I was stressed to learn I’d been tricked, that this was only cowritten by Malignant‘s James Wan, actually directed by the NZ guy who made Housebound, but it didn’t turn out to matter – good movie about twisted AI, quite timely. Doll scientist Allison Williams is running secret experiments behind the back of idiot boss Ronny Chieng, cutting corners (like parental controls) to get an evil doll to befriend her newly orphaned niece. Then after the company discovers the doll’s capabilities and decides to mass produce it, Allison switches to trying to interrupt the public launch by proving the doll did murders (she did – chasing a creepy boy into traffic after ripping his ear off, and melting the neighbor’s face with lawn chemicals).

This happens to all murder-droids in the end, and it only makes them angrier:

Grungy documentary outtakes, then a French TV studio – the idea being that Gomis is showing the rushes from a conventional half-hour Thelonious Monk TV appearance. We do get to hear him play more than once, first in a traveling shot around the studio where everyone else is chatting and not paying any attention, then for a few songs in a row after the interviews have gone badly.

A Michael Caine-ish host talks about Monk to the viewers in French while leaning on the piano, then they do retakes of the interview questions until it feels like Monk is caught in a Lynchian limbo. Monk suggests they forget the interview and go to dinner, they can’t have a conversation because the interviewer wants to rephrase everything in French and Monk won’t repeat the same answer twice in the same way. And certain topics are forbidden as “not nice.” This movie landed with good timing for me, as I’m “getting into jazz” and just watched a trio whose latest album is a Monk tribute.

Michael Sicinski on lboxd:

Gomis’s presentation of the material, largely untouched, not only displays the technical mechanics involved in “making TV,” although there’s that. When Monk doesn’t provide satisfactory answers to Renaud’s questions, the crew adopts a plan-b mode, showing Monk playing during extended shots, and then later shooting B-roll with Renaud pretending to listen appreciatively. But more than this, we are seeing how a media apparatus deals with an artist it finds difficult or uncooperative. French TV is trying to sell a product called “Thelonious Monk,” and the man himself is perceived as an impediment to that pandering.

Max Goldberg in Cinema Scope:

Rewind & Play brings to light the violence of getting an artist to say what you want them to say. Not coincidentally, it also centres the musical performances recorded for Jazz Portrait, allowing them to flow together as a solid block of song. Taken together, the two things insinuate a sharp critique of the standard music documentary.

A movie of people standing very still and talking, named after the town where the crime took place in late 2015. Subtly cinephiliac movie – Rama is teaching a lesson on Duras, shows the shaved-head scene from Hiroshima Mon Amour in class – all the white actors in this movie have been in Resnais films. Rama is weird and closed-off around family, never mentions she’s leaving town to witness a murder trial.

The judge was in Mon oncle d’Amérique as a kid:

Laurence is the accused, is quoted as having said that she killed her baby to “make life easier” but pleads innocent: “I don’t think I’m the responsible party.” The judge questions the much-older, married boyfriend, a real shithead, then asks for L’s whole life story. Meanwhile Rama has lunch with the accused’s mom, reveals that Rama is pregnant, and at the hotel she frames through Pasolini’s Medea.

Laurence’s mom: Salimata Kamate of Intouchables

Movie ends, having made its point(s), without wrapping up the trial. But it’s based on an actual trial, which Diop attended in 2016 in the same courtroom where they filmed, and which ended in a 20-year sentence.

Leila Latif for BFI:

The acting is uniformly superb, even when it’s simply dispassionate testimony that’s being dispatched. [Kayije] Kagame plays Rama in a state of continual displacement, ill at ease at dinner with her mother, uncomfortable on the streets of Saint-Omer and conspicuous in the courtroom; [Guslagie] Malanda evokes profound pain through the tiniest cracks in her expressions and voices as she revisits traumatic memories.

AKA the Egyptian chicken movie. A guy setting himself on fire is quite a prologue. During a birthday party magic trick, the husband goes into a box, chicken comes out, embarrassed magician can’t undo it. The wife then mutely chases after the magician, getting screwed over by her landlord and friends and associates. When the chicken gets sick, she helps it recover. When she reports her husband missing so her son can take his factory job, the cops give her a comatose homeless man. We get more than enough shots of her standing perfectly still looking dead inside, and not enough exploration of the chicken-ness of the husband – it’s less a bird movie than a missing husband movie.

