Katy picked this, an accidental sequel to my series of George Harrison docs. We got to see choice clips from The Long Good Friday and Mona Lisa, Time Bandits and Withnail and I, interviews with lead actors and Pythons and so on… a successful Saturday night.
I’ve started to appreciate how fast Wiseman’s cutting is – the movies are long but he wastes no time. We hear from preservationists, lectures on individual paintings, internal meetings. Some unusual perspectives: an art appreciation workshop for the blind, creating ornate picture frames, protests outside. Most mindblowing segment was about researching where a painting was commissioned, how the angles and lighting in the painting match the location where it originally hung.
Coincidentally right after we entered Wiseman Mode a website put this online for free, so we enjoyed the current fake-HD (with interlacing) digital version. Whether a bunch of guys in giant 1980s glasses can sell a sable coat this holiday season is less interesting than how the public library will meet its annual education and inclusivity goals under budget, but we get some good overhead shots of elevators. Neiman Marcus is in the business of sales, we’re told – not a controversial statement – and everything revolves around sales. The department heads telephone their best customers to lure them back, trying to prevent them from spending money anywhere else. After witnessing the entire library system full of thoughtful workers, the sudden switch to top-down capitalism is enlightening – the only person who says anything of substance here is fearless leader Stanley Marcus. No matter how well the company protects its high-class image, it can’t prevent Wiseman from capturing an employee laughing hysterically at her birthday gift of a stripper chicken.
Katy is never up for watching the final hour of that cartoon we started, but gets right on board for a long doc about the NY library system. Expansive look at the work and mission of the public library, from branch meetings and funding talks to gala events. Sharply edited, every five minutes another facet of an institution devoted to knowledge. Tom Charity in Cinema Scope goes into the details, calls it “almost intelligentsia porn.”
I’m figuring out who Laurie Anderson is before the Big Ears fest. This is a poem-essay film about “the connection between love and death”… still drawings and an animated Laurie give an introductory dream sequence about giving birth to her dog, then straight to the death of her mother over blurry, barely-there archive films and photos. The dog goes blind, Laurie has her make paintings and sculptures and play paw-piano (they show a long stretch of dog piano music, including live performance footage from a benefit concert), and Laurie speaks of dog perception and post-9/11 surveillance. Ends with Lou’s song “Turning Time Around” and in the closing credits you realize her real home movies were mixed with staged(?) archive-looking footage (and Chris Marker is thanked). I kinda loved this – all these years I assumed I would find it tedious. It can go either way with personal docs and poetry.
Back-story catchup (it’s clear what point in time the film crew joined the story) then we follow a court case against a NYC family bank in the aftermath of the financial crisis, from the POV of the defenders. They’re not accused of subprime lending, but selling loans with improper paperwork and taking kickbacks from customers, and the state decided to make a (probably racist) example of them, trying/failing to prove the corruption went higher than some bad-egg loan officers. Good story, decent doc – oscar-nominated alongside Strong Island and Faces Places. Chicago critics gave it their best doc award, so James rewarded them by making his next doc there: the heartwarming success story of, uh-oh, Lori Lightfoot.
Entertaining doc made by a performance artist. With the name Narcissister, you expect much self-reflection, but Narcissus’ downfall was looking at himself, so the doc subject avoids showing her true face onscreen or in public. She may not even be the doc subject, since the film turns into a love letter to her mother, making a good case that mom was remarkable.
Solidly put together, other than getting cut-happy whenever they’ve got two angles on a scene. Nice animated additions by Martha Colburn. Narc’s show is somewhere between performance art, visual poetry, and prop comedy (not a lot of movies where the director/star gets pooped out of a giant butt). Family backstory with help from her brother’s home movies, and discussion of their relationships (Narc would create art pieces, then mom would tell her what they mean).
Observational slow-cinema doc, but that’s fine since half the subjects are Lithuanian water birds. Tourists chatter about the birds over the ever-present low chuckle of cormorant conversation. Mostly the people are being negative, whining how the birds compete with the locals for fish, then shit acid that kills the ancient pine trees – big deal. While there was handheld swaying in Fausto, this one feels like it was shot with hidden/security cameras, the crew returning a year later to collect and edit the footage. I could’ve done without the last 5 minutes of some dude interrupting nesting season with fireworks.
Cuties… if they want to kill all the trees and fishes, that’s their business:
Catching up on True/False films past with Katy. From an audition at an Uruguay theater, the filmmakers smartly choose a talkative man reminiscent of F. Murray Abraham. Full of himself (“I know I have certain theatrical talents”) with a wife who describes herself as “more withdrawn” and an extensive home movie record of their early relationship, the movie interviews Aldo and Gabriella with occasional cuts back to the theater, the other interviewees giving their perspectives on the topics of the moment. Gabriella played the submissive wife for 40+ years, then grew into the kind of person who doesn’t like being around Aldo, and divorced him.
Well-structured movie with a worthwhile central couple, but somehow light and unmemorable. It figures that the screenshot I grabbed and the official movie photo used in reviews is from the same scene – it’s the rare time the two of them are seen together, and it’s a nicer image than the airport scene.