Monday, May 29, 2006

Cabiria


MetaFilter user matteo chooses to highlight Cabiria, a silent film historical epic from Italy.



All Kinds of Folks

FESTIVAL
(Murray Lerner, USA, 1967, BetaSP, 95 mins.)


[image]

Well, all you ladies gather around.
The good sweet candy man's in town.
It's the candy man, candy man.

-- Mississippi John Hurt (1963)


*****

Festival is a welcome reminder about the breadth and depth of folk. Since
the genre has been around for so long--seemingly forever--and shows no signs
of stopping--whether we're talking the polished folk-pop of Jewel or the freak-
folk of Devendra Banhart and friends--it's easy to take for granted. It's just as
easy to forget that folk isn't a singular look or sound, and that there was a time
when it captured the popular imagination the way rock would in the 1970s.

There are glimpses of the decade to come in this B&W film, which captures the
Newport Folk Festival, circa 1963-66: In Paul Butterfield's rocked-up blues, in
the newly-electrified Dylan, and mostly in Howlin' Wolf, kicking up a sweat-stain-
ed ruckus in a way that would have a profound effect on an upcoming generation
of British rockers--especially Led Zeppelin. Then there's his hyped-up growl of a
voice. It may be a slight exaggeration, but I can't imagine Captain Beefheart or
Tom Waits without it. (If it sounds like I think Wolf's the shit, that's because I do.)

[image]


But Festival isn't just about the big names. It's also a glimpse at the smaller, more eccentric ones (Cousin Emmy, Almeda Riddle, et al.), as well as the thousands of fans who made the Rhode Island gathering a major cultural event in the 1960s, leading up to Monterey Pop and Woodstock later in the decade, and numerous festivals in the present, like Lollapalooza and Coachella, the latter of which will have its own film screened as part of the "Music Festivals on Film" series (see below).

Both stylistically and chronologically, Lerner's Oscar-nominated doc lies somewhere between Jazz on a Summer's Day (1960) and Wattstax (1973). That means musical performances combined with artist interviews (Mel Lyman, Joan Baez, etc.) and commentary from the crowd. There's even an act who appears in two of the films: The Staple Singers. There may be others, but it was the Staples who caught my attention as they were more of a gospel act in Festival. By the time of the Mel Stuart film, they had completely--and gloriously--funkified their sound.

[image]

I've mentioned few of the folk acts most closely associated with the era. Rest assured they're there. In terms of screen time, Baez, Peter, Paul and Mary, and Dylan (both before and after he plugged in), get plenty of it. It's just that I was most looking forward to the bluesmen, like Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee and Mississippis Fred McDowell and John Hurt--and yes, that marks the third time I've typed the words "John Hurt" in the past two weeks. What the hell, he deserves it (both Johns, that is). All deliver, especially the latter with an entrancing "Candyman."

On the down side, Johnny Cash's iconic "I Walk the Line" isn't shown in its entirety and that was a disappointment (it isn't the only such instance). Cash has never looked happier, and I totally dug it. I was also amused to note that he was chewing gum. It reminded me of the Jam's appearance on the recently released DVD The Tomorrow Show With Tom Snyder: Punk & New Wave. Between verses of "Pretty Green," Paul Weller smacks away on his gum. It's still a great performance.

Also, the way Lerner (Jimi Hendrix at the Isle of Wight) cuts between the casually dressed Mike Bloomfield and sartorial splendid Son House is irritating at first, i.e. young, old, white, black, plain, fancy, etc. At the same time, it's kind of cool, because Bloomfield ends up giving one of the funniest interviews in the film. Frankly, I was a little shocked when he let it slip that his dad's a multi-millionaire (and that he had a rockin' bar mitzvah). It wasn't hip to cop to that kind of thing back then--better to pretend to be working class. Still, Bloomfield admits that House is blues in a way he'll never be, but that smokin' harmonic player Paul Butterfield comes close.

Festival ends with a group sing-a-long led by Pete Seeger, providing another link with the present as Bruce Springsteen just released We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions. The fact that Seeger is still kicking in his 80s makes the timing all the sweeter. (Too bad Woody Guthrie didn't live to see Wilco and Billy Bragg introduce him to a new audience via Mermaid Avenue.) Not only is it the best thing the Boss has done in years, but Seeger's songs are more relevant now than ever--yet more proof that folk lives on in all kinds of ways and in all kinds of people.



Festival plays the Northwest Film Forum on 6/5-8, Mon.-Thurs.,
at 7 and 9pm. They'll also be screening The T.A.M.I. Show (the Rolling
Stones, James Brown, etc.) on 6/2-4, Fri.-Sun., at 7 and 9pm and Coach-
ella
(Radiohead, Arcade Fire, etc.) on 6/9-15, Fri.-Thurs., at 7 and 9:30-
pm. The NWFF is located at 1515 12th Ave. between Pike and Pine. For
more information, please click here or call 206-267-5380 for show times.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Down Time

Sorry for the outages, everyone. The site is run out of a web server on my home DSL line and my ISP has been flaky this week. I have a call in to them on the matter and hope they can fix it shortly. Rest assured, when the site's down, I'm working on it, as it means no internet access for me at home.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Oh Opening Night Party, how you love AND hate me...

Shh, SIFFblog. Be quieter, please.

I'm still nursing a headache from the Opening Night Party last night. The culprit? Champagne. I know that when I drink it, it will give me a headache, yet I did it anyway because, well, in all honesty, the line for the champagne bar was much, much shorter than the line for the Bombay Sapphire bar. Eventually we got there ,of course. I thought it was cute that they tried to have themed drinks -- I say try, because I think most people would have been happier if they'd just handed out bottles of gin to sip out of.

