Friday, August 26, 2016










Friday, August 19, 2016


Dionysis in '69/Vers Mathilde

Documentary filmmaking is nothing new for Claire Denis. Early on in her career she made documentaries on both Jacques Rivette (The Watchman) & African musicians (Man No Run). Abstract storytelling is nothing new for her either (both Friday Night & L’Intrus are examples of Claire Denis playing with story structure & surreality). I used to site L’Intrus as Claire Denis at her most experimental before returning to slightly more traditional story telling, but the more I think about it – Vers Mathilde, which came after L’Intrus (and is often forgotten about within the cinematic universe of Claire Denis) is just as playful & experimental as its predecessor. Vers Mathilde is abstract (the split screen format, the lack of traditional dialogue, the overall look, etc) but it also tells a story (the film documents the rehearsal process of dance choreographer Mathilde Monnier as she preps for her latest performance). Like Nenette & Boni being the bridge/link between Claire’s “gritty” period and her more “Dreamy” period, Vers Mathilde is a bridge between Claire’s dreamy/abstract period (Friday Night & L’Intrus) and her return to linear/straightforward plot structure (35 Shots Of Rum, White Material & Bastards). Naturally Claire Denis’ last few films still have that dreamy/surreal ambiance, but they’re nowhere near as experimental as her work in the early/mid 2000’s.

Vers Mathilde

Vers Mathilde is also another film that shows Claire’s fascination with the human body. If you frequent this site enough and are familiar with all my Claire Denis content then you know her fascination with the crevices of naked/half naked human body.

Vers Mathilde

My re-examination of Vers Mathilde  - which came after my appearance on the Claire Denis episode of The Wrong Reel - ties in with an old/underappreciated Brian Depalma film I discovered a few months ago.
I love when two unlikely artists share (some) abstract similarities.Claire Denis & Brian Depalma couldn't be any more different as far as I'm concerned so this (small) piece is a little unique.

Dionysis in '69

A few months back I had the pleasure of seeing Brian Depalma's rare/forgotten about experimental film Dionysus in 69 - A split screen documentation of an abstract performance piece (much like Vers Mathilde). It should be noted that Vers Mathilde isn't told entirely in a split screen format (but the best parts are).

I don't know if Claire ever saw Depalma's early film but the parallels between the two movies are uncanny at times. While one film (Dionysis) is way more chaotic than the other (Vers Mathilde) the formatting alone is worthy of this imagery comparison piece.

Besides the split screen formatting, bodies are shot in the same unflinching manner, and the idea of what performance art can be is challenged in both films...

Dionysis in '69

Dionysis in ’69 is a breath of fresh air for casual Brian Depalma fans like myself who always associate his work with the obvious Alfred Hitchcock (even though I’m a casual fan I still recognize his iconic status in the world of film).

If you showed me Dionysis blindly I would think it was a film directed by Jonas Mekas, Shirley Clarke or other experimental/anthology film archive-related filmmakers of that ilk. But certainly not Brian Depalma. At first glance this film fits nowhere in his filmography (not even his for-hire works like Home Movies). But after multiple viewings I’ve come to the realization that it not only fits in right alongside his more recognizable films, but it’s his only voyeuristic film that owes absolutely nothing to the style of Alfred Hitchcock (it goes without saying that the themes of spying & eves dropping in Depalma’s work comes directly from his infatuation with Alfred Hitchcock). I know documentaries are voyeuristic by default but the invasiveness of Depalmas camera in Dionysis is on another level. I mean…you can almost smell the B.O. coming off of the performers in the film (and can literally hear the pounding of their flesh banging up against each other).

Both of these films (which are under 85 minutes) would make an excellent double feature/study.


OJ Made In America is easily the best documentary of the year so far (with The Lost Arcade coming in right behind it) so there was no way I'd turn down the opportunity to talk about it with James (and regular guests Jacob Rivera & Kyle Reardon). Sometimes I have so much to say about a film that a 1,000 word review just won't cut it. This is one of those times.


