The credits say it’s inspired by the opera Bluebeard’s Castle, and the synopsis says it’s about the “physical and spiritual aspects of a cultural recession.” The idle rich in summertime, not at all like La Cienaga.

Lara is the teenager I recognize from film stills:

The lighter-haired girl, not as recognizable from the other still where she’s walking on a second-story deck, gets a job at styrofoam factory. She escapes on a ferry at the end.

Also, there’s an octopus. Set in Buenos Aires, even Cinema Scope called it inscrutable. It’s unlike me to use the exact same images in this post which first drew me to the movie, but they’re still what stands out. The article has some good background and analysis, and this is probably worth rewatching sometime, even if I have nothing to say about it now.

Musco (1997, Michael Smith & Joshua White)
A fake 1984 infomercial for a music-oriented lighting equipment company. I don’t get it. It was part of an art installation, and I don’t get those in general, maybe because I don’t live in New York.
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Flash Back (1985, Pascal Aubier)
Two-minute short – soldier is killed in combat, life flashes before his eyes represented by photos going back in time until to the earliest baby picture. Guess Pascal had to find an actor with lots of family photos for this.
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The Apparition (1985, Pascal Aubier)
A guy’s bathroom light makes the Virgin Mary appear in a church across town. Aubier ought to be at least as popular as Don Hertzfeldt.
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Un ballo in maschera (1987, Nicolas Roeg)
Things I like:
1. That the king is played by a woman (Theresa Russell) with a mustache
2. That the action takes place in an ellipsis (“…but”) between the opening and closing text (“King Zog Shot Back!”)

Nice piece, set to music by Giuseppe Verdi. First segment of the anthology film Aria, which I must watch the rest of when I’m not so tired (next segment put me to sleep in a couple minutes).
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Universal Hotel (1986, Peter Thompson)
“1980, I have a strange dream. Between the fortress and the cathedral is the universal hotel.” Slow, calm analysis of photos and reports about a nazi experiment where prisoners were frozen then revival was attempted using boiling water, microwaves and “animal heat.” “I make statements about the photographs which cannot be proven. I speak with uncertainty.” Increasingly intense, with narrated dreams illustrated with photography tricks, a murder-mystery without an ending. Last line: “they come while I’m asleep.” Scary, and I would not have watched this right now had I known nazis were involved, but now I’m glad I did.
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Universal Citizen (1987, Peter Thompson)
Now in Guatemala, Peter talks with a concentration camp survivor who told himself he would move to the tropics if he survived. He did, so he does, laying in a hammock, floating in the warm water, working on the sun roof of his house, listening to Armenian records and refusing to be filmed. Mayan ruins. This time the dream/nightmare scenes lack narration. Ends with a joke (and a shot from the beginning of the other film). Oh wait, no it ends with depression after the credits. I preferred the joke.
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Bunker of the Last Gunshots (1981, Jeunet et Caro)
There’s an insurrection inside the bunker. A timer count backwards, people have gas masks and eyegear and prosthetic limbs, there are shootings, eletroshock, cryogenics, there is complicated machinery, tubes and wires and hidden cameras. Possibly they are Germans, it is possibly post-apocalyptic, and the soldiers possibly go crazy and kill each other. I am not entirely sure of the politics, but it’s a neat little flick, definitely full of the clutter style of their later features.
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Opening Night of Close-Up (1996, Nanni Moretti)
That’s just what it’s about. The nervous cinephile (Moretti himself) who runs an Italian theater is opening Kiarostami’s Close-Up and wants everything to be just right.
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World of Glory (1991, Roy Andersson)
“This is my brother. My little brother. I suppose he is my only true friend, so to speak. [both look away uncomfortably]” I just checked and yeah, Roy Andersson is the acclaimed deadpan comedic filmmaker who made Songs from the Second Floor and You, The Living. I’d believe it, and be almost excited to see those two after viewing this short, a guy grimly introducing us to his sad life, with he and others looking slowly into the camera as if we’re to blame for all this – except why did it start with a mini-reenactment of the holocaust? The whole rest of the movie I’m wondering that… he won’t let go of the “blood of christ” wine pot at mass and it’s supposed to be a funny scene but I’m thinking “the holocaust?!?”
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Reverse Shot explains:

World of Glory locates a society — ostensibly the director’s native Sweden, but easy interchangeable with any modern European country — so paralyzed by ennui, anxiety, and desperation that its inhabitants are apparitions. The main character is a thin, pasty man who takes us on a guided tour of his life — his loveless marriage, his stultifying job, his pathetic day-to-day activities. It was not until the second time I saw the film that I realized that this character had been present in the first shot: dead center of the frame, turning away from the proceedings every so often to fix us with his gaze. His meek, self-effacing misery in the later scenes thus comes into sharper relief: a person who does not act to avert tragedy endures beneath its weight.

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Je vous salue, Sarajevo (1993, Jean-Luc Godard)
“Culture is the rule, and art is the exception. … The rule is to want the death of the exception, so the rule for Cultural Europe is to organize the death of the art of living, which still flourishes.” This two-minute piece is a montage made from a single photograph, with voiceover. Directly to the point, I like it better than almost all of Histoire(s) du cinema.
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Origins of the 21st Century (2000, Jean-Luc Godard)
A bummer of a film, montaging footage from news videos and feature films (The Shining, The Nutty Professor, Le Plaisir) over quiet music with the occasional commentary or block lettering, war and death, pain and happiness and a few plays-on-words.
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If 6 was 9 (1995, Eija-Liisa Ahtila)
Sex, split-screens and supermarkets. More people looking into the camera confessionally, but all about sex this time, not too similar to Today.
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Can’t figure what a full hour-long Ahtila film would be like, but she’s made two of them so I’ll find out eventually.
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Zig-Zag (1980, Raul Ruiz)
Ruiz had adapted Kafka’s Penal Colony ten years earlier so surely he knows he’s making another Kafkaesque film here. A man named H. “realizes he is the victim of the worst type of nightmare: a didactic nightmare” when, late for an appointment, he finds himself part of a global board game at the mercy of pairs of dice. The game keeps changing scale, zooming out, so H. has to travel further distances more quickly – from walking to taxi to train to plane. Rosenbaum (who says it’s Borgesian not Kafkaesque) says it was made to promote a map exhibition in Paris, which to me just makes it more strange than if it was promoting nothing at all. “The history of cartography [is] the business of labyrinth destruction.”
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Either H. or the mysterious gamer was played by Pascal Bonitzer, cowriter of some of Rivette’s best films. “We now live in the pure instantaneous future.”
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Wallace & Gromit’s Cracking Contraptions (2002)
Ten W&G shorts. I think these were made to promote the full-length film… of course I had the chance to watch them back then and somehow put it off for seven years. Anyway these are cute – faves were The Snoozatron (a machine that dresses G. up as a sheep and flips him on a trampoline so W. can “count” him and fall asleep) and The Turbo Diner (a table-setting device exactly a la Charley Bowers in He Done His Best).


All This And Rabbit Stew (1941, Tex Avery)
Tex’s final Bugs short before moving to MGM. Hooray, now that I’ve watched those John Ford movies I can recognize that the offensive black stereotype hunter is based on Stepin Fetchit. I tried telling myself that if he didn’t look African the character would basically be Elmer Fudd – but then Bugs gets out of being held at gunpoint by shaking some dice and that idea goes out the window. Ouch.
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Vivian (Bruce Conner, 1964)
If you liked a girl in the 1960’s, you made an avant-garde film of her. Harvard Film Archive: “An ecstatic portrait of actress Vivian Kurtz that features footage of a 1964 Conner exhibition and couches a humorous critique of the art market.” Set to a pop song called Mona Lisa, loads of fun and only three minutes long. This would go on my “best of a-g” gift reel if it wasn’t such a problem to make such a thing.
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Journey on the Plain (1995, Bela Tarr)
Poems about friendship loss, life and death, each with a long tracking shot (imagine that), written by famed Hungarian poet Sándor Petöfi and performed by one of my favorite film music composers, Mihály Vig (Irimiás from Sátántangó, in color!). Suddenly in one scene 20 minutes in, he’s on a truck loudly playing a doomed keyboard. An odd movie, peaceful and beautiful. I would gladly watch again, paying more attention to the words of the poems.

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Thriller (1979, Sally Potter)

A narrator goes over the story and characters of an opera, then analyzes it while staring into a mirror, memory and identity swirling about. Very art-film, told in black-and-white stills and scenes, narrator all heavily french-accented. Kind of entrancing, really, with repeated poses and images and phrases, never quite turning into something I can make sense of (though I hear it’s some kind of marxist-feminist critique of Freud and contemplation of human existence, thanks to a useful, knowledgeable and well-considered review on the IMDB – a rare thing indeed).

Sony Pictures: “a critical re-working of Puccini’s opera La Boheme, was a cult hit on the international festival circuit.” Sudden bursts of the shower theme from Psycho. “Yes, it was murder. We never got to know each other. Perhaps we could have loved each other.” I need to see it again, obviously, but I’m not dying to do so anytime soon.

from K. McKim’s great Senses of Cinema article

Potter’s 16 mm black and white cult hit Thriller (1979) overtly equates revision with survival; the film invokes formal conventions to interrogate the narrative necessity of Mimi’s death. Inscribing this inquiry within allusion to female murder victims (Thriller cites Bernard Hermann’s screeching Psycho score), Mimi questions the conventions that locate meaning in the death of a young beautiful woman. Scripted, edited, produced and directed by Potter, Thriller transforms the opera into, as the title suggests, a thriller that uncovers operatic form’s generic and gendered hypocrisy.

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Dottie Gets Spanked (1993, Todd Haynes)
Wow, this was great. Boy with a mommy complex idolizes an I Love Lucy-esque TV show, wins a contest and gets to visit the set. Movie swirls with repression and fantasy and budding sexuality.

The distributor: “anticipates … Far from Heaven with its excavation of placid mid-century surfaces and deeply-buried emotions.” R. Lineberger: “This short film was commissioned by the Independent Television Service as part of a search for short films about American television. The pairing is perfect. Haynes is subversive, but approachable. His film deals with ominous and disturbing themes, but he never comes out and says anything objectionable. For example, Steven’s father is suggested to be violent, or at least sharply critical, but we never actually see any aggressiveness from him. The whispered consequences and punishments exist in glances, or in Steven’s thoughts.”

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13 Screen Tests (1964-66, Andy Warhol)

Rented Warhol’s screen tests sorta against my will (I just wanted to hear the new Dean & Britta songs) then proceeded to half-watch ’em while listening to the music. The films were better than I thought (that Edie Sedgwick has got something, and Lou Reed and Dennis Hopper are funny) and the music was worse (standard instrumentals, a few new songs and some covers). I did try watching a screen test straight through, the way I’m supposed to, to see if I experienced a sudden tingly appreciation for the Cult of Andy, but it didn’t work; maybe I picked the wrong one.

G. Comenas:

Factory visitors who had potential “star” quality would be seated in front of a tripod mounted camera, asked to be as still as possible, and told not to blink while the camera was running. … Some of the earliest Screen Tests were those included in Warhol’s film The Thirteen Most Beautiful Boys. … More than 500 Screen Tests were made. In addition to The 13 Most Beautiful Boys, some of the footage was incorporated into other compilation reels such as The 13 Most Beautiful Women (1964) and 50 Fantastics and 50 Personalities (1964).

LA Times:

Each test lasted as long as a single 100-foot roll of film. Each was shot at 24 frames per second and projected at two-thirds of that speed, a trick Warhol often used. Each took a little less than three minutes to film, and takes a little more than four to watch. The slow-motion effect adds a discernible flicker, heightens every movement and contributes to the dreamy, ghostly quality.

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FITZCARRALDO (1982, Werner Herzog)

Klaus Kinski (the year after starring in Terayama Shuji’s Fruits of Passion) acts less crazy than usual as Fitz, though he’s still got that hair. And of course, his crazy actions speak for themselves. Fitz loves opera, especially the singer Caruso, whose records he collects (which places the action somewhere 1905-1915ish) and wants to build an opera house where he lives in Iquitos, Peru, but investors won’t be convinced.

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So Fitz decides to make a fortune as a rubber baron, and build his own damned opera house. Gets his brothel-running girlfriend Claudia Cardinale (over a decade after her heyday in Once Upon a Time in the West, 8 1/2, The Leopard) to front him a steamboat and claims an unharvested plot of riverfront land in the jungle. It’s unharvested because nobody can reach it… it lies upstream from dangerous rapids. But even further upstream, another river veers within half a mile of the river in question, so Fitz plans to sail up THAT (dangerous-native-infested) river, drag his boat onto land across into the other river and harvest his rubber.

Claudia Cardinale:
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Along with a half-blind but navigationally-keen captain, a drunken chef, and a mechanic (Miguel Ángel Fuentes, fresh from playing the mystical indian sidekick in Puma Man) who’s openly spying on Fitz for his competitors, Fitz makes it to the crossing and with the help of hundreds of natives, drags his 30-ton ship over a damned muddy mountain and into the other river. That night, after the drunken celebration party, the natives cut the ship loose as a sacrifice to the rapids, undoing months of work. In a wonderfully bittersweet finale, with what’s left of his capital Fitz hires the opera to come to Iquitos and perform from the ship.

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Shot realistically, naturally taking its time to unfold. Herzog’s/Fitz’s ambition is immeasurable, and so a mere two hours cannot contain it. Movie doesn’t seem long so much as… huge. Actors speak English, dubbed into German and subtitled back into English.

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Hey wow, it was shot by the guy who did Orson Welles: One Man Band, which is the other movie I considered watching tonight. He also shot bunches of Alexander Kluge films.


WERNER HERZOG EATS HIS SHOE (1980, Les Blank)

“I’m quite convinced that cooking is the only alternative to filmmaking”

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Oh man, this was great… first of all because Werner is my hero, here being smart and funny and provocative, and second because Les keeps it lively with a circus atmosphere, bringing in clips of Herzog movies, The Gold Rush, and a Gates of Heaven outtake. Fitzcarraldo was in pre-production, and Les would follow Werner into that venture, filming…


BURDEN OF DREAMS (1982, Les Blank)

“If I abandoned this project I would be a man without dreams, and I don’t want to live like that.”

One of the most amazing docs I have seen, and essential viewing with Fitzcarraldo. Shows and tells the factors that made that film define “troubled production”, making Terry Gilliam and Francis Ford Coppola look like pansies in comparison. Attacks and intimidation by natives (their camp is burned down, a spear attack injures three), losing both stars of the film (post-Melvin and Howard Jason Robards and pre-Tattoo You Mick Jagger) and the actual pulling of a 30-ton steamship over a mountain by natives doesn’t even cover the whole story.

Burden of Dreams:
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Fitzcarraldo:
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On-set tantrums by a bored Klaus Kinski aren’t in this film (presumably they’re covered in My Best Fiend). This doc itself is wonderfully well-paced and shot, and Les gets choice interviews with Herzog, including his oft-quoted bit about how the jungle birds don’t sing, “they just screech in pain.” Taken as a package, Fitz and Burden are the rare cult films which exceed their reputation.

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From Paul Arthur’s Criterion essay:

When production stalls, as it often does—Herzog claims his film is “cursed,” admitting that “the jungle is winning”—Blank filters in lively scenes of the Campa extras’ quotidian routines: food preparation, clothes washing, the blending of a local alcoholic drink made from yuca plants. It is significant that most activities are “women’s work,” a realm that Herzog’s masculinist vision rarely acknowledges. Later, Blank constructs a touching vision of cross-cultural identification by juxtaposing the sound of a Caruso aria coming from a record player in an earlier shot with loving close-ups of native women, as if they are responding to the beauty of this alien voice. The moment recalls an archetypal collision staged by romantic adventurer Robert Flaherty in Nanook of the North (1922), when the titular Eskimo marvels at a phonograph record (then jokingly decides to bite it). Unlike either Herzog or Flaherty, Blank clearly prefers the rhythms of collective effort, of sensuous community, over Eurocentric ideals of heroic individualism. In essence, he has crafted a film about the interaction of premodern tribal existence with European modernity, epitomized by a movie narrative about the invidious clash of brute nature and a singular ego bent on his own, ultimately delusional, mission of cultural enlightenment.

When I think of silent horror, one of the first names that comes to mind is Rupert Julian, director of Phantom of the Opera, The Cat Creeps and Midnight Madness. Hahaha, I’m kidding of course, nobody has ever heard of Rupert Julian. But he’s still made quite a cool movie here, with Feuilladian booby traps and secret passages, the great Lon Chaney in his most famous makeup/mask, and some ill color tricks (tinting, hand-coloring and 2-strip technicolor) restored by a tech crew associated with the Alloy Orchestra, who accompanied Phantom at the Rome Film Festival.

Apparently we saw a rare version of this – most existing copies are of the 1929 reedit with added sound scenes. Great atmosphere and sets, lots of cool shadows. Best part is a masked ball, the Phantom’s only public appearance – masked, of course, so nobody realizes it’s him until later. He’s draped in a bright red cape, which looks shocking in a 1920’s film, standing on a statue while the heroes stand below talking about him, thinking themselves alone.

After seeing the musical version, I was surprised that the phantom here gets no sympathy. He’s an outright monster, killing and kidnapping, with no back-story and just the tiniest bit of humanity. He obsesses on understudy Christine, forcing her to leave her boyfriend Raoul and come to his subterranean lair. Raoul finally comes storming down followed by a torch-waving mob, only to get stupidly caught in traps until the Phantom, stupidly fooled by the usually quite stupid Christine, frees Raoul then gets chased into the river by the mob. Yes it’s a movie without much depth of character, but it gets the job done. Katy liked it too, and I got to briefly talk with Roger Miller about silent movies, so I figure it was worth the trip for both of us.

This came out the same year as three other Lon Chaney movies (including The Unholy Three), and before almost any other horror movie I’ve heard of (Nosferatu, and I guess you could count Haxan). Male hero Raoul was played by Norman Kerry, who also co-starred with Lon Chaney in Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Unknown, although he shares almost no scenes with Chaney in this one. Extremely gullible love interest Christine was Mary Philbin, who had worked with Julian and Kerry in Merry-Go-Round and would later star in The Man Who Laughs. The vaguely Lon Chaney-looking Arthur Edmund Carewe (later of Doctor X, The Cat and the Canary) played Ledoux, a suspicious character who turns out to be a secret agent and helps Raoul at the end. Edward Sedgwick, director of a 1920 American version of Fantomas (sadly lost), and director of the early sound-era Buster Keaton pictures which ruined Buster’s reputation, took over for Julian towards the end of the production.