Monday, October 30, 2023

Circus Maximus

The Film Maudit of the Last Twenty Years Besides Lawrence Kasanoff's Foodfight!

(You can read this New York Times article about Foodfight! here.)

This is something. Travis Scott (who mostly sucks) decided to produce a streaming short-film this year — it's here on YouTube — to promote his new record. Harmony Korine, from my understanding, was brought on to organize the affair, which consists of different fragments of Africa and Italy, specifically at the Circus Maximus, populated at various times by African natives, clubgoers, and Travis. Obviously it's an ego-project on Scott's part — but I find these to almost always have something interesting that shines a beam on the director's psychology. Whether he knew it or not, he created a no-one-said answer to Lucifer Rising.

Circus Maximus is a horror-show of pacing, but this is its maudit structure. Take the sequence (30-minutes+?) of Scott traipsing around the Circus Maximus followed by drones and backdropped by fifty amps as props for his half-songs, there he is searching for something to do... Harmony's piece in the end-credits is titled Pompeii (I'm assuming this involves the limo ride, and maybe material set in the club, and maybe some other suggestions).

This is true This Is Spinal Tap shit. Down the rabbithole. Like the Alan Smithee movie of the Alan Smithee movie. Circus Maximus evokes the sense of desiring a movie to end.

If the film weren't without a beauty and an utter oddity I wouldn't write about it. — If it weren't Korine-related. It's a document of the Travis Scott world id and ego; Harmony read the email-chain.


Other writing at Cinemasparagus on Harmony Korine:

Circus Maximus [Harmony Korine, et al, 2023]


Friday, October 27, 2023

Invaders from Venus!

Origin Story

Frank Mosley's 1997-through-to-2003 high-school era "backyard movie" Invaders from Venus! is really something to behold. It's one of those video films when we were a particular type of younger, made around the same era, but to which we never had access to digital editing software — we had to cut in camera. Frank is a couple years earlier in age than me, I think, and he had access to the tools that didn't quite exist around '97, which makes Invaders from Venus! all the more impressive because aside from the early existence of 'non-linear' software, he knew how to put a sequence together. No offense to compare to Dave Skowronski's outsider Halloween Party (which I wrote about a few days before this post), but Mosley's 'amateur' effort surpasses HP in all degrees; his natural cinema instincts at such an early age are truly impressive. From shot continuity and overlap of audio across cuts — and a progressive zoom-in on the aliens' human captive during his monologue, Invaders is if anything else a document of an era, which for a certain demographic, might remind an audience of its very self. Kids play sheriff (the little girl in the role is always looking for more drops from her essentially empty booze bottle); one plays the goddamn President of the United States.

It even sports one of the funniest lines I've heard in any movie I've seen, in the final act, as the Texas-based hero breathes a sigh of relief after the invaders have supposedly been eradicated: "I feel really bad that Oklahoma and Arkansas didn't get obliterated." 

Frank is one of the best actors and filmmakers going right now. Invaders from Venus! stands as the evidence that the kid's got talent. You can watch the film here through Split Tooth Media. 

As if that weren't enough, Frank holds his equal own to the generational talent Lily Gladstone in 2020's Freeland by Mario Fuloni and Kate McLean, available to view currently on MUBI.


Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Halloween Party

For the Love of Amateurs

Split Tooth Media have highlighted a 38-minute 1989 film from Dave Skowronski. (You can watch it here.) It's a high-school era camcorder movie about a slasher who emerges from Connecticut graveyard sod and slaughters a bunch of teens during a Halloween night get-together. The high-school movie experiments! The cast of girls who responded "Okay!" to the offer "Do you want to be in my movie?"!

Halloween Party is very much an artifact, and touches me seeing the period and setting I was contemporary with.

Present-day teen-made films are all over YouTube these days, but instead of having been rocked with an Amiga, they're made in iMovie with the kids typing titles in Impact, upon which they throw on a glow.


Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Pier Paolo Pasolini - Agnès Varda - New York - 1967

From the rue Daguerre to Show World

Pier Paolo Pasolini alights around Times Square, immediately struck by the poverty of Manhattan — and this before the 2020s — all things relative. The film is assembled from the newly discovered, in 2021 (hence the non-inclusion in Criterion's The Complete Agnès Varda set), handheld footage that Varda shot in 1967 during a stopover in New York by the Italian filmmaker and poet. "He calls this poverty? I've seen the arid lots of Accattone and Mamma Roma," some American viewers might once have bristled. A Middle Easterner looked at us clearly during the catastrophic response to Hurricane Katrina, and sees us again with the housing displacement and tent cities of the modern age and remarks, How sad they live, in the greatest nation on earth.

The aptly titled Pier Paolo Pasolini - Agnès Varda - New York - 1967 considers the era and world of Colson Whitehead's trilogy-in-progress of novels (the first two parts being the recent Harlem Shuffle and Crook Manifesto) and shuttles the arrivals at relief. Pasolini's got a return ticket in his pocket.


The film is available to watch here, with English subtitles, at the Cinémathèque Française's essential streaming platform Henri, where it premiered and, at present, resides exclusively from late-2023. An accompanying note by Agnès's daughter Rosalie Varda reads (my translation now, from the French) —


During the pandemic, we were cleaning things up at the little family enterprise Ciné-Tamaris. In the cellar of the office we found boxes of celluloid, of 35mm, of 16mm, of reels of Super 8. There were two boxes of 16mm rather enigmatically labeled: "PASOLINI NEW YORK." When I opened it up, I found two double-track reels of 16mm. Unspooling this film, I come across Pasolini's face.

Obviously this is a huge surprise! Agnès always used to say, "Oh là là, there's still some tidying to be done! You'll get around to it later." So it got taken care of: the reels were immediately sent to the Éclair Classics / Immagine Ritrovata lab, place de Clichy, and, to the surprise of all, we discovered that Agnès had done some filming in New York with a 16mm camera.

The second surprise was that actually Agnès had edited the images an audio interview that she made later with Pasolini. We carried out the investigation. Pasolini and Agnès were together in 1966 at the New York Film Festival. They already knew one another. Why didn't she complete the editing of this interview? The mystery shall remain intact.

What's extraordinary about this little treasure is that Agnès, always full of force, poses simple and precise questions, and that Pasolini who is nevertheless very complicated, responds to her questions just as simply. It's what makes the originality of this work: two friends in discussion. — Rosalie Varda


Other writing on Agnès Varda at Cinemasparagus:

La Pointe-Courte [1955]

Ô saisons ô châteaux [O Seasons, O Châteaux, 1957]

L'Opéra-Mouffe, carnet de notes filmées rue Mouffetard par une femme enceinte en 1958 [The Opéra-Mouffe: Diary Filmed on the rue Mouffetard in Paris by a Pregnant Woman in 1958, 1958]

Du côté de la Côte [Around the Côte, 1958]

Les fiancés du pont Mac Donald, ou (Méfiez-vous des lunettes noires) [The Fiancés of the Pont Mac Donald, or: (Beware of Dark Glasses), 1961]

Cléo de 5 à 7 [Cléo from 5 to 7, 1962]

Le bonheur [Happiness, 1964]

Elsa la Rose [Elsa the Rose, 1966]

Les créatures [The Creatures, 1966]

Pier Paolo Pasolini - Agnès Varda - New York - 1967 [1967, posthumous release 2023]

Uncle Yanco [1967]

Black Panthers [1968]

Lions Love... and Lies / Lions Love [1969]

Nausicaa [1970]

Réponse de femmes à une question produite par Antenne 2 pour le magazine 'F. comme Femme' [Women's Response to a Question Put Forth by Antenne 2 for the Magazine-Show 'F. comme Femme', 1975]

Daguerréotypes [1976]

Plaisir d'amour en Iran [Giddiness of Love in Iran] [1976]

L'une chante l'autre pas [The One Sings the Other Doesn't] [1977]

Mur murs [1980]

Documenteur: An Emotion Picture [1981]


Sunday, October 15, 2023

The Beach Bum

Key West (Philosopher Poet)

Like with muscle memory carrying over to button-functions on a controller when you go one sequel deep — let's say, Zelda: Breath of the Wild to Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom — it's best to check in on Korine's The Beach Bum [2019] following the aesthetic lessons of Spring Breakers. HK understands that a movie — especially one called The Beach Bum — generally never lives up to the title-activated expectations. Korine also understands, as he's frequently noted in recent interviews around Aggro Dr1ft, that a movie doesn't need a plot per se, rather it requires a vibe, something you put on in the background on repeat, like with Belly, Heat, or Miami Vice. Cuts back up in a completely different location for the counter-counter-shot; take, for example, Moondog (Matthew McConaughey at his best) on the phone with his wife Minnie (Isla Fisher), one sequence among a dozen that go on long, a continuous conversation played over a Key West-multiverse, just so you can zone into the atmosphere enhanced by John Debney's (The Passion of the Christ, Spy Kids) Jon Brion'y score. 

The Beach Bum taps into a dramaturgic ideal of mine, which is to say, aside from 'dangerous threats' and setups for conflict, there's really no drama, no end boss. Just a guy in a wheelchair getting knocked out and robbed by Flicker (Zac Efron) and Moondog. To quote a different number from the modern Dylan canon: "It's all good." (I'm consistently dazzled by the "Is That All There Is" and "Sundown" tracts.)

The end finds Moondog on a barge with his newly acquired cash set aflame, blanketing the gathered crowds — key image of the current American cinema, and a lit-year away from the climaxes of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and The Killing.

Moondog's making that index-finger gesture again, like: "Hold on now..." — Here's a pair of his poems from the collection Key Zest:

"There she is. She has great shapes

And her cargo is $46 million."


"You know what I want to do?

I want to have a big fucking fireworks show.

Invite all my friends from the Keys.

None of that sparkler bullshit

that impresses lesbians, pregnant women,

and babies. No, no. Let us Valhalla

this motherfucker.

You know what I mean?

Raise the dead!"


Other writing at Cinemasparagus on Harmony Korine: