Woman With Red Hair (1979, Tatsumi Kumashiro). A so-called pink film; the Siren had seen some of these before but hadn't been aware that they constituted a genre, still less that this genre was what she was going to be confronted with on Day 1, Film 1 of the New York Film Festival's press screenings. You could say the Siren was ill-prepared; the last Japanese film she watched was 24 Eyes. Woman With Red Hair isn't something the Siren particularly wants to analyze at great length, or even short length, but it reminded her a bit of The Devil in Miss Jones, only with much less nudity and much better framing. The lead actress (Junko Miyashita) is gorgeous.
The Loneliest Planet (2011, Julia Loktev). Contempt Goes Backpacking. We spend a long while watching the well-scrubbed couple (Hani Furstenberg and Gael Garcia Bernal) have well-scrubbed sex, in between trekking the wild spaces of the Republic of Georgia, and we await an Event. Then the Event happens and…All right, no spoilers here, so the Siren puts it this way. Martin Amis, in his 1984 article on Brian De Palma, remarks that Body Double (which the Siren loves) "could be exploded by a telephone call." This movie explodes if one character turns to the other on one of many arduous hikes and says, "What the hell…?" Has definite rewards, like the lovely score by Richard Skelton, and some enthralling moments, like a long-distance look at the couple and their guide walking along a riverbank after the Event, and a graceful, deeply emotional shot that zooms in on Furstenberg's hair coiled at her neck. But overall, a frustrating travelogue.
You Are Not I (1981, Sara Driver). Based on a Paul Bowles short story; the film's negative was destroyed in a warehouse flood and recently restored from a print discovered in the writer's own collection. It is the pleasingly spooky tale of a woman incarcerated in an insane asylum, who uses a fiery car accident outside the asylum's gates to escape and return to her sister's house. The Siren loved the black-and-white, bare-trees-in-late-fall ambience, via Jim Jarmusch as cinematographer. Very much of its 1980s New Wave time, including the humor. "Just don't let her get excited," is the advice proffered on how to handle the patient (Suzanne Fletcher), who scarcely moves and is given to thousand-yard stares that would scare the wits out of Nurse Ratched. Didn't seem to be much of an audience favorite, but this is the Siren's kind of Halloween movie.
Le Havre (2011, Aki Kaurismaki) Marcel, a shoeshine man (André Wilms) in the port city of the title, has scant income and a devoted but ailing wife, Arletty (Kati Outinen). He winds up sheltering a Gabonese refugee boy (Blondin Miguel), with the help of a bottomless supply of kindhearted neighbors, one seriously lovable dog, and one cop (Jean-Pierre Daroussin) who says "I don't much like people," but doesn't mean it. A fairy tale about real-world problems that is blissfully unmoored to reality of any kind. Contains a Mickey-and-Judy plot twist, a shot that echoes a Susan Hayward movie (you'll know it when you see it), and a deplorable French pun. The squarest movie the Siren has seen all year, and she's including her TCM viewing here. She was crazy about it, and would have been even if the main couple weren't named Marcel and Arletty.
We Can't Go Home Again (1976, Nicholas Ray). A major restoration of the director's last film, a labor of love by his widow, Susan, and an important piece of film history. The Siren is grateful that it's available, and grateful to have seen it. She only wishes she had actually liked it. Many of the images have power, but the movie itself does not, weighed down as it is by dorm-room philosophizing and students who are painfully unnatural on screen, even though they are evidently playing variations on themselves. Ray's beautiful voice provides the narration, and the movie perks up when he's in the frame. At times it resembles an oddball, self-valorizing version of To Sir With Love, only this "Sir" is preaching psychosexual and political liberation instead of clean clothes and good manners. It's an opportunity to see a celebrated auteur wrestling his demons to the end, but in terms of cinema, the Siren got a lot more out of Born to Be Bad.
And the plus one, such as it is:
I Don't Know How She Does It (2011, Douglas McGrath). The Siren has loathed few novels to the degree that she loathed Allison Pearson's 2002 book about the problems of a hedge-fund manager trying to balance work and the demands of her husband and two kids. The character of Kate Reddy was so spoiled and abrasive that even when she voiced a complaint the Siren has made herself, the Siren's response was, "Oh, go soak your head." The good news is that Sarah Jessica Parker gives Kate some urgently needed warmth, and Aline Brosh Mckenna once again turns in a screenplay that's much better than the book it's based on (the other being The Devil Wears Prada). The bad news is that the movie is slackly plotted, offers nothing to much to look at except Christina Hendricks and Pierce Brosnan (who are wasted with prodigal carelessness), and despite the occasional wry chuckle (mostly via Olivia Munn's Momo), the film has no actual wit. The actors all deserved better, but this is probably the best job that could have been done with the source material.