Tag Archives: 2018

CAPSULE: THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND (2018)

DIRECTED BY: Orson Welles

FEATURING: John Huston, , Peter Bogdanovich, Susan Strasberg, Norman Foster, Robert Random

PLOT: On the last day of his life, director Jake Hannaford shares footage from the movie he’s been trying to complete despite a desperate lack of funding, the disappearance of his leading actor, and the doubts of his crew, his peers, and the Hollywood press.

Still from The Other Side of the Wind (2018)

COMMENTS: It’s natural to be wary of a movie where the story behind it is more interesting than the one on the screen. On the other hand, it’s arguable that Orson Welles never made a movie where that equation wasn’t in play. From his very first feature, a little picture about a newspaper publisher, the story off-camera has always been at least as compelling as the one made for public consumption, and usually with a good deal more tragedy attached. As the major studios turned against him and his efforts to assemble financing and infrastructure became more haphazard and idiosyncratic, the subject of Welles himself invariably took precedence over whatever story he actually hoped to tell.

But even by his own yardstick, the road to The Other Side of the Wind is unusually winding and protracted. Welles filmed over the course of six years on two continents, with multiple parts recast over the years and the lead role unfilled until Year 3, and with the filmmaker insisting that there was still more to shoot. Completion was held up by variety of obstacles, including producer embezzlement, flooding in Spain, Hollywood indifference, and the Iranian revolution. Like so many of Welles’ projects, Wind would remain unfinished at the time of his death, another dream lost to history… until, 42 years after principal photography wrapped, a team of Welles collaborators and admirers endeavored to assemble the many pieces of his last great work into a form he might have intended. (Whatever you may think of Netflix, they did cinema history a favor by not only bankrolling this effort but by releasing it alongside a documentary about Welles’ torturous efforts to complete the film, They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead. It’s an invaluable companion piece for anyone interested in this chapter of the great man’s legendarily troubled career.)

It is impossible to know how successfully this reconstruction got to the vision locked inside Welles’ head. After all, Welles himself changed his intentions throughout production. Furthermore, he seems to have been going for something entirely new and alien to him. Welles made much of the fact that neither the framing film or Jake Hannaford’s work are meant to be in a style in any way recognizable as his own, so we can’t even rely upon the director’s previous works as a guide. Today, we recognize Welles’ use of improvisation and documentary techniques as what we’ve come to call “mockumentary,” but in the early 70s, there was very little precedent (except, possibly, Welles’ own “War of the Worlds”). But we know enough of Welles’ increasing focus on the subjects of abandonment, thwarted ambition, and betrayal to recognize that Wind is not only a continuation of those themes but maybe his most personal exploration of them.

Welles denied suggestions that the film was autobiographical, which Continue reading CAPSULE: THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND (2018)

*24. KEEP AN EYE OUT (2018)

Au Poste!

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Recommended

DIRECTED BY: Quentin Dupieux

FEATURING: , , Marc Fraize, Anaïs Demoustier

PLOT: Having discovered a dead body under not-very suspicious circumstances, Louis is brought in by the police for questioning. His account of the event arouses the suspicions of police commissioner Buron, but Louis is even more suspicious of the police because of their circular arguments, penchant for distraction, and curious behavior. Louis becomes concerned that he will bear the responsibility for an increasing number of unlucky events, and must recount his actions in fine detail in an effort to affirm his innocence.

Still from Keep an Eye Out [Au Poste!] (2018)

BACKGROUND:

  • This was native Frenchman Dupieux’s first feature actually produced in his home country.
  • The film’s original French title translates as “To the police station!” It can also be translated to mean “at the office.” It can also be interpreted to mean someone who is at their assigned spot (“at one’s post”), in much the way a call of “Places!” summons the actors to their marks at the start of a play.
  • Scenes at the police station were filmed in the headquarters of the French Communist Party, designed by acclaimed architect Oscar Niemeyer.
  • Alain Chabat is credited with providing “screams of pain.” Chabat appeared in Reality as a film director attempting to win an Oscar for the best wail of pain.
  • The film’s poster parodies that of the significantly more action-oriented Jean-Paul Belmondo crime thriller Peur sur la Ville (Fear over the City).

INDELIBLE IMAGE: Philippe, a hapless cop-wannabe, suffers from an unfortunate condition, and its reveal is a genuine shock. It’s not merely that he has only one eye. It’s that the whole upper quadrant of his face is smoothed over, as though the mere idea of an eye socket never existed. And once he begins espousing his hyper-preparedness for even the most surreal of accidents, it is absolutely inevitable that Chekhov’s Plastic Angle Square will fulfill its destiny.

TWO WEIRD THINGS: Near nude conductor; crunchy oyster

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: by way of with a healthy layer of Douglas Adams and a final punch of Sartre, Keep an Eye Out is a fantasia of absurdism. Dupieux and his actors seem to be engaged in a contest to see who can be the most deadpan, and the tone never wavers, neither in the face of escalating ridiculousness nor an unexpected and tragic conclusion.

Original trailer for Au Poste!

COMMENTS: We begin with an orchestra in a meadow, accompanying the opening credits under the baton of a mustachioed man clad Continue reading *24. KEEP AN EYE OUT (2018)

CAPSULE: DEMENTIA: PART II (2018)

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DIRECTED BY: Matt Mercer, Mike Testin

FEATURING: Matt Mercer, Suzanne Voss

PLOT: Ex-felon Wendell, now a handyman, has increasingly unpleasant encounters with a seemingly nice old woman.

COMMENTS: It may be saying something that your female lead’s start in movies was Howard the Duck. It may be saying something; I bring up this factoid for two reasons. First, there is the “Why did they make this?” question that flitted through my mind throughout the viewing. Second, this review is in desperate need of fleshing out, and bringing up Suzanne Voss’ cinematic history provided a couple dozen words for the introduction. Now, I am done with the introduction.

Hello, again! Here is the plot for you: over the course of an hour, we come to know Wendell (Matt Mercer). From some paperwork the camera lingers over during our first encounter with our reluctant hero while passed out on a couch, we learn that he’s out on parole. That circumstance is reinforced by telephone messages left for him, one of which is from his parole officer, the dirt-bag Reggie (performed, with quite a full-bag-of-dirt delivery, by the commendable low-budget horror mainstay, Graham Skipper). Wendell is a handyman, hired by Suzanne Goldblum (played by the aforementioned Suzanne Voss, who has now provided me a dozen or so further words for the count). She suffers memory issues, and something else.

Welcome to the third paragraph, and thank you kindly for traveling with me. I have not seen the first film in this series, but the dearth of that memory may not have hurt. With Dementia: Part II, Mercer and Testin prove two things. First, that they have the technical nous to make a movie. Good. Filmmakers are (typically) better for having that skill. Shots are nicely aligned, the black-and-white is a good choice (allowing for what I am certain was the classic use of chocolate-syrup-as-blood during the gory bits), and the hour-long runtime is nicely paced. Second, they should perhaps put in a little more effort the next time around. I grew to like Wendell, but his fate was as head-scratching (in an unpleasing way) as it was abrupt. It was as if the final sheaves of the script had been nicked on the final day of shooting.

I have no idea how this movie came to our attention. (Speaking of which, thank you for your attention as I wrap this up.) Some odd touches were there—I quite liked the rabid horned-squirrel, stuffed and on display. But if plot is to be tertiary, everything else better step up to fill the void. And oh yes: I think it may be time to generally retire the “prep for monster encounter montage”; we’ve just about run out of ways to do that compellingly. That said, there was enough Wendell charm to keep me from feeling cheated out of my three bucks and sixty-seven minutes.

Dementia: Part II was made in 2018 on a dare: to produce a movie, from conception to post-production, in a month to close the Chattanooga Film Festival. It debuted on video-on-demand and DVD this year.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“DEMENTIA PART II has received quite a bit of notice for being conceived, scripted, shot and premiere-screened in only a month… yet it’s notable for more than the circumstances behind its production… the [black and white] approach was born of expedience (saving time that would have been spent on color correction), the monochromatic look adds a weird TWILIGHT ZONE-esque mood to the proceedings, and allow Testin and Mercer to get homagistic in places…”–Michael Gingold, Rue Morgue (contemporaneous)