My friend and I arrived just shortly after the movie got out, so we (barely) avoided the cattle call up the steps and inside. Assuring her we just needed to act like we knew what we were doing, we headed straight to VIP. Thisclose to being let in -- I mean it, the dude was getting wristbands ready to put on us -- our attempt was foiled by a woman who told us "UH, NO PRESS in the VIP area!". Of course, this was a lie. Clearly, she just didn't like us. But oh well! Who needs to be in the cramped little VIP room anyway, when we can wander around upstairs with everyone else?
And whoa. EVERYONE else is right. It was packed! We avoided the stairs by taking the elevator (it is amazing that no one else seems to know that is there!). Of course, by the time we got up there, the lines were ridiculous. The only food I actually got to sample was some Ezell's chicken, which I already know is tasty. But really, eating a fried chicken leg, potato salad, and biscuit while fancily dressed with a side of mimosa is the height of hip. Dead sexy, for sure.
I didn't see any celebs, but I wasn't really looking -- however, I couldn't find anyone else I knew either. My friend Eric happened to run smack into me, but that was about it. Oh! I did see Miss Tara Morgan, and she looked fabulous! She scurried off before I had a chance to tell her that, though.
And -- I bow down to the power of alcohol. When we first arrived, everyone was looking stiff and bored, and the only people on the dance floor were some kids who looked to be around 12. An hour and many gin & tonics later, the floor was filled with adults shakin' it, dirty dancing, and in some cases, even stripping. No, that wasn't me. I was too busy drunk texting a cute boy and sending him photos of my cleavage.
Say what you will about the DJ- but I loved her. She played all the stuff I like to dance to, and so, I did. I am shameless after I hit an open bar 5 times.
So all in all, a success (for me, at least). I came, I saw, I drank, I danced, I took seriously pixilated camera photos, and I arrived home via cab at 12:30am to promptly pass out, awakening at 7:30am to crawl to work with the worst headache I've had in years and some mystery bruises (was I doing the bump too hard out there on the dance floor? I honestly don't remember).
Viva la Opening Night! Viva la Bombay! Viva la champ,AePno, no, I can't even joke about that yet,AeP.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Burden of Turtles

turtles.jpg

The Chances of The World Changing [Eric Daniel Metzgar, USA, 99min.]

"Lowell Freeman looks after his plants in giant space greenhouses. Back on earth, all the trees have long vanished, so Lowell puts a lot of heart into his work. When orders from earth are received to destroy the greenhouses, Lowell can't go through with it... so he makes other arrangements."


That's the plot summary of Silent Running, the 1972 Douglas Trumbull film, but it could almost be the summary of The Chances of The World Changing. Richard Ogust loves turtles. He saves them from extinction. Mainly rare species from Southeast Asia where they are seen as a slow moving lunch. Over a period of years he has rescued and conserved hundreds of turtles. Richard also happens to be a writer and not a professional conservationist. He receives no financial or institutional support for his efforts and keeps the turtles privately. 1,200 of them. In an apartment. In New York City. When he is eventually evicted [the neighbors complained] he moves the turtles and himself to a warehouse in NJ. This is the first crisis in the film. Others follow. With dwindling financial resources and only a few friends to help, Richard struggles under the responsibility of trying to create a place for something for which the world is, at best, seemingly indifferent.

If man is the only animal worth studying, then perhaps it is because man is the only animal capable of making moral choices about his environment. One can surely shrug, in a fatalistic way, that given the world as it is, such pursuits are absurd and quixotic. After all, who the hell asked him to save the goddamned turtles? However, one doesn't have to be Camus to see that there might be some ennobling sense, however absurd, that the purpose of such a cause brings. After all, in a personal way, everything we hold dear will someday be extinguished. Why bother loving anything when each of us will ultimately vanish as surely as the Dodo?
Although the film never states it, it is possible to see Ogust as a bit more fool than holy. Given the scientific value of his collection, it is odd that he never receives the support or assistance of an official body. But taking at the film at face value, he appears as heroic as any Herzog subject.
"When one is fraught with immeasurable responsibility, an excess of strength, not gloom, powers the day. And that strength, again and again, in the face of all obstacles, is what we filmed." Despite the affirmation of this director's statement The Chances of The World Changing is about as cheerful as Diary of A Country Priest, but if the film doesn't provide much uplift, it surely suceeds as a portrait of faith bordering on the infinite. Bresson would understand.
6.14, Broadway Performance Hall, 4:00pm
6.17, Broadway Performance Hall, 4:30pm

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

A hit! A palpable hit!

Observers take note: Nick Cave's antipodean Western, The Proposition, is the first film at SIFF to win the hearts of the SIFFBloggers as reported to date. Anybody else who caught the press screening, or makes the Friday show, please weigh on that initial entry's comments.

Funny, But True

Love Streams
(John Cassavetes, US, 1984, 141 mins.)


With press screenings in full effect and the official opening on Thursday, it's easy
to overlook the non-SIFF films playing in town. That said, you've got one day left
to catch John Cassavetes' penultimate feature at the Northwest Film Forum.

If you have any interest in his work, or that of the many directors he's influenced, like Steve Buscemi (Trees Lounge) and Vincent Gallo (Buffalo 66, which features Cassavetes great Ben Gazzara), Love Streams is a must-see. Granted, Cassavetes isn't for everybody or, to quote Le Tigre, "Misogynist? Genius? / Alcoholic! Messiah!" ("What's Yr Take on Cassavetes?"). The answer is: All of the above.

Personally, I find his work both irresistibly compelling (the emotional rawness)
and discomfortingly off-putting (the, uh, emotional rawness). But mostly the former. Of the films I've seen, black and white jazz-inflected debut Shadows (1959) and Gazzara tour de force The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976) are my favorites.

Of course, I'm talking about Cassavetes, the writer/director. As an actor, I think
he's terribly underrated, particularly in Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby (the ultimate controlling husband) and Robert Aldrich's adrenaline-fueled Dirty Dozen,
for which he received a well deserved Oscar nomination. I'm also quite fond of
his 1950s work for numerous TV anthology series, like Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Love Streams, meanwhile, may be flawed, but it's still eminently worthwhile. In it, the late filmmaker (1929-1989) and wife Gena Rowlands play middle-aged Los Angeles-based brother and sister Robert and Sarah, who have highly problematic relationships with the opposite sex--especially her husband, Jack (Seymour Cassel, another member of the troupe), their children, even pets--especially the goat!

The only people they get along with, and just barely at that, are each other. Cassavetes seem to be suggesting that if they weren't related, they'd be the
perfect couple. Well, "perfect" may be a bit of a stretch, but the implication
is that they could never possibly find anyone more understanding.

In real life, that seemed to be the case. Granted, the heavy-drinking helmer can't have been easy to live with, but I digress... He and Rowlands have great chemistry together, although you have to wait for it, as they spend the first two-thirds of the film apart, and it wasn't until the last act that I realized they were playing siblings.

Co-written by Ted Allan and adapted from his play, Love Streams gives Rowlands
one of her best roles and she runs with it. Sarah may be a loony, but she sure is
fun to watch (bowling in stockings, doing back flips in Robert's pool, etc.). As it's
a lunacy that possibly stems from actual mental illness, some have found her actions hard to watch, but I thought the humor of the presentation made her desperation to be loved--just to be noticed--a lot easier to take.

According to the IMDB, Jon Voight played Robert on stage, signed on for the
film, then dropped out due to "creative differences." It's just as well. Cassavetes nails the role of the endlessly drinking, constantly whoring, ultimately lonely novelist.

