Didn’t stick with me very well the first time, maybe because it didn’t make enough narrative sense for my brain to properly hold on to, like a wacked dream that I remember clearly when I wake up but is already gone by the time I hit the shower, not related enough to reality to survive my beginning to ponder my work day. Should have watched it a couple times originally. But now I see I should watch more than a couple times, maybe annually from now on. Lynch’s most free, most trippy and loose movie, existing almost entirely in dream state, but also his most dirty and real looking because the DV photography feels like a home movie. Completely inexplicable and entirely worthwhile.

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Hard to watch at home. The three hour runtime, the almost entirely black scenes, and the very dynamic audio levels (quiet whispers turn into sudden shock sound effects and screams) work best when I’m home alone and wide awake on a winter’s night. I think it freaked out my birds more than anything else I’ve watched. Next time I’ll watch on my laptop, in accordance with Lynch’s dreams of an all-digital cinema.

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The plot, thanks to Cinema Scope:

Dern’s first incarnation, Nikki Grace, is an actress who lives in a cavernous Hollywood mansion and lands a coveted role in a Southern melodrama titled On High in Blue Tomorrows opposite suave ladies’ man Devon (Justin Theroux). She soon learns that the film is a remake and that the original Polish production was aborted when both leads were murdered.

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Nikki begins to merge with her character, Sue, and the script’s adulterous affair spills over into real life. But what’s real, and who’s dreaming whom? The boundary between the film and the film-within-the-film — indeed between all levels of reality — vanishes completely. Besides Nikki and Sue, Dern plays at least two other overlapping variations on the character: One lives in a shabby suburban house, sometimes with a harem of gum-chewing, finger-snapping young women. The other, a tough-talking Southern dame, is spilling her guts out in a dank room, telling floridly vulgar tales of sexual violence and terrible revenge. Interspersed throughout are scenes from a Beckettian sitcom with a rabbit-headed cast. Certain phrases, often pertaining to identity confusion (“I’m not who you think I am,” “Look at me and tell me if you’ve known me before”), repeat in varying contexts and start to acquire talismanic power. (The key to transcendental meditation, which Lynch has practiced for over three decades now, is the repetition of a personal mantra.) Meanwhile, the film we are watching is beamed to a TV in a hotel room, and a mystery brunette watches along with us, silently weeping.

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Did I write this weeks ago, or was I quoting from a website?: “Dern changes identities and locations, each with only a faint memory of the others, giving her a constant sense of unease.”

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The neighbor who visits her is awfully good in a Twin Peaks sort of way. A choreographed dance to “The Locomotion” manages to be one of the spookiest parts. Seeing father Rabbit leave his locked-down living room set is thrilling. Cameo by the girls from Darkened Room (actually only Jordan Ladd is strictly from Darkened Room, but I like to think they’re the same characters). William H. Macy in a big cheesy cameo as a radio reporter and Harry Dean Stanton as Irons’ sad assistant, always bumming money off people.

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Bright Lights:
“It sounds complicated, but it makes clear emotional sense, just as Mulholland Drive did.”

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House Next Door calls the ending hopeful, and I guess you could say that. Dern escapes from at least one of the films she’s trapped within, wakes from the dead and goes back home where, per HND, “Lynch returns to the face of Grace Zabriskie’s Neighbor and, before our jaundiced eyes, this formerly intimidating and ugly figure becomes suddenly beautiful and ethereal. Moreso than Dern’s final close-up (a stunner in its own right) I think the answers to the film’s many mysteries, for those who need them, are contained in Zabriskie’s sideways glance and virtuous smile.”

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Extras on the UK DVD are all interview-style. One is by The Guardian, one is by Mike Figgis at a hotel in Poland.
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Interviewer: “If T.M. creates positiveness… some people might ask: what about all the darkness that’s in the films?”
Lynch: “Exactly.”

On the inclusion of Rabbits in Inland Empire: “Sometimes we start something and we think it is that, and later… it sprouts and becomes a bigger thing.” Okay it’s not a great quote.

“Really the only difference [between IE and the earlier films] is Inland Empire was shot with DV… and it was a low-grade, bad DV.”
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“It is true that the 50’s gave birth to rock and roll and that early rock and roll holds a very special power, I think. It started the whole thing rolling, but in my mind it drifted away a little too quickly. And I think there’s more gold to mine from that feel of the first rock and roll.”

