Flowers Blooming in Our Throats (2020, Eva Giolo)

Nice sound design in an a/g short, how rare. Sync sound effects, professionally blended between shots. Focus on hands and arms… slapping and clutching, spinning tops, clipping flowers, with and without a red filter. I take the film as an ASMR parody, with its hair-brushing and rubberband-snapping, edited too quickly to evoke whatever trance state the youtubers seek.

Please Speak Continuously and Describe Your Experiences as They Come to You (2019, Brandon Cronenberg)

“Eventually I realize I’m in a kind of hell.” Deragh is a brain-implant patient describing the dream states the device puts her in. Three dreams under different color filters, then a good ol’ glitching-video-signal nude freakout before the Twilight Zone ending.

Tomb of Kafka (2022, Jean-Claude Rousseau)

Prague. A small room. The desk has a hat on it. One of the windows is green. Usually there’s a white-haired man without anything compelling to do. His activities have equal weight as the quick fadeouts or fidgets of the camera refocusing. Sometimes a cutaway to a forest or a dead bug. We watch the man read for a minute or two. Hey, I could be reading. Didn’t I get a new Laszlo Krasznahorkai book? I could’ve been reading that.

Dear Chantal (2021, Nicolas Pereda)

Chantal is renting a place from the narrator’s sister, a painter. He’s an Akermaniac so asks to be in charge of communication, which we hear as flatly-narrated letters. Nice shot of brushing leaves from a skylight. Opens and closes with the quote: “Letters never written nonetheless exist.”

Blank Narcissus (2022, Peter Strickland)

A “rediscovered” Midsummer Night’s Gay Porno with audio commentary by a director mourning his long-lost relationship with the star. Maybe Strickland isn’t as great as I’d been assuming.

Open Sky, Open Sea, Open Ground (2022, Baus & Gills)

Ecuador… Grainy film with a wrecked water/shuffle soundtrack of people running across a beach from boat to truck, delivering containers of fish while besieged by pelicans and gulls. I was rooting for the pelicans.

Emergence Collapse (2021, Rainer Kohlberger & Jung An Tagen)

Liquid cityscapes! Best guess is it’s nighttime photography turned into pure digital moosh with the color dial turned to eleven. Some of the most tripped-out shit I’ve ever seen. Loses a point for the nightmarish music, sort of a generative-autechre.

Mnemonics of Shape and Reason (2021, Sky Hopinka)

Wow, a convincing and succinct blend of earth, sky and water. Images upside-rightside overlapping, the sky masked by a person-walking silhouette, desert and plants blurred into blasted lines as if viewed out a rocket-car window.

Mélodie de brumes à Paris (1985, Julius-Amédé Laou)

The only short I watched from the free offerings of Prismatic Ground, which was like most film festivals in not having very clear communication about its streaming program.

Opens on a dubbed guy having a breakdown out the window of an artificial-looking apartment, yelling at neighbors and passers-by to blow up the buildings of the oppressors (start with the bars, banks and pay toilets). He mutters himself to sleep on the can, the synth soundtrack alternating with a pop song repeating the film’s title. In the morning he walks through the fog to a bar, his thoughts still on bombs, is the only customer but still can’t get served (because of racism, not because they heard him advocating for the violent destruction of all bars). He finds his dead father and confesses to being a merciless killing machine during the Algerian war. That night he’s being harassed by a drug dealer when a white doorman starts being racist, the director yells cut but the doorman doesn’t stop, and the cast and crew start fighting with the white locals.

Good looking movie with nice fourth-wall-breaking and synth music. I do think a few of the voiceover lines were clunky (guy is haunted by the past, we know because he says “the past, the past”). Star Greg Germain also appeared in the similarly themed Soleil O and popped up in everything from Chabrol movies to Emmanuelle sequels.

Fatty and Mabel Adrift (1916, Roscoe Arbuckle)

Farmhand Roscoe marries Mabel and they move into a cottage her parents buy when a shady realtor’s car breaks down outside their house. R&M sleep as far apart as possible inside, while outside his romantic rival the Hated Milk Machine conspires with some random thugs to … push their house into the ocean? Or it happens to slide away during a storm while HMM and the thugs are attempting to break in. Either way, they don’t become adrift until the last 7 minutes. The cops and parents somehow save them, meanwhile HMM and the thugs gamble all night, argue over the wad of cash, then all die in an accidental explosion. I know that watching silents while listening to Zorn is a cliche with me, but Cleric playing Bagatelles vol. 12 was perfect for this.

Mabel’s parents with villain Al St. John as the HMM:

The Onions opened, incongruously to the film, three goofy white guys playing bright pop songs. Movie starts with a way-zoomed-in cellphone video of a woman disrobing before a Mandela statue. Director’s family is from South Africa, grandma disparages Mandela for ending apartheid. Then we get educational segments on history of the black-only Transkei district, featuring excessively unedited news archives interviewing relentlessly optimistic Black kids and their parents on the eve of integration. Movie goes off the rails with two (not just one!) extended conversations between the filmmaker and her white friends about privilege and prejudice revealed by some minor personal interactions, the visual in these sections just subtitles over an annoyingly dark-grey screen with a couple lines visible on the edges.

Okay, I messed up… I had a couple of Frankenstein movies, one by Corman, so I thought I’d hold a weekend SHOCKtober triple-feature along with his William Shatner Esperanto demon movie. But I was thinking of Incubus (not by Corman), while Intruder is a social issues drama with Shatner as a rabble-rousing outsider trying to convince a Southern town to reject racial integration in schools.

Filmed in Missouri… where’d Corman find all these extras?

When Shatner arrives, he’s very pleasant to the locals, except for frequent, casual use of the n-word. Frank Maxwell (of the more seasonally appropriate The Haunted Palace) is the Only Good White Man, breaking up mobs with peaceful logic, while Shatner runs around making out with Frank’s teenage daughter and sleeping with the salesman’s wife next door. Accusations, setbacks, bombing and murder. I guess it all seems realistic until the townsfolk discover their sense of decency. Most interesting to me was that Shatner claims to represent “The Patrick Henry Society” since I’m staying in Patrick’s old neighborhood.

Embracing neighbor / church-burning:

A nice shock for Trek fans if this ever played on TV in the late 60’s:

Salesman next door was Leo Gordon of Riot in Cell Block 11, his wife from The Boston Strangler, the teenage daughter was in The Crawling Hand, and the rich guy who supports our intruder is from It’s Alive. Written by a Twilight Zone regular who also worked on Corman’s great Masque of the Red Death.

Voilà l’enchaînement (2014)

Alex Descas and Norah Krief (a Shakespeare actress) are a mixed-race couple, and not incidentally. She calls him a stud, asks him to tattoo her name on his body, he says both remind him of slavery/ownership. Time passes, she’s paranoid, reports him to the cops for domestic violence and he’s arrested. His prison monologue about “the trap” and his ponderings on racism afterwards feels too much like reciting the moral at the end of an educational film, though I like the rhythm of his speech.

Duo (1995)

Very short, the camera cruising around a painting (of another mixed-race couple) while Descas smokes outside the frame.

Towards Mathilde (2005)

This played at Big Ears, but we were too busy seeing live music. A rehearsal/process movie, prepping for a show that uses squirky noises and elastic materials, working out to PJ Harvey songs. One of my arms has been stiff lately and I’ve kept a small weight by the bed and the desk so I can grab it anytime and stretch out. I’m not usually inspired to do this during movies, but with this doc focusing so much on arm movements, I got a real workout. The day I watched this the new Denis hadn’t screened at Cannes yet, but the Cronenberg had, and I happened to read a Kristen Stewart interview right after watching this:

The most simple answer comes from a place of wisdom. You don’t have to complicate certain ideas. Like, “The body is reality.” At first, I was really trying to shove that concept in my head: What does it mean to me and the world and on every level? But he was like, “I shoot people.” That’s it! It’s a body. All of that is surprising. These are really lofty concepts, but also they’re not at all.

Gullah culture, netmaking and baskets. “I wanted to weave with images.” Too sleepy and abstract for me post-lunch, a a hodgepodge of media and ideas, though it came together in the second half. Kind of an American The Territory as the whites terrorize and murder then grab land. The director’s dad had been a minister who survived a mass shooting at his Charleston church – it gets around to this gradually across its abstractly-named chapters. Susan Alcorn opened on pedal steel.

A corny white insurance agent, family man, workout nut, kinda racist, happily obnoxious to women and everyone else, wakes up Black one day. He freaks out, and his wife calls him a white supremacist while he focuses the blame on his sun lamp and tries to figure out how to whiten his skin again. I watched this on MLK Day, which I suppose might make me a bad person, but it’s good – a goofy but not stupid comedy (usually you get neither or both).

Lead actor Godfrey Cambridge had an excellent year, also starring in Cotton Comes to Harlem. When he goes out in public he’s hassled by cops (“He stole something – we don’t know what it is yet”). Finally his wife and boss and neighbors reject him, but he comes to terms with himself, starting his own business and plotting to lead the next Black revolution.

Finally getting to Dumont’s debut. Parts of this movie about a dimwit boy in a nowhere town look familiar from Lil Quinquin – a yard where they fix up their car even looks like a location from that movie, and there’s a character named Quinquin. But this was before Dumont had learned to be funny or unpredictable, from his punishing slow art cinema days. Maybe the crappy marching band was supposed to provide levity, but in the end it’s simply no fun to watch a crappy marching band. This doesn’t give me much hope for L’Humanité – I’m guessing that’s as misleading a title as this one, which follows a kid who Dumont wants to portray as a sensitive soul, with his epilepsy and pet finch and cute girlfriend. But the kid’s also a horrible racist, and finally catches the Arab guy he’d seen hanging around with his girl, and uses his head as a soccer ball. The non-pro actors in this stayed non-pro. I was surprised to recognize the finch-song contest from Arabian Nights.

Nicholas Elliott for Criterion:

Rather than a description of the film’s contents, the title is an unusually active element of the viewing experience, a riddle that prompts the viewer to see beyond the low horizons of Freddy’s existence and imagine how the spiritual might be reintroduced into this context. In the trickiest of ways, Dumont titles the film to prime us to look for good where there is evil. Yet he does not ask us to like Freddy, only to accept that he exists…

Seems like a pretty faithful adaptation of the 1929 novel, according to the wikis, right down to the ambiguous cause of Ruth’s fall from a high window at the end. Really well visualized by Hall (British actress, star of Christine) and acted by protagonist Tessa Thompson, husband Andre Holland, and frenemy Ruth Negga. Also the first movie I’ve watched at someone else’s house since Batman Returns seven years ago (unless we’re counting the cabin).

A good haunted house movie, much scarier than the 1970’s one, with some good demons and a new twist: the couple can’t move out of the extremely ghost-filled house because they’re Sudanese refugees who barely survived a treacherous boat ride that killed their daughter, and have been placed here by the government, their only chance to stay in Britain. He’s Sope Dirisu of the Snow White and the Huntsman sequel, and she’s Wunmi Mosaku of Lovecraft Country and the Wyatt Russell episode of Black Mirror. Ghosts in the house, crows in the walls and thugs outside, nowhere to hide. When he’s scraping off all the wallpaper and pulling out the wiring, and she’s trapped in the maze of their housing complex, I start wondering if they died at sea and England is hell, but they’ve got other secrets: their “daughter” was a girl they kidnapped to get preferential treatment while escaping. But instead of hell-vengeance, the wife kills the witch and they patch up the walls to please the housing people, and try to live in relative harmony with their racist neighbors and house full of spirits.

Wife, husband…

and daughter: