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New York Film Festival 2006: Belle Toujours

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New York Film Festival 2006: Belle Toujours

It’s easy to call Manoel de Oliveira’s Belle Toujours—a derelict appendage to Luis Buñuel’s Belle de jour—an homage, but look beyond the desiccated parallels to its cause célèbre predecessor (e.g.: Bulle Ogier standing in for Catherine Deneuve as a not-so-obscure object of desire; an out-of-nowhere appearance by a rooster—seemingly matted into frame—strutting along a luxurious hotel hallway) and there’s little of substance beyond a slightly pleasurable twinge of recognition. We can all shudder with delight as Henri Husson (Michel Piccoli) plays retroactive mindgames with Séverine Serizy (Ogier), teasing her during a candlelight dinner with answers to questions that will inevitably fold back on themselves. But it’s all a childish diversion: during a beautifully composed chiaroscuro long-take, Henri pokes and prods Séverine about the contents of the prior film’s famed buzzing box, yet the dialogue doesn’t play with anything approaching Buñuel’s level of cruelty, his profoundly (under)cutting view of the world (this is the man, remember, who not only showed Christ coming out of the 120 Days of Sodom, but then turning right around and going back in).

Buñuel tears the gates of perception asunder; de Oliveira, at least in Belle Toujours, keeps us decidedly earthbound. This might be part of the point: to show, essentially, how the characters’ unhinged fantasy lives have been tempered by age, with all the resultant hemming and hawing about lost youth that, placed within a slightly different framework, might well be entitled Trip to Bountiful. But this thesis presumes, however unintentionally, that Buñuel differentiates between waking and dreaming states, which is the very “bourgeois” concept (one of many) that he works to break down in Belle de jour and one that de Oliveira (whom Ed Gonzalez, in his Slant Magazine review, correctly fingers as an “aesthete”) resurrects for his “sequel.”

If Belle Toujours stood on its own I might have bought into de Oliveira’s playful interloping, but the work is too slight (a brief 68 minutes) and too dependent on our memory of what’s preceded to have its own resonance. The clucking cock homage and the travelogue aerials of Paris (scored to snippets of Antonin Dvorak’s Symphony #8 in G Major) are clear demarcators that separate the fantastic from the factual—they’re affectations that intrude rather than infect. And for a good portion of the running time we’re stuck in an underlit bar off the corners of Exposition Street and Analysis Avenue where Henri lays out the schematics of the previous film to a barman (Ricardo Trepa) who fancies himself a sort of priest (how Buñuel might have skewered his pretensions!) while two prostitutes (Leonor Baldaque and Júlia Buisel) offer cutesy sideline commentary about how Henri is so caught up in his confession that he fails to notice them. This in itself might be de Oliveira’s own admission: he’s so enamored of his predecessor that he fails to grasp how Belle Toujours’ diagrammatic annotations and doodlings effectively boil Buñuel down to a belletristic skeleton. Like a forced bloodletting, the film drains all the mystery out of a masterpiece.

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Let Your Sanity Go on Vacation with a Trip to the Moons of Madness

If you dare, ascend into the horrors of the Martian mind and check out the trailer for yourself.

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Moons of Madness
Photo: Rock Pocket Games

The announcement trailer for Moons of Madness opens with an empty shot of the Invictus, a research installation that’s been established on Mars. The camera lingers over well-lit but equally abandoned corridors, drifting over a picture of a family left millions of kilometers behind on Earth before finally settling on the first-person perspective of Shane Newehart, an engineer working for the Orochi Group. Fans of a different Funcom series, The Secret World, will instantly know that something’s wrong. And sure enough, in what may be the understatement of the year, Newehart is soon talking about how he “seems to have a situation here”—you know, what with all the antiquated Gothic hallways, glitching cameras, and tentacled creatures that start appearing before him.

As with Dead Space, it’s not long before the station is running on emergency power, with eerie whispers echoing through the station and bloody, cryptic symbols being scrawled on the walls. Did we mention tentacles? Though the gameplay hasn’t officially been revealed, this brief teaser suggests that players will have to find ways both to survive the physical pressures of this lifeless planet and all sorts of sanity-challenging supernatural occurrences, with at least a soupçon of H.P. Lovecraft’s cosmicism thrown in for good measure.

If you dare, ascend into the horrors of the Martian mind and check out the trailer for yourself.

Rock Pocket Games will release Moons of Madness later this year.

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Watch: Two Episode Trailers for Jordan Peele’s The Twilight Zone Reboot

Ahead of next week’s premiere of the series, CBS All Access has released trailers for the first two episodes.

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The Twilight Zone
Photo: CBS All Access

Jordan Peele is sitting on top of the world—or, at least, at the top of the box office, with his sophomore film, Us, having delivered (and then some) on the promise of his Get Out. Next up for the filmmaker is the much-anticipated reboot of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone, which the filmmaker executive produced and hosts. Ahead of next week’s premiere of the series, CBS All Access has released trailers for the first two episodes, “The Comedian” and “Nightmare at 30,000 Feet.” In the former, Kumail Nanjiani stars as the eponymous comedian, who agonizingly wrestles with how far he will go for a laugh. And in the other, a spin on the classic “Nightmare at 20,0000 Feet” episode of the original series starring William Shatner, Adam Scott plays a man locked in a battle with his paranoid psyche. Watch both trailers below:

The Twilight Zone premieres on April 1.

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Scott Walker Dead at 76

Walker’s solo work moved away from the pop leanings of the Walker Brothers and increasingly toward the avant-garde.

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Scott Walker
Photo: 4AD

American-born British singer-songwriter, composer, and record producer Scott Walker, who began his career as a 1950s-style chanteur in an old-fashioned vocal trio, has died at 76. In a statement from his label 4AD, the musician, born Noel Scott Engel, is celebrated for having “enriched the lives of thousands, first as one third of the Walker Brothers, and later as a solo artist, producer and composer of uncompromising originality.”

Walker was born in Hamilton, Ohio on January 9, 1943 and earned his reputation very early on for his distinctive baritone. He changed his name after joining the Walker Brothers in the early 1960s, during which time the pop group enjoyed much success with such number one chart hits as “Make It Easy on Yourself” and “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore).”

The reclusive Walker’s solo work moved away from the pop leanings of the Walker Brothers and increasingly toward the avant-garde. Walker, who was making music until his death, received much critical acclaim with 2006’s Drift and 2012’s Bish Bosch, as well as with 2014’s Soused, his collaboration with Sunn O))). He also produced the soundtrack to Leos Carax’s 1999 romantic drama Pola X and composed the scores for Brady Corbet’s first two films as a director, 2016’s The Childhood of a Leader and last year’s Vox Lux.

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