Opens with reclusive white bearded artist Yuki Aoyama making Hellraiser-inspired artworks which will pop up throughout the movie. Then we’ve gotta introduce our mismatched couple: two next-door neighbors named Raita. R. Kazama (Kazuya Nakayama, Izo himself) is a detective who, despite some slapstick scenes and his retro wardrobe, is no Maiku Hama. R. Takashima (Kuroudo Maki of Kitano’s Brother) is an upright office worker who doesn’t really want to know his imposing neighbor. Tak is the straight man who gets pulled into an investigation, contributing his mad hacker skills and acting as a center for the film (I don’t know why the more fun detective Kaz couldn’t have been our center). Tak never unpacks after moving in – I can’t figure if he’s joking when he tells Kaz that he won’t stay long since moving is his hobby.

Detective Raita:
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Salaryman Raita:
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Our detective’s employees are young dude Masakuni (who turns out to be the bad guy; spoiler alert) and Girl Whose Name I Didn’t Catch (played by Harumi Inoue of Miike’s Graveyard of Honor and star of Freeze Me). The mystery involves girls showing up horribly killed with some new agey earth-wind-fire metaphor business, each missing a different internal organ. The one thing they’ve all got in common: they insulted famous artist Aoyama in front of detective Masakuni, who is not only the artist’s secret son but has killed the artist and taken his place using blood and organs mixed with his paint.

Art:
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Artist:
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Before all that comes to light, we have to sidetrack into a giant Silence of the Lambs ripoff, with detective Kaz visiting a horribly burned isolation-cell prisoner whom he once locked up, asking the prisoner for psychological advice.

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Miike tries to keep it fun – jump-cuts all over, two (two!) peeing jokes and a hilarious final line (“My fingers grew back!”) and Koji Endo contributes nice saxy music. Supposedly everyone knew this would be a bad, throwaway Miike movie because it was produced by the guy behind the reputably poor Silver and Family… but he also wrote Big Bang Love so how bad could the guy be? This seemed about on par with One Missed Call – throwaway, yes, but not outright bad… a fun genre flick with no higher calling.

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I assume this was on my must-see list because a bunch of New Yorker critics put it on their best-of-year lists paired with Still Life. Given how unimpressed I was with Still Life overall, I should’ve known better than to seek out its lesser-known companion piece. But I’m also drawn to 70-minute movies and figured it couldn’t hurt (it did; it put me to sleep).

We meet a painter at Three Gorges Dam.

Later he goes to Thailand.

Recommended listening: Psalm 69 by Ministry.

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Supposedly “Dong” means “East” in Mandarin – not to be confised with Tsai Ming-liang’s Dong, which means “The Hole” in Taiwanese.

Ian Johnston for Bright Lights:

A week after starting on Dong, Jia decided to make Still Life, from then on shooting the two films in parallel. In fact, the films share some of the same footage, including nonprofessional actor Han Sanming. Han’s appearance in both films playing a demolition worker alongside real workers raises some interesting questions about the “documentary” nature of Dong. It seems to share here the aesthetics of Jia’s fiction filmmaking, where questions of form – the composition of the image, the placement and movement or lack of movement of the camera, shot length – have as important a role as a film’s content, and the way that content reflects a social reality. This slippage between documentary and artifice in Dong is interesting, but the film itself is a minor work of limited appeal. One of its problems is that although Jia feels a generational and artistic affinity with Liu, Liu’s painting style – the focus of Dong – is of the most banal representational realism, far away from the challenges of Jia’s aesthetics. Moreover, the second half of Dong is very weak, with the scenes in Bangkok, in striking contrast to those in Fengjie, appearing touristic and inauthentic.

Scott Tobias: “In every case, the backdrops of Jia’s films are extraordinary: Momentous, politically engaged, and strongly attuned to the consequences of progress on a macro scale. And in every case, he also seems oddly incapable of doing anything interesting in the foreground.”

The final film in one of the most enjoyable and satisfying trilogies of the decade, following the somewhat-rough Takeshis’ and the glorious Glory to the Filmmaker. Unfortunately, nobody else seems to enjoy these movies. When I searched online for info on this film, the most positive sentiments I could find were along the lines of “hooray, now that this nonsense is over, Kitano can get back to making movies worth watching.” And nobody I know personally will even watch them so discussion is nil… they are just my own private joy.

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Totally different from the previous two, this one tells a linear story about a single character, Machisu, a painter. Constants in his life are a complete lack of critical or financial success, and people in his life dying (usually of head trauma), all of which Machisu tolerates silently with an impassive expression. Very self-deprecating (portrait of the director as a lifelong failed artist, a slack employee, a bad father), but I see some value in Machisu’s persistence, his single-minded refusal to stop painting, even the persistence in his suicide attempts at the end, which he finally combines with his painting. Maybe the movie was trying to show that this persistence is stupid, ridiculous, but I’m gonna read it my own way.

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Starts out sometime post-WWII, maybe the 50’s, classically shot with your standard orchestral movie score, with Machisu the grade-school son of a rich banker father (Ren Osugi of MPD Psycho, Charisma, Fireworks) and his younger wife (Kanako Higuchi). Everyone from the parents to the teachers to the bus drivers indulges the boy’s painting whim and let him do what he likes. Bank crisis leads dad and mom to kill themselves (separately) and Machisu is shipped off to uncle Akira Nakao (of a buncha Godzilla movies) and aunt Mariko Tsutsui (of One Missed Call). Now uncle wants him to do housework, teachers want him to pay attention in class, and bus drivers won’t stop and let him paint them (as he’s leaving town, a bus kills a fellow painter, Machisu’s only friend).

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Years later, Machisu is older and working at a newspaper press – now played by Yûrei Yanagi (of the Ju-on and Ring movies, but probably cast because he starred in Boiling Point, Takeshi’s first film as sole writer/director). Not sure how old he’s supposed to be – I’d assumed 20’s, but the actor is in his mid-40’s. Anyway, at his art dealer’s suggestion (he takes all his art dealer’s suggestions), he starts attending art school. He also hangs out with a group of over-enthusiastic classmates who try outrageous art projects, and dates a co-worker at the paper plant (Kumiko Aso, lead girl in Pulse). Two classmates die – one in a painting-by-car-crash experiment and one from suicide – and another goes on to fame (called “the Japanese Basquiat”, leading Machisu to study and imitate Basquiat). Machisu’s work is all imitation. He copies the styles of every artist he studies, one at a time, and if he manages to get a compliment on a painting he makes a pile of similar paintings. The dealer assures him none of this is worthwhile, and Machisu’s apartment becomes cluttered with his failed work. Meanwhile, some of his childhood paintings show up around town, sold by the dealer to gullible rich men as the work of unknown foreign master painters. It’s all a funnier and less shrill takedown of the art world than Art School Confidential.

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In the third section, Machisu is finally played by our man Kitano, married with a daughter. His wife is an accomplice in his art projects, but the daughter is deathly embarrassed, finally leaves home and becomes a prostitute. People in general seem to have less patience for Machisu and his painting than ever before, and after the daughter’s death, his wife leaves him and Machisu attempts suicide – first by monoxide poisoning, then by sitting and painting in a wooden shack which he has set aflame. Rescued and bandaged from head to toe, he tries “found” art, picking a can off the street and trying to sell it until his wife comes by and picks him up.

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The hundreds of paintings are by Kitano himself, which seems pretty monumental, even if they’re all supposed to be bad art. A cartoon intro (which explains the title) sets us up for disappointment, our hero never catching up with success because he’s always chasing it instead of setting his own path. The humor is dark when there is any. I think it’s a wonderful ending… just the sappy standard “walking into the sunset with girl on your arm” ending, but it’s a deserved bit of uplift after the last 15 minutes of failure and death that came before.

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Kitano: “After my last two films, I’m approaching this one more seriously. Sometimes I want to make movies that pack audiences in.”

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Recommended listening: Art Class by Superchunk

Three Little Pigs (1933, Burt Gillett)
Musical short feat. “Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf” song. Great sound work by Carl Stalling. Uncle Walt did the voice of the brickhouse pig, one of only a couple credited non-Mickey voice roles. OMG, inside the brick house there’s a framed picture of sausage links on the wall with the caption “father”.
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Mirror of Holland (1951, Bert Haanstra)
Greeeeat movie. He shoots reflections of Holland on the river, then flips the camera so they’re rightside-up. Looks for cool subjects and cool effects off the water. All woodwind and harp music, no narration, gorgeous. Didn’t know there was a golden palm for shorts at Cannes, but this won it.
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Quiet As Kept (2007, Charles Burnett)
“That little-ass FEMA check sure don’t go very far”
Actors are real actorly, especially the kid (he’s in Ned’s Declassified). Video is real videoey. Script is real good, a sketch about a family of black New Orleans ex-residents post-Katrina, but the movie is ehhh. Oops, All Movie Guide calls it a documentary – bozos. Can’t find anyone talking about this online, probably because when Killer of Sheep came out on DVD, everyone got in line to praise it and didn’t want to look out-of-touch by talking about the not-great shorts it was packaged with.
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Mr. Frenhofer and the Minotaur (1949, Sidney Peterson)
Distorted film of actors, string music, and voiceover, none of which has anything to do with the other. “To pose, or not to? I love him, I love him not? Or rather, since I love him less already, why not? An old man mad about paint, Frenhofer…” Yep, definitely from the same source as La Belle Noiseuse. “Once upon a time there was an old man who had been painting one painting for ten years. His name was Frenho… for what? … He started looking for a model to compare. All he wanted was the most beautiful woman in the world to prove to himself that his painting was more beautiful than any possible woman.” It’s all in here: Marianne’s man (also a painter) offering up her modeling services, Porbus the art dealer.

The script/narration is pretty swell but I wouldn’t be following if not for having seen the Rivette, and the visual is just nothing to me… a clock, a fencing match, cats, blurry nonsense, movie would be just as good with a black screen. Sorry, Sidney Peterson. Hmmm, at the end a fencer stabs the painter.
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Eurydice – She, So Beloved (2007, Bros. Quay)
Very underlit ballet. Kinda dull. I preferred The Phantom Museum (and Dracula: Pages from a Virgin’s Diary).
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Victory Over The Sun (2007, Michael Robinson)
Weirdly shaped monuments and the whispering wind. Would probably help if I could understand what the chanting people are saying. There’s some abstract 3D Animation thrown in. Towards the end goes into sound from some cartoon… Transformers? Some very familiar symphonic music. Pretty nice… I didn’t love it by any means, but I like it better than the disappointing Light Is Waiting.

