A Cannes Fortnight screening. This sounded like a stalker thriller from the description, but it’s one of those really good Stranger Than Fiction writing movies, the story and perspective always shifting. Includes both the wheelchair mom and the dad who caught fire in Thelma, and reference to the 2011 Norwegian terror attack. Vogt’s second film just debuted, and I don’t know much except that Blake didn’t like it (Blake doesn’t like anything) and that Vogt is 2 for 2 on good posters.

Listening to Kool Thing:

X-Men Origins: It’s a Good Life. Some Stephen King in here, psychic powers developing with sexual awakening. And Trier, like his distant relative Lars Von, isn’t above killing a baby to give his lead characters a tragic backstory. Homeschooled Thelma doesn’t adjust well in college, having seizures and disappearing her crush into the cornfield, but finally learns to take out her rage on her repressive father and let the hot college girls live… though there’s an unsettling suggestion that the hot girl only likes Thelma because her mind is being controlled. From the poster I’d expected more birds, but it’s mostly the live bird that Thelma barfs up towards the end. Trier is a festival fave whose new film plays Cannes next month, Thelma was in Norwegian disaster flick The Wave, and her dad costars in Blind.

The Exquisite Corpus (2015 Peter Tscherkassky)

More exquisite, sensorial film manipulations from the great Tscherkassky, this time with lots of nudity. And as always with his films, I had to watch it twice, and it’s completely incredible.

M. Sicinski:

The film’s odd mismatches of erotic styles and tendencies (70s Eurotrash, early stag loops, bucolic nudist films, hardcore porn, surprisingly genuine-looking lesbian expression) ultimately comprise some kind of whole. Tscherkassky never employs technique to put pornography at arm’s length. Indeed, in some ways his experimental treatment of the material actually heightens its capacity to titillate. Indeed, the sheer visual excess of bodies on film produces a highly singular new “film body,” a sort of structuralist orgy.

Tscherkassky in Cinema Scope: “My approach was to show the naked body of cinema. So it made sense to use films whose main goal was to show the human body.”

I never really have a fixed image of what the film is going to look like. It’s always about time. Time to study the footage and then learn it by heart, so it seeps into your memory and there it sits and waits for the ideas to come. The second aspect is the production time itself, when you sit in the darkroom, exposing your individual frames – frame by frame by frame – and that takes a lot of time, time during which the film grows. Time to memorize, to remember something completely differently than how you thought about it three years ago. That’s the beauty of my way, my style of filmmaking.

There’s a famous Roland Barthes quotation that the erotic takes place where the woven textile has ripped. You look inside of something that is not meant to be seen. I wanted to move from straight porn and transform it into something that might fit this Barthes quotation.


Watched a few, scattered animated shorts over the last couple months – since I didn’t have anything to pair with The Exquisite Corpus, here’s a round-up of those.

Harvie Krumpet (2003, Adam Elliot)

One night nobody felt like watching a full-length movie so I weirded them out with this instead. Harvie is a unique stop-motion guy, not so bright but armed with rules and bits of wisdom, like your Forrest Gumps and your Chance The Gardeners. And like those movies, this one won an oscar (impressively beating both Boundin’ and Destino). The award is well-deserved – it’s a bittersweet narrative of a vividly drawn, damaged character who ends up happily nude at a bus stop. “He knew it would never come, but… he didn’t mind.” I still haven’t watched Elliot’s feature Mary and Max, but now I’m more likely to.


The Danish Poet (2006, Torill Kove)

We liked Kove’s Me and My Moulton, so it was time to find her earlier oscar winner. And it’s just wonderful. Maybe not as visually stylized as the follow-up (can’t remember for sure), but a beautifully designed movie both in its visuals and story (a roundabout telling of how the narrator’s parents first met). Narrated by Liv Ullmann – another indie(?) short that beat both Pixar (Lifted) and Disney (The Little Match Girl) at the oscars.


Black Soul (2000, Martine Chartrand)

Beautiful paint on glass technique shows a mother taking her son through stories of black history, which are mostly nightmarish. Chartrand studied in Russia with Alexander Petrov, won the top prize for shorts in Berlin with this film.


Triangle (1994, Erica Russell)

Nude line-drawing dancers are interrupted by black-cloaked triangle person and a red ninja square. The dancers grow more and less abstract, combining and separating, the force of the triangle warping the very frame of the movie, until it settles as a happy, sexy threesome. Lovely work – every frame a painting, as they say. Oscar-nominated against The Monk and the Fish and Bob’s Birthday. Russell is from New Zealand and South Africa, and created a “dance trilogy” with this film in between Feet of Song (1988) and Soma (2001).


Snop / Candy (1991, Jan Konings)

Meaningless reminiscing about the popularity of candy when the narrator was young, with below-average animation. From a blu-ray of Norwegian animation that I suppose I won’t be running out to buy.


Protege (2000, Levni Yilmaz)

Drawing paper shot from the other side as the pencil finishes drawing each panel, just like The Mystery of Picasso, but with a monotone voiceover guy explaining his history of imitating people he thought cooler than himself. Cute, and I suppose it technically counts as animation. Since I don’t have the book this disc came with, I’m not sure if this short predates Lev’s long-running Tales of Mere Existence youtube series, or if it’s part of it.


Toy Story That Time Forgot (2014, Steve Purcell)

Another toy story is always nice but this is more of the same ol’ thing. Bonnie from part three is on a post-Christmas playdate at a spoiled boy’s house, neglecting his complete set of some fantasy war toy collection to play a VR videogame, and our gang discovers that the war creatures haven’t yet figured out that they’re toys. Reptilius Maximus (Kevin McKidd) and tree ornament Angel Kitty probably won’t make it to the next theatrical sequel. Purcell is credited as a writer/director of Brave, and with animation on some 1990 video games (Loom and Monkey Island, wow).

Both Bens Rivers & Bussell are in Cinema Scope’s 50 Under 50, and I’ve checked them both out before – Russell with Let Each One Go Where He May and Rivers with Two Years at Sea and some shorts.

Spell opens and closes with Russell’s shaky follow-cam, the camera behind the head of a walking person. I can see a theoretical point to his relentless follow-cams: regular movies are always showing people leaving and arriving in scenes, while his movies show them traveling to the scene realistically. Theory or no, they still annoy me, and maybe he needs to find a new thing.

In between we’ve got Rivers’s “man living alone in the woods” motif and his long still shots of nothing much happening (man in a slowly drifting fishing boat – think I’ve seen that one before).

Three parts:

Estonia: bunch of foreigners in a commune, including one Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe, who is not the star of this section in any way but on whom I focus whenever he’s around, since I’ve seen his face in the promo photos.

Finland: just Rob Lowe alone, mountain climbing, fishing, cooking, hunting, slow-paced, no dialogue. Cutaways to the lake, a photograph of a lake, a magazine, etc. Then Rob is applying makeup, then his house burns down.

Norway: Long guitar intro over blackness, then we’re at a metal concert, interestingly shot up close by slow roving camera (this whole section is just a few long takes), with Rob as a guitarist and vocalist. They play a few songs, then he wastes no time getting backstage before the last one has ended, removing the makeup and walking into the night. I love the sound during this part, the club noise following him into the street and gradually getting louder.

M. Sicinski in Cinema Scope:

Russell and Rivers share an engagement with the history of ethnographic film, but only inasmuch as the critiques of its shortcomings and power relations have been fully internalized … Russell’s films have often favoured group dynamics, or at least individuals losing their identities in tandem; Rivers has more often than not worked within a mode of solo portraiture. The resulting collaboration is a dialectical meld of these tendencies. … The resulting film is a triptych fully reflective of Rivers’ and Russell’s longtime concerns: how does one remain a part of society while carving out a space that is, in Heidegger’s terms, true to one’s ownmost possibility?

Russell:

One of the most important realizations that I had through the making of this film was that cinema was, in fact, one of our best vehicles for realizing utopia. During a conversation about his experience in the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage, Tuomo (he’s the Finn who tells the asshole story in the film, also the subject of our next collaboration) proposed that utopia only exists in the present, that it can only be realized in the now. Cinema is a medium that is likewise always arriving (as the future) and receding (as the past) simultaneously. It is only alive when we are alive with it, when we share our time and allow our space to be occupied. It can only happen as experience in the present, and its capacity to produce worlds unto itself positions cinema as a very real site for utopia. For Thomas More, Utopia was a no-place, a construct; taken positively, this is cinema defined.

Sicinski again, but for Fandor:

Although the makers of A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness have been most closely aligned with the avant-garde film world, they stake out a position somewhere between trance film, portraiture, and ethnography. Their films, then, identify and problematize certain dual aspects of realism that could be said to “haunt” both experimental film and anthropological documentary.