Monday, May 23, 2005

Rambling on My Mind: Malfunkshun, Mysterious Skin, 4 & Frozen

Malfunkshun: The Andrew Wood Story
(Scot Barbour, US, 2005)


I was Andy's biggest fan not because he was going to be a rock star. I was Andy's biggest fan because Andy was who he was. If you met Andy, you loved him like I loved him.
-- David Wood, Andrew's father

***** ***** ***** ***** *****

It's hard to predict whether viewers who aren't interested in the Seattle scene will take to this well-contructed portrait. I am, so I did, and I was never a big fan of Malfunkshun or Mother Love Bone (Mudhoney and Nirvana were more my speed).

Andrew Wood, AKA Landrew the Love Child, was the flamboyant frontman for both, the latter of which morphed into Pearl Jam after his drug-related death in 1990.

For those who enjoyed Doug Pray's Hype!, I'd recommend Malfunkshun. Plus, it includes members of the title band and MLB (like Stone Gossard and Greg Gilmore), producer/musician Jack Endino of Skin Yard, Chris Cornell and Kim Thayil of Soundgarden, Wood's family, friends and fiancee, and other interesting locals.

Neptune: Sat., 6/4, 6:30PM and EMP: Thurs., 6/9, 7:00PM

Mysterious Skin
(Gregg Araki, US, 2004)


This evocative adaptation of the highly-praised Scott Heim novel is an impressive return to form for Araki (The Doom Generation). More to the point, it's his best film.

Yes, Mysterious Skin is disturbing-it concerns sexual abuse and the results thereof-but more is suggested than shown, and Araki coaxes fine performances from his cast, particularly Joseph Gordon-Levitt (yep, that Third Rock from the Sun kid) as the sociopathic Neil, Brady Corbet as the likably pathetic Brian, and Mary Lynn Rajskub (24's Chloe) as a woman who also believes she was abducted by aliens. Oh, and Harold Budd and Robin Guthrie (the Cocteau Twins) provide the lovely score.

Egyptian: Thurs., 6/2, 9:15PM and Uptown: Sat., 6/4, 3:45PM. Note: Araki is scheduled to attend both screenings.

(Ilya Khrzhanovsky, Russia, 2004)

Imagine, if you will, a film filled to the brim with whining, whimpering, barking
dogs (lots of them), meat (lots of close-ups of cold carcasses and greasy,
slimy cooked stuff, mostly pork), alcohol (lots of it, mostly homebrew), puke
(hey, where there's homebrew, there's puke), toothless old crones (lots of them, some gleefully topless), anatomically-correct cloth dolls with faces made out of chewed bread (masticated by those industrious crones) and, of course, suicide.
4 takes every Russian stereotype you can imagine and throws 'em all up-pun intended-on the screen. I understand there's a fair amount of symbolism behind the bewildering array of unappealing imagery, and viewers more intrepid than myself may well appreciate the meanings they convey, but I was just too repelled to care.

Neptune: Fri., 6/10, 2:00PM, and Sat., 6/11, 6:30PM.

(Juliet McKoen, UK, 2004)


The starting point was this powerful and poetic article called Salvaging the Sacred, in which Marion Partington, cousin of Martin Amis, describes the emotional effects of her sister Lucy being missing for 21 years. (Lucy was eventually discovered to be one of the West victims).
-- Writer/director Juliet McKeon

***** ***** ***** ***** *****

The aptly titled Frozen is a mostly successful, but frustratingly static look at the consequences of an impeded grieving process. Just as Kath (Shirley Henderson, the highlight of Sally Potter's Yes) can't properly mourn the loss of her sister, because
a body has never been recovered, I found it hard to sympathize with her plight.
McKeon's debut feature presents an odd conundrum, because it's almost too successful at what it's trying to achieve, i.e. Kath's "frozen" state, emphasized
by frequent shots of ice and water, ends up distancing us from her, despite Henderson's best efforts (and Red Road's Sean Harris makes for a fine foil).
Still, Frozen is worth seeing, even if doesn't scale the same heights as Lynn Ramsay's Ratcatcher or Bruno Dumont's L'Humanite, the two films it reminded me of most.

Harvard Exit: Fri., 6/10, 7:15PM, and Sun., 6/12, 4:15PM.

Images from The Moscow Times, The Evening Class, The Stranger, and Slamdance. 8/12/07 postscript: The Malfunkshun DVD is scheduled for later this year.

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