June 10 – 16
I’ve stolen this idea from Film Comment. The only thing that’s different is that I’m not a known filmmaker giving you a list of the last ten movies I’ve seen.
Nostalgia (1983) –
“Unspoken feelings are unforgettable.”
The poet at the center of this movie says this to a little girl who’s wandered into this crumbling structure he stands in. It’s a set-piece only Tarkovsky could dream. Some alien land I know I’ve visited somewhere in my slumbers. He follows a clear, stream into this stone husk of a place. The water comes up to his knees. The poet’s a little drunk. He tells the little girl a story about one man rescuing another from a mud pit. When the two men were through with their struggle, that sit beside the pit and the one who’d been rescued says ‘You idiot. I live here.’ The poet finds the poetry in this. He’s a person mired in memory. The unspoken past blankets him with this deep melancholy. Space and time are not linear things in Tarkovsky’s worlds. The wonderous last shot of this movie is a true testament to that.
Loving (2016) – This could’ve been one of those films where they put the violin to good use. Notch it right at ten and pull the heart strings until everything is dry. But Nichols doesn’t do that. He keeps it simple and sedate. But not boring in anyway. Edgerton and Negga are flawless here. The people they’re playing were real people. They were simple people that just wanted to love and be left to do just that. There’s an earthy soulfulness in this movie that builds and builds until the world says, ‘Oh yeah, you’re right.’ These people were mountains. Standing the test of time.
Da 5 Bloods (2020) – The black experience in America as PTSD. The journey that Delroy Lindo’s Paul goes through is somewhat choppy and incoherent at times. Probably a lot like what PTSD feels like. He starts off as a MAGA guy! Maybe he stays one too. It’s hard to tell. Paul is a black, modern-day Fred Dobbs with a great, big ol’ albatross around his neck. The treasure here is gold, just like in Treasure of the Sierra Madre. And just like in Sierra Madre things like greed and ‘getting yours’ turn out to be futile gestures in the end. The mountains had their own rules in Sierra and the jungle has its own in Bloods. The difference here is that Fred Dobbs didn’t have son (that we know of) that represents the great redeemer. Future generations save the day. They always do. But have they for blacks in America thus far? There’s an answer to this question in the movie. Three white, French folks traipsing around the jungles a Vietnam, disabling land minds. That’s the only way to change things. White people have to own up and start disabling all these bombs we’ve built for suppressing other races.
In Fabric (2018) – It exists in some Alan Moore world of the British 80’s. Although it’s set earlier, it has this comic fascist-vibe of the Thatcher-era. Consumerism through fashion is given an absurd horror send up, where witches and a warlock curse a red dress and use it to make cheap labor in the end. Every filmmaker worth their salt seems to be obsessed with the outcome of capitalism. Here Strickland puts together these seizure-inducing montages ripped from old photos and newspaper ads. An intoxicating, occult ritual takes place every night on the television screen via a reoccurring TV ad. A Lonely-Hearts-Club is enacted out through newspaper postings and a telephone service. It’s pretty clear where advertisements stand in the war against the working class. Strickland weaves it in with such a Hitchcockian dark humor. And again, the shadow of Lynch prevails.
Perfect Blue (1997) – It’s a testament to this movie that you don’t know when reality is presented to you. Everything is so enmeshed. Fantasy and reality are one. Life imitates art or it’s the other way around. Just who is doing these killings? Who is stalking Mime? Is her online self her real self? In 1997 Kon nails social media before it even begins to take off. He nails the pitfalls of identity as well. The trappings of fame and trying to figure out if your art really belongs to you and how much of it belongs to those who interact and respond to it. In this age of swiftly, moving technology; what really belongs to us? Is your identity even yours?
Mississippi Burning (1988) – Gene Hackman is a good ol’ boy having a good ol’ time when we first meet him driving into Mississippi with Defoe. He’s mocking the Klan at the same time mocking Defoe’s uptight G-Man vibe. Just who is this guy? He’s smiling and having a good time in the middle of murderous Mississippi. He even finds time to pick up on a married Frances McDormand. We find out he was a sheriff of a small town in Mississippi at one point. And the way he squeezes Michael Rooker’s balls and makes Brad Dourif honestly think he’s next, is truly sublime. In fact, the idea that a movie has great big balls of its own has never been more prevalent in a movie. It starts with the that white freedom fighter getting his brains blown out and never looks back. It’s got a tremendous pace. And Hackman’s scene with Rooker isn’t the last time the threat of castration is used. There’s an amazing scene with a black FBI agent threatening R Lee Armey’s town mayor with a slit scrotum. This movie is pure, toxic-white-male energy on a hot-blooded alert.
Nocturnal Animals (2016) – Have you ever been in a relationship where you weren’t enough for the person you loved? They say they love you, that’s not the issue. You’re just in different places in your lives. But that’s a different kind of love to you. In fact, it doesn’t really seem like love at all. Through rich or poor, right. Through sickness and health, right. That’s what love is to you. Well, it’s a little more nuanced for some. In this modern world some people need a little more pragmatism with their love. For you it’s black or white. You love someone, you stick with them, you stand with them. And when they leave you because you’re not ambitious enough or wealthy enough, you lie in bed at night fantasizing about that moment when you reach success, and the joy you will take when that person you loved comes back in your life and you get to spurn them. This movie is a big Cormac McCarthy-middle-finger to that ex that crawls back to you, saying they always believed in you.
Schizopolis (1996) – Just what is self-actualization? Just where does it exist in the human mind? In Quantum Mechanics they say that by just observing a particle’s spin you change its trajectory. What kind of cosmic telepathy is that? This movie exists in whatever world we’d find ourselves in if the tenets of QM are correct. How many actualities can be produced in one human being? On how many levels are we playing or lives out? Do they all cohere into something that makes sense? Take a step back and look. I bet none of it makes sense. Probably makes about as much sense as that dream you had last night. Was it really a dream?
The Assignment (2016) – The real gender re-assignment here is the mystery. Whatever happened to Walter Hill’s balls? My guess is he thought he still had some by making this movie, but it’s just drivel. A man changed into a woman as punishment is just a terrible idea.
Persona (1966) – Is this a dream of an unborn child? A glimpse into the psyche of a mother unbound for a blip of a moment. When all the secrets and wonders of the universe are known in some cosmic, embryonic knowing. Before the unseen finger indents your lip and presses you to secrecy and welcomes you to the chaos of the world. I like to think it is some sort of template towards understanding something of this world. It’s right here in this movie that I don’t quite understand but know in my bones the treble of some space unknown.