A girl drowning while her neglectful parents fight inside reminds of Don’t Look Now, but Udo Kier appearing with a wormhole does not. Years later, the drowned girl’s twin sister is in college, drawings of wormholes covering her wall, decides to do herself in. The tough girl with the beret from Mayday was in this, according to imdb, so she appeared in two separate movies premiering the same day at Sundance where suicidal girls travel to fantasy realms filled with transformed people from their lives.

Back in the real-world-or-is-it?, Margaret (Young, starring in the movie she wrote/directed) visits her parents, still wasted and fighting, hangs out with some old friends. There’s lots of metaphysics in this, maybe aimed at Donnie Darko fans. By the time she’s walking down a Caligari-shaped, Argento-lit hallway towards demon Udo Kier, it all looked pretty cool but I wasn’t too interested anymore. She has to defeat three demons in a certain time, first her mom in a house of sand, doing that fantasy thing where every line is slow and portentous. Margaret trades her shoes for a glass of water, I think door #2 is her childhood home and door #3 is herself, then she banishes Udo and chills at home with a Panda Bear song.

After finally catching up with Three Lives, checking out Ruiz’s latest posthumous release, completed by Valeria Sarmiento. Due to the vagaries of video releasing this lost/unfinished film from the mid-60’s is in better shape than the mid-90’s hit with the major movie star.

Iriarte is a gruff-voiced professor (the soundtrack was lost and all actors were re-dubbed in 2019), bottling sock water with his Jason Schwartzmann-looking nephew Joaquin. He visits friends Silva and Lola, tells them about his dreams, which involve a wig under the bed, rivers of blood, and the return of his late wife Maria. Finally, Iriarte can’t sleep, tormented by wigs, and shoots himself after writing letters to everyone he knows.

The second half is mesmerising, the scenes replaying in reverse with backwards dialogue and new thoughts via voiceover. Silva and Lola had appeared in Three Sad Tigers, and Joaquin joined them in Nadie dijo nada. Ghost Maria reportedly appears in a Sebastián Silva movie, and our main guy was in a couple Miguel Littín movies.

Having a rough week, I considered pulling out the emergency relief film, Paddington 2, but Brian Dennehy had just died, and I’d long wanted to see it, so chose to watch the movie about a man in constant pain whose professional and personal life falls apart until he commits suicide – great fuckin’ idea.

Composer Wim Mertens does a serviceable Michael Nyman impression – or maybe that was Glenn Branca, one of his few film credits. Architect Dennehy is in Rome with wife Louisa (Chloe Webb, just off starring in Sid & Nancy) outlining the exhibition he’s preparing on an obscure French architect. Webb is pregnant, and having a blatant affair with Lambert Wilson, who is also stealing money and discrediting Dennehy so he can take over the exhibition, and whose photographer sister Stefania Casini (Jessica Harper’s murdered friend in Suspiria) is trying to seduce Dennehy. I like how Dennehy finds her room full of photographs of previous scenes, as if whenever Casini is offscreen, she’s filming the movie we’re watching.

This period thriller-thing was an improvement over Belmonte. As with that movie, it’s sometimes hard to tell what it’s adding up to narratively, but it effectively builds atmosphere. Where this is all going must be more apparent to Argentinians of a certain age than it was to me. I did notice that whenever two dudes have a disagreement, one of them ends up disappeared into the desert, which gave me flashbacks to the post-Pinochet doc Nostalgia for the Light.

Darío Grandinetti (from Talk to Her) publicly psychoanalyzes a rude stranger into freaking out and committing suicide. Neighbors call Darío “counselor,” but he’s obviously not a mental health counselor, just a respected lawyer, who is close with government man Vivas who wants to “buy” a house that isn’t on the market because its previous owners disappeared before they could sell (leaving behind bloody handprints, how sloppy), so now the paperwork’s all a mess.

