I thought this would be more Four Weddings and a Funeral, but all the lives/deaths in the title belong to Marcello Mastroianni, who lives at least three different lives in this almost-anthology movie.

Birds and snake:

Firstly, Marcello had walked out on his wife, rented an apartment down the street, and fallen asleep for 20 years, hypnotized by tiny Parisian fairies. When he escapes, he talks his wife’s current guy (Féodor Atkine of a couple Rohmers) into listening to his story, then coming to the apartment and taking his place (less “talks” and more “kidnaps and murders” at that point) while Marcello returns to wife Marisa Peredes (an Almodóvar regular).

Marisa:

Atkine, swimming in chicks

Then Marcello is a bachelor professor with an invalid mum until he gets the sudden urge to leave home and becomes a very successful street beggar and befriends CEO/prostitute Alla Galiena (The Tulse Luper Suitcases), living a double life with her dangerous husband.

Galiena and perverse husband:

Polyamorous couple Martin (Ruiz fave Melvil Poupaud) and Cecile (Marcello’s daughter Chiara Mastroianni) have a mysterious benefactor in Marcello, who leaves them a mansion then performs as their mute butler, and this turns out to be a scheme to steal their newborn and deliver it to Wife #1 Marisa Peredes. Marcello is introduced as a fourth character, a businessman whose young wife is cheating on him, but we’ve already seen characters from the other stories interacting, and now it turns out there’s only one Marcello, and he starts rapidly flipping between personas, then all Marcellos share one death after a fateful meeting at the cafe between the women from each chapter.

A Poupaud and two Mastroiannis:

Marcello is excellent in this, and would die a couple months after it came out. It played a stacked Cannes with Crash, Fargo and Breaking the Waves.

Can’t seem to remember if I ever saw this before – 90% sure that I did not, and that I saw the Kiefer Sutherland remake back in the day. I do remember the girlfriend disappearing at a gas station, the boyfriend searching for years, finally meeting the kidnapper and being given the option of finding out exactly what happened to the girl by experiencing it himself, or never knowing… he chooses the former, and is drugged then buried alive.

But it’s a 100+ minute movie and there’s more to it… like a scene at the beginning where the couple runs out of gas in the middle of a tunnel, and he abandons her in the darkness, some nifty foreshadowing. The man having a new woman in the years-later section of the movie is vaguely familiar – she’s tolerant of his continuing search for his ex, to a point. The main thing I’d lost is that the kidnapper has a major role in the movie. We see him deciding to kidnap people, then figuring out who/when/how. He takes notes and keeps time when knocking himself out with ether, ripped off by Piercing. So the moment when he gets a woman at the gas station to come to his car almost feels like a triumph of luck and planning.

Sluizer’s best-known worked ended up being the two Vanishings. He made other features with respectable actors, dunno why they are obscure. Then he was in the middle of filming with River Phoenix when River died, and Sluizer resorted to making Stephen Baldwin movies. Lead actress Johanna ter Steege turned up in Immortal Beloved and a Philippe Garrel movie.

Fake documentary following the exploits of an area serial killer after the discovery of a room full of videotapes documenting his crimes. Much of this movie is footage “from” those tapes – not just VHS quality, but with an effect like the tapes or camera suffered magnetic damage, the picture bending in waves.

It’s a bummer of a movie that makes you feel bad for watching it. The guy’s first known crime is the abduction/rape/murder of an 8-year-old, the central case is a girl he keeps for a decade and subjects to Martyrs-level torment, and the interviewees are a parade of FBI guys impressed by the killer’s craftiness, which includes railroading a cop to a state execution for the killer’s crimes. So the killer is portrayed as an evil genius still at large at the end, but Se7en or Memories of Murder this ain’t. Let’s stay away from the real sordid feel-bad movies this week and look for more horror-comedies.

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:

Final tally:
Perkins > Bacall > Gielgud > Connery > Cassel > Balsam > Roberts > Bisset >
(good/bad frontier)
Widmark > Hiller > Quilley > York > Bergman > Finney

Richard Widmark wakes up dead on a train, after asking detective Poirot to protect him the day before. Widmark was the mastermind of a heinous kidnapping in prologue, also a huge asshole, and it turns out all of the suspects had motives, each of them affected by his crime, and conspired to kill him together.

Languorously paced, and centered around Finney’s Mike Myers-like appearance and accent, it’s a near-disaster of a movie kept sporadically afloat by a few good scenes and performances, and a touching ending. Anthony Perkins was Widmark’s assistant – nervous, of course… Bergman is a timid religious fanatic who says “little brown babies” pretty often… Vanessa Redgrave is cute and smiley, having an affair with Sean Connery… Wendy Hiller in weird makeup and weird accent plays a princess.

