Wednesday, March 4, 2015
an interview with mary timony around the release of helium's 1997 LP 'the magic city.'
mary timony was born in october, 1970, in washington, DC, where she grew up down the street from ian mackaye's family. she's played guitar and sang in groups like autoclave, helium, wild flag, and--currently--ex hex, in addition to several solo release and other projects.
she first got into punk rock from a rites of spring/beefeater show she attended when she was 15. in addition to this, she's pretty much a guitar prodigy. just watch the videos and listen. she slays.
autoclave was started by timony and christina billotte, along with nikki chapman and melissa berkoff. they released two EPs, the first being a 7" collboration between K and dischord (under the moniker disKord records), and the second being released on billotte's label mira, with dischord distributing.
i'll take you down.
because timony was attending college at boston university (where she majored in english lit), autoclave shows were infrequent, and the band broke up after doing a weeklong tour with fugazi. billotte went on to play in DC post-punks slant 6, while timony took over mary lou lord's position in a new group called helium.
after a couple lineup changes, helium's lineup solidifed as timony on vocals and guitar, shawn king devlin on drums and polvo guitarist ash bowie on bass. their first releases were the 7" singles 'american jean' and 'hole in the ground' (b/w 'lucy').
the american jean.
in 1994, helium released the 'pirate prude' EP on matador records, for whom they would record until their breakup.
i'll get you, i mean it.
in 1995, they released 'the dirt of luck' LP, which gained some radio play. around this time, timony began to suffer from depression.
beavis and butt-head watch the video for 'pat's trick.'
three singles were released from TDOL: 'pat's trick,' 'superball,' and 'honeycomb.' they all recieved airplay on MTV's '120 minutes,' but not a lot happened in terms of huge record sales.
in 1995, there was also an EP released, featuring 'superball' and additional songs. 1996 saw the release of the 'no guitars' EP, produced by mitch easter (REM, pavement, pylon, etc), who would also produce their final album, 'the magic city.'
as mentioned above, mitch easter produced the sessions for 'the magic city' (named after the famous strip club in atlanta where some say twerking was invented, if that seems significant to anyone).
leon's space song.
'I still feel like that when I walk into music stores sometimes, so I tend to just go places where I know people. If I ever go to a repair shop where there's an old guy I don't know, it's possible that they could be condescending. I know as a young woman in my 20s, I definitely noticed that people were like, Oh, she's just a singer, she doesn't know how to play guitar. They're shocked that you know how to play guitar; that's weird. Now, at my age, I don't know; if anyone made a judgment about me, I wouldn't really care. It's not my problem. Also, it's really different in rock music now. I think in the '90s when I was playing in bands, there were less girls; it was much more like you were a female car mechanic or something. It was weird, especially coming from the hardcore scene, which was all men. I grew up in D.C. in the '80s hardcore scene, and it was pretty much all guys' bands.'
from an interview with NY mag, on the subject of being a female guitarist.
lady of the fire.
in 1999, timony teamed up with carrie brownsein of sleater kinney, and they released an EP, 'the age of backwards,' under the name the spells, for calvin johnson's international pop underground series on K records. they would team up again in 2008 to release another EP (digitally this time, via brownstein's 'monitor mix' blog for NPR), 'bat vs. bird.'
the age of backwards.
bat vs. bird
after helium split, timony found herself alone and broke in boston. she had dated ash bowie for a time while helium were doing their thing, but that ended. she was depressed again, probably even moreso than during the helium time, and used her two solo records released during this time, 'mountains' and 'the golden dove' to address and work through her feelings.
i fire myself.
the valley of one thousand perfumes.
in 2005, she teamed up with devin ocampo, formerly of DC math group faraquet, to record and release 'the ex hex' for lookout! records, as well as contributing to deftones singer chino moreno's side project team sleep, performing vocals on the tracks 'the tomb of ligeia' and 'king diamond.'
return to pirates.
in 2007, kill rock stars released 'the shapes we make,' by the mary timony band.
here is a video of a group mary was in with jonah takagi, TJ lipple and winston h. yu, called the soft power (though the group was called pow wow before lipple joined) working on an unreleased album.
in 2010, wild flag was announced. wild flag were something of an indie supergroup, containing timony alongside carrie brownstein and janet weiss of sleater-kinney (janet also plays in quasi and used to drum with elliott smith, among loads of other stuff) and rebecca cole of the minders. wild flag released one single and one LP for merge records before quietly calling it quits.
something came over me.
here is a really rad video of wild flag covering 'judy is a punk' and 'see no evil.'
after wild flag, there is now ex hex, consisting of mary, laura harris on drums and betsy wright on bass and vocals, who have also released one single and one album for merge (the single being the LP track 'hot and cold'; the album is called 'ex hex rips' and it's totally true). they are currently on tour everywhere (except las vegas, for which i am super heartbroken). instead of trying to describe their sound (but think garage-y power pop, i guess?), here are more videos that will give you a good idea what they sound like...
hot and cold.
don't wanna lose.
here is a full performance they tracked for KEXP in seattle.
mary timony on twitter.
