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.

A Rotterdance selection from Uruguay. Belmonte is a morose painter who does good business selling morose nudes to rich people. He would like to spend more time with his daughter, but it’s complicated with the pregnant ex-wife. Belmonte has grave concerns about his parents, the business his brother runs, the opera, family and acquaintances he meets at the opera, his daughter, and an upcoming exhibit. He’s kind of prickly and no fun to be around… but the movie has some nice colored lights sometimes, and it’s short.

Veiroj’s fourth feature – two others have more promising descriptions. Lead actor Gonzalo Delgado has also been an art director, writer, you name it. Played in Rotterdam 2019’s “Voices” section with Knife+Heart, The Mountain, Genesis, and Cities of Last Things. Dan Sallitt loved this and Grass, so I’m having a very Sallitt-approved week.

Michael Sicinski in Cinema Scope:

What makes Belmonte rather unique is the fact that, at least for most of the film, it avoids the clichés of the creative life. Instead, Veiroj treats art as labour, coextensive with the demands of fatherhood and other familial duties … Veiroj is Uruguay’s leading auteur at this point, and as with his earlier film A Useful Life (which centered on a cinematheque programmer), Belmonte is a sensitive examination of the ins and outs of a life in the arts.

Rotterdance! Premiered at Cannes 2018, showed up at Rotterdam at the end of its festival run, opened in NYC in May then slid onto video in November.

Cute girl Asako meets shaggy guy Baku. He’s a bit quiet and mysterious, and she hardly says anything, just looks curious. They hang out together with her friend Haruyo and his friend Okazaki. They are sweet and young and that’s all there is. “Six months later, Baku said he was going to buy shoes and never came back”

Two years later Asako works at a coffee place and spots Salaryman Ryohei, who looks just like Baku, but is no Baku, neither quiet not mysterious. They hang out with her actress roommate Maya and his amateur acting critic friend Kushihashi, who just tears her apart after they watch one of her performances. Asako is drawn to this fake Baku but torn about the whole thing, runs away, comes back the night of the March 2011 earthquake. I’ve got nothing but plot description, but it’s unusually gripping for this sort of dramatic film – every scene is good. It’s no wonder Hamaguchi’s Happy Hour popped up on decade-best lists.

Five years later, he’s moved up at work, she’s still at the coffee shop, and they’ve been together since the quake, when Haruyo shows up, and the movie takes a flying leap into melodrama (my notes during this section just say “holy shit this can’t be happening”). Baku comes back for her, the night before she and Ryohei are moving into a house together, in the middle of a farewell dinner, and she goes with him – then changes her mind along the way, but Ryohei might never trust her again. “I always had a feeling this would happen. That guy with the same face keeps haunting me.”

Baku I & II:

Would watch Asako III & IV. Cowritten with one of Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s regular screenwriters, and Baku/Ryohei Masahiro Higashide starred in his Creepy (as the detective’s ex-partner) and Foreboding. Haruyo was in Lesson of Evil, and Kushihashi was in some Ju-on and Ring sequels. In competition at Cannes the year of Shoplifters and Burning and Ash Is Purest White – tough crowd.

Hamaguchi summarizes his career to date in a Filmmaker interview.

Lawrence Garcia: (I thought the autotune song was horrendous, but this is still good)

Like Karata’s unexpected performance, the film is opaque in ways both confounding and thrilling, as if internalizing one character’s advice not to over-interpret. Equally adept with subtle, naturalistic sketches (a visit to a seafood festival in a far-flung town) and well-timed bursts of emotion (an offered hand and a rising auto-tuned anthem to stop your heart)…

Josh Cabrita, who compares it to Rohmer’s Winter’s Tale:

Asako I & II sets up and throws out stylistic paradigms faster than you can grab hold of them. As if to maximize the frustration of viewers who prefer to distinguish the fantastic from the “real,” Hamaguchi’s amorphous aesthetic — blending naturalistic and affected performances, unobtrusive and flashy editing — renders inseparable inner and outer and public and private forms of experience.

Hamaguchi, who adds that Baku/Ryohei’s accents were different:

Employing [genre] conventions allowed the film to move a lot faster than usual without losing the audience. Those who don’t really understand those conventions might feel what is happening to be a little strange or even grotesque — or maybe a better expression is absurd, surrealist, or illogical. But one of the things I wanted to do was to have realism and surrealism coexisting: allowing something real to come out of this absurd situation, or to have some absurd quality rooted in the reality that we crafted.

