Not trying to join the Stereogum Anniversary Culture, but I happened to watch this on the tenth anniversary of its premiere. This is bound to happen at least once during Cannes Week. Rounding out my viewing of Mungiu’s major features right before his brand-new one debuted, this one’s a prime example of a movie good enough to transcend its dreary subject matter (insular religious cultures; see also Silent Light).
Much of the appeal is in the character of Alina (Cristina Flutur of Backdraft 2, what?). She and Voichita (Cosmina Stratan of the Border guy’s surrogate pregnancy movie) were orphanage sisters, now separated, and Alina returns to visit then refuses to leave. She’s extremely needy, fearing abandonment, but also acts impossible so she can’t stay anywhere. Both the hospital and Voichita’s quiet monastery say they’re overcrowded during renovations, and anyway, Alina isn’t a believer. But she’s devoted to her friend, so the nuns read Alina a list of all 464 sins to see which she has committed, then when she’s violent they tie her down to drive out her evil spirits, but she’s also convulsive, and they leave her tied too long, and she dies. Seems like an openhearted, respectful take on a tragic story, made in the good ol’ master-shot long-take foreign-arthouse style.
Tonight’s movie was about an Icelandic grandpa with anger issues who scares everyone close to him, and threatens some with guns, but in the end is allowed to keep his job as a small-town cop. I complain about the trendy feel-good vibes in Everything Everywhere All at Once, but also don’t love watching movies about piece-of-shit dudes getting away with violent behavior, so what to do?
Our angry man Ingvar Sigurdsson was also in The Northman, which I missed in theaters because I decided to watch Crimes of the Future a third time instead. Enjoyed the biting string music, and most of the build-up before Ingvar destroys his psychiatrist’s computer then attacks and imprisons his own coworkers.
Love when a detective story involves library cards:
Tilda doesn’t even seem unhappy about The Sound, she’s just very interested. On her quest for understanding, everyone she meets – sound engineer Juan Pablo Urrego, archaeologist Jeanne Balibar, fish scaler Elkin Díaz – is open to her about their work, inviting her to sit down with them and participate. It feels utopian about human connection before we even reach the final stretch, then Elkin’s death and resurrection reaches Tsai-like duration, and the alien time-wormhole source of The Sound (and Juan Pablo being potentially the same person as Elkin) turn the movie into a cosmic puzzle. I haven’t seen a movie on the big screen at The Plaza in years, and was very happy to return with this one.
The compositions and edits offer suggestive juxtapositions that Apichatpong trusts you to generate meaning from. As usual with Apichatpong, scenes unfold in long, static takes, and important information is revealed without fanfare in hushed conversations that you really need to pay attention to. The urban settings of the first half are grey and overcast, and the rural setting of the second half is sumptuous, but Apichatpong does little with his camera to underline the ugliness or sweeten the prettiness.
I just sat back and took this one in. Took no notes, no screenshots.
Good movie, can’t remember much except that Sammo Hung plays one of the rival soldiers at the beginning, then reappears later as the powerful wizard LONG BROWS.
Celia’s beloved grandma just died, but she’s got the new neighbors next door to play with, and the eternal hope that she’ll get a pet rabbit. Unfortunately the neighbors are communists, and it’s Australia in the 1950’s during a myxomatosis outbreak (I’ve had the Radiohead song’s bassline in my head all week), so she’s constantly being warned against rabbits and commies.
Rabidly anti-commie dad (Nicholas Eadie of pre-fame Nicole Kidman miniseries Vietnam) chooses sides, and buys her a rabbit if she won’t play with the neighbors anymore, tells her they’re bad people. Cruelty abounds: the other kids hurt her rabbit, dad gets the neighbor fired. Her family’s cop friend John (Bill Zappa of The Road Warrior) straight-up kidnaps the rabbit, and after it dies in quarantine, Celia becomes the Joker. She shoots John to death while seeing visions of storybook monsters (major Heavenly Creatures parallels) and gets away with it, then fortunately doesn’t kill his daughter while staging mock gallows executions.
Not so harmless:
Celia was Rebecca Smart, who debuted in Dusan Makavejev’s The Coca-Cola Kid. Turner later directed Sam Neill and pre-fame Russell Crowe, and remade Teorema starring Sandra Bernhard in the Stamp role(!!)
Found another movie from the director of the Maiku Hama series. Silent-ish – no sync dialogue or music score, but we hear sfx and voices on tape. A detective whose thing is that he’s always eating eggs (Shirô Sano of Violent Cop) takes on the case of a kidnapped daughter named Bellflower and is sent on the usual goose chase, but with riddles and gyroscopes. In the end the whole adventure and kidnapping was a ploy to complete a silent film fifty years in the making.
Played Critics Week at Venice along with Assayas’s debut. Relaxed pace and lack of dialogue makes it hazy and dreamy – per the title, it’s not one to watch late at night. Funny that a few hours after watching this, I read: “it made me wonder what it’d be like to see, for once, a cinephilic film that isn’t in any way about cinephilia.”
A young hot blank dude (Nightmare Detective Ryuhei Matsuda) is found wandering with amnesia and returned to his wife Narumi (Masami Nagasawa of Kore-eda’s Our Little Sister). Blank teen boy Amano (also the name of my favorite sandwich place) recruits dickhead reporter Sakurai (Sion Sono’s Fuck Bomber) to help him locate a blank girl (Yuri Tsunematsu, also in Wife of a Spy) at the center of a recent crime.
Blank Nightmare Detective backed by choir:
But the blank trio are really aliens, learning about human concepts on their way to build a device from scavenged parts that will invite global destruction. The boy and girl finally meet, ruining a cop’s sense of self over wacky comedy-suspense music. The reporter is surveilled by Ministry of Health officers in an unmarked van. Gunfights and CG explosions ensue, and none of it’s very good, ruining my plans to follow this with the miniseries spinoff Foreboding.
Reporter, blank girl, and blank boy with machine gun:
Great opening scene, Martin Landau at a diner, attacked by cook Donald Pleasence, but alas, it’s just a dream, and Pleasence ends up being the lax doctor in charge of the psychos, not a psycho himself. Nerdy Dr. Potter (Dwight Schultz, a Barbie movie voice actor) arrives to replace the retired Dr. Merton, but the psychos smell foul play and decide to kill the new guy and his family.
Famous last words in a movie we know will involve a blackout: “the only thing that separates me from them is electricity,” and poor Brent Jennings (Ernie from Lodge 49) is the Black Guy Who Dies First. Three killers on the loose: Landau, Jack Palance, and big Erland van Lidth (The Running Man). A fourth killer hides behind shadows and masks, and is the writers’ most clever invention, appearing at the end as Friendly Interloper Tom (Phillip Clark of Death Scream), the devil in their midst.
In the movie’s most 1982 detail, the wife (Deborah Hedwall, recently in After Yang) and sister (Lee Taylor-Allan of sexy aerobics movie Pulsebeat) are arrested while protesting nuclear power, which is how their little girl ends up home alone letting killers into the house. Palance is top-billed so he gets to escape.
Opens with no titles or credits or logos, just busts into a scene, is that right? Early dialogue with main guy Michel Piccoli at work was unexpected. “Isolation in a chamber in which one must wear a mask to survive strongly evokes the conditions under which modern man lives. Doesn’t knowing that one must wear a mask create a sense of anxiety?” The poor dubbing was sadly expected, though when Piccoli turns on the TV news and that is also badly dubbed, it gives the impression that people in Italy just speak out of sync with their own mouths.
Piccoli putters around his house listening to records, making a late night meal while his wife sleeps, when he finds a pistol in his pantry, wrapped in a 1930’s Chicago newspaper with a John Dillinger headline. He takes great pleasure in restoring the gun with oil while watching home movies (then he restores the maid with oil, if you know what I mean). Mostly he putters alone, a Secret Honor fever dream of a movie. After annoying both women, he paints the gun, returns to the pantry to find some ancient ammunition, then shoots his wife to death.
What a nice kitchen, though:
It’s not made very compellingly or convincingly, but valuable as one of those “a movie can be about anything” movies, and there’s some groovy music. I did like the Ruizian ending, where Piccoli swims out to a ship and gets hired to replace their late cook. Anita Pallenberg of Performance is the wife, and maid Sabina is Annie Girardot, who’d play the mother in The Piano Teacher 30+ years later.
Dillinger’s dames: Pallenberg top, Girardot bottom