[Editor's Note: This post contains the entire review printed in this week's Scene, but with photographs of the work and a few contextual annotations. The exhibit is up through Aug. 31 at Zeitgeist Gallery.]
Art is its own kind of alchemy. It puts materials together in hopes that the resulting creation might transcend its form. Put spray paint to a wall and you can reclaim a space as if you were adding props to a set between scenes. Cut a marble slab with a chisel and it's possible you'll find a human body buried somewhere within.
The Medium's Session, the current exhibit hanging at Zeitgeist's new space in the ever-expanding Wedgewood-Houston district, takes this idea and builds a comprehensive, fully realized survey of art forms around it. Curator Patrick DeGuira — himself an artist, although he doesn't exhibit his own work here — called the title a reference to "medium as a material and the medium as a channel," and calls the word "session" a derivative of "séance," another supernatural exploration. But this is not an exhibit that stirs up Holy Mountain-esque imaginings of the occult or even the psychedelic. It's more like an episode of Twin Peaks, where the ordinary — a box fan, a draped piece of cloth, a single tree swaying in the breeze — takes on mystical, otherworldly values.
Last year's horror anthology V/H/S had a can't-miss gimmick: a "found footage" movie consisting of a stash of VHS tapes, with each segment directed by a different filmmaker. At the intersection of mumblecore and indie horror, V/H/S became a hit when introduced on demand, and you know what happens when a low-budget genre movie makes money, right? SEQUEL!
The much-improved V/H/S/2 screens tonight and tomorrow night at The Belcourt, and while it's as spotty as its predecessor, the highs are much higher — particularly a grisly first-person zombie massacre by Gregg Hale and Eduardo Sanchez (The Blair Witch Project) and a balls-out cult apocalypse co-directed by The Raid: Redemption's Gareth Huw Evans.
See it tonight at the theater, and you get a special treat: a Skype visit from former Belcourt staffer made good Roxanne Benjamin, who produced both V/H/S films (and appears to have a lucrative franchise on her hands). Jason Shawhan moderates. Click here for more information.
I take a lot of pictures of art and exhibits I want to write about, and not all of my photos are great. I use my iPhone camera, which is shockingly passable for the real deal, but the photos are often kind of grainy, badly lit, or have my reflection in the glass. These photos — of Mike Calway-Fagen's exhibit at Threesquared Gallery — are like that. But since I'm reviewing the exhibit in this week's print edition of the Scene, I thought I'd share the shots and give you a sneak peek. My apologies for the low quality.
To see Calway-Fagen's work better, check out his website, or get in touch with Threesquared and book a visit before the show closes at the end of the month. And look for the review of this exhibit in Thursday's Scene.
Sure, he's no royal baby, but Alexander Calder had his own style. The man most famous for inventing the mobile was born on this day in 1898 — the same day as the Prince of Cambridge, of course — and surprise, mobiles make the best baby gifts. Somebody get MoMA on the phone!
Watch a video of Calder and his many mobiles after the jump, and let's start pooling our funds.
When a network dominates the ratings the way CBS has (WTVF-5 locally) the past couple of seasons, it enjoys the luxury of so many successful programs — at least in terms of ratings — that it sometimes opts to cancel shows just to make room for newer ones.
That was the case this season with Vegas, a period-piece crime saga that started with a bang, then experienced some creative and pacing problems. Still, it regularly finished in the Top 30 (sometimes the Top 20), and ended the year with better ratings than almost any other new program except Elementary.
But CBS didn't like its older-skewing ratings and ultimately canned it. Another show that met a similar fate, though for different reasons, was the Poppy Montgomery vehicle Unforgettable, which debuted in the fall of the 2011 season.
It was an otherwise routine crime procedural with one intriguing twist: The show's principal character, Carrie Wells (Montgomery), is among a select group of people with hyperthymesia — a real, extremely rare medical condition that produces the ability to remember everything visually.
Listen in to NPR's Weekend Edition tomorrow for an interview with one of Nashville's best-kept secrets: the video artist/filmmaker who goes by the handle kogonada. A Chicago transplant with a production office near The Belcourt in Hillsboro Village, he's built a large following online with his artful, hypnotic video essays — supercuts that isolate and juxtapose elements of a filmmaker's style, whether it's the one-point-perspective compositions that pepper Stanley Kubrick's films, passageway portals in Ozu, or Terrence Malick's respective handling of fire and water.
The one that's currently getting attention is an ingenious side-by-side comparison of different cuts of the same movie: Vittorio De Sica's 1953 romantic drama Terminal Station, starring Jennifer Jones and Montgomery Clift, and producer David O. Selznick's drastic reedit Indiscretion of an American Wife. (They're available packaged as a single Criterion DVD edition.) In the differences between the two cuts — the glances, gestures and lifelike moments that Selznick considered waste — kogonada argues you'll find the essence of De Sica's neo-realist aesthetic.
That piece appeared on the website of the British Film Institute, publisher of Sight & Sound magazine, which has commissioned other essays from him. His work gets passed around frequently among cinephiles, and the most popular clips (especially the widely cited Kubrick) have received hundreds of thousands of views online. It's great to see him getting additional exposure from the likes of NPR.
(UPDATE, 7/20: Here's the link to the NPR segment.)
