Monday, February 14, 2005

Weekend highlights: Muff confetti et alia


  • A bit of a mess, Olivier Assayas's Demonlover (2003) manages to convey an internal logic that pulled me in, even if I didn't always understand what was happening. More stylish and knowing that David Cronenberg's eXistenZ, which it resembles, it's important to surf the film without becoming too literal-minded--unfortunately, the deeply unsatisfying conclusion spends much of the goodwill that has accrued along the way.

Two movies that are far from perfect, yet perfectly cinematic [a quality that goes a long way towards atoning for their sins]:

  • Great production design and strong performances by William Macy and Maria Bello recommend Wayne Kramer's The Cooler (2003) despite the fact that it's sometimes difficult to buy crucial plot points--Alec Baldwin got good reviews for his role as the old-school casino boss (a great role, with colorful language--I was smiling minutes after he tosses off "muff confetti"), but I didn't care for his performance. The love scenes are particularly striking for their improbability and verity, and as the movie shakes off its self-consciousness, it's a good ride.

  • Jean-Pierre Jeunet's A Very Long Engagement (2004) is, of course, beautiful. From the opening titles--lovingly run over a barely illuminated, rain-slicked wall--to the evocative ochres and siennas that color the frame, David Edelstein nailed the film as he offered that it might be titled "Amélie Goes to War."


  • "The rule-benders," David Jury's feature from the current issue of Baseline--"the leading international magazine about type and typography"--is yet another in a series of reminders of the font of modernity that is the late nineteenth century; he provides stunning images of a compositor's sketchbook, evidence, says Jury, of "doing exactly what any 21st century student of graphic design should be encouraged to do." (The journal is pricey, but one can linger at Borders and gawk.)


  • A half-dozen new releases from Sublime Frequencies over the past week or two, and my favorite thus far is Radio Phnom Pehn, a fantastic pastiche of selections pulled directly from the Cambodian airwaves--I'm a big fan of all of SF's "radio" disks, including Radio India and Radio Morocco, the latter a superlative collection assembled from 1983 recordings, when Michael Jackson ruled the world music roost (actually, he still does--I was resting in Delhi's Red Fort complex in 1998 when locals, working the refreshment stand, discovered I was American and excitedly fetched and played a cassette recording of Thriller for me).

    (I find only dream.)
  • Even wackier is the second volume of Thai Beat A Go-Go from Subliminal Sounds: think pop songs that are off-key in a barely perceptible way; there's one selection that reminds me of the Hokey Pokey, plus an insanely cool collection of fucked-up covers (try a Thai Elvis, Tony Orlando, or Hank Williams on for size, to begin with), and the brilliant "I Find Only Dream" that wouldn't be out of place in a David Lynch soundtrack. Now I've gotta scare up volume one...


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