Photojournalist Jack Nicholson isn’t having a great time in Saharan Africa, sees an opportunity and grabs it, stealing the identity of his suddenly deceased hotel neighbor, the only other white guy in town. Jack’s abandoned wife Jenny Runacre (The Final Programme, Jarman’s Jubilee) investigates, while Jack faithfully follows the dead guy’s appointment book, even after learning that he was an arms dealer, and meets the same fate as the guy he’s impersonating, though he gets to hang out with Maria Schneider along the way.

Maria, Jack, Gaudi:

Thought I’d seen this a long time ago, but maybe I’ve confused it with The Conformist again. MA: “Actually, the entire story takes place in a short period of one day, from early morning until some time before sunset” – that’s not true, it’s set in four countries and we see a UK newspaper article about Jack’s death in Africa, and we see Jack’s appointments spread across a week in the book. Maybe he meant as the film was originally written. The fourth movie I’ve seen in the last few years to play in the 1975 competition at Cannes. Argh, the execution footage in this wasn’t faked.

Las Ramblas:

The Torquays was a successful five-piece band of U.S. soldiers who’d stayed in Germany after their war service, playing nightly shows when two serious German art-school dudes approached them and convinced them to rebrand as The Monks and play a pared-down but forceful new kind of rock music. We spend much time with the band members, leaving no anecdote untold and culminating in a one-off NYC reunion show with celebrities like Jon Spencer in the crowd. Still one of the greatest albums ever made… this two-hour movie has only about 15 minutes of illuminating stories, but it’s nice to spend so much time in a world where the Monks mattered.

Rare, cool wasteland-set movie, a whole methodically-posed headfuck art-feature a half decade before Marienbad. Vague reverb-affected announcements echo on the soundtrack as a truck drives over gravel and desert. I’m happy to see there are still flocks of birds after the German apocalypse. Driver drags passenger’s luggage to an abandoned-looking town where he finds a kid among drum-and-bass soundtrack jazz. The man loses his shit, pulls a gun on the kid (covered in ants) for not speaking, the woman spills her drink on purpose. Everything from the editing to the focus and music and sound takes turns messing with your head.

A monologue about Sisyphus as the moody driver lies under the truck covered in oil. I can’t tell if the movie is a time loop or if we spent some time in a flashback. Eventually the man finds a cute girl and shoots her dead – biggest surprise is when the cops show up and bust him, in what I’d assumed was a lawless wasteland. After the Goalie, I programmed an accidental double-feature of German stories of motiveless murder.

The credits claim participation by Hans Richter (according to a Richter interview, not true) and commentary by Albert Camus. Played Locarno ’55 alongside a couple of Jiri Trnka features and a Karel Zeman, a lot of nazi movies, and the latest prestige dramas from the US, UK, Germany and France

Vogel’s descriptions are off to a shaky start. “In a desolate, destroyed landscape – bearing now irrelevant traces of technological society – a man and a boy try to find their way under a
fierce sun.” There’s cars, oil, money and cops, all still relevant, and the boy isn’t trying to find his way anyplace.


More of Vogel’s Subversives…

Blue Moses (1962, Stan Brakhage)

Melies motion/edit tricks in a flickering cave. Sync sound! Clean dialogue, no music/fx, of a rich-voiced Wellesian actor, or maybe Charlton Hestonian per the film title. He seems to be riffing in a field, unsure what to say, Brakhage holding still on the actor but going into jitter-mode whenever the camera looks away at the scenery. The actor goes through a range of looks, sometimes wearing so much makeup he looks like a cartoon. Repetition of the credits (drawn in chalk on the rocks). In the last section the actor’s words and a projector beam with Stan’s shadow draw our attention to the filmmaking process. I’m out of the habit of watching Brakhage films – this is from the Dog Star Man years and is very good. Actor Robert Benson, a fellow Colorado resident, had also appeared in Desistfilm.


Canyon (1970, Jon Jost)

Full-day time-lapse looking over the Grand Canyon… shooting a few seconds at a time, lap dissolving the segments. I’d only seen narrative(ish) work by Jost, wasn’t aware of the shorts. Silent, so I played El Ten Eleven’s “Growing Shorter,” which worked great.

Mouseover to move the sun:
image

“This is a book about the subversion of existing values, institutions, mores, and taboos… by the potentially most powerful art of the century.” I saw it was Amos Vogel’s 100th birthday and celebrated by beginning to read his Film as a Subversive Art. The plan is to watch some movies covered within, though sticking to grand long-term viewing projects isn’t my forte. Hey, Vogel went to UGA before moving to NYC, wonder what the Athens film scene was like back then.

A modern alienation movie, the still camera and attention to jukeboxes presumably an influence on Kaurismaki. The Goalie is on leave after arguing with a ref, wanders about with nowhere special to be, seeing movies and picking up women, the movie sexlessly fading to black whenever he’s alone with one. After spending some time with ticket taker Gloria he randomly strangles her, and it fades out on this too. The people get more eccentric as he goes to the country to visit an old friend and his focus on the local newspapers turns from soccer scores to the murder investigation closing in on him.

Wim’s debut feature. A film marquee advertises a then-nonexistent Patricia Highsmith adaptation – a few features later, Wenders would make his own. Our hero Arthur Brauss (who explains the title in the final scene) had smallish roles in a Peckinpah, a Frankenheimer, an Elaine May.

Per Vogel:

His world – a glossy, Americanized Vienna – is seen as existential mystery, lacking explanation. Fearful matters are touched upon in laconic, strange dialogue. An air of vague dread, intensified by the film’s magic realism, permeates the mysteries hinted at but never confronted.

Broke mopey people have sullen conversations against plain backgrounds, all referring to some plan but not cluing us in, their relationship swapping getting out of hand. Nihilist movie full of banalities, even in love, some pleasant repeated shots like a couple walking toward camera with different characters every time.

The director plays a Greek who everyone turns on, painting him as a large-cocked rapist, while he just wanted to be friends. Hanna Schygulla and Hans Hirschmüller return from Fass’s debut, which I watched in 2015 – maintaining six years between features, I’ll get to Querelle in the year 2183. But maybe I’ll increase the pace since watching this drab movie improved my drab week – funny how art can work.

Kalat says this was the sixth Mabuse movie, a combination sequel and remake. It has some typical sequel behavior, taking its villain backstory too far by explaining that brain abnormalities cause his evil power. Other than this, it’s a pretty good movie, much better than the 60’s Fantômas update.

Inspector Gert Fröbe (fresh off Fritz Lang’s own 1960 Mabuse movie) knows only one criminal mind could be behind a counterfeiting ring, but Mabuse (Wolfgang Preiss, also from the Lang) is secured in an asylum, so he visits the place and discovers that a doctor (the prolific Walter Rilla, who started out with Murnau’s Finances of the Grand Duke) is being hypnotized into passing along the mastermind’s messages. Corrupt cop Flocke tries to atone by getting into Mabuse’s gang, but is killed… Boxer Johnny joins the gang then finds he and his girl are trapped… the doctor apparently survives to appear in the next two movies.

Harmless Mabuse scribbles away while Gert reviews his notes and the bowtie doctor observes:

Trapped boxer:

Mind-controlled doctor takes a drive:

Johannes breaks up with mythological creature / freelance historian Undine (Paula Beer of Transit), and a few minutes later professional diver Franz Rogowski introduces himself, and they have a romantic moment that gets them banned for life from the local cafe.

Reverse angle of the poster shot:

Johannes tries to inject himself back into the mix, and gets killed for his efforts, while Franz was true but unfortunate, and gets resurrected.

Franz and coworker Maryam Zaree:

I need the relevance of the city planning lecture stuff explained to me, and thought the overall structure of the movie only kinda worked, but moment-to-moment I was quite thrilled to be watching it, if only as Transit-afterglow.

A movie where the main dialogue scene is about finding truth in film performances, which also spends 15+ minutes watching middle schoolers perform Hamlet. Bookend scenes feature a dog who hunts and eats a rabbit palling around with a quiet donkey. Someone hops a fence and collapses at a gravesite to an M. Ward song. Happy to see Franz Rogowski in a small part.

Astrid deals with a kid who’s in trouble at school, and a defective bicycle she bought secondhand from a disabled man. She meets a director whose film she hated and talks his ear off about his poor cinema decisions. A good-looking movie, I enjoyed spending time with it, even if I haven’t figured out what it’s on about. Been hearing about Schanelec for a while, mostly from Cinema Scope – before this came out, Blake Williams called her films “notoriously evasive” and says she “presents us with only enough narrative so that we feel our desire for narrative.”

The 2020 post-election ceremonial final SHOCKtober movie of this extended season. Convoluted murder-mystery involving a pianist getting a hand transplant then being set up by a con man to believe his new hands are committing murders.

The movie is mostly Conrad Veidt (halfway between Somnambulist and Laughing Man) or his wife (Alexandra Sorina, also of Veidt’s Rasputin movie) standing very still, paralyzed with wide-eyed terror.

Fat-faced Fritz Kortner (Berlin Express, Pandora’s Box) is the con man. Veidt’s doomed father is Fritz Strassny, villain of The Man Who Laughs – but the 1921 version, of which Veidt’s was a remake. I must now see the Peter Lorre remake Mad Love.

Kortner, trapped:

Some good German words in the intertitles… making rubber gloves with the dead man’s fingerprints involves Gummihandschuhe mit den Fingerabdrücken.