Michele (Isabelle Huppert) is raped by a home invader at the start of the movie, and downplays the incident. It appears at first that she’s trying to stay strong and not feel victimized, but her intense sex/power issues (and reasons for not calling the police) are increasingly revealed – along with the somewhat lesser sex/power issues of every single person in her inner circle. An ensemble piece of perversion swirling around Huppert’s mighty center, it’s like a Chabrol thriller written by Todd Solondz (but better, obvs).

Was looking up articles online and deciding what to say and found a really nice writeup by Aaron on Letterboxd. So instead of bothering to repeat him, I’m gonna have fun looking up actors on the ol’ imdb. Need to watch this again anyway. Premiered at Cannes with The Handmaiden and a bunch more I’m hoping to see soon.

Michele’s son Vincent (Jonas Bloquet) has awful pregnant girlfriend Josie (Alice Isaaz), Michele’s ex Richard (Charles Berling of Demonlover, another sex-and-videogames thriller) has new girl Helene (Vimala Pons of In the Shadow of Women), her “botoxed cougar of a mother” (per Aaron) Irene (Judith Magre of Malle’s The Lovers) is dating weird Ralf (Raphaël Lenglet), and the new neighbors are Patrick (Laurent Lafitte) and his very Christian wife Rebecca (Virginie Efira, star of last year’s Victoria). Michele is sleeping with the bald husband Robert (Christian Berkel, returning from Black Book) of her business partner Anna (Anne Consigny, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly transcriber), also has fawning employee Kevin (Arthur Mazet, young Jean Reno in 22 Bullets) and disgruntled tattooed employee Kurt (Lucas Prisor). I think the mom dies (and Ralf turned out to be trolling her), her mass-murderer dad dies in prison, Kevin is caught creating pornographic automata videos with his boss’s face, Michele admits the affair to Anna, and she has a complicated revenge/affair thing with the rapist neighbor, before he’s killed by her son.

A. Nayman:

It’s not necessarily confidence that drives her so much as a flinty inscrutability that is by turns amusing, disturbing, admirable, and absurd … she’s not a pathological case, nor is she any sort of symbolic figure. Michèle evinces a variety of post-feminist stereotypes … without fully inhabiting any of them, and her ability to take in stride both serious trauma and workaday annoyance feels like its own form of bristling defiance.

Verhoeven:

I’m much more interested in people than I was before. I look more at people, and the way that characters treat each other, and betray each other — it was all in my movies before anyhow, but more so now. I would love to move in that direction, and I would love to stay there … I won’t sit for ten years until something like this comes again.

I was going to watch this right after Southbound then realized they were both anthology horrors, so spaced it out by a few days. My second Corman / Poe / Price movie this month after Pit and the Pendulum


Morella

“It’s Lenora, father.” Maggie Pierce (The Fastest Guitar Alive) hasn’t seen her dad Vincent Price in 26 years, and is visiting now because her marriage has failed and she has a mild cough (and therefore, since this is a movie, only a few months to live). Price still blames her for the death of his beloved wife Morella, is wasting away in his Miss Havisham house. Poor Lenora doesn’t even know how her mom died since she was an infant at the time, so Price explains that she collapsed at a party while yelling “it was the baby.” Hardly seems fair, but apparently Morella (Leona Gage of Scream of the Butterfly) still blames the baby, rises in the night to murder Lenora and burn the place to the ground.


The Black Cat

Montresor Herringbone is a hopeless drunk who steals from his working wife Annabel (Joyce Jameson, who’d costar with Lorre and Price again the following year in Comedy of Terrors) to get enough wine to stop the hallucinations. He’d be a hateful fellow if he wasn’t being played by Peter Lorre in comic mode… and speaking of comic mode, Price plays Fortunato Luchresi, a foppish wine expert whom Lorre challenges to a tasting competition in order to get free wine. Surprised by Lorre’s knowledge and (lack of) technique, Price follows him home and falls for Annabel. When Lorre finds out he chains them in his cellar and walls them in – the perfect crime if not for the black cat he accidentally bricks up, whose howls alert the police.

