Woman in the countryside travels to confront the government about an irregularity, and the government laughs and destroys her. Although it’s not entirely the people in power – her fellow members of the public are awful, and she’s insulted by everybody. Tempting to watch it as a document and think “wow Russia is a terrible country,” but after a scene of beautiful cranes on rooftops, it felt more like sci-fi horror, as something that could befall any country.
Her coworker at home: “My man never went to prison, so I never had a chance to see the world.” Everyone certainly talks a lot, but Vasilina Makovtseva’s performance shines whenever there’s a short break from reading subtitles. She ends up in a town outside the prison where her husband is possibly being held (she never finds out), a corrupt little mini-society feeding on visitors like herself, nobody ever giving straight answers, or help without strings attached.
She dreams of being taken by guards to a fancy reception where all the people who’ve given her shit along her journey take turns explaining their points of view and applauding each other, after which she’s raped in a prison van, then awakens and is led away by another surely untrustworthy guide.
Upon realizing this is a Dostoevsky story, I realized I could repeat my White Nights Fest from last year. Then I read the story (written 30 years after White Nights) and realized this is more of an “inspired by” situation, since the book follows an unhappy marriage ending in her suicide. Seems like Loznitsa just liked the title – Makovtseva is surely a gentle creature, but more determined than she ever appears.
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:
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:
Gorgeous nature footage with French voiceover, from the Winged Migration people. It introduces skits of Early Man into the natural world, and as human civilization advances the movie builds to a second half about how we’re destroying the environment and murdering all the beauty from the first half.
Sweeping mountain views and time-lapse skies under opera music… but lo-fi overcompressed found-footage sources aren’t what you look for in a nature doc, so what are we doing? Long focus on hurricane and tornado destruction then random cuts to tidal waves and volcanoes. My second modern b/w movie in a row – this one looked significantly worse than Macbeth. Per Phil Coldiron in Cinema Scope, Pelechian has written academically about montage, and this is his first film in almost 30 years. I wasn’t crazy about it, but still want to check out The Seasons sometime.
Only 70ish minutes (watchable on the plane), but Slow Cinema, with no dialogue for 15 until a red jacketed woman notices Oro hasn’t picked up his lunchbox. Oroslan is discovered dead at home. Later, his brother tells the story of the discovery scene we just saw. Finally, neighbors tell happy Oroslan memories for ten minutes, fulfilling the official description (“re-creating his image through their tales”) but this is too little too late. Another quizzical Locarno feature.
Watched in prep for the director’s True/False movie. An archival doc of Reagan footage, ok. Doesn’t go as far into the off-air camera-setup territory as Adam Curtis does, and we weren’t very interested in Reagan, but it was either this or Bigbug.
Opens with Lydia’s kidnapping pervert child abuse story – I appreciate that childhood trauma lasts a couple minutes then we’re straight into NYC punk. But we spend maybe ten minutes on her music career, then follow her around just goofing off. I love how loose it is. I cringed when Richard Kern came up, but he seems kinda normal now. Weird how this movie explains the cycles of sexual abuse better than any scripted film ever has – and unlike those movies, this one’s got Jim Foetus, Donita Sparks, and a cartoon of Lydia pissing in a stairwell.