Cursed Mutant kids meet up and share a musical connection. Tomona was blinded by the magic sword that killed his father, and Inu-Oh was born a mutant due to a deal his serial killer father made with a magic mask. Stories of mutants and curses are usually good, and Yuasa’s animation is playful and unusual, especially when visualizing how blind Tomona “sees” the world through sounds. But then after a half hour it abruptly becomes a hard rock musical… returning to sum up the kids’ stories at the end, but too late. And while some directors will shoot the plot scenes normally then make the style come alive during musical numbers, Yuasa does the opposite. The whole hour of rock & roll theatrics is full of repeated shots and movements and angles, third-rate early-MTV stuff.

A stagebound musical comedy Bergman released in 1975 in between some of his most severe movies.

Prince Tamino is rescued from a dragon by three women who fight over him while he’s still comatose. Papageno is a cheerful fellow in green with panpipes. Despite their seeming useless, Prince and Papa are roped into a rescue mission by the queen, given the flute, and assigned guardian spirits (three boys in a hot air balloon). The rest is a long, tiresome adventure, all meant to look like it’s happening onstage (with cutaway closeups of audience members). I did enjoy when the Prince bumped into a librarian when seeking the Evil Sarastro, and they argue since the librarian sees Sarastro as a wise king and the Prince as a stupid intruder. It turns out both sides want the prince to marry the princess, so all’s well, but the queen still wants to fight, so she teams up with an Evil Black Man for a final showdown against Sarastro and company. I may have gotten into jazz this year, but opera is a step too far. Conclusion: Mozart is boring.

Sarastro would later narrate Lars von Trier’s The Kingdom:


The Magic Flute (1946, Paul Grimault)

No feuding royalty and beautiful daughters here. A colorful birdie transforms into a magic flute that makes people dance themselves into trouble, and the Chimney Thief uses it to barge into a castle and torment everyone inside.

Filmed in Rotterdam and Minnesota. Formerly known as the greatest concert movie ever made, Stop Making Sense has a new challenger.

“Sign” – Just dance and vocal over the tape until Prince stops whipping his guitar around and gets down to playing it, camera flying over the stage, the rest of the group arriving marching-band-style.

“Sunshine” – Sheila has so many drums… the risers are 6 feet high… this camerawork is too composed to be spontaneous.

“Corvette” – Prince is suddenly at a piano in a different outfit, or did he just lose the glasses and the lighting changed?

“Housequake” – Haha they cut Corvette short for this. Not a great song but everyone gets to sing and P does the splits.

“Slow Love” – Crooner P tears his shirt open, lighters in the crowd, the backup singers are doing a little relationship skit, the sax player is dressed like a monk.

“I Could Never” – Brass-heavy, this time the skit has dialogue, oh no, but otherwise this is pure fire, closes with a wandering guitar section.

“Hot Thing” – Definitely a costume change, more of a sexy dance routine to a drum machine beat than a song (that’s not a complaint). All the songs I skip on the album work great in the stage show. Some of the crowd has lost their shirts at this point.

“Now’s the Time” – A staged brawl while the band jazzes out.

“U Got the Look” – Just a music video, we’re not pretending this one is being played live. Opens with a complex montage, then P duets with some redhaired woman, neither of them have mics, everyone in the band is dancing.

“If I Was Your Girlfriend” – The band is sidelined, P in fur coat with wind machine, he has sex with a dancer.

“Forever In Your Life” – Costume change, now P looks like a train conductor. You can kinda hear the acoustic guitar, but mostly it’s voice and beats, and goes on forever like the title says.

“Beautiful Night” – Falsetto in police hat, P and Sheila swap jobs.

“The Cross” – Skits reprise over a stripped-down first half, going big at the end.

None of my notes are useful (see Goodbye Dragon Inn instead) because I assumed I was going to rewatch it with Katy, and maybe someday I will. The lyrics to “America” and “Gee Officer Krupke” are so great, the actors and camera work are swell, and it’s all a Lincoln Center origin story.

“You Can Get It If You Really Want” is the movie’s theme song and motto. Seems like Jimmy Cliff gets to have it all here: a film spotlighting his music, starring himself as a songwriter turned rebel turned cop killer, his character dying gloriously in a shootout.

First thing he does when he gets to Kingston is get robbed, and the second thing is to watch Django. He hooks up with a preacher’s girl, semi-legitimately gets a bicycle, falls into the drug business, becomes a celebrity fugitive. The final stand is intercut with a movie theater audience, life and death becoming a show.

The director’s daughter for Criterion:

He was already well established as a musical artist in Jamaica. All those tracks on the album, except “The Harder They Come,” had already been recorded by Jimmy before he was cast. But the recording of that song depicted in the film was the actual recording, and he wrote it after a conversation with Perry during the filming of the movie.

I skipped a couple Garrels since Le Revelateur, decided to watch some 1972 films on their 50-ish anniversaries. Garrel + Nico = an unexpected rock musical. Liturgical voice and organ songs, incredible long takes in different forbidding environments.

Nico cries in the desert with Vest Guy (Daniel Pommereulle of La Collectionneuse), both of them wearing flowy sleeves – this section features a 720-degree slow pan over a Nico song – then she follows and berates him down a white road.

Another Nico song, a good one, kid leads a horse away from a flame circle, Vest Guy gives Nico a small goat, and so on… then Pierre Clémenti arrives nude. He journeys far and long, barefoot across a volcano, to bring gifts to a baby (played by his son) on an iceberg. Nico, practically the only person who speaks (in English and German), calls the nude archer “king.” There’s some kinda final confrontation near a rocky cave involving a sword. It’s all a very different kind of mythology than The Spine of Night, but felt right to be watching these two in the same week.

The American Movie of the theater scene, guy spending years working on an epic that is never finished, then turns his own creative process into art instead. Andrew Garfield plays the guy who would later write Rent, Miranda stuffs the cast with theater people we didn’t recognize, and the whole thing is charming with good music.

Charles Bramesco called Garfield exhausting and said Larson’s “pre-success years play like fan fiction of his own life.”

This was chosen as a movie to please everyone at Thanksgiving, and it mostly worked out.
We also attempted to watch:

Brutish Adam Driver and delicate Marion Cotillard get together and have a magical singing baby, to the consternation of accompanist Simon Helberg – and it’s all performed as an opera written by Sparks, who appear (along with the director and his daughter, the film’s dedicatee) with the cast in the great opening number. A good pick for my first movie back in theaters for over a year.

I read so many articles on this, and have gone back and forth about aspects of it, but it seems like a movie that’s gonna last. Bilge’s second Vulture article helped with the ending (which I didn’t love at the time), Sicinski’s analysis also useful (“even its flaws are kind of endearing”), and the GQ interview with Simon Helberg gives insight into Carax’s methods. And from the NY Times:

At first, Carax turned down the offer, not wanting the film’s fraught father-daughter relationship to confuse his own teenage daughter, Nastya, or invite speculation on the parallels between the film and his life, given his tendency to transform his male leads into proxies of himself. He reversed course, however, when she took a liking to songs Sparks had sent him, creating the opportunity to clear up any misunderstandings.