Sunday, November 25, 2018

Alfonso Cuaron's "Roma" at Seattle Cinerama: Dec 6 - 19 | Lee Chang-dong's “Burning” at Northwest Film Forum: Dec 7 - 14 | Ali Abbasi's "Border", Yorgos Lanthimos' “The Favorite” & Hirokazu Kore-eda's “Shoplifters” at SIFF Cinema: Nov 23 - 29 & Dec 7 - 27

The fruits of this past summer's Cannes and Venice festivals are beginning to arrive in domestic theaters. The prestigious festival on the French Riviera was accounted for as having the strongest offerings seen in decades. This was represented by the extensive and enthusiastic coverage to be found in the pages of the The New York Times, The Guardian, and roundups from Film Comment and The British Film Institute's Sight & Sound. Venice also had a notable year, with new films by Alfonso Cuaron, Joel and Ethan Coen, Mike Leigh, Luca Guadagninos, Paul Greengrass, Jacques Audiard, Brady Corbet, Julian Schnabel, and the historic premier of a recently completed late film from the legendary American director, "'The Other Side of the Wind': Lost Orson Welles Epic is A Hurricane of Anger and Wit". Questions of inclusion and representation have been dominant in recent years in relation to festival programming and the awards process. One of the most high profile approaches to these concerns was seen in Cannes' Cate Blanchett-led jury, which included a cross race, culture, and gender assembly of notable actors, directors and artists. With such names as Chang Chen, Léa Seydoux, Kristen Stewart, Khadja Nin, Denis Villeneuve, Andrey Zvyagintsev, Ava DuVernay, and Robert Guédiguia, among their numbers. The jury's realization of Cannes mission to represent quality work, regardless of it's origin was elucidated by its president, "Cate Blanchett States that Change Will Come to Cannes, but Not Overnight". With the awards given, further elaborating on the question of representation was made, "Jury Head Cate Blanchett on Gender, Race and Choosing the ‘Right’ Palme D’Or".

Which brings us to the bestowing of Cannes' most prestigious award on Hirokazu Kore-eda's class conscious urban tale of "A Family That Steals Together, Stays Together". It was this most recent in a decades-spanning line of contemporary familial dramas that the Japanese director took home hist first Palme d'Or for "Shoplifters". While closely adhering to the form and content of the larger body of the director's filmmography, spanning his first breakout feature to this most recent, this "Unfancied Japanese Film Took the Palme d'Or", with Blanchett adding at the awards ceremony; “The ending blew us out of the cinema”. From the Italian festival on the Adriatic, Alfonso Cuaron's best director winning, "Roma" stood out as the director's revisiting of his own Central American of decades past. In "Alfonso Cuarón's Return to Venice with a Heart-Rending Triumph", the academy award winning director has made an exquisite study of class and domestic crisis in 1970s Mexico City. In "Alfonso Cuarón’s Masterpiece of Memory", the director uses one hosehold, and the location the the street where they reside as the point of vantage onto an expansive, emotional portrait of life buffeted by violent forces and change. Working on a scale often reserved for war stories and historic period dramas, yet with the sensibility of a personal diarist, "Cuarón’s 'Roma' Surrounds us with the Mexico City of His Youth". As seen in a recent string of releases funded by the platforms of Amazon and Netflix, for all the film's lauded quality, it will be receiving the shortest of theatrical runs at Seattle's Cinerama. Also arriving from Cannes, "Border" is a naturalistically fantastic second film from director Ali Abbasi, based on the short story from "Let the Right One In" author John Ajvide Lindqvist. Like Lindqvist's dark adolescent coming of age vampire story, Abbasi's film spends much of it's time teasingly parcelling out the romantic inclinations, and consequences therein, of the meeting of two mythological outcasts. Only in its closing chapter revealing the true nature of their world and it's consequences in the modern age of man.