Birds of a Feather (1931, Burt Gillett)

Significantly better and more chicken-focused than the feature, one of those early Disneys where all the woodland creatures move and sway in time with the soundtrack, doing little species-specific actions. Belated drama of banding together to rescue a stray chicken from a hawk, including a great POV-attack shot. Minor message that polluted lakes harm the geese, thanx. IMDB says Eisenstein was a fan.

Daniel Fienberg in Hollywood Reporter:

Depending on your level of investment, All That Breathes could be a documentary about climate change and the crucial need to understand how animals are adapting and how humans need to adapt. It could be a spiritual piece about the webs of synergistic connectivity between, well, everything that breathes. It could be a humanist meditation on how we treat each other, how we tear people down by comparing them to animals, but how really we should treat everything and everyone just a bit better. Or it might just be 91 minutes with a couple of brothers who really like birds.

Bird Suite (1994)

Semi-anonymous Australian VHS, following our bird theme. A solid hour of birds doing bird things, with no titles or narration, just symphonic music. Great work showing birds hanging in the air, a good segment showing different species in apparently natural environments in close-up then zooming out to show they’re in a human city. It also made pelicans look graceful, which is an achievement.

Hands flipping through archival media, yep.

Postapocalpytic framing story, check.

Much of the movie is people holding up objects, more exciting stuff than D’Ambrose.

People singing bird songs in resonant rooms.

In chapter 1 we only hear birds… in chapter 2 we finally see some.

I liked this better than most people did. It’s the rare bird movie that follows through on its title. We are celebrating the video release of All That Breathes with a festival of bird movies, beginning with this one.

Gay couple in Pennsylvania gets tied up by apocalyptic home invaders. Jon “King of Hamilton” Groff gets a concussion, Ben Aldridge of the latest Michael Showalter movie tries to fight and reason their way out, pokes holes in their story. But Dave Bautista, Nikki Amuka-Bird (the only member of Old Beach here) and Abby Quinn (Shithouse) are not to be reasoned with, and they ritual-sacrifice fourth member, Racist Rupert Weasley. Two sacrifices and three world-historic catastrophes later, our guys gain the upper hand, then Ben kills Jon to make the planes stop falling out of the sky.

Blood of the Family Tree (Christine Panushka)

Symbolic animated film… maybe the MOST symbolic animated film. Red on white, cut-out humans becoming family trees. I made it less than ten minutes into this hour-long feature, up to the part where it’s just blood-related words/text on screen. Reminder not to watch movies with “inherited/generational trauma” in their descriptions.

Mud Man (Chikako Yamashiro)

People in a mud field chat vaguely, trying to understand their circumstances. They find a stock footage war scene montage over a beatbox soundtrack. Joyous movie, this is someone to watch out for.

Assemblage No. 2 (Nik Liguori)

Chiming bells… blurry closeups of flowers, then again through a prism. Experimental cinema 101.

Forms with Space and Distance and Hills (Jason Moyes)

More exp. cin. 101 – filming electric towers on Scottish hills, degrading the image, adding color filters, while messing around with a a lecturer’s voice on the soundtrack. This one worked for me though.

Beautiful Figures (Soetkin Verstegen)

Beautiful is right… figure animation on a scientific notebook. Text at right angles, nerve-rattling music on the soundtrack, tides come in and out, invisible water lines cutting characters into cross sections.

Laika (Deborah Stratman)

Deborah brings her star-person mirrors to the beach, reflecting sun and sea. Mammal-eyes shine in infra-dark. A space capsule parachuting to sea reverses, catching a thermal back into space. Sound “Laika” by Olivia Block.

Jill, Uncredited (Anthony Ing)

Background actor Jill rubs elbows with Meryl Streep, Topol, Anthony Hopkins, Mr. Bean and more. No narration, just some nice music and ka-klunk steenbeck sfx. Playing “spot Jill” becomes more fun as the movie goes on and her credits rack up, ending with a a title stating this was only 5% of her screen appearances. Reverse Shot: “Something about these many cinematic universes is exposed to be a sham. Indeed, the film’s intense attention to details that are not supposed to be noticed borders on conspiratorial.”

