In a dismal grey-brown postapocalypse, Denzel hunts and cooks a cat, robs a corpse then relaxes to listen to his zune. Even babies wear sun goggles in town, the sun deadlier than ever since the nuclear event punched holes in the atmosphere. Local warlord Gary Oldman wants a bible to help control the populace and spread his influence, but passer-through Denzel has the only surviving copy, and is an unnaturally badass fighter, so a showdown ensues. Denzel and Mila Kunis leave town down the fury road, but Gary’s caravan catches up, and more showdowns ensue. The action’s not bad – an early slaughter, backlit under a bridge, puts a reminiscent scene from Resident Evil 6 to shame.

Most importantly, we are in Tom Waits Mode, and he appears in this movie as “the engineer,” aka he runs a barter shop across the street from Oldman’s saloon. He makes an uneasy deal to charge Denzel’s zune, then reappears at the end to open the lock on the bible, revealing that it’s in braille and D escapes to the Children of Men hope island with the entire book memorized. Waits is less pivotal here than in Seven Psychopaths, is mostly around to look cool.

Rare, cool wasteland-set movie, a whole methodically-posed headfuck art-feature a half decade before Marienbad. Vague reverb-affected announcements echo on the soundtrack as a truck drives over gravel and desert. I’m happy to see there are still flocks of birds after the German apocalypse. Driver drags passenger’s luggage to an abandoned-looking town where he finds a kid among drum-and-bass soundtrack jazz. The man loses his shit, pulls a gun on the kid (covered in ants) for not speaking, the woman spills her drink on purpose. Everything from the editing to the focus and music and sound takes turns messing with your head.

A monologue about Sisyphus as the moody driver lies under the truck covered in oil. I can’t tell if the movie is a time loop or if we spent some time in a flashback. Eventually the man finds a cute girl and shoots her dead – biggest surprise is when the cops show up and bust him, in what I’d assumed was a lawless wasteland. After the Goalie, I programmed an accidental double-feature of German stories of motiveless murder.

The credits claim participation by Hans Richter (according to a Richter interview, not true) and commentary by Albert Camus. Played Locarno ’55 alongside a couple of Jiri Trnka features and a Karel Zeman, a lot of nazi movies, and the latest prestige dramas from the US, UK, Germany and France

Vogel’s descriptions are off to a shaky start. “In a desolate, destroyed landscape – bearing now irrelevant traces of technological society – a man and a boy try to find their way under a
fierce sun.” There’s cars, oil, money and cops, all still relevant, and the boy isn’t trying to find his way anyplace.


More of Vogel’s Subversives…

Blue Moses (1962, Stan Brakhage)

Melies motion/edit tricks in a flickering cave. Sync sound! Clean dialogue, no music/fx, of a rich-voiced Wellesian actor, or maybe Charlton Hestonian per the film title. He seems to be riffing in a field, unsure what to say, Brakhage holding still on the actor but going into jitter-mode whenever the camera looks away at the scenery. The actor goes through a range of looks, sometimes wearing so much makeup he looks like a cartoon. Repetition of the credits (drawn in chalk on the rocks). In the last section the actor’s words and a projector beam with Stan’s shadow draw our attention to the filmmaking process. I’m out of the habit of watching Brakhage films – this is from the Dog Star Man years and is very good. Actor Robert Benson, a fellow Colorado resident, had also appeared in Desistfilm.


Canyon (1970, Jon Jost)

Full-day time-lapse looking over the Grand Canyon… shooting a few seconds at a time, lap dissolving the segments. I’d only seen narrative(ish) work by Jost, wasn’t aware of the shorts. Silent, so I played El Ten Eleven’s “Growing Shorter,” which worked great.

Mouseover to move the sun:
image

Thought it’d be fun to watch an apocalypse movie during an actual apocalypse, but it was not. Early scenes set up a couple families with typical problems (Jimmy’s girl Ruth tells him she’s knocked up) while global news stories play out casually on background televisions and title cards ominously tell us the population of Sheffield. Then – nuclear war!

