LNKarno continues with a Signs of Life entry… these are “aiming to explore frontier territories within the seventh art throughout novel narrative formats and innovation in filmic language”… only in its second year when this screened.

Remi & Remi:

Opening titles are over a photo montage of the director’s cat, not a good sign, but the cast includes a Truffaut and a Bozon, a Mazuy and a Raynal, so a whole gang of filmmakers, or their kids. Remi is Pascal Cervo of White Nights on the Pier. He’s secretly platonic friends with the boss’s daughter – the Truffaut – then he has an awkward chat with the boss as she flees. The girl’s dad is Bernard Eisenschitz, a Cahiers critic who has only been in a few movies, but only the most choice roles (an angel in Wings of Desire, a pornographer in Out 1), and the girl’s mom is filmmaker Patricia Mazuy.

Remi & Mazuy:

Recounting the cast is more fun than recounting the plot – Remi has nothing much going on, in fact he worries that he has no inner life. Then one day there are two Remis, the new one more confident and charismatic, attempting to take over, and nobody much minds that there are suddenly two until Original Remi’s brother takes his side at the end. We’ve seen this before, but I love a good dopplganger story, and this is pretty fun and quite short.

Our first LNKarno competition title. I’ve seen Iosseliani’s name around now and then, ever since first learning about him with a film still of a stork from Adieu, plancher des vaches! in a magazine over a decade ago. He’s a fest regular who I’ve never noticed out in the indie-commercial film world – The Ross, Plaza, Tara, Landmark, Alamo, Videodrome, Criterion sort of places – an old dude, taught by Dovzhenko, working for sixty-some years.

From a period execution scene to the title, then a battle, rapey soldiers, a mass baptism, a pickpocket gang then a drunk flattened by a steamroller like a cartoon, it seems the movie’s gonna be all over the place. But it soon settles down in a central location, with apartment concierge (and arms dealer) Rufus, his skull-collecting friend, a down-and-out baron, a bickering couple – it’s kind of a light magical comedy darkened by memory of the execution from the intro (it reminds us, with images of guillotines and severed heads). And of course I’m regretting that my first Iosseliani movie isn’t the one with storks, and then Rufus wanders into a secret garden full of every kind of bird.

A timid man resorts to dirty tricks to get a cute girl to talk with him. Pierre Etaix is in there somewhere, and as per French law, Mathieu Amalric has a role, hand-building a stone house out in a field. The production has rented a wind machine and is determined to get its money’s worth. Jump cuts and trick editing – it all sounds more scattered than it is, the bulk of it maintaining a consistent tone, dignified and upbeat despite the breakups and evictions.

Jonathan Romney in Film Comment:

Winter Song is the sort of rambling, multi-stranded crazily populous ensemble frieze that he has specialized in since moving from Georgia to France for 1984’s Favorites of the Moon… at times it resembles less any familiar form of cinema than it does a sort of sprawling, melancholic circus performance … It’s a world of horror and absurdity, where war is always being waged underneath the surface of civilization. But it also reveals a constant background hum, a sort of laconic joyousness in which the human folly and the melancholy of mortality are at least mitigated by friendship, drink, and the pleasures of close harmony singing, and the redemptive, civilizing poetry of a neatly executed sight gag.

WWII-era French town descends into paranoia when someone is writing letters accusing other townspeople of various crimes. I’m a fan of the sharp-looking Clouzot fast-paced b/w thrillers, though I watched this while tired and my notes make little sense (“everyone in church got forged letters arranging them to meet… no 13 suicided after letter… Rolande is someone”).

Key players:

Doctor Germaine: Pierre Fresnay, lead dude of The Devil’s Hand

Hotgirl Denise: Ginette Leclerc, “stupid wife” of the remade Late Mathias Pascal

Old Man Vorzet: Pierre Larquey, a Diabolique professor, 8th billed so nobody guesses he’s the villain

Young Goodwife Laura: Micheline Francey of a late 30’s Phantom Carriage remake

Dave Kehr:

Polished, impersonal work, it puts forward little more than a spirit of free-floating misanthropy. Remade (and improved) by Otto Preminger in 1951 as The Thirteenth Letter.

I grabbed Frantic back when I was watching a bunch of Polanski movies, then forgot about it… until one day, having misjudged the length of a flight due to time zone calculations being difficult while my mind is addled from dramamine, I watched the 45-minute Tarkovsky then found myself with a free hour, so as I often do when tired, I reached for the dumbest thing on my hard drive.

Ford, after telling everyone in sight that he’s after “the white lady:”

It’s quite a silly premise, though overall somewhat sturdy, with some convincing particulars for an 80’s movie. Harrison Ford’s wife (The Horde’s psychiatrist in Split) is kidnapped after grabbing the wrong suitcase at the Paris airport, so HF tracks down the drug mule suitcase owner (Emmanuelle Seigner, the future Mrs. Polanski) to unwind the conspiracy, figuring out that the captors are after a nuclear bomb triggering device. Along the way, we’ve got a woman in black on a Paris rooftop (I didn’t take Polanski for a Feuilladian) and music by the late Ennio Morricone, and nightclub scenes by Grace Jones, who must’ve sponsored this movie.

Seigner, screaming out the ass of a getaway car:

Haiti, 1962: a guy dies after walking in shoes cursed with ashes of puffer-fish- innards, becomes part of an army of twilight zombies cutting cane, but awakens from his half-life and returns home.

Decades later, a rich white girl comes along with her petty problems and lack of belief or understanding, causing someone to ruin their life. The white girl is boarding-school Fanny, who befriends Haitian zombi child Melissa. Heartbroken after being dumped, Fanny visits Melissa’s mambo aunt Katy, paying an absurd amount for an improper ritual which accidentally summons the demon god Baron Samedi from that Goldeneye game.

Child (with killer phone case):

Zombi:

Violet Lucca in Reverse Shot:

The Baron taunts Katy for disrespecting her father, and, to use a Lynchian expression, something really bad happens to the girl and the woman. (What, exactly, we do not know, except that they are both being punished.) In the final shot, Mélissa emerges from an endless darkness wearing a white dress, the color of Dambala; for the rest of the West, it will likely read a symbol of purity. It’s perhaps the only image that could make sense at that point, unsatisfying as it may be. Receiving closure from relationships, stories, or life isn’t universally guaranteed.

Nocturama reference:

Mambo X-fade:

A Day in the Country (1936, Jean Renoir)

Set in 1860, a frivolous comedy that becomes a serious romantic drama, all in forty minutes. Watching this now because I just saw a remake in episode five of La Flor. Mr. Dufour, his wife Juliette, daughter Henriette, a deaf elder, and H’s fiancee Anatole take a day vacation, stop at a rural restaurant, picnic under a cherry tree and get wine drunk, then go boating.

Two local men, Henri (played by Renoir’s assistant director) and Rodolphe, are introduced having heavy conversation about the risks of seducing random women. A minute later, they’re interested in the Dufour ladies, so they lend the men fishing poles to get rid of them, and offer themselves as boat guides. Henri scores with the daughter, and years later she’s married to Anatole, an absolute idiot, sees Henri again and says she thinks of him every night.

Katy wasn’t interested, because she cancelled Renoir for being colonialist after watching The River with me thirteen years ago. Abandoned after shooting in 1936, finished and released ten years later, although besides its unusual length, I get no sense of it being incomplete. There are hours of blu extras, but instead I made myself a French shorts feast by watching all my unseen Etaix and Tati shorts from the Criterion sets.


Rupture (1961, Pierre Etaix)

Mostly wordless, with exaggerated sound effects. His girl dumps him via mail, and he attempts to write a letter in reply, but he’s not terribly competent. After a suicide gag (gun-shaped cigarette lighter), he kills himself through idiocy. Etaix’s film debut, also the debut of cowriter Jean-Claude Carrière, who would write six major Buñuel films.


Happy Anniversary (1962, Pierre Etaix)

Etaix tries to pick up a few things on his way home for an anniversary meal with his sweetheart, but every stop causes major problems and delays, and she starts getting loaded on wine and appetizers while waiting. Good subplot of a guy in the middle of a shave who gets up to move his car, loses his spot and ends up driving in circles until the barber closes. More sophisticated than last year’s short (and a better traffic movie than Trafic), won an oscar the same year the Hubleys won for The Hole.


Gai Dimanche (1935)

“Fun Sunday” A couple of no-good drunks and thieves borrow a car and act like tour guides. Tall Tati is paired with shorter comic Rhum, and it’s odd to see Jacques as a crook and a motormouth. The sync sound goes in and out, the editing can be dodgy, but like the scene where our two scoundrels underfeed the tourists while distracting them with magic tricks, the movie gets tricked out with star wipes and slide whistles. Written by the two clowns, directed by Jacques Berr, who made some 60 shorts.


School for Postmen (1946)

After a training regimen by high-pitched boss Paul Demange, postman Tati heads out on his neighborhood route then to catch the mail plane. Overall great, a condensed and superior version of Jour de Fete.


