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Mumia: Never Heard of Him: Not Suprising

February 22nd, 2013 § Leave a Comment

I think it’s very telling that as a college-educated and NPR-listening American citizen I had never heard of Mumia Abu-Jamal. The mainstream American media machine has effectively done its job, and the picture they (the filmmakers) paint of Mumia as silenced is not exaggerated in the slightest.

One of the most interesting things I felt this film sidesteps: there is never once a denial that he killed a cop. Whether or not that is debated among those crying for his release from prison is never addressed. I don’t think anyone who killed a cop (and thinking back recently to our own Seattle area cop killer Maurice Clemmons) got off easy: in fact, Mumia seems to have had it better than most. I know that’s not a response typical of a liberal Seattleite, but the amount of written and published work he managed to get put out as a former Black Panther on death row is ASTOUNDING. That’s the realist in me, not the idealist in me.

Brother with a beard: much respect.

Brother with a beard: much respect.

His writings and work for the rights of marginalized people of America and the world is incredible and staggering over the course of this two hour documentary. Normally I would say two hours is way too long for a documentary, and we’ve had documentaries at the GI clocking in at 90 minutes that were too long for their content. The reach of his influence and the scope of his insight into not his own struggle but the struggle of others makes me almost want to give that journalism thing a go again: bringing it back to that college education. This guy did it 30 years on death row, doing it for no money at all.

Well, at least I’m blogging, he doesn’t have that luxury.

—doin’ it, dan

8 1/2 Unrounded Up

February 16th, 2013 § Leave a Comment

Before Daniel Day-Lewis danced and sang this film was and is and shall be. What a goddamn gorgeous cinematic miracle this is. The B + W counterbalances the white light of purity and the deep blacks of melancholy, while providing the perfect palette for the film’s numerous dreamlike sequences. Sure, we’re said to dream in B + W (I don’t), but the ethereal quality of the dream sequences segues to the film’s reality in a way I’ve seen mastered in few films. Not B + W to co-opt a time period or a bygone genre, but B + W in purest cinematic ecstasy and textural brilliance. And what better way to experience it that in 35mm at the GI, celebrating the art of cinema on the 50th anniversary of the quintessential arthouse film!

So handsome! Rocking the salt-n-pepper pre-Clooney!

So handsome! Rocking the salt-n-pepper pre-Clooney!

The camera is a free-flowing entity, unbeholden to cinematic necessity or the demands of tw0-thirds framing. An exquisite frame can be held before whirling round on subjects too close in the foreground or askew in the background. An exercise in freedom and a study of creative burnout and the expectations of a frantic public, this film never disappoints. Guido rides the line between sympathetic and disdainful, a rogue and a man-boy, like so many womanizing artists we could name. The archetype.

My only complaint about the film could play as inspired homage to Italian tradition: continuous overdubbed dialogue! Curse you unsynced audio!

What else have we got (besides VHSEX)? “Let Fury Have The Hour” is unique among counter-cultural documentaries: it doesn’t give up on the American Dream. It tells the story of an American Dream that includes community and society, before the radical individualism borne by mainstream Republican propaganda during the 80s. I can’t for one say whether one existed before the other, as I’m a product of the 80s myself (only in the literal sense), but this film paints a sympathetic picture if you keep with it: an easy task during its breezy 90 minutes. A collection of poets, rappers, punkers, comedians, and other fringe activists put a few things into perspective that made their movements obviously necessary. I have a greater appreciation for skateboarding now! Why had no one bothered to explain it to me that way before? (I guess if the question never occurs to you…)

That’s it, be good to each other.

—Fellini, pass the Bellini, dan

I Care About The Music!

February 8th, 2013 § Leave a Comment

Oh boy, oh boy. I love experimental/avant-garde/electronic/post-rock/lo-fi/classical deconstruction, and this movie has all of those in spades. A masterful bouquet of parallels and metaphors, visually and aurally, I was taking near constant delight. Very rarely does a music documentary take such painstaking detail in relating sound to space, and when it does it seems to pair the two only with the most introspective of musicians. The complete opposite visually (but not necessarily sonically) from my favorite¬† “Heima,” the urban and industrial decay of Tokyo and its environs inform and juxtapose in a painfully beautiful cacophony.

my favorite instrument + pellet gun + contact mic = my new favorite music yet undreamt of!

my favorite instrument + pellet gun + contact mic = my new favorite music yet undreamt of!

Am I getting a little grandiose? Good, because this film swelled from the depths to the heights of my soul in a sine wave of pleasure. We show a lot of music documentaries at the GI, and this possibly the best I have seen yet. The music? Think a lo-fi and minimalist Mono mixed with the blue collar soundscapes of chamber rockers Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and throw all that out the door as chiptune collides with monastic thrash metal. Yeah, it’s a goddamn genius tour-de-force of vibrant Japanese musicians that I just got to listen to now.

Looks like Japan is giving Iceland a run for its experimental money. Look out Sigur Ros, their movies and music are hot on your heels.

—Japanese, yes please!, dan

Another Cinema

February 1st, 2013 § Leave a Comment

I’ve said it before on this blog, and as long as we continue to program them, I’ll continue to say it: South Korean films make it seem easy. The whole filmmaking thing, they make the rest of us look bad. I suppose maybe that’s why they’re the next wave of foreign filmmakers Hollywood is importing to make their movies for them? It happened with all the European new waves, and it’s happening now. When you need to bring Schwarzenegger’s career back, bring in a South Korean! (“The Last Stand”)

What to say about the film itself? It’s a tasty little morsel of the same story but different told over again, much of the parallels made simply with exquisitely framed shots. Perfect for seeing on “Groundhog Day” weekend! Though it’s considered an English language film, there is still about of a third of the movie in Korean w/subtitles, so foreign film aficionados worry not. And as it’s English spoken by only by Koreans and a French actress, the language is thick with accent and rife with struggles to find the right words. The film’s use of English is not an attempt at making a more mainstream and importable product, but commentary on English as being the international language intermediary.



The film’s comedy comes mostly from the Korean male obsession with foreign women, which is twisted each half hour in a sort of character musical chairs. Isabelle Hubert always plays a French woman named Anne, but attempts at her affection either land or fail with the retelling, and though there is not a deep bench of actors/characters, the film manages to delight and give something fresh each time.

—eagerly awaiting a Korean master’s true English language film, “Stoker,” dan

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