Sunday, March 20, 2022

Apichatpong Weerasethakul's "Memoria" at SIFF Cinema: Apr 1 - 10 & Northwest Film Forum: Apr 20 - 24

This past January's issue of the New Yorker presented a feature article on “The Metaphysical World of Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Movies” and their collective somnambulistic cinematic wanderings through the urban centers, outlying rural expanses, and deep jungles that define the Thai landscape. Lingering specters of Thailand's military past haunt the peripheral of the urban and rural lives of its protagonists, often in contrast to cultural vibrancy and spiritualism of the natural splendor that surrounds them. Giving insights into the otherworldly from the experience of the everyday, these hintingly metaphysical films describe the life of the Thai people as they are, as they once were, and in the more abstract passages, suggesting how they could be, both in the world of the waking and dreaming. The heightened sensuality of his tonal palette defines the whole of what Senses of Cinema in their Great Directors section calls the, "Transnational Poet of the New Thai Cinema". As well as a personal connection with a shared history, both on screen and in life, his filmmography is detailed in Cinema-Scope's "Ghost in the Machine: Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Letter to Cinema" on the subject of his Cannes Palme d'Or winning "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives". A director who's whole body of work deals in mystic parables couched within modern life, Apichatpong Weerasethakul's final film in his native Thailand, "Cemetery of Splendor" may lack wandering animal spirits in the night of the jungle, but it's mixing of the political, historic and the spiritual is told through a literally dreamy central metaphor, "A Shared Memory: Apichatpong Weerasethakul on Cemetery of Splendor".

In numerous interviews for Mubi, Film Comment and Senses of Cinema, the director has spoken of the difficulties of continuing to make his cinema in the escalating atmosphere of political tension and censorship following the 2014 coup d'état. Shot in his home village of Khon Kaen and redolent with locations and memories from childhood, his meditation on war, death and social bonds in rural life has become, "A Homeland Swansong: Apichatpong Weerasethakul on Cemetery of Splendor". Thai critic Kong Rithdee describes the effect of this undertow in his insider perspective for Cinema-Scope, teasing out the “friction between tranquility and anxiety, between bliss and pain”, the political from the mythic, metaphoric from the metaphysical that characterizes Apichatpong Weerasethakul's oeuvre. The long-awaited latest from the Thai filmmaker, premiering in 2021 as part of "Cannes Makes Up for Lost Time with a Thrilling Auteur-Packed Lineup", and presented in competition for the first time since his 2010 Palme d'Or winner, stars Tilda Swinton in an elusive and enchanting multi-lingual mystery set in Colombia. Continuing a concern central to the whole of his body of work, "Keeping It Mysterious: A Conversation with Apichatpong Weerasethakul", and possibly the director's first film to fulfill a long-expressed desire to explore his own take on the broad territory that comprises contemporary science fiction. Among the numerous mysteries which its protagonist obliquely explores, is "‘Memoria’: In Search of Lost Time", as "Tilda Swinton Works Her Magic in Enigmatic Fantasy". Justin Chang's review for The Los Angeles Times is not hesitant in establishing that “Memoria” casts a spell like nothing else seen from Cannes this year". It tells a story focused through the slow graceful magic of the director's vocabulary around Swinton's Scottish botanist who finds herself in Bogotá, confounded by a series of auditory encounters from an unknown source. "Memoria" follows here as she attempts to riddle out their nature and origin, as the journey becomes more unusual and melancholic, it eventually delivers her into an abstract realm of painful secrets and ancient histories. Essential to the audience experience of this journey is the sensory component, and the film's distributor “Neon Will Keep ‘Memoria’ in Theaters Forever as Film Will Never Get a Streaming or Physical Release". Seattle is fortunate in that regard, as we will have two opportunities to become immersed in the liquid flow of film's mystery, at SIFF Cinema the first week of April, and later in month again, at Northwest Film Forum.

Sunday, March 6, 2022

Seattle Independent Music Venue Reopenings Part II: Mar 3 - Apr 24

After a year and a half of navigating the complexities of the pandemic restrictions and closures, in-person programming largely returned in August and September to many of the regional arts venues. Early fall saw the first major steps towards reopening after nearly eighteen months of closure for the regional independent music venues, and Seattle's independent cinemas. In many cases, their future remained uncertain until as recently as February 2021 when the federal stimulus bill was approved and the funding for arts and culture that came with it. Relief funding became available with the benefits of the Save Our Stages Act finally beginning to arrive, alongside the newly implemented Shuttered Venues Grant. The benefits of the various pandemic relief bills, alongside regional infrastructure like the 4Culture Relief Fund, awareness efforts like the Washington Nightlife Music Association, crowdfunding and philanthropy like the ArtistRelief, ArtsFund grant, and GiveBig Washington have come in the 11th hour for many of these venues and institutions. This spring sees what is akin to a second wave of programming, after the setbacks of this past winter and plateauing vaccination rates alongside widespread pandemic variants causing many tours to be postponed or cancelled outright.

March and April particularly herald the arrival of larger national and international acts, seemingly picking up where programming left off this past fall, beginning with the sludge and progressive metal of Sumac at Substation. This same first week of March also sees the Canadian collective around Godspeed! You Black Emperor bring their particular brand of orchestral noiserock to The Showbox. The newly opened and expanded theater setting of The Crocodile will host more indie rock and post-black metal and hardcore with Midwife and Deafheaven. The week before, the venue also presents what will bound to be the surreal juxtaposition of French baroque breakcore combo Igorrr alongside the punk oriented noiserock of Japan's Melt Banana. The end of March sees Nick Cave and Warren Ellis making good on their "Carnage" tour at The Paramount, African keyboardist and electro-soul artist Ata Kak appears at the recently reopened The Sunset Tavern, the long-delayed Lightning Bolt show takes place at Vera Project, and synth-pop and new wave legend Gary Numan's postponed tour of last year will finally arrives at The Neptune. April begins with the American Contemporary Music Ensemble performing the compositions of Jóhann Jóhannsson at The Moore Theatre, and Seattle Symphony's presentation of Gustav Mahler's massive 6th Symphony, the institution rebounding from a series of setbacks at the beginning of the year with a 2022 calendar that promises classics and innovation in equal measure. Returning two years since the final pre-pandemic show of March 2020 at Columbia City Theater, Fennesz will this time be hosted in the intimate setting of the Ballard Homestead. After editions in New York, Chicago and Portland, the Ambient Church series will be bringing Kranky recording artist Chihei Hatakeyama to Seattle for its own edition at the First Baptist Church. Guides to the expanse between neo-soul and spacerock don't get more capable than Spiritualized who return to The Neptune the first week of April, and the Shabaka Hutchings-led Sons of Kemet are back at Neumos after two rather legendary hardbop free-jazz shows in 2018 and 2019 at sister venue Barboza. Barboza will be hosting neo-folk and psychedelic drone artist Ben Chasny and his Six Organs of Admittance project, and the following night at The Crocodile, postpunk electro act Boy Harsher will be playing with PAN recordings artist Hiro Kone. Much later in the year, The Paramount will play home to a night of the ritualistic pagan folk of Heilung. Legendary industrial rock band Ministry will be taking to the stage at The Showbox alongside stoner rock behemoths Melvins and metal stalwarts Corrosion of Conformity. A different variation of heavy will be heard at the Showbox the following night with Gloasgow's post-rock goliaths Mogwai. Shoegaze and noiserock round out the month with Ringo Deathstarr at The Sunset Tavern, and Japan's Mono return to their ceaseless world touring, playing from their two albums released over the course of the pandemic with a show at Neumos.

Thursday, March 3, 2022

Five Films by John Carpenter at The Grand Illusion Cinema: Mar 18 - Apr 5

Few overviews of the decade are so precisely informed in their hierarchical representation of 1980s film as the June 2018 issue of Sight & Sound and their "The Other Side of 80s America" cover feature, focused on the parallel facade of North America cinema. Concurrent with the pop culture revelry of Reaganite family-oriented dramas, action, teen movies, and sci-fi blockbusters, a more rebellious and independent strain of US movie making scratched at the darkness on the edge of mainstream society. Anne Billson's supporting article "A Nightmare on Main Street" plumbs the deeper realms of the decade's more assertively subversive low-to-medium budget genre fare, these often exuberantly “unburdened by notions of good taste". Behind the facade of 80s corporate cinema, upstart movies like Brian Yuzna’s "Society", James M. Muro’s "Street Trash", Abel Ferrara's "Ms. 45", Jack Sholder's "The Hidden", William Lustig's "Maniac Cop", Sam Raimi's "The Evil Dead", David Cronenber's "Scanners", Steve De Jarnatt's "Miracle Mile", and Larry Cohen, in films such as "Q: The Winged Serpent" and "The Stuff", were making horror, sci-fi, and fantasy movies that exposed the toxic underbelly of Reaganomics America. Yet none did so more explicitly than John Carpenter's "They Live". Indeed, no true overview of horror and genre film of the decade would be complete without the work of Carpenter. So influential is his work that in 2019 he was awarded the Carrosse d’Or Award at Cannes Directors’ Fortnight, and in a rare move for genre film, he is represented by an entry in Senses of Cinema's Great Directors series.

Following the success of one of the earliest entries in the American slasher genre with "Halloween", and before the career defining "Escape from New York", John Carpenter's run of influential 80s genre films are generally seen to begin with 1980’s "The Fog". While visiting Stonehenge during the UK promotion of "Assault on Precinct 13", Carpenter was inspired to make a ghostly revenge film drawing equally from the horror comics of the 1950s by publishers like EC, and their notorious "Tales from the Crypt", as well as a 1958 British creature thriller titled, "The Trollenberg Terror". Arguably, this stretch of films would last a decade, until such mid-1990s entries as "In The Mouth of Madness", and his remake of "Village of the Damned" the 1960s film of the same name based on John Wyndham's novel, "The Midwich Cuckoos". The Grand Illusion Cinema's three week series highlights the diversity of vision and style to be found within this ten year period of film from the director and composer. Cumulatively, they are a showcase of the inventive visual and auditory language he would distinguish as his own, much of which came to define the decade as a whole even outside the parameters of genre cinema. Beginning auspiciously with his directorial debut as a collaboration with University of Southern California cohort, Dan O'Bannon, who would act as editor, production designer, and visual effects supervisor on their existential space colonization satire, "Dark Star". This all some time before O'Bannon was enlisted as visual effects supervisor for Alejandro Jodorowsky's ill-fated adaptation of "Dune", and his later career defining work on Ridley Scott's "Alien" and Tobe Hooper's "Lifeforce". Carpenter's rulebook for style were effectively written in 1980, and 1981, with the aforementioned "The Fog", and "Escape from New York" respectively. These both directly proceeding what is considered the director's masterpiece, his 1982 remake of "The Thing from Another World", based on John W. Campbell Jr's story, "Who Goes There?". On the cusp of the following decade, 1988's "They Live" would exploit the paranoia of the Regan era like no other film of it's time, and his "Prince of Darkness" from the year before stands as one of the finer entries in the then-popular Book of Revelation, antichrist horror subgenre. While Carpenter's 1990's work may not ascend into the realm of the complete and wholly original film language found in the films that precede it, there is still much to recommend his adaptation of "Village of the Damned". Particularly when considered in contrast to the less-than-notable horror remakes Hollywood mass produced throughout the ensuing decade.