Drona opened, singing their earnest young sibling pop in unison. Burak finds a hole in a frozen lake where someone has been net fishing. A person seen only torso-down pulls up the net partway, drops it. Next guy pulls up the net partway, drops it, and so on. Is this a form of forgetting? Many other such forms appear… elephants, who never forget… buildings being constructed and demolished… buried bodies in a shipyard which was once a prison. The most extreme form is when a dead person’s brain is removed during autopsy, as seen via Brakhage film playing on a laptop. The centerpiece scene, a multi-layered couple conversing about their (fictionalized) relationship, each one sharing a dream they’d had, was inspired by a love of DVD commentaries.
Burak is probably the biggest name director we saw at T/F, with his Blake Williams / Bohdanowicz crossover movie currently in Cinema Scope and his Belonging making a splash a few years ago – or maybe he’s a tie with Stratman.
Tension Envelopes (2023, Robert Greene)
A new depopulated Greene short played before the feature – thoughts from within an envelope factory appear as titles over shots of city landscapes. A playful little experiment with some horrors-of-capitalism thrown in.
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.
This feels more mainstream than Kate Plays Christine or Actress without compromising Greene’s interest in blurring the lines of performance, and while bringing up tons of new and timely issues. The photography is very good (some epic travelling shots, most notably when introducing our young star Fernando) and Greene has graduated from filming lone actresses to an entire town. I came in with high expectations and couldn’t be happier – this was the standout hit of True/False.
In July 1917, striking workers in an Arizona mining town were rounded up and herded out of the town, told they’d be killed if they returned. For the hundredth anniversary, Greene films a town-wide re-enactment of the event, as portrayed by locals with hundred-year roots, by ex-miners and their families, businessmen and government officials, and town newcomers. Few had heard of the “Deportation” before the anniversary committee got underway, but as they research their roles it leads to much discussion and some uncomfortable parallels to still-current problems – deportation and communist agitation were rearing their ugly heads again right as filming began. Two brothers whose grandfather exiled their great uncle play opposite sides, a friendly young dude plays an ambivalent miner who gets swayed to become a flag-waving striker, and a descendant of a town leader insists the deportation was right and necessary until the moment when he finds himself rallying his neighbors onto desert-bound railcars at gunpoint. Minds don’t exactly get changed, but people soften their hardline positions. The whole ensemble piece is beautifully assembled and shot in widescreen, cutting between documentary behind-the-scenes footage and staged-reenactment scenes without radically changing the visuals, breaking down the boundaries between them in true Greene-T/F style.
After lunch we went to the Journalism Institute on campus because we heard there was a Strong Island exhibit. It must have been closed on Sunday, but we came across this instead:
Watched right after Christine. I didn’t love Greene’s Actress (or Christine), but they made for good prep-work for this masterpiece whatsit. A sort-of documentary following Kate Lyn Sheil as she preps to play Christine Chubbuck, presumably in a feature along the lines of Christine, though we see few any details about the feature and nobody’s helping her with character prep.
The first movie I’ve seen to film its own crowd release notice:
Kate’s in Florida where it happened, and locals seem to have no memory of Christine or her fate. She goes through library microfiche, reads books about suicide, does some serious tanning and gets fitted for a wig, goes gun shopping and finally gets a peek at some archive footage of the real Christine. It all leads to a joke of an ending, Kate finally building up the nerve to shoot herself, but the entire process leading up to that was fascinatingly staged (or “staged”).
Apparently a doc about Brandy Burre (Carcetti’s campaign manager in The Wire), and her attempt to get her acting career back on track after taking time off for her family, while that family is falling apart (brewer boyfriend Tim is leaving over Christmas since she has been cheating on him). Highly recommended by film-critic-types for playing around with the documentary format. I noticed retakes, musical segments and slow motion, but was constantly wondering if there was something deeper, like for instance it’s all a put-on and the boyfriend is an actor too, or some big twist ending was coming. Then I was mystified when it just continued to be about Brandy’s daily life, not getting acting jobs. The experiments in documentary form weren’t noticeably experimental enough for me.
I feel like the film has a serious Tim Problem, which grows more and more significant as the dissolution of that relationship becomes the dominant narrative arc, swamping Brandy’s tentative efforts to revive her acting career. It’s one thing when Greene’s camera improbably follows Brandy into the shower, as she’s clearly “complicit” in Actress’ interrogation of form. It’s quite another thing, however, when, for example, we observe Tim arriving home late at night, with the rest of the house apparently asleep, and he pretends that the camera isn’t there.
Director and subject collude, not so much valorizing her attempts to jumpstart her career and finances (“I have to make a living to get my freedom”) as sympathetically heightening her existence — providing her, indeed, with a worthy comeback role within a confining matrix of daily responsibilities. It’s a film of big gestures, formally mirroring Burre’s transitions from one actorly mode to another, always courting the possibility of total failure or over-the-top silliness.
Greene in Cinema Scope, on the best shot in the movie, a startling moment when Brandy’s face is injured, looking into camera as it pulls back and her kids come in for hugs: “I’ve had one good idea in my life, and that was to shoot that scene that way.”
In the scene where Brandy is confessing about her affair, the camera is moving; it’s subtle, but we know that there’s another person in the room. So I’m there. There’s a whole bunch of ways to make movies, and the way I want to do it is to put all the things that we’re supposed to be hiding out there. I hate when people say editing is supposed to be invisible. Like, take all these things – the camera being present, the act of making a documentary, the fact that you’re only using exteriors when the light is nice – and make them part of the movie. Don’t hide them. The act of making a documentary is an insane thing sometimes, so let’s use that fact.