Rounding up some of the foremost comics and filmmakers, P-Bog opens with the greatest authority on film history – himself, of course. It’s extremely easy to find people with nice things to say about Buster Keaton, and to fill the rest of a 100 minute documentary with highlight clips from Keaton’s terrific films, and P-Bog does exactly that. In fact, the whole thing begins to feel like an advertisement for Buster and his great features – and it is, produced by Cohen Media Group, who is currently releasing the Keaton films on blu-ray, and also happens to own the Landmark theater where this doc played. But even if P-Bog doesn’t turn in something on the level of his epic Tom Petty doc, this was a fun way to revisit some Keaton. He peppers the “sad later years” section with highlights from Keaton’s forgotten advertisements and cameos, and puts this section in the middle of the film, so he can start strong with the shorts, and end strong with the features.
I keep watching Porumboiu films because of my blind trust in the Cinema Scope critics – maybe one day his movies will click into place. At least they are always unusual, and always short, and I am always up for a short, unusual movie, so dude has got my number, even if I haven’t got his.
The man who was once injured playing football and has since decided that it wasn’t an issue of personal violence but of the game’s very structure, and has devoted years to devising alternatives, is a family friend of the director I think, and we’re not encouraged to write him off as a crank necessarily, but to pay attention to his ideas. Although it’s hard when he’s interviewed during his day job by a woman he completely can’t help, the movie briefly becoming a parody of failed bureaucracy, then he carries on “I feel a bit like those heroes. I’m here, filing documents, but in my double life I revolutionise sport.” He removes the right-angles from the playing field, then devises defense/offense zones so fewer players can end up in the same spot – the whole thing seems a bit silly, then gets kinda beautiful with its utopian philosophy at the end.
Water and ice, beautiful and frightening on the big screen.
Sometimes you lose all sense of scale until you see birds flying off the icebergs.
Metal soundtrack… egrets in a flooded cemetery.
Nice sailing scenes – so much winching! I want to show this to dad, but I know he’ll fall asleep long before the sailing begins.
Dedicated to Sokurov.
Back to Main Squeeze on Saturday morning, then our third film of the weekend at the Missouri, preceded by a guy with one of those whirlygig keyboard amps. This doc felt longer than its 95 minutes, but I wouldn’t mind watching it indefinitely. Wide variety of New Yorkers asked about their futures with good photography. I kept feeling that like Treasure Island, a central point of focus wasn’t coming through, but I also wasn’t hoping for a climate change essay doc, so I went with it. Starts to revisit its subjects – somewhat racist ex-cops in a bar, a white couple concerned about media reports of crime, the Afronaut. I need to watch more NYC movies – maybe In Jackson Heights.
I’m interested in how power circulates, the ways in which it micro- and macro-confines us and can liberate us . I also think that, sure, we can call all films in some ways political, insofar as they’re made within certain power structures and get launched into the world within existing power structures. They can either reinforce the status quo, because they do very little to shake up our understandings of how the world works, or they can enable us to grapple with things differently … I also dislike message-y films, or whatever you want to call the films that see their role as delivering a particular policy line and/or demanding that people respond in very narrow terms to whatever they’re seeing. I’m much more interested in how cinema can reawaken the senses and our critical capacity to be in the world differently. That, for me, can have longer term results.
Jenn Takahashi opened, promoting her website where she makes fun of things people say on neighborhood message boards, I’m not sure why. My notes say “a variety of weird-tempo rock songs, each better than the last – get the EP” but who was the band? Summer Like The Season? They also say “Katy very tired, did not like movie, then hotel stole her toiletries,” which is accurate, and the Hilton Garden Inn still owes us restitution.
My notes do NOT say anything about the movie, which was a multi-angled portrait of youth at a French water park, mainly memorable for the extremely confident dude who picks up a bunch of girls to meet him after hours.
This was in theaters the week we got back and, as I write this, is still at the Fernbank Imax. Not knowing it’d stick around in theaters for most of the year, it was a hot ticket at T/F and we sat up front crammed into a corner. The picture worked out, but I think the sound was muffled up there. You can easily tell which is the newly-restored 70mm footage, and it’s mostly front-loaded. I’m no fan of the bass-drone dum-dum-dum-dum score, but overall a real good space movie.
Including hindsight recollections would have spoiled the manufactured present tense – the way director Todd Douglas Miller, working with a trove of stunningly preserved archival footage, creates the sensation of experiencing these historic events as though they were happening right before you, not half a century ago.
Really there were only a few crowd-pleasing hits at this year’s T/F, which was interrupted (for us) by a snowstorm and fouled by some too-late nights and difficult film picks. This was one of them, despite being a two-plus-hour crackpot investigation into unprovable murder cases. I caught up with Brügger’s The Red Chapel shortly before this year’s festival slate was announced, and this was the #1 Sundance movie I was pulling for.
Some good uncomfortable laughter, some twisty investigation and humor in construction/presentation offset the ultimate topic: power grabs, espionage, mercenaries, murders, white supremacy, attempted genocide – US and UK governments blatantly destroying Africa’s hopes of self-sufficiency. Göran sparks off the investigation and does all the background research, and Mads provides context, theatrical antics and the overall sense that we can’t tell how much of this is true.
Opener was River Arkansas again, but with new songs, and we grabbed a juice at Main Squeeze beforehand.
“The world has become more Wellesian… things seem exaggerated.” The narration is written as a letter to the late Orson, and I thought this might get too cutesy, then I recalled that I never get tired of listening to Mark Cousins. He emulates Welles’ camera moves as he did in The Story of Film. Welles took a trip to Ireland to paint in the early 1930’s, then Morocco, and Cousins shows the evolution of his sketches, travels to these places himself and films them in the present day. He ties the films to the radio plays, to the paintings, to international politics. It’s a cradle-to-grave career bio-doc like I’ve never seen, integrating the life with the art, half a rich analysis and half a love poem.
Black Sheep (Ed Perkins)
A true/falsey one, with interviews and re-enactments shot in the neighborhood where the story takes place. A British kid is moved into the countryside by his African-born parents where he encounters life-threatening racism and adapts by bleaching his skin, making friends with his tormentors and becoming one of them.
End Game (Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman)
The best of the bunch, focused on patients in varying states of mobility with varying family situations, all with terminal illnesses and only weeks or months to live. This is San Francisco, and the terminal patients are given palliative care (treating only the pain, since the symptoms are determined to be incurable) and told to make their peace. It’s a movie, so you know one of them is gonna beat the odds – they don’t. The directors are old-school – Epstein made The Times of Harvey Milk, and Friedman collaborated with him on The Celluloid Closet, Paragraph 175, and a Linda Lovelace biopic starring Amanda Seyfried.
A Night at the Garden (Marshall Curry)
Stock footage of a well-attended 1939 pro-nazi rally at Madison Square Garden. The movie gives little context, just plays around with slow-motion, inviting us to research the rest, so here goes. As I’m writing this, yesterday was the event’s 80th anniversary, and a few days ago the film was projected onto the side of MSG. The man rushing the stage was a Jewish plumber named Isadore Greenbaum, and the speaker was the German-born Fritz Kuhn, leader of a Hitler-worshipping group called the Bund. In the aftermath, Greenbaum was ordered to pay a $25 fine for causing a disturbance. Kuhn was investigated for stealing from his own organization, arrested at the end of ’39, and would spend the rest of his life in various prisons. Curry previously made a Cory Booker doc, a kart-racing doc, and a look inside the Earth Liberation Front.
Lifeboat (Skye Fitzgerald)
Following the (late) captain of a German rescue boat that tries to pick up Libyan refugees from their leaky lifeboats. Spends a couple minutes “putting a human face on the global refugee crisis” by interviewing rescued Libyans, the rest of the time on rescue operations with the crew, and reminds you that the world is completely horrible. Katy said it reminded her of Fire at Sea, which is not a good thing. The director works regularly on issues docs – acid attacks on women, unexploded landmines in Cambodia, the Syrian civil war, and a new one on gun violence.
Period. End of Sentence. (Rayka Zehtabchi)
After the racism, death, nazis and desperation, it was lovely to end on this story of community women outside Delhi working to manufacture and distribute sanitary pads. Much fun is had discussing the forbidden topic of menstruation, and they have dreams of conquering the country and improving women’s lives, but I became annoyed upon realizing that the movie is an advertisement. A feature came out the same year on the same topic, called Padman.