Sunday, February 3, 2013

"Tokyo 1955 - 1970: A New Avant-Garde" & "Gutai: Splendid Playground"
at MoMA & Guggenheim Museum NY: Nov 18 - Feb 25 & Feb 15 - May 8

The reasons are innumerable why Tokyo 1955 - 1970: A New Avant-Garde is likely going to be the best exhibit I see this year. Especially if considered in combination with the first-ever US retrospective of the related, Gutai: Splendid Playground at the Guggenheim. Big claim, I know, particularly so early in the 2013... but with the 40 Film Retrospective of New Wave, Experimental and post-War cinema and a series of ongoing installation/performance pieces in the MoMA lobby during the duration of the show, like Eiko & Koma "Caravan Project", in addition to the scope and rarity of the work in the exhibit. I think it's safe to say it's claim to that title is pretty much cinched. It's breadth encompassing artists and movements like Jikken Kobo which included in it's ranks composers Toru Takemitsu, Toshi Ichiyanagi and Joji Yuasa along with innovative post-War author Kobo Abe and his often collaborator, seminal Japanese New Wave director Hiroshi Teshigahara (who's brilliant existentialism cinema was finally given a proper and much overdue western release by Criterion and Masters of Cinema this decade. As a collaborative trio between the author and director, with the above mentioned Toru Takemitsu supplying the scores). Among other notable characters like movement co-founder Tetsuji Takechi and the once Pinku Eiga director turned political artist, Koji Wakamatsu (who in the past year was barred from the United States and unable to attend the New York premier of what were then his two most recent films, had a 30 film! retrospective at Cinémathèque Française, released two more new films "The Millennial Rapture" and "11/25: The Day He Chose His Own Fate" and sadly was killed by an errant cab driver in Tokyo). Overlapping with, and likely to even outshine the MoMA, there's the Guggenheim Gutai-focused exhibit and it's brilliant multimedia artist Atsuko Tanaka, 'mail' artist Shozo Shimamoto, painter and author of the Gutai Manifesto Jiro Yoshihara, the extraordinary visual and installation work of Motonaga Sadamasa, and another personal favorite, 'bodily painter' Kazuo Shiraga. Many of the major players in these movements overlapping with that of the Art Theatre Guild who's work figures largely in MoMA's film retrospective. And all of that only touching on the surface of what's on display, the scope and greater significance of the exhibit simply beyond what I'm able to convey here. For that I'm going to direct you to the the most coherent encapsulations I've read, Holland Cotter's "A Feisty Phoenix From the Nuclear Ashes" and Roberta Smith's "The Seriousness of Fun in Postwar Japan" for the New York Times.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Miguel Gomes' "Tabu", Abbas Kiarostami's "Like Someone in Love" & Hong Sang-Soo's "In Another Country" at NWFF, Grand Illusion Cinema & Landmark Theatres: Feb 8 - 21

What was one of greatest pieces of new cinema I saw last year is finally in theaters! By turns nostalgic, political, haunting, humorous, romantic, lush and equal parts emotional as it is cerebral, Miguel Gomes' "Tabu" comes to the Northwest Film Forum at the end of next week. Beyond the string of adjectives above what more can be said about this visual ode to memories (or dreams? or films? or dreams of films?) of Colonialism and times past? I think it's placement on these Films of the Year lists is both telling and very, very much deserved. As lovers of modern film and it's evolving language of past and future, you owe it to yourself to catch this one. But again, don't trust my take, read the merited encomium from Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian and Dennis Lim for the New York Times.

And more quality cinema the following week with the return of Abbas Kiarostami and his newest (well, ok, screened as far back as Cannes 2012, so it's been awhile) "Like Someone In Love" finally landing at the Landmark Theatres simultaneous with New York's Film Society of Lincoln Center "A Close-Up of Abbas Kiarostami" retrospective of the Iranian master-filmmaker. Spanning four decades of the director's work and everything from recognized masterpieces like "Taste of Cherry", "Ten", "Where Is the Friend's Home?" to rarely (or unscreened in the west) early works like "Solution No. 1", "Fellow Citizen" to more recent film essays such as "Five: Dedicated to Ozu" and narrative films like 2009's Cannes Best Actress-winning "Certified Copy". The 24 film short and feature length series spanning documentary, meta-fiction, drama and the blurring of all lines between, an exhibition of Kiarostami is a true director of the Postmodern era. The retrospective celebrating his contribution to modern cinema and acting as a showcase for his most recent fusion of those personal obsessions we've come to know how art for; "Like Someone in Love" treading that tenuous ground of undefined 'authority' on events depicted, much like that of "Certified Copy", but this time it's the viewer who's given insight into the inverted identity and roles acted out as the character's lives. Oh yes, it also showcases one of his other major obsessions; beautiful women, in transit, shot from the interior of automobiles in vibrant, teeming, kaleidoscopic urban settings.

Also in the way of new things international cinema, coinciding with the above we also get the newest from Korean master of everyday tales populated by lives filled to the brim with wayward miserablism, Hong Sang-Soo. And if that doesn't sound like an endorsement, well, know that I'm usually divided on his work, but the artistry, humor and humanism of his films almost always wins me over by the end. So thank you Grand Illusion for bringing "In Another Country". This is coinciding with the return screening (after a short run at NWFF) of the excellent "We Don't Care About Music Anyway" documentary on the Onkyo, Noise and Improv Japanese urban music cultures. Another bold music document from the very fringes of sound can be seen the following week as The Grand illusion screens Norway's monolithic masters of atmospheric Free-Improv Supersilent, and their live concert film, "7" for two nights only.