Thursday, April 24, 2014

La vie de bohème (1992)

It was interesting watching this film after seeing La Havre. There are so many echoes between the films. It sort of makes me wonder: Was the more recent film always intended as a follow-up to this one? Perhaps while developing the second script, the parallels just became so apparent that the only way to deflect cries of repetition, was to just own it. By simply saying that André Wilms is playing the same character in both films, you find yourself paying more attention to the differences than the similarities. All the same narrative and thematic sign posts are there (suburban French setting, lovable bohemian protagonist with money problems, long-suffering love interest with health problems, immigration issues, Jean-Pierre Léaud, a dog, etc.) yet the approach seems wholly different. I don't want to say it's as simple as the difference between black & white and color, but it almost kind of is.Regardless of what order you watch them in, the dialogue between these films is wonderful and fascinating. Dare I say that Aki Kaurismäki has become a more optimistic man in the last twenty years? 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Monuments Men: Cinematic Graves

In addition to being a film geek, I am also a comic book geek. As such, I follow comic book writer Matt Fraction's Tumblr. Recently he posted a photo of filmmaker Chris Marker's adorable grave and it started me down a Google hole of looking up the graves of famous filmmakers. Many were rather plain, others were quite opulent. Here are the Top-5 that I came across in my searching. It might cost a pretty penny, but I hope some day to visit all of these sacred cinematic shrines. Did I leave out any important ones?

Chris Marker

Double-Bill: Snatched

Slither and The World's End

Friday, April 18, 2014

After Midnight

Any film lovers out there remember the brief "Fake Criterion" craze? While most of these covers consisted of crappy MS Paint renditions of what a Criterion cover for Freddy Got Fingered might look like, some of them were downright beautiful. This is how I discovered Midnight Marauder. Among all the rest, his pieces for films like Mulholland Dr. and True Romance had an immediacy to them that grabbed your attention right away. His choice of images and treatments was always impeccable. Gradually his work has expanded into incorporating images other than film stills, and for his recent work on Midnight Cowboy and Point Blank he has even started including original drawings. His work is also featured on the posters for the Terrence Malick produced film The Better Angels! Getting to watch an artist's work evolve over time is a unique pleasure. I'm grateful to have witnessed this progression and am eager to see where it goes next.

If you love cinema and art (which you should if you're reading this blog) I highly encourage you to check out Midnight Marauder's online exhibition of posters for the films of Robert Altman entitled "It's Okay with Me". Beautiful images for beautiful films!

Friday Quote: Liberty Heights

"Life is made up of a few big moments, and a lot of little ones. I still remember the first time I kissed Sylvia, or the last time I hugged my father before he died. And I still remember that white-bread sandwich and that blonde dancing girl with the cigarette pack on her thigh. But a lot of images fade, and no matter how hard I try, I can't get them back. I had a relative once who said that if I knew things would no longer be, I would have tried to remember better."

Liberty Heights (1999)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Nymphomaniac Vol. II (2013)

More than any other filmmaker I know, Lars Von Trier loves to work in trilogies. There's the Europa Trilogy (Element of Crime, Epidemic and Europa) The Golden Heart Trilogy (Breaking the Waves, The Idiots and Dancer in the Dark) and the incomplete USA: Land of Opportunities trilogy (Dogville, Manderlay and the un-produced Washington). Nyphomaniac has been described as the culmination of a Depression Trilogy following the director's 2007 breakdown. Yet, while the other films of this trilogy (Antichrist and Melancholia) are content to wallow in the morose muck of a depressed state, Nymphomaniac seems to be about emerging from that mire with perverse humor and playful provocations.

After his breakdown, Lars was quite literally Joe laying bruised and beaten in some forgotten alleyway. Fortunately audiences/critics were there to play Seligman and sympathetically listen to his tales of woe (ie: the other films in the trilogy). At first Lars/Joe was receptive to our kindness, but gradually he came to resent it and started to kick back against the compassion with tiny verbal barbs and cinematic provocation. By the end of Volume II we have a fully recuperated Lars Von Trier who is back in fighting form and itching to bite the hand that feeds...even if it kind of shoots his own film in the foot. So then why do it you ask? I guess the best way to describe that is with a Seligman-esque digression:
A scorpion asks a frog to carry him across a river. The frog is reluctant as he fears the scorpion will sting him during the trip. The scorpion argues that if it stung the frog, they would both sink and drown. Reluctantly the frog agrees, but midway across the river the scorpion does indeed sting the frog, dooming them both. When the frog asks, "Why?" the scorpion can only reply, "It's my nature!"
Vol. II is running at The Frida Cinema through April 24th.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Rock 'n' Roll High School (1979)

I think I saw this movie for the first time back in middle school. I know it was around the time that all my friends and I were “discovering” punk rock. We’d been blown away by Green Day’s Dookie album and instantly started plundering the genre’s back catalogue. Suddenly we were all taking a crash course in The Clash, The Exploited, Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, and of course The Ramones and Sex Pistols. For some reason I’ve still never seen The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle, but boy oh boy have I seen Rock ‘n’ Roll High School. I distinctly remember my friends hating it for being cheesy and “not punk”, but I secretly loved it. It was funny, it had cute girls, a kicking soundtrack and was about rebellion. How is that NOT punk rock? THEY BLOW UP A SCHOOL! As I’ve learned more about the “Corman School” of low-budget filmmaking, my love for this film has only grown. The cast and crew is a who’s who of awesome: Allan Arkush, Joe Dante, Paul Bartel, Clint Howard, P.J. Soles, Mary Wornov, Dick Miller, Dean Cundey, Don Steele, and Rodney Bingenheimer! Though it might not be high art, this film is a load of fun and makes me feel young again. Do your parents know that you're Ramones? Hey ho, let’s go!

Double-Bill: Boys Will Be Boys

American Psycho and The Wolf of Wall Street

Friday, April 11, 2014

Friday Quote: The Ten Commandments

The city that he builds shall bear my name. The woman that he loves shall bear my child. So it shall be written. So it shall be done.

The Ten Commandments (1956)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Nashville (1975)

Though Robert Altman certainly didn’t invent the idea of a large ensemble film with intersecting characters and plotlines (see: Grand Hotel), he certainly was its master. Off the top of my head there is MASH, Nashville, A Wedding, Short Cuts, Prêt-à-Porter, Gosford Park and A Prairie Home Companion. Sure some were more successful than others, but that’s to be expected with a career that spanned multiple decades and dozens of films. Yet even at their most mediocre, there was still always something special to be found there. Something rough and jagged that another filmmaker would have certainly smoothed out. Need proof? Just look at the poor facsimiles that Gary Marshall has attempted with Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve. Even the great imitations like Dazed and Confused or Magnolia miss the mark slightly by tying things up a little to nicely in the end. Altman wasn’t afraid to leave some threads dangling because - that’s life man. Life is messy and unpredictable. The good guys don’t always win, the bad guys don’t always lose and sometimes we’re not sure how we’re supposed to feel about an outcome. While this might fill some with anxiety and anger, Robert Altman calmly replied with, “It don’t worry me.”