Monday, January 27, 2020

letterboxd backup (5)

Support the Girls, Andrew Bujalski, 2018

Almost everything I read about this is more about the author's views on capitalism than about Bujalski's competent, but bland film.


As an aside: SUPPORT THE GIRLS is no more anti-capitalism than COMPUTER CHESS is anti-nerd or RESULTS is anti-fitness. There's nothing in here to challenge even a hardcore laissez-faire, leave everything to the marketplace view. Not that I would want Bujalski to make an anti-capitalism film. Almost on the contrary: By using the obvious shittiness of Double Whammies as a dramaturgical shorthand, he takes the easy way out in almost every single scene. That being said, Haley Lu Richardson is very funny in this.

Blonde Crazy, Roy Del Ruth, 1931

Love is finding new reasons for slapping each other every day and enjoying each slap as it were the first one.


Bourgeois life as offscreen doom, a force of pure, unrepresentable inhibition encrouching on the loose, joyfull mise en scene from the outside.


The dissolves are marvellous. Gestures sinking into darkness.

Captured! Roy Del Ruth, 1933

1933, when showers in german prison camps still sprayed water. Even when discounting the eerie resemblance of quite a few shots to later holocaust iconography, the first ten minutes are surprisingly dark for a film like this. Collective despair devouring all hints of individual agency. The rest of the film doesn't live up to this at all, but although the main stroyline is rather contrived and both main actors feel out of place in almost every scene, the Warner imagemaking machine keeps up the pace nicely and the crowd scenes are always impressive. Plus there's a gay melodrama hidden in there, somewhere.

Sweet Country, Warwick Thornton, 2017

Racism not as a function of cultural difference or individual morality, but as a natural product of primitive accumulation of capital. Some of the interactions feel stilted and (despite the sparse dialogue) overarticulate, but as a historical-materialist western with a knack for abstract imagery this is pretty impressive.

The Indian Runner, Sean Penn, 1991

I mostly liked this, very much an early 90s film. Somehow american cinema has lost the ability since then to make downbeat middlebrow americana like this without coming off as totally condescending (Mortensen's showy performance is problematic at times, but it's balanced out by Morse and the solid as rock Bronson and Hopper). For a long time, even the small tonal missteps like Arquette's screams work in the film's favor, making it more alive. In the last 20 minutes it somehow derails comepletely, on every level, with Penn basically doubling down on every bad directorial decision, again and again. It starts with an ill-advised musical cue (Janis Joplin) and only gets down from there. It's almost as if seeing, in real time, a fine instinctual filmmaker giving in to his desperate attempts to say something.

Private Life, Tamara Jenkins, 2018

The children you don't have, the books you don't write, the feelings you can't articulate. Private life as an economy of lack, but on the other side there's Kathryn Hahn. (Regarding form I have similar objections to this than to 20TH CENTURY WOMEN, but here the "symphonic style" doesn't bother me as much, maybe because it's mostly played as comedy.)

Balangiga: Howling Wilderness, Khavn, 2017

Probably the closest Khavn will ever come to making a Lav Diaz film. Of cause, Diaz would never use a historical atrocities experienced through the eyes of a child narrative like this and for good reason. Not without its pictorial appeal (amazing just how many great philippine new wave films were shot by Albert Banzon) but in the end, Khavn loses most of his edge when he replaces madcap structuralism with only slightly off-kilter magic realism.
(Maybe all of this is unfair because the film is really, deeply sad.)

Crimson Tide, Tony Scott, 1995

Light as information vs light as expressivity. Or, as Frank Ramsey puts it: "I don't trust air I don't see."

It´s Boring Here, Pick Me Up, Ryuichi Hiroki, 2018

Pretty much blew me away. A fractured, caleidoscopic Letter from an Unknown Woman filtered through the spaces and textures of provincial Japan (Tokyo being near enough to provide a constant reminder of what life could also be like). Time is in a constant flux, glued together only by a continuity of unfullfilled desire (to love, to be loved, to be someone else). Music and melancholia.

Strange Cargo, Frank Borzage, 1940

Just another reason to prefer old hollywood: Never would Joan Crawford let anyone bully her into not wearing high heels while running through the jungle.

The Man I Married, Irving Pichel, 1940

Anti-fascism, Joan Bennett style: The more she's being pissed off by Nazi Germany, the stylisher her wardrobe gets. "Heil Heel!"

There is no real sense of dread and terror in this, but I liked the economical, matter of fact mise en scene, which doesn't fall prey at all to the allure of nazi aesthetics (especially obvious when contrasting it with the pompous, fetishistic newsreel footage the film uses in one scene). Pichel seems to have been mainly concerend with showing that nazis, whatever else they might be, are also a bunch of no-fun assholes. Which remains a valuable lesson, I guess.

Words, Planets, Laida Lertxundi, 2018

The laid-back, relaxed attitude evident in this might be exactly what i've been missing in most avantgarde films, contemporary or otherwise.

The Crime of Dr. Crespi, John H. Auer, 1935

Schlock horror masterpiece, closer in spirit to Hershell Gordon Lewis than to James Whale. The bare bone sets accentuate the weirdness of the close-ups - horror is very much a matter of physiognomy, here. Auer has no sense of narrative economy whatsoever, but THE CRIME OF DOCTOR CRESPI is all the better for it - this is just as much an observational film about von Stroheim's way of delicately smoking cigarettes and having drinks with his child skeleton companion than it is a dark horror tale about him drugging his colleague and burying him alive. Strangely enough, it manages to also be a workplace comedy about nurses, doctors and their reciprocal erotic projections.

Roi Soleil, Albert Serra, 2018

There's enough classicist (royalist?) beauty in the framings to keep my interest up, but prankster Serra clearly still isn't my favorite Serra.

When Strangers Marry, William Castle, 1944

Kim Hunter believes the improbable. And so can we, while watching this film, for 67 glorious, poetic minutes.

Io la conoscevo bene, Antonio Pietrangeli, 1965

You think this can't get any better and then Stefania Sandrelli starts controlling a record player with her foot.

The Falcon and the Co-eds, William Clemens, 1943

Tom Conway's falcon is swallowed up by female spaces and desires, just as the whodunit plot is swallowed up by lewtonesque somnambulism. And then the sea starts to talk.


The rear projection shot of the two women standing at the edge of the cliff at the end is just as great as the famous matte painting shot in BLACK NARCISSUS.

And Then There Were None, Rene Clair, 1945

I'm not invested in the field, but I wouldn't be surprised if this is the best of all Christie adaptations, as it perfectly captures the core of her prose - the always strangely bloodless sadism as well as the sense of prearranged fate, turning every new murder into a somewhat detached, opaque echo of an unknowable original sin.

"And Then There Were None" already is as meta as a Christie story can get, with her organizing the mechanics of death alongside a nursery rhyme (more precisely: a racist nursery rhyme - it's almost too easy to read the whole thing as a comment on the impeding downfall of Empire). In fact, the structure of the story is closer to a surrealistic game than to classic mystery fiction. And Clair's playful, not-quite-formalist style plays along with this, focusing on small absurdities (the keyhole sequence, the cat) instead of haunted house routines; while also fleshing out the characters enough to not letting this turn into an academic exercise. A shame Mischa Auer dies first, though.

The House on 56th Street, Robert Florey, 1933

68-minute epic by Florey, spanning generations and decades, from the "follies of 1905" to the rush hour of 1925 - the leap in time signaled by a miniature, two shot city symphony; Florey manages to sneak in at least tiny bits of his earlier avantgarde passion in almost all of his features. Indeed, despite its oldschool melodramatic structure, the film is constantly innovative. In the second half, almost all dramatic and character development is depicted through card games.

Of the three men Kay Francis is associated with over the course of the film, Gene Raymond, her "true love", clearly is the blandest. Which may have been intentional, as he basically functions as an empty on which she can project her desire for domesticity. Indeed, although their marriage doesn't take up more than a few minutes of screen time, it is handled especially beautiful. When Francis enters the nursery, the camera stays back for a moment, letting her discover this new world of domestic bliss (which she will, of course, never be able to enjoy) on her own terms.

Later, when she says goodbye to Raymond in prison, he cautiously reaches over the screen separating husband and wife from each other - not even with his whole hand, just with the cups of his fingers. She answers his gesture, he kisses her fingers timidly and freezes into an awkward, completely inhibited position while she walks away. She is in prison, but he is lost, because he has no existence outside of her.

The Gay Falcon, Irving Reis, 1941

Despite several deaths, the plot unfolds without anyone being even slightly disturbed by it. This isn't a film about a ring of jewel thiefs; strangely enough, it also isn't a film about George Sanders philandering. He is smooth and funny as always, but he just isn't given enough room on his own. In fact, he functions more like a master of ceremonies, as an elegant glue holding together a string of vignettes centered around the magificent supporting cast: Allen Jenkins bodily reacting to a pinball game; Wendy Barrie ("I hate men") staring down an innocent waiter, in fact almost picking on him like an angry bird; Nina Vale (a fascinating, irritating presence throughout) vigorously brushing her hair, as if fighting a private war; Hans Conried cultivating, in his short appearance as a police sketch painter, his very own, excentric brand of arrogance.

La proie du vent, Rene Clair, 1927

Well, the car chase is good. And the scene with the cigarettes is even better. I wonder why this isn't used more often: smoking not as fetish, but as a more direct expression of sexuality: the desire to enter another person's body.

Dead Man´s Eyes, Reginald Le Borg, 1944

Not as visually striking and inventive as the first two Inner-Sanctum-films, but this has a weird charme all of its own. A film about non-reciprocated desires and about the absolute helpnessness of people when confronted with them. A sticky, tangled web of jealousy, guilt, blindness and deceit, all played out with an air of stylish, cool detachment. The female cast isn't quite as spectacular as in WEIRD WOMAN (neither are the hairstyles), but Acquanetta is a fascinating, irritating presence throughout.

Roma, Alfonso Cuaron, 2018

A bit too showy in parts, but there's enough energy throughout, thanks to a strong, resonant core: Cuaron's awareness that the desire to recreate the world of his childhood is inseperable from the misfortune of those two women who created this world in the first place, at the expense of their own desires.


Most heartbreaking moment: Cleo wiping the telephone receiver on her dress before handing it over to her employer.

3 Faces, Jafar Panahi, 2018

The relationship of Panahi and Kiarostami remains intriguing: The more the student finds his own voice, the closer his films mirror the themes and methodology of his teacher.

Therese and Isabelle, Radley Metzger, 1968

L'Année dernière à Mädcheninternat.

In 3 Tagen bist Du tot, Andreas Prochaska, 2006

Competent genre routines set against decent non-acting, mid zeroes cultural artefacts (the last days of fun punk, the very last days of vhs, clunky mobile phones) and a spirit of decidedly mild intergenerational discord. It takes almost no effort to completely ignore the fussy driving instructor, the awkward provincial cop, the wheelchair-bound father. Unfortunately the Jeff Spinoli type guy (playing air guitar while his resigned mother cleans up around him) dies first.
Lively middle of the road stuff like this will always age better than at least 90% of the one-note ego trip art horror films celebrated by critics.

No comments: