The famous painter Hokusai and his daughter O-Ei work in the same house, sometimes finishing each other’s works. She likes a dreamy guy, but some doofus guy likes her. She has a blind sister whom Hokusai never visits, and the sister takes up about half the movie. A few moments of grace (the paintings coming to life, blind girl making snow angels, geisha whose head escapes at night) enliven an ordinary story that opens awkwardly with out-of-place guitar rock then limps along to the end after the blind girl dies. Katy says the advertisements were misleading, implying that O-Ei would break free from her dad’s shadow and find her own style.
Back in the day I’d flip through the Norman McLaren DVD box set regularly, but times change and you get old and overwhelmed with things and one day you realize you haven’t watched any McLaren in six years.
Blinkity Blank (1955)
Advanced hand-etched animation – musical battle of red dot vs. blue dot, flickering and transforming into different images for an instant at a time.
R. Koehler called it “possibly his greatest film, in which McLaren discovered the effect of not drawing on every single frame.”
One may briefly notice (provided one doesn’t blink) a flurry of feathers, a parachute, a bird cage, a pineapple, an umbrella that turns into a hen-like figure, as well as many undescribable doodles that keep bouncing all over the screen. “This is not a film you see,” wrote French critic André Martin in 1955, “it’s a film you think you see.” You do hear, however, and not just think you hear, Maurice Blackburn’s dodecaphonistic score … with strikingly percussive synthetic-sound punctuations added throughout like so many punches by McLaren’s scratchings on the soundtrack.
C’est L’aviron (1944)
Gentle boat ride in sync with a vocal French tune, constant 3D zoom forwards (and sometimes backwards) over sea, through clouds and towns. There’s a behind-the-scenes film explaining how it was made,
Mathematical dance of stop-motion spheres against a morphing cosmic backdrop. Codirected with René Jodoin in 1946, with music added two decades later.
Love on the Wing (1939)
A post office advert – see also the Len Lye shorts – in which two postal letters are in love. Fast-paced, surrealist-inspired etched animation, characters constantly morphing into different figures.
La Poulette Grise (1947)
Variations of chicken/egg paintings, contorting slowly to a vocal song by Anna Malenfant (doesn’t that mean Anna Badchild?). At the end, the chicken sails away upon a crescent moon.
A Little Phantasy on a Nineteenth Century Painting (1946)
Chalky animation upon a reproduction of an Arnold Böcklin painting.
Là-Haut Sur Ces Montagnes (1946)
Another generative painting, a nice pastoral scene
Book Bargain (1937)
Short doc with voiceover showing the process of printing the London phone book. Cool machinery but kind an unexciting industrial film.
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.
Sure it’s the cutest-ever story of an orphan mouse who befriends a hermit criminal bear, but it also has major subplots about teeth theft at the behest of a sinister orphanage.
Also there’s a family with a dentist mom who works across the street from her candy seller husband, which is funny and low-key cynical but they don’t seem to deserve the chaos Ernest wreaks upon their businesses.
Beautiful watercolor backgrounds, often fading away at the edges. According to the codirector the writing was influenced by Studio Ghibli (naturally) and Kikujiro (ha!).
I was crazy about it, but something seemed off with the English voices. After just having seen The Little Prince and feeling Jeff Bridges was just perfect as the inventor neighbor, I wasn’t feeling Forest Whitaker as Ernest. The movie is short, so I watched it again in French with original Ernest Lambert Wilson (the American in Not On The Lips), which was perhaps an improvement, perhaps not, but either way a joy to see twice.
With its first-person musings and associative image-track, Francofonia’s first half resembles nothing so much as a late Godard video, but the approach and mood is open and accessible even as the subject matter turns highbrow … But most of the remainder of the film is spent dramatizing the wartime cooperation between the Louvre’s Vichy-era chief, Jacques Jaujard (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing), and Nazi cultural attaché Franz Wolff-Metternich (Benjamin Utzerath).
A complicated movie which I thought about for days afterwards, but I waited long enough before writing anything down that now it’s not fresh in my mind and I’m hesitant to write anything at all. A variety of styles, aspect ratios, color palettes, time periods and strange effects (the film’s soundtrack waveform visible alongside the picture was a new one to me). Some Russian Ark-ian museum cruising with your host Napoleon, who showed off paintings of his own exploits and earned a big laugh at our screening when he gazed at the Mona Lisa saying his usual line, “It’s me.” Even the regular historical drama scenes (Louvre chief meeting his Nazi overseer) don’t go in the directions you’d expect of a historical drama and they culminate in a wondrous bit where each character is told by the narrator how his life will end up.
My preparatory viewings of various Crime and Punishment adaptations didn’t end up preparing me at all for Whispering Pages, which uses none of the main events from the novel, instead taking minor scenes and mashing them up with other novels, creating a general tone of miserablist 19th century Russian literature without bothering itself with a story.
Extreme Slow Cinema here, but Sokurov keeps it short, under 80 minutes. He seems to love paintings and long takes. Motion shots turn to stills. The color temperature of shots changes. The picture sometimes looks blurred or stretched or warped, but given the stills I’ve seen of Mother and Son, this is probably intentional. Film grain and rolling mist are more main characters than our lead actor A. Cherednik, who speaks with a breathy Peter Lorre voice and seems to have killed someone offscreen.
Overall I wasn’t a fan, but it does have some mesmerising moments. There’s the main dialogue scene with E. Koroleva, in which he tells her that he’s killed someone and they debate him turning himself in and the existence of God, and she reacts like this:
There’s an obscure bureaucracy scene with this weirdo:
And there’s an inexplicable (dream sequence?) where everyone around our hero is leaping in slow-motion into unknown depths. Stills can’t do that shot justice, so instead here is some mist.
Some of the earliest-listed Resnais shorts, a series of short portraits of different artists from the year before his Van Gogh, and three years before Gauguin and Guernica. I was surprised to come across these online. Not sure if they were released with no sound, but the copies I found were completely silent, with no music, no clever Marker or Cayrol or Queneau commentary, so I looked up info on each artist online.
(Mis)information: NY Times bio gets the dates wrong but claims these were indeed silent, Films de France says the 16 minute Hartung film is in color and runs 90 minutes (and is “passable entertainment”). Richard Neupert’s French New Wave book says these were made after Resnais dropped out of film school in 1945 and did his military service in 1946. “Resnais credited these shorts about painting as valuable testing ground for making still images come alive through editing and camera movement.”
Visite a Óscar Domínguez
Some time-lapse painting, and did I see a stop-motion statue?
Mid-Centuria: “Óscar Domínguez (1906-1957) was a Spanish Surrealist painter … During the 1940’s, his paintings were strongly influenced by Picasso with whom he had become friends while living in Paris.”
Visite A Hans Hartung
Groovy looking dissolves in this one.
Wiki: “Hans Hartung (1904-1989) was a German-French painter, known for his gestural abstract style.” The nazis tried to arrest him for being too cubist.
The artist (smoking, of course) scratching out a spiral:
Visite a Cesar Domela
Aha, an opening credit for commentary by A.F. Delmarle – so these were not originally silent. This one’s in rougher shape. Shows him using cutouts and tapping a paintbrush to get texture, sanding objects which will be affixed to the canvas, then last couple minutes is a showcase of finished(?) works.
Wiki: “César Domela (1900-1992) was a Dutch sculptor, painter, photographer, and typographer, and a key member of the De Stijl movement.”
Visite a Felix Labisse
No commentary credit here, just an opening Hegel quote then a long pan down two mighty collages. Works shown focus on naked women and birds, two of my favorite things, and are super awesome and disturbing, reminding me of Dali-meets-Woodring.
Wiki: “Félix Labisse (1905-1982) was a French Surrealist painter, illustrator, and designer.” IMDB says he has cinema experience, appearing in Zero for Conduct and a couple Henri Storck films.
Visite a Lucien Coutaud
Sci-fi landscapes, nudes and angular craziness.
M. Adair: “Lucien Coutaud (1905-1977) was a French surrealist painter and engraver … He had 40+ years success with his artwork which has varied widely from painting, drawing, print-making, costume designing and illustrating … Coutaud has also designed opera, theater and ballet sets.”
Portrait de Christine Boomeester
With piano music. Nice bit at the end showing her beginning a painting, lighting a candle, then a title card says “at dawn,” the candle has burned down and painting is complete.
Askart: “Christine Boomeester (1904-1971) was active/lived in Italy, Netherlands, France, Indonesia … known for abstract paintings.” She was also married to Henri Goetz.
Portrait de Henri Goetz
The big one, twice as long as the others. The usual slow zooms and pans across the paintings (even a spiraling zoom into one), but also more process exploration, showing progression of the artist over a few years, a series of drawings with each one inspired by details in the previous, and the month-long process of creating a new painting – which is burned at the end (can’t tell if it was a reproduction).
Wiki: “Henri Bernard Goetz (1909-1989) was a French American Surrealist painter and engraver. He is known for his artwork, as well as for inventing the carborundum printmaking process … Goetz showed the film to Gaston Diehl, leading Diehl to commission Resnais to create the film Van Gogh in the following year. Resnais went on to win an Academy Award in 1950 for the Best Short Subject, Two-reel film for Van Gogh.”
All these were “presented by Andre Bazin,” co-founder of Cahiers du Cinema and mentor of the French New Wave, who rarely appeared in any film credits himself. Can’t find evidence that Henri-Georges Clouzot knew Resnais, or saw his art documentaries before making The Mystery of Picasso.
I’ve avoided Pasolini because I began with Salo and have never been a huge fan of Italian cinema in general. But explorations of Fellini and Rossellini have lately got me looking at the artistry beyond the sound sync problems, so fourteen years after cringing through his nazi shit-eating movie, and in the wake of Ferrara’s new film about him, it seemed time to give ol’ Pasolini another chance.
A factory owner has just transferred ownership to the workers, who are being interviewed by the media. This is a fantasy dear to the hearts of leftist French filmmakers like Godard and Marker, and I was worried it’d get all Tout va bien, but then we flash back a few months to the factory owner’s home with his wife, daughter, son and maid, beginning with a wordless b/w intro section. The magnetic Terence Stamp (same year as Toby Dammit) comes to stay with them, soon sleeps with everyone in the household, then abruptly leaves.
The first half of the film is a long seduction (sometimes the action stops entirely, the Ennio Morricone music keeping the film alive), then in the second half each person deals with Stamp’s disappearance. Most spectacular is the maid, Laura Betti (the domineering Brunelda in Class Relations, also of 1900 and Pasolini’s Canterbury Tales), who barely speaks a few words in the movie. She leaves the house and returns to her home village, where she sits quietly in the courtyard, eating only boiled weeds and performing miracles. The rest of the family behaves in more normal (or at least movie-normal) ways: mother Silvana Mangano (of a bunch of movies set in ancient times: Oedipus Rex, Barabbas, Ulysses, Dune) starts driving into the city picking up random men and daughter Anne Wiazemsky (Au Hasard Balthazar) loses her mind and becomes catatonic. Son Pietro rents a loft and starts painting, becomes obsessed with creating new abstractions “where previous standards don’t apply… Everything must be presented as perfect, based on unknown, unquestionable rules.”
Am I crazy, or is the maid shown multiple times back at the wealthy house even after she has left for the village? Dad Massimo Girotti (Ossessione and a couple of early Rossellini features) has the last word. He gets naked in the train station on his way to work, presumably gives away his factory (it doesn’t repeat scenes from the beginning) then appears walking across a volcano, shouting in rage. We’ve seen the volcano before, an unworldly mist blowing across it, in frequent cutaways from the main action. I thought it was meant to remind us of Stromboli or Voyage to Italy, but perhaps the Italians film on volcanos all the time – Pasolini shot part of the following year’s Porcile on the same volcano, Mount Etna.
Part of Pasolini’s “Mythical Cycle” with three other films. IMDB claims Miike’s Visitor Q is a remake. Played the Venice Film Festival alongside Partner, Faces, Monterey Pop and Naked Childhood. Italy tried to censor it, of course. The catholics had mixed feelings, first giving it an award then changing their minds. I discovered the word “bourgeoise” is much better in Italian, pronounced bohr-GAZE-ee like the filmmaker.
Someday I’d like to visit Italy and see if everyone acts the way they do in Argento films, moving all artificially and speaking poor dialogue out-of-sync with their mouths. Probably it’s just a very bad movie. And that’s not even counting the fact that it’s about a rape investigator (played by Argento’s daughter) who gets repeatedly raped (she’s also a cop who repeatedly gets her gun stolen), then it justifies this in the second half by having her become the killer. “He forced his way into me and now I can’t get rid of him.” Worse, I’m not even sure why I watched this. I’d previously read up on Argento and decided which movies might be worth watching (just the ones I’ve seen plus Crystal Plumage, Grey Velvet and Opera), and Stendhal Syndrome was not on the list. Maybe I put it on the netflix blu-queue as a placeholder? Anyway at least the picture on the disc looked fantastic.
The earliest Asia Argento I’ve seen, two years before New Rose Hotel. After being kidnapped and raped the first time she acts prickly towards a creep coworker (Marco Leonardi, love interest Pedro in Like Water For Chocolate) who is relentlessly trying to date her, starts seeing a psychologist (Paolo Bonacelli of Salo, one of the few films more icky than this one), and eventually returns to her stress-inducing family (to relax, haha), where she’s followed by both creep Marco and blood-obsessed rapist Thomas Kretschmann (Argento’s Dracula, also in Queen Margot with Asia).
Then she kills the rapist but keeps insisting he’s still alive, as she carries on his work, taking out the psychologist, her new French boyfriend Marie (a boy with a girl’s name as the movie continually mentions), Marco and a couple others.
And by the way, Asia has the Stendhal Syndrome, which causes you to become entranced by works of art, but the movie doesn’t know what to do with this, plot-wise. It combines well-staged practical effects with the worst computer graphics I’ve ever seen, which is used with Fight Club excess (why, when she swallows pills, must we follow them down her throat?). It’s not just 1996 CGI – it’s Italian 1996 CGI. The movie has story problems (a half hour in, it’s already explaining its first scenes in flashback), missed opportunities (Marco brings Buster Keaton videos to a girl who imagines herself falling into paintings, but we get no Sherlock Jr. clip) and the unsurmountable flaw of having no recognizable human behavior. After reading that interview about invisible acting in The Dirties, and watching well-performed horrors like Hellraiser and The Tenant, this is especially disappointing. At least I could enjoy the paintings, the cinematography and the blatant Vertigo references.
Asia takes up painting:
Things I remembered while going through screenshots: (1) Asia gets amnesia between passing out at the art gallery and being raped by the loony, (2) she kisses a fish in a dream sequence, which looks like the romantic opposite of the zombie-vs-shark scene in Zombi 2, (3) she sees graffiti come alive in the loony’s lair, (4) her dad is freaky.
Asia loves fish: