I laughed at the trailer for this, because Bruce Willis going back in time and confronting his former self, a hitman hired to kill him, recalls 12 Monkeys. Appropriately, this is the best time-travel movie since 12 Monkeys. Dystopia with a grimy Hobo with a Shotgun vibe, saving money on future-stuff by setting the second half in a farmhouse.

Joe Gordon-Levitt and his buddy Paul Dano work for evil Jeff Daniels, executing masked mob enemies sent back in time twenty years. But a new boss is taking over in the 20-year future (which we never see), someone who is “closing the loops” by sending the killers’ own future selves back to be self-executed. Paul Dano lets his guy escape, then is caught with gruesome results. Joe is slightly smarter, so when his older Bruce Willis self escapes, both of them manage to avoid capture, ending up at Emily Blunt’s farm. While Bruce (on a revenge mission for his murdered future-wife) wipes out the entire crime organization single-handed, losing sympathy by killing a shortlist of children, Joe G-L discovers that Emily’s son is the supernaturally gifted future mob boss – or he could be, if he loses his mother to a maniacal Bruce Willis. So Joe kills himself, causing Bruce to disappear and giving the kid a chance.

Joe and Bruce know each other from the G.I. Joe movies. Piper Perabo (Carriers, The Prestige) must’ve played Joe’s prostitute friend. Good to see Jeff Daniels again – last time was The Squid and the Whale.

Haven’t seen this in a long time. Love the Vertigo and La Jetee references, and the Vertigo-via-La Jetee references. Katy was pleasantly surprised that Brad Pitt used to have energy. With such a perfect script, I’m surprised the writers haven’t done anything except a Kurt Russell actioner since.

Where Are They Now: Madeline Stowe hasn’t been in movies since 2003, is starring in a new show Katy watches. Chris Plummer (Brad’s dad the famous biologist) came back to play Dr. Parnassus. His plague-unleashing assistant David Morse was in Drive Angry 3D last year. Jon Seda (Bruce’s ever-present fellow prisoner from the future who hands him a civil war pistol in the airport) is in Treme. And Bruce Willis has an upcoming movie called Looper, in which he travels from the future and his past-self sees him (almost) die.

Gilliam:

I loved the idea of trying to make people consider the thought that to save the world five billion people might die. . . . But now you know that the world demands that things change. The word “culling” comes to mind. There’s going to be a culling of human beings soon. I don’t know what it will be. David’s thing was that a plague will do it. War? Famine? These things, the old favourites, are always there. Basically, I think there are too many people. And it’s not just that there are too many people; there are too many people who all want all these things that we have. That’s the problem. It’s Malthusian: there’s population and resources and, when they hit imbalance, look out boys and girls!

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
“A tourist.”

I was planning to watch this anyway, but not as a memorial screening. Low-quality copy of this three-episode miniseries. You can see through the dubbed videotape murk and the MPEG blocks that much of the lighting and composition is probably wonderful (and the music score too good to be consigned to a lost TV-movie) – hope there will be an official release some day. This shows no compromise to the commercial requirements of television, just as twisty as the great City of Pirates, and similarly featuring featuring ships, pirate ghosts, islands, children, plot paradoxes and murder.

Part 1: Manoel’s Destinies

A narrator sets up the time-travel theme right away.
“I’m called ‘long ago.’ This story took place in the past, but I’m sure it will happen again soon. That’s why I chose to tell it to you in the present.”

Seven-year-old Manoel is on his way to school the morning after his family’s jewelry was stolen in the night, when he hears whispered voices, sidetracks into a courtyard and meets himself, six years older. Older Manoel says six years ago he was on his way to school, sidetracked into the courtyard and met a fisherman in a cave, went boating with him, came home and his life changed. His parents’ hopes in their son were shattered, his mother died, and he went off to work after dropping out of school. But he sidetracked into a courtyard, met the fisherman again, and boated backwards through time, retrieved his family’s jewels from the sea, and met his seven-year-old self.

So, young Manoel continues to school, follows the advice of older Manoel, becomes an extreme overachiever, and a few years later his father dies. So he visits the fisherman, goes back and yells at his young self. “This time he chooses caution: he must ignore the fisherman’s call, but he mustn’t succeed at school.” At the end of the day, his parents are fine, but the townspeople find a dead boy on the beach: older Manoel.

