Wenders apparently working without a script, just putting two guys together and following them around – a good idea, turns out.

Rudiger* Vogler isn’t a writer/photographer this time but a traveling film-projector maintainer. He picks up rider Hanns Zischler after watching him roar his Volkswagen into a river, and they barely speak, just proceed along the route of small movie theaters in western East Germany.

One night they’re woken by a guy despondent over his wife’s suicide – second Wenders in a row where a suicide causes a mood shift. Hanns walks off to the town where his father lives, visits/harasses him at his newspaper office. After this cathartic visit he thinks Rudiger should also have a cathartic visit home, so they borrow a motorbike and sidecar. After all the not-talking, they do finally get drunkenly combative and introspective, but part on pretty good terms.

Hanns and the sad man in the jukebox-equipped back of the truck:

Commentary says the photography was an homage to Walker Evans, the photographer who also inspired Upland Stories. I’ve seen the rider in a few things, including Clouds of Sils Maria and Dr. M. Man who lost his wife was in a bunch of Fassbinders – he’s the landlord in Fear Eats the Soul. Alice’s mom (of the Cities) works at a theater in one town, a Lang Mabuse actor plays the rider’s dad.

*Okay, first all my old posts‘ diacritics went bad, and now my macbook isn’t letting me make new ones by holding down vowel keys.

Alice’s mom with Rudiger:


Essential equipment for long drives:

We try to keep Shocktober light and not end up watching psychosexual nazi stories, I don’t know how this keeps happening. A visually striking Spanish movie about ugly shit, the Apt Pupil of its time.

Nazi pedo (who was also in The Boys From Brazil, appropriately enough) is stuck in iron glass lung, cared for by wife Griselda (Almodóvar regular Marisa Paredes) and kid Rena. Then crazy Angelo moves in with his weird eyebrows claiming to be a nurse, actually a witness to the nazi’s final victim before the suicide attempt that landed him in the lung. I thought it a revenge plot but Angelo tells the old guy he wants to be his protege, so, no good guys in this. Nice giallo-lite as he stalks the wife through the house and hangs her, then he starts kidnapping random local boys and reenacting murders from the man’s journals in nazi cosplay. This is almost worth it for the way the music tears itself apart in the climax when Angelo is killing his idol and taking his place.

Rena is okay with Angelo wrecking the place:

RIP Anthony Hickox – on the day he died, I watched a film by his father. Vincent Price is in disguise as a fake cop, not helping some housing bigwig evict murderous squatters. Turns out Price is back from the near-grave, having suicided in front of the critics association after losing an acting award, rescued by cartoonish winos and become their king. Daughter Diana Rigg handles his above-ground affairs while Price contrives new ways to kill his tormentors (beheading in sleep, being fed their own beloved dog on a fake game-show set) in connection with his Shakespeare roles. They don’t necessarily deserve to die for thinking Price is a cheesy actor, but for other reasons, they mostly do. In fact it’s annoying that the boring critic Ian Hendry gets to survive, but I can’t stay mad at a movie that stages a swordfight on trampolines.

I forget which Shakespeare play this was:

Typical dumb-youth peer-pressure setup, the idea of grabbing the cursed severed hand and letting random angry ghosts inhabit your body for a couple minutes quickly turns from an unthinkably bad idea to a hilariously fun drinking game. The movie makes summoning demons for social media clout seem like a realistic idea, then after a wild possession party, Mia lets her little brother Riley participate, and while possessed he smashes his face and blinds himself, so party’s over.

Mia and the kid are still somewhat possessed, making a series of bad decisions (he is violently suicidal, she steals the demon-hand and decides to murder her dad). Craziest part was the sound mixing, when watching at home through the soundbar, you turn up the volume to hear the mumbly teens then the sounds of match strikes and knives whistling through the air are loud enough to shake the walls. The directors are famous youtubers who’ve already got Talk 2 Me and Untitled Prequel on their filmographies.

Riley, Mia, Young Jason Momoa from Aquaman, Jade:

Already my second movie of the month where someone stabs themself in the face – I rewatched The Empty Man, which is referenced in Adam Nayman’s Ringer article:

Talk to Me is closer to something like Zach Cregger’s brute-force B-movie, Barbarian, than Peele’s intricately intellectualized “social thrillers.” But whatever their pretensions — or lack thereof — the Philippous are keen observers of a marketplace where it pays to attach some kind of pedigree to terror, and underneath its adroit shock tactics, Talk to Me makes a fairly significant concession to the elevated-horror model by hinging its plot on a case of capital-G Grief. The reason Mia is so susceptible to possession is because she’s heartbroken over the death of her mother, whose overdose may or may not have been an act of self-harm. Where her friends are just chasing a hedonistic thrill, she’s trying, if at first only unconsciously, to reconnect with a loved one — a difference that ends up dooming her above the others and rerouting a story line bristling with unpredictability into a fairly conventional trajectory.

Adding more characters than Alice in the Cities and a backstory for Rüdiger Vogler’s travels (clearly frustrated at home, his mom gives him money to roam and become the writer he dreams of being). I wasn’t so sure about the move to color film, but I should’ve known to trust Wenders/Müller. Based vaguely on a Goethe story, very freely adapted by Peter Handke, the commentary says they wanted to show a man who sets out to find himself, but doesn’t.

The crew: Vogler, actress Hanna Schygulla (a couple years after Petra von Kant), scammy ex-nazi/athlete Hans Blech (also of Wenders’ Scarlet Letter which sounds bad), mute teen acrobat Nastassja Kinski (in her debut), and poet Peter Kern (in a couple Fassbinders the same year). The movie is definitely being weird on purpose, and the group is carefree until they meet a suicidal industrialist who ruins the vibe, then they begin to turn on each other.

now playing: Emmanuelle and The Conversation and Watch Out, We’re Mad!

Wenders belatedly realized they were shooting in the same hotel as Machorka-Muff so he paid tribute by having our heroes watch a Straub/Huillet movie on TV. This won all the German film awards that year, sharing some with Alexander Kluge & Edgar Reitz. I wrote “Alice in the Cities as mission statement, philosophy of photography and travel,” but I’m not sure I knew what I meant by that – anyway, looking forward to the third road movie and exploring some of the box set extras.

A few doomed people in a Chinese megasuburb gradually intersect over a fateful day, captured in fluid long takes, followed and circled by the camera. Each of their lives was ruined this morning, now they’re in a slow simmering funk, deciding whether they should stay and fight, stay and surrender, or leave town for Manzhouli (near Hailar where the Taming The Horse kids wanted to go) to see a depressed elephant.

Schoolboy Bu pushes the school bully down the stairs, fatally. The bully’s older brother (Yu Cheng of Year of the Everlasting Storm and Snipers) was found sleeping with his best friend’s girl, so the friend threw himself out a window. Schoolgirl Ling has been caught in an affair with an administrator. And an older guy (Li Congxi of Devils on the Doorstep) is being kicked out of his kid’s apartment and sent to a home – and his dog got killed.

Movie feels massive, the long takes and stretched-out day usually working to great effect. Sometimes we’re simply killing time, walking from one place to another, looking at the backs of heads and shirt collars, but then there’s a great moment when we realize time has rewound and we’re seeing the opposite angle on a previous scene.

By the end of the day the old guy gives up his escape plan and heads back home, saying things are just as bad everywhere. Red-jacketed boy with a stolen gun stupidly involves himself, and dies. Floppy-hair guy ends up injured and outcast, and the younger two take a train trip to maybe witness a creature even more despondent than themselves.

with the old man’s granddaughter:

Jonathan Romney:

It’s inevitably tempting to read the film as some sort of suicide note, as an expression of a desperation that envisaged no remedy. If that’s what you’re looking for, you’ll find no shortage of evidence in a film built around four deaths (one accidental, one canine, two suicides); in its final moments, a character yells at the people around him (and essentially, at the entire world), “You are all going to hell!” Indeed, everyone here seems already to inhabit an earthly hell; yet the journey that some characters take in its closing stretch suggests some hope, insofar as they’re at least curious enough to go and take a look at an unfamiliar corner of their desolate world.

Romney also ties the elephant to the Werckmeister Harmonies whale and says Hu “was briefly a student of Tarr, traces of whose influence are visible,” and I’m in the middle of reading the Werckmeister source novel so this all tracks.

Celluloid Liberation Front:

But whereas Tarr’s cinema articulates itself through metaphysical absorption, Hu’s films retain the carnality of punk and operate on a lower stratum of perception, like an obsessive bassline from a Joy Division song. Despite his very young age, the craft and style of his opera prima are anything but derivative, and are in fact the outcome of an uncompromising vision.

The level of emotional repression is such that virtually every exchange in the film implies the possibility of an aggressive confrontation, with the film’s livid photography chromatically translating a ubiquitous feeling of resentment.
With human agency reduced to its basest instincts, the only way for the four protagonists to come together is by mere coincidence. Their convergence towards the sitting elephant is inertial rather than proactive, as much of their previous lives must presumably have been. The only moments where life is not stoically endured but actually lived are when the characters plot to or deliberately harm someone, be it a random passerby or a next of kin.

Vadim Rizov:

The film takes place over a single day but doesn’t sweat continuity, veering between morning, afternoon and evening light throughout. Unmoored in time, viewers are stuck in a perpetual morass. The context for this bad mood is not unfamiliar: with its emphasis on chaos and sudden invitations to violence, Elephant recalls Huang Weikei’s Disorder and Jia Zhangke’s A Touch of Sin.

“Happiness is overrated.” Val (director Jerrod) wants to die, so he breaks his suicidal buddy Kev (Chris Abbott, both of these guys great) out of psych hospital so they can die together. Kev stalls, says let’s die at the end of the day, and they set out to right some wrongs (beating up Val’s dad, bringing cash to pregnant gf Tiffany Haddish, murdering abusive doctor Henry Winkler), then Val decides to live as they flee the cops. Of course he does – it’s a Sundance movie – but Abbott still gets to die, and the long postscript closing shot is necessary to come down from the tension (similar to Good Time). Won a writing award, nice music by Final Fantasy, and wow, I correctly identified The Free Design on the soundtrack.

Some things I wrote down:

absolute pre-war depravity
urgent manual camera movement mixed with drone shots, real bizarre
a cinephile nazi movie
german Inland Empire

Tom Schilling is our man, falling for barmaid law student Saskia Rosendahl (both actors from Never Look Away), getting fired from his cigarette advertising job, dealing with the suicide of rich political friend Albrecht Schuch (the new All Quiet on the Western Front). This would make a cool double-feature with Transit by Graf’s Dreileben buddy Petzold, both movies ending with a person waiting hopefully in a cafe waiting for someone who will never appear.

Frames within frames:

Hidden name on an artboard, gone when cutting to the next angle:

Hell of an accidental death for our man:

Startup company is like that Ashley Madison cheater-dating site but without the participants’ knowledge or initiation, so it leads to some hot blindfolded sex, but also some misunderstandings and murders. Codirector Cummings boldly plays the lead Jordan, a guy whose side we’re not on from the very start (from my notes: “why is everyone getting killed but Jordan, when does he get killed?”) tracking down how he got caught up in this conspiracy, and doing a really good job of it. The murder-suicide by vape pen was novel. Jordan’s wife was The Death of Dick Long‘s Virginia Newcomb, and his hotel hookup was in Song to Song.