A Shocktober Postscript Screening, since I found out this was available on netflix at the start of November and couldn’t wait until next season to watch. Kidnapping survivor Pollyanna McIntosh (the woman in The Woman) arrives at her new job at a small-town police station, collaring a reckless driver on the way in (no direct Hot Fuzz references I could detect, sadly). She’s in for a rough night. Turns out the driver, the arriving doctor, everyone in the cells, all her fellow cops, and the Flying Irishman of her crow-feathered dreams are all murderers.

Or maybe the unnamed Irishman (named Six for his cell number) isn’t directly a murderer but a witness, but he appears to be the one orchestrating the night of mayhem by bringing all these people together, along with new witness Pollyanna, who accepts the chance to join him at the end. Snappy dialogue throughout, cowritten by my favorite film writer (David Cairns of Natan) and Fiona Watson, who intended a different title (Cell 6) and ending. The movie looks wonderful, one of those small-scale confined-space stories that still manages to be stylishly and inventively shot (see also: Pontypool) and I dig the trendy use of a strong synth score. Nobody has written about this movie yet without saying it’s indebted to John Carpenter, and I won’t be the first.

It’s not just the Sarge who’s crazy, but the crossword writers. Check out yesterday’s solution, including SADISM, PLAGUE, SUCCUMB, ROUGHLY:

At first I thought the Flying Irishman was an evil hypnotist (see: Stuart Gordon’s Eater), but once it’s revealed that every character (except Pollyanna and possibly the Irishman) is a huge creep or worse, the bloody (and fiery) mayhem becomes more fun than horrific – awful people butchering each other to cover up other murders, or just for the heck of it, or in the sergeant’s case because he fancies himself a biblical destroyer. Sarge is Douglas Russell of the upcoming The Survivalist (Doug prefers his films apocalyptic), the mad doctor is Niall Fulton, a cop in Cry For Bobo, and the Irishman is Liam Cunningham of Wind That Shakes The Barley and Dog Soldiers.

Nosferatu Hand comes after schoolteacher Jon Watson:

The Black Dynamite of trashy 80’s action/revenge flicks. Gets all the details right, but skips the boring parts – a trick House of the Devil could have learned.

Our hero Rutger Hauer rides the rails to the worst town in the world, which is controlled by super baddie Drake (Brian Downey of the show Lexx) and sons Slick and Ivan. He tries to stay out of trouble, meets a friendly prostitute named Abby. But one day they push him too far, and Rutger grabs a shotgun and cleans up this town. The dialogue could’ve been better but otherwise it’s a hella fun flick.

Been enjoying this show. After reading a heated online fight between auteurists over whether a single episode of the show can be judged as “a film by” the episode’s director apart from the rest of the series, I gave the idea two seconds’ worth of thought before ruling it total bunk.

But out of curiosity, the episodes were directed by: Clark Johnson (former Cronenberg effects artist, dir. SWAT with Sam L. Jackson), Clement Virgo (movie Rude which played Cannes & starred Clark Johnson), our old friend Peter Medak (The Washingtonians, The Ruling Class), Ed Bianchi (Deadwood), Joe Chappelle (Hellraiser 4, Halloween 6 and Hackers 2), Gloria Muzio (20+ different TV shows), Milcho Manchevski (Criterion-anointed classic Before The Rain), Brad Anderson (The Machinist, Session 9, Sounds Like), Steve Shill (Knight Rider relaunch pilot, upcoming Beyonce movie) and Timothy Van Patten (star of Master Ninja).

I’d love to say that everyone mumbled in the Van Patten episode, screamed in the Medak episode, and lost 50 pounds to appear in the Anderson episode, but it don’t work like that. The true heroes: Written and produced by ex-Baltimore-PD Ed Burns (also Generation Kill and The Corner) and David Simon (those two plus Homicide: Life on the Street).

Too many actors to go through… I mean, they were all in movies I’ve seen in roles I don’t remember, so I’ll catch them next time. Noticed a few of ’em came up in the same movie though, one called Perfume (not the Tom Tykwer) written and produced by David Holzman himself. Also notably, McNulty was third-billed in 300. Of the dead, club owner Orlando has since appeared in a TV movie starring Alan Rickman and Mos Def, and young Wallace moved on to All My Children and is co-starring in an Atlanta-shot movie with Keith David and Ernie Hudson this year.

Batrou is a cute student, the privileged daughter of a hardassed military governor/colonel with three wives. His youngest wife is strong-willed and troublesome (aren’t third wives always?) and close to the daughter’s age. The daughter is in love with Ba, and they hangs out with friend Seydou, studying for exams.

I’m not sure exactly what happens with the third-wife plot, or why the boys’ failing their exams helps to launch a student protest against the government (maybe the protest was already in place, and the boys just joined it), but the result is that Ba and Seydou are arrested and sent to hard training camp, where Seydou dies from the stress, and even Batrou is arrested by the unapologetic colonel.

Suddenly we’re back in familiar Cissé territory when Ba’s grandfather hears of his arrest, puts on his tribal garb and heads for the trees to make sacrifices and wish for supernatural assistance in overthrowing the colonel’s evil plans. Walks out of the trees into the colonel’s backyard and threatens him – colonel reponds as we’d expect by shooting grandpa in the back, but the bullets have no effect.

Bulletproof robes are all the ghosts of grandpa’s ancestors can provide, though – when he gets home he finds the house has been burned down and Ba is rumored to have been killed, so grandpa burns his ceremonial outfit and joins the people’s march against tyranny, which shakes up the government enough that the colonel is ordered to release Ba, who’s now free to run off with the colonel’s daughter.

This preceded Yeelen, which featured two of the same actors (the grandfather and the colonel). It lacks much of Yeelen’s striking imagery and unhinged craziness but it’s still a good movie (I liked it more than Xala) and oughtta be more readily available than it is.

N.F. Ukadike: “Ironically, Finye was partly financed by the military government of Mali. Tolerance and maturity prevailing, the government demonstrated that it is capable of listening to constructive criticism.” Kino’s promo copy plays up the romance and compares to Romeo & Juliet, says it “casts a critical eye on both the ancient and modern values.”

M. Dembrow: “In reality, young Malians would have to wait ten years after the making of Finyé for the military regime of Moussa Traoré to crumble. But with this film—and with Yeelen as well—Souleymane Cissé gave them powerful images of hope and resolve.”

I watch all of Clint Eastwood’s recent movies and I always feel they are High Quality Films, but that’s not always my thing. They are oscar-friendly, but not really affecting (exception: Million Dollar Baby) and don’t have anything fascinating to contribute in content (exception: Flags of Our Fathers) or form. But I definitely like ’em enough to keep watching (possible exception: Gran Torino).

We’ve got a true-story historical drama here, with awesome period street scenes of 1928 L.A., nice cinematography, great music (by Eastwood himself!) and very good acting. In her first good movie role since Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, A. Jolie plays Christine Collins, a mom whose kid disappears. She reports him missing among mass public distrust in the L.A.P.D., a mistrust led by crusading radio preacher John Malkovich, using his staccato vocal delivery to good effect. Police find kid, but it’s the wrong kid, then when Jolie reports it they intimidate and finally imprison her in a sanitarium to keep people from finding out the truth. Malkie helps get her out, and meanwhile a kid escapes from a rural psycho-killer and reports the murder of twenty kids. Jolie and Malkie lead court fight against the cops, simultaneously kid-killer is prosecuted, she wins, cops go down, killer is found guilty, two years later she watches him hang still unsure whether her own kid was killed or not. In postscript scene, mother of another kidnapped kid finds her son returning home after seven years away, but Jolie still never gets her closure. Saaaad movie.

Manipulative cops include Colm Feore of Titus and TV’s Jeffrey Donovan. Oscar-nom Amy Ryan, who I often see but never recognize, is a prostitute imprisoned with Christine in the sanitarium. Writer J. Michael Straczynski kept me entertained in the 80’s with episodes of He-Man and The Real Ghostbusters, and moved up from there to sci-fi channel to showtime to oscar-nominated films. Good going there, guy.

I was hoping for another inventive cult-classic a la Brain Damage or writer Larry Cohen’s The Stuff, but I got your standard, straightforward, low-budget horror-thriller with no invention or visual flair whatsoever.

There’s even nothing special about the performances, which is a real crime considering it stars Bruce Campbell (between Evil Deads 2 and 3), Tom Atkins (the cop in Night of the Creeps!), Richard Roundtree (Shaft!) and, um, Laurene Landon (It’s Alive III: Island of the Alive). Robert (“oh, z’no!”) Z’Dar is the titular cop and Sheree North (starred in Frank Tashlin’s The Lieutenant Wore Skirts 30 years earlier) is his crazy caretaker.

