Getting to this movie due to its placement in the latest Sight & Sound lists. Made in between L’Avventura and L’Eclisse, this time Monica Vitti isn’t the protagonist but a third-party temptation. Main couple is Marcello Mastroianni (a few years after White Nights and Big Deal) and Jeanne Moreau (the year before Jules & Jim). Ennui at a party, ends with him on top of her in a golf course sand trap, neither still in love with the other. Won Berlin’s golden bear vs. Godard, Kurosawa – and vs. Bernhard Wicki, who acts in this as the couple’s dying friend. Richard Brody’s Criterion article is very good.

There is nothing like wordless low-light cave exploration video to put me to sleep, so despite the 93 minute runtime this took a few attempts.

It’s certainly Frammartino-ish, re-enacting a 1961 spelunking expedition but without any explanatory dialogue, and giving equal weight to the kids playing ball and the solitary death of a shepherd on the surface. Lovely ending, the last explorer in camp drawing a map of the cave hears ghost echoes of the dead old man calling his animals as the fog rolls in.

Optimistic after Argento’s Four Flies, I jumped ahead a decade to a film that I supposedly watched back in the 90’s but don’t remember at all except for the doberman scene. Editing and dialogue and acting all bad (I switched a couple times, settled on the English version), but lighting good, and that’s all you need.

Black-gloved killer vs. the lighting:

Anthony Franciosa plays an American in Italy (in Across 110th Street he played an Italian in America), a famous author on a book tour, whose acquaintances keep ending up dead. It’s a nonsensical murder mystery with at least three black-gloved killers, including the author, who then dies in a freak modern art accident. Fortunately, John Saxon is here (with a hat on!) to save the movie, the only guy onscreen having any fun. Saxon eventually gets stabbed, the sole survivor being the author’s secretary Daria Nicolodi. Other victims include the detectives, combative audience member Mirella D’Angelo (Caligula), the author’s ex, and Lara Wendel of Ghosthouse as the girl chased by dobermans.

Saxon, with hat:

Some cool camerawork, including a scene where the camera climbs the walls of an apartment building, a precursor to that Massive Attack video. The cool 1970’s synth soundtracks have devolved into 1980’s synth-rock by the Suspiria gang. Commentary guys Jones & Newman say it’s Argento’s most 80’s movie, and influenced by Possession. They supposedly love the film, and spend half their time making fun of it… I switched to McDonagh’s commentary, which was immediately better, but has too much narration. Didn’t stick around for an explanation of why Argento has his stand-in author draw attention to the sexism in his own movies.

Incredible scene:

An island murder mystery, so soon before Glass Onion comes out. Good lighting and fashion, the camera getting up in everyone’s business with help of a zoom lens, music going as big as possible… poor acting and dialogue and logic and dubbing.

The Professor has a secret formula, three other guys want him to sell it to them, then everybody starts turning up dead and being sent to the meat locker. The Professor (who also played a professor in Devil Fish) dies, of course, his widow Trudy scheming with Bad Hair Jack, then they shoot each other over the precious microfilm. I lost track of how the island-prowling loner girl was related to anyone else – played by the daughter who hung out with dangerous hippies in A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin – but she survives and gets all the money.

Why does this open with an Ethan Hawke personal intro, between the production logos and the title? The movie’s broad motivations are obscure, and I don’t buy many of its details. The music has Dead Man guitar improv vibes, and if it’d cut out those military marching band beats it might be truly great (the music, not the movie). Some kind of a cyber military thriller, mainly shot in ugly nighttime handheld digital. Pandemic-era: kissing through masks, smartphone in a freezer, disinfectant sprayed on $100 bills, a computer gets shot during a skype call. One Hawke zooms around Rome holding out his camera like it’s a gun (“shoot it so they believe it”), his revolutionary imprisoned Hawke Brother seems Nick Nolte-inspired.

Trauma drama in which a high schooler dies in a diving accident. I’d always been curious about this one for winning the Palme d’Or over Mulholland Drive, The Piano Teacher, Va Savoir, et al. Quality movie, mostly about the performances and the coping. Dad is a psychiatrist, catches abuse from his patients then abruptly quits the business. Eventually the family latches onto a girl who knew their son briefly, tries to befriend her and help her out, go on a spontaneous road trip together. It’s unusual to hear an Eno/Roedelius/Moebius song in a movie. Mia Madre feels like a superior remake, but this was good.

After watching the Bresson with no context, I read the Dostoevsky story it adapted, then sought out more films of the same story. Marcello is introduced socializing in this one – that doesn’t seem right. Of course, being Marcello, he can’t help but be more suave than the repressed protagonist of the story, but he’s been thoroughly movie-starred here, dancing and fighting. At least the sudden mood swings from laughter to tears are accurate to the novel. It’d make an interesting screenwriting workshop – sometimes it uses the same language as the novel to describe the same events and sometimes it does the opposite.

Great atmosphere, unbelievable set of a wintry outdoor canal city. The central bridge is only 15′ long, far from the Pont-Neuf, but the Criterion essay points out how it functions symbolically. I understand lighting is important, but shouldn’t the Italians have invented location shooting instead of making hugely complex soundstage sets if they weren’t even gonna record sound? The city of Venice didn’t hold it against him – the movie won a silver lion, second place to Aparajito (no love for Throne of Blood). Marcello is second billed, the year before Big Deal on Madonna Street, to Maria Schell, who’d just won best actress at Venice for a René Clément picture. Judging from Senso and The Leopard, I prefer modern Visconti over his period pieces.

Flashback of Schell with lodger/lover Jean Marais:

Voiceover on opening titles tells us it’s a city film and has no story, good to get that out of the way. Italian folklore involves praising the ducks for helping the army? (google says it was geese). As expected, everyone is crazy for the pope. Memories of filmgoing with obstructed-view seats. The rainy highway sequence is a highlight. I know my standards have been lowered by a recent Argento, but sometimes the dubbing is almost good, like somebody gave a shit. Cheerfully profane once it gets to the theater for a variety show. Ancient artworks are discovered beneath the city, then minutes later the air exposure destroys them. Significant time spent with prostitutes, of course. Corny holy fashion show, and an outstanding Anna Magnani cameo. Bikers ride through the city at night, and okay so it’s not a narrative movie, but it really lacks an ending.

Bruce is a foreigner in an English-speaking airport, and between the camera focus and sense of humor, movie gets off to a very shaky start, and never quite gets going. Okay yes, he fights Chuck Norris at the Colosseum, and at least Chuck is fast, unlike every other unworthy opponent here. And a pretty cool villain in Uncle Wang, who Bruce is supposed to be helping out before he goes insane and knifes his own men.