Thursday, October 30, 2014

a girl walks home alone at night

The eerie landscape of squat housing and dreary factories in Ana Lily Amirpour's daunting and gorgeous vampire flick A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a bit Antonioni (particularly Red Desert), a bit spaghetti western. Amirpour notes, "I wanted to make an Iranian film, but the question was how? Since I obviously can't shoot in Iran, the solution became the invention of the entire film; I found a desolate, vacant oil town in the desert of California which became the fictitious Iranian ghost-town Bad City, and suddenly there were no rules. I created my own universe, and made the rules." Bad City (a homage, perhaps, to another misfit tale Badlands) is quite an unforgettable place with its empty alleys, sidewalks and roads, howling winds and glowing streetlamps, occasionally rumbling trains, and an unexplained pit of dead bodies. Within the town is a mysterious young woman, simply known as "The Girl" (a beguiling Sheila Vand), haunting the bare streets in a flowy chador. Also there is the white T-shirt and denim-clad "Persian James Dean" (Arash Marandi) who lives with his widowed, drug-addicted father (Marshall Manesh). The few townspeople we meet are marginalized and lonesome, yearning intensely in a town that is marginalized in itself.

The keenly designed but never too on-the-nose interiors (production design by Sergio De La Vega; art direction by Sam Kramer) give insight into character--from the cheesy "Miami Vice" and fish tanked pad of the terribly tattooed (Pac Man and SEX et al) buffoon "Pimp" (Dominic Rains), the curtained ramshackle apartment with its poignant map of the world on the wall of "The Prostitute" (Mozhan Marnòto) to "The Girl's" disco-balled Bee Gees, Prince and other retro icon-walled room (I was intensely staring at a Madonna-inspired poster, trying to figure out who it was... turns out it's Margaret Atwood!). Like that poster, Amirpour's work seems to embrace an array of influences from filmmakers (David Lynch, Sergio Leone, maybe even Kathryn Bigelow, especially Near Dark), storytellers and also pop videos (Amirpour herself is a musician). I recognized many nods to other movies throughout including Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man. Coincidentally, Jarmusch released his own moody vampire flick this year--the ballyhooed Only Lovers Left Alive. It turns out that Amirpour's film is the more impressive one--definitely much more strange, electric and seductive, especially because of the remarkable cinematography by Lyle Vincent. Sure anamorphic black and white usually automatically looks alluring on film, but there is much more to Vincent's work--the unusual perspectives (loved the straight-on shot of the downward hill and a shots of a fork grazing over egg yolk), careful lighting and character positioning. There are miraculous accidents of some humorous feline reactions. The pacing is a bit languid and at times I thought the film moved a little too slow (I have grown a bit weary from the 2010s arthouse trend of staring, stoic characters) but the images Amirpour and Vincent capture are occasionally breathtaking. The soundtrack too is incredibly vivid and well-timed--a stellar, Tarantino-esque bevy of haunting oddities (hopefully they will be available together soon!). According to Amirpour, "the soundtrack was very much a part of the design of the film, at the script level. Each song you hear was picked in advance, and the power of music is so massive that it leads the way in the filmmaking." It will indeed be exciting to see the gifted Amirpour lead the way for a new generation of filmmakers. ***1/2

-Jeffery Berg

Monday, October 27, 2014

color safe by james rieck

Slipped into the Lyons Wier Gallery and saw these great paintings by James Rieck.

Love the colors, detail, catalog posing, the arctic backgrounds, the chopped-off heads (just slivers of smiles) and themes.

There was also this beauty below (which was hiding a little bit on the wall near the gallery desk).

Exhibition Dates: 

October 9 - November 8, 2014

542 West 24th Street

New York, NY 10011

Tel +1 212 242 6220 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Thursday, October 23, 2014

karen g. at the hamptons film festival!

We pulled into the driveway of the Maidstone Inn on a rainy, chilly Saturday morning in Easthampton to grab our press passes. “You just missed Kiefer Sutherland”, said an excited young writer who pushed by us to grab a coffee in the cozy living room of the Swedish-themed Inn where photos of Ingmar Bergman movies lined the walls.

Nina McCann and Jennese Torres of Proud to Be Latina grabbed our tickets for our first film of the day, The Special Need. This was a beautifully tender, thoughtful and original documentary about a 29 year old Autistic man who wants to experience physical love for the first time. Enea, sets out on a journey through Europe with his good friends, Alex and Carlo who try to help him find a solution to his “need”. The interesting soundtrack by composer, Dario Moroldo was in itself an important player in the pace and beauty of this story.

Next on our list was the 9-minute short film, Weenie, a comedy about a 16-year-old girl who gets grounded, but wants to go to a party no matter what. Writer and director Dan Roe explained, in his Q&A session that his vision was to share the often volatile relationship between teenage girls and their mothers, and the roller coaster of emotions that comes with that bond. The punchy, pop soundtrack highlights today’s musical trends, tastes and teenage life in the era of texting.

Our final movie of the night was Frank Whaley’s Like Sunday, Like Rain. Another powerfully musical film about a young woman, (Leighton Meester) who loses her job and dumps her boyfriend, (Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong) in the same day but unexpectedly lands a job as an au pair to a 12-year old musical prodigy, Julian Shatkin, who is wise beyond his years and seemingly unaffected by his cold and incredibly wealthy mother played by Debra Messing. Frank Whaley explained that this film was miraculously shot in various locations throughout New York in a span of 20 days and on a shoestring budget.

-Karen G. of Garden Street Films, LLC

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

book briefs

Here's some recent books I read and enjoyed.

Thinking that this would be a light, gossipy memoir on fashion, I was taken aback how great this memoir was. Halbreich grew up wealthy as an only child in Chicago, living a relatively lonesome life. From an early age, she was deeply fascinated by clothing. After enduring a difficult marriage and an attempt at suicide, Halbreich found her calling as a personal shopper (of the Solutions Department) at Bergdorf Goodman, helping dress celebrities like Joan Rivers and Candice Bergen (Halbreich is partly responsible for the iconic "Murphy Brown" look). Rich and lively and studded with incredible details, I'll Drink to That took me into bygone eras of fashion (she bemoans that it's all about the labels now, not the clothing) and into the life of a no-nonsense, direct, creative and dry-witted artist.

Does addiction ever leave us? The present tense immediacy of Bydlowska's memoir suggests sometimes it does not. Bydlowska's book hurtles into her personal experiences as an alcoholic young mother. Despite its subject matter and its wide open revelations, I wouldn't call the book devastating nor shocking, in fact Bydlowska's experiences are sometimes ordinary, eerily banal. 

I believe this is the first collection I've read of Hillman and now I'm excited to go back to her other books. This one really sparked for me. The poems are packed with politics and detail. I liked the risk-taking and the messiness--the collision of varied moods and voices (furious and at times, weary) protest photos, data, and asides.

-Jeffery Berg

Friday, October 17, 2014

8 queer characters in horror: a list by justin lockwood

October is Gay History Month in addition to being the lead-up to Halloween, so it’s the perfect time to spotlight some of the LGBT characters that have found their way into horror film and television.  I rank my picks in order from least to most positive—an order that roughly follows the films’ chronology.  The times, they are a-changin’!

Gerde and Sandra (Sylvia Miles and Beverly D’Angelo), The Sentinel (1977)—Michael Winner’s gloss on Rosemary’s Baby is a lot of things, but politically correct is not one of them.  This pair isn’t just weird and off-putting—they wear ballet suits for some reason, and D’Angelo pleasures herself while lead Cristina Raines squirms in her chair—they’re actually demons.  But by the time Miles is seen feasting on brains, homophobia is the least of the movie’s crimes—it uses real deformed people to portray the other denizens of hell.  Incidentally, Miles gets one of the best lines when Raines asks her what she and her companion do: “We fondle each other.”

ChadPat (Zachary Quinto and Teddy Sears), "American Horror Story" (2011)—Sparring gay lovers Chad and Pat are a step above The Sentinel’s ghastly lesbians, but only just.  True, the interior designers are suave and good-looking, but their relationship is a dysfunctional mess, and they fulfill numerous negative gay stereotypes, from Pat’s sex addiction to Chad’s superficial preoccupation with appearances; Chad covets Vivian (Connie Britton)’s twins, but plans to smother them with “a hypoallergenic pillow so they’ll always be cute.”  Considering that nearly everyone on the first season of AHS is both deeply flawed and guilty of some heinous act or another, though, ChadPat barely qualify as the worst of the bunch.

Miriam and Sarah (Catherine Deneuve and Susan Sarandon), The Hunger (1983)—In my sophomore year of college I had the distinct pleasure of watching this movie with a group of lesbians who’d never seen it before.  They didn’t know quite what to make of this ultra-stylized movie about an ageless vampire (Deneuve) who ditches her latest male companion (David Bowie) for Sarandon’s comely Sarah.  In true 80s fashion, the movie casts lesbianism through a veil of trendy bisexuality (Sarandon’s dating a man when we first meet her), fluttering curtains, and gratuitous slow mo photography (uh-oh, Sarah spilled wine on her blouse!).  It gets a split vote in terms of how it portrays its queer characters; Deneuve is a true villainess, but Sarandon’s character manages to come out on top.  Side note: the lead actress later sued lesbian magazine Deneuve for illegally using her name, forcing them to re-christen themselves as Curve.

Victor Pascow (Brad Greenquist), Pet Sematary (1989)—Pascow is a truly original creation, a horrible disfigured apparition who nonetheless tries to help Dr. Louis Creed (bland but hunky Dale Midkiff) and his family avoid certain doom.  After the good doctor fails to save the accident victim, he appears in the same sweater and red short shorts he died in to caution Creed against using the Micmac burial ground.  His eccentric, fey delivery makes Pascow, in Greenquist’s own words, “a good fairy.”  You can say that again!

David (Gordon Michael Woolvett), Bride of Chucky (1998)—Queer Child’s Play creator Don Mancini really let his camp flag fly with this spoofy sequel that features Woolvett as a good-looking, likable homo who helps star crossed lovers Jade (a before she was famous Katherine Heigl) and Jesse (gorgeous Nick Stabile).  We’re obviously supposed to like David, which makes his shocking death pretty excusable—this is a horror movie, after all.  Besides, what self-respecting gay man would spurn a movie that features Stabile in an utterly gratuitous car washing scene?

-Justin Lockwood

twitter: @HeyLockwood
tumblr: smithsgrovesanitarium.tumblr.com

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

kid francescoli

I've been spinning this Kid Francescoli record With Julia all day today.

Low-key, French pop bliss.

Here the videos for singles "Blow Up" & "Disco Queen."

Plus a nice cover of The Beatles' "Because."