Finally getting to Dumont’s debut. Parts of this movie about a dimwit boy in a nowhere town look familiar from Lil Quinquin – a yard where they fix up their car even looks like a location from that movie, and there’s a character named Quinquin. But this was before Dumont had learned to be funny or unpredictable, from his punishing slow art cinema days. Maybe the crappy marching band was supposed to provide levity, but in the end it’s simply no fun to watch a crappy marching band. This doesn’t give me much hope for L’Humanité – I’m guessing that’s as misleading a title as this one, which follows a kid who Dumont wants to portray as a sensitive soul, with his epilepsy and pet finch and cute girlfriend. But the kid’s also a horrible racist, and finally catches the Arab guy he’d seen hanging around with his girl, and uses his head as a soccer ball. The non-pro actors in this stayed non-pro. I was surprised to recognize the finch-song contest from Arabian Nights.

Nicholas Elliott for Criterion:

Rather than a description of the film’s contents, the title is an unusually active element of the viewing experience, a riddle that prompts the viewer to see beyond the low horizons of Freddy’s existence and imagine how the spiritual might be reintroduced into this context. In the trickiest of ways, Dumont titles the film to prime us to look for good where there is evil. Yet he does not ask us to like Freddy, only to accept that he exists…

I’m sad that there’s bird killing in this movie, but at least it’s traumatic to young Bart, who remains gun-crazy but never shoots a living creature again. Going through a teenage Russ Tamblyn phase, he’s sent to reform school for breaking into a gun shop, and years later returns from the army as John Dall (just off playing Brandon-who-thought-he-was-god in Rope). Still gun crazy, he reconnects with his childhood buddies and sees the gun crazy Peggy Cummins (also love interest of Night of the Demon) in a circus. An impulsive Bart steals her away from drunken proprietor Barry Kroeger (Cry of the City) – they get fired, married, and live the high life with absolutely no plan until they end up broke in Vegas, and she talks him into doing holdups. On the run, they’re gonna give up the criminal life after One Last Job, a big one where they get hired by the targeted company and work from the inside. With no traumatic backstory to stop her, Peggy freely shoots civilians during their escape, and trouble quickly closes in when desperate Bart takes them to his hometown to hide out. Such great camerawork, especially in the car scenes.

Russ/Bart:

Zeman’s followup to Invention for Destruction is another absolute wonder. Actors filmed b/w and composited somehow with variously tinted objects and backgrounds. Still don’t know how this was done – saving the making-of doc for after I watch the dinosaur feature.

The story opens with astronaut Tony landing on the moon and discovering the Baron (Munchhausen), who calls him a moonman and takes over the narrative (I don’t think Tony speaks in the first half). Baron returns them to Earth, but a fantasy version, the jet planes in the opening scene replaced by flying monsters.

They rescue a kidnapped princess from a sultan, she falls for Tony, and the Baron spends the rest of the movie trying to convince her that he’s more impressive that boring old Tony (true). Along the way they jump their horses off a cliff, create a tobacco smokescreen to confound the sultan’s fleet, get swallowed by a whale and scooped up by a giant bird, ride a cannonball, escape from prison and return to the moon via rocket-propelled castle tower, all in about half the runtime of the Gilliam version.

Years after not being able to see this because we don’t have an imax theater, I realized it had been quietly released on blu-ray. Watched the 90-minute Cate Blanchett version after revisiting The Tree of Life. I’d heard this was a feature-length version of that movie’s merciful dinosaur scene, but it’s a blend of natural hi-res photography and computer trickery – not always easy to tell these apart – and low-grade social-unrest scenes. After a long prehistory, early man leads quickly to huge modern cities.


“What lasts?”

X-Men Origins: It’s a Good Life. Some Stephen King in here, psychic powers developing with sexual awakening. And Trier, like his distant relative Lars Von, isn’t above killing a baby to give his lead characters a tragic backstory. Homeschooled Thelma doesn’t adjust well in college, having seizures and disappearing her crush into the cornfield, but finally learns to take out her rage on her repressive father and let the hot college girls live… though there’s an unsettling suggestion that the hot girl only likes Thelma because her mind is being controlled. From the poster I’d expected more birds, but it’s mostly the live bird that Thelma barfs up towards the end. Trier is a festival fave whose new film plays Cannes next month, Thelma was in Norwegian disaster flick The Wave, and her dad costars in Blind.

Cows, pigs, roosters in three farms in different countries. Terrific high-framerate steadicam, long takes, great lighting in their custom-built sty. I wondered how much of that was natural light, and remembered reading about the house in Turin Horse, which turned out an apt comparison, per the British Cinematographer article I read.

Structurally it’s:
– baby pigs are born
– chickens interlude
– pigs growing up
– cows interlude
– pigs taken away from momma pig

And it’s almost a perfect movie, but for the cows, who do nothing except swat away flies (or more often, failing to swat away flies). You just can’t make cows interesting, though apparently Andrea Arnold will be the next to attempt it.

Our first-ever T/F guest viewer agreed with Katy that the movie was sad and hard to watch. Seals, dolphins and swans, rescued and released by British + Irish orgs. Some delightful seal/swan antics, less-direct wounded animal shots than Bird Island. Per Paste, “a story of slow, tiring disaster.”

“Buenos Aires is a city of birds” was a promising statement, but the movie ended up being full of humans philosophizing in monotone, with very few birds. Clara is disaffected, claims to have no feelings, later a girl in another city will claim to feel too much. We visit Greenland, Kathmandu… oh I was gonna list more, since I screengrabbed the credits, but ND/NF uses more serious copy protection than Sundance, and my shots all came out black. Too bad – the shots would’ve been the only way I could’ve sold this one (edit: stole some shots from a trailer). Rented based on its description as a Borgesian puzzle, mostly got narrators flatly declaring Borgesian ideas. The universe is being dreamed, or is in a speck of dust, you know. The long misty riverboat ride with a whispering ghost would’ve put me to sleep on a normal night, but fortunately I watched this in the afternoon. Montage of close-ups of eyes in Mexico City was nice.