Sunday, February 28, 2016

"Wim Wenders: Portraits Along the Road" at SIFF Cinema & Northwest Film Forum: Mar 2 - 31 | SIFF Cinema Encore: Apr 22 - 27

Much in the way of last spring's Hou Hsiao-Hsien retrospective, this year is proving to be a notable demarcation in the life's work of New German Cinema director, Wim Wenders. His lengthy career populated by eccentric wayfarers on the open road watches like series of variations on "The Searchers: Wim Wenders in One Word". A quest spanning the five decades from his earliest 16mm experimental shorts of the late 1960s to his recent award-winning documentaries, his global cinematic journeying was celebrated with a honorary Golden Bear for Lifetime Achievement at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival. This "Misfit, Outsider and the Man Who Helped America to See Itself" first came to wide attention in the 1970s for his string of existential road movies exploring modern-day alienation, spiritual confusion, loneliness and dislocation. This inversion of location, genre and style created a language out of the Americanization of Europe. The expressive possibilities of landscape, the glories of American Blues, pop and German underground rock music, and the primacy of the cinema, set in the expanse of "Landscapes that Show, Don't Tell". His Road Movie Cycle, inspired by such American counterculture renaissance pictures as "Easy Rider" and "Two-Lane Blacktop", produced three films in this genre in quick succession: "Alice in the Cities", "The Wrong Move" and "Kings of the Road". Followed by the highly-assured "The American Friend", a brilliant adaptation of the Patricia Highsmith thriller "Ripley’s Game". For his first English-language picture, Wenders cast three of his personal American movie idols: Dennis Hopper and directors Nicholas Ray and Samuel Fuller, cementing his credentials with the lineage of the cinema that inspired him. As J.Hoberman puts forward in his New York Times review, the film arrived in New York by way of Cannes, the year after “Taxi Driver” took the Palme d’Or and stunned the world. Like Scorsese and Schrader's film, "Wim Wenders' High Plains Grifter" was a new sort of consciously filmic movie; sleekly brooding, voluptuously existential and saturated with the gestures of cinephilia. Wenders’s work, in turn, helped establish the New German Cinema and the work of his contemporaries, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Werner Herzog, Alexander Kluge, Volker Schlöndorff and Margarethe von Trotta as arguably the most significant national cinema movement of the 1970s . With the 1980s Cannes award-winning art-house hits "Paris, Texas" and "Wings of Desire", Wenders’ international popularity reached a zenith. The latter particularly resonating with young collegiate cinephiles for it's cast of illustrious underdogs from the German and British post-Punk scenes. At once rarefied and accessible, with a singular visual style that's impossible to carbon date (thanks to legendary cinematographer Henri Alekan), "The Sky Over Berlin" has earned its place alongside the likes of "Rashomon" and "The 400 Blows" in the Arthouse for Beginners canon, exemplified by it's new restoration for the Criterion Collection.

This "Looking Back at the Road Ahead" at the life's work of one of Senses of Cinema's Great Directors will be taking place over the course of five weeks this coming March as the "Wim Wenders: Portraits Along the Road" touring retrospective arrives in Seattle with new restorations spanning the totality of Wenders' filmography. Wednesdays at SIFF Cinema featuring single screenings of "The American Friend, "Alice in the Cities", "Wrong Move", "Kings of the Road", "Buena Vista Social Club" and "Pina" in 3-D. With a short week of encores to follow in late April. Single screenings of the series' other selections will take place at Northwest Film Forum with "Paris, Texas", "The State of Things & The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick", "Wings of Desire", "Notebook on Cities and Clothes" and the exceedingly rare opportunity to catch "Until the End of the World" in the cinema in it's complete, expansive, director's cut edition. On a personal note, this year marks the 20th Anniversary since Wenders came to University of Washington's Meany Hall to present one of four existing 35mm prints of "Until the End of the World" in it's full director's cut in the mid-1990s. As of 2010, there exists two separate releases of the full, unedited, 4+ hour cut for those with All Zone / All Region Blu-Ray players, thankfully with a rumored Criterion edition forthcoming, for those who don't. The film's backstory is as circuitous as it's extended narrative path, Wenders spent much of the 80's conceiving the film, assembling thematic content and scouting locations. Shot on four continents (including video smuggled out of China), the expanse of it's global inclusiveness were detailed in a interview for Movieline at the time of the 20th anniversary of the theatrical release, "Wim Wenders on Until the End of the World at 20, Its Amazing Soundtrack, and Loving LuLu". He and longtime cinematographer Robby Müller conceived a global road movie which foresaw a future abetted by such diversions as mobile viewing devices, proto-GPS and highly sought-after tech (by the CIA of course), which records images for the blind via the consciousness of the user.

Starring William Hurt, Sam Neill, Solveig Dommartin, Jeanne Moreau and Max von Sydow among an international ensemble of actors, for all it's potential star cast and ur-Cyberpunk appeal, "Until the End of the World" was a massive loss for the studio investors. With it only grossing some $752,00 Stateside, the film never made back even a fraction of it's eventual $23 million budget. At twice the original duration its distributors Warner Bros in the United States then required cuts that truncated it to barely a quarter of Wenders’s original vision. Thereby reducing the film to a fairly inchoate, half-realized expression of it's themes when it was finally released to cinemas worldwide in late 1991. Having just recently viewed the uncut film, after some 20 years between the University of Washington screening and present day, I was struck by both the Terry Gilliam-like eccentricities of it's character and the particulars of Wenders' framing of the distractions of the technological everyday mundane. The latter notable for it's disconcerting mirroring of the world in which we now live. The English dub does contribute a stilted romaticized poetry to the script and it's pacing, and Sam Neill's exposition doesn't aid in that regard, but it still watches as a fluidly engaged sociopolitical Global Worldview on the road. The hyper-embedded technological future seen through the globetrotting Zeitgeist imagined as the end of the 20th Century in the film's opening chapter, are as convincing a alternate reality as our own big-five-dominated 21st Century. The most significant of the director's cut additions, it's third closing chapter becomes a wandering existential inquest to the edge of consciousness. After having traversed the globe, our protagonists find themselves literally in the dreaming of Australia's outback, delving deep into new frontiers of the inner universe. This third chapter's focus on mood and space, (physical and otherwise) and the potentially sacrosanct nature of the inward looking inquiry is reflected in a series of striking video manipulations and semi-linear narrative flexures. Favoring infrared and simple digital effects over the (even then) increasingly popular computer generated depictions of the imagined, we instead get a oddly timeless, convincingly surreal psycho-scape Wenders' quest to the end of the world delivers us.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Andrew Haigh's new film "45 Years", Alê Abreu's "Boy and the World", Robert Eggers' "The Witch" & Miguel Gomes' "The Arabian Nights Trilogy" at SIFF Cinema: Feb 12 - 25 | Corneliu Porumboiu's "The Treasure" at Grand Illusion Cinema: Feb 12 - 18

Mid-February sees an abundance of quality cinema this week and next at SIFF Cinema and The Grand Illusion. Highlighted in David Filipi's year-end overview for Film Comment, "From the Artisanal to the Industrial: The Year in Animation", Alê Abreu's award-winning, dialog free, ornately musical sensory experience, "Boy and the World" had it's beginnings in a documentary about the formation of South America and instead became one boy's adventure through Latin America's social strata. A journey described in IndieWire's "Meet the Director Behind the Year's Most Extraordinary Animated Indie" from peasant and agrarian cultures, to industrial labor exploitation and colonialism to fascistic nation-building to advanced consumerism and class struggle, culminating in grassroots uprising and reformation, "Immersed in Movies: Alê Abreu Talks 'Boy and the World'". Concurrently at SIFF, a cinematic celebration of dark forces in league with the devil, the Witches Brew series launches this week's release of Robert Eggers tale of a frightful unraveling as, "A Family’s Contract with God is Tested" in the New England wilderness. "The Witch" is his meticulously constructed addition to the Puritan-horror mantle, framed by America’s long history of frontier insanity and legacy of religious zealotry and hypocrisy, "Serving Up Supernatural Dread, 17th-Century Style". Other highlights from the series include, Ken Russell's transgressive cult classic spin on Cardinal Richelieu's purging of secessionist and 17th-century priest Urbain Grandier and his cult of "The Devils" during the events of the so-called Loudun Possessions. The series also features Michael Reeves eliciting one of Vincent Price’s most sinister performances in "Witchfinder General" and Roman Polanski's slow-build horror as it follows a young couple played to perfection by Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes, as they are inducted into a cult genesis of a deity from the underworld and "Rosemary's Baby".

The post-millennial explosion issuing from the Romanian New Wave that produced the award winning run of "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days", "12:08 East of Bucharest", "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu" and "Police, Adjective" as documented in Dominique Nasta’s, "Contemporary Romanian Cinema: The History of an Unexpected Miracle". All that much more striking for it being born from the conditions of the most overtly and consistently propagandistic cinema in Europe. Late 20th Century Romanian film under Nicolae Ceaușescu was consistently glossy but stale, relaying blatantly communist sympathies through simplistic stories, straightforward narrative linearity, often heavy in metaphor. Freed from state censorship and the narrative restraints of the Soviet era, A.O. Scott hailed the arrival of the movement on the global scene with his New York Times Magazine feature, "New Wave on the Black Sea". The Guardian following with their own critic's roundup, "Romania's New Wave is Riding High" and as a retrospective of it's formative years, there's not better overview than Shane Danielson's "Eastern Promise" for Sight & Sound. A notable benchmark for the movement, 2015 marked the 10th anniversary since Catalin Mitulescu's "Trafic" took the Short Film Palme d'Or at Cannes and Cristi Puiu's "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu" was awarded the festival's Un Certain Regard. The anniversary commemorated by Film Society at Lincoln Center presenting their decade of Making Waves: New Romanian Cinema. This year also saw one of the movement's significant players, Corneliu Porumboiu stepping into sharp social satire with, "The Treasure". Lacking the more studied cultural critique of his excellent "Police, Adjective" and 2013's less successful, "When Evening Falls on Bucharest or Metabolism" he's assembled a darkly comic familial drama in, "‘The Treasure’: Digging for Something of Value in Romania". Yet his familial comedy is as surprising and grimly funny a denouement of the cultural and economic landscape of post-Ceaușescu Romania as anything this "Accidental Auteurist" has produced to date.

More than just a chamber drama observation on how "A Dead Flame Threatens a Marriage", Andrew Haigh has tackled the Hollywood taboo of later-years love with a sensitive and devastating portrait of a long, happy marriage in sudden crisis. "45 Years" explores the nuances of this suspended, curious limbo brought on by a sudden and unwelcome new understanding, upending the quiet later years in the lives of Charlotte Rampling's Kate and Tom Courtenay's Geoff, as retired schoolteacher and factory worker respectively. Their habitual and largely sedentary daily comforts of ritual walks through the countryside, occasional social visits to the local village, tea in the afternoon, books at bedtime - a world of simple but enriched middle-class comforts - is disrupted by an intrusion from the past. As survivors of Britain’s postwar transformation, beneficiaries of the expansion of post-War opportunity and the bounty of the 1960's social liberation movements, it isn’t difficult to conceive of an adventurous past for Geoff and Kate. The contrasting worldliness of their youth is strikingly tangible in this thoughtful, cultivated, left-wing couple, who are about to celebrate "45 Years" of quiet decades of stable marriage spent in the isolated eastern countryside of Norfolk, England. The power of this "Psychological Drama at its Most Delicate and Acute" based on David Constantine's "In Another Country" stems from the discrepancy between, on one hand, the strangeness of the event from Geoff's past and it's resurgence, and the comfortable mundanity of the world in which this drama unfolds. Hailed by The Guardian as the number one film that screened in the UK last year, Haigh's meticulous drama is ultimately not about the larger forces that tear relationships apart from without, but the the unresolved troubles that lurk in the minds of each individual while together. Suggesting that even after decades together, two people can remain perfect strangers.

By turns nostalgic, political, haunting, romantic, sensual and equal parts emotional as it is cerebral, Miguel Gomes' "Tabu" could be found on all of the most notable 2012 Films of the Year lists, from Sight & Sound to Film Comment, Cahiers du Cinema and online institutions like Fandor. He returns with an assembly of incidental, everyday news pulled from the headlines weave of life from post-austerity Portugal. Which Gomes then spins into a satirical, outwardly political refashioning of folk tales from the Islamic Golden Age. Few contemporary films, much less anything concerned with a central political premise addressing socioeconomic strife and the conditions of post-Austerity Europe, embrace sprawl and variety in style and substance to the extent of this three-part reimagining of "Arabian Nights". Both Jonathan Romney's Film of the Week and Dennis Lim's New York Times "Past is Present Yet Irretrievable" identify the signal attribute and only constant in his films as their unpredictability; from scene to scene often starting in one form and ending in another. Like much of his work it embodies his own wry spin on stylistic and thematic mutation, this “genre contamination" as Gomes calls it, explored in Cannes Interview for Film Comment. An attempt at summarizing the prominent plot points of "The Arabian Nights Trilogy" reads like an exquisite corpse; community advocates take it upon themselves to halt the invasive Asian wasp from displacing honeybee populations, an annual ritual of winter sea swimming is halted by the corpse of a dead whale, and dockworkers vent about labor losses documentary-style in "Volume 1, The Restless One". An alfresco court hosts an absurd Balzac-like chain of grievances and idiocies, all the while a charmed stray dog enhances the lives of everyone it touches in the downtrodden towerblock housing communities in, "Volume 2, The Desolate One". The remaining old shanty towns of Lisbon are the locus of a community of bird enthusiasts as they engage in rigorous song competitions in, "Volume 3, The Enchanted One" all intermittently punctuated in arabesque scenes on a mystical isle, in which Scheherazade herself appears offering interjections of the framing conceit. And like Scheherazade, Gomes has pulled out every storytelling trick in the book to span the film's epic 6 hour duration: prologues and epilogues, prolix voiceovers, obtuse framing devices, abundant on-screen titles and nested narratives within narratives. At once fabulous, quotidian and political, "Miguel Gomes Blends Fantasy and Real Life Fluidly in Arabian Nights".

Sunday, February 7, 2016

László Nemes new film "Son of Saul" at Landmark Theatres: Jan 22 - Mar 3

Given high praise by The Guardian as the number one film screened in the United States last year, László Nemes has created in his award-winning, unlikely directorial debut, "'Son of Saul', an Expansion of the Language of Holocaust Films". Understandably even the century's most confident filmmakers quail before the terrifying responsibility of massacre, torture and sadism that is the Holocaust. Only documentaries have successfully addressed the immensity of the subject, namely Alain Resnais haunting "Night and Fog" the plumbing of the personal in Claude Lanzmann's monumental achievement "Shoah", and the unseen revelation that is Alfred Hitchcock's recently reconstructed "German Concentration Camps Factual Survey". The latter recently detailed in HBO's "Night Will Fall", this is a "Recalling of a Film From the Liberation of the Camps" that features some of the most unflinching footage dedicated to film in the whole of the 20th Century. Few have ever gotten as close to the three works mentioned above to penetrating the mysteries of this most cataclysmic of human horrors. Neme's film, "Son of Saul" approaches the untouchable by taking the viewer into the close-viewed final chapter of it's protagonist's life as a Sonderkommando in a unnamed concentration camp. This is a raw, pitiless cinema that pulls no punches, and does the "unrepresentable" in it's filmic fictionalization of human dignity amid the torrent of the Holocaust.

In his "Atrocity Exhibitionism" for Film Comment, Stefan Grissemann details why "Son of Saul" is an opportunistic and highly problematic work. How in making a Holocaust drama a renewed exciting and vital storytelling experience, Nemes courts the dangers of fashioning a provocative vision of entertainment. Conversely in the same Cannes 2015 Roundtable, Jonathan Romney opens his review establishing the "Dead Man Walking" of Nemes’ troubling film conveys the Holocaust’s full horror by keeping it out of focus. More significant than their appraisal of the film, "Shoah" and "Last of the Unjust" documentarist Claude Lanzmann, famous for his disapproval of dramatic representations of the Holocaust on screen, and even well-meaning and educational entertainment's "Threat to the Incarnation of the Truth" surprised everyone by praising Neme's film, calling it the “anti–Schindler’s List”. Lanzmann specifically commended the film’s focus. Rather than presuming to evoke the Holocaust in broad strokes, Nemes concentrates on the experience of one man, a Hungarian Jew named Saul interned in an unspecified concentration camp. As a Sonderkommando, his work is a form of complicity pressed into the service of murder, that did not ensure its members’ survival: the Sonderkommando were destined to be rapidly killed in their turn. It is our vantage into this most untenable of horrors that sets Nemes' film apart from contemporary Holocaust drama, to quote from Jonathan Romney's Film Comment review; "Son of Saul is neither melodramatic nor mundanely centered on redemption, par excellence a theme devalued by cinema. Nemes’s film is, most immediately, about what we do and don’t see, what can and can’t be shown."