Monday, August 15, 2016










Friday, August 12, 2016


At first glance, one wouldn’t associate Kinetta with the rest of the films in Yorgos Lanthimos’ body of work. And that’s understandable. Not only was his feature film debut made almost five years before Dogtooth (a movie that is often times wrongly credited as Yorgos Lanthimos’ first feature film), but the camerawork in Kinetta is a lot more rough & “amateur-ish” in comparison to the polarizing/polished cinematography we saw in later works like The Lobster & Alps (a lot of the hotel scenes in The Lobster are reminiscent of the Overlook Hotel in The Shining). Kinetta almost looks like a dogma film (it should be noted that before The Lobster, the use of music in Lanthimos’ films stayed close to the dogma-esque rules concerning music in that whatever music is featured in a dogma film cannot be added in post production).

But if you’re willing to get past the look of Kinetta (which isn't even an issue as far as I'm concerned), you’ll see that it literally planted the seeds for all the recent stuff we love like Dogtooth, Alps & The Lobster. It is my opinion that Kinetta, Dogtooth, Alps & The Lobster all take place in the same universe. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the characters from Kinetta knew some of the characters from Alps. There’s a strong continuous thread that connects everything in the cinematic world of Yorgos Lanthimos. Kinetta has very little dialogue. For those of you who haven’t noticed (or are only familiar with The Lobster) minimal/spaced out dialogue is a common characteristic of Lanthimos’ pre-Lobster work. Both Dogtooth & Alps contain a lot of empty space as far as talking goes when compared to "conventional movies". Loneliness (The Lobster), identity (Alps & Dogtooth), awkward dryness (Lobster, Alps & Dogtooth) and deadpan expressionism (Lobster, Alps & Dogtooth) are embedded in to the fabric of Kinetta. Even the basic plot of Alps sounds like a light reworking of the plot to Kinetta...

The emphasis on music: Kinetta/The Lobster

In Kinetta we follow three residents of a resort town during the off season. To pass the time they reenact murders just like the characters in Alps who reenact scenes from people’s past in order to help them get some closure.
I immediately related to the ambiance of Kinetta having went to college near Virginia Beach. I’m not sure if you know this but during the late Fall & Winter seasons, Virginia Beach is a (sometimes) strange, empty, desolate place depending on where you are. And that isn’t an insult (I know it sounds a little harsh). It’s just strange seeing such a popular tourist spot so empty for an extended period of time (I'm really talking about the main strip in Virginia Beach to be quite honest). Actually, the vibe of Kinetta kind of feels like staying on a college campus during Christmas or summer. On one hand – it’s incredibly lonely & isolated. But on the other hand, depending on your personality, there’s something calm & soothing about isolation (and it goes without saying, but when you find yourself isolated & lonely you don’t say much, just like the characters in Kinetta).

Kinetta kind of comes off like Antonioni’s Red Desert except with a slight tinge of dark/dry humor that one would expect from Yorgos Lanthimos.

Loneliness: Kinetta/The Red Desert
Desolate landscapes: Kinetts/The Red Desert

I’m not quite sure if Yorgos Lanthimos is trying to show the dreariness of small town life in Greece, or if he’s trying to explore the pointlessness of our existence all together. I’m sure if you seek out enough reviews for Kinetta you’ll find cases for both scenarios (or perhaps you’ll find a completely different analysis all together). I find it interesting that the characters in all of Lanthimos’ pre-Lobster films are all servants and/or caregivers of some kind. The protagonists in Alps are EMTs & Medical assistants. The wife & children in Dogtooth are essentially homemakers, and the main characters in Kinetta all work in the service industry. The existence of a caregiver can be depressing. No wonder the large majority of Yorgos Lanthimos’ characters are always trying to be someone else and escape their own existence. The more I think about it, the more I think that maybe Lanthimos is trying to show outsiders with romantic views of Greece (and other "exotic" lands) that it isn’t always this beautiful getaway that some people make it out to be (just look at their ongoing financial problems).
But Yorgos Lanthimos is tough to read. He’s very much like his films in that he’s a little deadpan and sometimes expressionless. So who knows what he’s really trying to convey at the end of the day. All I know is that all his movies are great and they bring out some kind of emotion in me.

I’ve never been to Greece but I’m sure it’s beautiful. I’m sure some places are like paradise on earth based on some of the pictures I’ve seen. But (some) outsiders have this romanticized vision of Greece as if it’s one big vacation getaway (same with places like Nevada, Hawaii and even Florida to a smaller extent). I would love to see more films set in places like Vegas & Hawaii told from the perspective of folks who were born and raised there as opposed to outsiders.

Revisiting Kinetta also brought me to the realization that there’s an incredibly strong parallel between the works of Rick Alverson & Yorgos Lanthimos (two PINNLAND EMPIRE favorites). Both directors have four features under their belts with the same progression & growth from one movie to the next. Look at the bookends of their careers so far - Kinetta & The Builder (Alverson) are both raw, “natural-looking” films, while The Lobster & Entertainment (Alverson) are a lot more polished-looking and feature better known actors (John C Reilly appears in both the aforementioned movies). Lanthimos & Alverson also challenge the idea of “humor” in the same non-pretentious yet provocative way (when you watch movies directed by these two contemporaries you find yourself wondering if it’s OK to laugh or not).
If you’re a fan of Lanthimos it’s important that you seek out Kinetta. Not just to see where it all started, but because it’s a solid film. I understand that up until recently it was a tough film to come by (I was lucky enough to see a screening of it at The Museum Of The Moving Image a few years ago) but there’s finally a multi-region DVD available courtesy of Second Run DVD that I highly recommend seeking out.

Monday, August 1, 2016


For 15 years Bertrand Bonello has been one of the most unique voices in (modern) French film. His work has been a regular fixture at Cannes (he won the international critics week prize in 2001 for The Pornographer), Cahier Du Cinema loves him, and he's worked with everyone from French legends like Jean Pierre Leaud & Aurore Clement (something we'll be getting in to later) to modern day French favorites like Mathieu Amalric, Lea Seydoux & Laurant Lucas. His name is also commonly associated with other forward-thinking modern French directors like Gaspar Noe, Marina De Van & Bruno Dumont (all PINNLAND EMPIRE favorites) as part of the now-defunct "New French Extremity" scene. 
Content-wise, his body of work has touched on everything from pornography (The Pornographer) and the occult (On War), to the struggles & setbacks that come along with being a filmmaker (The Pornographer)
Bertrand Bonello's work has been written about quite a bit on PINNLAND EMPIRE (he was also kind enough to answer a few brief questions for the site a few years ago) so it's only right that his entire body of works gets the "Cinema Of..." treatment.
(although Bertrand Bonello did not direct Portrait Of The Artist, I'll still be including that film in this piece given Bonello is not only the star of the film, but he essentially plays a fictionalized version of himself)


Whether it's something directed by (Saint Laurent, The Pornographer, House Of Tolerance, etc) or starring Bertrand (Portrait Of The Artist), you'd be hard-pressed to find one of his films that isn't surrounded by art. While clothing design is certainly an art in its own right, Saint Laurent (Bertrand's Yves Saint Laurent biopic) is filled with tons of sculptures and pop art. Large paintings are displayed on the walls all throughout House Of Tolerance & Tiresia, and Portrait Of The Artist is essentially about art appreciation...
Saint Laurent
Saint Laurent
House Of Tolerance
On War
Portrait Of The Artist
Portrait Of The Artist

with that being said...

House Of Tolerance/Rene Magritte
Tiresia/Tiresias The Blind Prophet


House Of Tolerance/The Doll
On War/The Wicker Man
House Of Tolerance/The Man Who Laughs
House Of Tolerance/Eyes Wide Shut
My New Picture/Vivre Se Vie
Jean Pierre Leaud as "The Director" in The Pornographer/Irma Vep/Last Tango In Paris
Deadpan expressionism: The Pornographer/Pickpocket
more art appreciation in Portrait Of The Artist & Far From Heaven
Tiresia/Diary Of  A Country Priest
Tiresia/The Trial Of Joan Of Arc
Tiresia/Blood Of A Poet
Mathieu Amalric watching David Cronenberg's eXistenZ in On War (Almaric would eventually go on to work with Cronenberg a few years later in Cosmopolis)


I'm a fan of Refn's but nothing is this coincidental...

The idea of starting out as one person and turning in to someone else over time is probably the most important theme explored in Bertrand Bonello's work.
In Tiresia our main character starts out a transgendered woman and by the end of the film she (reluctantly) transitions back in to a man. "The Jewess" (House Of Tolerance) is one of the most in-demand women in her brothel but after being disfigured, her personality (along with her face) changes quite drastically. Bertrand's short film on Cindy Sherman shows her chameleon-like/transformative work, and, although not represented with a picture, Jean-Pierre Leaud's character in The Pornographer is trying to change and be a better father to his son...
House Of Tolerance
Cindy, The Doll Is Mine

Bertrand doesn't shy away from exploring the (sometimes) naked human body. And it isn't always based around sex either (that's something we'll get in to shortly). Bertrand Bonello is genuinely fascinated by the curves of women (the thighs, breasts, butts, etc) just as much as he is fascinated by the abs & chests on his male actors...
Portrait Of The Artist
Saint Laurent
On War
House Of Tolerance

Bertrand Bonello doesn't shy away from sex. Sometimes the sexual acts in his movies are real (in The Pornographer he used real pornographic actors & actresses). The sex in his work isn't bland or boring either. Bertrand delves in to the taboos of pornography (The Pornographer) and the freaky fetishized preferences that some humans have (House Of Tolerance shows all the weird sexual preferences that both men & women sometimes have when there's no judgment).

But there's also a darker side...

House Of Tolerance

In House Of Tolerance we see Johns that get off on harming prostitutes while the basic plot to Tiresia is about a sexually confused & repressed man kidnapping and torturing a Trans prostitute.

The sex and implications of sex in Antoine Barraud's Portrait Of The Artist are pretty kinky as well (in one scene we get half naked men, women & trans women on the verge of having a casual orgy while later on in the film we see the character Bertrand photographing a man in women's underwear with the implication that things could get very weird).

The Pornographer
The Pornographer
House Of Tolerance
Portrait Of The Artist
Portrait Of The Artist

This category really speaks for itself. I mean...just look at all the women (below) that he casts in his films. Because there is depth in all of his work and not a bunch of fluff, I feel it's completely fine to celebrate the attractive women in his movies. And while most women do fit that standard slim figured physique we've come to expect from most actresses, movies like House Of Tolerance show his appreciation for  "non-traditional" beauty as well...
On War
House Of Tolerance
House Of Tolerance
House Of Tolerance
House Of Tolerance
On War
The Pornographer
The Pornographer
Saint Laurent
My New Picture 

It's already been established at this point that Bertrand plays himself in Barraud's Portrait Of The Artist, but this isn't the first time we've been given a fictionalized version of the French filmmaker (it's not the second time either). The Porngrapher focuses on an aspiring arthouse filmmaker (whose father just so happens to be a pornographic filmmaker). In On War, Mathieu Amalric also plays a French filmmaker, and Bonello inserts images of himself as a child in some of his experimental shorts as well...
Bertrand Bonello as "Bertrand Bonello" in Portrait Of The Artist
a young abstracted version of Bertrand admiring film in The Pornographer
The disenfranchised filmmaker in On War
An image of a young Bertrand in Where Are You With This, Bertrand Bonello?

While the majority of his filmography focuses on original/experimental subjects, he doesn't shy away from exploring the real lives of fascinating artists like Yves Saint Laurent, Cindy Sherman, and...himself...
Saint Laurent (Yves Saint Laurent)
Cindy, The Doll Is Mine (Cindy Sherman)
Portrait Of The Artist (Bertrand Bonello plays a fictionalized version of himself)

Like Hal Hartley, Charles Burnett and a small handful of other active feature filmmakers, Bertrand never shied away from short films, abstraction, surreality or non-linear storytelling after gaining notoriety. To this day he continues to make standalone non-conventional films that push limits. Some of these movies aren't even on DVD and can only be seen through bootlegs, illegal youtube rips or special arthouse retrospectives which proves he isn't always concerned about making money at the box office.
Ingrid Caven: Music & Voice
Something Organic
The Adventures Of James & David 
Where Are You With This, Bertrand Bonello?
Cindy, The Doll Is Mine

While Bertrand Bonello will always be associated with the newer/current generation of French cinema, he doesn't try to distance himself from the (European) films, filmmakers & actors that paved the way for him. The presence of figures like Jean-Pierre Leaud, Lou Castel & Barbet Schroder serve as artifacts/gateways to the past (I mean that in a positive way), while the presence of Asia Argento, Louis Garrel & Guillaume Depardieu (all children of iconic European filmmakers & actors) shows his appreciation for the legends that came before him and the talented offspring they produced...
Jean-Pierre Leaud (The Pornographer)
Barbet Schroeder (Portrait Of The Artist)
Lou Castel (Tiresia)
The children of Gerard Depardieu & Dario Argento in On War
Louis Garrel (son of Philippe Garrel) in Saint Laurent


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