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.

Thursday, November 3, 2022

Park Chan-wook's "Decision to Leave" at SIFF Cinema & Northwest Film Forum: Oct 21 - Nov 10 & Oct 28 - Nov 23

A return to form was seen in Park Chan-wook's 2016 resetting of "Fingersmith" by Welsh writer Sarah Waters. In his hands the director of international breakout hits like "Old Boy" distorted and warped the text into his own "The Handmaiden" through numerous perspectival shifts, abundant voyeurism, and academic eroticism. Often told in the form of theatrical readings of Shunga illustrated erotica, "Park Chan-wook Returns with an Erotic Romance, Con-artist Story and Period Piece". The film's further assimilation from the vocabulary of the thriller and it's suspense built from an atmosphere of rich and erotic textures, found the director even more firmly in Hitchcock territory than usual, as discussed at length in interview with FilmStage, "Park Chan-wook Talks ‘The Handmaiden,’ Male Gaze and Queer Influence". Similarly, this year's Cannes award-winning film from the director unabashedly delves into crime thriller territory, with more than a slight resemblance in its uneven terrain and abundant twists, to Aflred Hitchcock's 1958 masterpiece. Yet "Decision to Leave" at SIFF Cinema and Northwest Film Forum this month and on Mubi this coming winter, distinguishes itself as Park's own particular brand of 21st century romantic thriller. All the while, "Park Chan-wook’s Thrilling Mystery is Noir at its Most Nourishing", offering richly satisfying points of genre reference making for a modern work within an established form. But in this case, it's precisely the protagonist detective, Hae-joon's investigative skills, matched and mirrored by Park Chan-wook and his co-writer, Chung Seo-kyung, that result in the whole of the perspective being thrown off balance. Park Hai-il captures the steady unraveling of Hae-joon, and the viewer's perspective, with an intimacy that's all the more remarkable for being concealed behind a curt, efficient veneer. The personal and professional begin to blur as Hae-joon stakes out the home of murder suspect, Seo-rae, in an invasion of privacy that she amusedly acknowledges and even, in a sense, enticingly welcomes. And it is Seo-rae, as portrayed by Tang Wei, is the pivot around which the whole mystery turns, "Decision to Leave: Tang Wei Stuns in Park Chan-wook Black-widow Noir". If thoughts turn again to Alfred Hitchcock's "Vertigo", these associations aren't misplaced. through a number of elaborately staged scenes, the director unleashes a tide of associations and allusions to that particular psychological thriller; a surveillance subject that becomes a desire subject, a noir romantic template that resets and returns to itself halfway through, and in "Vertigo's" opening, a fall from a great height being central to both stories. Park Chan-wook has shown himself to have a flair for grandiose, and sometimes indulgent, stylistic flourishes, but here he has seized upon Hitchcock's aesthetics of voyeurism and obsession, and utilized these inclinations to better serve our journey through "Decision to Leave's Labyrinth of Desire".

Thursday, October 6, 2022

All Monsters Attack at The Grand Illusion Cinema: Oct 7 - Nov 3

To my mind, the months of October and November could always do with more in the way of programming around Halloween season genre film and its disorienting frights, crepuscular surrealism, and discomfiting atmospheres. Thankfully, Scarecrow Video annually steps up with their curated Halloween section of domestic and international horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and psychotronic selections. The Psychotronic Challenge also returns in its seventh installment, challenging viewers to select a new theme category for every day in October from the deep trivia of the cues on offer. While we're here, let's talk the incomparable one-of-a-kind resource that is Scarecrow, and how if you live in the Northwest and are a fan of cinema, it's essentially your personal obligation to ensure their doors stay open for business. For horror and genre aficionados, there is no other resource in North America like that offered by Scarecrow Video and their abundant catalog of obscure, foreign releases, out of print, and ultra-rare editions, and with nearly 150,000 films on offer, no singular online streaming resource can compare. In previous years, the annual citywide cinematic offerings for the months of October and November have seen a great set of films exploring desolate worlds, classic Japanese horror, a vampiric romaticism double feature and a night of music from a maestro of Italian horror. Also in the way of recent Halloween seasons of note, the local arthouse cinemas presented an abundance on the theme of the haunted house in 2015, and 2013 saw no small number of invaders from beyond. 2017 was heavy on 1970s psychedelic and psychological horror from Europe, particularly from the era of abundance seen in the subgenres of French Fantastique and Italian Giallo. 2018's programming was highly attuned to American 1980s horror, as was the case with the 2019 installment, alongside a bold mix of decades of classic European, Asian, and Italian genre material. Making a return after the long pandemic hiatus, 2021 also diversified with a strong set of films that never saw a theatrical release during the 2020 season.

One of the longest running, and most consistently satisfying of the local Halloween series has been The Grand Illusion Cinema's month-long All Monsters Attack calendar of horror, creature features, classic thrillers, sci-fi, and cult cinema. A highlight from last year's programming returns with a memorial night for Seattle's most dedicated cinephile, music lover, and man-about-town, William Kennedy. Before his passing in 2021, Bill wished for nothing more than his friends and cultural compatriots to join together for a screening of David Cronenberg's classic body-horror techno thriller, “Videodrome”. Two slices of celluloid magic from the black and white era are on the slate for the first week of programming, James Laughton's dreamily peculiar showcase for Robert Mitchum's malevolent preacher in "Night of the Hunter", and the slasher that birthed the genre, Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho" in an extended cut. Switching modes to 1980s fare, there's Frank Henenlotter's absurd and excessive, "Brain Damage", and what might contestably be the greatest horror film of the decade, John Carpenter's audacious remake of "The Thing" from Another World. 1980s blockbuster fare can be seen in John McTiernan's Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle, "Predator", and emerging from the Japanese cinema explosion of the 1990s, "Versus" put Ryûhei Kitamura on the map. A trio of diverse vampiric features are next on the slate; Francis Ford Coppola's slick and operatic 1990s hit "Bram Stoker's Dracula", the weighty atmosphere of F.W. Murnau's silent era "Nosferatu", and the sole directorial effort from child actor James Bond III, "Def by Temptation" which shares rarified company with films like Bill Gunn's single horror entry. Two long-running series at The Grand Illusion return with a VHS Über Alles double feature promising a night of Student Slasher Thrillrides from the Scarecrow archive only released on VHS, and The Sprocket Society present their usual array of rarities on 16mm. This year screening 1932's infamous "Freaks" by Tod Browning, alongside a secret pre-code shocker second feature, and a set of spooky shorts and cartoons. No Halloween season would be complete without a SATANAGEDDON! double feature presenting two ultra-rare 16mm slices of Satanic Panic-era madness. And rounding off the season, Italian horror and Giallo are essential components to the genre, and few have produced more entries in both than Lucio Fulci. Memorable for the tropical island setting of his "Zombie", also known as "Zombi 2", the film pairs the director with longtime collaborator Fabio Frizzi. In recent years the composer has toured his extended body of music made for the films of Fulci, particularly "The Beyond: Composer's Cut", which features Frizzi’s expanded score for the film, presented here in a new 4K restoration.

Sunday, October 2, 2022

The Criterion Channel Presents 30 Film 1980s Horror Showcase: Oct 1 | Genre Streaming for Cinephiles

Looking online this month for seasonal genre film offerings, Shudder remains the home for horror streaming. Their catalog alone could fill any avid viewer's calendar, and while it is more than a bit hyperbolic, Screenrant isn't too far wrong proposing "How Shudder Is Single-Handedly Keeping 2020 Horror Movies Alive". Don't overlook Shout Factory TV's lineup, and the excellent Arrow Films, and their genre imprint, Arrow Video, have also entered the game in recent years, inviting us to "Join the Cult: The Arrow Video Channel". Annually the online cinema that is Mubi offer up a selection of arthouse and deep cult cinema cuts on their platform spanning October. Such as the Trick or Flick: Halloween Horror showcase found in their Library section. But the true motherload can be found nestled in the bounty of The Criterion Channel's October lineup. Much like their previous 1970s Horror showcase of 2020, this year they dive deep into the explosion of the genre the following decade, with a showcase dedicated to the classic Universal Horror, Japan's kaiju king Ishiro Honda, a set of Vampire films, and a 30 title showcase of 1980s Horror. The latter seemingly taking a cue from Nick Pinkerton's Sight & Sound feature, and their "The Other Side of 80s America" focus on the decade of independent and genre cinema issuing from the United States. Concurrent with the pop culture revelry of Reaganite family-oriented dramas, action, teen movies, and sci-fi blockbusters, a more rebellious and independent strain of US movie making explored the darkness on the edge of mainstream society. Anne Billson's supporting article "A Nightmare on Main Street" plumbs the deeper realms of the decade's more assertively subversive low-to-medium budget genre fare, often “unburdened by notions of good taste". These manic explorations of class conflict, Cold War dread, ecological disaster and suburban paranoia defined a decade of cult film issuing from an era that was transgressive, politically voracious, and boundary-pushing. From the Criterion Channel; “The 1980s were defined by style and excess, and the era’s horror movies were no exception. Innovations in practical effects made the nightmares more vivid than ever, and thanks to the rise of home video, the call was now coming from inside the house. While established talents such as Dario Argento, Werner Herzog, John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper, Lucio Fulci, David Cronenberg, Michael Mann, Ken Russell, and Paul Schrader, brought terrifying spectacles to the screen, often with the help of Hollywood studios, home video opened up a new market that allowed the independents to take the genre to unexpected and—in the case of the UK’s censorship of infamous “Video Nasties”—controversial new heights. Curated by Clyde Folley, this ghastly tour through the decade of greed features ambitious art-pulp hybrids, a Hitchcock-inspired trucker movie, old-fashioned creature features, vampiric outsiders, Japanese punk cinema, astute political commentary, and absolutely unclassifiable cult oddities, bringing together some of the eighties’ most stylish, haunting, and outrageous visions.”

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Orcas Island Film Festival: Oct 6 - 10 | Seattle Polish Film Festival at SIFF Cinema: Oct 14 - 23

The regional seasonal micro-festivals make a strong return this year, with two staples of the fall season arriving the second week of October. For it's 30th anniversary, the Seattle Polish Film Festival will once again be at the SIFF Cinema Uptown, after their brief pandemic related hiatus, the festival relaunched in 2021. North of Seattle, one of the region's most compelling cinephile events is scheduled to return to the pastoral setting of the San Juan Islands. As an example of festival programming featuring diverse and qualitative content, the current body of the Seattle International Film Festival could take a page or two from the Orcas Island Film Festival. While running only five days, and featuring less than one tenth of the films on offer during the three weeks of SIFF, the regional micro-festival is an exemplar representation of contemporary programming. In the unlikely setting of the rural beauty of the San Juan islands, chief programmer Carl Spence, has produced a small 29 film program to rival that of its Seattle goliath. One might marvel "How this Remote Spot in Puget Sound Attracts Such High-caliber Fare", yet it is all the work of co-founders, Jared Lovejoy and Donna Laslo, producer Marc Turtletaub, and of course the curatorial work of Spence. As the Seattle Times states, it is the case that "Orcas Island Film Festival: Small Fest, Big Movies" which draws largely from this year's Cannes Film Festival, alongside a number of the notable films from this year's Venice, Sundance, and Toronto festivals. Among the films on offer in Orcas, are Park Chan-Wook's Cannes award winning, "Decision to Leave", and fresh from Venice, Todd Field's Cate Blanchett-led classical music world drama of "TÁR". In a rare turn, Laura Poitras won the prestigious Golden Lion at this year's Venice Film Festival for her documentary on Nan Goldin, "All The Beauty And The Bloodshed", and best documentary winner at both Cannes and Sundance "All That Breathes", by Shaunak Sen will also be playing. Other award winners include this year's Cannes Palme d'Or winner "Triangle of Sadness" from the mind of Ruben Östlund, and Charlotte Wells' first feature winner at Cannes "Aftersun". The Golden Bear winner in Berlin this year by Carla Simón, "Alcarras" is presented alongside another of the big films from Venice, Martin McDonagh's bruised fraternal drama, "The Banshees of Inisherin". Japan's Hirokazu Kore-eda returns with another tale from society's fringes with, "Broker", Cannes Grand Prix winner, "Close" by Lukas Dhont, the Un Certain Regard-winner from Cannes, "Corsage" by Marie Kreutzer, and Mark Jenkin's highly anticipated genre film, "Envy's Men" are all featured. There's Colm Bairéad's Berlin award winning film "The Quiet Girl", and Romania's daring Cristian Mungiu is back with "R.M.N.", the breakout feature debut from Cannes by Lola Quivoron, "Rodeo", and João Pedro Rodrigues returns after a many year absence, with "Will-o-the-Wisp"

Sunday, September 25, 2022

The Comet is Coming's "Hyper-Dimensional Expansion Beam" & North American Tour: Sept 25 - Oct 22

Saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings' mining of jazz's cultural memory is informed by his numerous concurrent projects; the ensemble Sons of Kemet, its splinter trio The Comet Is ComingMelt Yourself Down, Afro-futurist outfit The Ancestors, and as a guest player with the legendary Sun Ra Arkestra. So there is possibly no better player in contemporary jazz more equipped to lead a quartet exploring the fringes of the territory once mapped out by post-bebop, Afrofuturist an spiritual jazz luminaries, Charles Mingus, Pharoah Sanders, and the aforementioned Sun Ra. Nowhere in Hutching's numerous settings is this more evident than in Sons of Kemet's "Your Queen is a Reptile" of 2018. The central quartet of Hutchings, Oren Marshall on tuba, and both Tom Skinner and Seb Rochford on drums, is aided by a rotating cast of contemporary jazz players including Pete Wareham, Eddie Hick, Moses Boyd, Maxwell Hallett, and Nubya Garcia in their ranks. The album was a first for Impulse!, the legendary and influential American jazz label that was home to Charles Mingus, John Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders, Freddie Hubbard, and Bill Evans at the peak of their 1960's output. So these are the largest of jazz shoes to fill. This adds another weighty dimension to Hutchings’ relationship with American jazz, placing him among the players whose legacy he’s endeavoring to subvert, deconstruct, and expound upon. Covered in The Guardian's primer to this contemporary body of musicians, "The British Jazz Explosion: Meet the Musicians Rewriting the Rulebook", Hutchings acts as a pivot around which numerous players move through the scene. Which he enthusiastically explores in greater depth in his interview for The Guardian, "History Needs to Be Set Alight: Shabaka Hutchings on the Radical Power of Jazz".

Sons of Kemet have disbanded this past year after a series of highly successful tours across the United States and Europe, following the release of the "eloquent dance between anger and joy" that was 2021's "Black to the Future". Yet The Comet is Coming have found in their newest release a sound which has absorbed some of the qualities of his numerous projects into its folds. This fourth album for the outfit further delivering on the promise of the territory initially mapped out by Sons of Kemet as early as 2013, in their interview with The Quietus, "The Space Between One & Two". As with their debut for the Impulse! label, "Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery", the group take a further turn away from jazz tradition, with much of the album sculpted in post-production, highlighting the shifting mixtures of drummer Max Hallett and keyboardist Dan Leavers. A focal shift of influences also corresponds, weighing more heavily into 70s progressive and Krautrock, namely the territory mapped out by King Crimson, Amon Düül, and Belgian explorers Univers Zero, the tracks contained here transmute between abstract introductions, fractured rhythmic passages and dramatic heights of orchestrated synthesis and fusion. Explored in their "End Days Intensity: The Comet Is Coming" interview for The Quietus, their sounds flows through the gamut of ferocious moments of interplay between its trio, Hutching's saxophone blurting sentences, the synth squalls and level valleys of Leavers, and the finesse of Hallet's percussive detailing and force, all of which culminating in the roiling uneven surfaces with their cinematic, suggestively sci-fi future-scape. Touring for "Hyper-Dimensional Expansion Beam", released this month on Impulse!, the trio will be visiting cities across North America, with a date at The Crocodile in Seattle at the end of September.


Thursday, September 22, 2022

Brett Morgen's "Moonage Daydream" at SIFF Cinema Sept 23 - Oct 20 | "The Final Mysteries of David Bowie’s Blackstar: Elvis, Crowley, and The Villa of Ormen" | The Guardian

Smashing onto screens at this year's Cannes, Brett Morgen's "Glorious, Shapeshifting Eulogy to David Bowie", comes to domestic theaters this month and regionally at SIFF Cinema Egyptian. Consciously averting the documentary format, Morgen's intimate montage of the uniquely influential artist celebrates his career, creativity, and decades of restless self discovery. Given unprecedented access to Bowie's personal archives, "Moonage Daydream" takes a cue from Bowie's own childhood wonder at the "Sound and Vision" experiences of early rock and roll washing over the artist as a young man. Through an assembly of audio-visual collage, this archive of five million items, including paintings, drawings, recordings, photographs, films, and journals, were structured into an experiential cinematic odyssey. The result is a sensory "Tripping David Bowie's Sound and Light Fantastic", as the musical and spiritual journey of the artist's life, featuring Bowie's own narration. Tony Visconti, who spent much of Bowie's career as recording producer, recently completed the massive retrospective box sets for Parlophone, which include "Five Years (1969–1973)", "Who Can I Be Now? (1974–1976)", "A New Career in a New Town (1977–1982)", "Loving the Alien (1983–1988)", and "Brilliant Adventure (1992–2001)", serves as the film's musical director, with a team including Paul Massey, and meticulous musical edits and collage throughout by Morgen. The ensuing audio-visual experience, as described by Robert Daniels, for is, "a bombastic, overstimulating, poignant, life-affirming, and risk-taking summation of the artist's ethos and maturation as a person. In short, 'Moonage Daydream' is a film David Bowie would've proudly made." The amassed effect of this "David Bowie Documentary as Dynamic as the Man Himself" is a glorious celebratory montage of archive material, live performance footage, Bowie’s experimental video art and paintings, movie and stage work, and interviews that run the spectrum from the philosophical and revealingly personal, to humorously self-deprecating.

Morgen suggests that David Bowie’s first great period came to an end with the 1970s, but that his intellectual curiosity and creativity continued to have something more than a little heroic and magnificent to it as the years went by. And perhaps his following adventures in other art forms, like playing the "Elephant Man" on stage was slightly misjudged in that Bowie had already absorbed all these things, and was drawing on their energy in his rock persona. His film performances in the late 1970s and early 80s, in Nicolas Roeg's "The Man Who Fell to Earth", Tony Scott's "The Hunger", and Nagisa Oshima's "Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence" led into his era of super stardom, following the 1983 international pop hit "Let's Dance". The ensuing decade, while delivering massive success and arena-filling performances, where as Bowie describes it in "Moonage Daydream", a vast expanse of uncultivated and barren rewards for the artist. What Morgen shows next, through personal video documentary, home recordings and travel footage is the superstar become "bohemian vagabond" as Bowie entered into a period of restless international travel and personal rediscovery. In one of his most startling and unexpected transformations, (of many), David Bowie reemerged into the 1990s with a set of creative collaborations that directly engaged with the zeitgeist. Enlisting artists and producers, including the return of Brian Eno on the multimedia concept album, "Outside (The Nathan Adler Diaries: A Hyper-cycle)", Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails on "The Hearts Filthy Lesson" and the video singles and remixes for "Earthling", and regular Tin Machine collaborator and The Cure guitarist, Reeves Gabrels, on "Hours". On this side of the millennial cusp, his penultimate album "The Next Day" from 2013, acted as a preview of things to come on David Bowie's last and final turn at an artistic metamorphosis. This "rich, deep, and strange album that feels like Bowie moving restlessly forward, his eyes fixed ahead; the position from which he's always made his greatest music." was released as his ultimate swansong, "Blackstar" just two days before his death in 2016. So rich in fact, that it has been half a decade now in the minds of its listeners, that much of the meaning and its inspirations have yielded up, "The Final Mysteries of David Bowie’s Blackstar: Elvis, Crowley, and 'The Villa of Ormen'".

Thursday, September 1, 2022

"Thrills & Chills" series at The Grand Illusion Cinema: Aug 26 - Sept 15

Later this month, Dan Hudson, the longtime programmer for Scarecrow Video's sister theater The Grand Illusion Cinema, will be departing for his new home in Williamstown MA, and executive director position at Images Cinema. But not before he leaves us with one final film series, fulfilling a long-held aspiration to put together a volume of high quality thrillers that feature notable electronic scores. Before we get to the details of the series itself, let's talk the incomparable one-of-a-kind resource that is Scarecrow, and how if you live in the Northwest and are a fan of cinema, it's essentially your personal obligation to ensure their doors stay open for business. There truly is no other resource in North America like that offered by Scarecrow Video and their abundant catalog of obscure, foreign releases, out of print, and ultra-rare editions, and with nearly 150,000 films on offer, no singular online streaming resource can compare. A short jaunt from Scarecrow Video, the first of the films in The Grand Illusion Cinema's Thrills & Chills series, features the high style gloss and atmosphere that Nicolas Winding Refn refined in "Drive". This would be the stylebook for everything conceived by Refn, as well as a homage to one of his greatest influences, Michael Mann, and his film "Thief". It would also prove to be the mode of storytelling Refn would expounded upon in more recent works like his doom-laden collaboration with crime comics writer Ed Brubaker, and their crowning achievement that is, "Nicolas Winding Refn's dead-eyed LA Nightmare". High energy, and urban twists and turns, are channeled through a very 1990s zeitgeist sensibility in Tom Twyker's “Run Lola Run”, and a more retro soundtrack including goth and synthwave favorites like Clan of Xymox, Sisters of Mercy, Survive, Zombi, and Love & Rockets are featured throughout Adam Wingard's under-seen “The Guest”. Delivering what might be considered the pinnacle of tense 21st century urban dramas, the two directors of Good Time” and Uncut Gems”, Joshua and Benjamin Safdie have been collaborating almost exclusively with Daniel Lopatin, who's music as Oneohtrix Point Never occupies a similarly tense precipice of risk and reward.

And lastly in the series, William Friedkin, the director of "The Exorcist", took an extreme about-turn in his audacious 1977 resetting of both Georges Arnaud's novel "Le Salaire de la Peur", and Henri-Georges Clouzot's previous 1953 film adaptation, "The Wages of Fear". Friedkin enlisted the then very relevant German electronic trio Tangerine Dream to score the heat and South American Jungle delirium of “Sorcerer”. This recent new 4K scan finally "Restoring the Magic of Friedkin’s ‘Sorcerer’", and admitting viewers deeper into the  hellish Dante-like task through a series of oneiric nightmare sequences that its band of desperate outsiders and criminals on the run must traverse, against all odds. Dan Hudson's programming notes from the series launch are quoted below; “My final series for the Grand Illusion is Thills & Chills. Thrills — with some of the best thrillers ever made; Chills — with some of the finest synth and electronic scores in cinematic history. These soundtracks illustrate why “chillwave” is one of the fastest growing EDM subgenres, including Cliff Martinez’ score to Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive. Our series will be bookended by rare 35mm screenings of Good Time and Uncut Gems. The Safdie brothers took the cinema of Scorsese and Friedkin to new heights, with perfect scores by Oneohtrix Point Never. Speaking of Friedkin, Tangerine Dream’s nail biting score to Sorcerer will have you squirming in your seats. Perhaps no other film shows the power of an electronic score to propel a thriller at breakneck speed than Tom Twyker’s Run Lola Run, presented here in glorious 35mm. And finally, Steve Moore of Zombi provided the pulsing throwback score to 2014’s lamentably under-seen The Guest. I’m really excited to see all these films with you on the big screen. If you’re wondering why this series is short on Carpenter — we just did a whole Carpenter series earlier this year! Plus maybe we’ve got a little something coming up for Halloween.”

Sunday, August 14, 2022

The 59th Venice Biennale & Cecilia Alemani's "The Milk of Dreams": Apr 23 - Nov 27

The Venice Biennale will once again be the most significant exhibition I will see this year. Returning for its 59th installment after a two year delay, Cecilia Alemani, the New York-based Italian curator had more than the usual prerequisite time to prepare her curatorial work. Even with the additional years involved in it's assembly due to the global pandemic, "Venice Biennale Curator Cecilia Alemani Doesn’t Want to Do a ‘Coronavirus Bienniale’", and has offered a lens of the world that instead more representative of, "A Curator’s Vision for a Post-Pandemic Venice Biennale". The centerpiece of which being the large pavilion of the city's mariner rope making factory of the Arsenale and the nearby Giardini. Her extended research has produced another unusually coherent show, which in addition to the global overview of new art, also presents a deeper frame of reference in showing historic work, often by surrealists such as Ithell Colquhoun, Dorothea Tanning and Remedios Varo. Such artists prefigure Alemani's preoccupations in contemporary work; the body in transformation, metamorphosis, and non-gender specific perspectives on form, in many ways it could be said that this installment is "The Women's Biennale", in doing so Alemani has produced, “A Venice Biennale Informed by the Pandemic, that Spotlights Women". Both The New York Times' “Looking Inward, and Back, at a Biennale for the History Books”, and The Guardian's "The Guardian View on the Venice Biennale: Sensuous and Serious", highlight the great achievement of spanning the historic, the contemporary, and a volume of work that is to be experienced “with the fullness of the body”, as expressed by Alemani to The Guardian. Even the video and media-focused installation works are said to have a material feel, sometimes in the setting in which they are shown, such as P.Staff's mirrored kaleidoscope of colors that channels its violent subject matter. Cinders, burnt wood, and accompanying olfactory characteristics fill Switzerland's pavilion, dedicated to Latifa Echakhch's massive figural sculptures in the environment of "The Concert". Or in the case of the elaborate earth maze by Colombian artist Delcy Morelos, already focused on the terra, in which she enhanced the sensory experience by engaging the olfactory senses through tobacco, cocoa, cloves and other spices in the soil.

Collaborative works also feature largely in the main exhibit, and this year's Golden Lion went to Sonia Bonce for her showcasing of black female vocalists in her pavilion for Britain. Alberta Whittle representing the Scotland pavilion talks of her accomplices, from dancers, musicians and historians who have contributed to her film, the Polish pavilion features a series of extraordinary patchwork frescoes by Małgorzata Mirga-Tas that was assembled with fellow sewers. In the way of the major awards, two special mentions were awarded this year to the following national pavilions, France, for their "Les rêves n’ont pas de titre", and Uganda, for "Radiance: They Dream in Time". With Best Artist of the international exhibition going to Simone Leigh from the United States, the Silver Lion for Best Young Artist awarded to Ali Cherri also in the international exhibition, a pair of special mentions were given to Lynn Hershman Leeson and Shuvinai Ashoona, and this year there were also awarded two Golden Lions for Lifetime Achievement, which went to German artist Katharina Fritsch and the Chilean artist Cecilia Vicuña. Among the 58 countries represented in the National Pavilions, and 30 Collateral Events to be found throughout the city, there are innumerable sculptural works, performances and installations of note. Highlights from which include a Ha Chong-Hyun retrospective, and the massive sculptural paperworks of Chun Kwang Young, in collaboration with architect Stefano Boeri presented together as "Times Reimagined" in the Palazzo Contarini Polignac. This year, the Norway pavilion is dedicated to the Sami people of the arctic circle, the Japanese pavilion wholly as an audiovisual installation by Dumb Type and Ryuichi Sakamoto, and the archive exhibition "Impossible Dreams" fills the whole of the space dedicated to the Taipei Fine Arts Museum of Taiwan. Nearby in San Marco, there's the light-mirroring steles of Heinz Mack, and the Mexican pavilion represented by Naomi Rincón Gallardo's "Vermin Sonnet". There's also the Canadian pavilion focused on the work of Stan Douglas, and Pedro Neves Marques' multiple screen audio-visual installation "Vampires in Space" at the Portugal Pavilion. “Human Brains: It Begins with an Idea” curated by Udo Kittelmann and Taryn Simon is at the Fondazione Prada, and the Gallerie dell’Accademia di Venezia hosts an exhibition of Anish Kapoor. The fifth edition of MUVE Contemporaneo at Palazzo Ducale presents Andselm Kiefer, and an exhibition on the island of Giudecca of the 20th Action Painting by Viennese artist Hermann Nitsch.

This year’s international group show, "The Milk of Dreams", takes its title from a fairytale by the British-born Leonora Carrington, who is at the heart of an intensely eerie mini-survey to rival the huge surrealism blockbuster at the Peggy Guggenheim Foundation in Dorsoduro. There are capsules such as this throughout, as detailed through Artforum's "Chimerical Romance", "Say it with Bolts!", and "Thought Experiment", some of which are historic and even scholarly, others span the spaces from outsider art, to cyborgs, and vibrantly lifelike mannequins, all of which seen in this context express an air of late-flowering surrealism. The Milk of Dreams” says Alemani, focuses on three themes; “the representation of bodies and their metamorphoses; the relationship between individuals and technologies; and the connection between bodies and the Earth”. In doing so, it dances between primordialist and technological imaginings, creating hybridized possibilities of human form and consciousness “becoming-animal,” “becoming-machine,” and “becoming-earth”. Further reporting for The Guardian, Adrian Searle is our chaperone to its wonders and marvels, the beautiful and the terrible, the celebratory and the morbid all fill the 59th Venice Biennale. Which as Searle points out is in some ways business as usual, but this year there are no billionaire oligarch yachts moored by the Giardini and there is less opulence and ultra-wealth spectacle and celebrity all-round. The Russian pavilion is closed (the curators resigned) and Ukraine has a large presence both in their pavilion and in the various spaces between those of the other nations. These pavilions and main exhibition that comprise the global art overview, situated the ancient and decrepit and historic palazzos, the lush sunlit Giardini and glorious Arsenale and Forte Marghera of Venice, are better for it, as laid out in Searle's compendious, "Cyborgs, Sirens and a Singing Murderer: The Thrilling, Oligarch-free Venice Biennale".