Having built a filmography on outrageous premises, a self-conscious deadpan style, and actors skilled in a explicitly cryptic form of straight-faced absurdity, it seemed almost inevitable that Yorgos Lanthimos would work his way to period drama. He arrives fully formed in the genre with “The Favorite”. The newest in a filmography of "Polarizing Visions" from the Greek director, this is a venomous and often hilarious exercise, made that much more disorienting by the distended, off-kilter wide angle cinematography of Robbie Ryan. While, "Olivia Colman is Priceless in Yorgos Lanthimos Punk Historic Romp", it is the conflict between Emma Stone's Abigail Masham and Rachel Weisz' Sarah Churchill on which the film hinges. Weisz plays the Queen Anne's court favorite and intimate, Lady Sarah The Dutchess of Marlborough, deploying every sly and subversive trick to keep the monarch codependent and receptive to the raising of taxes for the ongoing French War. A rivalry arises between the two women of historic proportions with the arrival and influence of Marlborough's cousin, and it is in this that Lanthimos finds his most fertile and scabrous material. Upping his technical form and content, Lee Chang-dong's "Burning" is a sensuously shot and musically scored mystery, taken from a Haruki Murakami short story centering around the (sometimes hallucinatory) fixations of an obsessive love. Where it differs is that its psychological drama is set in the cultural fallout of modern consumerist Korea, with bold diversions into the pastoral and surreal, this visually gripping observation on, "Male Rage Blazes a Chilling Trail on the Korean Border". While desire, both physically ravenous and more romantically sinuous, is the defining theme of Chang-dong's film, it can't be said that "Love Ignites a Divided World". "Burning" foregrounds the uneasy violence that is seen glimpsed through the Murakami, leaving it's central mystery untouched while filling in the larger picture with the fine details of it's protagonists interpersonal and sexual relations, and the class divisions that separate them.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Daughters "You Won't Get What You Want" Tour: Nov 4 - 18 | Uniform "The Long Walk" Tour with The Body and Author & Punisher: Nov 8 - Dec 5

The months of November and December arrive, and with them, the most culturally desolate stretch of the year. Thankfully, Seattle's paramount metal, hardcore and punk venue, The Highline have kept their calendar vital through the holiday season. Even with the eminent consequence of their host building's purchase by a Seattle "lifestyle brand", the venue continues their strong programming into the new year. The second week of November sees a night of post-harcore band Daughters perform their jagged, dynamic take on metal, industrial, and postpunk informed rock. Returning after a 8 year hiatus between albums, they're back with a heavier hitting and more genre elusive collection of tracks that propel them into the hybrid rock contenders of the year. A blistering live show, scaling heights of dynamic power and propulsive hard hitting industrial rhythms is almost guaranteed. If their "You Won't Get What You Want" on their new home of Mike Patton's Ipecac label is any indication, this is likely to be a memorable night for all those into the vituperative, abusive frisson of the heaviest nature. The following month sees the venue host showcases of artists from the always quality 20 Buck Spin, Flenser, Relapse, and Profound Lore labels. These two respective nights spanning post-harcore, black metal, sludge and doom from Fister, Ulthar, Hissing, Heiress, and Ilsa, are a welcome injection of music on the edge, in an otherwise uneventful season. Some of these same bands returning from their last occasion here in during this past summer's notable assembly of progressive black metal, doom and hardcore for the week of Northwest Terror Fest. The festival showcasing sounds from the heavier end of the 21st Century rock and noise music, particularly those heard issuing from the mutating offshoots of black metal. The global expansiveness of this sound and scene is probably best detailed in Brad Sanders' overview for The Quietus, "Untrue And International: Living in a Post-Black Metal World". These multitudinous offshoots encompassing everything from the tangents of psychedelic rock, atmospheres lifted from shoegaze, industrial drumming, electronic textures, and pure experimental noise.

The latter is the case the first week of December, when Chop Suey hosts an equally heavy-hitting night on the razor sharp brink of harcore, postpunk, noise and industrial. Epitomizing the sound of the label Sacred Bones, and their diverse roster of artists spanning indie rock, noise, electronic, neo-folk, and industrial, Uniform return on tour with this year's, "The Long Walk". The furious soundscape of their third album (outside of a set of collaborations with The Body), runs the gamut of a dissonant molasses crawl, passages of substantial lurching weight, and bludgeoning epileptic hysteria. Fitting then that The Quietus' "Killing It In America: An Interview With Uniform", touches on the American genre author, and that this spastic, guttural album is inspired by a dystopic, authoritarian short story by Stephen King. While the New York trio represent for an aspect of the sounds issuing from their Brooklyn based label, founders Caleb Braaten and Taylor Brode of Sacred Bones told their complete story for Red Bull Music Academy this past year. On the eve of Sacred Bones' 10th Anniverary showcase for the New York event, the label's programmers run the gamut of their roster, encompassing; Pharmakon, Zola Jesus, Jenny Hval, The Soft Moon, Marissa Nadler, Föllakzoid, Jim Jarmusch's SQÜRL and collaborations with Jozef Van Wissem, Moon Duo, Blanck Mass, and the music of American cinema mavericks, John Carpenter and David Lynch. As an entrance into their substantive discography, there is probably no better point of access than Billboard's, "Sacred Bones Turns 10: Caleb Braaten Breaks Down Five Key Releases from Zola Jesus, John Carpenter, and More".