Loved the acting, the reptile hallucinations and dreams (Fortunato and Annabel playing catch with Lorre’s severed head, the picture smeared and distorted). Each scene ends with a 400 Blows zoom. Price calls the wife “my treasure,” but isn’t that what Lorre’s name “Montresor” means?


The Case of M. Valdemar

Valdemar (Price) is dying of an incurable disease, and mesmerist Carmichael (Basil Rathbone, Sherlock Holmes of the 1930’s and 40’s) agrees to relieve his pain for free in exchange for participation in an experiment – to mesmerise Price at the moment of death to see if they can extend it. Medical Doctor James (David Frankham, who worked with Price in Return of The Fly) is against all this, of course, but Price insists, and also wishes his devoted wife Debra Paget (the dancer in Fritz Lang’s Indian Epic) to marry Dr. James when he dies. But the hypnotist has other plans, and when he successfully has the dead Price’s soul trapped in mesmeric limbo, he holds it hostage until Paget will marry him instead. Price solves this problem himself, rising from his death bed and melting all over the amoral Carmichael.

The Good Doctor and Good Wife:

Two more sections from the amazing-looking Lumière blu-ray:

Chap 3: Enfances

La Petite fille et son chat (1900)

A horrific film introducing early filmmakers to the problem of making movies with animals. The action is a girl in a preposterous hat hand-feeding a hungry cat, but the cat loses interest halfway, ditches the film and has to be thrown back into frame. The girl’s a much better sport – in the second half you can see the cat clawing her arm, but she continues to act through the pain, pushing further back in her seat in case the animal goes for her eyes next.


Premiers pas de bébé (year unknown)

Kid in wind-inflated clown clothes walks unsteadily down the sidewalk, then falls down – a comedy or a tragedy, depending whether you like kids.


Pêche aux poissons rouges (1895)

Mustache man works hard to get a kid in a diaper-hat to reach for the fish, which she does occasionally in between trying to keep a steady foothold and trying to pull the whole thing over – kind of a failed attempt at a filmed action, but maybe film was super expensive so they released it anyhow.


Petit frère et petite sœur (1897)

Boy and girl swing in circles until they fall down, what fun. The film hasn’t run out yet, so he picks her up and they start again, with the girl shooting a “what? I thought we were finished” look into camera.


Enfant pêchant des crevettes (1896)

Kids in increasingly ridiculous hats skim the water with shrimp nets while their parents hover nearby.


Le goûter des bébés (1897)

Two girls at either ends of a table while young Casanova sits in between feeding them grapes. According to google, the title translates as The Taste of Babies.


Baignade en mer (1895)

Older kids dressed as escaped convicts jump off a rickety diving board into the sea.
I’ve seen some of these before (and taken the exact same screenshots).


Enfants jouant aux billes (1896)

A game of marbles, at an unfollowable distance even in this beautiful HD edition. The dirty kids in their adorable period garb are still worth watching, though.


Défilé de voitures de bébés à la pouponnière de Paris (1897)

Long train of nannies with babies in buggies.


Chapter 4: La France Qui Travaille

Ateliers de La Ciotat (1899)

What is happening? Spinning gears and flywheels, as workmen carry large things about.


Chaudière (1896)

Men climb down a ladder, then remove the ladder. What is that thing? Ah, English title is Loading a Boiler, not so thrilling.


Ouvriers réparant un trottoir en bitume (1897)

Spreading what looks like black tar on the ground – looks hot and miserable.


Défournage du Coke (1896)

I’ve seen this one a bunch of times, and it’s fascinating… super-hot coal residue, sliding slowly out from whatever contraption this is, one guy hosing it down, others hesitantly attacking it with poles, finally increasing the pole action towards the end.


Laveuses sur la rivière (1896)

There was a laundry shed for ladies along the river. Nicely framed shot – my favorite part is the men standing lazily above watching the laundry get done.


Transport d’une tourelle par un attelage de 60 chevaux (1896)

Sixty horses towing a massive whiskey barrel (or a turret, acc. to google translate). This film has a cut, because obviously the Lumières wanted to see the line of the horses then the giant object wheeling into view but a supervisor holds the line, so it seems they stopped shooting until it resumed.


