“Something is going to happen.”

I enjoyed the movie a lot, more than the other post-breakdown Rivette films I’ve seen. Along the way, tried to draw connections to his other work and figure out what it all means. Might be difficult since I haven’t watched related works Duelle and Noroit yet, but this was supposed to be part one of the still-unfinished four-part series, so I thought it might work.

We’ve got such Rivette favorite themes as…

Performance and ritual:
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…secrets hidden in an old house:
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…and a sinister photograph:
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We’ve got such late-period trademarks as the fade to black after each scene, the ordinary household details of daily life, and the minimal music score.

So yeah, I followed the story, tried to figure out what was happening and why, and guessed I had an alright grasp of things. Bopped around the web looking for opinions.

DVDverdict didn’t like it much:

Béart and Radzilowicz, improbably matched as lovers but fine as actors, go through their paces with all due seriousness, but in the end there’s little momentum, little of interest, and little reward. At the core of the story is forbidden love, and what we will do in its name, but Rivette’s proficient, clinically precise filmmaking refuses to embrace the one element of his story upon which even Marie and Julien’s personal tragedies hinge.

On a separate review on the same site, DVDverdict rather did like it:

One’s growing realization that the strange emotional affect of the characters, and dialogue that sometimes comes off as artificial and intellectually abstract, are both servants of plot and not merely pretentious art film conceits is a great source of delight.

Then I hit up Senses of Cinema, which proved that neither I nor DVDverdict had any idea what we were watching, and made me feel bad all week for not having thought of any of this stuff by myself.

Before getting into that, despite author Michael J. Anderson’s statement that “a traditional analysis which details the plot and characterisations utilised in the narrative is of little use in talking about Rivette’s film,” I’m gonna lay those out just so I don’t forget ’em later.

Julien (Jerzy Radziwilowicz, Walser in Secret Defense) works from home as a clock repairman, alone but for his cat.
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He dreams of a chance encounter with Marie (who he met one time a year earlier) that ends with her trying to stab him. Goes out and has a chance encounter with Marie, who agrees to go out for coffee but never shows up. So he goes back to blackmailing Madame X (Anne Brochet, of Intimate Strangers and a 1992 French Phil K. Dick adaptation), who runs a phony business and may have killed her own sister.

Finally Marie (Emmanuelle Béart, of La Belle noiseuse, Strayed, an Assayas, some Chabrols and Mission: Impossible) mysteriously reappears. They’re both lonely and attracted to each other, and he soon asks her to move in. Cue transition from part 1 (“Julien”) to part 2 (“Julien et Marie”).

Julien et Marie:
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The two have hot role-playing sex together, finishing each other’s erotic stories. Marie moves in but remains mysterious, spends her free time secretly rearranging an upstairs room, and sometimes disappears to a hotel and has to be tracked down. She is let in on the blackmailing plot, but while Julien is meeting with Madame X, Marie appears to be meeting with X’s dead sister (Bettina Kee of Va savoir).

More dead than alive:
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Things get more ghostly when Marie also appears to be dead, having killed herself months earlier after an argument with her then-boyfriend, as we move to parts 3 (“Marie et Julien”) and 4 (“Marie”). Keeping in mind the dream at the beginning and the unreal tone to the meeting pictured above, I start to wonder which parts of the story are actually happening.

Marie acts more strange, starts chanting in a foreign language, and remodels the upstairs room to look exactly like the one in which she hung herself, then is stopped by Julien when she tries to ritualistically repeat that action. The blackmail plot plays out, and the two sisters meet and work things out.

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“Now I am yours. You are mine. Where I must go you will accompany me. For what I must do you will help me. Don’t fail me, or you will lose the very memory of me.”

Julien rebels and it happens. Marie disappears to him, though we still see her. This is where an ordinary ghost story would end… he broke the rules and the prophecy came true… but Marie becomes real again, her blood is restored and they get their happy ending.

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Oh, and I’d read an article on Kino Slang a while back about this movie but had forgotten and thought it was referring to Duelle. Fun to watch the documentary moments in the film as Julien’s cat responds to the camera crew and boom mic offscreen.

Alas, 30 years on, Rivette gets reproached when in Histoire de Marie et Julien he crystalizes some of his former narrative terror and anti-illusionism into one brief shot of a cat on a man’s chest recoiling from the camera and the boom, the whole appartus bearing down on them in a tracking shot. A Bazinian anti-illusionism. Once the camera settles, the cat stares up at the boom mic. Perhaps the man is “covering” for the cat when he looks up too and says “nosing around upstairs again?

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On to the great analysis from Senses of Cinema:

Rivette structures his film not as a dream or a series of dreams, but instead eviscerates any distinction between dream and reality, establishing a logic present only in fiction – there is no distinction between consciousness and subconsciousness, dream and reality, life and death, but rather, all is fiction.

With the opening “Julien” intertitle, Rivette suggests that this character may be constructing the narrative: for instance, there is simultaneous depiction of desire (that Marie needs him, that she is free, that they meet on the street; and more directly later in the film, a cut from Marie stroking Julien’s arm to the pair making love) and anxiety (the knife, the fact that she stands him up) woven throughout the opening section of the film. Yet, this evident focalisation – the narrative being told through Julien – does not last, as Marie quickly becomes a co-creator of the pursuant narrative. In a more directly self-aware moment of creation, for instance, Marie speculates about two sisters in a photo that she and Julien are examining: “one is dead, the other alive.” Likewise, Marie asks Julien to tell her about the “forest”, which leads into an erotic fantasy narrated first by Julien, and then by Marie herself. (At this point they are co-creators of the narrative, taking turns constructing the incident.) Moreover, there are also scenes in which Julien plays no part at all, such as a mysterious nocturnal meeting – that once again Rivette suggests may be a dream – between Marie and the dead woman from the photo, who imparts a fragment of information and gives her a secret hand signal. And then there are also the subsequent intertitles: “Julien and Marie”, “Marie and Julien” and “Marie”, which similarly denote shifting narrative perspectives.

Indeed, if anything, Marie seems to occupy a special place in the narrative, as it is she and not Julien who seems aware of the fact that they are in a narrative.

And there’s more about the theatricality of the film… stuff that I should’ve been able to catch. Ugh… next time I need to either try harder, or find articles to read BEFORE watching the movie. Maybe I’ll try that with Duelle then see if I can fend for myself with Don’t Touch The Axe.

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“Washingtonians” may still be the stupidest episode of this “Masters of Horror” season so far, but this one is outright the worst. The others have been falling over themselves trying to find a new twist (“I know! george washington was a cannibal! oooh, killer ice cream man and if you eat his ice cream you TURN INTO ICE CREAM!”), but this one gives us no reason to watch, recycling three tired old horror concepts and adding no new style or twist or excellence:

1. guy is afraid of a thing [water] and must confront that thing [go on a boat ride with his boss and boss’s wife whom guy is secretly sleeping with].

2. guy and boss have killed people in the past [guy’s brother drowned, boss killed his ex-wife] who come back as ghosts to haunt them.

3. things keep happening that were just a dream… or were they???!???!??????!!!?

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Guy’s dead brother wasn’t killed on purpose so in the end he helps take care of the malicious dead ex-wife. Still, guy and boss’s wife are left floating out in the ocean at night, and guy is bleeding from the leg, so I hope sharks eat them before morning.

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I only half paid attention. Writer of Ring/Dark Water (who is starting to seem obsessive about drowning) and director of Scarecrow and Ring 0. The boss played the lead in “Audition” and the not-as-good white guy starred in “Captivity”.

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Watched many times before, but never in dolby disney digital 3-D with cool polarized-lens non-headache-inducing glasses! The 3D effect was great, adding layers of depth (not pop-out-of-the-screen gimmicks) to an already gorgeous movie. Of course seeing the movie on a big screen again gives new appreciation to the intricate visual details, but why were some of the camera-panning motion scenes so blurry? Did the 3D effect do that, or have they always been that way?

fun fact: Chris Sarandon, lead actor in master-of-horror Tom Holland’s “Child’s Play” and “Fright Night”, voices the non-singing Jack Skellington.

Katy sorta likes it. Maria did not. Kids today… sigh.

FEB 2017: Watched at The Ross, followed by a Q&A with the great Danny Elfman.
I think Katy likes it more than she used to.

Don’t know why I’m frustrated by this, but the movie seems VERY Kiyoshi Kurosawa in themes, plot, pacing and look. It’s nice to see auteurist consistency, but Kurosawa’s not injecting his personality subtly into a studio picture, he’s writing all his own films, so maybe he could stick these themes somewhere else than another supernatural detective story. Those complaints aside, going through the screenshots I was struck again by what a nice looking movie it is… probably superior to the rest of the now decaying J-horror genre, which is again why I wish he’d break out of that genre for good instead of coming back to ghost stories after showing his depth with Bright Future and Charisma. Although, maybe Kurosawa was requested to write this kind of picture by his producers, who have done a whole ton of J-Horror, including the Ring and Grudge series, Reincarnation and Cross Fire… yeah, I’ll go with that.

