Chelovek s kino-apparatom; AKA Living Russia, or the Man With the Movie Camera
DIRECTED BY: Dziga Vertov
FEATURING: Mikhail Kaufman (cameraman)
PLOT: A plotless record of twenty four hours of life in the Soviet Union of 1929, exhibited
through series of experimental camera tricks.
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Man with the Movie Camera is a visually inventive, historically important and formally deep movie that reveals more secrets with each viewing; but, the only quality in it that might be called “weird” are the surreal camera tricks it occasionally employs. It’s a movie that demands space on the shelf of anyone seriously interested in editing techniques or film theory, but as far as weirdness goes, it’s purely supplemental viewing.
COMMENTS: Reviews of Man with a Movie Camera often spend as much, if not more, time discussing the history and philosophy of the production and its influence on future films than they do describing what’s actually in the movie. That’s because the challenge the movie sets for itself—to create a “truly international absolute language of cinema based on its total separation from the language of theater and literature”—is more fascinating than the film’s subject matter (the daily lives of Soviet citizens in 1929). On a technical level, Movie Camera is a catalog of editing techniques and camera tricks, many of which were pioneered in this film but are commonplace or obsolete now. Be on the lookout for double exposures, tricks of perspective, slowing down or speeding up the camera speed, freeze-frames, reversed footage, split screens, and even crude stop-motion animation. One of the most interesting techniques is the amphetaminic editing of Movie Camera‘s climax, which moves almost too fast for the eye or mind to follow (a technique Guy Maddin would fall in love with and use to ultra-weird effect in the Constructivist/Surrealist hybrid The Heart of the World). Structurally, the film flows along as a series of counterpoints, alternating between two sets of scenes to create ironic contrasts (cross-cutting a funeral procession and the birth of a baby), metaphors (scenes of soot-covered workers Continue reading CAPSULE: MAN WITH THE MOVIE CAMERA (1929)→
Here’s what we’ll be screening next week: every film geek’s favorite avant-garde propaganda documentary, The Man With a Movie Camera (1929); the minimalist Western Meek’s Cutoff (2011); Careful (1992), another Freudian/Expressionist stew from Guy Maddin, this one set in a repressed Alpine village plagued by avalanches; and more Busby Berkeley musical misogynist madness courtesy of Gold Diggers of 1933.
As we begin our review of the candidates for our Weirdest Search Term of the Week contest, we wish to highlight a surprisingly persistent fallacy: many searchers out there believe that Google is psychic. How else to explain searches for “weird movies that i like” and “what was this film about?” To get one more preliminary mention out of the way, we’d like to give special recognition to “onlion saxy grail and hores” for being the only search term we’ve ever seen that does not bring up a porn site in the first page of Google results. That’s some impressive mangling of the English language! On to our standard contestants: we really liked “free longpantys” (for some reason we like to imagine “Longpantys” is the pseudonym of some sort of feminist rabble rouser who’s been imprisoned in Iran, but that’s just us). The judges were also impressed with “hustler sad clown and his love nurse,” which might be the title of an abandoned Larry Flynt video project. But nothing caught our attention like “adult diaper rubber pants made in thailand burnout video,” which gave us a startling mental image while warning us about a potential geriatric health catastrophe, thus earning right to be named 366 Weird Movies’ Weirdest Search Term of the Week.
Here’s how the ridiculously-long-and-ever-growing reader-suggested review queue looks at this moment in history: Careful (next week!); “My Wrongs 8245-8249 and 117″; Dellamorte Dellamore [AKA Cemetery Man]; The Hour-glass Sanatorium [Saanatorium pod klepsidra] (out of print in Continue reading WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE→
A look at what’s weird in theaters, on hot-off-the-presses DVDs, and on more distant horizons…
Trailers of new release movies are generally available on the official site links.
IN THEATERS (WIDE RELEASE):
Dark Shadows: The accursed vampire Barnabas Collins (from the cult Gothic soap opera “Dark Shadows”) is resurrected in the 1970s and has trouble fitting in to wacky disco culture. No offense intended to the once-great Tim Burton, but lately, every time you make a movie, it causes a little piece of our collective soul to die. Dark Shadows official site.
IN THEATERS (LIMITED RELEASE):
You Are Here (2010): This Canadian festival eye-opener concerns a woman who discovers various artifacts and disconnected clues hinting at some metaphysical mystery; it’s self-described as a “Borgesian fantasy” and a “meta-detective story.” Opening at ReRun Gastropub in NYC, with late summer dates in Toronto and Edmonton to follow. We’ll look for it on DVD. You Are Here official site.
FILM FESTIVALS: CANNES (Cannes, France May 16 – 27)
Unlike past years, Cannes didn’t sneak up on us in 2012. The slate is fairly manageable this year, with Leos Carax’s Holy Motors the only title we’re truly enamored with (it’s the only weirdish movie playing “in competition,” that is to say, eligible for the Palme D’or). The last two Palme D’or winners (The Tree of Life and Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives) went on to even greater honors (they were Certified Weird by 366 Weird Movies); we predict that unlikely trend will end this year (though we certainly hope not). We’ll be keeping an eye on a couple of possibly-weird films screening in the “Un Certain Regard” category and movies playing out-of-competition: check below to see what caught our eye this year.
Antiviral – Here’s a bizarre premise: adventures in an underground trade supplying fans with viruses taken from their favorite celebrities. The debut of Brandon (son of David) Cronenberg. Cronenberg Sr. will also be at Cannes with Cosmopolis, a (non-weird) adaptation of a Don Delilo novel. Antiviral is playing in the Un Certain Regard category (ironically, his father’s film Crash was the impetus for creating this category, which was invented to keep wickedly weird films from winning the big prize).
Beasts of the Southern Wild – A six-year old girl named Hushpuppy contracts a fever, which ushers in the apocalypse and a plague of prehistoric creatures called aurochs. This one debuted at Sundance. Un Certain Regard.
For Love’s Sake [Ai to Makoto] – Judging by the trailer (which is all we have to go on), the latest from extreme provocateur Takashi Miike appears to be a musical comedy based on “West Side Story.” Playing out of competition.
Holy Motors – A mysterious man named Monsieur Oscar drives through Paris one night, cycling through various personas. From too-infrequently seen director Leos Carax, and with an exciting cast mixing fresh faces with weird movie vets: Denis Lavant, Edith Scob, Michel Piccoli, Eva Mendes… Playing in competition.
Meekong Hotel – A surprise entry from “Joe” (Apichatpong Weerasethakul); this movie is still listed as “in production” by IMDB, but is showing up for a “special screening” at 61 minutes. The synopsis is not too much help, but the film “shuffles different realms, fact and fiction” and appears to deal with actors making another movie at the titular hotel.
Ganja and Hess (1973): Professor Hess (Duane Jones of Night of the Living Dead) is stabbed by an African knife and becomes an immortal bloodsucker. Playwright Bill Gunn was hired to deliver a black horror movie a la Blacula, but instead created a surreal art film that thrilled French critics at Cannes and bombed in 42nd Street theaters. If nothing else, this seldom-seen film is a major curiosity and gets an appropriate remastering from Kino Classics. Buy Ganja & Hess.
Lady of the Dark: Genesis of the Serpent Vampire (2011): A woman (named “Eve Dark”) is bitten by a snake and turns into a vampire. The director is credited on IMBD with 35 titles in just six years of filmmaking, mostly conspiracy documentaries like Alien from Area 51 and The Murder of Mary Magdalene! We think this will be inevitably odd. Buy Lady of the Dark: Genesis of the Serpent Vampire.
Metropolis [Osamu Tezuka’s Metropolis] (2001): A detective and his boy sidekick search for a cyborg girl created by a mad scientist in a future world where robot slaves live under a massive city. Not quite an uncredited anime remake of Fritz Lang‘s Metropolis, but pretty darn close to it. Watch Metropolis free on YouTube.
What are you looking forward to? If you have any weird movie leads that I have overlooked, feel free to leave them in the COMMENTS section.
Busby Berkeley co-directed Dames (1934) with ho-hum stock director Ray Enright, and that may be one reason why it is among the most uneven of Berkeley’s films. The plot is threadbare. Oddball moral majority-type millionaire Hugh Herbert is planning on bequeathing ten million dollars to his cousin Zazu Pitts (of 1924’s infamous Greed) and her husband Guy Kibbee. That is, on one condition—that he finds them to be “morally acceptable” (i.e., no smoking, drinking, or mixing up with show-biz types, especially those that do shows with those immoral dames!)
Of course, there has to be a fly in the ointment, and here it is Dick Powell. Powell’s tenor persona wears thin quickly. He is such an all-smiles poster boy that one wonders what in the world that constipated Herbert might have found objectionable in him. A little background info here on Powell: the actor realized the limits of the screen persona that he had been thrust into. He waited out his youth and when he was too old to be prancing on-screen he shrewdly reinvented himself as a hard-boiled forty something private eye in film noir. Here, he is the fellar of Ruby Keeler, daughter of Zazu and Guy. Dick wants to put on a show and gets help from the eternally underrated Joan Blondell (who became Mrs. Powell two years later).
In direct contrast to the virginal Keeler, Blondell is the much more interesting, wise-cracking working girl who manages to get Guy Kibbee into a compromising situation. She uses that to her advantage and blackmails Guy into financing Dick’s Broadway production. Naturally, it will all work out.
Plot-wise, that’s about all one needs to know. Unfortunately, the film does not spin the plot quite that fast and it takes some time before we get to Berkeley’s numbers, but once we do, most is forgiven.
Blondell is Warren and Dubin’s “Girl At The Ironing Board” and, on the surface, the song seems a bit subdued. But, the discerning eye will notice that not only is she singing to the fellas’ shirts on the clothes line, but the shirts are singing back. This number, set at the the turn of the century, is eyelash batting cynicism that only Blondell could have done justice to (with Keeler, the piece would have fallen flat). Blondell is a good sport even when one of the undie shirts gets a sleeve-full of her tush. Continue reading DAMES (1934)→
WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE LIST: You would think a “remake” of The Holy Mountain made up from found footage of dog movies would easily qualify as one of the 366 weirdest movies of all time. There are only two obstacles to adding Doggiewoggiez! to the List immediately. One is a philosophical issue: since this is just a compilation of clips—albeit one put together with wit and skill—with no original material save for a few kaleidoscopic canine collages, does it even meet the definition of a “movie”? The second objection is more practical than philosophical: if Doggiewoggiez! is in fact a “movie,” it potentially fails “the grandma test.” When considering a movie for the List, I imagine showing the movie to my grandma (God rest her soul); if at any time during the imaginary screening she leaves the room, muttering under her breath, “that was weird,” I add the film to the List. Now, I didn’t show this movie to my dead grandma, but I did show it to a living grandma—and she loved it and thought it was cute. Can a movie be truly weird if dog-loving grandmas find it adorable?
COMMENTS: A startling indictment of the indignities desperate Hollywood producers will inflict upon man’s best friend in the name of cheap entertainment, Doggiewoogiez! features every terrible sub-Disney talking dog movie in which an uncomprehending pooch is forced to recite a horrible pun acting against a slumming Dave Thomas, Fred Willard, or Cuba Gooding, Jr. And it’s not just the major Hollywood players that are into abusing the long-suffering fidos, either, as Doggiewoggiez! collects plenty of examples of amateurs touting undignified forms of dog massage, puppy training, and owners posing nude with their pooches. The consortium at Continue reading LIST CANDIDATE: DOGGIEWOGGIEZ! POOCHIEWOOCHIEZ! (2012)→
PLOT: A quiet but reprobate student blindly contracts for unconventional assignments with an enigmatic madam to cater to the peculiar perversions of the ultra-rich.
WHY IT SHOULD MAKE THE LIST: Sleeping Beauty is not a sex-movie, but rather a tense, eerie multiple character study. The focused, unadorned manner in which it is shot, without a musical score, combines with the bizarre nature of its story to set an unusual mood which demands that we take it seriously. This atmosphere, and the choices the writer and director made in deciding what elements of its story to show us, to make Sleeping Beauty a weird and unusual viewing experience.
(Ignore the website and DVD jacket descriptions of this slick Aussie thriller; because US distributors don’t know how to present unusual efforts to a general audience, the synopses grossly mischaracterize this effort as some sort of racy potboiler. Sleeping Beauty is not a sex piece, even though Emily Browning looks just like a Real Doll sex doll in the trailer. Sleeping Beauty is not another Eyes Wide Shut. It is not designed to be racy or titillating. Nor is it a murky, confusing David Lynch-style movie, although fans of Lynch’s works will surely love it. Sleeping Beauty is in no way what I expected. It is unpredictable and although it declines to utilize a demented twist ending, I assure the reader he will never guess where it is heading).
For additional fun, be sure to look for an appearance by actor Hugh Keays-Byrne, who played the crazed “Toecutter” in 1979’s Mad Max.
COMMENTS: Wow! What a gem! I was hoping for something different and creepy from the trailer. I was not disappointed! Yet I was surprised. I was expecting something sci-fi or horror, about turning girls into living sex dolls. Sleeping Beauty turns out to be so much more unsettling, sophisticated and subtle. From its opening frames, the somber cinematography and unabashed, close-in concentration on its characters makes it clear that you are watching a serious, high-quality effort crafted by a writer and director who know exactly what to do. There’s a controlling sensation that your impressions are being skillfully manipulated by the filmmakers. Continue reading RECOMMENDED AS WEIRD: SLEEPING BEAUTY (2011)→
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