4:3, excellent color, trendy arthouse long takes, unusual sound mix. Great looking/sounding, reminds of Jauja. Per the commentary, the trajectory of the long takes were designed to mirror cycles of life.
She is Mantoa, is told her son has died (in her introduction scene, the movie’s best), and that the town will be resettled and a dam built. Enter a low-voiced narrator, and another entry in the “rural woman goes to the city and deals w bureaucracy” genre, more enjoyable at least than A Gentle Creature. Her house burns down. A kid dies. It is a burial, pretty much.
My second Peebles after Watermelon Man, building up gradually to the big one. Harry Baird (The Oblong Box) has three days of leave, attempts to have the best time possible (accomplished) and not fuck up his brand-new promotion (ummm). Different versions of himself appear in mirrors and fantasies, and characters speaking to him look directly into camera, placing us in his head. The whole thing is electric and alive, and self-consciously French-new-wavey. The white girl who falls in love with him is even Nicole Berger of Shoot the Piano Player.
Baird flies into a rage when a Spanish restaurant singer calls him negrito, he’s spotted by other soldiers outside the range they’re supposed to travel, and after his lockup for breaking the rules, the girl is gone.
Wanda lives in a tore-up coal town, arrives late to her own divorce and says he should take the kids, then she’s told she is too slow to work at the clothing factory. She sleeps with the first dude who buys her a rolling rock, but he ditches her. Falls asleep at the movies and gets robbed. Then semi-competent thief Mr. Dennis comes around and she becomes his getaway driver. Dennis wants a big score, so kidnaps a bank manager and gets killed in the ensuing heist – the Criterion cover art is her outside the bank among the onlookers before drifting away alone.
Amy Taubin for Criterion:
Loden said that Wanda and the other films she was trying to make (including a screen adaptation of Kate Chopin’s protofeminist novel The Awakening, whose protagonist, like Wanda, walks out on her husband and children) were psychological studies set in a specific milieu. Among her influences, she counted cinema verité, Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless, and films by Andy Warhol. She wanted fiction films to be more like documentaries.
When asked about Wanda, Loden often responded that she used to be just like her: “Until I was thirty, I had no identity of my own.” … It’s something that we don’t expect when we watch movies — the fusion between an actor and a fictional character — because it so seldom happens. And when it does, the actor, more likely than not, is a “nonprofessional.” But Loden was an experienced actor — and no longer without an identity of her own — when she took on Wanda, a character she had created out of her memories of not being present to the world or to herself.
First movie of 2023, if anyone is keeping track, and off to a shaky start. This was on the Sight & Sound list, and of course I’ve always been curious about the movie where a boy befriends a hawk. But I also know about animals in movies, and assumed the hawk has to die in the end, which it does. At least, per imdb trivia, it’s the favorite film of both Krzysztof Kieslowski and Karl Pilkington.
British adults are authority-obsessed obstructionists, and Billy is a smart, resourceful kid who gets into kestrels, then steals a chick and raises it. He steals something in every scene, so the adults have reason to be suspicious of him. Billy gets brief fame at school, the others impressed by his pet hawk, until his older brother kills the bird. If the movie is about anything, it’s that institutions fail us and birds are beautiful. I hope England sinks into the sea (but slowly enough for the birds to relocate). The kid kept acting, was in an All Quiet on the Western Front remake with Donald Pleasence and Ian Holm.
General Enrique and his rich family hide inside their mansion from the sidewalk protestors after he’s exonerated for genocide, and go on trying to act normal, though the servants flee and the General roams the house with a gun and the chanting continues. New maid Alma is teaching the kids how to hold their breath, because ghostly flashback reveals the General personally ordered her own kids to be drowned. Not that we ever suspected he was a nice guy, but at least his family’s eyes are opened before he inevitably dies.
Alma’s reward for starring in a well-liked foreign film is to be 30th billed in the new Black Panther sequel. A more popular Llorona movie came out the same year (per Indiewire a “schlocky jump-scare machine”) but this one is about real-life horrors in Guatemala, so it got lots of award nominations.
Julie falls in love with older comic artist Aksel after he breaks up with her. She wanders into a wedding, meets Parquet-Courts-lookin’ guy Eivind, they exchange secrets and pee in front of each other. Time stops for 24 hours, she sees Eivind while Aksel is pouring coffee, then she decides to leave Aksel without any plan of what to do next. Turns out Eivind is the titular worst person, in comparison to his girl Sunniva who wants to save the world – he leaves her for Julie. Aksel re-enters the story when diagnosed with fatal cancer. I knew this was a relationship drama, but did not expect it to be an Almodovar-level weeper.
Julie and Eivind:
Thelma made me suspicious of Trier, but this was quite a bit better. The great Renate Reinsve has a couple of A24 features coming soon. Rejected comic artist Aksel is Anders Danielsen Lie (Personal Shopper, star of two other Triers) and PC-lookin’ Eivind is Herbert Nordrum (of some important-looking Norwegian historical dramas, also something called Pornopung).
Aksel and Bobcat:
Long takes of people moving slowly, dramatically across a single room, an air of seductive repression. The blu extras say he films “beautiful women suffering,” yet this is far more tolerable than the same year’s Bergman, which could be described the same way.
Petra is Margit Carstensen – I’ve seen her in Possession. She is very lazy, whining that her mom wants to borrow money, dictating a letter to Joseph Mankiewicz to her servant Marlene (Irm Hermann, a Fassbinder associate from the start). When friend Katrin Schaake visits she brings along young Hanna Schygulla. Hanna is married, husband off in Australia, seems unsophisticated. Petra gets her alone, offers her money and seduces her into a modeling job.
Katrin and Petra:
Hanna’s grand entrance:
Next time we see them, they’re gripey with each other and the power tables have turned, Hanna seeming to be in control of Petra’s actions and emotions. She learns that her husband has come to Germany, abruptly breaks up with Petra and leaves – so we saw their first and last day together. The next day Petra’s classist daughter visits (Eva Mattes, murdered wife of Woyzeck), Petra has a drunken breakdown in front of everyone, and Marlene finally leaves her.
Famous lecturer Jean Desailly (of a couple Melville films) picks up stewardess Francoise Dorléac (a couple years before Cul-de-sac) and talks endlessly about Balzac at the bar. He falls for her, but is married, and the whole movie is about how hard it is to have a secret affair. It’s even harder because he’s well known, but he acts like Francoise has no other options, and is a pain in the ass to her for almost their own relationship, so when he finally proposes, she breaks up with him. And then his wife finds out.
The music took the whole thing seriously from the start. It’s a suave, smooth looking movie, each scene patiently revealing. A jump cut or two just to remind us this is the FNW, overall more admirable than any fun to watch.
In the back of my mind I figured I’ve seen this years ago and just forgotten most of it, but nope, I couldn’t have forgotten this – a jaw-dropping sci-fi story (with funky music). Humans are pests and pets, the planet controlled by blue gill-eared giants. A highly-placed alien child calls his pet human Terr, which grows up and starts playing pranks and spying, eventually defecting to lead the tiny human revolution. Truce is called after the humans build miniature rockets, travel to the Wild Planet and laser down the alien sex statues.
Michael Brooke for Criterion:
Over four decades after its May 1973 premiere, it remains more or less unique. Its peculiar universe, designed by Roland Topor and realized by a team of Czechoslovak animators in Prague, is instantly recognizable from virtually any freeze-frame, and the film as a whole is so rich, strange, and sui generis that nothing has emerged since to retrospectively blunt its impact … [Topor] cofounded the Panic Movement with Fernando Arrabal and Alejandro Jodorowsky, named after the god Pan and intended to make surrealism as shocking as it had been in the 1920s, before its imagery and ideas were co-opted and diluted by the mainstream … he wrote the 1964 source novel for Roman Polanski’s disquietingly paranoid The Tenant (1976), appeared in Dušan Makavejev’s Sweet Movie (1974) and Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979, as the lunatic Renfield).
Les Temps Morts (1965)
I’ve seen Laloux’s earlier Monkey Teeth short, but this is when he teamed up with Topor. A grim little anthropological study of man’s propensity for murder. I think their sensibility worked better when applied to a fictional scenario – and the animation is in very rough form here, illustrations cross-faded in sequence, drawings shuffling Gilliam-style, but mostly the camera panning around stills. Some sharp stills, though – if you cut the live-action atrocity footage it’d make a good picture-book of horrors.
Les Escargots (1966)
A different kind of apocalyptic movie, this one really takes a turn. Farmer realizes his crops will only grow if he cries on them, so he walks around the field holding cut onions, reading sad books, and wearing an ass-kicking machine. The giant plants attract snails, which also grow giant, slide over to the nearest major city and utterly destroy it. Little Shop of Horrors may have been an influence.