The lost, final Maysles film appeared online for a week during the Great Quarantine, was recommended by True/False enthusiast Alissa Wilkinson, so we watched. Filmed on eastbound and westbound legs of the Empire Builder railway route, so I had that Aesop Rock song in my head (“hi-ho silver, high-pass filter, live from an empire builder”). The movie picks up stories from several regular characters, with one-off scenes of riders in between, gradually building several cross-cut/cross-country journies – a woman going home to give birth, a woman returning to her family after years away, a couple of young men fleeing North Dakota to be with their loves, an aged photographer seeing the country for the last time… somehow all these people and more opened up to a camera crew on their train ride.
The five members of the Sudanese Film Group in Khartoum reenact scenes from classic movies, pretend to film each other, hold public screenings of Chaplin’s Modern Times – and almost Django Unchained, until the authorities find out.
A warm little movie, slow-paced but engrossing. Played this year’s True/False with director in attendance, but it didn’t fit into our schedule.
Very observational doc of exams week at a university in Argentina – the same school Solaas attended. Some students do alright, some completely space on the works they were supposed to study or memorize, and some get caught trying to bullshit their way through a debate, their better-prepared colleagues caught on camera smirking at their attempts. A few perfectly opportune shots, students having an emotional moment, or swaying in and out of frame while calling parents on cellphones. Opening short Partial Differential Equation (Kevin Jerome Everson) was well suited to the feature – straightforward doc in a higher learning facility, observational to the point that you start focusing on the mathematician’s fingernails instead of the work. A morning screening, so the very ambient 3-piece Saltbreaker opened.
Part of the same Landmark series where we caught For Sama – this one was much less bloody and despairing. Beekeeper has enough to deal with, uneven harvests and pricing and sales, an ailing mother, before a swarm of neighbors arrives one season and ruins everything. The movie only gets better the more you read about its making, though I can’t find the article that said the nomad family threw stones at the camera crew for the first few weeks. Nominated for two oscars tonight – I don’t know its chances, just hope Hatidze was flown in from Macedonia and given one of those $215k gift bags.
See, when I stay consistently five weeks behind on the blog, I lose all the details, and can only say that we watched the doc where the Chinese company reopens a closed American factory, and their different cultures and approaches to work and management and safety cause many funny and poignant moments, which is the same thing I would’ve said from the trailer or plot description. But truly, we watched this, and it was good. We were surprised that the Fuyao CEO allowed the film crew access to his visits and conversations, and to visit the Chinese factory. Reichert has been making docs for fifty years, Bognar for thirty, and now they’re oscar-nominated for filming the reopening of the same factory they were oscar-nominated for filming shutting down in late 2008.
The award-candidate docs returned to the Landmark, and we caught up with this and Honeyland, and watched American Factory at home – and all three got oscar nominations a week later. I was in a terrible mood after watching the reporter/activist filmmaker and her doctor husband try to raise a baby and run a hospital in an Aleppo warzone while losing all their friends and neighbors to bombings, and so didn’t properly appreciate the playful carnage of John Wick 3 when watching it some hours later.
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.