ExtaZus (2019, Bertrand Mandico)

1. The sword-wielding, red-haired Nirvana Queen, tastes a crystalline rock in front of the orally-attached twins, awakens in a green world surrounded by crystal-headed hook-handed persons, talks to a woman in a bubble with a strong French accent, gets aggressively tongued by a giant cave-mouth, then she disfigures the titular sunglasses-man who’d been typing her story with his Freddy Krueger fingers.

2. She convinces him to create a new heroine named Peach Machine, and he has her dance with death in the desert. Peach is unhappy with her role, and slaps his face off.

3. With the author dead, PM visits NQ. As NQ plays a dual-dicked statue like it’s a Robotron machine, PM approaches and makes out with the face on the back of NQ’s head.


Veslemøy’s Song (2018, Sofia Bohdanowicz)

The Deragh Campbell-as-Audrey short coming between Never Eat Alone and MS Slavic 7. It’s more lively than the previous feature, which is a good sign for the next one. She finds a book about her grandfather’s violin teacher Kathleen Parlow, who played lead on a music piece titled V’s Song that was written for her when she was 18. Audrey flies to NYC to hear the only known recording of this piece, but can only hear part of the record, since the archive will only play excerpts and will not make copies. Not a documentary, of course, despite the real people and events, since we hear the song in the film. Hand-processed film, full of texture and scratches.


The Sky Is Clear And Blue Today (2019, Ricky D’Ambrose)

German lesson repeating the film title… kids recite My Pet Goat to camera… scraps and stories from post-9/11 America. The story proper is about an American director named Helmar contracted by German TV to make a cheap 60-minute film about a photograph showing a happy get-together while the twin towers burned in the background. They cast lookalikes from the photo and resort to digital trickery to fake the location, after the real location owner (Glenn Kenny, introduced as “an especially unpleasant and gluttonous man”) refuses to let them shoot. But the director and eight others die in a fire during production – “it was just like a movie” said the survivors. Fits in nicely with my previous short, stylistically and in its blend of real events with fictional ones, matter-of-factly narrated.


Visit (2020, Jia Zhangke)

Oh noooo, a beautiful short about covid quarantine. I was still getting angry over The Plagiarists and wasn’t ready for anything this delicate and lovely. Add it to the list of movies that show off their directors’ DVD collections: shout out to Suzhou River.


Fire (Pozar) (2020, David Lynch)

Abstract animation solidifies into shapes: a house, a tree, fire. Still images, but the drawn page shakes under the camera. Nice string music with surface noise (added?). Through a burned hole floats a flying creature with hands reaching from its eye sockets. A welcome callback to the very early Lynch shorts blended with the Inland Empire-era web works.


France Against the Robots (2020, Jean-Marie Straub)

Single shot, a man walks along the lake and talks about the sad necessity of revolution, since the capitalist systems aren’t gonna reform themselves. Then the credits repeat, and the film repeats – but at a different time of day, and with more swans about.


Pigeons and Architecture (2020, Anne Linke)

A chill movie looking at how pigeons live in buildings, and how people who love pigeons illicitly feed them by shawshanking healthy grains down their pantlegs, something I will be doing wherever I go from now on.

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.

World of Tomorrow Episode Three: The Absent Destinations of David Prime (2020, Don Hertzfeldt)

Hertzfeldt comes up with his biggest horror yet: embedded-HUD popup ads. A future Emily backup clone contacts a past David and sends him on a disfiguring journey to retrieve secret messages about the clandestine between-time assassinations of various Davids by other Davids. It’s twisty! And excellent, and full of more wonderful quotes, and I’ll be watching these forever.


Stump the Guesser (2020, Maddin/Johnson/Johnson)

The Odenkirk-looking Guesser (The Editor from The Editor) is renowned for his abilities, but when he runs out of guessing milk, things go bad and his guessing license is revoked. But during this time he falls in love with his long-lost sister, spends some time scientifically disproving theories of heredity in order to marry her, but things go badly at the end when he has to guess which door she’s behind. Some fun leaps of logic and distorted visuals here, but I wasn’t feeling it as much as other Maddin films.


