Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Welles and Hill House Lead a Double Pinnacle Week

October 23rd, 2018 | Robin


Ken and Robin Consume Media is brought to you by the discriminating and good-looking backers of the Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff Patreon. Each week we provide capsule reviews of the books, movies, TV seasons and more we cram into our hyper-analytical sensoriums. Join the Patreon to help pick the items we’ll talk about in greater depth on a little podcast segment we like to call Tell Me More.

The Pinnacle

The Haunting of Hill House Season 1 (Television, US, Netflix, Mike Flanagan, 2018) A ghost-ridden mansion reasserts its hold over a fractured family who briefly tried to renovate and flip it a generation ago. Makes full use of its ten-hour run time, radically reconfiguring the source material into a multi-perspective, chronologically fragmented family saga centered around deeply drawn and acted characters.—RDL

The Other Side of the Wind (Film, US, Orson Welles, 1976 & 2018) Imperious director J.J. Hannaford (John Huston) returns from European exile to make one last masterpiece but the system (and his own legend) gets in his way. Scripted and shot as a combination of found footage and film-within-a-film, this prodigiously innovative, elliptical movie has finally achieved final cut (Bob Murawski completing the remaining 70% of the editing from Welles’ notes) thanks to Netflix money and hard-working producers Frank Marshall and Filip Jan Rymsza. –KH


Dogman (Film, Italy, Matteo Garrone, 2018) Dog groomer Marcello (Marcello Fonte) plays sidekick and lackey to brutish thug Simone (Edoardo Pesce) until … Garrone’s strong, pure study of a man under pressure depends almost entirely on Fonte‘s acting for its compelling drive. The story is far less complex than Garrone’s amazing Gomorrah, but this is almost its equal as a film. –KH

Friedkin Uncut (Film, Italy, Francesco Zippel, 2018) Perhaps with a lesser subject than Chicago’s own William Friedkin, this fairly conventional documentary-about-a-director (direcumentary?) would just be Good, but Friedkin remains a live wire at 83 and the galaxy of talents from Ellen Burstyn to Walter Hill to Quentin Tarantino who pay him homage do so joyfully. (The Willem Dafoe segment also reminded me why and how much To Live and Die in L.A. blew me away when I saw it in the theater.) Friedkin eschews the term “art,” about his own films at least, but like a true artist he stubbornly shoots what he sees. –KH

Overlord (Film, US, Julius Avery, 2018) Just before D-Day the remnants of an American paratrooper squad (Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell, John Magaro, et al) must destroy a key Nazi radio jammer in a church, but find the Nazi forces conducting supernatural experiments in the crypt. Remarkably competent war action joins with top-notch zombie action for a thoroughly satisfying, controlled horror-adventure B-movie on an A-budget. –KH

Salt Fat Acid Heat (Television, US, Netflix, Samin Nosrat, 2018) Chef and author Nosrat trains her ebullient food perspective on four bedrock elements of successful cooking, with stops in Italy, Japan, Mexico and the Chez Panisse kitchen. Though you’ll never see me slathering as much sodium on a chicken as the infectiously charming host wants me to, it is refreshing to see the travel/food docuseries shift emphasis from aspirational restaurant-going to making meals at home.—RDL

Send These to Me: Immigrants in Urban America (Nonfiction, John Higham, 1984 rev. ed.) Mostly centering on the Jewish immigrant experience, Higham lays out the historical parameters of America’s combination of welcome and nativism, often within the same writer or group. Notable for its detached tone, and for taking the time to forensically tease out the various strands of American anti-Semitism rather than simply condemning it and diving into platitudes. –KH

They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead (Film, US, Morgan Neville, 2018) Tells the story of Orson Welles’ last great fiasco, the making of The Other Side of the Wind (q.v.). Particularly well cut together explainer weirdly omits the final chapter in which Netflix pays to fix the seemingly intractable problems and finish the film (and create this documentary). –KH

The Trouble With You (Film, France, Pierre Salvadori, 2018) Upon discovering that her dead super-cop husband corruptly framed Antoine (Pio Marmai) for a jewel heist, Marseille police woman Yvonne (a wonderful Adele Haenel) tries to protect him from the consequences when he gets out of prison. Screwball comedy mashes up romance, crime, and philosophy as unconsidered moral choices lead to ever more ridiculous consequences, all to a fab go-go score by Camille Bazbaz. –KH

X — the eXploited (Film, Hungary, Karoly Ujj Mészáros, 2018) Brilliant detective Eva (Monika Balsai) can’t function thanks to crippling panic attacks, but still manages to link a series of seeming accidents and suicides as murders with political implications. A solid political thriller, a strong policier, and for an act or two just a very creative variation on the Nero Wolfe model, all filmed with style. –KH


Duelles (Film, Belgium/France, Olivier Masset-Depasse, 2018) Story by Hitchcock, shots by Douglas Sirk: In idyllic 1960s Brussels, neighboring housewives Alice (Veerle Baetens) and Celine (Anne Coesens) succumb to paranoia and madness following a fatal accident to Celine’s son. The story moves well, and Baetens plays increasing mania wonderfully. But Masset-Depasse’s relatively conventional treatment and extremely safe and conventional choices raise the question: what is this movie doing, exactly, besides marking time for the inevitable Reese Witherspoon remake? –KH

Manborg (Film, Canada, Steven Kostanski, 2011) Soldier awakens as cyborg in a dystopian future, to do battle with Count Draculon, the fascist demon who killed his brother. Affectionate spoof of 80s straight to video schlock with impressive homebrew special effects. Two of the funniest bits, a trailer parody and the copyright warning, appear after the credits.—RDL

The Stolen Caravaggio (Film, Italy, Roberto Ando, 2018) Film company secretary Valeria (Micaela Ramazotti), who ghostwrites screenplays for blocked writer Alessandro Pes (Alessandro Gassmann), gets a lead on a story about the titular Caravaggio and to nobody’s surprise winds up inside the action. More propulsive than Ando’s Confessions, this meta-film wants to be Charade or a similarly dizzying romcom thriller, but doesn’t quite reach it. However, the ride is fun, and Maurizio Calvesi’s cinematography makes everything gorgeous. –KH


Happy as Lazzaro (Film, Italy/Switzerland/France/Germany, Alice Rohrwacher, 2018) The peasants of isolated Inviolata remain serfs in the 1980s, with the good (saintly?) worker Lazzaro (Adriano Tardiolo) bearing his fellows’ burdens in turn. Halfway through the movie, everything changes, and the neo-medieval mise-en-scene becomes today’s urban fringe. Rohrwacher tells a timeless story of exploitation with moments of stark beauty and emotion, but her choice of “golden legend” crosses up her ideological priors to eventually strangling effect. –KH

Naples in Veils (Film, Italy, Ferzan Ozpetek, 2017) After a super-hot one-night stand with diver Andrea (Alessandro Borghi) medical examiner Adriana (Giovanna Mezzogiorno) finds herself investigating, and suspected of, his murder the next day. Then she starts seeing his ghost, or his twin, or … ? Lush and beautiful, set in Naples’ avant-garde art scene and ignoring the Camorra or any aspect of reality whatsoever, the film eventually disappears into its own sexy, gorgeously shot ass. Two thirds of a movie — even two thirds of Vertigo — is still not a movie. –KH

Not Recommended

Ex-Shaman (Film, Brazil, Luiz Bolognesi, 2018) Docudrama leisurely follows Perera, the former shaman of the Paiter Surui tribe in the Brazilian interior. Bolognesi’s general melancholy tone doesn’t provide emotional insight, and the Anthro 101 subject matter doesn’t hold great interest by itself. Strong suspicion that Bolognesi staged some shots and the throughline, and certainly tinkered with the sound, leaches the film of what value it had left. –KH

Jumpman (Film, Russia/Lithuania/Ireland/France, Ivan I. Tverdovsky, 2018) After dumping him in the baby hatch of an orphanage at birth, Oksana (Anna Slyu) comes back for Denis (Denis Vlasenko) to use his congenital analgesia — inability to feel pain — for fraud. Denis becomes a jumpman, someone who jumps in front of rich people’s cars to extort them for bribes or (thanks to a deep-benched conspiracy) legal judgements. The scam is interesting, unlike the acting or camera work, but (along with a weird Jocasta-complex vibe from Oksana) never pays off because in Russia, movie ends you. Kirill Richter’s score is the only real standout, by turns brooding and atonal. –KH

2 Responses to “Ken and Robin Consume Media: Welles and Hill House Lead a Double Pinnacle Week”

  1. Ethan C. says:

    I loved The Haunting of Hill House — until the last 20 minutes of episode 10. I’ve seen a series punt on its own premise so badly before. Is the house actually bad? Then the ending doesn’t make any sense. Is the house actually good? Then the rest of the series doesn’t make any sense.

    • malkav11 says:

      Supposedly Flanagan et al strongly considered including a visual cue in the ending that would have made it (slightly subtly) unambiguously unhappy. I wish they had, because what we got has exactly the problem you describe.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Film Cannister
Cartoon Rocket
Flying Clock
Film Cannister