Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Migrating Forms 2009- Wrap Up and Festival Top 5

More than a week after the festival is over, and still dragging my feet to write about the 17 works I saw over the five days (if I weren't a slacker, it would have been a few more), Migrating Forms 2009 is still taking shape in my mind. Intent on expanding the cinematic framework, whether into home videos, gallery pieces, or projection performances, Migrating Forms, if nothing else, shows that Cinema, whatever it is, is alive and well in 2009. Though I skipped a couple of the seemingly better received works in the festival (Ponytail, Canary) in favor of another feature and a shorts program which ended up featuring a couple of my favorite works in the festival, I was more than happy with what I got, even if I found the majority of the features quite underwhelming and the shorts programs hit or miss. And while some better organization would have been helpful (not to be hyper critical, but not one of the programs I went to started, or was even seating, within 15 minutes of its start time, and, typically, patrons stood around the lobby perfectly happy to be chatting with friends, but confused about seating and start times), Migrating Forms was a celebration of important works that all too often go unrecognized and unseen, especially in a theatrical context. Its intent focus on challenging viewers perceptions of cinematic spaces, at least in the best works, fit into a framework of migration that can, and should, keep this festival going as our media continues to expand and ask questions of who, what, and where cinema is headed. Kudos, kudos, and more kudos.

While I didn’t end up writing about nearly as many movies as I originally planned, I hope to make up for that a little bit here by highlighting some of the works that made some impression on me throughout the festival. Plus, its been over four months since top ten lists came out. It’s about time for another list, don’t you think?

First things first. Or rather, last things first. The festival’s Closing Night Feature, Michael Gitlin’s The Earth Is Young, was the keynote address for the festival’s focus on religiosity. Interviewing Young Earth Creation supporters who have turned to “science” to find a justification behind their theories, The Earth Is Young pretends to let these people speak their minds while Gitlin uses formal techniques to highlight the incoherence of such arguments. Most of the Young Earth Creationists are introduced as a blurry image, their dialogues with Gitlin get cut off by the editing, leaving their floating heads moving without actually speaking anything, much less anything of substance. While The Earth Is Young undoubtedly proves its point, the material is perhaps not as challenging or thoughtful as Gitlin might propose. He is, after all, only going to be speaking to the a-g community, his own choir, which makes The Earth Is Young go down a little too easy. If Gitlin is only out to prove Young Earth Creationists wrong and showcase real science versus morally driven science, The Earth Is Young does succeed, but who is it really convincing – or even trying to convince? Similar to another disappointing (yet more pointedly ambitious) festival entry, Erin Cosgrove’s sporadic, slapdash animated feature What Manner Of Person Art Thou?, The Earth Is Young tackles naivety behind aggressively religious groups, working just as hard to justify themselves in fields they probably do not belong, yet both movies buckle under their ideological restrictions ultimately challenging neither the audience nor themselves.

Rigorous modesty, on the other hand, went a long way for two festival bright spots – Lee Anne Schmitt's California Company Town and Sharon Lockhart’s 1998 video Goshagaoka. (Side note: I wonder why Lockhart’s much discussed new feature, Lunch Break, was not a part of the festival. It seemed a fitting venue for the New York premiere, but maybe I’m too hopeful). While the works couldn’t be more different, they both illustrate a mastery of special identity. California Company Town, a documentary about old towns in California which have evaporated for one reason or another in Hegelian Bush-era capitalism, finds a mythic beauty in dead towns. If nature corresponds to a state of mind, as a quotation from the film states, California Company Town works to illustrate this by refusing a selective memory and passing from one town to the next, finding a story, discovering a space, and looking for signs of life as the economic war between the government and private sector continues to rage on in the form of uninhabited places. Goshagaoka uses a single space, a high school gymnasium, as an actively involved location filled with fixed positions and punctuated with its fixed camera. In just a few very long, static shots of a high school volleyball practice, Goshagaoka finds lines that can and cannot be broken while it identifies a perfect form of movement, communication, and togetherness – a harmonious dreamscape of the haunted spaces featured in California Company Town.

Unique spaces were prominent in the best short works of the festival. Ben Rivers’s stunning piece The Origin of the Species tracks the evolution of life from immaterial goo into a world of wilderness and isolation. Having seen the film only once, I feel like I can’t describe the experience or the work very much at all, so I’ll default to Michael Sicinski’s wonderful review. Needless to say, The Origin of the Species struck me in an equally powerful way and I’m still thinking about it weeks later.

There were plenty of other works that I saw – some very good (Naomi Uman’s Kalendar), some underwhelming (Jessica Oreck’s Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo) – but Rivers is a good place to end. The species and the festival progressed into something beautiful no matter the form it took.

Migrating Forms 2009 Festival Top 5 Works
(note: since Lockhart’s work was not new, I decided not to include it on this list…)

1. The Origin of the Species (Ben Rivers)
2. DDR/DDR (Amie Siegel)
3. Kalendar (Naomi Uman)
4. Passing (Robert Todd)
5. Dialogues (Owen Land [George Landow])
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Saturday, April 25, 2009

DVD of the Week: "Walden- Diaries, Notes, and Sketches" (Jonas Mekas, 1969)

Hell, I haven't even seen this, but how could it not be our DVD of the Week? Mekas, or any experimental film for that matter, on DVD is a rarity. This may be expensive, but its an immediate must buy. 150 page booklet!? Are you kidding me??? This is a cinephile's dream DVD.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Migrating Forms 2009: "DDR/DDR" (Amie Siegel)

by James Hansen

Eventual winner of the Best Long Form (i.e. Best Feature) Award at the inaugural Migrating Forms Festival, Amie Siegel’s DDR/DDR was a fitting winner as it seemed to encompass many of the festival’s obsessions (religion, national identity, “new media”’s relationship with cinema), while it also offers formal challenges to the documentary form sure to puzzle as many viewers as it enthralls.

DDR/DDR, previously shown in New York at the 2008 Whitney Biennial, takes as its main focus the failed East German state, most namely the Stasi organization. Excavating Stasi archives, Siegel uncovers a strange past and examines the modern relationship that former citizens have with their East German heritage. In both instances, the lines, walls, and barriers between the state and its citizens are constantly challenged, as, the work argues, the lines between victim and perpetrator are never clear.

DDR/DDR traces these problems by tracking the discursive nature of media technology – both through East Germany’s obsession with the Western genre (leading to odd works such as The Sons of Great Bear (1966) which DDR/DDR examines in depth) and Siegel’s own attempts to correctly convert the video’s own message from one spatio-temporal period to the next. The centerpiece of DDR/DRR is a long set of interviews with former East Germans who have created their own Indian commune. Siegel works with these “Indian Hobbyists” to explore their identification with, and removal from, the East German state. Here, the “hobbyists” can perpetrate, as the video argues, their continuing role as a victim in a German society that split half its existence.

The camerawork of the interviews, almost always medium or long shots, keeps DDR/DDR at an appropriate distance from the people and their own cultural identities in order for Sigel’s meta moderating commentary to play with its own “free associative” structure and ultimately allow it to conceptually discover its own identity. This, of course, all plays out in a striking manner. The balance between fact and fiction is iterated formally, similar in many ways to more recent work by Jia Zhang Ke, with a mix of staged and scripted interviews, as well as Siegel’s addition of an overtly reflexive questioning of the work’s processes, functions, and techniques.

With its own focus on the migration of culture, identity, and history, DDR/DDR positions itself in many places at once, while highlighting the fine line between the conclusions it draws and previously established modes of historical identification. A true summation of a Migrating Form, DDR/DDR is a uniquely meditative work with no specific identity as a documentary, fiction, or gallery piece – a perfectly fitting, successful assemblage that reasserts its own communicative strategies and structural challenges. Like its title, DDR/DDR feeds back into itself in nearly every manner, while questioning each movement along the way.
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Sunday, April 19, 2009

