Recently Watched Films 2020

Not the stuff on your shower tiles.

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Dan Warburton
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

Post by Dan Warburton »

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Roy Andersson, About Endlessness, 2019

Am I the only one who doesn't like this much? Seems the reviews I see online are all uniformly glowing (take your pick, go Google) - but in choosing to truncate each of his mini-sketches before the punchline we're left (intentionally, I guess) in a void, in one of the director's typically pale, empty spaces where we're supposed to join the dots and make sense of it all. What made Songs from the Second Floor and You, The Living so delightful was the sense of humour, which is almost entirely absent here: some of the sketches are decidedly grim (the condemned man about to be shot, the crucifixion scene, the Hitler bunker..), and the strange voiceover commentary (spoken by the woman who's floating above the ruined city in a Chagall-like montage?) isn't likely to raise much of a smile either. Maybe that's the point, as I say - if it's a reflection of the director's own mindset I can only assume Roy is a thoroughly miserable chap. Or maybe it's a Swedish thing (is it, Henrik?). Whatever, stylistically Andersson's got it down to a tee: those beautifully-framed tableaux (no close ups - almost impossible to read any facial emotion at all), eternally grey skies, grey costumes (I've always thought he was inspired on all this by Tati's Play Time, even if it didn't feature in his list of ten favourite films https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_Andersson ). You could freeze frame just about anywhere and be able to ID it at once as Roy Andersson, which I suppose is a sign of genuine originality. That said, I can't see myself returning to this one in the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, would love to know what you make of it, Henrik old chum
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Dan Warburton
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Elia Suleiman, It Must Be Heaven, 2019

THIS was what I was half-expecting the Andersson to be like, I imagine. Glorious! Suleiman travels from his hometown Nazareth via Paris (which has never looked so beautiful - anyone who knows and loves the city will appreciate this enormously) to New York, an eternally bemused observer of people and events around him. The Palestinian subtext is present throughout, but rarely made explicit. It looks like Peter Bradshaw didn't enjoy it quite as much as I did https://www.theguardian.com/film/2019/m ... -the-dream but he's right to namecheck Keaton and Tati (to which I'd add Pierre Etaix, who was halfway between Keaton and Tati anyway).
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henriq
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Dan Warburton wrote:
Thu May 07, 2020 12:02 am
OK, so it was shot in Hungary, but I'm assuming that even in the wilds of Sweden there is a) a mobile phone connection and b) a local constabulary (Henrik! Reassure me - you guys invented civilisation.. IKEA! ABBA! Ingmar Bergman!), and yet escape is impossible, because No One Gets Out Of Here Alive is central to Aster's storytelling.
Well, I'll gladly rescind any national claim to civility or culture seeing as we gladly eat abominations like this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJZYieU6Cgw

or this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lTMzGwneIMI

But yes, to answer your question, there are both cellphone towers and cops roaming the countryside up our way.

henriq
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Dan Warburton wrote:
Fri May 08, 2020 12:24 am
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Roy Andersson, About Endlessness, 2019

Maybe that's the point, as I say - if it's a reflection of the director's own mindset I can only assume Roy is a thoroughly miserable chap. Or maybe it's a Swedish thing (is it, Henrik?).
Is it? Andersson seems to be the definition of sui generis: there really is no other director here looking like him. (I remember a critic praising You, the living on release, ironically twisting the common charge that Andersson's style is set in stone since Songs...: three films in thirty years or so, meanwhile about a billion Hollywood-styled releases, and he doesn't change?) Maybe Johan Bergenstråhle approached a bit on the same territory in the seventies, but he was more bittersweet. Bergman is Bergman of course, and we do have both black metal and barren, deserted wilderness up north. I can't ever presume to say what is Swedish: maybe it's my obsession with all things French, Japanese, continental and exotic, but I haven't given the matter too much thought. But if this film breaks down into tableaus, if that's the only rhythm it can convey, then I can certainly understand if it feels a failure. I remember watching Songs from the second floor and feeling, yeah, ok, quirky, comic setup follows the next until you realise that it isn't only frivolous affectation - but a philosophy, an ideology hammered home through the crushing monotony, the steady, creeping unease of the film. And snaked through with humor, as you say. Lacking this momentum, it will fall apart into contrarian petulance.

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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Stuart Rosenberg, The Laughing Policeman, 1973

Loosely based on the novel of the same name by Maj Sjöwall (RIP - Covid) and Per Wahlöö , who more or less singlehandedly invented what's now called Nordic Noir, this is set in San Francisco instead of Stockholm (one thinks inevitably of Dirty Harry and Bullitt, but also - the car chase under the Embarcadero Freeway - The French Connection). Walter Matthau plays Jake Martin (the original unsmiling Swedish detective in the novels is Martin Beck) and has to team up with Leo Larsen (Bruce Dern) after his partner is gunned down in a bloody massacre on a bus. Matthau & Dern - great double act! A tight, well-scripted film, well worth checking out. Roger agreed with me https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/the- ... ceman-1973
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Jon Jost, Blue Strait, 2015

"For people with a very open minded sense of what cinema can be." That's all you get on IMDb, and what a bloody stupid statement it is. There's a perfectly straightforward plot here - tensions within a gay marriage (and yet another Jost film that ends with a suicide) - but the narrative elements are interspersed with static exterior shots (James Benning comes to mind) and are themselves filmed unconventionally, sometimes panning laterally à la Vivre Sa Vie (Godard's never too far away in Jost), sometimes with the two men digitally superposed (there's no conventional shot / countershot). Jost fans can also rejoice that this is a supersharp digital image - if only he could find a way to redo those wonderful early films so that they could look as clean.
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Michael Snow, *Corpus Callosum, 2002

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/*Corpus_Callosum gives you all the basic information you need. I thoroughly enjoyed this, though I reckon it could have been 15 minutes shorter without losing much. Snow has always had a great sense of humour - The Last LP is absolutely hilarious, and even austere experimental film classics like Wavelength can often raise a smile - and he's evidently having a lot of fun mucking about with his digital technology here. Funny though how some of the special effects have aged rather badly.. still the world in 2020 is a very different place from what it was in 2002. What a difference a mere inversion of a 2 and a 0 makes. I don't imagine there'll be many of us around in 2200 to make the next comparison - Snow once memorably said that things started going downhill for mankind when we stopped being hunter-gatherers :)
Last edited by Dan Warburton on Fri May 15, 2020 10:46 am, edited 1 time in total.
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henriq
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Olivier Assayas - Carlos (2010)

A period of semi-quarantined confinement and boredom had me watching all of this over these last two days. A great and draining experience, technically and aesthetically flawless, aside from a few very minor niggles:

The CGI throughout looks rather dismal.
The cops at the OPEC conference make the Keystone crowd look like a SWAT team. Surely, in the heyday of international terrorism that was the seventies, a few years after Black September in Munich even, police would be better trained than to bumble and stumble over each other like this? Call me cranky, but I like a bit of tradecraft in my movies.
Re the OPEC conference, I don’t know Vienna weather other than from Hundstage, but I imagine December would look a little more wintry? Versimilitude suffers a bit when text in the frame informs us of the date as December 21st over a tree in full bloom.

That aside, Edgar Ramirez in the lead is nothing short of remarkable - fluent in Spanish, English, German, French and a bit of Arabic as the sites and thrust of the action changes. And I love the scraggly English spoken throughout: I own the Criterion bluray, and as is customary they don’t provide English subtitles for the spoken language. The ear strains to follow what is said, the Arab, Hungarian, Latin American, French, Syrian, Iraqi, Sudanese, German tongues pressing and crowding through the veils of communication. I’ll give the last word to writer Evan Calder Williams: https://socialismandorbarbarism.blogspo ... index.html

