Ladies and gentlemen,
friends and neighbors,
freaks, geeks, nerds, and cheeky turds,
fellow cinephiles and wisdom lovers,
I so hope you have had the opportunity
to enjoy at least a taste
of this delicious fare I share with you now.
maybe you'll get lucky some other time!
- KAHtheRose of l’Amblyoptic
ANIME MAGIC @ The Carolina Theater of Durham
Perfect Blue, Steamboy, Mind Game
SCREEN/SOCIETY Burning, The Image Book (RUBY)
OSCARS ROUNDUP Cold War, Shoplifters, Shirkers (ALAMO)
overlooked masterpieces and rarities
CINEMAOVERDRIVE Play It As It Lays (ALAMO)
MOVIEDIVA Baby Face (CAROLINA)
SCREEN/SOCIETY Mikey and Nicky (RUBY)
CINEMAOVERDRIVE Torso (CAROLINA)
SCREEN/SOCIETY The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (RUBY)
See also, my YouTube play-by-play from the middle of January and SUBSCRIBE to the YouTube channel for continuing updates, including some exciting stuff I have coming up soon regarding upcoming screenings.
ART | HOUSE is a continuous updated calendar featuring local retro, repertory, radical, revolutionary, and otherwise resplendent screenings around the NC triangle.
This month was about beginnings.
“Have you found the beginning, then, so that you are seeking the end? For where the beginning is, the end will be. Blessed is the one who stands at the beginning. That one will know the end and will not taste death.”
I had plenty of help from the excellent programming available via The Carolina Theater of Durham’s ANIME MAGIC series, the SCREEN/SOCIETY programming courtesy of Duke’s Art of the Moving Image department, CINEMA OVERDRIVE, as well as the incredibly (and deservedly) well-attended premier of MovieDiva’s 2019 season at the Carolina.
I guess we're going back to the beginning awfully soon. Baby, I remember it all. I was there for The Fall.
January 10, 2019. Rubenstein Center @ Duke (Ruby) presented by Screen/Society
Wikipedia described it as an avant-garde horror essay. A memoir of cinema from one of the most fundamental auteurs of the medium. This will find a place in my top 5 favorite movies of all time. I literally dream of the day I can hold it in my hands.
The introduction was a great primer on both Godard and a warning to the uninitiated - this will not be your garden-variety, accessible narrative. Bewildering use of montage. Disorienting cuts; the editing station involved manual manipulations of tape media. The occasional disjunctures from one aspect ratio to another. Stark contrasts and dense saturation, with Un Chien Andalou as one of the first sourced materials I recognized. Hearkenings to the Lumiere’s train, and the beginnings of it all.
Some of the more impactful recollections, having seen it just the once, is the capacity for artists to aspire to transcendence of the world through the work, but there is an inherent violence that the artist enacts on a subject when that subject is objectified for the work itself. Additionally, the motion picture, its wielding of vast influence over the human imagination and heart, was not able to defeat the drives that led man to manifest 20th century atrocities.
For cinema, we cut our eyes open; the artist can help us see better. For art, we cut our hearts out and expect they be returned; but some hearts are hard. The laws of diminishing returns will hold strong for this world. Still others are so tender that they can be too easily mangled by evil.
Our hands, our hearts, our every endeavor suffers the fatal flaw of an imperfect, evolving, and damaged humanity.
I gasped. I wept. I finally, blessedly, gave up.
Suffered, died, was buried, and Rose again.
On morals: in preparation I reflected on my middle school years joining my Korean friends at Savannah Korean Baptist church every Sunday.
Sunday school was spent with Mrs. Choi, investigating the biblical text and gleaning what lessons there were to be had. The contrast between that approach and the over-ritualized authoritarian mass my father preferred, and the Methodist Sunday school with my mom (worksheets and stupid assignments) eventually led me to the Society of Friends and that thoughtful, peaceful way Christianity could be practiced.
While this makes me a pacifist, in times like these the lambs of God must sometimes wrest judgement from the old idea of an external God, and act with recognition of the inner power we can use, wisely, to absolve the sins of the world.
During that same time, I was watching a lot of anime.
It was how I learned to draw - pausing recorded VHS tapes to capture Sailor Moon in all her glory. But anime, as a medium, is really a mixed bag - while my parents assumed I was watching stuff made for kids, there are a whole lot of titles that are, really and truly, more appropriate for an adult audience. I think the likely explanation is that there is something about Japan in the wake of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that collapsed a lot of content barriers we've grown accustomed to in the West that we take for granted. There is an urgency in Japanese cinema that, in my experience, touches a bit more deeply on exploring the implications of the collapse of dynamic opposites like form and content, spacetime and energetic matter, even masculine and feminine.
This one is a bit of a rarity and is loads of fun. I most enjoyed the choice to include within the illustrated animation animated stills and actual video captures of actors and actresses. Immediately beckoned my mind toward emergence of the second dimension to the third, and beyond to the fourth via death and rebirth.
Art school friends I was hanging out with before the show both lit up like a beacon when I told them I was going to see this film. Two of the more unhinged friends I have, aesthetically speaking, one of whom showed this in a Film Club he used to organize. We’re all adults now, but I know I picked a good tribe. Bending the rules of dimensionality is one of my favorite prompts for cinema. What is living cannot die. They had found their way to this rare title, and I thoroughly enjoyed the romp through the under-overworld.
Much weaker than anticipated. Gestalt theory holds that a mind will make a complete picture from sparse information. Cinematic theory, in kind, holds that a viewer with less information engages in a more participatory role if all the answers, visually speaking, are not available. For Steamboy, there were no loose ends; every detail was fully fleshed, and there was no room for individual experience. There was simply too much information. Akira, Otomo’s timeless masterpiece, was raw and has deserved its continued position in the history of motion pictures, while this film has been thankfully forgotten.
Early internet, persona and change, breakdown of the idol, submission and shame? Honestly. This was a great way to start the Anime Magic series, like it had been reading my mind. Lots of films to be reminded of here, including perhaps most specifically Requiem for a Dream.
January 17, 2019. Rubenstein Center @ Duke (Ruby) presented by Screen/Society
Free screening courtesy of Duke; some of the most beautiful cinematography I’ve seen all year. It looked like The New Topographics movement come to life. PSA: be wary of bored, independently wealthy, handsome men with a knack for feigning interest.
The shots were gorgeous, magically lit, compositionally perfect. Loved learning that Lee Chang-Dong made his first movie in his 40's, and that its been said he's never made a bad one.
January 16, 2019. Alamo Drafthouse Raleigh
Originally recommended to me by Tim League, CEO of Alamo Drafthouse. I’m a little jaded on “the family you choose” right now, so I couldn’t be fully invested, but some of the camera angles - one in particular, a birds-eye dutch angle of the family sitting on their back porch still burns there in my mind matter. Definitely worth a watch, and a brilliant contender for the Oscars in Best Foreign Language.
This doc currently has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Rather than giving you my personal experience, I'll let it shine through from the critics' reviews.
January 13, 2019. Rubenstein Center @ Duke (Ruby) presented by Screen/Society. From their schedule:
Here is an excerpt from my favorite short from the program. Dedicated to you. Maybe we both wish the other would just go away.
And my favorite Cinema Overdrive screening up to now…as well as a gripe about dubs vs subs.
January 16, 2019 at The Alamo Drafthouse Raleigh
“Don’t you ever get tired of doing favors for people?”
“You don’t know how tired.”
You know why I'm so obsessed with meaning? Truth? Freedom? They all go hand-in hand. It's actually damn near impossible to have any of them without all of them. This buildup of moral quality - artistically, intellectually, socially, biologically, and on down to the basics inorganically - is what creates reality. The truth is only ever what will hold water in the long run. I don't think there are any favors paid to oneself or the rest of humanity by submitting to cynicism and embracing a nihilistic approach to life, apart from keeping oneself guarded from hurt. Oh.
I guess that's a good enough reason for most of us to indulge, at least a little bit. Even I had my fun.
In Play It As It Lays, our protagonist Maria (Tuesday Weld) has found herself at an impasse. Lacking any substantial reason to do - well, pretty much anything - she fires shots into the desert from her yellow corvette, changes her own goddamn tires, and neither bends nor breaks at the sways and pressures of her environment. She is unaffected, due in part to having reached something of an inverse apotheosis. She doesn't have to worry about money. She's disillusioned by her marriage, and the social sphere she exists in. There's little left of passion for anything, except the hope that her daughter could maybe live a life outside the institution.
But why wouldn't she? The world seems to do what it'll do regardless of how she acts, reacts - and indeed, her director husband asserts that her work on one of his films wasn't even a performance. There's nothing for her to do, apart from aimlessly drift hither and thither looking for something to feel.
Her position is mirrored by her friend, the producer B.Z. played by Anthony Perkins. While he enjoys a status that allows him to be more effectual than Maria, he has only reached this plateau by embracing that pit of nothing, nowhere, for no reason other than to be able to stomach his day to day existence as one constantly in service to the needs of others. Eventually, he succumbs. "I knew. I did know."
This screening had a number of things playing in its favor. First and foremost, the splended 35mm print may never have been run on a projector anywhere, straight from the archives at Universal. This rare film had a limited release, was never made available on home video, and only has a current presence because the Sundance channel ran it on TV back in the day. You can find a YouTube link to the film’s bootleg version at the end of this post.
In form and content, excellent. Here’s my extremely subjective response to the film.
It wasn’t a performance.
“A philosopher. A Poetess.”
What is the camera-subject relationship? Violence.
Let me show you.
Is there nothing you don’t already know?
Ego. You’re still playing. Go to hell.
See also, programming. Been there. Seen that. Why keep on playing?
Why not? I’m not going anywhere. You don't get to decide my response. I looked for the answer.
Beyond gender, beyond ego. Is that a place we can get to, or do you just end up going nowhere?
Nowhere. Nothing. You opt for casual nihilism. Coward.
You and I, we know something. We’ve been out there where nothing is. We went there.
Wisdom tells me you can find everything at the edge of nothing. I saw everything, felt everything. See also: a very self-destructive personality structure.
Or, I don't know, fucking mysticism.
“Exactly what do you want?” Sincerity. Maturity. Basic human decency.
Also known as: Nothing Applies.
Strongly tossed by Play It As It Lays, it was disappointing to move on to Overdrive's premiere at the Carolina with Sergio Martino's Torso. (1973)
I really don't know if it was a good film or not. I can't help but be distracted when a film, made in Italian, is then screened in a dubbed format complete with an over-insistence on poorly matched lips and less focus paid to the quality of the performance. It was caricaturish and dull. I fell asleep. I did, however, get a fit of glee at the revealing of the killer. See also, the one who hated himself the most.
God-only occasionally and within specific circumstances-Mighty, I'm tired. While I SO enjoyed this week's Cassavetes double-header, a heart and mind can only spill so much before the well runs dry. Look forward to spending a bit more time on them in a future post, as well as my upcoming February update video on my nascent YouTube channel! Be sure to subscribe :)
Upcoming screenings I'm looking forward to (for the first full week of February) are:
MONDAY 2/4 7pm Happy As Lazzaro (2018) dir. Alice Rohrwacher (DURHAM - RUBY)
WEDNESDAY 2/6 7pm February Movie Night (local shorts) (CARY - THE CARY THEATER)
THURSDAY 2/7 7pm Too Late to Die Young (2018) dir. Domingo Sotomayor Castillo (DURHAM - RUBY)
FRIDAY 2/8 7pm The Maltese Falcon and Double Indemnity (DURHAM - CAROLINA)
SATURDAY 2/9 10pm Manual Cinema 'Ada/Ava' (EXPERIMENTAL!!!) (DURHAM - DUKE'S Reynolds Industries Theater)
For further excitement, keep your eyes open, your hearts out, and let's all just kill each other with love. It's the only real thing in the world.