Picked a nice, short, famous one for my first Raoul Ruiz movie. Based on a fictional painter (I didn’t know until I looked it up). The curator studies “a collection of paintings by Tonnerre, a French academic painter of the mid-nineteenth century, whose rather undistinguished works, with no consistency in style or subject matter, are said to have provoked a major but mysterious society scandal”. The title is misleading, because the supposedly missing painting is not discussed so much, but rather how the paintings are connected and what scandal they could have caused. Turns out the characters within may be enacting the rituals of a secret society, but that barely seems to matter anymore by the time it’s unveiled.

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Pretty amazing movie to watch (even though I fell asleep the first time). The curator is not the film’s narrator. The curator actually falls asleep once while droning on about the paintings, and the narrator whispers to us until he reawakens. The curator stages complicated tableaus, reenactments, like life-sized dioramas of the paintings in order to get a 3-D perspective on the hidden clues, which are in mirror reflections, light and shadow, and everything else. A movie all about mise-en-scene, so the paintings and stagings have interesting layouts, and the filming of them is interesting on its own. So many layers I don’t pretend to understand.

Below: Professional Jean Reno in his first film role.
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Completely wild. Loved it, though I don’t know who I could recommend it to. Guess I’ll just see more Ruiz movies. Not sure whether any/all questions are answered at the end… curator seems too obsessive to be able to see the truth anymore, and may be using the ritual explanation to justify his own ritualistic beliefs. The movie’s got a few visual freakouts, like the one below, but otherwise is a sort of fictional essay film.

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Where the missing painting, the fourth in the series, should have hung:
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Essential essay here: http://www.rouge.com.au/2/hypothesis.html
Katy might’ve liked it. I guess. Can’t really say.

A not-too-good Masters of Horror installment by not-too-good filmmaker Argento. I knew the ending three minutes in, and just waited patiently to be proven right. An insultingly crappy story, in which TV veteran Steven Weber (currently in that Studio 60 show) saves Jenifer (some girl with lotta makeup) from a crazy man who is trying to kill her. Kills the man, brings Jenifer HOME for some reason, wife and kids disapprove, Jenifer eats family pet and has amazing sex with Weber. Now Weber wants to keep her, so she keeps eating neighborhood people and dude’s family moves out and finally he moves out into the country and gets a simple stockboy job and all is well until Jenifer kills the store-owner’s son and now Weber tries to kill Jenifer but she’s SAVED by a hunter who kills our man and rescues her and so on.

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Not all bad – the Jenifer character is disturbing enough with the crazy face and the eating people’s guts, but not too good either. Katy didn’t watch and wouldn’t have liked.

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Saul Symonds in Light Sleeper points out all the ways this one fits in with Dario Argento’s other work: the circularity of plot, the duality of Jenifer’s character, the “strange shifts of direction”, and exploring “the manner in which a central protagonist is devoured by darkness”.

Best Masters of Horror episode yet. Why? The story is outrageous and fascinating and twisty, the visuals are always exciting, and UDO KIER co-stars.

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Theater owner who owes big money to the father of his dead wife takes on job from eccentric millionaire UDO KIER to find the rarest film of all time, an angelic snuff film that makes its viewers go homicidally insane. The director’s wife gives up the film easily, and he brings it to Udo who, despite having already imprisoned one of the angels, is still unprepared for the film and signals this by feeding his intestines into the projector. The cigarette burns of the title are jolting, and our man loses track of things each time one hits. Only time besides Fight Club I can think of those things really being discussed. Never thought they’d be the title device in a horror movie.

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Katy wouldn’t have liked this one, though she expressed an unusual interest in it.

I guess a movie about a quirky dysfunctional family seemed new in 1989, but while I was watching this, Little Miss Sunshine, the umpteenth quirky dysfuctional family drama/comedy this year alone, was playing across the street. I don’t want to see that, so why should I want to see this?

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The myth of Jane Campion, for one. The myth of Dayton and Faris at Sundance has got nothing on the myth of Jane Campion. Shots like the one above and story quirks like the one below (the question mark on his forehead foretold by a fortune teller leads Kay to go after him) redeem it for the most part, but overall it feels lightweight and obvious (the final death of Sweetie, who falls from the treehouse, naked and painted black, is an easy ending for this type of movie).

