A musical Joan of Arc story soundtracked by a metal band! It’s a bit of wacky fun – except it’s not, really… you can still detect the serious Dumont of Hors Satan in the dramatic scenes (which stop the movie dead between musical numbers) and the comic Dumont of Quinquin in the playfulness and the casting, and this movie hangs weirdly in between. The two girls playing the lead seem very much like girls, without the fervor and obsession of other cinematic Joans. These Jeannettes are still figuring out what God wants from them, and their own headbanging and awkward dances (to metal songs interrupted by sheep) is filmed at about the same level as the religious figures and miraculous apparitions. It’s a materialist movie, if that’s the right word OR the right understanding of what he’s doing here, focusing mostly on Jeannette (with great help from her uncle D’nis) being unsure and hesitant about the journey she finally undertakes at the end.

Mouseover for headbanging:
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After Possession and Cosmos, I’ve been anxious to watch more Zulawski. There’s a World War II drama, a space-travel sci-fi cult thing, a love triangle story, and this one, with which I informally kicked off SHOCKtober this year.

A nervous, wild-eyed stranger arrives at a convent in total bloody chaos where two political prisoners are being held. He kills Thomas, saves Jacob, kidnaps a nun and rides the hell out of there, but everywhere he goes is about as hysterical as the convent, and Jacob starts murdering people with a knife. He buries his father, attacks his friends, murders his mother, gets injured in a duel, deliriously gives up his co-conspirators to the stranger, then is killed. The nun takes out the devil, who transforms into an animal as he dies. It’s all very intense, and I didn’t always follow it (nor its political allegory which got it banned), but it’s definitely something else.

Jacob and the stranger:

Jacob’s mom with snake:

Jacob and the nun costarred in Zulawski’s feature debut The Third Part of the Night the previous year, and devil Wojciech Pszoniak was in Wajda’s Danton.

Jeremiah Kipp (director of The Minions and Contact) in Slant:

Jakub is led home by his dark-clad benefactor, only to discover that everything has taken a turn toward the rancid and horrible. His father has committed suicide, his mother has transformed into a prostitute, his sister has been driven insane, and his fiancée has been forced into an arranged marriage with his best friend, who has turned into a political opportunist and turncoat. Leading him through this world turned upside down is the man in black, who continually whispers sarcastic platitudes in the hero’s ear and inciting him to acts of extreme violence … As usual for his films, the camera hurtles vertically across rooms and fields and spirals around as the actors pitch their performances at maximum volume. Society for Zulawski is just a thin veneer used to disguise the horrible sadism and unhappiness lurking inside every human heart. The Devil would make for maudlin, depressing viewing if every scene didn’t feel like explosions were being set off, sending the inmates of a madhouse free into the streets outside.

Low-key handheld indie drama where a sad nun returns home to deal with family drama… the whole “young nun reverts to her goth roots” aspect was played up more in the advertising than the movie itself. Our lead nun is Addison Timlin (Afterschool, Odd Thomas), whose brother (unrecognizably Keith Poulson, lead of Somebody Up There Likes Me) is home and depressed with massive facial burns, and mom Ally Sheedy isn’t dealing so well herself. I kinda lost most of the details by waiting too long to write about it, but it’s one of the best I’ve seen of this type of movie, chosen to watch since Katy’s little sister was over.

Timlin with her big brother:

Timlin with head nun Barbara Crampton:

Servant Dave Franco (like a less intense James) escapes from Lord Nick Offerman after getting caught with his Lady, and runs into drunken priest John C. Reilly, who offers Dave a job at his dysfunctional convent, where Dave pretends to be mute and becomes an object of desire by the nuns – slightly flipping the power structure of the Pasolini version in The Decameron.

Lead nuns: Aubrey Plaza is a vicious witch (with co-witch buddy Jemima Kirke), Alison Brie (Diane on BoJack Horseman) has rich (or formerly rich) parents and was just waiting out her time until she could be married off. Kate Micucci (Garfunkel and Oates) is a kissup narc (and secretly Jewish). And drunken priest John C. Reilly is sleeping with head nun Molly Shannon. Eventually, all of this gets out of control and Bishop Fred Armisen has to come sort it out.

The Italian landscapes and castles are cool, but overall little fancy filmmaking here. I was kept constantly amused by the anachronistic, foul-mouthed dialogue and blasphemous behavior in the period setting. Jeff Baena cowrote I Heart Huckabees then disappeared for a decade, recently came back with Life After Beth and Joshy, which share a bunch of cast members with this one.

Not to be confused with The Clan or The Tribe or The Wolfpack. Movies need better titles.

My first Pablo Larraín movie, and it’s unusual. Not sure what I was expecting, maybe more Matteo Garrone-style. Has a hazy digital look with odd white balance and sometimes grotesque wide lenses, and tells an odd story about a house of recovery/isolation for problem priests.

Father Matías arrives with an exquisite beard, but has been followed there by Sandokan, whom he used to molest as a boy. Sandokan yells in front of the house until Father Matías walks outside and kills himself.

Newcomer Father Matías:

So Father Garcia is sent from the church to investigate, and probably to shut down the house and scatter its residents. The residents seem less concerned with him than with Sandokan, who is still hanging around town, so they stage a crime to pin on him, murdering their own and their neighbors’ racing dogs. Sandokan gets beaten up by an angry mob, and Father Garcia agrees to leave the house alone if they’ll take care of poor Sandokan.

Investigator Father Garcia:

I didn’t get this ending, really, but liked the actors’ beards and the general muddled atmosphere of the thing. Obviously don’t know what to make of Larraín at this point – need to watch more of his work. I thought he was one of our beloved international festival auteurs (his current Jackie is getting raves) until discovering so many negative reviews of this one. Checking online, I see that Sicinski has turned in a four-paragraph review of the other The Club (“a Master Lock for your steering wheel”) which is confusing the Letterboxd commenters.

Nick Pinkerton:

There are doubtless those who will prefer the smoldering indignity of Spotlight, ever so slightly tinctured for flavor with self-recrimination, to the moral murkiness of The Club … Shot by Larraín’s regular cinematographer Sergio Armstrong, The Club is overlaid with a milky haze … it gives the impression of an all-permeating damp fog, a dramatis personae who are half-ghost, and a setting that is somewhere between the Chilean seaside and Purgatory.

Sandokan:

Looking up cast, Jaime Vadell must’ve played the oldest priest (nobody, including he, can remember his crimes) because he appeared in Ruiz’s Three Sad Tigers back in the 1960’s. Dog-killing ex-nun Sister Monica was Larraín regular Antonia Zegers, and dog trainer Vidal starred in and cowrote Tony Manero.

Quintín:

Larraín prefers to deal in his films with the low and middle classes, whom he strongly despises. If there’s a common thread running through his cinematographic output, it’s that the problem of contemporary Chilean society is not, as usually assumed, that it suffered a dictatorship for almost 20 years, during which time thousands of citizens were murdered, tortured, and disappeared, all kinds of censorship and repression was exerted, and people couldn’t leave their homes at night because of the curfew. No, for Larraín the true problem is that Chileans deserve their fate because they secretly liked to be humiliated and destroyed by the barbarians, as they thought that they were not strong enough to rebel against them.

I guess I’m starting to get Pasolini’s style, thanks not to this confusing movie but to the blu-ray extras, which say he combines his knowledge of art and iconography with deliberately naive framing and ignorance of film history and style, influenced by Gramsci (“the revolutionary potential of the arts”) and the neorealists (who insisted on a “high level of political and cultural engagement on the part of directors and writers”). In retrospect I can see how these ideas work, but in my experience of watching the movie, it seemed like a silly bunch of populist, amoral comedic sex stories, lightly enjoyable.

First, someone is murdered in a cave, but it’s dark and I’m not sure what’s happening or if it’s important.

Then Andreuccio (Ninetto Davoli) is scammed by a princess who claims to be his long-lost sister before ejecting him into a toilet and stealing his money. He finds fortune with grave robbers later that night, stealing a gemstone ring from a bishop’s crypt.

Masetto pretends to be stupid and mute in order to gain favor with the nuns and eventually have sex with all of them.

A husband returns home to his cheating wife Peronella where she has stashed her lover in a huge vase, pretending that he’s interesting in buying it. This is when I realized that none of these episodes are related in any way.

Legendary liar/forger Ciappelletto (Franco Citti, title star of Accattone – aha, learned that he’s the murderer in the prologue) is dying, gives a final fake confession to a very impressed priest.

A multi-part episode framed by the story of a painter (Pasolini himself) working on a mural… also featuring young lovers Caterina and Ricardo caught nude on a balcony and forced to marry… Lorenzo is killed by his lover’s brothers and she finds his grave and keeps his head… and a sex fiend returns from the dead to tell his buddy that the afterlife has “nothing against screwing around”

Back to the painter: “Why complete a work, when it’s so beautiful just to dream it?”

Won a prize in Berlin (despite featuring some of the laziest dubbing work I’ve ever seen) where Vittorio De Sica took the Golden Bear. “It also quite infamously started a trend of pornographic films based on Boccaccio’s Decameron, something Pasolini actually found very upsetting,” per Patrick Rumble’s vital video essay.

Little Orphan Anna grew up in the church, is about to become a nun when the higher-ups say they’ve located her only living family, and send her off to meet her aunt. Aunt Wanda, a judge in town, says Anna’s real name is Ida, she is a Jew whose parents were murdered during WWII. The two set out to visit the parents’ grave, which is complicated since they haven’t got one, but fortunately run across their murderers who’ve taken the family home as their own. They take a couple bags of bones (Ida’s parents, Wanda’s son) to the family plot in a now-abandoned cemetery. Wanda tries to convince Ida to give up the nunnery, hooks her up with a cute saxophonist called Lis. Not much dialogue in the movie so we have to draw our own conclusions why Ida sleeps with the boy then sneaks away to return to the convent – but not much imagination is needed to figure why Wanda commits suicide.

4:3 b/w movie, beautifully shot though I sat close enough for the screen to look pixelly in wide shots. Plenty of head room, and a tendency to cram Ida into a lower corner of the screen, reminding me of Josh Brolin in Milk but probably for a different purpose.

The only actor I’m seeing in anything else is Joanna Kulig of Elles, gorgeous young singer of the saxophonist’s band. Pawlikowski made My Summer of Love and won awards for Last Resort with Paddy Considine.

Something I didn’t get that J. Kuehner explains: Wanda reveals “her own past as a prosecutor of ‘enemies of the people’ (historically, former anti-Nazi resistance fighters who were convicted in show trials under the Stalinist regime)”.

Like Rivette, Bresson started his feature career with a nun movie. This is an interesting one in light of his later movies about crime and punishment. On prison trips, young nun Anne-Marie (Renee Faure, lovestruck globemaker’s daughter in L’assassinat du Père Noël) becomes obsessed with Therese (Jany Holt, the prostitute in Renoir’s Lower Depths), trying to get her to join the convent – which she does after her release, but not before shooting a man to death as revenge for her imprisonment.

So, Anne-Marie gets ever more intense towards the woman she thinks she has saved, and Therese is extremely moody, never fitting in at the convent since she’s really using it to hide from her latest crime.

Senses:

For her disruption of convent life Anne-Marie is expelled, but secretly returns nightly to pray at the tomb of her order’s founder. When she becomes deathly ill, she is discovered and readmitted to the fold; and, upon her death, Thérèse undergoes a change of heart, delivering herself to the police and to her just punishment. .. This route to Anne-Marie’s saintly fulfilment and Thérèse’s transformation passes through continually ambiguous terrain, in which will, destiny, and chance become indistinguishable, and in which saintliness and criminality not only work side by side but mingle.

Head nun Sylvie was in Le Corbeau the same year, and one of the others – I get them confused – was Marie-Hélène Dasté, Jean Dasté’s wife and a stage actress for playwright/novelist Giraudoux, who adapted the story for this film.

Public Affairs (1934)

Princess defies king, flies to nearby Crogandy to marry their clown chancellor, who gets a few funny bits in this visually indistinct, silly-ass comedy. A pretty good extended contagious-yawn joke leads to a plane crash, then everyone in town falls asleep (probably not a Paris qui dort reference). We follow the chancellor from a statue unveilling to a firehouse demonstration to the launch of a ship, with Marcel Dalio (the marquis in Rules of the Game and Frenchy in To Have and Have Not) playing most of the movie’s roles besides the romantic leads.

Revisiting this after watching so many Rivette movies. The sound design, amplifying ordinary noise from clothes, floors and chairs, usually uncovered by music, is the main familiar element. It may be his most tightly structured film, without any improv, though I’d have to watch it back-to-back with Don’t Touch the Axe to be sure.

“In marrying your sisters, we’ve ruined ourselves.” Anna Karina, towards the end of her Godard relationship, is sent to become a nun by her parents against her will in the mid-1700’s. To her, the experience is just like prison, but she manages to sneak out some letters and secures herself a lawyer (soundtrack plays ocean waves when she’s finally allowed to see him), incurring the wrath of head nun Francine Berge (gorgeous baddie of Franju’s Judex), until her punishment is finally noted by Berge’s superiors and Anna is moved to a new convent.

Karina and Berge have a nun-off:

The new one is a pleasure palace, run by clingy lesbian Liselotte Pulver (of A Time to Love and a Time to Die), whom the father confessor tells Anna to avoid like the devil. Anna doesn’t like this place any more than the last one, finally teams up with an amorous monk (Francisco Rabal, whose face was ripped off in Dagon) to escape. Best scene is with him, as she realizes his intentions and the music goes mental.

Karina and Pulver bond:

Anna flees him and he’s captured – oh, and her mom is dead, her friend who talked her into becoming a nun in the first place (Micheline Presle, Depardieu’s relative in I Want To Go Home) is dead, and now her lawyer is dead. Then she flees the village where she’s hiding out, gets picked off the street by a fancy lady, and finally flees her party right out an upper-story window. This made more sense once the internet told me the “fancy lady” was a prostitute, oops. C. Clouzot: “Rivette completes Diderot’s unfinished novel with her suicide.”

brief moment of happiness, post-escape:

the end is near:

Banned in France for over a year, with much public debate leading up to its eventual release. It’s funny now that this movie was considered so outrageous, falling five years after Mother Joan of the Angels and five before The Devils. Quite a good movie, even if not extremely Rivettian. Cinematographer Alain Levent worked on the first films by Chabrol, Rohmer and Truffaut, shot Cleo from 5 to 7, The Nun and later, Sam Fuller’s Day of Reckoning and Madonna and the Dragon. Adapted again (sort of) by Joe D’Amato in the 80’s and there’s a new version out with Isabelle Huppert.