Semi-sequel to Yojimbo, which I don’t remember being this comical. Sure it’s all life-or-death situations, but Sanjuro gets swept accidentally into this group of young dudes trying to expose corruption, and he keeps pointing out their grave errors, calling them idiots and saving their asses just in time. Mifune hangs back playing cool for an hour before he finally gets to go haywire on some dudes, killing about twenty.

Tatsuya Nakadai (lead guy in Harakiri the same year) is the Sanjuro-equivalent of the opposition, the mutineers’ muscle who has a final blood-spraying showdown with our guy. His traitorous boss is Masao Shimizu, who appeared in every major Japanese film for decades but always twelfth-billed. Too many of the young samurai to keep track of, and their kidnapped righteous boss barely appears in the movie, but his wife (Takako Irie, a WWII-era Kurosawa star) and daughter (Reiko Dan, who slept her way to success in When a Woman Ascends the Stairs) get good roles.

Opens with a montage around the deteriorating city of Stockton CA over an instrumental version of “help me make it through the night”, promising. Did anyone else take the turn from 1940’s studio films into the shaggy 1970’s as well as Huston? All that optimism wears off as the movie proceeds – true, that’s the mood the movie is setting on purpose, but there’s way too much of drunken pathetic people yelling at each other (washed-up fighter Stacy Keach and oscar-nominated Susan Tyrrell). Give me more (but not too much more) of Jeff Bridges as a young hopeful fighter, losing every match then parking with his girl, ending up picking walnuts with Keach.

Cooler than a “based on a true story” title card is opening your movie with a guy telling the camera that this is his true story from 1947. Turns out it’s an extremely pleasurable prison break movie. Claude is accused by his wife of premeditated attempted murder, is looking at serious time, thrown into a cell with four guys, and they let him in on their scheme to escape. They haven’t even started yet, and it begins with a long take of real-time concrete floor destruction, wow. High ingenuity in their escape, and with more attentive guards than usual. Claude has to convince the others he’s not a threat after his woman withdraws the charge, but he’s a rat bastard and turns them in – they get taken down by 100 guards on escape night.

Final film by Becker, who died before its premiere. Engineer Jean Keraudy played himself. Geo was in the original Inglorious Bastards, The Reverend had a small role in La Vérité, Manu played the Monocled Nazi in The Night Porter, and dirty rat Claude is the star of Lola.

Marie Menken seems to have started it all. She inspired Jonas Mekas to make his own films (“she represents the lyrical aspect in cinema that sings the invisible”) and organized Brakhage’s first show (he says he owes her for his career). Kenneth Anger doesn’t credit her with his whole career, just Scorpio Rising. She appears, screaming, in a section of Chelsea Girls. And unfortunately, her relationship with her husband inspired Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.

The doc shows some of her films, in full and partially, with new music by John Zorn (and sometimes just with mechanical sounds, leaving the viewer yearning for Zorn). It sets her up as a character and an artist pretty well, but plays a couple of cruel tricks. Firstly, they keep telling us about her amazing voice, then after 90 minutes of interviewees, we only get to hear it in the final minute or two. And most cruelly, the second half is handed over to Warhol groupies.

I watched some Menken shorts afterwards to recover from all the Warhol.

Menken and Warhol:

Visual Variations on Noguchi (1945)

All editing and movement. Looks like she was set loose in a sculpture gallery, and ran up to each piece (not too sharply in focus), tracing their shapes and lines with her camera. The music by Lucille Dlugoszewski is a noise piece, sounds like someone ran a TV broadcast through too many filters.

Arabesque for Kenneth Anger (1961)

Many years later… her editing/movement style is unchanged, but she’s got color film stock and a pleasant Teiji Ito guitar and percussion score. This time she’s been set loose among ancient Islamic/Spanish architecture, paying attention to the flowing water and the light coming through the ceilings and walls, in addition to all the lovely tile patterns.