A maniac cop is terrorizing the city! Cop Bruce Campbell is cheating on his wife with a fellow cop, but surprisingly this is okay with the movie and Bruce’s wife is killed instead, the killer (actually his smarter mother-figure who works at police headquarters and tells him what to do) attempting to pin the murders on Bruce. There’s a making-of-the-monster backstory, lots more people are killed, then Bruce busts out of jail and chases the maniac cop, who accidentally kills himself… but is he really dead??? Spoiler alert: no.

Bruce Campbell didn’t do it, nobody saw him do it, you can’t prove anything
image

Tom Atkins’ gun is a tiny film projector
image

Sam Raimi, reporter
image

The only novelty death: man’s face shoved in wet concrete
image

This was huge-faced Z’Dar’s big break, landing him the highly desirable role of Joe Estevez’s sidekick in Soultaker two years later
image

À bientôt, j’espère [Be Seeing You] (1968, with Mario Marret)

“Almost 10,000 workers have lost a day’s pay, just like that. It is not a prowess, it’s solidarity and it is something formidable compared to TV games or trash papers. It’s far better, it’s wonderful. It’s normal, it’s the working class… that’s what we must be aware of. What is beautiful is not what is written in the tabloids. It’s what the working class does. It’s to lose 5000 francs to support our sacked mates, and to contribute today again to make up for their lost pay. If only this was advertised and spread. Isn’t that culture? I want to tell management we’ll win thanks to the solidarity they know nothing about. We’ll get you. We’re not mad at those who think wrongly they are the boss, but we’ll get those who own capital. It has to be, it’s natural, and we’ll be seeing you.”

Unfortunately this does not seem like an intricate film which will grow deeper in meaning with repeat viewings – just on-the-spot reporting, interviews with striking factory workers who calmly explain what’s wrong with factory conditions and the effects (both actual and hopeful) of their strike. The only good speech is the one quoted above, at the very end. Movie was a letdown considering the great strike movies I’ve seen lately, including Harlan County USA just last week… but this wasn’t aiming to be similar to that film, or to The Battle of Chile, just small-scale reporting of a single event, leading (hopefully, but not actually) to a revolution of working-class-created films.

image

image


2084 (1984)

Filmmakers are asked to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the 1884 start of trade unionism in France. “They were rather at a loss, so they had this idea of simply jumping ahead a century… afraid of defining the state of the movement today.” Their software and studies predict three possible futures, color-coded.

The Grey Alternative: a never-ending crisis. “When it takes all your energy just to stay afloat, there’s not much imagination left for creating a future.” An alternative with the possibility of “a social or nuclear explosion”, “a fearful society huddled in its blankets of false security, staking its hopes on a precarious balance that is forever in jeopardy. Here the union is at best a powerful protective organization” to “safeguard your job, keep you as comfortable as possible… A union like that doesn’t bother with changing the world.” “Union ritual becomes… nothing but congresses, meetings, demos, slogans. What a drag.”

The Black Alternative: “it could be fascism, it could be stalinism… it’s not easy to forsee a world where the technical developments replace ideology… The appropriation of this technology: who is to benefit from it, who should control its development, was the overriding question of the late 20th century, its real challenge. Because we didn’t understand in time what was really at stake, it was left to a new type of leader to govern the future: the techno-totalitarians.” It forsees “violent workers revolts [in] the 80’s and 90’s and their repression.” This leads to a Wall-E utopia. “At home you get more images than your eyes can absorb and more information than your memory can stock… Anger too belongs to a bygone age. The state is a well-oiled feeding machine and the union nothing more than the engineer who keeps it working, the one who detects the little glitches, little breakdowns, and who can’t even imagine that the machine can serve some other purpose. In fact, of ‘union’, only the name remains. Trade unionism passed away with the dawn of the year 2000” because of infighting.

The Blue Alternative: a tentative hope. “before our eyes, technology is beginning to prove itself a fantastic tool for changing the world, and this transformation includes the struggle against hunger, against suffering, the struggle against ignorance and against prejudice. It is still a struggle, but in the context of the 21st century, not the 19th.”

image

“The 20th century hasn’t even existed. It was nothing but a long, painful transition from barbarism to civilization. In the 1980’s those who still felt angry about poverty, about the injustice of industrial societies were right. Those who felt there was hope for change were right too. The part unions played was to bridge the gap between this anger and this hope. They were the instrument of a new struggle, a place where imaginations could meet and create new solidarities, where people could… learn how to make good use of their differences, and how to win control of their days.”

The film proclaims that it has been “talking less about what has been done already than about what remains to be done. Nothing is programmed yet. The three alternatives are open to us.” “We’ve just got one century left.”

Definitely had to watch this a second time to make sense of it because of the rapid-fire low-key narration and the bizarre images (mostly of film students in a lab combing through 20th century film images), which I would focus on and lose the train of thought of the narration. They don’t exactly work together most of the time. It’s a great commentary though, and a strong little film.

image


Remembrance of Things to Come (2001, with Yannick Bellon)

Excellent movie by two 80-year-old artists celebrating the photography of Yannick’s mother Denise Bellon. Tells stories through Denise’s photographs of France and surrounding countries (including colonized north Africa) and of her friends the Surrealists, first in the pre-war 30’s, then the lead-up to WWII, and briefly post-war (incl. a surrealist reunion photo). Nothing afterwards, though Denise lived until 1999 – makes for a short, focused movie. Electro-sounds and female narration by the Sans Soleil crew of Michel Krasna and Alexandra Stewart.

“Each of her photographs shows a past yet deciphers a future.” This is the kind of movie I’d been waiting for while sorting through Marker’s lesser-known 70’s stuff – poetic commentary weaving history and art around the images. Don’t know how the collaboration with Yannick Bellon worked, but this feels very much like a Marker movie, and a great one at that. There are cats, of course (see below), and the second mention I’ve seen him make of the 1952 Olympics.

From what Acquarello writes about this, you’d think he was talking about Sans Soleil: “It is in this analytical deconstruction between the integral art of composing an image and the cognitive assignment of significance behind the captured image that filmmakers Chris Marker and Yannick Bellon create a compelling exposition on the processing and (subconscious) self-actualization of human memory.”

Movie opens on Dali’s Rainy Taxi, which I saw in Spain.

image

image

The Bellon sisters:
image

Auguste Lumiere:
image

image

The Pont-Neuf, which I recognized from Lovers on the Bridge:
image

The commentary on this part, about scrap metal used to fuel the war effort, is one of Marker’s finest:
image


Puisqu’on vous dit que c’est possible [We Maintain It Is Possible] (1973)

“We can now point out that the government preferred to surrender to multinationals rather than grant anything to the workers. That’s what we can say for now.” [via megaphone]

Movie about worker occupation of a factory in 1973, with an intro saying the movie was shot by “Scopecolor”, edited by Marker, and is the sole responsibility of those involved – the strike participants’ way of distancing themselves from the film, perhaps. A watch factory called Lip is to be shut down, then bought out, then restructured with massive layoffs, and the workers decide not to accept this, to take the factory and sell the watches themselves. Negotiations don’t go well (the workers have all sorts of demands, the owner simply says it’s not profitable so he’s shutting it down) then the police evacuate the building and demonstrations hit the streets.

Has much more interesting editing than À bientôt, j’espère but that’s not saying much. Still, for the most part, video interviews and a few photographs for a while, then footage from inside the factory, nothing exciting to watch. I mean, all praise to Mr. Medvedkin, and I agree that cinema can have many useful purposes, but personally I’ve seen an unusually high number of movies about worker strikes, so forgive me if I yawn when this one’s narrator goes on about how exciting are union meetings.

“The outrage lies in labor exploitation and the alienation that capitalism inflicts on workers.” says a speaker during a convincing speech – which is exactly the point here. Rich factory-owners aren’t going to freely hand their factories over to the workers, and the government isn’t going to allow one group to occupy another group’s buildings against the owner’s will, so the only way to win is the change the system, to reform capitalism. It happened, however briefly, in Chile, but the watchmakers at Lip failed to overthrow the French capitalist system.

image

image


Set Theory (1985)

An ugly slideshow done entirely in HyperStudio, accompanied strangely enough by string music by Russian composer Alfred Schnittke instead of the electronic sounds Marker is fond of using. The story goes: Noah is on his ark wondering how to sort out all these animals, when two wise owls come by and teach him set theory. “Eureka,” cries Noah, who now understands all manners of mathematics through understanding set theory. Since it uses French intertitles instead of spoken narration, I transcribed the titles and ran ’em through google translator to make a subtitle track with helpful program Media Subtitler. The movie itself was only halfway worth the effort – it seems a very minor work (though more amusing than À bientôt, j’espère) – but it was fun to play around with. Some of the clip-art and dialogue is actually pretty cute – a tiger being confused with a house cat due to faulty classification and taken home is portrayed using an oversized tiger in a bathtub, with E. Munch’s “The Scream” in the foreground.

image

image