Claude Lanzmann himself resurfacing in 2013 with the release of his extended interviews with the last living Ältester of the Judenrat in his belated documentary, shot in the 1970s in Rome and not completed until present day about the divisive Holocaust survivor, Rabbi Benjamin Murmelstein. In this documentary Lanzmann has gifted the world a "Fascinating, Subtle Study in Survivor Non-Guilt" and "A Remarkable Companion to the Document of 'Shoah'". But rather than simply shaping the existing footage, Lanzmann returned to Theresienstadt and to Vienna, where the camera follows him into courtyards that once housed gallows and still-empty synagogues. This where the new film diverges dramatically it's predecessor; Lanzmann is as much a presence as Rabbi Murmelstein. "Last of the Unjust" watches as complex and discomfiting reflection on one man's role in the supposedly comfortable arrangement that was part of the pantomime of ostensible good faith after the Anschluss. The Nazis coerced leading Jews to be their administrative elders, or Ältester, a queasy use of Judeophobe-propagandist terminology, of which Murmelstein is the last surviving member. In response to interpretations of the documentary's objectives, Stephen Smith of the Shoah Foundation disputes the idea that Lanzmann is an apologist for Rabbi Murmelstein; “This was Lanzmann giving him a chance to clear his name, but one must not understate the complexity,” he said. “He’s good at discerning and getting to the bottom of the complexity of the Holocaust. It may not be desirable to everyone’s view, but I think it’s one we need to see and to grapple with."

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Alejandro Iñárritu's new film "The Revenant" at Sundance & SIFF Cinema: Jan 7 - Feb 18

The defining characteristic of Alejandro Iñárritu's most recent collaboration with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, is that the the two have produced a fully realized vision of the scale and splendor of frontier America, a land of endless riches and great danger. In doing so, "The Revenant Welcomes You to Paradise. Now Prepare to Fall". Choosing as their vehicle a grand experiment with genre, this time the Western fashioned as "The Revenant" into another advancement in the director's art of "Gut-Churningly Brutal, Beautiful Storytelling". It is this steadfast dedication to realism in his portrayal of human honor and duplicity "Set Against the Unsympathetic Magnitude of Nature" that makes Iñárritu's latest stand out from the pack. This almost spiritual concoction is comprised of the extraordinary visual vocabulary, refined through decades of, "Emmanuel Lubezki on Working with Iñárritu, Cuarón and Malick" and Iñárritu's commitment to being there in the inhuman expanse of the natural world. Expressed in the film’s hesitant regard for the grandeur of America's once great wilderness and it's skeptical consideration of the moral framing of the life of Frontiersman, Hugh Glass and his time as a pioneer explorer under the employ of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company. Their commercial and explorational forays into the Midwest were the paving of the way for the Homestead Act of 1862 and the 19th Century's Western Expansion. The driving Manifest Destiny of America's move west and the ethical fallout of resource and legislature enabled land acquisition are the contextual groundwork of Iñárritu's unflinching, enveloping drama, set against the unsympathetic magnitude of the cosmos.

To compliment the scale of "The Revenant"'s physical and psychological landscape, in choosing central elements from the Raster-Noton aesthetic, Iñárritu has designed both a challenging and correspondent companion in it's sound design. The film's depiction of "A Return From Death's Door" was mirrored both onscreen and off, as during it's production Ryuichi Sakamoto had just emerged from a extended hiatus from touring and performance, while battling cancer. In an interview for Rolling Stone upon his return to health Sakamoto "Detailed 'Gigantic' Score to The Revenant" revealing the collective soundtrack stands as more than a work by it's three central composers of Bryce Dessner and Alva Noto. The recordings they produced as featured in the film are instead a complex intermingling of their larger structures, as is described in FACT Magazine's "The Returned: Ryuichi Sakamoto & Alva Noto on Recovery, Oscars and David Bowie", NPR's "Alva Noto on Co-Scoring 'The Revenant'" and Create Digital Music's, "Sakamoto and Alva Noto again Create Electronics, Scoring Masterpiece". The duo's compositions interwoven into a larger sonic tapestry constituting the work of Raster-Noton label contemporaries, Vladislav Delay and Ryoji Ikeda, as well as excerpts from Seattle Symphony's recording of John Luther Adams' Pulitzer Prize winning "Become Ocean", Eliane Radigue's "Jetsun Milan" and Olivier Messiaen's "Oraison". With an additional, curious Northwest connection as Sakamoto's orchestrations were recorded here by an expanded chamber symphony including Hildur Guðnadóttir alongside members of the The Northwest Sinfonia and Chorale as well as what Alex Ross describes as the "Water Music of John Luther Adams’ 'Become Ocean'", upon it's premier with the Seattle Symphony in 2013.

