Glorious (2008, Guy Maddin)
Far more guns, gangsters and cocksucking than has ever been in a Maddin film before. Features Louis Negin as a single-frame apparition turned fellatio-ghost. Must pay more attention to the music next time. In other news, when I looked up Louis Negin on IMDB, it says he played a zombie in Pontypool.
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Yay, got me a 2007 disc of cartoons based on the work of Jim Woodring. Jim himself kicks off the collection with the one-minute Whim Grinder: A Frank Adventure, in which Frank and his pet… box? intercept a transmogrifying eggbeater from a mischievous devil.
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Frank (Pushpow) (Taruto Fuyama)
I dig the use of the “meet george jetson” music cue. Watched twice because there’s a second audio track with elektronischy music by James McNew. Black and white and very stripey. Done in Flash, maybe? then transferred off a videotape from the looks of the credits. One of the greatest things ever.
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Frank (Eri Yoshimura)
Next one, done in a puppet cutout style, is very different. Frank seems to be having a picnic with his buds until a rampaging pig beast tears them all apart. Seems about two minutes of animation edited into four. The closing credits are pretty nice – not so much the rest.
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I’ve Been Twelve Forever (Michel Gondry)
Gondry talks with his mom, storyboards his dreams, builds a spinning camera-spirograph triggered by strings tied to Bjork’s fingers, makes cartoon farts with cotton balls, invents new animation methods, films himself in stop-motion, and discusses his best music videos. This turned out not to be a short at all, though I thought it would be when I started watching it, and much more elaborate and creative than its status as a DVD-extra on a music videos disc would suggest. I’m pretty sure I like this better than Be Kind Rewind. Co-directed with four people including Lance Bangs.

Wet Chicken (2003, Myznikova & Provorov)
A woman’s hair blows in the breeze, then she shakes her head, then she’s shot with a stream of water. Seems like the kind of rough materials that Shinya Tsukamoto would make something interesting from, but these guys forgot to make something interesting and accidentally released it like this. Too late to re-edit now that it’s on the internet.
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The Marker Variations (2007, Isaki Lacuesta)
One ruler of Dijon uses photographs to rule, and the next uses them as execution aids. 12th century monks composed Bach concertos 900 years before Bach did, inscribing the notes into their stone architecture. Buenos Aires is “the divided city” so a story of two mirroring authors is told using split-screen images.

Opening with these unbelievable stories reminded me more of Magnolia than Chris Marker, but an exploration of the images and possible existence of Marker is what follows. He goes over Marker’s references, he asks his own Japanese friend the questions asked of Koumiko, and eventually he gets caught up in his own essay, his own connections, but accompanied by so many images from Marker’s films (not to mention the music) that none of it escapes, sticks in my mind. To a Marker-phile such as myself it’s just too much.
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Three half-hour Tokyo-set films by three famous non-Japanese filmmakers. I didn’t read the reviews very closely but I gather that some viewers thought the Michel Gondry segment about a struggling couple moving into the city and the Bong Joon-ho segment about socially-dysfunctional residents of an earthquake-prone Tokyo were pretty good and the Leos Carax segment about a sewer-dwelling monster was awful, and some viewers agreed that the Gondry and Bong were pretty good but thought the Carax was brilliant. A fan of Carax’s Lovers on the Bridge, I assumed I’d fall into the latter group, but I wound up finding the whole experience somewhat unsatisfying. By the time I finished watching six previews and an overlong ad for the film festival through an allergy-induced headache I was ready to go home already. Then the movies themselves, a far cry from Paris, je t’aime, seemed awfully down on their host city, and the whole thing was kind of a bummer (and a digital-video-looking bummer at that).

Gondry’s bit featured a wannabe-filmmaker come to the city with his first film, which turns out to be terrible, and his girlfriend (Ayako Fujitani of the Gamera trilogy) who feels like nobody notices her. There’s fanciful talk of dreams and ghosts, and in the end she turns into a piece of furniture, a wooden chair. She’s picked up by a musician, and finally finds happiness – to be of use.

After this portrait of selfish men in an inhospitable city, Carax dives right in with a sewer-dwelling monster (Denis Lavant, of Lovers on the Bridge and Chaplin in Mister Lonely) named Merde walking the street shoving and groping people and being a general nuisance. It’s all jolly and hilarious until he finds a cache of grenades in an underground cave, and on his next rampage he blows up a bunch of people and is arrested for murder. Now we get an achingly prolonged trial where the monster is represented by a lookalike (but more posh) lawyer (Jean-François Balmer of films by Ruiz, Chabrol, Akerman), who speaks our guy’s mythic language of grunts, whines and head-slaps. It’s all over-silly and over-serious at the same time, and I don’t know what to think when the unrepentant Lavant is hung at the end.

Bong tries to restore some whimsy to the proceedings with Shaking Tokyo. His story of a shut-in (Teruyuki Kagawa, in Serpent’s Path a decade ago, starring in the new Tokyo Sonata) is at least the most Japanese of the three stories, the reclusive “hikikomori” being a recent phenomenon of that country – as far as I’m concerned, the other two movies could be set in any major city. Due to an earthquake, our guy accidentally makes eye contact with another person for the first time in a decade, and that person is substitute pizza-delivery girl Yû Aoi, who has button-like tattoos representing different emotions – when one is pushed it determines how she feels. The next day, she decides to shut herself away in her room, along with seemingly everyone else in the city, while our guy steels himself and goes outside to search for her, leading to a cutey happy ending when he presses her LOVE button. The “earthquake changes everything” conceit reminded me of Chan-Wook Park’s short Judgement, and the empty city reminded me of Pulse.

