Cityscape (2019, Michael Snow)

This looks and sounds great, I must remember to watch it often. Snow is up to his old tricks, the camera across the river from the Toronto skyline, tracking down then up (an almost-invisible cut in the water), left and right, a drumbeat soundtrack increasing in speed and intensity along with the camera, whipping back and forth, then slowing down and adding rotation into the mix, never going the full Centrale, staying on one axis at a time, finally spinning off in the sky.


Train Again (2021, Peter Tscherkassky)

Strobing between trains and horses, combining images so it looks like horse action is being projected onto the side of a train, or the train is the physical filmstrip. Then tracks-as-filmstrip, colliding into each other, always in motion. And this being Tscherkassky he shows the filmstrip itself sliding around, overlapping other images, displaying printed soundtrack and fetishizing sprocket holes. Some visual and sound segments are identifiably looped, some images inverted and posterized. Not sure why Danny bikes in from The Shining but it made me laugh to see him here. A theater audience is strobed against a parade of Lumiere films, then of course The Great Train Robbery appears. Screaming brakes and smash-ups dissolve into shards – I can’t tell if this is Evan Johnson-style digital melt or if my encoded copy just can’t keep up with the motion. The flicker on this thing must really be something in a theater. Closes with a Kren appreciation, the train rounding the bend, having survived history and catastrophe.


Log 0 (2019, Isiah Medina)

Silent but for one burst of rain, this feels like a random assemblage of things, daily life and filmmaking excerpts. I’d thought of the title as mathematical, but oh, it’s an activity log, like the little end-of-year videos I make but Medina-style. Towards the end piano music comes in and the shots get longer, and there’s somebody sketching some curves, so maybe it’s mathematical after all, or both.


Duck Duck (2019, Harmony Korine)

Dance-beat instagram-filter hot dog furries go on a gentle hotel-trashing rampage. My first Korine movie since Trash Humpers is under four minutes long and could’ve been a minute shorter, so I dunno how I feel about tackling the 95-minute The Beach Bum anytime soon. Description says this “exploring the emerging disciplines of wearable cinema, augmented reality, and spontaneous storytelling.”


White Echo (2019, Chloe Sevigny)

Kickass little movie about a group of women using a ouija board in an old house, a spirit following medium Kate Lyn Sheil home. Groovy music, too.


Point and Line to Plane (2020, Sofia Bohdanowicz)

Easily my favorite Bohdan/Campbell, dedicated to the memory of the two departed friends mentioned in the voiceover, so some truth in the story here. Ghosts and movement (fast horizontal camera pans) tie this to the other shorts watched today. Art (Hilma af Klimt) and color and patterns are discussed as DC travels to cities and museums, ruminating on two late friends.


La Chanson de Prévert (2021, Michel Gondry)

Apparent cutout animation of an autumn leaf that produces radical temporal effects on anything it touches, set to an upbeat French pop song. Tremendous.


Figure Minus Fact (2020, Mary Helena Clark)

Still frames at first. Bells and silence… insects and fishes. Not sure what it’s going for, but it’s in crisp HD and some of the images are very nice. There are numbered “figures” (demonstrating insects that blend in with plant life) but most figures are presented unnumbered, sans fact.


Nimic (2019, Yorgos Lanthimos)

The Lanthimos short with the great poster and music. Considering laying down my rock records and getting really into Britten and Ferrari, but I need to finish Tom Waits Mode first. A little movie with big music and camerawork, Matt Dillon happens upon a mimic (Daphne Patakia of Benedetta) on the subway, who replaces him in his home and profession. Mimicking Lanthimos’s usual cinematographer is Diego García, who shot Cemetery of Splendor.


The Bucket (2019, Jia Zhangke)

Ohhh no, I was gonna say the music sounds like a TV ad, but this WAS a TV ad, a “shot on iPhone” promo about a guy traveling from the country to the city with a heavy bucket packed by his mom, which turns out to contain eggs from her farm packed in sand. Not gonna count this as a Jia film, just a paycheck, but at least there was bird tossing.


The Names Have Changed Including My Own (2019, Onyeka Igwe)

Archival slideshow, then british-accented narrator speaks of reading a book about her grandfather. Australian? A mother walks off with her infant twins. A darkened-stage dance routine, really nice photography. Discussion with her father or an uncle over a video version of the slave trade story featuring the grandfather. Facemask and hand sanitizer in a 2019 movie. A silent film is run and described in real-time but only the film reels and equipment are shown. Story of separated twins who reunite late in life. These threads run one after another, shorter and faster towards the end. The film about trains and the research family history in archival media really ties this nicely to the Tscherkassky and Bohdanowicz shorts.


