a seemingly random journey through cinema's heart of darkness. so to speak.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

YouTubing-To-Obscure-Shameless-Self-Promotion Wednesdays: We're Coming Up Around the Bend, This Time Tomorrow

Humor me for a sec. In one of my usual soujourns through the jungles of YouTube, I stumbled upon a random chunk from the amazing party section of Olivier Assayas' Cold Water, which eats up nearly half the film's running time. (Aside: yo, Region 1 DVD maestros! Get on fucking issuing this already. Jesus.) The scene culminates in an epic mass dance in front of a bonfire to CCR's "Up Around the Bend" -- which, in one of the greatest testaments to the awesomeness of CCR, is played halfway through and then, just 'cause it's sad to think the song is that much closer to ending, is stopped and started over again from the beginning.

It's been well over a year since I first saw this film, but this scene looked familiar -- as though I had seen it even sooner than that. In fact, it reminded me of another amazing frügging session, with the camera trained tightly on a messy and borderline unsightly mass of cavorting bodies, namely the "This Time Tomorrow" scene from Philippe Garrel's Regular Lovers, also used as a sort of Last Dance. Did Garrel, the elder statesman, pay homage to Assayas, an obvious protégé? Or is this kind of thing an old Garrel standard? (I haven't seen enough of the latter's films to know for sure.)

So here they are back to back. Like I said, the snippet from Cold Water is a random section (roughly seven minutes), and the dancing doesn't begin till the 5:47 mark (or since, the embedded counter goes backwards only, 1:33), and then doesn't really get into the thick of things till 6:22 (or with about a minute left). If you've never seen the film before (and not many have outside of Europe), then you might want to avoid watching the whole thing. But know that you should see it (it pops up on Sundance now and again) and that this section alone justifies the usually dubious art of pumping in pop songs to convey emotion. Even moreso than with Assayas' other films, Cold Water represents a terrific use of music, particularly the two lovers slow dancing to Leonard Cohen early on in the clip. In fact, having rewatched this section, I'm starting to wonder if Assayas isn't perhaps the true heir to Kenneth Anger (as far as using songs goes, that is).

And now Regular Lovers. (I've shown this clip before, by the way. Sorry about the quasi-recycling.) The action doesn't really begin till the minute mark.

And the PW. A Six Pack on actors cast awesomely against type (Henry Fonda in Once Upon a Time in the West, Cameron Diaz in Being John Malkovich), a review of Manufactured Landscapes, a visually striking doc on still photographer Edward Burtynsky, and a very summery Rep.


Briefly Breaking My Coulter Ban

About a year ago, after several years of getting in a tizzy every week over Ann Coulter's columns (and occasional books, TV appearances, etc.), I took an online oath: I promised that I would do my best to no longer read her increasingly unreadable, transparently calculated, quip-heavy hate screeds. That way, I can help cut back on her only form of power (attention, duh). I can't even remember at which site I took this pledge, nor could I find it with a quick Google search. Regardless, I mean business, and my sanity has been happily preserved.

But every now and then I break it. I couldn't resist thumbing through her "takedown" of evo-devo in Godless (effectively dismantled here), and I couldn't resist seeing how she would respond to someone (i.e., Elizabeth Edwards) who called her on her shit on-air, the cameraman very tellingly holding on her face. (Nice sabotage, dude.)

Surely, I don't need to post the incident on this page (you can see it here, as well as, oh, everywhere else). I have a (possibly rhetorical) question, though. Edwards asks her to stop making personal attacks (on her husband, and in general). Coulter immediately interprets/spins that as meaning she should stop writing altogether. Does that mean she's acknowledging that she has nothing to write about except personal attacks? That if she stopped "making fun" of grieving parents, widows, et al., there'd be a blank page? A brutally honest admission, if you ask me.

(By the way, how awesome is Chris Matthew's exasperated sigh when, having asked her a pretty direct question about why she mocks, say, Monica Lewinsky's fat legs, she ducks it by demanding he superfluously cite the entire sentence? Awesome enough that I almost like the guy.)

And with that, my Coulter ban resumes.


Monday, June 25, 2007


I was interviewed -- via IM, for a good two and a half hours -- by my good pal (and fellow PWer) Craig D. Lindsey for his blog at his North Carolina paper, The News & Observer. I'm honestly not sure how interesting it will be to a third party, as it's quite chatty and laid-back. (Though I did, apparently, talk quite a bit about Seth Rogen's bare ass.) Perhaps if you need a mid-day nap?


A Breach in Breach

As with Keanu Reeves, Andie Macdowell and the version of Mark Wahlberg that’s straight and boring, a lot of seemingly intelligent filmmakers have an unhealthy affinity for Ryan Phillippe. I like Billy Ray’s approach to docudrama. In both this and Shattered Glass, he combines an unmistakable intelligence with a willingness to find empathy in real people not worthy of them. But he cast Phillippe as his lead, and the movie, by and large, just goes down with him. I don’t mean that as a glib joke. Phillippe literally opens up a conceptual black hole in the movie. Chris Cooper’s Robert Hanssen – the FBI agent who sold secrets to the Soviet Union for some 25 years – is built up time and again as the slyest crony on the block, capable of shaking down the best of Soviet spies and generally impossible to, um, breach. The film finds him fooled into trusting Phillippe’s newbie Eric O’Neill, essentially making Phillippe an actor playing an actor. And since Phillippe can’t act his way out of a plastic bag, neither can O’Neill, lending a surreality to Hanssen’s downfall. He can hang with Soviet spies but he can’t catch a guy who can’t even sell a line? Hanssen’s a fascinating enough subject to keep Breach worthwhile, and Ray even works a thoughtful dissection on the meaning of trust: the film manages to express Hanssen’s pain over being deceived without making him into some fallen hero. It even manages to deal with his hardcore, nutty Opus Dei faith without resorting to easy yuks. But despite the top billing, the movie belongs not to Cooper but to Phillippe, and Phillippe fails at even playing the bland eye at the center of the much more showy storm. B-


