Friday, January 1, 2010

2010 Core Program

Oh my God! The Lumiere and other cinemas have closed, leaving only the megaplexes that screen nothing but the same few films under ever changing titles. Our only hope is to plant the surviving seeds and see if they take.

Dvds projected on to a white wall in a gallery rich with the paintings of Milos Manojlovic who will serve anything from a cappucino to a shiraz or scotch at decent prices and a word or two of worldliness. Stay for opinions, music and imbibing after the film. Go on, dare ya!

Oh my God 2! For anyone who revealed their poor maths in previous programs and thought they were dominated by horror, this and the next half of the core program contains none, not one horror movie. Now, satisfied?

NO? You still want a weekly screening of strange and unavailable film? Click here and see.

Still NO? Alright how about an occasional series of films from the lightless margins o' the mainstream called Lost Valhallas! This won't start until it's ready to but confirmed titles include Smile (first film shown by the Melbourne Valhalla), Liquid Sky (punk sci-fi and addiciton morality), Repo Man (the first slacker comedy? add sci-fi), In the Company of Men (Neil LaBute's first and still strongest feature film might have been his last good one), Harold and Maude (available locally but still unseen by people who should see it) and so on...

Not satisfied YET? I am open to suggestion for titles to screen including those missed last year (The Beguiled and Little Murders sparked a lot of interest by those who missed out on it) or encore performances of others (Spirit of the Beehive had a lot o' post screening buzz). These will be a lot fewer in number as time will be more limited this year. But lemme know...

ABC Gallery 127 Campbell St Collingwood (See map at end of post or follow link to Google Maps with street view picture of the Gallery)
Melway Ref. 2C G8

Last Friday of every month.

January 29th 8.00 pm
MY WINNIPEG(Guy Maddin, Canada 2008)

Guy Maddin takes his perception-warping mix of silent cinema look and contemporary mores from fable to memoir as he recounts the story of the region of his birth and upbringing.

Maddin finds the look and feel of silent cinema not just irresistible but a personal compulsion. Whereas any other filmmaker using this look might be considered gimmicky, Maddin lives in the world of Murnau, Lang and Buster Keaton and doesn't care who has a problem with it. That said, his films are resolutely contemporary, containing no nostalgia beyond the very surface.

So, when we come to My Winnipeg a history and intensely personal memoir of Maddin's birthplace, are we really still free of dreamy recollection? You betcha. The longing for some of the subjects in this film and the yearning for the departed world are but brief inaudible sighs compared to the omnipresent spectre of his mother and her thorny domination of the family. Maddin even sees the mother in an aerial view of the landscape of the province. She is inescapable. Even as the weary traveller endlessly trying to leave town on a train heads out towards the real world, he fears he can never really leave.

From the cheeky mismemories of local tv shows to stunning set pieces like the field of frozen horses, Maddin serves up a real feast that reminds his viewers of the hazards of nostalgia but also invites us all to remember our lives with a sense of justice as well as whimsy.

Screens with TBA.

February 26th 8.00 pm
(Lina Wertmuller, Italy 1976)

This tale of Pasqualino, a small town spiv, trying to marry his dowdy sisters off might have rested in Fellini territory and stayed there keeping everyone happy. The sharp turn into the war and the nightmare he is enveloped by finds him in a cruel realm where life and death form a choice for the amusement of the guards. Can he use his charm and talents as a lover to survive Hell? The answer might surprise you.

Lina Wertmuller's tale of missed opportunities and the importance of an examined life carries all the colour and grotesquerie of a lavish Italian film from the 70s (see also Fellini's Roma and Salon Kitty) but adds the grimness of the back stage view of the German occupation of Italy and finally a quietly powerful sobriety at the conclusion.

This screening was scheduled last year but the screening was bumped. There was a swell of interest from the regulars about seeing this one and disappointed at missing it. So here it is.

Screens with TBA

March 26th 8.00pm

(Martin Scorsese, USA 1969)

Scorsese's first feature offers a blueprint for the best of his later work from Mean Streets to Goodfellas. Harvey Keitel is J.R. a young gun in New York's Little Italy who is drawn out of his cultural cul de sac when he meets a WASP girl while waiting for the Staten Island ferry. J.R. is transcendent! Things go pretty well and it looks like he's headed out of the dead end. Then, when The Girl (that's what she's called in the credits) shares a difficult truth about a date rape in her past, J.R.'s Catholic macho mores freeze him into an uncontrollable disgust. Scorsese's courage here has to do with telling this story during the rise of the Love Generation where such morality was considered passe. The assertion that the statements of a few high profile hippies were no match for the reality on the streets was an unusual step (especially for someone who helped bring Woodstock to the big screens of the world!).

People only familiar with Harvey Keitel as the urbane leonine cool father figure that his 90s career ressurection depicted him (Bad Lieutenant aside) might even be shocked to see how beautiful he was in his twenties. Those good looks come with a ton of gravitas beyond his years.

And all the Marty goodness is here, film quotes, contemporary pop music, fetishistic Catholic imagery, Little Italy writ LARGE, realistic overlapping dialogue, machismo shown critically. The influence of the Nouvelle Vague looms large here but crosses over to later Scorsese pretty clearly (J.R.'s heart visibly races when The Girl reveals her mutual love of John Ford Movies!)

If you haven't seen it you need to. If you have you need to see it again, if only to recall Gangs of New York with shaking head and ask: Marty, what the hell went wrong?

Screens with TBA

April 30th 7.30 pm
(Kyoshi Kurosawa, Japan 2003)

Maturity, youth and jellyfish are on the table in this story about the generations to come in contemporary Japan.

Two friends serve time in a clock watching job at a laundry that washes towels for restaurants. One of them, Mamoru has a pet jellyfish that at first just looks beautiful and scary in its tank. He has big plans for it, as it happens. But then something goes wrong. His friend, Nimura, already holding in a tide of undirected rage commits an atrocity. Mamoru who has unsuccessfully attempted to guide Nimura in the harnessing and uses of rage steps in to save his friend. It is a very dire salvation but as events develop, Mamoru's legacy is fulfilled and the bigger picture of his plan is revealed.

An extraordinary modern fable from the always (or mostly) extraordinary K. Kurosawa (Cure and Seance both shown at Shadows previously) and one rendered far more accessible than any of his other non-horror outings (eg Charisma). Kurosawa has said that this story contains no irony and is a straight-up vision of the state of things in Japan but I'd trust that assertion as far as I could throw a sumo wrestler.

Screens with TBA.

May 28th 7.30 pm
(Michael Sarne, USA 1970)

The most fascinating trainwreck outside of Ishtar, Myra Breckinridge is the film adaptation of Gore Vidal's smirking look at Hollywood in Decay at the end of the 60s. Man about Swinging London, Michael Sarne was imported by Twentieth Century Fox to inject the kind of psychedelic pizazz into the story whose title character held all hippy culture in icy contempt. A kind of mashup effect is achieved through the rhythmic use of clips from vintage Hollywood cut into the main narrative, even taking part in the dialogue here and there. There really are some good, sharp ideas here but at the time they were heavily overshadowed by the casting choices.

John Huston, rugged and craggy veteran director and action man, was chosen to play Buck Loner, rugged and craggy veteran western star and head of a film school. A reanimated Mae West as a sassy and monstrously libidinous talent agent. Queen Bimbo Supreme Raquel Welch in the title role and Queen Bitch of the New York Observer movie review Rex Reed as her alter ego, Myron.

It was commonly joked that Reed's inclusion in the cast was insurance against bad reviews. But then his performance is fine, having real screen presence and natural youthful beauty. Mae West refused to appear on screen with Raquel Welch or even work in the set on the same day. She wasn't threatened. Welch, better known in the loincloth of A Million Years B.C. or in the cat suit of Fantastic Voyage, here delivers both intelligence and bitchiness in a role that offers opportunity for some payback for an industry that trivialised her (to say nothing of a million dollar costume change for every scene). Huston fits his character but he pushes himself to a respectable self-parody. Mae West ... Mae West was not informed by anyone that she hadn't been a sultry siren for some decades. To her credit, though, her big number at the film's heart includes what might be the first rap song (but maybe she was just rekindling memories of seeing Cab Calloway at the Cotton Club for real). Aficionados of 70s and 80s prime time tv might be tickled pink to see young and natural incarnations of Farrah Fawcett and Tom Selleck.

As to the plot? After all that you still care about the plot? Ok, Myra B. goes to Hollywood to take up a position teaching at her deceased husband's uncle's acting school with the intention of destroying the new Hollywood from within, having first failed to secure her inferitance. She is taken with a shiny young couple among her students and picks them for grooming as her chief weapons in a dream factory that has become more Hugh Hefner than Howard Hawks. Weird hilarity ensues.

So why does this film work? Who said it did? This is a film that is best viewed as a record of a dream recounted by someone sky high on acid when he was told it. That said, the ending does provide a kind of logic to the proceedings. But the thrill is in the ride. Roll up! Roll on up!

Screens with TBA.
Raquel Welch talks to Dick Cavett at the time of the movie's release while janis Joplin looks on.

June 25th 7.30 pm
(Bela Tarr, Hungary 2000)

Leonard Maltin once ingeniously described Night of the Living Dead as a cinema verite record of a nightmare. I'll steal the thought and describe Bela Tarr's epic as the cinema verite record of a middle European folk tale.

Valushka, innocent lad about the village who can get a barroom full of belicose drunks to perform a ballet that explains what happens during a solar eclipse is still unschooled in the ways of men. He is a kind of gopher to his uncle, aunt and various authority figures of the village (even the local postman get him to deliver some mail) and while he likes his life well enough is pursued by a restless curiosity about the universe he inhabits.

The sun and the moon and the stars generally have to do to provide him with questions to answer, the village life itself offers little more than drunkenness and shiftless boredom. Then one night his path is literally crossed by the longest lorry he has ever seen. It parks in the village square and contains a wonder, a taxidermised blue whale.

Valushka is speechless at the sight of it (his eye off with the great mammals big dead peeper is a modern classic scene) but then, lingering in the darkness of the truck he overhears the lesser trumpeted attraction, a circus freak known as the Prince whose tirade against reason and order is strident and terrifying. Emerging from the darkness of the exhibit, Valushka learns that this ranter is the real attraction, a messianic figure whose rumoured advent has drawn the men of the village to surround the lorry in the square in a single angering mass.

Is this a fable about the end of religion, the decline of Soviet domination of the Hungarian homeland and its subsequent fatherless status? Maybe, but it doesn't have to be. Tarr's mesmerising style (using long takes to involve rather than alienate the viewer) takes us into Valushka's world, we easily share his worries and sorrow at the world he finds he lives in. This is great storytelling that doesn't have to go a mile a minute nor have an edit every thirty milliseconds to draw you in. One of my favourite films of the noughties, if not THE favourite.

Screens with TBA.

Trailer (French subtitles but that's the only one on Youtube)

Gallery Location

No comments:

Post a Comment