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Kurosawa fave Kôji Yakusho plays Noboru, an unremarkable detective with a cute girlfriend he sees off and on. A murder is committed, a woman in a red dress drowned in salt water, and the clues point to Noboru. His partner Miyagi suspects him and he begins to suspect himself, but soon there are two other murders to distract them. A high-school kid and an office worker are also found drowned in salt water, but Noboru, playing on a ghostly intuition, quickly finds the murderers: the boy’s father Dr. Takagi, upset at the boy’s out of control behavior, and the man’s secretary with whom he was cheating on his wife.

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The two (three?) are unlikely people to be murderers, but they are all apparently driven to kill by the ghost of the red dress lady, who has been haunting our detective. I think she was either a former inmate at a black asylum on the river or a passer-by who got lost there. The ferry used to pass that building a decade ago, and our hero would see her in the window. The killings are her revenge for being ignored and left behind. “I died, so everyone else should die too”. She’s the collective conscience of the ferry riders, or the guilt of a civilization.

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I’m not sure if our detective killed the woman in red, but he is revealed to have killed his girlfriend. In the end, he alternates between seeing her (ghost) and being able to hold her, and seeing her dead decayed body on the floor, drowned in a pan of salt water. He goes to the black building and confronts the woman in red, who is grateful to be recognized, but carries on her quest to drown everyone in salt water. The final scene is our man wandering the empty city streets, once again (as in Pulse) the survivor of a ghostly apocalypse brought on by loneliness and neglect (and revenge [let’s not forget the title of the film], another of Kurosawa’s very favorite topics).

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Kurosawa reveals the ghost in different ways. Sometimes the detective is haunted in his dark apartment (the usual way to be haunted by a ghost), but sometimes he sees her in broad daylight, disturbingly composited into the shot to give her an otherworldly appearance, and sometimes (as in a great long-shot interrogation scene with Dr. Takagi) she’s in the room with a group of people, but only visible to one (and not to the audience).

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The movie is not too scary as horror (just a few jumpy moments), and it’s only okay as a detective story or a parable about society, but Kurosawa brings his usual mastery to the plotting and camera work, making it the most worthwhile movie I watched this week anyway. It’s not nearly as complicated / incomprehensible as reviews seem to indicate… jeez, are these people playing video games during the movie that they can’t ever follow a story, or am I some sort of narrative expert that I can? The movie portrays Tokyo as a crumbling metropolis besieged by earthquakes, and scenes are set in decayed abandoned buildings and over landfills.

H. Stewart at Film School Rejects writes:

Retribution’s greatest defiance of horror convention is that despite the identical M.O.s of the murders, there is no serial killer afoot, as the police suspect; Kurosawa’s cultural commentary, vaguely similar to that found in Mario Bava’s Bay of Blood, hints that the sorry state of our global society is not the result of one bad individual, one rampaging murderer of the Michael Meyers variety, but as a result of all of our combined actions; nearly everyone in the film is a killer, implying that we are all collectively culpable, not only for the things we do but for the things we don’t do that nevertheless manage to have a pernicious effect on others, even though we might not be conscious of it. … Retribution, coming in the era of the Iraq War, serves to show the devastating result of an unquenchable need for vengeance, and how we’re all responsible.

Our guy and his partner:
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Interestingly, the working title for Rob Zombie’s new remake was Halloween: Retribution, so I just saw two movies in a row named Retribution.

The cinematographer previously worked on K. Kurosawa’s Loft as well as Fatherfucker and Splatter: Naked Blood. Dr. Takagi starred in Princess Raccoon and Kurosawa’s Bright Future. The woman in red starred in Parasite Eve. Detective Toru Miyaji (above, right) was the horse-riding Baron in Letters From Iwo Jima and starred in the first of the 90’s Gamera movies. Harue starred in Udon, which I just missed at Emory last week. Kôji Yakusho (our star Noboru) starred in Cure, Charisma, Doppelganger, Seance, Eureka, The Eel, Shall We Dance, Babel, Memoirs of a Geisha, and appears at the end of Pulse.

One article on this film refers to Loft as a “ghost story/mummy film”. Can’t wait.

The photography & video quality on this are so excellent, the story could’ve been about nothing and I still would’ve enjoyed it. But the story is neat too.

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A worker has deserted from the army, and runs off with his son in search of work. He’s lured to a mining town and then killed by a mysterious white-suited man. End of movie.

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But no! First of all, he sticks around as a ghost… second, the same actor plays a lookalike union leader at one of the two mining communities. Nobody figures out who the white-suited man is, or what he’s up to, but he later kills a women shopkeeper also, the last person to see the first man alive. The union bosses flail around and finally kill each other, the dead wander among the ghost community of the town, and the murdered man’s son hides, observes, and lives off stolen candy from the shop as the movie gets quickly darker and stranger. Apparently it’s all a satire about corruption.

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An excellent first feature. Teshigahara had his visual style down, wasn’t injecting as much surreal weirdness into the image as he later would. Reviews mention Antonioni and Resnais as visual influences, and Kafka, Beckett and Carroll as story influences. This came out right after Jigoku, Viridiana, Last Year at Marienbad, The Testament of Orpheus, Eyes Without a Face and L’Avventura, and fits right in with that early 60’s European art film scene.

Eureka says “Teshigahara coined the term ‘documentary fantasy’ for this study of the powerless, impoverished worker in postwar Japan.”

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SUCH a fun movie, I watched it twice in one day. Seen it a bunch of times before, too. Perfect balance of comedy, horror, mystery, romance, effects, live action, serious drama and loony overacting.

Commentary has fun/useless trivia, looking forward to the very long doc on disc 2. For the first time, I was seeing the extended “director’s cut”. Extra shots and scenes didn’t improve the movie necessarily, but they didn’t hurt it either. Sometimes more of a good thing is just more of a good thing. No real need for plot description since I don’t think I’ll forget it anytime soon. So here are screen shots instead.

Katy came in during the same scene twice, and didn’t seem thrilled about the whole thing.

fun deleted scene:
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still badass even in death:
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Michael J. dies a lot in this movie:
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danny elfman’s favorite scene:
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saturn award nominated Jeffrey Combs:
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no oscars, but won lots of emmys and golden globes:
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oscar-winning director Peter Jackson:
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Penelope Cruz (All About My Mother, Sahara) is RAIMUNDA. Carmen Maura (star of Women on the Verge) is her dead mother. Lola Dueñas (one of the nurses in Talk To Her) is her divorced sister. Yohana Cobo is her daughter. Chus Lampreave (Leo’s mother in Flower of My Secret) is her aunt who lives “alone” in their home town. Blanca Portillo (the queen of Spain in Milos Forman’s next movie) is an old friend who checks up on the aunt every day, has a missing mother, and develops cancer.

Tons of plot, as usual. Cruz’s husband tries to rape his daughter, is killed. Cruz buries him by the river with prostitute neighbor’s help. Cruz’s dark secret is that daughter’s real father is Cruz’s own father, who was killed in a fire by his wife while cheating with Blanca’s mother… so Cruz’s mother not really dead but hiding with the aunt. Cruz takes over neighbor’s restaurant, runs it for a film crew and gets it back on its feet. Sister hangs out with mom, talks about family, runs illicit hairdressing business from home.

Similarities with All About My Mother are many. Theme of returning home, theme of motherhood and “us women gotta stick together”, taking care of each other and helping raise kids. Everyone’s involved in illegal businesses, friends with prostitutes, drug use (Blanca grows+smokes weed). Secret pasts and secret pregnancies. Men are barely present. No transexuals in this one. Good music scene, not as nice as the Caetano Veloso scene in Talk To Her but close. Funeral scenes, film crews and television appearances. Feels like an Almodovar movie. Imagine that.

Neat scene: sister goes to aunt’s funeral, accidentally walks into the meeting room for men instead of women. More men than we’ve ever seen in one place (including the film wrap party at the restaurant)! Feels not just like the wrong room, but the wrong movie… everyone stares uncomfortably and she’s quickly ushered back into the world of women. Cruz is great, expressive, with her lipsynched song a highlight. Opening scene with all the town’s residents cleaning off their parents’ graves. The mom hiding all over the place. Touching ending, Cruz’s mom thanks Blanca for not mentioning her on television (when searching for her own mother), and comes to stay with her “until the end”.

Katy liked it too.

The horrible thing is that the last movie I saw, just two nights before, was Black Narcissus, also starring Deborah Kerr. I knew it was her, and when she first showed up, I said “that’s Deborah Kerr” and I STILL didn’t recognize her. Looks totally different. What is wrong with me?

Starts out reeeal obvious, as super-rich guy hires pleasant woman to care for pleasant-enough kids at secluded estate and kids turns out to be spooky or house turns out to be haunted or something. But then gets downright creepy with boy trying to make out with Ms. Kerr and tons of great gothic atmosphere. High quality little movie. The Others was based on the same book.