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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.

Lighthouse!

Lighthouse!

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

Wagner and Me and You and Everyone We Know

January 25th, 2013 § Leave a Comment

Look, what do you really need to know about this film that can’t be said in just a handful of words?

Yes I’ve seen it, this isn’t a dodge of convenience, a dog ate my homework, this is me being frank with the lot of you. Stephen Fry takes some time out of his busy and prolific career to take some “me” time, and we’re invited along for the ride. This is Stephen Fry we’re talking about, one of the most charismatic and personable British personalities to be imported across the Atlantic, and he gets to gush about the composer that makes him giddy as a schoolgirl.

wagner-and-me-2010-official-movie-poster

They even look alike! (if you squint)

This film is fascinating as both an intimate portrait of a celebrity absolutely letting their hair down and as behind the scenes look at one of the world’s most exclusive festivals, the annual Wagner festival in Bayreuth. Yes, the man and his history are tackled here, but the film only sloshes around in the sordid Nazi aspects of Wagner’s legacy long enough to counterpoint with the undeniable genius and exquisite beauty of the man’s achievements, not the least of which is the actual theatre that Wagner designed for his Ring Cycle to premiere upon. Fry’s at times borderline manic obsession with Wagner is always communicated with an infectious enthusiasm that an audience would have to be blind and deaf to not rush out and see if there are any tickets left for the Seattle Opera’s Ring Cycle.

Well, you got more out of me than I thought I was going to share. Looks like Fry has rubbed off on me.

—it’s Stephen-bloody Fry, what more do you want, dan

Experimentally Simplistic

January 19th, 2013 § Leave a Comment

Look, I thought I was going to come at you with some great little brief blog complete with pragmatic quips about this film. “It’s the most unpretentious film about experimental films you’ll ever watch,” something along those lines. Sure, I could still say that about this documentary and be completely correct and sure in my own thoughts, words, and feelings.

But, I find myself in a quandary: do so and go on acting like I didn’t read Charles Mudede’s remarks in this week’s “Stranger,” or accept that I had EXACTLY the same reaction to a film as a “Stranger” film reviewer and come to terms with it. I’ve got to give props to Mudede and Schmader for getting it right so often, so I can just accept that this week, this time (and maybe even be happy about it), I’m dead on the mark as are they.

Enjoy “Free Radicals,” cause you damn well better. Best experimental film history lesson you’ll ever get.

Yes, I seen Stan Brakhage's Criterion stuff. And yes, I did have near epilectic fits. Buyer beware.

Yes, I have seen Stan Brakhage’s Criterion stuff. And yes, I did have near epilectic fits. Buyer beware.

Oh, and the intimately integrated Sprocket Society is kicking ass on Thursday by completing the week with (here goes some “Stranger” style ALL CAPS) 16MM RARE PRINTS OF SOME OF THESE VERY SAME FILMMAKERS!

Have I arrived yet, Seattle?

—kicking out hard against the walls of perception, dan

Part Trois-de-Trois

January 12th, 2013 § Leave a Comment

I have absolutely no idea if that is correct French right there in the title, much less so as our two films this week tread nowhere near the language. Okay, I guess that’s not completely true. In our comedy of comedies, “Love and Death,” Napoleon is the force with which our Russkie heroes must do battle, both literally and preternaturally. Okay, now I’m just getting a wee bit silly.

What am I really trying to say? Not much more than one of my favorite directors of all time has his best (to my mind) film of all time playing in 35mm at my favorite theatre in my favorite city. So can you say I’m stoked? Yeah, you can. Do it.

“Manhattan” is a film that makes other films lose their luster and their meaning. Sure, techno-marvels like “Hugo” claim to profess the magic of movie making and touch the core, but filmdom already peaked in 1979 with the opening to “Manhattan” and “Rhapsody in Blue.” Perhaps the best use in a film of popular music plucked from the public lexicon outside of a Kubrick flick, I dare anyone and everyone to not love New York after watching this movie. I’m still waiting for Allen or any other filmmaker to make a love letter to a city and filmmaking like this goddamn gem.

Yeah, this is the shot. This is the one.

Yeah, this is the shot. This is the one.

To finish off our Allen run, let’s harken way back to the beginning of this blog post with “Love and Death,” the middle of the 70s and a pivot point for Allen. After genre experiments and sight gags gone wild, Allen reigns it in a little bit, but not too much. Those of us who love “Bananas” and “EYEWTKASBWTATA” can still enjoy “Love and Death” as a fun parody filled with sex jokes, but those astute followers will notice Allen downshifting and about to pull the handbrake to spin us into the whirl that will take us to “Annie Hall” and ultimately “Manhattan.”

For those of you just now discovering these films, shame. But know that at the GI we take the devout and the fallen. All rise.

—let down by “To Rome With Love,” but ever faithful, dan

Back to the Start

January 5th, 2013 § Leave a Comment

After what some would consider an all-too premature masterpiece in a long and verdant career, “Annie Hall,” we flip it back a few years to his early stuff. Considered by many to be his most exuberant and best years of filmmaking (we’re calling this series “Woody Allen in the 70s,” so I think you can tell what our bias is), “Bananas” and “Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Sex” are in my mind his first two truly big movies from the standpoint of JPM.

I do like the earlier 60s stuff (let’s not mention “Casino Royale”), but Allen pulls of a 1-2-3 in ’71-’73 with these two and “Sleeper” that has been met by few other films and fewer filmmakers in terms of the aforementioned JPM. What is JPM? It’s something I just made up while rewatching “Bananas!” It stands for “jokes per minute,” and some jokes in “Bananas” are only given a few seconds of screen time before its on to the next gag. The full tilt, pellmell humor barrage stands in no-small debt to Allen’s love of silent era movie gags, ranging from the surreal to the visceral.

Show your love for Allen’s early career brilliance this week, with a one-two punch of the best humor of the early 70s. “Everything” even features one of Wilder’s best performances (outside of a Brooks film)! Some of my favorite comedians in some of my favorite comedies, say no more!

My one complaint about this film: this is bestiality, not sodomy. Could've squeezed in another sketch with a homosexual where everyone knows it but him, or something...

My one complaint about this film: this is bestiality, not sodomy. Could’ve squeezed in another sketch with a homosexual where everyone knows it but him, or something…

Join us next week for my favorite Allen film “Manhattan” (his best, sorry “Annie Hall”) and be challenged by Allen’s strangest 70s film, “Love and Death.”

—holidayed out and happy to be back, dan

The Original Twilight (Zone)

November 30th, 2012 § Leave a Comment

Back before vampires sparkled and Native Americans were thinly-veiled racist caricatures (well, that’s not really a recent thing), there was a little television show that gave mainstream American television the sort of mind trips and thought experiments long enjoyed in the realm comic books and pulp fiction (and even higher brow stuff). And what better way to enjoy and celebrate the pop-culture landmark of a bygone era than in a movie theatre on an obsolete format! That’s right, 16mm baby! The NW’s king of 16mm and GI mainstay Dennis Nyback is gonna wow you with his collection of 21 classic episodes, split over seven days in three episode chunks. 90 minutes of televised bliss! Buy a pass, skip the Hulu Plus membership this month! Our screen is better than yours anyway.

I know this is the same image as the main page, but nothing says it better than this!

And with the perfect segue into our repertory run of IAWL, join us on Friday the 7th for a good old fashioned Nyback Christmas special. Culled from his mighty collection and ripened with age, truly a wonder to behold. Perfect for getting you in the mood for another smash year of VHSXMAS, coming at you Saturday night the 8th! I’ll be there, you better be too!

—a short blog about shorts, dan

Ornette and Ornate

November 16th, 2012 § Leave a Comment

Got time to squeeze off a quick one here this week. Normally I got time to dawdle about on Fridays and get the gospel of the GI pounded from the pulpit of my iMac, but not today. That’s ok! Cause what I got to say about our landmark music doc film about a landmark musician, well, it came easy to me.

If you know anything about 20th century jazz beyond Miles Davis and Louis Armstrong, you know about my boy Ornette. An absolute genius composer/performer, he comes across in the film as just the sort of thoughtful, introspective sort of man who’d have the sort of headspace to come up with these killer jams. The film starts and ends with symphonic accompaniment in his hometown of Fort Worth, TX. The moans and strains of the orchestra juxtapose brilliantly to Ornette’s band “Prime Time.”

this man can make the saxophone do things undreamt of

Having spent a great deal of time at concerts and having watched more than a few music docs/concert films, I was struck by how many of my own favorites took a note from this film in style and presentation. It feels like equal emphasis is placed on music and musician, time and place, like some of my favorites: Sigur Ros’ “Heima” and Wilco’s “Ashes of American Flags.”

Ornette’s music continues near unabated throughout the film, and there is achieved a stream-of-consciousness poetic flow (notably Burroughs is present in the film) with intertitles spliced in via a mass transit ticker sign. Everything is in motion in this film, even talking heads are cross cut in rapid succession. Those sensitive to seizure beware! At least you can close your eyes and surrender yourself to Ornette’s music.

It’s a new print for goshsakes! Come and be counted among those in the know, come see the show! Witness a true marriage of experimental filmmaking to experimental music, in glorious 35mm.

—Ornette: more outlandish prog than even Mars Volta?, dan

 

They’ve come to break your heart and eat your food (a.k.a. Anarchy in the C.R.)

November 9th, 2012 § Leave a Comment

I’ve only had the opportunity to get snidbits (new word, congrats me) of this landmark Czech New Wave film in film history classes. I’m happy that 1966 seems to have been the watershed year for Czech cinema, that year seeing us “Daisies” and my personal favorite, “Closely Watched Trains.” Trains are also a motif in “Daisies,” but while “Closely Watched Trains” is one of the masterpieces of the driest, subtlest humor ever to grace the screen, “Daisies” is full-blown in-your-face and over-the-top.

If you want a taste of what you’re with “Daisies,” just know that you’ll be joining two of cinema’s original bad girls as they break down societal conventions left and right until they’ve exhausted themselves of ideas. Follow them as they wine and dine their way through their town’s octogenarians and take food experimentation to the level of fetish (and some rather overt male genital mutilation metaphors, steel yourself gentlemen!). The film climaxes with an Alice in Wonderland-style hot seat buffet at a table of such opulence you wonder if the entire movie’s budget was used on that scene alone.

Shame to see such a spread go to waste. But no meal is a waste when paired with Johnnie Walker!

This film is not without its moments of sheer experimental genius. There are a few montages that not only pushed the boundaries of taste in the 60s but remain impressive to this day as paragons of pre-digital editing and mis-en-scene. One of the most famous images from the film, the disembodied floating heads, is not even the most interesting part of that scene. There ensues a flurry of scissors and the image fractures into a kaleidoscope of prismatic chaos, genius I say!

I’m excited that a new print is being toured around by our friends at Janus Films, because that can only mean a Criterion release isn’t far behind. Now Chytilova’s textbook classic will have the opportunity to join film libraries with the other Czech New Wave luminaries, namely Menzel and Forman. Have I mentioned how much I love “The Firemen’s Ball?” Seriously, there a scarce few societal farces that come close.

—Czech ’em out, dan