Sunday, October 16, 2011

New Films by Pedro Almodovar, Goran Hugo Olsson, Sean Durkin
& Jeff Nichols at Landmark Theatres: Oct 14 - Nov 24

After a particularly dry summer, the Fall/Winter sees a season of exceptional cinema coming to the Landmark Theatres again! The newest Pedro Almodovar is apparently his foray of sorts into genre film, in having (yeah!) Antionio Banderas play the 'mad scientist'/antagonist role in a variation on something between "Eyes Without A Face" and his own "Frankenstein" story. No surprise that "The Skin I Live In" involves feminine beauty and (extreme) pathology between the sexes, this is Almodovar after all. And that gender ambiguity he loves? Expect that to be taken to it's most profound, literal, conclusion. Speaking of pathology, two of the highlights from Film Comment's coverage of the Venice Film Fest and Sundance included these two explorations of extreme trauma's effect on domestic life, both pieces of homegrown independent cinema. The reviews cited them as being largely influenced by the Malick/Kubrick schools of American cinema, so I'm intrigued. From the director of "Shotgun Stories" we follow the life of abstract threat and unease at the hand of a looming disaster that shadows the protagonist in "Take Shelter" and the life of recovering from the traumas of Cult-induction and identity obfuscation in "Martha Marcy May Marlene" which has been described in reviews as a unnerving and subjective narrative, fraught with a tensely disconcerting dreamlike tone.

In less pathological of-the-mind and instead real-world concerns... "Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975" is nearly a perfect documentary in every sense, seriously, see it while it's still playing. You owe it at least to your own sense of the disparate contrast between what it meant to explore civil liberties in public during those decades vs. our current nationwide movement. By 'nearly perfect' I mean just that, this film isn't the absolutely flawless document in tone and content it could have been, yet the core material it presents is as relevant and important now as it was in it's time. This 'core' being the original documentary footage and editorial objectives of the Swedish news crew, material which in the decades since, has since been left largely untouched in a Swedish TV station’s vault. Spanning the years 1967-1975 and largely consisting of just everyday scenes of urban life, in the streets, in small business, in neighborhoods, in people homes, throughout black Americans are pictures socializing, going about their business, often in mixed-race company, primarily in urban settings all across the US. Vibrant color scenes of 70's Harlem, black & white footage of 60's Chicago to the neighborhoods and community centers the Bay Area and the 'Panthers community-building in Oakland. Had it just been this footage, edited together by director Goran Hugo Olsson from what he calls "20 hours of really good material", these original interviews, street scenes, and observations, with no need to ad contemporary commentary and 'contextualizing' by the current pop and cultural players contributing voice-over, it would have been a totally flawless work of documentary filmmaking. Two personal highlights; Young, articulate, deeply troubled black youth expressing their concern about the evident purging of the progressive elements of American that were the same-year assassinations of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, who at the time, was lying in state at St. Patrick's Cathedral a block away. The interviewees attending the viewing and ensuing public wake. Second highlight; The brilliant, true, treasure trove that was both the person and establishment of Lewis Michaux and his African Memorial National Bookshop. Powerful, intimate, moving, revealing interviews and personable moments with founders of the movement Stokely Carmichael, Angela Davis, Martin Luther and Corretta Scott King and Eldrich Cleaver, among others. Together with the footage of the everyday, it rounds out the image of the time and the nationwide movement in this docu's depiction of both the above-ground manifestation and the core of the movement from behind-the-scenes, all set within the larger cultural questioning and public 'awakening' of those decades.
Also at Landmark in the coming months! The two most notable films of the Cannes and Venice film fests we've not yet had the privilege to see (due to the achingly slow theatrical distribution of) David Cronenberg's "A Dangerous Method" with Fassbender and Mortensen as Sigmund Freud vs. Carl Jung in the birth of modern Psychotherapy and what looks to be a directorial highlight, among his many, in the form of Lars Von Trier's gorgeous, fatalist, Cosmic melodrama "Melancholia".