A fantastic follow-up to Pig – in fact, I should’ve watched them in reverse order. The men are famed truffle hunters caught up in a lucrative industry (I think the reseller is quadrupling the price he pays the hunters when selling to restaurants) which has become barbaric (at least one dog gets poisoned), while they just want to spend time in the woods with their beloved dogs. Alternates between careful right-angle framing, and other sorts of things (dog-mounted camera!).

My first feature at Sundance was one of the ones with uncomfortable covid-pandemic resonances. But first, it’s the neighbors griping at Sebastian (played by the director’s brother) that his dog cries too loudly while he’s at work… then work telling him that he can’t bring the dog into the office. We never hear the dog at all, until it cries out one time then is dead and buried, represented by drawings. In general the movie is crisp b/w, the cameraperson setting up still frames but stubbornly refusing to use a tripod.

Some unquarantine behavior as Seb scarfs a sandwich left behind on the train. He can’t find work, stays with his mom, and now he’s shaven and tending an old man who’s on morphine, and I’m not sure how fast time is passing. He joins a co-op farmer’s market truck that flees from cops (illicit veggie delivery), later dances with a hot girl at his mom’s wedding, then they’re having a kid together… and then the near-apocalypse comes. Cool scene, out in the field and everyone who stands up passes out… illustrations of a meteorite hitting, and we’re told that due to atmospheric changes, nobody can lift their head more than a couple feet off the ground without wearing a diver’s helmet. “In less than a year we’ll go back to normal, god willing.” A short movie that feels both slow-paced and full of incident.

Didn’t know what to make of this plant-based Body Snatchers movie, with its very controlled look, slow pans, and obvious script. Corporate botanists create a plant that makes its owner happy, a horror Brain Candy, emitting the “mother hormone,” like a mother bonding with her son. They name it Little Joe, after lead geneticist Emily Beecham’s son Joe (shades of “Audrey II”). Paranoia is high about the plant’s mind-altering properties. When an older scientist (Kerry Fox of Shallow Grave and Intimacy) finds her dog affected by the plant, she has it put to sleep, saying it was “not my dog anymore.” Emily: “What do you mean?” “You’ll see.”

Joe and Little Joe:

Emily’s coworker Ben Whishaw (Cloud Atlas, frail poet of Bright Star) is the earliest and most apparently affected, and his whispering collaborator, feather-haired Rick, edits out the tape of pollen test participants’ comments about personality change. Emily hardly does any better herself, taking a plant home and telling people it’s definitely safe from her sample size of two people, while her ex, Joe’s dad, tells her he’s not the boy he used to be. Ben and Rick eventually change tactics, saying they’ve been pretending as a gag, and Joe tells her “this is normal at my age,” while Emily tries the proven pod-people technique of pretending to be already affected, and Kerry Fox fulfills the role of the alarmist who gets “accidentally” killed.

L-R: boss Carl, Rick, Emily, Ben

It’s not like the characters are living their normal lives and the plant paranoia gradually takes over before everyone realizes it, or they have anything else going on – all the dialogue is about this one thing, whether or not the plant is invading minds. An extremely watchable movie, with a massive soundtrack and great visual design (their green coat buttons match the chairs!) High-pitched cricket whistle on the score with flute underneath wasn’t optimal for watching on a whiny airplane, but when the whining lets up, the flute with sharp drum hits and a cacophony of barking dogs is wonderful. The camera sometimes zooms into the wall in the background between two people conversing, odd visual and aural tactics within such a single-minded story. Beecham won best actress at Cannes – this is the seventh movie I’ve seen from competition, hoping to catch The Whistlers and Bacurau and The Wild Goose Lake soon.

Three-hour diary films about getting HIV treatment aren’t my bag, but I got interested in this because of my The Territory / The State of Things double-feature since Pinto was a crew member on The Territory and includes set footage in this doc. The Ruiz connection accounts for an extremely small percentage of this movie’s long runtime, but it turned out to be worth watching on its own merits, not all the illness-misery I was expecting.

Pinto, a career soundman and a swell photographer as well, is taking experimental medical treatments for a year, staying home with his partner Nuno and their dogs, going through his archives. Unlike, say, the Jonas Mekas diary films that expect you to recognize all his famous friends, Pinto gives us a primer on his career and interests. He’s from Portugal, and the year after the 1974 revolution he watched all the previously banned films and decided he needed to work in cinema.

The first half seems more diary-like, then he seems to be trying to make sense of the world. Focused on his own health, he discusses the histories of different diseases, also his life with Nuno, and friends past and present. They live on farmland, and he cuts in footage of frogs, dragonflies, slugs, spiders and dogs whenever possible.

Rufus and Nuno:

Francisco Ferreira in Cinema Scope:

There’s clearly an emotional and melancholic feel in the film through Pinto’s voiceover, but that melancholy becomes political when he points out during his treatment the shortcomings of a current health service still full of absurd, bureaucratic rules. Avoiding strict social realism and constructing its political message in a much more subtle way, it seems to me that What Now? Remind Me doesn’t have the pretension to speak in the name of a generation, nor does it desire to raise a flag in the fight against AIDS. It is also inconsistent to approach this film as some kind of terminal-care experience, in the manner of such powerful first-person testimonies as Hervé Guibert’s La pudeur ou l’impudeur or Jarman’s Blue, because Pinto’s point of view is luckily coming from that of a survivor. At the same time, a sense of irony necessarily pops up. One of the funniest moments of the film comes when we see Pinto writing on his laptop, exchanging clinical symptoms and prescriptions by mail with Jo Santos, an old friend based in Paris whom he has not seen for over ten years. (She underwent the same treatment as the director and accompanied him to Locarno, where the film was awarded the Special Jury Prize.) It’s difficult to express the beauty of the fact that one reason Pinto made his movie was to reconnect with a longtime friend, to make him feel less alone in his adventure—I’ll only risk saying that if all films were made like this, surely cinema would not be as miserable as it is today.


Bonus: two animated shorts codirected with Nuno Leonel:

Porca Miséria (2007)

Routine of a homeless kid who sleeps under a city bridge and has easy access to the beach, and his friend piggybank. A few variations on daily life, then one evening the kid is missing and pig is busted.


The Keeper of Herds (2013)

Filmed illustration of a poem about finding God in nature, by António Caeiro, I think, but when I search online I find a Joaquim Pinto blog with an article about an António Caeiro, but both men are hairdressers, and I feel like I’ve fallen into another dimension.

Placeholder post until I watch this again on blu-ray, since it didn’t stay long in theaters. Doomed adventure story in a hopeless land, like a post-apocalyptic Fantastic Mr. Fox. The animation, voice acting, production design all perfect, and an overwhelming joy to watch in theaters. Haven’t yet read the articles about how Wes’s representation of Japan and treatment of women are problematic, so I’m free to love the movie in blissful ignorance, for now.

Things I Can Remember: Yoko Ono is the scientist who leaks the government-suppressed cure for snout fever to the exchange-student leader of the revolutionary youth. The conflicted lead dog of the pack who finds young Atari is a long-lost brother of Atari’s companion/bodyguard Spots, who now runs with a gang of suspected cannibals. And I can’t think too hard about the ending when they swap dog-to-human translation devices because it makes me emotional.

EDIT: watched again two months later on blu-ray

“This is a distant uncle’s worst nightmare”

That familiar Fantastic Mr. Fox feeling… whenever I think about this movie for any reason, I have the strong urge to rewatch it immediately.

Three balding middle-aged dudes wearing overcoats assemble at a tiny bar – The Writer, The Professor (of physics) and the Stalker, who will lead them to The Room inside The Zone, where… something will happen, possibly.

The Stalker is nervous, hired as a guide but seems unsure of everything. The Writer is drunk and arrogant, argues with the Stalker at every juncture. The Professor came as a saboteur, meaning to destroy the Room, but doesn’t go through with it. And the movie conjures its entire sense of mystery and horror through dialogue and behavior, with no special visual effects, just fields and damp rooms.

What exactly the Zone/Room does is mysterious – it provides enlightenment or fulfills unconscious desires – and the Stalker is cagey and possibly deceptive, revealing stories of other stalkers and their sorry fates. After an argument, the men presumably don’t even enter the room, meeting the Stalker’s wife back at the bar. Epilogue with their daughter, poetry and telekinesis, feeling like a scene from Mirror.

Wife of Stalker: Alisa Freyndlikh of Elem Klimov’s Rasputin

Daughter of Stalker:

The film’s writers also did the source novels for Hard to be a God and Sokurov’s Days of Eclipse. The Prof (in the hat) was Nikolay Grinko, at least his fifth Tarkovsky film, also in Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors. The Writer was Anatoliy Solonitsyn, Andrey Rublev himself.

A lovely little movie, spanning a week in the life of Paterson bus driver Paterson (Adam Driver), who lives with quirky, fashionable Golshifteh Farahani (About Elly, Chicken With Plums, Shirin) and a bulldog (deserved Palm Dog winner).

