Sunday, July 27, 2014

Super Duper Alice Cooper!

Plays Monday at 8:30 at the Vancity Theatre! I gotta see this - Dunn and McFadyen meet Reg Harkema!

Andrew Jackson Jihad at the Biltmore

At one point during Thursday's Andrew Jackson Jihad show at the Biltmore, one of the members looked out at the audience and observed something to the effect of, "holy shit there are a lot of people here!" There were, too; I was also surprised. I'd arrived in time to catch Hard Girls (missed Dogbreth), and enjoyed their set, which was sort of punky power pop that drew a bit, I thought, on Guided By Voices at their tightest - but as good as they were (and as excited as a fistful of moshers got when they broke into what I guess was a Misfits cover), there was plenty of room up front, which is kind of what I expected - a thin audience of the especially hip. But by the time AJJ finished their soundcheck and broke into "Temple Grandin," the first song on their album Christmas Island - which probes the well-meaning inadequacy of human responses to the "bullshit" around us (finding a "nicer way to kill it;" Grandin is a leader in making slaughterhouse designs more humane), the pit was packed, and for many of the harder songs, the crowd did things I didn't realize would be part of the Andrew Jackson Jihad experience, like, say, crowd-surfing, pretty much from the start of the show (before the first song was done, singer Sean Bonnette quipped between lyrics, "Get down!" at some guy who had risen magically up onto the audience - though whether that was "get down and boogie!" or "get down you asshole before you fall on me and break your neck" I could not say; I suspected the latter). As someone who has written about the Vancouver scene for awhile now, and who has been to many under-attended and under-appreciated shows, I felt kind of proud of how big and how appreciative the crowd was. Hey, check it out: No Fun City does the Andrew Jackson Jihad justice; these kids have GOOD TASTE. Who'd've thought?

 Mind you, it was an audience I didn't feel much in common with, liking the music aside. Except for one older woman I concluded was maybe the mom of a bandmember, no one was in my age range; seemed like the average was about 25. But they knew their shit, singing along quite loudly with the lyrics of some of the songs, including one of the band's most disturbing numbers, "Bad, Bad Things" - one of the songs of theirs I in fact frequently skip when listening to the album (People That Can Eat People Are the Luckiest People in the World, which title apparently comes from Vonnegut), because its lyrics, describing the thoughts of a murderer as he works his way through a family, are so deeply dark and creepy, outdoing even the evil of Murder Ballads. Seeing how excited people got to hear it has made me spin it all the way through a few times since, but it's still kind of unsettling! I didn't get to stick around for the whole set, what with work looming and a girlfriend to get home to, but I got to hear a few of my favourite songs by them (besides the opener, these were "Distance," "People II: The Reckoning," "Children of God," and "Kokopelli Face Tattoo."). I missed out on hearing the end of a running story that they sprinkled through their set, so I don't know what exactly happened in Revelstoke (where they were stoked to be part of the revels, ha-ha) that had deprived them of their keyboard stand; Preston Bryant's keys were supported by an ironing board throughout the night. But leaving early or not - us old fucks are like that - I totally enjoyed seeing them, and was happy to have been in such an attractive, enthusiastic audience... snapped some photos, too, and a video that might not load. Let's try, though:

Hard Girls:



Andrew Jackson Jihad:


Of course the video doesn't seem to want to load... I get an error message and then it SEEMS like nothing is happening (I might not be waiting long enough but the error message is discouraging, you know?). Maybe I'll try putting it on Youtube? If there's a link there, it worked. Check back tomorrow, eh?

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Robin Bougie: Graphic Thrills interview!


It took me awhile to come around to the universe of Robin Bougie. I first met him at Cinemuerte 2004, where we had both watched poor BJ Summers of Videomatica - where Bougie also works - lose a truly disgusting sausage eating contest, MC'd by Edwin Neal (the hitchhiker in the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre). Neal cracked revolting jokes about things like scraping boogers off the underside of a table with your tongue, or huffing your grandma's pee-stained panties, or similar grossnesses... I can't remember exactly what he said, but if the smell of vast quantities of (what seemed to be) uncooked meat being stuffed into three open mouths wasn't enough to make you gag, his jokes sure helped. (This was at the Cinematheque, too!). No one barfed that I remember, but I certainly felt queasy, and I wasn't the one plunging fistfuls of squishy pork into my face. In the end, BJ lost out to some Asian dude...

Anyhow, after a screening at said fest of Tobe Hooper's then-current film The Toolbox Murders, Bougie and BJ and I ended up sharing a booth at the Templeton, bullshitting about cinema, and I remember Cinema Sewer coming up, and being mildly uncomfortable about the topic. I knew of his magazine, knew it was considered cool, but it was too taboo for me, too sleazy. At that point, to the extent that I consumed porn, I was pretty surreptitious about it, and even in the privacy of my own apartment, tried to be fairly politically correct, seeking female-friendly (or at least sex-positive) images to wank to. Though I would sometimes bring the topic up in company, and had admiration for pro-porn feminists like Annie Sprinkle, I didn't spend a lot of time really trying to defend its consumption, let alone treat it as an art form or object of study. I mean, I was watching a lot of Ingmar Bergman in those days, you understand. The first few times I flipped through Cinema Sewer, I felt at least a little put off by Bougie's apparently totally shameless chronicling of his porn habits. I could tell he had great love for his subject matter - and for sleazy exploitation, as well as porn; but I simply was not ready for his magazine.

I'm glad to have come around. I don't collect every issue, but I now have all four volumes of the softbound FAB Press books, count Robin as at least a bit of a friend, and was very, very excited to get my hands on his hardcover book of porno posters, Graphic Thrills (also published by FAB). And though I still am a bit afraid of most of the films he writes about, a few that I have seen - like Zebedy Colt's deeply transgressive The Devil Inside Her, with Annie Sprinkle herself in an early role - have been utterly fascinating. And Graphic Thrills is a beautiful object and as fun and fine a coffee table book as one could wish for - a fine addition to my FAB collection.

So here's an email interview with Robin Bougie!

AM: Most people seem to consider their porn use something best left private, secret, un-discussed. Was there a specific turning point for you where you decided you were going to simply be out and public talking about porn? Was it liberating (akin, say, to "coming out of the closet")? Did it come easily, or did you have to overcome various challenges en route?

RB: It didn't come easily. It's a slow process, and other people can make it even slower with the way they treat you. I remember how humiliating it felt to have it get repeated all over junior high that I masturbated. I told it to another kid in strict confidence, and he then proceeded to blab it all over the school. By the end of the week, I was the laughing stock of so many kids, and I felt like a freak. A kid committed suicide over the same thing just last week down in the states, so thank god I didn't get that upset about it. It was worse for this kid the other day though, because of social media, which just amps everything up to 10 because of how fast the info is spread. But talk is talk, you know? And when you're a kid you don't know how to deal with that yet. You think you're the only one on earth jerking your dick. Of course, 99% of those hypocritical little fucks were jerking and jilling off back in grade 9 even while they were making me feel like a pariah, but that's the cruelty of children for you. They don't care about tossing someone else under the bus as long as it isn't them. They hopefully learn not to be self-centered assholes later on.

