Uncle Yanco (1967)

“Above all, man is nourished by what’s marvelous.”

While in California, Agnes introduces herself to a relative, who is an awesome weirdo (it must run in the family), a painter and builder living on a Sausalito houseboat inspiring all the local hippies. She shoots and edits this encounter with her usual verve, including slates and rehearsals, capturing and restaging realities.


Black Panthers (1968)

Good images of a Panther rally protesting the imprisonment of Huey Newton – mostly straightforward reportage and interviews with lively editing. It’s less vibrant as a film than her others, possibly because her tourist crew wasn’t trusted by the panther community.

David Myers shared cinematography credits on both of these films. He’d become an acclaimed rock doc photographer beginning a couple years later with Woodstock and Gimme Shelter, including at least three Neil Young movies, a Grateful Dead concert film, The Last Waltz, Louie Bluie and Bob Dylan’s Renaldo and Clara.

Sept. 2016:
Watched this again in the beautiful blu-ray restoration, along with Agnes Varda’s documentary. Of course, I take back the comment below that the music is unmemorable – I find no showtunes memorable until I’ve heard them a second time, and now I feel like I’ve known the twins’ theme song forever. Had completely forgotten that there’s a murder in this movie, a family friend who hangs around the café is arrested for chopping up a girl named Lola-Lola (Blue Angel reference?). Re: the English version of The Young Girls, it’s glimpsed in the Varda doc, but apparently nobody thought it worth restoring and adding to this box set, so that’s probably the final word on that.

Transporter Bridge, transport me away:

Oct. 2007:
Not a total musical like Umbrellas was, and no connecting characters between the two, just a brief mention of the town of Cherbourg. This one has the same longing tone as the previous film in parts, but mostly it’s a much sunnier film, a loving, colorful, musical tribute to Hollywood escapist classics.

At this point, Demy was far out of touch tonally with his French New Wave contemporaries. Umbrellas characters were at least affected by the ongoing war, but Rochefort, coming after the more politically-engaged Muriel and Paris Belong To Us and The War Is Over, is in its own insular world for the most part. A few years later, after the May ’68 riots and Godard’s and Marker’s hard turns to the left, after even Demy’s wife Agnes Varda had filmed Black Panthers and contributed to the Far from Vietnam project, Demy would continue to go his own way, filming a musical fantasy fairy-tale with Deneuve and Jean Marais in 1970. By that point, I gather that he was not well-liked by his New Wave filmmaker/critic contemporaries. I don’t think he is well-liked still… I’ve been reading that his career was pretty uneven, and only a quarter of his films are talked about regularly. I guess Demy’s films have had to be recontextualized to be appreciated, removed from the radical French 60’s and enjoyed as pure cinema.

Danielle Darrieux (star of Madame De… and the cheating wife in La Ronde, later in 8 Women & Demy’s Une chambre en ville) plays Yvonne, mother of Catherine Deneuve, her tragic real-life sister Françoise Dorléac (of The Soft Skin and Roger Vadim’s La Ronde remake) and young Boubou.

Yvonne regrets having left Boubou’s father Simon Dame (Michel Piccoli) ten years ago. Delphine (Deneuve) keeps missing her dream man, an artist/poet doing his military service, Jacques Perrin (of Donkey Skin, Cinema Paradiso, the Kieslowski-penned 2005 Hell). Solange (Dorléac) dreams of meeting famous American composer Andy Miller (Gene Kelly). And they all (more or less) meet up and fall in love at the end of the movie.

L-R below: Darrieux, salesman George Chakiris (West Side Story), Josette, romantic Perrin, George’s partner Bill, Gramps

Guess I’m not so musical-savvy, don’t know what to say about this one stylistically. I mean, it’s bright and colorful and fun, less sense of loss and longing than Umbrellas, but I kind of miss that. Gene Kelly is a cutie, fits in just fine.

