Monday, March 30, 2015

Magma for Big Takeover, and at Zulu and the Venue

For some reason, people in Vancouver don't seem to be excited about Magma. They have a kind of low profile over here, but I have no idea why, they're a seriously creative, long-lived band who gets a lot of respect worldwide - odd that we're missing the bus a bit. I interviewed Christian Vander of Magma here. I think that Thursday's show at the Venue is a bit of a must-attend, and there's an in-store Wednesday at Zulu...!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Stephen Nikleva record release gig!

Well, I know where I'll be April 9th!

RIP Target, Future Shop - and good riddance

Hey, first off, apologies to anyone dependent for their income on Target or Future Shop, eh? I'm not talking, below, about the employees of these stores. Basically anyone who has to wear a uniform as part of their job is given a free ride in what follows, gets my sympathy and well-wishings and so forth. I have nothing against the workers at these locations, feel kind of sorry for them - on the one level, because they ended up working at these kinda crappy jobs in the first place, and on the next, because they're going to be unemployed soon. I hope we will still be living in a world, ten years from now, where such jobs exist for people to do; the death of a certain kind of retail paradigm, in evidence here, kind of chills me, like we're looking at massive unemployment sometime in the near future, and I don't mean to seem uncocerned about that. I'm as terrified as anyone of what's coming, even if, for now, I still have a job. Pardon me if any of what I say below reads as being insensitive...

...but the fact is, I take a fair bit of gratification out of the deaths of Target and Future Shop. Whatever dark trends they point to for our future economically, the failure of these businesses is kind of funny, kind of satisfying, kind of fair and just. 

On one level, it's because I actually am one of the more avid shoppers in my circle, always with one eye out for Blu-Rays, DVDs, CDs, records, books, and other media that strike my fancy, and - from the outset in the case of Target and for the last five or ten years in the case of Future Shop, notwithstanding the latter's too-little-too-late attempt to stock Criterions - these businesses have completely failed to raise my interest as a consumer. I'm more likely to find interesting movies at a fuckin' Value Village, at a Surrey pawn shop, or in the delete bin at any department store that still has delete bins, than in either of these vastly crappy, boringly-supplied, corporate-bullshit-only stores, which both (by-and-large) stocked only the safest, most obvious, most mass-produced titles out there - stuff that movie and music lovers either don't buy, or already have. What good were either of you to me?

(Also, speakin' as a fat guy - good luck finding your size in Target!)

Sure, Future Shop had okay deals on equipment sometimes, but how often can you afford to buy a new stereo or TV? How often do you really need one, and when you do, wouldn't you prefer to go to London Drugs, anyhow? (I say that as a disinterested consumer - but they're a store that continues to impress me with their alert and savvy choices, by bringing back vinyl, having some cool things on their DVD and Blu-Ray racks, having interesting delete and sale bins, having knowledgeable, polite staff, having reasonable prices and excellent warranty options... They're just terrific by comparison to Future Shop, and will always get my return business and support).

And I mean, fuck me, Target, could you have tried harder to sabotage your own business? Step one: unceremoniously and unnecessarily get rid of all the Zellers employees, creating a feeling of ill-will and mistrust in the communities where these employees live, which, ha ha, happen to be the same communities you hope to win over as your customers. Step two: after years of being associated with "good deals across the border," make sure that your prices are higher both than the stores you've replaced AND the stores in the US that have that positive image. Along the way, impose massive renovations before opening on all buildings, doing ridiculous, unnecessary, and VERY EXPENSIVE things like making sure the escalators that ran East-West in Zellers are replaced with brand new escalators that run North-South, because, hey, that's going to really impress people, right? That's what brings you customers: shiny new escalators. And be sure to keep the buildings closed for months, too, so that all the people who used to shop at Zellers have time to find new places to shop, so that when you finally do open after months of renos, people have other shopping routines firmly in place, and look at your inflated prices and steakless sizzle and shake their heads and proceed to ignore you.

I mean: ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. Fuck you, Target CEO's. You must be some of the most incompetent and/or corrupt people in the world of business. You really should run for political office, because it usually takes a government to fuck up as bad as you've done. It's too bad you no doubt made lots and lots of money regardless of the closures; I'm sure your asses are covered. But they would be stripped and whipped, if there were justice in the world. Be ashamed. Be very ashamed.

In truth, my only regret as a consumer about Target's closure is that they didn't have very much interesting stuff to begin with, so that now that they're in liquidation, there's barely anything there that I want to buy. The Maple Ridge store closes tomorrow or such, and with all remaining inventory at 80% off, I was still hard pressed to find two DVDs this afternoon: I snagged Tom at the Farm and the first season of Ray Donovan. With taxes, they'd have been $70 or more - or at least $60 at London Drugs or some other more reasonably-priced location. After the 80% discount, I got'em for $15. Thanks for that - but not to seem ungrateful, even in liquidation, your stock doesn't impress me much.

