A middle-school bully turned high-school pariah tries to humbly make amends, finds it isn’t so simple, goes on adventures. Multiple suicide attempts later, our group of misfits manages to find some peace. Nice visual expression of our dude’s alienation, his classmates with X’s on their faces as he stares at the ground. A high-quality production, earnest and emotional – maybe not my kind of thing under normal circumstances, but the movie had my sympathy since we were watching in memory of the 30-some people at Kyoto Animation who were murdered last month.
Tag: memorial screening
Based on the style of newspaper comics, the animation has unfinished backgrounds that fade away on the edges, reminding me (in a good way) of Ernest & Celestine. Married couple, older schoolboy, younger daughter and gramma appear in disconnected sketches, stories and fantasies. The most dramatic thing that happens is the daughter gets left behind at the mall and while the family is stuck in traffic trying to retrieve her, she’s taken home by a friendly neighbor – it’s very lightweight drama with an overall big-hearted feeling (the polar opposite of the previous film I’d watched).
The first animated work to make me consider trying animation because it looks like fun, even though I know plenty of animators so I should know better.
Maybe it felt more emotional because we watched it in memory of the great Isao Takahata, who increasingly looks like Ghibli’s secret weapon, a patient genius who never made the same kind of great film twice.
Part of a Late Horror Masters’ Lesser Works double-feature. Opens with a disclaimer about the treatment of the movie’s monkeys, but they never appeared to be in any convincing danger, except maybe in the final scene. No mention of the treatment of the movie’s parakeets. Monkey tricks are the primary reason to watch this movie, except for George Romero and/or Stanley Tucci completists.
Allan’s car accident:
Allan and monkey giving the same steely expression:
Moody Allan (Jason Beghe of One Missed Call Remake) is badly crippled, so his monkey-researcher friend Geoffrey (John Pankow of Talk Radio) donates a brain-eating monkey to service-animal trainer Melanie (Kate McNeil of The House on Sorority Row) to get Allan a furry helper buddy. Brain-eating monkey in a George Romero movie – what could go wrong?
Mad scientist Geoffrey:
Geoffrey’s boss Stephen Root:
Moody Allan is a bad influence on the monkey, who starts to murder everyone who she perceives as a threat – first setting fire to Allan’s ex (Lincoln NE’s Janine Turner of Northern Exposure) who has run off with his doctor (Stanley Tucci), then electrocuting Allan’s annoying mom (Joyce Van Patten of Bone), killing Geoffrey via drug injection, and most horribly, murdering the parakeet of Allan’s hateful catetaker (Christine Forrest, Romero’s wife). After she threatens Melanie in a rage, Allan manages to dispatch the monkey using only his neck and mouth. We also get a monkey-surgery dream sequence and blurry monkey-POV shots. Mostly dullsville compared to the space vampires. My birds reacted to the monkey chatter, but not to the parakeet.
In memory of two recently-departed horror directors, who made some of the best horror films in history, I caught up with two of their worst pictures…
To begin with, a bullshit voiceover lets us know that this spaceship, created with colored lights and 1980’s computer graphics, has some inexplicable gravity technology – just trust us, we’re on a spaceship but there’s gravity. I don’t recall Star Trek worrying themselves with explaining the ship’s artificial gravity, except when it broke in the sixth movie.
Discovering nude-vampire crystals inside the space anus:
Fallada, looking like an apocalyptic preacher:
“I almost have the feeling I’ve been here before” as they fly into a giant vaginal-looking tunnel. Astronauts discover nude, crystal-encased space vampires and bring them home via a badly failed first mission plus a second rescue mission. The sole survivor of the first mission is Steve Railsback (later of Scissors and Alligator II: The Mutation), who couldn’t help but sexually harass the female alien (Mathilda May, later of some Chabrol and Demy films) and becomes psychically connected to her. Railsback works with Peter Firth (Tess, Equus) and alien-invaded doctor Patrick Stewart to track down the vampire girl, while dapper white-haired Professor Fallada (Frank Finlay, one of Richard Lester’s Musketeers) and barely-competent Dr. Bukovsky (Michael Gothard, Oliver Reed’s executor in The Devils) try to contain the evil – and fail utterly, as most of London falls to the vampire-zombie plague.
Patrick Stewart Replica:
Return of the Living Dead Zombie Phantom Alien Vampires:
More perverted and apocalyptic than most 1980’s horror movies, at least. The movie’s pretty okay, but the concept is cool as hell, so it’s got my respect. Tobe’s follow-up to Poltergeist, produced by Cannon Films, cowritten by Dan O’Bannon, who made Return of the Living Dead the same year, which ties into our next filmmaker…
Memorial screening for Jerry Lewis. I’d never seen this, didn’t realize it’s semi-plotless, casting a mute Jerry as one of many bellboys at a luxury hotel and throwing him into situations. Apparently hastily written and shot in the Miami hotel where he was performing at the time. And it shows… half the jokes are lazy or awful, though it’s short and overall pleasant enough.
Also featuring Jerry as himself, Milton Berle as himself, both of them as lookalike bellboys, and Lewis’s future cowriter Bill Richmond as a fake Stan Laurel. It’s a strange movie. I feel bad having so little to say about it, but maybe you had to have suffered through the studio comedies of the 1940’s and 1950’s to appreciate its innovations.
Fourth of July memorial screening for the great Abbas Kiarostami.
As mentioned before, the rosetta stone document that kicked off my art cinema craze was Jonathan Rosenbaum’s top-ten of the 1990’s article, including his thoughts on The Wind Will Carry Us. In 2004 and 2005 I watched every Kiarostami movie I could scrounge from the Videodrome shelves on DVD and VHS. I can’t say I loved them unconditionally and wanted to watch them again and again, but I can definitely say that I shared some of AK’s fascinations, that Close-Up and ABC Africa expanded my ideas of what cinema could do, and I was increasingly impressed by his artistry. In the past year or so, we’ve lost three filmmakers from Rosenbaum’s list of ten: Akerman and Oliviera, and now Kiarostami.
[Kiarostami] frequently stated in interviews that his open endings — most starkly experienced in the dense blackness of the final moments of Taste of Cherry — are his invitation to the audience to work at finishing the film for themselves.
He doubles down on the idea of viewers finishing the film for themselves in Shirin, a film visually composed of close-ups of women watching a film, which we hear in its entirety on the soundtrack.
J. Naremore in Film Quarterly:
The result is a metafilm of considerable richness, giving us the opportunity to “see” a movie in our minds as we watch the play of emotion across women’s faces and become conscious of our own role as cinematic spectators.
Opened out of competition in Venice with 35 Shots of Rum and The Beaches of Agnes, but too experimental to get a full theatrical run here. I’ve previously watched Kiarostami’s Cannes short Where Is My Romeo, made from this same material (but with a different soundtrack).
The DVD extra was made by Shirin producer Hamideh Razavi and lacks the artistry of 10 on Ten, but it’s fascinating to see how exactly Shirin was assembled – first each actor was filmed separately, looking at placeholder images lit with handmade flickering effects, then the “film” was created in an audio booth. Kiarostami talks about capturing natural expressions, but he also gives detailed direction for these non-performances. By the time we get to the editing phase, the short doc runs out of steam and the subtitlers quit early.
“It is up to you to define the movie for yourself.”
Other times, he suggests what the women might be watching.
“Those of you who are more experienced know love is always threatened by disappointment, that’s why you don’t show your joy much. Like most classic love stories, it has a tragic end, a certain disappointment which is itself a kind of satisfaction.”
Rosenbaum on Shirin:
One might even say that Kiarostami, an experimental, non-commercial filmmaker par excellence, is perversely granting the wish of fans and friends who have been urging him for years to make a more “accessible” film with a coherent plot, a conventional music score, and well-known actors.
I think I’ve come very late to this exploration of women’s issues… Leaving women out of my films was not a very intelligent decision. I made this discovery rather late, but there it is, I have made it.
Not gonna run through the whole cast on IMDB, but just limiting to actors with headshots, I see Taraneh Alidoosti (an Asghar Farhadi regular, title role in About Elly), Golshifteh Farahani (Paterson, Chicken With Plums, Rosewater), Leila Hatami (star of A Separation), Behnaz Jafari (Blackboards) and Juliette Binoche (Certified Copy). Good to see that at least one woman in the audience also worked on the soundtrack, so was “watching” herself.
Maybe Taraneh Alidoosti:
Maybe Leila Hatami:
AK quoted by Rosenbaum:
I believe in a cinema which gives more possibilities and more time to its viewer — a half-fabricated cinema, an unfinished cinema that is completed by the creative spirit of the viewer, [so that] all of a sudden we have a hundred films.
Roads of Kiarostami (2006)
Road photos, crossfaded, the camera moving along the photos to trace the paths of the roads. Soft music for the most part, with some AK VO explaining that he mostly takes photos of roads and paths, and reading us road-related poetry.
Roads was part of a festival commemorating the anniversary of the WWII atomic attacks.
Kiarostami, speaking with B. Ebiri:
Many of my photographs, they tell stories in a way: They’re fictional, as far as a photo can be. In my films, though, I’m the opposite; I try to get farther away from narrative and try to bring an experimental, visual art element to it. And the poems are very often evocative of image or atmosphere. So there’s definitely interaction between the different forms. And at any rate, they’re all products of the same mind — even if sometimes it doesn’t show on the surface.
Back to Shirin, and Kiarostami’s work in general…
Rosenbaum, from his Taste of Cherry article entitled Fill in the Blanks, one of his all-time greats:
Much of what’s been called innovative in the art of movies over the past half century has at first been seen by part of the audience as boring or as representing a loss — usually because it has somehow redefined the shape and function of narrative … If the major additions to film art offered by Antonioni, Bresson, Godard, Rivette, and Tati — as well as by Chantal Akerman, Carl Dreyer, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Abbas Kiarostami, Andrei Tarkovsky, and Bela Tarr — are at times perceived as subtractions, this is because we tend to bring old habits with us when we go to movies. New habits are unlikely to be formed without some conflict, during which various kinds of seduction and frustration will vie for supremacy … Lately I’ve come to realize that what I regard as the most wondrous thing to happen in cinema in many years, Kiarostami’s movies, strikes a few friends and colleagues as boring and empty, even predictable … I’ve gradually come to think that these disagreements revolve mainly around the issue of why what seems to be essential information in Kiarostami’s narratives is missing. Parts of the sound track in some of the latter portions of Homework and Close-up, for instance, have been suppressed (openly in the first case, and surreptitiously — by faking a technical glitch — in the second). Audience expectations about where the camera goes — and what it finds — are deliberately flouted in Close-up, Where Is My Friend’s House?, and Life and Nothing More. And we’re kept so far away from pivotal bits of action in the closing sequences of Life and Nothing More and Through the Olive Trees that we have to imagine part of what’s taking place — the sound as well as the images. In each case, we’re forced to fill in the blanks as best we can — an activity that isn’t merely part of Kiarostami’s technique but part of his subject. In the most literal and even trivial sense, we are what Kiarostami’s movies are about.
R. Koehler with context:
I would argue that it’s the immensely powerful minimalist features of his contemporary, Sohrab Shaheed Saless — especially A Simple Event and Still Life – that imprint the most visible stamp on the features and shorts that Kiarostami went on to make in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s. Like never before among Iranian directors, Saless’ storylines and images are stripped away to their essentials, fixed shots are extended to produce the effect of lived-in experience, and ironically sly humor pokes its head up when you least expect it. It was a particularly rigorous modernism, which Kiarostami embraced and adapted to suit his own ends.
Arguably modern cinema’s most provocatively self-reflexive auteur … his films are so widely cherished in part because they encourage audience participation where lesser directors might simply punish casual spectatorship … For such a committed gamesman, Kiarostami’s films are imbued with a rare emotional lucidity, and yet they still steadfastly undermine the traditional dynamic of film acting, so that any outward show of emotion is first a representation of that emotion before it can be received as an expression of it.
The Film Stage reported at the end of last year that Kiarostami’s next film, composed of tableaux blue-screen shorts, was almost finished. The movie after that, to be named after his own book of poetry, was supposed to be shot in China a month or two before his death, but I suspect that didn’t happen.
If the United States authorities do not want “an Iranian, they will hardly have any use for a Finn either,” he wrote. “We do not even have the oil.”
Kiarostami, on filming outside of Iran:
“I consider cinema a universal language, and I consider human beings as universal beings,” he says. “So there’s no reason why people should not be able to relate to a film, or we shouldn’t be able to make films, in different languages and different cultures than our own.”
The Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami was 76 years old when he died, and his last feature was 2012’s Like Someone in Love — so why does it feel like he’s been taken away from us at a moment of such creative promise and vitality? Perhaps because his cinema always seemed to be in mid-mutation, forever testing the limits of film to convey great complexity and humanity. He was the shape-shifter of modern cinema, a man whose restlessness spoke through the constantly refracting nature of his work.
Beginning with Taste of Cherry, each new film confounded my expectations. It took days, weeks, months or even years to process and finally get a fix on the latest Kiarostami, to feel I had a grasp on what it was about that at least satisfied me. Close-Up was multi-layered in its meanings, but I felt I got it on first look. Taste of Cherry and The Wind Will Carry Us, on other hand, I came to regard as masterworks equal to that film, but on initial viewings they befuddled me — and demanded that I revamp my understanding of Kiarostami yet again. For critics, who are increasingly pressed to deliver cogent judgments within an hour or two of seeing a film, such bafflements are as valuable as they are awkward. What if the greatest artists ultimately are the ones who require time, patience, thought, and perhaps above all, an awareness that views their work as an organically evolving whole rather than one consumerist nugget after another?
Related: I updated my entry on Like Someone In Love this week with a link to a valuable Glenn Kenny article.
How do you even begin to assimilate this work? His great skill was taking moments — scenes or images — that feel familiar and transforming them into something charged, poetic, mysterious and finally quite beautiful.
Kiarostami’s films are easy to watch because they’re visually resplendent; they’re challenging to watch because they seem to contain a hidden puzzle. But the more familiar you become with his work, the less you’re sure those puzzles are meant to be solved. They’re not. They’re meant to be explored. If the ending of Where is the Friend’s Home? is any indication, Kiarostami believed in the experiential; to use a cliche, he preferred the journey to the destination. He revelled in the digressions of life, and thanks to the temporal features of cinema he was able to serenely express that vision.
To an extent that we have only begun to grasp, movies invented a new way of thinking, and Abbas Kiarostami’s movies are among the clearest and most challenging applications of cinematic thought.
He and other filmmakers of his generation also provided — and continue to provide, alongside their successors — a window into the world of Iran at a time when such windows weren’t always widely available, or created by the country itself. But it’s hard to think of any country as a collection of faceless enemies when you’ve wandered their streets, seen their children, and felt their desires and pains. Kiarostami captured that, and he did it brilliantly with a sense of playfulness and profundity.
It’s Cannes Month and Kolirin’s new movie will be premiering, so per the Festifest 2.0 rules, I wanted to watch his most acclaimed previous movie. Also, the lead actress just died, and I’ve never seen anything of hers, so this can be a Memorial Screening. That’s a lot of stupid justifications, but they got me to watch this wonderful movie, so it all worked out.
After a bus-ticket foul-up, a self-serious Egyptian band ends up in a rural Israeli town instead of the city where they’re supposed to play their concert (asking for the Arab Culture Center they’re told “No culture – not Israeli culture, not Arab, no culture at all”). The straight-faced humor of their situation, and the visual gag of the neatly-aligned band members with their spiffy blue uniforms in unfamiliar territory immediately brings to mind Kaurismaki (specifically Leningrad Cowboys Go America), which is a good thing. They’re stuck in town for the night, put up by a restaurant owner (the late Ronit Elkabetz) and other locals.
The bulk of the movie is interactions between Elkabetz (Dina, the town’s fading flower, who resents being stuck there), the humorless band leader Tawfiq (Sasson Gabai of Rambo III) and the youngest, least disciplined band member Khaled (Saleh Bakri of The Time That Remains). Tawfiq and Dina express their life regrets, Tawfiq learns to be less harsh with Khaled. Meanwhile Khaled goes out with some younger guys and teaches one of them how to comfort his unhappy date at a dance club.
Ronit Elkabetz steals the film, and this performance would be enough to convince me that she was a powerful actress, but after Scout Tafoya’s great write-up on rogerebert.com I’m determined to see more, especially her Viviane Amsalem trilogy.
From an Indiewire interview:
iW: Did that Egyptian band really exist?
Kolirin: Nothing is real in the movie.
iW: I’ve heard the film is banned in Egypt.
Kolirin: It doesn’t apply just to my film. Any Israeli film would be banned in Egypt.
P. Utin in Cinema Scope:
The films of the Cinema of Disengagement are characterized by their tendency to avoid politics in noticeable ways … The Band’s Visit highlights one of the cardinal differences between the Cinema of Disengagement and the political cinema of the past. By addressing “everyone,” by refraining from preaching or taking a clear political stand, the new Israeli cinema is able to draw audiences at both foreign film festivals and the box office that may have disagreed with certain strong political opinions: it invites universal identification. But after the films have finished, the iceberg effect allows viewers to think about what they have seen, and even to discover that the films are charged with further content.
I have mixed feelings about this one. Felt like Lynch already reclaimed Twin Peaks for himself in the final episode of the series. Sheryl Lee is great, and it’s a good movie about her increasingly troubled youth, dodging her upright boyfriend James to hang out with drug-supplying Bobby (who kills a guy in the woods), and grappling with her realization that her tormentor “Bob” is actually her father. Lynch’s heart may have been on poor Laura’s side, wanting to spend time with her while she was alive, but it comes off as a redundant prequel, full of fan-servicing cameos by the show’s cast and decisions based more on actor availability than artistic concerns.
Lynch practically writes Agent Cooper out of the show, replacing him with Chris Isaak (and wonderful sidekick Kiefer Sutherland) in a long opening segment about the disappearance of Laura’s associate Teresa Banks and her mysterious ring, but he can’t write out Laura’s best friend Donna. Lara Flynn Boyle was a superstar in 1992, appearing in Wayne’s World and Matthew Modine identical-twin thriller Equinox, so Moira Kelly (With Honors, The Cutting Edge) is the new Donna. The whole Horne family is missing too (Sherilyn Fenn was costarring with Danny Aiello in a movie about the JFK assassination from Jack Ruby’s point of view) though they’re mentioned in the deleted scenes.
Peaceful domestic scene:
Rewatched this the night Bowie died. He has a tiny role in the movie, but fits into Lynch’s netherworld perfectly. I forget some of the Twin Peaks mythology (planning to rewatch some episodes before the new one comes out), but I’m into this brigade Lynch was building of dimension-hopping special agents: Kyle, Bowie and Isaak. Re-reading a Cinema Scope article from when the deleted scenes came out, there are plenty of interesting connections to the series that I missed from not having watched it in 14 years.
Who can identify all the people in Whatever Lodge This Is? There’s Bob and MJ Anderson up front, then we’ve got papier-mache-face, cane fella, old woman, suit kid, and the fake beard brothers. According to a Twin Peaks-dedicated wiki, the old woman is Mrs. Tremond and “her intentions are unclear”.
Thanks, Wikipedia… so the red-curtained, zigzag-floored place is The Black Lodge, and that’s one-armed Mike sitting with MJ Anderson (who refers to himself as “the arm” in the film) facing Bob and Leland.
Same ending as Orlando?
Part two of my Wes Craven tribute, because when a horror giant dies just before SHOCKtober, memorial screenings are in order. I used to have this movie’s sequel on VHS (bought at a garage sale), and saw the awesome remake in theaters, but have probably never watched the original until now.
Stupid family taking cross-country trailer trip breaks down in the desert at the foot of cannibal-infested mountains, send a few guys in different directions looking for help. But first we set up the Harbinger hillbilly gas-station attendant (and incidentally the grandfather of the cannibals) who tells them not to go poking around, and mountain thief Ruby, who’s looking for help escaping her murderous family.
Bobby (Robert Houston, later an oscar-winning documentary filmmaker) runs after his escaped dogs, discovers one of them murdered but doesn’t tell anybody. Mustache Doug (Martin Speer of Killer’s Delight) finds nothing and comes back. And Big Bob (Russ Grieve of dog-horror Dogs) returns to the old man in time to see him get slaughtered, then Bob is captured, crucified and set on fire, distracting the family into leaving their trailer unguarded, in what’s probably one of the most intense sequences of the 1970’s. Bald Pluto (Michael Berryman of too many horrors to list, also One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) and curly Mars invade, shoot Mustache’s wife Dee Wallace (star of The Howling and The Frighteners) and her now-insane mom (Virginia Vincent of The Return of Dracula and Craven’s Invitation to Hell), eat the parakeet, steal the baby and flee.
Family portrait, pre-invasion:
The next morning it’s payback time. Young Carolyn Jones (Eaten Alive) and Bobby plot to use their dead mom as bait and blow up cannibals who return to the trailer. Not sure how head mutant Papa Jupiter escapes that explosion, but they kill him good, with gun and hatchet. Mustache Doug climbs the mountain and attacks head-on to rescue his baby, unexpectedly aided by a rattlesnake-wielding Ruby. I can’t recall if Bald Pluto dies (think Bobby’s other dog gets him), but he’s definitely on the VHS box cover of part two.
Craven did interesting things to the horror genre with New Nightmare and Scream, and made some great thrillers with A Nightmare on Elm Street and Red Eye. One of the movie sites pointed out he’d been interviewed by Audobon, and had lately been writing short stories for Martha’s Vineyard Magazine about local birds, which include a strong pro-bird environmental message as well as time travel, the ghosts of passenger pigeons, and an osprey using a shotgun.
“It’s hard convincing a bird of anything in words. They’re musicians.”
Rest in peace, Wes. The birds have lost a friend.