The first twenty minutes of this alternates documentary segments about a shipyard with scenes about murder hornets, then in a reference to the last very long movie I watched this year, the film director runs away (“because I’m stupid and abstraction gives me vertigo”). I remember reading that this project was full of criticisms of Portugal’s economic policies, and that it’s divided into three movies in order to get triple the funding. It has its moments (the rooster legal drama, love triangle portrayed by kids and told through text messages, a naked slap party, a tribute to Ghost Dog, some very good birds), but it’s less fun than the Pasolini – there’s one movie’s worth of stories here stretched over six hours.

The film crew, in trouble:

Rooster on trial for crowing too early:

Text Triangle:

No-Bowels, a woman murderer who becomes a local hero for fooling the cops:

Outdoor trial is crashed by a genie:

The dog Dixie sees its shadow-self:

Pretty finches:

After amazing opening title artwork, we open with a festive animal-slaughter montage, why? So far so familiar – golden-haired beauty Julie (Zdena Studenková, also of a Sleeping Beauty movie) loves her merchant father, whose entire fortune is in a wagon train that gets violently lost when it strays too close to a cursed castle. Julie’s sisters are actually nice to her until the family’s fortune turns, then they become horrible. Dad is imprisoned in the castle when he searches for the lost shipment, and when released for a day to say goodbye to his family, he’s mid-conversation when Julie grabs a horse and rides off to take her father’s place.

It’s halfway through the movie before we see the beast’s face – he’s a BIRDBEAST! – and fifteen minutes to the end before Julie sees it. The castle and its furnishings are alive in a shady and sinister way, overall more of a horror movie than any other adaptation I’ve seen, always whispering to Beast that he should kill Julie. There’s also no Gaston equivalent, nobody from town looking for Julie, and after she visits home and everyone’s a pain in the ass to her, she runs back to her Beast, who transforms out of love, to a really nice piano theme by Petr Hapka (whose music was in Ferat Vampire and The Grandmaster!)

The sisters: Jana Brejchová was in Return of the Prodigal Son and Baron Prasil and I Killed Einstein, Gentlemen, and Zuzana Kocúriková was in, uh oh, an Alain Robbe-Grillet film. Dad was in Murder Czech Style. Vlastimil Harapes is under the bird-beast makeup, had a smallish role in Marketa Lazarová.

“Cops are pigs / cops eat shit!” You know when your cynical movie opens with a couple of news guys chancing upon a car wreck and filming the dying victims before bothering to call an ambulance, the movie’s gonna end with the death of a main character and the camera looking back at us, accusingly.

Pausing to get a beer halfway in, I looked up the female lead Verna Bloom (paper-mache artist in After Hours, Mary in Last Temptation of Christ) and realized our lead is Robert Forster – I had no idea, never seen him young before. Forster wheels around town with his soundman (Peter Bonerz of Catch-22, later director of Police Academy 6: City Under Siege) in the lead-up to the ill-fated Democratic National Convention. They follow a kid home and Forster falls for his mom Eileen (Verna).

Robert and Verna enjoying some TV:

The movie has character to burn. Playful editing, very mobile camera, and full of Zappa songs. A black community confronts the white camera crew about exploitation in the media, the morals of Mondo Cane are discussed, and in a movie (/city/year) where police are the villains, the reporters discover that their TV bosses have been letting cops study their raw footage. After Forster is fired, and before he’s hired by someone else to cover the convention, he seems like a calm and okay guy, just a good dude who loves shooting film and hanging out with Eileen and her pigeon-loving son Harold – so it’s the profession that’s sick, not him personally.

This would’ve been a vaguely-memorable late’60’s anti-establishment movie, but for the ending. Harold goes missing, Forster’s at the convention, so Eileen walks the city wearing a bright yellow dress in the midst of the real police riots – some of the most intense location shooting I’ve seen.

Wexler shot everything from Burt Reynolds’ film debut in 1961 to Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and The Conversation, to Hal Ashby and John Sayles movies, to concert docs and a Zappa video.

There’s shooting and there’s shooting:

Thomas Beard for Criterion on the movie’s True/Falsey nature:

Wexler has had a kind of double life as an artist, known both for his poetic reportage and for his role as a studio craftsman, and his bifurcated career is mirrored in the dual nature of Medium Cool … To watch a fiction film and subordinate its plot and characterizations to the documentary value of the world it depicts, or, alternatively, to watch a documentary and constantly question its veracity, is to read the work against the grain. Given the design of Medium Cool, a film that explicitly functions as both document and fantasy at once, to view it at all is to read it against the grain. It’s a movie whose very composition not only allows for but demands multiple kinds of perception and visual thinking; it preserves its own disorder.

Long, and feels long. Few living birds, glimpsed in the distance, two dead ones, some feathers, sounds of owls and peacocks. Life and death of parents and grandparents, becoming trees and birds. Imagery of water, using mirrors and photos, watching a photo develop, brings to mind Strong Island until I realized Oliveira must be an influence. Reversing (adding leaves to the trees), time-lapse (flowers opening). Dad reads the movie’s script and quibbles with the details. They burn their grandparents’ letters, she says they’re the private words of a couple who happens to be their grandparents, but we are free to imagine their words – and so we do. She asserts her right to imagine her own family stories, connects to historical artworks, seeing her family in an unrelated painting. Katy compares to Beaches of Agnes – ways to structure memory, using frames + mirrors, life as theater or frames artworks.