Lumet made a lotta movies, more than forty and this was about the midpoint. The only other of his movies I’ve written about are his very first and his very last. Obviously a weird year for the oscars – Finney was nominated, Bergman won, and the whole list looks like New Hollywood and Old Hollywood in an ugly clash, trading awards between The Godfather II and The Towering Inferno.

I blocked off late January for Rotterdance, and premiere screening Asako was fantastic, then Belmonte and Rojo were pretty whatever… so I’m looking at the remaining options for the following week… Monos, Happy as Lazzaro… movies I keep hearing are great but don’t look attractive like Private Life and The Souvenir… mass-murder fashion-thing Vox Lux… serious stuff by Loznitsa and Petra Costa… and La Flor is there on the list, the ridiculous outlier which obviously I’m not gonna watch because there isn’t time. So that’s what I watched.

Movie from Argentina, in multiple episodes, with multiple chapters, the whole thing cut into multiple parts which don’t align with the episodes (but do align with the chapters) – it’s complicated. The director helps lighten things up by introducing the project in a prologue, looking into camera without moving his mouth, narrating in voiceover, and drawing his diagram of the film’s structure which landed on the cover of Cinema Scope.


Episode 1

Proper b-movie length at 80 minutes, and shot on low-grade video. The audio sounds dry and dubbed, but looks to be in sync. Scientists receive shipment of an ancient mummy, have to babysit it after hours, but one girl (and a black cat) get mummy-cursed, so a psycho-transference specialist comes to help. “I’ll tell you more about it,” she says, as the movie suddenly cuts to episode 2. A Mac OS 9 skype window proves this movie has been in the works for a long time.

Elisa Carricajo = Marcela, lead scientist who is introduced on an awkward date before hectic work day
Laura Paredes = cool, efficient doctor Lucia
Valeria Correa = dazed, cursed, water-guzzling Yani
Pilar Gamboa = mummy-curse specialist Daniela

Dr. Elisa, Dr. Laura:

Mummy-whisperer Pilar:


Episode 2

Famous singer Victoria reminisces to her hair-streaked assistant Flavia about Vic’s rocky/successful recording career and personal life with lousy singer Ricky. Out of the blue, Flavia is in a scorpion cult with the secret of eternal youth, but cult leader Elisa Carricajo doesn’t seem to trust her. Andrea “Superbangs” Nigro, a rival singer, has a whole speech about storytelling and protagonists (it’s a monologue-heavy episode) and is present in the recording booth during the very good climactic Victoria song (but why? I spaced out for a while).

Singer Victoria = Pilar = mummy-curse specialist Daniela
Assistant/Confidante/Cultist Flavia = Laura = cool doctor Lucia
Superbangs singer Andrea Nigro = Valeria = cursed Yani
Scorpion cult leader = Elisa = lead scientist Marcela

Nigro:


Episode 3

Epic spy drama that starts out fun, tries to pivot to being mournful as everyone appears to be doomed, and takes long sidetracks into backstory. The four lead women are teammates in this one – briefly they were five, until their leader Agent 50 takes out the mole sent by a rival assassin collective led by “Mother.” Both team leaders report to Casterman, a spymaster ordered to kill off his own people. It’s like pulp Oliveira at times – it’s never comedy, but has a delightful heightened quality to it. Multiple narrators of different sexes with different viewpoints, and at one point (not even at an intermission), Llinás stops the episode to show off his storyboards.

Casterman:

Commie-trained mute spy Theresa = Pilar
La Niña, daughter of a legendary soldier = Valeria
La 301, globetrotting assassin = Laura
Agent 50, Ukranian super-spy = Elisa

The promo shot… from L-R: 50, 301, Niña, Dreyfuss, Theresa:

My favorite scene, kidnapped Dreyfuss in the cosmos:


Episode 4

After all that narrative drama, this episode is aggressively messing with us. The actresses play “the actresses,” undistinguished and ignored. Llinás introduces them to new producer Violeta in a studio scene of choreographed arguments, then he ditches his production, taking a mobile crew to film trees in bloom with relaxing string music, stopping frequently to write in his notebook. I think it’s a parody of the pretentious filmmaker who has lost his focus/inspiration.

Halfway through, the focus changes, as paranormal investigator Gatto arrives at the site of a mysterious incident, finding the filmmakers’ car high in a tree, the camera and sound crew raving mad, and Llinás missing, having left behind his journals. Gatto calls the La Flor script notes “a load of crap,” gets mixed up with some residents of a psychiatric colony, and follows the director’s tracks through a series of used book stores, as Llinás searches for an old copy of Casanova with a deleted chapter. This all sounds like nonsense, but it comes together beautifully by the end, after seeming like a waste of time for a good while.

