“You’re bleeding all over the place, but you never die.”

Watched this directly after That Day, in which a semi-insane man stabs lots of people, often with little reaction by his companion. Same exact thing happens here, making this movie seem like a retread of the one he made thirteen years later.

In foreground: a knife sticking out of Austin:

Ruiz movies are easily distinguishable from his Euro drama contemporaries such as Oliveira or Chabrol though his distinctive use of deep-focus shots, the stagier-than-usual dialogue, and the nothing making any dramatic sense at all. In this one a crazy street dweller named Austin (Michael Kirby, who showed up in a couple Woody Allen movies and The Atrocity Exhibition) enjoys stabbing people and seems to be searching for his son. But when college student Israel helps the guy out and tracks down the son, the man is cagey about whether Austin is his dad. Then that plot thread is dropped so Austin can go about stabbing more people and making Israel confused. There is some talk about God’s will, and lots of shoes. I think all the shoes mean something.

Or maybe not… here are some of the plot points I’ve written down:

– Jim Jarmusch plays a hooded miscreant, bangs Israel’s head against a wall, surprisingly threatening given that he is Jim Jarmusch.

– Some guy who is in love with Amelia holds them all hostage.

– They are at the beach digging a hole looking for Austin and people keep bringing them sandwiches.

– Swiss guy shoots Israel as he’s trying to kiss the girl who claims she killed her husband.

Thug Jarmusch:

It was an amusing movie, but since nothing seems connected by a sensible story, it’s not very memorable. IMDB says it was shot 16mm, so the 4:3 picture I’ve got on VHS may be just fine. I was excited at first about the soundtrack by John Zorn, one of his first, but I didn’t notice it much once the talking started.

Rosenbaum: “In effect, New York’s downtown punk coalition meets Ruiz’s dreamy doodling, and a certain amount of querulousness on both sides grows out of the brief encounter.” The Times loved it, called it a “slight, gleeful work” and noted that “many people get killed but few stay dead.”

Barbet Schroeder gets killed in the first scene:

Ruiz, of course, explains it better than anybody:

I began to watch television in order to study the iconography of American TV. Then I started watching Mexican soap operas on the cable channels. One day after watching two or three soap operas, I decided to write something using the rhythms of soap operas about some experiences I had many years ago while living in New York. I tried to use the dialogue of soap operas as a kind of music.

Musco (1997, Michael Smith & Joshua White)
A fake 1984 infomercial for a music-oriented lighting equipment company. I don’t get it. It was part of an art installation, and I don’t get those in general, maybe because I don’t live in New York.
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Flash Back (1985, Pascal Aubier)
Two-minute short – soldier is killed in combat, life flashes before his eyes represented by photos going back in time until to the earliest baby picture. Guess Pascal had to find an actor with lots of family photos for this.
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The Apparition (1985, Pascal Aubier)
A guy’s bathroom light makes the Virgin Mary appear in a church across town. Aubier ought to be at least as popular as Don Hertzfeldt.
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Un ballo in maschera (1987, Nicolas Roeg)
Things I like:
1. That the king is played by a woman (Theresa Russell) with a mustache
2. That the action takes place in an ellipsis (“…but”) between the opening and closing text (“King Zog Shot Back!”)

Nice piece, set to music by Giuseppe Verdi. First segment of the anthology film Aria, which I must watch the rest of when I’m not so tired (next segment put me to sleep in a couple minutes).
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Universal Hotel (1986, Peter Thompson)
“1980, I have a strange dream. Between the fortress and the cathedral is the universal hotel.” Slow, calm analysis of photos and reports about a nazi experiment where prisoners were frozen then revival was attempted using boiling water, microwaves and “animal heat.” “I make statements about the photographs which cannot be proven. I speak with uncertainty.” Increasingly intense, with narrated dreams illustrated with photography tricks, a murder-mystery without an ending. Last line: “they come while I’m asleep.” Scary, and I would not have watched this right now had I known nazis were involved, but now I’m glad I did.
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Universal Citizen (1987, Peter Thompson)
Now in Guatemala, Peter talks with a concentration camp survivor who told himself he would move to the tropics if he survived. He did, so he does, laying in a hammock, floating in the warm water, working on the sun roof of his house, listening to Armenian records and refusing to be filmed. Mayan ruins. This time the dream/nightmare scenes lack narration. Ends with a joke (and a shot from the beginning of the other film). Oh wait, no it ends with depression after the credits. I preferred the joke.
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Bunker of the Last Gunshots (1981, Jeunet et Caro)
There’s an insurrection inside the bunker. A timer count backwards, people have gas masks and eyegear and prosthetic limbs, there are shootings, eletroshock, cryogenics, there is complicated machinery, tubes and wires and hidden cameras. Possibly they are Germans, it is possibly post-apocalyptic, and the soldiers possibly go crazy and kill each other. I am not entirely sure of the politics, but it’s a neat little flick, definitely full of the clutter style of their later features.
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Opening Night of Close-Up (1996, Nanni Moretti)
That’s just what it’s about. The nervous cinephile (Moretti himself) who runs an Italian theater is opening Kiarostami’s Close-Up and wants everything to be just right.
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World of Glory (1991, Roy Andersson)
“This is my brother. My little brother. I suppose he is my only true friend, so to speak. [both look away uncomfortably]” I just checked and yeah, Roy Andersson is the acclaimed deadpan comedic filmmaker who made Songs from the Second Floor and You, The Living. I’d believe it, and be almost excited to see those two after viewing this short, a guy grimly introducing us to his sad life, with he and others looking slowly into the camera as if we’re to blame for all this – except why did it start with a mini-reenactment of the holocaust? The whole rest of the movie I’m wondering that… he won’t let go of the “blood of christ” wine pot at mass and it’s supposed to be a funny scene but I’m thinking “the holocaust?!?”
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Reverse Shot explains:

World of Glory locates a society — ostensibly the director’s native Sweden, but easy interchangeable with any modern European country — so paralyzed by ennui, anxiety, and desperation that its inhabitants are apparitions. The main character is a thin, pasty man who takes us on a guided tour of his life — his loveless marriage, his stultifying job, his pathetic day-to-day activities. It was not until the second time I saw the film that I realized that this character had been present in the first shot: dead center of the frame, turning away from the proceedings every so often to fix us with his gaze. His meek, self-effacing misery in the later scenes thus comes into sharper relief: a person who does not act to avert tragedy endures beneath its weight.

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Je vous salue, Sarajevo (1993, Jean-Luc Godard)
“Culture is the rule, and art is the exception. … The rule is to want the death of the exception, so the rule for Cultural Europe is to organize the death of the art of living, which still flourishes.” This two-minute piece is a montage made from a single photograph, with voiceover. Directly to the point, I like it better than almost all of Histoire(s) du cinema.
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Origins of the 21st Century (2000, Jean-Luc Godard)
A bummer of a film, montaging footage from news videos and feature films (The Shining, The Nutty Professor, Le Plaisir) over quiet music with the occasional commentary or block lettering, war and death, pain and happiness and a few plays-on-words.
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If 6 was 9 (1995, Eija-Liisa Ahtila)
Sex, split-screens and supermarkets. More people looking into the camera confessionally, but all about sex this time, not too similar to Today.
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Can’t figure what a full hour-long Ahtila film would be like, but she’s made two of them so I’ll find out eventually.
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Zig-Zag (1980, Raul Ruiz)
Ruiz had adapted Kafka’s Penal Colony ten years earlier so surely he knows he’s making another Kafkaesque film here. A man named H. “realizes he is the victim of the worst type of nightmare: a didactic nightmare” when, late for an appointment, he finds himself part of a global board game at the mercy of pairs of dice. The game keeps changing scale, zooming out, so H. has to travel further distances more quickly – from walking to taxi to train to plane. Rosenbaum (who says it’s Borgesian not Kafkaesque) says it was made to promote a map exhibition in Paris, which to me just makes it more strange than if it was promoting nothing at all. “The history of cartography [is] the business of labyrinth destruction.”
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Either H. or the mysterious gamer was played by Pascal Bonitzer, cowriter of some of Rivette’s best films. “We now live in the pure instantaneous future.”
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Only my second feature by Ruiz, as much as I’m always talking about the guy – and it’s kinda what I’d expected. Good movie with some weird craziness in the plot, but at the same time, it’s a French film, a classy drama about restrained rich people.

