En levande själ (A Living Soul, 2014, Henry Moore Selder)

A living brain, with ear and eyeball, awakens in a fishtank and eventually succeeds in psychically communicating with its nurse Emma. Happy birthday to me – thanks, Trevor!

Based on a novel by a physician. Ypsilon and Emma and nearly everyone else in Sweden acted in the TV series The Bridge, and the briefly-appearing inkblot psychiatrist (the “ink” was on an ipad, nice touch) was in Fanny & Alexander.


Sarah Winchester, opéra fantôme (2016, Bertrand Bonello)

“Dance but don’t move. Do the solo in your head.”

Symphony and dance, spooky old drawings and accusing ghosts, and the story of Sarah, inheritor of the Winchester rifle fortune, who became a crazy recluse after losing her family. I liked this even more than Nocturama. Similarities include doom music, seclusion in abandoned buildings, mannequins, guilt.


The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer (1984, Quay Bros.)

A child visits Master Svankmajer, who removes the fluff and toys from the child’s head and teaches him stop-motion filmmaking. This makes a lot more sense than it did when I watched in the 1990’s, now that I know who Jan Svankmajer is. The cluster of mobile pins still reminds me of Edward Gorey (“Death and Distraction, said the Pins and Needles”)


Stille Nacht I, Dramolet (1988, Quay Bros.)

Extremely short and amazing, dollman watches as his spoon-world grows moldy with magnetized metal filings.


Stille Nacht II, Are We Still Married? (1992, Quay Bros.)

A motion-blur paddleball confounds a toe-stretching girl’s pet bunny


Stille Nacht III, Tales from Vienna Woods (1994, Quay Bros.)

Somebody died in 1892? Spinning smoke bullet, disembodied hand, hovering desk and extra-long spoon. I liked the His Name Is Alive song in the previous film – this one sounds like a buzzing TV from the next room.


Stille Nacht IV, Can’t Go Wrong Without You (1994, Quay Bros.)

The heroes of part two return, the tiptoe girl now quietly bleeding as the rabbit uses his antigravity powers to protect his eggs from a keyhole-peeping Death.


An Eastern Westerner (1920, Hal Roach)

At a hotel we saw this Harold Lloyd short on TCM, and since I watched it, I am duty-bound to put it on the blog somewhere, even though I was entirely focused on being aggravated about the picture being squished and don’t remember anything that happened in the movie itself. I guess it’s the one with the famous still of all the guns pointing at Harold’s head?


Three Monks (1982 Jingda Xu)

Short, flatheaded Red Monk, tall skinny Blue Monk, and fat Yellow Monk arrive separately at a mountaintop shrine and spend their days guzzling water and trying to make the other monk(s) bring up more water from the lake. Eventually they’re all angry, and are stealing water from the shrine’s flowerpot, when a mouse almost burns the place down and they have to cooperate to bring up plenty of water in a hurry. The catchy tunes and musical-instrument sound effects were the best part.


Feeling Good (2010, Pierre Etaix)

A 1965 outtake scene from As Long As You’ve Got Your Health. Etaix goes camping with a campfire and electric coffee pot. Confusion and bad coffee ensues. Then he’s in a military tent camp and I get lost as to what’s happening, because between bird songs and people whistling and blowing whistles, my birds got quite agitated.


Pas a Deux (1988 Renault & Van Dijk)

A couple is dancing, looks maybe like rotoscoped with colored pencil, then he transforms into Popeye the Sailor complete with voice clip, then they each transform (pretty seamlessly) into different famous characters. Cool effect, but feels like they’re just screwing around. Katy called it a precursor to Logorama.

Made by a couple of Dutch animators. Gerrit’s final film was based on a Burroughs story and featured the voice of Rutger Hauer. Monique has a whole bunch of films on vimeo


The Northleach Horror (2016, David Cairns)

Apocalyptic story of a mad scientist doing Frankenstein experiments in an underground bunker, the movie casually killing off characters (and resurrecting them) for laughs. I meant to watch this again and note character names, but my link has gone dead. Fun while it lasted. From the creator of the also-great Cry For Bobo.


Seances: The Disputed Honours (May 31, 2016)

Some familiar footage from The Forbidden Room, with changes. When Jacques Nolot is hired as a gardener, does he usually steal a magnifying glass? Whole new sequence with a man retrieving a key while two women (Camille and her sister?) cower in the night, only to be sucked into a vortex. Color and tinting changes mid-shot. All new intertitles! “O to quench the thirst of my wheat with the blood of slain mail coachmen.”

I wanted to watch When The Broken Toilets Cry but didn’t figure out the website in time. Can’t tell what to make of interruptions like the one below. It looked like typical streaming glitching at first until I realized the shots emerging through the glitch aren’t part of the scene I’m in.

And since I have nowhere else to mention these, I also watched and enjoyed a pile of Netflix’s comedy specials from this year… Joe Mande… Amy Schumer’s The Leather Special (all the fat jokes and poop stories get old, but I admit I laughed at ’em)… Sarah Silverman (more poop stories)… Louis CK “2017” (this has now replaced my memory of his Omaha show – I should’ve taken notes after each)… Dave Chappelle’s Spin and Texas specials (some bits set off my political-correctness alarm, but they’re perfectly constructed/paced hours)… Norm MacDonald’s Hitler’s Dog… three we burned for the drive to Atlanta: Trevor Noah (who we also saw in person a few weeks ago), Hari Kondabolu “Mainstream American Comic”, and the great Hasan Minhaj… and probably a couple I’m forgetting.

I suppose the first half is more tense if you’ve read beforehand that the movie involves a terrorist bombing plot – there’s little backstory or explanation as our young heroes walk briskly around Paris, check into hotels, take the subway, looking very serious as they drop off packages into vehicles and trash bins. After a half hour of this, an older-looking mustache guy shoots a dude in his apartment, breaking the simmering tension. Then we see the results of their efforts:

The long second half has our bombers gathered in a department store after hours waiting out the night, for some unexplained reason, instead of going home their separate ways. They blast some Willow Smith on the high-end stereos, shop amongst the high-end toys and expensive clothes, lounge in the designer living spaces, invite a homeless couple inside (Hermine Karagheuz!) and watch the news of their own exploits on TV until it starts to show the outside of the building they’re in. It ends the only way it could, the cops storming the store and killing everyone (even Hermine).

Not sure who everyone was, but our gang included Finnegan Oldfield (Les Cowboys) and Vincent Rottiers (lead baddie of Dheepan). Omar, their inside man at the department store who murdered the other security personnel, was Rabah Nait Oufella of Raw and Girlhood. There’s some fractured chronology, hard to follow even though the current time keeps appearing on screen. This and House of Tolerance were so slick-looking, it’s not surprising he made a fashion film in between them.

Ehrlich calls it “intriguingly inert”:

Bonello’s camera tracks behind each of the kids as they go about their shady business, emulating Elephant as the tactic conjures the same sickening momentum that made Gus Van Sant’s film about homicidal youths so vague and disquieting … It’s fine that Bonello would rather raise unsettling questions than provide unhelpful answers, but his inquiry often feels every bit as confused as his characters.

It does seem confused and perverse, and possibly even offensively wrongheaded (after the Bataclan attack, Nocturama was denied festival appearances and distribution). Why make this film, and what did the characters hope to achieve (in either the first or second half)? Only Blake Williams in Cinema Scope seems to have a convincing, incisive explanation – though you’ve really gotta read the whole thing, so I’m only excerpting his description of the movie’s timeline:

[Nocturama] presents time as indefinite, opposing conceptions of the present as concrete or ahistorical even as it works to augment the gravity of the present happening. Bonello’s choice method for achieving this is through shaping the film’s timeline into something that, were it to be graphed out, might resemble a lightning bolt — working through narrative events from one vantage only to fold back and re-show the same temporal moment again (and again). Many of his time warps are accompanied by either the reappearance of an onscreen time stamp or a repeated music cue, but many others arrive unmarked — especially when Bonello moves us further back in time, such as an extended detour through the initial planning stages for the attack — destabilizing our footing on already tremulous turf.

Titles have varied: L’Apollonide (Souvenirs de la maison close) and House of Tolerance and House of Pleasures, but I’d prefer Bonello Bordello. I didn’t have high hopes despite all the best-of-year placements and Bonello’s 50 Under 50 crowning. Didn’t love The Pornographer, and the promo photos of pretty girls in fancy dresses drooping on a sofa didn’t look thrilling. But the movie is thrilling and engrossing in a way I can’t explain. Scenes are repeated from different angles and through split screens, and a final time-jump to the present day doesn’t even seem out of place in the dream-world of the film.

I can no longer remember all the characters, but let’s try: Marie-France Dallaire (Noémie Lvovsky) is madam of Bonello Bordello, looks vaguely like Meryl Streep. Madeleine (Alice Barnole) aka The Jewess is easily recognizable, having been given a Joker face by a sadistic knife-wielding client. Samira is Hafsia Herzi, Rym in The Secret of the Grain. Pauline (Iliana Zabeth) “Le Petite” is the youngest one who arrives after the time jump from Nov. 1899 to Mar. 1900. Lea (Adele Haenel of Water Lilies) is shortish, blonde, has an arm tattoo. Julie/Caca (Jasmine Trinca of The Son’s Room) has a neck tattoo. Clothilde (Celine Sallette of Rust & Bone and the TV series Les Revenants) has dark hair, looks like Maggie Gyllenhaal and gets addicted to opium. I paid less attention to the men, but apparently some of them were played by filmmakers.

