Quick-Thoughts: Peter Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)

Screened at The Frida Cinema

What a strange movie. I mean really, this takes the jokingly “touch grass” saying into a whole new orbit with its revolutionary atmospheric drama and abstruse ornamentation of surreal circumstances. A coming of age tale about how discrete disconnections between what’s organized or routined and what’s intrinsically complex in introduction — but likely organized as well, simply obscured as such by our lack of knowledge on it — forge the bipolar cycle of humanity. It certainly had a direct influence on auteurs such as Sofia Coppola, and films such as Daughters of the Dust (1991) also come to mind when thinking of Peter Weir, Cliff Green, and Joan Lindsay’s dreamlike storytelling aesthetics which must’ve been game-changing to experience during the 70s.

If you wanted to go the most obvious route in a movie full of ones to choose from, Picnic at Hanging Rock is a functional allegory of surpassing institutional order and no longer depending on the timeline of others. Nature here represents our personal instincts calling to us, but upholding college regulations or befriending someone by proposing common social gestures *liquor!* would rather be our cultural instincts calling to us. New order is weaved by the obtrusion between each other’s convergence like when the two young men’s progression in the search begins recoding their moral compass, while the old ones are then destroyed like with the tragedies that befall upon the headmistress and her students. On a hundred different undercurrents too this has puberty and religious-institution metaphor written all over it, insinuating sexual exploration as something challenging the old order, threatening its fertility.

There are three ways people usually encounter plausible independence: becoming either lost from — perhaps even forever —, refusing, or embracing whatever’s restricted in this sole order we’ve faired allegiance to our whole lives. Honestly, it’s all quite relatable as someone currently surrendering to college yet wishing for the courage to just head up the rock instead, hoping to wear that red cloak by the end but being humbled throughout nonetheless by all of its possible outcomes and obvious social risks that come of breaking order. I guess in that case, this movie kind of works as a cynical “motivator”.

Verdict: B-

“Picnic at Hanging Rock” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel and HBO Max.

Quick-Thoughts, Again: Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Samouraï (1967)

Screened at The Frida Cinema • 2nd Viewing • Warning: Spoilers Ahead

“I like it when you come around, because you need me.”

The first time Jef hijacks a car he is seen visibly composed, rhythmically trialing through his ring of keys until the right one fits. Perhaps it’s because this job is just a job to him, and means nothing beyond another means for payment. 

He is on his way to kill somebody.

The last time Jef hijacks a car he is seen visibly timid, anxiously trialing through that same ring of keys until the right one fits. Perhaps it’s because this is the first time Jef feels as if he actually has something to lose. His routine has been compromised so now he must independently decide and act on how to make honorable of the dilemma given the circumstances. 

He is on his way to kill nobody but himself.

I like to think that Le Samouraï left open these distinct gaps of intentional character ambiguities for other artists to recreate its plot and fill them in with their own personal grasp on the situation. The Conversation (1974), Taxi Driver (1976), Ghost Dog (1999), Drive (2011), and as the list goes on through over fifty years of film canon the story begins to brace with these other stories, and this figure of protagonist, even perhaps a reality for many individuals, begins to flesh-out as well for us to better understand its possibilities. Melville has handed down to every inspiring narrative writer that watches this their own pen and notepad, enrolling them as detectives to try solving this case with each viewing. 

Stuck in a cage waiting for death. Your time will come and when it does, you will have control like no other despite it being destiny. A bit dark. A bit tragic. But at the same time, a bit wholesome?

Verdict: A

All-Time Favorites, Jean-Pierre Melville Ranked, My Original Article on Le Samouraï

“Le Samouraï” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel and HBO Max.”

Quick-Thoughts: RRR (Rise Roar Revolt)

Screened at The Frida Cinema

This is the most bro movie I’ve ever seen.

Ever wanted to see a blockbuster maximize every minute drop of logos, ethos, pathos it has into gloriously exaggerated segments, inserting as many plot conveniences necessary so you can witness two lead characters persistently commit some of the most badass physics-defying instances in cinema whether they be from dance-offs, a posey of carnivorous animals, etc.? Well, RRR is your more than obvious answer. A movie this carefully engineered to be a nonstop crowd pleaser of wickedly amplified tropes really has no reasonable excuse at this point not to be populated into all American theaters and furthermore sought out by its inhabiters. 

At least it’s on Netflix, but I’d recommend the watching-with-a-packed-crowd route instead.

Verdict: B-

2022 Ranked

“RRR” is now playing in select theaters and available to stream on Netflix.

Quick-Thoughts: Satoshi Kan’s Perfect Blue (1997)

Screened at The Alamo Drafthouse

Awe, good old duality. I just rewatched Persona (1966) and Lost Highway (1997) in theaters a couple days ago so this happens to be a more than fitting follow-up to those two.

Headache-giving “is it reality or fiction?” cinema is usually great and Perfect Blue is no exception. I think seeing Satoshi Kon’s debut in this age of social media really emphasizes just how relevant it’ll be even onward: the cancelation of the host of a facade after they sincerely reveal to be more complex or, better yet, the unflattering conditioning of the consumer seeing the celebrity as a human, not just a media appearance. You see it all the time in cancel culture with the amount of repeated shock constantly exhibited when we witness that people with power can be pieces of s**t — wow, who would’ve thought? Kon is clearly interested in this cultural aversion of the idea that humans are multi-faceted. He breaks it down too, making a point with increasingly distorted patterns of either glamorized or normalized settings and events that reveal the struggle of regulating personas in the public environment of individual biases and favoritisms, critical dislikes towards personal evolutions with compulsions towards conservatism of the idol or even instinctive preservation of its innocence. The worlds become scrambled, and therefore a bloating burden to navigate. 

Anyways, if you’ve ever wanted to see a movie about the infamous Björk stalker, this is the closest to it that I’ve seen so far. It may be animated, but Perfect Blue feels incredibly real.

Verdict: B+

“Perfect Blue” is now available to rent on Amazon Prime.

Quick-Thoughts: Seijun Suzuki’s Tokyo Drifter (1966)

Seijun Suzuki Marathon Part IV of V

I KNOW THIS THEME SONG. WHERE ELSE HAVE I HEARD IT BEFORE???

Nahhh, Seijun Suzuki definitely tripped acid to make this, at least during post-production. This is some seriously new wave-y hodgepodge-d s**t with its almost incomprehensible surrealist’s continuity. By the millisecond this thing can hop from being a Jean-Pierre Melville picture to a Mel Brooks one, and is fragranced in a psychedelia of angelic-looking set pieces enhancing the audacity of it all. Regarding the protruding elephant in the room, Quentin Tarantino himself must’ve jotted the f**k down in his stealer’s notepad during initial screenings of this cartoony western meets crime genre paroxysm. Not sure if it’s as enjoyable, especially story or character-wise next to an actual Melville, as it is just baffling to a degree of being inspired, such as a Godard, but sometimes the best films are only crafted the way they are because films like Tokyo Drifter decided to recklessly make a move first. Great tunes also. The shootouts don’t hurt it either. 

Worst blocked Suzuki movie so far though, partially compensated nonetheless by its out-of-pocket cutting. Jarring… but with style! 

Verdict: B-

Seijun Suzuki Ranked

“Tokyo Drifter” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel.

Quick-Thoughts: Seijun Suzuki’s Story of a Prostitute (1965)

Seijun Suzuki Marathon Part III of V

“He’s a high-ranking officer. Whatever he does, I don’t feel anything.” 

Paths of Glory (1957) meets Romeo and Juliet (1597). “Never let wine or women distract your mind”, says the sergeant, and yet, that’s exactly the kind of temptations that the army is willing to directly provide for their soldiers. As this recital continues we hear the thoughts of its reciters, with minds clearly as “lost” in other affairs as the chant tells them not to be, a sign of the extreme idealism in the army’s demand of what their soldiers should be. Just keep projecting a facade of honor at all costs.

Has some potent mixes of slow-mo and real-time audio, imposing and exaggerated monochrome lighting, and the freeze-framing: yes! As to be expected the blocking is also phenomenal and the camera movement is full of diction. Overall though, not on par with the previous two of Suzuki’s I saw but still, I like how I happened to follow up his post-war Gate of Flesh with his depiction of the war itself.  

Verdict: B-

Seijun Suzuki Ranked

“Story of a Prostitute” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel.

Quick-Thoughts: Seijun Suzuki’s Gate of Flesh (1964)

Seijun Suzuki Marathon Part II of V

“The moment I become a real woman, I’m an outcast.”

First and foremost, Gate of Flesh is predominately supported by its brutally limned environment which typifies Japan’s post-World War II (post-apocalyptic) state, a graphic vicinity that seems as if it’s barely being held up by its many eroding planks and brick walls. The center of attention besides a former plot involving a prostitute fellowship and a runaway ex-soldier is simply found in the many instances Seijun Suzuki has for us to engage with the everyday of this world. We enter headfirst into this greased-out compression of unions where prostitution rings are the major competing hotspots for American soldiers, and everybody plays for teams as much as they do backstab them, seduced by the chances that could immerse themselves of a life rather prevailing these fundamentals of food and flesh.

Perhaps what’s most interesting though about Suzuki’s stance on this time period in Japan is his nihilism towards love as a possibility. So much of his look on emerging young and abandoned older women seems to be that they look towards prostitution as an exclusive means for survival and a steady social culture given all that war has taken from them, and so much of his look on the men seems to be that they’re soldiers mulishly stuck in the past, stuck reminiscing a rather dead culture, looking only for superficial pleasure now. Nonetheless, a euphoric sample of this so-called love would hypothetically alas wake them up to this new world now built on sheer hunger for the bare minimum and nothing else.

The highlight out of all of this for me though was when our Japanese ex-soldier covered his face in front of the prostitutes with the very flag of their country only to then weep under it. Lost at home. 

Verdict: B

Seijun Suzuki Ranked

“Gate of Flesh” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel.

Quick-Thoughts: Seijun Suzuki’s Youth of the Beast (1963)

Seijun Suzuki Marathon Part I of V

Like Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars (1964), this is a neat spin on one of my all-time favorite action movies Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo (1961). It plays too with the inevitable backfire when recklessly seeking justice, this time via the classic search for vengeance. Another self-important with a special set of skills ultimately pins two crime organizations against one another, causing chaos and mayhem to all, further exclaiming the myth of protagonist even in dislike towards these sort of iniquitous settings. Nobody is a victim, and everybody might just be a villain. At a definite, all are prone backstabbers and liars, with glimpses of a fruitful relationship for any of them remaining to be but glimpses. A bleak world it is, aye?

As I hoped, I’m really taken aback by Seijun Suzuki’s style so far. A 1963 release date is already enough to convince me how new his level of composition and blocking must’ve been for the genre — the intense color / light isolating in the set pieces and the single-take shot size changing from some seriously meticulous camera movements are particularly notable examples. Not to mention the quirky (therefore at least memorable) character personalities, how modest the work is when structuring its reserved amount of action sequences, and the engaging experience it gives us being in this main character’s tricky situation that wittily seems to only get trickier as trusts begin to dangle, plus it’s all encompassed by a mystery! The scenes where a prostitute druggy hallucinates her boss galloping off into an unsure distance, a sadist whips his betrayer into the hills, one of our lead’s fingernails is dug under by a knife, and when he slyly shuts the door on a deviant who had just called the other suspect in the room’s mom a “whore” are moments that made me go, “yeah this can be excruciating to watch, but to hell if it ain’t what crime cinema was meant to do.” 

Verdict: B

Seijun Suzuki Ranked

“Youth of the Beast” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel.

Quick-Thoughts: Peter Strickland’s Flux Gourmet

Screened at The Frida Cinema

S**thouse.

Let’s face it: Peter Strickland makes films and will likely continue making films for the hormonally insecure. Flux Gourmet’s plot of a con art becoming “thee art” is not too different from a taboo facing its respected exposure, and this complex side of the self-humiliating facade of the artist is examined with a perfectly enjoyable satirical thrust that will, although, probably work its way for those akin to its subjects rather than those stumped by them. It’s full of farts, foodgaze, egg-lady emo-boy roleplay, but as bonkers as it sounds, it may just be Strickland at his most reserved, which is not to be completely minded.

Verdict: B-

2022 Ranked, Peter Strickland Ranked

“Flux Gourmet” is now playing in select theaters and available to stream on VOD.

Quick-Thoughts: Marcel the Shell with Shoes On

For as joyously cute as the innocence in his nimble little innovations which create purpose in the supposedly imperceptible things can seem, Marcel is still equally as wholesome as he is just a bonafide savage – which can also admittedly be cute to behold at times nonetheless – yet it eventually encourages him to be judgmental and pessimistic too as he’s given opportunities to learn more about the world outside of his cozy yet quiet Airbnb, leading to halts on his once pure zeal for exploration.

By good fortune though, he happens to be shipwrecked with none other than his Grandmother Isabella Rossellini; if anyone has experienced life, it’s thee one and only, and she is ready to spiel it all out to get Marcel back on the right path for which he was once always on, but with an emphasis on applying it into the, at first, daunting elsewhere. You may have seen this sort of coming-of-age tale before, but perhaps not told with the amount of aesthetical perseverance that its mockumentary live-action meets stop-motion meets arts-and-craft seashell protagonists concoction has to offer.

Verdict: B-

2022 Ranked

“Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” is now playing in select theaters and will be playing in wide release theaters July 15.