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Kay hasn’t much to say for herself, Bob (below, buried in sand with Sweetie) is a red herring, only the parents are interesting as having allowed Sweetie to get to the point where she ends up. Even Kay’s relationship with Question Mark and her fear of trees seemed to mean little, but I guess Sweetie fell from a tree so there’s that. A little commentary-tracking should clear up a lot, but I don’t think I’ll put the time in. Maybe watching the short films or renting An Angel At My Table or The Piano would be more rewarding.

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Shouldn’t be hard on the movie… I enjoyed it for the most part, liked all the scenes Sweetie was in especially. Katy didn’t watch, but would’ve been frustrated by the ineffectual dad character. Or is that only in sitcoms?

“Dick Laurent is dead” bookends the film, spoken and heard by Bill Pullman.

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Pullman becomes Balthazar Getty for a while, long enough to get involved in a shady robbery of a rich guy leading to the rich guy’s accidental death. Not sure if the Mystery Man really exists or if Bill or Balthazar even exist, but one or all of them kill Dick “Mr. Eddy” Laurent.

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Below: Robert “Dick Laurent / Mr. Eddy” Loggia with Patricia “Renee/Alice” Arquette. This movie and Spider are sort of the opposite of That Obscure Object of Desire when it comes to casting the female lead. Then again, this movie is sort of the opposite of itself. And its own companion movie. Argh.

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Below you can just see Gary Busey running out of his house to see something that is never properly explained to us. Nothing is really explained. It’s a seductive movie though, more so than Mulholland Drive because the tone stays the same, always slow and dark and headachey, always barrelling down the highway towards an unknown fate with no hands on the wheel. Mulholland gives the appearance of control before yanking it away again, but Lost Highway stays lost the whole way through. I’m starting to prefer it overall. Or maybe I just never got to properly compare them because by the time Mulholland was easily viewable in theaters and on video, Lost Highway had been out of reach for years. Nice new DVD changes things.

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Small final role for Jack Nance (overplaying it) and small final role for Richard Pryor, as coworkers in Balthazar’s garage. Might turn out to be Robert Blake’s final role too, unless he has a post-murder-aquittal career comeback. He overplays his part to utter perfection. Marilyn Manson overplays his tiny part too. Pay more attention to Patricia Arquette next time you watch this instead of trying to figure out the whole wife-murder identity-crisis videotape-surveilance detective story.

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Below: Bill plummets down the Highway, possibly finally aware of who he is and what he’s done. He’s transforming again, but now that Balthazar is also a murderer, that might not help. Similar ending to Mulholland Drive, I guess… wake up, reality closing in (or giving chase). Wicked David Bowie song.

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Katy might have actually liked it. Except for the part where the guy gets his head split open.

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Still a fun movie, much better than it oughtta be, but not worth watching a whole bunch of times. Two kids are out on lake with dad, when one kid and dad are killed by a motorboat. The daughter survives and is given to nutty aunt, right? Nope, it was the son who survived, but nutty aunt gave him a girl’s name and turned him into a girl (not physically), causing him to be a twisted killer (see above photo) at summer camp. Lots of fun killing and neat makeup effects ensue.

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Katy would not have liked this at all.

Young parent Kate Winslet meets and has sex with young parent Patrick Wilson, even though Patrick is married to Jennifer Connelly and Kate is… well, married. Meanwhile Ronald, a convicted child molester (the motorcycle kid from the original Bad News Bears) is on the loose.

Ronald has a domineering mother, Kate feels disconnected from everything, Patrick spaces out watching skateboard kids, and Jennifer is pretty but doesn’t have much to do.

Katy didn’t like it!

Ugh.

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I thought I remembered this was a good movie. Bad 80’s music and bad 80’s hair and clothes and effects and acting and story and whatever. Even the bookend old-man-eating-razorblades story sucked.

Things I forgot: Angela’s not so bad until infected by demons, the black guy doesn’t die first (or even at all), the dialogue is terrible. There’s naked girls, though. The director later made Witchboard II and Pinocchio’s Revenge.

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Katy wouldn’t have liked it.