AM: I'm pretty sure I've read interviews with you where people ask you what you're jerking off to lately. Do you find questions like that at all strange to answer? Do you still have some boundaries when it comes to talking about sex and porn?

RB: I'm totally fine with that. I really don't see any reason to have shame about that stuff, nor am I too concerned with privacy. I guess it would be weird talking about what I jerk off to in front of my family over dinner or something, I guess. But even that is something I'm starting to get used to since so many of them have friended me on Facebook and are presumably reading those posts where I openly talk about that kind of thing. The only thing I'm really cagey about is when it involves someone else. My wife Rebecca isn't as comfortable airing out her dirty laundry as I am, and that's totally fine. I have to be discreet sometimes.

AM: You've told me about your history with FAB Press, but would you go on record about it? I've loved every FAB book I've gotten my hands on (so far, Eyeball, Nightmare USA, No Borders No Limits, the books about Miike and Tsukamoto, the Cinema Sewer anthologies, and Graphic Thrills). If there's a cooler publisher doing books about film right now, I don't know of them. Is it a happy relationship? Are further collaborations planned?

RB: Yeah, I'm very happy with FAB. We're working on Graphic Thrills book 2 right now, and Cinema Sewer book 5 is in the works. I met Harvey Fenton in Montreal at Fantasia Fest. Due to its track record of quality, his company was my first choice to do a book collection of my Cinema Sewer movie zine, and I knew he was going to be there at the film fest selling his books in the lobby for a week. So I booked a plane ticket, and got my ass out there, and since I knew some people, I managed to get a spot selling my stuff at the same table as he was. We stuck up a friendship, and watched a lot of movies at the fest, sold a lot of books and magazines, and it really was a perfect match. It took me a year and yet another trip to Montreal to the festival the next year to convince him, but it all worked out great!

AM: How much input did FAB have in Graphic Thrills? Do they grant you pretty much free reign?

RB: A lot of input, but I also had pretty much free reign. That's one of the things that is fantastic about a good editor. They're there to offer up great ideas, and cover your ass when you have mistakes, but they also are smart enough to get the hell out of the way and let you do what you're good at. It's like any relationship, I guess, in that there needs to be compromise on some things, but as long as you play that game at key times, the rest of it is smooth sailing. Harvey at FAB did a lot of key things in Graphic Thrills, such as come up with the layout concept. That was huge, because bad layout has ruined so many otherwise good poster books. I think we work good together.
AM: I'm curious about the source of the Sharon Mitchell anecdote about her occasionally sneaking "into a porn theatre that was playing one of her movies" and sucking "the cock of a startled patron." Is that something you got from her? (It feels like the sort of thing that might appear in a porno mag as a sort of stroke-fantasy for the readership, so it seems a bit dubious to me!). I notice that the writeup for The Violation of Claudia features quotes from old porn mags, so I'm wondering if you never got the chance to talk to her...? (Incidentally, while she seems from what I've read to be an interesting person, I always thought she was one of the least sexy pornstars out there, so it's interesting to me that you kinda love her!).

RB: No, I've never had a chance to interview Sharon, sadly. I totally agree with you about that story sounding like porn magazine fantasy stuff, and I'm usually pretty weary of that since I do get a fair amount of quotes from old adult magazines because that is where 90% of the interviews with vintage adult movie stars ran back in the day, and sometimes the writers at these mags were known to make shit up. But in this case I felt confident to repeat that, because I'd seen her mention it in at least two magazine interviews. And then there is that I know what I know about her activity back in those days of the late 1970s and early 1980s -- the amount of drugs she did and kind of kinky sex she got into -- I believe it.

I'll agree with you that on paper Sharon Mitchell had a sort of mannish quality (for lack of better term) and a big Jewish nose that can be off-putting in terms of what is "sexy" in terms of traditional standards of beauty, but I think truly sexy people transcend that kind of stuff. I'm talking about people who are very comfortable and fucking OWN their sexuality. I think "standards of beauty" are meaningless to them. So I would say if you want to know why so many people find someone sort of average looking like Mitch so goddamn hot, you need to watch more of her movies. Then again, it's also worth noting that everyone has different tastes, and I celebrate that too. Porn is like music in that respect. We all like what we like! The cool thing about porn from Sharon Mitchell's era of the 1970s and early 1980s, is that there were a lot of variances to draw from. It wasn't just a bunch of lookalike Barbies with no pubes and the same perm. There were different body types, and different looking men and women starring in the movies.
AM: This is going to be a bit critical-seeming, but as cool as the images are in Graphic Thrills, there really isn't much writing about the posters, or information about them. That strikes me as curious, since in some cases (High Priestess of Sexual Witchcraft) they seem to be more interesting than the films, and in others - A Coming of Angels, say - the art is actually curious enough that I wonder who did it, and what else they might have done. The painting for that poster seems to be signed, but if you mention the artist anywhere, I can't spot it! Are porn poster artists shy about talking about their work, or was there some other reason for this approach...?

RB: Yeah, I mention the artist of the A Coming of Angels, "August", on page 15 of Graphic Thrills, in the part where I'm talking about the challenges of identifying artists of these posters, even when they've signed the work. It was a big hurdle, because I'm the very first one to try to tell the poster artist's story with this book. No one else has ever tried to attempt it, and because of that there isn't much info out there at the moment. I've dug up what I can, but it really is the last part of the story of vintage adult movies that hasn't been told yet -- even for non-porn movies, come to think of it. Hell, it's the only major credit that the Internet Movie Database doesn't even bother to have a placeholder for. Even if someone randomly finds out who did a poster, where can they archive the information for easy access for the rest of us if they poster artists are ghettoized from the IMDB? And that's the challenge I continue with in Graphic Thrills 2, but I have uncovered a lot more interesting info as I've gone. It's like detective work, and it can be slow-going. Graphic Thrills 2 is going be amazing, Allan.

Keep in mind who these men and women were who made these images. The last era of painted posters. The end of the line, and no younger generation of artists coming along to learn their skills? Fuck man, they felt like dinosaurs. It went to photo posters after that, and you can't find most of these artists anymore to ask them shit because many of them are dead, or don't want to be found, especially not by some pervert making a book about porn movies. Listen, many of the illustrators were family men, and middle aged or older by the time the late 1970s and early 1980s rolled around. They'd made a meagre living through the 50s and 60s on advertising art, pulp novels, poster art, mens adventure magazine covers, children's books, and other similar jobs. The mortgage had to be paid, and food had to be put on the table, so they often found themselves having to take whatever work was available and handed off to them, including commissions that they found morally repugnant – like posters for exploitation or sexploitation pictures, and porno flicks. They want to be remembered for the children's books they did at the beginning of their career, and the landscapes they're painting now that they're retired. Not the poster for “Pussycat Ranch” and “Ultra Flesh”.

AM: Maybe I should already know this, but have you done any porn poster art? Have you been asked? (Do people still even produce movie posters for porno films or is it all box art now?).

RB: Yeah, I've done the DVD covers for Bare Behind Bars and S&M Hunter for Arrow in the UK. There is something of a resurgence for illustrated posters and DVD cover work, but it's not mainstream yet. Have a look at the work of guys like The Dude Designs, and guys like that. They're doing amazing work.

AM: Curious that you kind of begin and end on darker, more distressing aspects of porn. The first poster we see is for Deep Throat, which supposedly has this coerced performance from an abused star. The last one, for the Findlay pseudo-doc about Shauna Grant's death, is of course tainted by how she died (suicide by shotgun). Why bookend the book with these? ...And I'm curious - at a distance, as a viewer and writer, do you find that stuff, the weird and sometimes distressing epiphenomena around the films, makes the films more interesting or less? Like, you seem to have a moral objection or two to the sleaziness of the Shauna Grant film, describe it as being pretty tacky and tasteless and false - and then you recommend it!

RB: Yeah, I feel the same way about a movie like Not a Love Story too! It's a anti-porn documentary made to cast a disparaging light on anyone who would make or want to look at content involving naked women having sex, and yet it's a totally entertaining documentary for exactly that reason. Keep your friends close and your enemies even closer, right? I don't have to share someone's politics to find their movie entertaining. In fact, if I think what they've said is false or tasteless or false, all the more reason to indulge. I love a good laugh! Nothing better than a good trainwreck!

There was no conscious choice to end or begin on dark or distressing elements of porn, but that's fine if that's how it ended up. Those are interesting stories. You might read through this book from cover to cover one single time when you first pick it up, but every time after that, you'll begin and end in the middle. You'll pick it up and read here and there. All my books are like that, such as the four Cinema Sewer books I've done. Everything is in bite-sized morsels, perfect for reading when you're taking a crap. It's shotgun style. Blam. Interesting tidbits, interesting quotes, a little bit of my personality in there, and then some plot synopsis, and then get out. Blam. Next page.

AM: Speaking of Shauna Grant, it's my impression that there's an unhealthy amount of interest out there about porn stars who kill themselves, like it proves something about porn. Like, when cops kill themselves, say, people don't go "AHA! Being a policeman is bad!" No real question here but I wonder if it's something you've thought about or written on, where you think it comes from, and if you think there's any truth to the idea that porn is somehow a "high-suicide" profession?

RB: I'm a big fan of all of these moralizing made-for-TV movies about the evils of porn, and how they'll ruin your life. I saw a great one the other day from 1987 called Shattered Innocence! They're meant to scare housewives, or make “moral” people feel superior. I totally agree with you and what you're saying here, though, in that so little of it has anything to do with the truth, but even that dishonesty doesn't upset me unless I really dissect it and think about it. I guess I'm enjoying them ironically to some degree, but I love how filthy and sleazy a movie like, say, 1980's Hardcore makes porn. I enjoy the hand-wringing, and the distraught father horrified about what his little girl has become. I embrace that filth and that neon-soaked grime. It's very sexy to me. It's very attractive, and a signal of freedom. It has the opposite effect on me than it was supposed to. For me to get upset about it is like getting upset about the amount of debauchery in Weimar Germany in 1922. I'm too far removed from it for it to be real. It's a carnival and a fantasyland of sin.

But yeah, I agree with you. There are actually very few instances of porn stars killing themselves. It's probably a lower suicide rate than most professions, to be honest. Same with dying of AIDS. They get tested every other week – who else does that? Not most of the people having a lot of casual sex out there, you can bet on that.

AM: I confess that I show porn nowhere near the amount of respect that you do, for the most part. Most of my use of it is very utilitarian. If I'm actually watching a video, my finger is always very close to the speed search button; I get in, find something hot, jerk off, and get out, wasting as little time as possible on the plot or the dialogue. I seldom even bother watching whole movies, if I'm jerking off, and I certainly don't stick around after I come to find out how they end. As a porno scholar, do you impose any obligations on yourself that make you watch porn differently from that? No fast forwarding? Watching films to completion?

RB: Well, that's exactly why I'm not writing about the history of modern porn. There isn't much else to write about or to enjoy aside for exactly what you're talking about. I do the same thing with modern day shit. Wank and done. There isn't much else to see, is there? Porn shot-on-video and shot-on-digital since 1990 is incredibly one-dimensional, for the most part. It simply exists to get you off, with a few exceptions like the porn movie spoof comedies, and a few talented directors looking to do something different, such as Eon McKai and such. But I can count those exceptions on one hand, really. “Utilitarian” is a good word for it. The older stuff is enjoyable on many different levels – the music, the fashion, the acting, the plot, the way the movie looks because it's shot on film and lit in artistic ways. Often I don't even have a boner because I'm too engrossed with what everything else that is going on. When have you ever said that about modern pornography? With the 1970s movies you're missing way too much if you fast forward, so that's not an issue for me. Yeah, on some of the *really* badly made vintage XXX I'm fast forwarding through the sex to get to the plot points so I can properly review it for my magazine or the books I'm doing, but it doesn't happen as often as people might assume.

AM: You have a few films involving Zebedy Colt - either as director or actor - in Graphic Thrills and he's kind of an exception to the above, for me. I've only seen one of his films to completion - The Devil Inside Her - but I was fascinated, and I've read your writing about his others and I want to see them all. Speaking of Zebedy Colt, where did you score your Sex Wish poster? How much did it cost? Is there much of a collector's market for porno posters? Do you collect them yourself? What's the most you've paid for a porno poster?

RB: Found my Sex Wish poster at Hollywood Cowboys, which was a vintage poster shop that used to be on Broadway between main and Cambie here in Vancouver. Guy named Kevin used to run it. It cost me $20. He had a box of them, and couldn't get rid of them. No interest. Meanwhile, he had posters for mainstream movies from the same time for hundreds, and could move them no problem. That's the thing about these posters, they get very little respect from collectors, which is fine with me. I can buy them all up without much competition. If Graphic Thrills continues doing well, I'm pretty sure all that will change though very soon, though. In fact, I'm already seeing the prices going up in the last year. A lot of genre movie nerds are going to feel very very stupid for not taking an interest in collecting these one-sheets back when they could be scored for less than the cost of shipping them, especially once they're going for hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.
AM: Since you're a list maker, if you were going to make a list of your favourite films in Graphic Thrills, which would they be?