Accounting for some other things watched recently… The Mads from MST3K have been doing monthly live shows. I checked out Glen or Glenda, a movie that’s so busy explaining itself that it never gets to the movie, and told Neil:

That was… really fun. That’s the most I’ve enjoyed a MST3K-related thing since the end of the sci-fi channel years. I don’t know if it’s because of their obvious affection for the material, or if I’m just in the right mood. I’d never seen the feature either – shame on me, after digging the Tim Burton version for 25 years now (oh you just tried to watch it, is it cringey now? Is it Johnny Depp’s fault?) and the Mads nailed it in their intro when they said this movie has everything, but it also has nothing.

Next was The Tingler, which I already just barely remember (also explainy, features Vincent Price)… then the truly baffling, tensionless version of The Most Dangerous Game called Walk The Dark Street. I think the guy from The Rifleman played the baddie. Then some shorts I should track and name, but am not gonna.


Hannah Gadsby’s Douglas is her stand-up comedy special to follow Nanette, which was the special to end stand-up comedy, and yet she pulls off the follow-up by creating another perfectly-constructed show and this time being breathtakingly funny. That sounds like a cliche, but I had to pause the show to catch my breath.

And Katy and I watched something called Australia: Land of Parrots, which is everything you’d dream it would be, and I should just play it on a loop.

Closeups of a pretty bird, cawing over the credits! Just as I’m thinking the movie’s not gonna get any better than this, Dario proves me right by mistreating the bird the moment his own credit expires, then a horrible bird-hating woman jabbers for ages until she’s hit by a car, yay.

Betty takes over from the accident victim as untested star of a new opera, her young stage manager boyfriend is Stefano (from Texas, has been in 100 movies I’ve never heard of, and also Copycat), and they both have GRAND apartments, real estate in Rome must be super cheap. Some vaguely culty murder stuff starts happening, and soon Betty is tied up, needles taped under her eyes so she can’t blink, and she’s made to watch her boyfriend get stabbed to death. This happens a couple more times, some meathead hard-rock song accompanying all the murders – next victim is Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni, an Argento regular also of Demons 2. Unfortunately, the killer also murders some ravens – but the ravens get their revenge, so I’ll allow it.

Betty’s got Purple Rain on VHS:

Appreciate that Betty gets a flower from a fan early on, then chucks it against the wall when she finds out he’s a cop – he will turn out to be the killer. One of his last victims is a fellow cop played by Michele Soavi – this came out the year of his directorial debut Stage Fright.

Argento characters never behaving like actual humans makes the movies more phantasmagorical. The dubbing is atrocious except in the opera singing. This is relatively late Argento, the tail end of his respectable period, made after Phenomena.

Our first LNKarno competition title. I’ve seen Iosseliani’s name around now and then, ever since first learning about him with a film still of a stork from Adieu, plancher des vaches! in a magazine over a decade ago. He’s a fest regular who I’ve never noticed out in the indie-commercial film world – The Ross, Plaza, Tara, Landmark, Alamo, Videodrome, Criterion sort of places – an old dude, taught by Dovzhenko, working for sixty-some years.

From a period execution scene to the title, then a battle, rapey soldiers, a mass baptism, a pickpocket gang then a drunk flattened by a steamroller like a cartoon, it seems the movie’s gonna be all over the place. But it soon settles down in a central location, with apartment concierge (and arms dealer) Rufus, his skull-collecting friend, a down-and-out baron, a bickering couple – it’s kind of a light magical comedy darkened by memory of the execution from the intro (it reminds us, with images of guillotines and severed heads). And of course I’m regretting that my first Iosseliani movie isn’t the one with storks, and then Rufus wanders into a secret garden full of every kind of bird.

A timid man resorts to dirty tricks to get a cute girl to talk with him. Pierre Etaix is in there somewhere, and as per French law, Mathieu Amalric has a role, hand-building a stone house out in a field. The production has rented a wind machine and is determined to get its money’s worth. Jump cuts and trick editing – it all sounds more scattered than it is, the bulk of it maintaining a consistent tone, dignified and upbeat despite the breakups and evictions.

Jonathan Romney in Film Comment:

Winter Song is the sort of rambling, multi-stranded crazily populous ensemble frieze that he has specialized in since moving from Georgia to France for 1984’s Favorites of the Moon… at times it resembles less any familiar form of cinema than it does a sort of sprawling, melancholic circus performance … It’s a world of horror and absurdity, where war is always being waged underneath the surface of civilization. But it also reveals a constant background hum, a sort of laconic joyousness in which the human folly and the melancholy of mortality are at least mitigated by friendship, drink, and the pleasures of close harmony singing, and the redemptive, civilizing poetry of a neatly executed sight gag.

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.