Twenty-seventh year

1353.) Part three of my ongoing tribute to the work of pioneering Czech filmmaker Vera Chytilova focuses solely on her 1980 chaos comedy Panelstory. The film revolves around the residents of a housing project that is going through massive renovations and being enlarged. Nothing works, everyone (including the inhabitants) get easily lost, and if the residents aren’t screwing each other, they’re being screwed by the management. Yes, it’s a comedy but it’s also a social satire that rates as one of Chytilova’s tighter films.

1354.) Providing an update of sorts on the work of the great British comedian Stewart Lee, I present the second and last episode discussing and showing scenes from his recent standup show “Content Provider.” In this part, Stew ponders being a collector in the age of the Internet, when everything a person wants or needs is available at the click of a mouse, and older diehard collectors and fetishists can muse about how difficult (and fun) it *used* to be to pursue your particular fascination. Stew’s show closes out with a modern twist on Caspar David Friedrich’s 1818 painting “Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog.” (It can happen.)

1355.) Going on a glorious tangent off the work of Jacques Rivette, this week I present a discussion of and scenes from the debut film by Argentinean filmmaker Eduardo de Gregorio, who co-scripted The Spider’s Stratagem with Bertolucci and Celine and Julie Go Boating for Rivette. The film discussed here, Surreal Estate (1976), is a sort of odd spin-off of Celine and Julie, as it finds stars Bulle Ogier and Marie-France Pisier in an old mansion that seems to be spawning its own narratives. Corin Redgrave stars as a blocked novelist who discovers the house and figures that he can write a novel about its occupants (including a dominant servant, played by Leslie Caron) – but soon finds that the house controls its denizens, rather than the other way around. de Gregorio made four later features, but this one is the most intriguing, as it deals with storytelling and sexuality, and is itself a sort of “hallway” running alongside Celine and Julie.

1356.) The second Pasolini film to be discussed in detail on the show is his 1969 act of subversion Porcile, aka “Pigsty.” It’s a bizarre and thoroughly transparent allegory, which interweaves two unrelated tales of unsavory practices. The first is cannibalism committed by a Spanish soldier (Pierre Clementi), which leads him to a confession that is the pivot of the end of the movie. The other plotline concerns the son (played by New Wave icon Jean-Pierre Leaud) of a German businessman who makes money off of pigs (in case you don’t get the metaphorical level, he sports a Hitler mustache). The businessman is visited by a sympathetic friend, played by Funhouse favorite Marco Ferreri; those two are then joined by a rival businessman (played by the great Ugo Tognazzi), as the errant, rather perverted son rejects his socialist protester girlfriend (played by Leaud’s partner in Godardian frenzy, Anne Wiazemsky).

1357.) The first of two episodes about Italian avant-garde filmmaker Carmelo Bene. A contemporary and colleague of Pasolini, Bene was first and foremost a theater director and playwright, but for a handful of years in that most turbulent of times (’68-’73) he made a handful of movies. They are colorful and crazy, alternately profound and ridiculous, and feature moments of visual beauty and rather goofy shtick. His influences encompassed various theatrical artists and also American underground filmmakers (most notably Anger and Jack Smith) and Funhouse deity, Uncle Jean. In this episode I discuss and shows scenes from three of his features: Our Lady of the Turks (1968), an overlong episodic work that introduced his experimental style; Capricci (1969), an off-the-rails provocation that costars Godard perennial Anne Wiazemsky; and One Hamlet Less (1973), his warped and truly gorgeous-looking adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic.

1358.) All the classic Xmas movies have been shown and reshown countless times, so much so that it’s time to explore the underside of Yuletide moviemaking. That underside is surely represented by the 1989 straight-to-vid horror movie Elves starring TV’s “Grizzly Adams,” Dan Haggerty. The picture starts out in a tongue-in-cheek mode and its plot is surely the stuff of classic trash past – a washed-up police detective turned department store Santa uncovers a hideous Nazi plan to mate women with elves to create the Master Race. There’s a bit more to it than that – including the fact that the girl who is the frontrunner for the task is the product of a union between her grandfather and her mother, and that it’s never explained why there’s only one goddamned elf (looking more like a troll) in the whole movie. Although it starts out on a light note, Elves gets more sincere about its insanity as it moves on and gets unpredictably odder and odder. The final “kicker” you’ve seen before but not quite in this kind of… er, package. (with a bow on the top and an elf on the wrapping)

1359.) Vintage, to commemorate Anna’s passing: It’s been 17 years since I first presented the U.S. TV premiere of scenes from the oh-so-Sixties 1967 French telefilm Anna. The film is the only musical scored by Serge Gainsbourg, and it stars the radiant Anna Karina, “new wave” icon Jean-Claude Brialy, and Serge himself. The visuals are memorably pop-art-ish and the songs are equally indelible. Since the film has a super-simplistic plot and Gainsbourg’s lyrics are usually either poorly or all-too-rigidly translated from French to English, I was happy to present scenes from the film with French subtitles when I originally aired episodes devoted to it. In the time since, two all-too-rigidly translated English-subtitled versions of the film have appeared, so in this revamped episode (part one of two) I feature clips from the “version originale” plus one clip with English subtitles to show how Serge’s lyrical flourishes are completely lost in subtitling (and one clip with no subtitles at all so you can just dig the tune and enjoy Anna!). The film has never had a U.S. distributor, and so I am proud to present clips from it to remind Funhouse viewers how much fun it is.

1360.) Vintage favorite, presented to commemorate the death of Anna Karina: In the 17 years since I offered the U.S. TV premiere of scenes from the Serge Gainsbourg musical Anna, there have been no theatrical showings, no DVD, no airings on the indie cable channels (wait – there aren’t any anymore!). Thus I thought it would be only fitting to re-air my original episodes, albeit with updated information. This week’s episode is the second part of my tribute to Anna, focusing on the film’s odd and oh-so-Sixties dream sequences. (English subs for the songs that truly need ’em and are subtitled accurately — one key screw-up in the translation of the ballad “Ne Dis Rien” makes it far better that its lyrics be viewed as French poetry.) In the second half of the episode I present some key Gainsbourg clips, including his own versions of songs from the Anna soundtrack.

1361.) The second and last part of my tribute to Italian avant-garde filmmaker Carmelo Bene. This show is devoted entirely to his Salome (1972), a visually arresting adaptation of the Oscar Wilde play that also harkens back to its Biblical subject matter. Bene was a noted figure in Italian theater and so his films were rife with theatrical conceits, but he was also clearly a student of both Godard and the American underground, so his films have *bright* primary colors, jarring editing, gorgeously artificial sets, and many naked bodies. This particular feature contains ample amounts of classical drama and outlandish comedy (John the Baptist is an older thin, yelling Italian guy being hit in the head by a holy book). Bene avoided using conventionally known actors in his films but here he has two internationally famous models in the cast – Veruschka (Blow-Up, the recent Casino Royale) and Luna (Skidoo, Satyricon). The film’s best sequences deal with John the Baptist’s friend Jesus attempting to crucify himself and finding out that it’s not as easy as it looks….

1362.) In honor of the death of Buck Henry, I present a very special “strange arthouse artifact” episode. The topic of discussion for this episode, with ample amounts of footage, is the 1972 Yugoslavian short “I Miss Sonia Henie,” which is a series of short vignettes directed by a group of internationally famous filmmakers who were gathered for the Belgrade Film Festival. I will also be showing scenes from a documentary made about the making of the short (!). Among those who contributed bits to the short are Dusan Makavejev, Paul Morrissey, Frederick Wiseman (scripting and directing a fiction film, something he did only twice thereafter), and Buck Henry and Milos Forman who had just made Taking Off and were promoting the film overseas. “Sonia Henie” was an experiment in form (and sexy silliness) in which the participants had to shoot a three-minute vignette in one small apartment, with no camera movement or tricky framing or editing (and, needless to say, with a very small cast). And somewhere in whatever brief sketch that was written had to be the line “I miss Sonia Henie.” (1972 was still technically the Sixties, esp. in international cinema, kiddies….) The result is, of course, a rather wacky mixture of sexual liberation and off-kilter humor, which is “completed” by the Henry/Forman sketch, which finds an inventive way of getting the signature line of dialogue into the proceedings.