Moran robs the bank where he works, gives the money to unwitting Roman. Laura Paredes arrives to investigate, makes life hell for the remaining bankers. When Roman can’t take the pressure, he’s told to drop off the money on a mountainside, where he meets and falls for Norma – and flashbacks reveal that Moran had previously fallen for the same woman in the same spot.

Only three hours long – I think the reason it’s divided into two parts is that Laura Paredes only appears in multi-part features. Suspicious dialogue about mysterious flowers.

Michael Sicinski in Cinema Scope:

Broken into two acts, with a cast of characters whose names are obviously anagrams of each other, The Delinquents is forward with its gamesmanship, and if the eventual resolution of its central conflict seems unsatisfying, that may be precisely the point … At one point Román ducks into a Buenos Aires arthouse and catches a few minutes of Bresson’s L’Argent, a sign that Moreno is more than happy to lay his cards on the table, allowing the viewer to infer a game of three-card monty where there actually is none.

Ehrlich called it “arguably the first slow cinema heist movie.” Jenkins calls their employer “the absolute worst bank in the world.” Cronk says it jumps off “from the central premise of Hugo Fregonese’s Hardly a Criminal (1949) — a touchstone of Argentine film noir that many cinephiles of Moreno’s generation grew up watching on television.”

Rizov: “It’s no coincidence that the bank vault and the prison Morán ends up have their hallways laid out in the same way, a rhyme that’s brought home by the same actor (Germán De Silva) playing both Morán’s boss and a prisoner who extorts money for protection.” Moreno: “At the end of the day, what I wanted to make was a fable. I had no obligation to reality — my debt was to cinema. So I said, “Let’s do it, let’s play this game. Here’s an actor playing two roles.”

Our guy (played by the director) has a new wife Gabrielle, is tired of working for his dad installing burglar alarms, so he pretends to work for Time to interview a basketball star, figuring if he can sell the interview to Time afterwards then he basically told the truth. Less justifiable is hanging out in a hospital doing real surgeries with no training. He spends some time in prison for that one, then escapes. “That afternoon I went to Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast to get my mind right,” hell yeah. He identity-thieves his way into Yale, calls himself Pepe le Mofo, sees a band called Fantomas Judex, has a grand time while his pregnant wife is left forgotten at home. I’m not clear how they both end up at the same masquerade, but after they win best costume he goes back to the family, donating blood to get by. Suddenly he’s a fake lawyer, meeting the mayor, a promising young political volunteer, until the cops arrive because his wife sold him out.

Harris is narrating much of the time. Lines repeat, characters talk into camera, reminded me of Story of a Three-Day Pass. Terrific end credits scene, the frog/scorpion story told by an array of readers fast-cut together. Won a Sundance grand prize (over Metropolitan, To Sleep With Anger, The Unbelievable Truth, The Plot Against Harry), and feels at times very much like a 1990 Sundance movie. Based on the life of a real guy who, per a delightful Film Stage interview with the director, hated the movie but appreciated the residual checks he got from it.

I’d read a little about this movie beforehand, and didn’t bring any kleenex, so stood outside the Missouri Theater staring up at its walls thinking “I am the brick, I am the mortar, I will not cry at the movie,” and this pretty much worked. Slyly highlights the broken horrors of the prison system through personal stories from inside and outside, the two sides meeting at the father-daughter dance, an invention of activist and co-director Patton. The dads are told to use the dance as a promise to change and be present for their families, and soon some are getting out but others are being shut away for decades (the movie never says why any of them are inside). A particular five year-old is so open, talking lovingly and often of her feather, then in postscript she’s eight, acting completely distant on a phone call with him. Older jaded kids have trouble with the concept, but give in when it’s dance time. A lovely movie that will go far unless it’s immediately dumped onto streaming and lost in the content ocean. At least twenty producers, and a production company that did Faya Dayi and The Territory. Opener Good Looks was a noisy four-piece rock group.

