August 9th, 2014 § Leave a Comment
That title just struck me as have let ELENA sit with me for a day. This film, like Von Trier’s, deals with women who have depression, but not quite so literally metaphoric. The biggest similarity for me is the true beauty on screen. Not just in the love the camera gives to its subjects, but in the layered textures that weave into the whole film.
Petra Costa’s ode to her sister who committed suicide while she was just a girl has all the hallmarks of a great piece of art house cinema, yet it is a documentary. With some staged pieces and Petra’s reflective narration, we are taken on a journey that unifies multiple women until their story becomes one. Tying the film together is a great soundtrack featuring Amiina, a moody Icelandic band I’ve seen open for Sigur Ros.
ELENA is the sort of movie you’d only expect to see at a festival, so seeing it play a week of shows at the GI is a rare treat for fans of poetic biographic documentaries. Skip the CGI madness of TMNT and settle in for a quiet cinematic experience.
—peace out, or is it please out, dan
August 1st, 2014 § Leave a Comment
You can tell that Bogart likes little miss Bacall for real in the steamy TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT. And he definitely ends up having; the two are married by the time their next big picture THE BIG SLEEP comes out.
There are a lot of threads tying these two films together. Sure, Bogart and Bacall share top billing in both films, and are directed by Howard Hawks. But those with an eye on the screenplay credit will notice William Faulkner’s name on both. Yes, that William Faulkner!
TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT plays like a spiritual remake of CASABLANCA. Bogart plays an American in a Mediterranean location, pre-American involvement in WWII. And of course Bogart resists getting involved in these European affairs and becomes a reluctant hero. The overall tone of the film is lighter than CASABLANCA and does not feature as many memorable characters or memorable lines, but it does feature a 19-year-old Bacall eating up the screen. I haven’t seen a teenage actress come out and own their movie totally and completely, feeling years older and more mature since Jennifer Lawrence.
In other random thoughts of mine: TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT is from Ernest Hemingway. The film starts out with Bogart’s little fishing vessel taking on a marlin. Hemingway’s movie nee book THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA is all about a marlin. Just a little connection.
In THE BIG SLEEP Bacall’s charms and allures are overshadowed by most of the other women in the film, most namely Martha Vickers and Dorothy Malone, but still holds her own in scenes with Bogart. Bogart shows a little more range in this film than most of his other 40s private eye films (I love his character he plays in Geiger’s bookshop, I wish he’d done more disguises).
I don’t think THE BIG SLEEP will unseat THE MALTESE FALCON for me. Marlowe not better than Spade. But Marlowe seems like he’s having more fun than Spade ever could being a private eye, and the cracks come like in TO HAVE AND TO HAVE NOT: dry and perhaps just the hint of a smile.
Anyway, two 35mm prints in the same week. Both two of the biggest classics by one of Hollywood’s first auteurs. Come on down, we’ve got AC for Chrissakes!
—down in the dog days of summer, dan
July 19th, 2014 § Leave a Comment
Holy mole! A pitch perfect sci-fi thriller, the anti-blockbuster film of the summer.
Let me be as concise as I can possibly be. I don’t want to give away any plot details; this film unfolds precisely and hits each story beat and reveal down to the second. It demands to be seen from start to finish with rapt attention.
My thoughts are coming out a bit jumbled, but this film’s cacophony of ideas come together out of fugue state for moments of brilliance and simplicity when so many similar sci-fi films try to purposely confuse you. If you feel dumb by the end, the filmmakers won. If the story doesn’t make sense, the filmmakers still won because, well, you dumb. This film lets the audience and the filmmakers both win.
The only similar no-budget sci-fi movie that I think accomplishes the “a-ha!” eureka moments with such aplomb is PRIMER. This film is a little easier to follow and less obtuse than PRIMER, but it is just as rewarding and enjoyable a film watching experience.
Enjoy this incredible film with a double feature Friday or Saturday and take in RIKI-OH on glorious 35mm, courtesy of our friends at Alamo Drafthouse. Long before the ultraviolence of Frank Miller and Mark Millar comic book adaptations in the west, this film put them all to shame before they were made. Nothing has gone as delightfully over-the-top in practical gore effects in live-action comic/manga adaptations. Think DEAD ALIVE for a similar goretastic experience. I mean, a hole gets punched clear through a guy!
That’s all this week. If you don’t see COHERENCE, I’ll know. Shame on you.
June 28th, 2014 § Leave a Comment
What is “it” exactly? Take one of the horror niches and play it to a goddamn “T.” The absolutely perfect masterpiece HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, taking the 80s babysitter slasher and knocking it out of the park. Next, THE INNKEEPERS, providing a modernly sensible yet homage knowledgeable haunted house flick. Now, THE SACRAMENT, one of the best found footage horror films I’ve ever seen. Some would say I’m skipping V/H/S and THE ABCS OF DEATH, but those don’t count as a features in this auteur’s oeuvre.