I've also read that he knew he only had a few years left to live. I don't know for
sure that that's true (bad dye job aside, he doesn't look sick in the film). Five
years later, however, he did succumb to cirrhosis of the liver.

In 1971's Minnie & Moskowitz (Rowlands and Cassel), Cassavetes attempted to put his stamp on the romantic comedy, but to mixed results. Love Streams starts off darker, but becomes funnier and stranger as it goes along, and Rowlands gets all the best comic moments (while her dreams provide much of the strangeness).

Unlike some, I wouldn't call it a masterpiece, but I'm glad I caught Love Streams
on the big screen and would hate to see it get lost in the midst of SIFF madness. John Cassavetes, that "misogynist, genius, alcoholic, messiah," deserves no less.



Love Streams plays the Northwest Film Forum Thursday, 5/25,
at 7pm and 9:30pm. The NWFF is located at 1515 12th Ave. on Capi-
tol Hill. For more information, please click here or call 206-267-5380.

My Quick Way Out

slick3.bmp
Slick has a posse.

My Quick Way Out [Miguel Albaladejo, Spain, 115 min.]

He's a cool criminal, a thief who drives getaway like Steve McQueen; he's smooth with the ladies and has a foxy girl, he sports a bitchin' denim jacket and never looks unruffled. He's got all that and he's not even 11. I hate him! Based on the real life of Juan Carlos 'Slick' Delgado, a juvenile delinquent so young he made the hoods in Brick look like old men. Set in Spain in the late 70's, early 80's its got period vibe, enhanced by a funky, jazz soundtrack and a judicious use of feathered hair. Its got robberies, shootouts, car chases, drug abuse, a few good laughs and a bedroom scene that would make Nabokov smile. Is there any reason not to see this picture? No. No, there isn't.

5.28, Pacific Place, 3:45pm
6.5, Lincoln Square, 4:30pm

My Quick Way Out

slick3.bmp
Slick has a posse.

My Quick Way Out [Miguel Albaladejo, Spain, 115 min.]

He's a cool criminal, a thief who drives getaway like Steve McQueen; he's smooth with the ladies and has a foxy girl, he sports a bitchin' denim jacket and never looks unruffled. He's got all that and he's not even 11. I hate him! Based on the real life of Juan Carlos 'Slick' Delgado, a juvenile delinquent so young he made the hoods in Brick look like old men. Set in Spain in the late 70's, early 80's its got period vibe, enhanced by a funky, jazz soundtrack and a judicious use of feathered hair. Its got robberies, shootouts, car chases, drug abuse, a few good laughs and a bedroom scene that would make Nabokov smile. Is there any reason not to see this picture? No. No, there isn't.

5.28, Pacific Place, 3:45pm
6.5, Lincoln Square, 4:30pm

Monday, May 22, 2006

Boy Culture

boy culture.jpg


Sunday, June 15th, 9:15 p.m. Harvard Exit
Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival
http://www.seattlequeerfilm.com/06/index.html

Please take advantage of Seattle getting this great film a second time. This review was originally written for its screening at SIFF.

Here's my problem with most gay dramas; they usually fall into one of four categories Coming Out, Dying of Aids, The Loves and Travails of a Group of Friends and Hustlers. Granted Boy Culture technically falls into Hustlers, but within the first five minutes of the film it satirizes this fact in a wittily self-reflexive way.

Admirably, director and co-screenwriter Q. Allan Brocka was able to incorporate several of these self-parodying jokes; as well as use clichéd gay film scenarios like the gay man secretly in love with best friend; and the usual stock homosexual characters- older mentor, hustler with the heart of gold, and humorous sluttish twink with secret depths; and still manage to come up with an original smart and insightful drama about three dimensional characters behaving in a realistic manner. In other words, he gives us the best of both worlds and challenges the audience to look at gay interrelationships as they are in the real world. Plus, impressively, he makes Seattle, where the film is set, look like Seattle-there are days when it doesn't rain and there are locations other than the Space Needle.
Brocka also wisely cast the wonderful character actor Patrick Bauchau, whom you've seen a half a dozen times playing the wise mentor to numerous heroes, as, well, the wise mentor to the high paid hustler/hero of this piece the self-named X. Bauchau's character, Gregory, gives X, (insightfully played by Derek Magyar) much needed lessons in human connection and risk taking which in addition to living with his two roommates, Blowey Joey (the twink and X's surrogate son) and Andrew (X's potential love interest) may or may not lead him successfully down the rocky path to romance. Gregory winds up not being quite what he seem which again pays tribute to the cleverness of the screenplay and direction.

E. Steven Fried 2006 SIFF Bio

fanelli.jpg
photo by Oberdana

E. Steven Fried didn't have have time to write a bio, but we managed to catch a few minutes with him for this interview:

Q: You moved here several years ago from New York where you had some minor involvement in the local film scene. Have things been different for you here in Seattle?

A: Yes, I've noticed that turkey is really popular here.

Much more so than in New York. Whenever I go to the deli to get lunch I notice half the customers are ordering turkey sandwiches. It's not so much the choice of turkey that mystifies me as the fact that the quality of sliced turkey meat here is so poor that I don't understand its popularity. It's this overly processed stuff that tastes nothing like fresh carved turkey. Why anyone would want to eat it is beyond me.
Q: Do you have any observations beyond things relating to turkey?
A: Yes. Deli meats here are, in general, not as good as in New York. Try finding a good slice of roast beef or corned beef. And pastrami? Forget about it. On the other hand you can find good salami without too much difficulty.
Q: I meant, specifically, your film related observations.
A: Oh, well, you may not find as many film-related things here, but I've found that the film scene is very accessible. At least, I've had a lot more opportunity to do things here than I ever did in New York. At least, that's the way it has worked out for me.
Q: So you see a lot films.
A: Yes, I see a couple of films a week.
Q: And how about SIFF. How many times have you attended?
A: I've been going every year since I moved here. So, this year will be my fourth SIFF.
Q: How many films do you usually see?
A: The first year I only went to the Secret Fest screenings, the next year I saw sixteen films and last year I attended about thirty. This year I hope to do at least forty.
Q: Do you have any funny SIFF stories?
A: Yeah, last year I was going to see 9 Songs, but right before the screening I spilled a drink on my white jeans and went home to change. If there was one film I was not going to attend with a big wet stain on my crotch it was that.
Q: Do you have a SIFF strategy?
A: Yes, I try to bunch the films by location, to do as little traveling as possible. I live within walking distance of most of the theatres, but it helps if I can consolidate the locations.
Q: How early do you typically get to each film?
A: I usually arrive an hour or so before each screening and am often the first person on the passholder's line.
Q: Since you tend to be at the front of the line are you willing to save a space for someone?
A: If I know them or they're important. Actually, forget the second part. Only if I know them. I don't care how important they are. If I don't know them, they get nothing!
Q: That's nice to know. How can people spot you in order to um.... act accordingly.
A: I'll be the guy with the Chris Meloni"sh smile.
Q: Well, thanks. Hope you enjoy SIFF this year.
A: You too, pal.

E. Steven Fried 2006 SIFF Bio

fanelli.jpg
photo by Oberdana

E. Steven Fried didn't have have time to write a bio, but we managed to catch a few minutes with him for this interview:

Q: You moved here several years ago from New York where you had some minor involvement in the local film scene. Have things been different for you here in Seattle?

A: Yes, I've noticed that turkey is really popular here.

Much more so than in New York. Whenever I go to the deli to get lunch I notice half the customers are ordering turkey sandwiches. It's not so much the choice of turkey that mystifies me as the fact that the quality of sliced turkey meat here is so poor that I don't understand its popularity. It's this overly processed stuff that tastes nothing like fresh carved turkey. Why anyone would want to eat it is beyond me.
Q: Do you have any observations beyond things relating to turkey?
A: Yes. Deli meats here are, in general, not as good as in New York. Try finding a good slice of roast beef or corned beef. And pastrami? Forget about it. On the other hand you can find good salami without too much difficulty.
Q: I meant, specifically, your film related observations.
A: Oh, well, you may not find as many film-related things here, but I've found that the film scene is very accessible. At least, I've had a lot more opportunity to do things here than I ever did in New York. At least, that's the way it has worked out for me.
Q: So you see a lot films.
A: Yes, I see a couple of films a week.
Q: And how about SIFF. How many times have you attended?
A: I've been going every year since I moved here. So, this year will be my fourth SIFF.
Q: How many films do you usually see?
A: The first year I only went to the Secret Fest screenings, the next year I saw sixteen films and last year I attended about thirty. This year I hope to do at least forty.
Q: Do you have any funny SIFF stories?
A: Yeah, last year I was going to see 9 Songs, but right before the screening I spilled a drink on my white jeans and went home to change. If there was one film I was not going to attend with a big wet stain on my crotch it was that.
Q: Do you have a SIFF strategy?
A: Yes, I try to bunch the films by location, to do as little traveling as possible. I live within walking distance of most of the theatres, but it helps if I can consolidate the locations.
Q: How early do you typically get to each film?
A: I usually arrive an hour or so before each screening and am often the first person on the passholder's line.
Q: Since you tend to be at the front of the line are you willing to save a space for someone?
A: If I know them or they're important. Actually, forget the second part. Only if I know them. I don't care how important they are. If I don't know them, they get nothing!
Q: That's nice to know. How can people spot you in order to um.... act accordingly.
A: I'll be the guy with the Chris Meloni"sh smile.
Q: Well, thanks. Hope you enjoy SIFF this year.
A: You too, pal.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Control Freaks

jimjones.bmp

Jonestown: The Life and Death of The Peoples Temple [Stanley Nelson, USA, 86 min.]

Clear Cut: The Story of Philomath, Oregon [Peter Richardson, USA, 73 min.]

One of the creepiest moments in Downfall was when Magda Goebbels poisons her six children. It wasn't the ignominy of postwar defeat that prompted her, but the fervent belief that a world without Nazism was unfit to live in. Better to hasten oneself to an afterlife than spend a minute in a fallen Eden. A similar compulsion propelled Jim Jones to create, then destroy Jonestown.

Though mostly remembered for having inspired the phrase 'drink the Kool-Aid' [albeit Flavor-Aid was consumed], Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple were, at one time, seen as a religiously tolerant, socially progressive organization. Jones was a charismatic revivalist who preached the social gospel, a sort of leftist Jim Bakker with a rad set of shades. An early anti-segregationist, he created one of the first integrated churches in the country and further broke racial barriers by adopting one black and two asian children, raising them equally along with his own son. A bit of an old-school socialist, he developed The Peoples Temple into a self-sustaining commune, one that operated so successfully that, by the time they moved from Ukiah to San Francisco, they attracted the admiration of the Democratic political establishment. Both Jimmy and Roslyn Carter paid him visits and Willie Moscone depended upon his support for his mayoral campaign.
Despite his acceptance and success, Jones harbored a dark, paranoid vision and sought to control every aspect of his church members' lives. As told by the surviving members in Jonestown: The Life and Death of The Peoples Temple, Jones worked them like zombies, abused them physically, preyed upon them sexually, forced them to cut off contact with outside family and friends and caused them to bequeath their material wealth to him. In return they were given a totalizing experience, one in which he would act as their father, lover, savior or god, whichever they needed from him. Seeking to further remove his members from corrupting influence he moved the temple to Guyana where he built his utopia on 3000 acres of land leased from the Guyanese government. Although achieving a remarkable level of sustainability in the middle of the jungle, Jones couldn't relax from the grip of his compulsions and continued to rule like a Maoist. When congressman Leo Ryan visited to investigate reports of captivity and abuse, Jones initially put on a good show. However, when several temple members began making their desire to leave known, Jones went haywire. A party was sent to ambush the departing delegation and Congressman Ryan, along with three journalists and three defectors, was shot and killed. Sensing that the murders wouldn't go unnoticed, Jones ordered the liquidation of the temple, coercing everyone to take a draught of the valium and cyanide laced Flavor-Aid. Although not everyone complied, a total of 913 people gave up their lives, including 276 children.
Although it might be impossible for any film to thoroughly explain such insanity, Jonestown presents the history in an engrossing and chilling manner and one cannot but feel sorry for the surviving participants and witnesses who testify of their shame and sorrow.
Though nowhere near as maniacal as Jim Jones, Steve Lowther has his own desire to shape a community. The nephew of timber baron Rex Clemens, Lowther (along with his brothers) administers a scholarship fund begun by their late uncle in 1959. The Clemens Scholarship was intended to insure that every graduate from the local high school could afford to go to college. There were no qualifications, only a one-page application that took five minutes to fill out. In the 1980's federal endangered species regulations devastated the lumber industry in Philomath. Since then, residents from the nearby town of Corvallis, employees of Hewlett Packard and Oregon State University, have begun to filter in as urban transplants, bringing an information-economy tilt to the old industry town. As typically happens, the brewing culture clash centered around the high school, the lighting rod being Terry Kneisler, a new superintendant from Chicago. As Kneisler sought to freshen up the curriculum, dark rumors began to circulate of highfalutin' notions such as 'environmentalism' and 'diversity' being taught. When wind of this got to Lowther he blew a gasket. In the film he voices his distress that the students are being indoctrinated by the cult of liberalism, just as surely as Germany's children were once indoctrinated by evils of Nazism [yes, he makes that analogy, twice]. Worse yet, the students are beginning to manifest this insidious brainwashing by sporting noserings and unnaturaly colored hair. Some have even taken to riding skateboards. The end is nigh. Lowther takes action, demanding that the school fire Kneisler or the scholarships will be terminated. When the school fails to comply, Lowther makes good on his threat, just as the class of 2003 is preparing to graduate.
Although it is quite easy to be angered by the actions of Lowther, Clear Cut: The Story of Philomath, Oregon manages to present him, as well as the other participants, in an evenhanded manner. Lowther comes across as an avuncular presence. The kind of relative you wouldn't mind having a beer with once a year, as long as the conversation was kept to sports. His opinions don't come across as Archie Bunkerish prejudices, but the anxieties of a man who knows full well the culture is passing him by. Lowther admits he's on the losing side of history, but he'll be dammed if he doesn't go down swinging. For his part, Kneisler isn't necessarily more sympathetic. He speaks in the measured tones of a pc-academic. The kind of tone-deaf, process oriented bureaucrat who would drive Hank Hill wild. When he banishes the school mascot, a wooden Indian, for being inappropriate, he doesn't realize that ripping out a long-cherished symbol by the roots evokes a psychic toll. Lowther might be a dunderhead for worrying that every fuschia-hued head of hair, sprouting among the student body, is evidence of the imminent collapse of civilization, but Kneisler doesn't help matters by spraying his administrative ammo at every available target. Although being the ones who bear the consequence, the students themselves aren't immune from their own notions of entitlement. Considering the grant a birthright instead of gift, some complain bitterly that Lowther has derailed their future.
In the end, neither side comes off particularly well. After the fund is pulled, Kneisler and a number of his associates scamper to less contentious pastures and the scholarship is reinstated, albeit with new restrictions. Only members of families who work in mining, lumber and agriculture can qualify and the applicants themselves must demonstrate they are of wholesome mind and body by participating in such organizations as 4-H, the Boy Scouts or the Forestry Club. In other words liberals, skatepunks, weirdos, computer geeks and fags need not apply. Needless to say, the number of students applying for the scholarship has dropped. Even those who meet Lowther's standards have been refusing to take his cash on the grounds that they don't care to have their values dictated by some geezer. It's nice to know that in Philometh, Oregon if not in Guyana, there are some folks who won't drink the Flavor-Aid.
Jonestown: The Life and Death of The Peoples Temple
5/29 NWFF 9:00pm
6/1 NWFF 7:00pm
Clear Cut: The Story of Philomath, Oregon
5/30 Egyptian 7:00pm
6/1 BPH 4:30pm

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Not-So-Magnificent Seven

Seven Swords / Chat gim
(Tsui Hark, Hong Kong, 144 mins.)


41.jpg

Please forgive me for (temporarily) abandoning the standard review format, but this mind-numbing battle extravaganza drove me too crazy to spend any more time thinking or writing about it than absolutely necessary-"'ve never yawned or checked my watch more frequently over the course of 144 endless minutes--so I offer instead a list of grades and one statistic.

Grades

Cinematography: A-
Costume Design: B+
Set Design: B
Acting: B-
Score: C+
Direction: C-
Screenplay: D
Character Development: F

It took me way too long to figure out who was who and why I should care. By the time I had everyone sorted out, it was too late. Feisty females Wu Yuan Yin (Charlie Yeung) and Green Pearl (the beautiful Kim So-yeon, above) had the makings of interesting characters, but the director failed them both. Seven Swords looks great and Tsui Hark (Once Upon a Time in China) is an action movie legend, so I feel like a heel for complaining, but two dozen fight scenes strung together, no matter how carefully executed or artfully composed, does not a movie make.

Statistic

Nine walkouts, if you count the guy who left just before the end. Most appeared to be 50 or older (five women to four men). That's the most of any press screening I've attended, but I'll be sure to check back the minute the record is broken.

Bonus statistic

On the off-chance you're looking for a non-narcotic alternative to Lunesta, Hark has reportedly cut a three-hour version.

*****

Neptune: 6/9 at 9:30pm and 6/11 at 3:45pm.

The Not-So-Magnificent Seven

Seven Swords / Chat gim
(Tsui Hark, Hong Kong, 144 mins.)


41.jpg

Please forgive me for (temporarily) abandoning the standard review format, but this mind-numbing battle extravaganza drove me too crazy to spend any more time thinking or writing about it than absolutely necessary--I've never yawned or checked my watch more frequently over the course of 144 endless minutes--so I offer instead a list of grades and one statistic.

Grades

Cinematography: A-
Costume Design: B+
Set Design: B
Acting: B-
Score: C+
Direction: C-
Screenplay: D
Character Development: F

It took me way too long to figure out who was who and why I should care. By the time I had everyone sorted out, it was too late. Feisty females Wu Yuan Yin (Charlie Yeung) and Green Pearl (the beautiful Kim So-yeon, above) had the makings of interesting characters, but the director failed them both. Seven Swords looks great and Tsui Hark (Once Upon a Time in China) is an action movie legend, so I feel like a heel for complaining, but two dozen fight scenes strung together, no matter how carefully executed or artfully composed, does not a movie make.

Statistic

Nine walkouts, if you count the guy who left just before the end. Most appeared to be 50 or older (five women to four men). That's the most of any press screening I've attended, but I'll be sure to check back the minute the record is broken.

Bonus statistic

On the off-chance you're looking for a non-narcotic alternative to Lunesta, Hark has reportedly cut a three-hour version.

*****

Neptune: 6/9 at 9:30pm and 6/11 at 3:45pm.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Crossing the Drawbridge

Crossing the Bridge - The Sound of Istanbul
(Fatih Akin, Germany, 90 mins.)


[poster]


After the triumph of Head-On, my expectations were probably unrealistically high for Fatih Akin's non-fiction follow-up. Crossing the Bridge isn't bad, and most of the music is quite appealing. I guess I was just expecting something a little more transcendant. Part of the problem is that I never took to narrator/host Alexander Hacke (Einstürzende Neubauten).

The bearded bassist (below, in ever-present black) worked on the soundtrack for Head-On, which combines Anglo-Australian post-punk (Depeche Mode, the Birthday Party) with traditional Turkish tunes (legendary chanteuse Sezen Aksu), so his involvement makes sense (Akin was born and raised in Germany; the film is in German and Turkish with English subtitles).

[hacke]

If you've seen the DVD featurette, however, you know how much more charismatic Akin is than Hacke. Since Akin wrote, directed, and shot the doc, however, I can only imagine that his plate was already overflowing.

The title refers to the fact that many of the featured artists--Replikas, Ronny James Dio-lookalike Erkin Koray, etc.--view Istanbul as a bridge between the East and the West. Recommended to open-minded music lovers with a high tolerance for unctuous Germans. Werner Herzog fans, that means you!

Harvard Exit: 5/27 at 5pm and 5/30 at 6pm.




Drawing Restraint 9
(Matthew Barney, US/Japan, unrated, 135 mins.)


For Barney aficionados, Drawing Restraint 9 will be required viewing. As its my sixth cinematic encounter with the man, however, I can't predict what new viewers will think (or how it'll do commercially). Since this is the first to receive a proper release, I'll be interested to see what happens.

Personally, I have mixed feelings about this effort. While I can't imagine missing a Barney film--there's nothing quite like 'em--I'm not sure I'd call myself a fan. His stuff can be pretty squirm-inducing and sometimes just plain silly (like the fur eyebrows and shell shoes he sports in this film).

Further, though his partner Björk's involvement has been attracting a great deal of attention, be forewarned that, although she composed the soundtrack and appears on screen, her vocals are kept to a minimum and there's none of the acting so brilliantly on display in Dancer in the Dark.

Like previous projects, Drawing Restraint 9 is performance art as film: music (some quite irritating) is abundant, dialogue virtually non-existent. It's mostly a series of set pieces revolving around two "Occidental Guests" (Barney and Björk), who engage in a series of Shinto-related marriage rites on-board a Japanese whaling vessel.

Drawing Restraint 9 is definitely--and defiantly--original, but I could've done without the extended sequence in which our Guests flense their legs off at the hip. Yuck.

Varsity Theater: Not associated with SIFF,
Drawing Restraint 9
opens on Fri., 5/19.




Endnote: While I'm at it, one of my favorites from last year's SIFF,
Clean
(Olivier Assayas and Maggie Cheung), opens in Seattle on 6/30.

Friday, May 12, 2006

The Long & Winding...

The Road to Guant/*namo
(Michael Winterbottom, Mat Whitecross, UK, 95 mins.)


rg2.jpg

While watching The Road to Guant/*namo, it occurred to me that important films are rarely fun, while fun films are rarely important. United 93 is an important film. Though exciting-"n the action-adventure sense of the word-"t isn't much fun. Had Paul Greengrass imbued it with even a shred of fun, he'd have faced major derision, so it's understandable that he would resist the impulse. The result is a film that feels a bit like eating your "veg," to quote Wallace & Gromit. Salon's Andrew O'Hehir prefers the phrase "spinach cinema."

All of this is to say that The Road to Guant/*namo is even more relentless than Midnight Express (1978), but without those patented Parker-esque flights of fancy to lighten the load. No, it's just torture, torture, torture. Granted, that's probably exactly what it was like for these young British Muslims, shipped to Cuba's Guant/*namo Bay, while en route to a wedding in Pakistan.

Well, as a filmgoer, I found it a slog. Where's John Hurt when you need him? Or Steve Coogan, star of Winterbottom's gleefully irreverent 24 Hour Party People and Tristram Shandy? Seriously, Winterbottom, who trod similar ground with the superior In This World (2002), and Whitecross, his former AD, have done an admirable job at blending real-life interviews with re-creations in tracing the Kafka-esque journey travelled by this intrepid trio, but not until the cathartic final frame could I honestly say I enjoyed the film or found it the least bit "fun." I realize that's a lot to ask and it's not that I don't like spinach-"t's just that I prefer it with a little sauce.
Egyptian: 6/8 at 7:15pm and Pacific Place: 6/11 at 1:15pm.

The Long & Winding...

The Road to Guantánamo
(Michael Winterbottom, Mat Whitecross, UK, 95 mins.)


rg2.jpg

While watching The Road to Guantánamo, it occurred to me that important films are rarely fun, while fun films are rarely important. United 93 is an important film. Though exciting--in the action-adventure sense of the word--it isn't much fun. Had Paul Greengrass imbued it with even a shred of fun, he'd have faced major derision, so it's understandable that he would resist the impulse. The result is a film that feels a bit like eating your "veg," to quote Wallace & Gromit. Salon's Andrew O'Hehir prefers the phrase "spinach cinema."

All of this is to say that The Road to Guantánamo is even more relentless than Midnight Express (1978), but without those patented Parker-esque flights of fancy to lighten the load. No, it's just torture, torture, torture. Granted, that's probably exactly what it was like for these young British Muslims, shipped to Cuba's Guantánamo Bay, while en route to a wedding in Pakistan.

Well, as a filmgoer, I found it a slog. Where's John Hurt when you need him? Or Steve Coogan, star of Winterbottom's gleefully irreverent 24 Hour Party People and Tristram Shandy? Seriously, Winterbottom, who trod similar ground with the superior In This World (2002), and Whitecross, his former AD, have done an admirable job at blending real-life interviews with re-creations in tracing the Kafka-esque journey travelled by this intrepid trio, but not until the cathartic final frame could I honestly say I enjoyed the film or found it the least bit "fun." I realize that's a lot to ask and it's not that I don't like spinach--it's just that I prefer it with a little sauce.
Egyptian: 6/8 at 7:15pm and Pacific Place: 6/11 at 1:15pm.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

With Blood on My Hands

Pusher II: With Blood on My Hands
(Nicolas Winding Refn, Denmark, 98 mins.)


bloodon128.jpg

I wasn't a big fan of Pusher, which I caught at SIFF '98, but nor was I a detractor.
I dig Refn's highly-saturated style (those glowing reds!), which is bolstered by
jolts of loud techno-metal. It reminds me of Gaspar Noe or David Lynch, circa
Lost Highway, but the Denmark he depicts is so reprehensible, I can't fully
embrace this trilogy (especially the stomach-churning final film).

I don't care that the main characters are thugs and addicts. They're also racist, misogynist, and every other "ist" you'd care to name. In Pusher II, Tonny (Mads Mikkelsen, Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself) and Kurt the Cunt-who lives up to his
name-refer to those of Middle Eastern descent as "sand niggers." Worse yet,
the women in their world are nagging harridans. They whine, they hoover up the cocaine, they whine some more. Then again, that also describes the men!

So, I didn't go in with the highest of expectations, but I'll be damned if Refn
didn't win me over. Yet again. Granted, Pusher II takes awhile to get cooking,
but everything comes together at the end, and Mikkelsen manages to make
his loser just likable enough that I was willing to go wherever he took me. I
knew it was going to be a pretty dark place, and that it was.
Like the Oscar-winning Tsotsi, which also concerns a hood and a baby, the
character-let alone the movie-just wouldn't work as well with another actor. Incidentally, the film is dedicated to Hubert Selby, Jr. (Last Exit to Brooklyn),
but there's a lot of Dickens in there, too-although it took me awhile to see
that what with the dizzying degree of coke-snorting on display.
Pacific Place: 5/26 at 9:15pm and 5/29 at 1:30pm.
48m.jpg
Note: Mikkelsen stars in the upcoming Bond, Casino Royale. In Pusher II,
he's a tattooed cue ball, but in real-life...well, there's a reason he's considered
one of Denmark's best looking men-those cheekbones could cut glass!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

An American Haunting

Based on true events that happened between 1818 and 1820, An American Haunting is the story of the Bell Family in Red River, Tennesee, and about the spiritual presence that tormented their youngest daughter and eventually caused a family member's death.

The film starts out with a promising chase sequence. A teenage girl fleeing from something unseen through a forest, into her room, and then confronted with someone trying to get in her bedroom door. Enter the girl's mom, waking her up from a nightmare. She finds a package in her daughter's room that was taken from the attic, and takes it downstairs to look at -- in which she finds a diary written by Lucy Bell, describing the terrors they experienced. Her narration pushes us into the "real" story, and thankfully, back in time to start a grim period piece.

John (Donald Sutherland) and Lucy (Sissy Spacek) Bell are living a happy life on their property until John decides to screw over neighboring landowner Kate Batts (Gaye Brown, who knows how to play a bitch very effectively) by making her pay him back a loan at too high an interest. The result: a curse from Batts, directed at John and his daughter, Betsy.

After alluding to a possible romantic entanglement between 16-year-old Betsy (Rachel Hurd-Wood) and her schoolteacher Richard Powell (James D'Arcy), strange things start happening in the Bell house. Starting with creaky noises in the attic and menacing wolves in the forest, the story moves pretty quickly to full-blown poltergeist disturbances that eventually involve dangling Betsy from the ceiling, where she is smacked around violently while the rest of the family watches in horror. The schoolteacher's logic fails, prayers have no effect, and John Bell's pleas to Kate Batts to lift the curse are to no avail. She tells him simply that he has made his own hell, and must live with it.

Now, ghost films don't usually get to me. I'm much too busy anticipating what's going to happen for anything to be surprised. But I'll admit, I jumped a LOT during this one. Director Courtney Solomon (we're just going to ignore the fact that his only other film was Dungeons & Dragons) really uses the "jump and startle" technique to its full ability. He also packs in a lot of cringe"nducing sequences with Betsy -- head banged, smacked around, pulled by hair, dragged around, and ravaged -- until she is so exhausted she can't move. John Bell's physical afflictions are a little less interesting, but do win some points for the gross-out factor.

In any case, I thoroughly enjoyed the ghost-y atmosphere of this film. I thought Spacek and Sutherland did amazing jobs (even with the predictably thin material), and was also impressed with how Hurd-Wood turned her wide-eyed, pouty-mouthed beauty into absolute agony. The only thing I would say is: that girl just does not have a terrifying scream; in fact, it sounded more like she had a froggy-sore throat - I seriously had to stifle my laughter. As for James D'Arcy, I could simply watch that man for hours without him having to say a single word of dialog.

And now for what I did NOT enjoy: The terrible present day conclusion. It damn near ruined the entire film for me. I can see what they were going for -- a tie"n to bring it all together, explaining the opening sequence and relating what was happening now with then. However, the whole thing was completely unnecessary, as the few portions they showed of the present day story in the middle of the film were awful (just the mom reading the diary, and making shocked faces at it while she drank Absolut, in the middle of the afternoon, apparently -- no ghost related activity save the beginning nightmare), and I really think that the story could have been told completely without the use of a diary, and probably even without narration.

If you can ignore that, then I recommend going. And if you can, take someone with you who always jumps at startling moments. It will be much more fun that way!

Monday, May 8, 2006

Art School Confidential

A painter I knew in Austin, who had attended art school at UT, once told me that he asked one of his instructors if he knew how to draw Bullwinkle. When the instructor confessed that he couldn't render a depiction of the cartoon moose, my friend concluded that his instructor was unqualified to teach him and dropped out of the program.

For those who attended art school or knew anyone who did or have any familiarity with the art world, Art School Confidential will be an enjoyable film. Although the portrayal is no where near as nuanced as that of Claire Fisher's art school career in Six Feet Under, Zwigoff and Clowes fairly well lampoon the pretensions and politics of art school. The movie abounds with in-jokes, from the name of the school to the often dead-on parodies of art student projects [Zwigoff and Clowes ring much truer on this than the too-professional-by-half LAC-Arts pieces depicted in Six Feet Under]. The film also skewers the types one tends to find in such programs [although that might be like shooting fish in a barrel] and is adept at parodying the art-star and theory-heavy tendencies of the contemporary art world [one is tempted to point to Matthew Barney as Exhibit A of this phenomenon if it weren't for the fact that the beauty, humor and audacity of his work allows one to forgive the deficiencies of much of its content].

What the film doesn't do is deliver particularly strong characters. Since the story hangs on an innocent, young artist who becomes corrupted by his aspirations [shades of Pierre and Lost Illusions] Max Minghella's Jerome makes for a particularly soft center. John Malkovich and Jim Broadbent offset this somewhat as his erstwhile mentors, but the strength of Art School Confidential lies mainly with the ideas presented by Clowes and Zwigoff, not with the characters embodying them. Still it's a funny movie and, although nowhere near as good as Crumb or Bad Santa, bears watching [albeit as a rental].

Bio

My love affair with film started as a child when I saw The Thin Man on television. It turned into a life long fascination. I've worked in the video rental industry since 1989 which has allowed me to support my movie watching habit and get paid to talk to people about film. I've managed On 15th Video, www.on15thvideo.com, since 1998. In 2000, I started as a film critic for the local television show Club Diversity. I also reviewed theater productions, guest-hosted and worked as an assistant director on the show until it's final season in 2005. In 2002, I co-hosted and researched In The Celluloid Loop, which analyzed film in depth by exploring the works of different directors and genres. In 2003 my production company, Prometheus Unbound Productions, produced Look or Listen, which aired re-creations of Old Time Radio shows. In 2004 I created The Lively Arts which currently airs as part of SCAN's Prime Time Line Up. This show alternatively focuses on film, old time radio, and the local performing arts scene. I also contribute to Halstead, an online gothic serial written round robin style, www.naboomboocomics.com/halstead/index.htm. I am very excited to be combining my passions for writing and film for SIFFBLOG.

Friday, May 5, 2006

Classify All Risks

Classe Tous Risques
(Claude Sautet, France/Italy, 1960, 35mm, 103 mins.)


classe tous risques.jpg

Until I caught up with the long unavailable Classe Tous Risques, I thought of Claude Sautet (1924-2000) as the elder statesman behind the exquisitely restrained dramas Un Coeur en Hiver (1992) and Nelly et Monsieur Arnaud (1995), both featuring this month's Sight & Sound subject, Emmanuelle Béart. For each, he was awarded the coveted César, the French version of the Oscar.

Written by ex-con José Giovanni (Le Trou), the film, which got lost amidst the New Wave, reveals another facet of the filmmaker. Originally released in a dubbed version as The Big Risk (according to J. Hoberman, "the title is an untranslatable pun on tourism and insurance"), Sautet delves into the same Gallic underworld on which Jean-Pierre Melville--one of my all-time favorites--made his bones. It may not be as sleek as Le Samouraï, but it's as unpredictable as Le Cercle Rouge.

Shot by Ghislain Cloquet (Mouchette), Classe is often described as a film noir, but plays more like a neo-realist thriller, with most of the illegal activity--lira-snatching, carabinieri-whacking--taking place during the day. Further, it's virtually devoid of music, just a few brief, but effective bits from Georges Delerue (Jules et Jim). There's also a quintessentially French narrator, who pops up on occasion.

Although Jean-Paul Belmondo is likely to be the most familiar name in the cast, former Greco-Roman wrestler Lino Ventura (Melville's Army of Shadows) takes the lead as career criminal Abel Davos. Davos is the kind of guy who won't hesitate to plug a foe--and many will soon get plugged--but dotes on his wife, Thérèse (Simone France), two bambinos, and partner-in-crime Raymond (Stan Krol).

When a robbery goes wrong, however, several of those nearest and dearest to Davos lose their lives. It's his fault and he knows it. Until that time, it's been one chase after another: by foot, car, bike, bus, and motorboat. The pace lets up after that, although the tension remains--and intensifies.

Not until the midway point does the post-Breathless Belmondo materialize as a mysterious cat named Eric Stark, who offers to help Davos escape from Milan to Paris and to hide him until things cool down. The retired boxer seems like a nice enough fellow, but can he be trusted? With Belmondo in the role and a suspiciously generic name like "Eric Stark," who's to say?

On their illicit journey--by ambulance--Davos and Stark run into damsel in distress Liliane (Tunisian-born Sandra Milo, 8 1/2) and offer to take her with them to France. Like Davos, she's not sure whether she can trust Stark, but doesn't have anywhere else to turn. Plus, the attraction is instant--and mutual.

Sautet continues to introduce new characters right up until the end. It's a risky move, but one that pays dividends, especially with a third-act walk-on from a duplicious fence's sullen daughter, who pouts in a most hilarious fashion (the bit with the cat and the fish is priceless). She may not be essential to the story, but Ms. Insolent's saucy appearance helps to elevate Classe from good to great.

Not long afterwards, Classes Tous Risques is over. The end, when it comes, is surprisingly sudden. Bertrand Tavernier has described it as "abrupt, unsentimental and poignant." There's a happy ending for one man, a not-so-happy one for the other. You could say Sautet hedges his bets--the film isn't a tragedy, but nor can it be described as uplifting. Somehow, he pulls it off. The result is a thriller that may not surpass Melville for cool, but rivals him in the hood-with-heart department.

*****

Classe Tous Risques, in a fully restored 35mm print, plays the Northwest Film Forum May 12-18, Fri.-Thurs., at 7 and 9pm (plus Sat. and Sun. at 3 and 5pm). The NWFF is located at 1515 12th Ave. For more information, please visit www.nwfilmforum.org. You can also call 206-329-2629 for general info and 206-267-5380 for show times.

Wednesday, May 3, 2006

What I Do For Film

hand.jpg

Two weeks ago, while prying open an Amazon package, my right middle finger contracted and wouldn't reopen. Fortunately, I live two blocks from Virginia Mason where they took a couple of x-rays and diagnosed me as having had a dislocation. They shot the finger full of anesthetic, pried it open and splinted it up. A week later I visited an orthopedist who informed me that the finger hadn't been dislocated at all and that the splint had been wholly unecessary. Instead, I had developed a bit of tendonitis which had lead to something called 'trigger finger.' They injected the finger with cortisone and said it would take effect within a few days.

Oh, and that package. It contained a DVD of Downtown 81, a film I had been curious to see since seeing TV Party at the NWFF. For those of you who don't know, it was a film directed by Glenn O'Brien starring Jean-Michel Basquiat. It was a lot of fun to watch with O'Brien's commentary and, as I had lived in NY during that period, it brought back some memories [most notably, just how much parts of the East Village resembled Beirut back then].

Anyway, I have now regained a good deal of motion in that finger, but it will be months before it goes back to being normal and I would like to think of it as the moment when I gave my all [or at least my finger] for film.

What I Do For Film

hand.jpg

Two weeks ago, while prying open an Amazon package, my right middle finger contracted and wouldn't reopen. Fortunately, I live two blocks from Virginia Mason where they took a couple of x-rays and diagnosed me as having had a dislocation. They shot the finger full of anesthetic, pried it open and splinted it up. A week later I visited an orthopedist who informed me that the finger hadn't been dislocated at all and that the splint had been wholly unecessary. Instead, I had developed a bit of tendonitis which had lead to something called 'trigger finger.' They injected the finger with cortisone and said it would take effect within a few days.

Oh, and that package. It contained a DVD of Downtown 81, a film I had been curious to see since seeing TV Party at the NWFF. For those of you who don't know, it was a film directed by Glenn O'Brien starring Jean-Michel Basquiat. It was a lot of fun to watch with O'Brien's commentary and, as I had lived in NY during that period, it brought back some memories [most notably, just how much parts of the East Village resembled Beirut back then].

Anyway, I have now regained a good deal of motion in that finger, but it will be months before it goes back to being normal and I would like to think of it as the moment when I gave my all [or at least my finger] for film.