Three great actors (Nicole, Kirsten, Colin) plus Elle leading the up-and-comers. Colin is an enemy soldier brought to their boarding school for medical help, then as he recovers his strength, things get increasingly tense until he plays an ill-advised trick on Kirsten, and the women murder him with poison mushrooms.

Lovely movie, great twisted fun. I have few deep thoughts, because my post-film reverie was interrupted by the sight of a guy wearing a Battlefield Earth t-shirt – the novel, not the film.

After waiting years to watch this, it was finally pretty disappointing… even if the political/social criticism is on point, the movie felt slow and obvious. Former swimming champ Adam has worked at the same hotel pool for decades, along with buddy David (a miniaturized Danny Glover) and now his son Abdel. Adam pays off a local government dude to keep Adbel out of the civil war – we thought Dry Season took place post-civil war, but apparently this is a new civil war, which ended a few months before the film premiered in Cannes (winning third place to Uncle Boonmee and Of Gods and Men).

Parents and son at home:

A Chinese company buys the hotel, notes that there isn’t enough pool work to justify employment of these three men, so fires David and demotes Adam to gatekeeper. He claims he can’t afford to pay anymore – maybe true, or maybe he is mad about the job situation – so Abdel is quickly drafted and Adam gets his pool job back. All is well for a few days, then Abdel’s previously unseen pregnant girlfriend moves in, the town is evacuated as the rebels advance, and Adam goes off to an army hospital to kidnap his mortally wounded son and give him a river burial.

Adam was the baker from Dry Season, looking convincingly less weathered (or maybe it’s been too long and I’d forgotten what he looked like, because I thought they must be two similar-looking actors). Abdel had small roles in Caché and Indigènes. David was in Grisgris and Haroun’s lesser-known Sexe, gombo et beurre salé, and the chief was in Africa Paradis and a passenger in Night on Earth. The girlfriend Djénéba Koné, a singer who cries a lot, was in Bamako as the sister-in-law of that film’s crying singer.

Adam Cook:

The film is beautifully shot with strong performances, particularly from the soulful Youssouf Djaoro in the lead role, but his life changing decision… never quite rings true. It does make the second half dramatically powerful and moving, and it even makes sense on a thematic level, but it is hard to believe his character would ever make such a callous choice.

Great collection with the best liner notes, borrowed from a coworker and watched piecemeal.


The Original Movie (1922, Tony Sarg)

Silhouette animation imagining what moviemaking was like in early days (a mashup of eras from the dinosaur age forward). Nice use of Flintstonian animals as machines (like a long-necked dinosaur as camera crane), but Lotte Reineger it ain’t. Seems an in-joke gag about how producers have always ruined the work of screenwriters. Nice Muybridge reference. The notes say Sarg was a famous puppeteer who created the first Macy’s parade floats.

Producer (left) with his editing goat, receiving a pitch:

It’s a mark of how quickly the division-of-labor production system overtook Hollywood that already in 1922 The Original Movie can find its satiric “moral” in the inability of writers to recognize their work by the time it reaches the screen. The puritan-cloaked censors who contribute to the caveman filmmaker’s breakdown would have been on everyone’s mind. Nineteen twenty-one witnessed the Fatty Arbuckle scandal and brought New York’s new censor board as well as a hundred bills in state legislatures to curb perceived Hollywood excess.


The Confederate Ironclad (1912, Kenean Buel)

I guess an ironclad was a hideous, armored boat. Fifteen-minute action flick about confederate soldier Yancey, the Southern girl who loves him, and beautiful Union spy Elinor who easily cons ol’ Yancey into giving up military information. I didn’t realize the movie would take the confederate side, though – their gunboat rips up the union army, and noble Yancey allows Elinor to escape. Unusually, the original music score has survived, and was used in this restoration.

Wounded Yancey with his Southern Rose:

Yancey was married to the spy, Anna Q., who was a superstar in the 1920’s. Rose was Miriam Cooper, who had a lead role (“the friendless one”) in Intolerance.


Early Films from the Edison Company

Blacksmithing Scene (1893) – blacksmiths take turns banging on iron, drinking, banging on iron… sure enough, this is the original film the Lumieres remade.

The Gay Shoe Clerk (1903) – a decidedly not-gay shoe clerk kisses a flirty female customer.

Three American Beauties (1906) – a rose, a girl, a U.S. flag, all hand-tinted.

The liners on the first two films:

Because the three “blacksmiths” are impersonated by Edison employees, this is not a documentary but the first instance of screen acting. It is also the earliest surviving complete motion picture on film … Of course, at the time “gay” referred only to his devil-may-care impetuousness. The modern meaning gives unintended irony to The Gay Shoe Clerk, whose “young woman” was played by one of Edison’s male employees.


Spies (1943, Chuck Jones)

The Looney Tunes staff with writer Dr. Seuss illustrate a “loose lips sink ships” scenario, as Snafu thinks he’s keeping his mission secret but lets enough pieces of information slip for the enemy to put it all together. I thought Snafu had a rather Bugs Bunny voice, though Mel Blanc says he meant for him to sound like Porky. Amazing work, need to find and watch all of these.


OffOn (1968, Scott Bartlett)

Like the 2001: A Space Odyssey eyeball voyage scene, but homemade with newfangled late-1960’s video technology. Some other indescribable weirdness ensues, funhouse-mirroring and Rainbow Dance techniques. Impressive. Features the kind of grating horror soundtrack in fashion with the avant-garde, though it chills out into some pulsing tones at times.

Speaking in the 1960s at the time he made OffOn, his second film, he saw a technology on the horizon that would make his innovations simpler for future media artists: “With video plus computers you could do it even better,” he said of his imagery of metamorphosis.

Did anyone else count nine? Maybe Kurt Russell isn’t considered hateful since he always appears to be telling the truth? But he does punch Daisy in the face a lot of times (to the great amusement of the Alamo crowd). So if we count him, there’s the seven star actors mentioned in the trailer, plus the definitely hateful Mexican Bob (Demián Bichir, Castro in Che), and certainly-hateful not-surprise (since there are opening credits, though when he showed up three hours later I’d just about forgotten) guest star Tater Channing. So I suppose the title is meant to throw you off, as is most of the script.

I got to see the little-known 35mm roadshow version, though now having seen it, I wouldn’t cry to lose ten minutes of footage and the intermission. Alamo’s a cool place, though they ran out of half the stuff we ordered and came crawling down the floor to let us know, which all seemed awkward. Mostly it was fabulous to sit front row watching a great-looking 35mm widescreen film from a perfect print.

Let’s keep this short: bounty-hunter Kurt Russell transporting criminal Jennifer Jason Leigh picks up fellow bounty-hunter Sam Jackson and would-be-sheriff Walt Goggins on the way to a rest stop to wait out a blizzard. Waiting there are, as we find out in the second half, an ambush of J.J. Leigh’s compatriots pretending to be random travelers, including hangman Tim Roth, quiet cowboy Michael Madsen and the aforementioned Bob… and confederate general Bruce Dern, a genuinely random traveler searching for his son. Also, Leigh’s outlaw brother Tater is hiding in the basement. Everyone gets shot except Kurt Russell gets poisoned and Leigh gets hanged by ragged, barely-survivors Goggins and Jackson, who reluctantly team up as the plot unfolds. Partly an homage to The Thing (Kurt Russell trapped in snow, nobody being who they say they are). Oh also Zoë Bell of Death Proof appears with others in a flashback massacre. And haha, QT cast a guy named Stark to play a naked man in the flashback leading to Dern’s death just before intermission.