Looking Backward (Ben Balcom)

A hard one to describe. Stammering professor talks over depopulated images of buildings, then becomes coherent and profound when we finally see people in the stock footage. Really well done.

Light’s Return (Kathleen Rugh)

Cool frog sounds! Somebody took their camera down by the lake and filmed nothing much, then superimposed things over each other.

Der Blaue Reiter (Marcin Gizycki)

Color-field horses in motion interspersed by Kandinsky quotes and backed by dance music, ehh.

Of Wood (Owen Klatte)

Impressive work, a stop-motion carving, getting deeper into a chunk of wood as the film progresses. Relief drawings of wood-based nature and civilization advances, then a wooden human figure emerges and spends a few minutes just getting pummeled by all the objects springing from the tree (baseball bat, lincoln logs, “Between the World and Me” in hardcover) until he escapes at the end to read “Walden” under what’s left of the tree. Would’ve got the point just fine without some blocks spelling out “consume more.”

All the Blue Cats Look Like the Same Color (Wenzhe Xu)

Mannequins roam the deserted city (Scott Stark would approve), an apartment fills gradually with sand, a funeral parade mechanically walks by. Supposedly about internet slang replacing human language so I thought there’d be… any language… but I guess the lack of it is the point.

The Moon Rises During the Day (Na Li)

Abstract line patterns transmogrify across the page, sometimes forming figures, shapes, faces, and sometimes roaming free in their natural spaghetti mode.

Pigment-Dispersion Syndrome (Jennifer Reeves)

Brakhage-flicker of color blob corrosion, the occasional image relating to vision or color peeking through. Three sections with different audio: ambient music reversed, ambient music, mad science lab. Lovely.

Lo-Tech Reality (Guillermo Garcia Lopez)

Bookending narration of aliens coming to Detroit and finding no people, just vibrations. The rest is a drum loop music video of remixed urban decay, finding morse code in blinking lights and broken windows, with some nice compositions of dead buildings mirrored against the sky.

In the Big Yard Inside the Teeny-Weeny Pocket (Yoko Yuki)

“Here I am again, trapped in my sanity.” Peak Japanese cartoon-color explosion, ranting comic chaos with intertitles. Great widescreen design. I’ve gotta post this at work if it comes out on vimeo. Music by Honninman, who is on bandcamp.

I’d heard vaguely about this festival, figuring it was just another regional film fest like Atlanta but hopefully better, but suddenly I discover it’s “the oldest avant-garde and experimental film festival in North America” and that most of its programming is available online for cheap, so here we go! Alas, I tried everything to get screenshots but no luck.

Grasshopper (Jussi Eerola)

Abandoned commercial mall, the window-covering peels back and an unpopulated flashing-light dance party begins. The light rigs are often visible, and motion gets sped up and reversed. I would’ve preferred if they actually blasted dance music and re-recorded it reverberaating through these spaces, but it’s just clean techno on the soundtrack. The Finnish director previously made a TIFF documentary about nuclear power.

Language Unknown (Janelle VanderKelen)

Fade in on a fuzzy brain, pull out from a Blue Velvet ear in a field. Stop-motion eyeball in a time-lapse flower. Beautiful mushroom blooms. The spacey sounds and film scratches give the impression of a 1970’s plant invasion horror. She previously made a movie about a slug.

To Do (Saul Pankhurst)

Guy murmurs through wakeup routine then brings up The Daily Calm which triggers a high-speed desktop-cutout animation while he rattles off a to-do list (“cancel amazon prime, acknowledge my disempowering habits”). Very playful and short, the only one I watched twice. Saul’s got a fair number of things on vimeo.

Aralkum (Daniel Asadi Faezi & Mila Zhluktenko)

“Only humans remained” – a sad extinction story. But in the next scene there are farm animals. Drones stalk landlocked boats. Titles tell us about Aral Desert plant life and personal stories from when the Aral Desert was the Aral Sea, which we finally see in windowboxed archive footage, in all its fish-filled glory. Sad organ music and a sad-eyed man let us know that the desertification is a sad thing. Daniel previously made a short about a valley that became a lake, so these two films balance out.

