Old Man Yells At Cloud: The Movie. Not tightly assembled, smoothly edited, or well mixed (too much of Marty laughing on the soundtrack). Just a 3+ hour Q&A hangout with comedian Fran Lebowitz. Alec Baldwin and Spike Lee and Olivia Wilde appear as guest interviewers, some archival TV interviews are thrown in. I wanted her quote from episode 6 about only ever being able to understand one’s contemporaries, but don’t have netflix at this location, oh well.

Giving Spike shit about sports:

Ossie’s feature debut, after screen acting throughout the 60’s, has great energy and is absolutely packed. Some clunky parts, but the nonstop motion and added comedy (unexpected after finding this in Criterion’s neo-noir section) easily win the day.

Just too much going on to address it all, or I’ll be up all night, but charismatic con man Reverend Deke is robbed, and it’s an inside job, the money stashed in a cotton bale. Deke ditches his girl Iris, who ditches the white cop guarding her by getting naked and pretending to seduce him, then she discovers Deke with another girl and spends the rest of the movie hunting him. The lead cops Grave Digger and Coffin Ed are trusted by the locals despite these nicknames, capably chasing Deke and Iris and the cotton and all the other mysterious characters. As in the next movie I watched, Across 110th Street, the Harlem Black mob guy has an Italian boss afraid of losing control. There’s a lot of punching and whacking and flying through the air, not too much shooting, a bit of blackface, and a surprising amount of bird tossing. The cotton ends up onstage at the Apollo, the centerpiece of a musical striptease act, junkman Uncle Bud gets away with the money and the Italian covers it, so the people get back the cash they were throwing at their beloved con man a couple days earlier.

The two lead cops (and the fool white cop) would return in sequel Come Back Charleston Blue. The Reverend Calvin Lockhart would quit acting after a couple David Lynch movies. Judy Pace (Iris) didn’t get a lot of roles, would costar in Frogs. Comedian Redd Foxx played Uncle Bud, would soon find steady work on Sanford & Son.

Klute (1971, Alan Pakula)

“What I would really like to do is be faceless and bodyless, and be left alone.”

Jane won an oscar for playing the first-ever prostitute treated with respect in a movie. Lots of audiotape in this, from the opening titles to the climax. I thought movie was just pretty good – solid investigation story teaming reluctant Jane with a stone-faced Donald Sutherland. Jane is set up as the villain after family man Tom goes missing, since she’s the mysterious hot girl Tom knew in New York. Then after Donald catches up with her, Tom is assumed to be the villain, disappeared to the city due to a dark obsession with poor, harassed Jane. Eventually it’s revealed that some whiteburns guy I hadn’t cared about, Donald’s boss I think, has been stalking Jane and killing people she knows. Along the way Jane wears some good outfits, and the team meets junkies and a pervy Roy Scheider – she and Donald have pretty good characters, though the final villain showdown was lame, the murderous boss confessing everything to the point of playing audiotape of his killings, then abruptly jumping out a window as justice approached. Whiteburns was Charles Cioffi of Shaft, which also won oscars this year, along with The French Connection, The Last Picture Show, and Fiddler on the Roof.


Barbarella (1968, Roger Vadim)

“Decrucify him or I’ll melt your face.”

Jane won an oscar for this too… no wait, it says here that Katharine Hepburn tied with Barbra Streisand, somebody must have made a mistake. I avoided this movie for years, hearing it was “bad,” but that’s obviously untrue. It’s a light, funny sci-fi feature with outrageous sets and costumes, anchored by a playful but unwinking Jane. This was Jane and Vadim’s follow-up to Spirits of the Dead, and it was seeing a screenshot from that movie on my screensaver that got me thinking I should watch more Jane Fonda movies.

Jane is nude through the first ten minutes, answering a call from the President of Earth and getting fitted out with gear like a shameless Bond ripoff. She goes looking for the evil Duran Duran, conked on the head and kidnapped by some Thunderdome lost boys who sic carnivorous dolls on her until she’s rescued by Mark the Catchman, who introduces her to sex. Pygar, the last of the omnithropes, introduces her to Dr. Ping, who can fix her spaceship. Revolutionary Dildano saves her from carnivorous parakeets, I dunno, there were so many wonderful things I lost track of them all. Art directed to hell and back, shot by Claude Renoir, inspiration to Matmos and Ghostbusters II and Futurama, a justifiable cult classic.

Jane meets David Hemmings:

Marcel Marceau, looking like a Tom Kenny character:

Anita Pallenberg as the blade-wielding Great Tyrant:

Portrait of a NYC clinic that sticks pins in your ears to treat stress and addiction. Through interview and archive footage it delves into the history of how Black Panthers and other associated groups studied Chinese acupuncture and brought it back to help their community, then keeps returning from the archives to the present-day clinic and its patients. The founding leader was Mutulu Shakur (below) – I’m behind on the ol’ blog, no surprise, and now we’re watching the new Adam Curtis movie, following the story of Afeni Shakur, so really covering Tupac’s roots this year. The fatal armed car robbery that gets Mutulu imprisoned for life came out of nowhere in this story, and it’s not interested in explaining much about acupuncture itself, more of a history lesson and community portrait.

None of the critics I follow can say anything against this movie, since they all had cameo roles in it, so allow me be the truth-teller who finally declares that this movie is… really good. I fell hard for Sallitt’s The Unspeakable Act and lead actress Tallie Medel, so it’s no wonder that I’d warm up to this one, which lands in a different way. It jumps casually forward in time through two women’s lives, like a more devastating Bob Byington story, until the weight of accumulated details hits hard in the back half of the movie – hard enough that going through the screenshots has made me emotional, and I have no further comment, even though my notes say I’m supposed to reread the thing in Cinema Scope 78 after watching this.

Opens on a mining accident in Ethiopia… camera goes inside a dark gem, though the cosmos and out of Adam Sandler’s ass (rivaling the ants transition in The Human Surge), spends a couple hours following his final few days, back into his body through a fatal bullet hole and into the gem-cosmos. The movie itself is almost a horror, in that you’re watching a character make every bad decision and you want to scream at him to chill out, but it’s also a thrill to see where this many bad decisions will lead… and the thing is, both of Howard’s big gambling bets are winners, but his history of fuckups conspire to rob him of the rewards.

Halfway through the Skandies and already three acting awards: for first time actors Kevin Garnett (as himself, but still) and Keith Williams Richards as Arno’s raspy-voiced tough-guy… and on the opposite side of the showbiz spectrum, Frozen star Idina Menzel, as Howard’s soon-to-be-ex wife, who delivered the line to Adam Sandler that drew applause at my screening: “I think you are the most annoying person I have ever met.” I assume that Sandler is due for a Skandie, and if his brother-in-law/loanshark Arno (Special Effects star Eric Bogosian) and his employee/girlfriend who makes off with the cash at the end (Julia Fox, another first-timer – Matthew Eng wrote about her perfectly in Reverse Shot) aren’t coming up, they must’ve just missed. Good Time still has the edge, but this was great.

Jeez, this is the second time in a few months that I’ve watched two current 4:3 movies in a row. I suppose this one justifies it with the VHS tape tie-in (though what can justify the VHS tapes), and The Lighthouse is set on a lighthouse so I’ll allow a taller ratio… Nightingale maybe just for the period setting, overall the weakest 4:3 justification of the bunch, and I just dug the look of The Mountain so it can take whatever ratio it wants. D’Ambrose said that he made each of his shorts to work out a different filmmaking problem, and it seems like he’s still working things out – he’s almost got a movie, but this felt more like an exercise. Of course then I watched the credits and changed my tune; this is obviously the latest high masterpiece from savvy executive producer Brandon Bentley.

Keith (left) with the disappeared David (Bingham Bryant of Spiral Jetty):

Somebody Up There Likes Me star Keith Poulson meets David, who is writing about a late, controversial political theorist, and gives Keith a job itemizing the videotapes from the theorist’s travels and describing their contents. “I rarely saw anyone in any of these recordings. Their importance was unclear.”

There’s a riot and murder or two, but the movie describes these in documents, maintaining its quiet, measured tone in the main action. A wordless art gallery scene worked for me, the talky panel on translation did not. “Do you think this is uninteresting?” was the first line I heard upon resuming the movie, after pausing to see if anything was happening in the news (D’Ambrose told Filmmaker that scene died in Berlin and he hoped the NYC in-crowd would find it funnier). On the plus side: the great Tallie Medel (The Unspeakable Act).

Style quirks: studio-audience applause over the first shots of actors… blackouts between scenes are video-green… small roles are filled out with a bunch of film critics I read… of course lotta close-ups on documents. Phil Coldiron does not appear, but wrote a major Cinema Scope article on D’Ambrose, which I can only partly follow.

Vadim Rizov:

Consistently clipped editing keeps the tone fluid: humor is in the cuts, and the film is never needlessly dour, deliberately refusing to dutifully find its way to a neatly summarizable Statement About The Zeitgeist.

D’Ambrose:

I don’t think of Todd and Karen and most of the characters as “intellectuals” – I can’t take them seriously as thinkers, I think of them as part of a milieu … I’m grateful I didn’t end up calling the movie The Millennials, which was the original title.

Comically gentle music plays over the title Cannibal Holocaust, and I can’t tell if it’s irony or if this is just typical Italian-Horror dissonance. Then we open with a dude on an NYC skyscraper telling us that man is on the verge of conquering the galaxy, but blah blah. This movie has appeared on horror lists for decades, but I would never watch it, because ages ago we made the mistake of renting Umberto Lenzi’s knockoff Cannibal Ferox, which was so distasteful it put me off Italian cannibal horrors for years.

Professor Harold agrees to “journey into Amazonia” to find a disappeared film crew of four absolute losers, introduced via their own rushes: Alan is the director, Faye his “girlfriend and script girl,” and the two cameramen Jack and Martin are “inseparable friends.” This is set up as a found-footage doc, but the moment I meet these bozos I don’t buy a thing they say. It’s a clever conceit though, and as far as Italian courts of the early 1980’s could tell, this is how Americans really behave, so the movie-in-a-movie was assumed to be true and director Deodato was accused of murder.

“Hey professor, I recognize these teeth.” Dr. Harold and his army crew lose a man to a blowgun dart while while they are butchering natives, then they come across the teeth of Felipe, the movie crew’s guide. Meanwhile there’s footage of jumping monkeys, sloths and macaws, before we’re subjected to a mud-covered girl getting raped with some bloody object then murdered. It’s kind of a not-bad, actiony movie, except for the misogyny and probably racism. The prof’s crew is brought to the Tree People’s hideout and Harold decides to “become like them” and strips in the river, where he’s quickly surrounded by excited nude women. Have I mentioned that Harold is played by porn actor Robert Kerman? He also played a cop in Night of the Creeps, and IMDB says “then one day his female agent fired him for no clear reason.” Females, eh?

Porn Prof with Salvatore Basile, an assistant director on this and Cobra Verde:

The film crew is long dead but the prof returns to NYC with the footage from their would-be documentary titled The Green Inferno (yo, Eli Roth). A rookie Italian mistake, which should have been disqualifying in the murder trial: the “found footage” is dubbed. I turned away from the screen during the infamous turtle slaughter scene, which felt very long. Our film crew finds a village, and just frightens and torments people, then burns some villagers to death for no apparent reason except they’re horny and drunk on power, the director and his girl proceeding to then have sex in front of their cameramen and the entire village.

The Yanomamo freak out over a tape recorder:

“Been walking through the jungle for days with the harrowing feeling that we’re moving in circles” – this predates The Blair Witch Project by two decades. Their guide Felipe is bit in the foot by a snake and they quickly chop off his leg – not quick enough, I reckon. When they come across the Yanomamo “tree people,” they ingratiate themselves by immediately raping a woman, and when the script girl interferes (not to prevent the rape, but to protest that recording it wastes precious film) they assult her too. The tribe catches up with the crew, and when Jack is first on the menu, the cameramen don’t seem like “inseparable friends,” as the other enthusiastically films the butchering. Faye is gang-raped, of course, and the other two are quickly dispatched when discovered. The movie gets to have it both ways as Harold condemns the doc footage as inhuman. “I wonder who the real cannibals are,” as the camera meaningfully pans up to the NYC skyscrapers.

Our director Deodato was assistant director on Django, later known for making unsavory stuff like a Last House on the Left remake and this movie’s predecessor Jungle Holocaust. The writers worked on Devil Fish and Demons 5: Devil’s Veil. Composer Riz Ortolani has hundreds of credits, including Don’t Torture a Duckling and The Dead Are Alive. DP Sergio D’Offizi also shot Deported Women of the SS Special Section and Today We Kill, Tomorrow We Die!

Claire Diane on Letterboxd:

This film is an evil spell … I have no idea how to rate it, as conventional senses of quality really have no place with a film like this. It is profoundly repugnant and yet also seems somehow a pinnacle.

Back to Main Squeeze on Saturday morning, then our third film of the weekend at the Missouri, preceded by a guy with one of those whirlygig keyboard amps. This doc felt longer than its 95 minutes, but I wouldn’t mind watching it indefinitely. Wide variety of New Yorkers asked about their futures with good photography. I kept feeling that like Treasure Island, a central point of focus wasn’t coming through, but I also wasn’t hoping for a climate change essay doc, so I went with it. Starts to revisit its subjects – somewhat racist ex-cops in a bar, a white couple concerned about media reports of crime, the Afronaut. I need to watch more NYC movies – maybe In Jackson Heights.

Story in Filmmaker:

I’m interested in how power circulates, the ways in which it micro- and macro-confines us and can liberate us . I also think that, sure, we can call all films in some ways political, insofar as they’re made within certain power structures and get launched into the world within existing power structures. They can either reinforce the status quo, because they do very little to shake up our understandings of how the world works, or they can enable us to grapple with things differently … I also dislike message-y films, or whatever you want to call the films that see their role as delivering a particular policy line and/or demanding that people respond in very narrow terms to whatever they’re seeing. I’m much more interested in how cinema can reawaken the senses and our critical capacity to be in the world differently. That, for me, can have longer term results.