One of those movies (see also: The Game, Hypnotic) where people have to behave exactly as predicted by the supervillain for the plot to work – though there is a hitch in the plan when our man on the run (Choi Min-sik, who’d return in Lady Vengeance) and his sushi chef girlfriend/daughter (Kang Hye-jung of Invisible Waves) discover and remove their tracking devices, and the bad guy (Yoo Ji-tae, the married guy in Woman is the Future of Man) kills one of Choi’s friends with a “you made me do this” sort of speech that I didn’t buy, figuring that killing all of Choi’s friends was part of the deal. The deal is that Young Choi spotted Yoo smooching his sister in high school, told others then forgot about it, she killed herself, so Yoo becomes a rich maniac devoted to tricking Choi into fucking his own daughter. Good ending: they end up happy together after he gets the illegal prison’s house hypnotist to make him forget the girl’s identity. I can forget things just fine without hypnosis, so I’ll happily rewatch this in theaters every 20 years and be surprised each time.
Drona opened, singing their earnest young sibling pop in unison. Burak finds a hole in a frozen lake where someone has been net fishing. A person seen only torso-down pulls up the net partway, drops it. Next guy pulls up the net partway, drops it, and so on. Is this a form of forgetting? Many other such forms appear… elephants, who never forget… buildings being constructed and demolished… buried bodies in a shipyard which was once a prison. The most extreme form is when a dead person’s brain is removed during autopsy, as seen via Brakhage film playing on a laptop. The centerpiece scene, a multi-layered couple conversing about their (fictionalized) relationship, each one sharing a dream they’d had, was inspired by a love of DVD commentaries.
Burak is probably the biggest name director we saw at T/F, with his Blake Williams / Bohdanowicz crossover movie currently in Cinema Scope and his Belonging making a splash a few years ago – or maybe he’s a tie with Stratman.
Tension Envelopes (2023, Robert Greene)
A new depopulated Greene short played before the feature – thoughts from within an envelope factory appear as titles over shots of city landscapes. A playful little experiment with some horrors-of-capitalism thrown in.
Been many years since I watched this. Opens with self-narrated character sketch, then goes into a long dream sequence. Professor Victor Sjöström torments the housekeeper, is taking the car to receive an honorary degree this evening. He walks into scenes from his past, remembers events he never witnessed, picks up a girl named Sara who looks a lot like the Sara he loved who married his brother.
As Dave Kehr puts it: “An aging professor making a long journey by car takes the opportunity to rummage through his past, wondering for the first time what kind of man he was.” The prof’s unfeeling son is of course Gunnar “Winter Light” Björnstrand, the son’s wife Ingrid Thulin, and all Saras are Bibi Andersson.
It’s a squishy film, because there are dreams and visions, unexplained (inexplicable?) actions and motivations – and that’s probably the point, that memory is imperfect or that her dad is unknowable. 95% young Sophie on a lazy beach vacation with divorced/troubled dad Paul Mescal (Normal People) and 5% older Sophie (Celia Rowlson-Hall) in her apartment.
RW Knight: “No answers, because life isn’t solvable like that; things just happen, meaning accrues … What’s important is feeling adrift, a prisoner of time collapsing.”
Preston: “One wonders what the film is building up to – violence? disappointment? just cringe in general? – but its trump card is that the girl is so accepting, or not exactly accepting but too caught up in surveying the world around her … to engage in the usual third-act histrionics; all she really wants is a dad, which he’s able to supply intermittently, a low-stakes reserve that’s very touching.”
Linklater very suddenly diving into his decadent old-man era, sitting on the porch and proclaiming “when I was growing up, things were like this and that, we used to do the following activities, let me list every TV show we ever watched.” I’d think it a low-effort tossed-off nostalgia fest for the streaming circuit, but the work involved in making an animated feature rules out that theory.
