Miguel’s covid-era meta-movie, the days edited in reverse order, the title a reversal of an earlier feature. The movie starts as a light threesome drama, then begins to be about the complications around its own making. For all its formal games, it has a time-killing feeling of “no other movies being made during lockdown, so we made one” – there’s time-lapse and slow-mo and Gomes all but admitting he doesn’t know what happens in the film.

Robert Koehler in Cinema Scope:

Within the context of a playfully narrative feature, The Tsugua Diaries comes close to capturing what moviemaking actually feels like—at least moviemaking as practiced in the free-and-easy manner of Fazendeiro and Gomes. When the actors convey to the filmmakers their worries that the scenes aren’t working, Gomes’ response highlights a fact of life that auteurist critics in particular ignore at their peril: he informs the cast that he, Fazendeiro, and Ricardo are “finding that, overall, it’s been a good performance.” Gomes here demonstrates that he knows that actors drive the action, not directors—a notion that he takes all the way on Day 7, when he must accompany Fazendeiro to a prenatal exam, and tells his actors to direct themselves. How, they ask? “Work it out,” says Gomes—which could be the slogan for every film set.

Most importantly, there are two parrots, and baby peacocks:

Both the movie and its lead dude Cooper Hoffman move fast. He gets Alana Haim to be his chaperone on a promotional trip for his acting career, then things escalate, until he’s arrested for murder while selling waterbeds at a teenage fair, and flooding the house of Barbra Streisand’s boyfriend. She directs the ads for aspiring politician Benny Safdie, he opens a successful pinball palace. Haim gets to run a lot. The final scene, I dunno, but hey, why not.

I keep getting Eli Roth (Cabin Fever) and Ti West (Cabin Fever 2) confused. I suppose the closest I’ve ever come to liking a Ti West movie was House of the Devil, and if I’d looked him up first I might’ve skipped this one, but a well-regarded horror about a bootstrap porno movie filming on the property of elderly murderers was too good to pass up. The camerawork is on point, and when changing scenes the editing will flip back and forth between the old and the new, a certain sense of the avant-garde like they’re doin’ in France.

Mia Goth is our entry point character, and also plays the old woman, loves to play in movies where the lead actress plays multiple roles from different generations. Cameraman Owen Campbell (paranoid main kid from Super Dark Times) dies first, stabbed in the throat for refusing the old woman’s advances, and the cowboy in charge (Martin Henderson of The Ring Remake) comes next, unwisely putting his eye up to a suspicious hole. The old man just shoots porn actor Kid Cudi (recently great in Bill & Ted Face the Music) in the swamp, actress Brittany Snow (Prom Night Remake) is pushed into the gator pond, and soundgirl Jenna Ortega (Scream Reboot) is shot escaping. The movie-in-the-movie is called Farmer’s Daughter, and they sing “Landslide” after shooting, it’s all very Fleetwood-inspired. Oh no, they’re making a prequel.

Found another movie from the director of the Maiku Hama series. Silent-ish – no sync dialogue or music score, but we hear sfx and voices on tape. A detective whose thing is that he’s always eating eggs (Shirô Sano of Violent Cop) takes on the case of a kidnapped daughter named Bellflower and is sent on the usual goose chase, but with riddles and gyroscopes. In the end the whole adventure and kidnapping was a ploy to complete a silent film fifty years in the making.

Played Critics Week at Venice along with Assayas’s debut. Relaxed pace and lack of dialogue makes it hazy and dreamy – per the title, it’s not one to watch late at night. Funny that a few hours after watching this, I read: “it made me wonder what it’d be like to see, for once, a cinephilic film that isn’t in any way about cinephilia.”

José is a drug-addict filmmaker editing a vampire movie (Law of Desire star Eusebio Poncela). He meets Pedro, an extreme cinema obsessive (Will More of Dark Habits). The two are maybe not great for each other, or maybe that’s the drugs talking – movie jumps back in time to when Pedro was alive, while in the present tense, José gets high with Ana (All About My Mother star Cecilia Roth) and investigates letters, tapes and films sent to him.

José’s inspirational posters also include Viridiana wearing a Spider-Man mask.

Pedro is a super-creepy young man who only loves cinema and silly putty. He gets a stop-motion time-lapse gizmo and films himself sleeping, becoming obsessed with some hidden change that is happening. His camera apparently becomes sentient and starts killing people, beginning with Pedro’s large-eyed cousin Marta, while Pedro becomes hoarse-voiced, weak and withdrawn. José finally arrives, performs a blindfold ritual before the killer camera, and becomes pure cinema.

I prioritized watching this after Nick Pinkerton’s writeup – some of his best work.

Pedro’s address to José, dictated from the edge of oblivion in an unrecognizable rasp suggestive of lycanthropic transformation, structures what narrative Arrebato can be said to have … In Arrebato’s last act, which finds José totally absorbed in Pedro’s film and his strange quest, it becomes a movie about one run-down sybarite who’s coming apart at the seams bearing witness to the spectacle of another run-down sybarite who has come apart at the seams, both “reunited” on celluloid in the film’s inspired and singularly unnerving closing scene. If you watch the movie and aren’t keeping it together particularly well yourself – and who is these days? – this can all add up to a disquieting hall-of-mirrors effect.

I kept holding onto these until I watched more TV, then I didn’t watch more TV… can’t seem to get to episode two of Underground Railroad or the second half of Only Murders or to start the new seasons of any of my current faves, just chilling with old movies for now.


Voir (2021)

I thought these would be Story of Film clip shows, but the first episode is mostly original photography. It’s about the summer of Jaws, with a reference to the spider eggs in Bubble Yum. 2: Tony Zhou on Lady Vengeance and the revenge film formulas – this one’s a total clip show with guest speakers, and is really nice. 3: we see the narrator, Drew McWeeny on lead-character likeability, from Lawrence of Arabia through The Godfather to Taxi Driver. Funny that he’s talking about the rise of obnoxious lead characters in the late 60s/early 70s the night after I watched Performance. 4: no film critic monologue here, it’s a special on the art of animated character design, featuring Glen Keane and artists from Brave and The Lego Movie. 5: Movies vs. TV, ehhh. 6: Simply about race in the movie 48 Hrs., but well thought-out and easily better than the last couple, which were more technical. This series was David Prior’s follow-up to The Empty Man, weirdly enough.


Travel Man season 1 (2015)

Tempted to watch The Souvenir Part II for a few sweet glimpses of Richard Ayoade, instead I discovered he spent eight years hosting reality TV shows, so I dug one up. Season one covers Barcelona with Kathy Burke… Istanbul with Adam Hills… Iceland with Jessica Hynes (Spaced), the best episode yet, and the place I most want to visit… and Marrakesh w Stephen Mangan (“The beauty is largely offset by fear”). More, please.

I watched Dragon Inn (1967) at home Friday night. On Saturday I was the only person who bought a ticket to Goodbye, Dragon Inn which is entirely set in a nearly-empty movie theater that is playing Dragon Inn… then I was the only person at West Side Story (2021), which is of course a remake of the 1961 movie. So, both of the newer movies are resurrecting the 60’s in their own way, both feature people watching their younger selves (actors from Dragon Inn are in the Goodbye audience, and 2021 Rita Moreno has a big scene with Anita, Rita Moreno’s 1961 role)… and both feature coin-operated fortune-telling machines.

Goodbye was my first Tsai film, watched originally on a blurry DVD, which inspired my first pre-blog web writeup. This week I’ve seen it twice – or, one a a half times, the second being a Metrograph stream in the background while I read Nick Pinkerton’s book on the film (and on so many related topics). Reading while the movie plays feels like a good idea, not only with the other Fireflies/Decadent books, but with books in general, which I should maybe always be reading with a Tsai film playing behind them. This movie seemed so slow and empty twenty years ago, and now it seems very full – and I wrote “so many cuts” in my notes, so my definition of “slow” is obviously very different now.

Apichatpong is a big fan, and I thought of his actress Jen when the crippled ticket taker was making her way around the theater. The first words aren’t spoken until halfway through, and they’re about ghosts. Later, our Japanese cruiser encounters a seed-chewing woman who may be a ghost, and he runs straight out of the movie. On the same day I watched this movie where a guy is confronted by a loud eater, a Florida cop was acquitted for killing a guy who threw popcorn during a movie argument.

“No one comes to the movies anymore.” Surprised at how small Lee Kang-sheng’s projectionist role is here, and how much of the movie takes place not in the screening room but the surrounding hallways. Despite being set in the back alleys of a haunted crumbling building, it’s at least as gorgeous as the King Hu film, probably more so.

Begonia opened with a big voice and a full band on keyboards and drum pads. An Issues Doc, invaders killing the indigenous people and the rain forest. Brief time is spent with the invaders themselves, poor misunderstood white supremacists who feel entitled to the land because it’s “undeveloped,” very easy to root against them even though they’re victims of the same government/capitalist system that has repressed the others. The main story follows the young new leader of a Brazilian indigenous community, educated and tech savvy, using cameras and drones to document the destruction and fight back, leading missions to peacefully arrest the invaders and destroy their settlements. A woman in the nearby city is a supporter who has fought alongside them for decades. Marvelous extreme close-ups on local creatures. Our screening got a rare burst of mid-film applause: after covid hits, the local media wants to come film the native community, breaking quarantine – but they say we have our own camera equipment, just send us your shot list.

Despite technically being a Sundance premiere, we were the first in-person audience for a movie made to be seen on a big screen with a big soundsystem. I should look up whether the archival footage even had sound, or if this was a foley fest. It puts together a good heroic narrative, the volcanologist couple turning their studies from gently predictable “red” volcanoes to dangerous “gray” volcanoes, and after authorities ignore warnings in Colombia and thousands die, they make a scare film about those deaths, which convinces people to evacuate next time. Filmmaking saves lives. A slick movie, not as personally troubling as others today, despite all the deaths. Kyren Penrose opened, solo acoustic, and we got beer and pretzels at Broadway afterwards.