Derik Badman's Journal

2021-10-05 07:57

October is in full swing already, it's dark when I wake up in the morning, it's still kind of dark as I sit here writing.

Movies I've watched recently... Millennium Mambo, another Hou movie, was not that interesting narratively nor as pretty visually as the others of his films I watched. I ended up stopping it about halfway through. I just didn't care about the story of the young woman with the asshole boyfriend.

Lucretia Martel's The Headless Woman is another movie that will be having a volume in the Decadent Editions series, so I borrowed a copy from the library. I finished it, but can't say I really enjoyed it. It is a very subtle movie, you have to pay attention to get clear up a lot of (but not all) of the ambiguities. The basic plot of the movie is: a wealthy woman hits something on the road with her car. The film shows us a dog; she seems convinced she killed a child. She gets x-rayed, she goes to a hotel and sleeps with her cousin (pretty sure that is who the dude it, based on him referring to "Aunt someone" who later definitely is the protagonist's mother), she goes home. She keeps trying to buy large pots to put plants in. She has a large extended family she seems to spend a lot of time with. Later a boy is found right by where she hit the dog, he is drowned... other minor events accumulate and spin off. Nothing exactly happens momentous. Do we ever find out if she really hit a child? To me it was pretty clear she did not (we see the dog in the road and not from her point of view) and we see the later drowned child in the canal (by the road). The last scene we see of him he tries to climb up the side of the canal and fails. After the woman hits the dog a heavy rain falls causing lots of flooding, they even say multiple times how flooded the canal was.

But interestingly it seems her husband and cousin(?) do seem to start to believe her after the drowned boy is found (before that they seem to not believe her). The x-rays we see her get at the hospital disappear (we hear her brother works there) when she goes back to get them. The hotel she stayed at says they have no record of anyone being in the room she had been in. There are indications the family members are covering up for a crime they start to think happened. The husband (or it is the brother?) clearly says something that implies he made the hospital records disappear.

There's also the strange element of the woman's niece who seems to be in love with both this other girl (who pops up occasionally on a motor scooter) and the protagonist. There is a large amount of unclear incestuous sexuality going on. This article on the movie from n+1 goes into that aspect a little more, coming up with an interesting reading of something I noticed in the film but didn't have an explanation for: the way the woman gets phone calls on her cell that she doesn't want to answer. At first it's the call she gets and is on when she hits the dog, but then there are others where she answers and then almost immediately hangs up. In a more thriller-esque movie that would be someone trying to blackmail her, and I did have a certain feeling of underlying dread, thinking that's what it was, but then... the call are never addressed. Never really followed up on.

So I guess it was an interesting movie, but... I don't know. Would I watch it again? Not sure, maybe after I read the book on it.

There is a Kirk Douglas program on Criterion this month so I rewatched a couple of movies with him in them. Out of the Past is still one of my favorite films noir. Sometimes just a few of the lines have all this style to them, like when the girlfriend at the beginning asks "Is something wrong?" and Mitchum's character replies "Maybe not," with this kind of fatalistic tone. Or the famous line about "There's a way to lose slower." Letter to Three Wives is an interestingly structured melodrama mystery, wherein three wives (and friends) about to go out on a charity event of some kind (involving children and a boat) receive a letter from a fourth woman claiming she has run off with one of their husbands (but not which). The movie is primarily three flashbacks (one from each wife) about their relationship with their husband and the husband's attraction and their jealousy of the fourth woman (who we never see only hear in narration). I had forgotten Linda Darnell was in it, who I so recently saw in both Fallen Woman and My Darling Clementine. She again is playing the lower class woman. Her relationship with her wealthy husband is one of the most interesting parts of the movie because the story and tension play up their disparate ages and class and the idea she is a gold digger and he just wants a young wife, and then ends up really affirming that they actually do love each other and both were being held back in a way by those stereotypes.

I've struggled through a handful of books lately, how many have I forgotten? I was reading a book on Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth I's "spymaster", as research for running an Elizabthan RPG but got pretty bored by the book after awhile. I'm about halfway through one on Doctor John Dee (who I mostly know from his appearance in John Crowley's Aegypt cycle) that is interesting but often feels like it strays far from the ostensible subject of the book. I enjoyed Samuel Delany's Of Solids and Surds an entry in a series called "Why I Write." It made me want to reread more of his books (though it was not so long ago I reread the Neveryon cycle).