Owen is graduating soon, getting his own place, in a relationship, finding employment. He’s also got autism, and didn’t speak for years as a kid until his parents figured out that he’d memorized all the Disney movies they had on video, and learned to speak to him in character with Disney dialogue. So the movie follows Owen now, and through photos and home videos from the past, drawings and cartoons by French effects company Mac Guff, and editing of Disney emotions into real events. Owen and his dad do decent character voices, and someone on letterboxd writes “This is the happiest you’ll ever be to see Gilbert Gottfried.”

Pearl (Patrick Osborne)

Machinima/cutscene clip about a girl growing up with her dad with a car and music then getting too old for dad and hanging out with friends with the car and music then remembering poor dad and going back to visit. It felt kinda like an extended commercial, but not as good, surprising from the guy who made Feast. Ah, it was created with VR software, how cutting edge.

Borrowed Time (Coats & Hamou-Lhadj)

Bummer cowboy story, sad man goes to cliff edge where he accidentally killed his dad whom he was trying to help up with the use of a shotgun. It doesn’t feel like 3D animation is best suited for this sort of thing. The codirectors are seasoned Pixar animators.

Blind Vaysha (Theodore Ushev)

Girl is born with a left eye that only sees the past and a right eye that only sees the future, sometimes by a few hours and sometimes by thousands of years. Maybe you could do some cool things with this concept, but the movie’s only concerned with grabbing the viewer and saying look, wouldn’t this be terrible? Imagine if you had to live like this. Wouldn’t it be just awful? Wouldn’t it? Huh? The end. Ushev is a prolific shorts director and this is the first I’ve seen.

Pear Cider and Cigarettes (Robert Valley)

Long story of the narrator’s troubled friend Techno who gets rich then needs a liver transplant. At least this one has cooler visual style and music than the others, though it’s another sadness drama, and all women be sexy-ass bitches. The director was an Aeon Flux artist!

Piper (Alan Barillaro)

Still the best. Sandpipers rule.

The White Helmets (Orlando von Einsiedel)

Wrenching doc about self-appointed post-bombing rescuers in Syria, mostly set during a training session in Turkey. It would also turn out to be a really useful movie to use when looking for IMDB or Letterboxd users with terrible opinions to block, if either of those sites allowed me to block users with terrible opinions.

Worth the eight-hour length, which is extremely high praise for a documentary miniseries about a topic that didn’t interest me at all until all the rave reviews and awards started flowing in. Although after sitting through the whole thing I don’t have much to say about it besides agreeing with whichever critic recently said it’s greater as journalism than filmmaking. We were most interested in the pre-murder episodes, about OJ’s adventures in racist America, and how the perception of him changed, than in rehashing the glove fiasco.

A. Muredda, from his fascinating comparison of the two big O.J. movies, which ends with a giant backhanded compliment to The People vs. O.J. Simpson:

For Edelman, Simpson registers as a calculating, charismatic man whose self-written Horatio Alger myth leading up to the murders happened to coincide with critical moments in race relations in late 20th-century America, despite his near total lack of interest in politics. Sociologically astute, methodical, and committed to being non-exploitative in its paralleling of Simpson’s trial with a history of police brutality and civil rights violations dating back at least as far as the Watts riots of 1965 … each episode grapples with a structural contradiction between Simpson’s professional and personal life and the toxic racial context around him.

A first-person semi-documentary by Nance about his uneven love life, which also contains a second-person semi-documentary by Nance (How Would You Feel?) about his uneven love life, plus fragments of a first-person documentary by Nance’s ex Namik, plus drawn animation and stop-motion and other things. The presentation is great fun, and though all the navel-gazing relationship talk gets to be a bit much, it’s not an overlong movie and all the shape-shifting kept me happy.

Not the first documentary I’ve seen to contain its own test screening. I thought Nance had a new movie in Sundance last month, but I guess it was a live performance of his project where he googles phrases about black kids and follows the results down a wormhole, then posts the results on his vimeo page. I watched for a few minutes, but the online version seems to be missing essential narration.

Flying Lotus did the music for this and LoveTrue which I saw a few weeks later. And I tried to look up articles or interviews about the film but instead got caught up in a highly entertaining essay Nance wrote about Exodus: Gods and Kings in which he convincingly labels Ridley Scott a white supremacist. Ah no wait, here’s a Filmmaker interview in which Nance claims he was playing “the type of guy she wouldn’t like” on camera so the story would make sense, which complicates things even more.

I didn’t know who James Baldwin (writer/activist) was, nor one of the friends/subjects of his unfinished manuscript, Medgar Evers (killed for working for the NAACP to integrate schools). So I watched this half as history lesson and half as experience, taking in Baldwin’s great language and experiences, the director’s intercutting of film history (Baldwin commented regularly on the movies), and Sam Jackson’s narration in a low, very un-Sam-Jackson voice.

M. Sicinski:

Baldwin’s prose focuses on his memories and observations of these three pivotal men, but also veers into other related questions: his sense of duty to leave his expat life in Paris behind and return to America at the height of the Civil Rights movement; the historical legacy of slavery and the culture of the South; the psychopathology of the white man; and his becoming reconciled with his position as a “witness,” a man of letters in the midst of a historical epoch too often cemented by bloodshed.

Sicinski comments positively on Peck’s filmmaking – M. D’Angelo counters:

The conceit of structuring this film around Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript requires Peck to find images to accompany the words … and he does a thuddingly literal job … Most of this just isn’t a movie — it’s a visual audiobook.

Second of the oscar-nominated documentaries we’ve seen at the Ross this month. We’re almost through the O.J. doc, about to watch Life Animated, and we’ll see if we can get to 13th before True/False.

Sam wanders his Italian island town with his slingshot, dealing with a sight-correcting eyepatch, getting family history stories from his elders. Meanwhile, the Lampedusa coast guard detects and rescues overloaded boats full of dead and desperate refugees. We’re told these things are happening nearby each other, though they never intersect.

Rosi in Fandor:

Samuele, he’s afraid of the life coming. Everything he does is somehow creating suspense for something we don’t know how to face, with our laziness and our anxiety: the world that is coming through Lampedusa … Subconsciously the viewer identifies with Samuele, but they are not able to say that they do. So in the end they’ll say it’s a film about migrants, but it’s not. It’s really on the coming of age of a little kid who lives on an island where everything reminds him about the sea. About the harshness of the sea, about the life on the sea, about becoming a fisherman, about suffering the sea sickness. But the people are not aware of that. So at the end they come out and all they remember is a film about migration.

Of course Rosi is the guy who made the terrifying guy-in-a-room interview doc El Sicario Room 164, not the terrifying guy-in-a-room interviewing doc Collapse, which is what I told Katy.

Celluloid Liberation Front is suspicious:

Rosi’s idea of cinema remains highly questionable and Fire at Sea is ethically inadequate at best. Like virtually anything dealing with refugees these days, the film never bothers to mention the reasons why the wretched of the earth are being forced to flee their countries. This approach puts us in the very comfortable position of not being implicated, leaving us free to think about the amount of indignation and mercy we have to spare.

Filmed in super-grainy black and white on set of a lesser Christopher Lee Dracula movie. Mostly it’s not the behind-the-scenes type footage I’d expected, but the actors of that film in character, either rehearsing or performing their scenes shot from a different angle. Scenes are even edited in order corresponding to the Dracula story. We often see the production lighting, and sometimes catch the crew and camera peering from the sidelines, as if haunting the characters from another era.

No sync sound until the end – instead it ranges from symphonic music to low doom-strings to bird sounds and construction noise to ambient loops. In the last few minutes, Christopher Lee explains then reads Dracula’s death scene from the novel.

The synopsis states that this film is “a sly political allegory about generalissimo Francisco Franco” but I’d like to hear some support. IMDB says “Cuadecuc” is Catalan for “worm tail.”

Rosenbaum:

Recalling without imitating such classics as Nosferatu and Vampyr, the film uses high-contrast cinematography to evoke the dissolution and decay that strikes viewers who see those films today in fading prints. It all adds up to a kind of poetic alchemy in which Portabella converts one of the world’s worst horror films into one of the most beautiful movies ever made about anything. (It’s characteristic of his artistic integrity that he refused to allow Cuadecuc-Vampir to be used as an extra on a Count Dracula DVD.)


Acció Santos (1973)

It’s odd that the other short on this disc is Play Back, which I’ve watched before, because this one could very easily share the same title. Carles Santos (composer of Cuadecuc Vampir and the composer/star of Play Back) performs a Chopin piece in the first half, then listens to a tape recording of his performance in the second. The part that turns this from a typical conceptual piece into a weirdly frustrating one is when he plugs in headphones, leaving us in silence for the last four minutes of the film.

Watched this right after the Mulholland Dr. extras where Lynch says his film’s title was originally intended for another, cancelled project – and here’s Rivette saying the same. Out as the opposite of In, since in the late 1960’s everything was “in,” and 1 because if it was successful a sequel would be filmed the following year. I also learned that Noli me tangere was a Rivette-approved optional subtitle of the long version, added during the 1990 restoration. “You can make up what you like about the title. There will be 500 interpretations I haven’t even thought of. That’s what titles are for, to give the critics something to play with.”

Interesting that Igor gets a row:

He hadn’t actually read History of the 13 yet when shooting Out 1, nor had any of the actors, and Rivette only read the first of the three stories later while editing the film and the other two years later – hence Rohmer’s appearance as guest expert. Rivette became a huge Balzac appreciator though, and based Don’t Touch the Axe on one of those belatedly-read stories.

Rivette saw an 11-hour private rough cut screening of the otherwise normal-length Jean Rouch movie Petit à petit, loved the experience of watching it, which gave him the initial idea – so the long duration of Out 1 was part of its initial conception.

Rivette never told the cameramen how to shoot the scenes, and never told the actors exactly what to say or do. Cast and crew would have to recap at the end of the day, discuss what had been said and done, so the next day they could cover or explain things the improvising actors had previously put on film

Kazakh teenager becomes the first female eagle hunter in the region. She tells her dad she wants to eagle-hunt, so he checks with grandpa then takes her to kidnap her own baby eagle, walks her through training then leads her to the competition (where her bird sets a record) and her first wild fox capture. It’s a family-friendly feel-good feminist true story (complete with awful disney-uplift closing pop song) that’s doubly pleasurable for those of us who love birds, sweet fur hats and crisp photography. Lead girl Aisholpan is great fun, and fortunately she has a family who cares more about letting her achieve her own destiny than about what the neighbors might think.