Camille’s dad is out of town – his mom (Isabelle Huppert, the year before The Piano Teacher), uncle Serge (Charles Berling of Summer Hours) and maid Helene are taking care of him until one day he announces that his real name is Paul and he wants to go home to his real mom. He guides Huppert to another woman’s apartment – she’s not home but creepy neighbor Edith Scob (also Summer Hours) shows them around.

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When beautiful Jeanne Balibar (the Duchess of Langeais herself) gets home, she tells Huppert about her son Paul who drowned two years ago, but also acts as if Camille is her Paul in the present tense. There’s no sense of paradox or surprise, nothing unusual, just these facts: Paul died and Paul is here. It’s not the kind of thing that could be done in an American movie without some character shrieking “how can that be? how can you say he died if you’re saying he is here in front of you?!” Huppert plays it cool though – invites Balibar to stay at her house so they can figure it out together.

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In the climax, Balibar kidnaps Camille/Paul and takes him to the barge where Paul had drowned. Huppert shows up and Balibar surrenders and apologizes, everything back to normal.

Ruiz uses a Sam Raimi anamorphic-lens-twisting effect:
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Is it pertinent that the maid might be having an affair with the uncle? That Balibar is after the uncle as well? That Huppert’s grandmother died of sorrow because of some incest incident? That Balibar’s neighbor Edith Scob is just as creepy and mysterious as Balibar herself? That a family acquaintance dies in a car crash near the end? That Camille has a businesslike 10-year-old friend who everyone had assumed was imaginary? All combines into an overall sense of mystery about identity, parentage, relationships, and what can be known.

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I thought I’d heard of Denis Podalydès who played Isabelle Huppert’s husband, but it’s actually his brother Bruno I’d heard of.

Unnerving, noticeable music by loyal Chilean Jorge Arriagada and not extremely impressive cinematography by Jacques Bouquin (The Film To Come, Life is a Dream) – he does that thing where the camera is always gliding slowly past the action an awful lot. Overall I dug the movie… looking forward to Ruiz’s other 99 features.

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I don’t get 99% of his references, and I lose about 90% of his trains of thought, but I like these books anyway. Some good bits:

My goal is to show that certain germinal images or instant fictions are the best starting point for a film that wishes to have a poetic pretext.
On many occasions I have been asked whether: “All types of cinema must necessarily be poetic. Might a simply narrative cinema not be possible in our times? A type of cinema for which things are simply interesting as peripeteias?”
Yes and no.
I have already said this before: cinema is condemned to be poetic. It cannot but be poetic. One cannot ignore this aspect of its nature. For poetry will always be there, within out reach. If so, then why not use it?
Although it is true… that in most films poetry is incidental, more often than not it’s there partly due to the fact that it has been ignored; nor is poetry really found in so-called beautiful things: rivers, landscapes, mountains and sunsets. Rather, we find it in the haphazard intersecting of sequences, in the instances of narrative incoherence and in crossing sight lines.
Yet, it is there. It is.
From this point of view, poetry is endemic in cinema.

Describing the roles of different people on a movie set, “A lighting technician is above all a maker of shadows. Though nobody seems to notice.” He then suggests that movie studios could hire a philosopher “to destroy all that seems evident.”

Cinema ought to continually play with the harmony and lack of harmony that exists between narrative evidence and visual doubt (that which I have just seen- have I indeed seen it?)

