AM/PM (1999, Sarah Morris)

Montage of nicely photographed moments within and above a city (Vegas?), somewhat recalling Broadway By Light with the closeups on signage and unique framings of familiar city objects… “the disorienting world of corporate hotels and casinos which utilise and redefine the spectacle in relation to architecture,” per an official description. Each scene of urban life has its own little MIDI song.

Capital (2000, Sarah Morris)

Opens in a parking lot, then moves to things we don’t associate as much with the word capital – Washington DC pedestrians, police, mail sorting, the newspaper. I assume we see Bill Clinton get out of a helicopter, but the picture quality on my copy is worse than ever so I can’t be positive. Finally an edit from a restaurant called The Prime Rib to a close-up of cash money, that’s the capital I’m talkin’ about. The music changes just as frequently as the other film, but here it’s darker and less dance-beatsy. I preferred Henry Hills’ take, called Money… or I’d gladly rewatch AM/PM with the soundtrack from this one. Sarah has made a bunch more movies since these. Her cinematographer moved on to Leprechaun 6: Back 2 tha Hood and the Teen Wolf TV series.

As The Flames Rose (Joao Rui Guerra da Mata)

A new version of Cocteau’s The Human Voice (a copy of which sits prominently on our protagonist’s nightstand) with excellent photography, theatrical lighting changes and fun greenscreen trickery. The lead (only) actor is João Pedro Rodrigues, Guerra da Mata’s codirector on Last Time I Saw Macao, talking on the phone with a longtime lover soon after their breakup, on the day of a huge (real) 1988 fire in Lisbon that destroyed shops and offices and apartments. Joao watches the news coverage on TV, and sometimes his body or his entire room gets overlaid with flame imagery while he sadly discusses the day’s events and the crumbled relationship with his ex. After hanging up, he puts on a James Blake record (in 1988, ahead of his time).

Mouseover to give Joao a new view from his window:

Beauty and the Beat (Yann Le Quellec)

Rosalba puts on the red shoes and starts dancing uncontrollably, and I thought for sure there’d be a connection but no, the premise is that she cannot keep from dancing when she hears music, a condition she tries to hide while working as a Paris tour guide. Her driver has a crush on her, invites her on a date, but is obsessed with Northern Soul records. I guess her secret gets out – anyway there’s lots of music and dancing, and that is fine. He was Serge Bozon, director of La France, and she (clearly) is a professional dancer.

Chemin Faisant (Georges Schwizgebel)

Drawings with great texture, the lines transforming into new scenes while rhythmic music plays. I know that sentence would describe thousands of animated shorts, but it’s all I got. “Through paintings that interact on the principle of Russian dolls, we are drawn along the swirling path of the thoughts of a pilgrim, a solitary walker,” says a description online.

Overseas (Suwichakornpong & Somunjarn)

Some handheld followcam action as a young woman in Thailand goes to work as a squid sorter. After work she gets a ride to the police station to report a rape, to obtain a police report for a legal abortion. The cop, who looks to be about 15, is kind of a dick. Codirector Anocha Suwichakornpong made By The Time It Gets Dark, which I heard good things about last year.

Orderly or Disorderly (1981, Abbas Kiarostami)

Like an expanded version of Two Solutions to One Problem, A.K. films some situations in two ways each: chaotic and organized, to demonstrate that ordered efficiency leads to happier results. First it’s school children, in line vs. every-man-for-himself. Then they attempt to film traffic patterns, first outside the city then inside. But the traffic cop helping them with their “organized” model is no match for city drivers and pedestrians. Each scene begins with a slate, and at the end A.K. says “cut,” but in certain situations (“disorderly” schoolkids taking forever to board a bus, multiple unsuccessful attempts to get “orderly” traffic patterns) you hear the director and crew talking, discussing their results and the purpose for the film – an early example of A.K.’s love of behind-the-scenes stories and slyly demystifying the filmmaking process (sly because he re-mystifies it in various ways, like the final shot of 10 on Ten, or most of Through the Olive Trees).

stubbornly disorderly traffic:

M. Saeed-Vafa in Senses:

What is normally non-humorous is seen and heard as humorous, ridiculous, or absurd through Kiarostami’s films. Similar to Tati’s Playtime, Kiarostami’s fantastic short Orderly or Disorderly derives its power and humor through shot composition, the use of sound, and, in particular, Kiarostami’s voice over. The high angle long shots of the children in the school-yard lining up to drink water or getting on the bus, as well as the impatient drivers who complicate traffic in a Tehran intersection, reveal the humorous nature of chaos and order in public spaces.

Rotterdam Europoort (1966, Joris Ivens)

A really strange one – you think it’s going to be a doc portrait of the city, but it goes full-on poetic instead. This makes perfect sense once I realize that Ivens is the guy who made A Valparaiso and A Tale of the Wind. I’d gotten him confused with Bert Haanstra somehow, whose movies are just as exciting, but more straightforward and focused, documentary-like. Repeated dialogue (err, monologue), talks about work, old age and youth, the nature of man. Monumental, inexplicable. I watched it twice. IMDB says Chris Marker adapted the narration for France. Shot by Etienne Becker (L’Amour Fou, Malle’s Calcutta) and Eduard van der Enden (Haanstra’s Glas and Fanfare, Tati’s Trafic).

from the Ivens site:

After more than thirty years of work abroad, Ivens was invited by the municipality to make a film in Rotterdam again, where he had shot his well-known The Bridge (1928). Rotterdam-Europoort, whose production took two years, became a layered hybrid of fact and fiction, poetry and legend: a modern interpretation of The Flying Dutchman. Not devoid of critical remarks, it was a challenging way to promote the port.


The figure of a lost soul, who is at one point addressed (by an opera singer) as “Captain,” is Ivens’s and, if we are of a certain age, our own surrogate. This elegant, mysterious, mystified man is embroiled in a scattered existence, at least partly caused by the war, the ongoing burden of its memory, and the onslaught of youth who kill time rather than people.

mysterious Captain in a skirt shows up halfway through:

I Am (Not) Van Gogh (2005, David Russo)

Thinking about Little Dizzle again, I looked up Russo and discovered he has a short I haven’t seen. I’m not crazy about the voiceover – Russo explaining the premise of his proposed short film to a skeptical arts festival council – but the visuals are just what I’d hoped for, more of the chaotic/precise stop-motion of Populi and Pan With Us, this time amongst a festival crowd, flitting rapidly behind the animation, out of time like that Orbital video. I loved the rolling clock – also great are a swimming fish on cut-out paper and an animated mouth lip-synched to David’s flustered narration.

78 Tours (1985, Georges Schwizgebel)

Better than the others I’ve seen by Schwizgebel. Nothing but excellent animation and imaginative transitions as everything morphs into everything else for four minutes, to a catchy accordian theme.

S. Katz: “For 78 Tours Schwizgebel drew out ellipses at varying angles to indicate the positioning of the characters in relations to the camera. Some of these plan views are so complex they look like technical drawings for an engineering project.”

Squirtgun Stepprint (1998, Pat O’Neill)

Black and white water-droplet (squirtgun?) patterns that sometimes seem to flow, but usually just flicker and jitter, seeming to double back on themselves (step print?).

Description by somebody who understands: “O’Neill applied film developer to film stock using a squirt gun, then rearranged the results into rhythmic repetitions.”

stills don’t really make sense for films like these:

Coreopsis (1998, Pat O’Neill)

Line-drawing (or scratching) patterns, abstract, though I tried to make them into faces, bodies, fireworks, footballs. Again with the jittery repeated patterns in the motion. Sometimes a focused bunch of overlapping figures on screen, but just as often a sparse batch of small lines in a vast darkness. The lines get thicker and fuzzier towards the end. After the previous short, I realized this would be silent and played some late Ennio Morricone over it, not to brilliant effect, turning the film into a sitcom title sequence.

Details found online: “O’Neill scratched directly on the film, then altered it using an optical printer.”