“He never refers to any of them in particular, as if the four were a single thing:”


Episode 5

“In episode five, the girls don’t appear… at the time we thought it was interesting.” I think it’s the same Guy de Maupassant story that Jean Renoir filmed in the 1930’s. A couple of cool dudes with fake mustaches give horse rides to a whitesuit man and his son, when they’re derailed by a couple of picnicking women, who pair off with the mustache men after whitesuit rides away. This is all capped with an air show, and is a lovely diversion after the long previous section.


Episode 6

Heavy organ music and intertitles – the four stars are reunited, but blurred as if shot from behind a dirty screen. Aha, it’s filmed using a camera obscura, a pre-camera device which throws a reverse image through a pinhole. Supposedly the women have escaped from unseen savages and are dodging a giant steampunk insect before returning to their homes. Partially nude and without closeups, they’re finally indistinguishable.

Essential reading: Nick Pinkerton for Reverse Shot and Jordan Cronk’s Cinema Scope feature.

The opening abduction scene will make more sense eventually, and even then, it wasn’t until I started playing the commentary that I could say with any confidence what’s happening in the open. The household scene that follows quickly reminded that we’re in the hands of the Hard to be a God director – full of movement and talking, bustling activity in every corner of long roving camera takes.

Yuri is a military doctor in 1953, bald with a mustache, an important man who will be brought low by forces that we twenty-first-century non-Soviets can hardly fathom without audio explanation. It’s sure entertaining though, and practically as foul and brutish as God. Sound effects are good – dubbing is bad, but I’m constantly checking subtitles since the movie never shuts up for a second, so we’ll call it even.

Birdie!

Learned from the commentary: the movie is in two parts since they could get double budget if it was submitted as two films. One character with a cane umbrella would be seen as a hilarious foreigner by Russian audiences since he wears galoshes. There are major literature and poetry references throughout (I caught Viy and Sadko). German didn’t look through the camera viewfinder or select lenses, considered cinematographer Vladimir Ilin a co-author of the film, “the lighting cameraman has to be an artist too.”

The doctor gets home, but his son in voiceover says he never saw his father again… there was a double in the film, being trained what to say in case he was captured, and other doubles and siblings, so maybe I got some characters confused, and I only played the first hour of the commentary. It involves antisemitism, the death of Stalin, and a scandal called The Doctor’s Plot, which refuses to make sense no matter how much I read about it. To be clear though, the movie’s power comes through fine even not knowing what’s happening – in fact, I wonder if it’s the whole point not to know. “Poetry floats up in my memory like sailboats in the fog, along with salami.” The doctor ends up on a train, tormenting the abducted man from the opening scene, and looking intense:

German:

Another part of the population was starving in the gulag, but we ignored that reality; we only knew ours, and I can assure you that from that point of view, living in a totalitarian regime isn’t all bad. People who don’t want to know lead an adorable life. That’s why even today a lot of people in our country yearn for totalitarianism.

Yeesh, we had no idea. One brother goes into town, finds a gal who’s eager to escape, convinces her to marry him, and heads back into the woods. So far so good… but then his six brothers sneak into town, kidnap six girls, cover their tracks with an avalanche, hold the girls hostage until the thaw, and when their family members arrive in spring with rifles and pitchforks the girls have the stockholm syndrome and ask to get married.

Before the mass kidnapping, saddled with a flustered husband and six hungry boys, Jane Powell sure turns this rowdy bunch of crude mountain men into model citizens in a couple scenes. Sure the men have lapses, like when they get in a brawl and destroy the barn they were supposed to be building, but the men from town were attacking them with boards and hammers! Maybe after Jane’s lessons in manners, they realized that the men in town are the savages, and deserve to have all their eligible young ladies stolen away to the hills.

Donen made this between Singin’ in the Rain and It’s Always Fair Weather. In scope with bold and bright (but shaky) color. I’m not sure any of the songs were great, but the staging and dance were all tops. Giant dude and oldest brother Adam was Howard “Not Richard” Keel of Annie Get Your Gun, and his bride Jane Powell is from Royal Wedding. Too many burly, beardy, identical-looking dudes and pretty girls without any character to mention – we focused on Russ Tamblyn as the youngest brother, didn’t realize Julie “Catwoman” Newmar was in there too. Remade in the 80’s with River Phoenix, then again with Amitabh Bachchan

This was just about a good enough movie to watch on a plane – which I did. I knew Chloë Grace got conned into being friends with lonely crackpot Isabelle Huppert, but not that Isabelle kidnaps and brainwashes her in the second half, murders private eye Stephen Rea sent by Chloë’s dad, then is defeated by Maika Monroe, who searches the subways until she finds a purse lure with Greta’s home address. When investigating, they’re told that Greta acts this way (the obsessive calling, not the kidnapping/murder) with everyone, and that she’s not even French (ha). Somehow only the third Neil Jordan movie I’ve seen – Mona Lisa was alright (so was this), and I’ve been meaning to watch The Company of Wolves.