There is in fact a spider, also a cat and a couple dogs, and MVP: an owl in a tree. Mainly it’s a breakup movie, Lisa moving out of Mara’s place into her own new place, family and friends and neighbors turning out to help, and Mara lurking and sulking. Doesn’t exactly have a strong narrative drive – it does have that surprising sense of discovery in the camera angles and scene structure that I loved in The Strange Little Cat. For the first half I was thinking “ehh there’s not much here,” and in the second half: “I’m German now and everyone in this movie is my friend.” Speaking of German, while listening to the words I learned that Hans Zimmer’s last name is Room, and Carolee Schneemann’s is Snowman.

Blake in ‘Scope:

Character motivation and cause-and-effect logic is either nonexistent or gets buried beneath myriad layers of movement and spoken phrases that may or may not make any sense to us. We can only get caught up and washed along in the film’s beautiful display of things resuming, moving along, never being the same again … A cut in a Zürcher film, especially this one, is almost always a revealing, never a suture. It exposes the mark that we heard being etched; the angle that reconfigures our understanding of the spatial dynamics of the setting or environment; the beholder that we and/or the character couldn’t sense was present watching what we were watching — the subject we never knew our gaze belonged to. There’s an acknowledgment, shot to shot, cut to cut, that there is more to the world than what we can presently see or say that we know … And at the present moment, I can think of few worthier undertakings for a narrative cinema practice than one that challenges and is curious about the ways that humans perceive themselves, others, and the perceptions of others.

First movie watched in 2022. I’d seen this before, but ages ago. Opens with voiceover and archival footage of mustacheless Chaplin directing. He makes fun of Edna, then introduces three classic shorts with new music.


A Dog’s Life (1918)

The Tramp kicks some cops’ asses, and fails to land a job. He gets robbed in a bar, and the proprietor responds by throwing him out – so much injustice in this movie. The bit with sausage-seller Syd is real good, as is the thief-puppeteering of Albert Austin.


Soldier Arms (1918)

He’s actually a war hero in this one, until it turns out to all have been a dream while exhausted during basic training, but for a while there Charlie had his own Inglorious Basterds, capturing the Kaiser along with a mustachioed Edna.

In disguise:


The Pilgrim (1923)

Plays the same cowboy song thrice – again he’s sort of a hero, again with a sort-of downer ending, the bet-hedging version of the better previous film. CC’s a prisoner on the run, stealing an Edward Norton-looking chaplain’s clothes. He gets the hell out of town, and the place where he lands was expecting a new minister, so he’s given lodging with a family with lovely daughter Edna. Runtime is padded when a horrible family comes to visit. More coincidences, sure why not, CC’s ex cellmate is in town and recognizes him, and Edna’s mom keeps a large amount of cash laying around. Criminal CC preventing his own partner in crime from robbing the girls he likes, somewhat ripped from His Regeneration in the Essanay days.

Awful Family feat. Syd Chaplin:

Post-La Flor digressive cinema! Young lovers are kept apart by a curse, trying to find their ways back to each other and to themselves… but then, why not instead follow some dogs who want to watch the World Cup, and isn’t all this just a distraction from larger global issues? Anyway, the main plot ends up with a documentary film screening allowing the romantic leads to see their true selves again. The movie’s somewhat slow and wandering, but the music (in all different styles, by the director’s brother) is fabulous and everything is sufficiently magical (I did close my eyes when the narrator said to).

From the Cinema Scope cover story, Koberidze’s filmmaking origin story is hilarious:

I came home one day and my mom told me she had seen a film by Guy Ritchie called Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. She told me she liked it and her opinions have always been really important to me, so I watched it and it was the first time in my life when I realized that if this is good, than I can make something good too. It was like a switch went off in my mind. I wasn’t very impressed with the film, so I figured it couldn’t be too hard to make something like this.

Michael Sicinski on Patreon:

[The director/narrator’s] tendency to over-direct the viewer, combined with a relative indifference to the ramifications of the basic premise, suggest that Koberidze’s true concerns lay somewhere else … Koberidze makes use of the the flowing Rioni River and other physical features of his location, the Georgian town of Kutaisi. Still lives, portraits, and landscapes are the real stuff of What Do We See, and it is here that Koberidze excels.

A fantastic follow-up to Pig – in fact, I should’ve watched them in reverse order. The men are famed truffle hunters caught up in a lucrative industry (I think the reseller is quadrupling the price he pays the hunters when selling to restaurants) which has become barbaric (at least one dog gets poisoned), while they just want to spend time in the woods with their beloved dogs. Alternates between careful right-angle framing, and other sorts of things (dog-mounted camera!).

My first feature at Sundance was one of the ones with uncomfortable covid-pandemic resonances. But first, it’s the neighbors griping at Sebastian (played by the director’s brother) that his dog cries too loudly while he’s at work… then work telling him that he can’t bring the dog into the office. We never hear the dog at all, until it cries out one time then is dead and buried, represented by drawings. In general the movie is crisp b/w, the cameraperson setting up still frames but stubbornly refusing to use a tripod.

Some unquarantine behavior as Seb scarfs a sandwich left behind on the train. He can’t find work, stays with his mom, and now he’s shaven and tending an old man who’s on morphine, and I’m not sure how fast time is passing. He joins a co-op farmer’s market truck that flees from cops (illicit veggie delivery), later dances with a hot girl at his mom’s wedding, then they’re having a kid together… and then the near-apocalypse comes. Cool scene, out in the field and everyone who stands up passes out… illustrations of a meteorite hitting, and we’re told that due to atmospheric changes, nobody can lift their head more than a couple feet off the ground without wearing a diver’s helmet. “In less than a year we’ll go back to normal, god willing.” A short movie that feels both slow-paced and full of incident.

Didn’t know what to make of this plant-based Body Snatchers movie, with its very controlled look, slow pans, and obvious script. Corporate botanists create a plant that makes its owner happy, a horror Brain Candy, emitting the “mother hormone,” like a mother bonding with her son. They name it Little Joe, after lead geneticist Emily Beecham’s son Joe (shades of “Audrey II”). Paranoia is high about the plant’s mind-altering properties. When an older scientist (Kerry Fox of Shallow Grave and Intimacy) finds her dog affected by the plant, she has it put to sleep, saying it was “not my dog anymore.” Emily: “What do you mean?” “You’ll see.”

Joe and Little Joe:

Emily’s coworker Ben Whishaw (Cloud Atlas, frail poet of Bright Star) is the earliest and most apparently affected, and his whispering collaborator, feather-haired Rick, edits out the tape of pollen test participants’ comments about personality change. Emily hardly does any better herself, taking a plant home and telling people it’s definitely safe from her sample size of two people, while her ex, Joe’s dad, tells her he’s not the boy he used to be. Ben and Rick eventually change tactics, saying they’ve been pretending as a gag, and Joe tells her “this is normal at my age,” while Emily tries the proven pod-people technique of pretending to be already affected, and Kerry Fox fulfills the role of the alarmist who gets “accidentally” killed.

L-R: boss Carl, Rick, Emily, Ben

It’s not like the characters are living their normal lives and the plant paranoia gradually takes over before everyone realizes it, or they have anything else going on – all the dialogue is about this one thing, whether or not the plant is invading minds. An extremely watchable movie, with a massive soundtrack and great visual design (their green coat buttons match the chairs!) High-pitched cricket whistle on the score with flute underneath wasn’t optimal for watching on a whiny airplane, but when the whining lets up, the flute with sharp drum hits and a cacophony of barking dogs is wonderful. The camera sometimes zooms into the wall in the background between two people conversing, odd visual and aural tactics within such a single-minded story. Beecham won best actress at Cannes – this is the seventh movie I’ve seen from competition, hoping to catch The Whistlers and Bacurau and The Wild Goose Lake soon.

Three-hour diary films about getting HIV treatment aren’t my bag, but I got interested in this because of my The Territory / The State of Things double-feature since Pinto was a crew member on The Territory and includes set footage in this doc. The Ruiz connection accounts for an extremely small percentage of this movie’s long runtime, but it turned out to be worth watching on its own merits, not all the illness-misery I was expecting.

Pinto, a career soundman and a swell photographer as well, is taking experimental medical treatments for a year, staying home with his partner Nuno and their dogs, going through his archives. Unlike, say, the Jonas Mekas diary films that expect you to recognize all his famous friends, Pinto gives us a primer on his career and interests. He’s from Portugal, and the year after the 1974 revolution he watched all the previously banned films and decided he needed to work in cinema.

The first half seems more diary-like, then he seems to be trying to make sense of the world. Focused on his own health, he discusses the histories of different diseases, also his life with Nuno, and friends past and present. They live on farmland, and he cuts in footage of frogs, dragonflies, slugs, spiders and dogs whenever possible.

Rufus and Nuno:

Francisco Ferreira in Cinema Scope:

There’s clearly an emotional and melancholic feel in the film through Pinto’s voiceover, but that melancholy becomes political when he points out during his treatment the shortcomings of a current health service still full of absurd, bureaucratic rules. Avoiding strict social realism and constructing its political message in a much more subtle way, it seems to me that What Now? Remind Me doesn’t have the pretension to speak in the name of a generation, nor does it desire to raise a flag in the fight against AIDS. It is also inconsistent to approach this film as some kind of terminal-care experience, in the manner of such powerful first-person testimonies as Hervé Guibert’s La pudeur ou l’impudeur or Jarman’s Blue, because Pinto’s point of view is luckily coming from that of a survivor. At the same time, a sense of irony necessarily pops up. One of the funniest moments of the film comes when we see Pinto writing on his laptop, exchanging clinical symptoms and prescriptions by mail with Jo Santos, an old friend based in Paris whom he has not seen for over ten years. (She underwent the same treatment as the director and accompanied him to Locarno, where the film was awarded the Special Jury Prize.) It’s difficult to express the beauty of the fact that one reason Pinto made his movie was to reconnect with a longtime friend, to make him feel less alone in his adventure—I’ll only risk saying that if all films were made like this, surely cinema would not be as miserable as it is today.


Bonus: two animated shorts codirected with Nuno Leonel:

Porca Miséria (2007)

Routine of a homeless kid who sleeps under a city bridge and has easy access to the beach, and his friend piggybank. A few variations on daily life, then one evening the kid is missing and pig is busted.


The Keeper of Herds (2013)

Filmed illustration of a poem about finding God in nature, by António Caeiro, I think, but when I search online I find a Joaquim Pinto blog with an article about an António Caeiro, but both men are hairdressers, and I feel like I’ve fallen into another dimension.

Placeholder post until I watch this again on blu-ray, since it didn’t stay long in theaters. Doomed adventure story in a hopeless land, like a post-apocalyptic Fantastic Mr. Fox. The animation, voice acting, production design all perfect, and an overwhelming joy to watch in theaters. Haven’t yet read the articles about how Wes’s representation of Japan and treatment of women are problematic, so I’m free to love the movie in blissful ignorance, for now.

Things I Can Remember: Yoko Ono is the scientist who leaks the government-suppressed cure for snout fever to the exchange-student leader of the revolutionary youth. The conflicted lead dog of the pack who finds young Atari is a long-lost brother of Atari’s companion/bodyguard Spots, who now runs with a gang of suspected cannibals. And I can’t think too hard about the ending when they swap dog-to-human translation devices because it makes me emotional.

EDIT: watched again two months later on blu-ray

“This is a distant uncle’s worst nightmare”

That familiar Fantastic Mr. Fox feeling… whenever I think about this movie for any reason, I have the strong urge to rewatch it immediately.

Three balding middle-aged dudes wearing overcoats assemble at a tiny bar – The Writer, The Professor (of physics) and the Stalker, who will lead them to The Room inside The Zone, where… something will happen, possibly.

The Stalker is nervous, hired as a guide but seems unsure of everything. The Writer is drunk and arrogant, argues with the Stalker at every juncture. The Professor came as a saboteur, meaning to destroy the Room, but doesn’t go through with it. And the movie conjures its entire sense of mystery and horror through dialogue and behavior, with no special visual effects, just fields and damp rooms.

What exactly the Zone/Room does is mysterious – it provides enlightenment or fulfills unconscious desires – and the Stalker is cagey and possibly deceptive, revealing stories of other stalkers and their sorry fates. After an argument, the men presumably don’t even enter the room, meeting the Stalker’s wife back at the bar. Epilogue with their daughter, poetry and telekinesis, feeling like a scene from Mirror.

Wife of Stalker: Alisa Freyndlikh of Elem Klimov’s Rasputin

Daughter of Stalker:

The film’s writers also did the source novels for Hard to be a God and Sokurov’s Days of Eclipse. The Prof (in the hat) was Nikolay Grinko, at least his fifth Tarkovsky film, also in Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors. The Writer was Anatoliy Solonitsyn, Andrey Rublev himself.