Perry Caravello is a local celeb comedian with Steven Wright hair and a high hoarse voice who gets involved in various challenges and pranks. Here he has called in all his comedy buds for a fake fake-documentary in which his frenemies Don and Mole get him cast as the star of a film that everyone but Perry knows isn’t real. But I don’t get this, because within the scope of this film, it seems real, and the rug is never pulled out even after the successful premiere. What’s the point in telling us it’s a ruse if we never see the ruse, like watching straight episodes of The Truman Show without ever seeing backstage or anything breaking down.

Everyone on set has stolen names, like a mistreated assistant named Burt Ward, and director Goldthwait is amusing as… the director of Windy City Heat. And there is a lot of yelling.

Reading my notes after the fact, it’s hard to piece the plot back together – a lot happening in 80 minutes, but it all made perfect sense at the time. Lange was working for a smalltime publisher named Batala, a scam artist and rapist. Lange just wants to write silly westerns and see them published. His dreams are working out, his stories gaining popularity, the cute Valentine is in love with him, but when Batala’s interference tries to bring it all crashing down, Lange kills him and goes on the run. Good movie, and commie film critics give it extra points for showing the publishing workers taking over production.

Lange is plain-looking René Lefèvre of Le Million. Valentine is Florelle of Lang’s not-great version of Liliom. This movie is set at a hotel where these two are crashing while fleeing for the border after the murder, most of the action shown as flashbacks as Valentine tells the story to the locals so they won’t turn Lange in. Jules Berry, who plays the villain, later costarred in Le Jour Se Leve – another film written by Jacques Prévert in which Berry is murdered and we learn the full story as the killer is hiding out in the aftermath.

After watching Boys State and Dope Is Death with Katy, I rounded out the trilogy of True/False catchup movies with one she didn’t want to see.

The concept is based on a Virginia Woolf quote about people looking at the same war images and perceiving them differently. The filmmaker shows a curated set of Israeli/Palestinian youtube scenes to students then narrows down to a single student with Israeli parents who sees unexpected things in the images, sometimes to the point of absurdity, and questions her about her perceptions. It appears to be raw footage shot on cellphones, but she thinks everything here is staged. “They have the kids cry in the background as an added effect,” as if it’s unrealistic that kids would cry on their own while soldiers tromp through their house. The kids’ mom is being “overdramatic” and the soldiers are even criticized for not searching the house well enough. When Israeli kids are just pelting a Palestinian home with rocks, “This doesn’t look good for Israel,” then she self-corrects, imagining an inciting event from before the camera was rolling, “Arabs throw rocks all the time.” In the second half, the director calls her back to watch the videos again alongside her own responses (so, the first half of this movie). “The viewer also has control… Film is only so real, you’re not there.” A good experiment, but I resent having to spend this much time with an overthinking college student.

This Triet was a real treat… hmu if you need pull-quotes for the 8K reissue. Snappy movie with shocking editing, scenes overlapping, no time wasted – a temporal pincer as complex as Tenet but an hour shorter and possible to follow.

Sibyl is Virginie Efira (of Elle, and soon Benedetta), a therapist cutting back on her case load so she can write novels, then actress Adele Exarchopoulos (Blue is the Warmest Color) shows up with all kinds of twisted drama (she’s pregnant by her famous costar Gaspard Ulliel, who’s supposed to be with their director Sandra Hüller). Eventually Adele will only speak to Sibyl, so the film production flies her out to Stromboli as a go-between. Of course Sibyl is stealing all this for her writing, which the movie keeps slipping inside, shifting all the roles and drama, while in reality Sibyl is losing her sobriety and her family.

Triet’s Age of Panic and Victoria also got good reviews. This played Cannes 2019 in competition with ten other films I’ve now seen – it’s easier to catch up when there’s no Cannes 2020 to distract me.

Portrait of a hostile work environment. Full of small insults and ironies: she gets a papercut opening a dinner invitation from the White House. The two guys sharing her office space only pitch in to help when she has to write apology emails to the boss (“I won’t let you down again”). Interesting approach to never show the monster boss, and to follow someone who’s an indirect victim, not one of the casting-couch hotties or the girl from Idaho (the actress actually from Norway) who shows up to work with no experience and is being put up in a swanky hotel where the boss keeps visiting. For a while I thought the boss’s activities would remain a background buzz and never be directly addressed, but no, her conversation with a real wormy HR guy (the 2005 Mr. Darcy) is the movie’s centerpiece. The movie isn’t Akermanian exactly, but it’s more Akermanian than most films. Star Julia Garner is from Ozark and Sin City 2.

A.S. Hamrah in The Baffler: “The Assistant is the only film in which I’ve seen the shame-filled, eating-in-a-Manhattan-bodega aspect of life in New York City portrayed so acutely, or at all.”

A really cleverly constructed movie, would be fun to watch again. Either I never read much about this, or I’d forgotten, but I assumed the first half of the movie was the entire movie, so the end credits appearing halfway through came as a surprise, and the second half was pure joy.

