Saturday, September 24, 2016
All Monsters Attack at Grand Illusion Cinema: Sept 30 - Oct 31 | Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi's "Shin Godzilla" at Landmark Guild 45th & Regal Meridian 16: Oct 11 - 18
There isn't enough in the way of All Hallows' Eve theme and/or revival series in the local cinema, which is a shame as this is truly the season for genre film and it's frights, disconcerting surrealism and crepuscular atmospheres. Yet last year's cinematic offering featured a small abundance on the theme of the Haunted House, and 2013 saw no small number of Invaders From Beyond. One of the longest running of the local series has been The Grand Illusion Cinema's annual monthlong All Monsters Attack calendar of horror, thrillers sci-fi and fantasy. This year's installment features a set of the core shock, horror, sci-fi and cult genre gems that audiences have come to expect and a equal offering of foreign and arthouse works from the fringe. Representative of 1980s horror, Don Coscarelli's quintessential "Phantasm" series began with the 1979 titular installment centered around the prototypical group of small town friends who become ensnared in the inter-dimensional schemes (and Sentinel Spheres) of it's cosmic undertaker, The Tall Man. Thirty-seven years later, the film has been restored by J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot productions in a new 4K restoration supervised by the director. The Grand Illusion has paired the rerelease of the first of the franchise with David Hartman's "Phantasm: Ravager"bas the last chapter in the dimension-hopping machinations of The TallbMan (featuring Angus Scrimm in his final performance). The week beforebthere will be the rare opportunity to witness the poetic desolation andbchanged planetary identity of Geoff Murphy's 1985 New Zealand cautionary ecological sc-fi oddity, "The Quiet Earth". The film's minimalist setting based on the contemporary Craig Harrison novel of the same name, as much as the landscapes of Richard Matheson's 1954, "I Am Legend" and the psychological terrain of Ranald MacDougall's 1959, "The World, the Flesh and the Devil".
Equally uncommon, The Grand Illusion will be presenting a double bill of Japanese supernatural classics on 35mm, with screenings of Masaki Kobayashi's "Kwaidan" and Kaneto Shindo's "Kuroneko". The former much like the traditional European tales of feline curse and retribution, such as those featured in the works of Edgar Allan Poe or later Giallo interpretations, have their own long line of Japanese equivocals. This one by the infinitely varied talent of Kaneto Shindo, as detailed in Maitland McDonagh's "Kuroneko: The Mark of the Cat" for Criterion. An anthology of folklore depicting the travails of mortals becoming ensnared in supernatural realms or peril and consequence, Geoffrey O’Brien 's "Kwaidan: No Way Out" documents Kobayashi's interpretation of stories from international explorer, writer and cultural documentarist, Lafcadio Hearn. Namely his same-titled collection of Japanese folktales and accounts of the floating world, "Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things". As a late 19th Century cultural emissary, and professor at Tokyo Imperial University, his work chronicling folk traditions and tales throughout rural Japan, earned Lafcadio the rare honorary Japanese name of Koizumi Yakumo. On the 110th anniversary of the writer's death, The Japan Times examined the legacy of a man widely admired as the true interpreter to the west of all things Nippon, "Lafcadio Hearn: Japanese Thru and Tru". John Carpenter's loosely interpreted premise' stemming from H.P. Lovecraft's "The Dunwich Horror" and "At the Mountains of Madness" woven into elements central to his Cthulhu Mythos, as well as Lovecraftian settings and details including the premise of a cursed text as reference to The Necronomicon. "In the Mouth of Madness" structurally resembles a few key works from Lovecraft by employing the device that the bulk of the narrative is recounted in flashback by it's protagonist, from the confines of an asylum for the mentally ill. While not one of Carpenter's greatest, it is nonetheless one of his stronger late-career offerings as explored in Birth Movies Death's Everybody’s Into Weirdness feature, framing some of the brilliant (though brief) set pieces and its overall success at assembling a contemporary pastiche of Lovecraft.
Where would a cinematic celebration of All Hallows Eve be without the Vampyric? All Monstes Attack offers a contemporary, urban and decidedly bohemian take on John William Polidori and Bram Stoker's favorite immortal entity, from both the 1980s and present. The first, Tony Scott's 1983 adaptation of the novel of the same name by Whitley Strieber, starring Catherine Deneuve, David Bowie, and Susan Sarandon, "The Hunger" though poorly received at the time, garnered a cult following for it's conclusion of significant players within the nascent Goth and Glam rock cultures. Though dressed in similar cultural garb, Jim Jarmusch's offering in the genre is a beast of a very different nature, "Only Lovers Left Alive" watches instead as "A Tale of Passions Spanning the Centuries". The uninhabited buildings and empty lots of nocturnal Detroit and the music and light filled streets and alleyways of Tangier, places expressive of it's protagonist's Adam and Eve. Languid and sensual, there's definitely something to be said for Jarmusch's depiction of life as an eternal Vampire in which one has all that time to travel the globe, while reading every book ever written, listen to every great record ever made, see all the films we can never hope to squeeze into a human lifetime. His richest film since 1995's "Deadman", it stands as a love poem to the great visionaries, authors, artists, musicians, inventors, thinkers and tinkerers throughout history who have made the world greater by their defiance of the status-quo. Capping it all off, in collaboration with Scarecrow Video and their offering of obscure, unreleased, out-of-print, super-rarities in depths of their genre film archives, this year's multi-title feature centers around the confluence of Horror and that particular late 1970s and 1980s strain of heavy rock and hair, with the "Heavy Metal Horror 35mm Triple Feature Pizza Party"! While we're here, lets talk the incomparable one-of-a-kind resource that is Scarecrow, and how if you live in this city and are a fan of cinema (regardless of genre, era or style) it's essentially your cultural obligation to ensure their doors stay open for business. With nearly 125,000 films in their catalog, many out of print, foreign releases or ultra-rare editions, there is no singular online resource that will ever compare.
After the passably successful, yet noncommittal nature of Gareth Edwards' entry in the franchise, Toho Studios announced that they would be reviving their own cinematic line of Gojira films helmed by the "Emotional Deconstructionist" behind the landmark anime series of the 1990's Neon Genesis Evangelion and its big-budget Theatrical Rebuild of the 2000's. In a protracted series of public deliberations, Hideaki Anno announced that while psychologically and creatively exhausted from the process of Evangelion's Rebuild, he felt it essential to make the most of the opportunity to offer a new perspective on Japan's greatest movie monster, with his co-director Shinji Higuchi establishing, "Japan's 'Godzilla' Director Wants to Surprise". Higuchi and Anno having previously collaborated on the 2013 retrospective "Tokusatsu: The Art of Making Monsters" with aid from Studio Ghibli and Japan's Agency for Cultural Affairs for MoMA Tokyo. The exhibit, Tokusatsu: Special Effects Museum featuring among other things, decades of painstakingly elaborate sets, costumes, aircraft models, sci-fi devices and technology, designs, schematics, storyboards and monsters of course... no shortage of monsters. The stunningly executed trailer for the exhibit, a collaboration with the work of Shūsuke Kaneko drawns from Hayao Miyazaki's post-Ecological Collapse manga "Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind" and features a sequence of a "Giant God Warrior Appearing in Tokyo". As to be expected in the digital era, the art of this industry is shrinking, with few young directors coming in to advance it's arts, and only two major studios making regular Tokusatsu features, which is the focus of The New York Times' "Rubber-Suit Monsters Fade. Tiny Tokyos Relax". Seemingly there could be no more qualified directors to bring a 21st Century Japanese vision of "Shin Gojira" to the screen than the duo of Higuchi and Anno, and this past July "The Metaphorical Monster Returned" to great theatrical success as once again, "Our Favorite Monster Terrorizes Japan". Retitled "Shin Godzilla" for the western market, the film will have a brief monthlong theatrical distribution throughout major cities in the US starting in October, with Seattle's one week run at Regal's Meridian 16 and single screening at Landmark's Guild 45th.
Thursday, September 1, 2016
For most, Andy Stott established his audience outside rarefied deep techno listeners with the breakthrough "We Stay Together" of 2011 on the UK's Modern Love imprint. In rapid succession the following years saw appearances in Decibel Festival alongside label-mates Demdike Stare's own manifestation of all things Italian Giallo and French Fantastique for their live score to Jean Rollin's surrealist erotic-horror classic "La Vampire Neu". Returning again, some 16 months later in a second label showcase with the duo, this visit to North America showcasing Sean Canty and Miles Whittaker's brobdingnagian body of work, what The Quietus called "An Unholy Matrimony: In Interview with Demdike Stare", that comprised the collected "Elemental" series. On both occasions their collaborative performances delivering some of the most assured, abstract, darkly rich post-techno currently being made on the planet. Absorbing influences equally from mid-Century Modernism, Concrete and late 1970s and 80s Industrial, alongside two decades of British underground Techno, Bass and Garage music, the following "Test Pressing" 12" series showcased some of the densest subterranean atmospheres being generated in contemporary dance music. These contrasting poles are explored more explicitly, with their dance music signifiers more boldly displayed in their collaborative Millie & Andrea project via distended takes on UK Bass music and Jungle.
As a date in their current US tour this week's night at The Crocodile likely won't compare with such genre-bending collaborative showcases as those of years previous. Nonetheless, we can anticipate another dual-pronged warping of dance music into a corporeal/cerebral body-impacting experience of noise and rhythm unlike most anything else heard in the genre. A process Stott detailed at-length in his interviews for FACT Mag, "Tearing Up the Rulebook: Making Mistakes is the Most Exciting Thing You Can Do" and "Andy Stott: Lost and Found" for Resident Advisor. Stott's previous full length, "Luxury Problems" making The Wire's 2012 Rewind and the essential British magazine hosting a significant interview with him that same year. His newest, "Too Many Voices" continues the work heard first on 2014's "Faith in Strangers" in it's merging of dissonant and atonal slabs of sound jostling against fragmented song music and female voice, with nods equally to the ethereal female pop of early 4AD, as the austerity of German Kosmische and the characteristic negative space that defines much Detroit Techno of the 1980s. This set of albums making a marked stylistic turn for the producer, one that has been well received in the pages of, Boomkat, FACT Mag, The Quietus and Resident Advisor, all enthusiastic in their significant praise.
Sunday, August 21, 2016
Nearly 25 years into Sean Booth and Rob Brown's singular sonic quest to bridge the modernist traditions of Musique Concrete and pure computer music of INA-GRM and IRCAM, with the wave of music issuing from New York City and Detroit's urban beat explosion of the 1980s, Autechre arrive at a new plateau with "elseq 1-5". This hybridization detailed in the audio engineering and music production journal Sound on Sound in 2004, "In Producing their Complex, Abstract Electronic Music, Autechre have Taken the Idea of the Studio as an Instrument to New Extremes" following on the heels of their 21st Century mission statement, "Confield" and it's divisive mid-decade siblings, "Draft 7.0" and "Untilted". This era producing what appeared to be two schools of thought on their musical output. Drew Daniel of Matmos makes this schisming of the listenership the focus of his interview, as those converted on the first decade of output struggled to adapt to the new developments and abandonment of dance music signifiers within Autechre's work. For many, 2008's "Quaristice" and the companion album of "(Versions)" not only acted as Pitchfork suggests, a return to form, but a balancing of old and new. Along with this, there was a newfound abundance on offer as well; all told, "Quaristice", it's companion "(Versions)" album, and "Quaristice.Quadrange" produced a sonic corpus totaling in at over 5 hours. This move toward works that cycled between assimilation of past gestures and sounds, couched within explorative forays into new territory culminated in 2013's "Exai", which saw "Autechre Looking as Forward as They did Back". At over two hours, the album reinforced the abundant modus of the current phase, which would culminate in what FACT Mag called, "Autechre Bury the post-Club Poseurs in the Digital Dirt", with this year's release of the sprawling, "elseq 1-5".
The duo are to appear throughout Central Europe this fall, after touring the UK and North America extensively in 2015. The west coast leg of "Autechre's Maneuvers in the Dark" found Booth and Brown central to the final installment of Seattle's Decibel Festival. Their performance delivering a chimerical three-dimensional sound object suspended in a hyper-delineated stereo field. Less a performance of music broadcast to a receiving body, the listener was instead located within the framework of a exertive, dynamic, ever changing aural-kinetic sculpture. Their current process has abandoned a degree of the hardware-centric focus of the previous decade's modus operandi in favor of what Joe Mugg's extensive interview for Resident Advisor, "Autechre: elseq et al" reveals to be a complex programming of modules and patches generated within Cycling 74's MaxMSP. Booth and Brown's role is then one of actuating the engineering of the sounds to emerge from these processes into structures, as sculptors of the finely crafted, yet oblique architectural spaces that describe the music. Their longstanding use of fragmented language allows insight into the titling of "elseq", which clearly implies it's source as a methodical assembly of "edited-live-sequences". Acquiescing the inscrutable nature of this voluminous and titanic work, Derek Walmsley's review in the July issue of The Wire comes closer than any other in it's cartography of "elseq"'s Gordian terrain:
"As you move through "elseq", sonic parameters widen, structures become more open-ended, and the constraints imposed by the album format are left behind. The dimensions of an album can lend a sense of place, balance, narrative, even closure to music. What Autechre do however, rarely offers listeners this kind of shared experience with the artist. Their music is not expressive, representative or story-telling in any of those early 20th Century definitions of aesthetics. Instead, Autechre's music is more like a wide open field of possibilities. The ideas they deal with - process, textures rather than notes, mathematics rather than time signatures, control versus chance - are the big ideas of late 20th Century music, as well as the central ideas of club music from the 2000s onwards. So the beauty of "elseq" is that of Iannis Xenakis and Alvin Lucier; or for that matter, of Ricardo Villalobos and Errorsmith. If it doesn't seem beautiful, perhaps you are living in the past. Given the multidimensional rinse of their music, attempting to provide a single account of what an Autechre album is 'like' is a critic's folly. "elseq" is not the sound of Autechre in any kind of particular mood, mellow, brooding or otherwise; it has its moments that make the heart sing and other that crush the head like a vice, and both carry their own thrill. "elseq" can be as dense as 2013's "Exai", as gently reflective as 2010's "Oversteps", and as obsessively detailed as 2001's "Confield". "elseq" is as radical as Autechre have ever been, but this time it's their choice of format that is particularly bold. The extended duration opens up further horizons for new experiments, forms and structures, with dancefloor impact and innovative composition working hand in hand."
Saturday, August 20, 2016
Next month The Showbox will host SWANS on the final tour of their current iteration. How the timing of this development relates to the turmoil in band member's personal lives disclosed on social media is unknown. One thing is certain, having led the towering rock outfit through numerous manifestations over the decades since it's inception, including a brief phase as the orchestral folk ensemble Angels of Light, change and transfiguration have been one of their great constants of Michael Gira's lifelong music endeavor. After the physical endurance-testing rock olympics of 2011 in which Michael Gira's SWANS reformed after a 15 year hiatus, we are blessed with a fourth and final album in this current half-decade of reinvention and metempsychosis. At the end of their previous incarnation with the grandiose heights scaled in "Soundtracks for the Blind" and "Swans are Dead", they took celestial bombast to literally epic durations and dynamic intensity. The post-reform "My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope in the Sky", the more variegated and nuanced "The Seer", the rapturous "To Be Kind" and this year's "The Glowing Man" scale similar heights of those of decades past. "Michael Gira on ‘Dangling Off the Edge of a Cliff’ for SWANS Epic Final Album" for The Observer maps the musical trajectory's Oroborous-like path back to itself, as SWANS of the 21st Century has birthed a supreme amalgam from it's own DNA. One that encapsulates the totality of their 35 year trajectory from brutalist No Wave minimalism to Musique Concrete and extended tonal and Drone compositions to electric Rock, Psychedelia, Blues, Folk and Americana.
The Guardian's John Doran postulates how its come to pass that SWANS have produce the best work of their career so far. Where so many other bands of a similar vintage have retread familiar ground, revisiting the formula of past successes, Gira and company chose to instead stake everything on a fresh roll of the dice. They took a genuine gamble on creating new art rather than trying to recapture past glories and in doing so, they have conjured an, "Enduring Love: Why SWANS are More Vital Now than Ever". The albums of this decade are the fruit of an extended, ever-evolving recordings process, "A Little Drop of Blood: Michael Gira of SWANS Interviewed" for The Quietus describes the often arduous writing, rehearsal, touring and recording in a dynamic creative systole and diastole. The undertaking of then translating these recorded works to a marathon live experience documented in an interview with Pitchfork of 2014, "Michael Gira Talks about How SWANS Returned without Losing Any Potency". Even more personal and confessional, The Quietus have produced a lengthy interview on the explicitly spiritual, transcendental nature of their live incarnation, "This is My Sermon: Michael Gira of SWANS Speaks". From which Gira is quoted; "I hope there's a spiritual quality, but it's not a denominational kind of thing, it's an aspiration towards some kind of realization, or breathing the air that the spirits breathe, or going somewhere that is bigger than myself when I conceive these songs. It's a great feeling. I think The Stooges had a kind of abandon and release, if you listen to Fun House. But electric guitar music has the ability to do that to people, and it's also like the Master Musicians Of Jajouka, where they just keep going and you lose your mind but find it simultaneously. That's sort of the idea. My personal spiritual beliefs are irrelevant. Music is the practice." And like the albums of their previous iterations in the 1980's and 90s, the live realization of this practice has far exceeded their corresponding recorded works. Gira and company's live performances this decade have watched as almost a ritual of invocation. Bringing with them the visceral and transcendental effect of mind-frying, body-numbing volumes to elevate all.
Sunday, August 14, 2016
Throughout July and August, Japanese heavy rockers, Boris make their semi-annual return to the west with a string of Us tour dates. Seattle's night in the tour with Earth, though likely to not compare with 2013's performance wherein they played the totality of their magisterial opus "Flood", alongside a second night of "All-Time Classics" will still promise an evening of the from the-heart-of-the-sun intensity Boris are known to deliver live. The past decade of semiannual tours have seen them manifest their ever mutating mix of Doom Metal, Heavy Psych, warped J-Pop, willfully dysfunctional Indie Rock and more recently, their own thrilling take on Dream Pop and Shoegaze. The latter we first glimpsed on their "Japanese Heavy Rock Hits" 7" series and more recently refined on the near-perfect "Attention Please" and the more guttural Psyche assault of "Heavy Rocks". This prolific inundation culminating in the tri-album recording release of late 2011, topped by their upbeat pop-assault of the generically titled, "New Album". Following this deluge was the more atmospheric Metal-oriented tour album "Präparat" and the mainstream riffs of 2014's "Noise", with it's pronounced college-rock sensibilities. The band themselves perceive this stylistic shift as just another stage in their assimilation of influences towards an all-inclusive Boris sound, in interview for The Quietus the feedback-worshiping trio state, "Noise is Japanese Blues': An Interview with Boris". This summer's tour is a return to the territory they carved out with 2005's "Pink" and the heights they were propelled to by the lyrical guitar squall of collaborator Michio Kurihara on the companion album "Rainbow". Typical of the abundant recording sessions which have produced each album, the new edition of "Pink" will feature a previously unreleased companion album of "Forbidden Songs". Comprising overflow from this era that ended up on the cutting room floor, their interview for Invisible Oranges delves into this phase of high production and new inspirations. The March issue of The Wire recaps the trio's 25 year recording and touring process, which brings them back into contact with noise extremist Merzbow on the 150 minutes of new music appearing on the interchangeable double LP set, "Gensho". Japanese noise legend Masami Akita himself entering into a succession of recent collaborations, which The Quietus explore in their "Razor Blades in the Dark: An Interview with Merzbow".
Saturday, July 30, 2016
Seattle Art Fair at CenturyLink Center & "Juxtapoz x SuperFlat" at Pivot Art + Culture: Aug 4 - 7 | Out of Sight at King Street Station: Aug 4 - 28 | "Death and the Maiden 2" final group show at Roq La Rue: Aug 6 - 20
Proceeding the success of last year's inaugural Seattle Art Fair there was abundant speculation as to the nature of the exhibit local philanthropist Paul Allen and the organization he had assembled with Max Fishko of Art Market Productions, would be bringing to the city. At the time the little the public had to go on included the fair's press release which made it out to be half-commercial gallery, half-curated exhibition, featuring some 60 galleries representing local to international dealers and an emphasis on the West Coast and Pacific Rim. The majority of the then dialog focused on the fair's relation to the art market, with Brian Boucher's "Why Are Gagosian, Pace, and Zwirner Signing On for the Seattle Art Fair?" and The Observer's "Paul Kasmin and Pace Gallery Join the Inaugural Seattle Art Fair" leading the discussion. With later pieces like Seattle Times "High Art Meets Deep Pockets at Seattle Art Fair" and the New York Times, "Seattle Art Fair Receives a Boost From Tech’s Big Spenders", and Art News "Why the Seattle Art Fair Is Important for the Art World", positioning the art fair as it relates to the moneyed local tech industry. All of which were little more than discussions of the art market and the inclusion of some of the gallery world's international power players. For insight into the curatorial direction and work to be featured, one had to rely on regional media in which there was no small supply of skepticism expressed concerning the fair being another of Paul Allen's pet cultural projects, both for the good and the bad. The extent of the fair's conception became apparent opening weekend with favorable coverage in both the New York Times and Artforum. The exhibitions and galleries drawn from Asia were among the three day event's greater successes. In addition to the participating galleries Kaikai Kiki and Koki Arts from Tokyo, along with Gana Art of Seoul and Osage Gallery from Hong Kong, the "Thinking Currents" wing curated by Leeza Ahmady, director of Asia Contemporary Art Week produced a premier exhibition of video, film and sound work exploring themes related to the cultural, political, and geographical parameters of the Pacific Rim.
Next week Seattle Art Fair returns for it's sophomore edition, this year with an expanded body of galleries, some 80 in total, along with it's program of talks, on-and-off site performances and collateral events around the city, including the In Context: Satellite Exhibition. Notably, in the way of influential presenters, "Roberts & Tilton and Marlborough are Among New Galleries" yet New York preeminent arts entity, Gagosian will not be present next week when, "Seattle Art Fair and Out of Sight make a Return". Organized by new Artistic Director Laura Fried, the fair's Projects present immersive and large-scale works spanning sculpture, performance, and installation, offering a platform for presentations beyond the art fair booth and into adjacent neighborhoods of the city. This year's Talks program present a daily two-person dialogue by an array of artists and leaders in creative fields. Teaming musician and artist Kim Gordon, actor Carrie Brownstein, art historian Branden W. Joseph, architect Sharon Johnston, artist Rita McBride, curator Anne Ellegood, and actor Kyle MacLachlan, in discussions both in and outside their respective fields. Foremost among the Projects on offer this year, Paul Allen's Pivot Art + Culture space host the return of the KaiKai KiKi collective and it's cultural figurehead, Takashi Murakami, as "KaiKai KiKi & Juxtapoz Curate a Pop-Up Group Show in Seattle". In collaboration with Juxtapoz Art & Culture Magazine, their group show "Juxtapoz x SuperFlat" follows in the footsteps of Murakami’s previous curatorial efforts which began with 2001's SuperFlat exhibit at MoCA Los Angeles. Together with Juxtapoz editor Evan Pricco, the two conceived the exhibition as a survey of emerging artists, originating from both east and west, who operate outside of the central hubs of the global art world. A continuity of vision can be seen in the decades-spanning work featured in 2005's "Little Boy: The Art of Japan's Exploding Subculture” exhibit and and more recently the Brooklyn Art Museum's “©Murakami” retrospective. The latter's coverage in the New York Times "Watch Out, Warhol, Here’s Japanese Shock Pop", speaks to Murakami's role in bringing an awareness of Japan's Otaku-generation anime, design, sculpture, video and urban art scene to the larger art world. But it was the proceeding SuperFlat touring exhibit that introduced the west to the blissfully macabre transposition of dream and waking world seen in the vibrant surrealistic work of the loose collective of artists, and their reflexive dialog with Japanese popular culture.
Also in it's second installment, Out of Sight returns to the King Street Station exhibition space for its annual survey of contemporary art in the Pacific Northwest. With a new curatorial and production team under the direction of exhibition caretaker, Scott Lawrimore of Lawrimore Project and current Director of the Jacob Lawrence Gallery alongside the new curatorial team of Sierra Stinson, Greg Lundgren, Minh Nguyen, Beth Sellars, Julia Fryett and Molly Sides. Credited as "The Real Seattle Art Fair is Out of Sight" in local press, last year's exceptional program was a collaboration between Kirsten Anderson and Sharon Arnold of Roq La Rue and Bridge Productions along with Seattle artist Greg Lundgren and Sierra Stinson, founder of Vignettes for Vital 5 Productions. Offering a counterpoint to the global vision of the Seattle Art fair, this 22,000 square-foot survey of contemporary art read like a who's-who of the best work seen about the Pacific Northwest in the past decade. While no longer shepherding Out of Sight, Anderson's gallery space will be active this month with Roq La Rue's group exhibition, “Death and the Maiden 2", held concurrently with a Femke Hiemstra solo show in the loft gallery. This will be the final show at the long-running contemporary art space, its focus the pop surrealism of New Contemporary art scene, as detailed in their 2004 collection "Pop Surrealism: The Rise of Underground Art" edited by Anderson and Published by San Francisco's Last Gasp. In her interview form Hi-Fructose, "Gallery Spotlight: Exclusive Interview with Kirsten Anderson of Roq La Rue", Anderson maps the genesis of this new generation inspired as much by the urban and street art of the 1980s, as the kitschy, provocative work of Robert Williams, Anthony Ausgang, Isabelle Samaras, Lisa Petrucci and The Pizz. Particularly that these players in Southern California's Low Brow scene embodied a post-Punk ethos that made divestment in gallery culture and art academia central to their position.
Sunday, July 17, 2016
Noir City Festival: Film Noir from A to B at SIFF Cinema: July 22 - 28 | UCLA Film Archive & Festival of Preservation: Jan 16 - Jul 19
Eddie Muller and the Film Noir Foundation return to Seattle after a two year hiatus following their International Edition in 2014 with bold new 35mm prints courtesy of their collaborative efforts with The UCLA Film & Television Archive. The Preservation Society and it's annual touring festival, offering one of the country's most, "Fascinating Windows into Our Cinematic Past". The work of the restorationists at the archive feature prominently in the LA Weekly's discussion of the expansive shift to digital distribution and projection nationwide, "Movie Studios are Forcing Hollywood to Abandon 35mm Film. But the Consequences of Going Digital are Vast, and Troubling". Their work will again be on display after the selections from the UCLA Festival of Preservation featured at Northwest Film Forum this past May. Next week's Noir City 2016: Film Noir from A to B screens exclusively on 35mm, comprising nine double bills that present a chronological excursion through the classic Noir era, with themed pairs of "A"-list and "B" titles playing together. Highlights from this year's program include a new restoration of Norman Foster's once thought lost, "Woman on the Run", a breakneck thriller about a search for a husband in hiding, set in mid-20th Century blue collar San Francisco. We also see the characteristic atmospheric nature of the genre highlighted in the haunting chiaroscuro of cinematographer Nick Musuraca. Accentuating another notable Val Lewton production for RKO, his camerawork highlights the Greenwich Village missing person (and secret society) mystery of Mark Robson's "The 7th Victim". Hitchcock protege, screenwriter and producer Joan Harrison's stamp is all over Robert Siodmak's tense thriller, "Phantom Lady". The film pivoting around Ella Raines' enchanting lead role as savvy urbanite and amateur investigator, as she gets in deep in an attempt to exonerate an innocent man of the murder of his wife.
In addition to Siodmak, other great German expat directors of the era also put in entries, like Fritz Lang in the classic Edward G. Robinson vehicle, "Scarlet Street" in which Robinson gets rolled by Joan Bennett's streetwise lady of the night. And Max Ophüls adaptation of Elizabeth Saxnay Holding’s novel "The Blank Wall" about the lengths one woman will go to protect her daughter from a scheming blackmailer. Star power also features with Humphrey Bogart and Lizabeth Scott in John Cromwell's post-War twisted tale of fake identities and murder set in Florida, "Dead Reckoning". And a second serving of Lizabeth Scott's smokey charm, staring again in Lewis Allen's Technicolor love triangle melodrama, "Desert Fury" set against lowlife gamblers, duplicitous deputies, and rebellious kin. The weeklong program also features Frank Tuttle's seminal revenge film, "This Gun for Hire" based on the Graham Greene novel of the same name, and Bruce Humberstone's unjustly overlooked harbinger of the film noir movement, "I Wake Up Screaming" starring a young Betty Grable in one of her first dramatic roles. Cornell Woolrich might be Noir's most prolific screenwriter, and when you can consistently deliver works like the unreliable narrator featured in John Reinhardt's "The Guilty" practically by rote, there's little wonder why. The festival also hosts rare pulp entries like Henry Levin's clandestine release of one of the most sexually suggestive and psychologically lurid B-movies of the 1940s onto the American screen with "Night Editor". Intended as the first in a trilogy of thrillers about about graveyard-shift police beat reporters, and the crimes in which they become entangled, the film stands as the single entry due to the Motion Picture Production Code crackdown of the Breen era.
Saturday, July 16, 2016
This month SIFF Cinema brings some of the finest in genre cinema to the big screen with restorations of legendary Chinese director King Hu's expressively mystical, atmospheric, physical martial arts masterpieces. More referenced and revered than seen, these seminal works have influence countless Wuxia films in the ensuing decades since their release, most notably Ang Lee’s “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and Zhang Yimou’s “House of Flying Daggers". In the west there are of course the works of Quentin Tarantino, who has copped from them (and Toshiya Fujita's "Lady Snowblood" also playing this month at Grand Illusion Cinema) generously, lifting sequences and setting wholesale. The arthouse isn't immune to his spell, with a new generation of filmmakers from Hong Kong and mainland China offering reflections on Hu's legacy, as literally seen in Taiwanese Second Wave director Tsai Ming-Liang's elegiac ode to moviegoing and the city of Taipei, "Goodbye, Dragon Inn". Befitting a body of work of this influence and stature, and in a rare move for genre works Senses of Cinema have dedicated a Great Directors feature on Hu's warping and reformatting of the three tenets of 20th Century Wuxia cinema: the political world of the Jianghu, bewildering martial arts action, and thirdly, and most artfully in Hu's case, abstraction in representing Buddhist concepts. Janus Films and Criterion have produced new 4k restorations in a domestic theatrical run that will be the first opportunity to see these films in the west for most filmgoers, particularly in the case of "A Touch of Zen". Celebrated upon it's release as the first non-mainland Chinese film to receive the Technical Grand Prize and nomination for the Palme d'Or at Cannes, Hu's epic emerged as an exemplary representation of the genre-form much in the same way that Sergio Leone’s stylized reimagining of pioneer America once brought critical attention to the Italian Western. While we can now see his work against a very necessary and relevant context, via the wider distribution and availability of mid-Century Wuxia film, there can be no denial of Hu’s preeminence as a "Martial-arts Pioneer Who Brought Dynamic Grace to the Genre", and "A Touch of Zen"'s broader achievement and status as a masterpiece of world cinema.
As well as containing references to the totality of Hu Jinquan's past and future films, Tony Williams details for Senses of Cinema, how it is that this work operates as a singular compilation of Eastern and Western stylistic features familiar to contemporary audiences. In Hu's more sparing use of the obligatory Shaw Brothers Studio gestures, reigning in choker close-ups and zoom lenses, he instead accentuated slow motion shots of nature and landscape. These were often set against tightly framed indoor scenes of persona drama, tension and comedy from Hu's own repertory company of familiar faces such as his onscreen avatar Shih Chun, the captivating Hsu Feng, Bai Ying, Han Hsieh, and Tsao Chien. The action playing out in whirlwind set pieces on isolated mountaintop roads and bamboo forest swordfights, delivered with visually beautiful compositions reminiscent of the director's passion for the theatre arts. The Beijing Opera-style musical introductions to Eastern Group representatives in "Dragon Inn" that punctuate each appearance of Bai Ying’s villainous albino eunuch are an obvious point of reference in this technical bridging of the stage and the screen. The more overtly poetic elements in Hu's films are glimpsed in the intermingling of slow-motion depiction of high-flying martial arts choreography, which cut to shots of nature; the movement of reeds, water and trees suggestive of the combat moving into the realm of the supernatural. These gestures would come to characterize the director's later work, becoming more and more explicit as Hu began to emerge as a "Martial-arts Filmmaking Master, Bending Light and Arrows to His Will". As is the case made in Grady Hendrix's Kaiju Shakedown column for Film Comment focusing on the late, lost film "The Battle of Ono", the shift to the supernatural plane is what most defines the closing passages of "A Touch of Zen's Masterful Concoction of Cinematic Flavors". In it's climax, where any fixed interpretation proves elusive, we see the mythic destination of the Buddhist monastery vanish, and it's luminescent, golden background remain. Hu seeming to suggest that in continuing one's quest to find refuge, whether from the intrigues and deceptions of the Ming Dynasty, or the turbulent political climate of the China of his time, one is on the path of a life-spanning journey, punctuated by fleeting glimpses of the distant horizons of transcendence.
Sunday, July 10, 2016
Motor presents Ancient Methods & Diagonal Records Showcase with Russell Haswell, Powell and Not Waving at Kremwerk: Jul 14 & Aug 11
In lieu of the more expansive festival forums like those previously offered by Decibel and Substrata, Seattle's monthly showcases of electronic and experimental sounds, Elevator, Secondnature and MOTOR, have produced a string of memorable one-off events over the course of the past year. Foremost among them, Elevator's expansion this past winter into exhibition curation with their first annual Corridor Festival. Hailed as a unmitigated success, it's day-long meeting of audio-visual media, installation art, music and performance may be the city's best new hope in filling the festival void. The apogee of the collective endeavors of these monthlies resulted in the anti-euclidean rhythmic exercises of PAN recording artist M.E.S.H., the dissonant drone and synth onslaught of Room40 label founder Lawrence English, and the elusive minimalist techno of Giegling who Resident Advisor rated label of the month in their detailing of the collective's slippery characteristics. We were also witness to the Spectrum Spools label showcase featuring Container and Sebastian Gainsborough under his Vessel moniker, representing for the Tri-Angle label. Their night at Kremwerk showcasing another of the label's roster of colliding melodicism, smeared noise and folded rhythm structures, a sound inspired as much by hip-hop as by the distorted abstractions of shoegaze. For Resident Advisor's Label of the Month feature on MOTOR, Samuel Melancon details the imprint's focus on hardware produced music that is as much "semi-danceable, while remaining deep-listening, with a focus on psychedelic tones and textures". Timm Mason who releases on the label under the Mood Organ moniker, could be considered the quintessential representative of this sound. His own volume for the label's Mix Series makes for an ideal primer to the MOTOR's aesthetic vein. In it minimalist techno rubs shoulders with vintage noise and industrial, and the progressive rock of Sand and Goblin shares company with the likes of Tod Dockstader's magnetic tape constructions and Pan Sonic's brutalist experiments in rhythm.
This same scope is representative of the programming offered by Decibel's Rachel Glasgow, Melancon and Debacle Records Nathaniel Young every month, as "MOTOR Invites Seattle into the Wormhole with an Ambitious Summer Series" hosted by the done-right underground venue that is Kremwerk. Both this season's July and August installments bring the global vanguard of experimental sound design and warped dancefloor exercises in broken techno. Arriving in the mid-2000s as the duo of Michael Wollenhaupt and Conrad Protzmann, out of the gate their "Method" trilogy resonated in a post-Chain Reaction dub-space of thunderous, yet subtly layered full-frontal electronic music. The dou's influences worn clearly on their sleeve for all to hear in their multiple installments for the MNML SSGS mix series. Now solo, Wollenhaupt's live PA hardware set for MOTOR will be one of only four Ancient Methods dates on his first ever US tour. Of a shared ethos with the bleeding edge in dancefloor experimentation heard in the recent forays by Pete Swanson, the unhinged mathematics of SND's Mark Fell, and Kouhei Matsunaga's fragmented techno exercises as NHK, over the course of some scant 25 releases, Diagonal Records' pedigree is incontestable. Their stated objective a repurposing of the most challenging voices in contemporary abstract electronic music to the codified gestures of dance music. One need only hear the buoyant sea of dissonant miasma obscuring the depths of disorienting rhythmic melee in Russell Haswell's "37 Minute Workout" and "As Sure As Night Follows Day", the new wave meets rueful machine abstractions of Not Waving's "Animals" and the warped "Club Music" of label founder Oscar Powell to judge Diagonal's success. What else would one anticipate from a label who christened their first release, "The Ongoing Significance of Steel & Flesh"? Photo credit: Scott Simpson