This came out the same time as Kate Plays Christine and was slammed, then I read some defenses of it, so thought it’d be instructive to watch both. And this one, the straight period-piece retelling of dead newswoman Christine Chubbuck’s final days, was worse than I’d feared, an unenlightening, 1970’s-fetishizing semi-drama leading to a foregone, unpleasant ending. Christine has a depressive history, has personal and family and work troubles, and tragically kills herself on air. Michaels Sicinski and D’Angelo argue that it’s not unethical, not exploitative – maybe so, but it struck a couple wrong notes with me. I kept thinking “sure, but what’s the point,” and then Kate Plays Christine was an entire feature about trying to find the point, and that played beautifully for me. Not a huge fan of Simon Killer either, I’ll be hesitant to watch another Campos joint (but damn, Sicinski says Afterschool is great).
The actors do an unusually good job with unexciting material, at least. Rebecca Hall is magnetic as Christine, despite the character being prickly and awkward. Tracy Letts, who’s wonderful in everything these days, is the boss, Timothy Simons from Veep is a coworker, and Michael “no relation” Hall (TV’s Dexter) a potential love interest.
Maybe it’s a gimmick, but it worked for me, belatedly. I spent most of the movie wondering at the widescreen cinematography (which seems to use its black bars as a weapon, subtracting from the picture rather than adding) and the going-nowhere story, only gradually realizing that friendly, innocent Simon is being revealed as a liar and woman-beater.
The portentous title immediately creates an anticipation for the events that will follow. Yet whilst there is a logic to the title, Campos smartly plays with the audience’s expectations as this is not a serial killer thriller but the character study of a detached sociopath who leeches off others before discarding them when they have fulfilled their usefulness. Simon is a complicated and ambiguous character, weak and pitiful yet cunning and manipulative. He is a man who adapts himself to take advantages of situations, appearing hurt and helpless yet always in control.
American Simon is Brady Corbet (part of the Melancholia wedding meltdown) and his girl in Paris is Mati Diop (35 Shots of Rum), and the two cowrote their parts together with Campos, whose third feature Christine premiered at Sundance the week I watched this.
Not the kind of movie I was looking for. It has realistic lighting instead of movie lighting, which makes all the difference. Also I’m not sure that it was a horror movie. Depends what happened, who any of these people were, and whether the one bloody action montage (preceded by a girl dancing topless in a wolf mask, but with poor lighting) was supposed to be actually happening, or was the movie they’re shooting, or something else.
Swanberg (his own lead actor, just like Polanski, except not at all like that) is casting a werewolf movie, frustrated with moviemaking, says it’s crap if it’s just filmed theater, that we need new forms (I suggest he watch some Guy Maddin). I think he’s casting a girl in his movie who makes his girlfriend uncomfortable. He goes on about how movies (making/watching them) doesn’t make him happy, and right now his movie isn’t making me happy, so I’m off to the IMDB. Interesting thing is this one stars two experienced actresses – Amy Seimetz (Upstream Color) and Kate Lyn Sheil (all the Alex Ross Perry and Ti West and Adam Wingard movies) – plus at least three four film directors – Swanberg, Ti West, Larry Fessenden and Antonio Campos – but I’m not sure who anyone played or what was going on. Maybe I could’ve paid closer attention. Anyway, first movie I’ve seen by Swanberg (not counting a V/H/S episode) and I was hoping I’d love it since he has made a hundred more.
A werewolf with a gun is twice as deadly: