This wasn’t supposed to be our closing night movie – it was gonna be an early night to make up for Treasure Island the night before, then our third Chinese movie One Child Nation in the morning, an undecided afternoon, and The Magic Life of V before the drive home, but a snowstorm changed our plans.

This was an endurance test along the lines of The Task, but far less easy to figure out what is happening and why. Supposedly they are recreating “happenings,” and there’s some mysterious tension but very little happening when a group is approached by a helicopter then asked about about the experience, or when we spend an eternity in a room with a handful of people waiting to be interviewed. These are separated by wandering academic discussions in a library with no tension at all. I focused hard on every detail at the time, hoping to unlock any meaning, even after Katy ditched the movie to go drinking at the Craft Beer Cellar, but no time for post-film note-taking then a stressful drive home has wiped out any useful thoughts. “Repetition is the main concept” says Felipe on letterboxd, and I’m starting to think you need to have studied the Oscar Masotta theories to grasp the film at all… in fact, I’ve belatedly discovered the accompanying 320-page book online.

We picked up a biscuit with butter and jam from a biscuit-focused food truck, stopped at Gunther Hans, then headed to the Globe for a double feature… and there was The River Arkansas again, still good. I believe this was a new restoration – shockingly clear photography with lots of close-ups. Journey film with slightly confusing storyline, though it seems like it should’ve been straightforward, intertitles explaining each phase. Katy is concerned with shooting India as an outsider, not understanding the Hindu rituals or family dynamics. I don’t know what anyone else thinks, since this was missing from letterboxd until now, but the Finnish director was present to tell horror stories of the difficulty of filming (or maybe I read that in the Neither/Nor book afterwards, I forget).

Back to Main Squeeze on Saturday morning, then our third film of the weekend at the Missouri, preceded by a guy with one of those whirlygig keyboard amps. This doc felt longer than its 95 minutes, but I wouldn’t mind watching it indefinitely. Wide variety of New Yorkers asked about their futures with good photography. I kept feeling that like Treasure Island, a central point of focus wasn’t coming through, but I also wasn’t hoping for a climate change essay doc, so I went with it. Starts to revisit its subjects – somewhat racist ex-cops in a bar, a white couple concerned about media reports of crime, the Afronaut. I need to watch more NYC movies – maybe In Jackson Heights.

Story in Filmmaker:

I’m interested in how power circulates, the ways in which it micro- and macro-confines us and can liberate us . I also think that, sure, we can call all films in some ways political, insofar as they’re made within certain power structures and get launched into the world within existing power structures. They can either reinforce the status quo, because they do very little to shake up our understandings of how the world works, or they can enable us to grapple with things differently … I also dislike message-y films, or whatever you want to call the films that see their role as delivering a particular policy line and/or demanding that people respond in very narrow terms to whatever they’re seeing. I’m much more interested in how cinema can reawaken the senses and our critical capacity to be in the world differently. That, for me, can have longer term results.

Jenn Takahashi opened, promoting her website where she makes fun of things people say on neighborhood message boards, I’m not sure why. My notes say “a variety of weird-tempo rock songs, each better than the last – get the EP” but who was the band? Summer Like The Season? They also say “Katy very tired, did not like movie, then hotel stole her toiletries,” which is accurate, and the Hilton Garden Inn still owes us restitution.

My notes do NOT say anything about the movie, which was a multi-angled portrait of youth at a French water park, mainly memorable for the extremely confident dude who picks up a bunch of girls to meet him after hours.

This was in theaters the week we got back and, as I write this, is still at the Fernbank Imax. Not knowing it’d stick around in theaters for most of the year, it was a hot ticket at T/F and we sat up front crammed into a corner. The picture worked out, but I think the sound was muffled up there. You can easily tell which is the newly-restored 70mm footage, and it’s mostly front-loaded. I’m no fan of the bass-drone dum-dum-dum-dum score, but overall a real good space movie.

A.A. Dowd in AV Club:

Including hindsight recollections would have spoiled the manufactured present tense – the way director Todd Douglas Miller, working with a trove of stunningly preserved archival footage, creates the sensation of experiencing these historic events as though they were happening right before you, not half a century ago.

Really there were only a few crowd-pleasing hits at this year’s T/F, which was interrupted (for us) by a snowstorm and fouled by some too-late nights and difficult film picks. This was one of them, despite being a two-plus-hour crackpot investigation into unprovable murder cases. I caught up with Brügger’s The Red Chapel shortly before this year’s festival slate was announced, and this was the #1 Sundance movie I was pulling for.

Some good uncomfortable laughter, some twisty investigation and humor in construction/presentation offset the ultimate topic: power grabs, espionage, mercenaries, murders, white supremacy, attempted genocide – US and UK governments blatantly destroying Africa’s hopes of self-sufficiency. Göran sparks off the investigation and does all the background research, and Mads provides context, theatrical antics and the overall sense that we can’t tell how much of this is true.

Opener was River Arkansas again, but with new songs, and we grabbed a juice at Main Squeeze beforehand.

This year’s True/False was pried in between two moves and the China trip, so I made a point to schedule two of the Chinese movies playing. This one’s about painting and a scenic retreat, figured it’d at least be some nice scenery a la last year’s Next Guardian. Turned out to be an excellent movie by an unknown master of the “sixth generation” who often casts people as themselves.

A squarish aspect ratio helps him create compositions that look like the paintings which he explicitly mirrors. The movie plays like a slice-of-life village portrait that happens to mostly be set at a painters retreat, with a birth, a death, a wedding. You wouldn’t necessarily know about the documentary aspects – and I still don’t, since we skipped the Q&A to get snacks – except that we see the women sketching and painting, and most of the character names match the actor names in the credits.

River Arkansas opened with a pleasant sort of country thing, and I noted not to get the french toast next time we’re at Cafe Berlin.

True/False 2019! I’m writing it up almost five months late, but at least I took notes at the time.

This feature was not as frenetic as I expected from the few shorts I’ve seen – certainly frenetic in segments but not for the entire hour. Sunlit stop-motion, shadows moving across the frame, sometimes obscuring the textiles. Flashes of notes, sheet music, paper planes, representing work, grids, global commerce. I was on the “less drowsy” motion pills after a very heavy week and six hours of travel, so instead of my zoned-in attentive mode, I had to tired-watch and space out to the images and music. Maybe a third was set to upbeat electro music, featuring the cinephile-notorious skype-tone remix, the rest calmer and less dense sound, including the noises made while shooting a scene. She started taking materials with her on trips instead of sourcing locally, since the fabrics she found weren’t locally produced anyway. Mack seems smart and energetic, ends every Q&A answer with “was that an answer?,” K says she’d be a great professor. Opening act Gibbz was poppy and lo-fi/distant-sounding – that might’ve been a quirk of the sound system, but I really dug it.

The end of a week catching up with True/False films, beginning with Black Mother. I watched most of this at the airport – inconvenient since I kept having to lift my jaw off the dirty floor. Very happy to learn that Mads has a new shit-stirring movie and we’ll be seeing it next week in Columbia.

“Comedy is the soft spot of all dictatorships.” A group of antifascist subversive Danish comedians takes an official visit to to North Korea with the stated goal of playing Wonderwall with local kids as a cultural exchange. Their purposely terrible musical-comedy act is hijacked by a local cultural director, who “surgically removes” anything cultural and changes their entire act into something just as unfunny but somehow more politically palatable. Meanwhile, Mads has come as a spy, to shine a light on a hated, repressive system. His secret weapon is Jacob, whose physical disability makes his Danish impossible to understand by the censors and translators, but Jacob becomes tormented by all the duplicity. They end up in a parade on national TV cursing the U.S. imperialists, manage to play Wonderwall once, then get the hell out of there.