Let Blackouts Be Bygones: Short movie reviews

Let Blackouts Be Bygones: Short movie reviews April 19, 2020

The Blackout: I think this was the last movie I watched before my coronexperience Got Real, which may explain why I loved it at the time but can barely remember it now. Or maybe I killed this movie in a blackout??? ANYWAY it’s Abel Ferrara, who is rapidly becoming to me what like Eric Rohmer or Au Hasard Balthasar Guy is to Catholics who enjoy the higher pleasures of the mind rather than the lower, telling the story of a man who blacks in to realize that he possibly murdered a lady. There are many shots of the relentless ocean, where morality drowns. There’s a strong antipornography theme which, because it’s Ferrara and the man never met a surface he didn’t want to lick, is expressed largely through pornography. There’s actual 12-step recovery, if I recall correctly, and also the metaphorical thing where all of us blacked in to our lives having already committed some half-remembered crime, because of Adam. I wish I remembered it better because this movie really blew me away.

Atlantics: At once gritty and dreamlike. A fable about Dakar construction workers whose womenfolk develop mysterious powers after the men, having been robbed of their wages, go to sea in hopes of finding better jobs in Spain. Rich soaking colors, lots of shots which emphasize the obstructions of the social/physical environment (similar to A Separation).

Can Dialectics Break Bricks?: An obnoxious and hilarious stunt from 1973–Situationists (what are these?) redubbed a kung fu flick so that all the dialogue refers to The Revolution. Genuinely very funny (an early voiceover notes that you can do this same trick with many films, including those of Pasolini!), sexually ruleless and disturbing in the way of virtually all 1970s movies; and so smart insofar as the original kung fu movie was clearly an underdog-vs.-the-rich tale, suggesting that class struggle is simply a four-syllable version of folk wisdom. The conventions of the genre, in which the underdog has to win, are a synecdoche of historical materialism! Intensely and violently anti-Catholic. There’s a sordid joking-not-joking atmosphere here, where the obvious slapstick comedy coats the murderous ideology without actually undercutting it–this is self-aware but not ironic or humiliated.

I found this thing while trawling the offerings on Kanopy and it’s a million percent worth watching if you think you would enjoy a kung fu melee with the following voiceover: “I’m taking advantage of [all the men] being out at the local bistro to include a phrase I had forgotten: ‘Can permitted ecstasies be compared to those ecstasies which combine spicier enticements–those priceless ruptures of social restraints and the overthrow of all laws?'” It is extremely all like that.

Across 110th St: Early-’70s action film about a freelance black attempt to rob the Mafia. Fantastic theme song, deeply sad storyline, surprisingly inventive direction–striking without being gimmicky. A more fluid camera than you’d expect, especially from a director who’d done mostly TV. The story could’ve been done in a blaxploitation style but instead is very definitely action-movie, so it’s grim without that edge of glee that blaxploitation always adds. It’s also very violent, including what’s basically a lynching scene, so caveat spectator.

Visiting Hours: Michael Ironside is a misogynist serial killer who stalks the halls of a hospital where scraps of dialogue & the occasional flag suggest we are in the USA but we are clearly and extremely in Canada. Something about this just doesn’t work–it is baggy and the decisions about when and how to cut from scene to scene are artless, William Shatner (!) is underused except when he’s macking down on a hospital pudding cup, the women characters seem a bit unfocused even though it should be their story… why does the killer wear makeup and jewelry in the first attack but then never again? What was the deal with the letters on his wall?? Director Jean-Claude Lord (OF CANADA) knows how to create tension in the stalk-and-fight scenes, but just cannot make it happen in the scenes where nobody’s being hunted.

In theory I liked the way the film slowly unfolded a world where every woman had some experience of male violence or untrustworthiness. In theory I liked how the killer views everyone as Woman or not-Woman but the heroine views everyone as simply people, who can’t be projected onto or judged. But those themes never affect the plot. Nobody ever e.g. thwarts the killer because she draws on women’s solidarity or her own experience or empathy. That almost happens at the end, with the two surviving victims, but doesn’t quite–they’re still isolated and don’t quite manage to help one another. Also this killer should’ve killed more of his actual targets, which he seems at times bizarrely reluctant to do even while racking up the body count among the extras.

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