The Amateurist (1998, Miranda July)

Miranda 1 “the professsional” is presenting her work on Miranda 2 “the amateur” to the viewer. I think 1 transmits numbers and patterns to 2, who paces a cell, reacting with hostility to these communications, while 1 watches lovingly. “A portrait of a woman on the brink of technology-induced madness”

Pioneer (2011, David Lowery)

Another single-room two-person short. Will Oldham is an ageless man telling his stepson a bedtime story about how the boy was kidnapped and sought for over a hundred years, only to mysteriously reappear.

Saute ma ville (1968, Chantal Akerman)

Whoa… teenage Chantal comes home, eats dinner, tosses the cat out the window, cleans the apartment, then kills herself on the stove. Jeanne Dielman in miniature – with less technical mastery, replaced with a playful sense of anarchy, extended to the dubbing (she sings in voiceover when not singing onscreen, and when lighting a match, the sound effect is a voice saying “scrrratch”). Watching the doc later, she calls it “the mirror image of Jeanne Dielman.”

Asparagus (1979, Suzan Pitt)

Up there with Lynch in terms of having the most warped ideas and having the technical chops to get them onscreen. This is the height of color and form/space/scale weirdness while still maintaining some vague narrative trajectory, accompanied by bent spooky music, then it hits new heights when our heroine leaves the house (putting on a mask first, much appreciated), sneaks into a theater and unleashes her phantasmagoric cel-animated phallic-symbol madness on an unsuspecting stop-motion audience. A masterpiece, filmed from 1974 to 1978.

Atlantiques (2009, Mati Diop)

Serigne boarded a pigogue heading to Spain and died on the way. However, Serigne sits around the fire with a couple of friends detailing the trip and his reasons for leaving. Obviously a ghostly precursor to the feature.

– bonus short –

Strasbourg 1518 (2020, Jonathan Glazer)

Exhausted repetitive dances in vacant domestic spaces.

Faster cutting between a larger set of dancers towards the end.

New music by Mica Levi is an irritating fast club beat with hints of bird calls

What Did Jack Do? (2017, David Lynch)

Jack is a monkey with a human mouth composited onto his face, so he can be interrogated by detective David Lynch. “They say real love is a banana.” Willow’s review is the one to read: “This is a joke, but Lynch is also being completely sincere.”

The Capsule (2012, Athina Rachel Tsangari)

Women slither in from all over, have other women inside them via unrealistic compositing effects… there is slow-mo, nudity, colored tongues, and “Horse With No Name” a cappella. Wait, there’s more: goats on leashes, egg-absorbing bellybuttons, painted mustaches, a confession line, heads that turn all the way around.

Reminds of the Lucrecia Martel fashion short and other high-gloss ads made by deeply weird directors. Then towards the end, talk of clones and life-cycles and vampires summons Never Let Me Go and the Lucile Hadzihalilovic films. I liked it more than Chevalier!

Goldman v Silverman (2020, Safdies)

Adam Sandler is a gold-painted human statue with a kazoo, then Benny Safdie arrives as a silver-painted human statue with a kazoo, insults Goldman then sets up across the street until Goldman comes at him with a can of spraypaint. The ending is played for pathos, Silverman sad and alone with messed up clothes, but, man he started it. Really the point of this movie is that the Safdies filmed Adam Sandler in Times Square and nobody realized it.

The Fall (2019, Jonathan Glazer)

Another short with masks. This time everyone’s wearing ’em, and a mob shakes a dude down from a tree then drops him down an extremely deep hole. At some point he catches himself and starts to painstakingly climb back up. Pretty much pure nightmare fuel, no other reason for this to exist than to deeply upset everyone who watches.


V. Rizov:

Shots begin as seemingly uninflected observation, then the music creeps in and a whole new emotional tone is set without a single cut or camera movement… I don’t really care what this is About (I suspect it’s stupid), but it really is dazzlingly unexpected throughout. Also, there are jokes! Who said maybe-cosmic statements had to be ponderous?

B. Williams in an excellent article for Cinema Scope:

Glazer has radically deconstructed his infilmable source material and reassembled the few fragments he has retained into a sociologically ambiguous mood piece. What was originally a bonkers and sententious parable about class, labour, and the horrors of the meat industry – run by a race of talking antelope-like beings from another planet – is now essentially an abstract coming-of-age picture.

“I thought you were my dead husband, but you’re just a little boy in my bathtub.”

The director is a different person from Jon Glaser, the stand-up comic I’ve seen a few times performing with Jon Benjamin. IMDB says Glazer directed Sexy Beast, which I rather liked even if I don’t understand its cult reputation, and Glaser cowrote Human Giant and performed in Baby Mama, The Toe Tactic and Pootie Tang. I’m gonna say Glaser is my favorite Jon(athan) Gla(s/z)er at the moment, but Glazer could definitely catch up.

Impossible to watch without thinking of Ruiz’s Comedy of Innocence, also dealing with a kid renouncing his parents and deciding he is someone else, inexplicably and with full conviction, leaving the adults wondering how to react. Very different styles and stories, though. This time the kid (Sean) thinks he is Nicole Kidman’s husband reincarnated, leading to serious problems since they both wish for this to be true but she can’t have a love affair with a ten-year-old.

Also unlike the Ruiz, this kid has an explanation. Anne Heche (electrifying in this – high-strung, cruel and beautiful) and Peter Stormare (kind of a lump) are old friends (I think Stormare might be the dead husband’s brother, and Heche his wife, but don’t hold me to that) coming to a party at which Heche is gonna give Kidman a box of love letters Kidman had sent her late husband, but Heche panics, runs outside and buries the box, which is found by the kid. The rest doesn’t exactly follow logically – movie still has an air of mystery, of spiritual possession – but it’s a partial explanation.

Hot-tempered rich guy Joseph (Danny “son of John” Huston) is to marry Kidman soon, so he doesn’t take well to the kid’s claims. He and gentle, logical Bob (must be someone’s brother, played by Arliss Howard: Cowboy in Full Metal Jacket) and Kidman’s pregnant sister Laura (Alison Elliott of Wings of the Dove) help her work with the kid (whose parents, completely at a loss, allow him to stay over unsupervised), trying to find holes in his story or understand his motives. I liked the movie very much, but the main problem I had was with its attempt to have it’s realism with its mysticism, sending first Nicole then Bob into a room to disprove the kid for two hours then show them bowled over by a couple correct anwers and elide whatever happens for the next hour and fifty-eight minutes, or making his parents total pushovers who stay away from Kidman’s house – always conveniently cutting to prolong the confusion, which contradicts the reality of all these suspicious adults who are supposed to be searching for the truth. If the movie isn’t going to take the approach of an airtight psychological mystery with a twist ending a la Shutter Island, I’d have preferred it head more towards the inexplicable Comedy of Innocence than straddle the line between them. But no matter, it’s an utterly enjoyable movie with awesome acting and unique enough filmmaking (shimmering, closeup-happy cinematography by Harris Savides: Zodiac, Elephant) to get me all excited.

The whole happy family – that’s Lauren Bacall in front of the cake:

I admit I was looking for the twist ending. Even though we know Heche buried something while the kid watched, I’m wondering which adult would have convinced the kid to concoct this lie. Not his parents, who seem very upset. Nicole’s mom Lauren Bacall doesn’t seem diabolical. Jimmy the doorman (played by cowriter Milo Addica) is friendly with the kid but would seem to lack enough information to plot this out convincingly. I stopped guessing when the kid strips and slides into the bath with Kidman – no adult could brainwash a 10-year-old into being so unlike a 10-year-old. Finally, in the weirdest scene of any movie I’ve seen this year, Sean is tested by a creepy Anne Heche, who it turns out had a long, intense affair with the dead man, unbeknownst to Sean since it wasn’t mentioned in the letters. She then confronts him, hissing, shattering his illusions of true love reborn. Mercifully, Kidman never learns of the affair and goes on to marry Joseph. In an otherwise unreal movie, Kidman spectacularly creates a very real sense of loss, and Glazer and his cowriters (Addica who wrote Monster’s Ball and Jean-Claude Carrière, a lead collaborator of Luis Buñuel, which makes perfect sense) must have realized it’d be too cruel to push her any further at the end.

Anne Heche:

Peter Stormare:

Birth was shat upon critically and commercially, which is how it landed at number eight on The Guardian’s list of the ten most underrated films of the decade (between Inland Empire and Songs from the Second Floor). Coincidentally at number eight of their outright best-of-decade list is Dogville, another Kidman/Bacall movie by a filmmaker who gleefully pushes everything over the edge, who would have had Heche gleefully destroy Kidman, the bastard.

Bob comforts Sean after Joseph goes on a rampage:

J. Anderson:

A brilliant score by Alexandre Desplat underlines Birth and completes it, causing it to slide slightly off-kilter with a tinkly music-box jingle and an ominous, nervous thumping heartbeat backdrop. This musical duality meshes perfectly with the fabric of Birth, in which Anna must choose between an impossible true love and a possible false one. It’s a brilliant film, but not a happy one. The filmmakers seem to have begun at the point in which love lives “happily ever after,” discovering only bitter disappointment and misled hope instead.