The Ghost of Piramida

Efterklang star in this unique and interesting documentary about their travels to a ghost town near the North Pole where they spent 9 days recording audio for use in their album Piramida. Directed by Andreas Koefoed, the film quickly becomes more than just a travelogue or behind-the-scenes look at their music-making process as we learn more about the previous inhabitants of this once rich, fertile, now barren and cold landscape.

Even better, the film is being released in a rather uncompromising fashion: all screenings will be free and open to the public, but can be held by anyone who wants to get more than 5 people together at one location. Kudos to whomever is behind this idea for finding ways to engage communities of the film, music and artistically-minded. Here’s a list of all the scheduled events so far. Find one near you!

For an added bonus, watch this oddly engaging, albeit personally invasive music video for the song, “SEDNA”:

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The Work of Eran Hilleli

Israeli filmmaker and animator Eran Hilleli has an interesting animation style which seems inspired by various other artists, but never imitates them. Much of Hilleli’s early work can be found online, but below are some of the best.

Knowledge of the Cone is a student project that was directly inspired by a Jean-Michel Basquiat painting of the same name.


We Used to Call People Late at Night is another student project that Hilleli admits to having been inspired by the film Persepolis when creating; however, it reminded me of another animator which I greatly admire, Dustin Grella, who works in a similar styled medium and uses telephonic voice recordings as the basis for some of his work.


Close to Home is a short film / music video for Ori Avni. Avni’s music is a sort of perfect blend of ethnic and shoegaze, and fits the shooting style of Hilleli well. Incidentally, Avni’s music appears in many of Hilleli’s works. The one-take shooting style of this piece is uniquely paced and the movement of the camera is just superb, it almost has this elastic quality about it which I’ve never seen on a dolly or tracking shot executed so well in an indie production.


Here’s another video for Avni in which Hilleli created an installation piece which appears to be a compendium to the above short.

Inside_Out feels like it should be a Radiohead video, as it has all the right qualities to be such. This short shows a heightened sense of style in the progression of Hilleli’s animated work.


Three and a Half Seconds About Life is a short animation which, while maybe not intentionally on the part of Hilleli, seems directly inspired by the Alan Clarke short Elephant from 1989 (which then directly inspired filmmaker Gus Van Sant to “remake” it – in very much his own way, mind you – in 2003).


Finally, there’s Between Bears, Hilleli’s film which won Best Animation at Vimeo’s first film festival. Polygonal art and the whole bear theme just makes me think of the band Grizzly Bear and their LP Veckatimest, but other than that, I think this short again shows the impressive and ever-evolving style of Hilleli’s work. I look forward to what’s next from this filmmaker.


As an added bonus, do yourself a favor and check out the videos Hilleli’s shot for singer Daniela Spector. (I’ve embedded my personal fave below). There’s a subtle dreamy quality to Hilleli’s live performance video shoots, and even though the whole back-and-forth soft focus style is used by many a handheld HD video filmmaker these days, Spector’s songwriting and music is incredibly enchanting. You can download her album here if you dig it as much as I do.


Florian

So in my neverending search for something audio/visual that inspires me, I ran across this short animation from a London-based filmmaker and animator Andrew Gibbs. Can’t seem to find much more fully realized work of his online, and this appears to have been completed when in school, but it’s well worth it’s short running time.

The music by CocoRosie is a great touch, but it’s the cut-out, choppy, animated style that I find always appealing. Watching this, made me think back to the last interesting animator I ran across a few years ago, Andy Smetanka.

You may be more familiar with Smetanka for his videos for The Decemberists, and The Tain is one which will always be my favorite. If this short film by Smetanka was being distributed, I would have it sitting here on the shelf next to me. Alas, maybe I need to start my own distribution company though, because nothing I like ever quickly makes its way to a collectible format. Anyway, even if you’ve seen it before, check out The Tain in its 20+ minute entirety below. It’s Tim Burton at his peak in late 1920s Germany – channeling the best bits of Murnau and yet making the whole film seem like you just read a novel when it’s over – it’s a journey.

Just for good measure, here’s one more, The Bachelor and the Bride, from 2003:

Artist Disappeared

British Columbia-based artist, Mitchell Villa only has a few remnants of his work (that I can find) online. I like his pop art stylings almost as much as I like Basquiat’s. He has a seemingly perfect amalgamation of comic book feel, crossed with street art flair, indulging celebrity and the easily recognizable to help catch the eye of the young masses.

Please comment if there’s more to be had from Mr. Villa.

Marwencol

Marwencol is a 2010 documentary by filmmaker Jeff Malmberg, but it’s also the name of a fictional town created entirely for the alter ego of one man. That man is Mark Hogancamp, and in 2005 he was brutally beaten outside a local bar in his hometown of Kingston, New York. Mark was beaten so bad that he lost much of his memory and the use of his motor skills. Slowly, he recovered and part of this process of recovery was through both the physical and mental stimulation of creating his own, private town where he could control every aspect of his life and the lives of all those around him.

The extremely unique and interesting thing about this process for Mark, is that he’s fully aware of what it is he’s doing, doesn’t think of it as a joke and uses it as his therapy that he otherwise wouldn’t be receiving. Maybe this is best and most effective way for him to communicate with others, and maybe this is what enables him to handle social interaction. His town of dolls is comprised of many of his own friends and loved ones, not to mention just other people from his community that know him. Fortunately, many of them react kindly to the fact that they’re living an alternate life in Mark’s backyard; this is the kind of hope Mark needs around him.


It’s clear though eventually, that Mark is not really able to be himself within his community and so is forced to rely on his accepting (and makeshift) community of Marwencol to get the support and love that he needs. The documentary works on two distinct levels and slowly finds its groove about a little over half way through. The first level is the alternate lives and story that is currently taking place within the mind of Mark and the makeshift world of Marwencol (“A town in Belgium,” he says, incidentally). The second level is how Mark’s world (and consequentially his art) is exploited, and not in, what I perceive as, an effort to help Mark get back on his feet. This is where many viewers may disagree with me.

The film begins to slowly and slyly reveal that Mark is a closeted cross-dresser and even points to the evidence that this fact revealed five years ago may have been what prompted him to be attacked and beaten senseless on his way home one night. So now Mark’s got a real problem again, because his “handlers” who “discovered” him have set up his first showing in none other than New York City at a small gallery called White Column. It’s like a real life version of Great Expectations and Mark is riddled with concern over the following weeks as he is basically exposing an entire section of his mind, heart and soul to the nimrods that strut around Greenwich Village and pretend to know or accept anything that passes their valueless scrutiny. On the night of his opening Mark is really only concerned about one thing and that’s what he looks like. For the past few days, he’s been pining to wear women’s clothes and prance around his opening in high heels, but he can’t muster the courage to do it.

Ultimately, the film is infuriating, and unfortunately disposable, because the filmmakers never seem to be able to do anything more than focus on this arc in the real character’s life. Once their story arc is basically over, even though there is so much more to do and say with this film, we are forced to let go. It’s vaguely like exploitation in that you only get this salacious intro to a man’s life, and you’re forced to wonder: so where is he now? Ok, well, thanks for throwing up the website marwencol.com at the end there for us, Jeff, I guess we are not supposed to actually care immediately after the film ends where this guy is now, and what came of all the spotlight that the interested parties hit him with?

Mark’s work is wonderfully creative and painstakingly meticulous and that’s all well and good, but does no one care about the man behind the Marwencol?

Fear(s) of the Dark

Still from the segment by filmmaker Blutch

Fear(s) of the Dark is a chiaroscuro nightmare – well, actually, maybe more of a bad dream. It’s not really frightening in terms of today’s horror film standard, there is virtually little to no gore in any of the stories. It’s an “anthology film” (or collection of shorts) all dealing with characters who experience fear in various ways. Part of the problem is that it’s animated and monochromatic. Comic book lovers may find it a pleasant experience to see the still, inked frames come to life, but a film lover like me found it difficult to stay captivated.

In terms of relating it to other films, it looks stylistically like Sin City, but with an arthouse twist. In the whole anthology there are only one or two bursts of color: red and green. They happen in an interlaced – almost poetic – recurring segment that consists of visual trickery and a female narration that confesses all the many things that scare her in life.

For the most part each of the segments in the film are interesting, although far from thrilling or scary. There’s one about a pack of angry dogs who are all leashed up, but their master lets one go throughout the course of the entire anthology. Each time he lets one go, it mauls and kills someone nearby, until finally (and obviously) he sics the last one on himself. Another segment is about a man who discovers a large, empty house and breaks inside to get out of the blistering cold. There’s no light in the house, so he lights his way with firelight and that is the extent to which we can also see. It’s actually one of the best in the compilation and rightfully is placed at the end of the film.

Still from the segment by filmmaker Richard McGuire.

There’s not a lot to sink your teeth into here, but for the most part it all feels nicely original and if you’re into graphic design and art, this is certainly a film that you should check out for some inspiration.

The Knife Put Opera On CD

Sigur Rós-esque Swedes The Knife put together a score for, what I’d like to call, a neo-opera last year based on the book Origin Of The Species by Charles Darwin. The opera is titled Tomorrow, In A Year and looks like this:


You only get snippets of the score when viewing this long trailer, but you can download or listen to a complete piece called “Colouring Of Pigeons” at The Knife’s website. Apparently they collaborated with another two artists, Mt. Sims and Planningtorock. Both have MySpace pages, and after following this thread a little too far I was actually pleasantly surprised by the Berlin-based Mt. Sims MySpace-posted songs. Give them a listen too.

The CD soundtrack for Tomorrow, In A Year will be available March 9th via Mute Records and is a double-disc set.