Part 2: The Picnic of Dreams

More tense-twisting from the narrator, and Manoel’s class is on a field trip, literally to a field, where the teacher wants them to attempt to fall asleep and dream a hospital, which might become real. This doesn’t work, and Manoel walks through the dream forest and meets a large man who talks to trees.

The giant takes a coin from Manoel, and with it they swap bodies. Now Manoel in the man’s body must reclaim the coin, breaks into his own house at night and grabs it from his piggybank. A more straightforward story than the other parts.

Part 3: The Little Chess Champion

After his mother dies (guess he failed to save her through time-travel) Manoel is sent to live with his aunt, who lives with her son and two nephews in a museum. “The staff had moved out because of ghosts.”

Manoel plays violent games with the servant’s sons Pedro and Paulo, and visits the funhouse on Elephant Island with his cousins and a mysterious sea captain – but that may have been a dream. He meets seven-year-old Marylina, a genetically-engineered super-child who’s now the world chess champion and has a fiancee named Rock who has exchanged brains with a famed pianist.

There’s levitation, shadow plays, and my favorite visual effect, a bit of perspective-play with a hand coming through a keyhole. The captain takes Pedro into the shadow world, so Manoel visits the chess girl for help. But she and her fiancee have been discovering secret codes hidden in the structures of things. My favorite: “The Eiffel Tower is an iron code that translates French body odor into perfume.” The Captain comes and steals more children into his shadow world. It’s a completely insane episode.

The Captain and his demise:

“Now after all these years, when I remember my childhood, I think these things were just my imagination.”

This has played in different forms (a four-episode version, a theatrical film) in different places, including at Cannes. The acting credits are listed without character names, but someone figured out that Teresa Madruga (of Joao Monteiro’s Silvestre) plays Manoel’s mother. Fernando Heitor and Diogo Doria (an Oliveira regular, also in Love Torn in Dream) may play his father and teacher. The rest is a mystery to me.

F. Daly:

Writing or filming for children can sometimes bring a person straight to the source of their art. Having to perceptibly adapt their style confronts them with what must be included. Manoel leaves us with the essential Ruiz, the audio-visual companion to his extraordinary book Poetics of Cinema. Its dizzying narrative fold-over-fold methodology creates a labyrinthine temporal structure.

Also watched a TV episode called Exiles from 1988, which provides a nice career summary, focusing on Ruiz’s relationship with Chile and identity as an exile within his film stories.

The Great Man:

And something called Screen Pioneers (episode 3) from 1985 – an eccentric biography program, purporting to be from the future (like Time Trumpet) looking back on our present, and on this semi-unknown character named Raoul Ruiz. Written by Michael Powell expert Ian Christie – I’ve listened to some of his Criterion audio commentaries.
It’s only ten minutes long, plays like an extended intro to…

Return of a Library Lover (1983)

A first-person travel essay about Ruiz’s first return to Chile in ten years. Everything seems the same as when he left (it’s first-person narrated), except he notices a single pink book is missing from his shelf, a book he decides holds “the key to what happened on that night of Pinochet’s coup.” He interviews friends (including a “renowned library constructor”), and checks the bars. He talks to a bookseller. “I deduced that he couldn’t speak Spanish anymore and constantly had to check his own subtitles and translate them laboriously back.” What started out as a personal slideshow has turned into a full-fledged Ruiz movie. The book is discovered at the end, by contemporary Chilean poet Juan Uribe Echevarria.

My favorite line, a casual, matter-of-fact note on subjective memory: “Apart from having shrunk a little, the house was still intact.”

“From the Mayans I’ve inherited the knack of changing my childhood
just as one changes one’s native country.”

Another sci-fi time-travel political-conspiracy comedy from 1970’s Czechoslovakia. How many could there be? Unsurprisingly, this shares its writers (and some actors) with Tomorrow I’ll Wake Up and Scald Myself With Tea.

In the future year of 1999, a group of terrorist physicists drop “G-bombs” that make all women grow beards and become infertile. Instead of falling into chaos like the stupid civilization in Children of Men, they do what any reasonable person would do – invent a time machine to travel to 1911 and kill Einstein before he can invent the bomb. A historian tells them Einstein will be at a party where a chandelier will fall and narrowly miss him, so they plot to see that his chair is underneath it when it falls. This from scientists who have guns that can kill, work as jetpacks, tie someone up in toilet paper, nullify gravity and make nifty ‘ptoo ptoo’ sound effects – they’re gonna use a chandelier. One guy meets his own father (aged 10-ish) in the past. There are hijinks (film is sped up, slapstick is achieved) and the kid is killed by mistake.

Back in 1999 they explain what happened and try again – but this time things get stupid complicated because at least one other group (incl. the terrorist physicists) go back in time as well. Lots of people are tied up and some cops are confused. Things happen in the dark that I could not make out. Einstein is shot and our guys return home happy – but the historian has fallen in love with Einstein, so she had him fake his death, and she convinces him to follow his other passion and be a violinist instead of a physicist.

Problem solved – the bomb never existed – but back in 1999, a group of terrorist chemists has caused all the men to become effeminate and afraid of women, so the future of the human race is still at risk! Luckily, our hero who invented the time machine now “invents” the atomic bomb and they blow the evil chemists to bits. Einstein (who would be 120 years old in ’99 – I’m guessing they did their plot calculations from 1970 and only added the year 1999 at the last minute) shows up with the historian to play violin.

It’s hardly a hilarious movie, but entertaining enough – and nice widescreen picture. I’m glad someone is out there taking good care of cult Czech films. 25 years later, the guy who played Einstein would star in Svankmajer’s Faust. Lipsky followed up with a kids movie called Six Bears and a Clown, which actually played on CBS.

This has been compared to Primer, and the Hollywood remake machine is already rolling over it, so I thought it’d be a better time-travel movie to watch than Terminator 4 this weekend.

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Hector is settling into his new house with his wife – one day sees a naked girl in the distance, goes to check it out and is attacked by a man with a bandaged head. This being a movie called TIMECRIMES I figure the bandaged man is Hector himself come from the past or future, and I’m right, but the movie doesn’t hide this for long, and there’s more to enjoy than just trying to guess the future/past. Doesn’t tell the story in real chronological order, but follows Hector’s own personal chronology as he is tricked by a scientist (played by the director) into entering a time machine and beaming into the past a few hours. Now Hector 2, he gets in an accident and bandages his face, goes around stalking himself and trying to figure how to get out of this. The bit I didn’t see coming is when he beams himself 30 seconds earlier than he did before, becoming the behind-the-scenes manipulator Hector 3 who ensures that the woman who falls to her death (causing Hector 2 to become Hector 3) is the poor previously-naked bicyclist who tried to help him, and not his beloved wife. Back in the normal flow of time, he sits with his wife as night falls.

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Also checked out the shorts on the disc. Nacho is the king of the clever concept.

7:35 In The Morning (2003) is a musical – guy (Nacho himself) sings a song for a girl he sees every day at the diner and gets everybody there to participate. Thoroughly unexpected finale when she calls the cops and he turns out to be strapped with dynamite.
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Crash (2005) is hilarious – guy (Nacho again, imagine that) out with his girl wants to ride the bumper cars just like old times, but he gets increasingly frustrated, angry, embarrassed and injured.
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The premiere title of my personally-curated Obscure Movie Sundays monthly film screening programme was well-attended (five persons), the viewers anxious to view what my own invitation tantalizingly called “a 1977 surreal sci-fi comedy from Czechoslovakia. Set in the futuristic 1990’s, the plot involves identical twins and nazis with time machines. An obscure cult classic!” The movie lives up to the letter of that description, but wasn’t as wacky-enjoyable as it would sound. Still an affable, somewhat cheap-looking light comedy with a really good ending.

Rocket scientist Jan has an evil rocket scientist twin brother, who chokes to death on a roll at the start of the film. Jan is hot for his brother’s fiancee (an attractive girl from a family of circus performers), so Jan pretends to be his brother (barely mourned at all, so you’d think he’s a pretty crappy brother even though the two lived together) and goes to work – not knowing that this was the day the deceased brother was to participate in an evil plot to travel back in time to 1944, the turning point of WWII, and deliver a briefcase-sized atomic bomb to Adolf Hitler so the nazis would win the war. Things get fouled up royally, both in the 1990’s “present” and in 1941 (where they accidentally end up, right after Pearl Harbor, instead of ’44 like they’d planned) but finally Jan straightens everything out (easy to do when you’ve got a time machine at your disposal) and has the baddies imprisoned before they can meddle in the past. How to solve the problem of his dead brother? Jan travels back to moments after the brother’s choking accident, incinerates the body and inserts himself in its place. Result: two happy Jans are living together, one of them engaged to the evil twin’s attractive fiancee.

The bunch of baddies (right) in ’41:
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I thought it was a funny movie, but I was the only one laughing – the others found it a little tedious. Too bad. Delightful inventions of the “future”: time travel exists but is only used for tourism, dishwashing detergent dissolves the dishes instead of bothering to clean them, and a stun-ray gun turns people to green statues (they’ll recover just fine in a few minutes, unless someone tries to move them and accidentally breaks off a limb or two). Also, the A-bomb has been miniaturized to fit in a light briefcase and the military has stopped using such weaponry, so it can only be found in museums. That’s a pretty short time window (from 1977 to 1990) from weapon advancement and miniaturization to obsolescence and declassification. Or you’d think they’d disarm the bomb they put in the museum.

My Two Jans:
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The movie’s writer (I Killed Einstein, Gentlemen and What Would You Say To Some Spinach?), the composer (Three Nuts For Cinderella) and the director (no other movies with funny titles) all died in the last decade. Three of this film’s lead actors also appeared in What Would You Say To Some Spinach?, which came out two weeks before I was born – will have to seek that one out. The actor who played Hitler died in ’84.
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Set in the near-future of summer 2008, which would’ve worked better had the film played more than a couple film festivals in its intended release year of 2006.

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I could go on and on summarizing plot strands and talking about story bits like Liquid Karma being harvested from the center of the earth and injected into Iraq war soldiers to give them psychic communication powers, TV ads that feature cars fucking each other, multiple sets of identical twins, triple-crossing double-agents in an undercover war between government spy corporations and the neo-Marxist underground… but it’s not worth recounting, really. I find the following bits more interesting:

1. The casting choices. Are they meant ironically, humorously, or meta-post-something? Admittedly some of these people are good actors, but it seems like stunt-celeb casting akin to Steve Guttenberg dancing in a reality show. These people actually appear in this movie:
– teen idols The Rock, Buffy, Seann William Scott, Mandy Moore & Justin Timberlake
– TV comedy vets John Larroquette, Jon Lovitz and Will Sasso
– SNL comics Nora Dunn, Cheri Oteri and Amy Poehler
The Princess Bride‘s Wallace Shawn
– Christopher “Highlander” Lambert
– The ghost expert from Poltergeist (now in her 70’s)
– Donnie Darko’s uptight teacher, but with an unpleasant fake accent
– Donnie’s dad Holmes Osborne
– Janeane Garofalo (somehow I did not recognize her)
– Kevin Smith in heavy old-man makeup
Mulholland Drive‘s Rebekah Del Rio (below)
– 80’s movie nerd Curtis Armstrong (Cusak’s wired friend in Better Off Dead)
– Miranda Richardson of Spider and Sleepy Hollow
– Bai Ling of Dumplings and Sky Captain

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2. Apparent product-placement for Bud Light in both the movie and the comic, and empty references/namechecks of Robert Frost poems and Robert Aldrich films and Philip Dick novels. A location called “Fire Arcade” could fit in this category as well.

3. The post-modern fractured storytelling aspect, complete with lots of internetty technology business in plot and presentation. Doesn’t work as well as it did in Redacted, and it remains to be seen whether this concept will ever work completely in any movie (a fixed-length linear medium) or whether movies should simply not try to emulate DVDs, CD-ROMs and websites. At least the story was told in chronological order (as was Redacted).

A scarred and blood-drenched teen idol, who must’ve shot a lot of scenes that got cut out of the picture since he never quite seems to fit in:
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4. The gall of this thing to exist, with its bad acting, big budget and mishmash story. It truly feels like Kelly was afraid that this might be his last film (it won’t – his Cameron Diaz and Cyclops starring follow-up with hardly any stunt casting is in post-production) and wanted to make it about every single idea he’d ever had all at once. Global warming! Internet privacy! Individual identity! The US perpetual war machine! Fart humor! Religion! If you want to be unkind you could say the fractured storytelling wasn’t even purposeful but just reflects Kelly’s total lack of focus on a single story or concept.

