Sunday, November 15, 2015

Ulrich Seidl's new documentary "In the Basement" at Northwest Film Forum: Nov 27 - Dec 3

Opening for a one week run later this month at Northwest Film Forum. Those initiated in Ulrich Seidl's cinema are accustomed to the existential pleasures of the Austrian director's darkly humorous, richly humanistic explorations of the gulf between desire and happiness. It's in this space of modern society's abundance of diversions offered along our escape from isolation that he plumbs the human cost of globalization in "Import/Export", Europe's underside of drug culture, corporate holidays and anonymous sex in "Dog Days", and observations on media, loneliness and narcissism in "Models". Seidl's last major endeavor, the Paradise Trilogy consisting of "Paradise: Love", "Paradise: Faith" and "Paradise: Hope" possibly best describes his cinema of "Messy Humanity, Warts, Dreams and All". The complexity of our relationship as viewers navigating those interpretive spaces detailed in A.O. Scott's review of the first of the trilogy "Stripped of Clothes, Dignity and Maybe Shame". Scott Foundas also hitting the target dead-center in the pages of Film Comment; "His boldest and most ambitious work to date—a confrontational yet oddly compassionate meditation on the residual chasm between Europe and its former colonies, profound loneliness in the so-called communication age, and the infinite varieties of the human body." Those who would interpret his ingress as cynical in it's exploration of the western condition, are wholly missing the driving principle of Seidl's intimate, revealing body of work. The director himself addressing this common misinterpretation in the pages of The Guardian, "Ulrich Seidl: 'Those Who Say I Despise People Do Not Understand Me'".

With it's premier at the Venice Film Festival, Seidl returned to documentary filmmaking for the first time in nearly a decade with, "In the Basement" which on the surface can be described as a "Transgressive Hybrid Doc about What People Do ‘In the Basement’". But a deeper reading of "What Lies Beneath the Austrian Heart" characterized by the space and repository in our homes as an underground cache of passions, hobbies and ritualistic eccentricities, can be found in "Under the Skin: Nick Pinkerton on Ulrich Seidl's 'In the Basement'"; "Like his late friend and collaborator Michael Glawogger, Seidl pursues a practice that encompasses both documentary and fiction film, with exercises in each medium incorporating aspects that tend to be attributed to the other. The casts of Seidl’s fiction films, beginning with "Dog Days" mix professional actors with amateurs who bring an element of existential veracity to their roles. His documentaries, meanwhile, exhibit a degree of finicky, just-so compositional rigor that—particularly in the early years of his work, when every other doc discussion didn’t trot out the word “hybrid”—isn’t usually associated with nonfiction filmmaking. Among other things, "In the Basement" is a musky slog through the fundament of fear and desire in particularly feminine and masculine permutations. As in previous works like "Animal Love" and "Jesus, You Know" whose respective subjects are ardent pet owners and the devoutly religious, Seidl chooses a single fixed vantage point—in this case, the view from the basement—from which to look into the fantasy life of his countrymen."