My first Jarman movie, and it’s a proper narrative bio-pic, full of painting and poetry and light. Clear dialogue from a superb group of actors. I did wonder about the 17th century historical accuracy of a few lines – I try not to think about such things, but fortunately Jarman sent the signal to stop worrying when a character pulled out a solar-powered calculator halfway in.

Jarman’s fifth feature, and from the descriptions of the others, this sounds like one of his more conventional movies. Older Caravaggio and his mute assistant and Tilda would become Jarman regulars.

Caravaggio Nigel Terry, who’d played King Arthur in Excalibur:

Assistant and adopted son Jerusaleme: Spencer Leigh

Lover of the boxer and Caravaggio, in her feature debut, Tilda Swinton:

Roustabout boxer Sean Bean, who may have murdered pregnant Tilda:

Young Caravaggio: Dexter Fletcher would go on to direct fellow bio-pic Rocketman.

Cardinal Michael Gough, who encourages all this:

Watched on Kaurismaki’s birthday, this movie suddenly taking priority after I learned that André Wilms’s character Marcel from Le Havre originated here. Not as much rock music as usual for A.K., but prime cut “Leave My Kitten Alone” plays in a major scene. My second movie this week where someone is given two opera tickets instead of cash. I don’t think the dubbed French quite works, and Sam Fuller’s French seems quite bad, but quite the droll movie.

Marcel is a drunk writer, who meets a couple other poverty-level artists including composer Kari “Polonius” Väänänen, and they become fast friends, sharing cash and a car and living spaces. The painter (Matti Pellonpää, manager of the Leningrad Cowboys) gains a benefactor in Jean-Pierre Leaud then gets deported, Marcel gets set up by publisher Fuller, women come and go but the painter’s love Mimi (Evelyne Didi, great) sticks with them until the end.

With the composer, left, in their ridiculous three-wheeled car:

Mimi with Rodolfo:

How To with John Wilson (2020)
Painting with John (2021)

Two low-fi HBO shows made by very different auteur-Johns. Both shows seem like each episode is a new random doc segment of a John’s life, then in the final episode you realize they’ve taken you on a journey with purpose. This is my new favorite kind of show.

“I crashed seven drones.” Lurie’s playfulness extends to the filmmaking, where he shows a domestic scene then replays it with added laugh track. Unlike the fishing show in a couple major ways: no celebrity guests, and John can actually paint.

Wilson’s show loves visual puns and sidetracks following unusual characters. In an episode on improving memory, while looking for a Zagnut bar he meets a supermarket inventory system developer who is obsessed with the Mandela Effect (“I found the one place where the worse your memory was, the more people liked you”), then he stumbles into the West Side Story remake set (“for the rest of the week it was hard to tell who was a human and who was an actor”).

from How To Split The Check, which leads John to a sad referee convention:

wildlife from How To Make Small Talk:

The other John:


Central Park season 1 (2020)

Oh wow, a comedy musical with cast from Hamilton and Book of Mormon and Kimmy Schmidt and Veronica Mars… good characters and songs… would be the perfect show to watch with Katy except for its singleminded love of poop jokes. Doesn’t bother me, I’m waiting for season two.

Harassing owls:


The Venture Bros. season 1 (2004)

Show is more bizarre than I realized. The title characters are useless, all the drama happening around them, and it steals characters (the Six Million Dollar Man, the Fantastic Four) from other shows at will. Foetus music, a Lydia Lunch reference. Twist: the Venture Bros are killed in an Easy Rider season finale.

Creator Christopher McCulloch voices the Monarch and a Venture, and worked on the The Tick #1, while Tick #2 voices bodyguard Brock Samson. The other Venture is prolific anime voice actor Michael Sinterniklaas, and their dad is James Urbaniak, who shares my birthday and is from New Jersey, so we’re practically family.


Samurai Jack season 1 (2001)

Only after Primal came out did I belatedly realize I was stupid for never watching this. Demon sends samurai into an intergalactic future, what’s not to like. Wasn’t expecting the season to end with Aku telling fairy tales to kids, complete with a reference to The Shining.

Among many online concerts, i attended the quarantine edition of SF Sketchfest, which opened with a montage of famous comedians saying no to Sketchfest. Fred Armisen welcome, Reggie Watts theme song, Eugene Mirman using a flowby during intermission, Triumph vs. Weird Al. Highlights were Jon Hamm’s movie trivia, Kumail vs. Emily, and the Kids in the Hall.

Attempted to watch The Shivering Truth – really sweet puppet animation, shame it’s wasted on so many unfunny jokes. Adam Fuchs did the titles! Also walked out on stand-up specials by Yvonne Orji, Jenny Slate, Eric Andre and Tiffany Haddish. I stayed through A Steven Wright Special (1985)

Alan Partridge: Welcome to the Places of My Life (2012) has some sweet puns and lots of editing humor.


Nathan Barley (2005)

“It’s bad to have a bad uncle.” Julian Barratt is a pathetic angry guy who works for terrible website Trashbat run by Barley. Dan and his sister Claire room with DJ Nathan Fielder, and all of them discover they’re no better than the dummies they’re mocking. Barley torments a young Ben Whishaw, and Richard Ayoade and Benedict Cumberbatch are hanging around. When all your characters are annoying it’s hard for the show not to end up annoying, but as an intersection of post-Brass Eye Chris Morris, pre-Newswipe Charlie Brooker, and mid-Mighty Boosh everyone else, I was gonna have to watch it.


Charlie Brooker had an early-quarantine special Antiviral Wipe, then the end-of-year Death to 2020. The highlight of both was the Barry Shitpeas quote on OUATIH: “Quentin Cappucino made a new version of that film he does.” The latter special featured some good fake celebrity commentators and websites.

As far as I could remember from watching the early Criterion disc in 1999, this was a short-ish movie about bell casting, so imagine my surprise discovering that it’s a long-ish episodic movie about a painter with an extended bell-casting sequence at the end. Not my favorite Tarkovsky – too Catholic, and I think we’re supposed to know something about 1400’s Russian art history going in, because otherwise there’s not much drama following around this painter who never paints anything.

Turns out I also remembered the intro – a man flying away on ropes and balloons – a soviet myth according to the commentary, of the first flight of man – followed by a shot of a horse rolling over. Andrei and fellow painter/monks Kiril and Danil take shelter in their travels and witness a profane jester being brutalized by the cops.

Danil, Andrei, Kiril:

Some years later, an elder painter named Theo invites Andrei to work with him, invoking jealousy from the other monks, particularly whiny bitch Kiril, who beats his dog in anger (the movie is not kind to animals in general). Andrei takes along his slacker assistant, gets into an escapade with some naked pagans, some people get blinded, then there’s a long section of war and torture because a prince and his brother are feuding, and I didn’t know the motivation for most of this until reading a plot summary later – I thought the point was “the 1400s were terrible, yet Andrei still managed to paint beautiful things”. At the end of this though, Andrei has quit painting, or even speaking. Funny to watch this movie about a painter not painting, the day after Devotion, which features writers not writing.

Theo and Andrei:

Painters, not painting, as usual:

The movie jumps forward a decade to the part I remember – a young bellmaker’s son is approached to cast a new bell for a church, by order of the prince, who will throw a party if they succeed and kill them all if they don’t. Young Boriska claims that his recently deceased father passed on the secrets of bellmaking, but actually the kid is making it up as he goes, publicly barking orders and commanding a hundred men, but privately sick with worry. Andrei and Kirill are hanging around while all this is happening, doing nothing helpful, and it ends with the triumphant ringing of the new bell, then a color slideshow of period icons.

Boriska:

A more specific title would’ve been Bronte Sisters In Love. Charlotte is writing the more popular Jane Eyre while Emily is writing the critical fave Wuthering Heights, but we don’t see much of this, mostly we follow their fascination with their boringly strict minister-father’s bland employee (Paul Henreid, Bergman’s husband in Casablanca).

Oldest Charlotte is Olivia de Havilland in long tight curls (same year she played twin sisters in The Dark Mirror), Emily is Ida Lupino (just a few years before she’d start directing), and their drunkard painter brother Branwell is Arthur Kennedy (whom we recognized from the westerns). There’s also the youngest sister (Anne: Nancy Coleman) and mostly we amused ourselves by trying to tell the three girls apart.

Bran paints his sisters:

Part of a flurry of Brontë interest, after the 1939 Wuthering Heights, 1943 Jane Eyre (with Joan Fontaine, sister of de Havilland), and (purportedly based on Jane Eyre) I Walked With a Zombie. Mostly a stodgy, joyless costume drama from Warner Bros and Bernhardt (Joan Crawford’s Possessed), and the writers of Undercurrent and National Velvet and Above Suspicion.

Emily in the sky:

At end of the last movie, the family was moving from seaside town Tocopilla to Santiago. Mom still sings all her lines, dad is still violent, but this time young Alejandro is the lead character, discovering art and poetry and breaking away from his parents. Just as the kid’s performance is starting to feel limited, we jump a few years so he can be played by Adan Jodorowsky, the filmmaker’s son and director of Echek, for the rest of the film.

The mix of realistic (and not) effects, JR-style retrofitting of modern buildings, dreamlike sets with visible stagehands rearranging furniture, Orpheus references, random nudity, shock color, head shaving, prankster poets, sad clowns and street parades, with the poetry and deaths and parental issues… it all worked for me.

Shot by Chris Doyle! The first I’ve seen from him since The Limits of Control.

Oh wow, this was as good as advertised. Must see again.

Painter Noémie Merlant will soon appear in Jumbo, in which she falls in love with a carnival ride.

I saw Adèle Haenel a couple weeks ago in Deerskin, plus she was great in The Unknown Girl and has been in at least two Bonello movies – and on my drive to this movie I noticed his Zombi Child is playing the Plaza, but it was the night before True/False, so, too late.

Young Luàna Bajrami was recently in a Village of the Damned sort of thing and a Catherine Deneuve movie. And mom Valeria Golino is mostly known for acting in 1990’s American trash movies, but has won best actress awards twice in Venice for Italian films, and directed two films that played Cannes.

A Rotterdance selection from Uruguay. Belmonte is a morose painter who does good business selling morose nudes to rich people. He would like to spend more time with his daughter, but it’s complicated with the pregnant ex-wife. Belmonte has grave concerns about his parents, the business his brother runs, the opera, family and acquaintances he meets at the opera, his daughter, and an upcoming exhibit. He’s kind of prickly and no fun to be around… but the movie has some nice colored lights sometimes, and it’s short.

Veiroj’s fourth feature – two others have more promising descriptions. Lead actor Gonzalo Delgado has also been an art director, writer, you name it. Played in Rotterdam 2019’s “Voices” section with Knife+Heart, The Mountain, Genesis, and Cities of Last Things. Dan Sallitt loved this and Grass, so I’m having a very Sallitt-approved week.

Michael Sicinski in Cinema Scope:

What makes Belmonte rather unique is the fact that, at least for most of the film, it avoids the clichés of the creative life. Instead, Veiroj treats art as labour, coextensive with the demands of fatherhood and other familial duties … Veiroj is Uruguay’s leading auteur at this point, and as with his earlier film A Useful Life (which centered on a cinematheque programmer), Belmonte is a sensitive examination of the ins and outs of a life in the arts.

Maria flees her town and moves into a house in the woods along with two pigs that she transforms into children and names Pedro and Ana. I think they’re hiding from a wolf outside, and after they almost die in a house fire Pedro drinks honey and turns white, and Ana swallows a songbird and gets a golden voice, then Maria is rescued after they try eating her… I dunno, I was too busy marveling at the look of this thing.

Smeary, drippy painting inside a real (model?) house, with doorways and props. But painted scenes will overwhelm doors and props as if they weren’t there, then form free-standing stop-motion models within the room, 2D artworks interacting with 3D objects, the wall art constantly shifting and the models always making and unmaking themselves, styles of the characters changing. Rustling and rubbing sounds accompany all the visual shifting, wires and cellophane hold the models in place, and I think it’s all fluid transitions with no traditional editing.

I’d forgotten about the brief TV-footage framing story, but did wonder why Maria sometimes spoke German. Apparently this is a fairy-tale reference to a notorious German-led cult and Pinochet torture compound, active in Chile for decades.

Cartoon Brew:

During the research process, the filmmakers discovered that the German members of the community used to call their Chilean neighbors ‘schweine’. This led them to conceive of the two children in the story as piglets, and depict their progressive transformation into Aryan humans as an ironic joke aping the community’s racial ideology.

Walker has an interview with the directors, including some amazing production details, and their self-set rules for animation and sound design:

We had a literary script, with the dialogues of the film, a really simple storyboard, basically with one image per scene … Our day-to-day work was to find a way to connect one image with the other … The specific actions of each scene were improvised.