Cityscape (2019, Michael Snow)

This looks and sounds great, I must remember to watch it often. Snow is up to his old tricks, the camera across the river from the Toronto skyline, tracking down then up (an almost-invisible cut in the water), left and right, a drumbeat soundtrack increasing in speed and intensity along with the camera, whipping back and forth, then slowing down and adding rotation into the mix, never going the full Centrale, staying on one axis at a time, finally spinning off in the sky.


Train Again (2021, Peter Tscherkassky)

Strobing between trains and horses, combining images so it looks like horse action is being projected onto the side of a train, or the train is the physical filmstrip. Then tracks-as-filmstrip, colliding into each other, always in motion. And this being Tscherkassky he shows the filmstrip itself sliding around, overlapping other images, displaying printed soundtrack and fetishizing sprocket holes. Some visual and sound segments are identifiably looped, some images inverted and posterized. Not sure why Danny bikes in from The Shining but it made me laugh to see him here. A theater audience is strobed against a parade of Lumiere films, then of course The Great Train Robbery appears. Screaming brakes and smash-ups dissolve into shards – I can’t tell if this is Evan Johnson-style digital melt or if my encoded copy just can’t keep up with the motion. The flicker on this thing must really be something in a theater. Closes with a Kren appreciation, the train rounding the bend, having survived history and catastrophe.


Log 0 (2019, Isiah Medina)

Silent but for one burst of rain, this feels like a random assemblage of things, daily life and filmmaking excerpts. I’d thought of the title as mathematical, but oh, it’s an activity log, like the little end-of-year videos I make but Medina-style. Towards the end piano music comes in and the shots get longer, and there’s somebody sketching some curves, so maybe it’s mathematical after all, or both.


Duck Duck (2019, Harmony Korine)

Dance-beat instagram-filter hot dog furries go on a gentle hotel-trashing rampage. My first Korine movie since Trash Humpers is under four minutes long and could’ve been a minute shorter, so I dunno how I feel about tackling the 95-minute The Beach Bum anytime soon. Description says this “exploring the emerging disciplines of wearable cinema, augmented reality, and spontaneous storytelling.”


White Echo (2019, Chloe Sevigny)

Kickass little movie about a group of women using a ouija board in an old house, a spirit following medium Kate Lyn Sheil home. Groovy music, too.


Point and Line to Plane (2020, Sofia Bohdanowicz)

Easily my favorite Bohdan/Campbell, dedicated to the memory of the two departed friends mentioned in the voiceover, so some truth in the story here. Ghosts and movement (fast horizontal camera pans) tie this to the other shorts watched today. Art (Hilma af Klimt) and color and patterns are discussed as DC travels to cities and museums, ruminating on two late friends.


La Chanson de Prévert (2021, Michel Gondry)

Apparent cutout animation of an autumn leaf that produces radical temporal effects on anything it touches, set to an upbeat French pop song. Tremendous.


Figure Minus Fact (2020, Mary Helena Clark)

Still frames at first. Bells and silence… insects and fishes. Not sure what it’s going for, but it’s in crisp HD and some of the images are very nice. There are numbered “figures” (demonstrating insects that blend in with plant life) but most figures are presented unnumbered, sans fact.


Nimic (2019, Yorgos Lanthimos)

The Lanthimos short with the great poster and music. Considering laying down my rock records and getting really into Britten and Ferrari, but I need to finish Tom Waits Mode first. A little movie with big music and camerawork, Matt Dillon happens upon a mimic (Daphne Patakia of Benedetta) on the subway, who replaces him in his home and profession. Mimicking Lanthimos’s usual cinematographer is Diego García, who shot Cemetery of Splendor.


The Bucket (2019, Jia Zhangke)

Ohhh no, I was gonna say the music sounds like a TV ad, but this WAS a TV ad, a “shot on iPhone” promo about a guy traveling from the country to the city with a heavy bucket packed by his mom, which turns out to contain eggs from her farm packed in sand. Not gonna count this as a Jia film, just a paycheck, but at least there was bird tossing.


The Names Have Changed Including My Own (2019, Onyeka Igwe)

Archival slideshow, then british-accented narrator speaks of reading a book about her grandfather. Australian? A mother walks off with her infant twins. A darkened-stage dance routine, really nice photography. Discussion with her father or an uncle over a video version of the slave trade story featuring the grandfather. Facemask and hand sanitizer in a 2019 movie. A silent film is run and described in real-time but only the film reels and equipment are shown. Story of separated twins who reunite late in life. These threads run one after another, shorter and faster towards the end. The film about trains and the research family history in archival media really ties this nicely to the Tscherkassky and Bohdanowicz shorts.


The Return of Tragedy (2020, Bertrand Mandico)

“A smile is not a peaceful act, it’s a carnivorous statement.” In English and great color, Elina undead flying her internal organs like a kite while a cultist named Kate Bush confuses the cops. Scenario repeats with different details and results. The casio music and kooky weirdness recalls Quentin Dupieux. Yann Gonzalez also came to mind, or rather I was trying to remember if Mandico is the filmmaker who’s in M83, but no that’s Gonzalez, who is mentioned in the credits.

The audio and dialogue in this movie is so shitty, it should bring shame on the families of everyone involved. The zooms are cool. I looked up the director to make fun of him, but he was deaf, so I’m gonna credit Clouse with all the cool zooms and blame Warner Bros for the sound. Bruce is in this as much as The Big Boss, there’s much time wasted on the corny ensemble cast (I can’t help but compare this to the closest-to-1973 ensemble film I’ve seen lately, Cotton Comes to Harlem, which was 100x more convincing). Overall a sad Hollywood attempt at a Hong Kong movie. Bruce Lee innocent, and his delightfully unusual voice speaking English is a secondary highlight after the justly-acclaimed mirror/claw finale.

Han (Sek Kin, the Chinese Timothy Dalton but with iron fists) lures fighters to his island, including Lee, charismatic gambler John Saxon, and Jim Kelly (who would go on to star in/as Black Belt Jones and Black Samurai). Kelly is introduced beating up racist cops and stealing their car, so we know he’s a good guy – wonder if that was as clear in 1973. Muscley Bolo is Han’s protector, would go on to fight Jean-Claude Van Damme. There’s a female operative on the island, and Bruce’s secret mission is to avenge the death of his sister, but mainly it’s a man’s movie, baby.

Han shows Saxon his claw museum:

Bolo is unimpressed by Bruce until it’s too late:

Jim Kelly rockin’ out:

I tried to discover Johnnie To’s early frontiers with A Hero Never Dies, but succeeded with this one – it’s a Tsui Hark-style HK movie, with the horrible comedy and dialogue and crazy action crystallizing into weird perfection.

Opens with a couple agreeing to buy a neglected, secluded house, the deal interrupted by the supercop husband leaping out a window to catch a thief stealing the realtor’s car. He is Damian Lau (just off the Royal Tramp movies), and doesn’t realize his wife Anita Mui (star of Rouge) is the masked superhero known as Wonder Woman, who’s investigating a wave of babynappings, orchestrated by an Evil Master with growling henchman Anthony Wong.

Meanwhile, friendly bounty hunter Maggie Cheung gets a killer introduction jumping her motorcycle over a cop barricade. And Invisible Woman Michelle Yeoh is… wait, she’s working for the bad guys helping steal the babies, and a baby is killed during the first big fight… this trio isn’t so heroic. But Michelle is sad about her inventor boyfriend dying, and she realizes she’s Anita’s long-lost sister, then they all team up to take down the master.

As a train explodes through a building, a dynamite-tossing Motor Maggie leads the fight vs. flying-guillotine-armed Anthony Wong on a landmine-rigged street. There’s too much awesome, looney tunes shit happening to keep close track of plot details, but Anthony must have survived since he returns in the sequel.

The Visible Woman:

Anthony, before his face gets messed up by the Trio:

Bird-tossing right out of the gate. The sparrow looks like a finch, but I’m immediately happy that there’s even a bird and the title wasn’t a metaphor, though lbxd says it’s also slang for pickpocket. Back to that opening scene, Simon Yam is smiling too much and gliding around his artfully lit apartment like he’s in a musical, which nicely sets the tone for this movie, a HK crime flick where nobody gets killed and the climax is a wordless slow-mo umbrella dance. Johnnie To gives Throw Down fans another romantic balloon incident, and uses some kind of wide-angle lens distortion throughout. It looks and moves differently than his others, light on its feet, and a movie about a pickpocket gang gives him ample opportunity to show off his mastery in staging and visual design. Perfect movie.

Kelly and sparrow/finch:

Simon, Bo, Sak, Mac:

The Girl is Kelly Lin – she and the protege pickpocket Ka Tung Lan are returning from the previous year’s Mad Detective and Triangle. Lead dude Simon Yam was Lok in the Election series. Pickpocket Mac (the one with the busted head) has had some small roles, and Sak with the glasses is To’s assistant director and editor, who would later make a Donnie Yen movie about ancient warriors time traveling to modern-day HK. Suet “Fatso” Lam works for Kelly’s boss/captor Mr. Fu, and the umbrella showdown pits his skills against our guys’ for her freedom.

EDIT 2023: Watched again with Trevor, who then asked for all my Johnnie To films.

Ossie’s feature debut, after screen acting throughout the 60’s, has great energy and is absolutely packed. Some clunky parts, but the nonstop motion and added comedy (unexpected after finding this in Criterion’s neo-noir section) easily win the day.

Just too much going on to address it all, or I’ll be up all night, but charismatic con man Reverend Deke is robbed, and it’s an inside job, the money stashed in a cotton bale. Deke ditches his girl Iris, who ditches the white cop guarding her by getting naked and pretending to seduce him, then she discovers Deke with another girl and spends the rest of the movie hunting him. The lead cops Grave Digger and Coffin Ed are trusted by the locals despite these nicknames, capably chasing Deke and Iris and the cotton and all the other mysterious characters. As in the next movie I watched, Across 110th Street, the Harlem Black mob guy has an Italian boss afraid of losing control. There’s a lot of punching and whacking and flying through the air, not too much shooting, a bit of blackface, and a surprising amount of bird tossing. The cotton ends up onstage at the Apollo, the centerpiece of a musical striptease act, junkman Uncle Bud gets away with the money and the Italian covers it, so the people get back the cash they were throwing at their beloved con man a couple days earlier.

The two lead cops (and the fool white cop) would return in sequel Come Back Charleston Blue. The Reverend Calvin Lockhart would quit acting after a couple David Lynch movies. Judy Pace (Iris) didn’t get a lot of roles, would costar in Frogs. Comedian Redd Foxx played Uncle Bud, would soon find steady work on Sanford & Son.

Twin girls in Budapest grow up separately, both end up dating a thin-faced Tesla-type character (Nostalgia star Oleg Yankovskiy). Lots of appealing birth-of-cinema and -electricity stuff.

From my notes:
– She tries to bomb the minister at the cinema
– They go to the zoo and the monkey narrates a flashback
– Stars and electric lightbulbs whisper to each other

Dorota Segda as Dora:

Dorota Segda as Lili:

Oleg:

Just trying to chill with some Chinese action movies on Easter, I end up choosing a film where a Mary and Jesus statue explodes.

Mouseover to blow up the statue:
image

Before the church job, Chow’s hit in a restaurant goes bad and he blinds a singer after killing 12 guys while using the infinite ammo cheat code on his dual pistols. Danny Lee is a disgraced supercop who also hurt a woman on a job, sent to protect a guy who Chow is sent to kill, but after witnessing the supposedly ruthless Chow save a girl from the line of fire, Danny falls in love with him and they end up fighting together.

Danny Lee was in City on Fire with Chow, had portrayed Bruce Lee in the 70’s:

Thanks to Woo, I learned it’s hard to lipsync when the song plays at normal speed and everything else is in slow-motion. Also dig the trick of burning gunpowder to seal a wound, which I just saw in Monster Hunter. It’s a just-pretty-good movie beloved by people who need to see invincible sunglasses-wearing heroes firing two guns whilst jumping through the air, Woo’s followup to the Better Tomorrow movies. Tsui Hark produced, while Woo produced Hark’s Better Tomorrow III.

Sally Yeh starred in Hark’s Peking Opera Blues, a singer who retired from movies after this:

Closeups of a pretty bird, cawing over the credits! Just as I’m thinking the movie’s not gonna get any better than this, Dario proves me right by mistreating the bird the moment his own credit expires, then a horrible bird-hating woman jabbers for ages until she’s hit by a car, yay.

Betty takes over from the accident victim as untested star of a new opera, her young stage manager boyfriend is Stefano (from Texas, has been in 100 movies I’ve never heard of, and also Copycat), and they both have GRAND apartments, real estate in Rome must be super cheap. Some vaguely culty murder stuff starts happening, and soon Betty is tied up, needles taped under her eyes so she can’t blink, and she’s made to watch her boyfriend get stabbed to death. This happens a couple more times, some meathead hard-rock song accompanying all the murders – next victim is Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni, an Argento regular also of Demons 2. Unfortunately, the killer also murders some ravens – but the ravens get their revenge, so I’ll allow it.

Betty’s got Purple Rain on VHS:

Appreciate that Betty gets a flower from a fan early on, then chucks it against the wall when she finds out he’s a cop – he will turn out to be the killer. One of his last victims is a fellow cop played by Michele Soavi – this came out the year of his directorial debut Stage Fright.

Argento characters never behaving like actual humans makes the movies more phantasmagorical. The dubbing is atrocious except in the opera singing. This is relatively late Argento, the tail end of his respectable period, made after Phenomena.