The actors are all perfect for their roles. I’ve barely seen JJ Leigh since the great eXistenZ, though she was one of a hundred confusing people and things in Synecdoche, New York. So the film is well-shot, though confined to the damned cabin for most of its runtime, and the new Ennio Morricone music is lovely, though sparsely used, and the actors are super, though their characters are truly hateful. So I’m not sure what to make of this, or why it’s the movie Tarantino felt he had to make right now. There’s a lot to talk about, and Glenn Kenny takes a great shot at covering it.

Sam Adams, in an article amazingly titled “Fear of a Black Dingus” (just beating Cinema Scope’s headline “You’ve Gotta Be Fucking Kidding Me”): “Tarantino has never worked so strenuously to get a rise out of his audience … Watching The Hateful Eight is a little like being [Bruce Dern], knowing that Tarantino wants you to jump, and feeling like a sucker when you do.”

J. Reichert in Reverse Shot:

So, after his biggest box-office success, one of our most obnoxious filmmakers made a movie whose worldview lines up with the Republican presidential debates or a Donald Trump rally … It functions as the opposite of Reverse Shot’s best film of the year, In Jackson Heights, which shows Americans our best selves. The Hateful Eight may not be the Quentin Tarantino film anyone wanted, but it may be the Quentin Tarantino film we deserved.

A. Nayman in Cinema Scope:

One possible way to approach the pachydermous beast that is The Hateful Eight is as a hybrid tribute to/remake of Carpenter’s The Thing … And one possible way to look at Tarantino at this point is as the artistic equivalent of Carpenter’s parasite: an unscrupulous shape-shifter who will throw on any disguise that suits his purposes before moving on, leaving the host party hollowed out as he proceeds on his relentless mission of conquest … This is Tarantino’s most audience-alienating film to date. A line from The Thing springs to mind: “I don’t know what the hell’s in there… but it’s weird and pissed off, whatever it is.”

Between watching Hateful Eight and getting this post online we also saw Inglorious Basterds at the Alamo, since they’re having a Tarantino fest to celebrate Hateful’s release. Fassbender made more of an impression this time, since now I know who he is. I’d forgotten Waltz’s defecting to the allies at the end, and personally planting one of the basterds’ bombs under Hitler’s chair. Katy was surprised to like the movie, despite all its graphic violence.

Not having seen either Little Women or The Women before, I used to get them mixed up. Now, having seen both within a week of each other, then delaying a month before writing about them, they’ll probably remain mixed up. We double-featured this with the free Valentine’s Day screening of The Philadelphia Story at Filmstreams, kicking off their Katharine Hepburn retrospective month.

Civil War-era family drama spanning about a decade, which is why twentysomething Joan Bennett is unconvincing as a pre-teen at the start of the film. Four sisters are growing up while their dad is off at war (he returns alive towards the end), falling in love with the next-door neighbors, dealing with wartime cutbacks, their perfect mom and their forbidding aunt. Ends with three weddings and a funeral.

Rich, sheltered neighbor boy Laurie (Douglass Montgomery) and an energetic Hepburn have a thing for each other, but won’t commit, and he ends up with younger Joan Bennett (women in the painting in Scarlet Street) after a summer together in europe. Hepburn moves to the big city to be a writer, marries older professor Paul Lukas (of Dodsworth and Strange Cargo). Can’t remember much about Meg (I Walked With a Zombie star Frances Dee) – maybe she’s the humble one – who likes Laurie’s tutor. And sweet, artistic Beth (Jean Parker of The Gunfighter and Beyond Tomorrow), who loved to play piano and look after babies sick with scarlet fever, dies of scarlet fever. Won a writing oscar, and Hepburn got best actress the same year for a different movie.

Woman who was supposed to play Aunt March died in the middle of the shoot, so retakes were required. While paging through Chicago Tribune articles to find out whether the movie killed her (it did not), I came across some great headlines: “Woman Dies of Poisoned Food Left by Suicide”… “U.S. Jury Frees Mayor on Rum Charge”… “Twelve Killed, Two Made Blind by Poison Booze”… “Hoodlum Slain as Judges Join War on Gunmen”.

