The moviest movie ever made, featuring the two most insanely talented and indestructible guys of all time. They are enemies due to circumstances and misunderstandings, but also they are best friends. Along the way is a surprising amount of brutality (Brits call a young girl’s mom “brown rubbish” then execute her, cop Ram is ordered to publicly torture his buddy Bheem) and joy (dance-fighting, an amazing CG-animals setpiece) and really good music. I accidentally watched the Hindi version and not the original Telugu, so I will simply have to watch this again.
A Thousand Suns (2013, Mati Diop)
Starts with very few indications that it’s not a purely observational doc following the lead actor of Touki Bouki making his way to an anniversary screening, but by the end we’re in a new realm with nude women in the Alaskan snow. Nice use of Tex Ritter’s “High Noon”
Diop in Cinema Scope:
The sole element of reality that I kept in my film is that Magaye Niang stayed in Dakar and Myriam Niang left for Alaska. From there I took fictional liberties, but the phone conversation that is heard in the film remains quite faithful to the real conversation that I recorded between the two actors. Nothing is true and nothing is false in my film.
Metaphor or Sadness Inside Out (2014, Catarina Vasconcelos)
The metaphor is an elephant. Bookending square-frame film segments with HD in the middle, circling around memories of a mother who died when her kids were teens. More focus on family, photos and letters – a proto-Metamorphosis of Birds that stands well on its own, and an example of how to use home movies and photographs in poetic ways.
A So-Called Archive (2020, Igwe Onyeka)
Upbeat promo soundtrack introduces a museum while the camera shows its pigeon-infested remains, tracing cobwebs, tattered filmstrips and lines of decay. Filmed inside two shuttered colonial archives in UK and Nigeria, this was already a fascinating little movie and the online description only improves it.
I’d meant to play this movie again the next day at work, just listening in the headphones, because the unexpected music and the way every interviewee had a different sort of audio processing on their voice was striking. But the rental expired and I had to settle for the Smog song.
Definitely on the avant-garde side of the documentary spectrum, but with terrific sound. Some very joyful edits. Before watching I read the Sicinski Cinema Scope article twice, and now want to watch all of Silva’s movies. Already by the time the opening title hit, the movie’s physical nature was nothing like I’d imagined. The talking heads are never shot in standard doc style, and he talks around the issues we imagined it’d confront head-on, but productively. The island/ocean nature calls back nicely to our last T/F movie of 2020, and still the last movie we’ve seen in theaters, MaÅ‚ni. Volcanic lava and disputed native lands, with Rat Film levels of digression.
By showing us a collage of discontinuous moments from a given lifeworld, Silva expresses the density of any given social formation, its atmospheric pervasiveness and resonance. As such, his films show us things that serve to emphasize just how much we cannot know … What Silva shows quite clearly through his oblique strategy of creative nonfiction is that the radical flattening of culture and history on which global capital thrives actually has its limits.
I brought this book to read on the plane, but the book turned out to be a play, and I finished it before we boarded. It’s not much of a book – there’s mostly stillness and offstage sounds and atmosphere – so I thought I’d watch the newly-restored film while it was still fresh in my head. From the start the order of scenes is shuffled, opening with the beggar woman (never seen), the voices and music separate from onscreen action (not in sync with the scene we’re watching, discussing outdoor lights while the camera is indoors).
Delphine and Claude, with Mathieu CarriÃ¨re (the guy being followed in The Aviator’s Wife) sitting up:
Delphine Seyrig plays the main character, what slight character there is, loved by both Claude Mann (the Bay of Angels star with blond 80’s hair) and, from afar, Michael Lonsdale (who was in two Losey movies the same year). Stillness, slow dancing and gradual lighting changes, the atmosphere finally broken by Lonsdale’s offscreen screams over an hour in.
Duras’s sixth feature as director, with great use of mirrors in the staging. The India Song itself, by composer Carlos D’Alessio, is great too. Nominated for CÃ©sars, losing to Black Moon and a Zulawski – a very arthouse year. Played out of competition at Cannes with Tommy, Moses & Aron and those Loseys, the year that Chronicle of the Years of Fire and The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser took the top prizes. Super interesting and innovative – on the other hand it put me to sleep more than once – Dave Kehr called it “extremely boring in rather fascinating ways.”