"The Girlfriend Experience" Trailer


And the second version of the trailer with Glenn Kenny, per Tony D's request.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Migrating Forms 2009: "Dialogues" (Owen Land [George Landow], 2009)

by James Hansen

If ever there were a work that, in the immortal words of one Missy Elliot, “put [its] thing down, flip it, and reverse it” (truly “tiesreverdnapilfnwodgnihttupi”) it might be Owen Land’s [George Landow] newest work Dialogues. The opening night work for the Migrating Forms Festival, currently taking place at Anthology Film Archives, Dialogues is a self-proclaimed parody of Kenneth Anger’s Scorpio Rising and “concentrates on the events of Owen Land's life in 1985, when he returned to Los Angeles after spending a year in Tokyo, Fukuoka, and Okinawa, Japan. […] It was a time for much soul-searching about his relationships with women (and with strippers).” If Dialogues took place in 2003 rather than 1985, Missy Elliot undoubtedly would have been a part of the wide ranging soundtrack (as her repetitive lyrics, rhythms, and pitches would work in conjunction with those similarities in Land’s work) featuring period pop hits that instate the works’ cyclical structure feeding into other pieces from Anger, Deren, Brakhage, Snow, Rainer, Joyce, Voltaire, and Mutt and Jeff.

Dialogues does “Work It”, perhaps a bit too much at times, in order to become a fully immersive aggregate of allusions, illusions, and ugh-llusions. Using various vignettes/short scenes/short videos (take your pick of what to call them) Owen, God, and, more often than not, naked women have various dialogues on random subjects, typically shifting in time, space, and location depending upon the moment. And while it often feels a need to make its over-abundant referents a bit more clear, using character’s dialogue to call out any work it feels like mentioning, the melancholy editing technique and structures of sound vs. image (which require a second viewing for me to assuredly say anything) recalls, if anything, Hollis Frampton’s Critical Mass in the form of Plato’s Phaedo. (Quite perfectly, when scenes from Dialogues were shown in LA in March, Frampton’s work was shown prior).

By rotating the predominant sound or image (I noticed three varying structures: music overtakes dialogue, music and dialogue work on top of one another, intertitles replace spoken dialogue) Land challenges the effectiveness of the literal dialogue by highlighting the formal dialogic properties behind it. Although the repetition and never-ending material makes the draining 120 minutes overly sufficient for its purposes (the length only makes things irritating rather than artfully reinforcing much of anything) Land continues to show the playful humor, biting wit, and complex wordplay that recalls his classic work from the 60s and 70s. Dialogues often recalls a quotation from Yvonne Rainer about creating a new kind of narrative cinema (wish I had written it down...) and, if nothing else, Dialogues is a dedicated miasma of these principles, restructuring cinematic dialogue from the tits up.
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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Lars Von Trier's "Antichrist" Trailer

Don't even think about telling me you don't want to see this...

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Marilyn Chambers 1952-2009

Marilyn Chambers has died at the age of 56. Oddly enough, I spent a lot of time thinking about Marilyn, for various reasons, throughout the completion of my thesis over the past year, so this comes as a bit of an emotional surprise for me. Reflections are sure to come in a variety of forms, and perhaps I'll try and say something more later. But, for now, spreading the news and raising my glass to a major star. We always wanted more, more, more from Marilyn. Luckily, we'll all be able to still find it.


A few really nice tributes from Susie Bright and Glenn Kenny and Jeremy Richey. Can't do much better than these.

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Dennis Lim Joins NYFF Selection Committee

NEW YORK— The Film Society of Lincoln Center announced today that film critic and editor Dennis Lim will join the New York Film Festival’s selection committee following The Film Society’s Richard Peña and critics Scott Foundas, J. Hoberman and newest member Melissa Anderson in choosing the approximately twenty plus features that will make up the 2009 slate.

(the rest after the break)

“Dennis is one of the most original voices in film criticism,” remarks Peña, program director at The Film Society and NYFF selection committee chairman. “Comfortable with an exceedingly wide range of films, he brings fresh and often surprising points of view to his writing on cinema that challenges traditional orthodoxies.”

Dennis Lim is the editor of Moving Image Source, the online publication of the Museum of the Moving Image. He writes frequently for The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times and was a film critic at The Village Voice from 1998 to 2006, as well as its film editor from 2000 to 2006. He is a member of the National Society of Film Critics, and he teaches in the Cultural Reporting and Criticism program at New York University.

“The New York Film Festival has held a special place in local and global film culture for decades,” says Lim. “It’s been an event of enormous significance to me as a film lover and a film journalist, and I’m truly honored to be on the selection committee.”

He replaces Kent Jones, who, until recently, was The Film Society’s associate director of programming and a member of the Festival’s selection committee.

The 47th New York Film Festival will return to the newly renovated Alice Tully Hall from Sept. 25 to Oct. 11. This edition will mark the 60th year of the People’s Republic of China with the first major U.S. retrospective of Chinese cinema between establishment of the People’s Republic in 1949 and the beginnings of the Cultural Revolution in 1966. Also scheduled is a tribute to Hindi director, producer, and actor Guru Dutt, frequently credited with ushering in the golden era of Indian cinema in the 1950s and ’60s.

Presented by The Film Society, the 17-day New York Film Festival presents a select perspective on the state of contemporary cinema by handpicking the best new works by both rising talents and internationally recognized artists. All filmmakers regardless of experience are invited to submit work. Visit for more information. This year’s slate will be announced in early September.

The Film Society of Lincoln Center was founded in 1969 to celebrate American and international cinema, to recognize and support new directors, and to enhance the awareness, accessibility and understanding of film. Advancing this mandate today, The Film Society hosts two distinguished festivals—The New York Film Festival and New Directors/New Films—as well as the annual Gala Tribute and a year-round calendar of programming at its Walter Reade Theater. It also offers definitive examinations of essential films and artists to a worldwide audience through Film Comment magazine.

The work of The Film Society of Lincoln Center is made possible by the generous support of the Irene Diamond Fund, 42 Below, Stella Artois, Illy, and public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a State Agency, and the National Endowment for the Arts, which believes that a great nation deserves great art.
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Friday, April 10, 2009

DVD of the Week: "Le Femme Publique" (Andrzej Zulawlski, 1984)

by Chuck Williamson

From beginning to end, Andrzej Zulawski’s Le Femme Publique (1984) bristles with an anything-goes berserker aesthetic, filled with hysterical, hyperkinetic cinematography, machine-gun bursts of elliptical editing, and frenzied performances where actors bark and bellow like wild animals barely contained by the parameters of the cinematic frame. In short, it’s absolutely bonkers, percolating with postmodern invention, wallowing in insane theatrics, filtering its male gaze through a mescaline cloud, using its simple “a star is born” conceit as the vehicle for a volatile, self-reflexive mediation on cinema and politics, performance and authenticity. Le Femme Publique might be far from perfect, but—good god!—does it ever deliver a one-two sucker-punch, rattling the senses and leaving a lasting impression.

(more after the break)

While the open-sore sexuality that punctuated much of Zulawski’s Possession (1981) has been significantly toned down, this follow-up film nonetheless resituates itself in the bedroom politics that made its director the succès de scandale of Cannes. Ethel (Valerie Kaprisky), an estranged and vacant nude model with aspirations of screen stardom, catches the attention of megalomaniacal film director Lucas Kesling (Francis Huster), who not only casts her as the primary lead in his adaptation of Dostoevsky’s The Possessed but also takes her as his lover—consummating their relationship amid the din of militant Czech protestors marching outside and concluding their first liaison with the most unsettling forced tooth-brushing sequences ever committed to film. But when Ethel’s on-camera performance fizzles into discordant mess of empty line-readings and primadonna posturing, their relationship grows increasingly abusive and sadomasochistic—leading Kesling, and the audience, to presume that she is nothing more than a sexual blank slate, better off posing in the pained gyrations that make up her many erotic photoshoots. But when Ethel is booted from the picture, she is given a second chance to metamorphose into an actress. After an encounter where the two bond by chewing broken glass, Ethel doubles as the deceased wife of Milan (Lambert Wilson), an unhinged, occasionally abusive Czech immigrant who is ultimately manipulated into becoming a political assassin by a radical government cabal that may (or may not) be partially funded by Kesling.

While its nauseating misogyny and forced political subplot diminishes some of the film’s summative impact, Le Femme Publique is nonetheless an ambitious, mesmerizing, and maddening achievement that defies easy comprehension. If anything, it further cements Zulawski’s reputation as a cinematic maverick—and could, potentially, be a good entry point for those unfamiliar with his work. Like all Zulawski films, it demands close inspection and multiple viewings.
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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Sign O' The Times

by James Hansen

Like an overcast day in Pittsburgh spent shooting fireworks into a hazy, gray sky transitioning into buoyant rays of light shimmering off every window pane on the same rainy night in New York City, Adventureland cautiously lingers from moment to moment waiting for some kind of downpour as it deeply nestles into an aching malaise of ever-fleeting, completely fulfilling experience.

Director Greg Mottola (The Daytrippers, Superbad) layers Adventureland with an astonishing degree of restraint, which purposefully holds back fast and furious comedy instead preferring an intensely nuanced character-based approach that underlies comedic payoff while it immediately accesses acute emotional resonance. Though this challenging approach makes Adventureland’s small [character driven] missteps a bit more pungent, Adventureland remains a complete success on every track and stands as the most engaged, dedicated, and truly moving comedy since BBC’s The Office.

Adventureland, like most other films about the post-pubescent boy-man, is a story about “THE loss of innocence” over that final summer before boy-man’s life spins into a new direction. In this case, the boy-man is James (Jesse Eisenberg) who, subsequently, is already more intellectual man than boy. Accepted into a Columbia graduate program for writing and constantly spouting stories about the work of Charles Dickens, James is set for success until financial troubles force him to abandon his longtime friend on a trip to Europe and stay in Pittsburgh to work at the local park Adventureland. Far from being the summer of his dreams, James’s ride becomes stalled. Importantly, James has never had an intention of “losing” his virginity, as the psychological complications that typically go with such a decision are not beyond his grasp, as they often are in classic teen comedies.

While some critics have misplaced James’ desire to lose his virginity (some have mistakenly claimed it the sole reason for his actions throughout the movie) the relationship he develops with Em (a fantastic Kristen Stewart) is far from a move to nail a chick and claim his manhood; rather, Adventureland focuses on the unexpected and very real bond between the two – oddly enough, sex becomes secondary. While virginity is a topic of conversation, it isn’t like James wanders around angry that they aren’t having sex or tossing around stories about sexual exploits. If anything, James’s extreme ideological shift to object-of-lust Lisa P is misconstrued and an extremely artificial plot point instead of naturally growing out of the deeply constructed characters.

Similarly, Adventureland makes great use of its secondary characters to heighten the emotional and comedic payoff of the two leads. Mike Connell (Ryan Reynolds), the park maintenance man who curiously spins the story of his glory day jamming with Lou Reed, begins as a sort-of mentor for James despite his conflicted interest with Em – something James and the rest of the park employees fail to realize. Even when things take a bad turn, Mike and James make clear the type of men they already are in an extraordinary moment where they bridge a gap together while they simultaneously burn the bridge down. Bobby (Bill Hader) and Paulette (Kristen Wiig) run the schticky park and, despite being purposefully one-note, they add a certain charm to the place even as the characters begin to abandon it. Perhaps the most important secondary characters, however, is Joel (Martin Starr), James’ friend who sees right through him even when his own vision becomes broken. Joel realizes the kind of person he really is, and he challenges James to do the same.

While Adventureland stands out for its emotional complexity, future viewings will undoubtedly uncover a multitude of sly comedy, which is subtly built into each character. It is vastly different both stylistically and comedically from any other recent comedy, resulting in its dismal box office on opening weekend, but twice as effective for the same reason. Mottola, along with the superb performances from the cast, especially Eisenberg and Stewart, take this familiar premise to a place it has never been before. By embedding it in time with a wide ranging, supremely effective soundtrack, Adventureland is timely, timeful, and uniquely deliberate as to be constructed in a specific period yet perfectly translatable to the next. Adventureland has characters that will continue to grow in the future, and, just like its titular park, it has the ability to stick around no matter the time – next week, next summer, next generation.
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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Migrating Forms Festival Trailer

From the ashes of the New York Underground Film Festival comes the Migrating Forms Festival. Presenting five days of new experimental film, Migrating Forms is a must attend event for any film fan in the New York area. The festival takes place at (where else?) Anthology Film Archives from April 15-19. The festival trailer is posted below and you can visit the website with all the details here.

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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Jim McBride Series in NYC

For anyone in the New York area, or for those who just like to keep up with the goings on here, there is a series on the films of Jim McBride that starts tomorrow night at Anthology Film Archives. McBride, along with star LM Kit Carson, will be on hand for Friday night's screening of David Holzman's Diary, one of the more important underground features of the 1960s. After the screening, they will be in conversation with Jonathan Demme about the film. The full press release on the program is below (complete with a blurb from Out 1 friend Jeremy Richey on McBride's Breathless)! Certainly any of the films are worth checking out, but Friday night should be an especially good one. The press release is posted after the break.