RB: Of the movies whose posters appear in Graphic Thrills, these would be my 10 personal favourite movies. There are other movies that are more important historically, but for pure entertainment, these all must-sees. I could have done a list of 20, actually. Because this list doesn't even have Intimate Illusions, Corruption, or Easy Alice, which shouldn't be missed either. But yeah, there are so many good movies in this book!

Midnight Heat (1983)
Sex Wish (1976)
Nothing To Hide (1981)
Femmes De Sade (1976)
Ecstasy Girls (1980)
Pretty Peaches (1978)
Cafe Flesh (1983)
Consenting Adults (1982)
Violation of Claudia (1977)
The Devil In Miss Jones (1973)

AM: Anything else...?

RB: People should check out my podcast:
http://cinemasewer.libsyn.com/

And also my online store, where all my various zines, books, comics, and DVDs are available:
http://cinemasewer.ecrater.com/

And also friend me on Facebook!

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cinema-Sewer-Magazine/8221424673

Thanks to Robin Bougie!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Lawrence and Holloman now playing!

One of the darker, sicker and funnier Canadian films at last years' VIFF was Lawrence and Holloman; it's rather cruelly misanthropic, at times uncomfortable, and definitely has an edge to it, but it's pretty entertaining at the same time. I wrote about it here during the VIFF. I haven't revisited the film but I see it's presently playing in Vancouver! Film Facebook here, Twitter here. Katherine Isabelle fans take note - she's in the film!

Strugglers at the WISE Hall July 25th


I hope that everyone now living in Vancouver with an interest in rock'n'roll got to see the Little Guitar Army while they were around. Great, great band. There were always signs that they were going to implode at some point, tho' - inner tensions, bad weirdness, and a size that, short of massive infusions of cash, made extensive touring pretty much untenable: how many buses would they have needed, and how much money per member could they possibly get paid? Insane by design, they were also the greatest thing to happen to rock music in Vancouver since Slow, and probably the greatest theatrical rock spectacle ever to come out of this town (it's not enough to just own the CD: this was a band you had to experience live, and more than one time, because the first time you were not going to believe it). If the phenomenon around rock music still made sense, if the machine wasn't so horribly broken, if there were justice in the world of popular music, the Little Guitar Army would have been playing stadium shows all over the world while bands like U2 played clubs in Dublin.

I still vaguely remember my shock and confusion the first time I caught them live - entirely unprepared and almost by accident; I showed up just because Tony Bardach had mentioned he was playing in the band, and I've always liked Tony, so what the heck. I remember a dozen bandmembers, most in those schoolboy/ schoolgirl uniforms, standing on tables and chairs all over the Railway Club main room, rocking out on their tiny little (ridiculous yet magical) guitars, doing a totally whacked, kick-out-the-jams version of the Blue Oyster Cult's "Godzilla" that blew all the snot and falseness out of the original (recorded in what Mike Watt once called the BOC's "Journey" period) and totally redeemed it. Linda was the female vocalist, at that point, and cut a terrifying figure - equal parts cartoon Nazi and S&M sexbomb - while belting out the lyrics with (the equally powerful but less terrifying, thank God) Bert Man, who presents as a rock'n'roll debauchery lifer. I had one of those rare "oh my god what is this I've never seen anything like this before" moments which are, in fact, pretty fucking few and far between in the world of rock music these days, considering such moments are very nearly the whole point of going to shows. There was an interview that I did with them in confused circumstances that never saw the light, and I gave a kind of critical review to their one album (not because it wasn't great but because the packaging and presentation simply weren't great enough for how cool their band and their songs were)... but there was something very very special about the Little Guitar Army, maybe partially because it was pretty clear it wasn't going to last forever. Maybe something will rise from the ashes of that band. Maybe they will be born anew. I hope so; they were fantastic, and shouldn't just fade into local punk legend.

In the meantime, there's the Strugglers. It might be unfair to them to see them as a fragment, an offshoot, a spinoff - and for all I know they were around before the LGA - but the one time I've caught them, at the SNFU show where this stunning bit of live footage was recorded - I couldn't help myself. They had a higher percentage of LGA glory in their act than I expected, and, I believe, three members who were either active LGA, or alum. Bert Man, on vocals, was ever bit as insanely compelling as he was with LGA, and maybe a bit moreso, as he stripped out of his big green lizard suit to sing in his tiny undies (did you click that last link? Do it, and wait for it). Orchard Pinkish, also active LGA at that point, was onstage on guitar, too. And now, they've made a DVD of rock videos with the guy who did the  LGA "30 Watts to Freedom" video, Dave Tamkin, and are going to be headlining a show at the WISE Hall, July 25th (this Friday), which sure does seem like THE rock and roll event to be at in Vancouver this weekend.

"The vids are very sex drug rock and roll," Bert Man tells me via Facebook. The one video he showed me is sure to cause controversy locally, is one of those acts of poor taste that you sort of shudder to see and wait to comment on to see what everyone else says, so you don't get in trouble (there's a dead hooker involved, let's leave it at that). Then there's one which I haven't seen that uses CGI to have "150 foot tall Strugglers cavorting downtown," There will also be props, burlesque girls, a big screen to show the videos on. "I wanna pull out all the stops regarding theatrics," Bert wrote me. "Be a good one to take pictures at... how many more times in my life will I get to put out a DVD, y'know?"

Highly recommend being at the WISE Hall for this show. The Strugglers rock (and Ron Reyes' reijigged Piggy will also be on the bill!). I'm going to be pretty beat if I go see the Andrew Jackson Jihad on Thursday and then work Friday... but this is a show I do not want to miss...

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Savage Sagas From The Meatmen!

My old Tesco Vee interview - or the portion of it that was published in English - is here. Maybe I should get the lead out do something with the rest of it now that Savage Sagas from the Meatmen has been completed? Haven't heard the album yet but I enjoyed their concert here, hope to see them again...

Andrew Jackson Jihad this Thursday, plus ticket giveaway

Right, so I'm entering a contest to try to get tickets to the Andrew Jackson Jihad, and I get more entries if I blog about it, so check this link for more! These guys are probably my favourite "new discovery," bandwise, mostly because they write some terrifically infectious and occasionally quite sick lyrics. I'm driving my girlfriend a bit crazy by singing lines out of context from different songs, like the image of a sky, I think it is, "as red as a dog's asshole and you see it bleeding;" or about finding a "nicer way to kill it" (from their song that is titled after humane slaughterhouse designer Temple Grandin, who pops up on two tunes on the new LP), or about blood collectors collecting blood while "the cannibals all sang," say. Plus they have two references to Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans on their new album, including the declaration that it is the "greatest movie ever" (a bit hyperbolic by me but it is a film I'm fond of; love those lizards!). The band plays the Biltmore on Thursday and even though I work Friday I am strongly considering going. Strongly. We'll see how exhausted I am...

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Khats fest: me and Newt, plus the Poppy Family Experience

Got to say hello to Steve Newton at the Khatsahlano festival yesterday. We could be brothers! In fact, maybe in a way we are:
I missed a bunch of bands I had planned to see - The Furies have to be the band I have most often set out to see but not actually made it to, so it's almost a tradition with me - but I got to have some free food and beer, and treated to a chance to socialize with some of my favourite people around town. Thanks to Adrian Mack, in particular, for his terrific Poppy Family feature, it really helped orient me in regard to the band, plus he turned me onto the original Terry Jacks version of "There's No Blood In Bone," which you can find on the Neptoon compilation The History of Vancouver Rock and Roll Volume 2 (I highly recommend getting all four volumes, though be warned - #3, with the Painted Ship on it, fetches a fair price!). According to Michael Willmore's liner notes, that's not the Chessmen, by the way, but a solo recording from a trip to Los Angeles.
To be totally honest, the Poppy Family Experience was more one of those concerts that's great because it's happening at all than because the band was in top form; with it being only the second time this particular permutation has played live (and some 40 years since the Poppy Family's heyday), there were definitely a few rough patches, from an under-miked first song to some actual glitches in the performance (I will leave these unremarked upon but I'm sure the band noticed). Still, it was totally exciting to be in the audience to hear these songs performed live, and Susan Jacks - and her new kidney, Wilson - makes a very compelling and entertaining frontwoman indeed. Here's hoping we'll get another chance to see this unit play. Vivian Pencz's review and a much better photo of the band is here. Wishing Satwant Singh the best in his cancer treatment (at one point Susan Jacks informed the audience that he had skipped his weekly chemo to play).

The Rebel Spell at Adstock 2014 in Maple Ridge - pictures tell a story

The Rebel Spell headlined Adstock this year, debuting a couple of new songs and playing plenty of old ones, focusing more on the hardcore side of their repertoire (and making a sincere effort not to cuss). Of the new ones, I was particularly blown away by the one that wasn't called "Not a Prayer" but it beats me what the title was; Erin's guitar was pretty killer on that other song, though. Haven't much to say about the show - they're the best punk band around at the moment and do a great live show - but here's some photos I snapped. By far the funniest moment was when some wag up front suggested a circle pit AROUND the gazebo, and my girl and I had to get out of the way as, mid-song, twenty or thirty punks started their sprint. That's Jonny Bones of the Bone Daddies in the black skeleton shirt! (I missed the Bone Daddies set this year but only because I was busy with some behind-the-scenes support activities down the street in my apartment...). Once again it was a terrific Adstock, thanks to Adam Rayburn for putting it together. (And happy birthday!). 

Let's start with the gazebo, seen as you approach from the street; the audience is on the far side:
Bone Daddies merch:
 The Hellbound Hepcats on stage (terrific Toronto rockabilly):
The Rebel Spell onstage: 

Circle pit around the gazebo! 




Thursday, July 10, 2014

Jodorowsky, plus Khats fest...

No time or energy for a big blog entry - but are we all excited about The Dance of Reality tomorrow at the Cinematheque? Straight review here - St. Mack describes it as "satisfying and exquisite" (one wonders how Ken Eisner would have reviewed it...). My favourite Jod is still El Topo (pictured above) - an essential film for anyone who cares about cult movies, even if a violent, mystical/ surrealist spaghetti western isn't to your tastes.

...and if you're ambitious, it looks like you can make it to the Vancity Theatre for Sorcerer right after the 6:30 Jod screening, which I may just do. Gritty escapism for those with a fundamentally grim outlook on life, with some I-cannot-believe-this-was-filmed moments. And yes, a terrific score by Tangerine Dream.

...And speaking of music, there's the Khatsahlano Street Festival Saturday. I think, with a bit of jogging, it should be possible to catch the Hard Rock Miners and The Furies at McDonald, then The Evaporators, Black Mountain collaborator Amber Webber and Josh Wells' Lightning Dust, and then the Poppy Family Experience (more essential Mack on that here, and, God bless'em, on the cover of the Straight; the best music-themed cover story since the Little Guitar Army one?). Handy chart of set times here. I'm kind of bummed that I might have to miss Piggy (no Muppets reference intended!) but one cannot see everything at this fest - have you noticed how many bands are playing?

There's also a big I, Braineater event but after my ill-received Art Bergmann review I fear for my safety in his presence... Bergmann is playing the Commodore soon, didja see? Now THAT's a big deal (I better not go to that either).

Anyhow, hope y'all are having a good summer. I won't be blogging so much for awhile - got work to do. But I'm still around... if you see me at Khats say hi... and if you've missed my recent interview with Chris Arnett of the Furies, check it out here! (There are other ones on this very blog).

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Nightbreed Director's Cut: the news breaks

The internet is a funny place. Lots of people out there are waiting for reasons to vent their anger. This week, in the geeksphere, a lot of that anger is being vented at Scream Factory/ Shout Factory, who are putting out the much anticipated Nightbreed: The Director's Cut, with a street date finally announced of October 28th. While a lot of people are just plain delighted the release is happening at all, a certain contingent is incensed because a) there has yet to be a European distribution deal struck, meaning this is a R1 only release; and b) there is a deluxe, limited edition being offered for $80 that includes a Blu-Ray of the original theatrical cut of the film and a disc of as yet unspecified extras. Pre-orders are happening now for that.
It is POSSIBLE that some of those unspecified extras would be interesting enough to make me wish I'd shelled out the $80 for the limited edition - if, say, there was an inclusion of the Nightbreed Cabal Cut, which is certainly historically important enough to merit owning, or if there were cool featurettes from back in the day involving David Cronenberg. It's mildly irritating that we're being asked to make up our minds when we don't yet KNOW what those extras are going to be. All the same, the two-disc director's cut (on Blu- and DVD) will be selling for a mere $25, which is totally fair, and which, I think, will be fine by me; I can't justify paying an extra $55 (plus $18 shipping to Canada) for extras I may never watch and a bonus Blu- of the version of the film that I already own on DVD. I just can't see people getting nasty over such matters - especially since there will no doubt be a Warners Blu- of the theatrical cut (and a European release!) at some point in the future...
If you're still really mad, folks, just a couple of thoughts: are you really mad at the people who have laboured long and hard to make this release happen, or are you mad that you're broke and/or that DVD regions exist? Neither are the fault of Scream Factory. Me, I'm just excited that there is a director's cut happening (and that they did finally locate the original elements of the film, which had been thought lost). Plus the limited edition set sounds like a damn fine idea to me, for those willing to pay for it. It ain't me, babe, but I hope all 5000 sell out long before October 28th!  

