It’s the second annual LNKarno Festival, a reprise of Locarno’s lineup from five years ago, viewed on my couch in Lincoln. Last year I watched ten features and some shorts in a long weekend – this time we have a busier summer so I spread things out over a couple weeks.

LNKarno-week viewings in green, regular links for films I’d seen previously, unlinked might be good to watch in the future.

Main Competition:

Gare du Nord (Claire Simon)
What Now? Remind Me (Joaquim Pinto)
Pays Barbare (Yervant Gianikian & Angela Ricci Lucchi)
When Evening Falls on Bucharest or Metabolism (Corneliu Porumboiu)
Short Term 12 (Destin Daniel Cretton)
Our Sunhi (Sang-soo Hong)
Story of My Death (Albert Serra)
The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears (Hélène Cattet & Bruno Forzani)
Sentimental Education (Júlio Bressane)
Exhibition (Joanna Hogg
Wetlands (David Wnendt)
Real (Kiyoshi Kurosawa)
Backwater (Shinji Aoyama)

Filmmakers of the Present (first and second features)

Sheep (Gilles Deroo & Marianne Pistone)
The Unity of All Things (Alexander Carver & Daniel Schmidt)
The Dirties (Matt Johnson)
Manakamana (Stephanie Spray & Pacho Velez)
Chameleon (Elvin Adigozel & Ru Hasanov)
Coast of Death (Lois Patiño)
By the River (Nontawat Numbenchapol)
The Ugly One (Eric Baudelaire)

Critics Week (new documentaries, selected by film journalists)

Master of the Universe (Marc Bauder)
Watermarks (Three Letters from China) (Luc Schaedler)

Signs of Life (first year)

El Futuro (Luis Lopez Carrasco)
A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness (Ben Rivers and Ben Russell)
Dignity (James Fotopoulos)
How to Disappear Completely (Raya Martin)

Piazza Grande (open air screenings, out of competition)

Wrong Cops (Quentin Dupieux)
Blue Ruin (Jeremy Saulnier)
About Time (Richard Curtis)
Gloria (Sebastián Lelio)

Fuori Concorso (recent work by established filmmakers, out of competition)

Géographie Humaine (Claire Simon)
If I Were A Thief, I’d Steal (Paulo Rocha)
Death Row II (Werner Herzog)
Strangers When We Meet (Masahiro Kobayashi)
America (Valerie Massadian)
Mahjong (João Rui Guerra da Mata and João Pedro Rodrigues)
The King’s Body (João Pedro Rodrigues)
The End Of Walnutgrove (Eckhard & Fiala & Fiala & Haidl)
The Green Serpent – Of Vodka, Men And Distilled Dreams (Benny Jaberg)
Un Conte De Michel De Montaigne (Jean-Marie Straub)

Histoire(s) du Cinema (sidebar devoted to film history)

L’Ours (Daniel Karolewicz)
Batang West Side (Lav Diaz)
Cinéastes De Notre Temps: Conversation Avec George Cukor (André S. Labarthe and Hubert Knapp)
Journal D’Un Montage (Annette Dutertre)
Notes On Film 6B: A Masque Of Madness (Monologue 02) (Norbert Pfaffenbichler)
Red Hollywood (Thom Andersen)
Red Ashes (Augusto Contento and Adriano Aprà)
Network (Sidney Lumet)
and tributes to Otar Iosseliani, Sergio Castellitto, Paulo Rocha and Anna Karina

Top prizewinner at Locarno 2012, so it’s the closer of LNKarno 2017, and an ass-kicking low-key ghost movie, reminiscent of Personal Shopper down to the direct Victor Hugo references.

Dora (Virginie Legeay of Brisseau’s Exterminating Angels, also his assistant director) appears beaten and bloodied at the front door of Michel (played by the late-Depardieu-looking director himself), he invites her to move in, then strange things start to happen: objects moving on their own, glimpses of robed figures in the hall, and sounds from the closet like a wolf moving a bureau.

I liked the movie’s style, especially once the spirits appeared with charmingly simple ghost-costumes. The whole thing appears to have been shot on the cheap, with medium-res video and occasional mic problems – unless the DVD was just poorly produced. Set mostly in Michel’s apartment (the director’s own, per Cinema Scope), which is wall-to-wall media – books and albums and every classic-cinema DVD boxed set.

Dora tests Michel, suspicious of his intentions. For his part, he seems honestly enthused to have somebody to pay attention to, after living alone for three decades, acting like she’s a long-lost daughter home for a visit. She moves in and helps with his book “about the importance of delusion in our lives”. Then he proposes they marry, so she can inherit his apartment tax-free (there’s a Freud paperback in the movie’s second shot). In the end, the book is finished and he’s killed by a thief – I think with the inheritance issue unresolved.

Boris Nelepo, in an essential article:

So what can a filmmaker achieve with the absolute minimum at his disposal: a small camera (La fille is Brisseau’s first digitally shot film), a minimal space, and an amateur actress in the title role? As with the even more restricted Jafar Panahi, a filmmaker can proudly make a real movie, as if there were no production limitations at all. In La fille du nulle part, Brisseau has created a film of heavenly beauty, warmth, and tenderness, revealing and revelling in the Mélièsian essence of cinema. As with Philippe Garrel in La frontière de l’aube and Manoel de Oliveira in The Strange Case of Angelica, Brisseau understands … that it is the most seemingly naïve, handcrafted effects that best reflect the innate illusionism of film. Indeed, for Brisseau film is itself a magical medium, a portal into a different world … Frequently drawing his protagonists from the world of science … Brisseau continually posits the existence of an intangible world, one invisible to their rationalist eyes until a sudden inspiration, granted by art, mystical epiphany, or physical ecstasy, reveals to them the essential incomprehensibility of the outside world and the limitations of man’s understanding thereof.

I was finally bullied into watching this by the poster in the Ross front entry… Byington must have visited when this opened (before I moved to town). Story of Max (who carries a magic macguffin suitcase) and friends, jumping forward 5 years every 20 minutes (though the actors barely age). The movie plays like a deadpan, vaguely absurd stand-up comedy act – a funny one, but it’s hard to tell if we’re meant to have any affection for these characters.

Max and Kate:

Max is Keith Poulson (Hermia & Helena, Little Sister) who befriends coworker Nick Offerman and marries coworker Jess Weixler (a Rigby in The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby). As time goes on, Offerman ends up with Weixler and first Max then his son will date the babysitter Stephanie Hunt. Characters are unceremoniously killed – Weixler’s dad’s post-cancer-diagnosis suicide is played for laughs, and Max, now rich from running a pizza and ice cream franchise with Offerman, has a heart attack while racing a breadstick thief in the cemetery.

Max and Jess:

The director, lead actor, and Max’s ex Kate Lyn Sheil are all Alex Ross Perry associates. Byington’s followup starred Jason Schwartzman and Tunde Adebimpe and I have heard nothing about it. His latest premiered a few months ago at SXSW and I have heard nothing about it either.

My favorite visual joke: wedding singer with a four-man band who all look like the same guy. Are those all the same guy??

Rizov liked it roughly as much as I did:

What it basically comes down to is that I find Byington’s comic fixations — rudeness and morbidity — funny and compelling … It’s smart and sad about death, and the stupid decisions casually made on a day-to-day basis by adrift 20/30somethings who think marriage will give them the stability and rigor they lack otherwise. “You never know what’s good for you,” Offerman says, and he’s right.

D’Angelo hated its guts:

[Max] just drifts through life, responding to decades of minor turmoil with the same vaguely bored sneer … there’s no indication here that Byington’s characters, or Byington himself, gives even half a shit about anything at all. Somebody Up There Likes Me seems smugly pleased with its own detachment, a quality underlined by the cutesy-ironic score contributed by Vampire Weekend’s Chris Baio. (Hope you like tubas.)

AM/PM (1999, Sarah Morris)

Montage of nicely photographed moments within and above a city (Vegas?), somewhat recalling Broadway By Light with the closeups on signage and unique framings of familiar city objects… “the disorienting world of corporate hotels and casinos which utilise and redefine the spectacle in relation to architecture,” per an official description. Each scene of urban life has its own little MIDI song.


Capital (2000, Sarah Morris)

Opens in a parking lot, then moves to things we don’t associate as much with the word capital – Washington DC pedestrians, police, mail sorting, the newspaper. I assume we see Bill Clinton get out of a helicopter, but the picture quality on my copy is worse than ever so I can’t be positive. Finally an edit from a restaurant called The Prime Rib to a close-up of cash money, that’s the capital I’m talkin’ about. The music changes just as frequently as the other film, but here it’s darker and less dance-beatsy. I preferred Henry Hills’ take, called Money… or I’d gladly rewatch AM/PM with the soundtrack from this one. Sarah has made a bunch more movies since these. Her cinematographer moved on to Leprechaun 6: Back 2 tha Hood and the Teen Wolf TV series.


As The Flames Rose (Joao Rui Guerra da Mata)

A new version of Cocteau’s The Human Voice (a copy of which sits prominently on our protagonist’s nightstand) with excellent photography, theatrical lighting changes and fun greenscreen trickery. The lead (only) actor is João Pedro Rodrigues, Guerra da Mata’s codirector on Last Time I Saw Macao, talking on the phone with a longtime lover soon after their breakup, on the day of a huge (real) 1988 fire in Lisbon that destroyed shops and offices and apartments. Joao watches the news coverage on TV, and sometimes his body or his entire room gets overlaid with flame imagery while he sadly discusses the day’s events and the crumbled relationship with his ex. After hanging up, he puts on a James Blake record (in 1988, ahead of his time).

Mouseover to give Joao a new view from his window:
image


Beauty and the Beat (Yann Le Quellec)

Rosalba puts on the red shoes and starts dancing uncontrollably, and I thought for sure there’d be a connection but no, the premise is that she cannot keep from dancing when she hears music, a condition she tries to hide while working as a Paris tour guide. Her driver has a crush on her, invites her on a date, but is obsessed with Northern Soul records. I guess her secret gets out – anyway there’s lots of music and dancing, and that is fine. He was Serge Bozon, director of La France, and she (clearly) is a professional dancer.


Chemin Faisant (Georges Schwizgebel)

Drawings with great texture, the lines transforming into new scenes while rhythmic music plays. I know that sentence would describe thousands of animated shorts, but it’s all I got. “Through paintings that interact on the principle of Russian dolls, we are drawn along the swirling path of the thoughts of a pilgrim, a solitary walker,” says a description online.


Overseas (Suwichakornpong & Somunjarn)

Some handheld followcam action as a young woman in Thailand goes to work as a squid sorter. After work she gets a ride to the police station to report a rape, to obtain a police report for a legal abortion. The cop, who looks to be about 15, is kind of a dick. Codirector Anocha Suwichakornpong made By The Time It Gets Dark, which I heard good things about last year.

Time-lapse landscape photography with different parts of the frame running at different rates… or moving in slow-motion, then skipping ahead… or fading one time into another… or flipping back and forth between shots from different times… or looping back on itself. Since it’s all about glitching the time-movement, it’s odd that he chose some shots with hardly any movement.

“A survey of the physical qualities and metaphysical quandaries of the United States-Mexico border. Follows the boundary and its immediate surrounding topography incrementally from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean,” says the official description. Rappmund also made a Nebraska movie called Vulgar Fractions, and studied under James Benning (obviously). Cinema Scope has an interview, and a visual map of all the shots in the film. “Repeating images reinforces the stability of the portrayal; it gives viewers a chance to catch small things in dense snapshots; it highlights movement as well as clearly accentuating the static; it breathes a rhythm and a three-dimensional life into pictures that’s difficult to capture with traditional filmmaking techniques alone.”

My still screenshots are can show off the lovely photography, but not the time/motion tricks that bring each scene to life. Atmospheric sound, presumably recorded at each camera site, featuring some birds who got my cockatiels all flustered. It plays like installation art, and my attention phased in and out… I should have been staring raptly at the photography but Katy wrote to ask if I could find any indie movie theaters in Shanghai (short answer: nope), so that took precedence for a while.

Where can I get one of these?

I should’ve watched an actual Johnnie To movie, but instead I watched this generic cops & robbers flick from his production company. A super-hot getaway driver breaks a jewel thief out of prison in time for their big heist… meanwhile, fiery young cop learns a special automotive technique from his about-to-retire partner, who is killed by the baddies post-heist, provoking a cathartic faceoff finale. It couldn’t sound more generic, but fortunately the movie is full of delicate character details which really… haha no I’m kidding, it is totally generic. I bought Heat last week on blu-ray, and should’ve rewatched that instead.

I guess I’m not enough of a gearhead to be excited about the film’s magic getaway technique (which I’m calling the Hong Kong Drift), in which the driver makes the wheels spin awfully fast, squealing without the car driving forward, then turns the wheel in order to rotate in place. So, in a week when I’m watching trailers for this summer’s fast-driving heist movies, Baby Driver and Logan Lucky, this movie’s showcase is… making the cars barely move.

Noble Cops:

Cheang went on to make The Monkey King and Kill Zone 2. Our hotheaded hero is Shawn Yue (Young Tony Leung in Infernal Affairs and its prequel), his mentor is Anthony Wong (also Infernal Affairs, and star of Exiled), and enemy driver is Xiaodong Guo (Tsui Hark’s Missing). In true Johnnie To fashion, there is a minor character named Fatso, but distressingly he is not played by Suet Lam. Oh and hey, there’s even a lady in the film: a doctor whose name I didn’t catch, but was probably Barbie Hsu of Future X-Cops and Croczilla.

They record their chases on in-car VCRs. I’m watching a bunch of 2012 movies this week – this one has VHS tapes, and both Ape and Jack & Diane have audio cassettes – what’s the deal?

