Saturday, December 30, 2023

BEST OF 2023...

Even though I no longer do my annual end of the year wrap-up, I still contribute my list/thoughts to both Wrong Reel & Toronto Film Review.

Click the image below to watch/listen to the newly formatted Wrong Reel podcast (make sure to subscribe) where some of the the unofficial "wrong reel all-stars" tackle 2023...


And click below to see the many different best-of -2023 lists rounded up by David Davidson of Toronto Film Review...



Wednesday, December 20, 2023

YANNICK



I normally don’t like when filmmakers poke fun at critics. Their “clap-backs” at negative criticism are either really juvenile or just not very witty. To be clear - I have no problem with a filmmaker defending themselves or even (momentarily) stooping to the level of an immature critic that crosses the line. Just be good with your response. Don't be flat or generic. If you’re going to take a swing at the low-hanging fruit - at least make sure that you knock it out of the park. Filmmakers rarely do this.
Quentin Dupieux’s latest short feature is an exception. I haven't been to excited about the 2023 movie year but Dupieux's Yannick sort of restored my faith. This story is an interesting case because Dupieux takes on the perspective of not only the entitled critic, but he also takes the side of the disgruntled artist as well. In the film we see an audience member (“Yannick”) kidnap a theater troop at gunpoint mid-performance because he’s displeased with their play. The basic story sounds simple enough but this film is very absurd (if you’re familiar with Dupieux’s films then you know he works in absurdity). Yannick is the product of The Exterminating Angel (a group of folks are trapped in one place and can’t leave) and The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie (the majority of Yannick plays out like a particular moment in Bunuel’s classic)...
The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie / Yannick

Any time someone makes a movie that’s considered “weird” there’s usually an impulse to compare it to either David Lynch or Bunuel. In this case the Bunuel comparison is fair. It’s also not the first time Dupieux has referenced Bunuel in his work…

He[Buñuel]’s some kind of master to me - Quentin Dupieux, tinymixtapes.com

Un Chien Andalou / Lamb's Anger

Men fascinated with women's shoes...
Viridiana / Reality


Quentin Dupieux takes on that brand of modern critic that trashes art because it isn’t immediately deemed a masterpiece or doesn’t speak to their specific needs. In the film, Yannick heckles the play and expresses his frustration early on in the performance and demands that the actors do something else (he eventually uses force).
If you’re on twitter, Facebook, letterboxd, tiktok, YouTube etc - then you’re familiar with that brand of movie “critic” that either tweets in the middle of a film to their followers or has their heavily edited video review ready to go minutes after walking out of the theater. When did you even have time to digest the film? Sometimes you read a letterboxd review and you can tell the person doesn’t even care about the movie they’re writing about. They just want to get a bunch of cheap (unfunny) jokes off.
There’s also that brand of critic that can only process a film through their own unique super personal life experiences and if they don’t see a character or scenario that relates directly to them, then the movie is considered a failure. I have yet to see a movie about a large Black, left-handed, kidney transplant recipient but I still manage to enjoy movies most of the time. I think more so-called marginalized critics might want to follow suit. You might appreciate movies a little more.

This is very much a "Marcus" movie so I guess it isn't for everyone. But with a running time of only 67minutes, I'd recommend anyone give this a shot. If you aren't familiar with the work of Quentin Dupieux, this is the perfect gateway.


Wednesday, December 6, 2023

THE SCHOOL OF PERSONA: MAY DECEMBER

I couldn’t not think of Persona when I first read Samy’s script, in the clear way that it’s such a unique example of a film that pairs these two women and where likenesses are being exchanged, or that one character is learning about the likeness of the other and trying to incorporate her into her process as an actor - Todd Haynes, Letterboxd
'
Persona / May December


I caught a handful of Persona-esque shots in Todd Haynes May December only to discover afterwards that it was intentional (click here to learn about Haynes' influences on his latest film). Normally, a filmmaker being influenced by one of Bergman's most recognizable films seems like low-hanging fruit but this is the first time Haynes has been so open about Bergman's influence (he usually draws from the likes of Chantal Akerman, Douglas Sirk, etc).

Below are all of the worthwhile references/similarities I caught (some super obvious and others not so obvious).

And in Persona, Liv Ullmann plays an actress who’s been stricken with stage fright and has stopped speaking. Bibi Andersson is a nurse and a caretaker, called in to look after her - Todd Haynes, Letterboxd

Persona / May December

That shot figures into the film Persona, but it’s not necessarily the shot you think of when we all think of Persona. The ultimate shot is where these two are almost playing as if they’re in a mirror, and their gaze turns to the lens of the camera. It’s like a dream - Todd Haynes, Letterboxd

Persona / May December

Persona did influence that scene directly - Todd Haynes, Letterboxd

Persona / May December

Persona / May December

Persona / May December

Persona / May December

Persona / May December

Persona / May December

Persona / May December



Friday, December 1, 2023

A FEW MORE WORDS ON THE CINEMATIC INFLUENCES OF JOEL POTRYKUS - PART TWO

The Firm / Ape

Joel Potrykus’ films have the unique distinction of being 100% his own while still being incredibly reference-heavy. Last year we delved in to his many homages & references (click here & here to read more). A handful of comparisons got left on the cutting room floor so I decided to post them before the year is over.


Some of these are straight from the director’s mouth while others are total reaches on my own part. Either way, enjoy…


Don't forget to check out Potrykus' own video montage of references over on vimeo (click here)


I consider myself lucky to have been so moved by Jarmusch's early films, because I'd be living a disappointing existence if I were trying to copy Star Wars - Joel Potrykus, Criterion


Permanent Vacation / Ape

Permanent Vacation / Ape

Permanent Vacation / Buzzard

Permanent Vacation / Gordon


We thought, if this Richard Linklater guy living in Texas can do it, we can do it in Michigan. We filmed ourselves hanging out and talking about nothing - Joel Potrykus, Criterion 


Slacker / Buzzard

Slacker / Coyote


Gummo– this is great, I love it, I can make that movie - Joel Potrykus, hammertoenail.com


Gummo / Ape



I was still trying to emulate Sam Raimi. Raimi is a Michigan filmmaker, and he was the guy that first made me feel I could be a filmmaker - Joel Potrykus, moviemezzanine.com


Evil Dead 2 / Buzzard



Last year we looked at a parallel between Ape and Cassavetes’ Killing Of A Chinese Bookie (click here to read). Hear are a few more…


As Cassavetes says ‘The face is the best landscape’ - Joel Potrykus, Bomb Magazine


The Killing Of A Chinese Bookie / Ape

The Killing Of A Chinese Bookie / Ape



Alan Clarke is one of my biggest influences, because his work feels more raw and real - Joel Potrykus, Bomb Magazine


Christine / Ape



Yeah, The Road Warrior. He's just eating that dog food out of the can. Ever since I was a little kid, I was like, "Wow, if the world goes to shit, you can find dog food or cat food and you'll be fine." I was always obsessed with that. Especially since in the first Mad Max, he's out in a field eating a peanut butter and honey sandwich or something like that. He's gone from the domestic bliss of peanut butter to the wasteland version of dog food out of the can. I loved that. - Joel Potrykus, avclub 


Mad Max 2 / Alchemist Cookbook


Mad Max 2 / Buzzard


Here are some more (non-confirmed) visual similarities that stuck out to me…


Mean Streets / Ape


A Clockwork Orange / Alchemist Cookbook



Monday, November 20, 2023

DARK HABITS: ALMODOVAR PODCAST - EPISODE 19


I made an appearance on the DarK Habits podcast to chat about some topics I'm well versed in...
 

Saturday, November 11, 2023

A FEW WORDS ON THE KILLER *UPDATED*


The main critique/commentary/talking point concerning Fincher’s latest hitman thriller has to do with it being a cynical/somewhat on-the-nose response to the negative criticisms of Mank. Almost like he’s trying to make up for something at the same time. I get why folks feel that way. In my personal opinion, Mank has zero original style. It’s also boring. The bad kind of of boring. This is going to sound harsh but it felt like...nothing. This time around Fincher made a film that was all about style. That ice-cold euro style reminiscent of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. The Killer certainly has a handful of exciting moments but for the most part it’s also pretty boring. But the good/interesting kind of boring. Imagine The Killer in a triple feature with Anton Corbjin’s The American and Jarmusch’s The Limits Of Control. “The cool silent Hitman trilogy”...


The American / 
The Killer


I don’t think The Killer is a cynical response or Fincher apologizing for anything (if anything, The Killer makes up for Michael Fassbender in The Snowman). I think it’s more of a “slick” response in that he’s saying; “you think I don’t have any style after Mank? Well watch this…”. He took the negative criticisms of his previous feature as a challenge and made a mostly fun feature length stylish music video (that isn’t an insult as Fincher’s roots are in music videos which are all over his latest feature).


Express Yourself / 
The Killer


And to be clear - there is a plot concerning revenge after a botched assassination but, The Killer is all about style at the end of the day (and maybe a deeper meaning about covering your tracks after a fuck up at work). That might not be for everyone but it certainly worked for me. 


Le Samourai / Ghost Dog /  The Killer


Naturally like The Killer pulls from every single classic hitman movie in existence. This is also a voyeuristic film so there are plenty of  homages to Fincher's hero; Alfred Hitchcock…


I've probably seen REAR WINDOW sixty times. I know his movies inside and out - David Fincher, http://www.musicolog.com/fincher_interview.asp

Psycho / 
The Killer

Vertigo / 
The Killer


The American / 
The Killer


Rear Window / 
The Killer

Vertigo / 
The Killer
Vertigo / 
The Killer

Rear Window / 
The Killer



Movies like this is where Fincher is at his best for me. Style over substance is the pocket I prefer Fincher to be in. Lens flares, electronic music, etc. But that’s just me. I doubt I’ll be thinking about The Killer in a few months but I certainly enjoyed it in the moment.


Wednesday, November 1, 2023

ENYS MEN



Somewhere between Robert Altman’s Images and Robert Eggers’ The Lighthouse lies Mark Jenkin’s Enys Men – an intentionally ambiguous psychological horror about mental illness, past traumas and the handling of grief. I also believe this movie touches on the psychological effects of long-term loneliness and isolation. The story takes place in the early 1970's but the residue of Covid is all over this. If “post-Covid cinema” is a thing then this definitely falls under that label (it was shot during the back end of the first wave of the Covid-19 lockdown).
Enys Men also belongs to the semi-recent “Persona-sploitation” category next to movies like Always Shine, Slow Machine, The Clouds Of Sils Maria and more…


Persona was the first Bergman film I saw. It blew my mind then, and I keep going back to it - Mark Jenkin, Criterion

Persona / Enys Men


I think it’s lazy to write this movie off as simply “pretentious” or “lo-fi horror” (these are things some critics have written about it). I understand not liking something. It’s completely understandable to not like Enys Men. But there’s more to it than just pretentiousness which seems to be the go-to critique when something is slow or doesn’t follow a set rules. Personally, I just find myself drawn to “complicated” movies and Enys Men is certainly that…

On one hand, this is the kind of horror/psychological drama one would expect from Neon studios. The type of horror story made for folks that like to romanticize trauma and connect everything back to grief. If I wasn’t aware that this was a Neon film beforehand I would have assumed it was put out by A24. 
There’s a lot of recent talk about the look and overall aesthetics of modern independent cinema and Enys Men is a prime example. It plays right in to that lane of modern horror movies that’s more interested in being mysterious rather than outright terrifying. Instead of quick jolting jump scares we get a lot of slow jump scares (?) if that makes any sense. I can’t quite put in to words - which is hilarious to say within a written piece - but so many movies under the A24 & Neon banners have that same aesthetic/vibe. Men, It Comes At Night, Lamb, Woodstock, Saint Maud, etc etc. Droany music, ambiguous plots, small casts, sometimes-beautifully shot minimalist settings/backdrops, etc.

Images / Enys Men

The Lighthouse / Enys Men



Enys Men is so vague and abstract that it can have an infinite amount of meanings. As the film unfolds we get a series of unreliable edits & flashbacks of some tragedy that took place in the past. Because the “plot” is so evasive I find myself drawn to the imagery more than anything else. And that’s fine. I’m not too caught up in the “meaning” of things. But even with the short 90 minute run time, after a while it feels like this should’ve just been a short film (imagine a 90 minute version of Maya Deren’s Meshes Of The Afternoon).
But…if Enys Men was a short film then we wouldn’t see all of the intentional Deren-esque/Akerman-esque repetition that Jenkin tries to highlight. Throughout most of the movie we see our female protagonist perform the same daily tasks over and over...

Meshes Of The Afternoon / Enys Men

Meshes Of The Afternoon / Enys Men

Meshes Of The Afternoon / Enys Men

Jeanne Dielman... / Enys Men

Jeanne Dielman... / Enys Men

Jeanne Dielman... / Enys Men


In addition to Altman’s Images, Persona, etc, Mark Jenkins takes a few visual cues from Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now. The red coat worn bout the film’s protagonist comes off as an homage…

Don’t Look Now is the obvious choice. Roeg’s influence runs through everything that I’ve done as a filmmaker - Mark Jenkin, Criterion

Don't Look Now / Enys Men

I also love his use of zoom lenses, which informed the way I shot Enys Men - Mark Jenkin, Criterion
Don't Look Now / Enys Men

Don't Look Now / Enys Men

Don't Look Now / Enys Men

Don't Look Now / Enys Men


An entire separate comparative study could be done on Takovsky's influence that flows all throughout the film...

For me, Tarkovsky’s films exist outside of time and space. I can’t imagine how a film like Mirror sat within the cinema of its time - Mark Jenkin, Criterion

The Mirror / Enys Men

The Mirror / Enys Men

Stalker / Enys Men

The Sacrifice / Enys Men

Stalker / Enys Men

Ivan's Childhood / Enys Men

Solaris / Enys Men

The Mirror / Enys Men



We’re only a couple hundred words in to my thoughts and I cant even make it this far without a bunch of comparisons. This could very well be a case of lazy writing/analysis on my part but if you’ve seen Enys Men and are familiar with my reference points thus far – I think you’ll understand where I’m coming from. Before the 10 minute mark you’ll be able to catch every reference I’ve called out and more. But that's part of what draws me in. Anyone familiar with this blog knows I'm a sucker for homages & references and this movie has plenty. Also - Mark Jenkin does not shy away from shouting out his influences (read Mark Jenkin’s criterion picks for a better understanding of how open he is about his influences).

It’s a bit of a cliché, but I tend to connect Bresson, Tarkovsky, and Bergman - Mark Jenkin, Criterion
Persona / The Mirror / 4 Nights Of A Dreamer / Enys Men


L'Atalante / Enys Men



Now…there were reference points I did not catch until reading about the film afterwards which helped me to reappreciate what I had just seen.

I like to normally use a single 26mm lens on a 60mm camera, so the equivalent of a 50mm lens like Ozu or Bresson – Mark Jenkin, Ukfilmreview.co.uk
 
Woman Of Tokyo / L'Argent / Enys Men


I like the idea of a horror film being influenced by non-horror reference points like Ozu and Bresson…

Early Summer / Enys Men


The opening shot of Enys Men is an homage to a composition of an ATM that appears in L’argent. It’s the kind of thing that no one would ever pick up on but that I know - Mark Jenkin, Criterion

L'Argent / Enys Men


Jenkin instructed his main actors to perform in the deadpan/Bressonian style:

What I try to take from Bresson is his attitude toward performance - Mark Jenkin, Criterion

Pickpocket / Enys Men

I can’t articulate what effect Bresson’s films have on me, that’s the beauty of it – Mark Jenkin, Ukfilmreview.co.uk 

Diary Of A Country Priest / Enys Men

Mouchette / Enys Men


L'Argent / Enys Men


And I hate doing this but there are some legitimate Shining comparisons. But it’s not what you’d expect. Instead of creepy children and endless shots of hallways – the film’s use of communicating through transistor radios reminded me of The Shining.

The Shining/ Enys Men

There are some other vague Shining-isms throughout the film...
The Shining / Enys Men

The Shining / Enys Men


With reference points like Akerman, Ozu & Bresson – you can imagine this movie tests the audience’s patience. It didn’t test mine because I like slow movies more and more these days, but I wouldn’t fault anyone for complaining that this was too “slow” or “boring”. But to be fair to the director – this isn’t exactly the kind of movie that someone just blindly watches. Some movies are intentionally alienating and made with an exclusive audience in mind. I think Enys Men is one of those films. If you're a fan of all the movies I namedropped in this review - then perhaps this is something for you to check out.


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