My favorite movie of the fest. Tortoise-lite trio Square Peg Round Hole opened, we both liked. The Butch Jones at Cafe Berlin combines their apples + sausage with pancake/egg/bacon, and is the best conceivable breakfast. Overall a good morning in Columbia.

a 40-year-old who stays inside and watches movies, which is exactly what I did today – but I have a job and a wife and other things going on, and this is all he does. Secluded in Alsace, France, our man seems to have plenty of friends, and he finds a place in Paris with a roommate, so the end is in sight… but until then, he spends his days watching movies on video, creating the visuals of this movie from clips from what he sees, avoiding showing faces so we’re never distracted by recognition of movie stars. No music or sounds from the films, just flat voiceover in French. “I’m like an addict who decides not to quit his habit, but to observe and comment on it.”

Oh no, he’s talking about needing to move but realizing he has too many books and records – so relatable. He complains about his dad, who died while watching Le ciel est à vous. He discusses world events and famous deaths, and what films he was watching at the time. Out of 400ish movies, I recognized only Funeral Parade of Roses and The Maze. It’s first-person depression-recovery diary film set to the cleverly-edited montage, which would be more fun to watch without subtitles if I knew any French. On the minus side, a surprising amount of anti-bird violence in the footage, but on the plus side, Bonnie Prince Billy over the end credits.

According to a Filmmaker interview, the creation of this was more complicated than it appears. In Paris he rewatched every film he’d watched, then again with the editor while grabbing clips, then wrote the narration, then started laying down the clips in spots where they’d fit.

“It was plain, from the beginning, I wouldn’t use material coming from experimental works, animations or documentaries, the idea being to try to explore the polysemous quality shots acquire once they’re discovered out of their original context” – his love of unrecognizable insert shots reminds me of Morgan Fisher’s ().

Happy to see that much of the motion in these motion-paintings involves snow or animals – in fact, when there are humans in a scene, they’re the only things that don’t come alive. The visuals sometimes remind of The Mill and the Cross, and sometimes you can’t tell they’re based on still photos at all.

Here’s me, pointlessly taking stills of motion versions of stills:

Crows are prominent. Rare is the scene without any birds in it. The movie is as attuned to outdoor bird behavior as I am, always wondering what the crows and ducks and sandpipers are up to. Whenever there are birds seen through a window we hear opera. Not all the animals survive… tense music in frame 5 before a deer gets shot, and there are more bird fatalities in this than in The Lighthouse. In the most narrative scene, a seagull gets shot and another mourns him. Great ending: a Disney-sounding song, a sleeping motion designer, a classic film on an iMac rendering at about 1fps, the wind in the trees outside.

Watching The Shallows, I was delighted that Blake Lively and the movie allow their injured seagull to survive to the end, but now I realize this avian assistance was the key to Blake’s survival, because Rob Pattinson’s luck turns bad when he cruelly murders an injured gull, and after a descent into pain and horror and madness, he ends up gull food. Let these sister films be warnings to any who would wish harm to our seagull friends.

Eggers sounds like a delightful interview subject:

My understanding is that they were rescue birds that were injured and rehabilitated, and after that rehabilitation couldn’t really survive back in the wild again. So giving them things to do makes them happy. So they were very eager to learn how to fly on a windowsill, peck a windowpane three times, and jump off, and then get a little food reward. Actually the seagulls were incredibly easy to work with, unlike a certain black goat that, I mean, I have no fond memories of working with.

Set in 1890ish Maine, Rob Pattinson is on the run under another man’s name, spilling his beans to crusty old Willem Dafoe, as the two of them tend a lighthouse for a season. Unclear how much time passes, or what is real vs. hallucinated, but it’s all very beautifully shot, and if this Eggers makes another dark film about witches or lighthouses I will go see it.

Water and ice, beautiful and frightening on the big screen.

Sometimes you lose all sense of scale until you see birds flying off the icebergs.

Metal soundtrack… egrets in a flooded cemetery.

Nice sailing scenes – so much winching! I want to show this to dad, but I know he’ll fall asleep long before the sailing begins.

Dedicated to Sokurov.

In late 1970’s Paris, Anne, the boss of a porn film company (pop star Vanessa Paradis) has to deal with being dumped by her editor (You and the Night‘s Kate Moran) and being investigated for the murder of one of her actors, actually perpetrated by a masked psycho wielding bladed sex toys.

Anne decides to deal with this by filming a porn parody of the investigation called Homocidal and casting herself as the murderer.

As actors keep dying, she visits a bird museum, discovers the victims are visited by a blind grackle, an extinct bird, and tracks down the story of a tormented youth, burned half to death by his father for being gay, come to the city as a scarred, homocidal adult.

Also featuring Nicolas Maury (You and the Night, Heartbeat Detector) as Anne’s blonde director, and Yann’s fellow-traveler gender-bending filmmaker Bertrand Mandico as the dramatic, floppy-haired cameraman.

With the giallo lighting, M83 music, movie theaters and rare birds, this was mostly up my alley.

Michael Sicinski on letterboxd:

If there’s one dominant hetero influence at work in Knife+Heart, it’s Brian De Palma. This is a sexualized murder mystery, based in part on who has the power of the gaze, who has been sidelined by desire, and how killing is a perverse sexual substitute. And even as the gravity of life and death are acknowledged, Gonzalez shares with De Palma a taste for the ridiculous, a recognition that movie violence can exorcise psychological demons precisely because it is not real, and the more outlandish the better.