Not as bad as all that, but certainly not good – a Martian adventure full of aliens with indistinguishable-sounding names, overexplainy without making us understand or care. Could’ve taken a lesson on narrative clarity in unfamiliar worlds from Nausicaa.

Muscley Carter grumbles that he’ll fight for no cause, would rather be locked up by General Malcolm’s Dad than fight in his dirty Civil War. Carter finds a cave of gold, guarded by a bald dude who warps him to Mars, which he finds engulfed in a Civil War in which Carter grumbles he will not fight. But he meets a girl, so he fights for her instead with his amazing strength and jumping abilities, defeating McNutty, who receives orders from multidimensional bald super-alien Mark Strong (sad trailer-home sniper of Tinker Tailor, psycho-baddie of Sunshine).

Oh wait, there’s a simpering frame story in which young Edgar Rice Burroughs (Juni of Spy Kids) is supposed to inherit Carter’s fortune but is actually being entrusted to protect Carter’s body on Earth while his astral projection makes sweet love to a Martian princess. Bunch of people in the credits who I never saw turned out to play motion-capture aliens – bummer. See ya some other time, Samantha Morton and Willem Dafoe.

JUDGE PRIEST (1934)

Something like John Ford’s 80th film, if IMDB can be trusted. Contemporary with L’Atalante and the silent Story of Floating Weeds. Set in 1890’s Kentucky – a couple decades past Civil War, which was still on everyone’s mind. And after all, the war wasn’t all that long ago… older audience members watching this film would’ve had parents who participated in it. Strange to think about now, a few more generations removed – my dad wasn’t born yet when this came out.

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Humorist cowboy and populist philosopher Will Rogers plays the titular good-ol’-boy judge, and controversial sleepy-eyed black actor Stepin Fetchit is his sidekick. Priest is a former confederate soldier (“I kinda calmed down”) who is endlessly proud of Dixie, but respects the law and modern reality, or seems resigned to them anyway.

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The judge’s nephew Jerome (Tom Brown) comes back to town and you can tell he’s supposed to end up with the neighbor girl Ellie May (Anita Louise) but he keeps ending up on dates with a dark-haired temptress instead (Rochelle Hudson, who voiced MGM cartoons and later appeared in Strait-Jacket and Dr. Terror’s Gallery of Horrors). Of course they do end up together after wasting plenty of screen time we’d rather be spending with Will Rogers, but first there’s some problem about Ellie May not having a father.

Our generic romantic leads… everything else in the film is more interesting than these two:
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Trouble starts in town when the mysterious new guy in town, a blacksmith (the Walter Matthau-looking David Landau of Horse Feathers) punches out Flem the barber for making a crack about Ellie May. He is to be tried in court before Judge Priest, but meddling, villainous-looking senator Horace Maydew points out that Priest was present at the incident and took the blacksmith’s side, so Priest agrees to step down and let someone else (Henry Walthall, in the movies since 1908, costarred in Birth of a Nation and London After Midnight) preside. Priest stays involved by offering to defend the blacksmith, finally, triumphantly revealing him to be an ex-con, a confederate war hero, AND Ellie May’s father.

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I found less stirring emotion in the overlong “dixie”-soundtracked heartfelt courtroom ending than in a scene early on with the judge talking to a photo of his dead wife. He’s supposed to be a lonely man, but with the young lovers and the big trial, and with Priest’s jovial nature, Ford doesn’t dwell on that aspect too much… just gives us that one lovely scene providing Priest with a deep enough soul to last the rest of the film.

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Otherwise things stay pretty light, and there’s plenty of worthwhile diversions like the outrageous performance of Stepin Fetchit, and Hattie McDaniel (as Priest’s maid) singing “the sun shines bright in my old kentucky home.”

Look far-left for Hattie:
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Screenplay written by Atlantan Lamar Trotti (American Guerrilla in the Philippines) and Dudley Nichols (Man Hunt, Scarlet Street). Based on a series of books by Irvin Cobb, author of McTeague (Greed), who hosted the Oscars the following year (1935 – this wasn’t nominated). Will Rogers had hosted in ’33. Time was unkind to the lead actors… Rogers, Walthall, and Landau all died within two years of the film’s release.

Sneering villain Horace Maydew:
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THE SUN SHINES BRIGHT (1953)

I’d thought this would be a remake of Judge Priest, but not exactly. Sure, at the beginning a young man comes home and starts romancing a young girl with a conspicuously missing parent, and sure Judge Priest (now played by Charles Winninger, the captain in Show Boat) is our central character and Stepin Fetchit (the same actor!) is his slow, slurred-voiced sidekick/servant, but things take a turn from there.

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Priest is still a likable soul, but now he’s an alcoholic on the verge of losing his seat to slick Horace Maydew. Priest doesn’t seem like he runs this hick town anymore – he’s an increasingly irrelevant member of a rapidly growing city. He’s a wise and engaging character, but he’s no Will Rogers. And while the first movie showed us the judge’s loneliness at the start then cheered us up for the next hour, this one gives the judge a rocky start (waking up and yelling for his negro servant to bring him whiskey!), builds him up more and more, then fires off a devastating visual ending, the judge silently retreating into his house alone.

Horace Maydew isn’t as cartoonish a bad guy in this movie:
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The twist this time: young Lucy Lee’s mom, a prostitute who left town so her daughter wouldn’t grow up in shame, returns home to die. Lucy Lee finds out about this, and about her grandfather, the solitary wealthy General Fairfield (James Kirkwood, a director in the silent era, and the farmer in A Corner In Wheat), a former confederate who has distanced himself from his past and won’t talk before the veterans group which Priest leads each week.

The judge and the general share a tender moment:
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Before LL’s mom died she asked brothel madam Mallie Cramp (Eve March: the little girl’s teacher in Curse of the Cat People, Hepburn’s secretary in Adam’s Rib) to give her a proper funeral and burial and strong-willed Mallie would like to, but she’s met with resistance by the townsfolk, who of course support the brothel but bristle at the idea of those women having public lives or even deaths.

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The rest of the plot is more complex than in Judge Priest. No big climactic court case, but a few overlapping issues. First, Priest is up for re-election and it’s a close race with Maydew (Milburn Stone, a detective in Pickup On South Street the same year), who paints Priest as old-fashioned and out-of-touch. Young lover Ashby (stiff, cliff-faced John Russell, the main bad dude in Rio Bravo) wins a whip-fight (!) with slimy rabble-rouser Buck Ramsey (Grant Withers, who killed himself a few years later) over Lucy Lee (Arleen Whelan of Young Mr. Lincoln), and Ramsey returns leading an angry mob hoping to lynch young black harmonica player U.S. Grant Woodford suspected of raping a girl out of town. Priest is already politicking around town, leading his confederate group, and dealing with the Lucy Lee situation when he decides to risk his life by blocking the lynch mob and risk his reputation by being the first to follow the prostitute funeral procession through the streets. Priest closes those matters out (U.S. Grant is proven innocent and released, actual rapist Buck is shot trying to escape, Lucy Lee reconnects with her grandfather) just in time to cast the decisive vote re-electing himself. In the end he’s a hero of the town, and everyone stops by his house to wave and sing praises… but he still goes home alone.

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There were 30+ John Ford films between Judge Priest and this (including Rio Grande and The Quiet Man) and he had nearly 20 more left in him. This one, unlike the original, can definitely not be called a comedy. It has some comic relief though, in the form of drunken hick sharpshooter duo Francis Ford (his 32nd and final appearance in one of his brother’s films) and Slim Pickens (a decade before Dr. Strangelove and Major Dundee). I wanted to like the 30’s movie more, with its lighter tone and a Judge Priest character who is affable without having to humbly heal the whole town’s social wounds while saving a boy’s life, but I think the latter movie impressed me more deeply. No doubt they’re both excellent and make for a lovely double feature though.

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Jonathan Rosenbaum:

Today The Sun Shines Bright is my favourite Ford film, and I suspect that part of what makes me love it as much as I do is that it’s the opposite of Gone with the Wind in almost every way, especially in relation to the power associated with stars and money. Although I’m also extremely fond of Judge Priest, a 1934 Ford film derived from some of the same Irvin S. Cobb stories, the fact that it has a big-time Hollywood star of the period, Will Rogers, is probably the greatest single difference, and even though I love both Rogers and his performance in Judge Priest, I love The Sun Shines Bright even more because of the greater intimacy and modesty of its own scale.

I should add that in between Judge Priest’s stopping of a lynching and his triumphant re-election brought about in part by the potential lynchers is the act that the Ford regards as his key act of moral and civil virtue – arguably far more important in certain ways, at least in this film’s terms, than his prevention of the lynching. I’m speaking, of course, of his joining a funeral procession for a fallen woman on election day, thereby fulfilling her dying request that she be given a proper burial in her own home town. Once Billy Priest joins this procession, he is followed by almost every other sympathetic member of the community, starting with the local bordello madam and her fellow prostitutes, and continuing with the commander of the Union veterans of the Civil War, the local blacksmith, the German-American who owns the department store, Amora Ratchitt (Jane Darwell), Lucy Lee, Ashby, Dr. Lake, and finally – after the procession arrives at its destination, a black church – General Fairfield, Lucy’s grandfather, who has up until now refused to recognised his daughter under any circumstances.

There are actually two protracted and highly ceremonial processions in the film, occurring quite close to one another – the funeral procession for Lucy Lee’s mother and the parade of tribute to Judge Priest – and the fact that these two remarkable sequences are allowed by Ford to take over the film as a whole is part of what’s so extraordinary about them. Retroactively one might even say that they almost blend together in our memory as a single procession – despite the fact that the first is an act of mourning and the second is an act of celebration – and this undoubtedly contributes to the feeling of pathos in the film in spite of its overdetermined happy ending.

Ultimately, what the film may be expressing is neither celebration nor lament, perhaps just simply affection for cantankerous individuals who exude a certain sweet pathos because history has somehow passed them by – as someone says in the film, I believe in reference to the Confederate veterans, ‘the doddering relics of a lost cause’, which also suggests The Southerner as Everyman. This implicitly suggests a certain darkness as well as lightness – which is why the local blacks serenade the judge with ‘My Old Kentucky Home,’ the first line of which is, ‘The Sun Shines Bright’ – and yet this is a film bathed mainly in the melancholy of twilight. For to emphasise and focus on lost causes as opposed to causes that still might be won assumes a certain abstention from politics associated with defeatism – one reason among others, perhaps, why the Civil War plays such a central role in American history as well as in Ford’s work.

Someone can tell me if I’m out of line in quoting too heavily from this, but it’s so nice to see long, well-thought article devoted to an obscure classic film. If only EVERY film had as thorough a write-up on these internets. Maybe some day.

Our generic romantic leads. Once again, everything in the film is more interesting than these two, but this time Ford seems to realize it.
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Merian C. Cooper’s name is on the title card – first time I’ve seen him mentioned in a non-King Kong context. I guess he exec-produced a bunch of John Ford movies. Shot by Archie Stout, who won an oscar the previous year for Ford’s The Quiet Man.

Allures (1961, Jordan Belson)
I don’t know Belson very well, but this reminds me of my favorite parts of Norman McLaren and Len Lye, abstract animation set to music. Not frenetic, slow swirls and twirls, overlapped colored light patterns set to sparse music with dark electronic manipulation (composed by Belson and Oscar-nom musician/humorist Henry Jacobs). Must see again.
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Allures (c) Jordan Belson

Finger-Fan (1982, Linda Christanell)
Austrian title is FINGERFÄCHER so I thought I’d get something racy for my lunch hour, but no, we’ve got some hands fanning out some fabric on a table… a finger-fan. Synopsis says “objects tell a random story – objects are bearers of obsessions-issuing energy as fetishes,” which might be badly translated or it might not… with the avant-garde it is hard to tell. Camera shoots some objects and photographs, a mirror re-directs part of the frame, there are some basic stop-motion and optical effects, and I remain unimpressed but lightly amused.
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La Cravate (1957, Alejandro Jodorowsky)
Glad it was short, I couldn’t have taken much more of that accordian score. Goofy mimes swap heads at the head-swap shop while a guy with a silly tie tries to land a girl. Strong, bright colors. I guess the concept of swapping heads can be kind of dark, but otherwise this is like a kid’s fairytale compared to El Topo. Fun movie.
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The House With Closed Shutters (1910, DW Griffith)
A Dixie-loyal young girl runs a message to the confederate front lines after her supposed-to-be-messenger brother comes home drunk and afraid. When she’s killed (because she was playing like a kid in no man’s land), their mother covers it up by acting like her son was killed and forbidding her “daughter” to ever leave the house or open the shutters. Decades later his old friends walk by the house, he swings the shutters open and dies from the shock.

Dead guy on chair (left) while his mother orders the friends to leave
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Suspense. (1913, Lois Weber & Philips Smalley)
After the servant quits and leaves the key under the mat, a vagabond takes the opportunity to enter the house, eat a sandwich and stab the woman and her baby to death with a knife. Or he would – but she calls her husband who races home from work in a stolen car followed closely by the cops (who, as cops do in silent movies, shoot their guns constantly not worrying about the casual damage they might cause – not to mention that it hardly seems fair to shoot a guy dead for stealing a car). Worth watching for the titular suspense, and the reaction of the guy whose car the husband stole when he finally catches up and sees the wife & baby safe: a big “well whattaya know” shrug to camera and a pat on the husband’s back. Co-director Weber played the wife.

Sweet split-screen:
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Return of Reason (1923, Man Ray)
Whirling carnival lights at night, nails and tiny beads exposed directly on the film, a tic-tac-toe structure twirling on a string, all in stark black and white. Ends with negative image of a topless woman with psychedelic light patterns on her body.
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The Starfish (1928, Man Ray)
A reputedly beautiful woman is shown behind distorting glass. A man holds a starfish in a jar. Terrifying close-up of starfish. Mirrors, split-screens and superimpositions. This is nice – how come poets don’t make movies anymore? Adaptation of a poem by Robert Desnos.

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Emak-Bakia / Leave Me Alone (1926, Man Ray)
Twirling, swirling light patterns, spinning prisms, a girl with painted eyelids (paging Mr. Cocteau), broken dice, a tad of stop motion. The notes say Ray uses ‘all the tricks that might annoy certain spectators,’ and eighty years later he has annoyed me. Or maybe I’ve just watched too many of his movies in a row. I’d seen no films by Man Ray, then poof, I’ve seen half of them. Good stuff.

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Oooh look, her painted lids are half-closed so you can see all four eyes:
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The Life and Death of 9413: A Hollywood Extra (1928, Robert Florey & Slavko Vorkapich)
Far and away the greatest of these shorts. Intense shadowy miniatures interspersed with close-up photography of actors tells the story of a young hopeful actor defeated by the ruthless Hollywood star system. After he dies, he rises to heaven, where there is always open casting. A predecessor to Mulholland Dr.? Incredible-looking homemade film, very expressionist-influenced. Florey went on to direct 60+ features before moving to television, Vorkapich edited montage sequences for Hollywood films in the 30’s, and assistant cinematographer Gregg Toland shot Citizen Kane.

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Rhythmus 21 (1921, Hans Richter)
“generally regarded as the first abstract animated film”, wow! Squares of light and dark get bigger/smaller, more complex patterns start to appear, pretty slow movement, never gets outrageously intricate, but if it’s the first film of its kind, it’s a great start.
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