Feature Friday: “Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors” (1964)

It took me a while to catch up with this one, but when I did, I saw it projected at the Siskel. The experience was utterly beautiful and overwhelming, so see it in a theater if you can. It’s one of the greatest love stories I know.

Parajanov is frequently mentioned in comparison to Andrei Tarkovsky, but he’s sadly not gotten anywhere near the attention. The two were friends and fellow rebels against Soviet Realism. Tarkovsky ended up exiled. Parajanov got sent to Siberia, 1973–7. (He was later imprisoned again in the early 80s.) Despite this, both men continued making films until they both passed away (Tarkovsky in 1986, Parajanov in 1990.)

Parajanov’s work is in some ways similar to Tarkovsky’s, but also extremely different. Like Tarkovsky, he was a master of composition, and made extensive use of it. (I initially came across both Parajanov and Tarkovsky due to my interest in other composition-based directors, like Jack Smith, Peter Greenaway, and Derek Jarman.) That’s not to say that Parajanov didn’t use montage—he did—but that you have to read the mise-en-scène to know what’s going on. (Pay close attention, for instance, to Shadows‘s use of color.)

That makes Parajanov sound like work, but he’s really quite fun. All of his films, even the much more sober Color of Pomegranates (1968), are pretty silly. His work often reminds me of Calvino’s, being similarly rooted in folktale and folk poetry, and heavy doses of the supernatural. (He’s also not unlike Wes Anderson, I suppose—though giddier, and with fewer Stones tracks.)

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Jerry Lewis’s “The Ladies Man”: The Dollhouse and the Forbidden Room

He’s become a punchline here in the US, but that doesn’t make Jerry Lewis any less of a cinematic genius. Case in point: his 1961 masterpiece The Ladies Man:

Whether you’re a fan of Lewis’s eccentric comedy or not, this film is worth watching for its legendary “dollhouse” set alone, supposedly the largest built by that time (it occupied two Paramount soundstages), and still one of the most elaborate ever constructed.

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Arthur Penn’s Night Moves

Well, Arthur Penn died. He was of course a great director. And of course everyone will be talking about how great Bonnie and Clyde (1967) is—and it is great. It’s one of the most important of American films; along with John Boorman’s Point Blank (1967), it essentially kick-started 1970s cinema, and that decade’s auteur-driven New Hollywood.

But, for my money, Penn’s best movie was Night Moves (1975).

Night Moves is, at the moment, my favorite 1970s Hollywood film—well, besides Days of Heaven (1978) and Annie Hall (1977)…

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Looking at Movements, part 1: The Post-Punk Revival

Part 1: The Post-Punk Revival
Part 2: Post-Punk
Part 3: No Wave
Part 4: New Wave (UK)
Part 5: New Wave (US)

This is the start of an ongoing series, in which I’ll examine two long-running interests of mine: 1) the concept of the art movement (and related issues like “scenes” and “the zeitgeist”), and 2) how the culture-at-large is not all that homogeneous, but rather braided together from numerous different subcultures, each following their own individual traditions, which sometimes overlap with one another, but often don’t.

Since we have to start somewhere, let’s start with Interpol, as they have a new record out (but let’s look at an earlier song and video, since no one seems to like the new stuff):

“Obstacle 1,” 2002, directed by Floria Sigismondi

Interpol formed in 1997, and became widely known when its members signed to Matador in 2002. Since then, the band’s been associated with the “post-punk revival” (PPR) of the early 2000s, its fellow travelers being bands like Bloc Party, Franz Ferdinand, The Killers, and The Strokes.

But how similar is Interpol, actually, to those other bands?

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Brevity, part 7: Slow Motion

Note: This post is partly a reply to a question someone asked me, back-channel, about slow motion, but also partly due to my general interest in how time works in narrative, and in brevity and stasis (and “the ongoing”).

Slow motion is created by presenting film footage at a slower rate than it was shot at. The principle is as old as cinema itself. In 1879, Eadweard Muybridge invented the zoopraxiscope, which allowed him to project his 1870s photographic motion studies as animations. (Film projection is, interestingly, older than film-capture cameras.) It was observed immediately that repeating the photos 2:1 (double-printing), or spinning the zoopraxiscope slowly, would slow the motion down.

An aside: In conducting his motion studies, Muybridge lined up multiple cameras that were activated by tripwires. (The motion picture camera wouldn’t be invented until 1890.) This same technique would later be resurrected as “Time-Slice” or “Bullet-Time,” popularized by the Wachowskis in The Matrix.

After the jump I’ve arranged a partial history of slow motion in cinema. It isn’t intended to be an exhaustive list; rather, I’ll point out what I consider memorable or otherwise significant uses of slow motion.

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Notes on Twee, part 1: Music Videos as School Plays

1993: Crash Test Dummies: “MMM MMM MMM MMM”, director unknown.

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My Favorite New Movies of 2009

[Update: 2010 is here] [and 2011 is here]

Here are my favorite new movies of 2009, like you care. I’m drawing from the films I saw in the theater this year, some of which were “officially” released a year or two ago. But they’re all new.

NOT one of my favorite films this year

…So, Mr. Cranky, what did you like?

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