Wednesday, January 9, 2019

:::: FILMS OF 2018 ::::


TOP FILMS OF 2018 IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER
--------------------------------------------------------------
Bruno Dumont  "Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc"  (France)
Bi Gan  "Long Day's Journey Into Night"  (China)
Valeska Grisebach  "Western"  (Bulgaria)
Alfonso Cuarón  "Roma"  (Mexico / United States)
Pietro Marcello  "Lost and Beautiful"  (Italy)
Alice Rohrwacher  "Happy As Lazzaro"  (Italy)
Lee Chang-dong  "Burning"  (South Korea)
Pawel Pawlikowski  "Cold War"  (Poland)
Hu Bo  "An Elephant Sitting Still"  (China)
Jia Zhang-ke  "Ash Is Purest White"  (China)
Hirokazu Kore-eda  "Shoplifters"  (Japan)
Yorgos Lanthimos  "The Favorite"  (Greece)
Nuri Bilge Ceylan  "The Wild Pear Tree"  (Turkey)
Nelson Carlo de Los Santos Arias  "Cocote"  (Argentina)
Masaki Yuasa  "The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl"  (Japan)
Brady Corbet  "Vox Lux"  (United States)
Paul Schrader  "First Reformed"  (United States)
Jim Jarmusch  "Mystery Train"  Restored Re-Released (United States)
Raúl Ruiz  "Time Regained"  Restored Re-Released (Portugal)
Henri-Georges Clouzot  "The Prisoner"  Restored Re-Released (France)
Dennis Hopper  "The Last Movie"  Restored Re-Released (United States)
Zhao Liang  "Behemoth"  (China)
Michael Glawogger & Monika Willi  "Untitled"  (Germany)
Barbet Schroeder  "The Venerable W"  (France)
Claude Lanzmann  "Shoah: Four Sisters"  (France)

Two years have now passed since favorable ratings, and public appetite for spectacle, motivated both liberal and conservative media to marginalize more viable options and instead elevate a reality TV celebrity, media mogul and real estate magnate to one of the most influential positions of power in the world. We now live in the wake of those events. America may never be the same. Consequently we find ourselves in in an environment in which high and low-level attacks have been leveled at the remaining journalistic press and even the First Amendment itself. These effects amplified by the net overabundance of the 21st Century, in which media sources are decentralized, but not necessarily diversified, presenting a new set of dangers to the less digitally savvy. Between the polarization of the commercial news sources and the erosion of institutions of true investigative journalism, social media has found itself in the role of the most influential editor in the world. Subsequently, America not only receives different information, as a divided nation, we've come to perceive different realities. Less travel this year, both domestic and international translated as being essentially grounded here in the United States, with the noise, misdirection, confusion, and division of this toxic social fallout of the 2016 election. All the while wealth becomes further stratified, with fewer and fewer institutions owning a larger slice of the domestic economy, and their influence increasingly felt in government.

In the midst of it all, it was a great relief to find memorable performances, festivals and exhibitions domestically. Gallery-going and the cinema played an even more prominent role this year. Hitting the mark of 400 films seen, it was another record setting twelve months in catching cinema in the theater. A worrisome trend seen in recent years continued though, as no small number of significant films were only available for viewing online or at home. The most notable visual art event witnessed this year was the fourth-annual Paul Allen funded Seattle Art Fair. Initial speculation on it's inaugural launch as to the fair being another tech money vanity project has long since been dispelled. Again proving to be significantly more than a elaborate philanthropy endeavor, this year's fair saw an expanded body of galleries, over 100 in total, along with it's program of talks, on-and-off site performances and collateral events. The programming coup of this year was found in Survival Research Laboratories, founder Mark Pauline presenting a demonstration of his various machines and devices. While insurance costs prevented a full-scale exhibition like that witness at Marlborough Contemporary this past year, wherein "Fire-Breathing Robots Bringing Anarchy to a Chelsea Art Gallery", Pauline was on hand for presentation and discussion on his long running kinetic theater of destruction. Initiated as an early industrial culture project in the late 1970s, the machine shop and performance of its creations spans decades. As part of this year's lecture series, Pauline was joined by influential science fiction author Bruce Sterling in conversation. The author and the outsider artist, technologist and robotics specialist have intersected on previous occasions, memorably 20 years prior in the pages of Wired, for "Is Phoenix Burning?".

As is the case with many of the cultural and economic epicenters in the United States, in the last decade Seattle has gone through a series of notable changes to its urban, communal, and arts identity. Reflecting the still stratifying economic and cultural landscape of the city, two of the most influential regional festivals had closing years in 2015. These two institutions previously brought an underground, international scope to the city's music programming, and cumulatively tens of thousands of attendees. That year saw the final installments of the Seattle's two dominant festivals of electronic, neoclassical and experimental music in the final editions of Rafael Anton Irisarri's Substrata Festival, and in an open letter Decibel Festival's 13th year closed with programming director Sean Horton's farewell to the city. Horton has since announced the revival of the Decibel in 2018 in a Los Angeles iteration, while a proposed Seattle satellite festival remains unrealized. In the three years since the closing of these international forums, Seattle's monthly showcases of electronic and experimental sounds, Elevator, Secondnature, MOTOR, Patchwerks, False Prophet and Wayward Music Series have stepped up to filled the void. Elevator and MOTOR have since ceased monthly programming in 2018, yet the former continues with performance and exhibition curation following the 2016 inauguration of their annual Corridor Festival. It's daylong meeting of audio-visual media, installation art, music and performance has evolved into the city's best new festival for cutting edge sounds. Certainly moreso than Paul Allen's less successful migration into music and media with the launch of Upstream. Though the future of Allen's founding of numerous cultural and arts institutions, and significant philanthropic contribution to the city, is now less certain with his passing this October.

