Archive for January, 2008

A Monk Gone

January 12, 2008

Yesterday, Dave Day of the band the Monks passed away.

If you don’t know the Monks, they were a great rock band formed by American soldiers stationed in Germany in the ‘60s. After leaving the military, they stayed in Germany, performing and recording the fantastic album Black Monk Time in 1966 (now a cult classic and influential to a ton of great musicians.) Even if you do know the magic of the Monks, you might not know that the group’s electric banjo player, Dave Day, was from these parts and had lived in Renton for many years. About 5 years ago, I had the good fortune of meeting Dave and his wife for lunch, along with a visiting German filmmaker who was just starting to plan a documentary about the group. Dave was great, and seemed genuinely touched and surprised that we were such fans of him and the band. And of course I was near giddy meeting the strumming Monk! He told me some stories, and a bit about his homemade electric banjo (and the many complaints people had at the time about the unusual, piercing percussive sound). The Monks documentary was finally completed just last year, and we’ve been working to arrange Seattle screenings (hopefully coming soon). Of course I was hoping that Dave Day would be in attendance to talk and, more importantly, to receive rousing applause. Sadly he left us before that could happen. But I’m sure that wherever he is, he’s making a fantastic racket.
Here’s a great Monks performance clip from 60s German TV. Do yourself a favor- buy the album, and keep your eyes peeled for the documentary. -Peter

Tiired of “smart” top 10 lists?

January 12, 2008

10 cinematic experiences Peter found kinda neat in 2007 (in no particular order)…

Manda Bala

Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait (coming soon to NWFF!!)

Brand Upon The Brain Live at the Cinerama

No Country For Old Men

The Diving Bell And The Butterfly

Let’s Get Lost
Re-release of the beautiful and sad Chet Baker doc

Cleo From 5 to 7
Agnes Varda’s early film

O Sangue
Pedro Costa’s first feature.

Slipstream
Yes, I’m a sucker for a high profile, surprisingly experimental dream mess! Go Tony go!

Walk Hard
“Damn I’m going through a dark period!”

Also…
Favorite “final moments” of 2007…

TV:
The end of the end of the Sopranos- the most powerful single edit of the decade!

Live Music Show:
Sean Nelson’s glorious Town Hall concert tribute to Harry Nilsson ended with a more-perfect-than-I-can-describe flub interaction between Sean and a little girl in the chorus just before the final note of the final song. Its still making me smile.

Awesome funeral:
Neighborhood artists collaborated on and gathered at a doomed-for-demolition house on Belmont and Pine on Nov. 30 to celebrate the end of non-rich residents in Capitol Hill. This “ending” ended in a spontaneous 3am flood of outdoor dancing in the street to Balkan music as cops politely urged people to disperse.

A 2007 List

January 11, 2008
 
As I’ve been living in Tokyo for most of the last year, I missed out on a lot of films that seem to have hit a lot of folk’s best lists, particularly those shown at NWFF.  However, inspired by my friend Smitty, who sent a list of his favorites to a small group of friends, the emails have been snowballing with a growing ur-list for 2007.  All in all, seems like a good year. 

Here’s my list. Not necessarily in order.

Buddha Collapsed Out of Shame – d. Hana Makhmalbaf
Not a perfect film, but it had the feel of something that young Hana just had to make – as if the images could not wait to be put on screen.
 
Secret Sunshine – d. Lee Chang-dong
Finally, a film out of S. Korea worth watching. Heartfelt and honest, not pandering to some idea of transgressive sex or violence like far too much Korean product.
 
Useless – d. Jia Zhang-ke
Dong – d. Jia Zhang-ke
Jia Zhang-ke, who we always knew was good, does a double whammy with low budget video docs. The images still burn.
 
Brand Upon the Brain – d. Guy Maddin
After a bit of sidestep with Saddest Music In the World, Maddin’s back in form. A+ for being NWFF associated. I saw it in Tokyo without the live score and narration (boo hoo!), but was still overwhelmed.
 
The Mourning Forest – d. Kawase Naomi
A profoundly moving film that opened in a disarming way and built to transcendence.
 
Killer of Sheep – d. Charles Burnett
Yep, been waitin’ for this one for years. And fuck, it’s amazing.
 
To Sleep So As to Dream – d. Kalzo Hayashi
And with the live music/benshi performance by Aono Jikken Ensemble – sublime!
 
And a few other oldies-
 
Zatoichi Breaks Jail (1967) – d. Yamamoto Satsuo
As part of Tokyo Filmex tribute to Yamamoto, this became my favorite Zatoichi. This is the one that gives Zato class consciousness.
 
Heitai yakuza / Hoodlum Soldier (1965) – d. Yasuzo Masumura
This one’s also got Shintarô Katsu (Zatoichi). A totally nutty antiwar and anti-establishment movie chock full o’ head bashin’ and violence.
 
Entotsu no mieru basho/ Where Chimneys Are Seen (1953) d.Heinosuke Gosho
Life in postwar Japan with a lot of amazing location shots – all couched in a great melodrama with wonderful character actors.
 
Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu!
 

News from Devor and Mudede

January 10, 2008

Rob Devor and Charles Mudede, the creative force behind ZOO and Start-to-Finish film POLICE BEAT, have announced three new projects. They are in development on DYNASTY, THE CLOUD ROOM, and YOU CAN’T WIN. The first film, DYNASTY, they hope to shoot in the Pacific Northwest.

Here’s the press release:

FOR IMMMEDIATE RELEASE

DEVOR & MUDEDE ANNOUNCE THREE PROJECTS FOR ’08
“Dynasty”, “The Cloud Room” & “You Can’t Win” Follow
Up 2007’s “Zoo”

SEATTLE, WA – Robinson Devor and Charles Mudede, the
filmmaking team behind the critically acclaimed
features “Zoo” and “Police Beat”, announced a slate of
new feature films for their new company “Hard Living
Pictures”.

The company’s first film, “Dynasty”, is a comic fairy
tale about a middle aged couple who kill a black bear
and attempt to sell its gallbladder on the black
market for $10,000. It is being co-produced by Scott
Macaulay’s New York-based Forensic Films (“Gummo”,
“Raising Victor Vargas”, “Off The Black”). The
company’s second film, “The Cloud Room”, is an
ensemble mystery that explores the social and
psychological reverberations of cattle mutilations in
a small Montana town. It is being co-produced by
NY-based Lodge Films (“The Hawk Is Dying”) and Touchy
Feely FIlms (“Pretty Bird”). Devor and Mudede are also
signed on to make “You Can’t Win”, the autobiography
of career criminal and opium addict Jack Black,
adapted for the screen by Barry Gifford (“Wild At
Heart,” “Lost Highway”).

“We wanted to make two or three films in ’08, so we
took last year off to write”, said Devor. “We’d been
thinking about animals, so “Dynasty” and “The Cloud
Room” presented themselves as a kind of animal
trilogy.”

Devor and Mudede are repped by Creative Artists Agency
in Los Angeles. Devor is also repped as a commercial
filmmaker by Non-Fiction Spots, an LA & NY-based
production company that connects documentary
filmmakers with the advertising community.

TOMORROW SEATTLE YOU GET THIS

January 10, 2008

Tickets available here.

Changes Afoot

January 7, 2008

After years running the Washington State Film Office, Manager Suzy Kellett has just announced her resignation, effective January 30.  Following  fifteen years of up and down production, Washington has steadily grown a stronger indigenous film community on both sides of the Cascades.  WashingtonFilmWorks is poised to help grow local and out-of-town production, so it’s a critical time to have someone promoting filmmaking in the state.

Will the film office continue?  Will WashingtonFilmWorks take on some of this work? Stay tuned.

