From this week's Scene:
"Paris is the subject of a tale as hackneyed and legendary as Cinderella's slipper," reads the filmmakers' statement about the legendary 1963 documentary Le Joli Mai (The Lovely Month of May). "No one can boast of having owned it; no one can boast of having worn it. Better to await Paris patiently, and observe it without seeking to surprise it." The attribution of those words is ambiguous, like so much else involving its co-director, the late Chris Marker, who died last year on his 91st birthday. (When asked to provide a photo, he frequently substituted a cat's for his own.) But the playful wit, boundless curiosity and spirit of intellectual adventure sound like Marker's own.
Shooting just after the spring 1962 accords that ended the Algerian War, Marker and co-director/cinematographer Pierre Lhomme offer a prismatic view of Paris during the first time since 1939 that the country had not been at war. Juxtaposing the city's private and public life — weddings and funerals, natives and immigrants, salesmen and schoolkids, the possibility of space travel and the lure of a long-awaited apartment — the directors record the moment's optimism even as they question and complicate it.
Now touring the country courtesy of Icarus Films, in a black-and-white digital restoration supervised by Lhomme, the movie screens two days only at The Belcourt: on Sunday, Oct. 27 (with Jonathan Rattner, filmmaker and assistant director of Vanderbilt's film studies program, discussing the film after the 4:40 p.m. screening), and Wednesday, Oct. 30.
Click here for show times.
Earlier this month, WikiLeaks launched a pre-emptive strike of sorts when it published a letter from the organization's founder, Julian Assange, to Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays Assange in Bill Condon's biopic The Fifth Estate.
Cumberbatch had asked if the two could meet, but Assange declined, saying in the letter that a meeting would "validate this wretched film, and endorse the talented, but debauched, performance that the script will force you to give."
"I believe you are a good person," Assange wrote to the British actor, "but I do not believe that this is a good film."
With a minor edit, that could work as a blurb for The Fifth Estate's poster: "Benedict Cumberbatch is a great actor, but this is not a great film."
In this week's Scene, Michael Sicinski writes about the most gripping documentary we've seen this year: Let the Fire Burn, Jason Osder's chilling account of urban warfare on a residential block of an American city. It plays Sunday through Tuesday at The Belcourt, and it's likely to end up on our list of the year's best films.
From the review:
Let the Fire Burn is a film composed entirely of pre-existing footage. There are no talking heads or re-enactments. Filmmaker Jason Osder has gone back to reassemble the contemporary coverage, and the official city council postmortem, of the 1985 police raid on the urban commune MOVE in Philadelphia that led to 11 deaths. A radical black-consciousness group headed by John Africa, MOVE was at odds with police, city officials and the commune's neighbors, many of whom objected to the group's activities, which included blasting obscenities over loudspeakers and piling their yard with rat-attracting compost. The police, for their part, had a chip on their shoulder regarding MOVE, since an earlier raid had resulted in the death of a Philly cop. (MOVE maintained it wasn't responsible.)
Osder's film is structured as a harrowing narrative spiral into inevitability. Mostly organized around the hearing in which city politicians, former MOVE members, the police and fire chiefs and Philly DA Ed Rendell (who would go on to be a pillar of Democratic politics) sought (or shirked) accountability, the film demonstrates certain unavoidable facts. MOVE was a cult, and unlike most cults with their isolated compounds, the group was ensconced in a brownstone in the middle of a city block. This presented unheard-of tactical problems.
You have no idea, unless you see the movie — which we strongly recommend. Read the rest of the piece here. (It also covers another documentary Sicinski recommends, God Loves Uganda — whose director, Roger Ross Williams, will discuss the movie via Skype 3:20 p.m. Saturday at The Belcourt with Scene reporter Steven Hale moderating.)
So many first-rate productions, so little time. Last week, the Scene's Martin Brady offered a flat-out rave for Tennessee Rep's The Importance of Being Earnest, a must-see as it enters its last weekend. What to expect, says Brady: "engrossing and beautiful sets, excellent costumes, shimmering high-tech lighting and top-notch performances by seasoned professionals." (Oh, is that all.)
This week, Brady hails two blockbuster musical productions in neighboring Williamson County:
Boiler Room Theatre led off with the first local mounting of Mel Brooks' The Producers. Under Patrick Kramer's smartly paced direction, the company infuses Brooks' irreverently hilarious script with tons of energy and raw talent. Kramer's cast of 20 is chock full of newer faces, including hungry college kids, and his leading players, while somewhat under the radar, are a hugely pleasant surprise handling very demanding roles. ...
Meanwhile, Studio Tenn's impressive take on Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods reaps the benefits of direcor Matt Logan's gorgeous fairy-tale set and costume design, some engaging hologram special effects, a cast of 16 that includes some of Middle Tennessee's most familiar names, and musical director Bryan Louiselle's potent nine-piece orchestra doing high justice to the master composer's unified multilayered score.
Read the full review here — and prepare for some tough decisions.
Few things were scarier than the era of mall hair and Hayzi Fantayzee, but damn, were the '80s ever a decade for horror cinema. So dust off your Daniel J. Travanti fan-club membership, cue up some Sigue Sigue Sputnik and ink some stars on your Trapper Keeper as The Belcourt serves up a late-night trifecta of terror from the Time of Tiffany:
Tonight brings the awesome double bill of Jim Wynorski's killer-robots-vs.-mall-rats gorefest Chopping Mall — known to us as "the other Paul and Mary Bland movie" — and Frank Henenlotter's monster-twin cult favorite Basket Case. (Still have your promotional surgical masks from the original run at Cinema South?)
Saturday serves up Clint Howard hobnobbing with Beelzebub via state-of-1981 computer technology in the crowd-pleasing bloodbath Evilspeak. (I still remember my friend Ken Weber going around in high school saying the hero's name: "Coopersmith!") It's paired with the Neve Campbell-Fairuza Balk teen-coven campfest The Craft, an '80s movie somehow time-warped to 1996. Only the coifs were changed to protect the decade.
I could feel the excitement in the air as the audience eagerly awaited the beginning of the Grammy-nominated ALIAS Chamber Ensemble’s first concert of the season on Tuesday. Four living American composers (including three women) and a practitioner of the Italian Baroque were represented: Caroline Shaw, Kenji Bunch, Giovanni Antonio Pandolfi Mealli, Jennifer Higdon and Margaret Brouwer. All things considered, this concert was not a disappointment.
The first piece on the program was a brand new arrangement of Shaw’s “Cantico delle creature” performed by mezzo soprano Lea Maitlen, violinist Zeneba Bowers, pianist Melissa Rose and baroque cellist Matt Walker. This setting of a poem by St. Francis of Assisi may be characterized by its text-painting and evocation of Gregorian chant, both of which were crystalized in this deeply sensitive and moving performance.
Bunch’s Suite for Viola and Piano (1998) is considerably earthier. Violist Chris Farrell, accompanied by Rose, executed every double-stop pizzicato with a sharpshooter’s accuracy and every dizzying run with uninhibited gusto. Perhaps a bit too uninhibited in the finale, in which Farrell’s death-defying choice of tempo had the side effect of making runs in the instrument’s lower range resemble the sound of a braying camel.
Country music superstar Rayna Jaymes has lost her voice, probably, and she’s taking some lessons with a “vocal therapist” to get it back. We skip over the scene where the singing teacher has to sign a non-disclosure agreement and get right to very professional mouthsound terms like “resonance” and “tension” and “scar tissue.” The two women make fishfaces at one another and push in their cheeks. Singing is very serious business and not hilarious.
Artist’s Perspective: Hank Willis Thomas
When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 24
Where: The Frist
Of the Frist’s 30 Americans exhibit, the pieces by Hank Willis Thomas are perhaps the most broad. “Basketball and Chain,” for example, shows a black man, presumably in a pre-dunk midair flight, with a basketball shackled around his Air Jordaned ankle. Not exactly subtle, but stare into its reflective surface for long enough and I guarantee you’ll see something new.
Willis Thomas draws much of his imagery from advertisements, and his work shouts its messages with an advertiser’s urgency. That’s why his talk tonight, part of the Frist’s Artist’s Perspectives series, is so important. Willis Thomas has no reservations in his art, and as a speaker he addresses the same issues head on: blackness, the intersection of race and identity, and the implicit servitude requested of those who buy into corporate brands. You’ll never think of MasterCard the same way again.
[Editor's Note: This is the latest installment of 'Notes From the 422nd Annual Wraiths for Writing Conference,' a biweekly series of story and art that artist Amelia Garretson-Persans has created for Country Life. Trace its roots by reading the previous entries.]
When Joseph Avens drifted into the classroom he brought with him the scent of timothy grass and clover. He was there to give a presentation on the secret thoughts of North American wildflowers. In life Mr. Avens was a botanist; in death he had gained the ability to understand the language of the flowers he once studied.
“Naturally, you’ll be curious to know what goes through the mind of the famously private houseleek. Of course, you’ll recall that it was once called Jove’s Plant, the popular belief being that if one planted it on the roof, the house would be safe from lightning. A houseleek can take years to blossom. I waited four years for the one atop my tomb to flower. When it did I could hear it faintly whisper, ‘Sub tuum praesidium, by thy protection, sub tuum praesidium.’ I listened to this vain sweetness for days before I was moved to blow on it with my cold breath and let it rest.
“The flowers of the Wallpepper plant wink their long lashes alluringly at the lonesome wanderer. They are a distinctly feminine flower. I sat and talked with them for a long time — they were alternately concerned with sharing the secrets of other flowers and asking me to pick them and let their poisonous leaves blister my skin.
Like most cautionary tales, it's a "beware of the Other" story, but one that messes with one's perception of who the Other is and what it is that they do. Carrie White's telekinesis works as both a means of deliverance for those who suffer daily and a safety valve for those who delight in cruelty. Regardless of which side you're on, when push comes to shove, telekinesis will even the playing field.
The weird thing about the Carrie archetype is that even those who were the social oppressors in high school can find some degree of empathy with Carrie White. It's an earlier version of the phenomenon that saw people who were the Heathers of their school grow to love a film that is quite openly criticizing them.
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