I guess all these liquidation sales we're seeing won't seem so funny when we're all homeless and reduced to begging or stealing to survive, but right now, they're actually kind of amusing. Hope you're all getting good deals, folks! See you at Future Shop, it's bound to be a bit better than the Target closure... or maybe we can meet at Chapters Robson? Or the next big box to go under... who knows what it will be...?

Friday, March 27, 2015

Hard to Be a God: Fecal Terry Gilliam

Hard to Be a God is a bit hard to take, actually.

It's gorgeously shot, in a lovely palette of grey, and with a master's sense of cinematography. The eye of the film is magnificent; people who just want from their cinema something interesting and unusual to look at will be quickly and easily impressed, presuming they don't mind a bit of shit.

But rather than evoking Bergman or early Bela Tarr (as did the one Gherman I'd previously caught), or Tarkovsky (the "chicken" of Russian cinema, because any Russian filmmaker whose cinema is remotely visually accomplished inevitably gets compared to him, whether it shares an aesthetic or not) Hard to Be a God brought to mind, to my utter surprise, Terry Gilliam at his most gnomic: lots of people in weird, Middle Ages costumes, spitting and shitting and cursing and peering into the camera, lots of craggy closeups of muttering and puttering Jabberwockyish villagers, lots of dialogue that felt like overhearing someone talking to himself, saying things that don't cohere very clearly in terms of story, but apparently mean something to them. The premise is a bit Gilliam as well, since the story deals with the surviving members of a mission to a planet like earth, but where the Renaissance never happened, and everyone just stumbles around in the darkness, superstitious and degraded and violent. I'm actually reasonably sure if you're patient with it, something interesting must emerge from the story, but you're going to have to be very patient, because for the first 40 minutes, the above is pretty much all you get.

Yep: in the first 40 minutes, besides introducing the above set up, there is not trace of drama, no conflict, no plot, just degraded villagers wandering around a muddy village muttering about things that don't amount to much to the audience. Oh, and smearing lots and lots of shit on each other; there's something deeply fecal about this movie, some need to smear shit on faces that hopefully is not in some way a metaphor for the action the film hopes to take on its audience. (Or perhaps its a statement on contemporary cinema in general? Beautifully shot and full of shit?).

Forty minutes were enough of that, for me. I don't mean to be a vulgarian - I won't proclaim its a bad movie or anything like that, a failure or so forth, since I did not SEE the whole film, and I won't let a bit of shit interfere with my acknowledging a film as masterful (cf Salo, The Cook, The Thief...). But after teaching two classes earlier that day and marking a dozen student papers, I did not need to see degraded villagers smearing shit on each other, no matter how beautifully photographed it was. I mean, I would have taken the shit if there were something else to hook onto, some thread of meaning or story that I could grab and work with and engage my mind with, but... nope.

So caveat emptor, folks. Hard to Be a God plays the next few days at the Cinematheque. It might indeed be some sort of masterpiece, I'm not saying you shouldn't see it, and in fact some of you out there probably should, probably need to see it; please don't let me interfere with that. But bring lots of energy to the cinema, because you may find you need it...

Saturday, March 21, 2015

A Dirty Monday

People wanting a very funny, cynical portrait of dysfunctional Vancouverites are once again directed to Bruce Sweeney's Dirty this Monday at the Cinematheque. It remains my favourite of the many locally-made films I've seen, the one that most captures my sense of life in Vancouver (God help us all). It also owes a direct debt to a VIFF workshop that Sweeney took with Mike Leigh, so fans of Leigh's approach to cinema - having actors develop characters and workshop interactions, then writing a screenplay based on that - might find it rewarding on that count, too. And by the by, director Sweeney - who will be in attendance - informs me that he'll be shooting a new movie in May, a comedy-drama off the grid in Vancouver and on the Sunshine Coast, with returning collaborator Gabrielle Rose. All good news. See you Monday?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

One more time re: Todd Serious

So I'm going to have to stop on the Todd Serious writing for a moment because I'm starting to get pretty bummed out, and I'm not in a position of being emotionally invested enough to, like, cry and release my grief or anything healthy like that - I mean, I didn't really know him - so it's just all sort of sitting there in my gut, which is not so good for me. It's been a strangely intense time, made somewhat frustrating by the fact that normal life goes on like nothing has happened.

Oddly, tho', considering the above, pretty much all I want to listen to right now is The Rebel Spell.

However, two things: there's a note in this week's Straight about the crowdsourcing thing for Todd's funeral.

And the full text of my October interview with him is on their website. I wrote this up F.O.C. earlier this week and donated it to them when I found out about the crowdsourcing campaign. I can't afford to donate anything, am kind of feeling the pinch financially a bit, juggling money here and there to pay the bills and still have a tiny bit of a life, which is getting tinier and tinier and more and more dependent on cadging freebies and such... so this article is my way of showing solidarity. It's all I'll be able to do right now. Hope people like it.

Thanks to Adrian Mack and Bev Davies for their help on this, and for Elliot and Erin, in particular, for being patient with yet another intrusive journalist. My best to all who knew Todd. This is my favourite photo from the Lillooet shoot, by the way. The photographer is one Gabrielle Kingston. Great photos, Gabrielle. Click on this to see it full size.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

St. Patrick's Day event tonight at Lanalou's

Well, here's a gig to be at. Friend and collaborator of the Rebel Spell - but also a co-conspirator with the Creaking Planks! - Jeff Andrew will be playing a St. Patrick's Day show at Lanalou's tonight. No idea who the Staggers & Jaggs are! I'll go to see Jeff tho'.

Saturday, March 14, 2015


Northwest Horror Show at the Vancity Theatre: a festival of gore, trash, bad taste and insanity

With the opening night film in the Northwest Horror Show just eight days away, it looks like it's time to put my email interview with event organizer Shane Burzynski into the world! The festival is going to be a must-attend for fans of Vancouver's much-missed Cinemuerte festival, and a celebration of some of the goriest, sleaziest, weirdest and most outlandish horror/ exploitation films out there. Does it really require an extended introduction? On with the feckin' interview!

AM: So this film festival is your baby, right? How did you come to organize it?

SB: My big, beautiful, bloody baby! It mostly came about because I've been trying (to no avail) to get these two Duke Mitchell films (Massacre Mafia Style and Gone With the Pope) booked in Vancouver for the last three or four years. The obscurity seems to have kept the interest down for any of the theatre managers, so I eventually decided to bring them myself! During the summer I picked up my blu ray copy of Cannibal Holocaust and found a feature that was shot at Cinemuerte in 2001 and it kind of made me say to myself "Goddamnit, I wish we still had something like that." It also kind of gave me the idea that I could pitch these films a lot easier if I did it as a festival, so here it is!
Its the first film related event I've ever set up and certainly wont be the last.
AM: The film I'm most curious about is Nightmare City. I haven't seen it. It seems like one of the most divisive zombie films out there - people either love it or hate it. People on the Horror Blu Ray Maniacs page have described it as "one of the worst zombi films," "horrible trash," "such a shitter," and "crapola," and even people who like it praise the "shittiness" of the film, which is a bit of a left-handed compliment at best. So, uh, could you explain this film's charms? How should we approach it? Does it have any actual ideas in it, is it just outrageous shlock, or...? Is there a must-see scene? 
SB: Some of the stuff I've been reading does seem pretty divisive, but most of the horror fans I know seem to really enjoy it. I think there's a couple of problems that keep some people from really enjoying it for what it is. One of them is approaching it as a zombie film which I would call mistake number one. Its a contagion flick and they really don't share any of the characteristics of zombies. They run, shoot guns, stab people, and rip open a lot of blouses! What I really like about it is that its a really fast paced film with a lot of kill scenes that never let up. I also like movies that are constantly changing locations too. A couple of DVD sites might have its naysayers but IMDB sure has a lot of praise for it. And of course Tarantino and Rodriguez are both big fans, but they like a lot of schlocky cinema. I would say that outrageous schlock seems like an apt description of it. Go into it expecting a low budget, a fast pace and a bad ending and I think you'll have a great time! 
AM: My experience of Brain Damage is that it's an anti-drug movie that drug users generally love. You? Do you know of anyone who has seen it on acid? Would you recommend that?

SB: Haha, definitely on both accounts! The very first time I saw it was at the Rio and the friend who came with me was on acid at the time. The film's got some great humour and visuals so I think I could recommend it to people who are into that kind of thing.
AM: And what's with (Brain Damage director) Frank Henenlotter, anyhow? Is he a big anti-druggie? An ex-druggie? If there's a nastier anti-drug film out there, I haven't seen it, but he seems to be speaking from lived experience..
SB: From what I can tell from the audio commentary tracks on his films, interviews and brief words I've had with him myself, I would definitely say he doesn't seem like the type to have been into drugs. He just has a sick sense of humour and probably saw a lot of drug addicts from being around 42nd street so much in the 70's and 80's.
AM: You've said it is your favourite of the films you're screening...?
SB: It's the film that I've watched the most times and will probably return to most often. I really love that movie.
AM: I have not seen the Duke Mitchell films, or Pieces. Care to explain their appeal?

SB: Probably about the same appeal as most of the other films in our line up. The Duke Mitchell films just have that great low budget charm to them as well as being strange and slightly incompetent that just makes for good group viewing. You can also still see the passion for the stories that Duke Mitchell had like with most good cult films. They're really entertaining and the more I learn about Duke the more fascinating everything becomes. The story behind Gone With the Pope is pretty much as great as the film itself and I'm really excited to introduce Vancouver to Duke Mitchell, I think people will be just as enamoured with his work as I am. 
AM: How gory is Pieces?

SB: Pieces is just one of the best midnight movies you could ever hope for! It starts and finishes in the most spectacular fashion and has plenty of the good stuff in between! (and I assure you I'm NOT talking about the acting or direction ;) ). There's lots of gore as well as a fair amount of nudity and a lot of ridiculous things that have absolutely no reason to be there. So many moments that have me in hysterics. Great movie to watch with a drunk crowd!
AM: I fianlly forced myself to sit through Cannibal Holocaust a couple of years ago, though I think around minute three of the "turtle gore" sequence I hit "fast forward," because I was both disgusted and really kind of bored by the "look, it's guts" level of filmmaking. I am not a fan, would watch Cannibal Ferox over it any ol' day. But should I give the film another chance? By the way, Eli Roth is out there on video talking about the "impalement girl" and implying that it can't possibly be fake, the way that Deodato claimed. And it doesn't look fake to me. That looks like one dead person impaled on a stake. Do you buy the bicycle seat story?

SB: I totally believe it! Some of the best effects always turn out to be the simplest. In terms of seeing it again, it depends. Some films really benefit from being seen a second time, maybe this is one of them? At this point you at least know what to expect and when to expect it which might be beneficial. Could also be fun to watch the rest of the audience squirm, I always take great joy out of that. I've seen Salo twice in theatres and found it to be a lot of fun counting the walk-outs and reactions. And I didn't really feel like that was what he was going for with the turtle scene. Stylistically I think the way it was shot was more of Deodato's background in Neo-Realism sneaking its way in. I think Cannibal Ferox is a lot of fun but Cannibal Holocaust is better made and more effective.

Jungle Holocaust might be my favorite though, its really hard to top that human barbecue. 
AM: What' are you projecting The Beyond off, out of curiosity? I've had no luck on ordering a Blu- of that, I had it on order for six months at HMV, then a new edition was announced... and then delayed.

SB: Everything is being projected off of glorious 35mm my friend. No DVDs, no Blu Rays. A rule I fully intend to stick by with my company. 
AM:  Wow! That's really putting some effort and money into the fest! So... if there was someone out there with a non-horror geek girlfriend, who would never make it through Cannibal Holocaust, say, what's the "safest" night to come out? (Or is the answer, none of them?).

SB: Either of the Duke Mitchell films should be pretty safe, and probably Trailer Apocalypse. That one in particular is going to be a lot of fun! So I guess the answer is the second night if you left before Pieces... but even that is funny enough to recommend.

AM: Out of curiosity, what's on your most-coveted list of films that are not yet on Blu (or DVD?). And if you do this festival again, what are the films you'd most like to play?

SB: Well, still waiting on that Brain Damage Blu ray! That ones a bit of a thinker as I would've said Massacre Mafia Style and Suspiria, but both of those are coming this year (or have come in the case of Massacre Mafia Style). Would love for Master Of the Flying Guillotine, The Big Racket, Almost Human and Jungle Holocaust to come out as well. Some of the movies I'd like to book in Vancouver are the titles I just mentioned as well as I Spit On Your Grave, House On the Edge Of the Park, Class Of 1984, Street Trash, Cannibal Ferox, Maniac....the list could go on and on! In and ideal world I'd love to get a new English friendly print struck for Beyond the Darkness by Joe D'Amato. I tried to find one for this years festival with no luck. It seems like a stretch to do but crazier things have happened! Never say never!

I have a lot of ideas floating through my mind and some exciting events already being planned. Keep an eye out because Northwest Nightmares Entertainment will be coming full force...
Northwest Horror show kicks off at the Vancity Theatre March 20th with a screening of Italian self-reflexive horror classic Demons. See you there!

More to come re: Todd Serious

I spent part of the weekend listening to my last interview with Todd, spent today wearing a Rebel Spell t-shirt (I know the band prefers a "the" in front of their name but it screws it up as an adjective!). I was in Maple Ridge, so there was only one person I ran across who recognized the shirt, and we talked a bit. He saw them at Adstock last summer, thought they were great, and yes, he'd heard the news. There's lots more to be said but it will have to wait. I haven't really been sending out a lot of condolences but his band, his family, those closer to him than I all get my heartfelt... something-or-other. I have no real idea how to express it. The reality that he's gone seems to be sneaking into my brain a fraction at a time; mostly I'm still just stunned.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Ryszard Bugajski mini-interview re: Clearcut

Ryszard Bugajski had been told, after the Polish censors reviewed his film The Interrogation - made during the early 1980's, while the Solidarity movement was keeping the authorities distracted - that, short of becoming a government informer, he would never be allowed to make a movie in Poland again. Though this turned out not to be true - he would eventually repatriate to Poland, and continue making films there - these circumstances ended up being to the benefit of Canadian cinema, since he made one of the most remarkable, provocative political thrillers ever to be directed in Canada, after he relocated here. That film, Clearcut, screens tonight at the Vancity Theatre. Here are some excerpts from my interview with him, for those interested in coming to tonight's screening. Mr. Bugajski and I spoke on the phone in late 2013, on a long distance call to Poland. 
AM: Was it difficult to relocate to Canada?

RB: It depends what angle you want to look at it from. At the time it was difficult to go abroad, because when martial law was introduced in 1981, me and my wife, we had wanted to go abroad for awhile. But we were not allowed to - we didn’t have a passport. Of course, we could have emigrated right away, if we wanted, but my wife didn’t want to emigrate. So we waited a few years before we decided to leave Poland forever, permanently. And then the security police agreed to let us go – and so we did. From this perspective, it was not of course easy, but on the other hand they encouraged us to go. It was also difficult from the Canadian side – like, coming to Canada, and being for the first time in North America for me, it’s another story...

AM: It’s a story I’d be interested in!

RB: First of all, we may ask why I chose Canada Рand not the US. And it was just by some coincidence, because in Warsaw I knew the American cultural attach̩ at the American embassy, and he discouraged us from going to the US. We had a two year old son, and he said we would not be able to get help, that it would be very difficult for me to get a job or an apartment, how would I support my family, and on the other hand, I would be applying for an immigration visa and it can take a very long time before they answer, and the answer, of course, could be negative. And then for a long time I would not be able to go to America at all. But he said, I have a friend in the Canadian embassy and he said, there is a special program for political refugees. And he said that you can apply there, and I did, and I got a Canadian Visa in two hours! And we decided to go to Toronto. I had never been to Toronto. I knew a lot of people in New York РI had many friends who had been to New York, but Toronto was a completely unknown territory. So I first flew to New York on my own and I spent about a month in New York, making contacts in Canada. Some friends gave me addresses and phone numbers and gave advice Рwhat to do, where to go first, and so on. And at that time I went to Toronto, rented an apartment, and then my wife arrived from Poland with my son. So we started everything from scratch.

AM: How was your English?

RB: It was quite good, I think. It wasn't perfect - it's never been perfect - but it was sufficient to communicate and to be understood, so it was not a problem.

AM: Were you subject to any degree of culture shock?

RB: No, you know - the US, generally, in Poland, has a special place. First of all, we know American literature quite well - old stuff, Steinbeck and Hemingway and other things, but I also read Jack Kerouac as well. So I knew American culture theoretically, just from books and the movies. For example, when I was a student of the film school, it was 1969, my first year, and the American ambassador to Poland brought Midnight Cowboy. It was not released in Europe yet - it had already been shown in America, maybe it had already gotten an Oscar. But it was a completely unknown film here, and we were so shocked by this picture - not only how New York looks, that there are poor people, poverty and drugs addicts and stuff like that, but that the American ambassador actually brought a film that shows a negative picture of America to a communist country. We thought America must be a wonderful place, that films that Americans make about themselves can be shown anywhere and Americans are not ashamed of that. It was just the opposite here in Poland, where the image of Poland and how Poland was perceived abroad were still touchy subjects. They would never actually show a negative film about Poland abroad. 
AM: On that topic - it's leaping ahead a bit, but your two most recent Polish films, General Nil and The Closed Circuit, both are quite critical of the Polish government. Were they subject to any sort of censorship?

RB: Well, censorship as an institution does not exist here, it was abolished in 1989. It was changed after the free elections in Poland. But there are other forms of pressure - for example, General Nil is a true story of a Polish general and war hero and so on, and his daughter was still alive when I was making the film. And she tried to pressure the producer of the film, saying that she didn't like my previous films for some political reasons I would assume - I never found out exactly what she didn't like about me. But she was a pious Catholic woman, y'know, and I'm openly anti-church, I'm an atheist and I'm not hiding it anywhere, and probably she had read about it and she didn't want me to direct this film. She wrote letters to many places, the minister of culture and so on, and the producer got really scared and said he must actually accept some of her demands because there could be a court injunction, they could stop the movie in production, and it would be a catastrophe for him, a financial catastrophe. It's too complicated to tell you the whole story right now, but it was actually a turning point in this production. But I made a compromise - I actually accepted some of the pressure, because otherwise I would have blown the film out completely. There would be no movie. And another form of pressure was here with the latest film, The Closed Circuit, but of a different kind. Because when we applied to the body which is called the Polish film institute, they give perhaps 50% of the total budget for feature productions, and there was no reason why they wouldn't do it in this case, because there were some good reviews from the same institute. People read it (the screenplay) and they had a positive reaction. But they nevertheless turned it down, and it was difficult to figure out why, what happened...
AM: You mentioned that you were surprised to hear that Graham Greene has said that Clearcut is his favourite of the films he's done - that he wasn't very happy with the experience of making it. Can we talk about that?

RB: It's not a secret - people noticed that. When I was in Toronto [in 2013], I met with Ron Lea, the guy who plays the lawyer, when he quite incidentally came to see my film The Closed Circuit. [The composer of the film's music,] Shane Harvey" [who also scored Clearcut] invited him, and it was a nice meeting after so many years. He was quite surprised to hear about the development that Graham has changed his story. I checked with Ron if he knew what had happened, and he didn't! I remember being in this hotel - a comfortable hotel - in Thunder Bay, where the production office was set. We were sitting on a room with the windows facing a forest, and I was speaking with the actors, telling them what I expect from them and how I direct actors. I asked them to imagine an actor playing something, some feeling, saying that he loves a woman, say, and he makes a proposition to her, but on the other hand he looks outside the window and he sees a naked man running through a meadow. And yet he is into this confession, so he doesn't change his story, but what he's seeing is changing the way he says 'I love you.' I explained all this to the actors, and then we started reading the script, and at one point Graham is reading his part, his lines, and he says something about the mill manager - and then he says, 'oh, I'm seeing a naked man!' And I said, 'whoa, Graham, it's not that you have to say this, what I meant was, you see him and you react to him but you don't say that.' And he says, 'no, but I see a naked man.' And we looked out the window, and there really was a naked man running from the hotel into the forest. And he was so stunned, completely. And Graham said to me, 'Ryszard, you are a magician, you made it all up - you conjured him!' And he started respecting me very much - he treated me like a sorcerer, like a man who does magic.
AM: But it didn't last?

RB: It passed after two or three weeks. It changed completely to the opposite, you know, like he started criticizing my way of shooting, like I started shooting a scene from the last set up, for example, someone enters the room and then exits the room, so I shot those two things together, which is logical, you always do it. And he said, no, you have to do it one-by-one in a chronological order, and we had an argument about that. Once the film opened, I don't exactly remember, but he gave an interview and said it was bad work, the film is bad - something like that.

AM: I'm glad he's come around. I think it's the best thing he's done, the strongest thing. I was discussing this with Tom Charity, and the adjective that came up in regard to his performance was, "indelible."

RB: His personality is very important, because he's a guy that - you don't really know who he is. On the one hand, he smiles, and he's a nice Native man - but the smile changes into some vicious grin, and he becomes very menacing, a very dangerous kind of guy. And Graham realized that, he knows that - he's an intelligent guy, I think - and he was very good at using this switching between a docile nice guy into a monster, someone who is ruthless and cruel. I think now he created he created a great character!

AM: How did it feel to revisit the film again? (When we spoke, Bugajski had recently reviewed the movie, in preparing a broadcast master for German TV).

RB: I was actually quite satisfied with the results, I think, because it has some spiritual elements, which I never did anywhere else. All my films are realistic, you know; none of them touch on this magical and spiritual side. The next film I'm preparing right now, for the first time since Clearcut, is actually touching on this metaphysical side of life, so it resonates. There are some similarities between them. It's a Bergmanesque story of a woman, who was a real person who lived in Poland, a very high officer of security in the 1950's. She was considered a very important and very cruel person. She was Jewish, by the way - she came from a middleclass, secular Jewish family - and of course a communist. And towards the end of her life, at 60, she converted to Catholicism. She got baptised and died Catholic. And the story of my film is actually about the process of becoming Catholic, becoming a believer, which is all the more interesting to me, because I'm a non-believer, myself.
That's all I have time to transcribe, folks (and I have no idea about the status of Bugajski's current project, for the record). I'll be at the Vancity Theatre tonight to introduce Clearcut - a remarkable, seldom-seen film. Read Adrian Mack on the screening here (a trailer for the film is included!). And don't miss the chance to come out; you may never get another to see this film on the big screen! 

Monday, March 09, 2015

RIP Toss Serious

It's nothing but a coincidence, but it still has an unsettling effect to learn that Todd Serious, singer for The Rebel Spell - easily my favourite current punk band, maybe barring a couple of old timers - died on my birthday, March 7th, while rock climbing in Nevada. My girlfriend and I would have been watching TV (maybe curling) or maybe a movie, visiting my Mom in Maple Ridge, when he fell. I wrote an obit for him here. I didn't really count him as a friend, but he was one of my favourite people to interview, and I have lots and lots of unused material from talking with him, so I might do something else, as time permits, with some of that material. RIP Todd Serious - you will be missed.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Movies, movies: upcoming must-see films at the Vancity Theatre and the Cinematheque

Okay, so natch, I'm hosting Clearcut at the Vancity on Tuesday. Those unclear on my enthusiasm for that film are directed here. It's a great film, really smart and provocative (though a bit nasty at times, and maybe - mayyybe - kinda politically irresponsible; a certain Lakota who had a big impact on my life thought so, thought it was really bad press for First Nations peoples; there's some truth to the observation, though I love the film no less) See it while you can, folks: this doesn't screen often, is a nearly lost gem (though you can see a wayyy shitty presentation of it on Youtube, in the wrong aspect ratio, with stretched images and washed out colours, if you want).

