A complicated movie, currently being discussed in every publication, so I needn’t bother. He is still The Most Popular Filmmaker Of All Time, and some of the dialogue is really “hit the themes on the head” and “spell out the character motivations” clunky/obvious, yelling out the ideas so nobody can miss them, rather than letting us make connections. But I can’t be mad about it, because even the stuff I knew would be coming was really beautiful on screen… that last five minutes with Lynch/Ford was perfect, and the final shot (re-framing the horizon line) made me gasp.
Fascinating alternate take on the Krafft legacy, with the same footage but a different focus from Fire of Love. That one’s story goes that their volcano research and publicity saved lives, while Herzog opens by saying they’ve been criticized for convincing others to move closer to the same eruption that caused their deaths. FoL tries to get inside their relationship, Herzog compliments the technical excellence of their filmmaking and photography while showcasing the destructive forces of nature. The Ernst Reijseger requiem music perhaps goes too big, but Herzog’s fourth(?) volcano movie is predictably great.
Irma Vep (2022, Olivier Assayas)
Mira in the catsuit > Director Rene > Gottfried > Mira not in the catsuit > everything else
Mdou Moctar opening theme is always an incentive to watch the next episode, and I think the title graphics are a reference to Leaud’s experimental re-edit. The film-scratching is also referenced when director Rene breaks down and gets temporarily replaced by some superhero director, but in this version he comes to terms with things, and finishes the shoot peacefully. You can’t scratch up the negative when you’re shooting in HD.
Cast and crew are constantly referencing looks and movements with the original serial, which they’re watching on their phones. And Assayas has got his own 1990’s film on his mind, bringing in a Maggie Cheung surrogate and holding a cringey psychotherapist discussion about her. They bring in meta-elements, filming Musidora’s diaries alongside the remake of her film, which probably isn’t a reference to Maggie’s Center Stage, but you never know.
Mira’s assistant is Devon Ross, a Disney fashion model. Blowhard lead cop actor in the serial is Vincent Lacoste of Smoking Causes Coughing. Alex Descas works on the budget, Carrie Brownstein as an agent. Besides the Maggie surrogate there’s footage of the real Maggie, and a big Kristen Stewart scene in the final episode. As the costumer, Rivette actress Nathalie Richard is replaced by Rivette actress Balibar, who hit the Feuilladian rooftops herself in Va Savoir (and at one point Irma goes by the name “Juliet Berto”).
Devon directs one day, is inspired by Kenneth Anger to invoke spirits with her filmmaking. Assayas knows how to invoke spirits – most literally in Personal Shopper but it’s there in all his best work, which is why the straightforward e-book drama of Non-Fiction didn’t work for me and I’m not anxious to check out Wasp Network. This version is not great – it’s overlong, episodic TV, more content than cinema, complete with tedious Conveying Information To The Viewer dialogue in the early hours and bad ADR.
Mind Over Murder (2022, Nanfu Wang)
Happy to see a True/Falser land a whole miniseries, but I’m sorry that the form seems to mandate six hour-long episodes, since this feels stretched out, with rampant footage reuse, a plodding podcast-ass show compared to the jubilant Last Movie Stars I’ve been watching at the same time. Other comparisons coming to mind: the book Devil House (an 80’s murder case where the number of participants keeps changing) and the show Wormwood (which I thought repetitive at the time, but is looking better and better).
Nebraska, showing movies in ZD:
Hero cop convicts six for a Nebraska murder, but years later a competent cop looks over the evidence by chance and realizes the whole case was a sham. The six are released, sue the county and win, now the locals are butthurt about their hero cop’s reputation and their higher taxes to pay for reconciliation. A community theater reenactment of the case appears for too little (or maybe too much) time in each episode, paying off at the end when many of the involved parties meet up at the show.
Burt, he’s just like us, watching Mind Over Murder with his phone out:
Only Murders in the Building season 1 (2021)
Martin & Martin are pathetic washed-up podcasters, Selena Gomez their companion who’s hiding a personal history with the deceased. Suspects include a cat guy, their sponsor Nathan Lane, Sting, and Selena Gomez. They get boosts from Aaron Dominguez and some obsessed fans, and sorta-boosts from Liz Lemon, detective Da’Vine Joy Randolph (also detective of Ultra City Smiths) and murderer/bassoonist Amy Ryan. Cliffhanger ending for season 2 with their arrest for killing the landlady.
Sometimes I think it’s cheesy and I should stop watching, other times there’s a Herman’s Head reference or an episode centered on Jane Lynch as Steve Martin’s stunt double and I’m totally sold. Writers include Martin (L.A. Story), John Hoffman (The Emoji Movie) and people who worked on It’s Always Sunny, Chuck, Barry, and uh, Family Guy. Directors: Jamie Babbit (But I’m a Cheerleader), Gillian Robespierre (Obvious Child), Don Scardino (The Incredible Burt Wonderstone) and Cherien Dabis (Amreeka).
Stereo sound hard-panning left and right, songs cutting in and out, incomplete subtitles, footage warped and effected, recolored, switching to the wrong aspect ratios on purpose, speed-adjusted and frame-by-framed, interlacing, watermarks. He’s taking the “I invented the jump-cut” thing a little far, with an entire movie of technical errors.
Doc footage of horrors to people and animals. Obviously there’s a point to distorting and mutating the film footage and in flipping between fictional and actual atrocities. “This is the law of destruction of the living. Every being must be sacrificed,” says gravel-voiced JLG, or at least that’s what the subtitles tell us he’s saying.
The nature of art and war are covered, briefly. Focus on Russia, trains, physical film apparatus, the Muslim world. Named/numbered chapters, but I’m not sure they help anything. Politically, he seems to be in a terrible mood.
You do eventually drift into its rhythm, or its lack of rhythm. Towards the end it feels like he might start telling us a coherent story about a would-be conqueror named Sheik Ben Kadem (“but the world wasn’t as simple as his dream” sounds like Adam Curtis) illustrated by the jumble of sources he’s been establishing… alas, JLG is just reading scraps from a 1980’s novel, and the subtitles lose interest in following him.
It’s such a homemade UFO, I’d believe you if you told me he made it alone in a weekend, or that it took many years with a team of researchers.
These are films that ignite every interpretative impulse in our brains without satisfying our desires to be passive, unproductive viewers; they do not give clarity or any obvious avenues through the deluge of information, even if they make us feel as though, were we smarter, more knowledgable, bilingual cinephiles, we would be able to do just that. It’s in this way that Godard’s films also invite us to improve ourselves, something I think very few other artists achieve.
Many years ago, Godard attempted to create a style of cinema that could inspire revolutionary change. At this point, he seems to not only regard such a thing as impossible, but also regards cinema as a tool of violence and colonialism. In the film’s longest and most lucid section, he argues for the Arab World as a lost paradise hurt by western intervention, and cinema as a tool of oppression (in his narration, he says something along the lines of “all representation is violence”). He doesn’t seem to draw a distinction between classical Hollywood cinema, news footage, Blu-Rays, and amateur cell phone video — he suggests they have all basically been flattened into the same thing.
In his comparison of war footage and fictional violence, Godard posits the old problem: which representation is the original, and what inspired what? The connections are pre-cognitive and deeply intuitive, posed as questions, and (like so much in late Godard) recall Aby Warburg’s Mnemosyne Atlas. How have images — both “cursed” and “blessed,” in the current parlance — dipped and ducked into the unconscious across the ages, forming something like a universal art history?
If, as Godard intones early on, pledging allegiance to the ideas of Swiss cultural theorist Denis de Rougemont, man’s condition is indeed “to think with hands,” then what happens when cinema subverts or displaces that tactile state? When a hand becomes, as in Godard’s famed aphorism, “not a just image, but just an image”? When real violence becomes conflated with the violence of representation? In a choice that will strike some as crass at best, and exploitative at worst, Godard continually rhymes the two, in one instance placing gruesome footage of ISIS throwing bloodied bodies into the water against the scene in Vertigo (1958) in which Scottie rescues Madeleine from the San Francisco Bay. The ultimate point that Godard arrives at here, though, is fairly direct: which is that cinema—even revolutionary, politically minded cinema—has not clarified, but obscured the reality of the Holocaust and other attendant horrors, and instead contributed to a larger confusion, an effective “flattening” of reality. (That the clenched fist of revolution is here traded in for a raised index finger is instructive.)
The Image Book ends with another display of madness that would be a more than appropriate sendoff for the French New Wave figurehead’s restless career. Taken from Max Ophüls’s Le Plaisir, it’s a sequence of a man dancing and spinning around furiously until, finally, he falls down. This moment also serves as a canny reminder that, whatever effort it takes to understand the exact nature of the work that Godard is doing here, he’s also exerting that effort with us—and he seems to mind not at all if he collapses in the process.
As a memorial screening, I watched one JLG short film per decade…
Une Femme Coquette (1955)
Agnès writes a letter to a friend to confess cheating on her husband, having witnessed a discreet prostitute picking up men from the street and wondering if she’d have the courage to do the same. The woman is portrayed as complicated, and the men (including JLG himself) as impulsive dickbrains. The filmmakers bring Guy de Maupassant’s apartment-balcony story outdoors, showing off Geneva parks, bridges and birds. Ten years later, Masculin Féminin was sold as an adaptation of the same story before being completely rewritten.
From the Paris vu par anthology, which people say is quite good overall but I’ll watch the rest some other time. In very mobile long takes, Monica comes to her bf’s metalworking studio to tell him about a delicate mixup: she’s sent two telegrams to her two men and mixed up the addresses. He doesn’t buy it and kicks her out, so she runs to her other metalworker bf’s place. Both guys are caught up in their work and don’t stop to listen to her. Seems she didn’t mix up the addresses after all, and Roger also kicks her out. Some tech issues here, a bad post-dub, but cute.
Brief, noisy apartment scene, filmed mostly from behind the actors, to sell aftershave. You can’t tell a whole lot from my unsubbed copy but apparently that’s Juliet Berto and they’re arguing about Palestine, haha. Don’t know whether this aired, but it made some quick cash for the Dziga-Vertov Group.
Puissance de la parole (1988)
The Power of Speech is the opposite of Goodbye to Language. Filmmaking apparatus, overlapping hypnotized dialogue, a bitter post-breakup conversation transmitted through 1980’s phones and satellites. Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan songs, used less abruptly than in the later features.
Strobing edits (cutting between sky/water/volcano looks cool) and space-age philosophy. I’ve always liked movies where two people speak abstractly at the shore. A couple of Rivettian ghosts on the beach: Warok and a Gang of Four lead. “No thought can perish, so no act is without infinite result.”
L’enfance de l’Art (1993, w/ Mieville)
A woman reads to a boy, a book about revolt and revolution, while violent battles and children’s games go on around them. Nice string music, an action scene, a bazooka.
Liberty and Homeland (2002, w/ Miéville)
I did not realize Godard had a 9/11 film, or that he ever used dub music in his work. Male and female narrators go off about France and art, finally settling on a story of a (fictional) painter. Blending sources with different aspect ratios, extremely enhancing the colors – it was all there 20 years ago.
Remerciements de JLG (2015)
Godard totters home muttering in scraps and quotes, falls down, and delivers a speech from the floor about cinema and the lack of it, gets up to his desk and talks politics and poetry – all this in five minutes.
Miguel’s covid-era meta-movie, the days edited in reverse order, the title a reversal of an earlier feature. The movie starts as a light threesome drama, then begins to be about the complications around its own making. For all its formal games, it has a time-killing feeling of “no other movies being made during lockdown, so we made one” – there’s time-lapse and slow-mo and Gomes all but admitting he doesn’t know what happens in the film.
Robert Koehler in Cinema Scope:
Within the context of a playfully narrative feature, The Tsugua Diaries comes close to capturing what moviemaking actually feels like—at least moviemaking as practiced in the free-and-easy manner of Fazendeiro and Gomes. When the actors convey to the filmmakers their worries that the scenes aren’t working, Gomes’ response highlights a fact of life that auteurist critics in particular ignore at their peril: he informs the cast that he, Fazendeiro, and Ricardo are “finding that, overall, it’s been a good performance.” Gomes here demonstrates that he knows that actors drive the action, not directors—a notion that he takes all the way on Day 7, when he must accompany Fazendeiro to a prenatal exam, and tells his actors to direct themselves. How, they ask? “Work it out,” says Gomes—which could be the slogan for every film set.
Most importantly, there are two parrots, and baby peacocks:
Both the movie and its lead dude Cooper Hoffman move fast. He gets Alana Haim to be his chaperone on a promotional trip for his acting career, then things escalate, until he’s arrested for murder while selling waterbeds at a teenage fair, and flooding the house of Barbra Streisand’s boyfriend. She directs the ads for aspiring politician Benny Safdie, he opens a successful pinball palace. Haim gets to run a lot. The final scene, I dunno, but hey, why not.
I keep getting Eli Roth (Cabin Fever) and Ti West (Cabin Fever 2) confused. I suppose the closest I’ve ever come to liking a Ti West movie was House of the Devil, and if I’d looked him up first I might’ve skipped this one, but a well-regarded horror about a bootstrap porno movie filming on the property of elderly murderers was too good to pass up. The camerawork is on point, and when changing scenes the editing will flip back and forth between the old and the new, a certain sense of the avant-garde like they’re doin’ in France.
Mia Goth is our entry point character, and also plays the old woman, loves to play in movies where the lead actress plays multiple roles from different generations. Cameraman Owen Campbell (paranoid main kid from Super Dark Times) dies first, stabbed in the throat for refusing the old woman’s advances, and the cowboy in charge (Martin Henderson of The Ring Remake) comes next, unwisely putting his eye up to a suspicious hole. The old man just shoots porn actor Kid Cudi (recently great in Bill & Ted Face the Music) in the swamp, actress Brittany Snow (Prom Night Remake) is pushed into the gator pond, and soundgirl Jenna Ortega (Scream Reboot) is shot escaping. The movie-in-the-movie is called Farmer’s Daughter, and they sing “Landslide” after shooting, it’s all very Fleetwood-inspired. Oh no, they’re making a prequel.
Found another movie from the director of the Maiku Hama series. Silent-ish – no sync dialogue or music score, but we hear sfx and voices on tape. A detective whose thing is that he’s always eating eggs (Shirô Sano of Violent Cop) takes on the case of a kidnapped daughter named Bellflower and is sent on the usual goose chase, but with riddles and gyroscopes. In the end the whole adventure and kidnapping was a ploy to complete a silent film fifty years in the making.
Played Critics Week at Venice along with Assayas’s debut. Relaxed pace and lack of dialogue makes it hazy and dreamy – per the title, it’s not one to watch late at night. Funny that a few hours after watching this, I read: “it made me wonder what it’d be like to see, for once, a cinephilic film that isn’t in any way about cinephilia.”
José is a drug-addict filmmaker editing a vampire movie (Law of Desire star Eusebio Poncela). He meets Pedro, an extreme cinema obsessive (Will More of Dark Habits). The two are maybe not great for each other, or maybe that’s the drugs talking – movie jumps back in time to when Pedro was alive, while in the present tense, José gets high with Ana (All About My Mother star Cecilia Roth) and investigates letters, tapes and films sent to him.
José’s inspirational posters also include Viridiana wearing a Spider-Man mask.
Pedro is a super-creepy young man who only loves cinema and silly putty. He gets a stop-motion time-lapse gizmo and films himself sleeping, becoming obsessed with some hidden change that is happening. His camera apparently becomes sentient and starts killing people, beginning with Pedro’s large-eyed cousin Marta, while Pedro becomes hoarse-voiced, weak and withdrawn. José finally arrives, performs a blindfold ritual before the killer camera, and becomes pure cinema.
I prioritized watching this after Nick Pinkerton’s writeup – some of his best work.
Pedro’s address to José, dictated from the edge of oblivion in an unrecognizable rasp suggestive of lycanthropic transformation, structures what narrative Arrebato can be said to have … In Arrebato’s last act, which finds José totally absorbed in Pedro’s film and his strange quest, it becomes a movie about one run-down sybarite who’s coming apart at the seams bearing witness to the spectacle of another run-down sybarite who has come apart at the seams, both “reunited” on celluloid in the film’s inspired and singularly unnerving closing scene. If you watch the movie and aren’t keeping it together particularly well yourself – and who is these days? – this can all add up to a disquieting hall-of-mirrors effect.