Waaait, I looked this up online and found all sorts of stuff about it, something about being shot on the former sites of Worlds Fairs, but now I can’t find where I wrote that down.
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The Wizard of Speed and Time (1979, Mike Jittlov)
Oh My God. This is three minutes of pure joy. Now that I have found this movie, I will watch it always. It’s my new The Heart of the World, using jaw-dropping stop-motion to express pure cinema love. The look is dated, but the music is swell, and Mike is a grinning god.
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Gymnopedies (1965, Larry Jordan)
An egg floats around on different backdrops interacting with various objects, all cut-out animation a la Gilliam or Borowczyk, set to calm piano music. Feels more like a proof of concept than anything else – if there was a narrative present, I didn’t catch it. Cute, though.
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Lipstick (1999, Pascal Aubier)
Single 6-minute shot beginning under a bed, unsubtitled. Family is getting ready to leave for a trip, the mother is briefly visited by her lover who comes in through the window. Aubier was assistant director on some French New Wave classics in the 60’s, now an actor and a director of (mostly) comic shorts. Liked this a lot (and not only because of the naked dancing), will have to check out more of his stuff.
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Ark (2007, Grzegorz Jonkajtys)
Iffy-looking 3D animation tells apocalyptic story with a twist ending. Our guy wasn’t really the lead scientist onboard an ark of the last surviving humans searching the oceans for new land, just a crazy old man in a convalescent home. Ha! Bah.
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Happy-End (1996, Peter Tscherkassky)
Found footage of a couple sitting down for dinner, toasting the camera, drinking… and drinking and drinking! Dancing, drinking, sitting, more drinking. Different days, different clothes, edited together, eventually with scenes superimposed atop each other, a haunted distortion of a French pop song as the soundtrack.
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Two Solutions To One Problem (1975, Abbas Kiarostami)
Very short with narrator, two kids get in a fight over a torn book. We tally the damages then rewind, and instead of starting a fight, they help repair the book and remain friends. Nice.
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Blah Blah Blah (2006, Dietmar Brehm)
Liquor bottles. Close-ups of objects with strong textures, overexposed porno, an action film in extreme-fast-forward, long pause on an ashtray, back to the liquor bottles, etc. Audio is a quietly rainy/windy day with a metronome hit every three seconds. Looks like old 8mm or 16mm color with some monochrome sections. Pretty alright, probably better in a theater surrounded by like-minded shorts instead of following up a cute Kiarostami piece.
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A Girl, She is 100% (1983, Naoto Yamakawa)
Wow, that wasn’t very good at all. They must’ve thought it’d be the simplest Haruki Murakami story to film. Straightforward, with some good still photography and some bad acting by our IMDB-unknown hero, closing with some rockin’ 80’s music.
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Foutaisies (1989, Jean-Pierre Jeunet)
Young Dominique Pinon with 80’s hair tells us about the things he likes and does not like. Very Amelie-feeling, with Delicatessen opening titles (and Deli‘s lead actress).
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The Hitman (2001, Ruben Fleischer)
Mary Lynn Rajskub decides to be a hitman, but her first mark (Paul F. Tompkins) decides not to go through with it and asks her out instead. Just your typical indie comedy short. From the director of Girls Guitar Club, whose film career didn’t take off, I guess.

What Is That (2001, Run Wrake)
Buncha funny animated business involving insects and meat and ringing sounds. Cute, but only three minutes long and pretty inconsequential… not up to Rabbit level. Guess it’s an early work.
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Film Noir (2005, Osbert Parker)
Awesome, very short. Like Fast Film but slower. Some After-Effects-lookin’ animation combined with models and lots of cutouts – not trying to tell a story, just cool visuals/mood. Ahhh, the internet reveals that it was all created in-camera – impressive!
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Banquize (2005, Claude Barras)
Boyer’s French Dictionary: “banquize – heap of floating ice frozen together in close masses.” Might be called Banquise, actually. Simple animation, fat kid wears his snow clothes in summer, dreams of living on banquize and playing with penguins. One day trying to hitchhike there he drops dead from heat/dehydration. Hmm.
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Herakles (1962, Werner Herzog)
Herzog’s very first film, six years before his first feature. This was really good, and not like anything else I’ve seen by WH. Pretty simple structure so I’ll let wikipedia take it below.
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The film relates to six of the twelve labours of Heracles. The film starts with shots of young male bodybuilders working out in a gym, posing on a stage and flexing their muscles. Each of the labours are then announced by on-screen text in the form of a question, followed by related scenes of modern challenges intercut with the bodybuilders. The audio track of the film is saxophone jazz and sounds from a gym.

The question “Will he clean the Augean stables?” is followed by scenes of a garbage dump, “Will he kill the Lernaean Hydra?” is followed by a huge line of stopped traffic on a motorway and people walking around outside their cars, “Will he tame the Mares of Diomedes?” is followed by scenes of car racing and several race crashes including a crash into the spectators and shots of the subsequent disaster and piles of bodies, “Will he defeat the Amazonians?” is followed by scores of young women marching in uniform, “Will he conquer the giants?” is followed by shots of rubble of a destroyed apartment building and men in uniform searching the wreckage, “Will he resist the Stymphalian birds?” is followed by jets flying in formation, shooting missiles and dropping bombs on training targets. The last shot of the film is of a bodybuilder’s buttocks as he goes off the stage through the stage curtains.

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Matta (1985, Chris Marker)
“What I am showing here is no exhibition. It is an appeal: Come and play with me! It’s a very lively game, but nothing happens.” Simple interview with Chilean artist Matta (not surprisingly an Allende supporter), an original member of the surrealist group, talking coherently about his art and all art, human beings, dimension and meaning. Would be nice to get/make a transcript. Would be even nicer to have been able to see the Matta paintings that Marker frames him against, but my video was too low-quality to make out much visual detail.
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Music by Georges Auric, who also scored Cocteau’s movies. Shot by Claude Renoir, who also shot a handful of his uncle Jean’s films and also Barbarella. Director Clouzot made this between a mystery thriller and a spy parody.

A nice companion movie to La Belle noiseuse, another one where we actually watch a painting being created in real time. The movie introduces Picasso, then cuts to a full shot of a transparent canvas, Picasso’s brush (or pen, whatever) on one side, the camera on the other, so there are a few over-the-shoulder shots but mostly we’re seeing (a mirror image of) the canvas with the painting magically appearing upon it. There are edits and time-lapse too – areas of wet paint dry in an instant, whole areas of color or pattern suddenly appear. Sometimes we’re clearly watching a painting from start to finish in real time, and sometimes they’ll tell us in voiceover how long it actually took.

There’s no narration – rather what little verbal information we learn is in the form of (obviously staged) conversations between artist and camera crew. My favorite bit is when Picasso asks for a very large canvas and suddenly the movie goes into Cinemascope ratio (‘scope was less than three years old, so still a cool novelty).

It’s a suspense/art film as you watch the work in progress and try to wonder what PP is planning, where the painting is heading (even he doesn’t seem to know half the time), and when it’s “done”. The wonder of this film is that the paintings exist through time – most of them look great when complete, but the process and intermediate steps are just as great… you’re not just waiting for good art to appear at an unknown end point, you’re watching it all along. The filmmakers keep it short (<80 minutes), the music styles vary greatly between paintings, and there are some bursts of crew participation, like the time they pressure PP to finish a painting before their reel of film runs out. What a great movie! My favorite of documentary month. Katy and Jimmy liked it too. image

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A vacationing Marianne and Nicolas visit the estate of long-idle painter Frenhofer and his wife Liz, where an unguarded look by Marianne gets Fren’s artistic urges raging once more. Nicolas tells Fren that Marianne will pose for a painting without asking M.’s permission first, but she comes anyway, with an angrily determined look on her face, to spite Nic. First few scenes when she goes naked in the studio are just astounding. Frenhofer goes about his work, setting up a drawing table, sketching some lines (Rivette, in his usual fashion, shows us the entire artistic process, omitting nothing for the sake of runtime), while M. has this incredible internal struggle visible on her face. It probably helps a lot that the film was shot in order, so the character and the actress become increasingly comfortable with her nudity as the audience does too.

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Fren’s relationship with his wife Liz proves to be complicated. She was once his model, and the very painting he’s attempting to achieve with Marianne was once begun and abandoned with Liz. In her conversations with Fren and Marianne and Porbus the art dealer (with whom she once had an affair) and in her movements and her uneasy looks we get a wonderfully conflicted character. She’s never showy or artificial – the only one here who fits that description is Marianne’s boyfriend Nicolas, who grows increasingly absent. He comes back towards the end when his sister arrives to artificially force a closure to Nic and Marianne’s long limbo-vacation. Marianne, either dedicated to the painting or still stubbornly trying to prove her mettle, refuses. When she sees herself in the finished painting, sees what she’d been trying to hide while apparently so exposed, Frenhofer watches her expression, and what he sees convinces him to hide the painting forever behind a brick wall and stay up all night creating a substitute, a less powerful work which pleases Porbus and sickens Nicolas. I wonder if Frenhofer’s falling in love with Liz prevented him from ever finishing the painting a decade earlier, for fear of scaring her, or if his falling in love prevented him from being able to see that part of her which would enable him to finish it. Either way, a very satisfactory ending, the masterwork completed but Frenhofer, a greater man than Nicolas, hides it for the well-being of the two women.