Also at the Vancity in the very near future, the utterly fantastic family-oriented documentary All The Time in the World plays as part of the Women in Film festival this Sunday. It's a must-see for neoluddites everywhere and a surprisingly fun film, blogged a VIFF review of it here.

David Matychuk assures me that the Polish film Ida is a great film and that it has amazing black and white cinematography. I will see it based on that! Two oddly timed afternoon screenings in the next week make it perfect for a dude who works til noon.

There's a whole series of environmentally-themed films as part of the Sea Shepherd Presents. Alexandra Morton, featured in The Pristine Coast, is a pretty interesting person; I admired Salmon Confidential a lot, for her outspoken criticisms of government attitudes towards fish farming and the Harper regime's muzzling of scientists. It's interesting to note that she worked with John Lilly with dolphins some years ago. I'd love to know more about that time in her life, and how her experiences there inform her work with salmon.

I wonder if Wrenched will touch on the ridiculous/ unfair lawsuit against Kelly Reichardt's (underrated, essential) Night Moves? I doubt it.

Also, three of the most interesting new horror films I saw last year - The Babadook, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, and It Follows - are going to play. I'm told the last film in the list was inspired by the same source material as Night/ Curse of the Demon - you know, this guy!:
And speaking of horror movies, there's the Northwest Horror Show, which has some essential horror viewing for horror geeks. I'm really fond of Frank Henenlotter's anti-drug allegory Brain Damage, which I was turned onto while high by a pot grower I knew back in my youth. You gotta love anti-drug movies that drug people gotta love. Darkly funny, in that Henenlotter kinda way. Having totally loved, to my surprise, Umberto Lenzi's Cannibal Ferox, I'm also very curious about his Nightmare City - a divisive zombie film if there ever was one, it seems to either inspire hate or love in those who have seen it. And speaking of Italians, I've been really wanting to see The Beyond again for sometime (see image below). And the proximity of Eli Roth's The Green Inferno might actually drag me out to see a proper presentation of Cannibal Holocaust - a film I thought repugnant and weirdly overrated when I had the sad misfortune of watching it on a shitty, censored Korean DVD, but which maybe I should see one more time. Haven't seen these other films - Duke Mitchell? Who? - but I might do something else on them, watch this space.
Oh, and while it's not a horror movie, there's also Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter. This is about the Fargo woman, right? It sounds like a must see, too.

I have less to say about upcoming Cinematheque fare but the series of BC movies, The Image Before Us, has several must-see films, a few of which I've already missed (boo). I might check out Blockade on Monday, since it's so apropos. And both On The Corner and Dirty are essential viewing if you care about Vancouver cinema. More on Dirty later! Those with an interest in psychedelics should see the Oliver Hockenhull documentary on the same if they haven't. And I liked the one Alexei Gherman film I managed to see a few years ago, and am very curious about Hard to Be a God. I think I'll leave my girlfriend home for that one, because I can see her needling me for falling asleep during it (which I will possibly do; arthouse cinema tends to make me nap briefly before my brain kicks in, these days, what can I say?). But this sounds like too powerful a film to miss. (That's where the still at the top of this blogpost came from).

The Smilin' Buddha returns. And DOA plays there on Saturday!

I walked by the Smilin' Buddha the other day. It's re-opened, minus its famous neon sign (which is in a museum somewhere, like that's a better place for it), at 109 East Hastings. It was a pretty interesting walk to get there: I braved the open air "street market of the disenfranchised" that is East Hastings, where people have pretty much any easy saleable you can imagine spread out on the sidewalk, from boxes of Betty Crocker cake mix to crack pipes (which, I should note, I didn't actually see but heard people talking about: "do you wanna buy a crack pipe?"). Jewellery, cellphones, clothing: I kept a vigilant eye for my Bison Quiet Earth shirt, stolen from me at Funky's while Auroch played a few years ago, but in the end I found only one thing I wanted, a Fort Apache The Bronx DVD for $1.50. It is possible that the walk soured my day, because I was kind of bummed about life for most of the night, which has not been my usual state in the last few weeks. It's a depressing area to be in.

But I'll go to Bev's show there, opening Friday... and hey, the doorway of the new Buddha looks cool! DOA plays there on Saturday in a new lineup, too, but - jeezus, it says something that I'm sad to see that Dan Yaremko is no longer in the band. It's like... miss Rampage, sure, but...

Happy still-being-alive day to Matt Clark!

Some guy named Mick Clark died and I keep mis-reading the Wikipedia obits page and thinking that Matt Clark died. I always, always liked Matt Clark - he's one of a long list of character actors that only improves the movies he appears in. Is he still even alive, though?

Guess what?  And he was in a Million Ways To Die in the West, just last year, which I'd had no plans to see, and now must. MATT CLARK IS STILL ALIVE AND WORKING! That's a nice thing to discover.

So I'd like, on my 47th birthday, to wish Matt Clark a happy still-being-alive day. I'm glad to know you're out there, still, Matt! (He celebrated his 78th birthday on November 25th). Someone should make a movie with Matt Clark, Harry Dean Stantion, and M. Emmett Walsh while they're all still with us.

Also, this:

Thank you, David M.! (He's the secret musical guest on Tuesday. Shh.)

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Of Crazy 8's

Okay, now I really don't understand Vancouver film culture.

I've been at many fantastic and unusual film screenings where only a pittance of people turned up, finding myself sitting in audiences of four or five cinemagoers, watching fantastic movies in a more-or-less empty house. This has happened far too often.

I've found myself having to explain to people even in the last year where the Vancity Theatre is, what it is, and why people should go see movies there. (In fairness, at this point, the people who still do not know that cinema probably don't know where the Cinematheque is, either).

I've seen many sold-out screenings at the Vancity and the Cinematheque, mind you, but I haven't always understood why people turn out in droves for one movie - some topical documentary, say - while passing on fresher and more inventive cinema. It seems like Vancouver attendees are by-and-large middlebrow middleclass types, who like socially-self-important cinema that flatters their moral perspectives, rather than, say, challenging, critiquing, or confusing them. One of the words I would never use to describe the majority of film audiences in this town is adventuresome.

Then I go to the Crazy 8's gala - because my girlfriend and her coworkers are all going, to show support for one of them who worked on a film in the event, and because I've never gone and am curious. The idea is simple - beginning filmmakers compete to win a small prize and work with a production team, to complete a short movie in 8 days. When Erika first mentioned it, I got it confused with an event that, as I recall, used to go down at VIVO, where a couple of dozen experimental filmmakers would turn out to show each other Super 8 films. I remember Alex MacKenzie competing in one such event.  I think I went to one once.

Okay, sure, I'll go to that.

But no. Crazy 8's is NOT an experimental film competition. If anyone in the competition knew the work of Stan Brakhage, say, it was in no way apparent. Judging by last night's films - six of them played - it's a competition of narrative film. Some are playful and subversive in some ways (the amusing queer Cinderella film The Twisted Slipper, say). Some are shot by people who probably have a future in narrative cinema, if the skill of their assembly is any indication (like One Last Ride). A few of them have notable actors attached, like Cameron Bright in Outside the Lines - a film that could have been developed into something bigger, that was more interesting than its short form could do justice to. And one of them was a perfect, funny, delightful experience unto itself - The Wolf Who Came to Dinner. All in all, it was an entertaining presentation of six polished but more or less student-level films.

1700 people came to it. Granted, there was an afterparty with a chocolate fountain and a performance by No Sinner, a fine Vancouver band whose lead singer Colleen Rennison appeared in one of the movies (One Last Ride). One of the two hosts, Diana Bang, was a very visible presence in The Interview, as well. There were opportunities to schmooze, to dress up, and to celebrate the ambitions of your friends and colleagues, all of which are good things; and the films were fun to watch - even the ones I have neglected to link above.

However: 1700 people? This makes it the single best-attended film event I have been to in Vancouver  (or anywhere!) in my life. For short films by relative unknowns! It's great, it's great, it's a good event,  and I had a good time. And the $30 was worth it if  you include the band and the free chocolate. But in all honesty folks, I don't get it. 1700 people? ...Somebody explain this to me?

Shearing Pinx for Xtra

I've really been getting into Shearing Pinx' new album People. I don't think it was JUST that a certain local cab driver who loves them so finally convinced me to really try to do them justice - I mean, I've seen them live more than once, have spun a few of their albums all the way through, even had Rituals on my phone for awhile in recent memory. Said cabbie might have played a smidgen of an influence, but part of why I like this new album so much also might be that I got to talk to them for Xtra,  because sometimes having a band explain themselves to you can really help you understand them in a new way (I was never that big a fan of A Minute To Pray, A Second to Die until I got to talk to Chris D. about it, for instance; I had always considered it a somewhat anomalous/ oddball album in the Flesheaters' catalogue, preferring No Questions Asked, A Hard Road to Follow, and Forever Came Today... but now I get it, truly!). In fact, I don't think it's a mere shift in my perceptions that makes me like this LP so much; I actually think People is one of ShPx's stronger albums - that they've produced a really hooky, passionate/ smouldering/ adventurous masterwork this time out. Check out their bandcamp here - though it doesn't actually appear to have People for offer... maybe I'm just looking in the wrong place?