I didn’t know it was possible to make a biopic this sentimental about Bunuel, of all people. At least it’s animated, so we get the occasional vision of elephants on horse-leg stilts. Opens with artists at a cafe arguing about the purpose of art, and closes with Luis discovering that art is for helping the poor people, I guess. The movie could at least use animation to abstract away all the gruesome animal killings from the Las Hurdes shoot, and it does, but then it makes sure to show us the original footage right after.

After a screening of L’age d’or ends in fire and threats, LB is annoyed that everyone thinks all his good ideas come from Dali, then he can’t get funding for a follow-up until his cousin wins the lottery. LB and producer cousin and cameraman and writer meet in the mountains, get into hijinks, and shoot a movie. LB has many flashbacks and dreams about trying to please his father, and everyone learns a little something about truth and fiction and the true purpose of art.

Always a good call to open your movie with “The Passenger” by Iggy Pop. I lost track of the relationships and double-crosses, because I think all the cops are dirty and spying on each other… or rather, it’s not hard to follow while watching, but with the state of everything, I’ve lost track a month later. Story told in named chapters, out of order.

Our main dude is Cristi, with conspirator Gilda and boss Magda. The conspirators’ whistling language (and Cristi’s Old-Mark-Wahlberg look and performance) mostly serves to add notes of absurd humor, so this doesn’t turn into another grim tale of Romanian society/government corruption like Graduation.

Two dirty cops:

Sharp-looking and pleasurable, filled with guns, whistling, hidden cameras, vinyl records, movie theaters – after 12:08 and Metabolism and Infinite Football, I now have no idea what to expect from this guy.

A superb effect, mountains and fields of crinkled foil surrounding us in 3D, rapidly rotating and expanding, but never getting anywhere, the constant strobing of color inversions masking the loop point where the motion repeats so it looks like continuous motion that never progresses.

Icy blue and warm gold flicker, with blunt text sections (censorship of the Poltergeist DVD is used as an example of America’s shame). The visuals set up predictable patterns only to break them and reset. Watching right after She Dies Tomorrow, the colors flashing on my face, I felt like I was fulfulling some dark omen, or going crazy.

From movie music with vinyl surface noise to mad science lab electro-noises, flies buzzing in stereo, later an argument with the tape sped up. It’s no wonder I enjoyed the music – it was JG Thirlwell.

Jacobs called it “a reversion to my mid-twenties and that sense of horror that drove the making of Star Spangled to Death.”

David Phelps in Mubi:

Sort of reversing the structuralist impulse to let the movie’s internal system arrange the order, movement, and duration of its materials, Jacobs plays his movies like 1st person interrogations of his footage, the artist constantly adopting and discarding new approaches toward his material … Jacobs’ movies can operate like works in progress; abstract expressionism’s emphasis on process seems to carry not only through Jacobs’ compositions, successions of half-completed movements, but his own approach over the duration of the movie.

After a tinted windowboxed flashback over classic pop music, Alice is grown up and is Ellen Burstyn, has son Tommy and real asshole husband (Billy Green Bush of Critters), who dies in a car crash in under 15 minutes. Alice wants to be a decent mom but her only skill is bar singer, and she tends to attract abusive dudes like young cowboy Harvey Keitel, so they ditch another town and she’s a waitress in Tucson when lovely Kris Kristofferson shows up – it’s a coincidence that I watched both of his 1974 movies the same month. Tommy hangs out with bad influence Jodie Foster, his mom has to deal with sardonic coworker Diane Ladd, and they both have to decide whether Kris can be trusted.

Ellen and Diane:

Harvey and his scorpion:

Not as revelatory as After Hours, but pretty great. A TV series based on this movie ran for nine seasons, I had no idea! Burstyn won the oscar, Ladd lost to Ingrid Bergman’s worst performance, and Chronicle of the Years of Fire beat it at Cannes.

Since Garrick reminded us of Olivier, and Steve was just talking about Shakespeare movies, this came to mind – a very early Criterion DVD I bought on sale and never watched, and now the disc is in storage but the movie’s on Criterion Channel in very nice quality.

Opens with a super sweet model town, this should be the whole movie, minus that typical 40’s movie music that gets so choir-bombastic it overloads everything and just sounds like a dull roar of horrid horns. The play is being framed as a debut performance at the Globe, complete with crowd reaction and backstage shots. Leslie Banks (the Jimmy Stewart of the original Man Who Knew Too Much) returns as narrator before each act. It starts raining at the largely outdoor theater before act 2, then the setting magically shifts to Southampton, the sets in the “real world” looking more fake than the Globe, but it’s nice to get outside.

Olivier’s direction is fine and inventive, but the performances are super-declarative and I’m barely even trying to follow the action, except when Falstaff shows up, dying in bed with sour memories of the King’s final kiss-off speech via voiceover. The change in scenery allows for crowd scenes and big camera crane-ups, but I admit the endless speeches are less engaging without the crowd reactions – but the crowd in the early section was distracting when their laughter competed with the speeches, so apparently I cannot be pleased. I thought the performance style was tuned to the Globe, but once we go offstage they yell just as much, in fact the king’s famous pre-battle Crispin’s Day speech sets a new movie record for yelling. I was surprised to recognize John Laurie – the accent helps. Two women speak French, and either subtitles hadn’t been invented yet or it’s assumed that anyone going to see an Olivier/Shakespeare movie in the 1940’s would know French. Olivier was given an honorary Oscar, after this movie lost all its category nominations to The Best Years of Our Lives.

The Big Shave (1967, Martin Scorsese)

Scorsese’s queasiest film? Guy just keeps shaving until he is bloody all over, ending with a full cross-throat red slash. Jazz score with no direct sound, very student-filmy.

We’re Going to the Zoo (Josh Safdie +3)

Stop-motion opening title, nice. Woman on a long drive pulls over for a minute when she spills her coffee and hitchhiker Josh jumps in back with her little brother. They stop at a diner and dine-and-dash, but he runs back in and pays? He gets lectured about sex before marriage from a rest-stop cashier. They have a fun ride, drop him off, proceed to the zoo which is closed, then pick him up on the way back. Lo-fi camera.

When We Lived in Miami (2013, Amy Seimetz)

Scenes of a woman and her daughter in Miami, a day or two before a hurricane comes through, then it adds her cheating husband into the mix. Lovely editing.

The Lonedale Operator (2018, Michael Almereyda)

John Ashbery recalls his childhood love of movies, and the viewing of A Midsummer Night’s Dream which led to his beginning to write poetry at age 8. He’s interviewed in color 16mm, reading from his own letters, with photos and film footage cut in. He moved to Paris and binge-watched silents at the Cinematheque… pretty standard interview doc except for a cool bit of editing between classic films at the end, and the factor that this was filmed just months before Ashbery’s death. DP Sean Price Williams is just everywhere.

Pinball (2013, Suzan Pitt)

The director’s own paintings, detailed and turntabled then fast-cut to the music Ballet Mechanique. So far Pitt is 2 for 2, and there’s more on the Channel – hope it’s sticking around.

Piperno’s first feature is a Slow Arthouse Being John Malkvich, the least fun version imaginable of a story about discovering portals between a cruise ship, a city apartment in Uruguay, and a shed in rural Philippines.

Window Boy is a cruise ship flunky who constantly shirks his duties and has nothing going on. The woman who lives in the apartment is less afraid of the intruder than she is curious about Window Boy’s origins and wanting to use the portal herself. And the guy who discovers the shed is afraid of its power after dreaming that a snake ate his family, so plots to destroy it (but not before slaughtering some animals on-camera to summon the spirits, argh). And again… if that description sounds enticing, imagine the slowest, most uneventful version of it.

He’s not called Window Boy because he peers through ladies’ windows, that’s a red herring:

Apartment Lady would also like to visit a cruise ship:

Opens with a lot of text about a lot of people in 1980 that I’m not gonna remember, but fortunately the rest is easy to follow. After an absolute slaughter of various gang members, including Tommaso’s two sons, Tommaso does the unthinkable and testifies. He’s tortured in prison, hides in witness protection in the USA, testifies in two major trials, sending friends and enemies to prison. The action spans from 1980 to 2000, and with nonstop event and dialogue for two and a half hours, it’d take me longer to unwind and recount it than it took to watch it. It’s no American Made, but it passed the time on a weekend afternoon.

Such a talky movie, it’s hard to find screenshots without subtitles:

Best period detail: in New Hampshire the grocery store sells AR-15 rifles. Our (anti)hero is Pierfrancesco Favino, star of a movie called ACAB. His enemy/friend Judge Falcone is Bellocchio regular Fausto Russo Alesi, and his wife is TV star Maria Fernanda Cândido. This played the stacked competition at Cannes along with Portrait, Parasite, Bacurau, Atlantics, Hidden, Joe, and Hollywood.

Not sure if this guy was real or just a story, but it’s a good story:

I mainly know W.C. Fields from Looney Tunes caricatures… his muttering insult comedy is pretty appealing. Not just a harmless old man with a funny drunk routine – when he got creative control of a movie, it turned out mental. He plays a screenwriter for studio boss Franklin Pangborn(!), living out the scenes he’s pitching, while Pangborn interrupts to say these are lousy ideas for a movie.

Fields becomes infatuated with a rich woman in a mountaintop home – she’s played by Marx Brothers regular Margaret Dumont. Unfortunately, the other thing he borrowed from the Marxes is the idea that a comedy should have terribly high-pitched singing. Up-and-coming studio star Gloria Jean plays his niece, who performs painful Snow White scream-singing, and throwing in a shriek-whooping fake gorilla, the movie has unpleasant audio. It ends with a really unexpectedly good car chase, at least!

Fields unplugging his ears after a Gloria song

“The Rival” Leon Errol with Dumont: