Our first T/F/2024 movie opened with BSA Gold, a chill jazzy trio. Soviet hospital. Ends with narrator in “the nightmare of my country, where the future seems certain and the past keeps changing.” A patient (haha) trip to the secluded building, and inside. We meet patients and staff, but this is equally a portrait of the hospital building itself – a secluded palace now shabby and doomed. Short doc, and slow, so in the middle they place a lively montage of fun outtakes to keep us engaged. Graceful final shot, demolishing the last wall, camera following its dust up into the mountain. A minor movie but well constructed – my second Georgian film watched with Katy. Directors are new, the film’s editor worked on The Red Turtle.

Athens GA Inside/Out (1987)

“Mike Mills can smell ants.” A portrait of a scene and the bands within, the Decline of Western Civilization template in a more chill environment. Pylon was broken up at the time of filming, but were still nice enough to do an interview. Ends with the title “Save the Morton Theater.” They must have saved it – I saw Of Montreal there more than 15 years later.

Two Headed Cow (2006)

After his cameos in Inside/Out, a full Dex doc, full of good stories and quotes. “I’ve found it very hard to join this society on a normal level ever since I became an adult … I became some weird alienated folk artist without even intending to.” Exene (another Decline connection) calls his music “hardcore americana.” Looser than the other movies, more downtime, hanging out on tour. Dex gives the Duo Jets history himself, no alt narrator, and explains why they dissolved (his bandmate disagrees). After the split, archive footage of “who can I count on if I can’t count on you” (harsh), and Dex says he entered a “semi-psychotic spiritual odyssey.” Half the movie is Tony’s own archive – this was his attempted follow-up to Inside/Out, abandoned and then finished 16 years later. Nice tricks: a duet between Dex’s older and younger self, a time-lapse of a full solo show with snippets of each song. Sara’s not in the movie, she replaced Crash on drums in the Dex Duo the year after this came out. I’ve been listening to all their records… RIP…

I don’t sit around wondering about the private/interior lives of musicians, but ever since the classic Of Montreal lineup (roughly from Gay Parade through False Priest) broke up, whenever I hear one of their songs in a mix or they release a new annoyingly-titled record, I think “what is Kevin’s deal anyway?” So I watched this to discover what is his deal. BP Helium sums it up pretty clearly at the start of the movie (“Kevin is a weirdo”) then at the end after firing all his bandmates Kevin reports that he “chose art over human relationships.”

Songs are cut pretty short until the title track, a great montage of fans singing along with his divorce lyrics. The band had been bleeding members as they got big, hiring too many new members at the peak of their popularity (Solange is onstage, Susan Sarandon is a fan), then when he recorded Sylvianbriar he fired anyone who was left. Brother David concurs: they’re here to make art, not to make friends. It’s all pretty promotional-chronological, with zero mention of Kevin’s trans alter ego, even though record reviews made a huge deal of it back then. Great scraps of concert footage anyway, a valuable collection of their antics and costumes.

with Nina Twin:

Little Richard: I Am Everything (2023, Lisa Cortés)

It’s hard not to be overwhelmed by the very idea of Little Richard. As a teen he played gay bars in drag. John Waters stole his mustache. He brought The Beatles to Hamburg when they were nobodies; his keyboardist at the time was Billy Preston.

I watch the rock docs for story and music and personality, and it’s got all that, but the movie tries hard to make itself unlikable along the way. Firstly they made it too late, so all his first-person stories come from talk show appearances. The past is represented with cheesy foleyed-up b/w archive footage, and when Richard’s dad comes up in stories they keep slow-zooming into the only photo they’ve got. The dialogue editor can (roughly) chop pauses out of sentences and make people phrase things the way they want, but nobody can solve the problem of SD interlacing. Present-day musicians portray Richard and others from the time (Valerie June plays Sister Rosetta Tharpe covered in CG sparkles) – they’re trying to make it fun and relevant to present-day, though they also keep saying Richard couldn’t be imitated (and they make excuses for Richard ripping off styles from his predecessors). Feels like an advertisement.