Jimmy likes birds, and his brother dies in the blast along with the finches. The families are separated and never reunite in the chaos. The movie flashes forward in regular intervals, family members dying of illness and starvation, finally ten years later, Ruth blind and ravaged by fallout. In other news, the producers bought the rights to Johnny B. Goode, and they’re damn sure gonna play it.

“Everything’s shit. The only thing that’s not shitty is sleep”

I’ve apparently seen this before, under its Cemetery Man title, in some 90s VHS horror binge-watch, but remembered nothing of its greatness. Hard to believe that after the cool The Church, then the excellent The Sect, Soavi made a great English-language (with proper sync!) horror-comedy, as crazy as his others and just consistently high-quality in every department.

“Go away, I haven’t got time for the living.”

Gaunt Rupert Everett is our cemetery man, disaffected as he blasts the heads off the reanimated bodies of townspeople he buried the week before, living in a split shack with his assistant Nagi (Francois Hadji-Lazaro of City of Lost Children), keeping things pretty quiet and off the grid until Nagi falls for the mayor’s daughter, who goes riding with her biker boyfriend’s gang and gets into a wreck with a bus full of boyscouts, which brings public and government attention to the cemetery, along with a busload of new zombies. Rupert falls in love with a Mysterious Woman who keeps reappearing, sometimes as a zombie and sometimes as a whole new character.

An American movie might’ve kept this story going and lead to a conventional climax, but Soavi has to go bigger and weirder – after the grim reaper tells him to stop killing the dead, Rupert wheels into town and mass-murders the living – or somebody does, but even though we see him committing these crimes, the cops refuse to treat him as a suspect. “Somebody’s stolen my crimes.” Nagi digs up his beloved’s head, which can move on its own and takes up residence in his broken television. Rupert tries to make himself surgically impotent so the new mayor’s hot secretary (the Mysterious Woman again) will stay with him… he sleeps with a student then sets her on fire… then he and Nagi flee town and discover the rest of the world doesn’t exist.

“I just came back to see if this is real, if you were real.”

Kate Lyn Sheil, suspiciously named Amy in a movie written/directed by an Amy, is a mess, acting strangely in her new house and insisting that she dies tomorrow. Her friend Jane (Adams, star of Happiness) comes over to check on Amy, then Jane goes home to her microscope art and classical music until the flashing colored lights from Amy’s psychosis start to invade the house – and now Jane, too, will die tomorrow.

Jane’s checkup doesn’t go great:

In the parlance of the kids, this movie is a “mood,” and I am “here for it.” Amy and Jane wander into the world, their imminent death syndrome passing to everyone they meet. The movie begins to feel like a last day on earth story, like Last Night – no explanation is ever given, but we’re also given no reason not to believe the doomed protagonists. Some get high or go on adventures, some get real – break up relationships, disconnect their dad from life support(!). Instead of ending up an urn of ashes, Amy wants to be a leather jacket, and focuses her efforts on this. The cast plays it straight and is uniformly strong, including the usual suspects with some delightful additions (Michelle Rodriguez! James Benning?). It’s even produced by Benson and Moorhead, just gobs of talent.

Tunde Adebimpe!

Bilge Ebiri in Vulture:

As a filmmaker, Seimetz started off in the experimental world, and her willingness to let her narrative occasionally slip into abstraction serves her well, suggesting broader, more cosmic meanings. Her images blur, her frames pulse and shiver, bubbling microscopic phenomena wash over the screen, and fields of unreal color overwhelm the characters. The soundtrack assaults us with ominous thrums, blasts of classical music, whispers, and distant screams. The film is short and sparsely populated, but it can’t be called minimalist — it’s more of a clipped maximalism, bursting with expressive power before quickly pulling back, like a tale told by someone both eager and afraid to let you in on their darkest secrets.

Seimetz in Brooklyn Rail:

I was saying the other night at the Brooklyn premiere, sometimes, when I’m watching movies, the first 15 minutes are giving me a character’s CV, [spelling out] what this person does, what they do for a living, their boyfriend, their relationship status…as opposed to accessing something that I can’t put into words and just showing me their behavior, which I’m much more fascinated by. To do away with, “Okay, this is the character I’m exploring,” and just go, “We’re exploring that feeling,” and doing that with each individual actor and saying, “This is the energy you’re bringing to the scene,” as opposed to, “You work as a florist.”