First off, I want to pause and say how flipping sweet it is to be back with you. I’ve missed this gig, work and life and film selection circumstances have kept me from commenting on our selection as of late. Happy to share thoughts again with y’all.
Anyway, why is this film so good at the found footage horror genre? Well, I don’t want to give much away, but I don’t think there is really much to give away. Just from watching the trailer you can make a pretty educated guess as to what happens. The conceit of a VICE documentary crew coming to visit the next Jonestown motivates the above average camerawork. West’s masterful use of editing and music creates the tension, and Gene Jones as Father puts the icing on this eerie cake. That’s it, eerie. This is not a film of cheap thrills; this is West continuing to give true horror fans what they really want: to be deeply unsettled.
Also lending cred to this film is West’s continued use of the cognoscenti of the indie scene. Not to be unnoticed by film fans is Joe Swanberg as one of the VICE crew, writer/director of such recent hits as 24 EXPOSURES and DRINKING BUDDIES. And don’t forget the girl who puts the in in “in”die, Amy Seimetz. Eli Roth has slapped his name on it, but that’s almost a deterrent for me and other horror purists. Sorry Roth fans.
Anyway, I could keep going on about it but this film really speaks for itself. Plus the first screening is starting up pretty soon at the GI. See it already!
—West is the best, don’t watch the rest, dan
April 18th, 2014 § Leave a Comment
Now, I suffer from the same deep down Freudian affliction as most other men: castration anxiety. I was worried that this film would put way worse of a tingle in my dingle than it did do. The movie spends far less time actually dealing with detached genitals than you (and I) might have thought; it is instead about something all men can relate to: legacy.
The film’s three main characters make for some interesting drama: 1) Siggi, the curator of the penis museum and seeker of the titular FINAL MEMBER, 2) Pall, legendary Icelandic womanizer and the first to pledge donation, and 3) Tom, well-endowed American exhibitionist with plans to donate while still alive. Even though the documentary was filmed over a multiple year period, the tension of who’s going to the the first specimen (and will the specimen be donated while the elderly Siggi is still alive) is extremely well paced and completely engrossing.
The filmmakers could have easily left the universal themes at the easy phallic metaphors and left it at that, but they have so much human generosity to the subjects of the film. A sympathetic symphony of patriotism, aging, obsession, and manhood. Funny, but never at the expense of its subjects.
A tip of the hat yet again to our friends at Drafthouse for releasing another instant classic.
—made it through without quease or dis-ease, dan
April 11th, 2014 § Leave a Comment
since I graced this blog with my musings on the splendiferous programming of the Grand Illusion. Sorry it took so long, but maybe you haven’t even felt my absence. I’ve been putting in 60 hour work weeks and had to get out of town the last few weekends, so that’s my excuse. That, and I’ve been feeling a little creatively dry.
However, I had to jump on here to talk to you about MISTAKEN FOR STRANGERS. I had the pleasure of repping this film for SIFF 2013, and the even greater pleasure of meeting director and star of this meta rock doc, Tom Berninger. Berninger is the brother of the frontman of The National, Matt Berninger.
This film has appeal on multiple levels. Will you see lots of behind the scenes action of one the the biggest indie bands in the world? Yes, and I know that’s the appeal for most of the people who would rush out to see this film. But for me, the two biggest appeals were unexpected and that’s what I want to share with you.
Appeal one: The National is made up of two pairs of brothers, plus Matt Berninger. Tom Berninger, Matt’s brother and the director and true star of the film, is the perfect foil to Matt. Tom is into heavy metal music, not the indie rock nonsense his brother creates. Matt is the older brother who has the career and has it together, while Tom wants to be a filmmaker and has only made one feature that looks like a Roger Corman movie. The brotherly drama fuels the movie perfectly and works as a movie about brothers about a band of brothers. Layers!
Appeal two: Speaking of layers, after Tom gets done filming The National’s international tour for 2010’s High Violet, he moves in to Matt’s apartment in Brooklyn and attempts to try to find what the story of his movie. That’s where the film veers out of the standard tour documentary/band profile arena and becomes something entirely different.
I don’t want to give too much more away. Suffice it to say, though we show many music docs here at the GI, this is one that is truly unique and eschews traditional music doc structure.
It’s great! See it!
Also, we’ve got a few films on 35mm by a little unknown director named Orson Welles, but you don’t need me to tell you to see ‘em.
—back in the saddle, dan
March 15th, 2014 § Leave a Comment
Okay, I haven’t seen much Bergman. But all the Scandinavian Americans speaking their native tongue and the quiet drama portrayed in rich black and white certainly drew parallels for me. It must’ve been striking high art chords with its 1979 Cannes audience as well, winning the Camera D’Or.
We do this a lot at the GI, have a string of similarly themed films in a row. Not talking about just director or actor retrospectives; here we have two weeks in a row films about rural life, filmed in the 70s and critical darlings. Both relatively forgotten till just recently, and both with real life subjects and real history. And both absolutely worthy of rediscovery!
And yes, of course the overt socialism drew the inevitable Sawant references from Seattle’s two weeklies. This film deserves much more than name dropping local politicians, and true cinephiles will see its place as a great contemporary piece to Malick’s DAYS OF HEAVEN. I wish I had thought of that first, but the great, late Roger Ebert beat me to it! Proves great minds think alike.
See you cats Saturday! I’ll be slinging film for the 7:00 NORTHERN LIGHTS and following that up with a lil’ anime! That’s right! The GI is still the best place in town to see anime on the relatively big screen! TIGER & BUNNY!
—northern by pacific northwestern, dan
March 7th, 2014 § Leave a Comment
You know I’m not going to resist a titular pun, but maybe you didn’t see that one coming? I’m back, after letting you loose with Woody Allen for a while. You certainly didn’t need me to tell you to go see films from his most verdant and broadest ranging decade. And in 35mm no less!
I really want to talk to you about COUSIN JULES. What an absolutely exquisite gem of a film. A day in the life of a French backsmith and his wife. While watching the film, I was reminded of the children’s story of City Mouse and Country Mouse. The film doesn’t hit you over the head with the thematic virtues of the quiet peasant’s life like that old fable. Instead, it gives you a quiet ode to rural living, filmed in the aftermath of the French New Wave and the anti-materialist late 60s films of Jean-Luc Goddard.
This film is so exquisitely shot, it furthers my belief that whatever they were doing with the photochemical process in the 70s still makes it the greatest decade for cinema. This pastoral poem has all the fly-on-the-wall, day-in-the-life authenticity of the best cinema verite. With hardly a word uttered the whole film, to make a clumsy analogue to today’s post-modern filmmaking, this is OG mumblecore. There is no conflict or plot, besides the most rudimentary theme of man vs. nature, or going about your daily business to survive.
From the title, I was expecting something along the lines of the 70s Quebecois gem MON ONCLE ANTOINE, which just so happens to have come out the same year (1971). I don’t think that Cousin Jules from the title is meant to be someone specific’s cousin diagetic to the film, but an everyman. He’s your Cousin Jules too, and somewhere in the French countryside he’s still pulling away at his billows and carving another slice of bread.
Thank you, Cinema Guild, for distributing this missing treasure at last.
—cousin jules, he’s no fool, dan
February 1st, 2014 § Leave a Comment
My gosh my goodness, what a well-told story of someone’s life. The ultimate of tragedies. This film is a must see documentary, not just from a music interest or gay interest standpoint, but because it is one of the most full-fledged stories of “before their time” genius I have ever seen.
Jobriath was a genius of a composer and performer. I especially liked the Cole Berlin persona of his later years, deftly tickling the ivories with the quaintest and most delightful of tunes. I think he could have been a great Broadway musical writer. So sad.
His dismissal at the time of being wrapped up and delivered as a star feels so ironic living in a post-American Idol America, though some of the same dances with being too outwardly gay still factor today (even on that show). Though again, this film transcends just being a story about the first openly gay rock star, which it could have easily been in the hands of a less talented filmmaker. The film has just the right amount of reveals, plot twists, and act breaks you would expect if it was a narrative film instead of a documentary.
And the film’s even got a print version Stranger Suggests this week! See it Saturday night and I’ll be the one projecting it for your edification.
—go Hawks, dan
January 25th, 2014 § Leave a Comment
You can do yourself a favor and see TOKYO WAKA this week. Seriously. It’s a damn fine picture and I don’t mind telling you why.
In a happy trend, documentaries are returning more to their cinema verite roots. Why tell when you can show? Isn’t the true cinematic power of film its ability to show 24 pictures a second, pictures being worth a thousand words? This film focuses on crows, of course, but it happens to capture the essence of Tokyo at the same time. The reverence shown to crows by Japanese people is explored through religious symbolism and cultural signifiers, and is elegantly and eloquently paced throughout the film. There is the same repetition and reprisal of themes spaced so as to truly create a poem of a movie. A fine film to watch while the dry, grey winter air makes one melancholy in our own city.
In stark contrast to the quiet stoicism of TOKYO WAKA stands RAZE, weekend late night and around for the full week. Fans of the classic grindhouse, Roger Corman-era “women in prison” movies and the new school horror, Eli Roth-era “torture porn” movies will be happy to see the two married together for bare-knuckled fights to the death. Speaking of GRINDHOUSE, in its recent Tarantino incarnation, Zoe Bell from DEATH PROOF is the star of the film. One of my personal favorite female genre stars, Rachel Nichols, co-headlines the bill.
We’ve added some more tasty treats to the calendar, be sure you scroll the whole main page!
—WAKA WAKA WAKA, Fozzie Bear, dan