One cannot simply write a review of Blake Williams’s immersive, hypnotic experimental film Prototype (2017). It is more appropriate to comment on this film as the description of an experience. Whether taken in as a 3D experience or as a standard, 2D film, Protoype attempts to create an environment with the very idea of cinema itself. Cinema in its most primal form is a collection of images, rushing one after the other, weaving a tapestry. Williams’s work has a kinship with the early avant-garde cinema which experimented with the marriage of image and narrative, producing works which today have a dreamlike intensity. This intensity comes from the passage of time, because now these films can feel like a transmission from some other age or world. Herman G. Weinberg’s 1931 “film poem,” Autumn Fire, is such a film, with its silent black white imagery of nature, a wandering man in silhouette, a daydreaming woman and breezy waters. As modern pop culture came to be in the 1960s, artists like Andy Warhol would push the very boundaries of what cinema as an art form even meant. His 7-hour Empire is simply one still shot of the Empire State Building. [Read more…]
Search Results for: David Lynch
Los Angeles. The city is damned and neon-lit, devourer of the modern-day wanderer in search of gold and social stability, like some hip reincarnation of the Conquistadors. Pauline Kael once wrote that L.A. is the city “where people have given in to the beauty that always looks unreal.” This is ever so true about those glassy-eyed souls who leave home to settle into this pitiless city to make a dream reality, or at least come close to touching it. Director Michael Chrisoulakis’s Los Angeles Overnight is a true and raw portrait of the spirit of LA, even if the film masquerades as an engaging dark comedy—which it no less is. Flirting with surrealism, this low-budget film moves with an immersive energy and a dark heart. It takes the romanticized image of the struggling artist trying to get a call back and twists it back into its true self, full of despair and willing to indulge in the criminal netherworld. [Read more…]
It is quite possible that the most fitting work of art to premiere onstage this year as an appropriate expression of the times is Thomas Ades’s searing opera, The Exterminating Angel. Apocalyptic, cataclysmic, it tells the story of a group of wealthy dinner guests who cannot leave a mansion, pushed back by an invisible force. Civilization soon crumbles and they become savages. The opera is noteworthy as both a work by Ades, certainly one of the great modern composers, and because it is an adaptation of a film by Luis Buñuel. More than most filmmakers, Buñuel’s cinema endures as both landmark filmmaking and as a powerful set of visions which interpret the human condition. His body of work spans from 1929 to 1977, yet feels even more at home now, in this age of surreal gestures and civilization as madhouse. Buñuel was keenly aware that humans are driven by desire, tribalism, and the power of fantasy. It is when these three mix within his cinema that even his lesser films maintain a dangerous undercurrent. [Read more…]
There is a strange sense in modern cinema that to be avant-garde means to be vague, whereas pop entertainment wears its idealisms or opinions on its sleeve. A look at this year’s offerings offers a startling set of comparisons to make this point. Early in the year the surprise box office hit Get Out offered a vicious B-movie critique of race relations in contemporary America, while the arthouse darling It Comes at Night was a somewhat sluggish bore about people in the woods, trapped in some vague post-apocalyptic future without much of a point (or coherent plot). Even Ridley Scott’s latest rehash of the Alien franchise, Alien: Covenant, had more to say about the rise of Fascism in the modern world than anything else released in the season. [Read more…]
David Lynch chats with Harry Dean Stanton:
by Alci Rengifo
Madness grips the airwaves like a deafening transmission, and the overlords of the earth seem to speak in terrifyingly grim visions. Thank the gods that every age produces its own soothsayers. It is fitting, then, that just as a surreal state of affairs takes hold, David Lynch returned to us with Twin Peaks: The Return (2017), a continuation of his landmark cult 1990s series that combined melodrama with the director’s brand of surrealist imaginings. But not only did Lynch return, he also shows himself to be fully in tune with these new dark ages. Episode 8 of the revival in particular goes beyond television or even cinema — it is one mad flow about our civilization’s communion with dark forces to unleash absolute destruction. [Read more…]
Was it all a dream—
I mean those old bygone days—
Were they all what they seemed?
All night long I lie awake
listening to autumn rain.
This poem from the Zen monk, Ryokan, could serve as an emblematic preface to Haruki Murakami’s Men Without Women. Claustrophobic poignancy and stringent wistfulness, shot through with quirky humor, characterize the autumn-flavored tone of the seven stories comprising the collection. [Read more…]
by Christopher Hassett
The new Twin Peaks: The Return (2017) finds David Lynch working in fresh and sublimely haunting domains, ones that pleasurably flirt or unnervingly skirt the spectral drop-offs of some charged and sinister abyss. This seems no visional or evolutional change of tack, nor does it appear, at least in these early episodes, Lynch is newly surveying unmapped terrains. Rather, there is something more elevated in this late-career landscape, and something far more intimate as well. One senses, when viewing this new series, particularly his excursions into Lynchian Other-Realms, that his articulation of these doppelgänging worlds feel more experiential than conceptual, more occupied than conceptualized. [Read more…]
As folkloric Polish musical sex-comedy horror movies go, The Lure (2015) is pretty interesting. The first feature directed by Agnieszka Smoczynska, the film follows two mermaid sisters onto land, where they look for love, feast on human flesh and find work singing and stripping at a nightclub that might have come from an early David Lynch movie or a vintage-’80s music video [Read more…]
The nameless, shape-shifting horror that stalks the blond, 19-year-old Jay (Maika Monroe) in David Robert Mitchell’s cool, controlled horror film, It Follows (2014), might be described as the very incarnation of paranoia. The menace, which only she can see, takes any number of forms, from a naked man standing on the roof of a house to an unsmiling old lady heading purposefully in her direction. When it appears, it is usually first glimpsed from a distance, walking slowly toward her like an expressionless zombie. Although Jay repeatedly flees, she can never shake the sense that it is out there somewhere and knows her precise location. [Read more…]
Reviewed by Jason Zinoman
What the comedian Maria Bamford really wants is the approval of her parents.
That’s not armchair analysis. In The Special Special Special! (2012), which she released online at chill.com, Ms. Bamford performs an hour of stand-up for her mother and father as they sit on a couch. By replacing a typical audience with her original one, she breathes life into a cliché by making it literal and creates a compelling dynamic that is as eccentric as her singularly funny comedy. [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…]
There are those who will insist that the best way of approaching Waking Life (2001), Richard Linklater’s witty cosmic wow of a movie, is in a chemically altered state, and it’s easy to see why.
The screenplay for Waking Life, which the New York Film Festival is showing tonight and tomorrow at Alice Tully Hall, blithely tosses out a bouquet of theories about human consciousness — some intellectually rigorous, others ludicrous crackpot riffs — whose cumulative impact suggests a stoned-out Big Bang of human thought. [Read more…]
By surrendering any semblance of rationality to create a post-Freudian, pulp-fiction fever dream of a movie, Mr. Lynch ends up shooting the moon with Mulholland Drive. Its frenzied final 45 minutes, in which the story circles back on itself in a succession of kaleidoscopic Chinese boxes, conveys the maniacal thrill of an imagistic brainstorm. [Read more…]
If there is ever a core idea behind our modern-day celebration of Halloween it is the need to escape. We run from ourselves into masks and costumes, for one night becoming that which we wish we had been. Sometimes we choose the face of a monster, only because we as mere humans are the most monstrous creations of all. Fear of oneself is essentially fear of your seed, of your origins. No filmmaker has captured the very psychology of America like David Lynch, and even in his early student and short film work, one finds an artist digging into the depths of his psychic plane, and our own. [Read more…]
in Turbine Hall at Tate Modern, London
by Zadie Smith
Two women are bound at the waist, tied to each other. One is a slim, white woman, in antebellum underskirt and corset. A Scarlett O’Hara type. She is having the air squeezed out of her by a larger, bare-breasted black woman, who wears a kerchief around her head. To an American audience, I imagine, this black woman could easily read as “Mammy.” To a viewer from the wider diaspora—to a black Briton, say—she is perhaps less likely to invoke the stereotypical placidity of “Mammy,” hewing closer to the fury of her mythological opposite, the legendary Nanny of the Maroons: escaped slave, leader of peoples. Her hand is held up forcefully, indicating the direction in which she is determined to go, but the rope between her and the white woman is pulled taut: both struggle under its constriction. And in this drama of opposing forces, through this brutal dialectic, aspects of each woman’s anatomy are grotesquely eroticized by her adversary: buttocks for the black woman, breasts for her white counterpart. Which raises the question: Who tied this constricting rope? A third party? And, if the struggle continues, will the white woman eventually be extinguished? Will the black woman be free? That is, if the white woman is on the verge of extinguishment at all. Maybe she’s on the verge of something else entirely: definition. That’s why we cinch waists, isn’t it? To achieve definition? [Read more…]
by Mary Schmidt Campbell
Oxford University Press, 443 pp., $34.95
edited by Robert G. O’Meally
Duke University Press, 413 pp., $29.95 (paper)
New York Review of Books
Every year, Congressman John Lewis has made a pilgrimage to honor the anniversary of the campaign to march from Selma, Alabama, to the state capitol in Montgomery. The journey began on Sunday, March 7, 1965, when Lewis, then twenty-five years old and chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), was severely beaten and nearly killed by state troopers as he led six hundred peaceful protesters in a march that started at a church in Selma and was forcibly intercepted by police on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, named after the Confederate general and grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan.
Folk art and folk artists tend to be an underserved discipline in the contemporary American art world. We gravitate towards fine artists with prestigious arts degrees over the more commonplace culture of folk art, and when we do discuss the importance of art born out of folk tradition, as in most artistic disciplines, we tend to highlight white artists. From the music of Bob Dylan to the exultation of Grandma Moses, when we talk about folk art as something born out of Americana or something inherently American, we very rarely talk about Black artists. Yet folk art is historically important as an archive of culture encapsulated within creative expression, and creation by Black American artists is nestled at the center of Americana. [Read more…]
by Kevin Baker
From “Death of a Once Great City”
Courtesy of Harper’s Magazine
New York has been my home for more than forty years, from the year after the city’s supposed nadir in 1975, when it nearly went bankrupt. I have seen all the periods of boom and bust since, almost all of them related to the “paper economy” of finance and real estate speculation that took over the city long before it did the rest of the nation. But I have never seen what is going on now: the systematic, wholesale transformation of New York into a reserve of the obscenely wealthy and the barely here—a place increasingly devoid of the idiosyncrasy, the complexity, the opportunity, and the roiling excitement that make a city great. [Read more…]
1,2,3 Data group show, Batia Suter’s Radial Grammar, and VHILS’ Fragments Urbains are three exhibitions of contemporary art taking place in Paris this season. While they vary greatly in form and content, they all use found materials as the source for their art and address the relationship of humans to their environment, both natural and manmade.
VHILS, Fragments Urbains (19 May – 29 June 2018)
at Centre Centquatre, Paris
The Portuguese artist Alexandre Farto, who goes by the street tag VHILS (his favorite letters to spray as a teenager), came to fame for his street art first in his native Seixal, and then in a number of metropolises around the world. He created images by stripping, tearing, scratching through layers of posters on billboards, in what he calls an archeological process. [Read more…]