APRIL 8-13


BREAKING NEWS: The star of DAVID HOLZMAN'S DIARY, L.M. Kit Carson will also be in person Friday night!!!

Jim McBride’s DAVID HOLZMAN’S DIARY is one of the wittiest and most accomplished underground features of the 1960s – a parody of the cinéma-vérité school of documentary filmmaking, perhaps the first ‘mockumentary’ on record, and a prescient forecast of navel-gazing, narcissistic, first-person cinema. HOLZMAN was McBride’s first film, and though it is often discussed and occasionally screened, the rest of his career has been badly neglected. And a wide-ranging, even willfully unpredictable oeuvre it has been, careening from HOLZMAN’s two even more experimental follow-ups, to the bizarre post-apocalyptic studio film, GLEN AND RANDA, and leading, after a brief detour into teen sex-comedy (HOT TIMES), to his ballsy Richard Gere-starring remake of Jean-Luc Godard’s beloved and monumentally influential BREATHLESS, which McBride somehow manages to make into a remarkable, distinctive film in its own right.
Anthology is thrilled to host Jim McBride, who will be on-hand to discuss the unique paths his career has taken, and to illuminate the common thread linking his exhilaratingly disparate films.
Special thanks to Jim McBride, Jonathan Demme, David Spencer (North Carolina School of the Arts), and Ross Klein (MGM).

Jim McBride will appear in person, in conversation with director Jonathan Demme, following the 7:15 screening of DAVID HOLZMAN’S DIARY on Friday, April 10.

Screening Schedule:

1967, 74 minutes, 16mm.
Acknowledged as one of the landmark films of late-60s independent cinema, McBride’s first feature is rarely-screened, despite its reputation. The complete cinephile, David Holzman is possessed with a desire to record his life, even if in the process he risks destroying it. He insists not only on confessing his innermost thoughts to the camera, but also on invading the privacy of friends and lovers in his obsessive search for the ‘truth’. Both comic and serious, real and unreal, McBride’s film is a classic of independent cinema.
“Where most independent productions are founded on self-righteous claims of truth and honesty, McBride’s film wittily observes that Hollywood has no corner on illusionism. Even the black-and-white, hand-held cinema still lies 24 times a second.” –Dave Kehr, CHICAGO READER
–Wednesday, April 8 at 7:00, Friday, April 10 at 7:15, and Saturday, April 11 at 9:15.

1969, 60 minutes, 16mm.
A fascinating profile of McBride’s English girlfriend, Clarissa Ainley. With his camera almost entirely trained on her, McBride explores Clarissa’s life and loves, her feelings about her parents and children, and documents her greencard marriage to a man she has only known for a week. However, as the film progresses, the most revealing truths are about the person behind the camera. Originally intended as a short, it’s a fascinating record of a turbulent time, and highlights the subjective nature of the filmmaking process.
“At the time I made it, I was fond of referring to it as a fiction film, because it was very much my personal idea of what Clarissa was like, and not at all an objective or truthful view.” –J.M.
1971, 45 minutes, video.
The third film of McBride’s ‘documentary’ trilogy, PICTURES follows Jim and Clarissa in a journey across the U.S., waiting for a baby and looking for a place to settle. Crude, witty or plain scenes of everyday life compose a moving portrait of early-70s America – an uncharted country, a generation with no direction home.
2008, 9 minutes, video.
The U.S. premiere of McBride’s brand-new follow-up to MY GIRLFRIEND’S WEDDING and PICTURES FROM LIFE’S OTHER SIDE.
Total running time: ca. 120 minutes.
–Wednesday, April 8 at 8:45, Saturday, April 11 at 4:30, and Sunday, April 12 at 7:00.

1983, 101 minutes, 35mm.
“Critics and film buffs in 1982 were positively flabbergasted when Jim McBride announced that he was going to remake Jean-Luc Godard’s incredibly influential BREATHLESS…. McBride’s BREATHLESS plays like a compulsive and flashy pop art piece; one that you stare at for a while trying to figure out whether or not it is actually art or just something hanging on the wall. With its whirlwind pace, Jack Nitzsche score and stunning splashes of sun stroked Los Angeles color, BREATHLESS is undeniably fun and exciting…. Not at all dated, it now plays as one of the most progressive and seminal films of the 1980s.” –Jeremy Richey, THE AMPLIFIER
–Thursday, April 9 at 7:00, Sunday, April 12 at 9:15, and Monday, April 13 at 9:00.

1974, 80 minutes, 35mm.
“A kind of Jewish comic reply to THE LORDS OF FLATBUSH, in which a number of misogynist, Portnoy-esque sex hang-ups are laid bare in a High School USA setting. However, if one peels away the phony zaniness lent by the bleeping out of ‘offensive language’ (defensive tampering by the producers)…one is left with a film surprisingly true to McBride’s underground origins, notable for some persuasively bizarre touches and a superlatively fluid visual style. Best scenes are those involving the shooting of a sex film in which a series of male performers struggle to come-or-not-to-come on cue, and a sequence involving a Times Square pick-up with a ‘liberated’ mother.” –TIME OUT
–Thursday, April 9 at 9:15 and Sunday, April 12 at 5:30.

1971, 93 minutes, 35mm.
Co-written by novelist and TWO LANE BLACKTOP screenwriter Rudy Wurlitzer, McBride’s first commercial film portrays the odyssey undertaken by the last bewildered survivors of an atomic holocaust, as they stumble through the wreckage of a vanished civilization. Neither moralizing sci-fi nor melodrama, despite its fanciful premise, the film is rather like a cinéma vérité doomsday documentary – a parable in newsreel form.
“Unaccountably disregarded by critics, this is a poisoned idyll of two young people in an America destroyed by atomic war…. A paraphrase of the counterculture’s sensibilities, the film’s subversive potential lies in its straightforward acceptance and naturalistic portrayal of the destructability of eternal American symbols: a destroyed Howard Johnson restaurant is more difficult to take than newspaper articles warning about the dangers of atomic war.” –Amos Vogel, FILM AS A SUBVERSIVE ART
–Friday, April 10 at 9:30, Saturday, April 11 at 7:00, and Monday, April 13 at 7:00.
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Saturday, April 4, 2009

DVD of the Week: "Cutter's Way" (Ivan Passer, 1981)

by Brandon Colvin

Okay, okay. So, there is this slacker dude who just sits around and gets high all day, who is like the protagonist in this movie, and he’s played by Jeff Bridges, and he like gets tangled up in this noirish web of intrigue involving a wealthy guy. And the slacker dude has this eccentric best friend who is like a bit of a paranoid conspiracy freak who gets really into this whole mess – a Vietnam vet who is totally obsessed with the fact that he was in the war and has a bit of a martyr complex about it. And, like, they get involved in all sorts of shady, criminal mischief as their already strained friendship is tested and pushed to the limit while they attempt to navigate a convoluted psychological maze of mystery and confusion. Oh, and it takes place in L.A.

No, contrary to what the above informal plot summary may suggests, the film in question is not The Big Lebowski (1998). Rather, it is a much darker tale of amateur detectives coming to grips with post-Vietnam nihilism, the reprehensibility of corporatism, and the impossible conundrums of epistemology – Czech director Ivan Passer’s under-seen and masterful Cutter’s Way (1981). Starring Bridges as small-time gigolo and big-time underachiever, Richard Bone, and featuring John Heard giving the performance of a lifetime as the troubled Alex Cutter, Cutter’s Way undoubtedly influenced the now-classic Coen Brothers comedy, yet it delves into similar subject matter with such unsparing cynicism that it feels downright disturbing in comparison. Exploring suicide, alcoholism, mental illness, murder, corruption, emotional disconnection, and the relativity of truth, Passer’s film is rife with jarringly powerful insights and pitch-black gallows humor, making it one of the bravest, most tonally risky films I have ever seen. Certainly worth a watch and emblematic of the bevy of unjustly neglected 1980s cinematic gems that are being reappraised in the age of Netflix, Cutter’s Way is a film whose legacy can only grow in stature.

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Friday, April 3, 2009

"Bruno" Red Band Trailer

This trailer is getting pulled left and right, but maybe this one will last long enough for some people to see. I'm a big defender of Borat so I have to say I'm really looking forward to this. I've always been partial to the Borat character over the others from Da Ali G Show, but there is always plenty to work with when you put real people in unexpected situations. Discussions of Cohen's methods are sure to arise again, just as they did when Borat made a big splash in 2006, but we'll save those for down the road. For now, here's the red band trailer for Bruno.

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