“More than that, it's a bloated, hollow, sensual film, mirrored precisely in the body of Carlos itself, which passes back and forth from taut and muscular to hanging thickly and drowsy off his frame.  In short, the rise and fall of anti-imperialist armed struggle in the rise and fall of his gut, blood pressure, and blood alcohol level.  And it is not a one-way story: the narrative economy of the film hangs on the back and forth of this, in and out of shape, more or less fat, more or less drunk, reclined, sagging, over its 5 and a half hours, timed impeccable so your ending torpor becomes his.” 

henriq
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Takashi Miike - Rainy Dog (1997)

Surprisingly melancholy, this, from badass stalwart Miike. Part of a the Black Society Trilogy, together with Shinjuku Triad Society and Ley Lines, it tells the story of yakuza hitman Yuji, banished to an exile in Taiwan. Doing killings for a local crime lord, one day an ex-girlfriend saddles him with a young son he didn’t know about, and disappears. By chance, a family of sorts accrue around him, with the addition of prostitute girlfriend Lily. Can they get out of the life together? This has traces in it of Bicycle Thieves (man and boy), The Outlaw Josey Wales (the lone avenger/killer and the ragtag community forming around him), Kitano’s Sonatine (the waiting and inaction, the temporary exile on the beach), even a little bit of Oshima’s Shonen (“family” in quotation marks, both brittle and faked and a locus of care and love). Plus, the Taipei of the film looks absolutely gorgeous: the cramped concrete garrets sloping up the winding and verdant hillsides, the density of the Asian city, the flattening and equalising volumes of torrential rain, a true urban weather. And, of course it wouldn’t be Miike if there wasn’t a sharpening of the atmosphere, in the shape of a crazed hitman stalking (and befriending!) our hero. A great film, bref.

Dan Warburton
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Jean-Pierre Mocky, Snobs!, 1962

Delighted to see that Mocky is now Master of the Month over at Karagarga - and there's a lot of Mocky out there - but very few of the movies come with English subs, which I'll be the first to admit is a problem for non French speakers (I admit that even I prefer to watch them with headphones on solo to catch the nuances of the dialogue, of which there are many). Happily, Snobs! does come with subs, so I can recommend it without reservation to anyone coming to Mockyland for the first time. Basically, here's a rather wooden DeepL translation of the synopsis on the Mocky website http://jpierre-mocky.fr/ "The power struggle of four deputy directors of a dairy cooperative. The General Manager of the Dairy Company of the United Farmers is dead, drowned in a vat of milk. His succession will raise problems that will give rise to situations as ridiculous as the circumstances of his death. For four applicants in the race, it was a question of obtaining the dairy contract from the region's schools. The winner of the order will have the job, on the condition that he or she seduces the General Bursar. All means are good for Dupont who is using his contacts. Tousseur, for his part, does not hesitate to provoke a scandal about the Bursar. Laine, the third postulant, was content to recite dozens of rosaries so that the saints would intervene in his favour. Courtîn, the most cunning of them all, makes efficient use of all the snobs he is surrounded by and an easy girl he willingly lends to whoever can command him. This is how the directors of big companies are recruited. Just play the game!" That gives you little idea of the film's mordant humour - Mocky shoots down everyone in his path, no profession is spared. You can see why Godard liked Mocky - fans of Week End, JLG's most Mockyesque outing, should definitely check him out. I'm now looking forward to working my way through a dozen more Mockys over the next few weeks.
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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James Benning, El Valley Centro, 1999

First part of Benning's California trilogy, and very fine it is too. I'm always impressed by how much there is to see and hear (and infer, in terms of storyline) from what at first sight seems to be a collection of two-minute-long shots in which not much happens and which don't seem to be related to each other in any significant way. Wrong! Try making a list of these 35 shots and tick off which of the following apply: a) people in the shot; b) audible dialogue in the shot; c) readable text in the shot; d) horizontal movement in the shot (something crossing the frame from left to right or vice versa); e) vertical movement in the shot (in the case something coming towards and moving away from the camera); f) sense of perspective - vanishing point - in the shot. You'll find numerous intriguing structural patterns. Narrative-wise, JR describes four of the shots in this fine little review https://www.jonathanrosenbaum.net/2018/ ... ey-centro/ - but one of my favourites is #30, which shows a billboard in Stockton saying "where meth goes, violence follows". The composition is Renaissance-precise, in terms of perspective (you know Benning just didn't find that discarded shopping trolley where it is), and the ominous barking of an invisible dog, the empty caddy and the shabby street tell their own story. Great stuff, now looking forward to the other two volleys of the trilogy - watch this space.
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Georges Lautner, La Route de Salina, 1970

IMDb: "A drifter in his 20s, having just walked 10 miles through the desert, comes upon a diner/filling station and helps himself to the water pump; the diner's proprietress, an older woman - possibly mad - welcomes the young man in believing him to be her long-lost son Rocky, a volatile kid who apparently left his mother and sister four years ago after a family row." That basically sums up the story quite nicely, but of course everybody knows he isn't Rocky and we want to find out what happened to Rocky in the first place. Meanwhile, how about a bit of incest with your sister (Mimsy Farmer, perhaps best known for her Schroeder's More and Argento's Four Flies)? And mum turns out to be none other than Rita Hayworth, in what turned out to be her penultimate performance, nice. Add some groovy period music by Christophe, Clinic and Jethro Tull (yo man), some sensational volcanic landscapes (filmed in Lanzarote, which looks nothing like California) and some wild giallo-like zooms and pans, and you've got a real UFO of a film. No wonder it tanked when it was released, and no wonder QT loved it enough to steal one of its songs for Kill Bill. Worth a look.
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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I'm not starting separate RIP threads anymore, but I have to pay homage to the late great Michel Piccoli, who, I just found out, checked out a week ago at the age of 94. So many wonderful performances to choose from, can't decide which one to view tonight - yet. But maybe not the one above (on a diet :D )
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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So we decided on

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Louis Malle, Milou en mai, 1989

http://www.frenchfilms.org/review/milou ... -1990.html A good review of a fine film - read the former and enjoy the latter. For those of you outside France this might be the closest thing you get to a French summer holiday this year :)
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henriq
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Dan Warburton wrote:
Mon May 18, 2020 10:56 am
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I'm not starting separate RIP threads anymore, but I have to pay homage to the late great Michel Piccoli, who, I just found out, checked out a week ago at the age of 94. So many wonderful performances to choose from, can't decide which one to view tonight - yet. But maybe not the one above (on a diet :D )
Or maybe just the one for a diet - watching that you don't want to touch anything but green tea and chia seeds for a long time :D

Dan Warburton
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Marteinn Þorsson, Rokland, 2011

IMDb: "The tragicomic story of lone rebel Boddi Steingrimsson who lives in a small town in Northern Iceland. Boddi hates materialistic modern society in its entirety and on his blog-page he comically criticizes everything and everyone. Before long he has become an outlaw in his own hometown, just like his viking hero, Grettir. After a series of dramatic mishaps, he snaps and goes riding down south to the big city on his sturdy steed Nietzsche. He's got a gun in his pocket." OK, so he's not likely to win Mr. Universe in the foreseeable future, but, damn, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson is one hell of a great actor, and one of four reasons (the other three were his two fellow police officers, and the Icelandic landscape) why season one of Trapped is one of only three TV series I've been able to watch twice. And he deserves an Oscar for braving the waters of Skagafjörður (maximum summer temperature 8° - if you're lucky).
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds, 2009

Just reading a collection of essays on this https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/ ... s-basterds - not at all of them very edifying (the usual collection of PC blather, gender "issues" - whatever was wrong with the word "problem" or "question"? everything's a fucking issue today) but good enough to make me want to watch the film again, after a few years away from it. Verdict: I'm still putting Jackie Brown at the top of my QT tree, but this comes a close second. The (predominantly) Morricone music (I posted the list on the old, incorrectly-titled thread here about five pages and ten years ago) is really well-used - I must get round to seeing all the films Quentin nicked it from one day - and Sally Menke's editing stupendously good. Needless to say the idea of getting Jews to out-Nazi Nazis, not to mention the fantasy ending (in a Baudrillardian wank one of the essays in that book argues that it's more "authentic" than movies like Saving Private Ryan) still raises some eyebrows, but in terms of script, cinematography and acting it's an accomplished and still entertaining piece of work.
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Georges Franju & Henri Langlois, Le Métro, 1934

Using a borrowed camera and three rolls of 16mm film, Franju and Langlois (aged respectively 22 and 20, who'd just met each other and discovered a shared passion - film) shot this silent short - 11 minutes - celebration of the Métro mostly above ground, on lines 2, 5 and 6; my favourite Métro view, of the Eiffel Tower when the train emerges from the tunnel at Passy - line 6, direction Nation - and crosses the Viaduc de Passy (later immortalised by Bertolucci and Nolan) features prominently, delighted to say. Of course, it's rough and ready stuff, but there's a thrilling freshness to its cubist / futurist fascination with movement and machinery (escalators and lifts).
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Olivier Peyon, Les petites vacances, 2006

The late lovely Bernadette Lafont plays Danièle (there may or may not be a reference to Tatie Danielle there - though that's spelt with a double L), who takes her two grandchildren to drop off at their father's place in Switzerland (the parents divorced) only to find he's been delayed on a return flight from Stockholm and his new girlfriend seems too busy to take care of them. Danièle takes matters into her own hands, throws the mobile phone in Lac Leman (round of applause for that) and absconds with the children back across the lake to France. Quite why she does it is never made clear, but there's clearly a lot of pain and frustration in her background, and Lafont's performance is pitch perfect. Wonderful scene where she encounters a lonely divorcé - Claude Brasseur. There are some bumps in the road plotwise, and the editing seems a bit odd at times, but that didn't spoil it for me. No English subs that I can find, hélas.
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Peter Strickland, In Fabric, 2018

I thoroughly enjoyed this, despite its numerous and evident flaws (pacing goes a bit askew in the second half, and the ending is a bit.. well, you'll see). Strickland has always had a good ear for music, and there's Ferraro and Nurse With Wound along with the delicious gialloesque OST by Berlin-based Cavern of Anti-Matter (two thirds ex-Stereolab) to accompany this entertaining if slightly potty tale of.. a killer dress! I wonder if Strickland knew Alex van Warmerdam's De Jurk (see reviews passim) - the difference here being that instead of bringing bad luck, the dress itself is bad luck. Nay, fatal. And it has a life of its own. Don't try to put it in the washing machine, it really doesn't like it. Anyway, some wag over at IMDb described it as Dario Argento meets Mike Leigh (!) - and if that sounds a tad far-fetched, Marianne Jean-Baptiste played Hortense in Secrets and Lies, and washing machine repair man Reg Speaks (Leo Bill) and his fiancée of 14 years, Babs, could quite easily have walked right out of a Leigh domestic drama. As for Argento, Strickland's fondest of giallo's gaudy, gory style-over-substance was already on display in Berberian Sound Studio, and it's back with a vengeance here, notably in the trio of weirdos (vampires? witches?) who run the department store, including the spectral Richard Bremmer (Voldemort!!) and Fatma Mohamed as the spooky saleswoman Miss Luckmoore. But, more importantly than that, as Simon Abrams puts it in this very astute (beware spoilers) review https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/in-f ... eview-2019 it's a "slippery horror-comedy about the equally treacherous relationship between salespeople, consumers, and their possessions." Language is all-important, from the bizarre gothic patois of Miss Luckmoore ("dimensions and proportions transcend the prisms of our measurements") to Reg's banal soporific techspeak. Intriguing stuff, overloaded with ideas but well worth a look. See if you can spot cameos from Barry Adamson and Adam Bohman.
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