From the Bressane straight into another movie opening with a long take, wind overloading the mic. Sometimes long static shots of empty rooms – but this one goes even further than the Bressane, if that was our goal. Consumer-grade looking and sounding, despite the evident care that went into editing.

Chantal hangs out with her mom… later, her mom is not doing so well. In the kitchen they talk about escaping Belgium during WWII, and on skype they talk in circles. One great bit when Chantal zooms all the way into the screen during a skype call to see her own reflection overlaid on her mother. Otherwise, I have to say I preferred the documentary.

Andréa Picard in Cinema Scope gets it, and links it to Akerman’s memoir and her gallery work that came out shortly before the feature:

In No Home Movie, it is as if Chantal Akerman, perhaps for the first time in her career, has revealed the core of her work and her wounds in the most naked of ways: her frequent focus on confinement, repetition, and confrontation; her longing to be elsewhere; her dizzying instability.

Marcello’s Martin Eden is getting Cinema Scope cover-story attention, so I’m catching up with his previous feature. “Dreams and fables, although imaginary, should tell the truth.” There’s something here, history and metaphor, with documentary footage of protests edited in – it was sometimes beautiful, but the meaning was lost on me.

Tommaso is a volunteer caretaker at an abandoned palace. He dies unexpectedly, so party-masked afterlife character Pulcinella takes on Tommaso’s rescued baby buffalo and searches for its home, the movie narrated at times by the buffalo and using a cow’s-eye lens.

Tommaso did die, at Christmas a year and a half before this movie came out. Marcello had filmed him for an episode of a doc journeying through parts of Italy, and after Tommaso passed, he transformed the film by summoning Pulcinella to continue the journey.

Blake Williams in Cinema Scope:

Both of them, the immortal and the livestock, traverse the bucolic Roman region on a odyssey comprising assorted side narratives, dispirited souls, and scraps of historical detritus they encounter along the way, absorbing them into the film’s whimsical and sombre exquisite corpus … [the buffalo] meanwhile, rambles about his quest to live on a distant star, recounts dreams of humans sprouting wings and flying out to celestial lands of immortality, and preaches about how “being a buffalo is an art,” living as he must in a world that denies animals have souls. To Marcello’s credit, he’s able to keep the barminess of these proceedings in check, balancing the film’s didactic “points” and fantastic flourishes into its network of ideas without lessening the sincerity of its depressive tone.

Strata of the Image (2015, Lois Patino)

The backlit figure from the Phil Solomon shorts stands motionless before a monochrome waterfall, which gradually colorizes into a full rainbow. Peaceful, silent and short, but it feels more like an art-gallery screen-saver than a festival short – and indeed it was, originally.


Fajr (2017, Lois Patino)

Desert figure tableaus, this time with rumbling wind sound then a vocal song, but back to monochrome, each shot looking like the motionless standoff before a samurai battle begins. I dig how each shot is too dark when it begins, and gradually, imperceptibly brightens, but still getting a gallery vibe. When the figures in the final shot dissolve into spectral light then the ocean washes away the desert, this short jumps way ahead of Strata.


Night Without Distance (2015, Lois Patiño)

Technically, this film and Strata are LNKarno selections, having played the Fuori Concorso in Locarno 2015, and this one also appeared on the lists of experimental films I’m following, so I get to count it twice.

Dialogue! Color-inverted tableaus of motionless figures, but this time with dialogue. They’re gonna sneak over the mountains from Galicia with some sort of contraband. The scenario is tense and dangerous, but you wouldn’t know that without sound – the film visuals with their slow-moving figures betray no sense of urgency, even though some are holding rifles.


The Glory of Filmmaking in Portugal (2015 Manuel Mozos) 720p 17min

While we’re in Portugal, here’s a cool little movie, mostly edited from archival materials, investigating four minutes of mysterious footage which seem to prove that a group of poets in 1930 teamed with a French cinematographer to attempt to launch a Portuguese cinema. It seems their attempt was aborted, and Manoel de Oliveira came along the following year anyway, so the country just pinned all its hopes on him.


The Girl Chewing Gum (1976, John Smith)

Something completely different: a street scene with traffic noise and a ringing alarm in the distance, the director shouting out orders to the extras and the cameraman telling them when to make each move… but it’s really ordinary documentary footage with the voiceover added afterwards. Towards the end he speculates that a man in a raincoat just robbed a bank, which explains the alarm. This movie presenting doc footage as planned orchestration has funny timing, since when the collector brought out his reels of mysterious film in the previous short I wondered if this was true or a Forgotten Silver situation. “Art Basel” seems to be a Locarno program of shorts brought over from the same year’s Gässli fest.

The Village Voice, as excerpted on Smith’s website: “Smith takes the piss out of mainstream auteurist ego, but provides proof of the underground ethos: Even with meagre mechanical means, the artist can command the universe.”

