Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Haven't blogged in a week, have been busy with screenings, tried to blog this morning but maintenance was being done on the site so my blog couldn't be posted.

Anyway, the Netflix queue is finally starting to fill up, and have been seeing movies regularly that are nominees for Independent Spirit Awards. Have been going to screenings. Ok. Since the first of the year, the films (or videos) seen: Wim Wenders's "Land of Plenty", Billy Wilder's "Ace in the Hole", Azazel Jacobs's "The Goodtimeskid", Ken Jacobs's "Two Wrenching Departures", the docs "Agnes Martin: With My Back to the World" and "Kiki Smith: Squatting the Palace", "Hong Yan" (part of this year's Global Lens series, and the one which will get a weeklong run at MoMA), "Sorry, Haters", "You're Gonna Miss Me", four videos from the Artists Space series: "Situation Leading to a Story", "His Divine Grace", "The Battle of Orgreave", and "Ernesto Samper Addresses Washington, Jan. 20th, Inauguration Day", "Chalk", four videos by Lynne Sachs: "The Small Ones", "Tornado", "Investigation of a Flame" and "States of Unbelonging", the doc "China Blue", "The Italian", "Four Eyed Monsters". Ironically, i watched "Four Eyed Monsters" a little after its actual simulcast over the Sundance Channel's v.o.d. system. (I think that's what it is, being basically a technical dummy, all i know is that it was being offered as some sort of at-home-screening via computer.) Where to begin? There's so much....

Since i saw "Four Eyed Monsters" last, i shall begin with it. Yes, it's often irritating and self-indulgent, yet it's also fresh and (dare i say it?) innovative, because it shows how the new technology (digital video, etc.) can create a d.i.y. aesthetic. It's the kind of "film" where the whole episode about herpes is freakish, yet also shows the "new" intimacy that the new technology brings about. Susan Buice and Arin Crumley, as "creators" (writers-directors-editors-stars), certainly are willing to take chances. And the eight episodes of the "video podcast" which followed the film on the DVD: it was (for me) even more engrossing than the movie itself. I have to think about "Four Eyed Monsters" more, but i wound up being very sympathetic to it. (And i can see why it had trouble finding a distributor, but why it is finding its way through festivals and the various "other" media, podcasts, v.o.d., etc. to audiences.)

"Ace in the Hole" and "Two Wrenching Departures" were both works i'd seen before, but not in decades, and yet, as soon as they started, i remembered everything. It's like i found myself able to recite the dialogue in "Ace in the Hole"... i had no idea it had been so memorable to me. And "Two Wrenching Departures"... hell, i remember the dialogue from "The Barbarian" more from this Nervous System piece than i do from the actual movie (which i've seen). Ken put a little note at the beginning of this DVD transfer of the original Nervous System piece, explaining that the soundtrack came (mostly) from the MGM film "The Barbarian" starring Myrna Loy and Ramon Novarro, but i know he told me that after the initial screening, and when "The Barbarian" played on TCM, i know i watched it, just so i could see whether the movie was as intriguing as the snippets Ken used. Sad to say, it isn't, but it's memorable in "Two Wrenching Departures".

A lot more. But i should add that, while watching "Land of Plenty", i realized that what oftens saves Wim Wenders is that he's (truly) naive. If he weren't, if he were a little more cynical or
self-aware (as Werner Herzog has become, as witness "Incident at Loch Ness"), a lot of his movies would be intolerable. As it is, the sincerity (even of the most lamebrained ideas) redeems his movies, by creating a genuine poignancy. That happened in "Wings of Desire" and in "Paris, Texas"... but in "Faraway, So Close", the wooziness took over and the film meandered and fell apart. But "Land of Plenty" just barely succeeds in evoking a mood of dissatisfaction in the paranoia of post-9/11 America.

Well, thought it was time to post, and more later.


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