Supreme Court declines to address First Amendment vs. copyright duration

January 7, 2008

Some important news in the continuing struggle to reckon the First Amendment and copyright. For those not following this in depth, here’s the story so far.

Top Movies and Cinematic Moments of 2007

January 7, 2008

For me, the way movies are watched, and the moments that surround them, are sometimes as critical as the films themselves. Here are some of my favorites of 2007.

No Country for Old Men, Ethan Coen

Brand Upon the Brain!, Guy Maddin
Live at the Cinerama with Guy Maddin as narrator

Voyage of the Red Balloon, Hou Hsiao-Hsien
Q & A with Julette Binoche at Toronto IFF

One Way Boogie Woogie/ 27 Years Later, James Benning
Question to James Benning: What is your favorite film?
A: It’d be Andy Warhol’s screen tests. But I’ve never seen them.

Soul Nite! – a great audience soul clapping and dancing in the NWFF theater

Bourne Ultimatum, Paul Greengrass

Killer of Sheep, Charles Burnett (1977 Revival)

Zoo, Robinson Devor
After the cast and crew screening, one of the horse owners saying “This is like nothing I’ve ever seen. I don’t know what to think. It’s like it’s 1940 and I’ve just seen my first Film Noir.”

Old Joy, Kelly Reichardt

Seeing ABBA: the Movie with my kids

The Breezes, Grega Matnak

and this image from the Bike-In

 bike-in.jpg

A Field Guide To Cinema

January 3, 2008

Watching cinema can be likened to the art of bird watching, sometimes you could use a field guide to help you identify what it is that illuminates the screen in front of you. Fortunately, there’s an entire field of study devoted to providing you with exactly that. Today I stumbled upon a list compiled by a website called Screening The Past, “An international, refereed, electronic journal for screen history,” that digested the more important contributions to the study of cinema over the last ten years.

As part of Screening the Past‘s tenth anniversary, we invited about 300 colleagues around Australia and the world to nominate the most important contributions to the field in the past decade – books, articles, reports, conferences, archival work, DVD reissues or commentaries, documentaries, online material, software – anything, not limited to any particular source, certainly not STP. We advised invitees that “…Screening the Past is a journal of screen history in a broad and inclusive sense, not narrowly a film history journal,” and, “While our invitation casually refers to ‘the field’, ‘area’, ‘discipline’ or what not, we have carefully avoided specifying what that ‘field’ might consist of and what its parameters might be. That is one of the things we are hoping your submissions will tell us.”

Those polled include Dudley Andrew, Nicole Brenez, Thomas Elsaesser, Craig Keller, Bill Krohn, Adrian Martin, James Naremore, Andy Rector,   Paul Willemen, and Jonathan Rosenbaum, who by the way, it should be noted, will be retiring from his full time gig at the Chicago Reader later this year.

If you’re looking for a field guide to cinema, perhaps you should take the recommendations of those polled here, I have and will continue to do so.

THE MAN WITHOUT A PAST

January 2, 2008

Finnish actor Markku Peltola died Monday at age 51. Peltola was best known for his role in Aki Kaurismaki’s THE MAN WITHOUT A PAST (2002), the story of a down-and-out amnesiac who slowly rebuilds his life by moving into an industrial container with “sea view” and wooing a reluctant soup kitchen volunteer…. Peltola also appeared in Kaurismaki’s JUHA (1999) and DRIFTING CLOUDS (1996), as well as over 30 film and television roles.

During the 1980s, Peltola was the lead singer and guitarist of the Finnish band Motelli Skronkle. He released two solo albums in 2004 and 2006 respectively. In 1996 he co-founded Telakka, a theatre-themed restaurant, in his hometown of Tampere. In October 2007 he directed a play there called Activist.

His most recent film roles were a small role on the 2006 film JADE WARRIOR and the Estonian film I WAS HERE, which will premiere in that country in September this year.

Peltola died in his Tampere home. According to local media, he had suffered poor health for some time.

Very sad news, and a huge loss for Scandinavian cinema.


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