We Who Are Young Are Old is based off of a poem by Dylan Thomas, of the same name. Set against a backdrop of industrial decay, not unlike scenes from Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker, it has an immediately alluring aesthetic. Dramatic use of sound effects elicit skin-crawling responses, and when paired with stop-motion reinterpretations of blood, guts, and gore, one is not quite sure whether to feel disgusted or enthralled. The final product, though, is undeniably captivating.
Director: Matt Lambert
Cinematography: Michael Ragen
Styling: Mark Holmes @ SEE Management
Art Direction: Carline Celis
Edit: Peter O’Donovan @ Final Cut, LA
Online and VFX: Gavin Camp @ The Mill, LA
Original Score and Sound Design: Terressa Tate @ Final Cut, NYC
Featuring Burberry, Billy Reid and Robert Geller
The Agony and Ecstasy of Phil Spector
Directed by Vikram Jayanti
Starring: Phil Spector, Lana Clarkson
Last year, legendary producer Phil Spector was (spoiler alert!) sent to jail for 19 years to life for the murder of Lana Clarkson. The circumstances were suspect, the scene of the crime grisly; Lana Clarkson had been shot point blank in the mouth inside of Spector’s home, and immediately after the incident Spector called 911, stating that he thought he “killed someone.”
Now, someone who knows nothing of the circumstances would probably react with a response akin to “What a horrible crime! Phil Spector must be a horrible, insane individual.” But what this new, BBC produced documentary posits is a slightly askew version of the above sentiment; more like: “What a horrible tragedy! Phil Spector is an insane individual. I wonder if the two are connected.”
Phil Spector, the creator of the influential “Wall of Sound” in the sixties, songwriter of such hits as “Unchained Melody” and “Be My Baby,” as well as the producer for artists such as the Ramones, John Lennon and George Harrison, has always been a little off. In interviews, he’s frank, catty, egotistical and somewhat sociopathic. In personal interactions he can be irresponsibly hostile, literally using his large collection of firearms to “hold hostage” creative partners. And in his love life he’s downright volatile, as many interviews with his former lovers (including his most famous ex Ronnie Spector) will attest to. But is an infamously caustic image and some circumstantial evidence enough for conviction?
The documentary, which simply inserts scenes from his 2007 mistrial into a lengthy in-house interview with the man himself, intentionally lends a sympathetic ear to the mad genius. The interviewer asks multiple questions about Spector’s state of mind, asks him how he views his career, especially in relation to his peers. And for the most part, Spector is very honest about his position in life. He knows he’s consorted with the best of the best, he knows he ranks among them. But he’s also aware of the fame he’s accumulated, or moreso the fame that has eluded him. Like a proto-Kanye West, Phil Spector’s ego is both his greatest asset and his Achilles’ heel.
It’s endlessly entertaining to watch Phil Spector talk and talk and talk about his friends. He talks about Brian Wilson’s frustration at not being able to recreate Phil’s Wall of Sound. He does a fairly goofy John Lennon impersonation while reciting a story about almost suing Martin Scorcese (“Who’s this Martin Skeezy?”) into oblivion. He seems both jealous and perplexed about the worshiped heaped upon Buddy Holly (“He only worked for three years! And he gets a stamp?!”) Only Phil Spector could honestly come up with this kind of stuff and make it somewhat plausible, much less utterly charming.
None of this trivializes the events that happened in his house that fateful day. No matter how famous the man is, or how troubled Lana Clarkson was– multiple accounts from her closest friends claim she was depressed and desperate in regards to her career, speaking of suicide on many occasions—Phil Spector was at least somewhat responsible for this event. But rather than framed with the drama of a psychotic sociopath, perhaps the events of that night are best explained by his own voice, one of a successful but unsatisfactory past, one still troubled by the ghosts of his childhood, and one that’s lived a life that no one else (even Brian Wilson) could begin to fathom.
The Agony and Ecstasy of Phil Spector begins its run at the Northwest Film Forum beginning December 3rd and continues through the 9th.
A community-rooted project of aural and visual synthesis, the side room installation will feature an open call for video art. Portland/Seattle-based musical trio Hoop Dreams will be offering forth “Spirit Momentum,” a track from their forthcoming debut album. Artists of all disciplines and persuasions are invited to submit their video interpretations of the track, which, at one-minute-and-thirteen-seconds long, is chock full of visual fodder. Watery beats, ghostly vocals, and glitched-out sound effects float in and out without commitment, giving plenty of audio cues for artists to interpret to their liking.
The video art piece must:
• Use the available “Spirit Momentum” track in its entirety — no more and no less (1:13);
• Are original pieces of art;
• Include the Name, E-mail Address, Title, and Statement Of Work from the artist.
DIGITALLY: Please submit your file digitally to firstname.lastname@example.org via a third-party file-sharing program such as DropSend, in whatever format you choose.