In his year end overview, The New Yorker's Richard Brody tackles the most significant factor in the contemporary landscape of moving pictures; “2018 has been a banner year for movies, but you’d never know it from a trip to a local multiplex, or from a glimpse at the Oscarizables. The gap between what’s good and what’s widely available in theatres - between the cinema of resistance and the cinema of consensus - is wider than ever." For supporting evidence, look no further than this past year's selection on offer at Cannes and Venice, and contrast these with domestic cinema programming. This gulf is also reflected online. The digital age is still proving to be at a narrow impasse rather than the promised plateau of abundance, which many are learning to navigate. Particularly evident in the world of film distribution, though footing is being found on the growing independent streaming platforms. Award winning films from festivals in New York, Berlin, Vienna, Venice, Hong Kong, Seoul, Cannes, Paris, London, Toronto and Cannes topping Film Comment, The Guardian, Cinema-Scope, and the British Film Institute's Sight & Sound annual overviews, have yet to screen in the United States. Or even show up streaming online. So count yourself fortunate that you live in an urban cultural center if you do, as more and more of the world's greatest film aren't to be found for purchase, rent, streaming or even download (legal or otherwise).

Four pieces of new Asian cinema are perfectly illustrative of the depth of this divide between the quality of critically hailed work seen in festivals around the globe and the content available on screens domestically. First of them, "Burning", is a sensuously shot and musically rhythmic mystery by Lee Chang-dong taken from a Haruki Murakami short story centering around the inklings of an obsessive love. Where this sometimes hallucinatory psychological drama differs from its source novel is that it is set in the cultural fallout of modern consumerist Korea. With bold diversions into the pastoral and liminal, this visually gripping observation on "Male Rage Blazes a Chilling Trail on the Korean Border", is fixated on the emptiness of spaces, both in the locative sense, as well as the interpersonal. Chang-dong leaves the tale's central mystery untouched, instead foregrounding the fine details and uneasiness of suppressed violence. Suggestive and psychologically sinuous, the implications of the physically ravenous consequences remain unseen and unknown. While many cities didn't have opportunity at all, this high ranking film in Film Comment's year end overview saw a one week run here at Northwest Film Forum. The second is the newest by the sixth generation Chinese director at the spearhead of mainland cinema for over two decades now. In the long arc of Jia Zhang-ke's increasingly expansive art, he has constructed a body of observations on globalism, largely comprised of a mildly surreal tangent of social realism, with an unexpected recent turn into the realm of politically conscious crime drama. As Peter Bradshaw's review details, "Ash is Purest White" falls into the classification of the latter. Setting it apart, Zhang-ke has imbued his crime tale with what Bradshaw describes as a "miasma of visionary strangeness", giving a distinct glow to the film's social realist grit. Seen through the film's eerily futurist sheen, this complex romantic tragedy set within China’s crime classes is a "Chinese Gangster’s Girlfriend Saga that Burns Bright".

Even less represented on screens regionally were Hu Bo's final and single directorial effort, and Bi Gan's sophomore leap into neo-noir. The latter returning after the extraordinary debut of 2016's "Kaili Blues", with a noirish dream of a movie, centering around the fading embers of a mysterious romance told in the key of early Wong Kar-Wai. Told through almost omnipresent dialogue, much of it in voiceover, "Long Day's Journey Into Night" centers around the return of Luo Hongwu to his hometown Kaili in southwestern China’s Guizhou province, to find the woman he’s loved and never forgotten. This most noirish of storytelling devices circles around a set of recurring concepts, whether journeys, romantic encounters, the abstraction of recollection, time, (or during one startling technical sequence) cinema itself, all expressed with the same half-remembered quality. Mention should be made of the strength of the film's independent components. Particularly Liu Qiang’s set design and the ethereal electro-acoustic score supplied Lim Giong and Point Hsu. Most significantly, during the film's initial sequence the sensuous and atmospheric cinematography of Yao Hung-I and Dong Jinsong, setting the tone for the extended set piece that culminates this highly stylized and oneiric cinematic voyage, whereafter "Long Day’s Journey Into Night Follows its Own Woozy Dream Logic".

Most elusive of all, the single directorial work by novelist Hu Bo before his suicide in late 2017. Based on the story of the same name from his novel of that same year, "Huge Crack", Hu's extended duration film swept critical attention and gained great notice at this past year's Berlin International Film Festival. The film's title, concerning a folk tale of an elephant in the Manzhouli zoo, both acts as a commentary on surviving in increasingly demanding times, and a zen ideal to strive toward. Its parable resonates among the film's youthful protagonists, all deeply unhappy in their isolated industrial locale, as they struggle with the conflicting forces of apathy and meaning. Unrelenting as its tone and duration may be, Hu's telling proves a delicately layered, subtly shot work that distinguishes itself with lived-in characters expressing a set of incisive statements on the prevalence of apathy, arrogance and egotism in modern China. “An Elephant Sitting Still: Melancholic and Mesmerising" in the extreme, conveyed in long, uncut sequences and a muted tonal palette, follows its protagonists as they search for a path out. Coming to envelop completely as the viewer joins them in the miasma of this, "Shattering, Soul-Searching Chinese One-Off". There's hope that Hu's singular directorial feature will receive domestic screenings in the next year with its acquisition by KimStim distribution.