Pêche aux sardines (1896)

Untangling fish from the net, which goes slowly because the fishermen keep turning around to look at the camera.


Les pompiers I: passage des pompes (1896)

So cool, horse-drawn firetruck passing through, as street traffic moves aside for them.


Attelage d’un camion (1896)

More horse-pulling action, this time a smaller team than a few films ago, pulling a less interesting load (concrete blocks).

Movie about chaos and joys of filmmaking, with producers and director, love affairs, on-set PR/media crew, interfering locals, rumor monging, old friends, unexpectedly pregnant actors, stunt doubles, lab mistakes, uncooperative animals, movie references, flashbacks, breakdowns, and an Italian actress who can’t deal with sync sound.

The torture of sync sound!

Real director playing fake director fake-showing his real actors how to act:

Truffaut plays a director and Leaud plays his lead actor – imagine that. The film-within’s plot is that Leaud’s young wife Jacqueline Bisset (Albert Finney’s ex-wife in Under The Volcano) runs off with his dad Jean-Pierre Aumont (Hotel du Nord). Meanwhile on set, Leaud’s girlfriend Dani leaves him (and abandons the film), Leaud goes a bit nuts, then nearly breaks up Bisset’s new marriage with her doctor.

Bisset and her doctor:

Leaud’s film-in-film mom is unstable Italian Valentina Cortese (star of Thieves’ Highway, a friend in Juliet of the Spirits), buzzing around set is script-girl Nathalie Baye (star of La Mémoire Courte), and in his only acting role, author Graham Greene plays the film’s insurer.

My favorite bit: Truffaut, who has brought his experiences on other films into this one, stealing from real life to create fiction, has his director-character write his lead actress some last-minute dialogue stealing from something she’d said earlier.

Equipage equipage equipage…

This was the movie that Godard wrote a nasty letter over, ending his friendship with Truffaut. Godard thought Day For Night was dishonest – M. D’Angelo only accuses it of being slight: “Truffaut shoots for amiable, and achieves it.”

Something wonderful (inflatable medical robot turned flying/fighting machine against its own will) combines with standard superhero-team origin-story and standard double-revenge plot with standard twist ending (you mean the most extremely obvious suspect doesn’t turn out to be the shadowy masked villain?). Adequately racially/sexually-diverse team of genius tech-nerd college kids use their lab experiments to defeat their own professor who has hijacked young Hiro’s micro-bots to destroy the military-capitalist who sent the prof’s daughter into another dimension. Interdimensional rescue of cryo-sleeping daughter unexpectedly recalls Interstellar, and robot’s self-sacrifice to serve man, floating away half-wrecked, recalls Terminator 2. Actually made me kinda sad, but as with Guardians of the Galaxy, we get a rebirth epilogue. As much as the world calls out for sequels to recent hit Disney movies, they keep putting out new stuff like this, to their credit.

Kinda impossible to describe this movie or why it’s so great. Because of the title the viewer pays close attention to the often-seen family cat, which isn’t all that strange. The family isn’t strange either, gathering for a large meal, mostly appearing without being given names or specific relations. The movie is strange, though, with its easygoing, playful and pleasant nature, and sudden bursts of string music and unusual cutting/framing sometimes making me expect intrigue.

Dissolve calls it “a beautiful, mysterious, beguiling cinematic doodle, and an absolute master class in mise-en-scène, unfolding in odd, fragmented frames and precisely choreographed movement within those frames,” and Mike D’Angelo calls it “the rare film that offers a new way of looking at the everyday world.” Zurcher’s first film, actually his student film, begun at a workshop with Bela Tarr.

J. Kiang:

Unlike many puzzles that tease solutions but never deliver, here the film becomes more engaging as time goes on, so that by the end our attention was unexpectedly rapt. .. In this mini-universe that refers only to itself (imagine a non-creepy Dogtooth), it’s the viewer who’s the weirdo, trying to apply patterns that simply don’t fit, onto a system that abides by its own unseen logic instead.

