“Listen, the mustache is the trendiest thing out there.”

Okay, I followed The Unity of All Things pretty well, enjoyed the atmosphere while barely following the “very minor” narrative threads, but this one is just scenes from a party without anything going on. A 4:3 frame shot on 16mm, the post-punk party music skips forward or back with every edit – maybe the sound is strictly accurate to the single-camera picture, so any cut necessitates interrupting the music flow. Most of the time the conversations are too indistinct to make out or subtitle, so this music thing is all I had to hold onto.

“I don’t know if I belong to the working class struggle.”

Finally it gets good, with a slideshow of family photos over a song about nuclear destruction, and near the end the edits start glitching, and there are sound dropouts and giant cigarette burns over the picture, but after fifty minutes of nothing happening, this is too little too late.

Set in Madrid 1982 – Franco was dead and socialism was in, and the kids were free to grow trendy mustaches and listen to Spanish-language covers of “Heroes”. Filmmaker says it “pinpoints a willful political ignorance,” but I’ve got enough of that these days, and Mubi says the facial expressions start to tell a story upon the fourth viewing, but I haven’t the time – I’d settle for trading in this movie for a CD of its soundtrack.

Cute mouse Dinki runs away from her fake family (her “dad” is a guy wearing mouse ears and her “brother” is a dog) with a boy and her creepy girlfriend who hears murder-voices. Birdboy himself spends most of the movie a useless junkie, having nightmares and reminiscing about life with his late father in a lighthouse, but briefly he turns into a giant enraged bird-beast and kills all the dump rats who threaten his friends.

It doesn’t feel like an adult animation so much as a kids’ animation that has been isolated and deprived of light or hope for decades until all the happy furry creatures have turned to despair. Also featuring a living piggybank and living alarm clock, the opposite of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast trinkets, showing the cruel horrors we inflict on the objects that are just doing their jobs for us. Played with a short…

Decorado (2016, Alberto Vásquez)

From one of Birdboy‘s directors, a handful of truly awful animal-characters interact in short sketches, while one of them (the guy whose best friend is a ghost and is married to a robot-voiced woman whose secret admirer is a horrible monster) starts to realize that he’s in a Truman Show situation with artificial scenery. Some crude gags striving towards profundity, not quite making it.

With shades of Talk To Her, a hopeless balding dude has a one-sided relationship with a woman in the building where he is concierge – every night he drugs her and sleeps with her, the only witness a young girl across the hall, who is blackmailing him. He is Luis Tosar (Miami Vice, The Limits of Control), very friendly and polite to the residents, but depressed and secretly causing all sorts of misery for them. Things are looking bad for César: police investigate the threatening letters Clara is getting, he’s caught inside her apartment and fired, he kills Clara’s boyfriend, but César gets the last word, a year later confessing to Clara in a letter that he’s the father of her baby. A good, tense variation on the recent home-invasion horrors from the perspective of the invader.

Flashes back and forth in time, so I didn’t realize the two lead actresses on the poster art are both Julieta: younger Adriana Ugarte and older Emma Suárez (she worked with Julio Medem in the 1990’s).

Julieta hears word of her missing daughter Antía from a mutual friend and abruptly breaks contact with her boyfriend Lorenzo (Talk to Her star Darío Grandinetti, looking exactly the same), moves back into her old apartment building and writes a long letter to Antía explaining past events: meeting Antía’s dad Xoan, his affair with artist Ava (Blancanieves star Inma Cuesta) and their argument just before he died at sea while Antía was at camp. After her daughter disappears, Julieta makes up with Ava, waits and searches for Antía, and anyway there’s more, it’s a complicated movie, but it has a happyish ending and everyone’s just wonderful in it, and it’s particularly nice to see Rossy de Palma again (as a suspicious housekeeper). Didn’t make Cinema Scope’s year-end list, but I liked it more than The Ornithologist. I got a long way to go if I’m gonna be a celebrated art-cinema critic.

Manolo decides to travel from Spain with his loyal donkey Gorrión and hike the Trail of Tears in America. His daughter is supportive, but Manolo has had some health concerns, and it’s hard to find budget transportation for a man and a donkey (and his dog Zafrana). He deals with corporate and government bureaucracy and with a donkey who quietly refuses to cross a bridge for hours on end. It’s a pretty minor story (Manolo doesn’t take the trip) but the filmmaker captures a loving portrait of his uncle Manolo, some Bela Tarr close-ups of the implacable donkey, and a nice windmill shot at the end to justify the title.

Pereira, from an essential interview by Pamela Cohn in Filmmaker:

More than anything, I think that Manolo’s relationship with these animals is what the film is documenting. In other words, I think it’s the most documentary aspect. From the beginning, both Zafrana and Gorrión are almost in every shot, and we always see the three of them together … And they communicate with one another in various ways — man to animal, and also animal to animal. This is a way of understanding friendship or understanding how humans and animals can enrich each other’s lives, opening our own concepts of friendship and spending complex time with non-humans.

First movie watched after election day, which knocked every thought out of my head, so trying to recollect them for this writeup.

Con artist in Spain Frédéric Bourdin claims to be missing person Nicholas Barclay, taking us through how he convinced authorities and even the Barclay family to believe and embrace him, despite being the wrong age and having a French accent. His identity is unambiguous to the movie audience – he’s not Nicholas – so the mystery and tension are in figuring out why everyone is going along with his story and when he’ll be found out. A private investigator finally unmasks him, and raises the suspicion that the family was quick to go along with his story because one of them might have murdered Nicholas.

Adam Cook:

Each new twist and turn in this story of lies and untold truths will leave you aghast at both the audaciousness of the tall tales and the stupidity and willingness of the people that believed them. Documentaries tend to deal in truths but The Imposter deals in lies which means you are never truly trusting of anything that is said. It provides the film with a strange quality as you question each and every new piece of juicy information Layton slowly teases.

M. D’Angelo:

First and foremost, it’s a creative essay about confirmation bias, an “affliction” that, as we see here, spares nobody. Whether through pre-interview instructions or judicious editing (and I honestly don’t care which), Layton cannily tells the entire story in the present tense, never allowing Nicholas’ family to attest to knowledge or emotions they didn’t have at the time, and (more crucially) never permitting them to retroactively explain themselves … My only lingering reservation involves the decision — justifiable, given the film’s modus operandi, but troubling nonetheless — to let Bourdin control his own image right up to the last few minutes, so that the extent to which he’s a pure sociopath winds up feeling like a plot twist.

Maybe I’m just in a mood, but this seems like one of the greatest documentaries ever. In filming eight locations (four sets of antipodes – places on land directly opposite the globe from each other), much fun is had with lenses and camera orientation. The music and sound design is terrific as well as the cinematography, and the movie’s gimmick and structure aside, he is filming absolute magic and wonder. In fact, the antipode concept is only mentioned in some opening titles, and from there it’s just observation of the chosen locations, left to viewer’s imagination and his excellent visual transitions between locales to draw geographic connections.

Won an award at the 2012 True/False Fest. We hope to attend next year, so we’re catching up on some docs we missed.

Filming locations:

Argentina/Shanghai:

I looked up a little about Kossakovsky. He teaches a documentary class – among the rules he presents to students:

– Don’t film if you can live without filming.

– Don’t film if you want to say something – just say it or write it. Film only if you want to show something, or you want people to see something. This concerns both the film as a whole and every single shot within the film.

– Don’t film something you just hate. Don’t film something you just love. Film when you aren’t sure if you hate it or love it. Doubts are crucial for making art. Film when you hate and love at the same time.

– You need your brain both before and after filming, but don’t use your brain during filming. Just film using your instinct and intuition.

– Story is important for documentary, but perception is even more important. Think, first, what the viewers will feel while seeing your shots. Then, form a dramatic structure of your film using the changes to their feelings.

– Documentary is the only art where every esthetical element almost always has ethical aspects and every ethical aspect can be used esthetically. Try to remain human, especially whilst editing your films. Maybe, nice people should not make documentaries.

Hawaii:

New Zealand/Spain:

Dreamy and free-flowing, the story spiraling into mirrors and coincidences, feeling sometimes like a less grim A Very Long Engagement. The story traces back and forth along their lives with kinetic editing and glowing camerawork – pretty much my favorite kind of movie.

Palindromic couple Ana and Otto are destined for each other, seen at different ages. The oldest Ana was 20-year-old Najwa Nimri, of Before Night Falls and Abre Los Ojos – which also featured oldest Otto Fele Martínez (also of Thesis and Bad Education). Writer/director Medem made Sex and Lucia, and last year he had a Salma Hayek movie at TIFF.

Set in a Communist-friendly haunted orphanage towards the end of the Spanish Civil War, but surprisingly, all deaths and horror in the movie come from twisted, selfish young Jacinto (Eduardo Noriega of Abre Los Ojos and Transsiberian) raised at the orphanage and now after its hidden gold, not from ghosts or General Franco’s men. He’s sleeping with one-legged Marisa Peredes (star of The Flower of My Secret) every night (she runs the place with older boyfriend Federico Luppi, the moral vampire in Cronos), stealing keys from her chain to try getting into the safe. When the orphanage is to be abandoned because the war is lost, he loses his shit and blows everything up, killing most of the movie’s characters except young viewer-surrogate Carlos. The ghost of a kid he’d killed the previous year has warned about this (“many of you will die”), but doesn’t try to stop it, only wants to drag Jacinto into the murky depths.

Guillermo’s movie between Mimic and Blade 2, a solid haunted orphanage movie but not as great as I’d heard it would be. Some nice details which are more rich and mysterious than the ghost: an unexploded bomb in the middle of the courtyard, the titular backbone, the orphanage selling aged embalming fluid in town as liquor, gold stored in a hollow leg.

M. Kermode:

It is a film about repression that celebrates, albeit in heartbreaking fashion, the irrepressibility of the innocent human spirit. This duality also underpins Pan’s Labyrinth, a fable about a young girl’s exploration of an underworld. Both films balance political tensions with a feud between fantasy and reality, between the way the world seems and the way it is. And both counterpose the recurrent fairy-tale motif of choice against the specter of fascism — the ultimate lack of choice.