The first ten minutes are in extreme closeup, making up for the wide shots in Social Hygiene. CÃ´tÃ©’s longest movie is a quiet character piece about a summer camp for sex addicts (it surely would’ve sold more tickets with the title Sex Addict Summer Camp). Between therapy sessions the three girls and their three counselors maintain a delicate balance of trust and spend some solo time dealing with their own issues. Come for the bondage and the girl having sex with an entire soccer team, stay for the CG tarantula, the Diabolique reference, a lovely owl, and the climactic dance party to “Across 110th Street”. Counselor Octavia is from Undine, Sami from A Christmas Tale, and two others were in Ghost Town Anthology.
My fourth by CÃ´tÃ© and I’m not seeing much that connects this to the people yelling in fields or the kinda-thriller or the zoo doc, but fortunately we have Katherine Connell in Cinema Scope:
Across CÃ´tÃ©’s varied career is a recurrent fascination with isolated characters who act in perplexing, unexplained ways and resist being known … These cryptic if subtly rebellious protagonists form the connective tissue of a filmography that probes the dynamics that erupt from the refusal of normative social structures like marriage, domesticity, wellness, and community.
Beau (2011, Ari Aster): Only 6 minutes vs. the main feature’s 179, so this felt like a good place to start. Beau is leaving his apartment to visit his mother when his keys get stolen, so he tries to stay awake long enough to catch the thief returning, and possible goes insane along the way. Good comic-action bit when he’s rushed by a guy with a pocketknife, but the knife folds in and cuts off the assailant’s own finger. Aster’s camera moves are cool, but he hadn’t learned how to shoot towards a sunlit window (or any light source).
In the feature Beau is Joaquin Phoenix instead of the late Billy Mayo, his keys stolen in the same situation as the short, with the same line of dialogue afterward in the hallway (“you’re fucked, pal”). He lives in a nightmarish apartment in a hellish city, takes the “always with water” pills prescribed by shrink Stephen McKinley Henderson just as his water gets cut off, dashes across the street for bottled water and every scumbag on the block occupies and destroys his apartment.
I hadn’t read much about this in advance, and with all the movies’ focus on empathizing with their character/writer neurosis, even kids’ cartoons being ranked by most accurate panic-attack portrayal, I was surprised to see that it’s not all in Beau’s head – his fears are justified, even the ones about his mother. And for the first two hours it’s a hilarious anxiety comedy – probably best that I watched this alone at home since I was hooting and hollering. Wonderful to hear a George Harrison song since I was just watching the Scorsese doc about him – less wonderful to see pathetic Beau sporting the same shirt that I’ve been known to wear to work.
Divided into acts by Beau’s blackouts after various near-death experiences, he learns from a suspiciously Bill Hader-y UPS man that his mom died in a freak accident, he’s rescued/abducted by mega-pleasant family Amy Ryan and Nathan Lane until their daughter Kylie Rogers suicides by drinking paint, then they send a twisted army vet after him into the woods, where he gets into a whole forest theater situation inspired by the “Bachelorette” video. He gets home for the funeral and the movie’s still got another hour left. Beau runs into his childhood love Parker Posey before mom appears alive and he maybe matricides her. Posey and Patti LuPone as mom are both great, and I’m always happy to see Richard Kind, but his big Defending Your Life/Truman Show trial finale is bad.
Great opening scene, Martin Landau at a diner, attacked by cook Donald Pleasence, but alas, it’s just a dream, and Pleasence ends up being the lax doctor in charge of the psychos, not a psycho himself. Nerdy Dr. Potter (Dwight Schultz, a Barbie movie voice actor) arrives to replace the retired Dr. Merton, but the psychos smell foul play and decide to kill the new guy and his family.
Famous last words in a movie we know will involve a blackout: “the only thing that separates me from them is electricity,” and poor Brent Jennings (Ernie from Lodge 49) is the Black Guy Who Dies First. Three killers on the loose: Landau, Jack Palance, and big Erland van Lidth (The Running Man). A fourth killer hides behind shadows and masks, and is the writers’ most clever invention, appearing at the end as Friendly Interloper Tom (Phillip Clark of Death Scream), the devil in their midst.
In the movie’s most 1982 detail, the wife (Deborah Hedwall, recently in After Yang) and sister (Lee Taylor-Allan of sexy aerobics movie Pulsebeat) are arrested while protesting nuclear power, which is how their little girl ends up home alone letting killers into the house. Palance is top-billed so he gets to escape.
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.
Fulci’s twenty-somethingth film is the second-earliest one I’ve heard of. Super stylish with a fun, twisty plot. Great black-void backgrounds and jumpcut editing in the dream sequences. Also it’s so poorly dubbed that even the inspector’s eerie whistling looks lousy – how do you fuck up dubbing whistling?
Our buttoned-up lead is Carol (Florinda Bolkan of Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion), obsessed with her hedonistic neighbor (Anita Strindberg of Your Vice Is a Locked Room), who soon turns up murdered. Carol’s husband Frank is having affairs (Jean Sorel, Belle de Jour‘s husband, that seems relevant) and seems suspicious, and his daughter Joan (Ely Galleani of Five Dolls for an August Moon) seems sympathetic. We’ve also got a lead inspector (Losey regular Stanley Baker), his main crony Brandon (Alberto de Mendoza of Horror Express), and Carol’s therapist (George Rigaud of All the Colors of the Dark).
Carol and Frank:
Some procedures are askew here in London, Italy. The cops allow neighbors to walk right into the murder scene, and the psychiatrist plays the cops tapes of Carol’s private sessions. Carol gets locked up in a clinic while the grown-ups try to straighten things out. The psych thinks Carol did it, has a split personality that places symbolic clues in her dreams. Carol’s dad takes photos of her husband Frank with Hotgirl Deborah (Silvia Monti of the previous year’s hippie murder film Queens of Evil), accuses Frank of the murder and having based the details on Carol’s dream journal to frame her, then finally blame falls on the dad, who kills himself.
Meanwhile some pale hippies (Penny Brown of City of Women, and a guy who looks like Irish Peter Fonda’s Ghost) are chasing people around. Little Joan fancies herself a private investigator and gets herself murdered. Of course the simplest explanation is that Carol did commit the murder, having been sleeping with the neighbor.
Joan and Hippie (who paints using throwing knives):
Since I already watched one movie this week where Anya Taylor-Joy costars with a guy with multiple-personality delusions. Security supplies dude Bruce is joined by his son Joseph (Spencer Clark, same actor as in Unbreakable when he was 12! Now with black Hellraiser eyes). Bruce catches up with Horde who has kidnapped some cheerleaders, and the cops take them both to the same facility where Mr. Glass is being held.
Sarah Paulson (Fassbender’s slaveowner wife in 12 Years a Slave) is a phony-sounding psych specializing in delusions of grandeur, and will spend the rest of the movie trying to talk these men out of the idea that they’re heroes or villains, saying Bruce just has a brain cloud. This is the Glen or Glenda of superhero movies, overexplaining all its ideas – I flipped off the TV more often than I usually do. The movie ends with its own clip reel getting released as a viral video, thanks to some hacker code quickly written (complete with comments, lol) by Glass. It’s the super-serious parts of X-Men movies without the fun parts. At least I appreciate that M. Night ends the story on a note of needless police brutality.
Maybe the grungiest, most lo-fi, handheld Oshima movie I’ve seen, with some apparently documentary segments. Also maybe more sexual violence than usual. Some nice closeups on hands, like in other thief movies. Whole movie looks dubbed, with some cool troubadour songs (not as funky as the ones in Izo).
Longhaired anarchist book thief Hilltop Birdman (Tadanori Yokoo, a minor role in Mishima) is nabbed by employee Umeko (Rie Yokoyama of Wakamatsu’s Ecstacy of the Angels), to the delightful indifference of her boss, who tries to give the thief more free books. But it’s the late 1960’s and if anyone’s gonna embrace the revolution in the air, it’s Oshima. The movie goes off on tangents about sex and psychology, turns from black-and-white to color, plays with poetry and literature and theater, and makes cool images and tries to freak out the normies. “I do feel something like rage toward nothing in particular.”
It’s all crying out for some explanatory blu-ray features – for instance, it’s been a minute since I watched Death By Hanging, so I didn’t realize that movie’s primary male cast appears in a roundtable discussion as themselves – but I tend to love Oshima films even when I’m confused by them.
Ah shit, this is one of those movies I had to write up twenty seconds after watching because once I get outside its particular headspace it is impossible to remember – and it’s been a month. Anyway, this sounds like an action-grime classic: a hammer-wielding hitman on the edge of sanity is sent to rescue a senator’s daughter. Joaquin Phoenix and the director and editor and the incredible sound design keep things from becoming as generic as that sounds.
Phoenix is given a job by his boss (Major Rawls from The Wire), pops some pills, grabs a hammer and rescues the girl. She’s taken back from him by cops (!), then his contacts and his mom are killed, and he has a touching moment with a dying rival hitman before rescuing her again from the governor, who was part of the pedophile ring she’d been handed into in the first place. I think that’s what happened, but the movie is all nerves and makes you feel crazy for watching it, so I can’t be sure. I’m happy to see Ramsay redeemed after We Need To Talk About Kevin.
One of the most mental divorce-horror films, reportedly based on the director’s own experience retrieving a daughter from an ex-wife’s cult. Made between Rabid and Scanners, I liked the lead actor (horror regular Art Hindle of Black Christmas and Body Snatchers ’78) better than any pre-Videodrome Cronenberg hero.
It seems Art’s wife Nola (Samantha Eggar of Walk Don’t Run) is under the psychiatric care of “psychoplasmics” weirdo Dr. Hal Raglan (Oliver Reed, lending necessary gravity to a movie about psychosomatic killer dwarfs), and there are custody/abuse questions about their daughter, which Nola solves by sending her mutant children to kill her own parents, Art’s new girlfriend, and eventually Oliver Reed.
The outsider conspiracy theorist in this movie who clues in Art about the doctor’s bizarre studies is the same actor (Robert Silverman) who played the wise outsider in Scanners. But it’s Gary McKeehan (of The Italian Machine) who first mentions “the disturbed kids in the warehouse, the ones your wife’s taking care of,” casually as if everybody already knew. Oliver Reed eventually gets on board helping Art with the rescue operation, helping to redeem whatever the hell has been happening at his institute.
In the extras Cronenberg mentions that after making Stereo and Crimes of the Future, before joining Cinepix to make Shivers, he had to decide if he was going to wholeheartedly pursue filmmaking – “I gave up the idea of being a novelist.” Forty-five years later he’d return to that idea for the great Consumed.
Carrie Rickey for Criterion:
The Brood was released the same year as another film about a custody dispute, Kramer vs. Kramer, which subsequently took the Oscar for best picture. In 1979, Cronenberg, himself recovering from a difficult divorce and custody contest, noted of his most personal film, â€œThe Brood is my version of Kramer vs. Kramer, but more realistic.â€ Originally, I thought he was joking.