From Vogue Italy:
“I’m fascinated by Kenneth Anger’s use of color and his ability to transform a film into a three-dimensional texture, a fabric of images in movement,” explained Angela Missoni. This is how she introduced her decision to entrust the Missoni F/W 2011 campaign to one of America’s most famous authors and directors of avant-garde cinema.
Anger — a hyperactive octogenarian who loves working in the wee hours of the night and at dawn using sophisticated instruments such as the RED digital camera that has the characteristics of a classic 35 mm camera – flew in from Los Angeles to film the campaign in Sumirago that involved all the members of the great Missoni family. They are the stars of this campaign that was conceived as a series of superimposed and overlapping portraits. Vogue.it presents a preview of this film: a vibrant and impalpable evocation of unique patterns, patchwork motifs, stitches, knits, and styles, it is a symbolic weave as ephemeral as a dream.
“The images of Juergen Teller for the S/S 2010 campaign reflected and portrayed our everyday family life,” said Angela. “Kenneth Anger’s experimental approach and his narrative style, on the other hand, transformed the new campaign into a sublimation of our world.”
Closing out my experience at this April's Independent Film Festival of Boston, three capsules from Monday and Tuesday [I left town before the closing night screening of Micmacs, a late substitution for renaissance man James Franco's SNL doc.]
Somehow I got derailed before writing up some films I very much enjoyed at the Independent Film Festival of Boston back in April. For posterity, and because I think you should seek 'em out, some capsule reviews.
Angelenos, did you know you can take classes at Vidiots in Santa Monica? It's true! You can! And you should! The cinetrix would say so even if her left-brain compatriot Anthony Miller wasn't one of the instructors. But he is, lucky for you. Do take the remainder of his What Is a Cult Film? class. [I wish I could.] Meetings tonight and the next two Mondays, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., cover transgressive, sociopolitical, and "oc-"cult movies, respectively.
Nobody likes movies like Teenagers from Outer Space or Wrestling Women vs. the Aztec Mummy save any loon sane enough to realize that the whole concept of Good Taste is concocted to keep people from having a good time, from reveling in a crassness that passeth all understanding. — "The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies or, The Day the Airwaves Erupted," Creem (March, 1973), in Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung.
Would Lester Bangs steer you wrong? No. No he would not.
The "cult" movie is a peculiarly elusive and elastic category. Any genre which includes such films as Freaks, Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, Putney Swope, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, Equinox, Performance, Two-Lane Blacktop, Harold and Maude, Pink Flamingos, The Holy Mountain, Phantom of the Paradise, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Eraserhead, Rock ‘n’ Roll High School, Xanadu, The Evil Dead, Forbidden Zone, Liquid Sky, Repo Man, Heathers, They Live, Tetsuo: The Iron Man, Wax, The Big Lebowski, Donnie Darko, and The Happiness of the Katakuris would seem to be an unclassifiable cinematic menagerie. What all these movies share is an audience willing to embrace them in ways that transform them into the stuff of the codes and talismans of secret moviegoing societies. "The work must be loved, obviously, but this is not enough," writes Umberto Eco of cult movies. "It must provide a completely furnished world, so that its fans can quote characters and episodes as if they were part of the beliefs of a particular sect, a private world of their own, a world about which they can play puzzle games and trivia contests, and whose adepts recognize each other through a common competence." This class infiltrates some of these hermetic celluloid worlds and explores what makes them worthy of repeated screenings, fervent discussions, and obsessive veneration.
There is no secret formula for concocting a cult movie; some films are born cult, some achieve cult-ness, and some have cult-ness thrust upon them. The phrase "cult movie" can imbue a film with subcultural glamour, but it can also make a viewer wonder if there isn't something that he or she might be missing. Claims made for these films blur the boundary between metaphysical and nonsensical: "If you're great, El Topo is great," Alejandro Jodorowsky explained of his phantasmagoric Western. "If you're limited, El Topo is limited." Although we may not delve further into Jodorowsky's particular claim, we will investigate how cult films alter our perception of film totems and taboos. We will also consider cult movies in relation to B-movies and midnight movies and other categories (exploitation, grindhouse, psychotronic, "so-bad-they're-good").
Still undecided? Here's a taste of what you missed in weeks one and two:
From the psychedelic cult movie:
Desert Solitaires: Psychedelic Voices Crying Out in the WildernessSelected freak-outs from Altered States (Ken Russell, 1980), Renegade (original title: Blueberry: L'experiénce secrète) (Jan Kounen, 2004), and Beavis and Butt-head Do America (Mike Judge, 1996)
From the musical cult movie:
Intro: A Battle of the (All-Girl) Bands The Carrie Nations in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (written by Roger Ebert, directed by Russ Meyer, 1970)
The Stains in Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains (written by Nancy Dowd, directed by Lou Adler, 1982)
Rock Opera(tion)from Hedwig and the Angry Inch (music & lyrics by Stephen Trask, adapted for the screen and directed by John Cameron Mitchell, 2001)
Hip-Hopera from Trapped in the Closet (R. Kelly, 2005 - )
Outro: "Superhero-pera" (?) from Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog (Joss Whedon, 2008)
Not feeling the cult thing? S'OK. We can still be pals. Note, too, there are other classes at Vidiots on genre, anime, auteurs, and censorship in cinema.
It's been an odd movie-viewing summer chez cinetrix and 'Fesser. For the most part we've been binging on series 3 of "The Thick of It" episodes, which I can't recommend passionately enough. Oh how I love Malcolm Tucker in all his scabrous fury. And we've only been to the cinema itself twice, with, um, uncomfortable-making results both times.
You gotta feel for the 'Fesser. It can be difficult choosing a movie when I persist in this obnoxious tendency to read about films before I sees 'em. [I know, right?] Or have the temerity to catch flicks at festivals and thus be over them by the time they receive theatrical release. Which is a long-winded explanation for how we ended up watching Harry Brown. After all, who doesn't like late-model Michael Caine? I suspect that sentiment is what lured a lot of the trusting white-haired, NPR-supporting folks into the theater with us for what turned out to be a nasty bit of business indeed. The guy in front of us up and left, maybe sickened by the chav violence. Or the drug dealer violence. Or the violence against Emily Mortimer. Or the OAP/vigilante violence. Tough to say.
Cyrus, which we caught just last week, was equally unsettling, albeit for its violence against the cinema. I am no fan of les freres Duplass, to put it mildly. And I find Jonah Hill to be singularly unpleasant to regard. But the 'Fesser heard John C. Reilly and Marisa Tomei and was hooked. Sigh. What we do for love, you know? I'm still recovering.
A quick synopsis in case you missed the memo: Reilly is a divorced guy who wears sweatpants. His soon-to-remarry ex is, improbably, Catherine Keener. More improbably, when she drags him to a party, he encounters another hot babe (Tomei) who is charmed by his honesty. Which is thrown to the winds once he discovers his new lady friend has a lumpen 21-year-old son who doesn't relish the idea of an interloper ruining the good thing he's got going on. Holy intimations of the incest taboo, Batman! What's gonna happen?
Ah, who cares? Sweet Jesus, can we call a moratorium on man-boys of all ages? And especially man-boy rivalries in which any female character exists solely to prove the premise of Eve Kosovsky Sedgwick's Between Men theory? Pretty please? Don't get me wrong. Reilly is a peach of an actor, and was sweet as pie in a recent "Fresh Air" interview, but I'd rather watch him really sing instead of drunkenly humiliating himself bellowing "Don't You Want Me, Baby." WE GET IT. He's a sad sack with soulful little button eyes. [Hill is just loathsome.]
Can we also talk about Marisa's renaissance for a sec? I mean, I want to be hot like the 40something Ms. Tomei when I grow up, just like every other woman I know. It delights me that an actress her age isn't cast as a washed-up crone. And I suppose it's nice that she's playing women in age-appropriate [mostly] relationships. But does it ALWAYS have to involve her banging some schlub like Philip Seymour Hoffman or Mickey Rourke or Reilly? Talented actors all, but isn't there someone attractive or fit she could be cast opposite? Is Viggo not available?
Which brings me, reluctantly, back to Cyrus, in which Tomei's never even naked. Instead, she's poorly lit and shot in incredibly unflattering close-ups, the mascara thick on her lashes. Oh, G-d, and let's not even start in on that Jennifer Beals circa Flashdance mass of curls. The cinematography's no better. Sometimes she's actually out of focus [and not in a rack focus sense]. Much has been made of this flick being the Duplass boys' first foray into mainstream movie-making. Um, hi. Pro tip: You keep Marisa Tomei in focus. And you sure as shit don't make Catherine Keener look worn and DRAB. Where I'm from, that's a crime.
Oh, wait, here comes another unprompted zoom/reframe! And another. That isn't even rhymed in the reverse shot. Awesome! Edgy!
I am trying to forget all about Hill's creepy, manipulative, puling momma's boy, but it'd be hard to mention the diegetic/soundtrack music without the "quirky character trait" that Cyrus composes synth music that'd make Vangelis, John Tesh, and Tangerine Dream gang up with KMFDM to administer a hell of a beat down. Is it so we don't miss the incestuous closeness between Hill & Tomei that we are plagued with "Love On A Real Train" knockoff noodling? And I'm not sure what to do with the dial tone sound undergirding the final scene's soundtrack music, either. Have hangups been resolved? Is the relationship flat-lining? Got me, pal.
Revisiting the crap cinematography and "Oh, ha ha! The kid's into Yanni-stizz shit. Isn't that hiLARious?" soundtrack nonsense reminds me of the biggest misfire in the film. Our not-so-young lovers are in the blissful early stages of cohabitation, a state conveyed to us by an impressionistic montage and a shift into asynchronous dialogue meant to convey the halting, tentative joys of their romance. You may remember this technique from Out of Sight, where Soderbergh assembled the sexiest ever out-of-time interlude between Jennifer Lopez's federal marshal and George Clooney's career con. Watch it now. I'll wait.
That, boys and girls, is gorgeous, artful editing of sound and image. The scene in Cyrus reaches for these heights of improbable intimacy but falls far short, coming off instead as a salvage of images from the mostly improvised shoot with dialogue dubbed over in post.
And then it gets worse. The same technique is pressed into service a second time, only now the creepy voice-over/montage trick is used with imagery of freakin' Jonah Hill. Ewwwwww.
I've already devoted more time to this flick than it merits, so I'll close with a final point of information query. What the hell do these characters do for a living? They live in modest houses and drive ordinary cars, yes. And I know, Reilly's character is a "freelance copy-editor," which gave this freelance copy-editor a giggle. And of course he works with his ex? Whatever. But what about Tomei's Molly? She "home-schooled" Cyrus, who is now old enough to be a college graduate, yet there is no other parent in the picture. Who paid the bills? Basically, she "goes to work" only to allow Reilly's character to discover evidence of plotting and duplicity when he helps pack up Cyrus's belongings before he moves out. Seriously, where'd the scratch for all those synthesizers come from?
The ongoing Barnes & Noble 50% sale of Criterion titles got me to wondering. If I had, say, a hundred bucks to spend, which films would I get, and why? Another version had me choosing ten titles. But which ones? [The former scenario would be exclusive of sales tax and shipping, for the sake of simplicity.]
So, for example, I've been thinking about switching the film I screen when teaching mise-en-scene. So perhaps the newly issued Monsoon Wedding? But then, I'd loved watching "Fishing with John" back when it was on VHS [is that even possible?], and I worked at a video store. And I just caught Down by Law on cable this past week. Maybe my life would improve with the option of firing up the episode in which John Lurie goes ice fishing with Willem Dafoe whenever I want?
But enough from me. What about you? Hundred bucks or ten titles. What'll it be? How would you compile a list for you or possibly a starter set for a budding cinephage? Have at it in the comments, s.v.p.
...I was one of eight international journalists invited by the Swedish Institute to not only participate in Bergman Week, which promised screenings, lectures, and special guests, but to venture where few outsiders went before. In addition to seeing where on the island Bergman shot his famous films, we were the first press allowed to watch movies in Bergman’s private theater, and to tour Bergman’s house.
Our initiation was a conversation with Liv Ullmann, star of four key Bergman features made on Fårö, starting with her dazzling film debut in “Persona.’’ For some years, she was married to Bergman, and, for some months each year, they resided in Bergman’s Fårö house. She had returned there this spring for the first time since his funeral, because their once-shared home, thanks to the Bergman Estate Foundation, was opened to selected guests.
Read the rest here.
Southerners can catch up with Gerry in much warmer climes when he screens his doc For the Love of Movies at the Nickelodeon in Columbia, SC, July 25 -- the same weekend as his high school reunion around the corner at Dreher High School.