I’ve been meaning to watch Oldroyd’s Lady Macbeth for 6+ years now, so instead of finally doing that, I immediately hopped on his new thing, a period piece with two actors I like getting into hijinks. But I guess you’re not supposed to know about their hijinks – the blurb gives it away, but if you came in cold, one late-movie Anne Hathaway line could’ve been the craziest surprise in any movie all year. Far less surprising (and also given away by the promo materials, this time the poster) is that Thomasin McKenzie will eventually wield the gun she confiscated from her drunk ex-cop dad. The grainy look, winter Massachusetts light and 1960’s sweaters are all fab, as is Thomasin’s excitement by the hot new prison psychologist, who alternately seems too good for her job and very, very bad at her job (the woman Anne kidnaps is Marin Ireland, the missing girl’s mom in The Empty Man). The movie’s also full of ugly sordid details, making sure nobody who watches it will remain unharmed.

Fortress (1992)

A couple of movies I haven’t seen in many years… Fortress being the only Gordon film I saw in theaters, before I knew him as the Re-Animator guy. It sets up a decently convincing sci-fi dystopia, but no actors are “good” in this, not even Jeffrey Combs. Anyway it’s not taking itself too seriously so why should we?

The gang:

That 70s Dad runs a private prison where even an “unauthorized thought process” will get your guts electroshocked (“intestinated”) – after RoboCop, Kurtwood Smith was typecast as an evil boss in cyborg dystopias. Ex-soldier Christopher Lambert and his illegally pregnant hotwife arrive as prisoners, and while T7D macks on the wife (Loryn Locklin of Wes Craven’s Night Visions), Lambert teams up with his cellmates to escape – including timid nerd Combs, Lincoln Kilpatrick of The Omega Man, and Clifton Collins Jr. of Guillermo Del Toro’s Robot Jox remake Pacific Rim. Lambert has to fight a giant psycho (Vernon Wells of Mad Max 2 and some Joe Dante films)… Combs is killed while installing a virus into the mainframe by typing “install virus.exe” or something, which reminds me, isn’t there a new version of Blackhat coming out?

Unauthorized thought process:


Space Truckers (1996)

An even sillier movie – I don’t think sci-fi action plays to Gordon’s strengths – but Dennis Hopper is a huge upgrade over Lambert, bringing the charm he omitted from Witch Hunt. He’s a Millennium Falcon/Firefly-style independent space trucker, beefing with George Wendt over shipment prices, then accidentally gets involved in a plot to take over the world.

Our heroes in a porta-potty:

Hopper and hired hand Stephen Dorff take a load of killer robots, then get stuck in space while lusting after the same girl (Hopper’s Witch Hunt costar Debi Mazar), then attacked by their own murderbot cargo. Nice cynical ending, the guy plotting a hostile planetary takeover (Shane Rimmer, best known from Thunderbirds) is now President of Earth – the super-soldiers were just a backup plan should he not get elected. But his plan to eliminate witnesses backfires, and our guys flee after blowing up the president. I’d take a sequel, but this straight-to-video widescreen movie was never gonna get one.

Space pirates:

One of those movies (see also: The Game, Hypnotic) where people have to behave exactly as predicted by the supervillain for the plot to work – though there is a hitch in the plan when our man on the run (Choi Min-sik, who’d return in Lady Vengeance) and his sushi chef girlfriend/daughter (Kang Hye-jung of Invisible Waves) discover and remove their tracking devices, and the bad guy (Yoo Ji-tae, the married guy in Woman is the Future of Man) kills one of Choi’s friends with a “you made me do this” sort of speech that I didn’t buy, figuring that killing all of Choi’s friends was part of the deal. The deal is that Young Choi spotted Yoo smooching his sister in high school, told others then forgot about it, she killed herself, so Yoo becomes a rich maniac devoted to tricking Choi into fucking his own daughter. Good ending: they end up happy together after he gets the illegal prison’s house hypnotist to make him forget the girl’s identity. I can forget things just fine without hypnosis, so I’ll happily rewatch this in theaters every 20 years and be surprised each time.

Cooler than a “based on a true story” title card is opening your movie with a guy telling the camera that this is his true story from 1947. Turns out it’s an extremely pleasurable prison break movie. Claude is accused by his wife of premeditated attempted murder, is looking at serious time, thrown into a cell with four guys, and they let him in on their scheme to escape. They haven’t even started yet, and it begins with a long take of real-time concrete floor destruction, wow. High ingenuity in their escape, and with more attentive guards than usual. Claude has to convince the others he’s not a threat after his woman withdraws the charge, but he’s a rat bastard and turns them in – they get taken down by 100 guards on escape night.

Final film by Becker, who died before its premiere. Engineer Jean Keraudy played himself. Geo was in the original Inglorious Bastards, The Reverend had a small role in La Vérité, Manu played the Monocled Nazi in The Night Porter, and dirty rat Claude is the star of Lola.

Again, I’m away from my Cinema Scope collection, but this time the Michael Sicinski article that put me in touch with Silva’s work is available online.


In The Absence of Light, Darkness Prevails (2010)

Chintzy dance music plays over astronomical images perverted by interlaced video screens. Reverse monochrome of baby sea turtles heading into the ocean. Some kind of costumed street event. Weedwhacking the jungle. The camera playing with a campfire. And so on, the sound design ranging from innocuous to annoying. Shock ending, the camera suddenly escaping the planet through a hole in the ground!

Per MS, this was filmed in Brazil and “examines human and animal experience at multiple levels of abstraction … this is the film in which the subjective element in Silva’s work is fully incorporated into a total way of seeing, one not bound to individual history or biography.”


The Watchmen (2017)

Naked man in a field, then a pulsing light, lasting for just long enough that I assumed the rest of the movie would be the pulsing light, but no. Prison yard, prison wall, abandoned prison, prison guard tower – so there’s the title. Various hot dog places. Return to the naked man and the pulsing light, with a voiceover about the watchman. Very mysterious.

MS:

The Watchmen takes as its subject Illinois’ now-defunct Joliet prison, perhaps best known for being featured in 1980’s The Blues Brothers … Silva stands at the heart of the prison and starts spinning his camera, faster and faster, describing the curved walls of the panopticon; not coincidentally, the flicker and blur of this accelerated image, with flecks of light disrupting the darkness, forms a combination camera obscura and phenakistoscope.


Ride Like Lightning, Crash Like Thunder (2017)

A perversely looped version of “Pale Blue Eyes”… a bird trapped in an apartment… the title card made from a Metallica album cover. A guy plays us the intro to Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy.” A red-coated birdwatcher gives an unexpected callback to Brown Thrasher. Reappearing scary hands creep from behind objects.

Hey look, it’s what I hope to get out of watching these shorts:

Hey look who’s in this:

MS:

Ride Like Lightning, Crash Like Thunder was Silva’s final film before embarking on the Rock Bottom Riser project … A return of sorts for Silva to the Hudson River region of New York, where the filmmaker’s alma mater Bard College is located, Ride Like Lightning is not explicitly about experimental filmmaker (and Bard professor) Peter Hutton, but shares with Hutton’s work a keen fascination with the Hudson River area, its landscape and shifting seasonal character.

Woman in the countryside travels to confront the government about an irregularity, and the government laughs and destroys her. Although it’s not entirely the people in power – her fellow members of the public are awful, and she’s insulted by everybody. Tempting to watch it as a document and think “wow Russia is a terrible country,” but after a scene of beautiful cranes on rooftops, it felt more like sci-fi horror, as something that could befall any country.

Her coworker at home: “My man never went to prison, so I never had a chance to see the world.” Everyone certainly talks a lot, but Vasilina Makovtseva’s performance shines whenever there’s a short break from reading subtitles. She ends up in a town outside the prison where her husband is possibly being held (she never finds out), a corrupt little mini-society feeding on visitors like herself, nobody ever giving straight answers, or help without strings attached.

She dreams of being taken by guards to a fancy reception where all the people who’ve given her shit along her journey take turns explaining their points of view and applauding each other, after which she’s raped in a prison van, then awakens and is led away by another surely untrustworthy guide.

Upon realizing this is a Dostoevsky story, I realized I could repeat my White Nights Fest from last year. Then I read the story (written 30 years after White Nights) and realized this is more of an “inspired by” situation, since the book follows an unhappy marriage ending in her suicide. Seems like Loznitsa just liked the title – Makovtseva is surely a gentle creature, but more determined than she ever appears.