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Nick Cave in Vancouver

Through a kindness (thanks, man!) I was able to catch Nick Cave at the Orpheum last night, for the second of his two Vancouver shows. It was quite terrific; having seen Cave close up in action at the Vogue last year, it was interesting to be at somewhat of a remove from the stage, up in the lower balcony, where - unlike, say, the Centre for the Performing Arts - the acoustics are excellent. Cave often dipped out of sight as he performed to the floor; at times his intimacy with the audience seemed to cause concern for security, since a few times people rushed to the edge of the stage to make sure he was okay, even though he was continuing to sing throughout - but his charisma and focus were evident even from up top (and multi-instrumentalist Warren Ellis provided a reliably interesting figure to watch when Cave disappeared from view). The highlight of the night was getting to share Cave with my girl, who had never seen him before, but songwise, as with last year, "Stagger Lee" was sort of the show stealer. "The Lyre of Orpheus," probably Cave's best recent song, was a welcome inclusion during the encore, but the reading of it was somewhat disrupted by shouts from the audience, who didn't always make the most of Cave's repeated instructions to "listen" (a word which, from the opening track of "We Real Cool," which features it in the lyrics, seemed to get translated into a cue to "scream wildly;" I still miss the respectful attentiveness of audiences in Japan, especially for shows like this one). The other highlight of the night was when Cave brought opener Mark Lanegan back to the stage to do a duet of "The Weeping Song," previously sung with Blixa. The setlist was similar to that of his recent Alberta show, with no "We No Who UR," no "West Country Girl" nor "The Ship Song," no "Watching Alice" or "Do You Love Me" - but instead, "Stranger than Kindness," "Love Letter," "Papa Won't Leave You Henry" (still missing the arterial spray, and abbreviated by a verse), and maybe one or two other songs...

Anyhow, I snapped no photos, shot no video, took no notes, just enjoyed what Cave and his band were doing. When I caught him at Lollapallooza all those years ago, he seemed an outsider, a dark, somewhat introverted weirdo who played more to his band than the audience, and whose presence seemed not wholly welcome on that sunny stage, alongside Green Day and the Beastie Boys and P-Funk; he seems to have risen considerably in stature and cultural currency since that time, and to have grown into a staggeringly confident performer. It's nice to see; best live show around these days, that I've seen (with the possible exception of Swans at their peak, or Bison if you're into that sorta thing). If you've never seen him and get a chance to, do.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

RIP Paul Mazursky

I recently revisited The Blackboard Jungle - a noirish JD picture the plot of which was loosely lifted for  cult favourite Class of 1984 - and was surprised and pleased to see Paul Mazursky in a small role; it always pleases me to see the man on the screen, and I always have had some fondness for Mazursky as a director. His Cassavetes-as-Prospero version of The Tempest had lots of great moments, and I really enjoyed Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice when I first saw it, though that was years ago and I haven't revisited it since; same goes for Willie & Phil, his variant on Jules and Jim, which I watched about four times in a row as a teenager when it was on pay TV in the early 1980's, but cannot really vouch for now... In fact many of his films are not so easy to stumble across these days, compared to their ubiquity in the days of VHS. I would probably re-visit Next Stop Greenwich Village if it placed itself in my path in a digital format, but it has yet to do so; ditto Harry and Tonto. Has The Pickle even been released on DVD? I would watch that too, if it placed itself in my path. My respects to Paul Mazursky, departed at age 84.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Some notes on film for the summer...

I was kind of bummed that no one screened Sorcerer in Vancouver before the Blu-Ray came out, but now I'm amused and somewhat gratified to see that it's playing at both the Vancity Theatre and the Cinematheque this summer! That can't have been intentional, but it certainly increases opportunities to see it on the big screen. I'm not really ready to see it again, now that I've seen it on Blu-Ray, but I can't miss the opportunity, and neither should anyone else. Fans of that film's terrific Tangerine Dream soundtrack will also probably also be excited to know that Jeremy Schmidt's terrific score for Beyond the Black Rainbow is coming out on Death Waltz! My old interview with Schmidt is here.
Some other fun programming at the Cinematheque: Jodorowsky's newest film, The Dance of Reality, will be programmed as part of their mini-Jod-fest; I am looking forward to having another chance to see Jodorowsky's Dune, which I missed during its previous run. Further, their August film noir programme has been announced, featuring a nice mix of must-see, inexhaustible favourites (the return of Double Indemnity, Gun Crazy and The Lady From Shanghai) and relative obscurities, the most exciting of which for me are So Dark The Night (by Gun Crazy director Joseph H. Lewis) and Cry of the City (featuring Richard Conte, whom I always enjoy). I know almost nothing about either film, however! (Though I did catch Gun Crazy's John Dall in Alfred Hitchcock's Rope tonight; he's one of the two murderers, a detail I had forgotten!).
The Vancity Theatre meanwhile will be bringing back a couple of films I enjoyed during last year's VIFF, the somewhat misanthropic local comedy Lawrence and Holloman and the Teorema variant Borgman; plus the well-regarded Stand Clear of Closing Doors, about an autistic child's ordeal by subway. I wrote about all of them during the VIFF, either here or on the Huffington Post, but I'll leave you to seek out my reviews... I have nothing much to say about the Venezuelan film festival coming up, having seen none of the films in it, nor can I link to the series, for some reason. But the VIFF main page has all the films listed, including films on soccer, films by Woody Allen, and a new film by Bernardo Bertolucci, whom I still have not forgiven for The Sheltering Sky.   
Not much else I have to write about... Very keen about this year's Adstock and a chance to see the Rebel Spell, presently my favourite punk band anywhere, again. Todd is contending with a back injury incurred while rock climbing, so here's hoping he's feeling well. Also am really excited to catch Ron Reyes' band Piggy, and Chris Arnett's garage rock heroes The Furies (and, indeed, The Poppy Family Experience) at the Khatsahlano festival this year. But I also have a pending root canal and other things that I don't feel like blogging about to think on, and probably won't be writing here quite so much for the next while, as I strive to get my life in a workable order. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

My favourite Eli Wallach role (besides Tuco)

