Sunday, July 10, 2022

Claire Denis' "Both Sides of the Blade” at SIFF Cinema: Jul 15 - 21



Broadly thematically varied, from explorations of masculine camaraderie, observations on the post-Colonial landscape of both Africa and Paris, to sharp-edged gender relations, neo-noir thrillers, and bizarre science run amok, Claire Denis' filmography navigates the spaces between traditional narrative and more structurally adventurous cinema. Her films have consistently fashioned an interplay of the gravitational pulls inherent in each of these corresponding genres. Denis is herself a complex and irreducible intellect, as made clear in recent interviews on both gender representation in Cannes, and the wider field of women artists, "Claire Denis: ‘I Couldn’t Care Less About the Weinstein Affair'", and for the Irish Times, "‘We are Normal People. Even Though We are French’". Recent representations of her craft can be seen in 2008's masterpiece on class, race and urban life, conveyed through light and motion that was "35 Shots of Rum", and 2014's ominous neo-noir crime thriller, "Bastards". The latter bringing its audience deep into the nightmare of one family's decomposition from the inside with their brush with power, corruption and an immoral French 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, Apichatpong Weeraseathakul) 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". More recently, in her crowning point from Cannes 2017, she delivered a subtly pointed observation on contemporary French life in, "Let the Sunshine In". This elegant, eccentric relationship comedy of ideas on middle age, expressed itself with an almost inscrutable sophistication, "Un Beau Soleil Interieur: Juliette Binoche Excels". Taking a typically dynamic about-turn, Denis then produced her first explicitly science fiction work to-date with "High Life" featuring a much larger production, special effects, lead stars in Binoche and Robbert Pattinson, and a screenplay by Nick Laird and Zadie Smith, the following year.

In her observation on the diminishing of content in the modern era that might traverse such complex and charged territory, Catherine Shoard selects “The Fearless Cinema of Claire Denis” as the antithesis to these trends. Expressly the depiction of sex, sexual power and psychology in the director’s newest, "Claire Denis on High Life, Robert Pattinson, and Putting Juliette Binoche in a “F*ckbox”. The film’s sexual and corporeal focus on a unflinching exploration of "The Fleshy Frontier", and past traditions in related is cinema are considered in John Semley's piece for The Baffler. These multifaceted bodily, sexual, and psychological tensions also succinctly delineated in Charles Bramesco’s review, “High Life: Orgasmic Brilliance in Deepest Space with Robert Pattinson”. Which brings us to her two current films of this year and last. Born of the much-delayed adaptation of Denis Johnson's "Stars at Noon", and the numerous complexities of the film's long gestation, including its star Robert Pattinson having to leave the project over schedule conflicts, "Stars at Noon" finally arrived at Cannes of this year where it was awarded the Grand Prix. This "Languid Tale of Sex, Lies and Intrigue in the Nicaraguan Heat", is in many ways a compelling companion for "Both Sides of the Blade". This earlier film is a much more intimate production with a smaller cast and setting, all of which made necessary by the pandemic. In the interim of the year between films, born of conversations between Denis and its lead actor Vincent Lindon, they produced an subtly radical film within the traditional parameters of the bourgeois marital drama. Its premiere at the Berlinale contributed to a wider theme of, "Women Dominate Berlin Film Festival Awards as 'Alcarràs' wins Golden Bear", wherein it was said that "Berlinale 2022: Life is Beautiful". Discussing "Film Comment Interview: Claire Denis on Fire", the director touches on the simplicity and intimacy of its production, and her utilizing the year of the pandemic to create a film with Vincent Lindon and Juliette Binoche, and a small crew, crafting in the end, "Claire Denis’ Many-Faced Love Story".

Monday, July 4, 2022

Seattle Art Fair at Lumen Field Event Center: Jul 21 - 24


With the passing of Paul Allen in 2018, the future of Allen's founding of numerous cultural and arts institutions, and significant philanthropic contribution to the city, were all made less certain. By 2020, it was made clear that Vulcan would no longer be investing in their cultural branch, with the explicit message sent by the shuttering of their arts and entertainment division, and the layoff of all related staff. This would of course translate as "Vulcan Closes its Arts + Entertainment Division, which Includes Cinerama and Seattle Art Fair". Producing a cascade of concerns related to arts funding and the venues under Vulcan's purview. Most significantly, the Seattle Cinerama, one of only three movie theaters in the world still capable of showing three-panel Cinerama films, and project 70mm celluloid, which to-date remains in limbo. The Seattle Times editorial of last year called for an investment intervention, "Seattle Needs a Hero to Save Beloved Cinerama". Seattle Art Fair has weathered the shuttering of Vulcan Arts more evenly, as a co-producer of Seattle Art Fair since its beginning, Art Market Productions announced in 2021 that they would continue as sole owner and producer. In advance of the Seattle Art Fair's inaugural success in 2015, there was abundant speculation as to the nature of the exhibit local philanthropist Paul Allen and the organization he had assembled with Max Fishko of Art Market Productions, would be bringing to the city. At the time there was little that offered insight beyond the press release, which made it out to be half-commercial gallery, half-curated exhibition, featuring some 60 galleries representing local to international dealers with an emphasis on the Pacific Rim.

The majority of the dialog focused on the fair's relation to the art market, with Brian Boucher's "Why Are Gagosian, Pace, and Zwirner Signing On for the Seattle Art Fair?" and The Observer's "Paul Kasmin and Pace Gallery Join the Inaugural Seattle Art Fair" leading the discussion. With later pieces like Seattle Times "High Art Meets Deep Pockets at Seattle Art Fair", as well as the New York Times recap, "Seattle Art Fair Receives a Boost From Tech’s Big Spenders", and ArtNews "Why the Seattle Art Fair Is Important for the Art World", positioning the event in relationship to the moneyed local tech industry. All of which were little more than discussions of the art market and the inclusion of some of the gallery world's international power players. For insight into the curatorial direction and work to be featured, one had to rely on regional media in which there was no small supply of skepticism expressed concerning the fair being another of Paul Allen's pet cultural projects, both for the good and the bad. The extent of the fair's scope became apparent opening weekend with favorable coverage in both the New York Times and Artforum. The exhibitions and galleries drawn from Asia were among the three day event's greater successes. In addition to the participating galleries Kaikai Kiki and Koki Arts from Tokyo, along with Gana Art of Seoul and Osage Gallery from Hong Kong, the "Thinking Currents" wing curated by Leeza Ahmady, director of Asia Contemporary Art Week produced a premier exhibition of video, film and sound work exploring themes related to the cultural, political, and geographical parameters of the Pacific Rim. With Kaikia KiKi head, Takashi Murakami returning for the fair's second installment, programming his own satellite exhibition "Juxtapoz x SuperFlat", for Pivot Art + Culture.

As covered by Trinie Dalton in, "Pacific Objects", for Artforum, "Seattle Art Fair and Out of Sight made a Return" on the occasion of the fair's second year. Continuing the trend of atypical and non-traditional gallery works, the fourth annual Art Fair presented Mark Pauline the founder of Survival Research Laboratories, joining influential science fiction author Bruce Sterling in conversation. The author and the outsider artist, technologist and robotics specialist have intersected on previous occasions, notably 20 years prior in the pages of Wired, for "Is Phoenix Burning?". The cultural and economic landscape that Pauline operates in now is quite different than that of the early 1980s, presenting a new set of challenges to his performative art. So there's logic at work in that Pauline would now align himself with gallery culture, and the contextualized space of it's presentation. As Wired said, "artistic respectability doesn’t so much beckon as envelop", in response to The New York Times' "Fire-Breathing Robots Bringing Anarchy to a Chelsea Art Gallery". The 2018 installment also saw artistic director, Laura Fried, succeeded by Nato Thompson. For ArtNews, Thompson went on to explain the approach in his curatorial statement, for the 2019 edition which featured works and talks by the Center for PostNatural History, largescale video artists Nadia Hironaka and Matthew Suib, architecture and installation creators, Bigert & Bergström, and choreographer Morgan Thorson. Nato Thompson returns as the artistic director for Art Fair's sixth's installment the final weekend in July, which will feature an expanded body of galleries, more than 80 in total, along with on-and-off site discussions, projects and and open studio events held around the city. Concurrently, and much in the way of the excellent Out of Sight exhibition which brought attention to the local art scene, this year the Forest for the Trees four day event in which, "100-plus Artists Convert Pioneer Square Building in Seattle into Huge Art Festival" will also be something to behold. Photo credit: Lisson Gallery