Entertaining doc made by a performance artist. With the name Narcissister, you expect much self-reflection, but Narcissus’ downfall was looking at himself, so the doc subject avoids showing her true face onscreen or in public. She may not even be the doc subject, since the film turns into a love letter to her mother, making a good case that mom was remarkable.

Solidly put together, other than getting cut-happy whenever they’ve got two angles on a scene. Nice animated additions by Martha Colburn. Narc’s show is somewhere between performance art, visual poetry, and prop comedy (not a lot of movies where the director/star gets pooped out of a giant butt). Family backstory with help from her brother’s home movies, and discussion of their relationships (Narc would create art pieces, then mom would tell her what they mean).

Observational slow-cinema doc, but that’s fine since half the subjects are Lithuanian water birds. Tourists chatter about the birds over the ever-present low chuckle of cormorant conversation. Mostly the people are being negative, whining how the birds compete with the locals for fish, then shit acid that kills the ancient pine trees – big deal. While there was handheld swaying in Fausto, this one feels like it was shot with hidden/security cameras, the crew returning a year later to collect and edit the footage. I could’ve done without the last 5 minutes of some dude interrupting nesting season with fireworks.

Cuties… if they want to kill all the trees and fishes, that’s their business:

Catching up on True/False films past with Katy. From an audition at an Uruguay theater, the filmmakers smartly choose a talkative man reminiscent of F. Murray Abraham. Full of himself (“I know I have certain theatrical talents”) with a wife who describes herself as “more withdrawn” and an extensive home movie record of their early relationship, the movie interviews Aldo and Gabriella with occasional cuts back to the theater, the other interviewees giving their perspectives on the topics of the moment. Gabriella played the submissive wife for 40+ years, then grew into the kind of person who doesn’t like being around Aldo, and divorced him.

Well-structured movie with a worthwhile central couple, but somehow light and unmemorable. It figures that the screenshot I grabbed and the official movie photo used in reviews is from the same scene – it’s the rare time the two of them are seen together, and it’s a nicer image than the airport scene.

Guido (Stranger in Paradise) is being confrontational in a new way: by walking up to people’s houses and filming them without speaking. He groups the chosen encounters by the type of reaction, so in early scenes everyone he meets is standoffish or defensive or aggressive, then a section of people who figure he’s up to something harmless and play along. The woman seen below introduces him to her baby, saying it’s also deaf & mute. It gets more tense than The Balcony Movie when people start letting him into their houses. One guy is very easygoing but warns Guido that the neighborhood groupchat has called the cops on him. In the end he’s making repeat visits to known-friendly houses. It’s kind of the essence of documentary, showing up and letting the subjects control what happens. Guido has a new one set in Sudan which premiered over a year ago.

from Mads Mikkelsen’s Cinema Scope article on interventionist documentaries:

The true protagonist of A Man and a Camera, however, is the latter half of the titular duo. There is a basic understanding at work here that the very act of filming is transgressive, and that being filmed generates an alienating self-consciousness in the unwilling subject of the camera’s attention. In any social situation, the presence of a camera makes for an uneven game; through his repeated acts of passive-aggressive monomania, Hendrikx simply amplifies this dynamic to study its effects.

Catching up with a True/False film we missed at the fest, with special guest Katy’s Mom. After a traumatic incident, local man Richard invents bulletproof vest, promotes it endlessly by shooting himself and by publishing a newsletter counting the lives he’s saved. He’s not so interested in discussing lies he’s told or lives he’s endangered with a later revision to the vest that simply didn’t work as well, and confronted with Richard’s uncomplicated hero-story version of the truth, Bahrani interviews a “saved” cop who turned on his friend, wearing a wire to prove the company knew they were selling a deadly product. Most upsetting scene is when Richard gets his combat-addled dad to shoot him, most upsetting omission from the film is that Richard also invented explosive bullets to defeat his own vests. Instead of simply nailing Richard, who offered free guns to cops who’d kill the guys who shot them, Bahrani follows a redemption story of the fallen-out friend and his reformed attacker.

Formally superior to the True/False Venus movie we half-watched, it’s a casting call of men (all men) reading aloud from the eponymous book, a girl’s early-1900’s sexy diary, assumed to have actually been written by a creepy old man. This opens certain conversations – one guy wants to know why we speak of toxic masculinity but not toxic femininity, another won’t read the page he’s assigned because it’s too vulgar (then the off-camera director, the only female voice among a hundred men, reads it to him). But mostly it’s not interrogating or contextualizing the text. And it’s not an audiobook movie – the film somehow remains focused on the delivery of the words, more than the words themselves. Neither is it scolding the men (always in pairs) or the viewer for participating, but rather it becomes celebratory in scenes where all the readers gather and chant passages from the text in unison. A strange and wonderful movie.

real film heads would know you don’t hire a boom operator for a casting call:

Beckermann’s career sounds worth exploring, as laid out by Darren Hughes in Cinema Scope (there’s also a book on her out there by the Austrian Film Museum). Beckermann:

I like to be surprised. I didn’t know these men before. There was a waiting area with a buffet, and then I just asked my assistant to bring two or three in. So I didn’t even know who would be with whom … Today there are many taboos. At the time when Mutzenbacher was written you had Sigmund Freud, and people talked about sexuality probably more than today.

if a guy with an ear-horn comes along, you absolutely put him front and center:

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.

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.

Watched this the night before it won the oscar. I was rooting for All That Breathes, not because I’d watched it yet but because it has birds. No birds here, just a Russian man with great popular support, considered the best hope against Putin. The movie follows from his sudden illness on a flight to Siberia, through his recovery in Europe and the investigation into whether he was poisoned, through his triumphant hero’s return to Russia… haha just kidding, he was arrested immediately and will be in prison indefinitely. Pretty good doc, most notable for having footage of Navalny prank-calling his suspected assassins into revealing exactly how they attempted to kill him (underpants poisoning) and cover it up. The director previously made a doc about The Band, but I should really watch The Last Waltz first.