Cours du soir (1967)

“Evening Classes” Tati teaches a course on observation, miming smoking as different personalities, demonstrating a specific way of stumbling up some stairs and walking into a wall, remaking some of his own film scenes. A meta-Tati short, showing the care that goes into each action in his features, though not a barrel of laughs on its own. Same year as Playtime with the same DP – director Nicolas Ribowski was Tati’s assistant director on the feature.


Dégustation maison (1977)

“House Specialty” Filmed by Tati’s daughter Sophie Tatischeff (who also edited Trafic) and shot in the Jour de fête town. A real light sketch, in which a chatty bunch of locals eats tarts.


Forza Bastia (1978)

Not really fitting in at all, though credited to Tati, this is a doc about the excitement around a big soccer match. Lots of props and flags – it looks like soccer merch must be France’s main product. Sweeping water off the field into a metal bucket with an ordinary broom looks like a futile endeavor.

Shots seem indifferently framed, scenes make no sense, the cameras seem low-grade… but his films are far-between now, and this showed up on best-of-decade lists, and in particular the experimental/avant-garde/art list I’ve been following… and Godard has spent more time than anyone thinking about the moving image, so even if I’m not especially entertained, there must be something here.

The sound pans, then cuts abruptly, as does the picture. Was that… a fart joke? Yup, and a conversation about pooping later. Really a lot of nudity and flickering televisions. At least one of the nude couples is an affair (“What does your husband do?”). I assumed while watching that the couples in the first half and second half were the same, maybe at different times, but no, the wikis tell me they were “intentionally cast to physically resemble each other.” The four lead actors were not well-known – their recent roles at the time included Woman in tears, Boxing trainer, Hotel receptionist, and French woman #3.

Originally, I put this off because I couldn’t see it in 3D, and maybe I should’ve put it off some more, because THE SHOT is missing in my version.

Beginning of THE SHOT:

A quarter of the movie is Godard taking his dog for a walk. White God came out the same year, so Godard’s dog Roxy had to settle for the Palme Dog runner-up. I’d still like to see Mommy and Mr. Turner and Saint Laurent from that year’s competition, the others not so much.

AO Scott called it “baffling and beautiful, a flurry of musical and literary snippets arrayed in counterpoint to a series of brilliantly colored and hauntingly evocative pictures.” There’s more writing, and I meant to watch this twice, but who’s got time anymore. I liked it about as much as other Godard features I’ve seen from this century: Notre Musique, In Praise of Love, Film Socialism… but give me Nouvelle Vague any day.

Yoav’s orange coat won the big prize at Berlin this year. We’re still catching up with the year in fests – after this, we saw Honeyland (Sundance) and Atlantics (Cannes), and I hold out stupid hope for Vitalina Varela (Locarno) to play in this town. Too bad that Venice voted to give no awards this year, guess I’ll have to run with critical faves About Endlessness and Cold Case Hammarskjöld.

I watched this – in theaters, no less – but couldn’t fathom what to write about it. Then I read Theo’s review, which is perfect. Tom Mercier made an impression as our French-obsessed Israeli, will appear in the next Luca Guadagnino joint. The beautiful rich boy he fortunately runs into is Quentin Dolmaire (My Golden Days), and his girl is Louise Chevillotte (Lover for a Day). My first Nadav Lapid after meaning to catch up with Policeman then The Kindergarten Teacher all decade.

They Might Be Giants “I Left My Body” still has the edge, but this was good too. Told out of order, we see two-handed Naoufel stalking a girl he likes, getting a job with her carpenter uncle and building her a wooden igloo (Neil: “isn’t a wooden igloo just a hut?”). Meanwhile his hand, severed through his incompetence with power saws, can apparently see eyelessly, kill pigeons, and have little hand-flashbacks on its quest to get back to Naoufel. When it arrives, he’s listening to tapes of his dead parents and thinking about jumping off buildings, and the hand wanders off again.

Mark Kermode:

The primary tone is gentle and melancholic – an almost existential evocation of memory, and the longing to be made whole … Just as the themes of I Lost My Body dextrously juggle light and shade, so the film seamlessly blends 2D and 3D-animation techniques with elements of rotoscoped live-action to create what Clapin calls “an animated world halfway between the tangible and the imaginary”.

We saw Clapin’s Skhizein in an animated shorts program a decade ago – can’t remember it well, but it’s also about a guy who lives in two different places at once. The writer worked on my favorite Jean-Pierre Jeunet movies. Played (won!) Cannes Critics’ Week with a bunch of fascinating-looking features that I could spend all week watching, if I could find any of them.