Starts out with a film crew making a zombie movie, which is already going badly when they’re invaded by actual zombies and have to fight to survive – all in a single take. The young leads are struggling as the director unloads on them for being inauthentic. They chill with the makeup artist (who happens to be studying self-defense) when the crew outside begins to get attacked. The director is so excited – finally, something real – and runs around in manic glee with a handheld camera. A rooftop showdown ends with the female lead killing her costar and the director with an axe. The single-take idea is cute, and it’s all timed well, but the movie has poor color and lighting…

But the second half has normal editing, and reveals that this isn’t even a horror movie… the director is really a director, taking on an assignment for a one-take zombie horror, the lead actress and makeup artist from the first half are actually his family. On shoot day for the movie, the table read goes badly, lead actress refuses to do anything gory, two actors are in a car accident and can’t come to set, and the cameraman gets uselessly drunk. So, family and crew fill in as actors, and everyone improvises new lines and situations while it’s all being filmed live. All the cameras and identity shifts (an actor plays an actor playing a zombie who becomes a zombie) must have been hard to keep straight.

This was barely even supposed to be a movie – a low-budget workshop film shot in 8 days that turned out amazing. Hardly anyone has seen Ueda’s other features, though Matt Lynch saw his follow-up Special Actors and called it disappointing. The Director followed up with a kids movie, and his daughter did a voice in that Xenoblade game I’m always playing.

A final film that works just as well as an introduction.

On one hand, it’s mainly a career summary, and I didn’t need one. But I guess I did, because Jane B. looks different than I imagined it, and it’s really time to rewatch Le Bonheur, and it even made me think that One Sings needs another look, and time with Agnès is always well-spent.

I mainly know W.C. Fields from Looney Tunes caricatures… his muttering insult comedy is pretty appealing. Not just a harmless old man with a funny drunk routine – when he got creative control of a movie, it turned out mental. He plays a screenwriter for studio boss Franklin Pangborn(!), living out the scenes he’s pitching, while Pangborn interrupts to say these are lousy ideas for a movie.

Fields becomes infatuated with a rich woman in a mountaintop home – she’s played by Marx Brothers regular Margaret Dumont. Unfortunately, the other thing he borrowed from the Marxes is the idea that a comedy should have terribly high-pitched singing. Up-and-coming studio star Gloria Jean plays his niece, who performs painful Snow White scream-singing, and throwing in a shriek-whooping fake gorilla, the movie has unpleasant audio. It ends with a really unexpectedly good car chase, at least!

Fields unplugging his ears after a Gloria song

“The Rival” Leon Errol with Dumont:

Strata of the Image (2015, Lois Patino)

The backlit figure from the Phil Solomon shorts stands motionless before a monochrome waterfall, which gradually colorizes into a full rainbow. Peaceful, silent and short, but it feels more like an art-gallery screen-saver than a festival short – and indeed it was, originally.


Fajr (2017, Lois Patino)

Desert figure tableaus, this time with rumbling wind sound then a vocal song, but back to monochrome, each shot looking like the motionless standoff before a samurai battle begins. I dig how each shot is too dark when it begins, and gradually, imperceptibly brightens, but still getting a gallery vibe. When the figures in the final shot dissolve into spectral light then the ocean washes away the desert, this short jumps way ahead of Strata.


Night Without Distance (2015, Lois Patiño)

Technically, this film and Strata are LNKarno selections, having played the Fuori Concorso in Locarno 2015, and this one also appeared on the lists of experimental films I’m following, so I get to count it twice.

Dialogue! Color-inverted tableaus of motionless figures, but this time with dialogue. They’re gonna sneak over the mountains from Galicia with some sort of contraband. The scenario is tense and dangerous, but you wouldn’t know that without sound – the film visuals with their slow-moving figures betray no sense of urgency, even though some are holding rifles.


The Glory of Filmmaking in Portugal (2015 Manuel Mozos) 720p 17min

While we’re in Portugal, here’s a cool little movie, mostly edited from archival materials, investigating four minutes of mysterious footage which seem to prove that a group of poets in 1930 teamed with a French cinematographer to attempt to launch a Portuguese cinema. It seems their attempt was aborted, and Manoel de Oliveira came along the following year anyway, so the country just pinned all its hopes on him.


The Girl Chewing Gum (1976, John Smith)

Something completely different: a street scene with traffic noise and a ringing alarm in the distance, the director shouting out orders to the extras and the cameraman telling them when to make each move… but it’s really ordinary documentary footage with the voiceover added afterwards. Towards the end he speculates that a man in a raincoat just robbed a bank, which explains the alarm. This movie presenting doc footage as planned orchestration has funny timing, since when the collector brought out his reels of mysterious film in the previous short I wondered if this was true or a Forgotten Silver situation. “Art Basel” seems to be a Locarno program of shorts brought over from the same year’s Gässli fest.

The Village Voice, as excerpted on Smith’s website: “Smith takes the piss out of mainstream auteurist ego, but provides proof of the underground ethos: Even with meagre mechanical means, the artist can command the universe.”