This year's Seattle International Film Festival again showed weaker programming, choosing to overlook much of the abundance featured in the international festival circuit cited above, instead continuing the less than memorable trend of years before. Which was doubly disheartening after the strength of their 40th Anniversary offering. Their year-round programming at SIFF Cinema compensating for the oversights of the festival, bringing advance screenings, rare prints and numerous exclusive screenings to their three cinemas including the Film Center and restored Egyptian. With indie cinemas closing around the nation, it was that much more important to support the local theater opportunities. Particularly with the subsuming of Sundance Theaters into the corporate AMC chain and the fast-shrinking and now single remaining regional theater of the independent Landmark Theatres. Seattle Art Museum continues their cinema programming with the longest running film noir series in North America alongside retrospectives of such auteurs as Yasujiro Ozu, and Ingmar Bergman. Our own Northwest Film Forum had a strong calendar year, in stiff competition with the seasonal programming seen on the longest running independent screen in this town, The Grand Illusion Cinema. In a succession of years, this micro-sized theater in Seattle stepped up to fill the growing theater void after strengthening their nonprofit partnership with Scarecrow Video in 2014.

Much in the way of the 2016 Action, Anarchy & Audacity: A Seijun Suzuki Retrospective, and Also Like Life: The Films of Hou Hsiao-Hsien of 2015, this year's Losers, Loners, Outcasts & Outlaws: The Early Works of Jim Jarmusch, was a major programming coup for the independent theater. Now assembled together by Janus Films, and freed from complex licensing issues in rereleases by The Criterion Collection, fans of what the New York Times called "The Last of the American Indies", could once again marvel at "How the Film World's Maverick Stayed True to His Roots". The Grand Illusion's monthlong series of these early works making for the Northwest theater going event of the year. Many of the most notable films seen this year, when they did come to the cinema, had runs that lasted no more than a week. Others were never to appear again outside of an initial festival screening. One can't imagine that in the age of digital piracy that this process has aided global cinema finding an audience. Again proving the wisdom of getting out there, seeing the city and prioritizing the remaining opportunities that we're fortunate to have in our urban crossroads. Even so, no small percentage of these films even avid theater-goers living in urban centers didn't have opportunity to see. Making the almost singular resource that is Scarecrow Video, recipient of the 2016 Stranger Genius Award, that much more irreplaceable.

Most worrying in the changing landscape of moving pictures, is the dearth of global cinema and critically lauded works available to view on the dominant streaming resources. In a span of a half decade, it's become graphically apparent that, "For Cinephiles, Netflix Is Less and Less an Option". The diminishing of both quantity and diversity on the platform has been further accelerated by the phasing out their physical media catalog. For a microcosm, look to the fact that less than 1/15th of "Spike Lee's list of 86 Essential Films" are available to view on Netflix. The per-capita is even more poor when one examines any of the selections made in the global poll of 900 critics, programmers and academics for the British Film Institute's, "The 50 Greatest Films of All Time". And don't think to go to Hulu, Youtube, or Amazon as an alternative, despite their claims. Concurrently, Netflix has begun to assemble exclusive content and new works by notable American and international arthouse directors. Released in limited engagements, or in some cases not at all outside of being available on its streaming platform, their venture into film has further complicated access to a recent string of releases. By producing, distributing, and exhibiting new films by Orson Welles, Bong Joon-ho, Alice Rohrwacher, Alfonso Cuarón, Aleksei German, and the Coen Brothers, "Netflix’s Movie Blitz Takes Aim at Hollywood’s Heart", thereby significantly limiting the opportunities for these director's work to be seen and achieve notoriety in the traditional theatrical sense.

As a product of the combined effect of market dominance, and lack of diverse content on offer from Amazon, Hulu and Netflix, resources like Fandor, Mubi, and FilmStruck have become the online destination of choice for film lovers. With the merger of AT&T and Warner Brothers this past year, the third in this trio was deemed a "niche market", and shuttered by Warner Media. Thereby closing the resource of thousands of classic, foreign, and arthouse films that Turner Classic Movies and the Criterion Collection had amassed as a, "Streaming Service that Places a Big Bet on Cinephiles". In response, Criterion and Janus Films announced that a, “New, Independent Criterion Channel will Launch in Spring 2019”. Facilitating particularly valuable programming and distribution, these independent streaming platforms have stepped into the international festival arena. The fruits of their curation and criticism offered throughout the year in their respective digital magazines, Notebook, and (the now shuttered) Streamline, and Keyframe. In many ways, of them all, "Mubi: A Streaming Service with a Ticking Clock" has come out on top. Unlike the "Streaming Rabbit Hole Worth Falling Down" represented by Fandor and FilmStruck, each offering a vast catalog of thousands of titles, Mubi watches as a online cinema, with a new film featured every day. In addition to the monthlong selection of titles on offer, Mubi has engaged in special programming with festival series, director highlights, movement, and genre overviews.

In just the past year showcasing such luminaries as Raul Ruiz, Segei Loznitsa, Joseph Losey, the later films of Jean-Luc Godard, and a selection of crime and noir from Jean-Pierre Melville. There were also series from Takashi Miike, the architecture films of Heinz Emigholz, Krzysztof Zanussi, a selection of the later Luis Buñuel, Vittorio De Sica, Philippe Garrel, and a set of Ryuichi Sakamoto documentaries. Mubi proved to be one of the only places to see the work of rising new Chinese independent Bi Gan, the rarely screened Indian independent cinema of Guru Dutt, the quietly confrontational Francois Ozon, and the films of banned Chinese director Lou Ye. Forging into new territory, Mubi's Special Discovery series has showcased new films selected from the world's most prestigious festivals, spanning works from established directors alongside some of the boldest new talent emerging on the scene. Also to be found on the platform was a series of documentaries on Unusual Subjects, and a extensive selection of hard-hitting Chinese Independents. Offerings such as French Cinema after the New Wave, restorations of lost genre and psychotronic cinema by Nicolas Wending Refn, a May 1968 documentary double feature, and the annual seasonal programming found in Horrific October, made Mubi more essential than ever.

:::: ALBUMS OF 2018 ::::


TOP ALBUMS OF 2018 IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER
--------------------------------------------------------------
Coil  "Black Light District: A Thousand Lights In A Darkened Room"  Reissue (Dais)
Haroumi Hosono  "Paraiso / Philharmony / Cochin Moon / Omni Sight Seeing"  Reissues (Light in the Attic)
Mkwaju Ensemble   "Mkwaju"  Reissue (WRWTFWW)
Jóhann Jóhannsson, Randall Dunn & Stephen O'Malley  "Mandy - Soundtrack"  (Invada / Lakeshore)
Various Artists  "Still In A Dream: A Story Of Shoegaze 1988-1995"  LP Edition (Cherry Red)
Vessel  "Queen of Golden Dogs"  (Tri-Angle)
Jim O’Rourke  “Sleep Like It’s Winter”   (Newwhere)
JLIN   "Autobiography"  for Studio Wayne McGregor (Planet Mu)
Laurel Halo  "Raw Silk Uncut Wood"  (Latency)
Objekt  "Cocoon Crush"  (PAN)
Lucrecia Dalt  "Anticlines"  (RVNG)
Demdike Stare  "Passion"  (Modern Love)
Author & Punisher  "Beastland"  (Relapse)
Uniform  "The Long Walk"  (Sacred Bones)
Daughters  "You Won't Get What You Want"  (Ipecac)
Sons Of Kemet  "Your Queen Is A Reptile"  (Impulse!)
John Coltrane  "Both Directions At Once: The Lost Album"  (Impulse!)
Thelonious Monk  "Monk."  Reissue (Legacy)
Alice Coltrane  "Lord Of Lords"  Reissue (Superior Viaduct) ‎
Pharoah Sanders  "Tauhid / Jewels Of Thought / Summun Bukmun Umyun"  Reissues (Anthology)
Various Artists  "Spiritual Jazz Vol.8: Esoteric, Modal and Progressive Jazz From Japan: 1961-1983" (Jazzman)
Eliane Radigue   ‎”Œuvres Électroniques”  Box Set (INA-GRM)
Bernard Parmegiani "‎Les Soleils De L'Île De Pâques | La Brûlure De Mille Soleils" (WRWTFWW)


Two years have now passed since favorable ratings, and public appetite for spectacle, motivated both liberal and conservative media to marginalize more viable options and instead elevate a reality TV celebrity, media mogul and real estate magnate to one of the most influential positions of power in the world. We now live in the wake of those events. America may never be the same. Consequently we find ourselves in in an environment in which high and low-level attacks have been leveled at the remaining journalistic press and even the First Amendment itself. These effects amplified by the net overabundance of the 21st Century, in which media sources are decentralized, but not necessarily diversified, presenting a new set of dangers to the less digitally savvy. Between the polarization of the commercial news sources and the erosion of institutions of true investigative journalism, social media has found itself in the role of the most influential editor in the world. Subsequently, America not only receives different information, as a divided nation, we've come to perceive different realities. Less travel this year, both domestic and international translated as being essentially grounded here in the United States, with the noise, misdirection, confusion, and division of this toxic social fallout of the 2016 election. All the while wealth becomes further stratified, with fewer and fewer institutions owning a larger slice of the domestic economy, and their influence increasingly felt in government.

In the midst of it all, it was a great relief to find memorable performances, festivals and exhibitions domestically. Gallery-going and the cinema played an even more prominent role this year. Hitting the mark of 400 films seen, it was another record setting twelve months in catching cinema in the theater. A worrisome trend seen in recent years continued though, as no small number of significant films were only available for viewing online or at home. The most notable visual art event witnessed this year was the fourth-annual Paul Allen funded Seattle Art Fair. Initial speculation on it's inaugural launch as to the fair being another tech money vanity project has long since been dispelled. Again proving to be significantly more than a elaborate philanthropy endeavor, this year's fair saw an expanded body of galleries, over 100 in total, along with it's program of talks, on-and-off site performances and collateral events. The programming coup of this year was found in Survival Research Laboratories, founder Mark Pauline presenting a demonstration of his various machines and devices. While insurance costs prevented a full-scale exhibition like that witness at Marlborough Contemporary this past year, wherein "Fire-Breathing Robots Bringing Anarchy to a Chelsea Art Gallery", Pauline was on hand for presentation and discussion on his long running kinetic theater of destruction. Initiated as an early industrial culture project in the late 1970s, the machine shop and performance of its creations spans decades. As part of this year's lecture series, Pauline was joined by influential science fiction author Bruce Sterling in conversation. The author and the outsider artist, technologist and robotics specialist have intersected on previous occasions, memorably 20 years prior in the pages of Wired, for "Is Phoenix Burning?".

As is the case with many of the cultural and economic epicenters in the United States, in the last decade Seattle has gone through a series of notable changes to its urban, communal, and arts identity. Reflecting the still stratifying economic and cultural landscape of the city, two of the most influential regional festivals had closing years in 2015. These two institutions previously brought an underground, international scope to the city's music programming, and cumulatively tens of thousands of attendees. That year saw the final installments of the Seattle's two dominant festivals of electronic, neoclassical and experimental music in the final editions of Rafael Anton Irisarri's Substrata Festival, and in an open letter Decibel Festival's 13th year closed with programming director Sean Horton's farewell to the city. Horton has since announced the revival of the Decibel in 2018 in a Los Angeles iteration, while a proposed Seattle satellite festival remains unrealized. In the three years since the closing of these international forums, Seattle's monthly showcases of electronic and experimental sounds, Elevator, Secondnature, MOTOR, Patchwerks, False Prophet and Wayward Music Series have stepped up to filled the void. Elevator and MOTOR have since ceased monthly programming in 2018, yet the former continues with performance and exhibition curation following the 2016 inauguration of their annual Corridor Festival. It's daylong meeting of audio-visual media, installation art, music and performance has evolved into the city's best new festival for cutting edge sounds. Certainly moreso than Paul Allen's less successful migration into music and media with the launch of Upstream. Though the future of Allen's founding of numerous cultural and arts institutions, and significant philanthropic contribution to the city, is now less certain with his passing this October.

In music it was another year of taking circuitous and unexpected paths to the year's more memorable sounds. Streaming and digital distribution has incontestably freed channels of access and stages of separation between producer and audience. It has also brought to the fore the issue of accepting poor royalties for the benefit of expansive exposure. In the midst of this digital era of over abundance, there are whole forms and centuries of music that are not being served by the dominant streaming platforms. Much like the marginalization of global cinema on Netflix and Amazon, jazz and classical music are finding themselves particularly under-served on the platforms that define the digital market. For those that rely on Apple Music and iTunes, Robinson Meyer's "The Tragedy of iTunes and Classical Music", details the woes of the player and archiving particulars for the The Atlantic. With the architecture of streaming services like Pandora and Spotify even less attuned to the duration, composer and fidelity concerns that are significant for genres outside of pop music, jazz guitarist Mark Ribot writes, "If Streaming is the Future, You Can Kiss Jazz and Other Genres Goodbye". Like in the case of the 12 decades of cinema not being represented on the dominant commercial platforms, independent music has begun their own enterprises to better serve their own interests, "Independent Music Labels and Young Artists Offer Streaming, on Their Terms". But if this almost singular foray of independent labels and artists in the streaming environment is representative of the market, it reveals much in, "Drip.FM's Closing and The Challenging Future of Sustainable Creative Technologies". Conversely streaming and direct digital distribution has also made what was in the past the locus of curatorial vision; the record label, less of a less singular go-to. Self releasing platforms like the growing audience direct community of Bandcamp, have made the record label less central.

Yet it remains the case that the record label can often be a superior path toward discovering new cultures and artists amid the over-abundance of the online world. The well curated label is still the best bet at finding more of related sounds when you're attuned to their programming trajectory. In the way of cutting edge electronic and experimental sounds, Raster-Noton, Tri-Angle, Blackest Ever Black, PAN, Editions Mego, and RVNG have all delivered catalogs of quality, often groundbreaking work this year. Experimental, black and doom metal continued it's influential hybridization on labels like Southern Lord, Sargent House, 20 Buck Spin, Flenser, Season of Mist, Relapse, and Profound Lore. Neoclassical and modern chamber music were served by labels like Erased Tapes, and Denovali, as well as centuries-spanning institutions like Deutsche Grammophon expanding into the territory of young contemporary composers like Max Richter, and Jóhann Jóhannsson. American indies like Sacred Bones, Captured Tracks, Kranky, Thrill Jockey, Dead Oceans, and Temporary Residence continued to step up their game, with ever expanding diversification and discovery of new talent. In the world of modern jazz, Scandinavia continues to dominate the field of innovation. The influence of labels like Rune Grammofon and ECM and their embracing of classical, jazz, improvisation and experimentation, can't be overstated. The year also saw existing and new American imprints releasing work pushing at the boundaries of the very definition of jazz. Vanguard forays into form and style were heard on Eremite and Chicago's International Anthem. The standard-bearers of American jazz, Impulse! and Verve, also proving that they make the cut with one of the great new jazz albums of the year, and the unearthing of a legendary, instant classic.

In the way of other notable reissues, San Francisco Bay Area label, Superior Viaduct have continued their strong launch by reaching further into he discographies of post-punk, modern composition, out-rock and free jazz. UK-based labels Soul Jazz and WRWTFWW have unearthed some rare and much sought-after gems this past year in the form of Yasuaki Shimizu's "Kakashi" and Midori Takada's "Through the Looking Glass" from her incomparable soundworld explored by The Guardian in their, "Ambient Pioneer Midori Takada: 'Everything on this Earth has a Sound'". Domestically, Light in the Attic released their document of "The Hidden History of Japan’s Folk-Rock Boom", as the first volume of the Japan Archive. Proceeding the next anthology volumes, "Kankyo Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music", and "Pacific Breeze: Japanese City Pop, AOR & Boogie", dedicated to ambient and city pop respectively. Correspondingly, the long unavailable work of Yellow Magic Orchestra founder Haroumi Hosono was reissued in gorgeous limited editions. In a discography embracing Caribbean reggae and disco, Pacific island exotica, American R&B, jazz and boogie, and the paradox of traditional folk and pop jostling alongside technological futurism, Hosono's body of elusive fusion listens as a set of musical postcards to imagined destinations. Digging deep into unreleased genre classics, the Anthology label unearthed some of the late 20th century's most notable jazz with a series of Pharaoh Sanders reissues, lush experimental folk from Catherine Ribeiro + Alpes, and the definitive document mapping "Unusual Sounds: The Hidden History of Library Music", as both a printed and music edition.

Like the stretch of the last half decade, this year saw an endless stream of shock, horror and genre cinema soundtrack reissues. The landscape bands and composers like Goblin, John Carpenter, and Fabio Frizzi, have reemerged into has been unquestionably shaped by the burgeoning reissue revival mining decades of subterranean soundtracks. Particularly in the way of 1970s and 80s genre films, where early synthesizer music, neofolk, jazz, progressive rock, musique concrete, and experimental soundtracks adorned much of the 20th Century's most notable cult cinema. Listening to much of this work now, the shared conceptual fascinations, and technical fixations of the composers of early electronic music and psychedelia who produced many of the soundtracks of the time, and the genre directors who sculpted some of the most notable cinema of this era, are graphically apparent in retrospect. These rich veins continue to be unearthed by reissue institutions like, Death Waltz, Mondo, and WaxWork, in new editions often corresponding with restorations of their source films issued on quality archival imprints like Arrow Films, Scream Factory, and Powerhouse Films Indicator series. There are seeming whole new genres being born (look no further than this year's "Mandy"), of the thematic beds of atmosphere and constructed worlds of Italian Giallo, French Fantastique and British Psychedelic, Pagan and Folk Horror of the late 1960s and 70s. As well as the following American horror explosion of the late 1970s and 80s, which we saw programmed in two excellent series this past season at The Grand Illusion and Northwest Film Forum.

In live music this year offered up massive servings from the particular lowlit territory branching out from the global offshoots of black and doom metal. After a successful inaugural year, Northwest Terror Fest returned this past May with a lineup exploring these metal hinterlands. The festival's three days and nights at Seattle's Neumos, Barboza and The Highline, were initially assembled under the compelling opportunity to, "Bring Warning to America: An Interview with Terrorfest founder David Rodgers". Rodger's wider curatorial vision, detailed in Decibel's, "It's Good to Have Goals and Dreams Can Come True", encompasses everything from the gloaming atmospheric ambiance of doom metal, blistering thrash and hardcore, and heavy psych rock, dark pagan and neofolk explorations. A cross-genre spectrum of these sonic territories and weighty atmospheres were heard in sets from, Celeste, Thou, Full of Hell, Necrot, Gatecreeper, Agoraphobic Nosebleed, Panopticon, Subrosa, The Atlas Moth, White Hills, Great Falls, and Emma Ruth Rundle. Jazz also had a notable year in the northwest. Seattle's answer to the international jazz festival, Earshot Jazz continued to excerpt their influence and expand curatorial vision into the genre's furthest fringes. Culling from the adjacent Vancouver and Portland International Jazz Festivals, Earshot assembled a series of vanguard nights showcasing American talent Nate Wooley and Ken Vandermark. The following week presenting Norway's finest in a chamber jazz quintet, featuring Thomas Strønen, Mats Eilertsen, Ayumi Tanaka, Håkon Aase and Leo Svensson Sander. Outside of Earshot, where Kamasi Washington and the Miles Davis Electric Band proposed compelling intersections of electric jazz, fusion and Afrofuturism, the Sun Ra Arkestra delivered in the setting of Columbia City Theater's brilliantly programmed Space Is The Place Festival.

The unexpected reforming of many of the most notable of the 1990s shoegaze and dreampop bands, some "25 Years After its Imperial Phase", has been surprising in its diversity and success. Indeed, the span of 2014 to 2018 has been been the time in which, "Shoegaze, the Sound of Protest Shrouded in Guitar Fuzz, Returns". The Guardian going one further with "Shoegaze: The Genre that Could Not Be Killed", and their beginner's listening guide, which acts as a digestible introduction to the multifaceted and variegated styles found across the genre's most comprehensive representation, Cherry Red Records' "Still in a Dream: The Story of Shoegaze 1988-1995". The most improbable return of them all came when it was announced that Slowdive would be performing a one-off at the Primavera Sound Festival in 2014. Following on the global tour, they reassemble for the first new recordings in over two decades on the self titled "Slowdive" for Bloomington Indiana independent label, Dead Oceans. This summer, we were also witness to the fourth domestic tour since the 2007 reformation of the definitive shoegaze band, along with Kevin Shields' promise of forthcoming material. This all following on the heels of their first new album in 22 years. My Bloody Valentine's prolific return initiated with a series of interviews beginning with Shields' admission to The Quietus that, "Not Doing Things Is Soul Destroying", in which he shares the details of the protracted process and decades of delays there were involved in the long road to My Bloody Valentine's recent remasters.

Heavy rock, postpunk and industrial had good showings in combined label showcases from Sacred Bones, Ipecac and Relapse. Uniform returned on tour with the furious soundscape of their third album, "The Long Walk" in a collaborative set with the experimental metal of The Body. Evocative of the earliest industrial music of the postpunk era, Tristan Shone's project under the name Author & Punisher moniker drew heavily from aspects of industrial automation, robotics, mechanical tools and human interface, to deliver a Ballardian dystopic vision. The differently strange mechanics of Coil's musical legacy was extended one final occasion with the last of Drew McDowall's "Time Machines" realizations. As a late period work by the then quintet, McDowall is the sole remaining active member of the queerest of the Thatcher era original industrialists. Reissued this past winter, "Time Machines" is an austere ritual music, engineered to effect the psyche through invocation of a liminal state, a process explored in "Time Machines: Drew McDowall On Coil's Drone Legacy". Influential figures from the 1990's decade of post-dancefloor electronic music also graced Seattle. Kremwerk's insight in programming a rare and extended night of propulsive minimalism from Basic Channel, Chain Reaction, and Rhythm & Sound founder, Moritz Von Oswald, was a of a caliber the city had been denied in decades past.

Classical and it's 21st century neoclassical offspring also had notable nights thanks to the Seattle Symphony and Seattle Theater Group's programming this past summer. While 2019 will mark the final year of his tenure as conductor and programmer at Seattle Symphony, since his arrival in 2011, Ludovic Morlot has launched a number of significant modern music initiatives. Alex Ross positing that from the week of his debut, the conductor not only stepping out with a strong start musically, but a reshaping of the orchestra's image, effectively in many ways, the "Symphony’s New Leader Took Seattle by Storm". Not least among his accomplishments, the late-night [untitled] chamber music series which brought contemporary works back into symphony's lexicon. Morlot's prestige was further amassed with his commissioning of "John Luther Adams Pulitzer Prize Winning 'Become Ocean'" which was recorded with the Seattle Symphony in 2013, and this year's continuation of the cycle, with the premier of "Become Desert". German neoclassical and soundtrack composer Max Richter delivered another of his all night "Sleep" performances as a first in the United States, "Composer Max Richter to Perform Overnight L.A. Concerts with 560 Beds", with the invitation for, "Fans to Spend the Night in Grand Park". While Seattle wasn't graced with this "Eight-hour Lullaby for a Frenetic World", Richter and the American Contemporary Music Ensemble performed selections from his albums, "Infra" and "The Blue Notebooks" as a full evening of somnambulistic chamber music at The Moore Theatre.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Orson Welles' "The Other Side of the Wind" US Theatrical Run: Nov 2 - 8


The corridors and convolutions of the production, filming, editing, and now finally distribution of Orson Welles' "The Other Side of the Wind", spans more than four decades and is labyrinthine in the extreme. Suffice it to say, all of that won't be covered here. What can be said of what Welles himself referred to as "the only original movie I've made since Citizen Kane" in 1975's "F for Fake: Orson Welles’s Purloined Letter", is best accounted for by those involved with its production. The November Sight & Sound offers a insider's report on the film's protracted gestation from Joseph McBride, who as an actor in the film itself, as he reflects on Welles' work in the changing film culture of the 1970s. This includes the film's conceptual genesis in Welles' 1969 essay for Esquire, “Twilight in the Smog: Solemn Suburbia Crowds Out the Raucous Old Circus”, a undeveloped early screenplay for the film titled, "Sacred Beasts", and the endless legal battles among the rights holders, compounded by a initial production which owed part of it's financing to the brother-in-law of the Shah of Iran. All of which kept the 1,083 reels of negatives inside a warehouse in a suburb of Paris, despite numerous efforts spanning decades, to complete the film. Finally released from an ever increasing series of deadlock, in 2014 Royal Road Entertainment with the assistance of producer Roger Marshall, negotiated an agreement with all holders and would purchase the rights to the film. Shortly thereafter it was announced that "Orson Welles’s Last Film May Finally Be Released", with Peter Bogdanovich and Marshall overseeing its completion. "The Epic Story of Orson Welles’s Unfinished Masterpiece" would continue. After a series of failed crowdfunding efforts, the film's producers secured funding from Netflix, who put forward the funds for both restoration and extensive assembly of the finished editing. There was some 100 hours of footage to craft a film as Welles has conceptualized it. Shot in 35mm and 16mm, Super8, color and black and white, from his completed sequences, and editing notes, there was evidence of the form and structure Welles had envisioned for "The Other Side of the Wind".

It was then left to editor Bob Murawski in association with the project’s executive producers, Peter Bogdanovich and Beatrice Welles, to conceive and execute it's form. Thus began the painstaking work of selecting shots and editing, with Murawski working from a cut by Welles which appeared half complete, and questions of sufficient or lost material. McBride was brought in as a consultant on this initial edit, from which both he and Bogdanovich supplied pages of notes on their remembrance and participation in the film's production. What followed was that "The Unfinished Orson Welles Film Finally Received a Debut", but not without the complications caused by it's funder, Netflix, being the producer, distributor and exhibition platform, which resulted in it's exclusion from Cannes. Without such restrictions, three months and “48 Years Later, Orson Welles’s Last Film Made Its Debut”, at the Venice Film Festival. It's premier was met with such reviews as Peter Bradshaw's "The Other Side of the Wind: Lost Orson Welles Epic is Hurricane of Anger and Wit" for The Guardian, and The New York Times' “‘The Other Side of the Wind’ Is Orson Welles’s Haunted Hall of Mirrors”, from Manohla Dargis. Netflix' policy in releasing its exclusive content in limited engagements, or in some cases not at all outside of being available on its streaming platform, has further complicated access to a recent string of releases by notable American and international arthouse directors. By producing, distributing, and exhibiting new films by Bong Joon-ho, Alice Rohrwacher, Alfonso Cuarón, Aleksei German, and the Coen Brothers, "Netflix’s Movie Blitz Takes Aim at Hollywood’s Heart", thereby significantly limiting the opportunities for these director's work to be seen and achieve notoriety in the traditional theatrical sense. Spoken of and speculated about for decades, it could be argued that "The Other Side of the Wind" has accrued a legendary stature disproportionate with its content. Netflix optioning the film for a one week domestic theatrical run does little to aide filmgoers and cinephiles the opportunity to make their own judgement in regard to the film that Peter Bradshaw declared; "Every bit as brilliant and chaotic and exasperating as you would expect, garrulous and madly disputatious. A fascinating image of Welles’s own fierce self-questioning yet self-affirming state of mind, and the state of American cinema itself as the Hollywood golden age was about to give way to the New Wave."

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Alfonso Cuaron's "Roma" at Seattle Cinerama: Dec 6 - 19 | Lee Chang-dong's “Burning” at Northwest Film Forum: Dec 7 - 14 | Ali Abbasi's "Border", Yorgos Lanthimos' “The Favorite” & Hirokazu Kore-eda's “Shoplifters” at SIFF Cinema: Nov 23 - 29 & Dec 7 - 27



The fruits of this past summer's Cannes and Venice festivals are beginning to arrive in domestic theaters. The prestigious festival on the French Riviera was accounted for as having the strongest offerings seen in decades. This was represented by the extensive and enthusiastic coverage to be found in the pages of the The New York Times, The Guardian, and roundups from Film Comment and The British Film Institute's Sight & Sound. Venice also had a notable year, with new films by Alfonso Cuaron, Joel and Ethan Coen, Mike Leigh, Luca Guadagninos, Paul Greengrass, Jacques Audiard, Brady Corbet, Julian Schnabel, and the historic premier of a recently completed late film from the legendary American director, "'The Other Side of the Wind': Lost Orson Welles Epic is A Hurricane of Anger and Wit". Questions of inclusion and representation have been dominant in recent years in relation to festival programming and the awards process. One of the most high profile approaches to these concerns was seen in Cannes' Cate Blanchett-led jury, which included a cross race, culture, and gender assembly of notable actors, directors and artists. With such names as Chang Chen, Léa Seydoux, Kristen Stewart, Khadja Nin, Denis Villeneuve, Andrey Zvyagintsev, Ava DuVernay, and Robert Guédiguia, among their numbers. The jury's realization of Cannes mission to represent quality work, regardless of it's origin was elucidated by its president, "Cate Blanchett States that Change Will Come to Cannes, but Not Overnight". With the awards given, further elaborating on the question of representation was made, "Jury Head Cate Blanchett on Gender, Race and Choosing the ‘Right’ Palme D’Or".



Which brings us to the bestowing of Cannes' most prestigious award on Hirokazu Kore-eda's class conscious urban tale of "A Family That Steals Together, Stays Together". It was this most recent in a decades-spanning line of contemporary familial dramas that the Japanese director took home hist first Palme d'Or for "Shoplifters". While closely adhering to the form and content of the larger body of the director's filmmography, spanning his first breakout feature to this most recent, this "Unfancied Japanese Film Took the Palme d'Or", with Blanchett adding at the awards ceremony; “The ending blew us out of the cinema”. From the Italian festival on the Adriatic, Alfonso Cuaron's best director winning, "Roma" stood out as the director's revisiting of his own Central American of decades past. In "Alfonso Cuarón's Return to Venice with a Heart-Rending Triumph", the academy award winning director has made an exquisite study of class and domestic crisis in 1970s Mexico City. In "Alfonso Cuarón’s Masterpiece of Memory", the director uses one hosehold, and the location the the street where they reside as the point of vantage onto an expansive, emotional portrait of life buffeted by violent forces and change. Working on a scale often reserved for war stories and historic period dramas, yet with the sensibility of a personal diarist, "Cuarón’s 'Roma' Surrounds us with the Mexico City of His Youth". As seen in a recent string of releases funded by the platforms of Amazon and Netflix, for all the film's lauded quality, it will be receiving the shortest of theatrical runs at Seattle's Cinerama. Also arriving from Cannes, "Border" is a naturalistically fantastic second film from director Ali Abbasi, based on the short story from "Let the Right One In" author John Ajvide Lindqvist. Like Lindqvist's dark adolescent coming of age vampire story, Abbasi's film spends much of it's time teasingly parcelling out the romantic inclinations, and consequences therein, of the meeting of two mythological outcasts. Only in its closing chapter revealing the true nature of their world and it's consequences in the modern age of man.



Having built a filmography on outrageous premises, a self-conscious deadpan style, and actors skilled in a explicitly cryptic form of straight-faced absurdity, it seemed almost inevitable that Yorgos Lanthimos would work his way to period drama. He arrives fully formed in the genre with “The Favorite”. The newest in a filmography of "Polarizing Visions" from the Greek director, this is a venomous and often hilarious exercise, made that much more disorienting by the distended, off-kilter wide angle cinematography of Robbie Ryan. While, "Olivia Colman is Priceless in Yorgos Lanthimos Punk Historic Romp", it is the conflict between Emma Stone's Abigail Masham and Rachel Weisz' Sarah Churchill on which the film hinges. Weisz plays the Queen Anne's court favorite and intimate, Lady Sarah The Dutchess of Marlborough, deploying every sly and subversive trick to keep the monarch codependent and receptive to the raising of taxes for the ongoing French War. A rivalry arises between the two women of historic proportions with the arrival and influence of Marlborough's cousin, and it is in this that Lanthimos finds his most fertile and scabrous material. Upping his technical form and content, Lee Chang-dong's "Burning" is a sensuously shot and musically scored mystery, taken from a Haruki Murakami short story centering around the (sometimes hallucinatory) fixations of an obsessive love. Where it differs is that its psychological drama is set in the cultural fallout of modern consumerist Korea, with bold diversions into the pastoral and surreal, this visually gripping observation on, "Male Rage Blazes a Chilling Trail on the Korean Border". While desire, both physically ravenous and more romantically sinuous, is the defining theme of Chang-dong's film, it can't be said that "Love Ignites a Divided World". "Burning" foregrounds the uneasy violence that is seen glimpsed through the Murakami, leaving it's central mystery untouched while filling in the larger picture with the fine details of it's protagonists interpersonal and sexual relations, and the class divisions that separate them.