AKA Let The Devil Take Us Away

Young stranger Suzy meets blonde Camille who lives with Clara, not home yet, while the first two have a frank sex conversation one minute after meeting. This is Brisseau’s familiar apartment from Girl From Nowhere, his media collection on full display near a nice tube TV with a DVD player. Clara comes home and after their inevitable threesome, they open the door for a guy who is threatening them with a gun. This is Suzy’s ex Olivier, and Clara decides to rescue him from the cops and have sex with him until he completes his novel, living in another apartment with Tonton, an uncle who “causes hallucinations.”

Everyone opens up about their pasts and their feelings – it gets philosophical about family and relationships and sex and acting. Camille demonstrates her greenscreen photoshop art, winking within Brisseau’s homebound prosumer-grade cinema which uses the same effects for Tonton’s astral projections.

“The whole lo-fi video look, wasn’t that a thing already in the 90s?”

Shot in 4:3 handheld SD video… Tyler and Anna’s car breaks down, older man Clip helps them, and the three hang out. Tyler is a freelance cameraman impressed by Clip’s vintage camera collection, and Anna is a writer impressed by a long story he tells, which later turns out to have been memorized from a book.

“It’s not quoting – there was no attribution!”
“No air quotes?”

Months later, Anna discovers the source of the quote, and nobody else can understand why she’s upset over this. Meanwhile, Tyler has lots of Opinions, and is obsessed with race, keeps bringing it up, cannot have a casual encounter with a Black person without becoming insufferable (my notes say “she should leave Tyler, everyone should, he won’t shut up”). They both vent at mutual friend (of theirs and Clip’s) Allison, who looks like they are stressing her out. Ends with Allison writing a long inspirational letter to Anna… which I’m guessing was cribbed, since after all, the movie title is plural.

Seems to be of academic interest, but it’s one of those indie movies that is purposely foul-looking and filled with annoying people. Instead of re-reading the Cinema Scope article that first drew me to it, I spent my research time trying to figure whether the director is related to Kathleen Parlow, the violinist discussed in Veslemøy’s Song. On letterboxd, V. Rizov says it’s “dead-on in its depiction of an endlessly fractious, mildly nightmarish couple” and Preston and Sicinski discuss the movie’s take(s) on authenticity.

Happy to see that much of the motion in these motion-paintings involves snow or animals – in fact, when there are humans in a scene, they’re the only things that don’t come alive. The visuals sometimes remind of The Mill and the Cross, and sometimes you can’t tell they’re based on still photos at all.

Here’s me, pointlessly taking stills of motion versions of stills:

Crows are prominent. Rare is the scene without any birds in it. The movie is as attuned to outdoor bird behavior as I am, always wondering what the crows and ducks and sandpipers are up to. Whenever there are birds seen through a window we hear opera. Not all the animals survive… tense music in frame 5 before a deer gets shot, and there are more bird fatalities in this than in The Lighthouse. In the most narrative scene, a seagull gets shot and another mourns him. Great ending: a Disney-sounding song, a sleeping motion designer, a classic film on an iMac rendering at about 1fps, the wind in the trees outside.

Slimeball Donnie Darko is introduced stealing wire and chainlink fence then beating up a security guard, but he’s not your ordinary lowlife – he wants to be an entrepreneur, learns everything he knows from online courses and speeches and always speaks formally to others, like a corporate simulacrum of a person. Good movie about ruthless capitalism, with amoral, manipulative Donnie destroying some lives and ending up on top.

Donnie watches a comedy on TV:

Donnie watches his coworker dying on TV:

“Our viewers are more interested in urban crime creeping into the suburbs.” After running into freelance videographer Bill Paxton at an auto accident, Donnie cuddles up to news anchor Rene Russo, hires flunky Riz Ahmed, and gets rich partly through calculated plotting and partly by being at the right crime scenes at the right time.

Claire Foy (of Nicolas Cage monk-actioner Season of the Witch) makes the huge mistake of confessing suicidal thoughts to her therapist, gets admitted to a psychiatric ward for evaluation for a couple days, which gets extended to a week because she keeps railing against her confinement. She sees her stalker ex-boyfriend working at the clinic, and I thought the whole movie was gonna be the old “are these things really happening or is she actually crazy” routine, but it becomes clear only a few scenes later that he is a dangerous stalker abusing his position of power and her inability to escape. I haven’t seen Side Effects yet, but between this and The Knick and Contagion, Soderbergh has got a thing for dangerous hospitals.

“There is no path to happiness from here.” The stalker is Joshua Leonard of the Blair Witch Project. SNL’s Jay Pharoah helps Claire out, claims to be a recovering drug addict who checked himself in, but is actually an undercover reporter exposing the hospital, or he would have if Josh hadn’t murdered him. Josh also kills unstable patient Juno Temple (the blonde one in Jack & Diane) and Claire’s mom, then miseries Claire’s foot when she runs away. I think she kills his ass in the end, the hospital gets busted for being run like a secret prison, and Claire gets a promotion at work. Whole movie was shot on a phone, with some unique angles and fishbowl views.

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.”