William Greaves’ 1968 Symbiopsychotaxiplasm puts the experiment in experimental film. The documentary inside a documentary inside a third documentary, shot in public, essentially boils down to the director seeing how far he can push his cast and crew before they revolt — not violent push, but still an antagonistic one. It’s fascinating and absurd and wonderful. And I suppose it could be all fake.
You all don’t know this, but this is our first recorded episode in about six weeks and I’m so glad we have Equinox to take that blow. Equinox is two films, the first made by a bunch of kids who would grow up to be the best visual effects artists in American film, the second sold to Jack Harris with additional footage shot by Jack Woods. It’s a ridiculously bad film in either cut, but one with astonishingly good visual effects.
Our final film in the Rebel Samurai boxset is also the craziest, a parody of samurai films from the preceding twenty years or more, 1968’s Kill! directed by Kihachi Okamoto. Donovan H. finishes us out as well, though he’ll be back soon enough I’m sure.
Another John Cassavetes film that feels more like an acting exercise than a traditional film. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Like last week's film Shadows, Faces feels improvised (and grew out of improvisation exercises) and it feels all the more real for its looseness.
This week we start The Adventures of Antoine Doinel boxset, a collection of films by Francois Truffaut. We've already talked about the first film in the set, The 400 Blows, quite awhile ago. When Truffaut came back to the character -- and cemented the troupe that would star in all 4 (and a half) films lead by original star Jean-Pierre Leaud -- he took a markedly different course, leaving behind the gritty coming of age tale that defined the French New Wave and creating something a bit more lighthearted, if still brilliant.
We kick things off with Stolen Kisses (1968), in which Antoine meets and courts his future ex-wife Christine. For the sake of completeness and continuity we also roll in a short film -- 1962's Antoine and Colette -- which is on The 400 Blows disc and makes me think too much about how I used to interact with women. Hopefully I've changed! Antoine (barely) does!
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Out to make a "nonfiction feature film" Albert and David Maysles went back to their roots in Boston and their former jobs as door-to-door salesmen. Salesman (1968) follows a group of men trying to sell illuminated Bibles to middle class Catholics with varying degrees of success. It's compelling on multiple levels -- from being a simple character study to an expose on the commercialization of American religion -- and hopefully we hit a few of them.