Sunday, January 22, 2023

Earshot Jazz presents Tord Gustavsen Trio at Town Hall: Feb 18 | "Manfred Eicher: The 'ECM Sound' Man" | The Guardian


The contemporary Scandinavian jazz scene that epitomizes what has become known as the "ECM Sound" is embodied by such players and ensembles as the Mats Eilertsen Trio, Nils Petter Molvær, Tord Gustavsen Trio, Thomas Strønen, and the Christian Wallumrød Ensemble. Next month, Earshot Jazz continues their decades-long tradition of importing these sounds to the west coast with next month's concert at Town Hall, featuring the Tord Gustavsen Trio performing from their most recent set of recordings, "Opening". In Jazz Times' overview, "Tord Gustavsen: Quiet is the New Loud", the magazine maps the journey of his music as it draws listeners into an encompassing atmosphere of rapt contemplation, but this deceptively soothing aspect reveals a more nuanced depth, in the trio's emotional exposure. A sound expressed through the finesse and dynamics of Gustavsen's piano playing, alongside longtime percussionist Jarle Vespestad, and new bassist for this contemporary lineup, Steinar Raknes. By way of introduction to foundational developments of this scene, there is probably no better document than Johannes Rød's, "Free Jazz and Improvisation on Vinyl 1965-1985", published by Norwegian vanguard imprint Rune Grammofon. Tracing independent free jazz and improv labels between 1965 and 1985, from the beginning of ESP-Disk through to the current era of vinyl revival and ascendant digital formats. With some 60 labels covered in the volume, and forewords by Mats Gustafsson and label founder, Rune Kristoffersen, the edition perfectly encapsulates this particular brand of what The Guardian's Richard Williams calls, "Norwegian Blues". 

 
The significance of the ECM label to the extended Scandinavian scene and its embracing of classical, jazz, improvisation, and chamber music experimentation, can't be overstated. Co-founded by producer Manfred Eicher, Manfred Scheffner and Karl Egger in Munich in 1969, the label's prestige has been meticulously constructed over five decades of artfully presented releases bearing their distinctly refined aesthetic. Dana Jennings "ECM: Albums Know that Ears Have Eyes" for the New York Times mines ECM's ensuing four decades following those detailed in Rød's chronicle, focusing specifically on the imprint's meeting of sound, material, and image. ECM's convergence of sound, and visual aesthetics was also the focus of the Okwui Enwezor and Markus Müller curated "ECM - A Cultural Archaeology", for the Munich Haus der Kunst in 2013. The objective of the exhibition's presentation of the history of the label, as Okwui Enwezor states in his essay “Big Ears", was that it should be made comprehensible through more than just documents, archival material and artifacts. The major concern was to instead present the work of Eicher and ECM’s relationship to different artistic disciplines. These ranged from the films of Jean-Luc Godard, Theodor Kotullas, Theo AngelopoulosAndrei Tarkovsky, and Peter Greenaway, to the concerts of Keith Jarrett and The Art Ensemble of Chicago; from the performances by Meredith Monk, Steve Reich, and Arvo Pärt, to the graphic design of Barbara Wojirsch and photographs by Dieter Rehm, Roberto Masotti, and Deborah Feingold. Photo credit: Maarten Mooijman

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Claire Denis' “Stars at Noon” and “Trouble Every Day” at The Grand Illusion Cinema: Feb 3 - 9



While entries like the Pynchonesque noir science nightmare of "Trouble Every Day" may align with the New French Extremity label, the films of Claire Denis have remained defiantly thematically varied. From explorations of masculine camaraderie, observations on the post-Colonial landscape of both Africa and Paris, neo-noir thrillers, and sharp-edged gender relations, Claire Denis' filmography navigates the spaces between traditional narrative and more structurally adventurous cinema. Her films have consistently fashioned an interplay of the gravitational pulls inherent in each of these corresponding forms. Denis is herself a complex and irreducible intellect, as made clear in recent interviews on both gender representation in Cannes, and the wider field of women artists, "Claire Denis: ‘I Couldn’t Care Less About the Weinstein Affair'", and for the Irish Times, "‘We are Normal People. Even Though We are French’". Recent representations of her craft can be seen in 2008's masterpiece on class, race and urban life, conveyed through light and motion that was "35 Shots of Rum", and 2014's ominous neo-noir crime thriller, "Bastards". The latter brought its audience deep into the nightmare of one family's decomposition from the inside with their brush with power, corruption and an immoral French elite. In a sense all of her work can be seen as, "Family Films of a Very Different Sort". Another constant of her work, one that she shares with the best of her peers, is the elliptical nature of its narrative and visual structure. Looping back on itself, projecting ahead, fusing impression, experience and dream, these structural and thematic signatures are abundantly detailed in Nick Pinkerton's Claire Denis interview for Film Comment and Senses of Cinema's "Dancing Reveals So Much: An Interview with Claire Denis". More recently, in her crowning point from Cannes 2017, she delivered a subtly pointed observation on contemporary French life in, "Let the Sunshine In". This elegant, eccentric relationship comedy of ideas on middle age, expressed itself with an almost inscrutable sophistication, "Un Beau Soleil Interieur: Juliette Binoche Excels". Taking a typically dynamic about-turn, Denis then produced her first explicitly science fiction work to-date with "High Life" featuring a much larger production, special effects, lead stars in Binoche and Robbert Pattinson, and a screenplay by Nick Laird and Zadie Smith, the following year.

In her observation on the diminishing of content in the modern era that might traverse such complex and charged territory, Catherine Shoard selects “The Fearless Cinema of Claire Denis” as the antithesis to these trends. Expressly the depiction of sex, sexual power and psychology in the director’s 2018 entry, "Claire Denis on High Life, Robert Pattinson, and Putting Juliette Binoche in a “F*ckbox”. The film’s sexual and corporeal focus on a unflinching exploration of "The Fleshy Frontier", and past traditions in related is cinema are considered in John Semley's piece for The Baffler. These multifaceted bodily, sexual, and psychological tensions also succinctly delineated in Charles Bramesco’s review, “High Life: Orgasmic Brilliance in Deepest Space with Robert Pattinson”. Which brings us to her two current films of this year and last. Born of the much-delayed adaptation of Denis Johnson's "The Stars at Noon", and the numerous complexities of the film's long gestation, including its star Robert Pattinson having to leave the project over schedule conflicts. "Stars at Noon" finally arrived at Cannes this year, where it was awarded the Grand Prix. This "Languid Tale of Sex, Lies and Intrigue in the Nicaraguan Heat", is in many ways a compelling companion for, "Both Sides of the Blade" her film of 2021. Where that film was born of the limitations of the pandemic and conversations between Denis and its lead actor Vincent Lindon, her most recent utilized the tensions of the pandemic and governmental control in Nicaragua to heighten its pervasive sense of unease and threat. The film is adapted by Denis and co-writers Andrew Litvack and Léa Mysius from the late Denis Johnson's novelization of his years spent endeavoring to become a political reporter in Nicaragua and Costa Rica in the early 1980s. Where Denis' film differs is in that the twentysomething protagonist Trish, as played by Margaret Qualley, presents herself as a modern-day journalist, who finds herself in a deadly bind, as her last published work was about politically motivated kidnappings and murders in Nicaragua related to tensions with Costa Rica. The result of "Stars at Noon: A Not-So-Innocent Abroad", is something like a modern Central American update of Antonioni’s "The Passenger", with its own distinct and oblique tropical reverie. Over which hangs an ominous and subtly oneiric sense of threat, that recalls Anna Seghers' 944 novel, "Transit", another tale of closing borders, and an immanent, seemingly inescapable fate.

Thursday, January 5, 2023

:::: FILMS OF 2022 ::::


TOP FILMS OF 2022 IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER
-----------------------------------------------------------
Gaspar Noé  "Vortex"  (France)
Charlotte Wells  "Aftersun"  (United Kingdom)
Brett Morgen  "Moonage Daydream"  (United States)
Luca Guadagnino  "Bones and All"  (Italy)
David Cronenberg  "Crimes of the Future"  (Canada)
Andrew Dominik  "Blonde"  (United States)
Claire Denis  "Stars at Noon"  (France)
Joanna Hogg  "The Eternal Daughter"  (United Kingdom)
Albert Serra  "Pacifiction"  (France/Spain)
Michelangelo Frammartino  "Il Buco"  (Italy)
Alejandro Iñárritu  "BARDO, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths"  (Mexico)
Edward Berger  "All Quiet on the Western Front"  (Germany)
Mia Hansen-Løve  "One Fine Morning"  (France)
Bruno Dumont  "France"  (France)
Sebastien Meise "Great Freedom"  (Austria)
Jerzy Skolimowski  "EO"  (Poland)
Park Chan-wook  "Decision To Leave"  (South Korea)
Alessio Rigo de Righi & Matteo Zoppis  "The Tale of King Crab"  (Italy)
Mia Zetterling  "Four Films by Mia Zetterling"  Restored Rereleased (Sweden)
Mark Jenkin  "Enys Men"  (United Kingdom)
Todd Field  "TÁR"  (United States)
Lucile Hadžihalilović  "Earwig"  (France)
Olivier Assayas  "Irma Vep 2022"   (France)
Panos Cosmatos  "The Viewing"  Short  (Canada)
 
For decades this annual entry has acted as an overview of music, dance, theatre and performance art attended, films seen in the cinema, visual art exhibitions and fairs, festivals covered, and international and domestic destinations traveled. Due to the ongoing effect of the global coronavirus pandemic, this year's overview will again be somewhat limited in scope. While now in its waning phases, its effect on cultural and social life is still a dominant factor. Businesses and cultural venues have limited hours, close early on weekday and weekend nights, and continue to program with a reduced scale and truncated durations over what we saw in the years preceding the pandemic. Even the most rudimentary of social meeting spaces such as cafes, bars and restaurants continue to have reduced hours. The once essential component of urban social life in the Northwest, the cafe, has been particularly hard hit. With many of them no longer offering evening hours. Regionally, arts venues and cultural institutions returned to in-person programming in fall of 2021, cautiously opening the doors to music stages, galleries and movie houses. After a year and a half of navigating the complexities of the pandemic restrictions and closures, programming returned in August and September to the majority of these Northwest culture spaces. In many cases their future remained uncertain until relief funding became available just earlier that year with the benefits of the Save Our Stages Act, alongside the newly implemented Shuttered Venues Grant. The benefits of the various pandemic relief bills, alongside regional infrastructure like the 4Culture Relief Fund, awareness efforts like the Washington Nightlife Music Association, crowdfunding and philanthropy like the ArtistRelief, ArtsFund grant, and GiveBig Washington, all came in the 11th hour for many of our regional cultural institutions and art venues.

Overseas, the European continent has rebounded in a more decisive and assertive way, with the major festivals and exhibitions returning to both bold, and pandemic conscious, in-person programming. One can clearly see the nature of commerce, and social and cultural life at all the hours that one can imagine them transpiring, have made a more lively and vital recovery from the pandemic. This was evident in traveling overseas for the first time in almost three years to attend the once-a-decade confluence of Germany's Documenta, and the Venice Biennale. This year's particular convergence of the two offered a complex set of groundbreaking firsts, as well as an unexpected set of socio-cultural setbacks. With the initial launch not going to plan, Documenta 15 found itself in a set of novel complexities, being curated by a leaderless collective, there was a "The Bumpy Road to a Group-led Documenta”. In many ways the exhibition was a success, “Welcome to the Fun House! Sharks, Skaters, and Smelters liven up Documenta 15”, yet it found itself at the center of a wider discussion and controversy, "Documenta Was a Whole Vibe. Then a Scandal Killed the Buzz". At the close of September, there was much discussion about the resulting impact, and wider considerations to the exhibition, some even speculating, "The World’s Most Prestigious Art Exhibition Is Over. Maybe Forever.". The 59th Venice Biennale was afflicted by no such troubles. This year’s big group show, "The Milk of Dreams", curated by Cecilia Alemani, took its title from an early 20th century fairytale by the British-born Leonora Carrington. The era was also at the heart of the concurrent surrealism blockbuster at the Peggy Guggenheim Foundation in Venice's Dorsoduro. Including the 56 national pavilions and over 30 collateral events, the resulting citywide exhibition produced a smorgasbord of late-flowering surrealism. In what was being called the women's Biennale, this year's exhibition was an exuberant set of, “Cyborgs, Sirens, and a Singing Murderer: The Thrilling, Oligarch-free Venice Biennale”. In an almost singular historic moment, with the world recovering from the pandemic, and the Ukraine being pummeled by Russian missiles, there was no shortage of, “Looking Inward, and Back, at a Biennale for the History Books”.

Returning home domestically, life was reduced again to grappling with the larger part of one's existence being spent in our homes these past two years. While there are now opportunities again to engage with film, music and visual art, as a culture we are still relying on online resources more than was necessary pre-pandemic. Yet these deliver only a modicum of the sensations, social engagement, and sensory thrills and satisfactions of cultural happenings. The pragmatic response would be to accept the inherent losses and embrace what vestiges of a cultural life that could be salvaged online. Yet these are poor surrogates, even temporarily. So, while its role may be reduced in the age of streaming, the magazine, both print and digital, can still be a defining tastemaker amid the multitude of channels in which to discover new music. For those not finding compelling sounds via their internet trawls, digital retailers like Boomkat, and online institutions like The Quietus, represent the kind of expertise you’ll not find coherently brought together online outside the framework of such vision and curatorial legacy. Evolving right along with the times from a free improv, modern classical and jazz magazine in the 1970s and 1980s, in the following decades The Wire expanded its scope to include every imaginable genre (and some yet invented), becoming all-inclusive by the conclusion of the 20th century. A particular advantage at year's end, is that the magazine offers the opportunity to Listen to The Wire Top 50 Releases of 2022. Similarly, film institutions like those below offer a worldly scope, compiling the life’s work of people who have made watching their enterprise. Year in and year out again, Sight & Sound, Film Comment, Cinema-Scope, Criterion Collection's The Current, and The Guardian's excellent film coverage have brought focus to the year of moving pictures from around the globe.

:::: ALBUMS OF 2022 ::::


TOP ALBUMS OF 2022 IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER
-------------------------------------------------------------
Various Artists "Nyege Nyege Tapes: USB Bomb" (Nyege Nyege Tapes)
Oren Ambarchi, Johan Berthling & Andreas Werliin "Ghosted" (Drag City)
The Comet Is Coming "Hyper-Dimensional Expansion Beam" (Impulse!)
Various Artists "Send The Pain Below" (Flenser)
Kali Malone "Living Torch" (Portraits GRM)
Lucrecia Dalt "!Ay!" (RVNG)
Nils Frahm "Music For Animals" (Leiter)
Blood Incantation “Timewave Zero” (Century Media)
JK Flesh “Sewer Bait” (Pressure)
Moor Mother “Jazz Codes” (Anti-)
Makaya McCraven "In These Times" (Nonesuch)
Ash Ra Tempel "Schwingunen" & "Join Inn" Reissues (MG.Art)
Alabaster DePlume "Gold: Go Forward in the Courage of Your Love" (International Anthem)
Harold Budd "The Pavilion Of Dreams" Reissue (Superior Viaduct)
David Bowie "Moonage Daydream: A Film by Brett Morgen" Soundtrack (Parlophone)
Alice Coltrane with Pharoah Sanders & Joe Henderson "Ptah, The El Daoud" Reissue (Impulse!)
Igor Stravinsky "Jurowski Conducts Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring" (London Philharmonic Orchestra)
Charles Koechlin "The Seven Stars Symphony / Vers la Voûte étoilée" (Capriccio)
Heiner Goebbels & Ensemble Modern "A House of Call" (ECM)
The Lovecraft Sextet "Nights Of Lust" (Denovali)
Sarah Davachi "Two Sisters" (Late Music)
Širom "The Liquified Throne of Simplicity" (tak:til)
Drowse "Wane Into It" (Flenser)
Pan Daijing "Tissues" (PAN)

For decades this annual entry has acted as an overview of music, dance, theatre and performance art attended, films seen in the cinema, visual art exhibitions and fairs, festivals covered, and international and domestic destinations traveled. Due to the ongoing effect of the global coronavirus pandemic, this year's overview will again be somewhat limited in scope. While now in its waning phases, its effect on cultural and social life is still a dominant factor. Businesses and cultural venues have limited hours, close early on weekday and weekend nights, and continue to program with a reduced scale and truncated durations over what we saw in the years preceding the pandemic. Even the most rudimentary of social meeting spaces such as cafes, bars and restaurants continue to have reduced hours. The once essential component of urban social life in the Northwest, the cafe, has been particularly hard hit. With many of them no longer offering evening hours. Regionally, arts venues and cultural institutions returned to in-person programming in fall of 2021, cautiously opening the doors to music stages, galleries and movie houses. After a year and a half of navigating the complexities of the pandemic restrictions and closures, programming returned in August and September to the majority of these Northwest culture spaces. In many cases their future remained uncertain until relief funding became available just earlier that year with the benefits of the Save Our Stages Act, alongside the newly implemented Shuttered Venues Grant. The benefits of the various pandemic relief bills, alongside regional infrastructure like the 4Culture Relief Fund, awareness efforts like the Washington Nightlife Music Association, crowdfunding and philanthropy like the ArtistRelief, ArtsFund grant, and GiveBig Washington, all came in the 11th hour for many of our regional cultural institutions and art venues.

Overseas, the European continent has rebounded in a more decisive and assertive way, with the major festivals and exhibitions returning to both bold, and pandemic conscious, in-person programming. One can clearly see the nature of commerce, and social and cultural life at all the hours that one can imagine them transpiring, have made a more lively and vital recovery from the pandemic. This was evident in traveling overseas for the first time in almost three years to attend the once-a-decade confluence of Germany's Documenta, and the Venice Biennale. This year's particular convergence of the two offered a complex set of groundbreaking firsts, as well as an unexpected set of socio-cultural setbacks. With the initial launch not going to plan, Documenta 15 found itself in a set of novel complexities, being curated by a leaderless collective, there was a "The Bumpy Road to a Group-led Documenta”. In many ways the exhibition was a success, “Welcome to the Fun House! Sharks, Skaters, and Smelters liven up Documenta 15”, yet it found itself at the center of a wider discussion and controversy, "Documenta Was a Whole Vibe. Then a Scandal Killed the Buzz". At the close of September, there was much discussion about the resulting impact, and wider considerations to the exhibition, some even speculating, "The World’s Most Prestigious Art Exhibition Is Over. Maybe Forever.". The 59th Venice Biennale was afflicted by no such troubles. This year’s big group show, "The Milk of Dreams", curated by Cecilia Alemani, took its title from an early 20th century fairytale by the British-born Leonora Carrington. The era was also at the heart of the concurrent surrealism blockbuster at the Peggy Guggenheim Foundation in Venice's Dorsoduro. Including the 56 national pavilions and over 30 collateral events, the resulting citywide exhibition produced a smorgasbord of late-flowering surrealism. In what was being called the women's Biennale, this year's exhibition was an exuberant set of, “Cyborgs, Sirens, and a Singing Murderer: The Thrilling, Oligarch-free Venice Biennale”. In an almost singular historic moment, with the world recovering from the pandemic, and the Ukraine being pummeled by Russian missiles, there was no shortage of, “Looking Inward, and Back, at a Biennale for the History Books”.

Returning home domestically, life was reduced again to grappling with the larger part of one's existence being spent in our homes these past two years. While there are now opportunities again to engage with film, music and visual art, as a culture we are still relying on online resources more than was necessary pre-pandemic. Yet these deliver only a modicum of the sensations, social engagement, and sensory thrills and satisfactions of cultural happenings. The pragmatic response would be to accept the inherent losses and embrace what vestiges of a cultural life that could be salvaged online. Yet these are poor surrogates, even temporarily. So, while its role may be reduced in the age of streaming, the magazine, both print and digital, can still be a defining tastemaker amid the multitude of channels in which to discover new music. For those not finding compelling sounds via their internet trawls, digital retailers like Boomkat, and online institutions like The Quietus, represent the kind of expertise you’ll not find coherently brought together online outside the framework of such vision and curatorial legacy. Evolving right along with the times from a free improv, modern classical, and jazz magazine in the 1970s and 1980s, in the following decades The Wire expanded its scope to include every imaginable genre (and some yet invented), becoming all-inclusive by the conclusion of the 20th century. A particular advantage at year's end, is that the magazine offers the opportunity to Listen to The Wire Top 50 Releases of 2022. Similarly, film institutions like those below offer a worldly scope, compiling the life’s work of people who have made watching their enterprise. Year in and year out again, Sight & Sound, Film Comment, Cinema-Scope, Criterion Collection's The Current, and The Guardian's excellent film coverage have brought focus to the year of moving pictures from around the globe.

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Joanna Hogg's “Eternal Daughter”, Noah Baumbach's "White Noise”, Laura Poitras “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed”, Jerzy Skolimowski's “EO” and Hirokazu Kore-eda's “Broker” at Landmark Theatres, SIFF Cinema, Northwest Film Forum & The Grand Illusion: Dec 9 - Jan 6



The month of December sees titles from this year's Venice Film Festival, alongside latecomers from the Cannes and Toronto festivals continuing to arrive in Northwest theaters. Among the films from Venice, there are few more heatedly anticipated than Noah Baumbach's adaptation of Don DeLillo's novel, “White Noise”, and the Golden Lion award-winner from Laura Poitras, on the life, art and advocacy Nan Goldin, portrayed in “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed”. The award winning film plumbs the heights and depths of the artist's life, and her later dedication to personal and social causes, on which she spoke at length with The Guardian, "Artist Nan Goldin on Addiction and Taking on the Sackler Dynasty". Other late arrivals from Cannes and Venice at SIFF Cinema include “Broker", the first of Japanese auteur Hirokazu Kore-eda's films set in Korea, Darren Aronovsky's rumination on the human condition, “The Whale”, and Jerzy Skolimowski's homage to Robert Bresson and Béla Tarr, told through its non-human protagonist, “EO”. The Skolimowski film has already garnered high placement on many films of the year lists, including the Los Angeles Times declaring, "‘EO,’ A Gorgeous Portrait of a Donkey, is the Movie You’ve Been Praying For", and Manohla Dargis' exuberant review for the New York Times, "‘EO’: Imagining the Lives of Other Creatures". Northwest Film Forum presents another recent entry in Korean director Hong Sang-soo's autobiographical meta-observations in the “Novelist’s Film”, and The Grand Illusion Cinema will screen Tilda Swinton in a haunting double role, as Joanna Hogg's “Eternal Daughter". This eerie tale of a "Double Tilda Swinton Haunts Joanna Hogg Ghost Story" follows on the heels of her two-part masterwork that topped many films of the decade lists, comprising "The Souvenir", and its second installment. Later in the month at the AMC theatres come the intimate portrait of childhood seen in Lukas Dhont 's “Close" and the most recent period drama Corsagefrom Marie Kreutzer. The latter, what Peter Bradshaw calls an austere and inventive film depicting, "A Cry of Anger from the Pedestal-Prison of An Empress". Concluding the month for a second run at SIFF Cinema, Charlotte Welles' masterful Cannes debut feature "Aftersun" returns to cinemas. This emotionally piercing film watches as a beautifully understated yet emotionally riveting coming-of-age "Luminous Father-Daughter Drama", that is both brilliantly assured and stylistically adventurous. Also returning for a second run, Todd Field's classical music world drama "TÁR", in which "Cate Blanchett is Colossal as a Conductor in Crisis". Through the course of this exceedingly credible depiction of the classical music world, the life of a composer and conductor of a major German orchestra comes unravelled as her highly principled and equally duplicitous life is laid bare. In more ways than one, "In 'TÁR', a Maestro Faces the Music".

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Darwyn Cooke's Golden Age of Superheroes & "The Lost Opportunity of The New Frontier" | Forbes


A decade has elapsed since the New 52 marketing campaign, and DC Comics continue to find themselves caught in the throes of the worst of flash-in-the-pan commercial gimmicks and redundant reboots. These have been rolled out as an endless cavalcade of corrective measures to adjust from the previous misguided realignment of their properties, only to find themselves back at square one, and with an ever-diminishing readership. All of this done at the imperative of their various marketing and editorial branches (beholden to Warner Brothers), over the benefits of trusting in their artist and writer teams to build substantial storytelling within their fictional universes. In the long term, this will be their loss. Readership will go where talent, creativity, and the rich rewards of artists who are invested in the depth and value of their work is not only appreciated, but the desired objective of the publisher. Over the last decade, the 'big two', being Marvel and DC respectively, have sacrificed the last vestiges of these values in an series of illusory market grabs, under the auspice of lining their pockets. But the numbers have clearly stated otherwise, with readership continuously down since the mid-2010s. But it needn't have been this way. DC Comics themselves had invested in talent and a number of artists and writers at the beginning of that decade, looking to enrich their enterprises with the vitality and energy of independent comics properties of the millennial cusp. Among them, the "The New Design Frontiers of Darwyn Cooke’s Comic Book Art", enhanced a small run of titles with their fresh graphic identity and a more modern, urban, adult sensibility. The Eisner Award-winning comic writer and artist was paired with another contemporary in his field, noir and crime comics author Ed Brubaker, for their bold revamping of the Catwoman character. This pairing was the result of Brubaker's critically hailed and Harvey and Eisner award-winning work on the police procedural comic "Gotham Central", and their shared passion from crime fiction and film noir, which Cooke spoke at length on in the 2007 "The Comics Journal: Darwyn Cooke Interview". Within a span of just a few years, both authors would then leave Marvel and DC, never to return to produce a major work for them, but instead finding longterm residency in the more fertile soil of independent publishers such as Image and IDW. Around this period, Cooke shared his views on where the industry had gone astray, "Darwyn Cooke Gets Honest about 'Before Watchmen'' wherein he detailed the disenfranchising environment of misaligned priorities being handed down by editorial and the overarching corporate bodies of Disney and Warner Brothers.

But this departure was not before Darwyn Cooke delivered one unmitigated and great superhero property for DC, in the form of 2004's "DC: The New Frontier". The story, set in primarily in the 1950s, featured dozens of DC characters and drew inspiration from the Golden and early Silver Age period's comic books, pulp fiction, and cinema, as well as its structure from Tom Wolfe's non-fiction account of the start of the U.S. space program "The Right Stuff". As with much of Cooke's work, it also pulled from the gritty crime fiction of the era, particularly that of James Ellroy, due to the author's penchant for weaving fictional characters into the tapestry of his historic settings. In this way, the major DC characters are introduced in "The New Frontier" in the same manner as their original conception, but with a freshly postmodern outlook on the real world pre-and-post war era, and its social and political concerns. Detailed in Under the Radar's "Darwyn Cooke, Creator of Justice League: The New Frontier" interview, Cooke describes the book's accompanying visual style, which took inspiration from 1950s advertising, album cover, film poster and graphic art, along with the early Marvel works of Jack Kirby, and the 1960s Hanna-Barbera creations of Alex Toth. On the eve of Darwyn Cooke's untimely death in 2016, and the book's reprinting in a new deluxe edition, Forbes pop culture and comics writer Rob Salkowitz published his thoughts in "The Lost Opportunity of The New Frontier"; "Darwyn Cooke's masterpiece offered DC a way to embrace its brand-defining Silver Age legacy without seeming corny or outdated, and welcome new fans into the mythos without driving away long-time readers. The 2004 mini-series that sets the origin of the DC universe in the optimistic era of the early 1960s is not only a complete triumph of the superhero genre, but also a story that could have solved many, many problems for DC here in the 21st century. Instead, we got Zack Snyder's "Batman v. Superman". If the company had been looking for a reset button to bring in new fans without driving old ones away in disgust, "The New Frontier" could have been a useful starting point. Today it’s a curiosity. The Democratic National Convention of the early 60s recognized that, at a moment when competition is fierce, your brand is tarnished and the world seems to be going a different direction, there are worse strategies than to restate your ideals with vigor and hope, not fear and confusion. When a visionary gifts you with a path forward, you should take it."

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Luca Guadagnino's “Bones and All” at SIFF Cinema: Nov 22 - Dec 15



Filmgoers familiar with the director's breakout 1980s period romance, "Call Me by Your Name", can attest to his artistry and the sumptuous, corporeal, physical attributes of, "Luca Guadagnino's Cinema of Desire". Among the array of sensory craft on display in the film, the soundtrack offers an almost baroque reinforcement of the Italian coastline's rapturous beauty. Yet, like the mildly feverish fantasia of "A Boy’s Own Desire in ‘Call Me by Your Name’", passions of mind and heart bear influence over the following tumult, sorcery, and inner and outer conflicts of his following remake of "Suspiria". This is both apparent in the film's sound design as well as the prominent role Radiohead's Thom Yorke is given in his score for the film. An audiovisual banquet, it also watches as a showcase for the cinematography of Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, known for his award winning collaborations with Thai arthouse auteur, Apichatpong Weerasethakul. By setting his adaptation in a concretely placed sociopolitical setting, and a witchily uncanny eye for references within modern dance, Guadagnino's film offered a very different, and deeply melancholic, point of entry into the nightmare of The Three Mothers. And it is between these two points of reference that we find his Venice Film Festival shocker, with an aesthete's obsessive fixation on the sensory that Luca Guadagnino delivers his most sympathetic and carnal vision to date. This "extravagant and outrageous movie; scary, nasty and startling in its warped romantic idealism" as Peter Bradshaw calls it in the pages of The Guardian, delivers its viewers a, "Cannibal Romance that is a Heartbreaking Banquet of Brilliance". Enhanced by the talent of its cinematographer, Arseni Khachaturan, and another of Guadagnino's explicit choices in music by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, this is  a very different tale about a flesh-eating compulsion than those that have been made popular in recent prestige television. Nor is it another young adult exploration of youthful rebellion, marginalization, or the outsider status of a subset of identity politics, contrary to what audiences might conclude from the casting of its young stars. It is instead a finely tuned fusion of genres, that finesse a deeply sympathetic perspective on the grotesque. In "Bones and All" Guadagnino has tangibly crafted a film that burns with a shame and brand of desperation, born of poverty and homelessness and the tragedy and ruthlessness of survival. Yet underlying these earthly concerns, is a dreamlike pull that somehow both nourishes and cleanses away the horror.

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Alejandro Iñárritu's "BARDO, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths", Charlotte Welles' "Aftersun", Todd Field's "TÁR", Amanda Kramer's “Please Baby Please”, Luca Guadagnino's “Bones and All” and Ali Abbasi's “Holy Spider” at Landmark Theatres, SIFF Cinema, Northwest Film Forum & The Grand Illusion: Oct 28 - Dec 8



A substantial offering of the significant titles from this year's Cannes Film Festival, alongside films from this year's Venice, and Toronto festivals have finally arrived in Northwest theaters this month. Among them, Park Chan-Wook's Cannes award winning, "Decision to Leave" at both SIFF and Northwest Film Forum, is the South Korean director's most explicit homage to Hitchcock's cinematic labyrinth of obsession and desire. Fresh from Venice, Todd Field's Cate Blanchett-led classical music world drama "TÁR", currently at the AMC chain, watches as a convincingly authentic and tightly-wound character assasination. Also at the AMCs straight from Venice and Cannes, is the intimate portrait of childhood from Lukas Dhont in “Close" and the most recent period drama Corsagefrom Marie Kreutzer. From both Rotterdam and Berlin, we get the mashup of musical genre film set in a world not far removed from that of Kenneth Anger, in Amanda Kramer's “Please Baby Please” and the return of Ana Lily Amirpour after her cult hit vampire film, with “Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon”, both at The Grand Illusion. Also straight from Venice, SIFF Cinema is currently running both Luca Guadagnino's science fiction cannibalistic road movie, “Bones and All”, alongside another of the big films from Venice, Martin McDonagh's bruised fraternal drama, "The Banshees of Inisherin". Currently at SIFF one of the major winners from Cannes, the contentious Palme d'Or awardee "Triangle of Sadness" from the mind of Ruben Östlund may or may not be worthy of the accolades, but it certainly entertains in its comedic sadism. Showing at Northwest Film Forum and SIFF Cinema, two of the century's great documentarists Patricio Guzmán and Frederick Wiseman have new works which screened in Toronto, Cannes and Venice, with "My Imaginary Country" and A Couple. Seattle's last remaining Landmark Theatres, The Crest, will be screening Edward Berger's unrelenting and intimate adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque's novel All Quiet on the Western Front”, as well as Charlotte Welles' masterful Cannes debut feature "Aftersun", and James Gray's 1980s Manhattan-set childhood drama, “Armageddon Time”. From Toronto, The Crest is also hosting Sebastián Lelio's “The Wonder”, and straight from Venice comes "BARDO, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths", the wildly kinetic new film from Alejandro González Iñárritu. SIFF Cinema presents two late comers from Cannes, with Mario Martine's “Nostalgia” showing in their Cinema Italian Style series, and Ali Abbasi's best actress award-winning “Holy Spider”, arriving at the tail end of November.