When people live (and continue working!) well into their 90's, their deaths don't seem so sad; they made it as far as any human being could be expected to, and the inclination is more to celebrate their lives than mourn. So I'm going to tell you my favourite Eli Wallach moment in a film other than The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly.
It occurs in a rather cheesy Zen-Buddhist-inspired kung fu movie called Circle of Iron, AKA The Silent Flute. That was the title of the original story, co-written by Bruce Lee, James Coburn, and Stirling Silliphant, and completed for filming in 1978, after Bruce Lee's death, by Silliphant and Stanley Mann. The film boasts not only an appearance by Eli Wallach, but small parts for Christopher Lee and Roddy McDowall, and something like four roles for David Carradine, including the part of a kung-fu-fighting ape. It's sort of a variant on the education of an idiot theme: a young, impetuous fighter, Cord (hammily played by Jeff Cooper, a TV actor who hailed from Hamilton, Ontario) goes on a quest for enlightenment, and encounters various trials along the way, as well as various teachers, many of whom are played by Carradine. Carradine - whose main role is that of a blind shakuhachi player - delivers some highly corny bon mots during the movie - the screenplay is sprinkled liberally with Zen koans and such, which produce something more akin to stupefaction than satori. There's a ripoff of Heraclitus' line about not being able to step into the same river twice (phrased differently, but it's the same idea). There's the observation, used to describe Cord's reluctant apprenticeship with his blind teacher, that you can tie two birds together, but though they have four wings, they cannot fly. The funniest sequence, however, dispenses with Carradine altogether, and occurs when Cord encounters Wallach in the desert, half-submerged in a giant vat.
Cord approaches with open curiosity, and Wallach - whose character is billed, as I recall, as "man dissolving himself in oil," asks if "that terrible thing between my legs" is almost gone. Turns out he's on a quest for enlightenment, too, but finds himself constantly distracted by his sexual urges; he hasn't the gumption to castrate himself, so he's spending his days in a vat of oil, hoping the lower half of his body will painlessly dissolve, and along with it, his sex drive. He urges Cord to join him, for his own good; Cord laughs, and - rejecting such extreme asceticism - declines.
It's a silly moment in a silly movie, and it's obvious Wallach isn't taking it too seriously (how in the hell could you?). But it's still kind of charming, and as many good movies as I've seen Wallach in - peruse his filmography here - for me, it's the second most memorable appearance by him, after, of course, Tuco. As often happens with Ernest Borgnine, you're struck by the fact that even in 1978, Wallach looked old; pretty amazing that he would continue to live and work for another three decades (his final film, the Wall Street sequel, was completed in 2010). My respects to Eli Wallach and condolences to his family and friends. Viva Tuco!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A Spell To Ward Off The Darkness: Ben Rivers Interview

I'm interested in the Harvard Sensory Ethnography Labs - who made the remarkable feature Leviathan a couple of years ago - so I'm definitely curious about Manakamana, opening this week at the Cinematheque; but I have not seen it yet. Friends with an interest in experimental documentary assure me it's great, and Charles Mudede writes about it here. I have, however, sought out A Spell To Ward Off The Darkness, also opening, and interviewed Ben Rivers, one of the two filmmakers behind it, for The Georgia Straight. What follows are some outtakes from that conversation!
Allan MacInnis: I’m not sure if it was you or Ben Russell, but one of you said in an interview with Cinema-Scope that in a way, an audience that is unfamiliar with your individual works is an ideal one. First off, I am that ideal audience; I haven’t seen any of  your other films as yet. But also I wanted to ask if you could explain that comment?

Ben Rivers: I think what we were getting at was just this idea that - I guess there’s a lot of people who haven’t seen our work, but then there’s a bunch that have, and the ones who have, they often watch it and try to pick apart who did what, who made which decision, who decided to shoot that bit of moss and who decided to shoot the band. They’re trying in a way to break apart the collaboration into constituent parts, and for us, the collaboration the was a way of trying to meld two minds, so it wasn’t so clear. The idea of a collaboration is to try and push each other to do something different. So that’s why - I guess we meant, if somebody came to the film with completely fresh eyes and wasn’t aware of what we’d done before,  then they wouldn’t be [tempted to do that].

AM: I’ve read a little bit about your work - that you usually work with 16mm film and hand-develop it yourself. Are you still using your usually methodology for this?

BR: Um… I mean, I always shoot on 16, and I’ve made 25 films and I always use 16. I like it. But the black and white films I hand-process, and I still do that - I’ve got a bunch of film in my kitchen ready to process - but the colour films I get done at the lab. Spell was obviously done at the lab - the black and white films have physical remnants of the hand processing, so…

AM: That makes sense. Anyhow, it’s a beautiful looking film. But you were still shooting on 16?

BR: Yeah. Both of us - we believe in film as a medium. As a material, there’s something about it which is a bit more alchemical. I guess we’re both sort of invested in this idea of a kind of magic that happens with the camera. You point it at the world, and the world responds with light, and this is caught chemically on a physical piece of material, and eventually you shine light through that material and you get the image back. That’s a very different thing from digital, which is recording things in a very different kind of way. I don’t know - there’s something in the grain, the movement of each frame, is kind of important, I think. I think for me, one of the reasons that I use film is, I also like the way it kind of forces you to look differently at the world. You have to really think about what you’re filming. You’re kind of forced into it, partly because of the economics - you’re forced to make some heavy decisions about the necessity of what you’re filming, unlike digital where you can just film for hours and hours. It’s a different mindset.
AM: How scripted is what we’re seeing, how much of this was planned before you began shooting?

BR: It’s a kind of mix. It’s pretty planned - thinking about the different representations of time in each section, and how we were going to deal with that formally with the camera, the decisions for the camerawork and the editing. But then within that there was still a lot of unknown factors. [For example,] we set up a scene where we follow a woman to her house to lie down with her husband and baby, but we don’t know what their interaction was going to be. We leave that open, so that there’s surprises.

AM: I wanted to ask about exactly that shot, actually. I thought that was a very exciting shot. There’s such tenderness between the father and the sleeping baby. Was that set up?

BR: We knew that he was in there with the baby, but we actually didn’t know that it was going to be that beautiful! (Laughs). Yeah. It’s really great - and I can’t remember whether it was me or Ben who shot that shot. That’s one of the nice things, we often took it in turns to shoot stuff. But with those walking shots, when he went into the house… I think he was shooting it, so I didn’t actually see that until we got the film back from the lab, which was a month later. That’s the other thing with film, you have to wait, so you get these really great surprises when you see the footage. But it’s a good example of setting something up and not being really directorial about it, setting up every tiny thing. There’s no script, we never wrote any kind of script. There was kind of a fairly long treatment, but that’s as far as we went in terms of writing down things.
AM: Have you, or the other Ben, tried living communally?

BR: No, but I guess that part of the film came out of us talking about that and thinking about it as a possibility, and we’ve talked about it since, as well - thinking that maybe it’s something we’d like to try. It’s an ongoing conversation, but one of the things we were kind of clear about, was that all the people in the segment, they’re all people who have either lived or still live in some kind of communal living arrangement, and have had pretty positive experiences. We felt like it would be much easier to make a negative film about living communally, I think - because you hear a lot of stories. We both know friends who had grown up in communes and never want to do it again. But this film, even though there’s darkness in it, we didn’t want it to be that straightforward, that either it’s really really great, or it’s really terrible. We kind of wanted to talk about real possibilities that were positive.

AM: I wanted to ask about the dome that they’re building. I associate that kind of structure with Buckminster Fuller, and that’s exactly all I know about these things.

BR: Well, yeah - it’s a Buckminster Fuller dome. It’s a piece of architecture that was taken up by a lot of communities because it was very quick and easy to build. And cheap, and you can make it with all kinds of different materials. In that way, it’s a symbol of that time in the 60’s and 70’s when there was a big kind of commune movement, which we’re kind of aware didn’t really work out. It kind of failed. And so we were interested in showing these people who decided to live communally, building this structure that shows they’re clearly aware of the history of the commune movement. They know what it means, they know what this piece of architecture symbolizes - so they’re aware of the failures of the past generations, but they still think it’s worthwhile trying again.
AM: How did you get in contact with Robert A. A. Lowe?

BR: We chose him pretty early, because he’s actually an old friend of the other Ben’s. They both lived in Chicago and Ben was heavily involved in the music scene there, which is what Rob comes from. We were looking at possible people to be in the film and Ben showed me a Youtube clip of Rob performing and I really loved it. I could see why he thought Rob would be a good person, because he gets into a kind of trance when he’s performing onstage. He’s very embodied.

AM: Was he performing as Lichens before the film was shot? Because there are those images of actual lichens in there.

BR: Yeah, no, he’s been performing as Lichens for ages. So even though we wanted shots of Lichens, it’s also a little nod to his fans.

AM: He seems like he feels the wonder of what they’re doing at the commune. But he leaves. It’s tempting to read that as sort of figuring the failure of the communal movement, or at least the impossibility of him finding a place there. I mean, he doesn’t just stay at the commune. So that seems like a critical commentary - am I reading too much into that?

BR: No, I think that is definitely one possible reading. We don’t want to be… that’s kind of how I see it. One of the things that Ben and I talked about all the way along is that these three things could happen in any order, they’re not necessarily happening in the order that you see them. But the problem is, when you have a piece of cinema, you have to choose the order. And so you can’t get away from narrative consequence. [But he does return to a sort of communal model at the end:] Being in that kind of situation of a live show is kind of a mix of the commune of the first part and the solitude of the second part. Because when you’re in a show, you’re surrounded by society, but you’re having a very individual experience.
AM: For me - I’m a punk, I’m a music fan, I’ve been embroiled in the music scene in Vancouver for quite awhile and what I always feel is that there’s something remarkable and utopian and positive going on while you’re in the gig, and then afterwards you’re outside in an alienated urban environment in the same old shit you were in before you went into the gig. There’s that in the film, right?

BR: Yeah. I think that is in the film. You’ve kind of hit the nail on the head, in a way, because the film is in a sense about Utopia, but realizing that Utopia is not a permanent thing. It’s something kind of transitory that you pass through.

AM: There’s a Hakim Bey reference in there - a Temporary Autonomous Zone reference.

BR: Exactly. I really like the idea.

AM: I’d wanted to ask about geography. The film gives the impression, maybe by accident, that these three areas are geographically congruent. Are they?

BR: It’s all Scandinavia. A lot of our talking came out of thinking about that particular kind of place, the North. Originally it was all going to be shot in Norway, because we were thinking about this kind of sublime landscape, as well, and how that effects the humans surrounded by this crazy enormous scary beauty. But for various reasons we ended up shooting in Norway, Finland, and Estonia. The commune is in Estonia.
AM: The burning building brought to mind burning churches. I know Norwegians don’t like that association, but that was intentional…? (Note: see more of Rivers' answer to this question online only at the Straight website; I believe the print edition, out Wednesday, will not have this section).

BR: Sure, there is obviously a relationship to the church burnings. The black metal movement in Norway - that’s why we had to film the black metal segment in Norway, because that’s the birthplace of that particular subgenre...

AM: In terms of relationship to landscapes, some of the stuff in the solitude sequence, I’m wondering if there’s any particular film practice or other films that inspired some of the images of nature? Coming from the Pacific Northwest, looking at some of the images, I was surprised to find myself thinking of Kelly Reichardt’s Old Joy, say in the close ups of ants crawling. But I don’t know your influences…

BR: I’ve seen Old Joy and really like it, and I watch a lot of cinema, but… in many ways, we talked about paintings quite a bit before going to Finland. And we looked around and found stuff that seemed right, instinctively. It’s hard to pin down. We weren’t really talking about other films when we were filming it.
AM: What paintings?

BR: We talked a bit about the Hudson school of painting, and the romantics, like Friedrich - Friedrich definitely came up a few times. But that was less about the close ups, it was more to do with Rob in the landscape and thinking about his figure in the landscape, trying to place him in such a way that his character sort of recedes and he becomes part of the landscape, if that makes sense.

AM: Is his only line of dialogue in the film, the only word he speaks, “pancakes?” Am I right about that?

BR: I think you are right about that. (Laughs).

AM: Trivially, I just want to tell you something. I don’t play music myself, but as part of my participation in the music scene in Vancouver, I sometimes participate in pancake noise events, where people get together and eat pancakes and listen to harsh noise, often in underground venues. I’ve flipped pancakes at three of them now.

BR: So you really related to that!

AM: Yeah! Pancakes! (Laughter). Two other quick things. That mirror that he looks in after he walks away from the performance, where was that? Was it actually backstage at a venue?

BR: Yeah, it was backstage at a venue. We filmed it at a normal Oslo venue that has metal shows, and every other kind of show as well, and that’s just the normal dressing room at the back.

AM: One last tiny thing. The triangle that you cut to, between or before each segment. What is that triangle? Can you explain?

BR: The triangle itself is, when you have film processed, and then tele-cined, they put a punch hole at the beginning and the end of the role, so that gets logged. That basically logs the material so you know what frame you’re on in the rest of footage. Usually it’s a hole - usually it’s a circle. But the lab that we used had a triangular puncher, so that’s why it’s a triangle. But that was like a gift to us, because there are other triangles in the movie, and we were always talking about the triangle - the equal three sides, because that’s what we thought the film was. All three parts are meant to be of equal importance, there’s no hierarchy among them. That’s why there’s a triangle, and if you watch carefully, there’s other triangles in the film.

AM: The one I’m talking about that flickers briefly, is it scratched into the film?

BR: I don’t know if they scratch it. You know when you have a hole punch to put a piece of paper in a binder, they use something a little bit like that.

AM: Is that the actual lab mark we’re seeing, then?

BR: Yeah, that’s their doing.

AM: Hm! It’s not perfect, it looks kind of hand-done.

BR: Yeah, it’s imperfect. It’s got kind of hairs on it and stuff!  
A Spell To Ward Off The Darkness opens today (Wednesday June 25th) at the Cinematheque.