Katy asks why the mother has to work all day at her diner to get by, while her daughters live high in their fancy apartment and pretty dresses from teaching song and dance lessons. Are the realism and the fantasy rubbing against each other uncomfortably, or is the mother paying for Boubou’s school and still helping to support the girls until they get married? If the latter, I’d hope they’d take a shift at the diner once in a while.

This and Umbrellas had a funny combination of set and location shooting, with Demy doing location shots in the actual towns, but repainting the storefronts to his liking. Nice music, nothing memorable for me, having heard it just once. The girls refer to Jules and Jim and composer Michel Legrand. The camera should count as a cast member since it is engaged by the other characters and dances around with them. A self-reflexive movie then, both in its use of the camera and its reference to musical convention. Bright, solid primary colors abound.

Jonathan Rosenbaum: “There are English-dubbed versions of both Umbrellas and Young Girls; I haven’t seen the latter, but the English version of Umbrellas is so unrelievedly awful that I’m happy to have missed the dubbed Young Girls.” Although if the IMDB trivia page is to be believed, Rochefort was fully shot in English as well as French, so it might be worth hunting down an English version if it still exists anywhere.

Varda cameo as the shortest nun:

Caroline Layde for Senses of Cinema:

However undemanding and lollipop Demy’s films may appear, they present some nuance and sophisticated intertext, and they share a certain charm, vivid and unified. His films inhabit worlds in themselves that may peripherally refer to social reality and the real world but remain content as alternate realities of poetry, color, and music … Demy’s consistency of vision itself justifies his inclusion among the “auteurs”, defined by André Bazin and François Truffaut and expanded by Andrew Sarris as distinguishing themselves with their salient visual language from mere metteurs-en-scène. Demy certainly created a signature style of poetry and innocence and clung to it. Yet this quality also has a sophisticated aspect, suggesting the dream worlds of the surrealists and of Demy’s inspiration, Jean Cocteau. It is fitting that the American critic Gary Carey has described Demy as “the Joseph Cornell of French cinema”.


The Young Girls Turn 25 (1993, Agnes Varda)

The town of Rochefort threw a party and screening for the 25th anniversary, invited Demy’s family, Legrand, the set designer, the producer and cast. Bittersweet memories for some, pure joy for others. Film and video of the festivities along with film clips and Varda’s excellent 16mm footage from behind the scenes.

“The memory of happiness is perhaps also happiness.”

Jacques on set:

Piecemeal protest doc with surprisingly great location footage and interesting scenes, each one a bit too loud and going on for too long. The pieces are mostly unsigned, but I believe Chris Marker put the project together, and some segments are either identified online, or just very easily guessed (ahem, Resnais). They mention that Joris Ivens shot on location – most everyone else stayed home and used stock footage or filmed protest marches.

“It is in Vietnam that the main question of our time arises: the right of the poor to establish societies based on something else than the interests of the rich.”

Cluster-bomb:

Supposed to be President Johnson:

The Resnais segment is interesting before it wears out its welcome. Bernard Fresson (of a few Resnais films, including a small part in Je t’aime, je t’aime) is playing “writer Claude Ridder” (name of the lead character in Je t’aime, je t’aime played by Claude Rich) while a woman Karen Blanguernon (Rene Clement’s The Deadly Trap) glares from the corner of his office. This segment was written by Jacques Sternberg (Je t’aime, je t’aime, of course), so perhaps Claude Ridder was his standard lead character name, since this Ridder seems too impassioned to be the heartbroken dead soul from the feature. “Ridder” monologues on the war, politics, and his own inability to make change. “A spineless French intellectual articulating excuses for his class’s political apathy,” per the NY Times.

Next, a history lesson using stock footage, photographs and comics, drawing connections to the Spanish Civil War (the Resnais had mentioned Algeria).

Then Godard, who monologues in front of a giant film camera, talking about the distance, his inability to connect with the war itself, or even the French working class, the focus of so many of his films. Since he can’t film on-location, he inserts Vietnam into his feature films. “I make films. That’s the best I can do for Vietnam. Instead of invading Vietnam with a kind of generosity that makes things unnatural, we let Vietnam invade us.”

After a jaunty music video to a protest song by Tom Paxton, a longer somber voiceover reading the words of Michele Ray who spent three weeks with the Viet Cong, showing her footage before it goes crazy at the end.

“Why We Fight,” in which General Westmoreland explains the official U.S. position on the war, filmed off a TV while someone zooms around and twiddles knobs. Title must be referencing the 1940’s U.S. propaganda film series Why We Fight, which Joris Ivens contributed to.

Anti-napalm rabbi:

Monologue by Fidel Castro, who gives his theories on guerrilla warfare and how this applies to Vietnam. The new wavers seemed to have easy access to Fidel back then.

Ann Uyen, a Vietnamese woman living in Paris discusses Norman Morrison’s setting himself on fire outside the pentagon, and what that meant to her people. “We think that in America there is another war, a people’s war against everything that’s unfair.” Then an interview with Norman’s widow, who seems in sync with Norman’s politics. This was by William Klein.

War protest zombie walk, probably shot by Klein:

Marker’s outro:

In facing this defiance [of the Vietnamese], the choice of rich society is easy: either this society must destroy everything resisting it – but the task may be bigger than its means of destruction – or it will have to transform itself completely – but maybe it’s too much for a society at the peak of its power. If it refuses that option, it will have to sacrifice its reassuring illusions, to accept this war between the poor and the rich as inevitable, and to lose it.

Hadn’t watched this in a long time. I misremembered it as her neorealist movie – a grim, straightforward portrait of a wandering homeless girl. Apparently I missed or forgot all the really interesting bits: scraps of interviews with people who’d seen the girl, out of chronological order, and the great dramatic violin music between episodes. It’s as poetic and beautiful as Le Bonheur, or any of Varda’s other features.

Sandrine Bonnaire had already starred in Pialat’s A nos amours, would later headline Rivette’s Joan the Maid. As Mona the Vagabond, she tries different odd jobs, a couple boyfriends (a pothead vagrant and a Tunisian farm worker), stays with a hippie philosopher goat-farmer (playing himself), is picked up by a rich woman thrilled to have contact with a lower class, and best of all she meets (and temporarily replaces) Yolande Moreau (lately of Micmacs and The Last Mistress), employed by an old woman with bad eyesight.

Doesn’t sound like it makes any sense from my description, but it won the golden lion at Venice, so there. And as always, Varda has the best DVD extras, which she produces herself. One reveals a documentary moment in the film, where Varda staged a bus-station conversation between the vagabond who inspired the film and an older man, while Sandrine and Yolande roam in the background of the shot.

Jacquot de Nantes (1991, Agnes Varda)

A pretty good movie about a kid growing up in small-town France wishing to make films – but if you’re a Varda/Demy fan who knows the backstory, that she’s filming her husband’s childhood memories as he’s dying, it becomes extremely wonderful and moving.

The Beaches of Jacques:

You see inspirations for The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Donkey Skin, Pied Piper and Lola, family life, the love for music and cinema. Largely black and white with splashes of color. Varda flips between childhood events and the film they’d inspire, flashing a graphic of a pointing hand from the Demy Garage sign in between.

Jacquot 1:

“Seeing my name there when I was so young gave me a sense of the fragility of our existence.”

WWII occupies much of the film. His father helps with wartime manufacturing. The kids see Les Visiteurs du soir instead of Baron Munchausen because they’re not allowed see German films. In September 1943 his town is bombed. “There were dead all over town.” Adult Demy tells us he’s hated violence ever since.

Jacquot 2:

Making La Ballerine:

Young Demy spends a season with the clogmakers, works with puppet shows, decides he wants to manufacture theater and film sets. After tiring of the 8mm Chaplin film he’s given, he scrapes off the emulsion and hand-draws his own war story on the film. After a failed attempt at live-action shooting, he continues making films alone – stop-motion this time.

