Sunday, March 24, 2013

Véréna Paravel & Lucien Castaing-Taylor of the Harvard Sensory Ethnography Lab's
new documentary "Leviathan" at Northwest Film Forum: April 5 - 11 & 26 - May 2

Next month Leviathan surfaces at Northwest Film Forum! No, no, not the mythical beast of Biblical Lore, nor the Great White Whale of Melville. This beast is instead the brutal, sensorial, visceral ONSLAUGHT that is the creation of Paravel and Castaing-Taylor of the Harvard Sensory Ethnography Lab and the Visual and Environmental Studies department's "Leviathan". And if you think a documentary on the subject of Deep Sea Fishing isn't going to be the most audio-visual engaging experience you have in the theater this year, well, you'll have a chance to be proven wrong, wrong, wrong, in a few short weeks. Their previous, environmental, ambient, gorgeously duration-oriented "Sweetgrass" certainly doesn't prepare you for this. Nor does A.O. Scott's review for the New York Times, which I feel only touches on it's one-of-a-kind sensory approach. It's instead the Dennis Lim piece of earlier this year that suggests the true physical, auditory, visual, conceptual experience of this singular work. Trust me. You will never again see a documentary on this subject (or most any other) that will leave this indelible an impression on your mind, senses or imagination. There's a reason the poster features a Gothic Doom Metal font and all the images seem as though they're sourced from Dante's Divine Comedy.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining" (both fowards and backwards) & Rodney Ascher's
new documentary "Room 237" at SIFF Cinema: April 5 - 11

Not only is Stanley Kubrick's (superior) adaptation of Steven King's "The Shining" back in theaters in a new print (and yes, in 1980 I was among the generation of children that had it absolutely wreck my 9 year old head, thank you). But smartly timed with the documentary of all things theory, conspiracy, insights and speculation on it's potentially coded symbolism, imagery and synchronicity spelling out everything from the Holocaust, to the slaughter of American Indians and the claim that the film is a kind of apology by Kubrick for the putative role he played in helping to 'fake' the Apollo 11 lunar landing. (Yep, you read that right). Rodney Ascher's "Room 237" screens at SIFF for one week back-to-back with the film itself. There's more. For the true dedicated Kubrick-o-phile, here's your one chance to see some of this film's layered mystery revealed, in the single screening of "The Shining" forwards and backwards. And in honor of IFC's distribution of all the coded meaning reexamined and the metaphorical can of worms growing in Room 237 of the Timberline Lodge being re-opened, the New York Times featured this fun, insightful, debunking piece, in interview with Kubrick's assistant Leon Vitali on the shooting of the film.
"It’s Back. But What Does It Mean?".

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Shane Carruth's "Upstream Color" & Park Chan-Wook's "Stoker" advance screening Premiers at SIFF Cinema: March 12 - 14 | Director in Attendance: March 14

Two major advance screening premiers this month at SIFF! The past decade has seen Korean cinema take Western Society's love of shock and thrills, imbued it with meaning, almost grotesque humor, stylistic flourishes, a frenetic sense of risk, propelled through a often labyrinth of inventive narrative hooks and thrown it back at us. Seemingly upping Hollywood at it's own game and delivering some seriously joyous, brooding, psychotic, perverse, playful, absurd thrills. So it's with paradoxically hesitant anticipation that I went into Park Chan-Wook's new film "Stoker" last night. Anticipation for all the reasons listed above, hesitation for him now on Hollywood ground, directing films in English with a cast including Nicole Kidman, Mia Wasikowska and Matthew Goode. Nonetheless I had hope of him delivering a psychotic fusion of Jean-Pierre Jeunet ("I'm a Cyborg but that's OK") and Alfred Hitchcock ("Old Boy") as a american psycho-drama. Well, good thing I went in with a degree of trepidation, attuned to how this setting and cast could go amiss. As the psychological thrills simmered throughout, yet never reached the cohesion of a boiling point. Seemingly a case of 'lost in translation' it's eccentric cast of sociopaths and the ultra-privileged elicit neither your sympathy, or even quite the dynamics of a love them/hate them dichotomy of the despicable. Here's hoping Mr. Park makes a quick return to more fertile (Korean) cinema ground again soon!
The second, and more anticipated premier, is the long, long awaited follow-up to Shane Carruth's brilliant bit of low budget, smaller cast, sci-fi of 2004, "Primer". His newest, "Upstream Color" screened already at SXSW last weekend to near-hysterics online. Filling a void left by Soderbergh, Aronofsky, Fincher and many of the other promising genre-directors of the 2000's, who went on to make solid, but more formula-based films with larger budgets and celebrity casts. Carruth has the very real potential to be their equivocal for this decade. "Upstream Color"'s Sundance screening garnering no small amount of critical praise from The Village Voice, The LA Times and yet more attention in the pages of the New York Times for it's inclusion in MoMA's prestigious New Directors/New Films series, along with a Lion's share of the contents of Film Comment's 'Best Undistributed Films of 2012' survey of last year. I'm not going to say much more about Carruth's film in advance of SIFF's preview screening as seeing it 'blind' is the best way to appreciate it's particularly moving, bucolic and at once nightmarish vision. Even with reading the above New York Times interview (and I recommend you don't) you'd not be prepared for the fusion of cinema forms on display so disparate as the visual aesthetic of Terrence Malick and the corporeal, psychological drama/trauma of early David Cronenberg. How's that for a unexpected junction?! I'll even go as far as to say the hyperbole you've heard issue from the festival screenings along the lines of "the most original new sci-fi film of this decade", isn't unfounded. Witness Carruth's newest yourself when it returns for SIFF's theatrical run next month.