PHYSICALLY: Please send a DVD to: 2939 SE Taylor St., Portland, OR 97214 (DVD must be post-marked by December 1st, 2010). Materials will not be returned.
Entries will be synced up with “Spirit Momentum” and be shown on continuous loop, offering viewers a sequence of unique takes on the song.
By submitting your entry, you will be allowing Hoop Dreams, REDEFINE magazine, and InterArts to include your work in the December 8th, 2010 Holocene show, as well as future installations of the same show.
HOOP DREAMS features Aaron Chapman and John Bowers of the indie psych-pop band Nurses (Dead Oceans), and Ryan Chapman; the project is essentially the result of three multi-instrumentalists loosening their reins on traditional songwriting. Dub-influenced beats, layered vocals spanning multiple octaves of harmony, and mysterious electronic noises evoke vaguely familiar feelings of nostalgia. Despite their short durations, Hoop Dreams tracks sit densely upon the human psyche.
Also available is a black-and-white music video for the haunting “With You,” shot with a Super 8 camera by band member Ryan Chapman. You can hear the track and view the video below:
Director: Robert Patton-Spruill
Starring: Geoff Edgers
Do It Again documents Boston music critic Geoff Edgers’ quest to reunite his favorite band of all time, the Kinks. But as anyone who knows the Kinks at all, this monumental task is akin to turning water into wine. Reuniting the Kinks would mean putting a bandaid and some ointment on one of the most long standing sibling rivalries in rock and roll history. The Davies brothers have been on the outs for more than a couple decades; getting them in the same room together without them tearing each other’s throats out seems nigh impossible. The very first lines of the movie clearly state Edgers’ criteria for failure: 1. If he doesn’t get the Kinks back together and 2. If he doesn’t learn anything about himself in the effort.
To be honest, the film’s purported abstract is actually the least interesting part of the movie. The more compelling plot thread in the film surrounds it’s quester, Mr. Edgers himself. Like many involved in the long-standing tradition of print culture journalism, Edgers’ hair has gone from long and lustery to salt and peppery. His career, once romanticized by the likes of Lester Bangs and Robert Christgau, has turned into a slow and arduous death march, the cloud of a dying newspaper industry hovering over him every day. His editors are coming up with comical and pathetic ideas for articles, including a month-long “Dirty Jobs” carbon copy where Edgers works at UPS and whatnot. His cubicle neighbors are disappearing one-by-one. His pay is shrinking, and his family is struggling to make ends meet. In the midst of all this, Edgers decides that it’s high time to reunite the Kinks, self-realizing that this desire may be attributed to somewhat of a midlife crisis.
To this end, Edgers meets with music luminaries such as Paul Weller, Sting, Robyn Hitchcock and Zooey Deschanel, asks them how much the Kinks meant to them (a lot), and attempts to get them to cover a Kinks song with him. The latter request ends up being the majority of the film’s comic relief, getting at best reluctant acceptance and at worst abrupt refusal. And while this is all very nice window dressing, none of it really matters to the quest to reunite the Kinks or Edgers’ self-discovery.
It comes as no surprise that Edgers comes back empty handed from London, with only a handicam shot of Ray Davies and a kind gesture from his brother Dave. It is when he returns to his home that the film comes closest to finding a resolution. Faced with his failure and his need to abandon his quest, Edgers gathers his friends and family for the lobster dinner he promised his daughter long ago. His friend, the first interview he did for this documentary, tells him it’s ok to obsess over it, but don’t lose yourself, and don’t lose your family. But from this we do not see Edgers change; we do not see even an appreciation of his family. At least in the film.
And this is where the film fails. Edgers unresolved midlife crisis feels just as Sisyphean as the Davies’ own familial issues. It’s unsatisfying to see such little growth in our protagonist, at least within the scope of the film. Now it might be the case that after wrapping up filming Edgers might have gotten the job of a lifetime, or the Kinks might reunite next year and put all this riffraff to bed. But as far as the story told in the documentary, we the viewers do not get a sense of this resolution. Even within the credits scene, there is a palpable longing in Edgers’ voice for this dream, a midlife crisis still left half open.
Do It Again opens at the Northwest Film Forum on November 4th at 7pm. There will be a performance by Kinks cover band the Quaffies after the 9pm showing.
The Wooster Collective’s There’s Still Time, Brother, is quite the interactive filmmaking achievement. Displayed in a circular room, it features the composite of twelve different cameras, stitched together loosely to fill a 360-degree space. From the center of the room, stools radiate outwards, and one central chair, with a back, serves as the solitary “remote” on which an individual sits. Whichever section of the screen that individual is facing is highlighted, and all other parts of the screen are blacked out in a foggy haze, with their respective sounds hushed. Even dozens of run-throughs later, a viewer realizes that he or she has seen a different film every time, keeping each viewing a mystery.