M. Sicinski’s commentary in Cinema Scope is the best I’ve found.

A visual inventory of various key objects… goes quite a ways toward explaining Zürcher’s somewhat mysterious title. The interlude is not just a clarification, as if one were needed at this point, that objects in and of themselves are the true subjects of The Strange Little Cat (another point of contact with Tati, Bresson, and Ozu); it also represents a clearing of the decks of human dominance, so that we can witness something we might call “feline time.” The cat sees these things, but they have no meaning for her. Rather, they are both foreign (pure entities with no known use value) and absolutely familiar (part of her “turf”).

Basically a Richard Burton heaven-and-hell monologue, plus a few conversations with baldy Andreas Teuber as Mephistophilis, some fleeting glimpses of Liz Taylor, and one fart-joke scene. Idiot Faustus, supposedly a scientist with a thirst for more knowledge though we never see anything scholarly beyond some lab equipment in the first scenes, signs a deal with the devil – his soul in exchange for all the power and riches he wants for the next 24 years. But Faustus (who speaks his own name roughly twice per sentence, lest we forget it) doesn’t want to be king, he wants only to impress the current king with his magic tricks. We don’t know what other powers he has or desires, since he seems to spend all 24 years fretting about the bargain he made instead of enjoying it, being tormented by angel voices emanating from a cool arrow-pierced mannequin in his lab. Sounds like theater but it looks like a proper film, full of cool effects and dissolves.

The story of Tony Revolori, who loved Saoirse Ronan and grew up to be F. Murray Abraham, told his tale to Jude Law, who grew up to be Tom Wilkinson, whose book inspired many. Zero worked with Ralph Fiennes, who slept with Tilda Swinton, who was murdered by Willem Dafoe at the behest of Adrien Brody, who framed Fiennes by threatening Mathieu Amalric and later murdering Lea Seydoux and Jeff Goldblum (and his cat). Fiennes escapes prison with help from Harvey Keitel, runs into cop Edward Norton and military concierge Owen Wilson, clears his name but sacrifices himself to nazi authorities to save Revolori and Ronan. Jason Schwartzman is a Jude Law-era lobby boy, and Billy Murray, Bob Balaban and some others are shoehorned in.

See also: what I wrote on The Wind Rises.

Stefan Zweig (Letter From an Unknown Woman) gets an “inspired by” credit. Cowritten with the guy who drew the paintings at Eli Cash’s house in Royal Tenenbaums.

Katy liked it alright. My mom did not.

Like Rivette, Bresson started his feature career with a nun movie. This is an interesting one in light of his later movies about crime and punishment. On prison trips, young nun Anne-Marie (Renee Faure, lovestruck globemaker’s daughter in L’assassinat du Père Noël) becomes obsessed with Therese (Jany Holt, the prostitute in Renoir’s Lower Depths), trying to get her to join the convent – which she does after her release, but not before shooting a man to death as revenge for her imprisonment.

So, Anne-Marie gets ever more intense towards the woman she thinks she has saved, and Therese is extremely moody, never fitting in at the convent since she’s really using it to hide from her latest crime.

Senses:

For her disruption of convent life Anne-Marie is expelled, but secretly returns nightly to pray at the tomb of her order’s founder. When she becomes deathly ill, she is discovered and readmitted to the fold; and, upon her death, Thérèse undergoes a change of heart, delivering herself to the police and to her just punishment. .. This route to Anne-Marie’s saintly fulfilment and Thérèse’s transformation passes through continually ambiguous terrain, in which will, destiny, and chance become indistinguishable, and in which saintliness and criminality not only work side by side but mingle.

Head nun Sylvie was in Le Corbeau the same year, and one of the others – I get them confused – was Marie-Hélène Dasté, Jean Dasté’s wife and a stage actress for playwright/novelist Giraudoux, who adapted the story for this film.

Public Affairs (1934)

Princess defies king, flies to nearby Crogandy to marry their clown chancellor, who gets a few funny bits in this visually indistinct, silly-ass comedy. A pretty good extended contagious-yawn joke leads to a plane crash, then everyone in town falls asleep (probably not a Paris qui dort reference). We follow the chancellor from a statue unveilling to a firehouse demonstration to the launch of a ship, with Marcel Dalio (the marquis in Rules of the Game and Frenchy in To Have and Have Not) playing most of the movie’s roles besides the romantic leads.