Indie-stilted drama with amazing music. A world of screens with Superjail pencil tests on every one of them. Suicidal Star bonds with counselor An. He passes his citizenship test.

Per Adam Nayman in Cinema Scope, “These characters feel unique to Canadian cinema, contemporary, micro-budget, or otherwise, and the actors inhabit them to the point where they don’t really seem to be acting at all … the slightly surrealist weave of images is heightened by the tour-de-force soundscaping of Andreas Mandritzki, who interlaces Autechre-ish electronica with musique concrete and stylized foley work.”

The director:

With my shorts and with Werewolf I was really inspired by my environment, its working-class history and textures. The logical representation of that was a social-realist film made in a verité style. That style fit my other movies well, and made a lot of practical sense too, but I did start to feel like it was limiting the way I thought about crafting characters, building scenes, and writing dialogue. Then Star and An started to emerge as complex, vibrant, and talkative creatures, and naturalism couldn’t contain them: their creative ways of conceptualizing and expressing themselves necessitated that I find new ways to engage. The entire movie is a sort of experiment in burrowing into their brains and vibing on their frequency.

A pretty normal corporate drama with nothing-special camerawork and fun acting. I like the section intros cut to rock songs from their era (Elastica, Strokes, White Stripes), and the score is overall good, feeling like video game music at times. But if you make time for Barbie and BlackBerry then where does it stop, do you cruise through Air and Tetris then end up postponing watching The Kingdom: Exodus because Hungry Hungry Hippos is getting good reviews?

Co-CEOs: white-haired awkward techie Mike is Jay Baruchel of Goon and balding power-businessman Jim is Glenn Howerton of It’s Always Sunny. Mike’s headbanded bestie is director Matt (seen this year in Anne at 13,000 Ft) and the tough-guy COO they’re warned not to hire is Scanners villain Michael Ironside. I assume there’s some Social Network-like detail-fudging for narrative convenience, since it’s too delicious that it ends with their Chinese-made units working poorly and buzzing like the shitty intercom from the start of the film. The Cinema Scope cover story is focused on its specific Canadianness and how the weirdos from The Dirties ended up making a big-budget bio(?)pic. We need a new name for these… productpic.

Watching the iPhone launch announcement:

The first ten minutes are in extreme closeup, making up for the wide shots in Social Hygiene. Côté’s longest movie is a quiet character piece about a summer camp for sex addicts (it surely would’ve sold more tickets with the title Sex Addict Summer Camp). Between therapy sessions the three girls and their three counselors maintain a delicate balance of trust and spend some solo time dealing with their own issues. Come for the bondage and the girl having sex with an entire soccer team, stay for the CG tarantula, the Diabolique reference, a lovely owl, and the climactic dance party to “Across 110th Street”. Counselor Octavia is from Undine, Sami from A Christmas Tale, and two others were in Ghost Town Anthology.

My fourth by Côté and I’m not seeing much that connects this to the people yelling in fields or the kinda-thriller or the zoo doc, but fortunately we have Katherine Connell in Cinema Scope:

Across Côté’s varied career is a recurrent fascination with isolated characters who act in perplexing, unexplained ways and resist being known … These cryptic if subtly rebellious protagonists form the connective tissue of a filmography that probes the dynamics that erupt from the refusal of normative social structures like marriage, domesticity, wellness, and community.

At least Anne is Deragh Campbell, otherwise I would’ve lost all patience with her. Childish and giggling too much, she works at a preschool where the kids like her because she’s one of them. She manages to meet a grown-up named Matt (Johnson of The Dirties and Blackberry), but plays a “joke” while taking him to meet her parents, falsely announcing that they’re getting married. Nice ambiguous ending, her first solo skydiving trip after she’d been acting increasingly erratic.

I thought it’d be nice to watch a skydiving movie on a plane, and the best part was pausing to explain to the curiously concerned guy next to me the concepts of non-streaming video (how can movie exist without internet) and of indie cinema (he thought it was some kind of Deragh Campbell livecam).

Josh Cabrita in Cinema Scope 80:

So as to even further distanciate the viewer’s perspective of Anne’s life from her own view of these same events, Radwanski continually constructs his scenes around missing or partial information … As in Radwanski’s previous films, the close-up is never a window into a subject’s soul, and possesses no exploratory power. Instead of being a lugubrious exercise in the most facile form of humanist filmmaking – a limited register wherein all that matters is the director’s and viewer’s supposedly generous response to an apparently difficult person – Anne takes a purely external viewpoint that allows for the contemplation of various surfaces.

Evident from the opening moments hyper-narrated by the lead girl that this is a movie for teenagers, not for me. Stuck around for the different animation style (blobby 3D humans with sharp anime expressions / red panda spiderman) and to see if her mom would turn into panzilla and murder an entire boy band (almost). This is the second time in a few weeks that I’ve thought of Detention – maybe I should put down the new stuff and just rewatch Detention.

Not the new feature, but the director’s early gay art film, before the technical innovation of sync dialogue. Definitely connected to the new film – one doctor’s body keeps growing mysterious organs – the word “secretions” appears often.

“I am Adrian Tripod, the director of this place, the House of Skin. In a sense, my present incarnation was generated by the mad dermatologist Antoine Rouge. The House of Skin began its existence as a residential clinic for wealthy patients who were treated for severely pathological skin conditions induced by contemporary cosmetics.”

Most of the the women in Canada are dead from Rouge’s Malady. Our narrator reports that mad prophet Antoine Rouge had disappeared after seizing control, the House now fallen into the hands of two interns. Our guy visits the Institute of Neo-Venereal Disease and spends a good amount of time giving foot rubs, is later invited to join a pedophile conspiracy worshipping underground spheres.

I’d seen this before – I think it was a bootleg VHS alongside Stereo – mainly leaving an impression from the architecture and the way it’s presented, which I still think about. The color of the HD restoration is really great, and the ideas are groovy, so I was being generous while watching, telling myself “the movie is not long and slow, the sound loops are not annoying,” but it is and they are. Glad to revisit it anyway – anticipation is very high for the new one.

The opener was… Nerenai? That’s what I wrote down, though it’s not listed on the fest schedule… two women with two guitars, mic and drum machine.

You Can’t Stop Spirit (Vashni Korin)
Portrait of the Mardi Gras “Baby Dolls” shot like a Beyoncé video with dialogue loops and callbacks, fun. This came to mind again during the Big Ears festivities.

In Flow of Words (Eliane Esther Bots)
My fave of the bunch, though I remember it the least well now. Widescreen stories of translators who work on genocide trials.

The Last Days of August (Robert Machoian & Rodrigo Ojeda-Beck)
I knew the Killing of Two Lovers guy was going to be in this program, and recognized his style from the first frame… portrait of dying Nebraskan towns.

Our Ark (Deniz Tortum & Kathryn Hamilton)
3D models and simulationism. Our second Deniz collaborative short.

Nuisance Bear (Jack Weisman & Gabriela Osio Vanden)
Katy gave this a thumbs-down. Widescreen gliding camera discovers creatures on the outskirts of Canadian towns: snow rabbit, dogs, foxes, and the bears, who are caged and deported when they dare to involve themselves in the human civilization that has encroached on their territory and now comes out to gape at them as they migrate.

We showed up for the feature Dos Estaciones (Juan Pablo González), a re-enactment about an extremely buttoned-up woman running a failing tequila factory, but we ditched to get food and rest – it’s a lot of movies to watch over a long weekend.

Somehow the most delightful and enjoyable of the Cote movies I’ve seen, even though this one is just people standing still in fields, and the others were kinda a thriller and kinda a nature doc. He’s an unusual filmmaker – per AS Hamrah “Côté has made over a dozen low-budget, semi-conceptual films in Canada since 2005 and shows no sign of letting up. Each of his movies is a bracing delight designed to perk up an audience by asking it to see and listen in some new way.”

Early-Villeneuve star Maxim Gaudette is our lead, facing off vs. a different woman in every scene – first his sister, then both wife and girlfriend. He’s a thief, living in his car, dodging taxes, giving circuitous answers. Scenes are connected by whip pans, or pillow shots, or a girl named Aurora walking around the wilderness – turns out she’s following him, since he smashed her car windows and stole her laptop. At the end, his wife says something like “it’s a simple question and I forbid you from complicating it” – I could use that line.

with sister, Ghost Town Anthology’s Larissa Corriveau

with girlfriend Eve Duranceau (and chaperone)

There’s something odd to the frames, a mild Sokurov light-bending effect, and there seems to be a smear on the lens in a different spot in each shot. Then again, nothing falls apart faster in streaming video than wide shots of trees on a breezy day, so this looked pretty bad, that might be the problem. “I’m going to the cinema. I’ll sit in the first row. That way I’ll see the movie before anyone else.”

with victim, Éléonore Loiselle

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.