Haiti, 1962: a guy dies after walking in shoes cursed with ashes of puffer-fish- innards, becomes part of an army of twilight zombies cutting cane, but awakens from his half-life and returns home.
Decades later, a rich white girl comes along with her petty problems and lack of belief or understanding, causing someone to ruin their life. The white girl is boarding-school Fanny, who befriends Haitian zombi child Melissa. Heartbroken after being dumped, Fanny visits Melissa’s mambo aunt Katy, paying an absurd amount for an improper ritual which accidentally summons the demon god Baron Samedi from that Goldeneye game.
Child (with killer phone case):
Violet Lucca in Reverse Shot:
The Baron taunts Katy for disrespecting her father, and, to use a Lynchian expression, something really bad happens to the girl and the woman. (What, exactly, we do not know, except that they are both being punished.) In the final shot, MÃ©lissa emerges from an endless darkness wearing a white dress, the color of Dambala; for the rest of the West, it will likely read a symbol of purity. Itâ€™s perhaps the only image that could make sense at that point, unsatisfying as it may be. Receiving closure from relationships, stories, or life isnâ€™t universally guaranteed.
“There’s a problem with your films. I don’t understand it. It’s not clear at all.”
A Belgian movie, watched for the Shadowplay thing, but I opted to cover Ferat Vampire instead because this one seemed… more difficult. As the red curtains open and the film begins, diorama-like, full of seared memories and dream logic, I tell myself “don’t call it Lynchian, that’s what everyone has said about it,” but Goodreads tell me that Smolders wrote a book about Eraserhead and Vimeo says he made a video called Lynch Empire, so nevermind, it’s Lynchian. This is his only feature to date, in a 35-year career of shorts.
Kids walk towards the camera, a bug is pinned to the wall, twin Poltergeist II preachers are flashback-puppeteers, causing a wolfman to kill the girl to big choral music, like hymns with some Thin Red Line mixed in. The girl lives again, only to be killed with scissors. Then the doctor, who is viewing these memory-plays by peering into our suit-wearing protagonist’s ear, says he’s fantasizing and he never had a sister, let alone a murdered one, and he needs to chill out.
Our man has an a static Crispin Glovery intensity, and a facial birthmark so we can conveniently tell who plays him in flashback, living in a city under near-permanent eclipse (the second time in 24 hours I’ve thought of Dark City). He works as the bug guy in a museum – a zoo worker in a room full of film cans – and we’ve seen multiple sets of identical twins at this point, making this the second movie this year after the Mandico short to be strongly reminiscent of A Zed & Two Noughts.
Enough with all the comparisons to other films – we go into overdrive when a black woman (the museum security guard) appears, sick and naked and pregnant, in his bed. We hear her thoughts, untranslated (at least on my DVD), while he deals with his stress by watching anthropological films of a beardy colonialist white man (his father, and the museum director). She make him promise not to leave, he immediately runs into the hallway while she gets killed by the ghost of his dead sister, then turns into a cocoon that births a white woman who goes to the museum, naked but for a leopard-skin coat, and murders a taxidermist, the sun comes out and everyone gets annoyed, and now the allusions/symbolism are out of my league.
Anyway, the closeup of leaf insects are great. This would seem to be a cult movie in need of a cult. Smolders was reportedly born in Kinshasa, says in the extras that his film’s vision of Africa is “a fantasized territory based on stories written by … large museums which … fanatically classified a universe that they didn’t understand.” He also says that the story’s logic is based on the rule that “what happens to a character is exactly what he most fears, yet desires at the same time.”
Karamakate in the Amazon is visited by two white men seeking the same herb at different times in his life. As a strong and suspicious young man in 1909 he meets Belgian Theo (Borgman star Jan Bijvoet) who claims he seeks the plant to cure an illness. As a forgetful old man during WWII he meets Evan (Brionne Davis of a recent Wizard of Oz miniseries – IMDB: “ambitious and terrible”), who claims to be a noble scientist but is ultimately seeking materials for military use.