p.s. Hey. Today, one of our local maestros, the inimitable Rewritedept, draws your attention to the history of the musical stylings of '90s/'00s rock god Mary Timony, and you will have fun combined with some degree of enlightenment, I'm positive, so please prove me right, if you can, thank you! And thanks a bunch, R! Also, note: Last night my glasses broke in half, and, at the moment, they are scotch taped together and balanced precariously on the bridge of my nose, and I'm doing this p.s. while looking through a film of tape, and that might affect the p.s. in some way, so, warning, I guess. ** Earl&Nadine, Hi! Welcome! You have such a cool name. Thank you a lot. I like that word robust, and I will wear it like a buttoner. Please come back any old time. ** Bacteriaburger, Hi, Natty! Really, really nice to see you, pal! You good and hopefully far more than good? 'Holy Motors' is something you should see, I think, yes. Best of the best to you! ** DavidEhrenstein, I second your 'he most certainly does.' ** Tosh Berman, Hi, Tosh! Lavant is kind of always great. I highly recommend his other Carax films, and he's wonderful in the wonderful 'Mr. Lonely'. Thank you! ** Sypha, Hi. Oh, wow, I think you might be right about the Johnson thing in 'SiH'. Weird. 'Angels' is really good, yeah. I forgot about that one. Enjoy the crush, man. Gender's just a word. And pursue, if your heart and other organs deem that right. ** Keaton, Hi. Interesting. Facials are so symbolic. In art, I find symbolism kind of duh or something, but, in sex, it can be meta. Strange, that. You kind of like the band Tesla? Wow. I think I kind of don't. Based on the MTV hits. I think maybe the singer had really good hair though? Whoa, new, partially XXX thing by you! Everyone, Keaton has taken full advantage of Blogger's policy reversal move by building a particularly hot or at least 'hot' Emo-like post on his space with his usually mastery, so go get wowed, titillated, or whatever else by '50 Shades of Cray Cray'. ** Kier, Hi! Dennhibition's awesome. How do you do that? Will Patton, cool. Someone talked about him here just the other week. How interesting. No luck on the apartment thing yet. It's tricky. I found a few possibilities online, but they were taken by the time I queried. Now I found another few, and I'll try to jump on them. Ugh. Nice days you had, both of them. Yesterday ... Some online apartment searching. Then ... oh, Zac's mom is in town, and she's likes chocolate, so I went out to try to find her a special chocolate as a gift. My first attempt was this crazy looking thing that I had seen a photo of online. So I bought it, and, luckily, I bought a second one to taste because I didn't understand all the listed ingredients. So, I stepped outside the patisserie and bit into the extra one, and it tasted unbelievably awful. I had to spit it out. I went back inside and asked them what was in it, and they said 'crab meat'. It must have seemed like a great idea to the chef, but it was a disaster. So I searched further and just ended up buying her a more normal chocolate. Zac was still working on the tech of the promo reel yesterday, 'cos it turned out to be more complicated than we thought, so he did that, and we didn't work on the sound correction yet. I worked on the new theater piece script instead, and it's almost finished. I mostly did that. Then, fuck, in the evening, my reading glasses just suddenly broke in half! It was a horror. I tried fixing them with Super Glue, and it didn't work at all, so now they're scotch taped together and weird looking and barely work, so I have to get new glasses today, sucks. That (trying to fix the glasses) is pretty much what I did all evening until bedtime. How did today work out for you? ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi. Good, good, about the move. And awesome about the DJing gig. Maripol, wow. It's a show of her jewelry, or ... ? ** Misanthrope, Hi, G. Me, kind, why? I mean thank you! You too. Thanks for the envy. I think it's safe to say on this late date that Paris is past snow's expiration date. ** Thomas Moronic, It sure is, man. Good morning! ** Right. I will go try to find an optometrist place now, and you guys bask in Mary Timony, okay? And talk about your basking to Rewritedept maybe, okay? See you (hopefully not through a film of tape) tomorrow.
Posted by Dennis Cooper at 12:01 AM
Tuesday, March 3, 2015
'One of the great performers in cinema in the past 30 years, the acrobatic, elastic, kinetic Denis Lavant has defined some of the best films from the world's best filmmakers. Appropriately associated with the films of Leos Carax, in which he has appeared in 4 of 5 features (as well as a short), and one of the greatest endings in movies, the dance sequence of Claire Denis' Beau travail, the stage and film actor is something of an idol of cinephiles, almost exclusively lending his talent to auteurs.
'Lavant was born in Neuilly-sur-Seine, Hauts-de-Seine, in France. At 13, he took courses in pantomime and the circus, fascinated by Marcel Marceau. He trained at the Paris Conservatoire under Jacques Lassalle, and began his professional career in 1982 in theatre, acting in Shakespeare's Hamlet and The Merchant of Venice. In 1982 he appeared in the television film L'Ombre sur la plage, before playing the minor part of Montparnasse in Robert Hossein's Les Misérables, which was entered into the 13th Moscow International Film Festival where it won a Special Prize.
'Lavant appeared in several further minor roles, most notably in Patrice Chereau's early, defining 1983 film L'homme blesse, before making his breakthrough in 1984 as the lead in Boy Meets Girl, playing a depressed, aspiring filmmaker who falls in love with a suicidal young woman. The film marked the directorial debut of Leos Carax, with whose films Lavant has been associated ever since.
'In 1986, Lavant and Carax worked together again on the thriller Mauvais Sang and again in 1991 on Carax's third film, the legendarily disastrous yet increasingly respected Les Amants du Pont-Neuf. In both Mauvais Sang and Les Amants du Pont-Neuf, Lavant starred opposite Juliette Binoche. In 1998, Lavant appeared in the iconic Jonathan Glazer-directed video for the UNKLE song Rabbit in Your Headlights, and in 1999, he played one of the lead roles in Beau Travail, directed by Claire Denis. His famously intense, strange dance at the film's conclusion to the old disco hit "Rhythm of the Night" is considered one of the defining moments of '90s film.
'In 2007, Lavant appeared in Harmony Korine's Mister Lonely, in which he portrayed a Charlie Chaplin impersonator. Lavant, who does not speak English, took an intensive language course in preparation and learned his lines phonetically. His longtime associate Leos Carax appears in a supporting role as the main character's talent agent.
'After appearing in a series of interesting but mixed achievement films, including Camping savage (Wild Camp), a stylish French revision of the slasher movie template, and Jean-Pierre Jeunet's commercially successful A Very Long Engagement, Lavant and Carax re-united in 2008 for the anthology film Tokyo!, which marked their first work together since Lovers on the Bridge and Carax's first major directing work in nearly a decade. Carax's segment for the film, called Merde, starred Lavant as a violent monster who lives in the sewers of Tokyo and speaks in a gibberish language, venturing out occasionally to attack passersby.
'In 2012 Lavant starred in Leos Carax' brilliant film Holy Motors where he plays a "chameleonic actor on assignment, ferried around Paris in a white limousine and changing en route from beggar-woman to satyr to assassin to victim." The film was nominated for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, and it won both Carax and Lavant numerous prizes internationally.' -- collaged
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LE DUENDE AU CORPS: un portrait de Denis Lavant
What about your first meeting with the director Harmony Korine, how did it happen? It is said that when he wrote the character of Charlie Chaplin, he was just thinking about you to interpret this character, is that true that he wrote this character especially for you?
Denis Lavant: Yes, absolutely. I actually learnt that some time after we’d first met. I was very impressed to hear that, because I know that Harmony Korine wanted to meet me because he saw me in the films I made with Leos Carax. It means that he met Leos Carax, he saw his movies, or at least the three in which I played. And so I think that’s why he wanted to meet me and give me the role of Charlie Chaplin’s impersonator.
You don’t speak English, do you? Did this create difficulties for you during the shooting?
DL: Yes, it was quite awful for me. When I met Harmony Korine, I found him very sympathetic, but we actually barely communicated at first time, or we always needed the help of an interpret. I’d never wanted to learn English because I found this language kind of commercial and I didn’t find any interests in learning it.
And now that you have been confronted with these language difficulties, is there still no interest in speaking English?
DL: Not really, sometimes maybe. But I am, above all, a theatre artist, so the first language I am used to speaking is French. What I can say is that playing in English with English actors was, for me, the target of this film, especially during some of the trickiest scenes, for example when I had to speak while playing table tennis. I actually had to attend an intensive English course prior to the shooting.
What was your first reaction when you first read the screenplay? Did you accept this role immediately?
DL: Yes, immediately. I know the film can appear a bit strange and difficult to follow and to find its meaning, but it was what I liked in it. I love the fantasy in this film. For me, this film is about the dignity of the human identity, the search of people for their identity. This film show how the character of Michael Jackson’s impersonator decide to go to this community to search his identity. That’s why I was very impressed when I first read the screenplay: How something that appeared to be just full of fantasy and disorganised, actually broadcast beautiful and strong ideas.
Mister Lonely is also a dark film, quite pessimistic. Did you feel any loneliness during the shooting?
DL: Yes it is a pessimistic film. But I didn’t feel lonely. It was even one of the films during the shooting of which I felt the least loneliness. The atmosphere during the shooting was indeed really warm, first because the actors were all very nice, and also because we were disguised all day like insane people (laughs).
In one scene, your character’s wife, Marylyn Monroe’s impersonator, tells you that sometimes you looks more like Hitler than like Charlie Chaplin. What do you think? Did you play more Hitler or Charlie Chaplin?
DL: I actually felt like I played a character. I started with looking at myself, to find what I had in common with the comic character invented by Charlie Chaplin, not Charlie Chaplin himself. I found in him some similarities with my face, my physic, and also with my ability to play acrobatics and pantomimes. And then, I also appreciated the character of Chaplin, the spoiling of his image or its exaggeration. The way it was also a caricature in life and how awful he became. That’s why Marilyn says that to him. But what is surprising too is that, when I was preparing for my role, I also used the DVD of The Dictator in which there is a documentary showing a parallel between Hitler’s rise, his access to power and Charlie Chaplin’s carrer. And it showed how the character of Charlie Chaplin, who was wicked in his first comic films became more humanist. And how Hitler also built his character, with his moustache and the way how all his public appearances were directed. He was also kind of an actor. Except that, in Hitler’s case, it became a craziness because there was no more separation between the human being and the representation. On the contrary, Charlie Chaplin had this cleverness to show that his character was a character and when he got rid of his moustache, he was a normal human being, a director and an actor.
But your character is also quite sensitive and he sure love his wife, we can even see him cry. Maybe he is not as devil as we all think?
DL: Maybe he loves her, but still. For me he portrays the human craziness. He could be called a ‘narcissistic pervert’ (strong laugh). He actually could be both sincere and awful. And what is interesting is that all human beings are quite like that. I mean, there is no pure gentleness and pure badness, everyone is situated between those to extreme points. And my character is closer to the awfulness, he likes making the other suffer. He is also very jealous.
Are you a ‘narcissistic pervert’?
DL: I hope not (laugh). But I think that everyone has impulses, that fortunately he doesn’t develop. Everyone can be schizophrenic or paranoid or a narcissistic pervert. And as an actor, I can appreciate that very well (laugh).
Director Harmony Korine said you are one of his favourite actors with Buster Keaton, Humphrey Bogart and James Dean. What do you think of being compared with such actors?
DL: The three of them, it’s a lot! (laugh). I really appreciate Buster Keaton because he was above all a burlesque actor, such as Chaplin, and I was really inspired by them. I admire them a lot. I also started by playing without speech, that’s why I feel really close to them. I started only later to work on theatre texts.
You have played in lots of theatre pieces. Did this film, with the show of the impersonators and their fancy dress, remind you of the theatre?
DL: Yes absolutely. This film was a great show. And, as for me, I am above all a theatre actor, so I really enjoyed it. I play for the cinema quite rarely and have an important role in a big film only every two or three years.
It is said a lot that you are a ‘physical’ actor, an actor that plays a lot with his body. Is that true?
DL: That’s true. I agree with that, but in the same time, as an actor, I think that an actor has always to be physical, when he plays for the theatre as well as for the cinema. It is part of the mise-en-scene, of the play, an actor can be either physically restrained or exteriorise a lot, it all depends on the style of each one. Maybe I am more physical than the average (laugh), but I admit it. It is part of my pleasure. I love dancing, I love all my body to play. For me, a role isn’t just a face and a voice, and the great actor that I admire are those who use their body to give a shape to their character, for example Marlon Brando, whose acting has so much style.
What could you tell us about your plans for the future?
DL: This year, I have also played in a film by director Merzak Allouache, which was a great adventure as it took place in the Sahara desert and I played a fashion photographer. What I really enjoyed is that it was a more ‘normal’ role given to me, less extreme than the one I had in Leos Carax, Claire Denis or Harmony Korine’s films. I have played a lot of extreme characters, often marginal, so it was the occasion for me to have the experience of a film dealing with a more conventional day-to-day. Apart from the films that I’ve already finished and should be soon released, I am also going to Japan to shoot my fourth film with director Leos Carax.
17 of Denis Lavant's 90 roles
Patrice Chéreau L'homme blesse (1983)
'L'Homme Blesse is a 1983 French film directed by Patrice Chéreau, and written by him and Hervé Guibert. It won the César Award for Best Writing. The film is a stark portrayal of the homosexual underground in the dark, midnight streets of Paris. The film focuses on Henri (played by Jean-Hughes Anglade, who gives a courageous and intense performance), a friendless young man whose difficulty in accepting his own homosexuality further alienates him from a world where he has been set adrift. Alone, self-exiled from his family, Henri turns to the midnight Parisian streets, where he meets Jean, (Vittorio Mezzogiorno) a tough pimp and thief. Jean initially manipulates Henri's confused vulnerability, but later, secretly drawn to him, embraces him into his clique of fellow theieves and male prostitutes. This is a difficult film to watch at times, as Henri is one of the most excessively alienated characters ever filmed. The film's conclusion is a startling denouement to a life hurtling wildly out of control.' -- collaged
Leos Carax Boy Meets Girl (1984)
'Boy Meets Girl resembles a number of other movies, sometimes coincidentally. The rich, erotically velvety black-and-white cinematography recalls Eraserhead and The Elephant Man, while the surreal one-thing-after-another-over-a-night plot evokes After Hours. The film's most explicitly reminiscent, though, of both Jean Luc-Godard and Jim Jarmusch's early work, only Carax doesn't share their self-congratulatory snobbery. Breathless and Stranger than Paradise (released the same year) revel in the coolness of not giving a damn. Carax's characters, however, assume these cool poses awkwardly and with little satisfaction, and their stumbling humanizes them and grounds the movie's endless conceits down in tangibly earthly disappointment. When Mireille (Mireille Perrier) cuts her hair short in place of a suicide attempt, she unmistakably resembles Jean Seberg, but with a far greater degree of emotional exposure: There's an explicit element of desperate compensation to this gesture that transcends name-dropping. Alex (Denis Lavant) is one of the most common variations of this youthful creature: the aspiring filmmaker who sees everything through the scrim of what could or might be a movie. Alex is also director Leos Carax's real first name, and it's pretty clear that this film, his first, was intended to represent a form of biographical exorcism. It's a try-out movie about trying out, as the text explicitly concerns a wanderer in search of emotional fulfillment, though he occasionally passes that off as looking for artistic inspiration. The self-reflexivity here is about as elaborate and alternately exhilarating and maddening as it would be in Carax's subsequent films.' -- Slant Magazine
Claude Lelouch Partir, revenir (1985)
'French film Partir, Revenir would always be remembered for its musical score.This film's solid foundation has been built around a mesmerizing musical score composed by great Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff and Michel Legrand.Those who know about French director Claude Lelouch and his "large than life" films would surely be aware of the fact that Mr.Lelouch had directed all kinds of major stars of French cinema.This phenomenon is quite visible in this film as there is something unique about unparalleled Lelouchian method of handling actors. This is one reason why players like Annie Girardot, Jean Louis Trintignant, Marie France Pisier, Michel Piccoli and Richard Anconina who are veritable stars of French cinema remain true actors when they are in a Claude Lelouch film. While making Partir, Revenir, Claude Lelouch has ensured that there should not be any hint of an impending sensationalism and suffering.This narrative device functions well in this film as it has neither tears nor trauma with which audiences generally tend to associate Holocaust/Nazi themed films.The true beauty of this film lies in its many scenes of joyful madness.' -- IMDb
Leos Carax Mauvais Sang (1986)
'Michel Piccoli stars as an aging gangster stricken by fear who ropes in a young Denis Lavant (a son of a dead cohort) to help with a heist. While staying with Piccoli, Lavant becomes drawn to Piccoli’s young mistress played by Juliette Binoche. Carax seems to pick up where Godard left off with Breathless. There’s a relentless and wild energy to the film that plays with the tropes of gangster films while also making the gangster film both absurd and beautiful. Carax jumps from the kineticism of frantic but controlled handheld camerawork to static close-ups and composed shots, and more, which makes it a whirlwind of style. Denis Lavant brings his own unique energy too. He’s always great to watch because of how he moves and here that’s put to great use, one scene in particular of him running and thrashing to Bowie’s Modern Love got me pumped ‘cause he really match’s the energy of the song. On top of everything it’s also kind of a sci-fi film with a virus that attacks those who have sex without love and other odd additions. All the little oddities and film references never really distracted from the film though, if anything they just enhanced the powerful bond between Binoche and Levant as they are so unfazed by the madness due to being consumed by each other.' -- Herzog Baby
Leos Carax Les Amants Du Pont-Neuf (1991)
'Carax capped his “Alex trilogy” with this dizzyingly romanticized valentine to l’amour fou, once again casting Juliette Binoche and Denis Lavant as the title characters, a homeless couple who set up a love nest on the bridge over the Seine. The young filmmaker received permission to film on Paris’ famous Pont-Neuf, but when that proved unfeasible, he built a replica in southern France. This combination of realism and artifice spills over to the film itself, which includes a semi-documentary sequence shot in a homeless shelter. The relationship between the lovers is by turns touching and unsettling, with Carax juxtaposing the beautiful with the sinister so as to heighten both – reminiscent of Claire Denis. This alchemy of beauty and ugliness is a key to unlocking Carax’s approach to filmmaking; it amounts more or less to a particularly cinematic worldview, one that comes to the fore in his subsequent work.' -- Harvard Film Archive
Jean-Michel Carré Visiblement je vous aime (1995)
'Des obsessions, des rites, des bizarreries, et un grand mystère : la folie. C’est à cette question que s’est intéressé le réalisateur Jean-Michel Carré en 1995, dans Visiblement je vous aime, un film à la fois beau et dérangeant incarné par Denis Lavant et par les pensionnaires du Coral, un lieu de vie situé près de Nîmes accueillant des jeunes autistes, des psychotiques mais aussi des jeunes en difficulté sociale. Le sujet du film de Jean-Michel Carré est sensible, et il nous intéresse. Car c’est précisément de la folie dont nous allons parler chaque dimanche après-midi dans « Fol été ». Une heure pour évoquer cet étrange basculement de la raison, grâce aux témoignages des patients du Centre de Jour Antonin Artaud de Reims mais aussi grâce un invité, un artiste, qui a choisi d’explorer le thème de la folie, en créant un spectacle, en écrivant un livre, ou en réalisant un film… Cette semaine, c’est Jean-Michel Carré.' -- France Inter
Claire Denis Beau Travail (1999)
'In Claire Denis’ Beau Travail (1999), the eminence of doom is almost palpable; from the foregrounded terrain of war, to the protagonist Galoup’s (Denis Lavant) exclusion from the taut brotherhood of legionnaires and his reflections on mortality, it is a text concerned with endings, limits, and the finite nature of being. Based loosely on Herman Melville’s novella Billy Budd, Beau Travail tells the story of French soldiers stationed abroad and the power struggle (both hierarchical and libidinal) between Chief Master Sergeant Galoup and his subordinate Gilles Sentain (Grégoire Colin). The geographic specificity of the legion in Djibouti, Eastern Africa places the men in a country defined as a border itself, straddling the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, and couched between the limits of Eritrea and Somalia. In this sense, the film is concerned with the finite—with the ends of things—and the formal elements substantiate the film’s refusal to succumb to a totalizing narrative, particularly that which is so often associated with war films: patriotism.' -- cléo
Veit Helmer Tuvalu (1999)
'Nearly devoid of dialogue, Tuvalu relies on the physical expressiveness of its cast to convey the story. The style of the film is reminiscent of the movies of the silent era and also of the work of Jean-Pierre Jeunet, who is known for Delicatessan, The City of Lost Children, and Amelie. The movie is mono-chromatic, having been hand-tinted in a "brighter-than-sepia-tone" and blue, and occasionally green. The result is a film that is visually striking, filled with dramatic contrasts - from open, barren landscapes to the closed, intricate spaces of a bathhouse. Production design and cinematography are exceptional. Tuvalu is one of those rare films that gives moviegoers the opportunity to see the art of the motion picture through new eyes. Inventive and engaging, it crosses boundaries and makes us want to come along for the journey. Made for less than two million dollars it, ironically, delivers more fun than most big-budget Hollywood "ride" movies. As such, Tuvalu earns my highest recommendation.' -- 24 Frames
Lionel Delplanque Deep in the Woods (2000)
'Deep in the Woods is one of several films in recent years to deconstruct the Little Red Riding Hood fairytale. Director Lionel Delplanque sets in with a stylish grip and never lets up – that is the pleasure of the film. For a time, you are not even sure what type of film Deep in the Woods is. It is only in during the last third that the film reveals itself to be a slasher film rather than a monster or werewolf story. The young cast are a standard victimology spread for a slasher film with about as much depth of characterization, although they do at least get more naked than their modern American counterparts do. Delplanque manages quite ably able to keep everything in the film in a constant state of unease. Suspicion shifts between each character – including the victims – and back with deft regard. The film is never better than during the early scenes where Delplanque creates something both superbly amusing and sinister out of Francois Berleand’s suggestive sexual advances on Vincent Lecouer. Delplanque also creates some fine scenes with cameras eerily prowling through midnight forests, some unique novelty deaths and an eerie scene where the wolf costume comes alive to attack Maud Buquet as she emerges from the shower into a bathroom that has seemingly become an entire netherworld filled with steam. Delplanque’s constant generation of stylish eerie imagery sets Deep in the Woods head and shoulders above most modern post-Scream (1996) studio-processed teen slasher fodder.' -- Moria
Jean-Pierre Jeunet A Very Long Engagement (2004)
'A Very Long Engagement has two distinctions. First, one of the five condemned men, played by Denis Lavant, is a socialist welder. Very few films have represented any working-class individuals -- even minor characters -- as socialists. Films, as well as other forms of fiction, tend to portray socialists as middle-class intellectuals and workers as indifferent to politics -- the tendency that not only erases working-class socialists from history but also harbors a condescending view of workers' intellectual capacity. A Very Long Engagement is an interesting partial exception (partial in so far as the socialist welder is represented as unable to reach his fellow workers except by joining them symbolically through an act of individual refusal). The second distinction, the more extraordinary, is that A Very Long Engagement shows a French soldier killing a French officer during an offensive. The soldier, Benoît Notre-Dame (played by Clovis Cornillac), sees the officer kicking the bodies of dead French soldiers whom the officer curses as incompetent cowards, and, outraged, he suffocates the officer in the mud. Nobody sees his act (except the audience), so he does not get charged with murder. And, among the five condemned men, he is the most resourceful survivor, saving Manech's life and escaping himself. What other film has shown a soldier kill a superior and get away with it?' -- Critical Montages
Christophe Ali, Nicolas Bonilauri Wild Camp (2006)
'In Sam Mendes' American Beauty, poor Kevin Spacey undergoes a life-altering experience while watching Mena Suvari perform a cheerleading routine, one that leads to epiphanies both pleasant and ugly. Directors Christophe Ali and Nicolas Bonilauri tread on similar ground in Wild Camp (Camping sauvage) to a point, inserting married-with-a-kid ex-con Denis Lavant as a man who crosses paths with teenage temptation, here in the form of free-spirited Isild Le Besco. But unlike American Beauty, Wild Camp tilts the playing field a little differently as we are left to watch Levant slowly succumb to the thoughts he tries to suppress, and society be damned. Some viewers may have to adjust their own moral compass for a film like this—as the whole older man/teenage girl affair typically exists as taboo—and directors Ali and Bonilauri paint their two star-crossed leads as randomly misguided in their own rights, but underneath it all, true to each other. It's tough to dislike either of them, even though we know what's about to happen probably can't end happily. Both Blaise and Camille have reached a point in their own lives that seems insurmountable, and that familiar searing tingle of sexual chemistry and attraction seems to make it all seem better. The narrative quickly moves to a darker, less than bubbly resolution, and all of the pensive glances and furtive touches slowly erupt into a sad extension of teenage angst.' -- Digitally Obsessed
