Square, uptight couple Paul [Bartel] and Mary [Woronov] have been saving money from their retail and nursing jobs to open an old-fashioned restaurant. Their realtor is coming over for dinner, but a swinger comes into their apartment by accident, Paul punches him and he dies. After a financial setback they realize they can get the money they need by attracting more swingers to their place, then killing and robbing them – “This city is full of rich perverts.”

They take pervert lessons from Doris The Dominatrix, and cut in Raoul the locksmith after realizing he’s a criminal, saving spare keys to apartments with new locks so he can rob them later. After Raoul seduces Mary, Paul follows him around and learns Raoul has been making even more money off the dead swingers, selling their bodies to a dog food company and their cars to a chop shop. Paul gets even and serves Raoul when the realtor comes over to make the deal for their new place.

Loan officer “Mr. Leech” (Buck Henry) getting fresh:

How is this movie so good? Obviously made by weirdos who chose to play the straight roles. Every normal-seeming person is a pervert in their spare time, and every professional pervert (like Doris The Dominatrix, and eventually Mary) is perfectly wholesome at home. Would make a good double bill with Parents.

José is a drug-addict filmmaker editing a vampire movie (Law of Desire star Eusebio Poncela). He meets Pedro, an extreme cinema obsessive (Will More of Dark Habits). The two are maybe not great for each other, or maybe that’s the drugs talking – movie jumps back in time to when Pedro was alive, while in the present tense, José gets high with Ana (All About My Mother star Cecilia Roth) and investigates letters, tapes and films sent to him.

José’s inspirational posters also include Viridiana wearing a Spider-Man mask.

Pedro is a super-creepy young man who only loves cinema and silly putty. He gets a stop-motion time-lapse gizmo and films himself sleeping, becoming obsessed with some hidden change that is happening. His camera apparently becomes sentient and starts killing people, beginning with Pedro’s large-eyed cousin Marta, while Pedro becomes hoarse-voiced, weak and withdrawn. José finally arrives, performs a blindfold ritual before the killer camera, and becomes pure cinema.

I prioritized watching this after Nick Pinkerton’s writeup – some of his best work.

Pedro’s address to José, dictated from the edge of oblivion in an unrecognizable rasp suggestive of lycanthropic transformation, structures what narrative Arrebato can be said to have … In Arrebato’s last act, which finds José totally absorbed in Pedro’s film and his strange quest, it becomes a movie about one run-down sybarite who’s coming apart at the seams bearing witness to the spectacle of another run-down sybarite who has come apart at the seams, both “reunited” on celluloid in the film’s inspired and singularly unnerving closing scene. If you watch the movie and aren’t keeping it together particularly well yourself – and who is these days? – this can all add up to a disquieting hall-of-mirrors effect.

On the run after killing his dad, Bradley Cooper wanders mutely into a carnival needing work and food and gets shown around by Willem Dafoe. Ron Perlman is there of course, typecast as a strongman. Cooper’s talents are gradually put to use until he runs off (openly, not in secret) with Rooney Mara to run their own upscale act stolen from mentalist Toni Collette and her late partner David Strathairn.

A couple years later in the plotty, less compelling back half of the movie, the spook act impresses Mary Steenburgen and he’s set up with haunted and dangerous Richard Jenkins. Psychologist Cate Blanchett gives him inside dirt on Jenkins then swindles him, Rooney dislikes his turn to crime-laced trickery, and after it all goes wrong he leaves town in a chicken car, wounded, with nothing and nobody, and comes crawling to new circus master Tim Blake Nelson.

It’s convenient when you’re a circus psychic that everyone in the 1940’s had the same backstory. The movie is as obvious as I’d guessed from the trailer, but the actors and the look of the thing make it completely worthwhile.

Long takes of people moving slowly, dramatically across a single room, an air of seductive repression. The blu extras say he films “beautiful women suffering,” yet this is far more tolerable than the same year’s Bergman, which could be described the same way.

Petra is Margit Carstensen – I’ve seen her in Possession. She is very lazy, whining that her mom wants to borrow money, dictating a letter to Joseph Mankiewicz to her servant Marlene (Irm Hermann, a Fassbinder associate from the start). When friend Katrin Schaake visits she brings along young Hanna Schygulla. Hanna is married, husband off in Australia, seems unsophisticated. Petra gets her alone, offers her money and seduces her into a modeling job.

Katrin and Petra:

Hanna’s grand entrance:

Next time we see them, they’re gripey with each other and the power tables have turned, Hanna seeming to be in control of Petra’s actions and emotions. She learns that her husband has come to Germany, abruptly breaks up with Petra and leaves – so we saw their first and last day together. The next day Petra’s classist daughter visits (Eva Mattes, murdered wife of Woyzeck), Petra has a drunken breakdown in front of everyone, and Marlene finally leaves her.

Marlene:

Not the new feature, but the director’s early gay art film, before the technical innovation of sync dialogue. Definitely connected to the new film – one doctor’s body keeps growing mysterious organs – the word “secretions” appears often.

“I am Adrian Tripod, the director of this place, the House of Skin. In a sense, my present incarnation was generated by the mad dermatologist Antoine Rouge. The House of Skin began its existence as a residential clinic for wealthy patients who were treated for severely pathological skin conditions induced by contemporary cosmetics.”

Most of the the women in Canada are dead from Rouge’s Malady. Our narrator reports that mad prophet Antoine Rouge had disappeared after seizing control, the House now fallen into the hands of two interns. Our guy visits the Institute of Neo-Venereal Disease and spends a good amount of time giving foot rubs, is later invited to join a pedophile conspiracy worshipping underground spheres.

I’d seen this before – I think it was a bootleg VHS alongside Stereo – mainly leaving an impression from the architecture and the way it’s presented, which I still think about. The color of the HD restoration is really great, and the ideas are groovy, so I was being generous while watching, telling myself “the movie is not long and slow, the sound loops are not annoying,” but it is and they are. Glad to revisit it anyway – anticipation is very high for the new one.

A stagebound musical comedy Bergman released in 1975 in between some of his most severe movies.

Prince Tamino is rescued from a dragon by three women who fight over him while he’s still comatose. Papageno is a cheerful fellow in green with panpipes. Despite their seeming useless, Prince and Papa are roped into a rescue mission by the queen, given the flute, and assigned guardian spirits (three boys in a hot air balloon). The rest is a long, tiresome adventure, all meant to look like it’s happening onstage (with cutaway closeups of audience members). I did enjoy when the Prince bumped into a librarian when seeking the Evil Sarastro, and they argue since the librarian sees Sarastro as a wise king and the Prince as a stupid intruder. It turns out both sides want the prince to marry the princess, so all’s well, but the queen still wants to fight, so she teams up with an Evil Black Man for a final showdown against Sarastro and company. I may have gotten into jazz this year, but opera is a step too far. Conclusion: Mozart is boring.

Sarastro would later narrate Lars von Trier’s The Kingdom:


The Magic Flute (1946, Paul Grimault)

No feuding royalty and beautiful daughters here. A colorful birdie transforms into a magic flute that makes people dance themselves into trouble, and the Chimney Thief uses it to barge into a castle and torment everyone inside.

I kept holding onto these until I watched more TV, then I didn’t watch more TV… can’t seem to get to episode two of Underground Railroad or the second half of Only Murders or to start the new seasons of any of my current faves, just chilling with old movies for now.


Voir (2021)

I thought these would be Story of Film clip shows, but the first episode is mostly original photography. It’s about the summer of Jaws, with a reference to the spider eggs in Bubble Yum. 2: Tony Zhou on Lady Vengeance and the revenge film formulas – this one’s a total clip show with guest speakers, and is really nice. 3: we see the narrator, Drew McWeeny on lead-character likeability, from Lawrence of Arabia through The Godfather to Taxi Driver. Funny that he’s talking about the rise of obnoxious lead characters in the late 60s/early 70s the night after I watched Performance. 4: no film critic monologue here, it’s a special on the art of animated character design, featuring Glen Keane and artists from Brave and The Lego Movie. 5: Movies vs. TV, ehhh. 6: Simply about race in the movie 48 Hrs., but well thought-out and easily better than the last couple, which were more technical. This series was David Prior’s follow-up to The Empty Man, weirdly enough.


Travel Man season 1 (2015)

Tempted to watch The Souvenir Part II for a few sweet glimpses of Richard Ayoade, instead I discovered he spent eight years hosting reality TV shows, so I dug one up. Season one covers Barcelona with Kathy Burke… Istanbul with Adam Hills… Iceland with Jessica Hynes (Spaced), the best episode yet, and the place I most want to visit… and Marrakesh w Stephen Mangan (“The beauty is largely offset by fear”). More, please.

Washed up porn star Mikey returns home defeated to his estranged wife Lexi and hangs at her mom Lil’s house in Texas while going on “job interviews.” He ends up selling weed for family friend Judy Hill (World’s on Fire), befriending next door neighbor Lonnie for his car and hanging at a donut shop to sell drugs to customers. Then he hits on the idea of getting the donut shop girl into the porn business – “she’s my way back in.”

The whole thing sounds dour and desperate, but as noted in the reviews, Mikey (Simon Rex of Bodied) is a real treat to watch, a gloriously charismatic car wreck who eventually helps cause an actual car wreck – Lonnie going to jail for fleeing a 22-car pileup was an unexpected twist. Mikey’s plan almost works, but in the end he’s robbed and kicked out of town, for the greater good.

Baker drops a key to Mikey’s character in an InsideHook interview, having spoken with suitcase pimps with “a toxic effect on other people that they cross paths with … We’d heard a lot of stories from these guys, and they always felt like they were being sabotaged.”

Lonnie:

Baker in Filmmaker:

Right now in the US, we’re leaning towards virtue-signaling way too much. There’s a place for that in mainstream cinema. Like, if you’re making an Avengers film, hitting all the checkmarks and making it as diverse and inclusionary as possible, that’s important because that’s mainstream popcorn-cinema meant for children. That’s different. This is made for adults.

Gorgeous nature footage with French voiceover, from the Winged Migration people. It introduces skits of Early Man into the natural world, and as human civilization advances the movie builds to a second half about how we’re destroying the environment and murdering all the beauty from the first half.