Tilda doesn’t even seem unhappy about The Sound, she’s just very interested. On her quest for understanding, everyone she meets – sound engineer Juan Pablo Urrego, archaeologist Jeanne Balibar, fish scaler Elkin Díaz – is open to her about their work, inviting her to sit down with them and participate. It feels utopian about human connection before we even reach the final stretch, then Elkin’s death and resurrection reaches Tsai-like duration, and the alien time-wormhole source of The Sound (and Juan Pablo being potentially the same person as Elkin) turn the movie into a cosmic puzzle. I haven’t seen a movie on the big screen at The Plaza in years, and was very happy to return with this one.
The compositions and edits offer suggestive juxtapositions that Apichatpong trusts you to generate meaning from. As usual with Apichatpong, scenes unfold in long, static takes, and important information is revealed without fanfare in hushed conversations that you really need to pay attention to. The urban settings of the first half are grey and overcast, and the rural setting of the second half is sumptuous, but Apichatpong does little with his camera to underline the ugliness or sweeten the prettiness.
Lie Lie Lie (2007 Martha Colburn)
Animated music video, cutout characters with swivel limb joints are always grabbing each other and falling from heights. Judging from his wiki photo, the male lead in the video is based on musician Serj Tankian (System of a Down).
O Black Hole! (2020 Renee Zhan)
Wow, pencil and watercolors on Rejected textured paper gives an intro story on how a woman who couldn’t let go of anything became a black hole, then we go inside to a stop-motion tower and a girl (“the singularity”) who has to climb to the top and free the entrapped people and seasons and planets. So it’s a reverse Mad God – climbing out of the darkness. The paint-swirl black hole transitions into the stop-motion world are nice. And it’s a musical. Presented online by Locarno in February, even though the festival’s in August.
Journey to the East (2021 Eve Liu)
The start of a three hour(!) Metrograph shorts program that I didn’t feel like tackling in its entirety. A Chinese-American Western, had good lighting, and finger jewelry, and Ashes of Time-style slow-mo. Feels like an ad, I dunno for what, maybe for itself.
Daffy Doodles (1946 Robert McKimson)
A full-bodied Daffy, all his parts in sync, is a mad graffitist, painting mustaches on all posters and pig cops. Some unusual 3D perspective stuff, good gags and a daffier Duck than normal – I approve.
On Memory (2021 Don Hertzfeldt)
The new piece for the World of Tomorrow blu-ray is a Don monologue on exactly that, placing his voice into characters from his past films, and wonderful new ones. “A movie is something that will eventually spend more time living in our heads than the time we took to experience it.”
Voyage of a Hand (1985 Raoul Ruiz)
Europeans fondle their African art. A mustache man with two souls communicates through whistling. A guy says that all human voyages take the form of a hand, then he screams in pain. Others look at the man’s hand and see maps and patterns. He later travels carrying his own severed hand as a magic talisman, then sews his eyes shut, relying only on the hand to see the world. Obviously needs further study – should be watched annually, alongside Dog’s Dialogue, Zig-Zag, Le Film a Venir, and The Gift.
Irene barely survives a violent home invasion, her family killed, her dad Johnny Hallyday (Man on the Train) visits in a Macau hospital and swears revenge. But Johnny’s not an elite killer getting dragged back into the business, he’s just a French restauranteur with a fading memory. He runs across a team of hitmen played by the Johnnie To superstars Suet Lam, Anthony Wong and Lam “Bo in Sparrow” Ka-Tung and they can fit his revenge scheme into their schedule. Of course since their boss is Simon Yam and he barely appears in the first half of the movie, I guessed the (very satisfying) second half would pit our doomed men against their own organization. Since there’s a French lead actor, this was able to play in competition at Cannes, but got robbed by Haneke and Audiard.
The new fantasy/doc from the director of Cameraperson was obviously a must-see at the fest. A semi-sequel since Johnson’s debut covered her mother’s loss to alzheimer’s, so this one has a mild case of sequelitis – more focused and bigger in every way, but somehow less resonant. That said, it’s still a more fun and resonant sequel than Thor 3 Ragnarok, and I look forward to watching again. Loose Loose opened, without the lead male vocalist from last time – an improvement!