Harmony Korine Mister Lonely (2007)
'Mister Lonely is a very unusual, sometimes even strange film, which combines two stories, without apparent link between them. The first story is about a Michael Jackson impersonator (Diego Luna) who lives alone in Paris and performs in the streets to make ends meet. At a show in a retirement home, Michael falls for a beautiful Marilyn Monroe look-alike (Samantha Morton) who suggests he moves to a commune of impersonators in the Scottish Highlands. Michael discovers there Abraham Lincoln, the Queen, the Pope, Madonna and the others preparing for the commune’s first gala. He also meets Marilyn’s daughter Shirley Temple and her possessive husband, Charlie Chaplin (Denis Lavant). Meanwhile, a group of missionary nuns in a Latin American Jungle soon sees a miracle happening when one of them accidentally falls from a flying plane. Even if it could sometimes appear difficult to follow, for example to establish the link between the two main stories, a strong idea emerges from this film. It is all about human identity and the search of each person’s own identity. Even if pessimistic at times, this film is closed to the burlesque genre. The reason for this film to be seen is that it carries everyone to a supernatural world, never mind your understanding of its meaning, full of flying nuns and impersonators, who’ll surely allow you to escape from a daily routine.' -- France in London
Leos Carax Merde (2008)
'There's nothing in recent memory quite like Merde. Defiantly pushing the bounds of good taste, reveling in its own sense of outrageousness, Leos Carax's short film—the middle segment of the multi-director triptych Tokyo!—is the best kind of provocation: an act of incitement performed for the pure pleasure of the thing. In this regard, Carax's stance is a lot like that of his hero. As the titular character arises from his subterranean home to terrorize the Tokyo citizenry, everyone tries to explain his anomalous presence (the Americans link him to Al Qaeda, the Japanese to the Aum cult), but despite the tantalizing tease Carax gives us of leftover military equipment from Japan's 1937 China campaign in the character's underground cave, Merde's actions can't be accounted for by any existing political context, only by his generalized hatred for humanity. As embodied by the brilliant Denis Lavant, done up with a turned-out eyeball and wispy, red beard, Merde is a truly inspired creation. Introduced through a series of street-level tracking shots, the character shuffles his way down the pavement garbed in only a tatty green suit, grabbing crutches from handicapped people, spitting on babies, and shoving money down his throat before descending back to the sewer from where he came. The scene's an exhilarating rush of pure cinema, Carax's camera pulling back to keep pace with its relentless subject who, like his director, bulldozes through any considerations of propriety with a disregard so pronounced and a sense of disgust so evenly distributed among its targets, that it finally proves liberating.' -- Slant Magazine
the entire film
Eva Ionesco My Little Princess (2011)
'Even without the wire hangers, Eva Ionesco’s semi-autobiographical debut, My Little Princess, feels an awful lot like other monster-mommy tales, only this time, the director seems to be underplaying, rather than exaggerating, the particulars of her horrific upbringing. The helmer, daughter of Parisian photographer Irina Ionesco, achieved notoriety at an early age after appearing nude in her mother’s provocative portraits. Princess shows her still quite conflicted on the subject — and the casting of Isabelle Huppert, here in ice-queen mode, conveys everything about the odd blend of alluring glamour and twisted psychology. Huppert will be pic’s best shot at reaching famously conservative American auds.' -- Variety
Leos Carax Holy Motors (2012)
'Films are always getting described as surreal, whether they are or not. But this year we saw a genuinely surrealist movie. Leos Carax's Holy Motors is unfettered by logic and common sense; it takes off in all directions – inspired by Cocteau, Franju, Lynch, Buñuel, Muybridge, Kafka, Lewis Carroll and many more. It's a kind of road movie. Monsieur Oscar is an enigmatic businessman, played by Carax's longtime collaborator Denis Lavant, being ferried around Paris in the back of a white limousine, driven by Céline, played by Edith Scob. He has a number of mysterious appointments, for each of which he has to apply a new and elaborate disguise. But what on earth are these appointments? In the course of each, he seems to enter a different or parallel universe in which his persona is unquestioningly accepted. He is an angry father, a homeless bag lady, an assassin and even a motion-capture studio model whose acrobatics create a weird and wonderful erotic animation which we are permitted to see and which doesn't seem any more or less real than everything that comes before or after.' -- The Guardian
Sophie Blondy L' étoile du jour (2012)
'A circus is set up by the sea where the wind is cold and the audience scarce. While the shows are entertaining, the tensions among performers grow by the day. Angèle loves Elliot but the dangerous Heroy is determined to win her over by any means. With Denis Lavant, Béatrice Dalle and Iggy Pop. The circus is a favourite backdrop for films that are anything but festive. In Sophie Blondy’s second feature, she introduces a motley mix of characters who are bound together in obscure ways. The story is set in a depressing town on the French coast, where the performances are held in front of half-empty benches. The real excitement is primarily outside the circus tent, where the sad clown Elliot (Holy Motors’ Denis Lavant) has an affair with ballerina Angèle, to the fury of the circus director Heroy - who will stop at nothing to conquer the object of his love. Apart from being plagued by the director, Elliot is also tormented by his silent yet eloquent conscience, surprisingly played by Iggy Pop. And in The Morning Star we also see Béatrice Dalle, in her typecast role of flamboyant gypsy soothsayer.' -- iffr.com
Arnaud des Pallières Age Of Uprising: The Legend Of Michael Kohlhaas (2013)
'Anyone unfamiliar with German author Heinrich von Kleist and his 200-year-old novella Michael Kohlhaas will likely spend much of Age Of Uprising—the book’s puckishly misnamed second cinematic translation, and a 2013 Palme d’Or nominee—twitchily anticipating a Braveheart-esque orgy of ass-kicking, bastard-impaling payback. Set in the 16th century, in what’s now part of Berlin, this austere, forbidding film follows a humble man on a self-immolating quest for satisfaction after a baron illegally confiscates two of his horses, then returns them wounded and broken. Kohlhaas (Danish star Mads Mikkelsen) takes the horse-pilferer to court, but the nobleman uses his influence to get the case dismissed. There’s almost no music, just the pervasive rasp of a brutal wind whipping a landscape as beautiful and unyielding as Mikkelsen’s indelible face. And then there’s the matter of its pace, which can fairly be described. As. Unhurried. Contemplative. Languid. Glacial, even. This is certainly intentional. It imparts a sense of life in the 1530s as brief and full of hardship, with little hope that one’s fortunes or station in life might be improved. Midway through, when a priest warns Kohlhaas that only humility and forgiveness can achieve the ends he has chosen to pursue through violence, even the speech seems to last an eternity. (The priest is played by Denis Lavant, memorable from 2012’s mind-bending Holy Motors.) This indolence probably helps the film to lodge more stubbornly in the audience’s memory, even as it makes it a minor chore to sit through.' -- The Dissolve
p.s. Hey. ** Nicola Smith, Hi! No problem, pal. Nipped in the bud. Really glad you liked the oldie. Love, me. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. What is that really old joke? Shit. Oh, wait ... 'Sartre: To do is to be. Romper Room: Do be a do bee. Frank Sinatra: Do-be-do-be-do'. Happy birthday to the very great Jacques Rivette! ** Steevee, Hi. Just the other day I was wondering if Rivette had made any films lately, and I did a bit of research, and, very sadly, he has advanced Alzheimers. I did a quick search, and discovered that at least one Malmros film, I don't remember which, had a release in France. ** Thomas Moronic, Hi, T! I loved the Vimeo extravaganza! It's great! Blog days would, of course, be incredibly welcome, and thank you very kindly for having the impetus. Nice day you had there, and, whoa, very cool that Jamie got and likes your "SC'! ** Keaton, Well, you should, natch. So, you're one of those sneak attacked facial guys. I met one of you once. Tricky on the other end sans blindfold or other blinding accoutrement. Yeah, dreams are like comic books for me. I respect them but I never indulge consciously. Wow, that's an interesting response to Tesla. A first maybe. ** _Black_Acrylic, Fucking cars and their innocent troublemaking. You have such nice parents. You're a lucky dude. ** Chilly Jay Chill, Hi, Jeff! Thanks about the post and for the post-production best wishes. We're still looking, but hopefully we'll get it underway any minute. Oh, man, sucks about the horrors popping up. That Braxton gig sounds completely dreamy. He is so great. As respected as he is, he still seems vastly underrated and absurdly marginalized. I'm not a big Sylvian fan, to be honest, no. I respect his smartness and his daring and all of that, but listening to his stuff doesn't ever interest me very much, and I'm not really into his voice. Enough people with high standards love him, so I guess he's worth you getting to know his work to some degree, but I'm not really the guy to help out, I guess. ** Sypha, Hi, James. I haven't read 'Tree of Smoke', no. I've intended to. Johnson's very hit or miss for me. The ones I've liked are, if I remember, 'Resuscitation of a Hanged Man', 'Jesus Son', and 'Already Dead'. Well, yeah, the invitation to appear in that anthology is the perfect opportunity to get the writers block unblocked, I think. Deadlines/goals can be the key. Hope so in your case, obviously. ** Misanthrope, Hi, G. I've always admired your particular combination of the traditional and utter lunacy. The balance definitely qualifies as the human body equivalent of experimental fiction, which, as you know, constitutes a big up in my case. Thanks for answering my question. It was a weird, kind of unanswerable question, I guess, but you did good. I get it. I find it really hard to believe that anyone who makes cam porn of themselves doesn't know -- and they probably even hope? -- it'll end up all over the racier corners of the web's fucking place. Anyway, gracias, buddy. ** That's it? Okay. We return to new posts today with the above coverage-type thing re: the amazing French actor Denis Lavant. I hope it does something interesting inside of you. See you tomorrow.
Posted by Dennis Cooper at 12:05 AM