The Raid: Redemption (2011, Gareth Evans)

Team of cops raid a fortified apartment building, taking it floor by floor, encountering new surprises and challenges, like a vertical Snowpiercer (I’m aware that High-Rise is being called a vertical Snowpiercer but I haven’t seen that yet).

Our hero Rama is working with noble Sgt. Jaka and traitorous Lt. Wahyu, targeting drug lord Tama, his operations guy Andi and his lead fighter Mad Dog. Allegiances shift mid-fight as the Bad Lt. starts getting people killed, and Andi turns out to be Rama’s long-lost brother, teaming up with him against Mad Dog. Pretty much everyone dies (100+ body count) except the brothers, and Rama shall return in part two.

Two brothers, Bad Andi (left) and Hero Rama:

That’s the Bad Lieutenant in the middle:

Won a Midnight Madness award in Toronto against You’re Next and God Bless America. Director Gareth Evans made the demon death cult episode of V/H/S/2 which is funny because I had the same complaint about it – cool looking action with story problems.

Mad Dog gets the drop on Sgt. Jaka:

The movie achieved the highest honor a foreign film can receive: having two of its lead actors recruited for a Star Wars sequel (SW also recruited the lead of 2011’s other apartment building assault flick, Attack The Block). Before that, our hero Rama (Iko Uwais) appeared in Keanu’s Man of Tai Chi, Sgt. Jaka (Joe Taslim) in Fast & Furious 6, Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian) in Miike’s Yakuza Apocalypse, and lead baddie Tama (Ray Sahetapy) in Captain America 3.

By Brakhage, Volume 2, Program 3

Quotes below are from Marilyn Brakhage’s program notes.

The Process (1972)

Flashing colors. Negative silhouettes of human figures (wearing hats). Increasingly recognizable scraps of home movies, but yeah, mostly it’s flashing colors. Listened to “Cosmetics (Secret Chiefs 3 Remix)” by Foetus, which had some nice moments of synchronicity, mostly served to make the film seem more sinister than was probably intended.

“Brakhage again addresses the interaction of internal and external sources of imagery, but in this case, as the sole subject of the film. Here, slightly displaced positive and negative versions of the same image create a feeling of insubstantiality.”


Burial Path (1978)

Opens with a dead robin in a box, so I took the title literally and assumed a funeral tone to all the defocused light that proceeds from there. The bird does get buried towards the end, and he intercuts scenes of live birds (not robins) feeding outside. Played the end of Brian Eno & Harold Budd’s “Ambient 2” album, a pleasant change from the previous soundtrack.

Burial Path “graphs the process of forgetfulness.” But Burial Path is also about death, and was sometimes referred to (by Brakhage) as the third part of a trilogy, with Sirius Remembered (1959) and The Dead (1960). (The “path” is also the route taken to visit Brakhage’s friend, the then-ailing literary scholar Donald Sutherland, to whom the film is dedicated.)


Duplicity III (1980)

All crossfades, all the time. The kids are going trick-or-treating, doing house work, playing with cards and toy guns, enacting satanic rituals, performing in school plays which involve ghosts, robots and an Indian chief. Deers and dogs towards the end. Played tracks 2-4 of Coil’s “The Angelic Conversation” which sometimes made the film seem doom-laden, sometimes gave the impression that it was taking place near the ocean.

Halloween: Fire Walk With Me


The Domain of the Moment (1977)

Liked this one a lot because it’s full of critters: baby bird, guinea pig, dog, raccoon, mouse, snake, all double-exposed and playfully filmed, with painted mothlight sections in between animal blocks. Played tracks 4-6 of Secret Chiefs 3’s “Book M”, which was inappopriately energetic at the beginning but worked rather well in the middle.

“A consideration of the consciousness of other life forms.”


Murder Psalm (1980)

Whenever Brakhage films a television it looks like the end of the world. One of his most music-video-looking films, full of increasingly sinister-seeming juxtapositions – pure texture interspersed with stock footage from a strange movie, an education film about brains, leftover autopsy footage from The Act of Seeing, war footage from 23rd Psalm Branch, reversal film of a highway at night. Played the end of Autechre’s “Exai”, which was a great idea.

“A collage of found footage of monstrous implications.”

M. Keller in Film Quarterly:

The most striking imagery comes from an educational film on epilepsy, and Brakhage’s film is structured around that preexisting narrative … Brakhage makes visual relationships between the ball, water in the birdbath, the girl’s hand, a scale model of the brain, a half of a wagon wheel, a covered wagon, and a semicircular tunnel. Circular imagery is cut in half by the frame to make semicircles or hemispheres. The material about epilepsy is transformed into a meditation on the social and cultural circumstances of childhood trauma via a visual string of semicircular imagery. By substituting one image for another – e.g., the model of the brain for the covered wagon – Brakhage links their meanings and implication. The girl’s seizure is made part of the social organism through visual rhyme.


Arabic 12 (1982)

Light asterisks: a film of reddish, star-shaped light artifacts. Wonder if this is what ashtray epic The Text of Light is like – hopefully not, since I lost patience in this 17-minute movie towards the end. Felt like Autechre’s “spl9” was trying to give me a panic attack, but the next track slowed things down for the film’s more diffuse second half.

The Band’s Visit (2007, Eran Kolirin)

It’s Cannes Month and Kolirin’s new movie will be premiering, so per the Festifest 2.0 rules, I wanted to watch his most acclaimed previous movie. Also, the lead actress just died, and I’ve never seen anything of hers, so this can be a Memorial Screening. That’s a lot of stupid justifications, but they got me to watch this wonderful movie, so it all worked out.

After a bus-ticket foul-up, a self-serious Egyptian band ends up in a rural Israeli town instead of the city where they’re supposed to play their concert (asking for the Arab Culture Center they’re told “No culture – not Israeli culture, not Arab, no culture at all”). The straight-faced humor of their situation, and the visual gag of the neatly-aligned band members with their spiffy blue uniforms in unfamiliar territory immediately brings to mind Kaurismaki (specifically Leningrad Cowboys Go America), which is a good thing. They’re stuck in town for the night, put up by a restaurant owner (the late Ronit Elkabetz) and other locals.

The bulk of the movie is interactions between Elkabetz (Dina, the town’s fading flower, who resents being stuck there), the humorless band leader Tawfiq (Sasson Gabai of Rambo III) and the youngest, least disciplined band member Khaled (Saleh Bakri of The Time That Remains). Tawfiq and Dina express their life regrets, Tawfiq learns to be less harsh with Khaled. Meanwhile Khaled goes out with some younger guys and teaches one of them how to comfort his unhappy date at a dance club.

Ronit Elkabetz steals the film, and this performance would be enough to convince me that she was a powerful actress, but after Scout Tafoya’s great write-up on rogerebert.com I’m determined to see more, especially her Viviane Amsalem trilogy.

Won some prizes at Cannes in 2007 playing in the Un Certain Regard section with You, The Living, Flight of the Red Balloon, Munyurangabo and Mister Lonely.

From an Indiewire interview:

iW: Did that Egyptian band really exist?
Kolirin: Nothing is real in the movie.
iW: I’ve heard the film is banned in Egypt.
Kolirin: It doesn’t apply just to my film. Any Israeli film would be banned in Egypt.

P. Utin in Cinema Scope:

The films of the Cinema of Disengagement are characterized by their tendency to avoid politics in noticeable ways … The Band’s Visit highlights one of the cardinal differences between the Cinema of Disengagement and the political cinema of the past. By addressing “everyone,” by refraining from preaching or taking a clear political stand, the new Israeli cinema is able to draw audiences at both foreign film festivals and the box office that may have disagreed with certain strong political opinions: it invites universal identification. But after the films have finished, the iceberg effect allows viewers to think about what they have seen, and even to discover that the films are charged with further content.

Everybody Wants Some!! (2016, Richard Linklater)

I don’t have the critical skill to explain why a slice-of-life movie following a college baseball team’s party antics for the three days before classes begin seems so essential right now.

Katy liked it but the drunk girls gave her unpleasant flashbacks to Saturday Night Fever‘s rape scene and she was unhappy that the college freshmen looked to be in their mid-20’s.

Let’s see, Jake was our freshman protagonist, Beverly was the girl he likes and Beuter was his cowboy roommate… I guess Jay was the argumentative freshman pitcher with giant glasses… a week later, the rest of the guys are kinda a blur, so let’s watch it again.

Said to be spiritual sequels to Dazed and Confused and Boyhood, so let’s say it’s also a prequel to the Before series, creating a whole Linklater Cinematic Lifetime (much preferable to a Marvel Cinematic Universe).

It’s rare that an IMDB trivia article is truly interesting, but check this out:

The character Willoughby has a complete collection of the Twilight Zone television series on VHS. The Twilight Zone episode “A Stop at Willoughby” concerns a character who longs for a more idyllic past and takes drastic steps to recapture it. Similarly, in the film, it is revealed that Willoughby took drastic steps -falsifying his transcripts and lying about his age – so he could continue to play collegiate baseball and cling to an idyllic past.

M. Singer:

What initially appears like a mob of dumb jerks, reveals itself as a collection of lovably quirky and hilarious individuals of different backgrounds and beliefs … The team goes to a series of different clubs — disco one night, punk the next — which makes Everybody Wants Some both a lively survey of early ’80s pop culture and a microcosm of every college’s freshman’s search for identity.

D. Ehrlich: “Plotlessness is the new plot.”

Contras City & Badou Boy (1968/70, Djibril Diop Mambety)

Two by Djibril Diop Mambety

Contras City (1968)

Playful travelogue doc of Dakar. Strange, and the humor and political content are mostly lost on us, a couple continents and decades removed. Ubu says it’s considered Africa’s first comedy film.

Uncredited description of this film online:

Djibril Diop Mambety’s deeply ironic and biting commentary on the divided city that was Dakar in 1969: on the one hand, colonial, affluent and pompous, on the other, indigenous, poor but genuine.

Would make good marathon viewing with other wry short travel docs: Vigo’s À Propos de Nice, Varda’s Du Coté de la Côte, Lindsay Anderson’s O Dreamland, Ivens’s A Valparaíso, Marker’s Sunday in Peking.

Woman looking at French magazines at the newsstand:


Badou Boy (1970)

Adventures of the Badou Boy, a thief who helps run a bus service while dodging the ineffectual Officer Al. There’s also a blind musician, a hat-and-cane fancyman (played by the director) and Badou’s white-hatted buddy Moussa, who I think helps him escape Al at the end. Or maybe Badou is caught – there are flash-forwards, so I’m not always sure where we are.

Officer Al:

Voices are fully overdubbed. Music and effects and voices sometimes seem to be working against the picture, instead of with it. That’s not a complaint – since Contras City opens with a classy symphonic song which then warps and slows to a halt, it’s clear that Mambety is purposely screwing around with sound possibilities. It’s also clear that he’d been watching some French New Wave pictures.

Also playing with the camera – here focus is on the driver’s hand instead of Badou:

Our festival of Senegalese movies got stalled after this. Contras City made Katy sleepy, and she was having none of Badou Boy.

Maybe not as New-Wave-influenced as I thought… Mambety:

It’s the way I dream. To do that, one must have a mad belief that everything is possible–you have to be mad to the point of being irresponsible. Because I know that cinema must be reinvented, reinvented each time, and whoever ventures into cinema also has a share in its reinvention.

Mark Cousins:

[Its] sonic complexity, its state of the nation-ness, its Joycean wandering, its allegorical fun, convinced me that Badou Boy is undisputedly a lost classic. It is as important to African cinema as, say, Le Sang d’un poete is to French cinema – perhaps more so. It reveals the origins of the aesthetic confidence, the joy in mocking, filming and thinking that can be seen in Touki Bouki.

Thief (1981, Michael Mann)

Taking Cannes Month way back to 1981, this played in competition alongside Possession, Excalibur, Heaven’s Gate and winner Man of Iron. Mann’s first theatrical feature, though he’d already made TV prison/sports movie The Jericho Mile and written/created the series Vega$. Frank (James Caan, best known as Mr. Henry in Bottle Rocket) gets out of prison and has a clear plan for the rest of his life and the safecracking skills to fund this plan. All he needs is a girl (Tuesday Weld of Lord Love a Duck) and to reunite with his friend (Willie Nelson)

Tuesday is along for the ride but other things start going wrong. Willie dies his first day out of prison, and gangster Leo (Robert Prosky of Broadcast News, a priest in The Keep) offers to help Frank line up a big job and get him and Tuesday a fast-track adoption, and somehow professional criminal Frank isn’t savvy enough to realize that Leo’s not gonna let him do a couple jobs then walk away.

I’m fortunate to be watching this for the first time in the mid-2010’s. The movie’s keyboardy Tangerine Dream soundtrack went from a cool experiment to a long-lasting embarrassment, staying that way for decades until post-Drive it became cool again. Drive seems indebted to this movie’s ending as well, when the hero leaves the girl behind to go on a potentially suicidal rampage against the guys who wronged him – or maybe that’s just how all crime movies end.

I love the bizarre, against-type casting of Willie Nelson and Jim Belushi (pre-SNL, his first movie) as Frank’s partners – wish Mann had kept doing that. Of course it’s Mann-stylish, all slick streets and street lights, but what seemed stylish in the early 1980’s looks pretty subdued today.

The two Jims:

The movie’s one De Palma shot:

Don’t Go Breaking My Heart (2011, Johnnie To)

Love triangle movie, where Yuanyuan Gao (Beijing Bicycle, dunno who she played in Blind Detective) is torn between two rich suitors: the playful Paperman in the building across the street (Louis Koo of Drug War, Romancing in Thin Air, Zu Warriors) and a patient, washed-up architect who she runs into on the street (Daniel Wu of Overheard, The Banquet, Man with the Iron Fists). All three of the leads were new to me, though I recognized Gao’s heavyset coworker Suet Lam from Mad Detective and/or Exiled.

Each guy has personality and problems, and the choice between them could go either way until the two men finally meet and there’s a Frog Incident. After that, Koo claims his womanizing days are over and stages a Big Romantic Gesture while Gao and Wu are out together, but it’s too little, too late, since he’s standing upon Wu’s even bigger romantic gesture: a skyscraper modeled after her silhouette, lit in the shape of a proposal.

Cute movie, keeping us off-guard with its unusual plotting and our unfamiliarity with Hong Kong movie traditions (the joke that Koo gets a nosebleed whenever he’s turned-on didn’t work for me). Think it’s my most-successful-ever group movie pick, charming Katy and Maria, and keeping my cinephile-self occupied with all the wonderful staging To does using windows, reflections and shadows.

M. D’Angelo:

Hardly surprising that a Johnnie To romcom is light years more formally sophisticated than Hollywood’s efforts, making expert use of spatial relationships and insisting that every shot please the eye rather than be merely functional … I can’t even remember the last time I saw a version of this story in which the outcome was genuinely in doubt, much less one in which I was unsure what I wanted to happen.

Television watched early 2016

Master of None season 1 (2015)

We watched this in mourning for the end of Parks & Recreation, and it’s fantastic – a very successful comedy-drama mix with hot issues (most notably racism and immigrant-parent stories) mixed into its relationship drama. I love how there’s an ensemble cast but each episode gets to tell its own story without roping in superfluous characters just because their actors are listed in the opening titles. Aziz, returning from Parks & Rec and the great Human Giant is a struggling actor, having been cast in (and cut from) an awful-looking movie called The Sickening. His on-again girlfriend is SNL’s Noël Wells and his friends are the giant Eric Wareheim and Lena Waithe (a writer on Bones and producer of Dear White People) and Kelvin Yu (Bob’s Burgers writer, in Milk and Cloverfield), with appearances by usual suspects Todd Barry and Jon Benjamin.

Great editing and music, widescreen cinematography – TV comedy is reaching new levels. Eric and Aziz directed episodes, along with Lynn Shelton (Laggies, Humpday) and James Ponsoldt (The Spectacular Now).


Rick and Morty season 2 (2015)

Not as revelatory as the first season, but just as high quality.

Featuring Key & Peele as testicle monsters, Jemaine Clement as a psychic cloud-being named Fart, Christina Hendricks and Patton Oswalt as hive-minds, Matt Walsh as Beth’s new bisexual husband Sleepy Gary, Stephen Colbert as a Rick-like scientist inside the car-battery microverse, half the Mr. Show cast in minor roles, and Dan Harmon as Ice-T.


Veep season 3 (2014)

In which Selina is running for president, Amy and Dan compete to be her campaign manager, and Jonah bounces between campaigns while running a DC insider blog. Also in the presidential race are defense secretary Isiah Whitlock Jr., senator(?) Randall Park, MLB coach Glenn Wrage, and some normal-looking white guy who I forget who he is (Paul Fitzgerald). Unbelievable ending, as Veep’s losing on the campaign trail, but becomes President anyway after her boss steps down. I’m guessing it won’t last long.

Presidential debaters:

Veep Daughter Sarah Sutherland in front of the strategy board:

Trip to England:


And rewatched The Mighty Boosh season 3

Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai (2011, Takashi Miike)

Cannes Month continues. This played there in 2011 – in 3D! The 3D would’ve added some novelty to a remake which seems to have none at all, unless we’re counting that it’s filmed in color. Scene-for-scene redo of the original, well-acted and shot (but the original was well-acted and shot), kinda languid in the flashback-heavy middle, and with a less biting ending.

Motome (Eita of Memories of Matsuko) had a desperately sick wife (Hikari Mitsushima of Love Exposure) and baby and needed doctor money, so he did a dishonorable thing, telling the local samurai house that he wanted to commit seppuku at their house so they’d pay him to go away. But they’d decided to make an example out of the next sap who tried this, and since Motome had done another dishonorable thing – selling his sword for food and secretly substituting a wooden one – he’s forced to die an agonizing, splintery death while his family succumbs to illness at home.

So the dead wife’s dad Hanshiro (Ebizo Ichikawa, later in Miike’s Over Your Dead Body) visits the house a couple months later with the same seppuku story in order to get an audience and shame them for what they’ve done. Per an IMDB comment (I know!) the film argues “that honour is ultimately irrelevant in the face of social suffering.” It’s a compelling story, but during hard times, the house (led by Doppelganger & 13 Assassins star Koji Yakusho) has built its fortune on the traditional ideas of honor and can’t afford to let Hanshiro’s humanist ideas take hold.

C. Huber in Cinema Scope:

Hara-Kiri [demonstrates] a classical craftsmanship few contemporary directors could ever hope to match, but at the cost of personal expression. Miike’s single-minded take on a straightforward samurai tragedy follows the original’s outlines, yet replaces its smart, suspenseful time-shifts with big blocks of flashback melodrama … the marvellous, mostly brownish palette of the interiors tended to sink in the murky fog of light reduction, making Cannes’ first 3-D competition entry a good argument against the process.