Simply filmed, mostly in long takes in authentic locations. I mean, the shots aren’t Tarr-long, or even Rivette-long, just longer than most films – though there are authentically long insert-shots of sketches and drawings created from scratch before our eyes. I watched with headphones and found the sound of Fren’s pen scratching across his notepad to be almost unbearable. Rivette’s usual favorite sound effect of footsteps on a wooden floor can be muted when convenient, as when Liz comes into her husband’s studio and watches unnoticed.

Frenhofer = Michel Piccoli – Simon Cinema himself, of lots of films by Ruiz, Oliveira, Godard, Bunuel, Hitchcock, Varda, Demy, Resnais, Malle, Clouzot, and Mario Bava.
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I just saw Emmanuelle Béart as Marie, and she’s been in two different movies called L’Enfer.
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Jane Birkin was in Love on the Ground, Same Old Song, Kung-Fu Master, Keep Up Your Right and Blow-up.
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Art dealer Porbus (right), Gilles Arbona was in similarly-titled La Belle Captive.
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Nic’s sister Julienne, Marianne Denicourt (left with David Bursztein as Nic), later starred in Haut bas fragile and played Victor Hugo’s wife (?) in a French TV biopic of Balzac.
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“And the hand of painter Bernard Dufour.”
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Towards the end, when Frenhofer is through sketching and has started to paint, we see the first slash of red across a canvas. There’s more red during the next painting session, and when we glimpse the bottom of the “true” completed painting from under a sheet it’s mostly red). The false ringer painting is almost all light blue.

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J. Heilman:

The film begins unassumingly in a hotel courtyard where we see a young man stealthily sketching some seemingly oblivious English-speaking tourists. As Rivette’s camera continues to pan, however, we find that our casual artist is actually the subject of another’s art. A woman on the hotel’s balcony furtively snaps a photo of him, but is noticed by sketcher, who becomes visibly irate. As soon as he confronts her, though, it becomes immediately apparent to us that most of this incident was a ruse. The two artists are lovers, and their coyness was entirely put on. Spurned by the excitement of their charade, they retire to the bedroom. The stunt even continues a bit farther than planned when one of the tourists watching this amorous French drama unfold says to another in mock culture shock, “Well, what do you expect?” This seemingly frivolous episode resonates throughout the rest of the film, since it manages to say much about the relationship between an artist and subject, the secretive, similar natures of art and love, and the need to sometimes create an environment where ever-fleeting inspiration might strike. It’s these themes that come to the fore during rest of the long journey that La Belle Noiseuse takes.

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K. Uhlich in Slant, less reverential than most, says it “vacillates between genuine insight and didactic mystique-of-the-artist bullshit.”

Won the grand jury prize at Cannes, but didn’t have quite enough of that barton fink feeling to take the golden palm. Did not take the nation’s award shops by storm – lost the Cesar to some Gérard Depardieu flick, and wasn’t nominated for an Oscar or much else. But it did put Rivette’s name back into public circulation.

I watched two-hour edit Divertimento a couple months later.
“The hand of painter Bernard Dufour” barely appears in it!

Music by Igor Stravinsky, and the name Divertimento was stolen from the short version of one of his works. An in-joke for Stravinsky fans. That fits in with the Balzac references and the fact that the entire project was based on a joke, a flip fake answer Rivette would give when asked about his next project.

Jacques Rivette:
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A pretty well-composed movie, not bad overall. The artistic look, good framing, lavish sets & costumes all put indie-hack fare like “last king of scotland” to shame, so it’s a fine movie to watch, if nothing great is playing. No doubt that this one isn’t “great”… it’s too even, regular, plain… nothing daring, original or transcendent, just a big pretty movie. Director Forman only pops up every 4-7 years to make another biopic (amadeus, larry flynt, andy kaufman). IMDB says he’s working on another one already.

First, to get it out of the way, the bad. It’s one of those movies where you can play “spot the reshoots”, as newly-dubbed lines show up when characters’ backs are turned and they weren’t supposed to be speaking, or during another actor’s reaction shot, then they’ll cut back to the speaker (in long shot, preferably) and his lips don’t match up. It’s not like I’ve read that this was a troubled production that required reshoots… they’re right up there on the screen. That, and our theater smelled like Windex.

Then the good. I told Katy I hadn’t seen Javier Bardem since Before Night Falls (2000) but I forgot his small part in Collateral (and I missed Live Flesh at the Almodovar retrospective). Fun to watch him croak out his lines with that serious look on his face, but even more exciting is Michael Lonsdale (THOMAS from Out 1) as Bardem’s superior. That shouldn’t be so thrilling, since he’s in Munich and Ronin and other stuff, but maybe that should tell me something about “goya’s ghosts”, that the most engrossing moments were when I was imagining scenes from “out 1” instead.

Funny thing about Randy Quaid (played the king). He’s in nothing but the dumbest movies for twenty-five years, then he gets cast in Brokeback and now suddenly he’s “and featuring academy-award nominee randy quaid” in studio prestige pictures. the Oscar nom was from 1974, not from Brokeback. Heh, from Pioneer Press: “Swedish Stellan Skarsgard plays Spanish painter Goya and where a key theme is that the Spanish people hate their new king because he’s from France. Which is weird, because he’s played by Randy Quaid, whose accent evokes not Baroque Spain or France, but Houston, circa today.”

Yeah, uneven accents and just a not very great movie full of tragedy with sad ending, but there’s even more Natalie Portman torture/imprisonment than in “V For Vendetta”, so if that’s your thing, here’s your movie.

Picked a nice, short, famous one for my first Raoul Ruiz movie. Based on a fictional painter (I didn’t know until I looked it up). The curator studies “a collection of paintings by Tonnerre, a French academic painter of the mid-nineteenth century, whose rather undistinguished works, with no consistency in style or subject matter, are said to have provoked a major but mysterious society scandal”. The title is misleading, because the supposedly missing painting is not discussed so much, but rather how the paintings are connected and what scandal they could have caused. Turns out the characters within may be enacting the rituals of a secret society, but that barely seems to matter anymore by the time it’s unveiled.

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Pretty amazing movie to watch (even though I fell asleep the first time). The curator is not the film’s narrator. The curator actually falls asleep once while droning on about the paintings, and the narrator whispers to us until he reawakens. The curator stages complicated tableaus, reenactments, like life-sized dioramas of the paintings in order to get a 3-D perspective on the hidden clues, which are in mirror reflections, light and shadow, and everything else. A movie all about mise-en-scene, so the paintings and stagings have interesting layouts, and the filming of them is interesting on its own. So many layers I don’t pretend to understand.

Below: Professional Jean Reno in his first film role.
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Completely wild. Loved it, though I don’t know who I could recommend it to. Guess I’ll just see more Ruiz movies. Not sure whether any/all questions are answered at the end… curator seems too obsessive to be able to see the truth anymore, and may be using the ritual explanation to justify his own ritualistic beliefs. The movie’s got a few visual freakouts, like the one below, but otherwise is a sort of fictional essay film.

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Where the missing painting, the fourth in the series, should have hung:
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Essential essay here: http://www.rouge.com.au/2/hypothesis.html
Katy might’ve liked it. I guess. Can’t really say.