In the extraordinary independent film Winter’s Bone (2010), the large Dolly clan lives off the grid. The movie is set in the Missouri Ozarks, in backcountry—way back, where the front yards are filled with dead cars and cracked toilets, and the children ride wooden horses and hunt squirrels. There are no telephones, much less cell phones or computers, and not a TV in sight. [Read more…]
Archives for November 2016
Coney Island at Night
Pipilotti Rist, “I’m Not the Girl Who Misses Much”
Mia, the 15-year-old protagonist of Fish Tank (2009), Andrea Arnold’s tough and brilliant second feature, moves with such speed and fury that she seems to be trying to flee not only from her bleak surroundings but also from the movie itself. The narrow, nearly square frame boxes Mia in, and Ms. Arnold’s on-the-run hand-held tracking shots increase the sense of panicky claustrophobia. Living in a cramped apartment in a British housing project that stands like a cluster of megaliths in the middle of nowhere, Mia is at once trapped and adrift, unable to contain or to express the feelings seething beneath the blank, sullen mien she usually presents to the world. [Read more…]
Near the end of A Prophet (2009), one of those rare films in which the moral stakes are as insistent and thought through as the aesthetic choices, there’s a scene in which the lead character, Malik, travels to Paris to kill some men. The scene reverberates with almost unbearable tension but is briefly punctured by a seemingly throwaway image: Seconds before he begins shooting, thereby sealing his fate, you see him catch sight of a pair of men’s shoes showcased like jewels in a boutique window in a rich Parisian quarter. He does a double take, a reaction that might mirror that of the anxious viewer who wonders why he doesn’t just get on with it. [Read more…]
Drag Me To Hell
In each of the two great movies opening this weekend, a crotchety old person faces the loss of the family home to cold, impersonal capitalism. On which film should you, the viewer, spend your hard-earned money? Well, if you think you’d enjoy seeing the elderly hero spirit away his home in an inspiring ode to adventure and friendship, you should see Up. On the other hand, if you’d rather watch the old person viciously attack a loan officer, tear out chunks of her hair and place a horrifying Gypsy curse on her soul, then see Drag Me to Hell (2009). How angry are you feeling about the economy, anyway? [Read more…]
There are no colorful characters in Gomorrah (2008), Matteo Garrone’s corrosive and ferociously unsentimental fictional look at Italian organized crime; no white-haired mamas lovingly stirring the spaghetti sauce; no opera arias swelling on the soundtrack; no homilies about family, honor or tradition; no dark jokes; no catchy pop songs; no film allusions; no winking fun; no thrilling violence. Instead, there is waste, grotesque human waste, some of which ends up illegally buried in the same ground where trees now bear bad fruit, some of which, like the teenager scooped up by a bulldozer on a desolate beach, is cast away like trash. [Read more…]
Let The Right One In
The title of the spectrally beautiful Swedish vampire movie Let the Right One In (2008) comes from a song by Morrissey, a romantic fatalist who would surely appreciate this darkly perverse love story. “Let the right one in,” he sings in “Let the Right One Slip In.” I’d say you were within your rights to bite/The right one and say, ‘What kept you so long?’ ” These may sound like words to live by, though in the case of a film about a boy and the girl next door who may just be a vampire, they could easily turn out to be words to die for. [Read more…]
A Tribe Manifesto and Masterwork of the Moment
We got it from Here... Thank You 4 Your service Reviewed by C von Hassett
A Tribe Called Quest just dropped their first album in 18 years, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Released mere days after the Great Debacle of 2016, We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service is remarkably, if not thrillingly present tense. Wholly animate in both sound and vision, it is a record that is also uniquely relevant — as much for being in essential response to the angst and rancor of the day as it is for inspiring, as good art tends to do, a requisite spark that might yet ignite conscientious action in the days and months ahead.
Theirs, with this exceptional release, is the resounding shot of this new cycle, and it is one which heralds little quarter. Straight-in they reject a presidential promise that unblushingly assures “all you Black folks, you must go / all you Mexicans, you must go / all you poor folks, you must go / Muslims and gays…” The vitriol, borne high on foul national sentiments, amounts to a kind-of maniacal voodoo, to use their image, and they counter the venom with their own dream serum of living in a world inclusive of all, one without division “no matter the skin tone, culture or time zone.” We are long on a grim horizon from there, but in the storm that is surely in approach, “young leaders will rise / in the eyes of despair and adversity.”
Whatever Will Be
Fugitive Effects of Light: Erin Currier’s Carnet d’AmeriKa
Reviewed by John Biscello
“To be human is to transform; to be human is to name, then name anew. I must remember the inseparable nature of word and action.” Erin Currier, 6 November, 2004 [Read more…]
Pipilotti Rist Dreams Us In Return
New Museum, NYC
The New Museum’s three-floor exhibition, Pixel Forest, from Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist, is an immersive wonder. If you’re looking for an enchanting, into-the-wilds experience where you can literally lie around — beds and floor cushions are in plenty — then this is the show for you.
Nicolas Winding Refn’s Bronson (2008) is a highly stylized and embellished film biography of a man known as the most famous prisoner in Britain. Born Michael Peterson in 1952 and raised mostly in the city of Luton, Charles Bronson, renamed after the American movie star, has spent all but a few months of the last 35 years in prison, mostly in solitary confinement. [Read more…]
We could drive into the desert
by Reid Wilkie
“I will give you space,” he said.
“I wouldn’t disturb you,” he promised.
We could drive into the desert and hold the
Sand between our bodies. [Read more…]
Claws Out, Bristow Draws Sonic Blood
Jackie Bristow Live at Piano Bar, Los Angeles Reviewed by C von Hassett
Look out Lucinda. The heir to blistering Americana is honing her craft and unleashing some heat on LA’s pulsing musical fringe, known otherwise as its de facto center. New Zealand-born, Los Angeles-based Jackie Bristow sculpts out some distinctive terrain with the formative blade of her exemplary band and the clement heart of her winsome songcraft.
Bristow on record is rather in the tradition of the lovestruck or lonely, a sultry, mid-tempo sound that has as its subject a woman vulnerable yet invincibly strong, a woman to worship were it not for ill-fatings or a misalignment in the stars. Unsurprisingly on stage her presence is one of tenderness and backcountry charm, her voice both sweetly raw and refreshingly unrefined.
Her band, however, at least the one in current support, is an urban fur that wraps her and warms her to those more in want of a good sonic mauling. They, this connective quartet, are muscular and fierce and sculpt out a body of sound rooted deeply in country, blues, rock and roll, and perhaps something more distinctively Los Angeles, that of great session players coming together for an evening on stage or, that rarer wed, a lasting incarnation that not only translates but transforms one artist’s vision into a leaner, dare I say meaner, more enduring sound.
The story told in Eastern Promises (2007) is a grim and violent one, set in London’s expatriate Russian underworld. The film, directed by David Cronenberg from a script by Steve Knight, revisits a number of themes and motifs that are staples of the genre: the ties of family and culture that bind criminal organizations; Oedipal drama; honor among thieves. The audience stumbles into this realm in the company of an innocent outsider (Naomi Watts) who finds herself at once fascinated and repelled by it, as well as in considerable danger. [Read more…]
House of Sand
If anything, the title of House of Sand (2005) is an understatement. This lovely film, directed by Andrucha Waddington (Me You Them), takes place in a corner of northern Brazil that is a veritable universe of dry, swirling white dust. Like the main characters — three women of successive generations exiled from a softer, more accommodating life in the city — you grow accustomed to this landscape after a while, and come to appreciate its beauty. But at first it seems about as hospitable as the surface of Mars: gritty, windy, almost actively hostile to human habitation. [Read more…]
Pusher I & II
It’s the rare crime film that balances the vicarious thrill of rampant illegality with the real-world desperation of broken souls who are nearly always one wrong move away from a wretched end. Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn’s Pusher trilogy — showing this weekend at the American Cinematheque over two days — are such movies, character-overlapping slash-and-burners about underworld types who discover the pitfalls of vulnerability in their profession when it’s least advantageous. [Read more…]
Manhattan Subway Becomes Emotive (and Sticky) Town Square
The walls of 14th Street-Union Square subway station in New York City are tiling with Post-it notes in response to the recent election, with sentiments ranging from “This is the end of Democracy: Fuck Trump,” to “It’s not the end of the world, it’s time to take action,” to “More Love.” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, whom we are to believe was just “passing through,” attached his own soft-footed missive to the mix, which says: [Read more…]
In Memoriam: 8 November
Election Night Thoughts, 2016
Excerpt from Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian:
The following day on the skyline to the south they saw clouds of dust that lay across the earth for miles. They rode on, watching the dust until it began to near and the captain raised his hand for a halt and took from his saddlebag his old brass cavalry telescope and uncoupled it and swept it slowly over the land. The sergeant sat his horse beside him and after a while the captain handed him the glass. [Read more…]
Christian Bale’s 63-pound weight loss for his role in The Machinist (2004) may take the cake (or is it a diet wafer?) as an example of an actor’s starving for his art. To play Trevor Reznik, the skeletal insomniac who stalks through this bleak psychological thriller, this buff star of American Psycho reduced himself to a walking 120-pound cadaver. [Read more…]