Outside of shared label mates Liturgy, there are few acts that fully embody the term experimental metal, quite to the extent of The Body. Through a small abundance of solo and collaborative albums both with Uniform, and blistering noise-thrash of Full of Hell, and their recent "Ascending A Mountain Of Heavy Light", The Body have carved out a corpus of sounds at the vanguard of the genre's evolution. The Quietus' "Prepare For The Worst: Facing The Apocalypse With The Body" describes the doom-full trajectory that has led to this year's, "I Have Fought Against It, But I Can’t Any Longer". Even further out on the precipice of genre inspecificity, mechanical engineer and artist Tristan Shone's project under the name Author & Punisher, utilizes primarily custom fabricated machines, midi controlling devices and custom monitor speakers to manifest an explicitly 21st century industrial noise. Recently signed to Relapse, Noisey parallels his "Beastland" as an act of "Creating Metal in His Own Twisted Image". In performance, Shone's interaction with the devices draw heavily on aspects of industrial automation, robotics, mechanical tools and human interface, "focusing on the eroticism of the interaction with machine". The constructs and his engagement with their mechanical forms find points of reference in the work of early industrial culture mavens, Survival Research Laboratories. As well as drawing inspiration from the Dystopian Modernity that describes J.G. Ballard's work, and its occupations with "eros, thanatos, mass media and emergent technologies", particularly in relation to how "J.G. Ballard Foresaw Our Strange Present".

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Clan of Xymox "Days of Black" West Coast Tour: Oct 31 - Nov 14 | Claudio Simonetti's Goblin perform "Suspiria" Tour: Oct 28 - Nov 25

The month of November sees a set of influential underground bands on tour across the US, spanning the genres of theatrical progressive rock and gothic wave. Perfect musical accompaniment for the season, yet both of these bands are now in formations and touring as fragmented, disunited iterations of the groups they once were. Of the duo, Goblin are the farthest removed from their inception, being that the band was initially formed in 1972 and saw their successful period span the late 1970s to earliest 80s. Their status as one of the more peculiar of all the progressive rock bands of their decade, came with their rise to greater prominence within Giallo circles in the late 70s with a string of scores to Dario Argento's now classic "Profondo Rosso", "Tenebrae", and "Suspiria". The Italian progressive rock legends made a number of stateside appearances since their reactivation in 2005, and have intermittently toured in fragmented and recombinant lineups in the following decade. Of these iterations, the lineup containing three of the original members, excluding keyboardist Claudio Simonetti, were on tour throughout the fall of last year. The timing of which coincided with the discovery of a uncut print of "Suspiria", which was subsequently restored and screened in a repertory theatrical run. Returning to the United States this month, Simonetti leads a set of musicians from his Daemonia band as his possessively named Claudio Simonetti's Goblin. In the wake of Luca Guadagnino's contemporary remake of the Dario Argento classic, their touring performance of "Suspiria"'s score began at Baltimore's Days of Darkness festival, with west coast dates to follow, including Seattle's El Corazon.

Also returning in a second iteration, the seminal Dutch minimal synth wave group Xymox, which formed as a project of Ronny Moorings and Anka Wolbert in Nijmegen Netherlands in 1981, are back via an equally circuitous path of reformation and fragmentation. As a duo they produced a single self released mini-album, "Subsequent Pleasures" following a move to Amsterdam in 1983. Having secured a performance in Paris in the wake of the mini album's positive reception, the lineup enlisted keyboardist and vocalist Pieter Nooten, and second touring guitarist Frank Weyzig. In the following year, this central trio of Moorings, Wolbert and Nooten would become Clan of Xymox for their signing to Ivo Watts-Russell's influential British postpunk label, 4AD. After a chance meeting with Brendan Perry of Dead Can Dance at a concert in Nijmegen, the British duo brough Xymox on as their support for a tour of the United Kingdom. The resulting attention produced a commission for a demo by Watts-Russell, and subsequent signing to their shared label, which released Clan of Xymox eponymous album in 1985. Working from the demos, the label's inhouse production team of Watts-Russell and Turner looked to accentuate the unique topography of their sound, positioned between the gothic guitar pop of The Cure, and the synth-driven electronic dance wave of New Order. Refined by Watts-Russell, Jon Turner, and John Fryer's guidance at Blackwing Studios, the sui generis qualities of their sound can be heard across the eight tracks of "Clan of Xymox". Distinguished amidst the abundance of wave, postpunk and gothic at the time by it's complex meeting of acoustic, electric and electronic arrangements, naive sometimes broken English, and a stylistic assertion of the member's bohemian European origins. Their sound was unambiguous to the extent that Wolbert's "Seventh Time" was picked up by the greatest of the underground British radio tastemakers of the time, John Peel.