Bong: “I had an image of the people of Tokyo as oddly repressed, defensively lonely… I think I had a desire to wake them up, shake up and liberate such people. That’s where the title, Shaking Tokyo came from and how the motif of the earthquake also came about.”

I guess I’m liking the three movies better now that I’m thinking about them, but at the time they didn’t seem to be working together and I wasn’t sure what the movie’s point was. I’m sure it’ll be like Eros or Three Extremes, where the omnibus concept disappears in time and I start to think of ’em as decent individual shorts.

A reasonably good movie, charming and sweet with a very good ending, but… with all Gondry’s warm-hearted dream fun, why did I feel a bit cold from both this and Science of Sleep? I don’t know the answer.

Jack Black lives in a junkyard and is full of energy and ideas but is childish and doesn’t think things through very well. Mos Def has simple dreams (to help manage the video store, to stay out of trouble), Katy said he seems slow. Store owner and fake-historian Danny Glover is behind the times, takes a bizarre week “vacation” to spy on a blockbuster-like competitor. And Mia Farrow alternately seems addled, impatient or understanding & motherly. The tape-erasing “sweding” business is an excuse for a life lesson (that what you create yourself or what is created by low-budget neighbors with good intentions can be superior to mass-market entertainment) and to unite a community (for a fundraising community bio-pic about “local” legend Fats Waller), with lessons learned from Gondry’s Dave Chappelle concert movie.

Paul “Jellineck” Dinello and Matt “Upright Citizens” Walsh showed up with Sigourney Weaver at the end but I only recognized SW.

A great Bright Lights After Dark article talks about racial harmony in the film:

Jack Black, in blackface with pencil moustache and bowler, is clearly the perfect choice for Waller. It’s not just that he’s fat, but he looks like Waller as well, and could probably sing just like him after studying a few records. Danny Glover has to take Black outside to wordlessly imitate a minstrel softshoe to spell out why despite these assets, even a painted light brown face is too close to the shameful racist past.

One imagines a similar explanation perhaps being needed for Gondry at one point and it’s sad to think of anything standing in the way of his good-hearted vision. Black can’t go nuts as Waller as his showboating nature would permit, but must defer to the much thinner but blacker Def. Now, Waller was very light-skinned. Why couldn’t Black play him instead of Def? The question is rhetorical of course, dating back to antebellum bullshit about one one hundreth of a drop of black blood or whatever. But rhetorical or not, it’s clearly worth asking, and Gondry gives us a safe space in which to ask it. We may not get an answer, but even better is Gondry’s indication that, if our shared culture should one day become our shared property, we may not need one.

Stephane (Gael Garcia Bernal) is tricked by his mom into coming to Paris from Mexico to work at a calendar company, moves in next door to Stephanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg). Job turns out to suck, not that he shows up for it very often, and after briefly falling for her friend, Stephane gets a thing for Stephanie. Unfortunately he lives completely in his dream world and can’t communicate with regular people, eventually has to give up on job and girl and go home.

Gondry isn’t trying to tell us that he is Stephane, since Gondry has a successful career and at least two kids, although both Gondry and Stephane make creative things out of paper and film, and both sometimes get big hands when they sleep. Just saying that dreams are great but it’s important to have a grip.

Stephane isn’t much of a romantic lead. Sometimes he screws up in an endearing way, but sometimes in a creepy, maladjusted, antisocial way. He’s determined when it comes to getting the girl or making crafts, not about holding down a job.

Movie is worth seeing of course because it’s the closest thing to a Gondry music video (mostly minus the music, though I heard a Jack White band in one scene) and that’s just what I’ve been clamoring for. Got what I deserved, and I’m loving it, though I feel the loss of writer Charlie Kaufman. Wonderful: the dreams, the one-second time-travel machine, Stephane’s co-worker, the music he composes using only the broken keys on Stephanie’s piano, the homemade feel to everything.

What did everyone else say?

Robert Keser in Bright Lights After Dark: “it charts Stéphane’s hilariously tortuous passage from awkward man-boy to still awkward man”. But does he become a man? His father dies (an important step towards manhood in the movies) but he’s still running away at the end. Or maybe these experiences in Paris will make him better understand himself in Mexico (we know nothing of his life there). Not putting Keser down: his is the best and most thoughtful review so far.

Ed Gonzalez in Slant Magazine: “Gondry, like David Lynch, makes art from the many-spindled arcs of our dreams and fantasies, but Lynch hasn’t gone so far as to suggest that our dreams are works of art themselves, our imagination a gallery of unfinished, haunted frescos. To submit to Science of Sleep becomes something strangely akin to acknowledging that our dreams make more sense than our waking life.”

Paul: “I did not like the ending much though, as both characters seemed too petulant. he kept saying desperate inappropriate things then went into her bed w/o permission.. made me uncomfy.”