Brutish Adam Driver and delicate Marion Cotillard get together and have a magical singing baby, to the consternation of accompanist Simon Helberg – and it’s all performed as an opera written by Sparks, who appear (along with the director and his daughter, the film’s dedicatee) with the cast in the great opening number. A good pick for my first movie back in theaters for over a year.

I read so many articles on this, and have gone back and forth about aspects of it, but it seems like a movie that’s gonna last. Bilge’s second Vulture article helped with the ending (which I didn’t love at the time), Sicinski’s analysis also useful (“even its flaws are kind of endearing”), and the GQ interview with Simon Helberg gives insight into Carax’s methods. And from the NY Times:

At first, Carax turned down the offer, not wanting the film’s fraught father-daughter relationship to confuse his own teenage daughter, Nastya, or invite speculation on the parallels between the film and his life, given his tendency to transform his male leads into proxies of himself. He reversed course, however, when she took a liking to songs Sparks had sent him, creating the opportunity to clear up any misunderstandings.

World of Tomorrow Episode Three: The Absent Destinations of David Prime (2020, Don Hertzfeldt)

Hertzfeldt comes up with his biggest horror yet: embedded-HUD popup ads. A future Emily backup clone contacts a past David and sends him on a disfiguring journey to retrieve secret messages about the clandestine between-time assassinations of various Davids by other Davids. It’s twisty! And excellent, and full of more wonderful quotes, and I’ll be watching these forever.


Stump the Guesser (2020, Maddin/Johnson/Johnson)

The Odenkirk-looking Guesser (The Editor from The Editor) is renowned for his abilities, but when he runs out of guessing milk, things go bad and his guessing license is revoked. But during this time he falls in love with his long-lost sister, spends some time scientifically disproving theories of heredity in order to marry her, but things go badly at the end when he has to guess which door she’s behind. Some fun leaps of logic and distorted visuals here, but I wasn’t feeling it as much as other Maddin films.


Accounting for some other things watched recently… The Mads from MST3K have been doing monthly live shows. I checked out Glen or Glenda, a movie that’s so busy explaining itself that it never gets to the movie, and told Neil:

That was… really fun. That’s the most I’ve enjoyed a MST3K-related thing since the end of the sci-fi channel years. I don’t know if it’s because of their obvious affection for the material, or if I’m just in the right mood. I’d never seen the feature either – shame on me, after digging the Tim Burton version for 25 years now (oh you just tried to watch it, is it cringey now? Is it Johnny Depp’s fault?) and the Mads nailed it in their intro when they said this movie has everything, but it also has nothing.

Next was The Tingler, which I already just barely remember (also explainy, features Vincent Price)… then the truly baffling, tensionless version of The Most Dangerous Game called Walk The Dark Street. I think the guy from The Rifleman played the baddie. Then some shorts I should track and name, but am not gonna.


Hannah Gadsby’s Douglas is her stand-up comedy special to follow Nanette, which was the special to end stand-up comedy, and yet she pulls off the follow-up by creating another perfectly-constructed show and this time being breathtakingly funny. That sounds like a cliche, but I had to pause the show to catch my breath.

And Katy and I watched something called Australia: Land of Parrots, which is everything you’d dream it would be, and I should just play it on a loop.

Knowing a bit about Neil Hamburger, and seeing this called “anti-comedy,” I skipped it at the time. Now, after Alverson’s great The Mountain (and seeing Neil in concert telling one of my favorite jokes of the decade), I’m catching up, and… maybe I was right to skip this. I dunno, you’ve got Neil’s whole thing with the dirty jokes, Alverson’s patient formal construction (this time super-widescreen instead of 4:3), Tye Sheridan as a clown – it’s more academically interesting than it is a joy to watch.

Gregg Turkington is on an increasingly sad comedy tour through the desert, stopping in each town between gigs to take whatever local tour they’ve got, then to call his kid, promising he’ll get home. He visits cousin John C Reilly who offers advice on Gregg/Neil’s choice of onstage subject matter: “If you wanna appeal to like, all four quadrants, you know like all the different age groups… semen and all that… it’s a little bit much.” After a heckler attacks him post-show and breaks his glasses, he descends into a deeper nightmare than the one in the movie I just watched called The Nightmare.

Jagjaguwar logo in the credits – composer Robert Donne, whose drone soundtrack was a bit much (so it fit in perfectly here, where everything is a bit much) was in their band Spokane with vocalist Rick Alverson! To get onto Turkington’s wavelength, I watched an episode of his show On Cinema with Tim Heidecker, which I will definitely watch more of.

Love’s Refrain (2016, Paul Clipson)

Measured zooms and pans through textures of nature, always overlapping and dissolving, set to an ambient groove with a steady beat. As the music gets blurrier and the beat recedes, the picture focuses more on streaks of light swishing past the natural photography, and finally the music turns into an insistent blare and the picture becomes abstract light squiggles. Clipson died last month, which is how I first heard about his work. My first thought is I’d like to see this in a theater, projected large, maybe in some kind of weekly screening program before a feature, and imagine how lovely that would be, and how nobody who sat through it would ever return.


Describe What You Heard (2017, Joe Callander & Jason Tippet)

“Tips on how to better describe your next mass shooting experience,” reacting to how people in news interviews are always saying “pop pop pop.” Jumps back and forth between shooting story footage and a guy providing a better sound effect vocabulary. This played True/False last year, now on vimeo.


Pure Flix and Chill: The David A.R. White Story (2018, Anthony Simon)

The week God’s Not Dead 3 came out I watched this half-hour doc on its star and studio founder, thanks to a Filmmaker article. Simon uses visuals from Pure Flix features and interview audio from White to craft a hilarious montage about the Christian entertainment industry and one of its biggest stars.


Idiot With a Tripod (2010, Jamie Stuart)

Jamie went out into a New York snowstorm, caught images of the city and edited them rhythmically to a Reznor/Ross song from the Social Network soundtrack. I watched this to see if I need to watch his feature A Motion Selfie, but I still don’t know!


Koko Trains ‘Em (1925, Dave Fleischer)

The earliest Fleischer I’ve seen, and it’s ambitious. An animator (Max) dressed in a suit is trying to impress a fashionable woman at his studio by drawing her dog, but the drawing keeps mutating into Koko the Clown. He puts Koko aside, they wrestle over the fountain pen, and the animator draws the dog next to Koko setting up a circus scenario. Not sure why the fashionable woman would want to see her dog break into pieces while doing flips and impersonate Teddy Roosevelt at the behest of a whip-wielding clown, but I never claimed to understand the 1920’s. Ends with Koko jumping out of the paper and riding the actual dog. Wikipedia says nearly 120 of these “inkwell” cartoons were made, that Dave’s job as a Coney Island clown inspired Koko, and that the dog named Fitz evolved into Betty Boop’s boyfriend Bimbo.


The Heat of a Thousand Suns (1965, Pierre Kast)

One of the few Chris Marker-related movies I hadn’t seen – he’s credited with editing. Sci-fi animation about a rich, bored space explorer with a robot crew who travels to a planet in another galaxy and fails to have a major romance with the beautiful girl he meets there since he does not understand how their relationships work. The animated movement is limited, but the drawings are lovely and unique. There’s a Jules & Jim reference, a cat, and a utopian society that is possibly into orgies.

It closes with a montage of real-life Earth women, including future Sans Soleil narrator Alexandra Stewart, who appeared in most of Kast’s films. This was his final short – he also directed features including an Easter Island sci-fi mystery, a Stéphane Audran cancer drama, and one in which scientist Jean Marais shrinks his female lab assistant to pocket-size. For Marker this was three years after La Jetée. Shot by Willy Kurant the year before he’d jump very impressively into feature films with Masculin Féminin, Trans-Europ-Express and Les Créatures. Played Locarno 1965 alongside The Koumiko Mystery.


La Legende dorée (2015, Olivier Smolders)

“God is a mediocre idea.” Librarian who hasn’t slept in 57 years claims his mother was conjoined twins, his dad a farting musician cannibal. He is fond of talking straight into the camera and showing off his scrapbook of tragic historical figures including a castrato, some torturous murderers, and Simon of the Desert – repeating and changing his story. Watched this to see if I want to see more Smolders, and… maybe?


Disintegration 93-96 (2017, Miko Revereza)

Either I am tired or the narrator has the kind of voice that it’s impossible to concentrate on – it’s something about this kid’s memories of hating his dad in 1993, his words illustrated with period VHS footage cropped to widescreen. Something about being illegal aliens in America, something about work and philosophy and class. If it was written, I’d have to reread some sentences, skim others, process it in my own time – but it’s spoken at a rapid, droning clip while I’m mostly trying to follow the visuals. Sponsored by Laika!


Muta (2011, Lucrecia Martel)

Someone’s been watching The Ring! Horror movie fashion models, faces unseen, creep around a yacht like an Under The Skin insect alien convention. I guess it’s an ad for a clothing company, like that Leos Carax short, but I appreciate these luxury brands giving great filmmakers a budget and letting them get deeply weird.


Things that aren’t shorts, but aren’t TV or movies exactly:

Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette is quite the journey… a middling comedy special for the first half, which turns into something more serious and interesting. Some early bits I’d noted as clunky and overserious turned out to be gradual setup for the later parts. I mean I hope it’s not the future of comedy, but as a singular show, it’s really well-constructed and I felt all the things.

I watched the whole Fred Armisen comedy thing about drummers, and I love both comedy and drumming, so I rather enjoyed it a lot.

And it seems like ages ago, but we saw Distant Sky, the second Nick Cave/Bad Seeds movie I’ve seen in theaters since moving here, and it was just as transcendent as the last one. Well-made concert movies can be better than actual concerts, and they’re easier to tour around the country, so why aren’t there more of them?

En levande själ (A Living Soul, 2014, Henry Moore Selder)

A living brain, with ear and eyeball, awakens in a fishtank and eventually succeeds in psychically communicating with its nurse Emma. Happy birthday to me – thanks, Trevor!

Based on a novel by a physician. Ypsilon and Emma and nearly everyone else in Sweden acted in the TV series The Bridge, and the briefly-appearing inkblot psychiatrist (the “ink” was on an ipad, nice touch) was in Fanny & Alexander.


Sarah Winchester, opéra fantôme (2016, Bertrand Bonello)

“Dance but don’t move. Do the solo in your head.”

Symphony and dance, spooky old drawings and accusing ghosts, and the story of Sarah, inheritor of the Winchester rifle fortune, who became a crazy recluse after losing her family. I liked this even more than Nocturama. Similarities include doom music, seclusion in abandoned buildings, mannequins, guilt.


The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer (1984, Quay Bros.)

A child visits Master Svankmajer, who removes the fluff and toys from the child’s head and teaches him stop-motion filmmaking. This makes a lot more sense than it did when I watched in the 1990’s, now that I know who Jan Svankmajer is. The cluster of mobile pins still reminds me of Edward Gorey (“Death and Distraction, said the Pins and Needles”)


Stille Nacht I, Dramolet (1988, Quay Bros.)

Extremely short and amazing, dollman watches as his spoon-world grows moldy with magnetized metal filings.


Stille Nacht II, Are We Still Married? (1992, Quay Bros.)

A motion-blur paddleball confounds a toe-stretching girl’s pet bunny


Stille Nacht III, Tales from Vienna Woods (1994, Quay Bros.)

Somebody died in 1892? Spinning smoke bullet, disembodied hand, hovering desk and extra-long spoon. I liked the His Name Is Alive song in the previous film – this one sounds like a buzzing TV from the next room.


Stille Nacht IV, Can’t Go Wrong Without You (1994, Quay Bros.)

The heroes of part two return, the tiptoe girl now quietly bleeding as the rabbit uses his antigravity powers to protect his eggs from a keyhole-peeping Death.


An Eastern Westerner (1920, Hal Roach)

At a hotel we saw this Harold Lloyd short on TCM, and since I watched it, I am duty-bound to put it on the blog somewhere, even though I was entirely focused on being aggravated about the picture being squished and don’t remember anything that happened in the movie itself. I guess it’s the one with the famous still of all the guns pointing at Harold’s head?


Three Monks (1982 Jingda Xu)

Short, flatheaded Red Monk, tall skinny Blue Monk, and fat Yellow Monk arrive separately at a mountaintop shrine and spend their days guzzling water and trying to make the other monk(s) bring up more water from the lake. Eventually they’re all angry, and are stealing water from the shrine’s flowerpot, when a mouse almost burns the place down and they have to cooperate to bring up plenty of water in a hurry. The catchy tunes and musical-instrument sound effects were the best part.


Feeling Good (2010, Pierre Etaix)

A 1965 outtake scene from As Long As You’ve Got Your Health. Etaix goes camping with a campfire and electric coffee pot. Confusion and bad coffee ensues. Then he’s in a military tent camp and I get lost as to what’s happening, because between bird songs and people whistling and blowing whistles, my birds got quite agitated.


Pas a Deux (1988 Renault & Van Dijk)

A couple is dancing, looks maybe like rotoscoped with colored pencil, then he transforms into Popeye the Sailor complete with voice clip, then they each transform (pretty seamlessly) into different famous characters. Cool effect, but feels like they’re just screwing around. Katy called it a precursor to Logorama.

Made by a couple of Dutch animators. Gerrit’s final film was based on a Burroughs story and featured the voice of Rutger Hauer. Monique has a whole bunch of films on vimeo


The Northleach Horror (2016, David Cairns)

Apocalyptic story of a mad scientist doing Frankenstein experiments in an underground bunker, the movie casually killing off characters (and resurrecting them) for laughs. I meant to watch this again and note character names, but my link has gone dead. Fun while it lasted. From the creator of the also-great Cry For Bobo.


Seances: The Disputed Honours (May 31, 2016)

Some familiar footage from The Forbidden Room, with changes. When Jacques Nolot is hired as a gardener, does he usually steal a magnifying glass? Whole new sequence with a man retrieving a key while two women (Camille and her sister?) cower in the night, only to be sucked into a vortex. Color and tinting changes mid-shot. All new intertitles! “O to quench the thirst of my wheat with the blood of slain mail coachmen.”

I wanted to watch When The Broken Toilets Cry but didn’t figure out the website in time. Can’t tell what to make of interruptions like the one below. It looked like typical streaming glitching at first until I realized the shots emerging through the glitch aren’t part of the scene I’m in.

And since I have nowhere else to mention these, I also watched and enjoyed a pile of Netflix’s comedy specials from this year… Joe Mande… Amy Schumer’s The Leather Special (all the fat jokes and poop stories get old, but I admit I laughed at ’em)… Sarah Silverman (more poop stories)… Louis CK “2017” (this has now replaced my memory of his Omaha show – I should’ve taken notes after each)… Dave Chappelle’s Spin and Texas specials (some bits set off my political-correctness alarm, but they’re perfectly constructed/paced hours)… Norm MacDonald’s Hitler’s Dog… three we burned for the drive to Atlanta: Trevor Noah (who we also saw in person a few weeks ago), Hari Kondabolu “Mainstream American Comic”, and the great Hasan Minhaj… and probably a couple I’m forgetting.

Good things: Holly Hunter, the backstage insult-humor camaraderie of the comedians.

Bad things: Mac laptops don’t make the startup sound when you’re simply waking them from sleep/screensaver mode. The sound guy on this film must be a Windows loyalist.

Watched at the Grand, which lost some business over their bad picture, broken air conditioner, condescending staff, sound bleed, slow lines and stupid lobby signage – next weekend I went to the Alamo.

Low-key indie comedy about a weirdo misfit pyro stand-up comedian. Bits of surreal dream-logic invade the story now and then, and I like how there’s no “normal” reality that the movie returns to. The comedian buys an apple from a fruit-stand seller in a cheap devil suit, and after eating it an an apple tree starts growing through his skin. He kills his abusive neighbor with a baseball bat, commits petty arson & vandalism, has basic money problems, sometimes bombs onstage and sometimes does alright, and all these things are given equal weight. This could forever sit comfortably on the cult shelf of any video store, if video stores still existed.

Theoretically we’re rooting for pyro drifter Joshua Burge (also of Buzzard and Coyote) even though he’s really not a good comedian, has rage issues and nothing much going on. His rivals, besides the now-dead neighbor, include a bald fellow comedian, the comedy club owner who keeps bumping Josh from the schedule, a werewolf car-lot mascot, a convenience store clerk, a bike thief, a heckler, and of course The Devil. After taking care of the neighbor, Joel has a string of good luck and minor rebellions, but is also getting taken down by the apple tree, and finally he ends up inside the ape suit.

Potrykus in Cinema Scope, on debuting in Locarno:

Growing up, European cinema was always exotic and incredibly distant. I wasn’t prepared for the tables to turn. Suddenly, I felt like we were the ambassadors of not so much American independent cinema, but of the Midwest as a landscape. Ape’s empty city streets and mundane convenience-store bureaucracies were now the exotic. Locarno as a whole quickly picked up on the politics of the film that are normally overlooked in the US, the subtle racial commentary and economic issues. To them, it became a full-blown political film … I plan on sticking around Michigan as long as I can. I think it’s important to stick with the people who understand you and have been there since the early days … In the end, I just want to hammer out a weird little shack in the forest with my friends, not construct a tacky skyscraper with a bunch of strangers.

Bonus: the illustrated movie poster is great… this is the second LNKarno pick with a poster I wanna own (and both movies have scenes where audio tapes get destroyed, hmm). The guy who played the devil became a director, making a string of demon and alien movies… must’ve gotten really into his role. The rival comic and even Dorito Guy are also directors – looks like there’s a happening scene up in Michigan.

After Love & Friendship in the early afternoon, I was gearing up for a night of comedy. Checked out the first episode of Maria Bamford’s Lady Dynamite (featuring Patton Oswalt), then watched Patton Oswalt’s great new standup special Talking For Clapping. Patton is super funny, but whenever he mentioned his (recently deceased) wife or their daughter I got a little sad. Deciding to follow that up with something lighter, I put on the great Bobcat Goldthwait’s documentary on his comedian friend Barry (which of course also ended up featuring Patton), forgetting that Bobcat movies are never light, unchallenging fun. So when Cindy Sheehan showed up, and Barry appeared at a Senate hearing shutting down an AOL lawyer, and none of this is funny (but it’s a hugely better film than I imagined it’d be), I shouldn’t have been surprised.

Barry Crimmins goes way back with the director. Barry used to call himself “Bear Cat,” so as a spoof, some of the young comedians who frequented his club nicknamed themselves “Tomcat” Kenny and “Bobcat” Goldthwait, and one of these names stuck. For a comedian I’d never heard of, he has some powerful fans: Marc Maron, David Cross, Steven Wright, Louis CK. But you don’t think of comedians and artists as literal heroes… sure, Lenny Bruce went to jail and George Carlin and Frank Zappa went to court to protect freedom of speech, but Crimmins made a different sort of legal impact, getting the ball rolling on prosecution of online child pornographers, a pet issue of his since surviving child abuse. So the movie goes to very dark places and comes out cathartically on the other side. I loved it.

I looked up whether Barry’s got any stand-up specials, and there’s one being taped three hours away a few days after I watched this movie… hopefully I won’t regret skipping that (couldn’t get anyone to come along, can’t spend the night because of birds, and that’s a long way to drive alone) but I’ll buy the video version the minute it hits Louis’s site.

Back to straight comedy the next day, I watched Hannibal Takes Edinburgh. I was more listening than watching, but I kept looking up to see if Buress visited any locations I recognized, distractedly forgetting until halfway through the special that I’ve never been to Edinburgh.

The movie version of the Mike Birbiglia album. Not as much actual comedy as I would’ve liked, but great ending. Troubled-relationship plots and video of people picking glass out of bloody cuts both make Katy freak out a little, but she generally liked it.

Looks like Mike has a new special called My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend. Six Feet Under star Lauren Ambrose plays his girlfriend, and great character actors James Rebhorn and Carol Kane his parents. Cameos by David Wain, Marc Maron, Ira Glass, Kristen Schaal and John Lutz.