Moana’s island is dying because demigod Maui desecrated a statue, and the villagers are strictly forbidden from sailing beyond the island, but Moana’s grandma doesn’t care about these men and their dumb rules, urges Moana to do whatever the hell she wants, then dies. Helped out by ocean magic (which is why the water rises and twists on the poster) and accompanied by an idiot chicken, Moana appeals to Maui to retrieve his magic-wand fishhook from a greedy Jemaine-voiced crab and help her return a magic stone to the volcanic lava beast, returning harmony to the land. Good songs and beautiful water and fire effects (the characters were okay – I’ll take the chicken over Moana or Maui). Directors Clements & Musker also made lost classic The Great Mouse Detective. Of the Disney animated features I’ve watched most recently, this trounces Big Hero 6 and Frozen and Mulan, but I still prefer Wreck-It Ralph over all. Looks like The Princess and the Frog should be next to watch.

Stories don’t just lead into each other like in The Saragossa Manuscript – they melt and morph into each other, thanks to codirector Evan Johnson’s digital manipulations, which don’t replace Maddin’s usual bag of tricks, but join the choppy editing and texture fetish and everything else. Some of his early movies had somnambulist rhythms, but this one is ecstatic from start to finish.

Had to watch this a couple times before I could report in.

Second time through, I noted the order of stories:

How to Take a Bath, with Louis Negin

Submarine: Blasting Jelly and Flapjacks

Starring Negin again with Ukranian Greg Hlady, panicky Alex Bisping, Andre the Giant-reminiscent Kent McQuaid, and mysteriously-appearing woodsman Cesare (Roy Dupuis of Mesrine and Screamers).

M. Sicinski:

Like the men in the submarine, The Forbidden Room has an overall mood of anxiety and despair, in the sense that we are asked to grapple with its heady delirium of character trajectories and stunted arcs, all the while searching in vain for some absent center, the organizing “captain” who is supposed to pull it all together. In its endless ruptures and disconnections, The Forbidden Room brings us up short, placing us back in that capsule where the image is a form of confinement, a shortness of breath.

Cowardly Saplingjacks

Cesare sets out to rescue the kidnapped Margo (Clara Furey)

Cave of the Red Wolves

with lead wolf Noel Burton, bladder slapping and boggling puzzlements!

Amnesiac Singing Flowergirl

Margo again, with mysterious necklace woman Marie Brassard (sinister Jackie from Vic + Flo Saw a Bear) and patient Pancho (Victor Andres Trelles Turgeon)

The Final Derriere

with Sparks, Udo Kier (returning from Keyhole) as a man plagued by bottoms, Master Passion Geraldine Chaplin, and the Lust Specialist (Le Havre star Andre Wilms)

Red Wolves / Woodsmen / Submarine / Bath / Submarine

Quick return.

Squid Theft / Volcano Sacrifice

With Margo, squid thief Romano Orzari and Lost Generation attorney Céline Bonnier (The Far Side of the Moon)

D. Ehrlich:

The Forbidden Room may (or may not) be inventing narratives from thin air, but whatever history these abandoned projects might have had is completely supplanted by the present Maddin (and co-director Evan Johnson) invents for them. These stories belong to him now. The Forbidden Room may forego the hypnotically autobiographical thrust of recent efforts like My Winnipeg and Brand Upon the Brain!, but it feels no less personal for it.

Mill Seeks Gardener

With shed-sleeper Slimane Dazi and unpredictable runaway Jacques Nolot

Injured Motorcyclist at Bone Hospital

Caroline Dhavernas and Paul Ahmarani

Doctor kidnapped by skeleton insurance defrauders

Lewis Furey (Margo’s father IRL) as The Skull-Faced Man, and Eric Robidoux as the bone doctor’s long-lost brother who is also a bone doctor.

Psychiatrist and madman aboard train

Gregory Hlady again, Romano Orzari again, and Karine Vanasse (Polytechnique) as Florence LaBadie

Florence’s Inner Child

Sienna Mazzone as young Florence with crazy mother Kathia Rock

Parental Neglect / Madness / Murder / Amnesia

Bone Hospital / Insurance Defrauders
Mill / Criminal / Doctor
Volcanic Island / Squid Theft / Submarine / Bath

“I haven’t finished telling you: the forest… the snow… the convict… the birthday”

Woodsman Gathers New Allies

Kyle Gatehouse as Man With Upturned Face, Neil Napier as Man With Stones On His Feet and Victor Turgeon again as Listening Man – these are the same actors who played the Saplingjacks earlier, and again they don’t enter the cave with Cesare.

Margo and Aswang The Vampire

M. D’Angelo:

The Forbidden Room was shot mostly at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, piecemeal, in front of a live audience, following which Maddin and Johnson artfully distressed the digital footage and added priceless intertitles. The project took advantage of whichever actors were available to it on a given day.

Elevator Man Unprepared For Wife’s Birthday Kills His Butler

All-star segment with Mathieu Amalric, Udo Kier and Amira Casar (Anatomy of Hell, Piano Tuner of Earthquakes).

D. Ehrlich:

[Amalric] gleefully indulges in Maddin’s pure and peerlessly florid sense of melodrama, which here becomes a mechanism for foolhardy and paranoid men to ruin their lives as they attempt to rescue, love, or murder the beautiful women who didn’t ask for their help.

Dead Butler Oedipal Mustache Flashback

Maybe my favorite segment, with Maria de Medeiros (Saddest Music in the World) as the Blind Mother and more mentions of flapjacks.

Ukranian Radio War Drama

With Stranger by the Lake star Christophe Paou as the prisoner

Mustache / Return of the Dead Father

Diplomat Memoirs of Cursed Janus-Head

M. Peranson:

Together, Maddin and Johnson have crafted a formal masterwork jolted by digital after effects, recreating the look of decaying nitrate stock, shape-shifting the image with multiple superimpositions and variegated colour fields (the general look resembling decayed two-strip Technicolor), and compositing swirling transitions that connect (or bury) one film within the other (and the other, and the other). To try and describe “what happens” in The Forbidden Room is both forbidding and beside the point, for the 130-minute film stands more as an interminable, (in)completed object on its own, like the work of one of its main influences, the French poet, novelist and playwright Raymond Roussel (from whom Maddin and Johnson borrow their technique of parenthetical asides); one comes to understand this object, and what it’s trying to accomplish, only while watching it.

Peranson’s writeup is from the Toronto Film Festival, after which nine minutes got removed from the movie. Since nobody at the festivals was able to exhaustively account for all the stories within stories, it’s impossible to track down what got lost. It seems, though, that any lost footage (and more) can be seen in the Seances.

Andreas Apergis and his fiancee Sophia Desmarais (Curling)

Night Auction Doppelganger

featuring LUG-LUG, hideous impulse incarnate!

Stealing Mother’s Laudanum

Charlotte Rampling as Amalric’s Mother, Ariane Labed (Attenberg, Alps) as his girlfriend.

Maddin (in an essential Cinema Scope interview) on the film’s 2+ hour length:

We could have easily had a 75-minute version … but viewers that like it, we wanted to feel like we’d broken their brains, really left a physical impression on them, left them exhausted. Hopefully exhilarated and exhausted, in a good way. We wanted “too much” to still be insufficient … it would be nice if it came out in one endless ribbon, that, like John Ashbery’s poetry, you just snip off for a beginning and an end, and just ask the audience how much they want.

Dead Father / Elevator Birthday Murder Plot / Margo and Aswang / Woodsmen
Red Wolves are Dead, Rescue is Cancelled
Submarine / The Forbidden Room / Book of Climaxes

Bath.

A too-young Joel McCrea is out with his rich white yachting buddies when he decides to stay behind on a tropical island with the hot girl he met, who he soon learns is scheduled to be sacrificed to a volcano. Seems like this movie inspired both Joe vs. the Volcano and The Thin Red Line.

Ridiculous movie, but at least Dolores del Rio is good – and does some nude swimming.

I’ve avoided Pasolini because I began with Salo and have never been a huge fan of Italian cinema in general. But explorations of Fellini and Rossellini have lately got me looking at the artistry beyond the sound sync problems, so fourteen years after cringing through his nazi shit-eating movie, and in the wake of Ferrara’s new film about him, it seemed time to give ol’ Pasolini another chance.

A factory owner has just transferred ownership to the workers, who are being interviewed by the media. This is a fantasy dear to the hearts of leftist French filmmakers like Godard and Marker, and I was worried it’d get all Tout va bien, but then we flash back a few months to the factory owner’s home with his wife, daughter, son and maid, beginning with a wordless b/w intro section. The magnetic Terence Stamp (same year as Toby Dammit) comes to stay with them, soon sleeps with everyone in the household, then abruptly leaves.

