A thorough viewing of the second disc of my favorite DVD set in the world this weekend. Some thoughts:

I do not know how to talk about Brakhage. Mostly on this site I talk about story, quality of performance… how do I talk about a non-narrative motion painting? Don’t have the background or vocabulary for that.

Cat’s Cradle and Window Water Baby Moving are early ones with actual camera shots of actual things. The editing of Window Water is entrancing.

Mothlight will be great forever. I’ve watched it twenty times now.

Then, chronologically, came Dog Star Man and Act Of Seeing, which I haven’t watched yet because I am afraid of them. The scariest nightmare I’ve had in a decade resulted from falling asleep during my only attempted viewing of Dog Star Man, and if Window Water is so attractive and disturbing, I can just not imagine how my stomach will feel after viewing The Act Of Seeing.

Eye Myth (a nine-second film) took a year to complete because Brakhage had to convince himself that it could be done, had never done a hand-painted film before. Mothlight was almost a decade earlier, but I guess Eye Myth was a big step. I’ve watched it a ton of times just because I can.

I’m not so wild about the visuals of The Wold Shadow (painting on glass over a view of the forest) or The Stars Are Beautiful (creation myths with shots of home and chickens with sync sound) or Kindering (kids at play), but then The Dante Quartet and Rage Net hit hard… some of my favorites of the painted films.

Black Ice and Delicacies and Study In Color are creepy. The screen shots below reveal nothing about those two. The Dark Tower is always a favorite. And I don’t remember ever seeing Commingled Containers before so I watched it three times. Can’t understand what it is, what those things are, what is happening. Something in a stream? What are “containers”? Beautiful, of course. That applies to all of the above… beautiful, beautiful, blah.

Need to read Brakhage’s book(s), to read Fred Camper’s writings, to read the DVD liner notes again and listen to the interviews with Brakhage on the discs. But I don’t expect to learn much that will gain me a deeper appreciation of the films… they need no explanation.

Matt Stone and Trey Parker were Brakhage’s students. He acted in Cannibal the Musical and loved the South Park movie. Incredible.

Katy did not watch it. I’m afraid to show her any Brakhage. What if she doesn’t love it? How will I explain or convince?

A barrage of screen shots.

Cat’s Cradle
image missing

Window Water Baby Moving
image missing

Mothlight
image missing

Eye Myth
image missing

The Wold Shadow
image missing

The Garden of Earthly Delights
image missing

The Stars Are Beautiful
image missing

Kindering
image missing

I… Dreaming
image missing

The Dante Quartet
image missing

Nightmusic
image missing

Rage Net
image missing

Glaze of Cathexis
image missing

Delicacies of Molten Horror Synapse
image missing

For Marilyn
image missing

Black Ice
image missing

Study in Color and Black and White
image missing

Stellar
image missing

Crack Glass Eulogy
image missing

The Dark Tower
image missing

Commingled Containers
image missing

Love Song
image missing

Felt very little like Haneke’s other movies, maybe because it wasn’t set in modern-day Europe but in Kafka’s time, with horse-drawn carriages and long walks through the snow. Never got a handle on exactly what the lead character K was up to, except that he wanted to get to the Castle, felt he needed to get there in order to be important or get a better job or find his destiny or something, and used everyone around him for that purpose. They caught on, or knew all along, that he was being selfish and greedy and never let them into their world, never let on what they knew about the Castle or anything else… he remained an outsider. Sounds like it actually had a moral, a reason for K to be denied everything… seems kinda unlike Kafka. I mean the protagonist of The Trial never deserved what he got… truly he was sort of weaselly and oversensitive, but I thought he was an everyman, not a specific character type being punished for his flaws.

Had Haneke’s characteristic blackouts between scenes, and ended very apruptly, while K was in the middle of walking from one place to another through the snow for the forty-somethingth time. Not all bad as a movie, but a little dull, and horrid quality third-gen VHS makes for an unpleasant viewing experience. One day I’ll finally crack the book and see how faithful it was. Hopefully not too faithful, cuz that’s a big book and I’m hoping for more excitement than I got from the movie.

Katy did not watch it.

One day, OCD number-freak IRS auditor Will Ferrell hears Emma Thompson narrating his life. He seeks help from English professor Dustin Hoffman, and spends his days auditing free-spirited baker Maggie Gyllenhaal. Queen Latifah is also there but I’m not sure why.

Lively Spoon soundtrack keeps me happy while I stare at Maggie and wonder about Will’s mostly non-acting. Guess he learned from the Truman Show and tried the less-is-more thing instead. Dustin Hoffman spends more time lifeguarding the pool than teaching classes. No really stupid parts, some funny bits, some clever writing. Somehow Emma’s novel is the greatest piece of American Literature in years but only if Will gets killed, and somehow Maggie falls in love with Will because he sings a Wreckless Eric song. Spoon’s new one “The Book I Write” is pretty good. Katy liked it too.

Katy picked this out. I liked it, maybe better than either of Luhrmann’s other movies, but still wish we’d watched Henry & June instead.

image missing

Scott wants to dance his own wild made-up steps at the ballroom dance competition but everyone tells him he’s being selfish and stupid and will ruin everything. His own partner goes off with the fancypants guy, and then the fancy guy is dancing with the superstar super girl. Now Scott needs to audition a partner and quick. In comes Fran, dance student at Scott’s parents’ studio who wants to dance Scott’s steps at the competition, and has a few of her own to contribute. A happy ending is had by all. Even though most of the movie looks like it was filmed in a gymnasium, it still manages to look great the whole time. The dancing not so impressive, even the big finale, but at least it’s well presented.

image missing

image missing

40 minutes or so of short movies. The evolution of Robert Morgan!

The Man in the Lower-Left Hand Corner of the Photograph (1999)
image missing
Too slow and draggy with meat and maggots, all Svankmajery and dingy and stuff. Lonely guy watches his neighbor kill herself, drags her home, feeds her to his pet maggot, and she sorta comes to life all maggoty and sleeps with him and he puts their photos together or whatever.

The Cat with Hands (2001)
image missing
Short and awesome, about a cat slowly becoming human by eating people and taking their parts.

The Separation (2003)
image missing
Another good one, slow and dreary like the first, but not overdoing it this time. Conjoined twins are separated then consider getting back together again while working at a doll factory.

Monsters (2004)
image missing
All live action, boy has nightmares, threatens to turn psycho, sister shows last-minute sympathy. Very nice looking. Guy’s got a bright future.

Katy glimpsed parts, thought was gross.

Katy and I both liked.

Interesting watching this after reading “Silk Road to Ruin”. I wonder what Ted Rall thinks about Borat.

Movie was funny, and I’m sure a lot of people are rightly pissed off. The flag carrier falling off a horse behind Borat as he finished singing a fakey Kazakhstan National Anthem to a rodeo is still astounding. Can’t think too hard about this right now but there’s probably not much to say anyway.

At first, seemed like a not-at-all-interesting re-enactment of the last battle to be fought on British soil, when some Scottish Highlanders attacked to get their leader “restored” to the throne. The highlanders lacked the will, experience, rest, nourishment, preparation, leadership or equipment for victory and were easily defeated.

image missing

But then it gets interesting, as the British soldiers not only defeat the Scots on the field, but chase down all retreaters and kill them, kill their families, and just destroy everything in a brutal rampage. Seemingly even more critical of Britain than The War Game was. Watkins says he intended to draw parallels between the behavior of the British troops and that of US troops in Vietnam, which was going on at the time.

image missing

Grainy and real looking, perfectly shot and acted, Watkins gets his point across easily. Like The War Game, not too long. Funny that the same guy should end up making such long movies (La Commune is 6 hrs, The Journey is over 14 hrs).

image missing

Peter Watkins’ own account of the film: http://www.mnsi.net/~pwatkins/PW_Culloden.htm

I’m starting to think that everyone should see every Peter Watkins movie. Too bad I started Katy on The Gladiators, cuz now she probably won’t wanna see the rest.

A horrifying look at nuclear war. Should’ve been required viewing, but was instead banned from the airwaves for decades. Ho-hum.

image missing

Short and to the point. Not only tells what might happen during a nuclear attack on Britain, but shows it, enacting the attack documentary-style.

Below: a homeowner discusses self-defense.

image missing

A powerfully convincing movie against the bomb. Unfortunately also harshly critical of Britain and its policies, which I’m sure contributed to the film being banned for so long.

image missing

Of course, Watkins’ own notes on the film are essential:
http://www.mnsi.net/~pwatkins/PW_Game.htm

image missing

Katy didn’t watch it, but probably should.

After a decade of slow self-education in cinephilia, I’ve finally sat down and watched an Ozu movie.

image missing

These happy folks are travelling to the city to visit their children and grandchildren. It’s implied that they won’t make the trip again, then right after they get home, the wife dies. The kids aren’t very receptive, can’t be bothered to break away from their daily lives and jobs and make time to treat their parents with respect and attention. Their daughter-in-law, though, wife of their deceased son, takes them in, takes time off work to entertain them, and is the one who seems saddest at the wife’s funeral.

image missing

Nicely paced, very well told story. Liked it surprisingly well… figured it’d be an overlong slow-paced thing full of symbolism I don’t understand… but it’s just a modern family story. Apparently all of Ozu’s films are modern family stories, each just like the last, and all just as good. Looking forward to finding out for myself.

image missing

Listened to thirty minutes of the commentary before my burned DVD crashed the computer and I gave up. Remember allll the shots have those low camera angles demonstrated by the cinematographer in Tokyo-Ga. He says something about ellipses in continuity, how actions are implied but not shown and how characters names and positions are slowly revealed instead of being explained up front… viewer has to pay closer attention than usual to figure out what’s happening. Says Ozu’s signature dialogue is “It’s a beautiful day”, said twice in this movie. Setsuko Hara (the daughter-in-law, above) was “one of the genuine superstars of Japanese cinema”. Wenders’ Until the End of the World is a tribute to Ozu (maybe I won’t hate it next time after I’ve seen a few Ozu films). Tokyo Story is sometimes seen as a remake of Leo McCarey’s Make Way For Tomorrow. And Ozu makes “mini documentaries of Japanese middle-class life”.

Katy didn’t watch it. Can’t even guess if she would’ve liked it or not.
EDIT 2015: Katy liked it.