Really beautiful black-and-white jungle/river photography, recreations of native life and its corruption and destruction by so-called Christians. The story about needing to teach the white guys to dream, and the parallel timelines (the latter-day one ending with Karamakate destroying the plant rather than hand it over) were a bit confounding and the heavy symbolism a bit tiresome, but overall I liked it better than Cinema Scope did, and not as much as Reverse Shot did.
Sought this out because Martin is one of Cinema Scope’s 50 Under 50. Reminds of the fake 4:3 history of Tabu, but even more artificial, and with more leaves and fronds than Sternberg would’ve thought possible for his Anatahan. Percussive music when needed, never rising higher than the sound of wind.
There’s a family fighting hunger and frigid rain. Little birds (finches?) flutter around as if tossed into frame, landing in a kid’s hair at one point. Americans collect the kid but apparently not out of goodwill, since they start shooting when he runs off.
The subtitles don’t seem trustworthy, and my copy is too muddy and low-res. And I don’t really understand. But the photography is very nice, and different from anything else today. Turns to color for a Germany Year Zero ending. Must rewatch when blu-ray comes out.
Not unlike South American and other Third World writers employing magic realism in their works, Martin harnesses the inherently surreal/fantastical aspects of our folklore in order to mirror the under-emphasized and misrepresented aspects of our culture. Circulated in the deep of the night, circulated during meals, the stories exchanged in the depths of the forest are a kind of nourishment, a defense mechanism that both diverts and fortifies.
D. Kasman (who also mentioned Anatahan):
His minute little saga, which begins with a mother and son in the late 1890s fleeing the American invasion of the Philippines by hiding out in the forest, and ends with the son having a son all his own, still hiding from the encroaching Yanks, is shot in homage to old Hollywood films.
Visually, Martin reflects this process of cultural imperialism in the images of supplanted native identity that bookend the film: from the opening shot of Filipinos in figuratively handed down Spanish clothing .. to the ominous tincture of color suffusing the horizon against a Mount Fuji-esque scenic landscape (reminiscent of scroll work) that augurs the arrival of the Japanese.
A young white woman named France (Mereille Perrier of Boy Meets Girl) hitching rides through Cameroon flashes back to when she was young and Isaach de Bankole used to feed her ants. Her dad (Francois Cluzet of Chabrol’s L’Enfer) was a colonialist governor and Protee (Bankole) their house servant.
Protee and mom:
When dad attends to local and distant affairs, France and mom (Giulia Boschi) and Protee stay home showing each other displays of power and hidden attraction. A nearby missionary is having a difficult time because lions have killed all his farm animals. The house chef pretends to consult his cookbook, but can’t read.
Finally a Big Event: a plane crash-lands nearby and the pilot and passengers stay with the family while getting parts and repairs. Their stay causes all sorts of racial tension. A self-important coffee-grower has a weird relationship with his black housekeeper. One of the white passengers works on the plane with the black locals, eventually starts sleeping and bathing outside, getting on Protee’s nerves. Some of the passengers are more blatantly, vocally racist than the family is used to. Protee is kicked out of the house, plays a weird trick on the little girl where they both end up with their palms burned.
Senses of Cinema: “a semi-autobiographical film that functions as a political allegory examining gender, age and colonial relationships.”
Raised by missionaries into a white colonialist culture, removed from his cultural and racial heritage and emasculated by the domestic duties he performs, Protee is a liminal figure trapped between two cultures. This is clearly signified by the arrival of Luc (Jean-Claude Adelin), a young lapsed priest who lives, eats and showers outside like the native servants. Luc threatens Protee, upsets the fragile equanimity, and induces Aimeeâ€™s betrayal of Protee and in turn Proteeâ€™s betrayal of France. This moment of betrayal explains the transformation in Franceâ€™s gaze from the innocence and intensity of a child to the cynical wary gaze of an adult remembering and re-examining a complicated past.