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

YouTubing-To-Obscure-Shameless-Self-Promotion Wednesdays: The Rhythm of Denis

Denis Levant's frügging session from the finale of Claire Denis' Beau Travail -- second to the Tony Leung-featuring ending of Wong Kar-Wai's Days of Being Wild as the greatest unexpected final scene ever:

In Ye Olde PW I totally interviewed Ben Kingsley, totally reviewed his movie You Kill Me as well as Luc Besson's typically ridiculous Angel-A (second and third down), totally wrote about the POV-heavy Britcom Peep Show (which I totally mentioned about on this spot earlier), and totally did another session of Rep.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

YouTubing-To-Obscure-Shameless-Self-Promotion Wednesdays: No More Mr. Passive-Resistance

I'm totally interviewing Ben Kingsley this weekend (re: his hitman comedy You Kill Me). In my head, I'm imagining that getting him to talk will be a bit like this. In honor of this possibly terrifying occasion, here's the trailer for Gandhi II, aka the best part of "Weird" Al's UHF.

In the Weekly: I interview director Olivier Dahan, whose Edith Piaf biopic, La Vie En Rose, I decimate over here (while also praising Guy Maddin's latest, Brand Upon the Brain!). Also, Rep, in which I heap some praise on John and Yoko's forgotten TV movie Rape.


Thursday, June 07, 2007

I finally see (part of) Dark Side of the Rainbow

That's it?! This is bullshit.

Years ago, during a period of abject poverty (and pot), a roommate and I used to while away parts of evenings by cuing up albums to movies. The music/film mash-ups weren't scientifically selected. We just wondered whether Stereolab went with Fantasia or Broadcast did up 2001 or Led Zeppelin was a nice fit with Koyaanisqatsi. On all three counts: oh yeah. (Try Zep III with 'qatsi sometime.) We even tried Brian Eno's Another Green World with an episode of Flipper. The music would nicely alter the image, and vice versa, and we'd even chuckle loudly when there was a connection, sonic or lyrics-wise, with the song and what was on screen.

What we didn't do was claim that these songs were intentionally recorded alongside the movies we were watching, citing dozens of tenuous connections even as the artists themselves state outright that we had far too much time on our hands and besides, they didn't even have the capability to project the films in question in the studio.

I state this not because I expected Oz and Moon to connect much -- I've publicly mocked screenings of this on several occasions -- but because, having seen a snippet of it, I'm just amazed at how...fucking...lame it is. "The lunatic is on the grass" = the Scarecrow dancing about like a moron on a yellow brick road? A brief chuckle as Dorothy discovers the Tin Man's foot? A veritable cottage industry based on specious connections like these?

I won't begrudge people who enjoy the experience, but the Floyd/Fleming mesh is about as effective as my roommate and I experimenting with whatever movie and album we got our hands on -- less so, actually, since the music doesn't perform an interesting or particularly pleasing alteration on the film. It's just occasional, minor, accidental match-ups. Not to mention, in order to do the synch, one has to start the album thrice since Dark Side is over twice as short as Oz.

Each connection on the afore-linked page is a clear-cut case of confirmation bias, wherein the brain hunts for connections between unrelated objects, embellishing the finds while ignoring the far more prevalent misses. Notice how the song segues into different sections and the scene just keeps playing out, oblivious to Roger Waters et al.? Of course you don't, because the song just called the frügging Scarecrow a "lunatic" (albeit one "not on the grass"). It's like when people claim that coincidences are part of an overall intelligent design. You're thinking of Person A and then Person A calls you right at that moment. "Some higher being meant for you to call me just now," you tell Person A, who promptly responds, "What are you, fucking high? What about the thousands, maybe millions of times you've thought of me and I didn't call? The world does not revolve around you. Jesus."

I'm just saying.


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

YouTubing-To-Obscure-Shameless-Self-Promotion Wednesdays:That Boy Needs Therapy

Mike Maguire's video for "Frontier Psychiatrist," off of the mind-melting, all-sample album Since I Left You by Aussie electronic outfit The Avalanches:

Unlike those on the Director's Label (Jonze, Gondry, Corbijn, et al.), Maguire's not a particularly well-known director. (He's apparently a memeber of The Director's Bureau, a collective headed up by Coppolas Sofia and Roman.) I don't know why not. This video is at least the equal of the best of anyone mentioned above, coming up with the amazingly novel idea of assigning each of the song's samples a tactile analogue -- ranging from the hilariously literal ("you're crazier than a coconut" = a ventrioloquist dummy with a coconut head) to the troublesomely weird (the turtle man) -- then arranging them all on a stage. It's a nifty piece of deconstruction, literally taking the song apart piece by piece. And like most great videos, it makes it hard to listen to its song the same way again. From now on, the image I conjure up when I hear whinnying will be an older woman slapping a horse's ass.

The Weekly. In today's pape, a Six Pack on Out-of-Nowhere Movie Deaths, like Wages of Fear, Deep Blue Sea and, my favorite ending ever, Martin. Also, a review of Alain Resnais' Private Fears in Public Places (known in France more succinctly as Coeurs) and Rep.