Stamp:

Family portrait:

The first half of the film is a long seduction (sometimes the action stops entirely, the Ennio Morricone music keeping the film alive), then in the second half each person deals with Stamp’s disappearance. Most spectacular is the maid, Laura Betti (the domineering Brunelda in Class Relations, also of 1900 and Pasolini’s Canterbury Tales), who barely speaks a few words in the movie. She leaves the house and returns to her home village, where she sits quietly in the courtyard, eating only boiled weeds and performing miracles. The rest of the family behaves in more normal (or at least movie-normal) ways: mother Silvana Mangano (of a bunch of movies set in ancient times: Oedipus Rex, Barabbas, Ulysses, Dune) starts driving into the city picking up random men and daughter Anne Wiazemsky (Au Hasard Balthazar) loses her mind and becomes catatonic. Son Pietro rents a loft and starts painting, becomes obsessed with creating new abstractions “where previous standards don’t apply… Everything must be presented as perfect, based on unknown, unquestionable rules.”

Am I crazy, or is the maid shown multiple times back at the wealthy house even after she has left for the village? Dad Massimo Girotti (Ossessione and a couple of early Rossellini features) has the last word. He gets naked in the train station on his way to work, presumably gives away his factory (it doesn’t repeat scenes from the beginning) then appears walking across a volcano, shouting in rage. We’ve seen the volcano before, an unworldly mist blowing across it, in frequent cutaways from the main action. I thought it was meant to remind us of Stromboli or Voyage to Italy, but perhaps the Italians film on volcanos all the time – Pasolini shot part of the following year’s Porcile on the same volcano, Mount Etna.

Part of Pasolini’s “Mythical Cycle” with three other films. IMDB claims Miike’s Visitor Q is a remake. Played the Venice Film Festival alongside Partner, Faces, Monterey Pop and Naked Childhood. Italy tried to censor it, of course. The catholics had mixed feelings, first giving it an award then changing their minds. I discovered the word “bourgeoise” is much better in Italian, pronounced bohr-GAZE-ee like the filmmaker.

A contemplative picture book encompassing hippies and scientists, farms and particle accelerators, meditation and raves. One of those docs that contains its own making-of, showing outtakes and crew. Overall I liked it slightly less than the CocoRosie song of the same title. The lava footage is terrific, though.

Hot lava:

Cat in field / Reviewing footage of cat in field (mouse-over):
image

I watched the director’s preferred PAL version, rather than the U.S. release, which is five minutes longer and Cinema Scope says Mettler found “painfully slow.” And speaking unironically (?) about time constraints while filming a documentary about perceptions of time: “Compared to a model for TV or the internet, the feature-film model is fairly time-restrictive. It has its own laws and you have to obey them.” A year after this interview, Mettler is probably aware that Vine is shortening generally-tolerated length of online videos.

Best parking garage ever:

Crouching tiger:

Mettler: “Even now, if you ask me what the structure of the film is, I find it fairly obtuse. The way it’s structured doesn’t add up to something familiar to me.” This is on purpose, letting each scene play its own way instead of trying to conform his documentary footage to a framework.

Ant pulling grasshopper:

Particle detectors:

I didn’t hate this movie, but neither did I feel much sympathy for the lead character – and for the most part, she’s all we’ve got. Ingrid Bergman is a Lithuanian in a post-war displaced-women camp within Italy, denied her visa to Argentina, no family so no place to go. Hence, she agrees to marry some Italian who proposes through the barbed-wire fence, even though she doesn’t know him and speaks very little Italian. He whisks her away to the volcano town of Stromboli, which gives the movie its title since William Castle had already taken When Strangers Marry.

The music sounds doomed, and Ingrid is shocked at her new husband Antonio’s home, a poor, crumbling house in a near-deserted city beneath the volcano. “I’m very different from you. I belong to another class.” She cries in her room while a baby cries in the other room. I figured the movie is telling us that she’s being a baby, and I’d agree, but Rossellini allows her to get increasingly worse, asking the local priest for money, trying to run off with the lighthouse keeper, eventually escaping her husband (a hard-working fisherman who can’t adjust to his newly-pregnant wife’s attention-drawing big-city hysterics), running up the volcano (the second Rossellini movie in two years that ends with a pregnant woman, outcast from her small town, climbing a mountain) and shouting at God, making demands, just like she’s shouted at everyone else in the movie.

Maybe R.R. doesn’t want us to root for anyone, just presenting a story, saying this is how things are sometimes. Bergman’s character admits her faults, sums it up nicely: “They are horrible… I’m even worse.” The volcano eruption before her escape is probably highly symbolic, and her god-shouting at the end is supposed to be redemptive… or is it? I couldn’t figure it out, hence all the quoting below.

F. Camper on the ending:

[Tag] Gallagher also points out that, at the time Stromboli was made, Rossellini gave it an unmistakably Christian interpretation, saying that at the end “God [forces] her to invoke the light of Grace.” A decade later, however, when he was speaking to interviewers with different views and perhaps had changed himself, he declared such interpretations misunderstandings. … [this argument] seems to turn mostly on how broadly one conceives of grace, which perhaps depends on whether one is or is not Christian.

H. Salas in Senses says this film began R.R.’s “modern” period, during which Marxist critics accused him of betraying neorealism and Cahiers declared him the father of modern film. Elsewhere in Senses, J. Flaus defines its modernity – the most simply convincing explanation of Rossellini’s achievements that I’ve yet read:

Rossellini broke with the conventions of the classical narrative form which had dominated dramatic film from the introduction of sound in the late 1920’s. … If we have a [disappointed] response to Stromboli it will probably be because we are trying to assess it by the very conventions it seeks to depart from. … Rossellini directed Stromboli and other films of this period as though theatrical drama had never existed. His camera covers the action with few cuts or tight framings while the interaction between characters may seem ‘superficial’, lacking the familiar layers of development. Essentially he tells his story without expression: dialogue does not explore its subject matter, actors don’t ‘act’ so much as they ‘behave’, images are not ‘beautiful’ pictures of their subjects.

Rossellini moderates what might otherwise be too stringent a method: he chooses his moments to conform to the ‘rules’ and not only moments but even an entire sequence, such as the extraordinary scene of harvesting the shoal of tuna. But for the greater part of the film the narrative may seem to be merely outlines, not ‘filled in’. That was his artistic mission: not to sweep the rules away entirely, but to uncover a genuine cinematic experience which had been overlaid by the habits of another related but different art form.

Also great from J. Flaus: “For many of Rossellini’s generation, to walk out on a marriage is to cross a volcano.”

B. Stevenson’s analysis is almost impossible to quote in part since it seems like two massive sentences pointing out a similar trajectory in Bergman’s character over this and the next two movies (“descent, purgation and salvation”), and how the rough terrain of the island and volcanic eruption tie into the landscapes and warfare of the previous trilogy.

F. Camper:

Rossellini began the 1950 essay “Why I Directed Stromboli” by stating “one of the toughest lessons from this last war is the danger of aggressive egotism,” which he said leads to “a new solitude.” This is the theme that unites Stromboli’s subject and style. Karin’s redecoration of their home, with affectations such as chairs with very short legs, represents the antithesis of Rossellini’s approach to style. The villagers’ idea that she lacks modesty is correct: rather than try to understand their life and traditions, she imports tastes from a different culture. But in the film’s view they’re no more modest than she, with their narrow-minded judgments, facile misreadings, and harsh condemnations. Nor is Antonio blameless; he ultimately asserts his dominance over Karin by force. Almost no one here is able to transcend the boundaries of his or her own mind.

Like many of cinema’s masterpieces, Stromboli is fully explained only in a final scene that brings into harmony the protagonist’s state of mind and the imagery. This structure – also evident in films as diverse as Frank Borzage’s The Mortal Storm and Carl Dreyer’s Ordet – suggests a belief in the transformative power of revelation. Forced to drop her suitcase (itself far more modest than the trunks she arrived with) as she ascends the volcano, Karin is stripped of her pride and reduced – or elevated – to the condition of a crying child, a kind of first human being who, divested of the trappings of self, must learn to see and speak again from a personal “year zero” (to borrow from another Rossellini film title).

Deleuze creates his own trilogy out of this movie, Europa 51 and Germany Year Zero. He wrote about it in Cinema 2: The Time-Image, which I don’t have, or at least can’t find right now.

M. Grost, who mentions that it was shot near the islands used for L’Avventura:

One of the best scenes in the film shows a maze-like group of buildings from which Bergman is trying to escape. She wanders a great deal through them, and never does find her way out. But she gets some emotional relief from a large cactus plant in the background at one point. Later, she will have a similar plant inside her house: an innovation never heard of by the local islanders. … The politics of Stromboli recall those of Luchino Visconti’s La Terra Trema. Both deal with Sicilian fishermen. Both films express great pity about the extreme poverty and primitiveness of the life style of the fishermen; both are manifestos demanding improvements in their lot. Yet both films are deeply critical of the fisher society, and the way its inhabitants cling to their traditions.

The dubbing is wicked bad at times (I watched Rossellini’s English version, not his Italian-dubbed edition or the U.S. studio cut). One rabbit and a ton of fish are killed. Locals as actors, except the priest is Renzo Cesana, in two Hollywood movies the same year. Apparently due to a production company dispute (or Rossellini changing girlfriends), a movie called Volcano with the same plot was shot/released at the same time starring Anna Magnani. Nominated for the top prize in Venice but decried in the U.S. senate and by the catholic church.