At Locarno 2015, Julio Bressane served on a jury, programmed a section of Brazilian films, and presented his new work Garoto (Kid). I was psyched for this, since I’ve seen Bressane’s name around forever. He has an early feature called Killed the Family and Went to the Movies and a brand new one starring a parrot, a woman and “a large portion of raw meat.”

A young woman (Marjorie Estiano, star of Good Manners) calmly philosophizes in static scenes shot with a video-looking handheld camera. She tells her mute boyfriend a story about a boy who loved killing, then she, um, kisses and performs oral sex on the camera. Later, they go to her friend’s house (Josi Antello of Sentimental Education), where the boy apparently freaks out, killing Josi then running away to wander through the desert accompanied by quiet wild-west sounds and the effect of wind overloading a microphone.

Inspired by a Borges story about Billy the Kid. Struck me as a sort of half-assed Révélateur, every shot held too long in that familiar arthouse fest-film way, but without the technique to keep it interesting. I admit a scene that kept panning to a man softly drumming on a painted board was intriguing – the first time it happened. The lo-fi video look might’ve just been me getting a poor-quality copy online, but the mic problems say maybe that’s not the case… either way, it made me think of LNKarno discovery Jean-Claude Brisseau, especially when he positions the two actresses in front of his bookshelves. On one hand, Brisseau seems 100x more interesting and I should look up more of his films… on the other hand… the new Bressane stars a parrot!

Bressane’s messaging was ahead of its time:

Knowing a bit about Neil Hamburger, and seeing this called “anti-comedy,” I skipped it at the time. Now, after Alverson’s great The Mountain (and seeing Neil in concert telling one of my favorite jokes of the decade), I’m catching up, and… maybe I was right to skip this. I dunno, you’ve got Neil’s whole thing with the dirty jokes, Alverson’s patient formal construction (this time super-widescreen instead of 4:3), Tye Sheridan as a clown – it’s more academically interesting than it is a joy to watch.

Gregg Turkington is on an increasingly sad comedy tour through the desert, stopping in each town between gigs to take whatever local tour they’ve got, then to call his kid, promising he’ll get home. He visits cousin John C Reilly who offers advice on Gregg/Neil’s choice of onstage subject matter: “If you wanna appeal to like, all four quadrants, you know like all the different age groups… semen and all that… it’s a little bit much.” After a heckler attacks him post-show and breaks his glasses, he descends into a deeper nightmare than the one in the movie I just watched called The Nightmare.

Jagjaguwar logo in the credits – composer Robert Donne, whose drone soundtrack was a bit much (so it fit in perfectly here, where everything is a bit much) was in their band Spokane with vocalist Rick Alverson! To get onto Turkington’s wavelength, I watched an episode of his show On Cinema with Tim Heidecker, which I will definitely watch more of.

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.

Now something from the Filmmakers of the Present, a section for first and second features. This would be at least Achim Bornhak’s third feature if letterboxd is to be believed – I see an oil-driller bomb-thriller from 1998 and a commie/model/groupie biopic in 2007. The director now goes by Akiz, because the name Bornhak allows for cheap puns in English-language reviews.

A thumping dance beat movie with strobey lights – Gaspar Noe influenced? Three girls, speaking German, attend a party and become concerned that a Tommy Gnosis-looking boy they know has shown up. Leaving the party in handheld wide-angle, Tina gets super-killed by a passing car while picking up a necklace – or she had a premonition of this happening – or she saw a cellphone video of it happening to someone else and simply passed out.

Either way, Tina isn’t quite the same when she gets home, having nightmares of a creature that raids her parents’ fridge at night. Her psychiatrist tells her to touch the beast and prove it’s real, so she does, and it is – and it’s blind and clumsy, and psychically linked to Tina, so she starts taking care of it until they’re discovered and separated by the government. So Tina dresses for a night at the club and heads to the hospital for a covert rescue operation.

Or maybe it’s Neon Demon influenced, I dunno, it seems somehow derivative even though I keep naming films that came out after this. Cutting back and forth on the beat between domestic/hangout scenes and club scenes is cool, but mostly reminded me of that great Michael Smiley episode of Spaced, and the movie is probably much more enjoyable if you can stand rave music.

LNKarno opening night is an Akerman doc, watching as prep for LNKarno closing night No Home Movie. I ended up enjoying the doc, with its discussions of editing strategies in the feature, more than the feature itself. I am a sucker for these things.

Akerman worked at a gay porn theater’s box office, raising money for her early shorts, then stole boxes of expired film to shoot Je, Tu, Il, Elle. “My mother was at the heart of my work,” flashbacks to News from Home. Wonderful to see Saute ma ville, which I just watched, intercut with Jeanne Dielman, discussion of their similarities and her mother’s take on the latter feature. Gus Van Sant, whose Last Days was Akerman-inpired, weighs in. The doc has the same closing credits shot as True Stories.