Glazing (Lilli Carré)

Nude animation, a woman changing forms by hurling herself against the walls, short and good. The director also has books (out of print) from Fantagraphics and teaches in Los Angeles.

Eclipsis (Tania Hernández Velasco)

Nervous string music and whispering narrator accompanies a study of Mexican butterflies, a report on one non-migratory monarch who can only be distinguished from others by ultraviolet light, and their hallucinogenic effect on humans. Then unfortunately the music goes away and we spend some time in close-up with a dancer pretending to be a butterfly. Some nice prismatic insect-eye views and wing pattern closeups. She previously made an hourlong leftist farming documentary.

Diomysus (Emily Elizabeth Morus-Jones)

Short interview doc on polyamory using mouse puppets. A bit of silliness.

11 (Vuk Jevremovic)

Peak animation by Vuk, absolutely wild color and lines and paint, even a callback to his Panther. I’d like it even more if it wasn’t about how soccer is the representation and culmination of all global endeavor, with huge bombastic music.

Super Natural (Jorge Jácome)

I’m lumping the two features I started watching in with the shorts, since I only sampled them. Normally this would mean I wouldn’t include them at all, but it’s my blog, and I can change the rules if I want.

Very patience-testing intro, soft new-age music with subtitled conversation about nothing under softly shifting color fields with major banding issues. Then surveillance footage, then video of dudes sleeping and sea spiders, the subtitles all vaguely friendly affirmations accompanied by an electro-chirp sound. It’s weirdly peaceful but entirely useless to me – I imagine the World’s Fair girl falling asleep to it. I did enjoy some drawings of birds as seen through a spherical magnifier, but at the half-hour chapter heading I skipped to the end.

I guess this was about disability and affect. Jácome is Portuguese, had a previous feature with a confusing plot description on the Criterion channel.

Roses, Pink and Blue (Julia Yezbick)

Ringing drone sounds with singing at the end, one-word-at-a-time titles telling the story of a girl’s balloon that flew away on a beach trip. No big deal. Our friend the psychedelic monarch butterfly makes a brief appearance. Yezbick has worked with the Sensory Ethnography Lab.

South Los Angeles Street (Leighton Pierce)

The Avant-Garde Balcony Movie, sans conversations with neighbors, just perched at a window watching cars and helicopters. The description calls it “acoustically rich and visually stunning,” but I wouldn’t. First I’ve seen from Pierce since Nashville in 2008.

Arrest in Flight (Adrian Flury)

A seeming reference to the Battles video I watched last week, the one with the escalator. Someone is having a helluva time glitching out their 3D software… but there’s also stop-motion in here and it’s upsetting when I can’t tell which is which. Chairs and stairs and a vacuum-powered pair of legs cavort in a a dollhouse set. Otherworldly. Swiss.

Mangrove School (Filipa César)

Mangrove leaves make excellent cable ties. Long take of someone tying up branches while a voiceover tells us the Portuguese tried to murder children by bombing schools when Guinea was fighting for independence. More quiet branch work by the river, making me very sleepy until it ends with applause. César’s feature Spell Reel is on my radar, and the cinematographer worked on Outside Noise.

Camera Test (Siegfried A. Fruhauf)

A nice eyewash/brainwash… green leader, quick L-R shot out a train window, black, same shot flopped R-L, green, etc, etc, with chugging train(?) noise on the soundtrack. Water and trees, with less horizontal motion in the middle half. Fruhauf has made dozens of shorts, some collected on an Index DVD.

2 Cent 10 Coil (Monteith McCollum)

Black-masked strips of printed words telling of a trip to Alaska. Extreme textural closeups of who-knows-what, objects that seem to breathe, microscope exams of stamps and coins. Reminds me I haven’t seen anything by David Gatten in a while. The closing credits tell us the source of all texts and tools and objects, nice.

No Thoughts Head Empty (Quinn Franks)

Machinima Velma has a migraine.