“There are radicalized Muslims in my living room.” Jean-Charles Clichet is a dumpy jogger who convinces a prostitute to sleep with him for free, and also delicately balances helping out a homeless kid with trying to get him arrested. Clichet’s secret power: he’s a Linux Guy. Not as warmhearted as Le Havre, but it’s another French movie about community circling around an immigrant visitor, feeling somewhat like a state-of-the-nation film – with wonderful and bizarre moments, as would be expected from the follow-up to Staying Vertical.

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).

Is this “Greek tragedy” – is that why the neighborhood is called Athena? Research on this is inconclusive, but it’s certainly newfangled long-take cinema of an oldfangled tragic revenge tale. Opens with a brother’s death at the hands of the cops, closes with the destruction of the remaining three brothers who each fight back (or avoid conflict) in their own way. Heightened drama without ever hitting a phony note, a real achievement. Soldier bro Abdel was in the last James Bond, thug bro Mokhtar was on the early 2000’s arthouse film circuit, hostage cop Jerome starred in Stéphane Brizé and Cédric Kahn movies, and firebrand bro Karim is Sami Slimane, who nobody knows anything about, but check back in a couple years.

Opens with a blood drinking ritual in a slaughterhouse, 1905.

Infighting in a gang of thieves, blonde guy takes a girl hostage to escape, she gets away immediately, he runs and discovers a manor draped in fog and ominous music. The thieves lurk outside, confident they can move in and take him and his stolen gold. Inside, the runaway finds two hot girls. He locks them in a room and they start making out and getting gratuitously naked – ah yes, this is from the director of Shiver of the Vampires. Even not knowing French I can tell the dialogue acting is dry and unconvincing, but the nudity is legit.

Thief (Jean-Marie Lemaire of the Anthony Hopkins Hitler movie) and blonde Brigitte Lahaie (Calvaire and Jesús Franco’s Faceless) and brunette Franca Maï (whose wiki includes among her career achievements “co-creator of a website”) take turns threatening each other. Brigitte breaks the standoff by calmly delivering the gold to the people outside, then grabs the scythe from the poster art and dispatches a bunch of murderous thieves.

New woman arrives – this is Fanny Magier of Jesús Franco’s Hitler movie Convoy of Girls, which also stars Marc who is apparently a Hitler movie regular – and speaks of satanic rituals, everyone being calm and cool. I put this movie on because it’s short, but I’m the kid who held his breath in The Jaunt right now, as they play hilarious 1900’s blindfolded party games. Finally Brigitte is shot and the others devour her blood – I saw this turn coming since it’s in Criterion’s vampire collection.

Cooler than a “based on a true story” title card is opening your movie with a guy telling the camera that this is his true story from 1947. Turns out it’s an extremely pleasurable prison break movie. Claude is accused by his wife of premeditated attempted murder, is looking at serious time, thrown into a cell with four guys, and they let him in on their scheme to escape. They haven’t even started yet, and it begins with a long take of real-time concrete floor destruction, wow. High ingenuity in their escape, and with more attentive guards than usual. Claude has to convince the others he’s not a threat after his woman withdraws the charge, but he’s a rat bastard and turns them in – they get taken down by 100 guards on escape night.

Final film by Becker, who died before its premiere. Engineer Jean Keraudy played himself. Geo was in the original Inglorious Bastards, The Reverend had a small role in La Vérité, Manu played the Monocled Nazi in The Night Porter, and dirty rat Claude is the star of Lola.

This movie must work, because even though I moaned about the family, and at the end wished their house would sink into the sea with all of them inside it, I also made a note to catch up with Pialat’s other 1980’s movies: Loulou / Police / Under the Sun of Satan. Sandrine Bonnaire is very pretty in this – talks about suicide over a Klaus Nomi song, leaves all the boys brokenhearted.

Self-consciously arty/stagey flick, part of the Brisseau canon of horny old frenchmen filming in their apartments. Cut from a sleeping couple to their “dreams” on 4:3 b/w lo-gauge film, my second movie in a row to do that. Shots and setups take their time, but there’s no apparent story so it’s not like we have anywhere else to be. Opens with a camera roaming a film set peeping through a keyhole-shaped mask, and easily tops that in the scene where an electric train-mounted camera drives beneath a nude woman. Seems to devolve at the end, with a break for a misogyny mass murder montage, getting really into being eaten by gators and strangling blondes. Overall more engaging than my previous Bressane, seems to bode well.

Camille is home during WWI waiting for her man, and when he sends a letter telling her to stop writing, she cuts her hair short and sneaks out of town, hoping to blend in with soldiers while tracking him down. She joins an increasingly suspicious troop company – turns out they’re deserters heading to the Belgian border, and they have a habit of pulling out makeshift instruments and singing a continuing song about a blind girl. The men get sick and fall in holes and hide in caves, she helps by killing a lookout guard, she admits her name is Camille but they continue thinking she’s a boy, somehow.

I was right to think this would pair well with A Very Long Engagement. She is Sylvie Testud (in Vengeance, stars in La Captive) and her man, who appears at the end, is Guillaume Depardieu (the same year he was very good in Don’t Touch the Axe). A European Barn Owl can be seen – and heard – towards the end, which gains the movie an automatic half star, but it doesn’t need to kiss up to me with owls, I was already charmed. On letterboxd it looks like nobody loved this, so now I guess I’ve gotta see his other features, which nobody also loved.

This was the end of a successful Cannes Fortnight, in which I watched a bunch of movies I’d never seen by directors who had new work premiering at Cannes: Serge Bozon, the Dardennes, Claire Denis, Hlynur Pálmason, Cristian Mungiu, George Miller, Sergei Loznitsa, Jerzy Skolimowski, and David Cronenberg.

Couple of juvenile delinquents, looking like the French Keanu Reeves and Natalie Portman (she’s Virginie Ledoyen of The Beach) are caught stealing Deep Purple records with great close handheld camera. Gilles buys dynamite after getting kicked out of class and clashing with his parents. Creedence “Up Around the Bend” plays at a fire dance party, “Me and Bobby McGee” plays in a concrete bunker, later we hear a Nico song from The Inner Scar. This is somehow my second movie in a row where a French person gets stabbed with scissors. The couple flees together into the country looking for a place that might not exist. He wakes up with the girl gone and finds a note we don’t get to read. Good movie, full of youth and fire, though not as good as the Jesus Lizard song.