Played in competition at Cannes, nominated for eight Cesars, winning for costume design. One of Cinema Scope’s favorite movies of 2011.

from P. Coldiron’s excellent article in Slant:

House of Pleasures‘s pièce de résistance comes when, following the death of one of the ladies from syphilis, the women of L’Apollonide gather in the parlor for a moment of grieving set to the Moody Blues’s “Nights in White Satin,” one of a handful of anachronistic pop songs deployed diagetically across the film. This moment of both grief and its exorcism via its performance comes to a halt when, at the song’s final notes, Clotilde emerges from an opium session and passes out upon entering the room. She awakens in the arms of the recently deceased, and the tender conversation that follows (“If we don’t burn how will the night be lit?”), which isn’t dismissed as a dream or hallucination, but simply presented as it is, perfectly distills Bonello’s project: the days of history as a succession of ghost stories are over; death, taken as inevitable, becomes irrelevant; and freed from the fear of looking forever forward toward death, we can look backward and see in the mirror of a truly lived history an image of a better future. Not an inevitability, but a possibility; this is all we can ask for.

Surprised how much the newspaper critics disliked it. I thought P. Bradshaw was supposed to be cool, but he gives it one star and calls it “weirdly nasty”.

Bonello:

I was obsessed with manipulating time because I did not have space; that’s why you have the flashbacks and a change in aesthetic point of view. I was trying to show a rich amount of time because I did not have a lot of space. I knew the film would be tough in a way, so I wanted to give some beauty and a lot of attention to light. We became obsessed with how light was seen during this period, which we can see in [paintings] from this period. We did research on the mix of electricity and candles because 1900 was when electric lights started appearing in Paris. So we decided that in the salon and the main rooms downstairs there would be electric lights and then upstairs there would still be candles. There were many little details used and the sum of the details give the aesthetic of the film. The whole film is made inside with no windows, so I wanted it to be theatrical with movement and beauty.

Melancholy character drama about a washed-up pornographer. Technically speaking it’s a very nice movie, though it would help if I knew or cared what the story was about.

Pornographer and subject:

Jean-Pierre Leaud is the title character Jacques, having a rough patch with his career, his woman (Dominique Blanc of Belvaux’s Trilogy) and his son (Jeremie Renier, star of L’enfant), who is in love with Alice Houri (star of Nenette and Boni). At the beginning a narrator sums up Jacques’s career, telling us he never completed his final film The Animal in 1984 (the outline of which reminds me of Borowczyk’s nude-girl hunt The Beast). But the movie isn’t set in ’84, so I’m thinking it’s about Jacques trying (failing) to come out of retirement, with his producer (Andre Marcon, Roland in Up, Down, Fragile) taking over in the middle of his comeback shoot, leaving Jacques jobless and lost again. Ends with Jacques giving an interview to Catherine Mouchet (star of Alain Cavalier’s Therese).

Twin Peaks reference: girl dancing backwards with red curtains

M. Sicinski:

If The Pornographer has one major flaw, it’s that Bonello invests too much stock in Jacques’s integrity as an artist. Although the film is fairly clear-eyed about the kitsch factor within his most sincere ideas … The Pornographer is still indebted to certain romanticist pieties regarding art vs. commerce.

J. Renier:

The Guardian:

Essentially, the film is about the brutalisation of feeling. Leaud’s performance, a study in weary hope over experience, is as expressive as anything he has done in years. His director isn’t exactly an admirable man, but according to Bonello, whose criticism of French society is scathing, the world is worse than he is.

The Adventures of James and David (2002, Bertrand Bonello)

I still don’t think I have a good sense of Bonello’s style after watching The Pornographer and this silly short about two brothers (played by two brothers). David is a hairdresser who just opened his own place, and James is a DJ in a “Canadian electronica collective” (LOL 2002). They must not have been close, since James barely realizes his brother has financed, remodeled and opened an entire salon. Anyway, David gives James a terrible haircut (worse than the one in Cosmopolis) and that’s the joke, then it says “end of episode one,” and I don’t think there were any more episodes.

Cindy, The Doll Is Mine (2005, Bertrand Bonello)

Photographer (not pornographer) and subject, both played by Asia Argento (I didn’t realize this until the credits). Subject is told to try different poses, patient photographer only shoots when ready, finally asks if subject can cry, “because I think it would move me.” After a snack break, subject puts on a Blonde Redhead track, and manages to cry, which manages to move the photographer. All told, I liked this better than the previous two Bonellos.

Asia 1:

Asia 2: