Frownland (Ronald Bronstein, 2007)






No matter what their flaws, the main characters in mainstream movies are almost always appealing in some way. If they are nebbishes, their klutziness is endearing. (Look at the work of Woody Allen.) If they are lonely, their alienation is grand and alluring. (Look at the work of Orson Welles.) If they are evil, their villainy is sexy and rakish. (Look at the work of Christopher Walken.) Ronald Bronstein strips away the Hollywood idealizations and asks us to spend time with genuinely unromantic characters leading genuinely unromantic lives. He creates characters we don’t want to see ourselves as, characters we refuse to identify with. There is much lip service paid to the importance of depictions of “otherness” in film; Frownland reveals that the concept of otherness as redemptive and transformative is a romantic myth. He gives us otherness we want to cross the street to avoid; otherness without sentimentality. Or is he just giving us ourselves with our self–deluded idealizations removed? – Ray Carney






There’s a certain type of person out there…one that we’re all familiar with…who provokes a kind of instant instinctive repulsion in nearly everyone they cross paths with. You run into these ‘off’ people now and again and it’s the social equivalent of pushing two magnets towards one another. By way of example, it’s the kind of person who might stop you on the street and ask you for directions and before you know it you’re claiming that you don’t know the way…even though you do….just to end the exchange as quickly as possible. In life, it’s just so easy to dismiss people like this. They don’t occupy enough real estate in your brain to force you to confront and reasonably gauge whether this instinctive aversion is justified. You simply go about your business and push them out of your mind as quickly as they entered into it. I guess i figured a movie theatre, where people are willing to be held captive for a few hours, is a good environment to make audiences spend time with someone like this, chew em over, swallow em, regurgitate em, chew some more, etc…and hopefully arrive at a more layered response. – Ronald Bronstein






Fractionally better than spending the evening watching crappy French tele in a Nantes hotel-room… Yes – last night, I had the choice of “Frownland” at Nantes’ Katorza art cinema or an evening of the direness that is currently being dished up for the TV-audience of France… I think “Frownland” was just worth leaving the hotel for. But, really, it is a car-crash of a film… Every character repelled and bored me, nothing happened, there was far too much snot, it looked so dated [despite apparently only having been made last year], etc., etc… I think the acting was OK – as far as it went – and I’m more than happy to turn a blind eye to a slightly grainy picture and an obviously low budget if the film-maker has got something genuinely interesting to say. [In fact, I’d encourage such film-makers, as we really do need an alternative to Hollywood.] But, a film needs to engage me much better than “Frownland” managed to. – badgerking10, imdb comment

At 106 minutes, it is at least 95 minutes too long. You get to watch the main character’s failed and drawn out attempts to communicate, in extended real time. The same grimaces, hand over mouth motions, kinetic and frantically repeated words and syllables over and over and over again – WE GET THE POINT.
One site actually compares this work to early Mike Leigh. What drugs would you have to be on to make that statement? – NJtoTX, imdb comment








Not I (Anthony Page, 1977)

UK / short / b&w / 13 min

Written by Samuel Beckett, performed by Billie Whitelaw.

It’s on youtube but I won’t link to it because it’s broken into two parts and shouldn’t be experienced that way. Check comments for d/l link.


gibbering wound…without a face…spake me your gibberings…wise as pie



la Passion de Jeanne d’Arc (Carl Th. Dreyer, 1928)

The Passion of Joan of Arc


There are versions of various length [imdb says: 110 min | Denmark:96 min | France:88 min (1952 re-release) | USA:114 min | 82 min (restored DVD version) (24 fps)]; my screening was advertised as being 98 minutes long, which places it closest to the Danish version.


35mm, b&w, silent


Sans Soleil (Chris Marker, 1983)

FR, 100 min


L’Éloignement des pays répare en quelque sorte la trop grande proximité des temps.
“The distance between countries compensates somewhat for the excessive closeness of time.”   — Jean Racine


Poetic, highly personal documentary incorporates footage from around the world into uniquely philosophical essay. Mainstream viewers may be baffled and bored, but fans of experimental documentary will enjoy tremendously.

sans soleil = overwhelming bliss






the Pressures of the Text (Peter Rose, 1983)

number 02 in the Vox 13 series

“[I]ntegrates direct address, invented languages, ideographic subtitles, sign language, and simultaneous translation to investigate the feel and form of sense, the shifting boundaries between meaning and meaninglessness. a parody of art/critspeak, educational instruction, gothic narrative, and pornography…”

(streaming or downloadable video available on ubuweb; link below.)

peter rose pictures: pressures of the text

Seconds (John Frankenheimer, 1966)

USA, 107 min

buy rock hudson’s face!
it only costs thirty grand
… they wasted your chance

reel: “Dark, harrowing, Kafka-esque allegory chronicles middle-aged man’s attempt to escape boring, loveless life via conspiratorial organization’s “rebirth” program. This overlooked ’60s masterpiece is a sleeper for fans of non-mainstream psychological horror.”