Woof, this was bad, but I should’ve guessed from the trailer I saw in NYC with all the “you won’t BELIEVE what happens NEXT”-style quotes in huge print across the screen. A seemingly endless (but only 70 minutes!) string of car crashes and weird happenings captured by Russian dash-cams and ripped off youtube.

“Danger in 200 meters” says one car’s navigation system just before encountering a truck driving slowly in reverse, wiping out all the cars in its path. I rewound a couple times the exploding light poles leading to a blackout after a truck tumbles over. “Fucking asshole,” deadpans the driver witnessing this – there are a couple heroes, but mostly the drivers act annoyed but unsurprised by the damage on display.

Typical/hilarious subtitle:

Quick montages of smashes and explosions are used as buffer material between longer single-take segments. With every new edit, you brace yourself anew for something terrible to happen. Along with Caniba, the other True/False movie Katy wisely avoided, the movie gives us nothing and lets us draw our own conclusions – and at least one person probably died in the making of each. I don’t typically click around youtube looking for the best car-crash videos, so I appreciate that someone has spent the time to curate them for us (and some are incredible) but that’s all this is.

Extreme jumpcut cinema, making a dubby hash of its would-be monologues. Strobey, glitchy, overlapping audio and video, cutting against any sort of rhythm, like an Autechre album of a movie. Video, and videos of video. Much of what audio survives is soft-spoken poetry and college students having deep discussions about economic theory. Once I realized this wasn’t going to come together for me as a narrative, I wondered if it might’ve been a Begotten thing, where he made a film of his friends and relationship problems and it didn’t come out well so he destroyed it. But then, it was one of Cinema Scope’s top ten of 2015, so there must be more to it.

Phil Coldiron:

… each relationship available to the cinema must be rebuilt; nothing will be taken for granted within the frame. If there are narratives, they will not be simply given and accepted; they will appear as the product of careful study of the relations of the world, which Medina examines and expresses through the logic of rhythms.

It’s not just a restless critic reading too much into a semi-documentary Begotten breakbeat – in the interview, Medina is full of references and philosophy on the nature of his cinema, so I think I was too tired and undervalued the thing. They’re both mentioning the Lumiere brothers, who also come up in Dawson City and In The Intense Now. I cannot quote from the interview, because if I was too tired then to get what the film was going for, I’m definitely too tired now to get what these two are on about. I liked Michael Sicinski’s explanation of the thing:

There are fragments of an ostensible narrative. Or perhaps it is better to say, there are figures whose affect and experiences we observe across the running time of Medina’s film. They bob in and out of our view—a coterie of young Filipino-Canadian friends and lovers, given to creativity and anger and philosophizing and confusion. But 88:88 does not adhere to any given point of view. It hangs out, but in a jittery, caffeinated way, holding onto present moments without deadening them into connective tissue, mere “moving-towards.” Or, if there is a point of view, it’s that of “the digital image,” which is indiscriminate and regards a private breakdown with the same impassive fascination it affords greenish-yellow light through a treetop.

Sin-Dee is back on the L.A. streets after a month in jail, finds out some new girl has been fucking her man/pimp James Ransone (Ziggy from The Wire s2) and goes on a rampage looking for either of them, enlisting her friend Alexandra for help.

The color and lighting in this movie is unusual – I guess it was shot on consumer equipment and tweaked in post. But the motion is different too, and I couldn’t figure out why until I looked through the screenshots I grabbed while watching… there’s almost no motion blur. Even when people are walking rapidly, which they usually are, every shot is crisp. So it’s an arresting-looking movie that starts out very annoying (every other word is “bitch”) then gets increasingly engaging and wonderful until it finally ends anticlimactically, with one of the lead characters (an Armenian cab driver named Ramzik) shamed in front of his family. Sure, he shouldn’t have been sneaking off from family holidays to have sex with transsexual prostitutes, but given that the movie’s other main characters are all transsexual prostitutes, that’s not the moral lesson I was expecting.

Family crisis at the Donut Time:

Baker made four previous features and a TV series, and has a new one out this year getting great reviews.

Slogan on cover of the press book: “Ideas separate us, dreams bring us together.”

An essay film without the essay? At least he’s removed the parts of his argument that would allow a simpleton like me to follow along. So far my experiences with Late Godard: I loved Nouvelle Vague even if I rarely understood it. Repetition, layering, stolen quotes as dialogue, showy editing of picture and stereo sound. Also, traditionally gorgeous cinematography and a somewhat decipherable story – both of which disappeared for Histoire(s) du Cinema and Éloge de l’amour, where the layering is increased and I’m less able to follow what he’s on about. Couldn’t make head nor tail of Notre Musique, which I saw in theaters with no preparation.

So now Film Socialism(e) seems like an Éloge de Histoire(s), the onscreen text and stuttery editing and quoting, rambling scenes and an (apparent) essay film with an (apparent) narrative short dropped in between them, all to mysterious purposes. A mix of cameras: wind noise and low-res picture, then sleek HD with the colors enhanced. Apparently full of wordplay that makes no sense in translation, hence the poetically incomplete English subs in the premiere (not the version I watched). Hard stereo panning, as I discovered re-listening to the movie in headphones while searching for articles online.

“It’s impossible to propose an off-the-cuff interpretation of an object we wouldn’t know how to describe” – the Film Socialisme Annotated article found on Moving Image Source.

Film Socialisme in the news: an economist in the first section was killed in the Charlie Hebdo attack and the boat on which it was filmed sank.

Focus of the third section:

“The day will come when language will turn itself against those who speak it,” presumably related to his next feature Adieu au langage, but I prefer to think of Pontypool.

Played in Cannes alongside I Wish I Knew, Aurora and The Strange Case of Angelica.

“Let’s bring back duration.”

Excerpts from A. Picard’s article for Cinema Scope:

The first section of Film Socialisme, or “movement” (as this film, also, is about notre musique, our harmonies and disharmonies), takes place on a cruise ship touring the Mediterranean; the second follows the French family Martin who run a garage and are hounded by a camera crew after one of its members announces a candidacy for the local elections; and the third is a coda collage … Editing images so that they emerge as the visual equivalent to his infamous aphorisms, Godard has increasingly become “interested not only in thought, but in the traces of thought.” … French philosopher Alain Badiou delivers a speech on Husserl to a large, empty room filmed in a long shot emphasizing the space and weight of absence. Godard says an announcement was made over the loudspeaker inviting all passengers to attend and not a single soul showed up.

Patti Smith and Lenny Kaye:

from Godard’s interview in Telerama:

“Palestine is like the cinema: it’s searching for independence.”

“[People] have the courage to live their life, but they don’t have the courage to imagine it.”

A making-of-itself filmmaking rabbit-hole containing mysteries with no answers. It’s hilarious to me that I leave my movie-filled laptop and go to the theater to see a movie that opens with a DVD-R entitled Road to Nowhere inserted into a laptop, with a looong slooow zoom into the screen – a zoom that will be repeated into a digital photograph over the closing credits, and which reminds me that one of the last times I was at this particular theater was to watch Wavelength. Very pleasing countryish music by Tom Russell over key scenes. All shot digital, I assume. Strange, intriguing movie in many ways.

Mitchell Haven (Tygh Runyan, Methyl from Little Dizzle) is directing the within-film, also called Road to Nowhere and also shot digitally, with local gossip and other details provided by blogger Natalie (Dominique Swain, title character in the Jeremy Irons Lolita) and carpenter Bruno (Waylon Payne, Jerry Lee Lewis in Walk the Line). Their movie stars Cary (Cliff De Young of movies I remember from cable like F/X and Dr. Giggles and Pulse – the one where the house’s electricity comes to life and wants you dead, not the one where Japanese ghosts come to life and want you dead) as Tachen together with Laurel (Shannyn Sossamon, the cute pink haired girl in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) as the doomed amour-fou couple of a small town.

But are they doomed? And is Laurel in fact Velma Duran, the very girl she’s portraying in the movie? And is Bruno in fact an insurance investigator who’s on to Velma’s scheme, trying to retrieve the hundred million dollars that she and the real Tachen stole when they died/disappeared? And is Mitchell, as the dialogue and the dialogue-within-the-dialogue both proclaim, in over his head? The movie doesn’t directly say, but rather shuttles between present filmmaking reality, the scenes being shot, and flashbacks which could be real or imagined. I was surprised then, given all the mystery, that the road doesn’t lead to nowhere like Lost Highway but to a definite ending, the girl shot to death by Bruno and Mitchell in jail. I guess all the noir elements and the in-too-deep stuff had to explode eventually, but I enjoyed the ride more than the conclusion.