William Harper (The Good Place) stalking Chasten Harmon:

Paterson with poetry whisperer Masatoshi Nagase (Maiku Hama himself):

“He was a weaver… an anarchist weaver” – the Moonrise Kingdom kids discuss historical figures from Paterson NJ:

Richard Porton:

Paterson is now known to New Jerseyans, if they know anything about it at all, as a poor city, avoided by tourists and locals alike and plagued by gang warfare. Jarmusch’s non-naturalistic conception of Paterson … is instead a cinephilic haven with a cozy repertory cinema that enables the happy couple to attend a screening of Erle C. Kenton’s Island of Lost Souls … Despite a few minor skirmishes in the bar among soused patrons, Paterson and Laura’s soulful English bulldog named Marvin is responsible for the film’s only bona fide act of violence. Marvin’s almost unforgivable act of aggression suffuses the film with a genuine melancholy … Unlike Loach, with his penchant for didactic political fables, Jarmusch favours a more intimate critique of everyday life, as well as savouring the utopian possibilities that might emerge if we reject the inanities of our consumer society and, say, combine bus driving with poetry.

B. Ebiri:

There are many moments that, in other films, could presage the beginning of something more dramatic: a shouting match; an automotive failure; a random, puzzling encounter or two. But the film keeps its even keel. So maybe there are two sides to Jarmusch’s manifesto: Finding joy and beauty in the everyday is not just an aesthetic priority, he seems to suggest, but an existential imperative for the uneasy soul.

Watched for Cannes Month – of the movies I wanted to watch from last year’s fest, I’ve already seen 13, missed 7… 4 are opening soon, and 12 have dropped off the face of the earth (I don’t understand how film distribution works).

The adventures of:
Heen, a coughing laryngytic dog
Markl, child with a fake beard
Turnip, a scarecrow

And also:
Sophie, a cursed girl
Howl, a bird-demon

And also:
Witch of the Waste, melty-faced after losing her powers
Calcifer, a fire-demon

Katy says large parts of the source novel were omitted in the movie version, which would explain why the war and dealings with evil queen Suliman seem underdeveloped. But as far as visuals and unique characters go, this movie is unsurpassed.

The Cow Who Wanted to be a Hamburger (2010)

Because the advertising billboard looks cool. Then he finds out the horrible truth and with his mom’s help, rebels against the burger factory. Has a different look, Bill says he drew with sharpie on small sheets of paper, and I believe he said painter Kandisky was his coloring inspiration.

Gary Guitar (2007)

Gary invites Vera Violin out. Obstacles threaten to derail their picnic, but Gary is prepared for almost anything, and friend/annoyance Danny Drum helps out with the rest. Was meant to be a pilot.

Gary makes the mother of all sandwiches, which will later be used as a weapon against a fire-breathing robot:

Waiting For Her Sailor (2012)

One minute, one gag, but a good one.

Summer Bummer (2012)

Colored-pencil illistration of unrealistic fears of sharks in swimming pools.

The Flying House (1921, Winsor McCay)

Kickstarter-fueled restoration of McCay’s final film (a predecessor to Up), using McCay’s newspaper cartoons for color reference. I had Mr. Show flashbacks when they blew up the moon.

Tiffany The Whale (2012)

Rivalry between two top runway models, a woman with huge blonde hair, and a whale. Long and talky – I’m surprised Bill meant this to be a pilot as well, since I’m not sure where else you can take a whale-as-model story.

Drunker than a Skunk (2013)

Cool poem by Walt Curtis (subject of Gus Van Sant’s Mala Noche and of an hour-long doc by Plympton). The poem’s partly lost under music and effects so I watched this twice, but the animation is wonderful – my favorite on the disc.

Horn Dog (2009)

Finally I get to see the fourth dog film. The dog finds love in the park. Tries to give her gifts, but imagines terrible repercussions a la Guard Dog. Finally settles on a violin serenade but accidentally kills her owner.

Guard Dog Global Jam (2011)

Based on a Marv Newland concept called Anijam, Plympton coordinated online to get animators to recreate Guard Dog, one shot each. The best bit: the guy with the laughing-girl shot subcontracted each frame to different illustrators. Good story on the commentary about this film’s near-failure – submissions were open and they thought nobody was signing up, but really it was so many people the server crashed.

and from the Cheatin’ blu-ray:

The Gastronomic Shark (Bill Plympton)

A very silly, very short, bad-taste piece on human meal options for sharks.

There’s more on the Dogs & Cows disc, commissioned shorts and extras, which I haven’t explored yet.