As seen with the subject of my previous rock doc multi-feature:

The Little Richard Story (1980, William Klein)

A very different sort of thing, the Casting JonBenet of Little Richard docs from a kaleidoscope of perspectives: managers, family, fans, impersonators, churchmates, crazy people. The crew went to Macon GA for a Little Richard homecoming ceremony, but Richard didn’t show, said God told him not to. The editing mixes stock footage of people who are not Little Richard, cutting back to present-day people who also aren’t Little Richard but are trying to be, most memorably three guys in back of a convertible lip-syncing the “wop bopaloo bop” Tutti Frutti intro on a loop. The city’s event goes on as planned without their guest of honor, where Klein plays around with editing and sound, subverting some of the longer speeches. It’s much grungier than last year’s doc, and leagues better.

Shot (digitally) with major grain, in Savannah/Tybee. Natalie Portman comes to visit the scandal-couple to prep for a role, portraying criminal wife/mom Julianne Moore. Portman learns how to wear the makeup and do the lisping voice, and seduce Charles Melton, and that might be all she learned.

Precise re-enactment of the couple hours when Reality Winner’s house was being searched by the FBI for leaking confidential documents to The Intercept. The actors stick to the recordings of the actual event, which peeks through the soundtrack at times, and when something is confidential/redacted, not just the sound but the entire person will blink out of the movie. Feels like an experiment, an exercise more than a drama, but I dig it. She finally admits she leaked the papers, driven to action because her workplace made her listen to fox news all day.

Our star is Sydney Sweeney (I saw the last ten minutes of her Nocturne, and she was in a The Ward flashback), with interrogators Marchánt Davis (star of The Day Shall Come) and Josh Hamilton (Blaze, Tesla). After all the movies that’ve been shot in Georgia for the tax credit but set somewhere else, this one takes place in Augusta GA but was filmed on Staten Island, go figure. Premiered in the Panorama section of Berlin, along with Inside and Perpetrator.

One of those docs that seems to be covering an interesting situation per the description writeups (rich politician in Georgia buys giant/ancient trees and transports them over water for a private garden) but the experience of watching it is something else entirely, no facts given about the unseen owner, the garden only glimpsed at the end. Mostly we see the workers performing tree removal, the townspeople who are affected by this activity, and we hear each of these groups in idle conversation, arguing over what it all means. Visually, the movie likes playing with scale and duration, revealing things gradually, showing the reverse angle of what you’d expect. A holdover from last year’s T/F/ND/NF lineup.

Robert Koehler absolutely raved about this in Cinema Scope:

As in her astonishing debut, The Dazzling Light of Sunset (2016), Jashi’s art is complex, Chekhovian: she allows space for the viewer to realize that everyone has their reasons, to admire the sheer engineering prowess involved in this literal rape of living things from their native soil to suit the whims of an oligarch, and even permits a certain sense of beauty to bleed into the absurdist finale … What courses through every moment of Taming the Garden isn’t anger, which would be the easy way out; instead, Jashi’s movie plays honest witness to the practice of power in the 21st century, where the natural world is being remolded at irrevocable cost.

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.

Manana is tired of her family, and one day walks out and gets her own apartment. Everyone tells her this is unacceptable and ridiculous and she’ll come crawling back, but she does not. She still sees her husband and kids and parents, reluctantly, but mostly keeps to herself even when home. Remarkably, the movie allows this to happen, doesn’t condemn or destroy her.

Michael Sicinski on letterboxd:

Nana & Simon’s choice to spatialize Manana’s rebellion allows them to literalize her movement away from the fold, a break which is then compromised by her older brother’s insistence that some dumb lugs in her building “keep an eye on her.” Unbeknownst to Manana, the patriarchy is everywhere. This is made even clearer, in far harsher terms, when some old friends of Manana’s divulge a secret about her past, something that she herself did not know.

That something is that her husband Soso (“ironically but accurately named”) had a long-term affair, something her friends assume Manana already knew, because why else would she have left. In fact, he has a son with this woman, and Manana meets him under the pretense of checking their gas meter. Meanwhile life goes on in the family she has left – one kid has a breakup, the other has a new (pregnant) girlfriend, and Manana’s parents and brother can never stop meddling.

Bilge Ebiri, whose review got me watching this in the first place:

The film unfolds as a series of long takes, as we follow characters in and out of rooms, staying close enough to register individual experiences while always making sure to keep the rest of the world in focus. But the camerawork isn’t that rough, handheld, vérité style we’ve become so used to; it’s fluid without being showy, immediate without being unbalanced.

Codirectors Ekvtimishvili and Gross made a previous feature called In Bloom, which is also about females in Georgia escaping their families. Soso starred in Aleksey German’s Under Electric Clouds, and I have no idea where Manana (Ia Shugliashvili) came from.