Jacquot 3:

Demy is sent to trade school but hates it, makes his stop-motion and keeps dreaming of cinema. The movie ends quite suddenly. “Later, Christian-Jaque came to Nantes to present his film D’homme a hommes. Christian-Jaque was kind enough to look at my film.” Demy gets to enroll in film school. “I met a woman filmmaker, we made a few films, then she gave me a fine son, and now I paint.”

L’Univers de Jacques Demy (1995, Agnes Varda)

Varda’s doc about her late husband’s films, with some personal details and stories thrown in, and interviews with key participants. Varda says they didn’t work together until Jacquot de Nantes, “so I’ll be discreet in this documentary.”

Demy on the set of Lola:

Covering all his films, in no particular order: Lola (with Anouk Aimee, Marc Michel and Michel Legrand), Three Seats for the 26th (with Francoise Fabian), Donkey Skin (with footage of Jim Morrison visiting the set). “I wanted to recreate things that Marais did with Cocteau.”

A Slightly Pregnant Man, then flashback to the war, the nazi bombing of his hometown. “After something as horrible as that, you get the feeling nothing worse can ever happen. And that’s when you start creating a fantasy world.” A Room in Town with Michel Piccoli. La Table tournante, codirected with animator Paul Grimault at the end of both men’s careers. A hilarious montage of scenes from 1954’s The Rebels of Lomanach in which Demy plays the soldier who dies first in every battle scene, then assisting Jean Masson and Georges Rouquier, who encouraged Demy by producing his clogmaker short.

Umbrellas of Cherbourg with Deneuve and producer Mag Bodard. Model Shop, which was “Lola in L.A.” and would have starred Harrison Ford if the studio hadn’t insisted on bankable star Gary Lockwood (heh). Varda catches up with Ford and asks Aimee about the sequel. Demy: “I called it Model Flop, which it was.” On to Pied Piper (also in English), The Seven Capital Sins (Demy drew Lust), and his weird-looking 1980’s Orpheus story Parking, “a fairy tale where there’s no fairy.” Back to Bay of Angels, then Lady Oscar and the TV movie La Naissance du jour (“I like it because I thought it was unfilmable”) before ending on a high note with Young Girls of Rochefort.

So, having just heard about them for the first time, I watched some of Demy’s early shorts.

Le Sabotier du Val de Loire (1956)

A solemn documentary about the clogmakers of Demy’s youth – or perhaps a half-documentary with a dramatic story added, including a death and a climactic wheelbarrow purchase.

Le Bel indifferent (1957)

Demy’s first non-hand-drawn color work, based on a Cocteau play about a very desperate and lonely woman, waiting all day for her man to return, but seeming even more alone when he does. Cinematography by Franju regular Marcel Fradetal.

Lead Actress Jeanne Allard appeared in Varda’s Les Creatures.

Ars (1959)

Another black-and-white semi-doc, this time about Jean-Marie Vianney, parish priest of the small town of Ars, who’d be named a saint after his death. Demy films museums and artifacts while briefly telling Vianney’s story, but most effectively he shoots the present-day town as if the events were happening currently.

Also watched Les Horizons Morts (1951) again – a very accomplished student film.

And happily, Demy’s homemade animations are available to watch in full, apart from their appearances in the above two features.

Le Pont de mauves (1944)
Bombing of the bridge.

Attaque Nocturne (1948)
Looks like the mugger is walking past the Demy Garage entrance.

La Ballerine (unknown date)
I love the pinholes tracing her path.

Varda films her own travels for a year or so, as she visits old friends and new, goes to lots and lots of art exhibits and museums, and attends retrospectives of her work. “Now that I’m old, everyone tends to give me awards and trophies.”

I didn’t get tired of the framing story: a tree at her offices is severely pruned, all shot in still photographs. And speaking of photographs, the main excitement in episode one is that she visits Chris Marker at his studio. She shoots the cables behind his computers, “the secret threads of the labyrinth of his art.” A Demy-fest celebrating the 50th anniversary of Lola, featuring Aimee, Piccoli and Varda’s children. Lots of exciting artwork.

Manuel de Oliveira attends Varda’s screening in Lisbon. Somebody explains Oliveira’s cinema: “He says reality is merely the result of certain conventions. It’s very important in Manoel’s films to understand that society becomes the artifice. Cinema is not the artifice. Manoel’s films help us get some distance from this reality imposed on us, so we can interpret it in another way.” Then Oliveira clowns around for Varda, doing his Chaplin impression and miming a fencing match, and my understanding of him changes. When he was a piece of trivia, The Oldest Working Filmmaker, it always seemed like he had very little time left, that each film might be his last (a review I found of Non, over two decades and thirty films ago, suggested that it would be his last), but seeing him in action I suddenly realize that he may live forever.

Varda chills in Marker’s world:

Oliveira:

Ep. Two, she goes to Brazil and meets Glauber Rocha’s daughter and Jeanne Moreau for the Rio film festival. A chair in a gallery prompts a montage of chairs Varda has photographed. Stockholm, and an Ingmar Bergman auction. Agnes is so fascinated by her interviewer, they end up swapping jobs. She calls gallery director Hans Ulrich a “contemporary art detector.” Varda meets Jonas Mekas and Yoko Ono while dressed as a potato. Flashbacks to Vagabond and Beaches. An elephant upon its trunk announces an exibition.

Agnes Potato with Mekas:

Ep. Three: igloos in Basel. Varda’s installation film Patatutopia is a triptych of potato images. Another installation of interviews, each one playing on its own television in front of its own easy chair. “A piece by George Segal attracts my attention. I didn’t know how to film my distress when Jacques died. So I wrapped myself in white, like plaster, and imitated Alice. I listened to music we both loved. Artists invent ways for us to express our emotions.” At the Alliance Francaise she attends a presentation of Beaches and a photo exhibit, including portraits she took of filmmakers (Demy, Visconti, a superb shot of Fellini). She visits the Hermitage and flashes back to Russian Ark, then back in Paris has a fascinating chat with artists Annette Messager and Christian Boltanski.

the Segal piece:

Patatutopia:

Boltanski’s holocaust-metaphor used-clothing installation:

Ep. Four: setting up a Beaches installation, with sand and her shack made of filmstrips. Some visitors to the shack: “Their interpreter murmurs ‘New Wave'”. Digital beaches, a man who collects buttons (and button stories), then a return to La Pointe Courte, where she films the 2010 version of the same jousting tournament she shot in 1954 for her first feature. A Marker grinning cat leads to more museums, including an exhibit by a painter who works only in black. I liked how he displays his paintings, suspended in the middle of a room instead of upon the walls, so you can look past one to compare it with another in 3D. Jean-Louis Trintignant recites poetry in the park – this kind of thing never happens where I live.

Varda street on la pointe courte:

Trintignant:

Ep. Five: a visit to her buddy Zalman King, Richard Pryor’s costar. Towers built by a “hero of outsider art.” Interview with a reluctant participant at the gang violence memorial. She talks about Jim Morrison and visits her old beach house, presumably during the Lions Love era, then toys with blue screens on the beach. Some 15th century angel/Jesus paintings then, more fun, skeletons in Mexico City. Agnes gets her interpreter to play piano and her assistant to pose nude for a photograph. Interview, with clips of Japon, with Carlos Reygadas, before visiting Frida Kahlo’s house. A juice factory that also houses a massive collection of modern art. Matthew Barney, Marina, Abramovic, and the best molé in town.

Zalman:

Agnes and Mexico interpreter Elodie, not nude:

And the series ends with no grand sweeping statement on the travels, just a series of sketches accumulated over a year or two, the time it took for the tree in her courtyard to completely re-grow.

“They talk too much to be happy.”

Descriptions of this film focus on the blank-faced young married couple in crisis, visiting the fishing town where he grew up, debating whether they should stay together. But the couple seems to appear in about one third of the movie. The rest is about the town itself and its residents – daily fishing, problems with the law and health board, a teenage couple who want to start dating, a jousting competition in the river. Since most of the movie defies plot summary, the married couple gets more attention than they maybe deserve.

He says something like “you change your mind so much, I’m always a day or two behind.” And I’m so glad I never finished watching this with Katy (she made it about 20 minutes in), because most of their conversation is about their failing relationship, whether or not they’re in love and should break up. Katy will take this personally and think I’m trying to ask these questions indirectly myself. Also any movie containing any sadness makes her sad. Best to stick with Hello, Dolly!

Resnais-style camera moves (he was the film’s editor – the same year he made Toute la memoire du monde), some highly posed, French-poetic shots of the couple, which are all the more arresting against the reality of the small fishing village. But Varda doesn’t shoot it like reality. The sea, the clotheslines and nets, the shacks and neighborhood cats all look like an expensive set, arranged for the pleasure of her camera. An unbelievably accomplished debut.

Of the two actors, Silvia Monfort was in a couple movies with Jean Gabin, also a Robert Bresson movie I’ve never heard of, and Philippe Noiret was the uncle of Zazie dans le metro, also in Topaz and Coup de Torchon.

Ydessa, The Bears, and etc. (2004)

I like documentaries with twist endings. There’s a shocker at the end of artist Ydessa’s gallery display of thousands of framed photographs of people holding teddy bears: a bare-walled third room containing only a mannequin of Hitler, kneeling as if in prayer. Ydessa’s parents were holocaust survivors, and some of their family members didn’t survive – the exhibit is dedicated to them. I didn’t warm up to Ydessa very much, but I like the layout of her exhibit, the photos themselves and the film.

Nice Varda-esque touch: Ydessa says she’s created a fiction that looks like documentary: that everybody is happy and has a teddy bear. “Reality and fiction – I’m somewhere in between.” And of course in her montage of photos from the exhibit, Varda sneaks in a photo of herself as a child.

7 P., cuis., s.de b… (1984)

I think the title is real-estate shorthand for “seven bedrooms, kitchen and bath.” Shot in a former hospice during an exhibition created by Louis Bec, who played the older father. So I’m not sure which of the visual ideas came from Bec and which from Varda, but it’s a remarkable little film. Unseen realtor is showing this property to unseen doctor, the doctor moves in, starts a (large) family which grows up fast. They go through a couple maids and their oldest daughter gets a boyfriend and rebels against her father. Older yet, and the father has died. The rooms go from bare to slightly dressed to crazy – the bathroom totally covered in feathers at one point. Characters speak through each other, repeating phrases like in Marienbad.

Yolande Moreau, who’d play a chef in Micmacs:

You’ve Got Beautiful Stairs, You Know (1986)

A celebration of the Cinematheque and its front steps, intercutting with famous film scenes set upon steps. Some semi-re-enactments – I liked the buggy tossed down the steps, Potemkin-style, and the mildly concerned man at the bottom who leaned over to check that nobody was inside.

It snowed in Atlanta so everything shut down for an entire week. As is now traditional, I celebrated by watching a pile of shorts I’d long been planning to see (some as part of the Auteur Completist Initiative).

The Dreamers (1982, Orson Welles)
Welles as an old man narrates the story of opera singer Pellegrina Leone (Oja Kodar), who lost her singing voice in a fire. It’s all Welles and Kodar doing monologues. Maybe all of Welles’ films come down to monologues. Constructed from fragments, with black screens where footage was missing, narration recorded with the sound of rustling script pages. Ooh look, a Don Quixote reference. Not the most exciting of the many late-career Welles fragment films… personally I’d like to see more of The Deep.

Orson in his magician hat:

Invocation of My Demon Brother (1969, Kenneth Anger)
Good camerawork, but ridiculous movie. I think with his images Anger is trying to say that the military is a death-obsessed homosexual cult. I think with his audio Mick Jagger is trying to declare the death of interesting music. I think with his performance, Anton LaVey is trying to expose himself as a silly clown.

That is a nazi flag, but what is he burning?

Le Lion Volatil (2003, Agnes Varda)
Julie Depardieu (Guillaume’s younger sister) works for a psychic, while an aspiring magician named Lazarus Combes (Anton LaVey would be pleased) works at a tourist-trap dungeon around the corner. Every day on their lunch breaks they meet in front of the Lion of Belfort memorial – the same one featured in Rivette’s Pont du Nord and Paris s’en va. Their brief almost-romance doesn’t pan out, but more interestingly, Julie starts hallucinating variations on the lion – first it has a giant bone in its mouth (as supposedly suggested by Andre Breton), then it vanishes and is replaced by a giant housecat. Special effects + Vardaian whimsy = happiness.

Les Dites Cariatides (1984, Agnes Varda)
A tour of caryatids – human statues used as building columns or ornamental facades – throughout Paris, with poems by Baudelaire. “The Peloponesian city of Karyate aided Persia in a war against other Greeks, but Persia lost. The Greeks took revenge on Karyatian collaborators, slaying all the men and enslaving the women. They were paraded as spoils of war. The noble women were triumphantly shown in their lovely gowns and finery. To illustrate their punishment, architects used these statues on public buildings instead of columns.”

The Calligrapher (1991, Bros. Quay)
Three short (15-sec?) segments rejected as BBC2 ident bumps. My favorite kind of Quay film – awesome stop-motion with no human actors, repetition or long-winded confusing mythological story.

Storytime (1968, Terry Gilliam)
This came out while the show Do Not Adjust Your Set (a precursor to Flying Circus) was in production. Opens as a poorly-animated (in Gilliam’s magazine-cutout style) story of a cockroach named Don, who is then stomped on by a man called Jeremy Trousercrease… and so on, each minute-long concept leading into another. Even features a “we apologize for the previous cartoon – the animator responsible has been sacked” disclaimer, which would be reused in Monty Python. Not exactly a lost masterpiece, but a fun little series of cartoon gags.

Pandoora (2002, Takashi Miike)
Just a cheesy samurai music video – does not count as a Miike movie. It ends with our hero about to face off against a giant mantis. What, were they expecting a sequel?

Male (1962, Osamu Tezuka)
Lots of play with frame sizes and positions as a male cat narrates, talking to the man of the house, about how sex should be simple and private and should not end in stabbing your partner to death.

The London Story (1986, Sally Potter)
A woman conspires with a door opener and a retired photocopy machine operator, takes a government minister out to the theater and while he sleeps, replaces his speech about the future of Britain with a new one, causing panic in the media the next day as the conspirators enjoy a choreographed dance on a bridge. Delightful.

Reasons To Be Glad (1980, Jeff Scher)
More of Scher’s fanciful drawing and incredible editing based on rotoscoped (?) images and set to a Dinah Shore song.

The Bum Bandit (1931, Dave Fleischer)
Oh my. A Popeye-muttering train robber gets out-toughed by a passenger in the form of Proto-Betty Boop (still with the dog ears), the robber’s abandoned wife, who steals the locomotive and the bandit, closes the shades and makes with the sweet pre-code lovin’.

Betty and the Bum:

Negro passenger with stolen chickens:

Russian Rhapsody (1944, Robert Clampett)
Watched this recently on the big screen but it never gets old. Hitler’s plane is taken out by gremlins from the kremlin. Why don’t we have wartime cartoons anymore? I want to see the Penguins of Madagascar take on Osama Bin Laden.

Vinyl (1965, Andy Warhol)
In the 60’s it was revolutionary to make slow, cheap movies with bad gay actors, but not anymore. There are probably three filming as I type this. This isn’t technically a short film, but I gave up after thirty minutes, having dozed for the previous ten. A dude recites Burgess and dances to pop music – and it’s all one shot. Wikipedia says it was filmed unrehearsed, which I don’t doubt, and says it’s one of the “1000 films to see before you die,” which I do.

Not a very popular movie, not easy to find or widely discussed, so I wondered about the title. Is it “Lion’s Love” or “Lions’ Love” or just “Lions Love”. Title card on the movie says:

“Lions Love Lions Love Lions Love by Mama Lion”

So that clears that up.

Jim and Jerry, writer/performers of the musical Hair (and therefore the cringe-inducing song Age of Aquarius), along with Andy Warhol model/actress Viva, lounge around an L.A. mansion speaking hippyese, apparently playing themselves. Shirley Clarke, also playing herself, comes to stay for a while since she’s meeting Hollywood bigwigs about getting an independent film produced. Bad things come in threes within a couple days in June, when RFK and Andy Warhol are both shot and Shirley overdoses on pills. All but Kennedy turn out okay.

I’m not sure what the movie was getting at. The other Varda film I didn’t love, One Sings, The Other Doesn’t, at least had a point, exploring feminism from a number of angles, but what is this one getting at? That violence is a drag? That Los Angeles is full of phony hippies?

There are scenes in a film studio where a producer is meeting with Shirley’s representative trying to agree on a project. The budget works out, but ultimately the studio won’t give her final cut, using careful phrasing like “of course she has creative control, but we might have to change things after test screenings.” And we get a scene (the only one I loved) where Shirley refuses to “overdose,” so Agnes jumps in front of the camera and does it for her, showing Shirley that it’s no big deal. But I wouldn’t say the movie is about the difficulty of making a movie. No movies ever get made here except Varda’s, and Viva’s acting career is barely mentioned.

AV: “I’m trying to make a movie”
SC: “Right, it’s your story, you do it.”

L-R: Jim Morrison, Agnes Varda, Frank Zappa

Auteurs quotes PFA in calling it “a deliberately decadent riff on fantasy, immaturity, and violence: American culture, 1968,” so I guess it’s that.

Eddie Constantine shows up at the door for a little scene, but I didn’t catch Jim Morrison (besides the photo above) or Peter Bogdanovich – IMDB claims they both appear.

Mostly it’s bubbly hippies talking over each other, singing, improvising and pretending to be deep. This is pretty much exactly how I imagined 1969 to be. It must have been unbearable. I like the brief street sign montage of roads named after movie stars – didn’t know about that, but should have guessed.

Viva: “I’m tired of all this emancipation crap”
“Please turn the camera off.”

Shirley Clarke with cardboard camera, an image Varda would re-use in Simon Cinema

“Should art imitate, exaggerate, and/or deform reality?”

Even Varda runs out of patience with these guys sometimes – I like that she speeds up the action, replacing the sound with string music, whenever the scene gets long or the dialogue is less good.

They watch Lost Horizon on TV, as old to them as Lions Love is to me. The hippies find out they don’t get along with children. Frank Zappa appears again in a montage of drawings after title card “the witnesses.” It’s ironic since Frank hated hippies. The apartment whispers things to Shirley. One of the guys suspiciously uses the line “let the sun shine in.”

“Why Kennedy? Why do they always shoot Kennedy?”

I did love the ending, an interview with the three lead actors (Jim takes off his fake wig), ending with Viva who wants to just breathe for a while, a long closeup as she does exactly that. Warholian? Possibly.

Eddie Constantine visits Viva:

Also found a lovely TV interview with Varda and Susan Sontag, whose first film Duet for Cannibals was just out. Varda starts by protesting the introductory speech’s use of the word “grotesque,” says her stars “are not grotesque people at all. They have long hair and they live like free people.”

“It’s not a story; it’s a chronicle, I would say.”
“It’s mainly a film about stars, stars-to-be, political stars…”

Sontag joins Varda in attacking the interviewer – A.V. calls him racist for continuing to use the word grotesque, and S.S. contradicts him when he tries to speak about all of underground cinema as if it’s the same kind of thing. He tries to get out of it, uses phrases like “labyrinthine convolutions” and mentions Dostoyevsky, but it’s too late for him. It’s funny to me that Varda’s film is in English and Sontag’s is not.

More craziness from Lions Love: