Opening with Birth of a Nation seems cool – I’ve been uninterested in ever watching that film, but watching it as a horror would be an idea. Higher priority, I should watch the Blacula movies… less so Def by Temptation.
A real podcast-hangout kind of doc, and not usually in a good way. Contains a blatant promo for Tales from the Hood 2. The doc is leading up to Get Out as the culmination of Black horror art, allowing Jordan Peele to talk about that and the original Candyman (which was problematic, has room for improvement, possibly with a remake?). This could be a blu extra on the Get Out disc, easy.
Ken Foree and Keith David:
In the midst of SHOCKtober I’m not gonna write anything about this that you couldn’t get from the letterboxd description and first few reviews, but yay journalism. Watched on Criterion with Katy, from the guy who made Up the Yangtze.
A grand opening shot, pulling back from a mountain view to reveal the drone music as diegetic, walking with a marching band from overlooking ruins to a street that dead-ends into a canyon. The drummer steps forward and says he used to live here, and his entire neighborhood is now in the pit.
We’re in a Serbian mining company – typical-Ben follow-cam through their workplace and into the crowded high-speed de-elevator to an underground mining city. Long takes of long drills into rock walls intercut with b/w miner screen tests, and interviews about their hopes and dreams (answer: not much of either).
Admittedly a really good transition between the halves, joined by a graphic and the sound of a metal detector, a different kind of drone for a different kind of mining. From 20 guys working in the dark underground, we move to Suriname and 3 guys working on the surface in daylight. Wavery handheld late-night conversations with the men and their women, worries about killings at another site, more hopes and dreams, more screen tests. At least it ends with a song (no dance party).
Presumably the champions of this whole endurance test were Mai 68 Proletariat Cinema people who love anything involving miners. This doesn’t apply to the Cinema Scope Gang, who champion things for inscrutable reasons… Phil Coldiron’s analysis of Russell’s exploded ethnography is convincing, when I can follow it:
Like Frampton, Russell has elaborated a conception of film that approaches a particular limit or model: thought itself, with its infinite capacity for expansion. And like Frampton, this project has necessitated a sustained engagement with both the material of film and with that grand technology whose shadow film continues to toil in, namely language.
Russell captures the rhythms by which the plan of capital is expressed and enforced. In working on the level of the workers’ experience, he mirrors the image that the factory is always already producing of itself and offers it for reflection.
After watching three Kossakovsky features, I love when he applies grand visual ideas to ordinary topics, so it’s disappointing that this one looks like an unrestored Sokurov video in brownscale SD.
Enjoyed the two minutes of hedgehog-related drama, not the half hour of a family arguing at the dinner table. Nice pre-Gunda spotlight on farm animals, some sweet long takes, some good rants. A Tarr-worthy final shot justifies the effort – the wife listens to tapes, laughing, crying, then dancing, the camera getting up and dancing with her, her belligerent brother passed out in a corner of the room having fallen on his head from the table.
“Abracadabra. Potatoes, dig yourselves up!”
Hedgehog being protected from very upset dog:
Gorgeous nature footage with French voiceover, from the Winged Migration people. It introduces skits of Early Man into the natural world, and as human civilization advances the movie builds to a second half about how we’re destroying the environment and murdering all the beauty from the first half.
Our feelgood closing film was the opposite of Sirens, which claimed not to be a “rock doc” but was one. Castro set out to make a rock doc, but the subject dropped out, so she followed pop star Cuco’s jilted manager Doris instead, as Doris discovers a possible new star in Jacks. None of this was my kind of music, especially when played “live” (as in Sirens, we only get one concert before the pandemic hit), but the story goes to interesting places. The inter-generational immigrant experience brought back The Namesake, and Doris’s dad getting his green card was the fest’s biggest moment since the kidnapping, and the second time we heard mid-film applause. Opener Andreas Kapsalis plays classic covers on fancy acoustic guitar – I remember him from previous fests, and had the same reaction: annoyance at the Pink Floyd song, then warming up to his captivating style.
Gullah culture, netmaking and baskets. “I wanted to weave with images.” Too sleepy and abstract for me post-lunch, a a hodgepodge of media and ideas, though it came together in the second half. Kind of an American The Territory as the whites terrorize and murder then grab land. The director’s dad had been a minister who survived a mass shooting at his Charleston church – it gets around to this gradually across its abstractly-named chapters. Susan Alcorn opened on pedal steel.
A Danish student film concerning some friends of the director, a couple in a long-term but stagnant/sporadic relationship. The couple identifies notable moments from their time together, each telling their own side, then watches these moments re-enacted by actors playing them (cast gender-blind based on the kinship they feel to each scene from their own relationships). I thought the couple would stay together and in that context didn’t think the scenes they chose were especially impactful, but in the end that’s the point, that they keep staying together in a noncommittal way because he wants to avoid direct conflict. One of the actors finally gets it after performing a scene, says he realizes he has to go home and break up with his girlfriend, which is what our two stars (Malik & Laura) also do after these performative therapy sessions.
Zoé Samudzi for Film Comment:
Eventually — so named, the director said, for the rock band Tame Impala’s elegiac breakup song from their 2015 album Currents — made its international debut at the festival … In the Q&A, Nørgaard revealed each person’s reasons for participating in the project: Laura, always the more invested of the pair, needed closure, and Malik, whose subsequent relationships fell into the same pattern, needed something of an intervention. As the two of them try to articulate what their love actually means, Eventually reminds us that love is not just a sensation or a noun but an active verb, requiring introspection and movement.
Nazarbazi (Maryam Tafakory)
Wow, opening short played clips from Iranian films over 40 years. Onscreen poetry from different sources, showing artistic strategies around the political repression which forbade human touch in film. Before the short, Zap Tura played solo bedroom pop on vox, keyboard and tapes.
Best music (theater organist Travis McFarlane) and doc of the fest. Interrogating images and media coverage, avoiding easy/familiar archival riot footage by turning the images abstract. Centrist government commission released a report saying people were being repressed and cities needed massive funding, the gov’t’s only takeaway was to call for more police protection. Avoids the Dem convention in Chicago 1968 to show the jocular media coverage of minimal protests outside the Rep convention in Miami, and the protestors’ attempts to talk with local leadership. Nice archival ad for TV news sponsor Gulf selling a bug spray to rid yourself of unwanted abstract black dots, connected with footage of a private company selling a riot buggy to spray tear gas on crowds. Great abstract music and voiceover, writing and research. Would make a good double feature with All Light, Everywhere (or possibly with a fest feature we missed, 2nd Chance).