Eventually a famous Chilean detective (Pablo Larraín regular Alfredo Castro, the dog trainer in The Club) will come around asking questions about the suicided man, who turns out to be Vivas’s wife Mabel’s brother. While we wait for the detective plot to kick in, all the sidetrack scenes are intriguing… Mabel freaks out at a museum… a government official welcomes three American cowboys whose performance was postponed by a previous official… Darío’s family attends a slow-mo rodeo and has a great time while an animal is slaughtered to mournful string music… his wife encounters a stranger while peeing in the woods during an eclipse.

The Wives:

The Men:

According to Michael Sicinski, Naishtat is “a highly experimental filmmaker aim[ing] for greater accessibility,” so it’s be interesting to see his earlier features. I remember hearing things in Cinema Scope about El Movimiento. V. Rizov in Filmmaker summarizes Rojo: “A really unpleasant lawyer kills a guy because he can and then commits all kinds of similarly unsavory bullshit. The movie is, nonetheless, very fun…” and Adam Nayman writes more about cynicism and disappearance.

“How’ve you been?”
“I’ve been drinking.”

Opens with long-take conversation about a dead friend, the camera zooming in then panning back and forth. He (Ahn Jae-hong, his fourth Hong film) walks out to smoke while she (Gong Min-jeung, her third) is still yelling at him. Then we see Kim in a corner typing on her laptop, not looking up, commenting on the couple’s conversation in voiceover. Separate shot, so she’s possibly not there at same time – could be writing about this, or inventing it and we’re seeing the fiction she’s creating. Later it’s established that she hangs out at this restaurant and overhears conversations – in any event, it’s a heavy opening scene.

Conversation 2 is Ki Joo-bong and Seo Young-hwa, both Hong veterans, and there’s more death talk. He is depressed, attempted suicide over a love affair. She has a new place, and he is persistently asking if he can move in, but she refuses, the string music getting fuller and louder. I think both men have been actors so far.

Next couple is outdoors, oooh, and he’s another actor, though he wants to write screenplays. He is Jung Jin-young, the film director in Claire’s Camera, and she is Kim Sae-byuk of the Hong movie that premieres next week. Anyway, she says no, so the actor corners Kim instead and asks if she wants to cowrite screenplays – there are some persistent dudes in this movie.

The fourth couple is there to see Kim – it’s her brother (Shin Seok-ho of Hotel by the River) and his fiancee (Ahn Sun-yeong of On The Beach At Night Alone). Kim is dismissive of their relationship, and shitty to her brother: “They call themselves men, but in dealing with pain, or when ending things, they act like cowards.”

Another conversation in the same restaurant during dinner – and it’s more people blaming each other for a suicide. Each convo has been a single take, and this one is unusual for not showing the man’s face. She is Lee Yoo-young, the lead of Yourself and Yours with the slippery identity, and he is newcomer Kim Myeong-su, who makes her cry as “Oh Susanna” comes on the radio.

Four from earlier end up drinking together, Kim still listening in (“Do you know I hear everything you say? I have good hearing, you know?”), and they repeatedly invite her to join them, which she finally does. “By the end of the film, Areum is forced to reckon with the very people she so casually, even callously inserted into her writing” – AV Club made more sense out of it than I did, comparing the story to In The City Of Sylvia.

So many details to talk about in this movie, but the main thing I’ll remember is, after the whole twisty, backstabby mess, when Chris Evans has been taken away for murder (one provable, two attempted), that final shot of Ana de Armas (the hologram-girlfriend in Blade Runner 2049) with the “my house/my rules” mug. The nazi child was Jaeden Martell of Midnight Special – so the second time he’s played Michael Shannon’s son. The silly-ass state trooper is Noah Segan, a Rian Johnson regular since Brick. Murdered Fran is a Groundling, Shannon’s wife is from Garfunkel and Oates – lot of comedians in the cast, but most everyone plays it straight against eccentric detective Daniel Craig.

After an accident, Hiroshi (Tadanobu Asano of the Thor movies, star of Bright Future and Ichi the Killer) wakes up uncommunicative, barely knowing who he is. He returns to med school and begins a four-month class where he dissects the body of his girlfriend Ryoko who died in the crash, while he experiences lucid dreams (or returning memories, or a split consciousness) in which he spends time with Ryoko.

So it’s another trauma movie from Tsukamoto, about pain and memory and body horror – though this is a quiet and restrained movie, and we hardly see any surgery, so it’s not so much a horror movie as the poster would have us believe. This was made before two of my faves, Haze and Nightmare Detective. Employing crossfades and slow zooms into splotchy patterened walls, it effectively represents Hiroshi’s dark, blurry mindset without going into the usual Tsukamoto shaky-cam histrionics.

Ryoko:

Her parents:

Hiroshi’s own parents had apparently given up on his future before the crash and are warily glad that he’s back in med school – dad is Kazuyoshi Kushida of Oshima’s Sing a Song of Sex, and mom is Lily of Oshima’s Dear Summer Sister. Hiroshi makes the odd decision to contact the girlfriend’s parents and let them know that he’s cutting her up. They take this news better than I would’ve figured, and as the mom (the cinematically named Hana Kino of Ôbayashi’s Beijing Watermelon) is dying of cancer, dad (Jun Kunimura: the unlaughing lord in Scabbard Samurai, lead gangster of Why Don’t You Play In Hell?) seems to appreciate Hiroshi’s company. There’s also another emotionally disturbed med student, Ikumi, who blames herself for a professor’s suicide, and seems to exist in the movie mostly as an audience surrogate to stare in disgusted wonder at Hiroshi as the other students slowly abandon him.

Ikumi:

The second half reveals that Bradley Cooper’s washed-up drunk suicidal 1970’s jam-dude was the lead character all along, bumming out a movie that we thought would be more about the giddy excitement of Lady Gaga’s rise to stardom. She’s an amateur from nowhere with a golden voice, but being a pop singer in 2018 requires choreography and shitty beats, so Cooper loves and marries her but still gets to be the guy who keeps it real, commenting on her false costumes and dance moves, then goes back to barking indecipherable lyrics over Neilyoungian jams (backed by Neil’s band Promise of the Real).

Despite the Cooper obsession, it’s a well-paced beauty of a movie that seems to exist for that one song/scene, Gaga revealed to be far more talented than her work in Machete Kills hinted at. The camera dives and swoops through the rock concert scenes, Sam Elliott is cool as ever, and it’s not until the closing credits that we stop to wonder what Andrew Dice Clay and Dave Chappelle were doing in a movie together.

Grotesquely happy, murderous singing cowboy Tim Blake Nelson explains that he’s not a misanthrope in the Coens’ most self-referential piece yet, before he’s killed by a Hail Caesar singer.

James Franco gets hanged for his comically failed bank robbery, then again after escaping on account of Indians killing the guys hanging him, the point of the episode seeming to be the joke where he turns to another guy getting hanged and says “first time?”

(Nearly?) mute Liam Neeson wheels a monologuing human torso (Harry Melling) from town to town until tastes change and Neeson finds new entertainment that’s cheaper to feed. A haunting and cynical segment – wonderful looking, with rich storybook color, as are they all.

Tom Waits as an ol’ prospector, the role he was born to play, just searching for gold in a gorgeous river valley amongst deer and owls. The lead character has died at the end of every segment so far, so I was afraid for Tom, but he turns the tables on would-be thief Sam Dillon.

Finally it’s a woman’s turn to meet a sorry end: nervous Zoe Kazan, a wagon train widow who is very nearly protected from Indians by Bill Heck and Grainger Hines.

Then five mismatched people in a coach, like a Stagecoach parody, ending up like Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors with all of them already dead.

Watched at the Landmark, and reserving further comment until I either rewatch and get some sweet screenshots, or order that Adam Nayman book.