Watched this twice, since one of Katy’s birthday presents to me was sitting still for four hours while I showed her two of my favorite recently-watched movies: this one (success!) and Certified Copy (failure). Maybe a dumb birthday present, but it was my own idea, so I’m the dummy.

Obviously I loved this, since I watched twice before even getting to a journal entry. With its comic scenes of relationship-swapping and gorgeous black-and-white cinematography, it reminded me of The Magician, which I also loved.

Okay, lotta characters. Lead guy Egerman (Gunnar Bjornstrand, the scientist who squares off vs. The Magician) is a serious attorney with a stern beard and a grown son (conflicted theology student Henrik: Bjorn Bjelfvenstam of Wild Strawberries) by his dead wife. Egerman’s young wife of three years, Anna (Ulla Jacobsson of Zulu), is still a virgin, acts like a kid, treats her husband like a father and spends much quality time with Henrik. I think we all see where this is going.

Desiree with a foolish-looking Egerman:

Enter Egerman’s ex-mistress, the perfectly poised blonde actress Desiree (Eva Dahlbeck of Varda’s Les créatures, Bergman’s Dreams and Secrets of Women), then while Egerman is at her place in his pajamas one night, enter her current lover, the duel-happy Count Carl Magnus Malcolm (Jarl Kulle of Babette’s Feast, Fanny and Alexander), whose wife Charlotte (Margit Carlqvist of To Joy) loves/hates/obsesses over him, the pair of them sharing a competitive spirit.

Mr. and Mrs. Malcolm:

All these counts and rich lawyers are balanced by Petra (Harriet Andersson, Monika herself), Egerman’s maid, who flirts shamelessly with Henrik, tormenting him further, and ends up rolling in the hay with Frid (Ake Fridell, even less serious here than as The Magician‘s assistant Tubal), a servant in Desiree’s mother’s house. They’re all such great characters, and Desiree’s mother (Naima Wifstrand, granny in The Magician) might actually be the best, a woman too old and rich to give a damn about what she says or who it offends.

Desiree gets all these characters invited to dinner at her mother’s house, concocts a secret plan with the Countess. I’m not sure if the plan goes off as they intended, but the end results are good. Henrik elopes with his step-mom and Desiree is back with Egerman (shamed and blackened by his wife’s disappearance and his loss at Russian Roulette to the Count with a soot-filled pistol), leaving the Count back with his wife – for now, at least. Despite the romantic-comedy genre, I wasn’t sure Katy would go for it because of the Bergmanness of it all, not to mention the two suicide attempts – if either truly counts as a suicide attempt. Henrik pathetically ties a noose to an ornamental thing on the wall, which immediately breaks, and he falls into a button on the wall, activating a clockwork device that slides young Anna from her bedroom into his own.

Apparently the film that turned Bergman’s career around after years of commercial failures. He says in his intro that he’s always been able to do whatever he wants since this came out, winning the “best poetic humor” award at Cannes, which sounds like something the jury made up just so this wouldn’t go empty-handed after The Silent World took the palm. Remade as a Stephen Sondheim musical in the 70’s with Elizabeth Taylor as Desiree.

P. Kael:

In this vanished setting, nothing lasts, there are no winners in the game of love; all victories are ultimately defeats—only the game goes on. When Eva Dahlbeck, as the actress, wins back her old lover, her plot has worked — but she really hasn’t won much. She caught him because he gave up; they both know he’s defeated. Smiles is a tragic comedy; the man who thought he “was great in guilt and in glory” falls — he’s “only a bumpkin.” This is a defeat we can all share — for have we not all been forced to face ourselves as less than we hoped to be? There is no lesson, no moral … The glorious old Mrs. Armfeldt tells us that she can teach her daughter nothing—or, as she puts it: “One can never protect a single human being from any kind of suffering. That’s what makes one so tremendously weary.”

J. Simon:

Music influences … Bergman more deeply when he adopts its rhythms for the structure of his films. More kinetic scenes alternate with more stationary ones, agitation with sedateness. And there are the strategically recurrent themes. Thus the photographs of Anne that Fredrik picks up in the beginning, that he makes more of as he fingers them than he does of his trophy wife near the middle, and that get symbolically pocketed by Desirée near the end. Various clocks strike hortatorily, notably the cuckoo clock for cuckoldry in Desirée’s parlor, and the church tower clock with its circling carved figures corresponding to some of the film’s characters, a roundelay that first ends with a symbolically crowned female figure, next with the grim reaper. The dance of life, climaxing with the dominant female, can as easily become the dance of death.

Plastic Bag (2009, Ramin Bahrani)

An American Beauty plastic bag, dancing with me for twenty minutes. Only this bag’s journey is very well filmed and the bag has the voice of Werner Herzog – two innovations that would have greatly helped the last plastic bag movie I saw, The Green Bag. A blatant environmentalism screed, but I really enjoyed it. I thought it’d have the same ending as Children of Men, but it had the same ending as AI: Artificial Intelligence instead.

The Dirk Diggler Story (1988, PT Anderson)

An actual fake doc, but not a polished one. I thought it was rigged to look amateurish until I read online that it was actually edited on two VCRs by young Anderson. Narrated by PT’s father Ernie Anderson, a big-time TV announcer. It’s nice that he was willing to participate in his 18-year-old son’s movie about pornography, homosexuality and drug addiction. The most fun part of the movie is hearing this straightlaced announcer pronounce titles like “White Sandy Bitches” and “Bone To Be Wild”.

Dirk is explicitly bisexual in this one, but otherwise it hits some familiar plot points from Boogie Nights: Dirk’s drug addiction, his ill-advised recording career, his buddy Reed. There’s less nudity in the short, and it ends with an on-set fatal overdose for Dirk. My favorite bit that didn’t make the feature was a group prayer for God to protect us against premature ejaculation.

Horner (Burt’s character) is played by The Colonel in Boogie Nights, the only actor who returned. Well, Michael “Diggler” Stein had a cameo as “stereo customer”. He turned writer/director after that – his last film starred Andy Dick and Coolio.

Las Hurdes/Land Without Bread (1933, Luis Buñuel)

A half-hour documentary that has been discussed to death – how much of it is real? Can it be considered surrealist? Etc. Taken at face value as a portrait of an extremely poor mountain community, it’s well made, interesting, and too vibrant (and even humorous) to blend in with your average educational short. I still can’t believe they had a donkey killed by bees, and shot a mountain goat then hurled its body off a cliff, all to make points about the difficulty of life in this place. At least they didn’t kill any people on camera, although the narrator may have exaggerated (or undersold, who knows?) their conditions. Was released in ’33, had a French voiceover added in ’35 then a newsreel-toned English voiceover in ’37 – I saw the French version. I assume the bombastic music was on all three versions.

Senses of Cinema calls it “a documentary that posits the impossibility of the documentary, placing the viewer in the uneasy situation of complicity with a cruel camera probing the miseries of the urdanos for our benefit.”

The Old Lady and the Pigeons (1998, Sylvain Chomet)

This 20-minute movie gives me inexpressible joy. It’s a good antidote to the world-weary realism of The Illusionist, back way past the anything-goes surrealism of Triplets of Belleville into a pure comic cartoon world. A starving policeman dresses as a pigeon, barges into a bird-feeding old woman’s house and demands a meal, then does the same all year until she tries to eat him for Christmas dinner. Full of delightful little details (and at least one sad bird death).

The Italian Machine (1976, David Cronenberg)

“Let’s figure it out, Gestapo-style.”
A series of betrayals leading to an obsessed mechanic gaining ownership over a unique motorcycle. Made for TV, so people call each other “meathead” and “turkey”.

Beardy Lionel (Gary McKeehan of The Brood) hears that a collector’s-item motorcycle is in the hands of a collector. This will not stand, so he grabs his buddies (Frank Moore, second-billed in Rabid, and Hardee Lineham who had a cameo in The Dead Zone) and heads over posing as reporters to figure out how to free the bike from the boring rich guy (played by Guy Maddin’s buddy Louis Negin). Lionel sucks at pretending, though, so they’d be screwed if not for Ricardo, a dull cokehead hanger-on at Negin’s house who helps them out. Cronie’s fascination with automotive machinery peaked early with this and Fast Company, then came back with a brief vengeance with Crash.

Our beardy hero first meets Louis Negin:

Bottle Rocket (1992, Wes Anderson)

Cute sketch, with the Wilson brothers and Bob from the Bottle Rocket feature, plus the gun demo scene shot exactly the same way (just in black and white). They’re budding criminals, robbing Luke’s house then a book/video store, taking one guy’s wallet. No Inez, Futureman, Kumar or James Caan.

Something Happened (1987, Roy Andersson)

An AIDS lesson with didactic narration, illustrated with Andersson’s expertly composed setups of depressed-looking white people. One particular pale balding guy is seen a few times. It ends up less depressing than World of Glory, at least. Commissioned as an educational short but cancelled for being too dark

Within The Woods (1978, Sam Raimi)

Ah, the ol’ Indian burial ground. “Don’t worry about it,” says Bruce Campbell, “You’re only cursed by the evil spirits if you violate the graves of the dead. We’re just gonna be eating hot dogs.” Then he immediately violates a grave of the dead. Nice test run for The Evil Dead, with many elements already in place, like the the famous monster’s-pov long running shot, girls being attacked by trees, evil lurking in the cellar, knifing your friend as he walks in the door because you thought he was a demon, and of course, “JOIN US”. Hard to make out the finer points of the film since this was the grossest, fuzziest, lowest-ass-quality bootleg video I’ve ever seen.

Clockwork (1978, Sam Raimi)

Woman at home is stalked by jittery creeper (Scott Spiegel, director of From Dusk Till Dawn 2). He sticks his hands through her crepe-paper bedroom door, stabs her to death, but she stabs him back, also to death. It’s not much in the way of a story, but Raimi already has a good grip on the editing and camera skills for making decent horror. How did 19-year-old Raimi get his lead actress to take her clothes off in his 8mm movie?

Sonata For Hitler (1979, Aleksandr Sokurov)

Music video of stock footage from pre-WWII Germany stuck inside a ragged-edged frame surrounded by numbers and sprocket holes. Halfway through, the music mostly fades away, replaced with foreboding sound effects.

Music for One Apartment and Six Drummers (2001, Simonsson & Nilsson)

Drummers break into an apartment, play catchy beats in the kitchen and bathroom, with a slow bedroom number in between, then a destructive romp through the living room. But just as they finish, the inhabitants return. Clever and fun, and just the thing that probably should not have been extended into a two-hour feature.

A charming little comedy that never lives up to the expectations set by a marvelous opening scene: a drummer in the back of a van playing to a metronome up front, with the driver revving the car to form a bass line, ending in a police chase. The driver will later lead a group of misanthrope drummers through a four-part city symphony, first chased then led by a tone-deaf cop who is strangely affected by their works.

It’s an idea from a short film (Music for One Apartment and Six Drummers, which I didn’t watch beforehand because the AFF website wrongly said they were gonna show it before the feature) extended into a feature – and it feels that way. The first half of the four musical numbers (1. played on a hospital patient’s body, 2. bank “robbery” where money is shredded instead of stolen, 3. clanking construction equipment outside the orchestral hall, 4. massive electrical wires are played like a giant guitar by the rappelling musicians) were fun, but as the movie starts to follow the cop, his relationship with his celebrated musician brother and his infatuation with the leader of the noise group, it starts to lose me.

Netflix Streaming has got a bunch more movies I would never pay to rent, but which I might watch for free if I was sick or something. I’m sick today, so here goes.

Prince of Persia (2010, Mike Newell)
I see ropes and swords and Lord of the Rings fire-sculptures, and holy crap is that Ben Kingsley?? Donnie Darko has a fake british accent, and he just let his girlfriend fall into the pit of hell before unleashing a crazy amount of ‘splosions and triggering a muted montage of flashback snippets. Then Donnie, who long ago became less cool than his big sister Maggie Darko, discovers that the movie was just a dream he saw in the handle of his magic dagger. All I remember from the video game is that your little man had a more human-like gait than was usual for video games, and it was incredibly hard to avoid falling into pits. As I type this, Donnie is telling a beardy fellow to “listen to your heart.” So it’s safe to say the movie isn’t much like the game, except when the girl fell into that pit.

The Men Who Stare At Goats (2009, Grant Heslov)
“Larry’s dead,” are the first words I hear… guess I won’t be seeing Kevin Spacey. Still holding out hope for Stephen Root, though. Oh wait, there’s Spacey now, wtf. Directed by an actor who played “guy in big suit” in Bug. There’s an LSD prank then all the army base’s goats and prisoners are set free. I’m not detecting much comedy in this comedy, so I guess it got dark and turned into a drama halfway through. Jeff Bridges and George Clooney escape in a chopper, Ewan provides poignant, anti-corporate-media voiceover, and it ends on a dud of a joke. Glad I didn’t sit through the rest of this.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2009, Niels Oplev)
A pierced punk rock girl (a “rebellious computer hacker” according to the Netflix description) talking with her mama seems sad. Later, some blond woman is talking about being raped by her dad, cue spazzy flashback with bland music. Punk girl visits hospitalized boyfriend, drops off secret financial records, he writes an article causing a mogul to commit suicide, and punk girl steals a lot of money and escapes to a tropical paradise. Whole thing seems anticlimactic and unengaging. But I guess if The Da Vinci Code can be a huge success, so can this. Still, at least Da Vinci had a big ending (the codex is shattered! Amelie is Jesus’s daughter!) to justify all the dreary exposition. This one wasn’t even exciting enough for me to check out the last ten minutes of the sequels.

Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl (2009, Nishimura & Tomomatsu)
Dubbing!! The fakest CGI ever. Oh, this is one of those direct-to-video Japanese teen movies full of awful music where everyone wears school uniforms. It’s not even as good as Tokyo Gore Police (they share a director). “When you gave me that chocolate, I had no idea how you really felt about me” should not be one of the final lines of a movie with this title. Oh, and Vampire Girl decisively wins.

Factotum (2005, Bent Hamer)
Hooray, Lili Taylor! Long takes + poorly furnished rooms = gritty realism. Poor Charlie Bukowski is having money issues and lady issues. Matt Dillon gets life advice from “Old Black Man” (according to the credits) in the unemployment office, finally gets one of his stories published. I don’t find Dillon’s poetic voiceover very compelling. From the dude who made Kitchen Stories.

Ondine (2009, Neil Jordan)
She is telling fisherman Colin Farrell that she’s not a magical water creature, but just a girl who almost drowned while escaping from something or other. Uh oh, some fellows with pistols and strong accents. What is happening? Colin and the girl live, are getting married at the end. Jordan made a bunch of movies that always look somewhat intriguing but not quite essential.

The Day The Earth Stopped (2008, C. Thomas Howell)
If you start watching a movie ten minutes before the closing credits, the hero and villain are always in the middle of some revelatory exposition scene. All movies are the same. Should you really entrust the remake rights of The Day The Earth Stood Still to one of the teen actors from Red Dawn? Earth starts shaking (I’d hardly say it is standing still) and sepia-toned CGI versions of major world monuments (and a ferris wheel) are falling rapidly towards the camera. I was excited that Judd Nelson is in this, but I’d gotten him confused with Judge Reinhold – who is Judd Nelson? There is yelling and guns and terrible camerawork, then something really stupid happens and I guess the aliens don’t destroy Earth. Shame.

2012 (2009, Roland Emmerich)
Here’s a movie that isn’t afraid to let the world end, or to cast Oliver Platt! I don’t see world monuments crumbling, just a big Titanicky iceberg adventure (Roland must’ve had some ice left over from The Day After Tomorrow) with people yelling and swimming through tunnels to close or open portals and machinery. Oh, surviving mankind lives on arks now, and Africa turns out to be the future, or the home of the our civilization or something.

Salt (2010, Phillip Noyce)
Another movie with a third-billed Chiwetel Ejiofor, and more awful camerawork – only this time it’s awful in a big-budget extreme-cutting sense, not the give-an-idiot-a-camera awfulness of The Day The Earth Stopped. Ooh, the president is down. A. Jolie, handcuffed in FBI custody, still manages to kill Liev Schreiber, whoever he is. The backstory exposition comes a couple minutes late in this movie, then noble Chiwetel lets Jolie escape to kill again. From the writer of Equilibrium (and Ultraviolet, yuck) and director of Rabbit Proof Fence (and Sliver).

Red Dragon (2002, Brett Ratner)
Emily Watson is in a super intense burning-house scene, then a big fake explosion knocks down Ed Norton. This movie marked the end of my needing to see everything Norton was in (Keeping the Faith and The Score had already lowered expectations). Ed’s in the William Petersen role (WP’s on a cop show now). After he and Raiff Fiennes shoot each other to death, we see ol’ Hopkins (in the Brian Cox role) writing letters, and oh Ed isn’t dead actually, and it ends with a cheese-headed transition into an early scene from Silence of the Lambs. Doesn’t look bad, really, but as with all Ratner movies it is not to be taken seriously.

A handsome young man with always-perfect hair and a boring, sickly widower father meets a vivacious girl from a turbulent household. And they fall in love, run off together, and it’s perfect. Or it would be, but the movie sticks with them long enough for her to get pregnant, forcing an eventual return to civilization, at which point she makes herself useless, sleeping around while he slaves to make a living and tries to save for their future. It does not end well for the couple. But at least they’ve got their health.

Beautiful, amazing looking film shot by cinematographer Gunnar Fischer, who shot all of Bergman’s most famous films in the 40’s and 50’s. Harriet Anderson would appear in some more Bergman films as well as Dogville and The Day the Clown Cried (really). Harry (Lars Ekborg) wasn’t as excellent as Monika was, and thus was only rewarded with a small role in The Magician.

Released in the States in 1956 as an hour-long edit retitled Monika, the Story of a Bad Girl, which is the version that hit U.S. arthouses like a bomb, shocking people who’d gotten used to boringly chaste homemade product like From Here to Eternity, leading horny adults to start frequenting foreign films, which continued until home video destroyed the trend since now we could see all the bare breasts we wanted at home.

D. Micevic:

It happens near the end of the story, after an idyllic summer between two young lovers, Monika and Harry, has turned sour and they awake from their idealistic dreams to an existence of poverty and acrimony. Monika sits in a café smoking a cigarette, about to bed another lover. The camera closes in on her face—Bergman’s calling card of extreme close-ups during moments of intense personal anguish. Yet, in an instant uncharacteristic of the director, Monika looks directly at the camera as everything surrounding her fades to black. The shot holds for nearly a minute, preventing our escape as Monika stares us down, challenging us to pass judgment on her. It would be easy to scorn her decision, but Bergman provides us with no pedestal from which to condescend. If we are to reprimand her, we must confront her directly. It’s unnerving and brilliant, and this moment alone is worth consideration for anyone even slightly familiar with the director.

Bergman: “I have never made a less complicated film than Summer with Monika. We simply went off and shot it, taking great delight in our freedom.”

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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For once, it actually worked out. I read rave reviews of a foreign film in magazines, a month or two later there’s an enticing trailer on the apple site, another month later the film actually opens – on film, in a real movie theater, in Atlanta. Compare to Opera Jawa: rave reviews in magazines, no trailer, two years later it gets two barely-advertised DVD screenings at GSU – and that’s still better than most Cinema Scope-blessed foreign films, which will never even see a video release here.

Movie has a striking look, everything so well composed (minus 10% of the top, which Regal chopped off as usual), really drew me in. An absorbing film. Bloody violence and death is handled unusually well, keeping the gruesome parts offscreen but leaving you no doubt at all what just happened. Not to say there’s no graphic horror – severed head falling into the pool, the guy falling out a high window and whanging into the building on the way down – but the horror was never the draw, movie was never reveling in gore, so when some is shown it’s more shocking. Yeah, I loved this.

Oskar, 12, has divorced parents, lives with his mom in an apartment complex, visits his dad every couple weeks, and gets relentlessly bullied at school. Eli, 12 in appearance, is a neighborhood vampire girl he meets and befriends. Eli’s caretaker-human, father-figure Hakan, moves himself and Eli from town to town, kills people and brings Eli the blood, but doesn’t seem too competent at it. A group of middle-aged friends starts to catch on to the killings and circle in on vampire and crew (in a very grounded way, no movie-hero vigilantes). Blond weakling Oskar gains confidence from his new friendship, starts to work out after school and assert himself, bashing his longtime bully in the head on a school trip. As all the threads start to come together, Hakan is killed, Eli is left to her own devices, and the bully’s crazed older brother decides to kill Oskar, leading to a breathtaking (ha) climactic scene at the school swimming pool. Ends with Oskar & Eli leaving town by train, Oskar likely to become the new Hakan, bittersweet.

Tomas Alfredson made a much-loved 3+ hour ensemble drama a few years ago called Four Shades of Brown, before that did mostly TV miniseries. Director of Cloverfield will supposedly be remaking this – a movie which is great because of its beauty and stillness. Makes sense. Sweden should respond by having Liv Ullmann remake The Dark Knight.

EDIT: Saw this again with Jimmy, because it’s still playing to enthusiastic audiences three months later… hooray!