Overview, an Important and Inspiring Short Film

Check out this supremely interesting short doc by Guy Reid on considering our earth from a different perspective.

Guy Reid is one of a number of filmmakers who make up Planetary Collective, working with scientists and cosmologists to explore the big questions facing our planet right now.

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”:

Sound City

Dave Grohl, the musician notorious for being in Nirvana and the man behind the Foo Fighters, Them Crooked Vultures and a host of other musical side projects, has widened his scope to the cinema now. Granted, it’s a Vh1-looking rock documentary that will probably only find itself in rotation on your basic cable music channel; in January though, Sundance (of course) will unveil it which will no doubt bring out the hip Hollywood stars.

The doc is about the rise and fall of the famous recording studios in California named Sound City. Watch the trailer below to check out the impressive lineup of musicians that have recorded there, and many of which are interviewed by Grohl to reminisce. While I’m excited at the prospect of learning about this famed institution and seeing its history, the trailer is frankly less than captivating or polished.

The soundtrack Grohl has put together as compendium to this film though, looks honestly amazing. It’s out March 12, 2013 (but available on iTunes now – which seems in direct opposition to what this doc is soapboxing about), and features a collection of musicians from some of the notable bands that recorded there, playing together with Grohl on a number of original songs (one of those now infamous mashups is the former Nirvana bandmates, Krist Novoselic, Pat Smear, and Grohl, performing the song “Cut Me Some Slack” along with Paul McCartney, which they premiered to the world during the 12.12.12 Sandy Benefit concert earlier this week). Here’s the full tracklist (via Pitchfork):

1.) Dave Grohl, Peter Hayes, and Robert Levon Been: “Heaven and All”
2.) Brad Wilk, Chris Goss, Dave Grohl, and Tim Commerford: “Time Slowing Down”
3.) Dave Grohl, Rami Jaffee, Stevie Nicks, and Taylor Hawkins: “You Can’t Fix This”
4.) Dave Grohl, Nate Mendel, Pat Smear, Rick Springfield, and Taylor Hawkins: “The Man That Never Was”
5.) Alain Johannes, Dave Grohl, Lee Ving, Pat Smear, and Taylor Hawkins: “Your Wife Is Calling”
6.) Corey Taylor, Dave Grohl, Rick Nielsen, and Scott Reeder: “From Can to Can’t”
7.) Alain Johannes, Chris Goss, Dave Grohl, and Joshua Homme: “Centipede”
8.) Alain Johannes, Dave Grohl, and Joshua Homme: “A Trick With No Sleeve”
9.) Paul McCartney, Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, and Pat Smear: “Cut Me Some Slack”
10.) Dave Grohl, Jessy Greene, Jim Keltner, and Rami Jaffee: “Once Upon a Time… The End”
11.) Dave Grohl, Joshua Homme, and Trent Reznor: “Mantra”

George Kuchar (1942-2011)

Underground / experimental filmmaker George Kuchar (one half of the Kuchar Brothers) passed away September 6th. If you like the work of Guy Maddin, Stan Brakhage, Andy Warhol, Jonas Mekas, and Kenneth Anger, you no doubt feel the ripples of this great loss to avant-garde cinema as much as I do. For the uninitiated, but cine-curious, this doc is a great starting point…

There is an awesome obituary from the New York Times on him here.

Traum

The site of the 2012 Olympics is Lee Valley, London, and below is a fascinating travelogue of sorts to get you familiar with the place! Be forewarned the monochromatic austerity of the landscape, the post-apocalyptic dilapidation all add to the charming void which the area offers.

The filmmaker, Martin Hampton, cuts and lingers with a Olivier Smoulders via Stan Brakhage rhythm, and the superb soundtrack harkens back to the cold German experimental art-punk of Einstürzende Neubauten.

The Kills “Blood Pressure”

The single “Satellite” from The Kills new album “Blood Pressures” has a vocal melody that will likely not leave your head after you hear it once. The video is pretty nice too. It’s a creative blend of archival footage of a car accident and the band members running about the seaside streets of Europe doing some lightly mischievous things for a band by such a dangerous sounding name. Check out the video below and after that, check out a similarly shot short doc on the making of the new album including the inspiration for the new single.

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?

Man on Wire

The defining moment in Man on Wire for me was about 20 minutes into the film when footage of the World Trade Center towers being constructed is shown in all it’s grainy, faded glory. Seeing again those massive triple-beams cross-hatched in almost puzzle-like pieces, being hoisted above stacks of steel rebar, sheets of metal, blocks of concrete and a persistent lingering of beige dust, could only make me think of one thing. The beautiful irony of the whole movie is that when numerous gratuitous documentaries have been made about the WTC catastrophe, each with their special blend of film and video footage of that infamous day and its Dante-like aftermath, Man on Wire never once recalls that terror and in addition offers up this glorious peek at the landmark’s birth.


But, ok, that’s not what the film is about. Man on Wire is a documentary about Philippe Petit, a tightrope walker (and all-around interesting guy) from France and the intricate plot he exacted just after the birth of the WTC: walking on a single steel wire which him and some friends strung between the two towers over night. It’s a truly fabulous story and one which Petit himself made into a book. He was writing it in 2001 when the towers fell.*


1,350 feet in the air, in the wee hours of the Manhattan morning fog, Petit dressed all in black walked, knelt and laid down on the wire he’d spent the night setting up. He had crossed back and forth at least eight times before the New York City Port Authority and police yanked him in from the clouds. Neither wind, nor nerves, nor helicopters could knock him down, although he himself claimed he thought the feat something of a death wish. The film primarily deals with how Petit and his band of accomplices planned, developed and exacted such an event without being caught, spotted or stopped. Even more interesting is the reaction of the police and city officials who while taking the matter seriously (deporting the non-Americans involved), dropped all charges against them and actually gave Petit a lifelong all-access pass to the rooftop of the WTC.

Bittersweet is a single photo of Petit straddling a steel beam on the rooftop on which he’d dated and signed his name. Now the photos are all that remain. Man on Wire is chock-full with archival footage of Petit and even some of his other unconventional tightrope displays (Notre Dame, Sydney Harbour Bridge), glossy interviews with just about everybody involved in the project, and nicely detailed dramatic reconstructions of the day-long hideout at the WTC and the preparations of that night leading up to the trick. All-in-all there is nothing this film doesn’t deliver upon and nothing you can do but watch in awe as the titular man’s circus-wit, charming effervescence and steely nerves endure a feat most of us wouldn’t even dare to dream about.

*Lazarovic, Sara. “The Daredevil in the Clouds.” National Post Monday. September 9, 2002.

It Might Get Loud

It Might Get Loud only intermittently gets loud, but that’s ok. It’s not really about jamming out in your living room (although the part where Page starts tearing through “Ramble On” had me breaking out the air guitar), as much as it’s about discovering the beauty and individual artistry behind these two-and-a-half guitar legends. (Come on, you can’t convince me White is quite of legendary status yet; Edge is only approaching it.) At any rate, they all know how to shred, slide, strum and pick like anti-pop savants, and that is primarily what the doc reveals.


There’s not a whole lot of explanation into the how’s as much as there is into the why’s; each guy from a different background and different generation, and each with his own impossibly notorious signature sound. It’s hard to even begin to describe the sounds they each can produce in words here, but it’s more exciting to watch them describe the sounds of their favorite songs and/or guitarists. That’s really what the film is about: the makeup of each of these artists and an attempt to unveil what made them create the material they have.

It’s a fun film, but in some respects seems almost too self-congratulatory when there is nothing really gained by the short bursts of interaction in the film. I mean it doesn’t even feel like they really interact with each other – much less ask all the questions that you or I would no doubt have. In fact, the interaction of the three of them wants to be the best part of the picture but is for all intents and purposes edited out! A run through the deleted scenes on the DVD will give you a feel for all the material that was omitted. But even the scenes where they’re on their own reminiscing are in many respects lackluster and pointless. Bottom line here is, unless you’re a hardcore fan of guitar or any of these three musicians, there’s not a lot for you here. They’re awesome guitarists and genius musicians, and now I’ve saved you 97 minutes of your life.

David Byrne + Fatboy Slim + Imelda Marcos = 2010’s Weirdest Boxset

Below there’s a post which mentions March 16th’s release of White Stripes for the concert film Under the Great White Northern Lights. So, obviously, I was surprised to find yet another boxset slated for release in 2010, this time February.

It’s apparently for a long-in-the-works project between NYC-based avant-garde artist/musician David Byrne and British electronic artist/DJ Fatboy Slim (aka Norman Cook) which is a tribute to ex-First Lady of the Philippines Imelda Marcos. You can find out more about the infamous First Lady here.

The two-disc set is titled “Here Lies Love” and is garnished in garish, almost romance novel-esque cover art. It also includes a 100 page book and a DVD. Couldn’t find anything detailing the contents of the DVD, but there’s a pretty interesting press release which explains the purpose of this “concept album,” how it began and what it all means. That’s here (courtesy of the Manila Standard).

Aside from all that, there’s the guest vocals. Spanning a realm of musicians that I never thought I’d see listed on the same record (let alone an Imelda Marcos concept album), Byrne and Cook have built one hell of a tracklist:

CD 1:

1 Here Lies Love (Vocals by Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine)
2 Every Drop of Rain (Vocals by Candie Payne and St. Vincent)
3 You’ll Be Taken Care Of (Vocals by Tori Amos)
4 The Rose of Tacloban (Vocals by Martha Wainwright)
5 How Are you? (Vocals by Nellie McKay)
6 A Perfect Hand (Vocals by Steve Earle)
7 Eleven Days (Vocals by Cyndi Lauper)
8 When She Passed By (Vocals by Allison Moorer)
9 Walk Like A Woman Vocals by Charmaine Clamor)
10 Don’t You Agree? (Vocals by Róisín Murphy)
11 Pretty Face (Vocals by Camille)
12 Ladies in Blue (Vocals by Theresa Andersson)

CD 2:

1 Dancing Together (Vocals by Sharon Jones)
2 Men Will Do Anything (Vocals by Alice Russell)
3 The Whole Man (Vocals by Kate Pierson)
4 Never So Big (Vocals by Sia)
5 Please Don’t (Vocals by Santigold)
6 American Troglodyte (Vocals by David Byrne)
7 Solano Avenue (Vocals by Nicole Atkins)
8 Order 1081 (Vocals by Natalie Merchant)
9 Seven Years (Vocals by David Byrne and Shara Worden)
10 Why Don’t You Love Me? (Vocals by Cyndi Lauper and Tori Amos)