Evident from the opening moments hyper-narrated by the lead girl that this is a movie for teenagers, not for me. Stuck around for the different animation style (blobby 3D humans with sharp anime expressions / red panda spiderman) and to see if her mom would turn into panzilla and murder an entire boy band (almost). This is the second time in a few weeks that I’ve thought of Detention – maybe I should put down the new stuff and just rewatch Detention.
Not the new feature, but the director’s early gay art film, before the technical innovation of sync dialogue. Definitely connected to the new film – one doctor’s body keeps growing mysterious organs – the word “secretions” appears often.
“I am Adrian Tripod, the director of this place, the House of Skin. In a sense, my present incarnation was generated by the mad dermatologist Antoine Rouge. The House of Skin began its existence as a residential clinic for wealthy patients who were treated for severely pathological skin conditions induced by contemporary cosmetics.”
Most of the the women in Canada are dead from Rouge’s Malady. Our narrator reports that mad prophet Antoine Rouge had disappeared after seizing control, the House now fallen into the hands of two interns. Our guy visits the Institute of Neo-Venereal Disease and spends a good amount of time giving foot rubs, is later invited to join a pedophile conspiracy worshipping underground spheres.
I’d seen this before – I think it was a bootleg VHS alongside Stereo – mainly leaving an impression from the architecture and the way it’s presented, which I still think about. The color of the HD restoration is really great, and the ideas are groovy, so I was being generous while watching, telling myself “the movie is not long and slow, the sound loops are not annoying,” but it is and they are. Glad to revisit it anyway – anticipation is very high for the new one.
The opener was… Nerenai? That’s what I wrote down, though it’s not listed on the fest schedule… two women with two guitars, mic and drum machine.
You Can’t Stop Spirit (Vashni Korin)
Portrait of the Mardi Gras “Baby Dolls” shot like a Beyoncé video with dialogue loops and callbacks, fun. This came to mind again during the Big Ears festivities.
In Flow of Words (Eliane Esther Bots)
My fave of the bunch, though I remember it the least well now. Widescreen stories of translators who work on genocide trials.
The Last Days of August (Robert Machoian & Rodrigo Ojeda-Beck)
I knew the Killing of Two Lovers guy was going to be in this program, and recognized his style from the first frame… portrait of dying Nebraskan towns.
Our Ark (Deniz Tortum & Kathryn Hamilton)
3D models and simulationism. Our second Deniz collaborative short.
Nuisance Bear (Jack Weisman & Gabriela Osio Vanden)
Katy gave this a thumbs-down. Widescreen gliding camera discovers creatures on the outskirts of Canadian towns: snow rabbit, dogs, foxes, and the bears, who are caged and deported when they dare to involve themselves in the human civilization that has encroached on their territory and now comes out to gape at them as they migrate.
We showed up for the feature Dos Estaciones (Juan Pablo González), a re-enactment about an extremely buttoned-up woman running a failing tequila factory, but we ditched to get food and rest – it’s a lot of movies to watch over a long weekend.
Somehow the most delightful and enjoyable of the Cote movies I’ve seen, even though this one is just people standing still in fields, and the others were kinda a thriller and kinda a nature doc. He’s an unusual filmmaker – per AS Hamrah “Côté has made over a dozen low-budget, semi-conceptual films in Canada since 2005 and shows no sign of letting up. Each of his movies is a bracing delight designed to perk up an audience by asking it to see and listen in some new way.”
Early-Villeneuve star Maxim Gaudette is our lead, facing off vs. a different woman in every scene – first his sister, then both wife and girlfriend. He’s a thief, living in his car, dodging taxes, giving circuitous answers. Scenes are connected by whip pans, or pillow shots, or a girl named Aurora walking around the wilderness – turns out she’s following him, since he smashed her car windows and stole her laptop. At the end, his wife says something like “it’s a simple question and I forbid you from complicating it” – I could use that line.
with sister, Ghost Town Anthology’s Larissa Corriveau
with girlfriend Eve Duranceau (and chaperone)
There’s something odd to the frames, a mild Sokurov light-bending effect, and there seems to be a smear on the lens in a different spot in each shot. Then again, nothing falls apart faster in streaming video than wide shots of trees on a breezy day, so this looked pretty bad, that might be the problem. “I’m going to the cinema. I’ll sit in the first row. That way I’ll see the movie before anyone else.”
with victim, Éléonore Loiselle
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: