Saturday, September 25, 2010

Gaspar Noe's new film "Enter the Void" at Northwest Film Forum : Oct 8 - 14

Coming to Northwest Film Forum! From the director of the single-most-difficult piece of cinema I've ever seen,
not due to duration or glacial slowness or high-concept hoobaloo, but simply that the events depicted were of
a brutality and believability that I've never seen in cinema, before or since. Yep, we're talking Gaspar Noe's
"Irreversible", which at the time, friends and I spent a month debating it's potential merits and reasons to see it
knowing the premise and questioning the objective, relevance and result... and guess what? When finally seeing
it the film stands as a paramount, transformative, powerful piece of cinema like no other in the history of the medium.
Honest. That said, his previous film, "I Stand Alone" watches like a bit of postmodern comedy now, complete with
shock-value 'get out while you can!' mechanism that in the 90's was probably effective and original, but hasn't
weathered quite as well as "Irreversible" overall, yet still retains much of it's original brutality. My review of his
newest, "Enter the Void" begins with a lengthy string of qualifiers, but make it past those and you'll see my point here:

Even for it's dippy drug user 20something protagonist and his wayward sister (read: self-endangering, damaged),
even for the corniness of the '2001: A Space Odyssey' cosmic baby/vagcam nonsense of the end, even for it
exploring pretty literally the whole setup of the Tibetan Book of the Dead, as alluded to be the extended opening
sequence discussion of the three Bardos of 'Life, Death & Rebirth', even for all it's overlong redundancy, even for the
all first-person literalism - this was truly one of the most hallucineogenic, cosmic, tripped out explorations of perception,
sex and mortality that I've seen on screen in many years. From Chris Norris' fairly brilliant overview/article on the film in
the Oct. issue of Film Comment: "Noe calls the film's genre 'psychedelic melodrama', but it also falls into the much older
tradition of 'void' tales, whose tellers run from Dante, to Dickens, to Poe to Thornton Wilder. But the feeling I found in the
wake of Enter the Void was an ineffable sense of devotion - to craft, experience, perception, consciousness - whose only
meaning is likely in the topography Thorton Wilder saw gazing into Bardo: a land of the living, and a land of the dead,
bridged only, and tenuously, by love."

Link to Northwest Film Forum "Enter the Void" site

Link to IFC "Enter the Void" site

Link to Film Comment Sept/Oct Issue

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Cary Grant Singlehandedly Averts the Cold War, Proving McCarthy to be the Fool He Is: MI6, Yugoslavia & Alfred Hitchcock's Unmade Film in Wu Ming's 54

Any novel that begins with this prologue:
"'Post-war' means nothing.
What fools called 'peace' simply meant moving away from the front.
Fools defended peace by supporting the armed wing of money.
Beyond the next dune the clashes continued. The fangs of chimerical beasts sinking into flesh, the heavens full of steel and smoke, whole cultures uprooted from the earth.
Fools fought the enemies of today by bankrolling those of tomorrow.
Fools swelled their chests, talked of 'freedom', 'democracy', 'in our country', as they devoured the fruits of riots and looting.
They were defending civilisation against Chinese shadows of dinosaurs.
They were defending the planet against fake images of asteroids.
They were defending the Chinese shadow of a civilization.
They were defending the fake image of a planet."
...and follows it on the back cover with reviews like this by the London Times Literary Supplement:
"This new work amply confirms Wu Ming's talent... Utterly convincing. What emerges is an epic about identity and celebrity, communism and corruption... A stupendous, charming, provocative and profound novel. It makes most modern books seem paltry in comparison."
...has my attention. A almost Pynchon-esque post-WW II depiction of the Italian/Yugoslavian 'zone' after the division of the territories and the partisan armies fighting both the Fascist forces in Italy and the encroaching German horde on the Communist border. The result? The amorphous postwar time/geography where the United States, Russia, the UK and Italy were all vying for a foothold as criminals, opportunists, political factions and espionage on all sides working the angles. Told from the generation who saw the very end of the war and attempts to reclaim their familial and cultural heritage from these competing factions, "54" by Wu Ming collective takes off from these political realities to spin a 'alternate reality' tale akin to Chabon's "Yiddish Policeman's Union" set in the era of the birth of the TV, the Suburbs, the postwar influence of America's Dream being the only dream, Hollywood's battle with McCarthyism and the nationwide witch hunt that was the 'Red Scare', the very beginnings of Vietnam and the decades of the Cold War that was to follow. So entrenched in reality and history, that when the events to detour, I often went to check my facts, especially when as we're reaching the culmination of the ensemble-cast threads all beginning to converge, Hollywood, British espionage MI6, Tito's Yugoslavia, Cannes, Italian Mobsters, Alfred Hitchcock and... Cary Grant all find themselves in the most unlikely (totally plausible) ciaroscuro of history, commerce, entertainment, politics, and postwar rebuilding fervor. Pretty darn brilliant. As a young collective of authors, this being an early work of theirs, already ranking near Chabon or Pynchon, if they've got more of this in them, expect Wu Ming to become known.