The Night Before Christmas (1933, Wilfred Jackson)

Classic color Disney short. Santa does his thing at a poor family’s house, repairs their torn stockings, dresses their tree with the help of many pre-Toy Story living toys, laughs a LOT, then wakes them up with all the noise and runs. We saw the uncensored version where the youngest boy gets sooty and blackfacey. Jackson directed about fifty Disney shorts while still in his 20’s.


Peace on Earth (1939, Hugh Harman)

Meanwhile, they’re having a post-apocalyptic Christmas at MGM, with talking woodland creatures who started wearing pants after an encounter with a bible. I remembered this short well enough to recall the “good will to men” line kicks off the backstory, when a kid asks his squirrel grandma what men are, but did not recall that they sing that line a hundred times in the first two minutes. Inspired by WWI battles the animators lived through, this is a hell of a movie, rightly acclaimed.

Before Pants:

After Pants:


Santa’s Workshop (1932, Wilfred Jackson)

And tonal whiplash, as we return to the predecessor to the other Jackson/Disney movie, Santa pre-delivery-day building all the toys for tots. Some of the assembly line stuff was cute, anyway.


Bedtime for Sniffles (1940, Chuck Jones)

This was rough going – Katy was already tired, and it’s eight minutes of a mouse struggling to stay awake. A few puns (Haxwell Mouse coffee) and mouse-in-human-world gags (eyedroppers for water faucets) can’t compete with the movie’s desire to make us sleepy. Still better than the Disneys, at least. Katy asked why rival studios would make a mouse their lead character – we didn’t realize there were about ten more Sniffles shorts.


The Snowman (1982, Dianne Jackson)

Storybook-looking animation of a non-Frosty snowman who comes alive at midnight, gets invited into the house by his creator, becomes the boy’s friend and goes on a flying adventure, meets Santa Claus, then melts in the sun the next day. It’s all perfectly nice, but I think more for six year olds (or grown-ups who first watched it as six year olds). Oscar-nominated against a Will Vinton claymation short and winner Tango. The same producer made a sequel thirty years later, and he and Snowman codirector Jimmy Murakami made a feature based on the same author’s story of nuclear devastation.


Pluto’s Christmas Tree (1952, Jack Hannah)

We put on a 2000’s Disney special which was just unbearable, throwing every character from every movie into a room with nonstop dialogue and incident, so we skipped ahead to the classic shorts contained within. This featured Chip & Dale vs. Pluto, with Mickey intervening to protect the chipmunks at the end. A huge improvement over the Santa shorts and the House of Mouse framing story, so we’re happy.


Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983, Burny Mattinson)

Maybe the only version of A Christmas Carol named after the “actor” who plays Bob Cratchit. Mickey Mouse had inexplicably been sitting in Disney’s Vault for thirty years, and Scrooge McDuck, named after the Dickens story, had been a Disney comics feature for decades, when some corporate genius realized they could use the two characters to profit off some public domain literature. Goofy plays Marley, Jiminy Cricket is Christmas Past, the rest are characters from Robin Hood, Mickey & The Beanstalk, and Wind in the Willows (not Great Mouse Detective, which was my guess for the charity collectors below). In 26 minutes it’s all a bit rushed, and no match for the Muppet version. Burny worked on everything from Lady and the Tramp to Big Hero 6. Codirector Richy Rich followed up with The Black Cauldron before forming his own studio to make an animated Book of Mormon.

Opens handheld with a total Veep gag, an incompetent newsman who turns the camera off whenever he meant to turn it on. Our newsman Armin (Hans Löw, who had a small part in Toni Erdmann) takes a girl home from a bar, makes an ass of himself and she ditches. He goes home to be with his father and dying grandma. Then he falls asleep by the river, and wakes up as the last man on earth.

The movie is into long takes, but not absurdly showy long takes (though a dizzy race through abandoned streets in a stolen sports car is impressive). The sounds of dying grandma, and a dying dog the next day, are prominent and awful, and seem to soundtrack Armin’s helplessness. But then there’s a jump forward by an unknown amount of time…

Michael Sicinski in Cinema Scope:

In cinematic terms, Köhler’s treatment of Armin’s survival is highly unique in that he solves almost all of his major crises in an undefined but clearly substantial temporal ellipsis. Following the time gap, Köhler gives us a completely transformed Armin. In a nearly silent second act, we see that Armin has lost weight, become a skilled horseman, and, most astonishingly, built … a deluxe home with running water, solar panels, a menagerie of useful farm animals, and most importantly, fully reliable shelter from the elements.

Armin has a gas generator but is working on getting his hydroelectric going, to be fully self-sufficient. That old helpless Armin is still with us at times, like when his newborn goat (more notable sound effects: the mama goat giving birth) is stolen by a dog. This is Armin’s introduction to the only other person in the latter half of the movie, Kirsi (Elena Radonicich). And even though the movie has constructed a little paradise for these two survivors, when old “civilized” Armin starts creeping back, Kirsi decides to get back on the road.

Played Cannes in the Certain Regard with Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Rafiki and Border. Ulrich Köhler made Sleeping Sickness, and is not Ulrich Seidl who made that Safari film at True/False – I will try to stop getting my Ulrichs confused. His romantic partner Maren Ade is a producer, and I just saw her name on Synonyms as well.

As for what it all means, see the Sicinski article. Köhler:

For me, the interesting point is that a character who refused to adapt to a bourgeois lifestyle starts building a future once the society he didn’t want to be part of disappears.

After Ape and The Alchemist Cookbook, Potrykus joins some others (Ben Wheatley, Bruno Dumont) in that select group of recent filmmakers who I can’t quite say I love, but I feel I need to see everything they’ve made right away.

Abbie (Ape-man Joshua Burge) spends the entire 90-minute movie in his undies on the couch. First he’s attempting a “challenge” timed by abusive older brother Cam (David Dastmalchian of Ant Man and the Wasp). It’s established that Abbie has never completed a challenge, and now he’s attempting something involving rounds of a skateboarding video game with drinks of milk in between, and we know where the movie is headed when he secretly pees in the milk jug while Cam is downstairs finding his Billy Mitchell issue of Nintendo Power. After Abbie’s terrible, disgusting failure, he gets “one more final, ultimate challenge” – to stay on the couch and defeat Mitchell’s unbeatable Pac-Man record before Y2K.

Abbie convinces a friend (Andre Hyland, The Death of Dick Long) to come help, but Dallas just watches tapes of Abbie embarrassing himself, eats all his food and ditches. Adina Howard (a mid-90’s music star) comes over with food and comics, says the final level of Pac-Man is unbeatable but gives Abbie some tips. He practices mind control on her guy Cortez (hey, it’s Cortez from Alchemist Cookbook!), offers 10k of his winnings to the exterminator to leave the couch in place and bring sandwiches, and he uses an endless supply of duct tape and videotape to operate and document his tiny kingdom.

Is the entire first 80 minutes worth suffering through to reach the final act, in a post-Y2K wasteland, when Abbie finally rises from the couch and uses the telekinetic powers he has honed in his seclusion to explode the head of his returning brother? Probably, yeah.

This has a decent reputation, and is based on an acclaimed novel, so maybe I was just in a mood – I found it weak, clunky, unconvincing in every way. Fun in theory to watch a tormented Vincent Price (same year as Masque of the Red Death) as the sole survivor in a world overrun by zombies, searching for other uninfected humans by day, trying to ignore the monsters yelling his name outside the house all night. I’m gonna blame Addams Family director Salkow and his mysterious Italian codirector for the clunkiness.

Price narrates, and shows us his lost family in flashback, eventually locates “survivor” Ruth, who turns out to be a zombie spy sent to flush him out. This is four years before Living Dead, so I shouldn’t call them zombies, but they’re ex-humans who only need to dispose of Price in order to form a completely ex-human society. This was remade with Charlton Heston (The Omega Man), then Will Smith (I Am Legend) – maybe fourth time’s the charm.

Oh dear, it’s almost Christmas and I’m still catching up with SHOCKtober movies…