5. Commonalities with Darko (Kelly’s continuing obsessions with pop songs, 80’s culture, time travel and memory).

Parts of the comic, like the rapidly-growing baby and the bit about certain people evolving beyond the need to defecate are missing from the film except in coded messages. You poo too?
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But these are the most interesting aspects of a kinda uninteresting movie. I’d have to say the whole enterprise was a waste of time, time better spent watching Stephen Chow kick stuff in Royal Tramp II. At the end there is an explosion, a young guy who goes through a rift in the space-time continuum, and someone who is shot in the eye. Why would a studio pay $17mil for a crappy remake of Donnie Darko? Then there’s a line about the messiah being a pimp. This is the way the movie ends. This is the way the movie ends.

A suicidal man haunted by memory is picked by a massive computer system as the ideal candidate to send to the past in a time-travel experiment. But enough about La Jetee, here’s a full-length full-motion movie from six years later.

I don’t know if the computer was aware that the man had killed his woman on vacation in Glasgow by turning up the gas while she slept, or if the scientists were aware that the man would be able to re-experience his past having no free will to change it. The results are, of course, a fragmented Resnais film jumping back and forth willy-nilly through the last 2-5 years of this guy’s life.

Star Claude Rich, who looks somewhat like Michael Showalter from The State, was in Jean Renoir’s final film The Elusive Corporal and would later play the offscreen cranky father in Coeurs.

Rich is with this girl Wiana (Anouk Ferjac from The War Is Over) sometimes, but mostly he’s with young Catrine (Olga Georges-Picot, who wasn’t in many memorable films before she killed herself in ’97). He is occasionally happy with Catrine, but he cheats on her and she knows it. They’re both depressive, and she has no life outside of their relationship, doesn’t enjoy vacation, is becoming more of a burden.

Now I’m told that some of the “past events” that Claude experiences are actually dreams he had. Wonder if the hot girl in the mirrored bathroom asking him to wash her back was one of those.

Just a dream? Carla Marlier (Zazie‘s aunt):
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After being trapped for who knows how long bouncing through time and memory (90 minutes as the movie’s running time, or infinitely longer?), Claude finds himself reliving his attempted suicide by gun. Does he manage to affect his past this time by succeeding where before he had failed? His body appears on the hospital grounds, and the technicians run out to collect him, with a final shot of Claude’s mouse companion still caught inside his glass dome in the machine.

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The mouse appears earlier, running across the beach right around the moment that Claude was supposed to be sent back (it was to be one year ago, for a duration of one minute).

The time machine:
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This idea of time travel doesn’t seem like it’d be very useful to the scientists, rather more like traveling through your own memory than actually moving in time… though it does show that Claude’s body disappears when he travels. And the scientists, besides having invented/created the thing, don’t seem very capable of handling the machine or Claude.

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Holm says “it was a weird film that was openly laughed at in the States.”

Andy says “If we become stuck in our own time loop of visiting the past the memories can become too overwhelming. Suicide in context of the movie becomes a means to end or break the flow of time and memory.”

The time machine premise seems like a useful tool for Resnais to explore the obsessive cross-cutting of memory that he’d already played with in Muriel and Marienbad.

Resnais: “There are absolutely no flashbacks or anything of the sort.”

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Watched again June 2008 with a group. Very plain look to the sets, clothes… not a visually stylish movie except in the editing. I like it more the second time around. Would like to watch a higher quality copy next time.

September 2014: wish come true, a restored 35mm print at Filmstreams.

Kelly’s follow-up Southland Tales starring The Rock and Buffy is finally getting released later this year, or so I’ve heard.

Forgot how GOOD this movie is. Somehow I’d chalked it up as a sentimental underdog fave, but I still really like it.

Donnie’s dad will be in Southland Tales, and we caught him last night in Bring It On.
Donnie’s mom plays the president of Battlestar Galactica.
Samantha Darko is Lilo in Lilo & Stitch and a regular in Katy’s Big Love.
Bunny Suit Frank was in every “cool” teen movie in the 90’s.
Donnie’s teacher is in Southland Tales, No Country For Old Men, and Little Miss Sunshine (as a pageant official).
Recording artist Jena Malone will be in Into The Wild and The Ruins.
Seth Rogen of Knocked Up was apparently in there somewhere.
Donnie’s psychiatrist had starring roles in Butch Cassidy/Sundance Kid, The Graduate, The Final Countdown and Stepford Wives.

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