Kent Jones' new documentary "Hitchcock/Truffaut" at Grand Illusion Cinema: Jan 29 - Feb 11 | Claire Denis' "Chocolat" & Philippe Garrel's "In the Shadow of Women" at Northwest Film Forum: Feb 12 - 14

Northwest Film Forum's annual Coeur Sans Coeur: French Films for Valentines Weekend this year brings Philippe Garrel's "In the Shadow of Women" and Claire Denis "Chocolat". Philippe Garrel's previous feature, "Jealousy" stood as a highlight of SIFF 2014 and topped Film Comment's 20 Best Undistributed Films of that year. Detailed in the wide-ranging, Philippe Garrel in Conversation for Mubi during his first North American visit in decades, Garrel is revealed to be literally a child of French cinema. His father was the actor Maurice Garrel, his second home was said to be at the Cinémathèque Française, he shot the first movie of his own at the age of 16 and he's known for having ridden through the streets of Paris with Godard shooting newsreels of Paris, May 1968. His career has established his intimate, handcrafted cinema as fundamentally close to the mechanics of silent film -- the unadorned beauty of faces, figures, hands, rooms and light -- and revisited the same deeply personal themes of loss, mourning, and revitalization of purpose through love. Another feature of his pedigree can be seen in the wonderfully sharp and vigorously cinematic the black and white filming by Willy Kurant, (the cinematographer for Godard's, "Masculin Feminin") who lends Garrel's subjects the expressive vitality and immediacy of a daily life lived.

Thematically variegated, from strange science and libido monstrosities run amok, to male camaraderie in the French Foreign Legion, to post-Colonial aftermath in both Africa and at home in modern day Paris, Claire Denis' filmography navigates the spaces between traditional narrative and more structurally adventurous cinema. At times not quite hitting the balance between these two forms, evident in 2005's "The Intruder", she more consistently fashions an interplay of these two gravitational pulls. Recent successes can be seen in 2008's near-masterpiece on class, race, urban life, light and motion that was "35 Shots of Rum" and 2014's pitch perfect neo-Noir, "Bastards". The latter bringing it's audience deep into the nightmare of one family's decomposition from the inside with it's contact with power, corruption and an immoral elite. In a sense all of her work can be seen as, "Family Films of a Very Different Sort". Another constant of her work, one that she shares with the best of her peers, (think David Lynch, Steve McQueen, Pen-Ek Ratanaruang) is the elliptical nature of it's narrative and visual structure. Looping back on itself, projecting ahead, fusing impression, experience and dream, these structural and thematic signatures are abundantly detailed in Nick Pinkerton's Claire Denis interview for Film Comment and Senses of Cinema's "Dancing Reveals So Much: An Interview with Claire Denis".

This month Grand Illusion Cinema features Kent Jones archive-plumbing, "Hitchcock/Truffaut" which watches not unlike a enthused installment of, "At the Movies With François and Hitch". In his interview for Film Comment Kent Jones examines the legendary interview between the two directors and the varied influence of "The Master of Suspense". The design of Jones' documentary essay pivots around what came to be known as “one of the most revealing and engrossing books on film art, technique and history ever put together”, upon it's English translation in 1967, which was born of a week of interviews conducted in 1962 at Universal Studios by the two directors along with translator, Helen G. Scott. In the French magazine Cahiers du Cinema in the 1950s, Truffaut had been one of the original proponents of the auteur theory, the notion that the director is the artist of a film. In "Solidarity of Cinema" for Roger Ebert, Kent Jones establishes that, “Truffaut wanted to correct the bias against Hitchcock in the United States, but then on the other hand, he was also trying to amend what he thought was the tendency toward abstraction in Cahiers criticism.” Truffaut was interested in larger issues like how artists managed to work within the studio system, and in specifics like film craft. In both the book and the documentary, the two directors amply discuss technique. Yet for a book so rich with shoptalk, “Hitchcock/Truffaut” has, for nearly half a century, also retained its reputation as a witty, breezy read, a canonical text for anyone interested in movies.

