barely survived a treacherous boat ride that killed their daughter, and have been placed here by the government, their only chance to stay in Britain. He’s Sope Dirisu of the Snow White and the Huntsman sequel, and she’s Wunmi Mosaku of Lovecraft Country and the Wyatt Russell episode of Black Mirror. Ghosts in the house, crows in the walls and thugs outside, nowhere to hide. When he’s scraping off all the wallpaper and pulling out the wiring, and she’s trapped in the maze of their housing complex, I start wondering if they died at sea and England is hell, but they’ve got other secrets: their “daughter” was a girl they kidnapped to get preferential treatment while escaping. But instead of hell-vengeance, the wife kills the witch and they patch up the walls to please the housing people, and try to live in relative harmony with their racist neighbors and house full of spirits.
Danish Ulrich watches The Red Chapel, agrees with Mads that the movie didn’t find a smoking gun against N Korea, so Ulrich joins the Danish Korean Friendship Society (“a fairly depressing group of people”), befriends the Korean Friends global leader Alejandro (who was a guide for Mads group in Red Chapel and still holds a grudge), visits N Korea regularly as a mole for ten years, bringing in Mads, who hires spies to help. They invent Mr. James, a rich international man of mystery, who would be open to making drug and weapons deals, and soon they’re being asked to transport bombs to Syria, and being sold a Ugandan island for an underground weapons factory (kicking all residents off the island is included in the cost).
I watched Red Chapel in an airport, so it only seemed right that I watch this one in the same place. It nicely unites the other Mads movies: Africa, Korea, int’l crimes, Danish men on a mission. Mole records every damn conversation and gets away with it. Closing text says the UN is investigating, but whatcha gonna do.
Photojournalist Jack Nicholson isn’t having a great time in Saharan Africa, sees an opportunity and grabs it, stealing the identity of his suddenly deceased hotel neighbor, the only other white guy in town. Jack’s abandoned wife Jenny Runacre (The Final Programme, Jarman’s Jubilee) investigates, while Jack faithfully follows the dead guy’s appointment book, even after learning that he was an arms dealer, and meets the same fate as the guy he’s impersonating, though he gets to hang out with Maria Schneider along the way.
Maria, Jack, Gaudi:
Thought I’d seen this a long time ago, but maybe I’ve confused it with The Conformist again. MA: “Actually, the entire story takes place in a short period of one day, from early morning until some time before sunset” – that’s not true, it’s set in four countries and we see a UK newspaper article about Jack’s death in Africa, and we see Jack’s appointments spread across a week in the book. Maybe he meant as the film was originally written. The fourth movie I’ve seen in the last few years to play in the 1975 competition at Cannes. Argh, the execution footage in this wasn’t faked.
Beautiful, sedate b/w photography.
A kid wants to get out of the country, makes some money on the khat harvest.
Not a tight story, more of a roaming poetic work, most of which I have completely forgotten, as have the letterboxd commenters who left even shorter write-ups than this one. I sure loved it at the time, tho.
A Thousand Suns (2013, Mati Diop)
Starts with very few indications that it’s not a purely observational doc following the lead actor of Touki Bouki making his way to an anniversary screening, but by the end we’re in a new realm with nude women in the Alaskan snow. Nice use of Tex Ritter’s “High Noon”
Diop in Cinema Scope:
The sole element of reality that I kept in my film is that Magaye Niang stayed in Dakar and Myriam Niang left for Alaska. From there I took fictional liberties, but the phone conversation that is heard in the film remains quite faithful to the real conversation that I recorded between the two actors. Nothing is true and nothing is false in my film.
Metaphor or Sadness Inside Out (2014, Catarina Vasconcelos)
The metaphor is an elephant. Bookending square-frame film segments with HD in the middle, circling around memories of a mother who died when her kids were teens. More focus on family, photos and letters – a proto-Metamorphosis of Birds that stands well on its own, and an example of how to use home movies and photographs in poetic ways.
A So-Called Archive (2020, Igwe Onyeka)
Upbeat promo soundtrack introduces a museum while the camera shows its pigeon-infested remains, tracing cobwebs, tattered filmstrips and lines of decay. Filmed inside two shuttered colonial archives in UK and Nigeria, this was already a fascinating little movie and the online description only improves it.
Watched for the Mdou Moctar music, spent the runtime trying to remember Purple Rain. Mdou is new in a Niger town, takes on the local guitar king, but Mdou’s dad disapproves of his music and destroys his guitar. Can he impress the cute girl, find a new left-handed guitar in time for the big competition, and write a killer new song that’s even better than his previous song, which rival
Morris Day Kader has stolen for his own band? Yes!
Lemonade for children… all the Beyoncé glam you could ever desire, plus “black is beautiful” lyrics and Lion King dialogue. That said… those visuals, and costumes, and dances, all 100% all the time. So this is probably the best extended music-video of a tie-in album to a movie remake that could possibly be made.
Filmed in at least six countries, with a few special guests we recognized and plenty we did not. Segment directors include The Burial of Kojo guy, and someone who recently collaborated with Terence Nance… the cinematographers worked with Spike Lee and Solange (and John Mulaney), the production designers did Black Panther, Moonlight, and Room. Anyway, the youth of today is gonna grow up with images from this and Black Panther in their heads when they hear the word “Africa,” which is certainly a change from the “starving children on TV ads” impression I grew up with.