“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.

After watching all the Chris Marker movies I could get my hands on, I commemorated with an inventory post – then did the same with Jacques Rivette. I meant to follow with Alain Resnais, who I’ve been writing about since the early months of the blog, but was never sure when I was done. By the time of his great You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet I had only one feature left to watch, then I caught up with the Visits and Portraits, saw his final film Life of Riley soon after he died, and finally finished watching his features a year later with the great Same Old Song. But then I held off until I could find L’an 01, then I was looking for subtitles for Le mystère de l’atelier quinze, and there are multiple new documentaries on Marienbad, and I need to rewatch Muriel sometime, etc. So, here are a couple new things I found to watch, and a Resnais Roundup:


Le Mystere de l’atelier quinze (1957, Resnais & Heinrich)

Those subtitles finally appeared! Factory worker Renard feels weak and has a noise in his head, so the occupational doctor springs into action, coordinates with medical professionals, government committees, the factory foreman, coworkers and Renard’s family, and gets to the bottom of the issue, improving factory safety so Renard and others can stay healthy and happy. It’s all depressingly utopian after seeing the modern reality in American Factory.

More of an industrial film than the Resnais factory and library shorts – again, voiceover with no direct sound. Some long Night & Fog camera tracking.

Factory Man (cropped):

Codirected by Alain Resnais. Credited director André Heinrich wasn’t prolific – looks like he was assistant to Resnais on Night & Fog, then vice versa here. He later worked on Chronicle of a Summer and appeared in La Jetée.

The whole early new-wave gang is here. Cinematographers Ghislain Cloquet (Night & Fog) and Sacha Vierny (Hiroshima Mon Amour), music by Pierre Barbaud (La Pointe Courte) conducted by Georges Delerue (Jules and Jim), Written by Chris Marker with Rémo Forlani (Toute la mémoire du monde). Also credited is “Fearless Fosdick,” who is impossible to google since the name is stolen from a Li’l Abner character.


Last Year at Marienbad, A to Z (2019, James Quandt)

An hour-long exploration of things within and around the Resnais/Robbe-Grillet feature, and a good opportunity to revisit scenes, since I haven’t watched the film since the SD-DVD days.

Resnais “insisted from the very beginning of the project that he wanted a foreign accent for the film’s narrator, to ensure that his voiceover would not be misinterpreted as merely internal monologue.”

Surprisingly, it ends on the director of La Flor, which I was just about to start watching.

Major Resnais Films:

1953 – Statues Also Die
1955 – Night and Fog
1959 – Hiroshima Mon Amour
1961 – Last Year at Marienbad
1963 – Muriel
1966 – The War Is Over
1968 – Je t’aime, je t’aime
1974 – Stavisky
1977 – Providence
1980 – Mon Oncle d’Amerique
1983 – La Vie est un roman
1984 – Love Unto Death
1986 – Melo
1993 – Smoking / No Smoking
1997 – Same Old Song
2003 – Not on the Lips
2006 – Coeurs
2009 – Wild Grass
2012 – You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet
2014 – Life of Riley


Additional Features and Shorts:

1947 – Visits & Portraits
1948 – Van Gogh
1950 – Gauguin
1951 – Guernica
1956 – Toute la Memoire du Monde
1957 – Le Mystere de l’atelier quinze (above)
1958 – Le Chante du Styrene
1967 – Far From Vietnam
1968 – Cinetracts
1973 – L’An 01
1989 – I Want To Go Home (sorry)
1991 – Against Oblivion
1993 – Gershwin


Jonathan Rosenbaum, 1988:

Resnais is … quite possibly the French director who has been most frequently and unjustly maligned in this country. Despite the fact that he has substantially revised his form and style for each of his eleven features to date, working with a total of eight separate writers, his films share an emotional purity, a visual elegance, and a rhythmic grace that together constitute a recognizable signature. And his central preoccupations — memory, loss, love, death, and desire — have remained more or less constant. The problems he has posed for American aesthetes appear to have been equally constant.

Resnais, 2009: “I want to make films that describe the imaginary.”

What Did Jack Do? (2017, David Lynch)

Jack is a monkey with a human mouth composited onto his face, so he can be interrogated by detective David Lynch. “They say real love is a banana.” Willow’s review is the one to read: “This is a joke, but Lynch is also being completely sincere.”


The Capsule (2012, Athina Rachel Tsangari)

Women slither in from all over, have other women inside them via unrealistic compositing effects… there is slow-mo, nudity, colored tongues, and “Horse With No Name” a cappella. Wait, there’s more: goats on leashes, egg-absorbing bellybuttons, painted mustaches, a confession line, heads that turn all the way around.

Reminds of the Lucrecia Martel fashion short and other high-gloss ads made by deeply weird directors. Then towards the end, talk of clones and life-cycles and vampires summons Never Let Me Go and the Lucile Hadzihalilovic films. I liked it more than Chevalier!


Goldman v Silverman (2020, Safdies)

Adam Sandler is a gold-painted human statue with a kazoo, then Benny Safdie arrives as a silver-painted human statue with a kazoo, insults Goldman then sets up across the street until Goldman comes at him with a can of spraypaint. The ending is played for pathos, Silverman sad and alone with messed up clothes, but, man he started it. Really the point of this movie is that the Safdies filmed Adam Sandler in Times Square and nobody realized it.


The Fall (2019, Jonathan Glazer)

Another short with masks. This time everyone’s wearing ’em, and a mob shakes a dude down from a tree then drops him down an extremely deep hole. At some point he catches himself and starts to painstakingly climb back up. Pretty much pure nightmare fuel, no other reason for this to exist than to deeply upset everyone who watches.

Another supernatural teenage love story from the Your Name creator, this time involving weather-control instead of time/body-swapping. Shinkai is terrific with light and cloud and sky, so this was lovely on the big screen – we watched one of the few subtitled screenings before the GKids dub opened wide.

In a future Tokyo where it rains constantly, Hina is the sunshine girl who can clear the clouds with a prayer, but every time she uses her powers she gets closer to losing herself forever to the skies, a human sacrifice who will fix the weather imbalance, the countdown marked on her body like The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. The boy who likes her, Hodaka, works with a couple of gruff-but-generous reporters (Crows Zero star Shun Oguri, and The Mole Song 2‘s Tsubasa Honda), and would rescue her from the clouds even if it meant dooming the city to an existence of small cubes. Too much side-plot involving cops and guns and gangsters, but I forget all that stuff when staring at the pretty clouds on the poster hanging next to my laptop.

Opens on a mining accident in Ethiopia… camera goes inside a dark gem, though the cosmos and out of Adam Sandler’s ass (rivaling the ants transition in The Human Surge), spends a couple hours following his final few days, back into his body through a fatal bullet hole and into the gem-cosmos. The movie itself is almost a horror, in that you’re watching a character make every bad decision and you want to scream at him to chill out, but it’s also a thrill to see where this many bad decisions will lead… and the thing is, both of Howard’s big gambling bets are winners, but his history of fuckups conspire to rob him of the rewards.

Halfway through the Skandies and already three acting awards: for first time actors Kevin Garnett (as himself, but still) and Keith Williams Richards as Arno’s raspy-voiced tough-guy… and on the opposite side of the showbiz spectrum, Frozen star Idina Menzel, as Howard’s soon-to-be-ex wife, who delivered the line to Adam Sandler that drew applause at my screening: “I think you are the most annoying person I have ever met.” I assume that Sandler is due for a Skandie, and if his brother-in-law/loanshark Arno (Special Effects star Eric Bogosian) and his employee/girlfriend who makes off with the cash at the end (Julia Fox, another first-timer – Matthew Eng wrote about her perfectly in Reverse Shot) aren’t coming up, they must’ve just missed. Good Time still has the edge, but this was great.

Watched it huge, up front at the Tara.

I abandoned the Harry Potter series after part five (a movie I accurately predicted I would soon forget) so Emma Watson is just vaguely familiar to me. Florence Pugh is a revelation, and I’ve still got Midsommar and The Little Drummer Girl to catch up with. “Poor, doomed Beth, who dies, as she always does” is Eliza Scanlen of Sharp Objects and the next Antonio Campos picture. My only note: book editor Tracy Letts and paterfamilias Bob Odenkirk could’ve switched roles.