Elucidating the parallels of their cinema, The Grand Illusion will also be screening 35mm prints of two repertory works. Alfred Hitchcock's post-War espionage thriller starring Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman, "Notorious" marked a watershed for Hitchcock artistically, and represents a heightened thematic maturity, featuring what Roger Ebert called in his Great Movies; "some of the most effective cinematography in his—or anyone's—work". With an abundance of mirroring scenario, technical and stylistic gestures, François Truffaut's "Mississippi Mermaid" watches as a curious homage and observation on the Hitchcock-ian themes of misplaced identity, obsession and mirroring realities. An adaptation of "Waltz into Darkness" by Cornell Woolrich, Truffaut spins a haunting island Noir starring Catherine Deneuve and Jean-Paul Belmondo, framed by the post-Colonial setting of Réunion in the Indian Ocean. While not highly regarded upon it's release in 1969, it was still recognized as a compelling exploration of the director's "fascination with loneliness and love, which comprise, of course, a different kind of mystery". A new restoration screened as the opening film in 2012's touring The Film Lover: A François Truffaut Retrospective, inspiring Edward Guthmann's timely critical reassessment in the pages of the San Francisco Chronicle, "Truffaut's 'Mermaid' Merits Second Look".

Monday, February 1, 2016

Elevator presents Julia Holter at The Columbia City Theater: Feb 3 | Morton Feldman's "Rothko Chapel", Christian Wolff, John Cage & Earle Brown at Seattle Symphony: Feb 5

After the dry spell of the holiday season, live music finally returns to the Northwest! Seattle's progressive underground monthly, Elevator had a groundbreaking year in 2015 with acts like Lawrence English, Rene Hell and M.E.S.H. gracing their showcase at the Machine House Brewery and expanding into exhibition curation with last week's Corridor Festival. Hailed as a unanimous success for it's day-long meeting of audio-visual media, installation art, music and performance, "The Organizers of Corridor Festival Invite the City to Be Alone Together". The festival's programming featuring live electronic, electric and experimental sounds from, A Box in the Sea, Ahnnu, as_dfs, Beastnest, Black Hat, decimus, Djao, Limits, Raica, Ramzi, Rene Hell, Sarah Davachi, x/o and The Esoterics, a secondary room of installation work by national and regional names, Bristol Hayward-Hughes, Ceci Cor-Leo, Coldbrew Collective, Grey Ellis + Tara, Leena Joshi, Jinx’ 75, Annisa Amalia, and Robin Cullen intershot by dance performances from Northwest choreographers, Belle Wolf, Campbell Thibo, and Coleman Pester. The reach of Elevator's vision continues to expand in 2016, this week bringing in The Wire's 2013 album of the year artist Julia Holter. She'll be performing her lush interplay of jazz orchestrations, dissonant guitar and open-ended songform alongside the soaring vocalizations of Haley Fohr's Circuit Des Yeux at the Columbia City Theater.

The Seattle Symphony [untitled] Series continues in 2016, with two works inspired by the interrelationship between New Minimalism and the Abstract Expressionists and the late-1950s and early 1960s in which together they constituted a New York School that revolutionized each of their respective artforms. The hour-long program includes John Cage's "Living Room Music", Earle Brown's "Music for Cello and Piano", Christian Wolff’s "For Bob" which honors the famed painter Robert Rauschenberg and Morton Feldman’s piece inspired by and written to be performed in Rothko Chapel as a moving tribute to painter, friend and contemporary, Mark Rothko. A composition conceived to express the unity of, "Meditation and Modern Art that Meet in Rothko Chapel". Upon his arrival in 2011, Seattle Symphony's new conductor Ludovic Morlot initiated this late-night [untitled] Modern Composer chamber series which has brought contemporary back into symphony's lexicon, after almost a decade of being remiss in their performance of these modern works. To date Morlot has programmed a who's-who of 20th/21st Century Modernism including, "John Luther Adams Pulitzer Prize Winning 'Become Ocean'" which had it's premier and was recorded with the Seattle Symphony in 2013. Continuing his programming of modern works, this weekend sees the rendering of Luciano Berio's disorienting choral, "Symphonia", as well as the newest installment in the seasonal [untitled] program. Previous installments acting as showcases for the works of George Crumb, György Ligeti, Iannis Xenakis, John Cage, Terry Riley, Giacinto Scelsi, last year's performance of Karlheinz Stockhausen's groundbreaking electro-acoustic, "Gesang der Jünglinge" and the series' initiation with the realization of Olivier Messiaen's rarely performed, massive symphonic work, "Turangalîla".