At first glance this is more of a straight doc than I Wish I Knew. Interviewing a handful of writers, with pillow daily-life scenes in the cities the writers are from. Soft piano or string music, when there’s any. Between chapters someone will read aloud from the previous writer’s work, followed by a repeated line from the same passage in subtitles over black screen.

Really very uninterested in tennis, so of course when I sign up to Metrograph they are showing tennis films, centering on William Klein’s doc The French. I watched Wes Anderson’s intro to that, then moved straight to this mid-length (or long-short) followup to Rat Film, very much a precursor to the electronic surveillance of All Light, Everywhere – what is observable and provable, either by man or by camera/computer, etc.

Then Katy and I watched a beautiful copy of Broadway by Light, and I meant to follow up with the Canadian/Chinese table tennis doc by Marcel Carrière, but instead rewatched Perfect Fifths.

The first couple and last couple minutes of this doc are Sam Fuller’s descendants giving embarrassing performances. Everything in the middle is ace – a well-cast group of sympathetic actors and directors performing excerpts from Sam’s autobiography, illustrated with clips from Sam’s wartime film reels and photography and feature films. I’ve already read the autobio and seen all the pictures, and I think Sam’s just the coolest, so I was glad to review the highlights. Especially nice to see Constance Towers for the first time in decades.

Joe Dante:

I got a (cheap!) Metrograph subscription to watch this, with accompanying shorts and a live Q&A, already paying dividends. Velez & Stephens traveled and filmed in 16mm whenever they had time over the past five years, aiming to shoot all the sections of the Berlin Wall on display in the USA. Clearly a lot of thought went into editing and sound design, and instead of a rigorous Benning approach, they take each wall location on its own terms and include chance encounters with locals, forming a kind of meditative Profit Motive road movie / snapshot of America in a breezy 70 minute package.

This guy in Suwanee seems cool:

Mr. Yellow Sweatshirt (2017, Pacho Velez & Yoni Brook)

A pleasing top-down angle on the subway turnstiles, where among the general bustle an extremely minor drama unfolds when a yellow sweatshirted fellow’s card won’t let him through. Can’t decide whether to root for Mr. Sweatshirt or be mad at him for holding up traffic.

Perfect Fifths (2020, Courtney Stephens)

“All stability is temporary.” Narrator named JJJJJerome, unseen except his hands, is a philosophical piano tuner. Focus on piano, with pictureboxed (interlaced) cutaways to construction scenes, soft piano soundtrack. I don’t know if the beach scenes were supposed to be visual analogies for the talk about time intervals, but it really worked for me, mad bonus points for the inclusion of pelicans.

Mating Games (2017, Courtney Stephens & KJ Relth)

I’ve been using tags to quietly keep track of movies that feature cat tossing or bird tossing, but it’s apparently time for a girl tossing category. Slow-mo home movies of bodybuilders and gymnasts showing off at Los Angeles beaches in the 1950’s/60’s, set to music.

Muscle Beach seems like an intimidating place – reading online that Danny Trejo used to hang out there, while downstairs my dad is watching Grindhouse. Seeing all the girl tossing through the lens of this movie’s title makes human existence seem head-spinning.

The Starting Line (2017, Pacho Velez & Nicole Salazar)

Official USA/Mexican border crossing and surrounding area on the day Obama’s presidency ended – vague talk on the TV news, but normal daily life on the ground.

Massive, forty-part series reviewing many of the things that can be done in (narrative) cinema, and ways to do them, only using films directed by women.

It took us a half-year to get through this… I kept no notes or screenshots, so I’m happy to see a few letterboxd lists collecting the titles we saw clips from.

We had mixed results with the narrators and topics and examples, but it is always nice to learn about movies.

Cows, pigs, roosters in three farms in different countries. Terrific high-framerate steadicam, long takes, great lighting in their custom-built sty. I wondered how much of that was natural light, and remembered reading about the house in Turin Horse, which turned out an apt comparison, per the British Cinematographer article I read.

Structurally it’s:
– baby pigs are born
– chickens interlude
– pigs growing up
– cows interlude
– pigs taken away from momma pig

And it’s almost a perfect movie, but for the cows, who do nothing except swat away flies (or more often, failing to swat away flies). You just can’t make cows interesting, though apparently Andrea Arnold will be the next to attempt it.

Finally coming full circle, we watched a streaming documentary about people starting a site to stream documentaries. The team’s founder is a film nut whose dad was the local grocer, but it’s not a town of film nuts and their group isn’t doing much outreach, so instead of a doc-crazy Columbia MO situation, it just seems like some outsider weirdos in a town that has no need for them. Sturdy, observational doc by Simon, who makes pretty nice movies but I’ve missed why she’s considered a master of the art. Anyway, nobody was ever hanging out on the online chat channels T/F set up for Teleported attendees, so I had to look to twitter for a sense of film-viewing community.

Therapy and training sessions – no context, all different kinds of approaches, but consistent fixed-frame camera style and clean look to all the rooms. The people who touch sleeping pigs are a nice tie-in to Gunda.

“It is left up to the spectator to decide whether these mindfulness training programs and coaching courses symbolize something bigger.” This feels like one of those noncommercial docs that T/F found in a museum or academic project, like The Task or Segunda Vez.

More focused than Rat Film, more sense of purpose, and great resonance with the Philip Henry Gosse short we watched before it. The eye and cameras, and what they cannot see: blind spots and the seer itself. Desktop film with online videos from Axon (the taser company)… community meeting where an eye-in-the-sky company president tried convincing Baltimore citizens of his project’s value while they had their own ideas about surveillance. Also a film history lesson, touching on Jules Janssen’s pre-Muybridge astronomical motion pictures using his photographic revolver.