The Return of Tragedy (2020, Bertrand Mandico)

“A smile is not a peaceful act, it’s a carnivorous statement.” In English and great color, Elina undead flying her internal organs like a kite while a cultist named Kate Bush confuses the cops. Scenario repeats with different details and results. The casio music and kooky weirdness recalls Quentin Dupieux. Yann Gonzalez also came to mind, or rather I was trying to remember if Mandico is the filmmaker who’s in M83, but no that’s Gonzalez, who is mentioned in the credits.

When your eccentric silent-film-worshipping Canadian indie feature opens with a credit for Louis Negin you’re definitely admitting a Guy Maddin influence. Convoluted, fictionalized story of Mackenzie King, a politician introduced at the Hospital for Defective Children falling for a harpist. Just in chapter one there’s an Isle of Dogs cable car, a muppet cockatoo, and Negin as King’s mother – with nine chapters to go, it’s all a bit much. That’s not a complaint, it’s an admission that I need to watch a second time.

Lotta androgyny and excellent deco designs… guy who looks like De Niro in Brazil with a cactus hand, and love interest who looks like a young Pearl Forrester (this is Catherine St-Laurent of Tu dors Nicole)… I had fun.

Justine Smith in Little White Lies:

In one sequence, a series of candidates pledge their allegiance to the Great Disappointment (aka the Canadian flag) and engage in a series of mediocre competitions to test their passive-aggressiveness and thresholds for shame. Far from being a representation of Canada’s best vying for leadership, the sequence reveals a succession of pitiful and desperately vain men who act as though becoming prime minister is their birthright. They wish to govern the country not to make it better but to facilitate their own ambitions.

L-R: muppet, dad, Mackenzie

“It’s impossible to live without reason.” A series of unreal scenarios.

After talking about being afraid of the sled dogs on trips to northern Canada with his dad when he was little, cut to Willem Dafoe bartending in northern Canada with sled dogs out back – I buy this, this is the most grounded the movie is gonna get. He’s watching a guy play video slots when they’re both suddenly attacked by dogs. A pregnant woman gets naked for him in front of her grandma. He goes into the basement and is suddenly sliding down a rock cliff… has conversations with other Willems Dafoe… by the time he sleds past a scene of mass executions towards a cave that becomes a madhouse of nudes, the movie still has no coherent reality and is nearly half over. Since there’s no real cause and effect, one scene bleeds or jerks into the next – he goes from tundra to desert to greenery, he has sex with a girl who turns into his mom, he sleeps outside then a fish talks to him. It almost has the unstuck-in-time feeling of Je T’aime X2, but it’s more unstuck in different Dafoe movies. There are a lot of bare-breasted women; Ferrara still knows what’s important. Maybe it’s meant to be a fragmented story of a haunted guy with guilt over his parents’ deaths and a failed marriage seeking solace in the black arts?

The best piece I’ve found is Neil Bahadur in In Review:

The figure of Dafoe’s character Clint himself seems to be on a quest to narrativize his own life, only just barely possessing a grasp on reality by journey’s end, having montaged his life’s experiences and ideas throughout the film’s runtime instead … The terror of Siberia (possibly Ferrara’s first true horror film) is in Clint’s back to nature resolve, only to discover that the dreams of the 60s have shattered and nature is nothing if not ruthless. The true horror is determinism — the entire film is driven by an anxiety that people cannot shake their past … not just in choice but even in their own genetic code.

“The effort of everything to become language…” Audrey unpacks in a hotel to church music, reads family letters in a library research room, then explains the nature of correspondence to someone unseen at a bar – more than halfway through the movie we’ll finally see this person, Audrey’s translator, who has a different take on the letters. Aunt Anya has a different take on Audrey’s entire project, having donated the letters in the first place, apparently without permission, and saying Audrey isn’t a proper curator. After the relative stillness of the previous films, this disagreement counts as a major action scene.

Revelations in the Cinema Scope cover story: Campbell was improvising some of the stories about her grandmother to the unseen translator. Nayman frames it well, the hook being that Canadian films don’t have sequels, then building up to the evolution from Never Eat Alone through Veslemøy’s Song to this one.

Campbell: One thing that I’m really excited about is that in the next film with Audrey we’re going to give her a friend.
Bohdanowicz: She needs a friend.


Also watched her short The Hardest Working Cat in Showbiz (2020). Dan Sallitt doesn’t have as good a narrator voice as Deragh Campbell, but tells a good story, tracing the film appearances of a cat who appeared in Tourneur’s Stranger on Horseback and supposedly many other movies over decades.

One of those everyone-is-connected dramas, but with birds. Most of the birds are either fake/decorative, or an offscreen plot device (smuggled hyacinth macaw eggs) but it’s still appreciated.

Egg-smuggler Don McKellar runs a pet shop that is being audited by tormented beardo Bruce Greenwood (Meek, of the Cutoff) who is obsessed with stripper Mia Kirshner who works at the titular nightclub with her ex Elias Koteas and boss Arsinée Khanjian. Victor Garber is in here, in a wheelchair, with daughter Sarah Polley, and they both spend uncomfortable time with the beardo, knowing that he’s erratic and messed up ever since his daughter’s murder. Koteas and Kirshner had just met when they discovered her body years earlier. And the pet shop boy is seduced by an egg-thieving customs agent and blackmailed by his auditor into spying on the strip club.

Elias one-way-mirroring Bruce:

Don is intimidated by Mia:

What is wrong with Egoyan that he makes such sad movies? The revenge trip turning into a sad reconciliation was a motherfucker – it’s hard to write good people who get fucked up by misfortune and still hold onto some goodness – but for me the knife in the heart is the final two seconds, after a movie full of birds a cat walks into frame.

Victor and real bird:

Arsinée and fake bird:

Practically double-featured this with Exotica, another mid-90’s Canadian Elias Koteas sex thriller. James Spader is a commercial producer banging his camera girl, while his wife Deborah Kara Unger (great in this) gets with some guy in an aircraft hangar – 3 sexual encounters in the movie’s first 6 minutes. After Spader kills Holly Hunter’s husband in a head-on collision, she’s pretty cool about it, making out with him when he gives her a ride, leading to another crash. All this sexual/mechanical energy attracts primo perv Vaughan (Koteas). “Vaughn makes everything look like a crime, doesn’t he?”

Thank god there were enough degenerates in Canada to bring this project to life. A movie where everyone limps, and I’m struggling to think of any two characters who didn’t end up fucking each other. As in Naked Lunch, Cronenberg took scenes from another book (The Atrocity Exhibition) and used the author’s real name as a character. It won a prize at Cannes at least, and I just recently watched Crash’s cannesmate Three Lives.

Cronenberg on political correctness: “I think as soon as you allow politics of any kind into your movie, you’re doomed as an artist.”

I still want to catch up with Coyote and Buzzard, but had the chance to see this first, and like Ape, it’s about a delusional loner – and now that Relaxer is out, it looks like Potrykus is gonna make a career of cult indie films about delusional loners, not the worst idea. Or maybe the overall theme is “in Canada, you gotta make your own entertainment.”

Ty Hickson (Gimme the Loot) lives alone in the woods, is paranoid and undernourished and working through a series of occult rituals towards certain wealth. At the end it seems he’s just self-destructively off his meds.

Amari Cheatom returns as Cortez in Relaxer, hinting at a Potrykus Connected Multiverse, even though he is a zombie by the end of this movie.

A high-quality movie with well-drawn characters, but it’s also nothing we haven’t seen before, as we meet a bunch of people who will be killed one by one as we learn more about their situation and the zombies’ behavior, and wounded friends conceal their bites until they suddenly turn feral at the worst possible moment.

Lotta jump scares for a movie watched on a plane while holding a ginger ale over the keyboard, but we pulled it off. The first attack is at a racetrack, which pays off wonderfully at the end.

Things learned about Canada: everyone is an excellent rifle shot, and they have a surplus of wooden chairs.

Lydia Ogwang in Cinema Scope:

As Aubert’s characters come to terms with new iterations of life under duress, class and lifestyle conflicts in tow, the film studies the fascinating emergent networks of morality and sentimentality among them which cut through the monotony of genre … The tender, humanistic focus delineates the action from run-of-the-mill Romero rehash: even amidst its faithfully rendered gore and copious jump scares, the film is committed to behavioural realism.

High schooler Nicole Muñoz gets very emotional when her mom (Laurie Holden of Silent Hill and The Mist) moves them both an hour away into the country after the dad’s pre-movie death, so Nicole finds a book of spells and summons a demon to destroy her mom. Kinda seems like she’s doing this as a goth coping mechanism and never expected an actual demon to actually murder anyone, but in a horror movie, you get what you summon. Obviously, the mom turns out to be kinda nice, and her daughter regrets her hellraising and tries to undo the spell.

Her friends (Hellions star Chloe Rose and Degrassi veteran Eric Osborne) come visit but are no match for a demon, and I think they get scared away and not murdered, but can’t recall for sure. The author of the demon book takes her seriously and tries to help, at least. “Pyewacket can take many forms, so don’t trust your lying eyes,” she is told, but still sets one of her moms on fire after finding her other mom dead in the woods, never suspecting that she’s murdering the wrong mom.