Eye Music in Red Major (1961)

Lights, mostly red, in a dark room, the camera whirling. My favorite was when she turned the camera sideways and whirled, so on film the lights appear to fall like rain. Of all these, this one would make the most sense to see on film in a dark theater, not on my laptop screen over the reflection of my NEBREWSKI t-shirt. Briefly the moon, then a light kaleidoscope effect over the last couple minutes. Silent, I played Zorn’s Canto II from The Ninth Circle.

Notebook (1961)

Opens with ducks, always a good move, then rain on the lake and plants. The camera is barely even whirling, many static shots. Aha, it’s a notebook of different scenes, so after the rain comes a greek festival at night, then experiments with filming the moon, a rush of McLaren-ish lines, paper cut-out animation, swirling lights at a distance, jumping on a rooftop. Ends without warning. This was my favorite, assisted by a couple of Bagatelles tracks feat. the John Medeski Trio.

Lights (1966)

Marie goes to town on some decorative Christmas lights. I picked a good music track in Bagatelle #54 with Kris Davis Quartet, because when Marie goes into overdrive, slowing down the shutter speed and jiggling the camera to turn the dots into squiggles, Mary Halvorson hits a pedal turning her guitar notes into squiggles.

We’re in structural a-g territory here, a tennis player woking on his serve, over and over with precise editing. But then it’s twin true-crime re-enactments, actors playing murderers in interrogation.

A California teen girl is stabbed to death in 1984. The sound of typing throughout, cuts to black between her responses, ties to the novel Devil House, landscapes and artifacts. We have to listen to an entire song from Cats while watching a girl with perfect 80s hair talk on the phone. I don’t wanna have to think about the cost of music royalties when watching a movie, but putting a song from Thriller in your experimental documentary is okay?

Another girl is found dead at a Wisconsin farm in 1957. Static composition takes from around town, same as we just did in other town, listening to a radio preacher. Woman dancing alone to the worst version I’ve ever heard of “Tennessee Waltz.” This time no typing on the interview scenes, some ambient industrial sound.

It’s some pretty cool work by Benning, but I feel like I was tricked into watching a serial-killer movie, and I should’ve put on that four-hour George Harrison documentary instead. As far as my relative interest in musicians/murders go, I’ve skimmed the wiki on Ed Gein and though “oh no, that pretty much sucks” then moved on and never thought about him again. But I’ve considered George Harrison every day this year, and maybe that’s because I think I could pretty easily be a serial killer, but could never play guitar in a good group.

The Rehearsal season 1 (2022)

1. Synecdoche For You, with a trivia buff worried about a fib he’s told.
“Sometimes you don’t want to say anything, but you do want people to know you exist.”

2. Angela raising a child, Robin as short-lived father-figure.
3. Gold-digger girlfriend and fake grandpa with secret gold. “Maybe for some the rehearsal itself is enough.”
4. Fielder Method school spirals into itself, featuring closing credits for “fake roommates” and “fake fake roommates.”
5. Focus on famiily life, clashing with Angela’s christianity. “It turns out winter is very expensive to maintain.”
6. Trying to un-brainwash the six year-olds, and imagining how the rehearsals could have been improved.
“I was starting to feel like I was just solving a puzzle of my own design.”

A show we’re gonna think about for a long time. Nathan likes to live in tricky ethical territory. The cowriters also worked on Silicon Valley and the On Cinema universe.

Alissa Wilkinson’s article is the one to read.
Update: so is Vikram Murthi’s.

How To with John Wilson season 2 (2022)

1. John’s landlady is moving, offers to sell him the house. He looks at other properties, talks with finance people, discusses the horror of being a landlord, sidetracks into Second Life, then rides the ferry to think, and goes home with a rich ventriloquist.
2. appreciating wine (and energy drinks)
3. finding a parking spot, getting struck by lightning, resting in peace
4. recycling batteries / cannibal patch kids and nazi flags and sex offenders
5. dreams / entrepeneur whose product idea came in a dream / targeted ads / facts (1010 Wins) vs. fantasy (Avatar)
6. being spontaneous but learning that being apparently-spontaneous requires a lot of work… wandering through Las Vegas looking for his landlady and ending up in a convention-convention, where people make plans to make plans

Kids in the Hall season 6 (2022)

This was an actual dream come true.

1. Brain Candy board room / unearthing / fully clothed bank robbers / cathy and cathy sending earth’s final fax / a tart is called a pie / 60-year-old strippers
2. racing an easy chair / delivery doctor drop average / sentient gloryhole / cheating imaginary girlfriend / zoom masturbation
3. postapocalypse morning DJ “remain indoors” / ambumblance / DJ getting robocalls / Shakespeare is resurrected, “get thee to the fucking metro” / gut spigot drains fat away / clown shoes are cultural appropriation / DJ
4. superdrunk / hotel women too weak to get off couch / superdrunk / pawn shop, Kevin tricks Dave into appearing in a Kevin sketch / superdrunk vs. crusher / neighborhood patrol of guys who kinda know things are off somehow

5. Gender reveal is boy with head of a mouse / a little old to be playing a kid / oversexed 1970’s Italians hire sex therapist / lonely guy gets serial killer cats / Italians / couple fights after husband impulse-buys a new house / Italians / hitman with invisible weapons eliminates toilet humor
6. toxic network boss / hateful baby / son films aged dad carrying mom over threshold / avant-garde “friends of mark” / aged dad / police marching techniques / summoning the banana demon / network boss is in a pickle
7. taddli on smoking / naked tenant wants his bathwater hot-hot / taddli on recycling / the eradicator plays squash (“I’ll snap YOU for the ‘gram”) / taddli confronts the writers room / gay couples threatened by interest in women
8. he’s not crazy he just lost his glasses / employees must wash hair before pooping / husband is embarrassed on his own lawn / whenever men with extravagant mustaches meet in the park one commits a murder / studying gen-z viewing habits and writing a cliffhanger about writing a cliffhanger

I gave up on Norm Macdonald: Nothing Special after 15 minutes. RIP Dallas and Norm. Watched a whole Amy Schumer-presented standup thing with Ron Funches, Jaye McBride, Christina P, Rachel Feinstein, Chris Distefano, Lil Rel Howery. Watched a whole hour by some guy just the other day… it was free on Prime… what was that guy’s name? Did I cover the David Cross special last time? When did that come out?

Still in the middle of Mind Over Murder (hi Katy), Irma Vep, The Last Movie Stars (hi Katy), Underground Railroad (long-delayed), and Only Murders in the Building (season ONE, no spoilers).

Startup company is like that Ashley Madison cheater-dating site but without the participants’ knowledge or initiation, so it leads to some hot blindfolded sex, but also some misunderstandings and murders. Codirector Cummings boldly plays the lead Jordan, a guy whose side we’re not on from the very start (from my notes: “why is everyone getting killed but Jordan, when does he get killed?”) tracking down how he got caught up in this conspiracy, and doing a really good job of it. The murder-suicide by vape pen was novel. Jordan’s wife was The Death of Dick Long‘s Virginia Newcomb, and his hotel hookup was in Song to Song.

This movie must work, because even though I moaned about the family, and at the end wished their house would sink into the sea with all of them inside it, I also made a note to catch up with Pialat’s other 1980’s movies: Loulou / Police / Under the Sun of Satan. Sandrine Bonnaire is very pretty in this – talks about suicide over a Klaus Nomi song, leaves all the boys brokenhearted.

My first Plazadrome movie! Very sorry that it’s taken so long, but this was fun. Apparently a teen-energy youth-in-revolt movie where striking-looking high-energy kids take the city by storm, but it’s got more serious problems on its mind and finally everyone ends up dead or missing. I only knew Fruit Chan from Dumplings, though we considered a screening of Three Husbands while we were visiting HK.