Below, three of our favorites: the Kubrick, the Ozu, and an exquisite piece on Nobody Knows/After Life director Hirokazu Koreeda.
The title means "the forgotten"; good luck forgetting the horrors of Los Olvidados, Luis Buñuel's 1950 masterpiece about growing up homeless, hungry and utterly without scruples in Mexico City's slums. All the things that date social-problem movies — discarded theories, sentimentalized characters, solutions — are missing from Buñuel's astonishingly contemporary drama, shot in pulpy black-and-white by revered Mexican cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa. It's a tough-minded vision of street life at its most Darwinian: ratpacks of abandoned, predatory children scuttle from stable to gutter, and kids who learn to mug cripples or steal from the blind get to eat, simple as that.
The location shooting and cast of unknowns call to mind the neo-realist social dramas coming out of postwar Italy. But what Buñuel creates could be called neo-surrealism — images of perversion and unbelievable savagery played out in broad daylight, interrupted by one of the most jarring, vampiric dream sequences in all of movies. The movie's influence can be felt everywhere from The Wild Bunch to its Latin American brethren Pixote and City of God.
Los Olvidados screens noon Sunday at The Belcourt; film critic and Watkins instructor Chuck Stephens, who did a great talk not long ago on Douglas Sirk's Magnificent Obsession, discusses the movie afterward.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to violence, the word and the act. While violence cloaks itself in a plethora of disguises, its favorite mantle still remains ... sex. Violence devours all it touches, its voracious appetite rarely fulfilled. Yet violence doesn't only destroy, it creates and molds as well. Let's examine closely then this dangerously evil creation, this new breed encased and contained within the supple skin of woman. The softness is there, the unmistakable smell of female, the surface shiny and silken, the body yielding yet wanton. But a word of caution: handle with care and don't drop your guard. This rapacious new breed prowls both alone and in packs, operating at any level, any time, anywhere, and with anybody. Who are they? One might be your secretary, your doctor's receptionist ... or a dancer in a go-go club!
(As part of its monthlong salute to Francois Truffaut, Turner Classic Movies broadcasts two of the director's finest films, 1961's Jules and Jim (9 p.m.) and 1971's Two English Girls (11 p.m.), both based on novels by Henri-Pierre Roché. This piece on Two English Girls initially appeared in the June 8, 2000 Scene.)
First loves are haunting, as much for the immediacy of the initial rush as for the inevitable mellowing and fading of memory. For me, the sensation of falling in love will always be associated with the movies of François Truffaut. I was 15 and a high-school sophomore when a local college professor let me attend her screening of Truffaut’s 1960 crime-thriller reverie Shoot the Piano Player. It’s an ideal movie to see when you’re just starting to comprehend the vast possibilities of cinema: a fizzing brew of elevated technique and low comedy, lyrical tenderness and sudden violence. I came away with a lifelong love of movies and an awkward crush on the teacher in the bargain.
By that point, it was too late for me to grow up with Truffaut’s movies in sequence, the way young cineastes had done in the 1960s. (The closest equivalent for movie geeks my age was Woody Allen, who caused similar feelings of affection and frustration that went beyond mere appraisal.) But by starting with his first feature, 1959’s The 400 Blows — an autobiographical account of his delinquent childhood, made less than 10 years after the director was out of his own teens — cinephiles could’ve charted their development against that of Truffaut and his frequent leading man Jean-Pierre Léaud, who played the director’s alter ego Antoine Doinel from adolescence (The 400 Blows) to adulthood (1979’s Love on the Run).
Throughout those years, moviegoers could see their own romantic yearnings reflected in Truffaut’s films. Disarming trifles such as the Doinel films Stolen Kisses and Bed and Board made sweet sport of callow passion and indecision, and no movie has ever captured the exhilaration of young love as piercingly as his 1961 classic Jules and Jim. Yet for all their beauty and lyricism, Truffaut’s films are profoundly marked by a sense of the ultimate folly of romantic love. That he addressed this theme in some of the most stunningly romantic movies ever filmed — among them Two English Girls — is a fascinating paradox.
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure has always struck me as one of those prefab cult movies that’s too desperately wacky to be all that amusing. (Lookin’ at you, Dude, Where’s My Car?) Its 1991 sequel, however, wears its low expectations like a dare: It’s sharper, funnier and more inventive in every way, though time travelers Clarence Clemons and Jane Wiedlin are missed. (Pam Grier and Taj Mahal compensate.)
Juggling their band Wyld Stallyns and their duties as (what else?) university chairs, Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) must thwart a timelord (Joss Ackland) who wants to eradicate them from existence using their evil robot twins. To do so, they must journey to the underworld and battle Death himself. As the Grim Reaper, lugging around a scythe and adopting a suitably Bergman-esque scowl, veteran heavy William Sadler steals the movie with his Leslie Nielsen-caliber comedy chops. (There’s no way I would ruin the funniest gag, the greatest of the roughly 9 million parodies of The Seventh Seal attempted since 1957.)
Don’t miss The Belcourt’s midnight shows — like the amiably dimwitted heroes, this is something you’ll want to catch later. Screenings are midnight (duh) tonight and tomorrow. Show up at 11:30 p.m. for the pre-movie festivities. (Hint: board games!)
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