Bad Dude in Killer Car:

“Cheang’s background as an horror director serves him very well as every chase becomes a slasher film cat and mouse game full of menace and the white Nissan that serves as the film real villain and one true memorable character gains an almost serial killer status.” Of course Furtado loved it – he likes Alien vs. Predator.

Anne (Mary Margaret O’Hara: Catherine’s sister, known as a singer) is called from Montreal to Austria for being her cousin-in-a-coma’s closest relative. Not having any conscious friends in town and without much expendable travel money, she hangs out extensively in an art museum, where she meets guard Johann. They start to meet outside the museum in his off hours too, though unusually, the movie never becomes a romance.

Cohen:

The audience has been conditioned to automatically think this will be a love story … But the cinema I care most about is about the drive toward the everyday, how we actually do live, how we feel, about things that actually happen. People love the fairy tale, but that’s not what happens here. It’s weird that there aren’t more movies about friendship.

Sometimes we linger quietly in the museum or around the city of Vienna – slowly, rhythmically edited slideshows of miniature scenes. Johann sometimes narrates, says his favorite is the Bruegel room, and we get a long sidetrack following a tour guide discussing Bruegel’s paintings with tourists, including the painting that was meticulously recreated in The Mill and the Cross. We see reality emulating the paintings when the museum attendees are portrayed as nude as some of the painting subjects they’re admiring, and I assumed that was a one-off quirk. But there’s a moment early on which I think lets us in on a prime Cohen concern: Johann is scrutinizing a Bruegel, seeing previously unnoticed details, and we cut from stray garbage on the ground of the painting’s scene to stray garbage on the ground in a nearby park, with equal attention paid to each. The movie ends with Johann’s museum-style narration of a humble windowboxed street scene, and other scenes nearby, art criticism of the everyday world… “and one begins to wonder what the main subject is.”

Cohen is, of course, the director of Benjamin Smoke, which I bought on DVD a decade ago and have never watched. He’s a music scene guy – the film was exec produced by Guy Picciotto and Patti Smith, and…

Adam Cook:

It sounds like a terribly dry and academic exploration (and there is even an art history lesson halfway through) but there is a great warmth and intimacy here reflected in the human connections and ephemeral details that surround the characters … Any film that encourages an audience to engage with the world, seeing both the cities we live in and their transient beauty anew, without resorting to manipulative sentiment must be applauded.

I noticed after watching The Ornithologist that Switzerland’s Locarno Festival seems to be the source of all the critically-praised movies that never end up playing theaters near me, or even coming out on video in many cases. At the same time, I was reading about the Locarno In Los Angeles festival and wishing we had something like that. So, now we do… presenting the first annual LNKarno Festival, a reprise of Locarno’s lineup from five years ago.

I’d already seen some of these – LNKarno-week viewings in red.

Main Competition:

The Last Time I Saw Macao (João Pedro Rodrigues & João Rui Guerra da Mata)
The End of Time (Peter Mettler)
Leviathan (Lucien Castaing-Taylor & Verena Paravel)
Berberian Sound Studio (Peter Strickland)
Museum Hours (Jem Cohen)
Jack & Diane (Bradley Rust Gray)
Greatest Hits (Nicolás Pereda)
Somebody Up There Likes Me (Bob Byington)
The Girl from Nowhere (Jean-Claude Brisseau)

Filmmakers of the Present (first and second features)

People’s Park (Libbie Dina Cohn, J.P. Sniadecki)
Ape (Joel Potrykus)
Orléans (Virgil Vernier)
Tectonics (Peter Bo Rappmund)

Piazza Grande (open air screenings, out of competition)

Motorway (Soi Cheang)
Sightseers (Ben Wheatley)

Histoire(s) du Cinema (sidebar devoted to film history)

Life Without Principle (Johnnie To)
Down Terrace (Ben Wheatley)
Kill List (Ben Wheatley)
Room 237 (Rodney Ascher)
Capital (Sarah Morris)
AM/PM (Sarah Morris)

Open Doors (region-specific section – this year: Sub-Saharan Africa)

Bamako (Abderrahmane Sissako)
Chocolat (Claire Denis)
Guimba the Tyrant (Cheick Oumar Sissoko)
Touki Bouki (Djibril Diop Mambety)
Wênd Kûuni (Gaston Kaboré)
Yeelen (Souleymane Cissé)

Pardi di domani (short films and special programs)

As the Flames Rose (Joao Rui Guerra da Mata)
Beauty and the Beat (Yann Le Quellec)
Chemin faisant (Georges Schwizgebel)
Overseas (Wichanon Somunjarn & Anocha Suwichakornpong)