AEC


film (b)log by
ariel esteban cayer


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DCPs. FILM POP 2014.

DCPs. FILM POP 2014.

La glace à trois faces (short; Jean Epstein, 1927)

La glace à trois faces (short; Jean Epstein, 1927)

Phantom of the Paradise (Brian De Palma, 1974)

Phantom of the Paradise (Brian De Palma, 1974)

Back to school.

Back to school.

AUGUST 2014 IN FILM

Still busy prepping Film POP (proper post on this later), but some downtime allowed me to get my film-watching mojo back, so-to-speak. Great to watch films for sheer pleasure and personal growth, after months of forced privation. This month also possessed me with the urge to read, moreso than ever. Finished Gibson’s Burning Chrome, read his Idoru and started All Tomorrow’s Parties.

And then on the 24th, I was half-drunkenly fucking around on the Tumblr app, and I inadvertently deleted this list. While I reconstructed it from memory to the best of my abilities, he nagging suspicion that I’m forgetting a film remains. (Interestingly, Boyhood is the last film I remembered, which had me seriously consider its flaws.) 

Highlights include: the films I bothered to write about (click-through); an informal month-long 80s marathon; Stéphane Lafleur’s excellent Tu Dors Nicole; the new Yuya Ishii film and the gross-out comedy Wetlands (one of the last films seen at this year’s Fantasia Int. Film Festival). Oh, and the Ghibli doc!

  1. THE DROWNSMAN (Chad Archibald, 2014)
  2. EJECTA (Chad Archibald & Matt Wiele, 2014)(T)
  3. WETLANDS (David Wnendt, 2013)(T)
  4. METALHEAD (Ragnar Bragason, 2013)(T)
  5. WELCOME TO NEW YORK (Abel Ferrara, 2014)(T)
  6. BOYHOOD (Richard Linklater, 2014)(T)
  7. HOWARD THE DUCK (Willard Huyck, 1986)
  8. DREAMSCAPE (Joseph Ruben, 1984)
  9. NEW ROSE HOTEL (Abel Ferrara, 1998)
  10. NIGHT OF THE COMET (Thom Eberhardt, 1984)
  11. THE HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW (Mark Rosman, 1983)
  12. TU DORS NICOLE (Stéphane Lafleur, 2014)
  13. LOST SOUL: THE DOOMED JOURNEY OF RICHARD STANLEY’S ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU (David Gregory, 2014)
  14. MY SASSY GIRL (Kwak Jae-yong, 2001)
  15. OUR FAMILY (Yuya Ishii, 2014)(T)
  16. SEE YOU NEXT TUESDAY (Drew Tobia, 2013)
  17. THE KINGDOM OF DREAMS AND MADNESS (Mami Sunada, 2013)

Rewatched 

  1. PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE (Brian De Palma, 1974)

Television

  1. PARKS & RECREATION, 2x01-2x07
I’m a fucking junkie. Halfway there, though: currently reading All Tomorrow’s Parties (1999), and am astounded, as very novel is better than the last. Will read The Difference Engine last as a gateway to the two Sterling paperbacks I have kicking around. Also, I loathe hardbacks, but I found Distrust That Particular Flavor today for, I kid you not, 3,50$. Couldn’t resisting completing this monolith of a pile. My goal was to have everything read before The Peripheral comes out later this year, but school will probably get in the way.

I’m a fucking junkie. Halfway there, though: currently reading All Tomorrow’s Parties (1999), and am astounded, as very novel is better than the last. Will read The Difference Engine last as a gateway to the two Sterling paperbacks I have kicking around. Also, I loathe hardbacks, but I found Distrust That Particular Flavor today for, I kid you not, 3,50$. Couldn’t resisting completing this monolith of a pile. My goal was to have everything read before The Peripheral comes out later this year, but school will probably get in the way.

The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness (Mami Sunada, 2013)
"I need to hurry and finish this film. You know, people who design airplanes and machines…no matter how much they believe that what they do is good, the winds of time eventually turn them into tools of industrial civilization. It’s never unscathed. They’re cursed dreams. Animation, too. Today, all of humanity’s dreams are cursed somehow. Beautiful, yet cursed dreams. I’m not even talking about wanting to be rich or famous. Screw that. That’s just hopeless. What I mean is, how do we know movies are even worthwhile? If you really think about it, is this not just some grand hobby? Maybe there was a time when you could make films that mattered, but now? Most of our world is rubbish. It’s difficult." — Hayao Miyazaki 

The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness (Mami Sunada, 2013)

"I need to hurry and finish this film. You know, people who design airplanes and machines…no matter how much they believe that what they do is good, the winds of time eventually turn them into tools of industrial civilization. It’s never unscathed. They’re cursed dreams. Animation, too. Today, all of humanity’s dreams are cursed somehow. Beautiful, yet cursed dreams. I’m not even talking about wanting to be rich or famous. Screw that. That’s just hopeless. What I mean is, how do we know movies are even worthwhile? If you really think about it, is this not just some grand hobby? Maybe there was a time when you could make films that mattered, but now? Most of our world is rubbish. It’s difficult." — Hayao Miyazaki 

Supreme Blue Rose #2 (2014) by Warren Ellis & Tula Lotay

Supreme Blue Rose #2 (2014) by Warren Ellis & Tula Lotay

And now her eyes met his.
He seemed to cross a line. In the very structure of her face, in geometries of underlying bone, lay coded histories of dynastic flight, privation, terrible migrations. He saw stone tombs in steep alpine meadows, their lintels traced with snow. A line of shaggy pack ponies, their breath white with cold, followed a trail above a canyon. The curves of the river below were strokes of distant silver. Iron harness bells clanked in the blue dusk.
Laney shivered. In his mouth a taste of rotten metal.
The eyes of the idoru, envoy of some imaginary country, met his.
—William Gibson, Idoru (1996)
Tu dors Nicole (Stéphane Lafleur, 2014)

Tu dors Nicole (Stéphane Lafleur, 2014)

The House on Sorority Row (Mark Rosman, 1983)

The House on Sorority Row (Mark Rosman, 1983)

Dreamscape (Joseph Ruben, 1984)

Dreamscape (Joseph Ruben, 1984)

Night of the Comet (Thom Eberhardt, 1984)
Following Sole Survivor (which I can’t wait to see), Thom Eberhardt’s cult classic Night of the Comet is an excellent horror-comedy and a superb time-capsule of 80s California zeitgeist. One part Valley Girl parody, by way of George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1978), it is also a shockingly powerful precursor to John Carpenter’s enduring cult classic They Live (1988), in that it catapults two mundane protagonists amid end-times chaos and, most importantly, against the backdrop of 80s consumerism in a towering and oppressive Los Angeles. Its interiors are neon-lit, its skies and streets run red with blood, and all of it is suffused with the remnants of a freshly obliterated culture of arcade games, midnight movies, outlandish fashion and catchy pop music (“Oh mother we’re not the fortunate ones / Oh, girls just want to have fun!”). Eberhardt gleefully documents all of this, less elegy than celebration.
With Reggie (Catherine Mary Stewart) and Sam (Kelli Maroney), Eberhardt also offers the female counterpart to Carpenter’s various John Nadas and John Burtons. Where Carpenter deconstructs the action hero archetype by painting it as inept and goofy (see also: Big Trouble in Little China), he offers a firmly tongue-in-cheek subversion of the usually male-led end-of-the-world narrative (see: The Omega Man, I Am Legend). In placing two ass-kicking, wise-cracking and utterly lovable Valley Girl archetypes at the center of their own action movie (and the various shopping mall shootouts, motorcycle rides, zombie fistfights and explosive situations that involves) Night of the Comet appears as strikingly refreshing; a vital commentary on a stale sub-genre, and an important, gender-bent precursor to Carpenter’s biting satire of Reagan-era consumerism. Most importantly, it is a joyful and resonant film even today, and only made more relevant by the fact we haven’t seen a Night of the Comet in quite a while. 

Night of the Comet (Thom Eberhardt, 1984)

Following Sole Survivor (which I can’t wait to see), Thom Eberhardt’s cult classic Night of the Comet is an excellent horror-comedy and a superb time-capsule of 80s California zeitgeist. One part Valley Girl parody, by way of George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1978), it is also a shockingly powerful precursor to John Carpenter’s enduring cult classic They Live (1988), in that it catapults two mundane protagonists amid end-times chaos and, most importantly, against the backdrop of 80s consumerism in a towering and oppressive Los Angeles. Its interiors are neon-lit, its skies and streets run red with blood, and all of it is suffused with the remnants of a freshly obliterated culture of arcade games, midnight movies, outlandish fashion and catchy pop music (“Oh mother we’re not the fortunate ones / Oh, girls just want to have fun!”). Eberhardt gleefully documents all of this, less elegy than celebration.

With Reggie (Catherine Mary Stewart) and Sam (Kelli Maroney), Eberhardt also offers the female counterpart to Carpenter’s various John Nadas and John Burtons. Where Carpenter deconstructs the action hero archetype by painting it as inept and goofy (see also: Big Trouble in Little China), he offers a firmly tongue-in-cheek subversion of the usually male-led end-of-the-world narrative (see: The Omega Man, I Am Legend). In placing two ass-kicking, wise-cracking and utterly lovable Valley Girl archetypes at the center of their own action movie (and the various shopping mall shootouts, motorcycle rides, zombie fistfights and explosive situations that involves) Night of the Comet appears as strikingly refreshing; a vital commentary on a stale sub-genre, and an important, gender-bent precursor to Carpenter’s biting satire of Reagan-era consumerism. Most importantly, it is a joyful and resonant film even today, and only made more relevant by the fact we haven’t seen a Night of the Comet in quite a while. 

New Rose Hotel (Abel Ferrara, 1998)

With this unfairly maligned, yet incredibly faithful adaptation of William Gibson’s eponymous short story, Ferrara admirably captures the unique jolt and disorientation that comes from reading the author’s early prose (see also: “Fragments of a Hologram Rose”). In and of itself, this is more than I can say about any literary adaptation I’ve ever seen — most of which are concerned with trying to fit and/or dispense with impossible narrative details/detours into manageable screen time. 

On the one hand, what is most impressive about New Rose Hotel is how it prioritizes the purest, most nuts-and-bolts-like, aspects of cinema (i.e. images and sounds; music, provided in part by the great Schoolly D, colliding with expressive colors and shapes; shots and textures of shots in turn melting into each other) to get at both interior and exterior spaces, the conflation of which is usually best served by literature.

A terrifically concise novella to begin with, “New Rose Hotel” is short enough to leave Ferrara and co-writer Christ Zois ample space to expand upon (mostly in dialogue, at times less Gibsonian than pure Ferrara sleaze), while rich enough to provide a strong emotional spine for the film to rest on. Ferrara treats the material with the same hazy, half-remembered quality as Gibson’s (unreliable narrator, first-person-yet-third-person-narration, etc.) and meets that with an abstract, languid and almost collage-like approch to every scene. The cumulative, sustained wavelength of both the story and film is one of erotic longing, lust and lovelorn dizziness and loss, beautifully painted against the backdrop of international crypto-capitalism. 

Most seem to take offense with the film’s heavy use of flashbacks in the final sequence, but more to the point, these emphasize the emotional stress the events have created on X’s (Dafoe’s) character (and on the viewer perhaps identifying with him). As he remembers, one is left with something that is less narrative than visual; something achingly emotional, textural and poetic. The exposition is near-invisible, mostly nonexistent; inner dialogue, description and depiction are conflated into a breathtaking whole: an apt mixture of narration, conventional dialogue, impressionistic use of color, light and a fluid, dream-like repetition and texturing of images (through video being replayed, for example).

On the other hand, I’m sure it helped that the film is ultimately a very thinly veiled love letter to Asia Argento, who, at the time of shooting, was reportedly involved in a triangle with Dafoe and Ferrara. (The novella itself is an almost stream-of-consciousness-like, post-scriptum outpouring of delusional love from X to Sandi, with Hiroshi in the middle as as Ferrara’s surrogate). More than life imitating art, this informs the film. The characters and the camera lust for her; all are ultimately destroyed by her. And as a result, New Rose Hotel is a film that flows in ways that might be off-putting to some viewers; a film that is rough around the edges, visceral and driven by emotions (i.e. colors, images, sounds, textures — I can’t stress this enough) but also liberated as a result, free to roam in whichever direction best suits the source material. It’s a rare feat in the world of adaptation; a film that is not only more faithful to Gibson’s fiction (than, say, the amusing, but flawed Johnny Mnemonic), but also more life-like and fundamentally alive than most — getting uncannily close to the way one can process lust, love and fleeting painful memories. I can think of a few, but it’s something that few films, if any, get to accurately, or interestingly. 

Welcome to New York (Abel Ferrara, 2014)
Ferrara was in town for Welcome to New York last night, and while I’m actually surprised I loved the film (I was very apprehensive, and that said, “loved” or “enjoyed” might not be the right words), I will say that the 90-minute Q&A that Ferrara gave us is one of the definitive highlights of my time attending/working at the Fantasia International Film Festival. A true masterclass, and as erratic and uncomfortable as the character himself. Now, I can’t promise anything, but I’d like to share more thoughts on the film at a later date (and once I’ve caught up to more of Ferrara), as WTNY fits nicely within something I’ve come to call “ugly cinema” — films that are purposefully jarring, cold (i.e. digital) and difficult yet highly stylized, and often about death and monstrosity. In my mind, there’s a clear connection between what Ferrara is (perhaps accidentally) doing here and, say, last year’s The Canyons, or The Counselor — films as polarizing, challenging and uncomfortable as this one, ultimately shot with similar aesthetics and panned for similar reasons. On a purely formal and affective level, I couldn’t help but think of the the cinema of Tsai Ming-liang as well, which I realize is a stupid and culturally incompatible comparison to make, but one that holds some weight in that both WTNY and Tsai’s oeuvre share a preference for unobtrusive long take, and an absolute, unfaltering dedication to performance and the physicality of bodies (where Depardieu replaces Lee Kang-sheng; being strip-searched as hypnotizing as eating that whole cabbage). I’m told to watch Bad Lieutenant next, so I’ll keep it at that for now.

Welcome to New York (Abel Ferrara, 2014)

Ferrara was in town for Welcome to New York last night, and while I’m actually surprised I loved the film (I was very apprehensive, and that said, “loved” or “enjoyed” might not be the right words), I will say that the 90-minute Q&A that Ferrara gave us is one of the definitive highlights of my time attending/working at the Fantasia International Film Festival. A true masterclass, and as erratic and uncomfortable as the character himself. Now, I can’t promise anything, but I’d like to share more thoughts on the film at a later date (and once I’ve caught up to more of Ferrara), as WTNY fits nicely within something I’ve come to call “ugly cinema” — films that are purposefully jarring, cold (i.e. digital) and difficult yet highly stylized, and often about death and monstrosity. In my mind, there’s a clear connection between what Ferrara is (perhaps accidentally) doing here and, say, last year’s The Canyons, or The Counselor — films as polarizing, challenging and uncomfortable as this one, ultimately shot with similar aesthetics and panned for similar reasons. On a purely formal and affective level, I couldn’t help but think of the the cinema of Tsai Ming-liang as well, which I realize is a stupid and culturally incompatible comparison to make, but one that holds some weight in that both WTNY and Tsai’s oeuvre share a preference for unobtrusive long take, and an absolute, unfaltering dedication to performance and the physicality of bodies (where Depardieu replaces Lee Kang-sheng; being strip-searched as hypnotizing as eating that whole cabbage). I’m told to watch Bad Lieutenant next, so I’ll keep it at that for now.