This led to the band recording two Peel Sessions at the BBC, and a greater focus of resources and time given by their parent label for the sophomore album, "Medusa". An elegant, haunting album of instrumental passages, propulsive synth wave songs, and gothic rock crescendos, "Medusa" would prove to be the apogee of the music Clan of Xymox would produce as a trio. On the following tours across Europe and a first in the United States, inner tensions as to the music's focus and Nooten and Wolbert's respective roles began to force its central trio in opposing directions. This culminated in Xymox leaving 4AD, following a signing to Polydor and the release of 1989's more expressly synthpop influenced "Twist of Shadows", which saw Wolbert and Nooten's contribution increasingly marginalized. From this point forward, Xymox and it's later reformatting as Clan of Xymox, would solely be the project of Ronny Moorings. He has since found new listeners in a second generation of gothic and post-wave audiences across Europe, and massive success at gothic culture events like Wave-Gotik-Treffen festival in his current home of Leipzig, Germany. Signing to domestic gothic label Metropolis, this second iteration of Clan of Xymox has made a number of returns to North America since their formation, with significantly greater frequency than the original trio. Making this year's tour following the release of their "Days of Black" album, an occasion for those who missed such opportunities three decades past.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Luca Guadagnino's "Suspiria" at SIFF Cinema: Oct 26 - Nov 29

Following directly on the heels of the monthlong seasonal programming at The Grand Illusion Cinema and Northwest Film Forum, Luca Guadagnino's adaptation of Dario Argento and Daria Nicolodi's "Suspiria" arrives in theaters. Partially inspired by Thomas De Quincey's psychological fantasy, "Sighs from the Depths", the Argento original is assertively of it's era, born from the period of Giallo Cinema spanning the mid-1960s to early 80s. Just last year, The Chicago Cinema Society and their discovery of a uncut 35mm print of Argento’s “Suspiria” that had sat in a storage room of a derelict theater since it was last screened in 1978, produced the material from which a new restoration was cut and released, thanks to Synapse Films. Concurrent with the screening of this new restoration, the Northwest Film Forum also programmed a finely-tuned monthlong series of "The Italian Masters of Shock and Gore", with a selection of Yellow Cinema gems, aptly titled, "Terrore Giallo!". An essential component to the genre are its soundtracks, and of these, few are as uniquely wed to their films as the work of Goblin and Dario Argento. A newfound fascination for the memorable scores created for much Giallo has been fueled by the burgeoning reissue revival. Mining decades of subterranean soundtracks, musique concrete, neofolk, jazz and experimental work that have adorned much of the 20th Century's cult cinema. These rich veins continue to be unearthed by reissue institutions like, Death Waltz, Mondo, and WaxWork, in new editions often corresponding with restorations of their source films issued on quality archival imprints like Arrow Films, Scream Factory, and Powerhouse Films Indicator series.

It is in it's fetishistic eye for texture, surfaces, sounds, form, bodies, buildings, and elemental forces that Luca Guadagnino's adaptation is most similar to the Giallo original. It is maybe more fair to not refer to it as a remake, as it commonly has been, as Guadagnino's film is more concretely set in the waking world, than in the oneric, phantasmagorical theater of the Argento. What little it shares with the original film is in themes assimilated from both "Suspiria", and it's follow-up, 1980's "Inferno", and an aesthete's obsessive fixation on the sensory. Anyone familiar with the director's breakout queer period romance of 2017, "Call Me By Your Name", can attest to his artistry and the sumptuous, corporeal, physical attributes of, "Luca Guadagnino's Cinema of Desire". Among the array of sensory craft on display in the film, it's soundtrack offers a almost baroque reinforcement of the Italian coastline's rapturous beauty. This same locus of attentions and resources are dedicated manifesting form and detail from the subconscious depths Argento and Nicolodi's macabre, psychedelic dream-world. This is both apparent in the film's sound design as well as the prominent role Radiohead's Thom Yorke is given in his score for the film. An audiovisual banquet, it also watches as a showcase for the cinematography of Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, known for his award winning collaborations with Thai arthouse auteur, Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Yet, like the mildly feverish fantasia of "A Boy’s Own Desire in ‘Call Me by Your Name’", passions of mind and heart bear influence over the following tumult, sorcery, and inner and outer conflicts of "Suspiria". By setting his adaptation in a concretely placed sociopolitical setting, and a witchily uncanny eye for references within modern dance, Guadagnino's film offers a very different, and deeply melancholic, point of entry into the nightmare of The Three Mothers.