Never Like the First Time (2006, Jonas Odell)

First-time sex stories. The participants seem youngish until the last guy tells a story set in the 1920’s. He and the first guy tell joyous stories of satisfaction, while for the women in the middle it was either disappointing or traumatic. The animation is a confusing mix of 2D photos and images composited into a 3D environment. Shared Golden Bears in Berlin that year with Sandra Hüller, Michael Winterbottom, and Andrzej Wajda. Ten years later Odell made a short called I Was a Winner, presumably not a reference to his Berlin prize, a short doc about video gamers as told by their game avatars, which sounds better than the new Rodney Ascher.


The Tale of How (2006, The Blackheart Gang)

Extremely trippy story involving tentacle creatures and seagulls with teeth – a musical, set to an elaborate song, one suicide pact short of a Decemberists number. A South African movie, it doesn’t appear the Gang has remained in the movie business, except the composer with the great name of Markus Wormstorm. From the same omnibus as the previous film, but somehow I only found these two of the nine.


Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor (1936, Dave Fleischer)

Sindbad is just Bluto, lording over an isle of monsters and calling himself a most extraordinary fellow (is that from a Harold Lloyd film?). Highlights: each sailor introduces himself with his own theme song, and Wimpy tries to catch a duck with a meat grinder. There were a million Popeye shorts, so why is this one famous? Lost the oscar to The Country Cousin, not a great year.


Quimby The Mouse (2009, Chris Ware)

Quimby is a domestic abuser who marries a severed head, makes it cry until sea levels rise, then uses it as bait to catch sea fishes, all set to a jaunty Andrew Bird song. Fun!


Invention of Love (2010, Andrey Shushkov)

Beautiful shadow animation. Boy takes Girl to the steampunk towers where all plants and animals are machine replicants, and when she gets sick, he replicates her.


Rowing Across the Atlantic (1978, Jean-Francois Laguionie)

Young adventurers attempt to cross the ocean in a rowboat, witness the Titanic sinking, fight and hallucinate and live their whole lives together on the boat. Some unexpected imagery, really nice. Laguionie made a couple of features last decade – I hear good things. This won best-short awards at the Césars (which also honored Dégustation maison) and at Cannes (which gave prizes to The Tree of Wooden Clogs, The Shout, and A Doonesbury Special).


At the Ends of the World (1999, Konstantin Bronzit)

Delicate balance of comings and goings in a house perched on a mountaintop. Single-take until post-credits when disaster has relocated the house to a valley. Zagreb is a big fest for animated shorts, eh? This won its category, and The Old Man and the Sea took another.


Fist Fight (1964, Robert Breer)

His most full-of-things film that i can recall, flickering edits of clippings and photos and drawings, musique concrète soundtrack involving bird sounds. Mice, cigar tricks, and eye-bending patterns. Proper figure animation, some Klahr-ish stuff, some Rejected paper manipulation – every technique Breer had at his disposal, like an itunes library of animation with their frames set on shuffle. Internet says it’s autobiographical, and Stockhausen-related.


What Goes Up… (2003, Robert Breer)

Rotoscope-looking Jeff Scher-ish animation with flickering photograph injections. I attended a Breer program at Anthology Film Archives in the early 2000s, later discovered Scher, then Jodie Mack, and now I’ve forgotten all the original Breers. They are short and delightful and I should be watching them on the regular.

Earliest Dumont I’ve seen and my least favorite, which suddenly makes me hesitant about the two that just came out on Criterion. Also our second movie in a row with a girl peeing on camera. I’d heard this might be a horror, and it’s not, it just has really bad vibes.

David and Katya ride around the American West in his hummer, listening to twangy French songs, never wearing seatbelts. She gets unaccountably sad after asking what he’s thinking and he says nothing. They have splashy hotel pool sex, sulk at each other about basic things, later do some nude rock climbing. He’s a film person of some sort, and yeah this is what I imagined film people do between shoots. The sex and the fights both escalate and she almost leaves one night. Then out of the blue, truckers drive them off the road, smash his head and rape him, and I guess back at the hotel he loses his mind and kills them both.

Katya was in major films by Claire Denis and Leos Carax before her premature death. David’s been in a couple things, but most importantly, when he wears his round sunglasses and lets his hair flop around, he looks like Michael Showalter’s Doug from The State.

Doug and Katya:

It [was] Cannes Month… but after Bacurau I got distracted and thought I might watch the Miguel Gomes epic Arabian Nights… but first, since I’ve seen the other two features in my Pasolini “Trilogy of Life” boxed set, I guess I’ll watch his Arabian Nights. It turns out both the Pasolini and the Gomes played Cannes, so Cannes Month continues!

Zumurrud is a slave allowed to choose her own master – she chooses poor boy Nureddin, gives him the money to buy her and rent a house, but the boy immediately disobeys her and they spend the rest of the movie having adventures trying to reunite.

N, realizing he got lucky:

Z, king of the realm:

Some of those adventures: an older couple bring home a teenage boy and girl, for a bet, and watch as each kid fucks the other while they sleep. A Christian kidnaps Z and has her whipped, but she escapes and comes upon a city that makes her king, then she orders her tormentors crucified. N is kidnapped and fucked by nuns, is later told a story about Chaplin guy Ninetto Davoli who’s supposed to marry a lovely girl but falls for Crazy Budur who kidnap-marries him. A prince finds a girl locked up by a demon underneath the town and loses his shoes fucking her. A girl turns herself to fire, a prince shoots a statue, N encounters a lion in the desert, and so on.

It’s easily the best of the three, despite greenscreen effects as poor as the dubbing and losing a star for killing a pigeon onscreen. Or maybe my expectations had been lowered enough, and I knew what to expect, focusing on the authentic ancient settings and landscapes as much as the silly-ass sex comedy.

Cool sights, unrelated to the plot:

The Devil is Franco Citti, who was in all three movies along with Chaplin Guy – and they were in a fourth Pasolini-written anthology sex comedy at the same time: Bawdy Tales, directed by Canterbury/Decameron assistant director Sergio Citti. Nureddin is Franco Merli, his career launched by this movie, then ruined the next year by starring in Salo. Zumurrud is Ines Pellegrini, who also went on to Salo, but worked through the 70’s, mostly last-billed. And Crazy Budur is Claudia Rocchi, later of Yor, the Hunter from the Future.

Strangely Ordinary This Devotion (2017)

Stones in someone’s mouth, stones on someone’s back, then without warning, HEAD SURGERY.

Graphic sex, flossing, more stones, vomiting blood, reading an interview with Cosey from Throbbing Gristle, references to children born without the need for water, movie clips taped off the TV. All starring Sheila and Dani and a kid

Higher amount of blood-red than in an Argento film. Not the highest caliber camerawork, but the description includes the term “the domestic as site of radicality,” so it’s academic art. Words are subtitled and sometimes unspoken. Usually camera sound but sometimes for good measure there’s your avant-noise-drone, once it’s kung-fu sfx, and once a deafening Prince song. Filmed in four states, apparently.

In the great Cinema Scope story that got me watching this in the first place, Michael Sicinski points out Leventhal’s “assertive editing matrices driven by colour, gesture, and shape.”

Wilson: “I was wondering what it is to be devoted to a practice at the same time that you’re devoted to a child, while you’re also devoted to being a lover …”

“I like making the argument that we could refuse to accept the domestic as a place of stasis and instead make it unknowable or unpredictable at least. While also recognizing that it has to be functional, and Rose has to get to school on time”


Fisted (2017)

The visuals of this play like SOTD outtakes (with far less blood, but still some). The sound design is much more enjoyable than the longer piece, music and loops with fun stereo panning, the closing sounds the same as the opening so this could play as a loop – ah yes, it was an installation piece.


Hearts Are Trump Again (2010, Dani Leventhal)

Card game, spider web, accordion, hair, pigeons, harvesting chard.
Dani behind the camera, talking with a German woman waiting for her sperm donor

Maybe the grungiest, most lo-fi, handheld Oshima movie I’ve seen, with some apparently documentary segments. Also maybe more sexual violence than usual. Some nice closeups on hands, like in other thief movies. Whole movie looks dubbed, with some cool troubadour songs (not as funky as the ones in Izo).

Longhaired anarchist book thief Hilltop Birdman (Tadanori Yokoo, a minor role in Mishima) is nabbed by employee Umeko (Rie Yokoyama of Wakamatsu’s Ecstacy of the Angels), to the delightful indifference of her boss, who tries to give the thief more free books. But it’s the late 1960’s and if anyone’s gonna embrace the revolution in the air, it’s Oshima. The movie goes off on tangents about sex and psychology, turns from black-and-white to color, plays with poetry and literature and theater, and makes cool images and tries to freak out the normies. “I do feel something like rage toward nothing in particular.”

It’s all crying out for some explanatory blu-ray features – for instance, it’s been a minute since I watched Death By Hanging, so I didn’t realize that movie’s primary male cast appears in a roundtable discussion as themselves – but I tend to love Oshima films even when I’m confused by them.

Veronica is injured in her sexual encounter with the tentacle beast, visits the hospital, where medic Fabian wants to help find the “dog” that bit her. The medic’s sister is Ale, whose shitty husband Angel has bad sex with her, and later, more aggressive sex with her brother. So far every other scene is a sex scene, and we’ve just decided to ignore that the movie opened with a tentacle beast…

“It’s going to like you.” The older couple who house the tentacle beast suggest Veronica take a break, so she brings the medic, who is later found beaten almost to death in a field. Evidence of Angel’s affair and his homophobic rage are found on his phone, and he’s off to jail. To console her for her losses, Ale is introduced to the tentacle beast. “What’s there in the cabin is our primitive side in its most basic and purest state – materialized.”

Angel’s out on bail or something, I forget, decides to pack a gun and visit his wife, where he attacks her then clumsily shoots himself in the leg. She loads him into the truck and takes him to visit the tentacle beast, and the next we see, his and Veronica’s bodies are being dumped in a ditch. Obviously we’ve got some major Possession influence, but there’s a bit of Under the Skin weirdness, Staying Vertical omnisexual frankness, and I thought I felt some Cosmos in there somewhere. Escalante’s fourth feature (I also heard good things about Heli) – he tied with Konchalovskiy for best director in Venice.

Pretty straightforward biopic of Wonder Woman and lie detector inventor Marston, his wife and their live-in lover… a solidly-made film with good performances. Usually “solidly-made with good performances” isn’t much of a recommendation for me, but it’s also thrilling that something this deviant played in the months between Wonder Woman and Fifty Shades Freed at the Grand, where I’m always subjected to trailers for Dennis Quaid Christian dramas. Seems a bit slow/long at times, but it’s covering ideas as well as incidents, and allowing each one the breathing space to feel natural so the characters don’t come across as sexy weirdos. Luke Evans (the documentarian in High-Rise) and Rebecca Hall (Christine) are the Marstons and Bella Heathcote (an evil model in The Neon Demon) is his teaching assistant who gets invited into their marriage long-term, though they have to keep it quiet since this is the 1940’s. From the writer/director of D.E.B.S., which I’ve been mildly wanting to watch for over a decade now.

The followcam gets shaky, but not the worst I’ve seen, and I stopped noticing it as the movie got stranger. Leo, a dude with serious eyebrows who is supposed to be writing a screenplay, is instead wandering some roads and fields, failing to pick up a young guy named Yoan, then succeeding in picking up a female sheepherd – and his success is signaled by a completely unexpected cut from them talking about moving in together to a close-up birthing scene.

Leo (Damien Bonnard – I think he drowned in Dunkirk) continues to hit on the dude Yoan, who lives with the muuuch older Marcel (Christian Bouillette, in movies since 1970). And one day Leo’s girl (India Hair of Camille Rewinds) leaves forever, and Leo is stuck living with their baby and her Bluto-looking dad (Raphaël Thierry). Bluto doesn’t take this well, steals the baby and tries to leave it outside for the wolves. And Leo goes on some Ornithologist-like journey along a river to visit a new-agey friend – I didn’t really follow this part.

Soon the movie loses its marbles: everyone is attracted to Leo, his girl is shacked up with Yoan, a panicked Leo flees into the river to escape his movie’s producers, he is beaten and stripped by a homeless gang, and finally Leo makes local headlines for having sex with Old Man Marcel while assisting his suicide. A flash-forward shows everyone living semi-normally, but the movie leaves us with Leo and Bluto surrounded by wolves.

Whatever it all meant, it’s a huge step up from Stranger by the Lake, and all the partner-swapping and unusual desires and wolf-lust felt fresh and enticing. Some scenes were too dark to be legible on my TV. The 13th I’ve seen of the 21 films in Cannes competition last year, and like Paterson and Slack Bay it never played theaters here.

Barbara Stanwyck is great as ever, and maybe the movie itself isn’t great, but it’s something we didn’t think ever existed. You hear that the 1930’s pre-codes were edgy, and you see Mae West‘s bawdy humor, but you never expect to see Barbara – pushed by a Nietzsche-quoting crank – to screw her way up the ladder of a bank, finally getting the president to marry her and inspiring two suicides along the way.

Barbara has mixed feelings watching her dad burn up:

Predicting another of her movies, eight years early:

Barbara’s dad Robert Barrat is a crabby bartender, pimping out his daughter until his stillhouse explodes with him inside, so Lily (heh) moves to the city with her buddy Theresa Harris (of Thunderbolt and I Walked With a Zombie) in tow. She doesn’t actually advance her career, because women in banks were secretaries, but she starts as secretary to lowly John Wayne in the filing department and quickly becomes secretary to men higher up the organization. There’s leering Mr. Brody, then the upright guy who tries to get her fired Mr. Stevens (Donald Cook), then his crazy-haired boss Carter aka Fuzzy Wuzzy (Henry Kolker, Katharine Hepburn’s dad in Holiday), and finally the fancy young president (George Brent), who she sideways-seduces by pretending to be reformed and uncorruptable. In the end she either finds her president-husband dead in his office, or she’s so happy he’s still alive that she renounces her riches – your choice.

Barbara ignoring John Wayne:

Cozying up to Brody (Douglass Dumbrille of Mr. Deeds Goes to Town):

With wild scarf, sleeves, and Donald Cook: