Victoria (2015)

 

My brother and his girlfriend were raving about this when I visited them in Germany in August and I’ve been dying to see it since then. Well, it’s at the Music Box this week and the local foreign film meetup group planned an outing. Man did I love this film. It grabs you by the throat and never let’s go, easing up only for a few minutes near the middle before taking off again.

It’s one that’s stayed with me too, at least over the past few days. I feel like I knew the characters intimately and it’s almost so much to process that only now is it sinking in emotionally.

A lot of the hype around the film was that it was shot all in one take. They did it three times and used the best one, working off of a “script” that was about 12 pages, so the dialogue was mostly improvised. I’m kind of on the fence about the one-take thing — maybe for an unexpected reason. It works brilliantly and never felt like a gimmick to me. I think if you didn’t know about it going in, then you probably wouldn’t think about it until after the movie was over or maybe midway though, wondering “wait, have they cut yet?” The story’s that good though, that you don’t check out to think about the technical stuff.

The reason I’m on the fence is that I think that it’s so good that it didn’t need to be in one take. Not that they shouldn’t have done it that way. Maybe what I’m saying is that I wish that didn’t have to be part of the marketing of it — I mean, it has to be part of the marketing because it’s a big deal and you want people to see it and the one-take thing helps. But I wish that people would just see it because it’s such a damn good film. Maybe you can’t separate them. I don’t know. I’m rambling.

I kept thinking throughout how spot on the acting was, and how well they captured a compressed courtship, when two people, both a little drunk, meet in a night and end up spending the night (or more) together. It wasn’t cutesy and compact. It was natural and tenuous and playful and really well done.

Left me with an aching feeling, in a good way. Just fucking see it, in a theater preferably.

Cronies

Another favorite from CIFF. I met the director, Michael Larnell, and he’s a really nice guy.

Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party

One of my favorites from CIFF, by Chicago director Stephen Cone.

Hitchcock/Truffaut documentary (!)

I read Hitchcock/Truffaut earlier this year. It’s a fantastic book. Hoping to catch the documentary at CIFF.

Some deep wound or hunger was imprinted on them early in life

Bunuel belongs to a group of great directors who obsessively reworked the themes that haunted them. There is little stylistically to link Ozu, Hitchcock, Herzog, Bergman, Fassbinder or Bunuel, except for this common thread: Some deep wound or hunger was imprinted on them early in life, and they worked all of their careers to heal or cherish it.

– Roger Ebert on The Exterminating Angel

Roger Ebert on The Exterminating Angel

Then, in a series of subtle developments, it becomes apparent that no one can leave. They make preliminary gestures. They drift toward the hallway. There is nothing to stop them. But they cannot leave. They never exactly state that fact; there is an unspoken, rueful acceptance of the situation, as they make themselves comfortable on sofas and rugs.

This is a brilliant opening for an insidious movie. The tone is low key, but so many sinister details have accumulated that by the time the guests settle down for the night, Bunuel has us wrapped in his spell.

– Roger Ebert on The Exterminating Angel

God I loved this film. And everything else I’ve seen by Bunuel. The Discrete Charm of the Bourgeoisie is still my favorite.

OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies

Such a funny movie. Great parody of the James Bond-type genre, like Archer meets The Pink Panther. I love anything with a bumbling French protagonist, one of my favorite characters to watch and play. Really beautiful composition and art direction too.

It sort of straddles the line between parody and satire — jokey enough to be a parody but with a definite message about Western ignorance in meddling with the Muslim world. And the chauvinism and “overt-but-playful-racism” (for lack of a better term) is so funny and done in a way that you know they’re making fun of it. And it’s distributed by Chicago’s own Music Box Films.

Smart, silly, and very funny. Highly recommended (Amazon // Netflix streaming).

This scene from Wet Hot American Summer made me laugh so hard

Susie: You guys, I’m really going to miss this place.
Coop: Me too.
Ben: Hey, let’s all promise that in ten years from today, we’ll meet again, and we’ll see what kind of people we’ve blossomed into.
Susie: Yeah!
Ben: What time do you wanna meet?
J.J.: You mean ten years from now?
Coop: Let’s meet in the morning so we can make a day of it.
Susie: Okay, so what is it? Is it like 9:00? 9:30?
Coop: Well, let’s say 9:00, that way we can be here by 9:30.
McKinley: Well, no, why don’t we say 9:30, and then make it your beeswax to be here by 9:30? I mean, we’ll all be in our late 20s by then. I just don’t see any reason why we can’t be places on time.
Gary: Okay, then, it’s settled. 9:30 it is. All agreed?
Together: Agreed.
McKinley: Good, because I have something at 11:00.
Gary: You just have like a trapper-keeper full of appointments, right?
McKinley: No, I just have something at 11:00, and I can’t change it, because I already moved it twice.

 

 

I don’t know why it’s so funny to me but it’s like the perfectly absurd twist on a commonplace situation. Same reason I loved “The State” when I was a kid.

The Grifters

I’ve been watching crime movies lately as I’m working on a crime/suspense/thriller/comedy. This was made in 1990 but still has that 80s look that I can’t comprehend. I thought it moved a bit slowly but I enjoyed it. I con-men and -women movies all day.

Wild Tales (Relatos Salvajes)

This is the best comedy I’ve seen in a long time. Maybe the best movie I’ve seen this year, although I’m not ready to put it above Inherent Vice just yet. It’s an anthology film apparently, which is a term I didn’t know until I started reading about Wild Tales. Great use of Advance & Continue, which is a term that Keith Johnstone writes about in Impro for Storytellers.

The stories push just far enough in one direction before coming back in the other (sometimes literally, like in the highway vignette). It’s dark and light and every story starts mostly in a light place before going to a really intense or dark place. But it’s fucking hilarious throughout; I can’t remember the last time I was in a theater where people were laughing so much. Actually I do remember and it was Almodevar’s I’m So Excited (Los Amantes Pasjeros), which is a movie that nobody I’ve ever met has seen and I just looked up on IMDB and has a rating of 5.6 so I don’t know what that’s about, that movie was really funny.

Anyway, what was I talking about. Oh, Wild Tales. One thing I loved was how high the stakes were in every vignette. It was mostly about normal people behaving in extreme circumstances or escalating to extreme circumstances, but it never felt forced or unbelievable. And the writing and acting was so rich that even when it got serious or deadly, the human behavior was so real or honest that it was hilarious. At least that’s what I thought. The kind of movie I wish I had written. And the final vignette, the wedding scene, was really brilliantly written, acted and directed. Little touches like the cook in the background telling his buddies about what happened on the roof were so good.

Nice play on words too — “salvajes” means wild but it also means savage, something that gets lost in translation.