A Bach concert film, solo and small/large ensembles performing his works chronologically, with narration from wife Anna’s diaries for context. As with all concert films (see my dislike for the Bowie movie) enjoyment is largely dependent on whether you like listening to Bach, and I’m getting from the reviews that the critics who love this are big Bach fans. I’m mixed here, but would freak out over a film called Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Zorn – either way it’s a vital entry in the biopic and concert film genres.

Difficult to understand Anna’s English narration as she rapidly, mechanically rattles off the words. Compositions are mostly static but they’re not afraid of a subtle or grand camera move. Scenes step on each other’s heels, the editor anxious to move on the moment a music piece has ended. Besides the musical performances we get great churches and lovely instruments – pre-piano keyboards such as harpsichords, clavichords and pipe organs – and closeups on (real?) historical documents. It’s an example film in Vogel’s “Assault on Montage” chapter, where he helpfully lays out the rules of “the received canon of editing” in order to show how some films break them. In this movie, “the refusal to move the camera or render the image more interesting and an insistence on real time… represents a frontal assault on the cinematic value system of the spectator.” In other words, anti-art people would call the movie boring.

Neil Bahadur:

Here we see the art go from the mind, to the page, to the finger, to the performer, and finally to the audience. In every performance Straub makes it so the hands are always totally visible, so we see the complexity that Bach/Gustav Leonhardt must transfer from the mind to the hands in full force.

This and The Rapture bookended the 1990s, stories with good endings about Christian zealots who do murders. But we open with Matthew McConaughey telling his story to an unamused cop, predicting True Detective. He’s here to explain that his late brother is the serial killer they’re looking for, that their dad Paxton claimed to have an epiphany and became an avenging angel with an axe called Otis, and Matt’s gullible little brother believed all this. After playing the religious mania-as-mental illness side, the movie flips on you, showing Paxton as righteous and Matthew having set a trap to kill the demonic FBI guy. Good, slippery movie.

Flashback kid Fenton went on to Brick, younger Adam played the lead in a Peter Pan movie, and Agent Powers Boothe (whose acting and behavior is the most 1990s here) was in Tombstone with Paxton. Shot by the DP of The Conversation, Jaws, and Child’s Play.

About time I rewatched this. Francisco Rabal is our priest (also a monk in The Nun), and the prostitute who ruins him when he takes her in after a bloody fight is Rita Macedo of Archibaldo de la Cruz. He and Beatriz (Marga López, star of a couple Taboada movies) take a pilgrimage (aka get the hell out of town before the law catches them) and keep running into the same old people from town. Beatriz’s sinister man Pinto finds her, dwarf Ujo (Simon of the Desert‘s Jesús Fernández in his first Bunuel film) follows Andara around. I’m sure there are Bunuelian themes of repetition without escape, and of the truly religious vs. common churchgoers (and the absurdity of both).

Not trying to join the Stereogum Anniversary Culture, but I happened to watch this on the tenth anniversary of its premiere. This is bound to happen at least once during Cannes Week. Rounding out my viewing of Mungiu’s major features right before his brand-new one debuted, this one’s a prime example of a movie good enough to transcend its dreary subject matter (insular religious cultures; see also Silent Light).

Much of the appeal is in the character of Alina (Cristina Flutur of Backdraft 2, what?). She and Voichita (Cosmina Stratan of the Border guy’s surrogate pregnancy movie) were orphanage sisters, now separated, and Alina returns to visit then refuses to leave. She’s extremely needy, fearing abandonment, but also acts impossible so she can’t stay anywhere. Both the hospital and Voichita’s quiet monastery say they’re overcrowded during renovations, and anyway, Alina isn’t a believer. But she’s devoted to her friend, so the nuns read Alina a list of all 464 sins to see which she has committed, then when she’s violent they tie her down to drive out her evil spirits, but she’s also convulsive, and they leave her tied too long, and she dies. Seems like an openhearted, respectful take on a tragic story, made in the good ol’ master-shot long-take foreign-arthouse style.

Documentarian, drama therapist, and legal representative round up some men who were sexually abused by priests and let them direct short films representing past traumas or wish fulfilment, scouting locations and acting in each other’s stories. Fits in nicely with Greene’s project of making semi-docs about performance and history, also seems to exemplify some utopian ideas of collaborative film directing. Alas, no screenshots since it is a netflick.

“Intelligence can be dangerous” – is this a quote from the movie, or something I wrote while watching it? A plague is going around, both within and without the movie, so I watched at home and took cryptic notes.

Benedetta’s dad pays for both his daughter and a beaten incest girl named Bartolomea to enter a convent under abbess Charlotte Rampling. Bene dreams that a cartoon superhero Jesus saves her from violent rapists then attacks her, also sees dodgy CG snakes and other miracles on the regular. The higher-ups decide she’s faking but keep that to themselves and make Bene the new abbess. She invites Bartolo to her bed, but sexual pleasure is not allowed in historical times, so both nuns must be tortured, per church leader Lambert Wilson.

The plague takes Rampling, and suicide takes her daughter/spy Louise Chevillotte (Synonyms and the last couple Garrels). Bene (Sibyl star Virginie Efira) lives out the rest of her days at the convent in a postscript title, and I already can’t remember if Daphne Patakia (the mimic of Nimic) lives or what. Fun movie with witty writing, but it’s still a nun drama, one of my least favorite genres.

Voiceover on opening titles tells us it’s a city film and has no story, good to get that out of the way. Italian folklore involves praising the ducks for helping the army? (google says it was geese). As expected, everyone is crazy for the pope. Memories of filmgoing with obstructed-view seats. The rainy highway sequence is a highlight. I know my standards have been lowered by a recent Argento, but sometimes the dubbing is almost good, like somebody gave a shit. Cheerfully profane once it gets to the theater for a variety show. Ancient artworks are discovered beneath the city, then minutes later the air exposure destroys them. Significant time spent with prostitutes, of course. Corny holy fashion show, and an outstanding Anna Magnani cameo. Bikers ride through the city at night, and okay so it’s not a narrative movie, but it really lacks an ending.

In a dismal grey-brown postapocalypse, Denzel hunts and cooks a cat, robs a corpse then relaxes to listen to his zune. Even babies wear sun goggles in town, the sun deadlier than ever since the nuclear event punched holes in the atmosphere. Local warlord Gary Oldman wants a bible to help control the populace and spread his influence, but passer-through Denzel has the only surviving copy, and is an unnaturally badass fighter, so a showdown ensues. Denzel and Mila Kunis leave town down the fury road, but Gary’s caravan catches up, and more showdowns ensue. The action’s not bad – an early slaughter, backlit under a bridge, puts a reminiscent scene from Resident Evil 6 to shame.

Most importantly, we are in Tom Waits Mode, and he appears in this movie as “the engineer,” aka he runs a barter shop across the street from Oldman’s saloon. He makes an uneasy deal to charge Denzel’s zune, then reappears at the end to open the lock on the bible, revealing that it’s in braille and D escapes to the Children of Men hope island with the entire book memorized. Waits is less pivotal here than in Seven Psychopaths, is mostly around to look cool.

In the mood for some horror, but this was barely horror, just a character piece about a religious nut set to churchy mope music. Jennifer Ehle has spinal problems, Maud is hired to take care of her. But Maud is judgy and has a dark past and probably isn’t supposed to be there, fired for attacking Ehle halfway through the movie then develops stomach pains, like a weak, voiceover-filled First Reformed. Maud is bad at socializing, has major masochistic tendencies, ends up walking on nails then returning to Ehle’s house and stabbing her with scissors before setting herself on fire. Ehle blameless as usual, Morfydd Clark (Love & Friendship) overcooked along with the rest of the thing.