While partly scripted documentary, partly historical narrative, and partly just nonsense, There’s Still Time, Brother shines most during its most self-aware parts. It is those parts which reveal not only new things about the film, but about the audience itself. For starters, certain quotes which describe the film itself play a role in an extremely “meta” way. Lines like, “You might be irritated because that person’s sensibilities are different from yours,” might ring out loud and clear because perhaps you, the viewer, feel exactly that way at that time. Other self-aware quotes might seem more ironic than they are intentional, but they are very much intentional. For example, a monologue which fades into the words, “An awkward silence, an awkward silence…” becomes hugely applicable as what seemed like a mellow, lo-fi cam video turns into a very, very explicit shot of male genetilia — leading a roomful of people to become strangely, and awkwardly, silent.
At other times, the controllers of the “remote: might seem like sheep who very much buy into subtle cues which inspire action. Narrative suggestions like, “This person’s interesting, and you start to follow them,” might in fact lead the controller of the chair to follow said person, although that might seem like an obvious thing to do. Visual directional cues also abound, with one particularly obvious one being an arm which points in one direction. As the person in the chair follows that arm, that arm points to another arm, which points to another arm, and so on, until the finger-pointing arms have made a 360-degree loop back to where the chain reaction began.
All of these observations were lifted from a 60-minute viewing — that is, three run-throughs — of There’s Still Time, Brother. This type of film-going experience has a lot to offer from a sociological and observational standpoint, and it seems like merely the beginning of a very exciting future for interactive filmmaking to come.
Director: Paul King
Starring: Edward Hogg, Simon Farnaby
Bunny and the Bull marks the feature film directorial debut of Paul King, well-known in the U.K. for directing The Mighty Boosh. While both Boosh and Bunny are firmly entrenched in the “buddy comedy” genre, it is there where similarities end. Bunny and the Bull finds Paul King pulling out all the stops, using every visual trick in the director’s handbook to spice up what ends up being a fairly pedestrian script. Animation, green screen, fantastic production design and a healthy dose of whimsy combine to create a film that would be a feast for anyone’s eyes.
The film stars Edward Hogg as Stephen Turnbull, an anal-retentive, flimsy man who has developed a strong case of agoraphobia, and Simon Farnaby as his philandering, unscrupulous, lay about, best friend Bunny. He spends his days obsessively organizing his belongings, dating his urine, plastic wrapping his future lunches, signing and dating his used dental floss, and reminiscing about the events of the past year.
Flashback to a year ago, where Bunny suggests that the two go on a European jaunt to relieve Stephen, recently relegated to the “friend zone” by a long time crush, of his debilitating depression. But while Stephen is perfectly happy visiting tourist traps such as the German Utensil Museum, Bunny quickly becomes bored and begins to hatch schemes that (of course) get the duo into trouble. It’s not until they run into the curt but lovely Eloisa that the two find some structure to their trip. Eloise wants to return to Spain for fiesta, which both Bunny and Stephen find that plan much more attractive that spending another day in Poland. The trio set off, jokes are had, stories are told, and a love triangle ensues.
Director King does an excellent job of maintaining a visual cadence throughout the film. He borrows heavily from many modern pop-visualists; touches of Michel Gondry, Terry Gilliam, Wes Anderson, and Jean-Pierre Jeunet can be seen throughout his visual style. The story of Stephen and his friend Bunny are told through a series of vignettes, prompted by the stacks of memorabilia Stephen has around his house. A drawing prompts Stephen to remember his first conversations with Bunny, the backgrounds are all hand-drawn and flat. A series of photographs show the train ride to Poland; the sets in Poland are all composed of large photograph-shaped rectangles. Even a door Stephen walks through is collage of flat panels. A snowglobe leads to memories of Switzerland, with large, paper snowflakes falling all around Stephen and Bunny. King spares no visual detail in his film, every detail is thoughtfully planned out and every take is finely mapped. Bunny and the Bull is not a slap-dash, DIY visual comedy like the Boosh. It is well-executed, mature film.
While the film is visually enticing, the script itself lacks the same engagement factor. Hogg and Farnaby do the best they can to lift the story up, but time and time again scenes heavy on dialogue tend to drag on. Jokes often miss their mark and tend to be more distracting than anything. Besides a couple welcome guest appearances by The Mighty Boosh’s Noel Fielding (Eloisa’s ex-matador brother Javier) and Julian Barratt (Atilla, the gruff-talking, dog-milking hobo), laughs tend to be far and few in between. And this is all before the film gets heavy.
In the end, Bunny and the Bull is a promising feature debut for Paul King. Given a decent budget it seems like the man can make a dollar stretch. The attention to visual detail is striking, and pays off in the end for both the director and the viewer. Too bad about the story, though. Maybe Charlie Kaufmann can write him a script.
Bunny and the Bull is currently playing at the Northwest Film Forum and will continue to show until September 23rd.