Film is “a language, but composed solely of verbs.”

I don’t know what “this idea” refers to, and I read it twice.

In our field, in the practice of cinema, this idea… suggests the possibility of linking ideas, sequences and situations, which, though placed in different parts of the film, and despite what the distances between them may be (or rather, and I would be willing to say, the greater the distance the better), connect with each other, one reinvigorating the other. Not only because they participate in the same intensity, but also because they have the same ‘sequence of durations’. Five or six shots remind us of another five or six shots from another film and they feed each other by means of an effect that I call ‘mirrors of duration’. It’s not that these shots last the same amount of time. Rather, here we have two intensities, which I am tempted to call states of fascination, producing the effect of emotional detachment.

After beginning to describe the plot of an imaginary film:

Up till this point we’ve had a film about justice, about the act of judgment. A film about. And I seem to recall having mentioned that I find it hard to tolerate and, above all, to make films about … (We should remember that the first question that the average American viewer will pose when confronted by a film that perplexes him is: “What is this film about?”).

He swears the following is “not lacking in all good sense or reason as it might seem initially”:

A few days ago, together with some friends, we played with the following idea-situation: if we accept that what Hitler really wanted was to take possession of Vienna, then it would have been enough for him to stroll through the city’s streets, walk every now and then into one of the cafes, observe the people, breathe in the contradictory odours that escaped from the city’s chimneys. However, it seems that it was indispensable for him to be accompanied by an army and that he be worshipped by the dumbstruck masses. When we enter a film, we would like somehow to appropriate it ourselves, we wish to invade it, we would like for it to adhere to our expectations.

Oooh, a promised third volume:

In the third volume of the Poetics of Cinema, I will be much more explicit, more generous, regarding analyses of specific cases and in proposing exercises.

Ruiz notices his own book’s roundabout nature:

I would like to write: “Yet we shall develop this theme later”. But the translators, who at this very moment are rewriting my words into inadequate and foreign tongues, have already made me realise that each time I have said “but this theme will concern us later”, I have, in fact, forgotten it forever.

WTF:

How does one represent all men, Jedermann, as king of the world? As a lonely man? As the dictator who strolling through the palace of ten thousand mirrors confuses himself with his 200 doubles? Or as one who, smiling under the rain, is condemned to smile even in his coffin, for they are always filming him? The image-man, let’s say Tony Blair (NB A. Blair, the Prime Minister of Great Britain as the first edition of this book was in print, deceased two years later).

On metaphors:

Often, and at times immodestly, I have made use of metaphors in order to approach intuitively certain ideas; many of which could best be described as images and half-glimpsed visions. I hope that among them it is the angelic smile rather than the sardonic irony or the biting impetuousness that has the upper hand. ‘Metaphor’ is a word that has a bad reputation among theorists. To use it implies that one does not have clear ideas, and in that case, the best thing to do is to remain silent. That may be so and I regret it. Yet, in the present state of the arts: does anyone have clear ideas?

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Jimmy came over for an unexpected evening of avant-garde shorts which I kicked off by fast-forwarding through Michael Snow’s Presents to show off its wackyness. Then we skimmed the Index DVD catalogue and I watched some others after he’d left.


Structuralist Films By Kurt Kren
I kinda know what structuralism is, though I’d have trouble defining it… so I defer to P. Adams Sitney, who says a “tight nexus of content, a shape designed to explore the facets of the material,” and the films render content “minimal and subsidiary to the outline.” Sounds a lot like Presents.
37/78 Tree Again – stop-motion of a tree, sometimes with cows, sometimes without.
2/60 48 Heads From The Szondi-Test – I liked this one best – heads cut out of newspapers or magazines rapidly edited into a time-montage.
17/68 Green-Red – a meditation on green and red bottles. Not too exciting… hardly up to the meditation standards of Lemon, for instance. Not just green/red, I saw some yellow in there.

Christoph Huber, when asked “What is the greatest movie ever made?”:

“Why, Kurt Kren’s 37/78 Tree Again, of course.” – which usually just raises eyebrows. So then, it’s my pleasure to expand on how a film they’ve never heard of, by a filmmaker they’ve never heard of, embodies the beauty and contradictions of cinema in its essence – and does so in less than four minutes. Kren’s film has an additional advantage, not always the case in that grey zone we shall term for purposes of straightforwardness “avant garde:” It can be described quite vividly in words, and its genesis makes for a good story. For about two months Kren returned daily to the same spot in Vermont to shoot single frames of a tree (using a roll of infrared film well past its expiration date). The succession of frames was not chronological, but Kren rewound the film according to a prearranged plan. The result is intoxicating, miraculously and mysteriously capturing time out of joint. In split seconds, seasons change and leaves are flashing in different colours, animals and clouds rush by, light and weather mutate constantly. In capturing decay and renewal of (and around) this tree Kren communicates the perpetual flux of the entire world, and a central paradox of cinema.


Actionist Films By Kurt Kren
A contemporary of Peter Kubelka, who made the irritating short Pause, Kren is also known for his “actionist” films. Actionism was an Austrian movement of artists who rejected “object-based or otherwise commodifiable art practices. The practice of staging precisely scored actions in controlled environments or before audiences.” (wikipedia). A precursor to performance-art, this mostly meant that people like Gunther Brus and Arnulf Rainer stripped naked and threw paint on each other, and people like Kren and Kubelka filmed it. Not as exciting as the structuralist works.
7/64 Leda and the Swan – Leda is covered in goo and acts as the main course in a feast, but the actionists stopped short of actually eating her. Eli Roth might’ve seen this before filming Thanksgiving.
10b/65 Silver Action Brus – Brus is in a tent, painting the walls, I dunno, looked like something high school kids would do as an art piece (because of the cheapness and easy shock-value) then edited to bits by Kren.

Leda and the Swan:
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Peter Tscherkassky
One of my new favorite people! His “Cinemascope Trilogy” (first three titles below) is mindblowingly awesome. I hope to watch it over and over again… it joins the ranks of Heart of the World and Life Wastes Andy Hardy and Dog’s Dialogue in my short-film hall of fame.
L’Arrivée
2 minutes, train arrives and happy woman disembarks, film itself “arrives” on the screen too after fluttering about for the first half.
Outer Space
10 minutes of terror, as a girl in a haunted house movie gets brutally attacked by film editing and multiple exposures.
Dream Work
11 more minutes of sheer awesomeness taken from the same film as Outer Space, but not as terrifying.
Manufraktur
Super-multi-exposure remix of some TV ads.
Motion Picture
All light/dark white/black flicker with no distinguishable image, short
Get Ready
A trailer for the 1999 Vienna film festival using PT’s exposure techniques

L’Arrivee:
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Outer Space:
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Dream Work:
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Today (1997, Eija-Liisa Ahtila)
“Today my dad’s crying. Last night a car drove over his dad who died instantly.” First part, Tanaan, a pretty girl tells us about her sad dad. Second part, Vera, an older woman, says some stuff but it doesn’t last long and before I’ve gotten my bearings we’re on to Third part, Faija (dad). First we see grandad lay down in the shadows of a dark road, then the pretty girl’s dad talks about being a dad. Movie wasn’t what I was expecting after sitting through all that Kurt Kren, but it’s actually pretty good, really nicely shot, some kinda associative pondering of three generations (going from the girl to her dad to vera/grandad, back to the dad and girl) maybe? Music by 22-Pistepirkko! Ahtila is Finnish. I found art gallery websites spouting off about her methods, but it’s all fancy-talk for “she tells stories about people.”
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Alone. Life Wastes Andy Hardy (1998, Martin Arnold)
Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland and Fay Holden are trapped in the moment, rewound, slowed down and turned into robots, their every subliminally sexual movement revealed. I can not watch this enough times… so happy to have it on DVD now.
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Le Film a Venir (1997, Raoul Ruiz)
Yay, more wacky short fun from my man Ruiz. Black and white and mysterious, once more about hidden meaning and light sources and repetitions, abruptly shifting mood and plot, either surrealistic or beyond my comprehension. I’ve watched it twice and I’m pleased to say that I can’t manage a plot description. More play with narrator voices and narrative shortcuts, like in Hypothesis and Dog’s Dialogue. And Ruiz has a hundred movies – a hundred movies! – to explore. I could not be more excited.
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Letter to America (1999, Kira Muratova)
Disappointingly not half as wacky as the Ruiz. A dude is being filmed by his friend, sending a video message to new york, but the dude has nothing to say. So dude goes to the place he rents and tries to get some rent money out of the woman staying there. She’s being a jerk about it, but gives him a little money. He wanders back to his video friend and recites a triumphant poem before the camera. Apparently had some Crime & Punishment references I didn’t catch. J. Taubman: “Muratova’s film is itself a letter to America. One of its not so hidden messages is an ironic self-commentary on Muratova’s own situation, an example of what talent can do even in poverty.” She won a $50,000 award in Berlin, which helped fund her next feature. I liked it alright, but rather than seeming like a new cinematic voice, it kinda seemed like an american indie short that speaks Russian.
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Colloque de chiens is the real title, Dog Symposium is the title on the subtitles. The movie is a story told to each other by dogs through a series of stills, La Jetee-like, with quavery synth music and dry narration. The dogs are shot live-action with natural sound.

Dogs on a vacant lot bark at each other over the credits.

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“The woman you call mum isn’t your mother” Monique turned pale on hearing those words from a school friend. Madame Duvivier tells little Monique that Marie, the woman who often comes by, is the real mother. Marie tells Monique that she doesn’t know who her father is. Monique flees Bordeaux. “From now on, sex and domination shall rule Monique’s life.” Monique is a nurse, has illicit affairs with her male patients. Christmas eve 1966 she dances with rich, 65-year-old Hubert, intends to seduce him for his money. Monique becomes a “cold and dry voiced whore” with “an urge for revenge”.

Dogs bark in apartment windows and balconies.

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Monique falls for the TV repairman, Henri, who she remembers from her hometown. She starts a new life, opening the Joli Mont cafe, but “in fact she’s buying her own death”. Henri helps her run it. Alice, a friend from home, comes to visit, blackmails Monique to not tell Henri about her sad past, has an affair and falls in love with Henri. When the three are in the park, Monique kills herself and her 3-year-old son Paul-Henri. Dogs.

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“Henri’s only option is to marry Alice, his wife’s intimate friend, who dominates him. In a way, Alice was buying her own death.” Alice tells about both women’s pasts on their wedding night. Henri has an urge for revenge. He grabs an empty bottle of wine, which turns into a knife on the images, and kills her. Dogs. Henri cuts up Alice’s body and hides the parts all over town, which switches to live-action for a bit, with no dogs but the sound of children singing.

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Back to stills. Henri goes to Marseilles and falls into some shady dealings with gangsters, is jailed for 5 years. Nurses a sick cellmate with whom he has an affair. The police draw a map of the body parts they’ve found, which form a circle, the Joli Mont cafe at the center. “The universal geometric laws gave him away”. Live action street shots, adults singing.

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Stills. Mr. Benami tells Henri about sex-change operations in Casablanca, “the perfect disguise”. “Henri Odile has become a charming young lady.” Christmas eve 1974 she’s invited out by a rich, 65-year old man, intends to seduce him for money. Odile becomes a prostitute. Goes back to Montsouris, sees the Joli Mont is for sale, buys and runs it, adopts young Luigi. One evening, 18-year-old Fernand comes to the bar with a bottle of wine / knife / empty glass, kills Odile. Dogs barking. At school, Luigi is pestered by his friends. “Your mother was killed by her lover.” “That’s not true. The woman you call my mother wasn’t my mother.” Credits.

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This movie is as old as I am. I watched it three times in one weekend… it is fantastic.

The editor and composer both still work with Ruiz (That Day, Klimt, etc), the cinematographer is now with Olivier Assayas, and the actress (!) who played Henri is now a press agent. Everyone involved still alive and well, including Ruiz, who has a euro-art-meets-quentin-tarantino cast of actors lined up for his next film.

Second half of shorts listing from Cannes 60th anniv. celebration (first half is here):

It’s A Dream by Tsai Ming-liang
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Occupations by a hatchet-wielding Lars Von Trier
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The Gift, more weirdness by Raoul Ruiz
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The Cinema Around The Corner, happy reminiscing by Claude Lelouch
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First Kiss, pretty but obvious, by Gus Van Sant.
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Cinema Erotique, a funny gag by Roman Polanksi with one of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s large-faced actors.
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No Translation Needed, almost too bizarre to be considered self-indulgent, first Michael Cimino movie since 1996.
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At the Suicide of the Last Jew in the World in the Last Cinema in the World by and starring David Cronenberg, one of his funniest and most disturbing movies.
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I Travelled 9,000 km To Give It To You by Wong Kar-Wai.
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Where Is My Romeo? – Abbas Kiarostami films women crying at a movie.
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The Last Dating Show, funny joke on dating and racial tension by Bille August.
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Awkward featuring Elia Suleiman as himself.
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Sole Meeting, another gag, by Manoel de Oliveira and starring Michel Piccoli (left) and MdO fave Duarte de Almeida (right).
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8,944 km From Cannes, a very pleasurable musical gag by Walter Salles.
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War In Peace, either perverse or tragic, I don’t know which, by Wim Wenders.
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Zhanxiou Village, supreme childhood pleasure by Chen Kaige.
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Happy Ending, ironically funny ending by Ken Loach.
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Epilogue is an excerpt from a Rene Clair film.
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Not included in the DVD version was World Cinema by Joel & Ethan Coen and reportedly a second Walter Salles segment.

Not included in the program at all was Absurda by David Lynch (reportedly he submitted too late, so his short was shown separately). I saw a download copy… some digital business with crazed sound effects and giant scissors.

Picked a nice, short, famous one for my first Raoul Ruiz movie. Based on a fictional painter (I didn’t know until I looked it up). The curator studies “a collection of paintings by Tonnerre, a French academic painter of the mid-nineteenth century, whose rather undistinguished works, with no consistency in style or subject matter, are said to have provoked a major but mysterious society scandal”. The title is misleading, because the supposedly missing painting is not discussed so much, but rather how the paintings are connected and what scandal they could have caused. Turns out the characters within may be enacting the rituals of a secret society, but that barely seems to matter anymore by the time it’s unveiled.

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Pretty amazing movie to watch (even though I fell asleep the first time). The curator is not the film’s narrator. The curator actually falls asleep once while droning on about the paintings, and the narrator whispers to us until he reawakens. The curator stages complicated tableaus, reenactments, like life-sized dioramas of the paintings in order to get a 3-D perspective on the hidden clues, which are in mirror reflections, light and shadow, and everything else. A movie all about mise-en-scene, so the paintings and stagings have interesting layouts, and the filming of them is interesting on its own. So many layers I don’t pretend to understand.

Below: Professional Jean Reno in his first film role.
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Completely wild. Loved it, though I don’t know who I could recommend it to. Guess I’ll just see more Ruiz movies. Not sure whether any/all questions are answered at the end… curator seems too obsessive to be able to see the truth anymore, and may be using the ritual explanation to justify his own ritualistic beliefs. The movie’s got a few visual freakouts, like the one below, but otherwise is a sort of fictional essay film.

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Where the missing painting, the fourth in the series, should have hung:
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Essential essay here: http://www.rouge.com.au/2/hypothesis.html
Katy might’ve liked it. I guess. Can’t really say.