Written by Steven Gaydos, a longtime Hellman collaborator who cowrote Iguana and helped produce Cockfighter.

NY Times:

Road may also be as significant to the indie feature as Avatar is to the popcorn movie: the entire film was shot on what is essentially a still camera (the Canon 5D Mark II), while looking like a mega-million Hollywood production. “The great thing about this camera is you don’t need permits because no one knows you’re shooting, said Mr. Hellman. … They shot in the streets of London, in Verona, in the church of San Pietro in Vincoli, in Rome, in front of Michelangelo’s Moses and the tomb of Pope Julius II – permitless. “They thought we were tourists,” Mr. Hellman said.

Finally, a great horror movie set in Barcelona (Carriers was directed by Barcelonans but set in the U.S., a missed opportunity). Although, it takes place entirely inside one small apartment building, so it could have been set anywhere – which was Hollywood’s point when they remade it in English as Quarantine.

The most fun thing about this movie is that the cinematographer (Pablo Rosso) is also a lead character, a news cameraman following young reporter Angela (Manuela Velasco of the upcoming Spiderland, which I’m hoping is a Slint bio-pic). I’m not up-to-date on my Spanish horror viewing, so haven’t seen any of these actors before. IMDB says the leads return for [Rec] 2, but I don’t see how that’s possible since everybody dies at the end. I don’t get why a sequel (plus two more in development) would be desirable either – having flashbacks of the hilariously stupid Blair Witch 2.

Fluff reporter Angela is following fire fighters for a night when they’re called to an apartment to check on a disturbance. Said disturbance is the old woman upstairs eating one of her neighbors. They soon find out they’re being sealed inside the building by the Spanish CDC, and that people the old woman bites seem to become flesh-eating zombies.

Panic ensues. There’s a nervous, power-crazed cop who likes to draw his gun, a cute widdle girl and her mother, a young doctor, and some more zombie-fodder residents. The fireman and the reporter/cameraman nearly escape but he gets bitten. The news crew lock themselves in the penthouse, where a crazy (you can tell because there are newspaper clippings all over the walls) but organized (if the clippings weren’t enough of a plot device, there’s a tape machine) mad scientist was conducting experiments on a zombie… who is… STILL IN THE APARTMENT OH MY GOD AND it kills them both and that’s the end.

“Help me someone! There’s a crazy woman in here trying to castrate me!”

The Poe-injected story goes that rock star Roddy Usher killed his wife in a fit of madness so now he’s in hospital under the care of Dr. Calahari. But “story” is just an excuse for Ken. He got himself a DV camera (with built-in microphone), grabbed every silly prop and goofy actor he could find, and set to work making a camp comic “horror” flick. The credits say “Designed, Photographed, Edited, Produced & Directed by KEN RUSSELL (who also did the Cooking),” so this was a backyard hobby project. That page doesn’t even mention writing (he shares credit with Poe) or acting.

Starring: Ken Russell

And have I mentioned it’s a musical? Full of puns and hammy awfulness and prank props and silly-ass music. Sounds nightmarishly awful, and I’m not some super-freakish Ken Russell fan who would forgive him a terrible movie. But, surprise! Shock! It’s not a terrible movie! At least I didn’t think so, as I quickly went from groaning at the self-conscious awfulness to laughing along. Mad Ken must be on the same camp-wavelength as me, which I should have guessed after seeing his Trapped Ashes episode.

Usher:

Of course it helps that I liked the music, composed by Usher himself James Johnston (who also played a rock star in Clean – Maggie Cheung’s dead husband). Upsettingly, Nurse ABC Schmidt (Marie Findley) hasn’t appeared in other films. Sweet Annabelle Lee (Emma Millions) played “Tart” in Ken’s short Lion’s Mouth – bad move not including that on the Usher DVD. Russell’s wife played Usher’s sister (also a mummy in the second half) and the guy who played Igor (he stayed behind a mask) has been in Russell movies as far back as the 60’s.

This guy, an experimental patient whose life Ken has been prolonging through chemicals or electricity or something, portrayed “Death” in a recent Woody Allen film.

Oops…

I’d be afraid to watch this again. It doesn’t seem in retrospect like anything I would’ve enjoyed, so it might’ve just caught me in a perfectly receptive mood. As of this viewing, my only complaint is that there weren’t enough musical numbers in the second half.

Amazingly, this nearly decade-old movie is Ken’s most recent full-length, coming a few years after his string of not-at-all-acclaimed TV movies.

Ken looks dismayed at his lack of DVD sales:

For a few minutes I was mad at the Tara for projecting the film out of focus, not an unreasonable thought given previous disasters at that theater, but then I realized the movie was shot on low-grade DV – probably a good financial choice for a two-person three-year project, but less than ideal for landscapes, which the camera turns into mud. A would’ve-been-lovely shot of pack horses parading before distant mountains ended up looking like a blurry painting. K Uhlich agrees: “As subcultural anthropology, it’s unassailable. Yet the often ugly-looking DV aesthetic dilutes the cumulative effect. For every gorgeously low-res image (a blobby, white sea of sheep racing heedlessly toward their pen), there’s a correspondingly ineffectual visual or vista that one wishes had been captured with higher-end equipment and a keener cinematic eye.”

Jimmy wasn’t bothered by the camerawork so much as the editing, saying that each shot lingered too long, which became cumulatively frustrating. But we agreed it was neat overall, even if most of its value was in teaching us city folk how ranching works.

“The resistance had its youth and it had its old age, but it never went through adulthood.”

Godard already in his mournful history/memory/holocaust phase (of course, I keep forgetting this was made after Histoire(s) du Cinema). Very nice black-and-white photography and lovely, sad string music, then after an hour it turns to super-saturated color, very unique and wonderful looking. Story/character/intent-wise, though, I didn’t get the movie at all.

Part of it is self-referentially about making a film, trying to cast it. There are mentions of Henri Langlois, Robert Bresson, Hannah Arendt, Juliette Binoche, May ’68 and Max Ophuls. Didn’t feel any more like a proper narrative film than Notre Musique did. I’d say that maybe the small-screen experience wasn’t cutting it and I needed to see in a theater, but I saw Notre Musique in a theater and fell asleep. Maybe I’m not smart enough, or wasn’t prepared enough to tackle this one… it’s the kind of thing I’d be better off reading a bunch of articles before watching. I never figured out the love story, or the flashback structure, and even the filmmaking story seemed elusive. But probably it’s just because I’m an American, and it’s not for me.

“Americans have no real past. They have no memory of their own. Their machines do, but they have none personally. So they buy the pasts of others, especially those who resisted.”

There’s some anti-U.S. business, a character hating on the fact that U.S. residents call themselves “Americans,” textually taking ownership over both continents, and a slap at Spielberg (“Mrs. Schindler was never paid. She’s in poverty in Argentina”). Godard reportedly took time at Cannes to attack Spielberg further… guess he’s not thrilled that the current Cahiers crowd voted War of the Worlds as their #8 pick of the decade. C. Packman at IMDB says: “The film is a critique on Hollywood and how capitalism is destroying cinema and love. … The film succeeds in offering a philosophical problem, but demonstrates philosophy’s inability to enter into any realm other than the abstract. Godard here follows Marx’ dictum: ‘Philosophers have only interpreted the world, the point is to change it’.”

“When did the gaze collapse?”
“Before TV took precedence over life.”

No actors I’ve heard of before, and the one I liked best (Audrey Klebaner, above, as Eglantine) has never been in another film. Shot on 16mm b/w film and color video by Julien Hirsch (Notre Musique, Lady Chatterley) and Christophe Pollock (Up/Down/Fragile, Class Relations), but I can’t figure out who shot which. Punctuated by repeated title cards and blackouts.

Salon is ruthless:

Godard’s artistic deterioration has been particularly heartbreaking because, as his sensibility has atrophied, his visual gifts have matured. … The burnish of the images in First Name: Carmen, combined with the flow Godard shows in the editing rhythms and in the use of Beethoven string quartets to underscore the images, can lull you into thinking that something is actually going on in the film. … What it adds up to, though, in In Praise of Love as in the films that have preceded it, is a retreat, a shutting out of the world.

Slant calls it “an inscrutable rumination on memory and history that only Godard is meant to fully grasp.” I’m looking for raves, not pans – I watched this because it was on multiple best-of-decade lists. Reverse Shot goes gaga over the use of images, touches lightly on the story, and complains that the original title Éloge de l’amour (WordNet defines “elegy” as “a mournful poem; a lament for the dead”) has been translated to In Praise of Love.