Repeats the same information over and over, not saying much for long periods, interviewers asking stupidly general questions hoping Lynch will tell them a nice story. He does tell a couple light ones, but three times each. So the final segment, The Air Is On Fire, comes as a happy surprise. It’s a biographer (who knows enough about Lynch not to ask pedestrian questions) viewing and discussing Lynch’s paintings and sound installations.
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“We’re cooking quinoa.”
“This pan is unbelievable.”
The U.S. DVD is already better than the U.K., with a b/w video of Lynch in his kitchen and a nice stills gallery, and that’s before I even get to the meat of the disc. Hey, he times his cooking the same way I do, by yelling out numbers from the clock instead of setting a proper timer.
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More Things That Happened is outtakes from IE. First 20 minutes are scenes with Dern’s circus husband. He comes home late. He sells a girl a watch.
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Dern continues talking to the man at top of the stairs. She has a crossed out “LB” tattoo on her hand. A girl with earrings talks to Dern about meeting Billy at a bar. Mostly people telling each other stories.
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Ballerina
A ballerina performs behind cloudy overlays and blobby digital soft focus to ambient music. Some neat effects in there but too long by half.
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Lynch (one) is a full-length documentary by BLACKandWHITE, whatever that is, company or person, on the making of Inland Empire. Lots of behind-the-scenes dealings, set construction, some talk with the actors, Lynch in every scene. Lynch 2 on the IE disc is presumably deleted scenes from that doc, another half hour of material. Not tremendously eye-opening, just gives you the impression that IE is completely Lynch’s artistic vision, if you couldn’t have figured that out before, down to the smallest detail. He yells at his crew on set then praises them up and down in interviews. We hear a lot about the improv nature of the film and script, but we see careful planning and scheduling of shots and scenes. Watching David choreograph the closing credits musical number, telling the lumberjack not to cut all the way through the log because “we’ve only got one log,” you realize that all the backstage footage in the world might be fun to see, but still wouldn’t explain a thing.
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“It’ll be more than a mouthful, which will look real, and it looks great. And you can throw up a lot of blood. Two times you’ll throw up.”

“There was a thought for a long time that you had to suffer in order to create, and this is just about opposite of the truth. If you’re suffering, even a little bit of suffering cuts into your creativity. In fact, the happier you are, and the more wide awake and rested you are, the better it goes… then the ideas can flow way better, way smoother and faster, and more of them.”

Stories is Lynch talking for 40 minutes, maybe excerpts from the website Q&A segments, about IE and digital and meditation, the usual topics. This is where the famous quote about watching a film on a fucking phone is from. His hatred extends to computers as well, but I think if he was here and took a look at my television setup and laptop setup, he’d have to grudgingly admit that I’m getting better picture and sound off the laptop.
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On a separate disc, Room To Dream: David Lynch and the Independent Filmmaker is mostly Lynch talking about himself and his working methods, and partly an advertisement for Avid systems. Best of all, it includes an extra scene related to Inland Empire. Windowboxed and interlaced, unfortunately – nice going, Avid.
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Sur la route de Mulholland Drive is a half-hour behind the scenes, interviewing all the principals and watching the filming. More interesting than most backstage press-kits if only because I’m unusually interested in the film. Following that is a cutdown of the film’s Cannes press conference.
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Le Son de David Lynch, another doc, from French television in 2007, interviews Lynch and a bunch of people I didn’t understand. Hmm, Wild at Heart was called Sailor et Lula over there. He and Badalamenti (below) recorded music for Twin Peaks and Lost Highway before shooting, and he’d play the music on set… wonderful.
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On the Lime Green box set, Out Yonder is a three-actor stilted-humor throwback to The Cowboy and the Frenchman, only Lynch is one of the actors this time. Not really interesting at all, a conversation where all forms of the verb “to be” are replaced by “bees bein'”, with fart jokes, tooth pulling and a distant cavalry. In the next episode, a girl with gonorrhea seeks her missing chickens.
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Scissors is a Cannes short previously known (to me) as Absurda. A Flash-looking dream-cinema piece incorporating bits of the ballerina footage.
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A couple of greetings for film festivals, both in b/w, filmed in reverse, starring Lynch himself and just awesome.
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Fictitious Anacin Commercial is exactly that, a half-minute gag commercial. A Real Indication is an amateur music video (if amateurs had a crane). And Early Experiments is 16mm footage from the Grandmother/Alphabet/Six Figures era set to overdramatic string music, with some cool motion paintings and lots of mirror symmetry.
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Then there’s Dynamic 01: The Best of Davidlynch.com
David answers member questions about favorite pieces of music, how to write a screenplay, his box full of ideas on scraps of paper, Marilyn Manson, coffee vs. cappucino, and meditating with Roy Orbison.

Intervalometer Experiments:
Ambient videos with slow, rumbling music. The first consists of trees and a distant mountain at sunset, the video grain threatening to destroy everything. The second is a spooky set of stairs molested by an encroaching shadow. The third is the corner of a sunroom in time-lapse, with scary trees and a dormant alarm system.
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Industrial Soundscape is a lock-groove computer animation three times as long as it needs to be. Maybe we were supposed to use it for meditative purposes. Bug Crawls is animation of a bug climbing a mad science house in slow-motion as a blimp passes by. Lamp is a half-hour doc of David making a lamp, which isn’t as funny as when he makes quinoa. And there’s another episode of Out Yonder, which I think I’m gonna skip. No, I guess I’ll watch it. “You bees bein’ barkin’ right up the tree which bees bein’ the wrong one!”

Darkened Room
A Japanese girl dances with the camera, talks to us about bananas before introducing her crying fried (must be Jordan Ladd of Death Proof) in the other room. I think I hear the Rabbits music. Third girl (Ladd’s Cabin Fever co-star Cerina Vincent) comes out to torment the crying girl. Hmmm, my note three years ago said this is six minutes long, but now it’s ten. Maybe last time I lacked the intro with the bananas. A few visual cues and mention of a mysterious watch purchase tie this in with Inland Empire and More Things. Little did I know the first time I watched it. Little did Lynch know, probably.
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Boat / “When things go wrong, it gets like this.”
David takes his boat (the “Little Indian”) out for a spin, takes low-grade blown-out video then adds a woman-in-trouble descriptive voiceover. He goes fast enough to go into the night.
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Three love stories with the same actors in different eras. Can’t think of an apt comparison to another film (haven’t seen Resnais’ Smoking/No Smoking) but it’s sort of the opposite of Hal Hartley’s Flirt). I’d avoided this despite the acclaim because I thought it’d be long and boring (flashback to two Hou movies I didn’t enjoy/understand, Flowers of Shanghai and Goodbye South, Goodbye) but lately I’ve decided that those two required more attention than I gave them, so I watched this one twice (err, six times).


1966: A Time for Love

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A perfect mini-movie, and it ends so simply and beautifully. He meets her by accident at a pool hall, looking for a different girl. Writes her letters while on his military duty, returns one day and finds her gone. This time, instead of just writing to the next girl, he tracks her down, spends his last few hours of leave with her. Repeated settings, actions and songs (“smoke gets in your eyes” and “rain and tears”) along with the period setting and romantic atmosphere unavoidable evoke Wong Kar-Wai.

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Girish draws connections:

The original Chinese title of the film is Best Of Times. Hou, like a popular musician, is drawing from his “discography” of films for these three stories. The first reminds me in look and mood of A Time To Live And A Time To Die or Dust In The Wind; the second is set in a brothel like Flowers Of Shanghai; and the third clearly recalls the modern neon-smeared interior spaces of Millennium Mambo. So, Hou has created a sort of compilation album, only he has “remade” the ideas and memories behind his previous films into new stories.

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1911: A Time for Freedom

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Silent with piano music and intertitles for dialogue most of the time, traditional twangy vocal music a couple of times (performed, it turns out, by our woman). She is a geisha and apparently in love with her man, though he seems to pay her little mind, focusing on poetry, national politics and the fate of another geisha. He pays for the other girl to be freed when she becomes pregnant, leaving his own girl stuck and alone when he leaves town for Shanghai. Such slow, fluid, measured movements I am sometimes not sure if Hou’s movies are in slow-motion.

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Stylus:

Of course, the principal subject of both “A Time for Freedom” and Flowers of Shanghai is liberation—from a life of service for the long-suffering geishas, and from foreign rule for Hou’s homeland. Examining the dichotomous relationship between a wealthy activist (Chang) protesting the Japanese occupation of Taiwan and a geisha (Shu) longing desperately for a life outside the brothel, this is Hou’s most explicitly political work since his trilogy on 20th Century Taiwanese history (City of Sadness, The Puppet Master, Good Men, Good Women) and, arguably, his most resonant feminist statement to date.

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2005: A Time for Youth

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A confusing one – multiple girls with multiple problems, little explicit story but more detail information than ever. He’s a motorcycle-driving photographer and she’s a throat-tattooed, epileptic lounge singer with a scary website. Seemed to me the usual commentary on modern disconnection through overload of technology, not adding much besides superior cinematography, but the second time through I enjoyed it more (and figured out more, like the fact that He and She both have other girlfriends). Her girl says she’s committing suicide from neglect (touchy) towards the end. Still doesn’t have the emotional impact of the first two – I might’ve switched the order of the segments.

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Senses of Cinema:

Hou represents this state of freedom by a narrative near-chaos transmitted with a calm and almost casual-looking inscrutability that makes the story impossible to comprehend to any satisfactory degree in just one viewing. It is ironic, though, that while an initial impression might well have been that many of the scenes are presented in a chronologically rather random order, careful examination seems to establish that the story is actually told in a scrupulously linear way.

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Qi Shu (The Eye 2, Transporter and Sex & Zen 2) has got nothing on the career of costar Chen Chang (Red Cliff, Breath, Crouching Tiger, Happy Together and A Brighter Summer Day), but they’re both wonderful here. Story and characterizations are pretty minimal, movie gets by on weight of emotion, similar to Friday Night and In the Mood for Love – and it shares ITMFL’s co-cinematographer Pin Bing Lee, a Hou regular who also shot Air Doll and Norwegian Wood. Would look even more lovely, I’ll bet, if the DVD wasn’t all interlaced and non-anamorphic.

Won all the Taiwanese film awards. Played at Cannes with A History of Violence and Cache, Battle In Heaven and Broken Flowers, all unfairly beaten by that Dardenne movie.

“You’ll be your own downfall.”

The Lady of the title is Grace Elliott, a Brit in France during the 1789-93 French Revolution. Actually the French title is L’anglaise et la duc but Grace is Scottish, claiming English nationality for simplicity when it’s suddenly very dangerous to be a French aristocrat in France. The movie’s intertitles and much dialogue are taken directly from her diaries.

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The Duke is one of my favorite Jean-Pierre Jeunet actors, but I didn’t recognize anyone else. Star Lucy Russell has failed to break into the Hollywood mainstream (landing such roles as “female restaurant guest” and “classy shopper #3” in recent big films). Ach, I missed Alain Libolt (Renaud in Out 1) as the Duke of Biron.

Renaud plus 30 years:
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Grace is pure aristocracy, the very target of the revolution, and her sympathies lie with her friends whom she sees being rounded up and killed by the brutish masses. Steadfast in her devotions (though lying to stay alive), she’s contrasted with her friend the Duke, who changes with the times and ends up voting for the execution of the king. Plays like one of Rohmer’s Moral Tales only with more action, more heads on stakes, and more awesome digital backdrops of period Paris standing in for the usual stifling production design and avoidance of outdoor shots (except by filmmakers with Scorsese-budgets). Slant, in fact, called it an “economical antidote to the bloated costume drama.” Grace tries to negotiate the changing world without compromising her belief in the class system, while the Duke either adapts his morals or never had any to begin with. The main thing this movie has over the other Rohmers I’ve seen is historical interest… I delighted in the details of the revolution, about which I know very little. I thought the movie rather anti-revolution, which seems shockingly out of fashion, and one “Grunes” confirms that this was a problem:

Rohmer pitches the action from Elliott’s perspective, with which his own Roman Catholic penchant for order prompts him to identify—hence, the controversy the film engendered in France. Thus the street mobs are unwashed, grisly, barbaric, obscene; poor Louis XVI!

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It’s hard to know what to make of the movie’s politics. There’s also a long scene where she successfully hides a Marquis from the police. We don’t get to know the guy very well, but he’s not made out as a man who deserves to die, so bravo, I guess. When Grace is finally arrested and held for two days for possession of a letter from an Englishman, the letter ironically turns out to praise the French revolution to the heavens. These examples and the duality in the title make it seem relatively even-handed, despite being adapted from Grace’s own horrified writings.

Duke Jean-Claude Dreyfus:
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Watched this the night the director died. It got mentions on decade-end lists, with some screenshots that got stuck in my head (like the one below, peering into a painting with a telescope), so I’d planned to watch it soon anyway. I didn’t hear much when it came out, probably because of the timing (sept-oct, 2001). Beaten out for its only two César nominations by Amelie and Brotherhood of the Wolf.

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NY Times:

The moral dilemmas that Grace and the Duke face are diagrammed, in Mr. Rohmer’s inimitable fashion, with equal measures of clarity and complexity. The director manages to evade both the stuffy antiquarianism and the pandering anachronism that subvert so many cinematic attempts at historical inquiry. His characters are neither costumed moderns, just like us only with better furniture, nor quaint curiosities whose odd customs we observe with smug condescension. They seem at once entirely real and utterly of their time. And the time itself feels not so much reconstructed as witnessed.

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I’ll close by outright stealing an entire blog post by from Glenn Kenny, only because I want to always be able to find this Rohmer quote.

My films, you say, are literary: The things I say could be said in a novel. Yes, but what do I say? My characters’ discourse is not necessarily my film’s discourse.

There is certainly literary material in my tales, a preestablished novelistic plot that could be developed in writing and that is, in fact, sometimes developed in the form of a commentary. But neither the text of these commentaries, nor that of my dialogues, is my film: Rather, they are things that I film, just like the landscapes, faces, behavior, and gestures. And if you say that speech is an impure element, I no longer agree with you. Like images, it is a part of the life I film.

What I say, I do not say with words. I do not say it with images, either, with all due respect to partisans of pure cinema, who would speak with images as a deaf-mute does with his hands. After all, I do not say, I show. I show people who move and speak. That is all I know how to do, but that is my true subject. The rest, I agree, is literature.
—From “Letter to a critic [concerning my Contes moraux]”

Loyally following the director’s intent, I watched this on an iPod. Seven episodes, supposedly released over seven days, but I started on day eight and watched at my own pace. Supposedly a fat young boy “blogger” is backstage at a fashion show watching events unfold over seven days, editing together segments from single-take interviews with participants backstage. Some of the performances are very fun to watch – especially Jude Law as a diva cross-dressing model who keeps dropping his fake accent. I’m happy to play along, expecting, if not a new favorite film along the lines of Yes and Orlando, at least a smart, good time. In the first place it seems a bad sign that she’s written a takedown of the fashion industry. I’ve seen enough Project Runway to know there’s no need.

J. Kipp:

The movie is supposedly being made on an intern’s camera phone and these actors embody characters eager to share their experiences about the bitter, hypocritical world of fashion. Does that sound remotely interesting to you? Not at all, I’ll bet, because you’re already way ahead of the movie—we know inherently that the fashion world is superficial, and having a gallery of famous personalities line up and preach to the art house converted is nobody’s idea of a good time.

Sorry, Kipp, but halfway through I realized the movie isn’t a fashion attack at all. It’s something worse – a woman my mom’s age coming to terms with the power of the internet. The fun performances start getting watered down by hysterical ones. Increasingly ludicrous plot developments undermine the movie’s believability, and it devolves into the kind of camp I’d feared it would be when I first heard the premise.

Potter:

Funnily enough, I never thought of it as a film about the fashion industry. I thought of it as a film about people who happen to be in that setting. But as a filmmaker, what’s interesting about it is that it’s a world dedicated to appearances. But what the story’s about is what lies behind appearances, the tension between what you see and the reality underneath. It’s not really about fashion so much as about industry in crisis and individuals becoming unmasked … and finally, the gradual dawning realization that the person in the room with power is the youngest one, because he understands this new age of information on the Internet.

So our blogger Michelangelo (never seen or heard) watches as fabulous designer Merlin (Simon Abkarian: “He” in Yes) launches his new fashion line with models Jude Law, Lily Cole (The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus), and at least two others unseen. Also at the company are serious Bob Balaban (Christopher Guest regular, the film critic in Lady in the Water), “invisible” hispanic worker Adriana Barraza (the medium in Drag Me To Hell), and Dianne Wiest (recently of Synecdoche New York but I remember her best from Edward Scissorhands) as a manager who yearns for the old times when everyone knew everyone and all manufacturing wasn’t done in China.

Highlights of the movie are the interviews with jaded critic Judi Dench, wiry war photographer Steve Buscemi, fashion mogul Eddie Izzard, and his nervous caffeine-addicted bodyguard John Leguizamo. Lily Cole and pizza delivery-man-turned-fashion runway motorcyclist Riz Ahmed (of Dead Set) have the only semi-interesting character developments (Cole flees the scene and stays at Michelangelo’s house – a sweet ending, and the only non-bluescreen shot)

Not faring too well: Swedish Ben Affleck-lookalike Jakob Cedergren and Last King of Scotland vet David Oyelowo as an ineffectual Shakespeare-quoting cop, both of whom act angry at Michelangelo towards the end yelling at him to stop filming, while they stand in front of his bluescreen and look into the camera.

A model dies in the runway, her long scarf caught in Riz’s motorcycle wheel and the company decides to hold another show two days later, in which another model is shot to death. By that time the movie’s plot has already become way suspect, and the themes of fame and success, image and the power of the internet have reared their ugly heads. Apparently guns were handed to all the models as part of the show, and the audience was overrun with kids attracted by Michelangelo’s blog videos and I’m not sure what happened then, but people start yelling into his camera that Mich is the one with all the power here because he controls their images’ distribution over the rabble-rousing internet. Adriana cries that she is no longer invisible, D. Wiest joins the protesters against her own company, and nobody thinks to slap Mich upside the head, take away his camera and remove him from the premises. Maybe it’s more of an interesting concept and performance piece than a finished product, but it got my strict attention and I’m still very interested in Potter and whatever’s on her mind, so I went quote-hunting.

NY Press:

Potter defies the digital era’s fascination with new technology by emphasizing its limitations. … Her video technique doesn’t substitute for cinematic variety or photochemical richness. Instead, strict adherence to the basic things that digital media record (a face, place, moment) helps to appreciate the difference between video and film. Eschewing the lazy carelessness of so many misguided digital enthusiasts, Potter’s rigor becomes a refreshing reminder of true cinematic values.

J. Romney:

The novelty turn is Jude Law cross-dressing as supermodel Minx, sporting a series of preposterous wigs and an intermittent Russian accent (is Minx from Minsk?). All flirty grandeur (“Are you shy because I am celebrity, yes?”), it’s Law’s most theatrical screen performance yet, but it’s perfect here, both a larky send-up of his own beauty and a comment on the catwalk model as imaginary woman. But the people most redolent of the flesh-and-blood humanity that fashion operates to obscure are Steve Buscemi and British model Lily Cole. … As a purely plastic creation, an unusually sensuous essay in cinema povera, Rage is oddly compelling, a genuine one-off.

Slant:

The sketch-like focus on dialogue and characterization, as opposed to plot or mise-en-scene, is clearly the most logical direction for the burgeoning online/mobile entertainment movement, where grandiose visual concepts are dwarfed into 3.5 horizontal inches and uninspired set pieces are scrubbed ahead with the flick of a pinky. The advantage of Rage is its stylistic redundancy and still-life portraiture feel; one could pause the film at any time to check their email and return without having severed the narrative flow. The disadvantage is that the movie’s serenely glabrous surface lacks dynamism: Aside from the colored backgrounds that match each respective character’s eyes, garments, and/or hair, there are no visual indicators of plot development or tension, which lends itself to 98 minutes of occasionally soporific sameness. … While the stark visual formalism of the experiment is ideal for shrunken PDA and laptop screens, the monochromatic backgrounds and crystalline digital sheen seem borrowed from online commercials. Mute the sound, and you’ve got an adequately produced Apple ad.

M. Atkinson:

Rage has made itself noteworthy as the latest effort of a name filmmaker to address … the fact that cinema, as it’s traditionally made and consumed, is being starved by digital culture. Everyone knows the drill – movies, TV, music, newspapers, publishing, etc. are all dying pig-stuck deaths because of the internet, although no one dares to say that the internet is, in fact, the problem, and increases its dominance at a very real and looming set of costs to us all. … The film’s proud artifice rubs the mock-doc set-up the wrong way if you’re keeping score, except that “fashion” is all about the dishonesty of surfaces, and Potter’s film seems to be less about its subject and story than about how to make movies with as little as possible (another Warhol principle) and conform them to the new digital world. (In an interview in the latest Sight & Sound, she calls it “survivalist filmmaking, a no-waste aesthetic.”)

Potter again:

I think there is a deeper feel of rage, a kind of quiet rage on a mass scale and not knowing where to focus this rage which is the negative end of globalization. The positive end is the internet in my view, but the negative end which is about greater and greater ownership by anonymous corporate entities and less and less about freedom for the individual.

About women filmmakers:

It is making some headway because when I first started there were no women in the context where I was working. And that was a very lonely place, and I’ve watched that shift gradually. People used to come up to me in all parts of the world and said oh I loved The Piano and I said no that was Jane (Campion). And she and I would meet up now and then at festivals and she would say that people keep telling me they love Orlando and I’d say yes, sorry. So it was as if there were two of us in a sort of vaguely conspicuous, visible place in the pantheon of directors and that’s changed surely.

Good to see this again. Funny that all I really remembered is one of the first scenes with Agnes asking a couple reluctant women about gleaning, and Agnes talking about her own hands.

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I’m feeling uninspired, so we’ll let Senses of Cinema do the talking:

The official subject of this film is gleaning, the act of gathering remnants of crops from a field after the harvest. As Varda demonstrates, people can be discovered throughout the French countryside gleaning everything from potatoes to grapes, apples to oysters, much as they did hundreds of years ago (though no longer in organised groups). More figuratively, there are also urban gleaners who salvage scraps from bins, appliances from the side of the road, or vegetables from stalls after the markets have closed. And then there’s Varda herself, a gleaner of images, driving around France with a digital camera and a tiny crew (at times, she wields a smaller camera herself, permitting an even greater degree of intimacy).

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Varda has a (sometimes contested) reputation as a feminist, left-wing artist, and this is very much a political film, though it offers a series of poetic metaphors and concrete encounters in lieu of an explicit, closely reasoned argument. My guess (based mainly on anecdotal evidence) is that the political outlook of The Gleaners And I has a lot to do with its popular success – even if Varda herself, who began filming back in 1999, wasn’t fully aware how thoroughly she was tapping into the zeitgeist. Without specifically referring to political movements or events, the film embodies a quasi-anarchist ethos now in the air in all sorts of ways – a resistance to consumerism, a suspicion of authority, and a desire to reconnect politics with everyday life.

Agnès enjoys a pilfered fig:
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Katy liked the movie, and the next day she felt like going out to pick figs. Shot on a handheld digital videocamera. The picture/framing isn’t always beautiful, but she keeps things quirky enough to stay interesting amongst all the talking heads.

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As with Le Bonheur, Varda has taken over the DVD’s special features section herself with a whole hour-long follow-up film entitled Gleaners & I: Two Years Later (2002) Gleaners was her most locally popular and globally well-distributed films in decades, and she racked up awards and fan mail, so here she addresses concerns and gaps in the previous film and catches up with some of its stars.

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Killer finale, the heart potatoes, symbol of the Gleaners film, old and wrinkled as it sprouts new life. As the credits roll, sudden cutaways to closeups of the potatoes, exactly as in the opening credits with the sunflower in Le Bonheur.

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The two stars of Big Bang Love: Juvenile A are back – Ryuhei Matsuda (the weak hero) as the titular Nightmare Detective and Masanobu Ando (tattooed superdude) as a curly-haired regular detective. It would seem like an inversion of their roles in the other film, except amazingly it’s not – the title character is weaker than everyone else in this movie. He has the power (at great personal risk) to enter the nightmares of others, but not to do anything else, so once inside he’s just bitter and afraid. It’d be kind of hilarious but there were always too many terrifying blurs of action to laugh.

your (very upset) nightmare detective:
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I suppose our main character is Keiko (played by singularly-named Hitomi). That’s her at the bottom warming her hands on a giant plastic brain-looking creature. Keiko works with rookie Wakamiya (Masanobu Ando) under chief Sekiya (Ren Osugi of MPD Psycho and Achilles and the Tortoise). Initially Keiko has a strained relationship with the others, since she formerly worked a desk job and doesn’t handle crime scenes well but all that’s forgotten when the shit goes down.

Ando and Osugi:
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Movie has a very video look, a la Haze or MPD Psycho. The horror action is never seen – pieces of blades or the color red may be glimpsed, but mostly you know that a fast, screaming blur is approaching the character, something unstoppable and terrifying (Tetsuo-like).

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The screaming blur is actually nightmare terrorist/suicide-assistance provider Zero (played by our director), who takes phone calls from depressed people then comes to slaughter them in their dreams, causing them to kill themselves (all with stabbing implements, I believe) in reality while still sleeping. He’s sort of a Freddy Krueger for hire. After a couple of people die, Wakamiya dials Zero (ha) as part of the investigation and ends up suffering the same fate, telling Keiko as he awakens “I didn’t even realize that I wanted to die.”

Zero/Shinya Tsukamoto:
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So Kagenuma, the nightmare detective, is drawn quite unwillingly into the investigation, more than halfway through the movie. He turns out to be juuust enough of a hero to get the job done, actually rushing the villain in a fit of bravery. Keiko, having dialed up Zero herself leading to a three-way battle inside her head, decides to live after all.

Tsukamoto: “The killer appears to be revealing the true terror of death to the willing.”

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Much of the online writing on this movie mentions the crappy performance of Hitomi in the lead role. I guess I just figured she was your typical buttoned-up brainiac movie detective and wasn’t supposed to emote. Or I was spending all my energy thinking “where is the nightmare detective? why is he barely in the movie?” From the look of the trailer, the upcoming sequel looks quieter, more contemplative, with less violent stabbing. This was great – Tsukamoto’s movies seem to get better and better – so I’m looking forward to it.

For the first time, this is an entry about a book I’ve read, not a movie I’ve watched. It’s a book about film though, so I think it fits in.

I enjoyed P.C. Usai’s writings in the “1000 Movie Moments” book, so I finally tracked this down. Full of short (never more than a page long) interrelated statements about film destruction and preservation, mostly over-academic. But for each statement on the right-hand page, there’s an interesting captioned photograph on the left-hand page, so whenever I’d read the words on the right with no understanding or enjoyment, at least I’d get the photo to keep me turning to the next page. Short book, anyway, and ends with a “reader’s report” which nicely condenses the long-winded despair of the author into a few pages of focused and readable despair on the impossibility of any sort of complete archive of film history – not that such a thing would necessarily be desirable.

Some bits I liked:

p. 19: “If all moving images were available, the massive fact of their presence would impede any effort to establish criteria of relevance – more so, indeed, than if they had all been obliterated, for then, at least, selective comprehension would be replaced by pure conjecture.”

p. 49, given the degradation of the original image, and the viewer’s lack of total attention (including blinking of the eyes), “no viewer can claim to have seen a moving image in its entirety.” That one-ups F. Camper’s claims that if you’ve seen a movie on video, you haven’t seen the movie. Not even he has seen the movie!

p. 51: “It is expected that a time will come when the loneliness of the spectator will be detrimental to the pleasure of experiencing moving images.”

p. 89: “The ultimate goal of film history is an account of its own disappearance, or its transformation into another entity.”

p. 109: “The real questions is, are viewers willing to accept the slow fading to nothing of what they are looking at? Is it fair to encourage them to believe that they will never witness the inevitable, and that its actuial experience will be left to someone else?”

p. 129: “…all lost moving images have at least existed for some viewer in the past. The unseen is an integral part of our lives, even if not directly our own. … The fact that the unseen is beyond our control is an excellent antidote to our claim of authority over the visible world, and administers a good shaking up to our deluded obsession with permanence. Sooner or later you and I will both disappear, along with our visions and memories of what we have seen and the way we have seen it.”

World premiere of this doc, which will double-feature with Profit Motive and the Whispering Wind at Tribeca in a couple weeks, so I watched Profit Motive on video then ran out to see this one in the theater. Unfortunately, Hidden In Plain Sight was also on video, and looked considerably worse projected in the theater than Profit Motive looked on DVD on my laptop. Shot in 16mm and video (you can sometimes see interlacing, especially at the end), then the whole thing thrown into an ugly low-grade digital video mash. If this bothered the director (in attendance), he didn’t mention it, nor did he mention how the music seemed to skip every couple of seconds, so I have to assume these things were intentional. It’s a movie about looking and seeing. Street, somewhat pretentiously (and comparing himself to Godard and Vertov along the way) wants to teach us new ways to look at city scapes. Leaving the theater I was very happy that my city was full of natural light and color, non-interlaced, without any of the dull ambient music (seemingly ripped from last night’s “experimental” shorts) that plagued Hidden.

Street visits Dakar, Santiago, Marseilles and Hanoi, stands on street corners and films stuff. Just whatever. Then there’ll be some black and an intertitle with a quote or an organizational header, then more street corners. Sometimes sync sound, sometimes sound from elsewhere or ambient music or silence. I was content to be bored for the hour, but Street lost some goodwill when he talked some crap about how he enjoyed seeing San Francisco disfigured by the 1989 earthquake… then lost more when he tried to make a point about tourists seeing a wide view of the city, and locals seeing more narrowly, observing finer details. It’s actually a fine point, but he is a tourist, and his street-corner tourist-gaze is far from a local’s view of the city. Shooting stuff that tourists aren’t expected to shoot (walls, locals walking around, more walls) does not make one a local and I resent his attempt to educate the audience and show us “unique perspectives” via banal images. Gianvito’s Profit Motive (or Marker’s Sans Soleil, or Vertov’s Man with the Movie Camera, or Akerman’s From the Other Side) this ain’t.

Program kinda sucked this year. Feels like I spent enough time on it already, so not gonna spend too much more writing about it. I’m sure each film felt “experimental” to its creator, but there was nothing here we hadn’t seen before. Also with few exceptions people feel the need to accompany their “experimental” images with “abstract” blippy swimmy music, ugh. Also also, forget any references to “film” below, since everything but Shake Off was on video (and Shake Off either originated on HD or at least had mostly digital components). Why can’t everyone call ’em “movies” like I do? All quotes are from the film festival booklet, with their queer use of commas intact.

Doxology (Michael Langan)
“An experimental comedy…” Cute. Tennis balls and automobiles and vegetables defy space and time – funny and not overlong. Probably would’ve been my favorite here, but the picture was fucked and distorted, stretched out much wider than it should have been. Thanks, AFF365/Landmark.

Such As It Is (Walter Ungerer)
“The film is divided into four parts and four themes: the underground in the city; above ground in the city; a field in the country; and fog and the ocean. Each theme has its separate identity, yet they are not separate. Through manipulation and abstraction of imagery the four parts are joined, as the land, and the air, and the oceans are joined by the earth.” Besides the over-use of commas at the end there, this description is far better than the film it describes. The interminable subway bit, tiny flicks of reflected light turned into digital noise on an ugly gray glowing background, seemed suddenly less crappy in comparison when I saw a cityscape turned into spinning 3D cubes within cubes. What did they mean by the title? How is it? This was the first of a bunch of ugly video-projected shorts (from digibeta or dvd?). I do a bit of quality-control on our video deliveries at work, and I never would’ve allowed this thing to go out with all the banding issues it had. Go check your After Effects settings, re-render in 16-bit and bring it back to me later.

A Convolution of Imagined Histories (Micah Stansell)
“The film is comprised of four chapters, telling four separate stories that make up a meta-narrative. The works are the result of imagining the visual track to the story of someone else’s memories.” One of those short films where a narrator talks about shit their parents did when they were young or before they were born, like The Moon and the Son but with less animation and more overlapping sounds and video and slow/fast effects… anything to make it seem interesting (which it was, but only barely). Director in attendance seemed a nice enough guy. Talks not about “filmmaking” but “compositing”. Experimental Short Composites would be a more honest name for the program.

Dear Bill Gates (Sarah J. Christman)
“A poetic visual essay exploring the ownership of our visual history and culture.” Thought I was in trouble when the voiceover said “40,000 years ago…” but it was well-done, with deep storage of photos in old mines subliminally connected with “data-mining” and the mining of our memories. The longest of the shorts, and interesting enough to justify its runtime.

Passage (Peter Byrne)
“A reflection on the peripheral… this work visually catches sight of experience, as it moves past.” Notes I took in the theater read: “flickering, fluttering digital colored mess overlapped w/ blurry video of birds w/ sucky jangly music. These all have crappy music. I can hear yawning.” Film festival directors: I am available to write blurbs for your shorts programs!

Office Mobius (Seung Hyung Lee)
“An abstract story…” I didn’t find it abstract at all. Kinda cute buncha office collisions, with one character who got laughter whenever he’s on screen – a star in the making. My notes say “butt-ugly digi credit titles.” Letterboxed within the 1.33:1 projector frame within the 1.85 movie screen.

24 Frames Per Day (Sonali Gulati)
“The film raises important questions around immigration, cultural stereotypes, and the meaning of home from a transnational perspective.” Bunch of field recordings interspersed with a fake-sounding conversation (perhaps based on a real one) between director and “cab driver”. The stop-motion visuals of a hallway manage to be less interesting than the soundtrack. They say it was shot 24fpd over nine months, but La Region Centrale (or even 37/78 Tree Again) this ain’t.

Drop (Bryan Leister)
“The aesthetic journey of a drop of water – animation sound and image are combined to create a zen-like exploration of fluidity and nature.” I might have written: “a bit of nothing to fill out four minutes in the program.” Nice to hear actual music, though.

Rewind (Atul Taishete)
“The film moves in reverse towards the beginning as the opening of the film evolves as the climax.” Clumsily worded, but what they mean is the film’s shot totally in reverse, not just in reverse-ordered segments like Memento. Unlike Memento, there’s no reason within the narrative to justify the reversal, except I suppose that it wouldn’t have been as cool (or “experimental”) in regular motion. It’s about a blind guy in a diamond heist and ahhh, I’m not going into it. This also had music.

Shake Off (Hans Beenhakker)
“A perspiring boy dances magically across borders.” Seriously, a perspiring boy? I would’ve called him a “dancer” as do the credits, but then they would’ve had to think of a synonym for “dances” as an action verb. Can’t tell if it was the same dance footage looped four times, or just a similar performance. The dance and fluid camera movements weren’t enough – they had to put fakey digital backdrops behind the guy and with David Fincher zooms and cuts that appear seamless. A nice dance & technology demo.

The last two (both non-U.S.) are the only ones listed on IMDB. I spend so much time on that site, sometimes I consider making a film JUST so I can be listed on IMDB. These compositors have different ambitions than I do.

Sometimes I consider taking this “blog” off the internet and making it for my eyes only. I just know one of the filmmakers is going to google themselves, find this page and be offended. I’m sorry!